Alex Epstein answers listener questions about creativity, meditation, planning the week, and many other topics.

Episode 11: Q&A - Alex Epstein answers listeners questions about creativity, meditation, planning the week, and many other topics.

Intro and Background

Welcome to the Human Flourishing Project, I’m your host, Alex Epstein. If you have never heard this show before, don’t make this your first episode, because this week we are doing exclusively q&a about particular old episodes. And I can’t promise it will be worthless, it will probably have some value, but definitely recommend at least listening to episode 1, and really episode 2 to understand what we are talking about on the show when we talk about human flourishing, knowledge systems, and a whole bunch of other concepts that will come up today. But, I want to jump in because I have a lot of questions and I’m trying to keep this show not too long, so let’s get started. I’m trying to categorize these somewhat, although they are all over the place because it is a very broad show so far. But, at least this will give some organization to the content.

So, first set of questions are about my conception of human flourishing. And just to give you a reference, in episode 1 I talked about what I mean by human flourishing, the idea of human beings living to our highest potential. And that meaning that there is a very strong success component mentally and also materialy and a lot of thinking about human flourishing is thinking about integrated success in that way. And in episode 2 I talked about certain words that I associate with flourishing that to me capture what a flourishing life is. So, I got a couple of questions about that.

Altitude Question- Mark Swan, he says, I’ve heard you discuss altitude, a number of times. I’m not sure I clearly understand what this is, and why you consider it very important. Could you elaborate on it and give different contrasting examples of showing having versus not having altitude looks like. So, I will start out with example just to make it as concrete as I can. Now, revealingly the examples that come to mind most immediately for me, are vacations that I have had in the last year where I was not using my phone. Phone is kind of a misnomer because it is our universal digital device. And so a few occasions, and these were pretty short, but they were still dramatic. One, about a year ago, I was in Peru for a talk, and I went to Machu Picchu and then soon after I was in South Africa for a talk and I went on Safari in Kruger National Park in South Africa. And on both occasions, at least 2 days where I wasn’t using any kind of digital interaction, except, I think I had my kindle with me, so I was just reading stuff, or I might have some note cards, but even things like taking notes, I didn’t have anything digital. So, I spent a lot of time looking at things and reflecting. And even if you just take and stop communicating and in particular stop interrupting yourself in different ways, you start to find, at least I start to find that certain questions come to mind and they are questions that are high level. So a couple of questions that can come up are what am I trying to do, and this can be in the day, but then it will often expand more broadly. Things, like what is my purpose in life. What am I trying to accomplish in life. It is pretty amazing how quickly this thing comes up when there are not interruptions. And this is part of what I am calling altitude. Is that I am looking at my life from a high level. This is metaphorical because there is not height in that sense in the mind. But it is recognizing that the specifics of life in a given moment and over time are enormously complex but we can get a clarity about how ok what do the specifics add up to, what purpose are they going toward. And two other words that begin with ‘p’ I think are very valuable. What path am I going on, so, what is the path that achieving this purpose consists of, and then a third ‘p’ is what priorities do I have. And prioritization is really important in general. And it is often the way in which we think purposely and think in terms of our path on a day to day or week to week or month to month basis. Just thinking about what actually matters to my purpose and my path, and then what doesn’t.

