Brad Stulberg, Clint Murphy
Clint Murphy 00:00
Brad, welcome to the growth guide today, this is your second time on the show this year. The first time we talked about your book practice of groundedness. And today we’re going to talk about your book Master of Change and the concept of rugged flexibility. After our first conversation, one of my friends at work said, it almost sounded like you were talking to yourself, and you could have gone on for hours, which was true. In the second book, I found what might be a subtle difference between the two of us which which I want to explore. And I’m going to give you two archetypes I’ve heard of in the past. And they seem to be a bit how we both like to approach the world. The first, and people can think about this a bit for their career. The first is airplane pilots, to get the plane up in the air, get it steady, and then just fly the plane, nice and stable. You’re not veering left, veering right, up and down, you’re stable every once in a while you have a bit of turbulence, but otherwise it’s stable. And then you have the firefighters who you’re going to fire after fire after fire, putting it out, dealing with the chaos going to the next one. So just thriving on that constant change. And it seemed that you described yourself and said, I personally prefer to be a bit more of the airplane pilot. Whereas I’d look at it and say, I love the fires. I want to be the firefighter. So what are we talking about there, and why is change so hard for people. So that just a little entry way for people as we talk about change.
Brad Stulberg 01:37
Ooh, that is such a lovely metaphor, and I haven’t heard it before. So thank you for for introducing that to me. I do think that I more prefer to be the pilot, and to have stable air and to run a really good plane and fly that baby. But life throws us a lot of wind in storms and turbulence, whether we want it or not. And I think a risk of just flying a plane is five years, 10 years, maybe even 20 years, it’s pretty good. But then eventually you get bored. So even if life didn’t inject the turbulence at some point, you might want to inject some turbulence yourself, or risk stagnation and complacency. So I think that it is not either or I think it’s both and that, you know, we think of stability, and change as these two diametrically opposed things, when in fact, we’re constantly in a dance between stability and change in our own lives. The first law of physics, entropy, things move towards chaos, there’s no escaping that. So we have to learn how to exist with change, and how to find stability through change. Now, why don’t people like change? Why do people resist change? I think a lot of that is just based on a cultural narrative that many people have grown up hearing over and over again, which is this notion that change is bad. Change is hard. We should attempt to be stable and control our circumstances. And whatever change happens, the goal is to get back to where we were as fast as possible. And I think that this is just a wholly inaccurate and unhelpful way to view change.
Clint Murphy 03:27
And so that concept there and we’ll jump forward, I love this idea that you introduced that instead of homeostasis, where we go from, here’s who we are. Event happens back to who we are to allostasis. Here’s who we are. event happens. Here’s new us. Can you bring that idea of allostasis? Can we dive into that together? That was a fun one.
Brad Stulberg 03:57
I’d love to I’m so glad that you went there early, because I think it’s a very important concept in the book. So homeostasis, my guess is that many listeners have heard this term. It’s very popular. It was first coined in the mid 1800s. And it describes change as a cycle of order or stability, then disorder or chaos. And then you get back to order or stability where you were, and this came out of very early biology. So an example of homeostasis is a fever. So your body is healthy, you have a temperature of 98.6 and then you get sick. That’s a change. That’s a disorder event that’s passing through your body and your body fights the illness by having a fever so you move to this disorder state, and then you get back to 98.6. So that is a situation where homeostasis as a model is a really good fit, it works well. But what happened is homeostasis got applied to just about everything. When in fact the way that most changes work to living systems, whether that’s ourselves, our biology, our psychology, whether that’s our organizations, our family units, or even our societies in our cultures is a little bit different. We start in order of stability, then there’s some sort of change, we can’t escape it, life is going to throw these changes at us constantly. And yes, it is unequivocally true that most living systems enjoy and prefer stability. But we don’t get back to stability where we were, we achieve that stability by getting to somewhere new. So if homeostasis is a cycle of order, disorder, order. Allostasis is a cycle of order, disorder, reorder. And it sounds simple. But it’s such a profound shift. Because if you think of change as order, disorder, order, your entire mindset is going to be one of resist it, control it, get back to where I was. If you think of changes, order, disorder, reorder, then your mindset shifts to embrace it, be in conversation with it, dance with it, and end up somewhere different and ideally better.
Clint Murphy 06:10
And are we also I mean, if we think about fixed versus growth mindset, it seems apparent that someone who has a fixed mindset is probably stuck on homeostasis, I am who I am, I can’t change who I am. And if I do change, I’m gonna bring it back to who I am. Whereas that person who has that growth mindset is I am who I am today. But I’m going to do something to change myself, and I’m going to become a different version of me, Does that resonate?
Brad Stulberg 06:37
100%. And that can be changed that we introduced voluntarily the firefighter model, or if we’re a pilot that can be really crappy weather that we weren’t expecting. So it doesn’t really matter if the change is internally driven, or externally driven. Having that mindset of, alright, this is what’s happening, I need to dance with this. I don’t have to like the feeling of disorientation or of utter like chaos. But the stability that I’m going to get to is not going to be where I started, it’s going to be somewhere new.
Clint Murphy 07:08
And you say that something happens to us. And you pulled a statistic out, you said that each of us experiences 36 disorder events in our lives. And we’ll get you to explain what a disorder event is. And then almost a bit of a flavor from Practice of Groundedness is the disorder event isn’t what determines positive or negative outcome on us. It’s how we interpret the disorder event, which is is similar to our don’t let the arrow hit us twice. And so what is a disorder event and then how does rugged flexibility, maybe introducing that helps us with the interpretation of a disorder event.
Brad Stulberg 07:51
Alright, so here we go. There’s lots to unpack. So 36 disorder events in the average adult life, and I’m going to name a few, starting school, graduating from school, starting to date someone new, breaking up with someone, getting married, getting divorced, having kids, having your kids move out of the house, starting a new job, leaving a job, retiring, getting sick, recovering from illness, meeting a new best friend, distancing from a best friend, losing a loved one, on and on and on. So a disorder event is something that fundamentally changes both your mindset and how you go about your day in your head. And then also often how you actually go about your day in the world. And disorder events aren’t always bad. As you noticed in my list, there’s a lot of good things, getting married, having kids meeting a new best friend, but they’re things that fundamentally shift how you orient towards yourself and towards others. So we have this identity. I’m Brad, you’re Clint. But when these disorder events happen, they impact our identity, they change our identity, no one gets married, no one has kids, no one meets a new best friend, no one loses a loved one and doesn’t have their identity changed. So we’re constantly riding these waves of disorder throughout our lives. So that’s a disorder event. Again, the average person experiences 36, you might think that, well, you only named about 12, 13. But many of these we go through multiple times. You know, how many orthopedic surgeries has the average person has someone that experiences depression, you go through cycles, oftentimes people have more than one kid, so on and so forth. So this concept of rugged flexibility, which is the main new language that I introduced in the book, we often think that the way to navigate these disorder events is either to be really rugged, and durable, and really strong, or to be really flexible, to bend to go with the flow. And people like to put themselves on one of these two extremes. I’m gonna get through this by being rugged or I’m gonna get through this by being flexible. And what I propose in the book is actually we need to marry those two traits together, we need to be both rugged and flexible, in order to navigate these disorder events. And the most profound example, of rugged flexibility playing out on a timescale that is so much broader than our lives, is that of evolution. And I’m really going into the weeds here, but let me walk you through this. So evolution is basically explained as survival of the fittest. And what does that mean? So you have a species, and the species is just flying that plane, right? Everything’s fine. And then there’s some kind of change to the environment, the climate changes, there’s a meteor, there’s an ice age, there’s the introduction of a new predator, you name it. And species that are really, really rugged, but not at all flexible, they can’t adapt to their new environment, they get selected out, they die off. Species that are super flexible, but have no strength, have no core ruggedness, they evolve so much, that they become unrecognizable, they literally turn into a new species. The species that have the most durability over long periods of time on an evolutionary scale, are both rugged and flexible. So there’s something about them that is really strong, that’s their core essence, that’s who they are. And that is the hill that they die on. They do not change that. But outside of that they’re extremely flexible and adaptable to their environment. And, again, you see that an evolutionary scale, but you also see that in our own lives. So it can be really disorienting to think about, well, what does it mean to have a strong identity when we’re going to experience 36 disorder events. And if you just lock into, here’s who I am, this is who I am, I’m not going to change, you’re over indexing on ruggedness, and you’re going to have a lot of anxiety throughout your life. Whereas if you go the complete other direction, and you say, you know, I am just going to be so zen, I’m just going to go with the flow of everything, well, then it can be really hard to know yourself, what do you really stand for? So rather than take these two things that are opposites, I propose we put them together, and we identify what are our core strengths, what really makes us who we are, and these are the hills we’re gonna die on. But then get really good at flexibly applying those core strengths and adapting to our environments as they change over time.
