Over the years doing the AOM podcast, I’ve had the chance to talk to hundreds of writers, scholars, and experts from a wide variety of fields and walks of life. The goal of the podcast is the same as the website: to provide information to help men live a well-rounded and flourishing life. Episodes explore how to live a life of both contemplation and action, while having some fun along the way. The show topics cover everything from history and philosophy, to social/professional skills, to parenting, to self-defense and physical training/fitness, to pop culture and literature.
While I’ve enjoyed talking to all my guests, below I highlight my personal favorites so far this year. They’re not in any particular order. If you haven’t listened to the podcast yet, the episodes below will give you a good idea of what you’ve been missing out on. Listen to a few (or all) of them and then subscribe using your podcast player of choice. I’d love to have you join in on my conversations with some really interesting folks.
And if you’ve been listening to the podcast for awhile now, I’d appreciate it if you could give us a review on iTunes or whatever podcast platform you use. It’s a fantastic way to support the show and help other people discover it.
After WWII and before the Korean War, America experienced a short period free from the fear of war and conflict. People were optimistic about a future of peace and plenty. My guest in this episode, Earle Labor, calls this time the “era of bright expectations.” He experienced it firsthand as a young man who had just graduated from college, and shares his remembrances of the period in his book, The Far Music. The era’s burgeoning sense of optimism inspired him and a few of his college buddies to set out on a road trip up to the Canadian wilds in search of the spirit of romance and adventure.
It’s been said “Leaders are readers.” But what should a leader read? Admiral James Stavridis set out to answer that question by polling 4-star generals and admirals in the U.S. military to get their best recommendations. He’s served as the commander of US Southern Command, US European Command, and NATO Supreme Allied Commander Europe. In his book, The Leader’s Bookshelf, Admiral Stavridis explains why reading is fundamental for all leaders and provides a list of 50 books suggested by senior officers.
We began our conversation by discussing the culture of reading amongst military officers past and present, including Generals James Mattis and George Patton. Admiral Stavridis then shared tips on how to read more, even with a busy schedule, and how to get more out of your reading.
For thousands of years, philosophers and writers have debated the nature of courage. What is it? Are some people born more courageous than others? Can you learn to be courageous? Robert Biswas-Diener set out to answer these questions in his book The Courage Quotient by looking at courage through a scientific lens.
In this show, Robert explained how he defined courage for the purpose of his research and how he went about studying and quantifying this quality. He then explained how courage manifests itself differently in cultures of dignity, honor, and face. We then discussed the genetics of courage and how people can learn to be more courageous. Finally, Robert gave brass tacks advice on what you can do to manage fear and increase your propensity to action, including carrying lucky charms, thinking about yourself less, and avoiding self-handicapping.
How long can a human run without stopping? What’s the most weight a human can deadlift? Will someone ever run a mile in less than three minutes and thirty seconds?
In this show, Alex Hutchinson and I discussed these questions, which he set out to answer in his book Endure: Mind, Body, and the Curiously Elastic Limits of Human Performance. First we talked about the history of the science of human performance and the three competing theories about how to measure and improve it. We then conversed about the factors that have an influence on our performance including, pain, thirst, muscle strength, diet, and mental fatigue. Then Alex shared insights from the latest research on how you can manipulate those factors to run faster and longer and lift heavier weights.
When you hear the term “self-reliance,” what do you think of? Living off the grid in a cabin somewhere? Doing everything yourself, and pulling yourself up by your bootstraps?
Do these images get at what it really means to be self-reliant, or is there a deeper and even more profound meaning to be grasped?
Indeed there is, and Kyle Eschenroeder helped us unpack it. We discussed insights from his Pocket Guide to Self-Reliance, including what most people get wrong about self-reliance and how he defines it. We then got into specific tactics you can use to trust yourself more: spending time in solitude, developing an inner scorecard, not seeking advice when you’re first starting a big project, and using intentional introspection. Finally, we discussed how to jive self-reliance with belonging to a community and how to know if you’re becoming a self-reliant man.