For example, in Machu Picchu, I found myself thinking a lot about human flourishing project, which was an idea I had at the time, but I hadn’t been getting to spend as much time on it as I would have liked, but left to my own devices, I started thinking about I really, in my life, want to make sure that part of my work is bringing more clarity to issues of human flourishing. I want to sort of be a scientist of human flourishing, so part of my path is I have done certain things in energy and I want to continue to do things there, but there is this broader path that I want. And think about how hard it is to think this way in a meaningful way in day to day life. Now, remember a few episodes, I forget exactly which episode, it might have been episode 8, or 7, 8, or 9, where I talked about distinguishing thinking about the what in life, like what we are going to be doing, and then thinking about the how, particularily the specific doing of it on a day to day or week to week basis. Well, having altitude, we are often thinking of the high level what and that includes the high level how. But, that is very hard to do on a daily basis, and often doing it on a daily basis is counter productive, because you just don’t have the time to think through it well, so it just ends up being oh there is this higher level thing and it is distracting me from actually doing my work. But, when I am away from interruptions, I can start looking at everything on a higher level, and I have deliberately eliminated all these immediate things that I have to attend to, whether it is work that I have committed to or it is interruptions that are a kind of work on their own, then I start to look at things at that high level and what is my purpose, what is my path, what are my priorities, and it just leads to so much clarity. So, I think that, just given the nature of life, part of human flourishing is that, we take the time to get that clarity, and then that clarity informs us on a day to day basis. So, when I think of even day to day habits having altitude, is when I feel most clearly. Ok here is my purpose, here is my path, my priorities, and then what I am doing today is really part of that. So for example, when I am working on a book, I have a certain altitude even if I am working on a very concrete thing within the book, I can see this is really part of what I want to create in my life. Whereas, there are other projects sometimes where I’ll have committed to them, and I will think do I really want to do this, and the more days that are strung together where that is the experience, then I do not feel altitude and that is a signal, ok I really need to get altitude. And even though I feel like the most important thing is just doing the next commitment or creating the next commitment, actually if I step back and look at things from a higher level, that will be the most valuable thing. And as I am saying this I am thinking I am really glad that tomorrow is Saturday, because that is going to be really good for me, and this week I have had a lot of stuff to do, at least that I have assigned myself to do. And I can certainly think of a lot of things that I could advance by working on Saturday, but by recognizing my altitude is not as high as I want it to be, then I can know, even if it doesn’t feel that way, it is going to be great for me to step back because then I’m going to get a perspective and then one big thing it will identify is hey you shouldn’t even be doing a whole bunch of things that you are doing. One of the most productive forms of work is stopping doing the wrong work or the suboptimal work. So, those are some thoughts on altitude, hopefully that helps.

Next Question- Creativity

Now I got a question from Alison T Kounze, I think that is how you pronounce, actually I don’t know on creativity. And Alison says in episode 2, you discussed your definition of creativity and you quote me, “I have a way of using my mind to sustain my life that fascinates me and motivates me.” Could you discuss this idea more, it is so intriguing, broad, and different, from the way creativity is normally discussed. What lead you to this particular way of thinking about creativity.

Thank you for the compliment, it is not exactly a definition of creativity, but now that you mention it, I can see how it is not the way that people often talk about creativity. And I think this connects to just in general the idea of thinking about things in terms of human flourishing. Because when people talk about creativity sometimes, I feel like they almost use it as a compliment to pay to themselves or others. Or a status thing, so this person is creative, I am really creative. I am better than other people because I am creative. And anytime I see that fundamental comparison I think that is not a winning formula in terms of how to think about life. So, for me when I think about creativity, it just emerges from thinking about what does it mean for a human being to flourish. And I always focus on this integration of the material and the mental. Clearly, we need to produce value to survive, or someone needs to produce value for us to survive, and also noticing that is an act primarily of the mind, and depending how I use my mind it can either be really enjoyable or really tedious or even miserable. So then it stands to reason, wouldn’t it be great if I could find a way of using my mind that I found very stimulating and that also created a lot of value that ultimately can manifest itself in material forms so that I could have abundance based on it. And of course we have a lot of different models that we are given in life where we have this idea of having a career that you love. And I think in general that is a healthy way of thinking about it, even if people often think about it in a way that is unhealthy. And this is a debate I do not want to get into, but there is a phenomenon of people refusing to work because they haven’t found what they are passionate about and that is a mess for a lot of reasons. But, in general, it is a good thing to think about, how can I create value in a way that I find fascinating. So, for me creativity captures that, and I spend a lot of time thinking about how do I really enjoy using my mind to create value. A good thinker on this and I end up mentioning him a lot because he is just someone who thinks an abnormal amount, about human flourishing, is Dan Sullivan, of Strategic Coach, and he likes the concept, he uses the term in a specific way. He talks about unique ability. And in my understanding he is talking about something you have a combination of high aptitude at that creates a lot of value and you really enjoy it. That is a good thing to think about in life. And I think a lot of planning life is about planning one’s creativity in that sense. So, it is not creativity in any kind of comparative sense, it is just creativity in terms of how do I want to use my mind to create value in a way that satisfies me. And part of the satisfaction is going to be in just knowing that it creates value is important, and part of it is in some irreducible way just using my mind in this way really works for me. For me, using my mind to clarify things in a systematic way, to organize them in a certain way so that they are clear for me and clear for other people. And one example of that is coming up with a really good outline for something. For me, that works really well with the way that I like to use my mind. For some other people, other things work well. And it is really important to get that, along with it having a purpose. I think that you really need both.