Clint Murphy 12:13
I love it. I really identified at the end, when you said, here are the 10 exercises that you can do to increase your rugged flexibility. I thought, wow, yeah, this this list really aligns with me. So it’s probably no surprise to you as we go through book two that I’m fully aligned going in. So you talked about when people resist change, there’s four main ways that they do it. And we’re looking at they avoid it or refuse to acknowledge it, they actively resist it, sacrifice their agency, and they try to get back to where they were. So all the things that we’re going to try to through rugged flexibility, say, hey, instead of doing that, why don’t you do this? Can you give a little bit background flavor high level of each of those four and what it looks like when people are trying to employ those tactics?
Brad Stulberg 13:10
Yeah, so I think that the best example here, and and it’s one that at first, you might be like, Huh, interesting, but it kind of gets it all for and someone that really showed lots of rugged flexibility is the tennis superstar, Roger Federer. So let’s use him as an example to work our way through the common ways that we resist change and how we can overcome them. So for those that you know, have been living in a cave, Roger Federer is one of the greatest tennis players of all time, definitely in the top three, some would argue the best. And Roger Federer is not only known for his incredible skill at tennis, but also for his longevity. So Federer was dominating the sport into his late 30s. And tennis is a sport on the men’s side where most people peak between 24 and 28. Now, what’s really interesting about Federer is he went through a really crappy rough patch between the ages of 32 and 36. So he underwent a series of injuries. He had to drop out of tournaments that in the past, he would have like coasted to the win. And what Federer was realizing is that this change that we all face, aging was really coming for him. And he couldn’t just keep doing things the way that he was. He couldn’t resist it. He couldn’t deny it. He couldn’t just try to work through these injuries and get back to his old game. All these things that we do to resist change. They weren’t working for Federer. So what did Federer do at age 36, which is like a dinosaur in tennis. He reinvented his game. He embraced new technology, he gave up the racket that had made him the best player in the world for a racket that younger people were using. Right. This is like an old curmudgeon. It’s like, I’m not gonna get on social media, like, well, then you get selected out, like the world is changing whether you like it or not, you have to adapt. He completely changed his backhand. So he took pressure off his backhand. So the ball slow down, which made the pace of points more extended. So he didn’t have to be as quick to get around to the neck, and to change to serve the way that he served and valid. So this change agent came for Federer who was world class at what he did, and all the things that work to get him to where he was stopped working. And instead of denying it, resisting it ,engaging in magical thinking, trying to get back to where he was, he adapted his game. What he didn’t do is he didn’t quit tennis. He didn’t say that, hey, you know, I’m just going to age really gracefully without any grit. And I’m just going to try to, you know, place in the top 10 instead of being the best in the world. His core values, his core strengths, fierce competition and excellence. Those did not change. That was his ruggedness. He held on to that. But then he was so flexible in the other parts of his game. And at age 36, he had the best season of his career.
Clint Murphy 16:05
Wow, which no one would expect, especially in tennis and love it. So let’s dive into some of the ways we can think of this rugged flexibility. And you already used one of them sneakily early in the show, when you said it didn’t have to be either, or it could be either and, so you employed some non dual thinking, can you take our listeners through what is non dual thinking? And how does that help contribute to our rugged flexibility.
Brad Stulberg 16:35
So lots of people, particularly in the West grow up thinking very dualisticly, or very linearly, and that means this or that, the light is red, the light is yellow, or the light is green, I’m pregnant, or I’m not pregnant, this is good or bad, I got the promotion or I didn’t on and on and on. And linear thinking is super valuable. It underlies all of classical thought and the scientific method, right? The scientific method is literally, here’s a hypothesis, it’s either true or not let me prove or disprove it. So we need linear thinking. I’m not saying it’s a bad thing at all. However, it’s not the only way to think. And another way, is what psychologists call non dual thinking, which doesn’t say this or that, but it says this and that. And when we face change, again, the old model is we’re either going to be super flexible, or we’re not going to change the new model, is we’re going to be stable through change, we’re going to do this and that, in approaching change with a non dual mindset tends to be much more advantageous than approaching it with a dualistic mindset, the Nobel Prize winning psychologist, Dan Kahneman, and see you smiling. How can you not be a big fan of Dan Kahneman? Of course, you are Thinking Fast and Thinking Slow. He has this beautiful remark. When he says, Don’t ask, if this is true. Ask of what is it true? And I like to add in, in when is it true? So is this true? Yes or no? That’s very dualistic. Like, should you be ragged? Or should you try to change? Well, it depends. It depends on the situation, it depends on where you are at in your life. So that is the difference between dual thinking and non dual. Now, does non dual thinking always work? No. But it’s super underemployed. So when you catch yourself facing uncertainty, and you catch yourself falling into a habitual pattern of I can do this or that, just pause and say like, what would it look like to do this and that? Or what would it look like to do this early, and then do that later.
Clint Murphy 18:34
I’m gonna give you a super subtle example. And then I want to also plug you because this, although it’s a subtle shift, it had a pretty big impact on you that you talk about. So I’d love to share that. And when you look at a subtle example, you go to a restaurant, everybody just looks at the menu, and they’re like, well, I have to have this, I have to have that. And I remember the first time one of my close friends made two or three alterations, and he got exactly what he wanted. And I was like, oh, like, so I don’t have to be so binary or so black and white. I can have what’s on the menu. And I could add hot sauce, I could change the fries. I can change the sauce. And then I get an exact meal that I like. But some of the young people on my team, they look at me like the crazy Boomer who’s just like completely customizing something. And it’s like, well, why? Why wouldn’t you actually go get exactly what you want? Or at the very least ask for it. Yeah, at the very least ask.
Brad Stulberg 19:34
Yeah, I’m with you. 100%. It is. It’s a very, it sounds like a very trivial example. But I think part of that my job is the writer of this book is to pull us out and say like, what a metaphor for life. Like, changes happen throughout our life. We have this whole menu of changes. And we can just order them off the menu and kind of like be left with them. Or we can be in conversation with them. We can say you know, like, this thing’s happening. Like I can’t take steak off the menu, like here’s steak, but I’m going to work with it because I prefer a medium rare than medium. And that’s where we can be in conversation with things on the menu of change that life throws at us.
Clint Murphy 20:10
Oh, and as you say that, I mean, that’s where we’ve been for the last three years. Okay, we like COVID, massive disorder period going change in all of us. And now, some people lost their jobs, some people had health issues, of course, and a lot of us, what we were dealing with was more the lock down and the constraints. And we could have chosen well, how do I respond to that? You know, in that time period, wrote two books. I’ve had the biggest evolution in my life full stop. And that was looking at the menu of options that were available to us and say, well, are we going to try to just stick to what we had? Or are we going to evolve our life, and go with the flow, go with the change and decide what we want to do on the other side? Which is exactly right. And as long as what we chose, tied to our core values, and then the it was rugged flexibility in actio. And actually, it aligned with our core values. But we were saying, Oh, hey, well, now I’ve got all this time, my values are this, this and this, I’m gonna write books about that. Or I, my values are this, this and this, I’m gonna launch a podcast and a social media channel based on that.
