There’s a growing feeling amongst Americans that we’re suffering a crisis of leadership in our government, families, and businesses. People seem less independent and autonomous, and more directed by others. What’s behind this lackluster leadership and what’s the solution?
My guest today argues that the problem has to do with the way we’re bringing up what he calls “excellent sheep,” and that the solution is equal doses of deep solitude and deep friendship. His name is William Deresiewicz and he’s the author of several books and speeches, including A Jane Austen Education, Excellent Sheep, and Solitude and Leadership. Today on the show, William and I discuss what most so-called leaders get wrong about leadership and why learning to be alone with your thoughts helps forge better leaders. We discuss the history of friendship, why friends are so hard to make as an adult, and what you can do to form deeper relationships. William and I also talk about how young people can stop being “excellent sheep,” and jumping through the hoops other people put in front of them in order to start living on their own terms. We cap our conversation with an exploration on why men should give Jane Austen a chance and the life lessons we can get from her novels.
This is an eclectic, but wisdom-filled podcast. You’re definitely going to hear something you’ll end up mentally chewing on for days to come.
- What universities get wrong about leadership today
- How leadership was taught in universities in the 19th century
- What changed in our culture that hollowed out our sense of leadership
- The consumerist mindset that pervades universities
- What Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad can teach us about bad leadership and bureaucracies
- Why solitude is vital to becoming a thinker/leader
- How social media is preventing you from becoming a better leader
- How to create a sense of self
- Why reading is an act of solitude
- How close friendships can help you become a better leader
- How social media causes us to self-censor and why that’s bad for becoming a better thinker
- How the concept of friendship has changed in the West since the days of ancient Greece
- Why Facebook “friends” often aren’t really our friends
- Why doing stuff with people is the power that fuels friendship
- Why making friends is hard to do in adulthood
- How to quit being an excellent “hoop jumper”
- How to hold true to your ideals without letting the system kill them
- What Jane Austen can teach us about living a good life
- And much more!
Resources/Studies/People Mentioned in Podcast
- The Law of Sacrifice
- Tony Hayward
- Heart of Darkness
- Apocalypse Now
- Solitude and Leadership
- Podcast with Sherry Turkle about reclaiming conversation
- The Lonely Crowd
- The Autonomous Man in an Other-Directed World
- How to Read a Book
- The History of Male Friendship
- How to Make Friends as an Adult
- The Power of Conversation: A Lesson from CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien
- Communities vs. Networks
- Lessons in Manliness From Fight Club
- How to Quit Wasting Time on the Internet
- How to Break the Smartphone Habit
- Don’t “Should” on Yourself
- John Boyd: To Be or To Do
- Why Every Man Should Read Jane Austen
- Pride and Prejudice
If you’re a young man in college or just out of college, I highly recommend picking up a copy of Excellent Sheep. Bill provides some much needed insight and advice on how to live a life of autonomy instead of just jumping through the metaphorical hoops you’re supposed to jump through. Even if you’re years out of college, but still have trouble with “shoulding” on yourself, you’ll stand to benefit from reading this book.
Also, check out his short ebooks Solitude and Leadership, The Death of Friendship, as well as A Jane Austen Education. They’re all great reads.
Connect with William
Listen to the Podcast! (And don’t forget to leave us a review!)
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And thanks to Creative Audio Lab in Tulsa, OK for editing our podcast!
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