One question that came from Anna Franco, is she is referencing someone else, and it amounts to, by human flourishing do I mean the individual or humanity. Well, I think that, I mean the easy answer would be both, or if I had to chose it would definitely be the individual. But, I think it is important how one thinks about this, because I think the first thing, just logically, that we think about is ok we have all of these human beings, and we are one of them obviously. And we should very much care about our own fate. And we see that we interact with all of these other people and in some ways our fates are bound together and in some ways when we act in certain ways we can hurt each other. And there are a huge number of ways that we can help each other, so I think we start out by saying, ok it is good for me and for others if our lives go well. Then we can say there is a mental component of that and a material component of that. And then part of studying philosophy and other fields is to identify how to human beings flourish in relation to one another. Is there a harmony of interests or is there at least no fundamental conflict of interest and how does that work. And understanding those dynamics of how human beings flourish in relation to one another has a lot of ethical implications.

So for example, I believe that human flourishing is extremely harmonious, and if people do not take their own interest to be the unearned. So if they don’t define their own interest as everyone should be my slave or something like that, then there is an enormous harmony of interests. Because there is an enormous harmony of interests, that has implications for what it means to be moral or not. Because if there is a real harmony of interests, and that fundamentally comes from human beings being creators of value. We are not fundamentally predators who need to survive at each others expense. We are creators, who can survive and flourish. In fact, we can amplify each other by working together. Then the whole societal focus on on sacrifice, doesn’t make sense. Because, if we can really succeed in harmony with one another and we can create value, then that should be the focus, not surrendering value. Versus, if there was a fundamental conflict of interest and if we were really predators, then we might have to come up with something, some sort of scheme, where we each agree not to eat each other, and we make sure to give each other some portion of what we have, since there is this zero sum. But, since there is not this zero sum, since there is this potentially infinite sum, then that whole sacrifice mentality doesn’t make sense. This is a very big issue which we can talk about more, in terms of what ethics is, but I am just trying to indicate that studying human flourishing will ultimately tell us something about, ok, what does it really mean to flourish, and what should we do to flourish. I think that studying human flourishing properly we discover that it is very much possible for individuals to focus on their own flourishing and for that to be something that leads to a lot of harmony among individuals, versus, fundamental conflicts among individuals.

Alright, so those were some questions about my conception of human flourishing. Now, here are some more specific ones about different topics.

Specific Questions

This is one, I have gotten a lot of, from Jason Swihart. You have talked about your experience with therapy, how did you eventually find an effective therapist? What pitfalls did you encounter along the way and how did you overcome them. This is a hard question and I should say that I don’t have a really good answer to it. But here is my partial answer because this is a really important thing, so at least it can be somewhat helpful. One thing is, just be clear on your purpose. And it is always good to be clear on purpose, but in particular with something like psychology I think that a lot of professions are not clear on their purpose, or they might have a purpose I wouldn’t agree with. So, it has been important to me, to define, ok, what do I want out of therapy. Maybe the psychologist can convince you, oh there is some other purpose or you are thinking about it wrong or incorrectly. But, at least it is important to identify, here is what I would like help with and this is what I want to get out of this and to be able to talk about it with perspective therapists. Another thing, is just be willing to experiment a lot. I think sometimes people think I need to find the right person immediately. That is usually not the winning formula and in particular for something like this it is not. So, I would say as a mindset, be willing to test out at least 5 people. Another thing is just looking for recommendations and the more you are clear on your purpose I think the better you can do that. I think you can ask in way that isn’t to personal or revealing, hey I’m looking for a therapist that could help X, Y, and Z. Or if you don’t want to say it about yourself, just say my friend is looking for a therapist that can help with X, Y, and Z. And in this day and age, I haven’t check out too much, but I’m guessing there are different kinds of testimonials that people have, and referrals, and rating systems. And I’m guessing if you read those you would get some sense of how people, of what their experiences have been with different people. Now, to some extent that can be misleading, because everyone is different, but in fields like this where it is hard to know it is right, I put more stock into finding individuals who seem pretty similar in their needs and if they have found a practice or a system that works for them, this time in the form of a therapist, then I would definitely try that. So, clarity of purpose, recommendations, and just being willing to try a lot of options. One thing with finding therapists I’ve noticed, and this applies to other areas of life, is people have, there is not enough of a bias towards action. There is a fear of what if I get the wrong person, or don’t get the right person, versus, if you talk to people and you try to be purposeful about it, over time you will get some real value out of it, you are not asking for an overlord or something like that, so of course a bad therapist can do damage, but I think in general if people are clear on their purpose and they test people out, that is going to be a good thing and people who say for 10 years, hey I would like a therapist, but I do not know what to do, I think that is almost inevitably the worst thing to do. By the way I am tentatively planning to have one of my first guests on the show in the first month or two, and it is a psychologist I met recently who I thought had some very interesting views and what he came up with seemed to be right in a lot of ways, just based on my own experience and thinking and reading. That is just a preview, that person may be able to help a lot or at least you can see oh does this person’s way of thinking make sense. Does his recommendations make sense and certainly I will ask him that therapist question.