With boxing on the wane in America for the past twenty some odd years, it’s easy to forget how much of a cultural juggernaut it was for much of the 20th century. Boxing was not only a common recreational pastime and athletic pursuit for young men, and a wildly popular spectator sport, it was a metaphor for manhood and other American cultural struggles as well. When two men stepped in the ring, it wasn’t just two men fighting. The bout could become a battle of white vs. black, nativist vs. immigrant, or democracy vs. fascism.
In this episode, Paul Beston and I talked about his book The Boxing Kings, and legendary fighters like John L. Sullivan, Jack Johnson, Jack Dempsey, James Braddock, Joe Lewis, Muhammad Ali, and Mike Tyson. Along the way Paul provided insights how each of these heavyweight greats became conflicted symbols of masculinity in America.
How do you make good decisions in a complex world? Former poker champion Annie Duke suggests thinking like a poker player. She shared insights from her career as a professional poker player on how to make smart decisions in the face of uncertainty. We talked about the role of luck, both good and bad, and then discussed some of the biases that prevent humans from thinking probabilistically. We ended our conversation discussing ideas from her book, Thinking in Bets, about how leaders can use these principles to help the groups they lead make better decisions.
In 1942, the United States was fighting a war in two major theaters: Europe and the Pacific. But in the early days of WWII, the US and its allies had a “Europe First” strategy which resulted in more troops, supplies, and attention being funneled to that theater. American forces in the Pacific were charged with protecting Australia from Japan, but given scant resources to fulfill that mission.
But as Bob Drury reveals in his book, Lucky 666, a group of enterprising and rebellious bomber airmen stationed in Papau New Guinea grew tired of playing defense against the Japanese and decided to take the war to the enemy by going on daredevil, near-suicide missions. In this episode, Bob and I discuss the incredible true story of this renegade crew.
When it comes to fitness and nutrition, the nutrition part can cause a lot of confusion. There’s so much information out there about the best diet to follow and often the advice is contradictory. Robert Santana is a registered dietician and a PhD candidate in exercise and nutrition science. In this show we discussed all things diet and nutrition, beginning with a big picture overview of the three main macronutrients our body uses to function. Robert then debunked a lot of popular ideas people have about nutrition these days as well as the science of fat loss. We ended our conversation discussing my experience in cutting weight, what I eat from day to day, and why trying to get six-pack abs isn’t necessarily a healthy goal.
If you’re like a lot of people, engaging in small talk can feel awkward and tedious. Consequently, you avoid it as much as you can. But if you want to get ahead both personally and professionally, you need to embrace these little exchanges. In this episode, Debra Fine, author of The Fine Art of Small Talk, explained why small talk is actually a big deal and isn’t just a waste of saliva. She then shared the biggest obstacles people have to engaging in small talk and the two mindset shifts you need to make to get over those obstacles. We finally discussed specific tactics you can start using today to begin conversations, keep them going, and end them gracefully.
To hear a lot of guys tell it, real men don’t care about style. Where did this idea that men don’t care about their appearance come from, has it always been around, and is there validity to it? Tanner Guzy sought answers to these questions in his book, The Appearance of Power.
In this episode Tanner argues against the idea that real men don’t care about clothes and lays out a case for style being a valid part of masculinity. We discussed why caring about how you dress is typically thought of as effeminate, why men should think of clothes as an amoral tool, and how that tool can be a valuable means towards accomplishing your desired ends.
We’ve been told since we were little kids to “Be nice.” But what if being nice isn’t really that good and it’s making you and those around you miserable?
That’s the provocative argument Dr. Aziz Gazipura makes in this episode. We began the show by talking about what people think “nice” means, but how it usually plays out in reality. Dr. Aziz then dug into the issues that pop up over and over again in the lives of people pleasers, like anxiety, depression, anger, and resentment. He then shared specific tactics from his book Not Nice that the chronically nice can start using today to be more assertive, like saying no without feeling guilty, getting over feeling responsible for everyone’s feelings, and stating your preferences.
We live in a time of hype and self-aggrandizement. But in this episode, Rob Shaul, founder and president of the Mountain Tactical Institute, argues that what the world needs more of are quiet professionals — people who’s only focus is to get the job done well. We began by unpacking the foundational definition of a quiet professional, and then Rob walked us through the traits and attributes he thinks one must develop to embody this ideal.