Brad Stulberg 21:27
That’s right. So the ruggedness that you’re describing is your core values. So when you think about applying rugged flexibility to you, as a person, your identity, you’ve got your core values, which are these guiding principles, things that you really aspire towards in your life. Examples could be creativity, health, intellect, relationships, wisdom, kindness, reputation, so on, these are the hills that you die on. These are the things that when change comes, you do not sacrifice them, because then you lose who you are, you become so disoriented, you don’t even know yourself. However, the flexible part is taking those core values and saying, Alright, the world around me has changed. How do I now apply those core values differently in this new world. So creativity is very different than saying I write books. Or I’m a manager. Because if you’re a manager, and COVID happens, and you get laid off, or you start working remote, and you decide that you don’t want to manage remote, or you’re forced back to come into the office, and you decide you don’t want to manage in the office, whatever it is, well, then you’re out of luck, you’re not a manager, Well, who am I, but if your value is creativity, and you took that to being a people leader and managing, you can take that value of creativity and apply it so many different ways. And I think you’re a prime example of that, you can start a basically a small media company on the internet, you can start an online course, you can become a coach, like there’s so many things that you can do with the value of creativity. So that ruggedness comes not from what we have, and not from these roles that we have at any given points of our lives but the qualities underneath those roles that we want to embody. And once we make that shift, then we can be really flexible in how we apply those qualities is the world changes. I mean, I get ready, I love to write, and I do identify as a writer. So I’m trying to practice what I preach. But what’s underneath writing, I have to ask myself, and it’s a couple of things. It’s a value of intellect. And it’s a value of language and communication. Now, I identify just as a writer, in books go away, and I get chills down my spine saying, and I really hope this doesn’t happen, well, then I’m shut out of luck. But if I identify with the core values of intellect, and language, well, you can take that, and you can do a podcast, you can do an online course, there’s so many different ways to apply those things. So that makes us more rugged and flexible when we shift from specific activities and roles to the values underneath them.
Clint Murphy 23:53
And so for the listener that’s hearing this, and they’ve never done an exercise to figure out what are my values? What hills am I willing to die on? How do you suggest they find that out about themselves? Alright, so
Brad Stulberg 24:07
My publisher would kill me if I didn’t say this. So I’m gonna say it’s in the book. And I’m going to talk people through it right here too, because I’m a nice guy. So there’s countless core values. And the ones that I named are just examples. What is really helpful that’s in the appendix of the book is there’s a list of like the 100 most commonly held core values. And it’s certainly not exhaustive, but it’s good to get brainstorming going. So what I recommend is that people identify between three and five core values. Really, like force yourself, it’s very hard. Oftentimes, my coaching clients come to me they’re like, here’s a list of 18. And like I got, we got to narrow it down. Okay, got it to 10. Now, we got to narrow it down. Because these are like the things that you’re going to die for, right? The real traits that embody who you are, once you’ve narrowed it down to three to five, it’s not enough just to have a core value of intellect. You have to say what does intellect actually mean to you? Define that thing, customize it, right? What does it mean to strive for being intellectual. And then the next step is to say, All right, now that I’ve got this value now that I’ve defined it, what are ways that I can practice it in my day to day life? Like what happens when the rubber meets the road? And suddenly, you’ve got this internal dashboard? And you can measure yourself? How am I living in alignment with my core values, and then you can adjust as you go. And when big changes happen, you can go back to those core values. And you can ask yourself, how would I apply the core value of whatever that is in that core value to this current situation. And this core values approach, the way that I’m speaking about it is something that I’ve developed but this overarching theme, this is very old, like this is an all the ancient wisdom traditions. It is the heartbeat of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, which I know that you’re familiar with, which basically says that the best way to work through psychological distress is to accept that psychological distress sucks. And it happens. Some of us are endowed with neuro chemistry where it happens more often than others, and to know your values and to commit to acting in alignment with your values, even as you navigate that distress. And I think that that’s just such a simple but profound way to think about what it means to live a meaningful life.
Clint Murphy 26:17
Yeah. And I found it interesting, I was reading that and I flipped over to my sort of one pager that has my purpose, values, mission, three year goals, five year goals, one year goals, etc. And I looked at the number one value, and I had learning and growth, and recognize that I don’t know if I’d ever thought of it. So I created that about five years ago, six years ago. And the first iteration of the podcast was the Pursuit of Learning, which was renamed the growth guide. So I found it wow, even though I wasn’t looking at this, I was living it. And it just blew me away. Because there’s there’s a education program I’m considering and have put an application for, and it was the third value. And I was like, oh, like, I’m doing that, too. So it was just really interesting to see how deeply those actually were embedded into how I’m choosing to live my life. So I was blown away by that, Brad. And it’d be remiss if we didn’t talk about the fact that at this point in the world chain, we’re going through what we’ll call just accelerated change. It happens faster and faster every year with technology now we have AI, we have what’s going on globally with shifting landscape and something you said really jumped out at me and I’d love for us to chew on it a little. So you’ve said that we should talk about the downsides of an ever changing landscape, which are demagogues, authoritarians, and Grifters thrive during these periods of disorder, and I think we’re seeing that on YouTube with the number one most searched person in 2022 as an example, which really bothers me, when my 12 year old or 11 year old at the time brings them up. I’m like, why are you listening to that person, because they offer exactly as all over Tiktok and YouTube, they offer a false sense of status and security to those who dislike or feel threatened by what’s happening. They represent the past fighting to go back to the way things were instead of moving forward towards something better. I don’t often talk about politics on the show, but you bring up something that’s been on my mind, where effectively what we’re seeing it’s almost a de evolution in front of our eyes. So can we chew on that and talk a little bit about the downsides that you see to this?
Brad Stulberg 28:51
Right. So I’m glad that you’re bringing this up. And for listeners that are immediately thinking, I’m going to get on the defensive here, I just encourage you to to be rugged and flexible and to try to think in terms of both and I’m just going to offer my perspective clinch just offering his doesn’t mean it’s the right perspective. But I think it’s an important one to put out there. And I think that we can take this and narrow it down from politics as a whole to an issue that you and I both care about. Because we have young boys and because we’re men, which is masculinity. And I think this is where it’s going to proceed the playing it out. So old masculinity 1940s to 1970s. Very clear sense of identity. You work the job, you were the breadwinner, you had a strong physical body and you repress those emotions you didn’t show them. It’s why men committed suicide in that time period much more frequently than women. Things changed, things shifted. Not all for the good, not all for the bad. Suddenly what we have is we have a world where women are now often primary breadwinners where men aren’t just defined by how much they can lift in the gym. Take it to a far extreme, there is a whole spectrum of gender identity. And there is a on that spectrum there is something in between men and women like these are big, big changes to just how we see and how we think about the world. And I think that the demagogues in the Grifters are selling well, let’s go back to the 70s. Let’s go back to this patriarchy where everything was set, everything was certain, everything was stable. And we just swallowed what we didn’t like as men. And we expected those around us to just kind of swallow what they didn’t like about it either. And that can be really appealing. Instead of doing the hard work and saying, You know what, like, things have changed. It’s great that women have more rights, I think it’s great that people can identify how they want in a way that serves their mental health. Now, does that mean that we throw the baby out with the bathwater? And we say, oh, there’s no such thing it means to be a man. No, I don’t think that’s useful either. Like I do think there are some rugged core elements of what it means to be a role model, man, but they’re not the same thing that they were. So why would we want to go back to where we were? Why wouldn’t we take this moment to define a more positive masculinity, masculinity that embraces strength and physicality, but also emotional flexibility, a masculinity that can say, hey, being a stay at home dad is every bit as valid as working a nine to five as an accountant. masculinity, they can say, we need more young male teachers. You know, you don’t just have to be a construction worker, you can teach kindergarten, like, to me that is where we should be heading. But what you see is you see this enormous gap that is being filled by people such as Andrew Tate, I’m just going to name him that say, no, no, no, like you’re taking the red pill, these people are trying to make you soft. And I think that’s utter BS. I think that it’s not surprising that you see certain political movements that tend to be more authoritarian. It’s all about making something great again, like going back to where we were, instead of saying, hey, like, what is the future look like where we can build something that is really strong. And again, I think this just preys on this cultural narrative around change is a bad change is scary, we should resist change. And I think that I’ve spent the last three minutes kind of digging on some of the rights orientation to this. I think the left has a trap of sometimes being so flexible, that they lose ruggedness altogether. And they just expect to live in like a postmodern world, where like, nope, like, there’s nothing that means to be a strong man. Well, that might be your opinion. But lots of young boys need like role model schemas and archetypes. And we can have some core values that we can define in a positive way, and not let go. So again, here’s an example where like, non dual thinking makes perfect sense to me. Fortunately, we vacillate on these extremes. Another example. And I think it’s important and I know it’s one that you care about, and nothing pisses me off more on the internet, when I see this is these two extremes when it comes to mental health? Where one is pick yourself up by the bootstraps, just exercise more, you choose your happiness, you know, you know, if you’re feeling depressed, it’s a warning sign, change everything around you in your life. All of that is true. You don’t what else is true, sometimes you do all that and you’re still fucking depressed, and you need an SSRI, and evidence based therapy. And we’ve got these two extremes, which is just be a victim, you can’t do anything. Like, you know, being depressed is the worst, and there’s nothing that you can do to change it. Well, no evidence based therapeutic model says that that’s a good mindset to fall into. This other extreme is depression is only a choice. Medication has just been pumped on you by big pharma, you’re weak if you take it, when in fact, you actually look at what the evidence says for clinical depression. And it’s both like it does suck, feeling impossible. Medication can help and there is a lot that you can do to work your way out of it. So those are two glaring examples where I think there are very real repercussions on a lot of people.