Alright, here is a question from Don Watkins, who works with me. So, he asked, if someone is motivated to apply human flourishing to their field or some area of their personal life, what is the best way to start. I wasn’t sure exactly what he meant, so I asked him to elaborate. He said what I had in mind was that people who have spoken to me or posted on facebook they are excited about your project and who want to apply it in their field whether it be nutrition or healthcare policy or finance and don’t have a clear idea of the next action. And he elaborated, the best way I can put it is, what would be your advice for a person who has listened to the first two episodes of your podcast and wants to immediately embark on the journey of creating knowledge and communication systems for a field they are passionate about. So, he is talking about knowledge producers. Now, this is a very big area, but I will try to boil it down to 2 concepts, that have been very helpful to me. One is getting clear on human flourishing based standards in the field and 2 is getting a systematic casual understanding of the fields. Both of those are big, I will just go into them a little bit. Human flourishing based standards, and I talked about this a bit in episode 2, and I will share some of my own experiences. But, one way to think of this is, in most fields, what is going wrong. One of the things going wrong is people are not thinking about human flourishing as the ultimate purpose that should be achieved in the field. In episode 2 I mentioned in the field of nutrition, people are thinking too much in terms of ok, fat loss, or weight loss, that is what we need to focus on versus in a human flourishing concept that would only be part of it. But, there would also be things like energy levels and longevity, and feeling good physically and a couple of others that I mentioned at the time. So one really big thing you can do for a field is just think of the goal as human beings flourishing and then based on that goal, thinking about ok, what standards are there that I can use of human flourishing in this field. If I take energy for example, some standards might be ok abundance, that is going to be key to people flourishing with energy, there needs to be a lot of it. And affordability, they need to be able to afford it, and reliability, it needs to be on demand. And safe, it needs to be in a way where is is empowering them, not endangering them. So those might be 4 standards of human flourishing in that field and you can do it with other things, in psychology thinking about things like joy and serenity, and often it is hard to know what these are. You think it and you rethink it. For example, in psychology, I was mentioning a few minutes ago, I met this interesting psychologist recently, and when he was talking about standards of human flourishing in psychology, to import my terminology in to what I think he is doing. He was challenging the idea of people too often equating psychological health with just joy, and his view is that this is a really important component, but if you do what he calls joy chasing, that can be detrimental, because by the nature of life there is this whole spectrum of emotions, and if you just try to optimize for this one thing, that doesn’t really work really well and he had a whole view of that. That is really interesting thing to think of, what does flourishing mean in this field. And I would say the first thing is to just start thinking about it that way, and to certainly have in mind the integration of the material and the mental and think a lot about standards. Ultimately, based on the purpose being you want human beings to flourish.

