Simplify’s 2017 Sampler Episode — Transcript
Ben Schuman-Stoler: Welcome to Simplify. I’m Ben Schuman-Stoler.
Caitlin Schiller: And I’m Caitlin Schiller. Simplify is for anybody who’s taken a look at their habits, their happiness, their relationships, or their health, and thought there’s got to be a better way to do this.
Ben: We’re off preparing for Season 3 now, but in the meantime, we’ve got something to tide you over—
Caitlin: —and to help you catch up if you missed a few episodes over the holidays or you just started listening in season 2.
Ben: Right. Also that. And something to help us all reflect! Because! As we know! Reflecting is absolutely critical if you want to improve. So, we took a look back on all the great episodes from Simplify in 2017 and realized, okay, we learned a lot. I mean, I definitely did.
Caitlin: Me, too. Hearing the episodes again felt really good. It reminded me of all of this solid, actually easy-to-use advice that our guests shared last year. It kind of underscored the fact that sometimes, one great idea, eloquently expressed, can really change…everything.
Ben: Aww. That was so nice, Caitlin.
Caitlin: I missed my calling as a greeting card writer. No, but really: this sampler of Simplify’s 2017 episodes is to help you catch up, or introduce you to the show, or for you to help someone ELSE get introduced to the show.
Ben: This is the perfect episode to share with a friend who you said, ‘Remember I told you Simplify is the coolest podcast ever?’ But they never listened to it, because they didn’t know what episode to start on. So now you can be like, ‘Here! Listen to the sampler!’
Caitlin: Alright. So, sit down, pop in your earbuds, and listen to Simplify’s year in review—what we think are some of the best moments of 2017, organized around the themes of (1) what we’re calling making great stuff, (2) being productive, and (3) relationships.
Ben: And we still do a reading list at the end, as usual, but it’ll be a little different. So…
Caitlin: Yeah, so stay with us and we’ll catch you in The Bookend!
Ben: Ok, here’s section 1: Make more great stuff!
Caitin: Let’s kick it off with Seth Godin, from season 2 episode 1.
Section 1: Make great stuff
CS: So, we talked about vulnerability. Well, sort of. Vulnerability and failing. And you said, you keep saying, “hiding.” People do hide a lot. They hide in relationships and we can hide at work. I’m certainly guilty of it myself. I was thinking about it earlier actually. But how do you—how do you not hide? How do you tell people to get themselves away from that tendency?
SG: Well, I can’t. But I can do is, if they’re enrolled in the journey of already trying to solve that problem, I might be able to shine a light on where they’re getting stuck. I can point out where they’re hiding and if it resonates with them, they can go do the work. But I don’t know how to get someone who is happily hiding to stop hiding.
CS: So then, is all hiding bad?
SG: No, I don’t think it’s bad at all. I think it’s only bad when it gets in the way of you getting what you need and what you want and what you’re capable of.
CS: And how do you know the difference? How do you know when it’s OK hiding and when it’s not?
SG: Well, that’s a fabulous question. So, being afraid of spiders is different than being afraid of flying, because you can be a productive happy human and be afraid of spiders. But it’s really hard to be a traveling salesperson or a public speaker or a politician and be unwilling to get on an airplane.
So, one form of hiding is getting in the way of your goals and the other one isn’t. And so, when we think about “Are we accomplishing what we seek, the change we seek to make?”, if our answer is “no,” then it could be because we just don’t have the talent, it could be because our goals are unreasonable, but the most likely reason is that we are stuck. And we are stuck on something that we are afraid of.
And this is way worse than it used to be because it used to be: you couldn’t get published without a publisher, you couldn’t get broadcast without a broadcaster, you couldn’t be in business without a business person. But now you can do all of those things without anyone saying you can’t.
If you want to sing, sing! If you want to write, write! No one can stop you. All you have to do to be an author today is hit the print button—and you’re done. Right? You’re an author. So, so many areas of our life, if it’s not moving forward, I think we have to confess to ourselves, that it’s because at some level we’re hiding.
BSS: Hoo! That’s heavy. Seth Godin grabs us and throws us into an ocean of doubt here. If it’s not moving forward, you’re hiding.
CS: Yeah—but what do you do if you’re not even totally sure in which direction you want to go? What do you do if you don’t know what kind of work it is that matters enough to you to get you to stop hiding, get out of the cave?