Clint Murphy 33:58
Yeah, that one bothers me the most, because I think most of the people not most, I think a lot of the people who write antidepressants, don’t work. Just get outside, walk in the sun, eat some steak, and lift heavy weights. I don’t think they’ve fucking ever been depressed being like, you know, like, so a 22 year old kid. I, for the listeners, like I have a specific antidepressant I’ve been taking for 19 years. And there’s times I’ve gone off it and something goes wrong. And I end up back on it. And I walk outside 15,000 steps a day and I eat steak and I lift weights and I read books and I live my purpose. So it’s not either or it’s either and and that is one of the ones you’re right. That bothers me the most. I actually I liked the direction a thread was going This morning and I retweeted it. And then there was one that said us antidepressants was it had it is like, don’t do it. And I was like, gotta go back up and remove my retweet from this one, which is rarely, you know, rarely that I get down a thread and say, Oh, I’m gonna pull this back, I’m gonna pull back my retweet, but I can’t handle it when someone makes it so black and white, Brad on that one. And so when we start to see these Grifters, if you will, these demagogues who are trying to prey on people who don’t like change. And they’re trying to make those people comfortable either staying where they are, we’re trying to go back to where they were happiest. And I forget where I saw the video, someone said, we were all basically the happiest the year we graduated high school. And so everything we do in life is trying to get back to that year, because that was the year where you know, the epitome of like, we’re like a full, almost adult, but no responsibility. life’s great. Everything that’s happening in the world is great. I’m not sure I still I believe that for me, but how do we spot them? And how can we give people tools to get comfortable to not fall for what these people are doing?
Brad Stulberg 36:16
I think the answer to your question is embedded in our prior discussion a little bit, which is I think, to be really wary of people that are saying everything that is currently happening is bad. And we need to get back to where we were before this was happening. On the one hand, that’s like the too rugged, too rigid. I think on the other hand, we need to be wary of people that go the postmodern route and say, you know, two plus two equals seven, like no, like, you know, math is a pretty important core value for Western society and how we shape things right now two plus two still equals four. And maybe a million years from now, two plus two will equal seven. But that rate of evolution is just too much for people to handle, no species could deal with it. So I think whenever we hear people going to these two extremes, we need to kind of say like, what’s the what’s the wide chasm in the middle? And how do we play there. And then I think is individuals what’s equally important. And another way that non dual thinking rears its head in this whole theme of rugged flexibility and change is when we are faced with a world that has accelerating change in a lot of very legitimate problems. It’s very easy to fall into these two mindsets. The first is what I’m going to call Pollyanna toxic positivity bury your head in the sand. I’m just going to pretend that everything’s fine. I’m going to go to my yoga class, I’m going to lift my weights, going to read my books, I’m not going to even think about what’s happening in the world. The second is to fall into what I’m going to call despair and hopelessness. Everything’s terrible. Everything sucks. There’s no point of even trying to fix everything because it’s so broken. And the best thing to do is just complain because misery loves company. And again, I think you see these two attitudes, old colors online quite a bit. But they’re both a cop out. Because if nothing’s wrong, and you don’t engage with the world, then you absolve yourself of doing anything to make the world a better place. I don’t think that’s a great way to live. If everything’s wrong, and everything’s hopeless, well, then you’re never going to take an action either, because nothing you could do can make it better. So even though hopelessness is kind of like trendy, it’s actually a cop out. It’s really lazy. In the middle, between toxic positivity and hopelessness, there is this huge chasm where we can take productive actions doesn’t mean we’re going to fix everything. But we can do things. And if we don’t, then what’s the point of even being here? The quote I have in the book is like, we cannot attempt to make a broken world better if we also become broken people. And I think despair, hopelessness is such a temptation and trap that so many people can easily fall into, and we’ve got to be aware of it and work against it. Because if the one extreme, is more like, let’s go back to where we were, and don’t take this pill and just focus on yourself all the time and don’t even think about the world. In the other extreme is like hopelessness, despair, everything sucks always. Neither of those are going to make us happier people or make our communities any better.
Clint Murphy 39:27
Yeah, and sowe’ve got the Pollyanna and we’ve basically got like the Anihilist on the other side is what’s interesting. I’m gonna bring this back to a different area in the book that you talk about because I loved it was you had a quote, consciousness is not solely our experience of reality is it is our experience of reality filtered and modulated by our experiences for it. And this can get us in trouble when our expectations are too high. So you talked about Viktor Frankl and tragic optimism. And what really jumped out for me, was the Stockdale paradox which I always look at Viktor Frankl and James Stockdale and their example. And for Stockdale, it was the concept that Burt Frankel, it was tragic optimism. For the Stockdale paradox it was, you must maintain unwavering FAITH that you can and will prevail in the end, regardless of the difficulties and at the same time have the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they may be. So when we look at that we had Viktor Frankl concentration camp, saw so many people around him died in develop this concept of tragic optimism. James Stockdale, Prisoner of War, saw most of the people who were were the the optimists, and I always forget, one of them was asked, well, who died first and they said, that’s easy. It was the optimist. And I think it might be Stockdale, but I could be wrong in their rationale being. They always thought we’ll be home by Christmas. We’ll be home by Easter and event every time they weren’t. They just got sadder and sadder and sadder. So I think this was actually Viktor Frankl because tragical be optimist but tragically optimist. So, can you explain tragic optimism and in how that informs how we approach this and we can have a bit tie this back into what you were just talking about with our Pollyannas and our nihilists.