And the other thing I mentioned is systematic casual understanding and this is probably where most of the work is and I will just start off with an example. In energy, if I am trying to identify what in the field of energy, which is connected to a whole bunch of environmental issues, because energy in many way has different kinds of environmental impacts, potential positive and negative impacts, I need to think about, ok, what are the cause and effect relationships in using versus misusing energy that are actually going to advance human flourishing. And the more we have human flourishing based standards the more the principles in causul relationships we formulate will be changed. For example, in the realm of climate influence, the way it is usually thought of in energy is something like, well we want to avoid climate change, just in this very vague sense. And part of that is that it is vague and sloppy, the other part of it is, it is not connected to human flourishing, in any kind of clear way because change is a neutral concept, it could be positive change, it could be negative change. The focus on climate change versus climate non change, that is not based on a human flourishing standard. It might be related, but it is not clearly driving it based on change or non change. It is not a human flourishing based conceptualization of thinking about it. So, the way I started thinking about it, is ok, what types of cause and effect am I trying to find with climate and human flourishing and then I thought, what we really want, is we don’t want climate non change, we want climate livability. So then I start thinking, what leads to climate livability. One thing, is climate enhancement, is human beings using ultimately technology to take a given atmosphere and make it more conducive to their lives. For example, you could say we are engaging in climate enhancement by having a really good heating system that when we want it to be warmer makes it a little warmer. That is then a key policy, to engage in climate enhancement, and then at the same time the climate can be very hostile so we can also think of it in terms of climate protection. And sometimes these things run together, one is enhancement, the other is protection, but in general what I am thinking of, is I am identifying all these different policies we can engage in to make climate more livable, but the reason I am thinking of it in terms of livability in the first place, is because I am thinking in terms of human flourishing. Versus, if I am not thinking in terms of human flourishing, then I am just going to import any kind of, like however people are going to be talking about it, I’m going to talk about it that way even though I can’t coherently talk about a policy toward climate change that leads to human flourishing or not because it is change versus non change is not a human flourishing based way of thinking about it. Another concept in energy, just because I know that well, is renewable energy, is energy renewable or not, that is also not a human flourishing based concept. It might be relevant, but renewable something can be repeated forever, and there is a problem because that doesn’t really make sense with anything because nothing is forever, and even with the so called renewable energy a lot of parts of the process are extremely finite and we don’t even know how to scale them now, let alone for a billion years, but even if you had some forms of energy that were actually renewable that wouldn’t be the primary thing. The primary thing would be things like affordable, abundant, reliable, safe, because those really relate to human flourishing, so you wouldn’t say hey my policy is renewable energy. That kind of energy at best might end up being part of your policy. But, having that as a policy is not going to lead to human flourishing. So with the issue of climate livability and then I would call it evolving energy versus renewable energy a lot of what I am doing is, I am looking systematically at in energy. What practices and policies actually lead to human flourishing. And part of that is always, I am keeping in mind human flourishing as the goal and then I am also trying to be very precise, to understand ok, this causes that and to be able to get it really clean versus having this sloppiness that I find abounds everywhere. That is why I say systematic causul understanding. And I hope that more people try to do this because it is a pain to do in a certain sense because it can be hard to really organize things and I think things are very badly organized by default. But when you start to get it everything fits together and it is beautiful and it is easy to make, you can just make so much progress in any field. And it ends up seeming like oh it is totally simple. Obvisouly, if we climate livability we have to engage in enhancement and protection. Or another one, with environment, this is related, obviously, the quality of our environment is based on our ability to neutralize threats and create resources. That is another organization of knowledge that I have and the energy /industrial/ environmental world. But it is based on A, human flourishing is my purpose, therefore I always have that as the standard for everything I am thinking of, and then B, I am looking for the systematic causal understanding so I can identify the practices and policies that are going to lead human beings to flourish and I can do it with precision. So, see what you think about that.

Question- Edgar Alejandro Learning how to learn and I would just refer you to what I said about Don’s question because if you can have this idea of ok, human flourishing is the purpose and I want systematic causul understanding, that is a good filter for looking at different people, and a lot of learning well in a given field is just finding people who are really really good. Finding the top 1% or the top .1% who are already doing pretty good things in terms of discovering and organizing knowledge and then just learning a lot from them. I’m in favor of being exposed to a variety of views, but even then I want to be exposed to the people who are most coherent and clear, even for the wrong views, or views that I ultimately decide are wrong. We can save an enormous amount of time by finding the really high level people and especially for the view we decide is right, if we find that person we can just learn so much from them.