BSS: Good questions. Maybe let’s go back to the first episode of Simplify: season 1 episode 1. You asked Gretchen Rubin two questions that can help you figure that out. BTW, Rubin is the author of The Happiness Project and, most recently, The Four Tendencies. So I thought we could listen to that part. Here’s a bit from that conversation.
CS: You know, what you were saying before about, how it’s important to stop and actually take stock of what makes you happy, and the kind of life you want to live—because those are big, scary questions that require a lot of self-reflection and willingness to change. How would you recommend people start approaching that kind of question?
GR: Well, you’re 100% correct. And one of the things, because it is so difficult to know ourselves and to acknowledge the truth about ourselves, I’m always looking for little questions that you could ask yourself that give you sort of a sidelong glance into your nature. So, one good question, if you’re trying to think about like, maybe, how you could have more fun out of life, or like, how to make a career switch that could be more satisfying: a really good question to ask yourself, because those are terrifying questions—
GR: One question is: what did you do for fun when you were ten years old? Because what you did for fun when you were doing for fun when you were ten years old probably is something that you would enjoy as an adult in an adult form either in work or play. So, if you like to make things with your hands or you like to take photographs or you like to walk in the woods with your dog. Or you like to bike.
Or like, what I did as a ten-year-old is I would copy out my favorite quotations from books that I read and I would write them into a blank book and then I would accompany them with like, beautiful photographs that I had cut out from magazines that I felt somehow illustrated this quotation. Which is 100% what I do everyday on my website. That is exactly the same pleasure. It is exactly the same process. And I have been doing it nonstop since I was ten years old, in an evolving form.
So, that’s a helpful question.
Another question—and this is a darker question—is: whom do you envy? Envy is an emotion that is extremely unpleasant to experience. It’s kind of a shameful emotion so we often don’t even want to admit to ourselves that we envy somebody. We might say that we resent them or we’re angry at them or we might make fun of them, even, rather than admit that we envy them.
But when you envy someone, it’s actually a super helpful emotion, because it tells you that somebody has something that you wish that you had yourself. And a lot of times, once you acknowledge that truth to yourself, you can take steps to get it.
So, for instance, speaking of the love of travel, I had a friend who was making fun of this woman in her office who was like, “All she does is talk about these great trips and she’s always making plans, and like every vacation she has, she’s off to here and off to there,” very dismissively. And then she was like, “Wait a minute! I totally envy her. I love to travel. I wish I was organized enough to plan these cool trips. Why don’t I?”
And it’s like, “Why don’t you? You could! So do it!” And so that envy was like, a big red siren going off, saying, “This is something that you wish you had.”
Now, we can’t always have what we envy in other people, but often, we can. Or we can take steps toward it: if you envy somebody that they’re in like, a long-term committed relationship, maybe you need to say to yourself, “Well, I really need to like, make a game plan here, of how I’m going to meet somebody! I just work all the time, I never meet anybody. Is there anything I can do?”
Probably there’s stuff you can do, if you really acknowledge that that’s how you feel and you start trying to build it into your life.
CS: Okay. You’ve decided to stop hiding, you’ve gotten closer to figuring out what you want to do. So, how do you make sure you’re making good work when you start doing it? You say goodbye to your fear about making people unhappy.
And who better to drive this point home than philosopher-provocateur, Ryan Holiday? Here’s what he had to say in season 2, episode 2, about making work that is good and true to you.
CS: Who is your audience?
RH: Yeah, that’s always a tough question. As a writer, you want to say, as many people as possible or you want to say, people like me. I try to go into every book with a very specific audience in mind.
But, for instance, if you’re writing a book and you write it in one way and it alienates another group of people, it doesn’t matter how popular it gets, you’re never going to reach them.
…if you know who you’re making this work for and you know who it’s not for, it allows you to play to one base and sort of deliberately tweak or provoke the other base. So, for instance, knowing that I wrote these books, my philosophy books, with the idea that philosophy has been made needlessly elite or obscure, or it’s sort of almost got a fundamentalism to it, knowing that I’m not writing for that audience allows me to not get upset if that audience doesn’t like my work.
So, if some professor of some obscure school of philosophy says, you know, what Ryan is doing is bastardizing this philosophy, he’s forgetting this, this and this or, you know, it’s much more complicated than that, “Good! I don’t like what you do and I don’t want you to reach you.” So the fact that you are telling me that I didn’t do it your way is confirmation to me that I probably got at least close to what I was trying to do.