Brad Stulberg 41:35
So tragic optimism takes an expectancy that life is going to be hard. And there is going to be inevitable pain and some suffering, even in the most average human existence. And in the face of that, we can do everything possible to choose to trudge forward with a positive attitude nonetheless. And when we lose the ability to have a positive attitude, when our brains literally will not let us be positive. That is a great cue to ask for help. Whether that’s from your community, your spouse, your coach, your teacher, or therapist, friend, that is tragic optimism in a nutshell. And to link it back to an earlier concept. What’s really interesting is the scientific model of allostasis for change states, the expectations have an enormous part to play on how we respond to change is very different than homeostasis. Homeostasis just says reality, isn’t it as it is. So to make this clear, here’s an extreme example. If you have two people, and they both get shot in the leg, same bullet, same place they get shot, they are going to have extremely different responses to that. If one of them is the soldier on the battlefield, in the other, as a person walking through the grocery store, that’s a victim of a mass shooting, same bullet, same spot, same wounds, same velocity. Why is that, because the soldier has an expectation that they might get shot in the leg, the person in the grocery store has no expectation that that might happen. Researchers have studied this, obviously, they can’t do an experiment with gunshots in this way, but they’ve studied it with other things. And what they find is that not only is our psychology different, but our biology is different. Our cortisol, the stress hormone goes way up when we’re not expecting change was whereas when we are expecting it, we can be much more quantumness, we can be much more resilient to that change. So that is an extreme example, and I don’t want to live in a world. And I’m not implying this where we all go to the grocery store expecting that we might get shot that is terrible. And using that, to illustrate this broader point, which is when we navigate life, if we just expect that everything’s going to be great always. And then we’re gonna get shot with all kinds of arrows that life is gonna throw at us. We’re going to really struggle to update our reality and expectations and to move gracefully and with rugged flexibility through that change. Whereas if we have an expectation that life is going to be really hard and shitty stuffs gonna happen. When it does, it’ll still suck, it’ll still hurt, but we won’t be thrown off as much. And I think that’s what Frankel is getting at with tragic optimism. Like we can expect that tragedies are going to happen. And we can do everything possible to practice optimism nonetheless,
Clint Murphy 44:30
And when you talk about Frankl as well. I guess very early in the show, we talked about the idea that it isn’t the experience that matters. It’s how you interpret it. He’s also one of the biggest or earliest thinkers that well, no, we go all the way back to the stoics. And even earlier than that, but but he was also a very staunch proponent of that with stimulus response. In the middle is the gap in it In the gap is where the magic happens because we get to choose the response that we take to the stimulus, right? So a lot came out of that out of him over time. And he was a prisoner of war, like just the or not even a war, a concentration camp. And so you think about the ability to say, hey, that is tragic. But I’m going to come out the other side of it and add so much value to the world.
Brad Stulberg 45:25
That’s right. And I think it’s important to note that, for me, this is an important topic for really big painful changes, the loss of a loved one. War, something like the Holocaust. We don’t have to think that we’re going to grow or get anything good out of it, when we’re going through it. Like sometimes things can just suck, and we have them suck. Sometimes saying like, well, I’m going to be tragically optimistic is so clear that you are lying to yourself, you know, if your spouse suddenly dies in a car accident, you kind of gotta be insane to be like, well, like, I’m gonna grow from this, and I’m gonna force myself to grow from this. Sometimes things just suck. What’s interesting is that five to 10 years after those events, not everyone, PTSD is a real thing. It’s debilitating. But most people that undergo true capital T trauma, do not develop PTSD. Five to 10 years down the road, they have narratives and stories about what happens where there is some glean of growth, not always meaning because some things are just meaningless. Some things just suck, but some degree of growth. But what’s interesting is if when you’re in the middle of one of these really terrible experiences, you try to force yourself to grow or force yourself to find meaning, all you’re going to do is slow the process down. So I like to think of it twofold. For like, what I’m going to call lowercase t traumas or lowercase c changes. Yeah, I approach those with a big time growth mindset. I say like, this is what’s happening right now. You know, I got laid off from the job or forced to move across the country like this sucks. But like, I’m going to figure out how to dance with it and grow from it. I think that’s very positive. But capital C changes or capital T trauma, I just got a cancer. And I think God, I haven’t had this, I’m just using me or the someone just got a cancer diagnosis, someone just lost a loved one. I don’t think that the default reaction is how can I grow from this, I think the default reaction is like, this sucks. And I’m going to grieve and I’m going to suffer. And if I just get through this, whatever that takes six months or six years, on the other side of that there’s often meaning and growth. Anyone that’s experienced the clinical depression knows this. When you are in the thick of a depression, it is absolutely meaningless. It is so meaningless, it is physically painful. And to say, well, oh, I’m going to be more compassionate because of this. Or I’m going to be able to better empathize with other people because of this. No, no, no, you’re depressed brain says, No, you’re not you’re an asshole. You’re just depressed. However, people that come out the other side of the clinical depression, they almost always look back and say, Wow, did I grow from that experience? But when they’re in the middle of it, there’s no growth happening. So I think that that is a trap of self help. Is that, yes, it’s good to grow. Yes, it’s good to be grateful. It’s good to practice gratitude. And there are certain times when the most mature skillful thing we can do is release from all those pressures. Think gratitudes. Another great example all sorts of research shows that practicing gratitude daily really does make a big difference. However, if you tell a depressed person, or someone that lost their significant other to write down three things they’re grateful for, they are going to flick you the middle finger, and they’re going to have every right to so it’s non dual. is practicing gratitude bad. No. In most situations, it’s great. But are there times when it actually makes sense to release from it and just to be like, you know, this just sucks but I need to get through. Also true.
Clint Murphy 48:48
Yeah, I had a guest on last week, Mike Rucker for the Fun Habit. And one point in the book, he was highlighting that one of the challenges write the three things you’re grateful for each day, there have been some studies that show a certain subset of the population, it actually leads to depression, when that subset actually realizes Well, wait a second. Like Ted over there has three things to be grateful for. And I don’t. And now every time I go to write in my journal, I’m reminded that I’m actually not grateful about my life, and holy shit, that’s depressing. And so it’s not to say that the average person isn’t going to benefit from it, but not everybody will is your point. And it sounds like what you’re also describing is a little bit of this concept. And I always hate when things are labeled with toxic because I automatically think toxic masculinity. And I think that’s bullshit. There’s good masculinity and there’s bad masculinity. It’s not one label that now I have to go teach my two sons that like is toxic positivity, and in the fact that we have to have a silver lining in every cloud, which to your point, I’ve been noticing you share this more on social media lately. Every once in a while, it just sucks. And that is the answer.
Brad Stulberg 50:13
Right. And every once in a while, like, I think the real growth and I’m an optimistic person listeners can probably tell, I think you probably are too at default. Yeah, I think that’s why depression is so hard for people like us is because it’s so counter to like our normal being, it just feels like your brain is taken over by something that’s not you. But I think for optimistic people, the real growth is to release from the need for anything to make sense or be meaningful during the really crappiest experiences of life. Because I think sometimes optimism can be like a way to try to control crappy circumstances, you know, I’m gonna get something out of this, or I’m gonna grow from this, like, underneath that is like, while I’m still in control. And 99% of the time, that’s good, but the 1%, where we actually just need to let go and release and say, like, I just need to get through this. That’s the real growth for an optimistic person.
Clint Murphy 51:04
And I think you nailed something right there, Brad. And something I’ll throw at you to chew on for a future book, and we could debate together is, I think guys like you and me. And I had this conversation with someone at lunch two weeks ago, because he was going through the same thing. We’re predisposed to end up depressed. You know, it’s similar to someone like Tim Ferriss, because you are optimistic, you are heavily growth minded. You’re always thinking, and this comes to a little too expectations, you’re always thinking about where you’re going, you’re always thinking about the future, you’re always thinking about what you’re going to write, what you’re going to do, the list you’re going to hit, you go down the list, we both probably have a list of 100 things we want to do and that we’re working on and that we’re doing. And probably have very active minds and when you’re generally that type of person, where you’re at is almost never enough. So there’s that level of, yeah, it’s great because it pushes me to do so much. It pushes me to strive, it pushes me to become the person I meant to be. And it also doesn’t necessarily allow for happiness. And I’m sure, yes, I’m doing mindfulness, I’m doing meditation, I’m getting better at that. And there’s a certain that’s part of part of my core value, competition, growth, ideation, like those are all things that ultimately contribute a little to depression. Yeah, that’s right.