Alright, planning, there is someone with a name I can’t pronounce, some Asian language, but he says how do you actually use your Sunday to plan for the week ahead, and how to prioritize rest and work. What do you do when you have energy drain, down sick or not feeling well days. And there are a couple questions like this so probably some of my answers will overlap. But just concretely, my preference is to actually plan on Friday if I can get away with it. And it is currently Friday afternoon and even just right after this, planning the week as much as possible is going to be my priority. So, just concretely, I talked a bunch about this in one of the relaxed productivity episodes, I think the one where I talked about the thinking about the what versus thinking about the how. The positive exercise I mentioned in episode 3 I do that for the week, I do 10 of them and pretty in depth, just identifying the 10 biggest victories of the week because I find that creates a whole bunch of clarity and momentum for the next week and often the best thing I can do next week is to build on the victories of this week. And then I look at my planning system which as longer term goals and has different categories and this is the thing where I’m trying to be comprehensive about my different goals and commitments and then I look at that and I update it in relationship to my calendar so that ok when I look at the next week everything that I really want to do I have time allocated to that. Now you ask also about energy drained, prioritizing rest and work, energy drain, down sick or not feeling well days. Well with the prioritizing, rest and work, I think someone is going to ask about this later. At this point, I just think of rest in a way that is very embedded in work. So, if you came and worked with me for a day, you would see that I usually take a lot of time off during the day, maybe not huge amounts of time, but say every 1.5, 2, or 2.5 hours I’ll do one of my rejuvenation processes, so I might go on my one wheel skate board, or go in the ocean or meditate. Meditation I like to do most of all at the beginning of the day. I do that almost every day now at that time, because it is so valuable. But, I have sense with my work of I need to have a bunch of energy when I work and I hold that in a way that is not a procrastinating way, I just know, for the kind of work that I want to do, that really moves the needle, it really good for me to have a lot of energy and a lot of clarity and that is why I schedule a bunch of breaks during my day, but then I’ll just also have a feel for it and if I get behind on breaks, then I feel behind, I don’t feel like oh I have done a good thing by not taking breaks, instead I feel like oh this is not a good thing. For example, today I had a lot of meetings because Friday I often have a lot of meetings in addition to trying to plan the next week and I some of them went long and I did not engage in any rejuvenation, or very little, I might have taken 15 minutes until about 1 or 1:30 and then I said I just have to take what I call Seinfeld nap, which you will learn about if you listen to one of the episodes and also meditate after that because I just knew I’m really behind. But, I think of it as I’m behind in terms of rejuvenation. In terms of sick days and not feeling well. To the extent those are the same. Well, hopefully you structure your life so that it is not so jam packed so that you have to be stressed out about that and just think of things that you like that you can do during that and then enjoy that as much as possible or if you absolutely need to do work then just know what a lot of people have done work under a lot more difficult circumstances. Not the best, not my favorite way. I like to work when it is enjoyable, but it is also important to have the discipline to do it when it is not enjoyable if it is really contributing to greater enjoyment and success in the future.

Alright, Mark Moses, regarding the management of your time via the calendar, how do you manage potential interruptions, that may be worth shuffling your schedule without undercutting the benefits of the calendar discipline. For example, you have scheduled the afternoon for writing, but then you hear someone is in town for the day and this person could greatly help you in your marketing perhaps even related to a different project. If you take the meeting you will effectively lose the writing time, although it seems reasonable to reorganize the day or week around this emerging opportunity, it introduces opportunities to procrastinate, or otherwise erode productivity. If one is constantly having to evaluate and assess unplanned events or opportunities. Yeah, one test of this is that it should not be happening a lot. That is, if I’m really good at planning my life from high altitude, I should proactively think about things, like this person, I want to get help on marketing from this person. If everyday, there are new “opportunities” that are derailing my plan, than either my plan is bad or I am using opportunities as procrastination. I just have that in my mind that if this is happening a lot then something is off. And in particular with events it is very very easy to overrate how important a particular event is or an “opportunity” to talk to someone. If someone is willing to talk to you, probably a good chance they would be willing to talk to you another time and if they learn that hey, you are just a machine you always write before 12 pm and therefore no meetings then, it is probably not going to be the case where they say oh I would never talk to such a person. If anything that will be intriguing. So, the main thing is you having a plan that is good, and then improving your plan over time and then executing and then that is the context for opportunity. Opportunity is a very tricky concept to deal with because it often leads to people being reactive. And there is often a point in life where this happens where one has achieved a certain amount of success and then lots of “opportunities” come in, and then there is a real discipline to say I’m going to take the ones that really advance my life in a way that makes sense to me versus just acting like in a desperate way oh I need to explore every opportunity. No, the real opportunity is your life your way.

