- Tom Birchard
Thoughts on Tim Ferriss’ Interview with Sebastian Junger
It’s rare that I’m listening to or reading something that totally stops me in my tracks. That’s exactly what happened during the first 30 minutes of Tim Ferriss’ recent interview with Sebastian Junger (Link). I suspect everyone could take something away from his story and thoughts after a near-death experience and becoming a father. So I highly recommend everyone find 30 minutes to listen to the start of this interview, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.
That said, it probably hit me harder than most because it felt very relatable. For those that don’t know, I had open heart surgery at age 33 to replace a defective valve and an aortic aneurysm. While I didn’t have near the close call that Junger had, it could have easily gone that direction if I hadn’t been fortunate to find out about the condition when I did. Junger then transitions into talking about becoming a father, something that I obviously have a bit of experience with now.
Please, listen to the interview yourself, but below were 4 points he made that really resonated with me that I thought I’d share this week…
· Nothing in the Future is Given, So Cherish the Present Moment – This is one of those things that’s easy to say and comprehend intellectually, but much harder to manifest in your day-to-day life. Junger explains that for him it was the realization that you can literally be struck down AT ANY MOMENT that changed him. In the aftermath of my surgery trying to recover to finish the year strong at work, get married, and then move shortly thereafter; I found that place of being extremely grateful for each and every moment even when it was painful. If I’m being honest though the impact from a major event like that fades over time, so it’s important to develop habits and daily practices that allow you to really appreciate the present moment. Listening to his story was a good reminder for me.
· Being Fit Can Prepare for a Physical Crisis – If you listen to the interview let me be clear, I don’t claim to be near the physical fitness level of Junger. A near 4 minute mile or sub-3 minute marathon are nowhere in my past or future haha. The way he describes what happens to him, he almost certainly would have died had it not been for being in excellent shape. Still, I did see the benefits of my physical fitness in an accelerated recovery from open heart surgery. I ran 3 miles the day before the surgery (and might have listened to some Rocky “Eye of the Tiger” to get in the zone for the next day) and had a recovery game plan that I stuck to. The initial conversations with the surgeon indicated I’d be out of work 2-3 months and I was back officially working 2 weeks after the surgery. If you ask my wife, she may claim I was responding to work texts the day after the surgery but I can’t confirm or deny that given the pain meds. Physical fitness means something different to everyone and of course people have varying goals and priorities. I think preparedness for an uncertain future is a worthy motivation, and Junger’s story is an extreme example.
· Do Things That Scare You – If you listen to the interview, you’ll see that some of the stuff Junger has exposed himself is next-level in terms of danger. Still, I think this was perhaps the most powerful point he made in the entire interview. Basically if you attempt to do things that scare you, or you don’t know if you can actually do, it builds confidence and reduces anxiety. Whether you ultimately succeed or fail, as long as failure doesn’t result in catastrophe, things will start to look less intimidating. Mark Twain said, “I’ve had a lot of worries in my life, most of which never happened.” For me sharing my thoughts/writing publicly through this blog was a small example of that. He makes the related point about raising children and how exposing them to different things, especially at a young age, can help reduce anxiety and similar to an adult, give confidence in navigating an uncertain world. It’s still very early for us on that front, but that’s the approach we’re trying to take with our young son Rory.
· Once You Have Kids, You’re No Longer Living for Yourself – This is definitely a shift I’ve noticed in myself, and like some of the other things mentioned here, you can hear it but until you experience it I don’t think it can totally sink in. Those that know me know that I’m a pretty driven and motivated person. That hasn’t really changed since becoming a father, but I do think the driving purpose has shifted. There aren’t many things in life that literally change everything, but I thing becoming a parent is on that short-list, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
Thanks for reading, here are some recommendations from the last 2 weeks:
· Article - Why Introverts Make Great Leaders – I’ve always tested right down the middle between introvert and extrovert, usually leaning slightly towards extrovert. I thought this article raised some great points and I agree that often introverts are overlooked for leadership roles. The list of tips at the end of the article on tips for aspiring introvert leaders is excellent too
· Book – The Almanack of Naval Ravikant – I’ve referenced Naval in my blog before, this book does a good job of organizing and consolidating some of his views on various topics. If you’re unfamiliar with Naval look up one of the interviews he’s done and if you find his approach thought-provoking, check out this book
· Movie – L.A. Confidential – This movie from the late 1990’s has a star-studded cast. I’m surprised I’d never seen it before and if you haven’t either, I’d highly suggest checking it out. You can watch it on Amazon Prime
· Article - The Great Online Game by Packy McCormick – Packy is an excellent writer and has a unique ability to dig deep on a topic. If you’ve ever found your head spinning trying to keep up with the ever-changing landscape of the internet, this article does a great job of breaking it down
· Quote – We're drowning in information but starving for wisdom. The only way to stay strong and centered is to be clear on what you want to serve, stand guard at the door of your mind, and make sure you're feeding your mind something besides clickbait. By Tony Robbins