Brad Stulberg 52:36
And I think that even your use of the word happiness there is really interesting. And, you know, we’re of the same generation. So we were raised by parents where the whole goal is to be happy. We internalized a lot of that. Whereas what I find is that, the more I’m focused on being happy, the less happy I am. And the more I release from the need to be happy, and just focus on like, meaning and showing up and doing things that align with my values, the better I feel,
Clint Murphy 53:04
Yeah, and less the pursuit of happiness. And that’s why I like Mike went pretty deep on that. And he, his choice was will pursue fun. Because when you’re having fun, you’re happy. And I thought that was a beautiful way to do it. You also talked about this concept of, and I hadn’t heard this one before. So I want to explore it a little that suffering equals pain, times resistance. So where does that come from and for our listeners, what does that look like in their lives?
Brad Stulberg 53:35
All right, so this comes from millennia ago, Buddhism, and more recently, it comes from cutting edge pain management and Rehabilitation Science. So most simple example is, you are somebody that has a flare up of bad low back pain in your bad low back pain, you’re gonna rate is a six out of 10. So if suffering equals pain times resistance, right now you’re at a six, you’ve got six units of suffering. But if you take that low back pain, and you start to ruminate, and you say, this is never going away, I’m going to have to cancel all my plans two weekends from now, I’m not even going to be able to go on a walk with my kids. I’m getting so old that my body is deteriorating. Or you just resist it completely. And you go out and you try to play basketball through your low back pain without changing anything. Well, now you’re adding units of resistance. And resistance is not just additive, it’s actually exponential. So a low back pain, it’s six, that you resist that a six is 36 units of suffering. Whereas a low back pain is six that you don’t resist. It’s just a six. You know, six times one you can’t go to zero the math doesn’t work, then you only have six units of suffering. Now, what’s fascinating about this is, as I said, the latest pain science shows that pain is not just physical, it’s psycho, bio physical, social, it’s all these different things emotional as well. And a lot of the resistance is that other stuff. So no one’s going to say that, Oh, you know, you can ease yourself into pain, and it will completely go away. Like, if you pull your back, that hurts, that’s going to be six units of suffering period. But whether it’s six units, or 36, or 42, or 60, that you do have some say over. And what all the modern programs for chronic pain teach, is they teach acceptance of pain over resistance, so they do not try to get people to make their pain go away. They try to get people to accept their pain. And by accepting the pain, the suffering goes way down. And this is the Mayo Clinic, this is the world’s most prestigious medical institutions approach to pain.
Clint Murphy 55:58
Yeah, and the examples you use are when we have that pain, let’s not use that pain. And I you know, Mom, if you listen to this episode, or dad, you know, I kind of think about you guys when you tell me well, I’m 72 I got these issues with my body. So I can’t do any workouts like, it’s like, well, no, like, you can work out. And sure, you might not be able to do certain movements. But those workouts will actually make you have a better overall life. Because you will have you’ll get to the maximum that you’re capable of for your age and in your health and you’ll move forward, not not do nothing and and then you’re just gonna lose all your muscle mass over time.
Brad Stulberg 56:41
Yeah, and even more broadly, not just to physical activity, I think just activity in general, is I think, when pain really gets tied up in suffering is when we have pain that contracts our life. So we can’t hang out with our friends, we can’t exercise. We can’t do all these things because of our pain. And then that like sets in. And now all these things that used to give your life meaning are gone. So not only aren’t you doing them, but you’re kind of just like thinking about your pain all the time. And that just makes it so much worse. And I’m not downplaying pain to me is very similar to depression, like I’m not downplaying the realness of how terrible something can feel. But again, our old models are get back to where you were before the injury or before you aged guess what impossible. Our old models are, make this go away at all cost impossible, in what the new science of pain shows is actually like the path forward is to accept it and to learn to be in conversation with it. And to recognize that yeah, you’re not going to be the same and you might have some limitations on your activity. And your back might always hurt. But let’s try to get it to her at a five or a six by accepting it, versus trying to get it to a zero and actually making it a 42 because you’re pushing up against it so hard.
Clint Murphy 58:00
Nice. Okay, so everything we’ve talked about, up till now has been more on the ruggedness, rigidity side of things. Let’s let’s flip to fluid and I’ll read a bit from the book and give you a start there. So you talked about this fact of cultivating a fluid sense of self allowed Vanderpol to do the same. By developing and nurturing other parts of his identity. He could flow around bad training days and defeats over media height and through illness injury and fatigue. Vandorpol’s fluid sense of self protected him from the mental health struggles so many Olympic athletes face. And that reminded me of Nikola Jokic. I don’t know if you saw after the last interview of all time, right, best interview, and he’s like, Well, that basketball is not the most important thing in my life. It’s just something I’m good at. And you know, when can I go home? And there, you got to stay for the parade? No, I want to, like I want to go ride the horses. So, you know, similar approach to what I take in my life, like, Yeah, I’m a CFO, but like, finance isn’t what I love. And I don’t identify myself as an accountant. I just something I’m good at. And what I love and what I do for joy is is the other things. So what is the fluid sense of self? And I used Van der Pol as an example, people may be more familiar with Nikola Jokic, but they may not know who Van der Pol was, can you share a bit of his story and how that ties into this fluid sense of self.
Brad Stulberg 59:32
Niels Van der Pol is a world record holder at the 5k in 10k Speed Skating events. He’s a double Olympic gold medalist at both of those. And speed skating in particular is an event very similar to swimming in that you can just keep training. It’s not like running or weightlifting or eventually you get injured because you’re not pounding your body. You’re on the ice. So a lot of speed skaters will train seven days a week, eight hours a day. Van der Pol is different. Vanderpool had this five two model, where he only trained five days a week. And he took two days completely away from training. People thought that he was crazy. And what Van der Pol said all along was that as a teenager, as a kid, he was training seven days a week, it might have been good for his physical fitness. But for his emotional, social and psychological fitness, it was terrible. Because his whole identity, he had nothing else but speedskating. And therefore, when he had a bad competition, or when he started to struggle with an injury, it was an attack on his entire identity. I don’t have this thing, man who am I. So it led to this tension in the stress. Whereas when he shifted to this five two model, he allowed himself to make friends outside of the sport, to have hobbies outside of speedskating got this quote, to eat pizza and drink beer. And what he lost in physical training, he gains so much more in psychological strength. Because every time he stepped on the ice, it was an all or nothing, he could do it from a place of joy, he could play to win, instead of playing not to lose. And he’s doing that at the highest level of sport. So all of us can do that in our own lives. It’s not to say that he didn’t care. Of course, he cared, he was the best speed skater in the world. He is the best speed skater in the world, he trained so hard. But he made sure to have enough other areas of his identity. So that when speed skating wasn’t going well, he didn’t fall into such a bad anxious rut or depression. And then when speed skating was going, well, he wasn’t scared that he was going to lose it. So I think that this is a really important point. Is obsession important? Yes, to some degree, if you want to be great at something, you have to kind of be obsessed with it. But that has its limit. And if that becomes the only thing in your life that you derive meaning and identity from, then you become very fragile. So the way that I like to think about this, is it’s okay to put all your eggs in one basket. But you’ve got to have other baskets available if that one doesn’t work out. Where people get into problems is if they only have one basket, because then if that basket falls, then who are they? So in my own life, I like to think of this is like I have major components to my identity that I do kind of go all in on and I’m not a you know, a person that promotes quote, unquote, balance, like I think it’s good to, like really care deeply and go for things. But I’ve got my writing. It’s got my coaching. I’ve got my family, my being a husband and a dad. And then I’ve got my athletic pursuits, my strength training. And it’s very rare that all four of those things are tanking at the same time. So when one thing is tanking, I can kind of find meaning and happiness and growth in the others. So I feel like it makes me by being flexible, it actually makes me much more rugged. It’s kind of like Talibs, anti fragile, in a way. Yes. Yes. Like if I get disordered in one areas of those lives, I can potentially make me stronger, and the other. So in a crappy writing season, I can really double down on like parenting and spending tons of time with my wife and training a lot in season where my kids grow up, which I dread because I love them and go off to college, I can double down on writing. So I just think of it like people get into trouble when their whole identity becomes attached to one thing. And you see this with people that retire and empty nesters all the time. If when you retire, when you were a classic example, if when you retire your whole identity was work, you’re not going to know what to do, you’re not gonna know who you are. If you are a parent and all your meaning in life comes through parenting, when your kids move out of the house, you’re not gonna know who you are a lot of marriages disintegrated. Exactly divorce, divorce came around the kids
Clint Murphy 1:03:46
It was all about the kids. It wasn’t who are you, who am I, let’s connect.