…when you know who your audience is and who your – maybe we’ll call them your-not-audience – is, it’s not going to break your heart that someone who is never going to be a fan of what you’re doing is telling you that they are not a fan of what you’re doing.
BSS: Okay. We just heard from guests from seasons one AND two, talking about how to make great stuff.
CS: Yeah. I especially like what Ryan Holiday had to say about how, you know, if this person doesn’t like your ideas then that’s OK. It’s not for everyone, what you make is not for everyone, just like not everybody’s going to like you.
BSS: And I’ve used those two Gretchen Rubin questions on a lot of friends since this summer. Blows their minds.
CS: Yeah? Ben, what did you love doing when you were 10 years old?
BSS: I mean, you know what I’m going to say, because we’ve talked about it before…it’s playing soccer.
CS: Ah, yes.
BSS: Like, all the time. It kind of took over my life, actually.
CS: Yeah, I can imagine. Getting to do the things you love AND keeping your life in balance is not easy! If only little Ben had heard of time management…
BSS: OK! Nicely done. Keep going.
CS:…because if you’re going to try to make something amazing, or spend time doing what you love and getting better at it, you’ve got to get really good at organizing your time. Luckily, we talked to some people who can help with that.
BSS: Right. Like the master of getting things done – which is also the title of his book – the king of to-do lists, the arranger of flowers, the teller of tales: David Allen. From season 1 episode 3.
CS: Yep! And the super smart Laura Vanderkam from season 1, episode 5 who brought a fresh perspective on time management that made me realize I was the only one depriving me of “me” time. It was kind of sad.
BSS: So, let’s get into it. Here’s Section 2 of our sampler about productivity. Here are two productivity wizards on how to manage your time so you can play soccer all day.
CS: Or do other great work.
Section II: Productivity
CS: So, 35 years of thinking about getting clear space in your head to do the things that are meaningful for you. What have you found people are spending an inordinate amount of time on? What are they doing that they don’t need to be doing?
DA: Keeping stuff in their head.
CS: OK. Tell me more about that.
DA: You know—oh, come on: your head’s a crappy office. Your head is for having ideas, not for holding them. You know, the cognitive scientists have validated what I discovered just on the street 30 years ago, which is, you know, don’t keep stuff in your head. It’s the wrong place. As a matter of fact, their new research has shown that if you keep more than four things just in your head, you’ll lose track of them, you will not have the appropriate relationship with them, with each other, etc. And you know, basically, you’ll be driven by latest and loudest.
So, just, you know, trying to convince people that you need to build the external brain to be able to manage the complexity and the sophistication and subtlety of our life and our commitments these days is just—I don’t know how long I’ll be preaching this, but folks just don’t seem to be doing it. It’s a big habit to change.
CS: How do you suggest they start to shift toward something that’s more effective than keeping—
DA: Get something called a pen. Get something called a piece of paper. I know that’s a radical approach for many people listening to this but: pen and paper. And then notice—like, ”wait a minute”— what’s on your mind that you can’t finish right now? As you think of it, that you still might need to do something about, write it friggin down and get it out of your head.
So just to, just to capture this stuff to begin with. That’s the first and critical step to begin with, is you’ve got to start to externalize these things that are banging around in your brain. So that’s the that’s the first step. You can’t just leave it there but that’s it. That’s the critical first one.
CS: Get a pen and paper, write down what you need to get done so you can clear out space, in order to do the higher intelligence kind of functions that you need.
DA: Yeah, there are some other steps too, Caitlin, that you have to build into that. Because you could write it down, but then if you don’t do anything with those, you become a compulsive list-maker and that doesn’t help either, because then you just have lists everywhere and you know, your head is still going to be jumbled.
So, you have to go through steps two and three—very important—of how to, “How do I now clarify? I wrote down ‘mom,’ I wrote down ‘bank,’ I wrote down ‘Doctor,’ I wrote down ‘babysitter,’ I wrote down ‘dog food.’ Then you need to go through each one of those, and go, “Excuse me, what exactly does that mean and what am I going to do about it? What am I committed to finish about that and what’s the next step I need to take?”