Lisa Johnson Roberts, question, how do you handle big blocks of time that requires sitting to work, taking breaks without getting distracted. How do you fit your restorative breaks into your schedule. So, I mentioned in terms of day to day I just view those breaks as essential to working at the level that I want to work in terms of output and clarity and energy. And in terms of taking big blocks of time, I don’t have much original to say, except that distraction is the enemy. So, things like putting the phone away, turning it off, not having it in view. There is a lot of value in just eliminating potential sources of distraction. Now, you want to be able to work even when there are distractions, but you might as well eliminate them. One little thing that I do that is completely optional, it might not even be ideal, when I work particularly on writing or editing, I’ll often sit in a really comfortable chair, like I will recline on a couch or something. Most people who saw the way I worked would think it is kind of weird, because I don’t sit at a desk very often. But for me, and the kind of work that I do, I find that I relax and I don’t feel like getting up and I can just lock into it. For other people it might make them sleepy. So, the only lesson there is just figure out an environment where as much as possible your mind relaxes into the productive task and just feels like yeah this is where I want to be.

Alright, wrapping up we have got a couple more meditation. A couple of these came up, and these are in response to a failure of mine, which was that I said that I would teach you, tell you the free way of trying transcendental meditation and then I failed, I apologize. I haven’t figured out how to use show notes very well and we still don’t have a real webpage for this podcast, however, if you go to you can get on the email list and that will at least give you Friday reminders. So, I’m very happy that I am doing this every week, not so happy with my non show notes and non website, but we are at least making a lot of progress, so I will just tell you now if you just go to YouTube and search for ‘release meditation’ and then the guy who does it is this guy named Brendon Burchard, and he is an interesting guy.

He has a book called High Performance Habits, that I think is quite good. So, I can’t vouch for everything, but he is a very interesting guy, a smart guy, and at least that book I think is very good and is in general thinking about things in terms of human flourishing and thinking often quite precisely about human flourishing. But, certainly that, he has something that is very very to transcendental meditation, but he uses the word release as a mantra, for whatever reason that word doesn’t work very well for me when I have tried it, but you can go find a different mantra, maybe that one will work for you. But, I think he does a pretty good job of guiding you in it.

Ok, Donald Blanksby question, he is interested in how you meditate and the benefits. How you got over the mystic nature in which most advocates and teachers come at it. So, the benefits are just that it clears my mind a lot and just gives me energy. I was meditating on Wednesday, I was at a conference and there was a bunch of chaos there, and I was just doing this little speech, but even a little speech tends to wear me out and I just found a quiet place and meditated for 20 minutes and man, it is just amazing what that can do. In terms of the mystic nature, I just took it has, this is a technique and I’m going to try the technique and if the technique works then there is some, I don’t’ think of things mystically, so there is some cause and effect of how it works and maybe I can understand that fully and maybe I can’t. I don’t think I fully understand it, but if I keep using it and it keeps working really well, and I can feel the change as I go through it, I can even feel ok what is it like at 5 minutes versus 10 minutes in. Usually starting at 10 minutes there is this tipping point where it feels, start feeling a lot better. Then yeah I do it, even people who have sometimes mystical explanations for things sometimes those can be legitimate things or they can be partial legitimate, so I just view it as I am trying to mine the world for knowledge and as I have mentioned it can be hard to find good knowledge sometimes. So, one thing is I look for people who have systems that seem to get good results and then I try to test those out and extract what I can once I have seen the results.

Jerry Glen, can you talk a little about during, what you experienced during, after a transcendental meditation session especially during, are you focused on the sounds, or is that to just distract you and prevent your mind from wandering. Well, it is sort of both. I’m focused on the sound, but at least for me it is when it occurs to me to focus on the sound. So, my mind certainly drifts quite a bit when I am meditating, but I consider that part of the meditating, versus, it is not just like I am sitting there ruminating in this deliberate way. Yeah my mind may go off on this subject, but it is still in this relaxation state. I have no idea if there is any kind of officially recommended balance of your mind wandering versus not, but the way I take it is just when I am meditating, my only job is to think of the mantra when it occurs to me to think of the mantra, but if I go on, my mind thinks about something else, great. That happens all the time, and whether that is the best way to meditate or not, I do not know. I just know that doing that is really really valuable. So, I try to just not worry not at all about what is happening during it, I just have this idea that ok, I’m sitting there for 20 minutes and when occurs to you to think of this word, say it in your head in a certain kind of soft and relaxed way and then in general you tend to relax. Beyond that I am not goal oriented in terms of the mental state because that is counter productive. The meditative state is not something you can build directly, so trying to do just leads to self consciousness, and even if you are self conscious that is fine. Spend 20 minutes, see what it is like. And try it a bunch of times, and I really like it.