Brad Stulberg 1:03:49
And there’s nothing in like, of course, those couples are going to grow apart, how could they not. And again, that’s a very our parents generation thing in what I’m trying to change, what you’re trying to change is like different models for how to do this. So that’s a great example. Because it’s so common. So instead of just orienting around the kids, even within the family unit, you can have two identities, you can have an identity as a parent or a co parent. And then you can have an identity as a lover or a romantic partner. And it’s so important to keep both of those strong. Because during different periods, you’re going to want to shift more into one versus the other. That’s totally normal.
Clint Murphy 1:04:26
You can say to your, you know, your you give your wife a kiss or a hug and your son says yuck, you can say hey, like, the best thing I can do for you as a father is love your mother. So, you know, do you want me to love her? Or do you want do you want us to break up like you tell me a little guy? And he’s like, Yeah, okay.
Brad Stulberg 1:04:44
And every relationship therapist that I’ve ever talked to says it is if you can financially afford it. Having a date night, it sounds so trivial. You’re tired, you don’t want to do it. You’ve got kids, you go out and you end up just talking about your kids the whole time anyways, it is the most important thing. And this is what their relationship therapist says the most important thing you can do for an otherwise good marriage when you have kids is commit to regular date nights.
Clint Murphy 1:05:08
Regular date nights. Yeah, that’s, that’s something we got to get better at.
Brad Stulberg 1:05:14
Because you’re tired. And like, you just want to default, which is like going out and like not have to deal with driving a babysitter home after finding a babysitter. And then the whole thing ends up costing over 100 bucks, because you got to pay the babysitter and you want to go out to eat and you have bottles share a bottle of wine. And it’s like, I’ve never regretted a date night with my wife.
Clint Murphy 1:05:34
For sure. For sure. 100% agreed. And I’m not going to let you off because you said that one of the things that you identify with is is your strength training. And you told us you were attempting a PR for I believe it was your deadlift in the book. But then you didn’t tell us if you said you didn’t quite have to juice you wanted. But you didn’t say what you were attempting and whether whether you landed the lift. So let’s get some details. What What were you attemptin and did you hit it, Brad?
Brad Stulberg 1:06:04
So I recently hit it. And all of these numbers are arbitrary, but it is a big fat round number. And those are the numbers that us humans gravitate towards. So I just moved what was it? I don’t know, a couple months ago, I pulled 500 pounds. And that’s about strength. Some people are gonna listen to this and they’re gonna say 500 pound deadlift, Brad is the strongest person I know. And other people are gonna listen to this and they’re gonna say 500 pound deadlift, like Brad doesn’t even shouldn’t even claim that he’s a strength athlete. Yeah. And that’s what I love about strength training, because like, it’s so individual, but for me, that was a ton of weight.
Clint Murphy 1:06:39
And what do you weigh in at Brad? I weigh 205. Okay, okay. Yeah, that’s a big lift. I love it. I’m getting excited.
Brad Stulberg 1:06:49
Oh, and soon,
Clint Murphy 1:06:50
and then we can’t count on you. You’d
Brad Stulberg 1:06:51
say it and it wasn’t. So. For those that don’t understand, it’s this joke that lifting people have which is a conventional deadlift is your feet are narrow. And your sumo deadlift, your feet are wide. And they both are the same rules, which is the way it has to go from the ground to your hips, locking out in a continuous motion. For me, Sumo deadlifting is easier. That’s why I do it. But in all seriousness, to like to get back to the main topic of change in navigating it is strength training is so important to me, not because of my physical health, it’s for my mental health, mental health. Yeah, and not only like the endorphins and the hormones and all that, but I double down on strength training, when I have a book come out, because that makes sense. Look, doesn’t do well, it hurts. But I can still show up and do my workouts and improve in that area of my life. If that book crushes and does great. And my ego could get too big, 500 pounds is still 500 pounds, that’s gonna humble you every single time. So having this thing that is so tangible, so objective, so real, that is completely disconnected from my professional success, failure or victory, I think is just really healthy. And I encourage everyone to have something like that in their own life, because it makes navigating changes that you can’t control a little bit easier to have this one area of your life that is like kind of just for you.
Clint Murphy 1:08:20
You’re probably not surprised first year and a half of COVID, I went very hard at strength training. There’s a level of I call it iron therapy, in that there’s a meditative aspect to it. If I have a couple of 100 pounds on the bar, can’t think about anything else. You can’t think about anything else, all you can think about is the bar and hitting the lift or hitting the five or hitting the seven, whatever the goal is and in whether that’s bet, and that’s why why kind of like the big three, bench squat dead. Like you can’t screw around with those three. Again, it’s so simple, right? Like you put 300 pounds on the bar and you’re going to squat. It’s like, okay, well, I better be focused here. Otherwise, I’m falling over backwards. And I do have that video clip.
Brad Stulberg 1:09:00
And it is scary for you to nerd out about lifting like I’ve now been doing this series, I did it as a high school football player. But that’s in a past life. But as an adult, I’ve been doing this more seriously for almost three years now. And I can get like really hyped up to bench press and deadlift. But when there’s a lot of weight on the bar, my like default for squatting is like this is terrifying. Yeah, this is one of the lifts where you start from a point, you know, the metaphor of change, like you start from a point of stability, you’re standing up with the bar on your back, and then you go down into utter disorder and you don’t know if you’re gonna stand back up.
Clint Murphy 1:09:35
Yeah, that’s a perfect example like Yeah,
Brad Stulberg 1:09:40
I mean, get back to order right and you got a ton of weight on your back. That’s why it’s important to have a good spotter like the metaphor I have good people around. Yeah, it’s funny how elegant that is.
Clint Murphy 1:09:48
Yeah, I love it that it was through football for, my son’s now grade he’s going into grade 10 and footballs his sport and he’s in bulk mode because he’s an offensive line. And it’s just scary to see how much bigger this 15 year old kid is going to be than me in two months, you know, two or three inches taller, he just passed me in weight. I’m like, what is happening? Where has my little baby boy gone? Brad, like the changes is overwhelming. So we talked about this idea of self, right fluid self. Now, you also talked about this concept of ultimate self and the sense of self. And it reminded me kind of a Buddhist training in the recognition, hey, my consciousness is infinite. And it’s tied to every single person on earth. Yet somehow, I’ve got to bring that back to I am Clint in this body once I stopped thinking about the fact that oh, hey, I am the world I am I am everything. So what are those? Which is a multitude which I think you called it you had a bunch of other multitudes. So what are these multitudes? And how does this self ultimate self played in? And then what was interesting is you threw into that and tied to it being a generalist versus a specialist. It was like, what, how did this all tie together? So I’m gonna pass that over to you to kind of color in the the outline and just paint it?