That’s the Clarify step, Step #2, in terms of how you get things under control. So, if Step #1 is to identify what’s pulling on you, Step #2 is to then make a very discrete decision about both outcomes and actions.
CS: OK. So we’ve got Capture, Clarify. Can you reveal Step #3?
DA: Yeah. If I say, “The next step on mom’s birthday is I need to call my sister and see what she thinks about it, but I can’t call her right now.” Where do you park a reminder of that? So, that’s where Organize is.
I have now decided that there are things I need to be reminded of, that I can’t finish right now. Where do I park that? You want to stick it on a post-it on your forehead? Fine. You know, you want to, hire 43 people to follow you around and say, “Hey, Susan, would you please remind me to call—” That works. I don’t care.
As long as you have some trusted place that you could park a reminder that you’ll see at the right time. It’s pretty simple to make a list. “Here’s all the calls I need to make. Call sis about mom’s birthday.” And then you see that when you have phone and time. You know, duh.
But that’s what Organize is. Basically, once you’ve decided the things that you need to be reminded of, you know, at the appropriate time, park them somewhere that you’ll see them at the appropriate time.
DA: Anything potentially meaningful to you, get out of your head in some trusted place; sooner than later, decide exactly what it means to you and what you’re going to do about it, if anything. Park the results of those decisions in some trusted system that you look at with some consistent basis, so that you can then view the whole gestalt of all of your commitments and make trusted choices about what you do.
CS. Great. And this is called the David Allen methodology?
DA: No, this is the truth. David Allen just happened to come upon it.
CS: So, we already know the truth. What else do we even need?
BSS: We need the time in which to execute The Truth!
CS: Good point. Okay. So… where do I get the time to do all the things on my Trusted List?
BSS: Well, I talked to Laura Vanderkam, time ninja and author of I Know How She Does It, and she told me where all the time we think we don’t have is hiding.
CS: David Allen didn’t share any secrets like that with me. That’s it. I’m calling him. JK. Here’s Laura Vanderkam from season 1, episode 5. Get ready to have your mind blown.
BSS: You’re referring to something in the book you call The 24 Hour Trap, right?
LV: So, we often think of our lives in days, but I think we actually live our lives in weeks. And this is a very important distinction to make. There’s 24 hours in a day, there are 168 hours in a week. And people always say, well, there’s not enough time in the day to get to everything I want to do. Which is probably true.
I mean, there probably isn’t enough time in 24 hours to get to everything we want to do. But we don’t live our lives in days, we live our lives in weeks. And when we look at the whole week, we can see that there often is enough space for what we want to do. I mean, those numbers I did earlier: working 45 hours, sleeping 56, leaves 67 for other things.
So, quite a bit of time. But it also keeps us from thinking that any given day’s choices mean anything for life as a whole. I mean, maybe one night you’re working very late. Okay. Does that mean that life is terrible and horrible and you’ve had to make harsh tradeoffs and life cannot last like this? Well, maybe. Or maybe you’ll be home early tomorrow night. So we can look again at the week as a whole and say, “Well, I was working late two nights and I was home five nights. Five is greater than two. Let’s make the most of the five I’m there and keep the two that I wasn’t in a little more perspective.
BSS: …Did you find anything in the tiles, as you call the thirty-minute chunks or the fifteen-minute chunks that make up a day and a week—did you find anything about the people who were able to look at the whole week instead of falling into the 24 Hour Trap?
LV: Generally you can tell when people are thinking through their time based on what you see on a log. So, for instance, if somebody is exercising in the morning, that tends to mean they’ve thought about it. That this is a really good time to make this happen in their lives and that’s when it’s going to happen. And so, that’s a good indication.
Another indication is, sometimes people would really talk about what they were doing during their work hours, and people who used Monday for big picture stuff, those people have thought through their time, because they know it’s important to get to that first in the week, before all the week’s emergencies come up and then they have to deal with it.
And sometimes it’d even be fun stuff that you could see, that only happens when you’re thinking about your time, such as having lunch with your spouse on Friday, because it tends to be a lower-key day. And so, if you made arrangements to do that, then you get an equivalent of a date night in, but you probably already have childcare or people are already at school, so it’s not something extra that you have to figure out. And so that’s another thing that you’d see came from actually thinking about it.
BSS: So, if you could boil it down to one sentence or one principle: what would it be?
LV: Look at all your time. Make sure you’re seeing the whole picture, before you draw any conclusions that are going to artificially limit your life.