Alright, last question, this is the hardest one for me for reasons that you will probably understand. This is from someone named Marty Magalanous. Admittedly I am a Gen Xer and social media isn’t really my thing, however, I can’t help but notice that your number of followers of the likes, shares, are way lower than I would expect. You have a vital and interesting perspective and an amazing book, and a super palatable personality, why aren’t you getting more traction? Why is it, everytime I mention your book, it is the first time anyone has heard of it. Everyone should read The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels regardless of what they think they know. I am with you my friend, but where is everyone else. This is a good question, I appreciate the compliment, so one thing I will say about this is for better or worse I have spent a lot of my time over the last several years doing things that are fairly behind the scenes, with companies in particular that I agree with on energy policy, trying to help them train their employees to think and talk in a certain way. Trying to help them create better messages. And a lot, speaking to audiences, speaking to audiences in the energy industry and also spent a lot of time learning business, to have that business being successful. And there is a definite opportunity cost there, in that I haven’t actually spent that much time publicly. For instance, my other podcast, Power Hour, I don’t think I have done in a year and a half. And I appreciate the people that are always asking me about that. I’m thinking about how to resurrect it pretty soon. So, there are always these tradeoffs, and it was a goal of mine, to with my work, not just be a spokesman for the idea, but to help other people, particularly people in the business world, advocate for the right ideas. And I see things in the energy world that have at least seen some of the benefits of that because I see people in politics, in legal cases, using my arguments in different ways. I see them penetrating the industry in certain ways that are very heartening, so there has been something there, but it is definitely contributed to me not being publicly well know, at least not as publicly well known at least in energy. I think the ideas warrant so in terms of my own goals going forward to be much more public because I really, a lot of the stuff I figured out over the past several, I feel like one of the frustrations I have is oh I haven’t shared it nearly enough. I would like it to be accessible to more people. And I think you will see in the coming months that this strategy of being more public is going to be realized. And part of that is figuring out things like what do I want to do with this podcast, what is the business model for this podcast, what do I want to do publicly in energy, what do I want to do publicly in other fields. Right now I have a good business in energy that is my primary focus and I’m going to keep doing that and I’m going to do more exploration in these other realms, but I think within a year, certainly two years, what you will see at least in my current thinking, instead of writing a book every 4 or 5 years, you’ll see there is a book every year and I’m taking on more subjects and i’m interacting with a lot more people. And it will seem to you like I am doing way more work, hopefully it won’t be more volume wise but it will be that I am creating a lot more that everyone can consume and share and then we can really take advantage of all the modern amazing sharing tools. So, for now share this podcast, share my other work, I really appreciate it. Certainly if you know of any media outlets that would like to interview me, I am happy to do those. If there are really good podcasts or tv shows and to the extent you think it is valuable you can at least help people in your circle by sharing it and ultimately that will create more and more of a following that will allow me to do more and more with this perspective. So thank you for that support, and thanks everyone who asked a question.

That is it for this week, I’m not sure what we are covering next week. I’m going to go get a little altitude and think about what I want to cover in the next phase of the podcast. My inclination is to focus more on knowledge acquisition systems and at least the next to months start at least doing things like start exploring nutrition and psychology, or at least exploring more how to explore them. So if you have any thoughts on that I’m certainly interested in that, but it is the kind of thing where it has been interesting and enjoyable so far and I want to get some more altitude and just think more about what can we really accomplish with this part of the project and ultimately other parts of the human flourishing project. So thanks for being with me for these first 11 episodes, hopefully you will be with me for a lot more in the future and we can all grow together. Alright, if you want to participate in the conversation with me and the others go to the facebook page, and to get weekly notifications about the latest episodes to the show go to and sign up for the email list. Alright, thanks everyone, until next time this has been the human flourishing project.