Brad Stulberg 1:11:24
Yeah, it’s kind of my MO is to take these, these disparate concepts and find patterns we’re trying to time together. Alright, so the one of the most provocative teachings and all of Buddhism that makes people’s heads explode, is the Buddha taught that there is both self and no self. So there’s this famous parable in the Pali canon. It’s the oldest known Buddhist text, where a wanderer it goes up to the Buddha and says, Buddha Buddha blesses one blessed one, I heard there’s no such thing as a self, is that true? And the Buddha remains silent. And then he says, Buddha Buddha, is there a self? How could I not be a self, I’m standing here talking to you. And the Buddha remains silent again. And throughout the Buddha’s teachings, when the Buddha remained silent, it meant this is like, it doesn’t deserve an answer. There’s, there’s no answer to this question. So what scholars take away from that is Buddhist teaching on selfhood is that there is both no self, and there is a self and put the spiritual stuff aside, empirically, nothing is more true. Who is Clint, you are the DNA that you got from your parents and your parents, ancestors, you are changing as a result of this conversation with me you are the food you eat, you are connected to everything around you. And that is all constantly changing. So who is Clint, I don’t know you’re infinity. But when you’re at a red light, and the light turns green, you’re gonna put your foot on the gas, and you’re gonna make a decision to go through. And that is also Clint. And I think that that is the teaching like we both have, we have these two selves, we have a very defined conscious self that navigates the world day to day. Zen master tick, not Han, we call that our historical self. And then we have our ultimate self, which is the self that is connected to everything around us, in both of these coexist at the same time. And for a Western linear thinker, like me, like you, that can make your head explode. But if you practice that, and if you really adopt that mindset, and you get comfortable with both those things being true, at the same time, life gets so much easier. So I like to use extreme examples to make these points really clear. The extreme example is as follows. If you’re trying to write a book, or start a company, you need to identify with your historical self, you need to be a person that can make things happen. If on your deathbed, you can identify with your ultimate self, the self that’s connected to everything it’s going to live on through everything that you did, and everyone that you touched. That’s probably a lot less anxious way to die, than just to think of yourself as you. So it’s really important to be able to kind of flex and to embody both of these selves at the same time. And how did I connect this to being a specialist versus generalist? So to me, a generalist is like the self that contains multitudes, many interests, many skills, many talents influenced by many people. And a specialist is the self that says, hey, I’m really good at this one thing, so I’m just going to do this. And I think people run into problems when they’re just generalist, and then they never go deep in anything, or when they’re just specialists and they go super deep. So to quote my good friend, Dave Epstein, he says it’s not fit or grit. It’s first find fit, be a generalist, find what you’re good at, and then grit then go deep. Yeah, researchers call this exploration versus exploitation. And they find in the mass path to fulfillment, wealth. value creation, is in people that first explore broadly. They are generalists, they do a lot of things. And then when they find the thing In whatever concept you want to use, the one that I like most is where your talent skills and interests the line, then you go really deep on that thing you exploit it. That is the path to success. And what you see people can do this in cycles over time. So you can explore, explore, explore for five years, then exploit the thing that you found for 10. And then maybe you get bored of that. So then you explore, explore, explore, and then you explore it again. So I think that these, these notions of like selfhood, and specialization and generalization, they’re all kind of pointing to the same thing, which is like, we can both be a very defined concrete specialized version of ourself, and a very infinite connected, generalized version. At the same time, we’re at different points of our lives, we can lean more heavily into each of those.
Clint Murphy 1:15:44
So do you dislike Brad, do you dislike when people attempt to label or stick you in a box? As if well, Brad, this is Brad, in this box. This is what Brad is, does that bother you?
Brad Stulberg 1:16:00
You know, it used to bother me. But now it doesn’t really bother me. And I kind of said, yeah, like, that’s where I am now. You know, and that could change. And maybe that will be me forever. Maybe it’ll be maybe I will make the vast majority of my impact and income from writing books forever. And that would be great. But I’m not attached to that. And if someone wants to attach that label to me, that’s fine. It’s kind of like maybe, maybe not, so I try to hold it lightly. Gotcha. Which is hard for me to do. Because I love writing, like, I do want to just write if I could just get paid and have successful books and write the rest of my life, that is what I would do. So like, I want to put that label on myself. But I’ve learned enough and you can tell through this conversation is like that can be dangerous, that can make you fragile. So I need to make sure that in my own way of thinking of myself, I’m like, No, I’m not Brad, the writer like I’m Brad who values creativity, intellect, wisdom. And I’m also is my friends joke, Brad, the dad, I’m an athlete, and I’m a husband.
Clint Murphy 1:16:58
Yes, and not any one thing and it can change. You can buy something different tomorrow because of those three values that you prioritize those lead to you just evolving and changing and becoming different Brads. So let’s finish up with this one. So two things that really jumped out at me with rugged flexibility where, you know, you talked about stoicism, which you and I’ve talked about before you talked about Taoism. And he talked about the Serenity Prayer and it’s always jumped out at me how stoic the Serenity Prayer is. And then you brought that all together with this idea of the four P’s of responding versus reacting. Can we finish up with with just talking a little bit about that? And we’ll wrap it up?
Brad Stulberg 1:17:44
Yeah, well, I like we’re ending on something that is really actionable. So whether it’s the Buddhist two arrows, you can’t control the first one you can’t control the second one, whether it’s the Serenity Prayer, whether it is Epictetus, dichotomy of control, every major wisdom tradition, every third wave, clinical psychological model, all points to this notion that we cannot control. Many things that happen to us, but we can control what we do as a result. And what I’ve observed is that there’s two paths that we can take. The first is we can react and reacting is really quick, and rash, and thoughtless it is a snake bites your leg and you jump back. And when we react, we tend to panic and pummel ahead to peace. Where are we can respond. Responding is slower, it’s more thoughtful, more deliberate, respond, you’ve got four P’s, we’ve got a pause, and just give whatever is happening, whatever is hot, a minute to cool. It’s got to make a plan, turn on our prefrontal cortex our intellect and say, Alright, here’s what’s happening right now, what are my options? What options most aligned with my core values? Then we’ve got to proceed. And actually, like, go forward, right? And see what happens as we execute our plan after our pause. And then we can repeat that cycle over and over and over again if we need to.
Clint Murphy 1:19:20
And even in the most heightened state, you know, you have oh,
Brad Stulberg 1:19:24
sorry, I skipped to P. I jumped one. We also have to process so in between pausing and pausing and making a plan we need to process and add is turning on our prefrontal cortex. So it’s pause, process plan, and then proceed. Sorry.
Clint Murphy 1:19:37
Yeah, no worries. I mean, on those first two, we’re really taking Viktor Frankl right we’re 2% approaches, trade that increase the space in there’s almost nothing, no heightened argument, family situation where deep breaths 60 seconds, just to let that physical response empty out of our system. So so well zoom the adrenaline’s up, you need 60 In I’m starting to learn when I’m getting into that argument with my wife, and I’m heightened. And she’s poking. And I’m like, Just give me 60 seconds. Let me breathe. And then we’re not like, then I can just approach this conversationally, because all of flushed out how I’m feeling. But if I don’t get that 60 seconds, I can’t shut this down. I can’t emotionally regulate, if you will.
Brad Stulberg 1:20:35
Yeah, that’s right. And the only times it makes sense to react are like when a snake bites you. Right? Like, you don’t want to pause for 60 seconds. And, you know, I’m sure listeners have heard this various ways, like evolution programmed us for the snake bite. It didn’t program us for the disagreement with our significant other.
Clint Murphy 1:20:52
Yeah, yeah. Or your kid who just threw threw a water bottle at your head. You’re like, how do I react to that? Like, is this an animal in the wild that’s trying to kill.
Brad Stulberg 1:21:05
If your kid is bulking up to be an offensive lineman, you got to be careful.
Clint Murphy 1:21:09
It’s it’s not that one that one doesn’t throw water bottles. He’s really calm. So we went pretty. Looking at your last example, we’ve explored the book, we exploited a few areas. Is there anything that we missed in that conversation that you want to make sure that we leave the reader with or the listener?
Brad Stulberg 1:21:32
I don’t think so you are so skilled at doing this interview work. So I think that we’ve touched on so many main points, and really got to explore a lot of the central ideas in the book. So I’m just grateful for you to, to be the guide for this conversation today.
Clint Murphy 1:21:47
Thank you. And for the listener, everything we talked about is awesome. And at the end, Brad gives you a great, here are the 10 practices you need to do. And it is worth it for all of you to buy the book, have a read and implement as many of those practices as you see fit into your life. And if you have a fear of change, if it induces anxiety, if it induces panic. This is a way for you to let that go and to learn to slowly embrace it. So Brad, thank you for joining me today on the show.
Brad Stulberg 1:22:24
Thank you so much for having me.