CS: I really love what Laura Vanderkam says about the flexibility of time, and living your life in weeks. It really blew my mind when she threw out that number—67 hours of free time in a week! Even if you’re working for 40 hours, and sleeping for 8 a night. That’s so much time!
BSS: Yeah, me, too. And, like, combine that knowledge with the David Allen system—figure out what you want to fit into those 67 hours by getting it all down on paper—and you’re pretty much set.
CS: Well, in your professional life, I guess. But, there’s other stuff that’s important, too, stuff that fills your reserves of generosity and patience and kindness and…dopamine.
BSS: Okay. Dopamine. What?
CS: And oxytocin! Yeah, it’s relationship stuff. And now, with that, we’ve reached section 3.
BSS: Okay, so, should we round off our 2017 sampler with some ways to simplify relationships, then? Who do we start with?
CS: Obviously with my dream guest—the person who, when I woke up and checked my phone to find they’d said yes to talking—I sat bolt upright in bed and squealed aloud, waking up my boyfriend, and feeling even more like a teenager than I did when I was a teenager.
BSS: Awesome. You’re talking about Dan Savage, BTW, from season 1, episode 2. Let’s start there.
Section III: Relationships
CS: What does commitment look like to you?
DS: Continuing to not break up.
CS: I think that’s a great definition.
DS: Because sometimes people ask me and Terry, “What’s the secret to your success?” We both look at each other and say, “Well, we just keep not breaking up!” I mean that in a sort of joking way, but I’m also really serious, because, I have friends who are perpetually, you know, who are single, who get in relationships and break up and heartbreak and heartbreak.
And they’ll come to me and they’ll, you know, bemoan their new, you know, their single status, their back-to-singledom, and they’ll say that they’re just so jealous of you know, what Terry and I have, and then I’ll ask them, you know, “Well, what was the…why did you break up?” And tell me what the incident was. You know, what the fight was that led to the breakup, and I’ll laugh in their faces. It’s like, do you know how many times Terry and I have had that DefCon level of a fight and didn’t break up?”
The problem isn’t that you know, your relationship failed. You walked off the field because you had a big fucking fight.
And this is a simplifying point, I’d like to make—people have it in their heads that they need to perfect their relationships, that if they just keep pushing at this issue, long-term’ll have a breakthrough one day and then it’ll go away or it will be resolved to everyone’s satisfaction.
And you know there’s things in a long-term relationship that you just have to sidestep. Things that person is never going to do differently or never going to do better. I like to call it paying the price of admission. And you pay the price of admission and you ride the ride. If it’s not a price of admission you’re willing to pay, don’t ride the fucking ride. If you pay the price of admission and get on that roller coaster, you don’t spend the entire time you’re on the roller coaster bitching about how much it cost. You just eat the cost and shut the fuck up and enjoy it. People can do that when it comes to restaurants and buying houses and riding roller coasters. They have a hard time doing that in relationships.
You know, the example I always like to use is: Terry’s kind of a slob. You know, he makes a sandwich and leaves the bread and the mayonnaise and the ham and lettuce all out on the counter and finishes the sandwich and gets up and leaves the table with his plate still on the table. And I would for years chase him. I’d be like, “Put the fucking bread away! Put the fucking meat away! We’re all going to die of food poisoning! Can’t you put your plate in the sink? For fuck’s sake, be a grown-up.” And then once, just after he ate, I put the bread away, put the meat away, and put his plate into the dishwasher. And I thought: that was easier. And you know what? That’s the price of admission I’m willing to pay to be with him. To be able to ride that ride, is to—I am going to always be the person who, when he makes a sandwich, has to put everything away.
And every once in awhile, we jokingly acknowledge that, but I don’t bitch about it. I don’t like it, but I don’t complain. Because it doesn’t get us anywhere. It didn’t ever change him, all the complaining I did. And now, there’s just a little less conflict in our relationship, because I’m not always screaming at him to put his plate in the sink or the dishwasher. I just do it.
And maybe it’s easier in a gay relationship because a lot of the shit, when it comes to living together, can be gendered. Like, I pick up after him. If I was a woman, maybe I would resent that more? Because I would sit there going, “Is this just sexism? Am I being consigned to this role because of gender?“ You know, he does laundry and I straighten up. And it’s not sexism, it’s just living together and paying the prices of admission that must be paid for there to be peace in the house.
CS: Dan Savage is a master advice giver, but in the second season we wanted to talk to people looking at the more systemic, cultural challenges we’re facing around sexuality.
BS. Yeah, so: enter Jaclyn Friedman, who has a great podcast and just published a book we both like.
CS: Yeah! She introduces the concept of Fauxpowerment, which is the bullshit empowerment of women we see, for example, in the Spice Girls.
BS: And the book is called Unscrewed, by the way. Here, in season 2, episode 4, she sort of builds on this idea from Dan Savage of feeling inadequate, and how you and your partner can work on that together.
CS: I asked you earlier, “What we should start saying to ourselves to get away from Fauxpowerment?” And you answered, we should start questioning, basically, whether or not this is good for only us, or if it is inciting any real social change. But I also wanted to ask, what do we stop saying to ourselves and each other to break free from Fauxpowerment?”
JF: Oh. I mean I think we have to stop believing in our own brokenness. We definitely have to stop thinking that there are good girls and bad girls. And whichever category we’re trying to put ourselves in, that’s always going to injure both parties. And we have to start telling ourselves that everybody else is doing sex better than we are. That there’s some ideal, and we need to work harder to be that ideal in terms of sexiness or our sexual behavior.
We also have to stop telling ourselves that our partners define our sex lives. You know, one of the things that I’ve said for a long time and I will say over and over again, probably until I die, is the most important sexual relationship you’re ever going to have, is the one you have with yourself. And you know, if you focus on that, like how do you feel about your body, how do you feel about your sexuality, and the way that it expresses itself, and the way you experience it. Is it satisfying to you?
You know, on Unscrewed the show I take a lot of advice questions, as you know, from listeners. And so often the question is like, Is this something in my partner that I have to put up with? Do I have to suck this up? And the answer so often is just like, “No!” So many women don’t ask, “Is this enough for me?” Like, I got a question recently from a woman who was feeling like not enough from her partner. And whoever was helping me answer that question – and now I’m forgetting who it was – said, “You know, I want you to flip that question around and say, like, ‘Is he enough for you?’”
So, if you’re asking “Am I enough, sexually? Or am I too much?” which is sometimes my question, but either question is the wrong question. Right? “Is my partner or is this situation enough for me? Or too much for me?” Like centering yourself, getting to be a sexual subject, instead of just a sexual object. Your sexual satisfaction should be your sexual satisfaction, not somebody else’s, not, like, whether you’re doing it well enough.
CS: I wanted to ask you – so we’ve covered what we start saying to ourselves to avoid the Fauxpowerment. What we stop saying to ourselves. What can we start telling our partners and lovers to change this conversation a little bit?
JF: I mean that depends wildly on what our partners and lovers are doing. I think that the first thing to do, is to open a conversation with them, that you’re thinking about this stuff, and see how they respond. Maybe they think about this stuff too, and they’re really excited to have that conversation.
If you have a partner and you don’t feel like they focus adequately on your satisfaction, you have to gently find a way to say, “This is not enough for me anymore.” And if this is true, you say, like, “I want to stay with you, and I want to make this work, I love you,” if that’s true, you know, whatever is true for you. You don’t have to be confrontational about it. You can be as gentle as you can be. And I recommend having this conversation with the clothes on. Not in the middle of sex. Just in terms of helping them to be as little defensive as possible.
But before that, you have to think about what do you want to change. And so, again that comes back to your most important sexual relationship with yourself. So once you figure that out, you have to say to your partner, like, “There are some things that I’m not satisfied with. Can we work on changing them?”
And you either have a partner who is going to say, “Hey. OK, great. I want to make sure you’re satisfied. Let’s figure it out.” And it may not be perfect right away. They might feel insecure themselves. They may have a bunch of their own reactions that they need to work through first. But , opefully they come to a place where they say, “Let’s work on that.”
Or you discover that you have a partner who’s not interested in working on that. And, you know, for me that would not be acceptable. That would be a deal breaker.
BSS: Welcome to The Bookend. Where we end…with books.
CS: Yes, there will be books. But I wanted to talk about something else first.
BSS: What’s that?
CS: OK. So, at the top of this episode, I said that it was nice to go back and hear the great advice that our guests have shared, and I realized that there are a number of things actually that I’ve learned in Simplify interviews that I actually think about or use every single day now.
BSS: Yeah? Which ones?
CS: You go first. What’s something you’ve learned in the two seasons that you find really useful?
BSS: Well, just this week or last week I actually copied the whole page of the transcript from the Michael Bungay Stanier interview – he’s the coach – it was about answering How-questions. Remember he sort of modeled this on you, because you asked the How-question, ‘How could somebody do XYZ?’ And he said something like, ‘I have no answer to this. But what do you think?’ And then you gave an answer and then he said, ‘What else?’ And then you were like, ‘I don’t know’. And then there was this moment of silence –and it was a little weird– and then you gave like three or four more ideas. And then he was like, ‘OK. Look, so I just showed you how to deal with the How-question.’ Because as soon as you get a How-question, your first instinct is like, ‘Oh, I know the answer. I’m going to kill it. I’m going to be super smart.’ But you should fight that instinct and default to more curiosity. So, that was really interesting.
And the second thing is, Ryan Holiday mentions, ‘You should always collect lists of names, of emails, so you have a way to reach people when you make your thing.’ And I host a podcast night in Berlin. And the last one we had –thanks to the Ryan Holiday episode– I just passed around a piece of paper and said, ‘Write down your email.’ And then I emailed everybody afterward. Now I have all the emails.
BSS: …which I often abuse. But now, like, we have a group! So, what did you learn?
CS: Well, the one that was most impactful for me, I think, was Seth Godin’s advice: stop hiding. And that one hit me really hard. I felt this sort of a shame veil fall on me as we were talking about that right here in the studio. And actually, I realized that I’ve been letting myself get away with being less than I could be, doing less than I could be, for years. And so I started making some changes. And it led to kind of a change in job position that led to changes in a lot of things.
And I think it was a really tough, but healthy moment that I like to remind myself of when I find myself doing … things, like sitting back when I could be answering a question or performing less than how I would like to. I think like, ‘Caitlin, are you hiding? What are you doing? Why are you doing that?’ And I bring myself up short.
And the other one is: keep not breaking up.
BSS: Do you want to talk about your job change that you had?
BSS: I mean what’s your new position at Blinkist?
CS: My new position at Blinkist is Podcast Lead. So, if things start to go down from here – you know it’s my fault, not Ben’s. No, I’m kidding. Ben is going to do some cool stuff with audio at Blinkist and I am taking over leading the podcast for a little while. And we’ll see how that goes. It’s really exciting!
BSS: I think it’s cool! It’s not hiding, for sure.
CS: No, it’s not.
BSS: I guess both of us. We’re putting ourselves out there.
CS: Yeah! Way to grow, Ben!
BSS: Thanks, Simplify! Alright, we should do books, right?
CS: Yeah. Off to books!
BSS: What was your favorite book you read in 2017?
CS: It was, hands down, Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s Herland.
BSS: Oh, you mention this in some interviews, right?
CS: Yeah. Exactly. And I don’t think that ever really made it into with the tape that we heard on the finish interviews. But, alright, so get this: three male explorers discover a land inhabited only by women. Every conception? Immaculate. All the babies born? More women. And the women have organized their society around learning and improving their world for every subsequent generation. So it’s like really peaceful, they’re focused on optimizing crop growing. They’re just like peaceful super intelligent passivists. It’s really crazy progressive, especially given that it was written in 1915.
CS: Yeah. 1915! Charlotte Perkins Gilman was publishing her own feminist papers in San Francisco and she serialized the story over like four editions. It’s actually really cool!
BSS: OK. So, Herland. I got to check that out.
CS: Yeah. Also it’s cool I should mention because it’s told from the perspective of three guys. So, they’re kind of like examining this as a really alien society and they’re exploring it, like…
BSS: Oooh! We are people too!
CS: YES! And like, talking about their own fall. It’s just really cool. It’s super interesting.
Alright, I talked enough about that. Ben, what did you love reading in 2017?
BSS: I mean I spent a lot of time with Eric Carle books. Remember Eric Carle? The paper cut-outs?
CS: Tell me more.
BSS: Remember The Very Hungry Caterpillar?
CS: Oh yes! That classic!
BSS: And Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?
CS: Oh, yeah.
BSS: And I spent a lot of time thinking about why good children’s books are good children’s books. Like, what about the language? Because, like, in English at least the children’s books – sometimes the whole book will have like 50 words, right? So each word has to be kind of perfect. And I read these books like twice a day. So, I think like, ‘I can totally write a children’s book! I’d love to write a children’s book.’ And then you realize this is really hard, because they are actually really well-crafted. Goodnight Moon is another one of these classics with great words.
But so apropos good words, I heard about a book somewhere called Save the Cat! This is a book about screenwriting and…
CS: I know where you heard about that book. From our production assistant Natallia!
BSS: She mentioned it?
CS: Nat, yep. In her interview. And we both bought a copy of it. I have not yet read mine… So, it was Nat! Nat has influenced the guests that we’ve had on Season 2 and she’s gotten us to read things.
BSS: Awesome. So, it was written by Blake Snyder who unfortunately passed in 2009. He’s the guy who wrote Blank Check, it’s pretty funny. I watched that movie when I was young. Anyway, the point is like, Save the Cat is the moment when the cat’s on the tree and like the firefighters have to save it. So, hero has to save the cat. And like, every piece of content should have that moment.
BSS: But more than that, it’s more about the book about how to use words. Like, every good screenplay needs to have like a one sentence title of what it is, what is this whole thing about. If you say that one-liner and people aren’t excited in your movie – then you have a bad idea.
So, you have to be able to condense it down and yeah. So those are the books that I thought a lot about in 2017.
CS: Awesome! I love that principle too: if you can’t explain it in a one-liner than you probably don’t need to do more work with it. So simplify everything!
BSS: Simplify your words, people!
CS: That’s what we’ve learned today.
BSS: Thanks to all who helped make this podcast in all of 2017. It was a lot of people. It was produced by me, Ben Schuman-Stoler, Caitlin Schiller – the current head of podcast at Blinkist, Nat Darozhkina, Ben Jackson… Who else helped us out this year? I mean Carrie helped us out, Emily helped us out, Sarah…
CS: Nika Mavrody who set up so many amazing things before she went to go live her fantastic academic life in California and we miss her all the time.
BSS: Lotta helped us out. We got feedback from all sorts of people – shoutout to Hannah in the company, and Deborah also gives us good feedback
CS: Indeed. And makes us videos of her and her boyfriend listening to Simplify.
BSS: Right. It was also produced of course by Ody Constantinou.
CS: Oh right, that guy!
BSS: Who’s actually writing a novel right now about climate change and the wine country. So we should keep an eye out for that.
CS: Oh, very important work.
CS: Cool. So, if you enjoyed this episode or feel that you learned something cool, we’ve got a request: tap that share icon and send it to someone who you think would enjoy it, too. Sending it off to just one person could make a difference in their lives—and it’ll definitely make a difference in ours.
BSS: And a big shout out to all the people who subscribe and listen. We’re now available on Spotify finally – sorry that took forever – Overcast, Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Pocket Casts, wherever you listen. If you wouldn’t mind taking a moment to add a review or rating – a star, a heart, or a thumb, or a face or whatever – we’d be really appreciative.
CS: Awesome. We’re also on Twitter. I’m @CaitlinSchiller and you are –
CS: Oh, last thing. So, Simplify is made by the same people who make Blinkist. Blinkist, if you don’t know, is a learning app that takes insights the world’s bestselling nonfiction books and condenses them into these focused little capsules of knowledge available in audio or text that you can listen to or read in just about 15 minutes. It’s like the close notes of non-fiction books.
BSS: And if you want to try it out, we made another voucher code for this episode. You can get 14 days free if you go to blinkist.com/friends and type in the voucher code: thetruth.
CS: Like, David Allen is the truth.
BSS: Like, David Allen is the truth, thank you.
CS: And last thing: thanks so much for sending in Voice Memos about the answer to the question “What have you learnt was much easier than you thought it was?” If you haven’t done that and you want to, so that we can include you in the future episode, record a Voice Memo and email it to me and Ben at firstname.lastname@example.org.
BSS: Yeah, we love hearing your guys’ stories. So send them on! We’ll be back with season 3 just in a number of weeks that is not too many and not too few, so, stay with us, please. Practice being you. Eat more vegetables—check out Joel Fuhrman from season 1 if you wanna know why SALAD IS THE MAIN COURSE. Keep not breaking up—whatever gets your life working better. ‘Til soon, this is Ben—
CS: And Caitlin checking out. Bye!