in: Behavior, Character, Podcast

• Last updated: September 28, 2021

Podcast #128: The Perils of OverSuccess With Jim Rubens

One of the conundrums of the modern world is the fact that despite living in the safest and most affluent time in history, many of the people who enjoy the fruits of this prosperity are still miserable. For example, depression, suicide, and addiction rates have risen significantly in the past 60 years. My guest on today’s podcast wanted to find out why that is.

Jim Rubens is a businessman, New Hampshire politician, and author of the book OverSuccess: Healing the American Obsession With Wealth, Fame, Power, and Perfection. In today’s episode, Mr. Rubens and I discuss how our obsession with being the best we can be is actually biting us in the rear and making us miserable. Lots of food for thought in this podcast. Tune in!

Show Highlights

  • The difference between healthy success and “OverSuccess”
  • How it’s possible to have everything you want in life and still be miserable
  • The evolutionary origins of OverSuccess
  • How OverSuccess affects men differently than women
  • Balancing individualism with community
  • How male status defeat plays a role in recent mass shootings
  • What we can do to overcome OverSuccess
  • And much more!

OverSuccess: Healing the American Obsession With Wealth, Fame, Power, and Perfection book cover Jim Rubens,

OverSuccess is one of the best books I’ve read on the promise and peril of modernity. It’s one of those books that continues to pop-up in your day-to-day thoughts long after you’ve read it. The section on male status defeat was the most interesting part in the book to me. If you work with young men, you’d benefit immensely from reading that section.

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Special thanks to Keelan O’Hara for editing the podcast!


Brett McKay: Brett McKay here and welcome to another addition of The Art of Manliness podcast. A survey came out a few years ago that said that 1 in 3 American adults are pervasively dissatisfied with their lives. Research has also shown that if you were born after 1970 you’re 7 times more likely to have depression than those who were born before 1970. 1 in 4 Americans have some sort of addition, whether substance or behavior or drowning in record personal and public debt. The crazy thing is we live in one of the most affluent times in our country’s history, safest periods in our country’s history. Everything is awesome, but a lot of people are feeling really miserable. Why is that?

Our guest today wrote a book … We’re going to find out the answer to that. His name is Jim Rubens, he is a New Hampshire politician as well as businessman and his book is called OverSuccess: Healing The American Obsession With Wealth, Fame, Power, and Perfection. In this book Mr. Rubens makes the argument that the reason why everyone is so miserable is that we’re pursuing material success at all costs. Then we put up before anything else, as well as fame and notoriety. He makes the case that’s making us miserable. He gets into sociological research, psychological research, neuroscience that shows that our obsession with success, and he calls this obsessions with success, “Over success is making is feel terrible.”

It’s a fascinating discussion, I think you’re really going to like what we talk about today. Sort of a balance. A lot of times on the podcast we talk about how to be more successful. I think his book provides a warning if you get too crazy with that. Without further ado, Jim Rubens OverSuccess.

All right, Jim Rubens welcome to the show.

Jim Rubens: It is a pleasure being here.

Brett McKay: Your book is OverSuccess, and I encountered this book by accident at the library a few years ago. For some reason I was drawn to it, checked it out and really was amazed by the content and the argument you make. You basically make the argument that there is a, “Disease,” and you call it over success and it effects westerners, but primarily Americans. What are the symptoms of over success?

Jim Rubens: I guess I’ll launch right into what is … Start with what’s natural and healthy and good for human beings. We’re unique among the species on earth. We’re a species that is very, very good at working with one another in groups and we have done amazing things over the past 10,000 years because of our ability to form groups and to transmit knowledge and healthy cultural behaviors from generation to generation. That we’ve basically gone from a blip on the species radar screen 60,000 years ago to basically dominating the earth today and that there is a reason for that and it’s the healthy parts of success.

What’s the healthy part is that we all as individuals want to have internal satisfaction from producing something of value, of being recognized by people who are close to us, of attaining personal goals, achieving altruism or mastering something difficult. In doing those things, often, and this is a healthy thing, we seek to attain recognition and satisfaction from a pat on the back from other people who are close to us.

Those motivations, that motivation to do that for the good of our group, for the good of our community is why we call it a community, has led to this extraordinary progress that humans have made. Particularly in America over the past 200 some odd years we’ve doubled the human lifespan for example. We’ve created food abundance so that there’s very few of us in America ever need to even be concerned about having enough warmth in our homes or food in our bellies. It’s not universally true, but we’ve eliminated hunger and starvation in a remarkable way.

The unhealthy, what I call over success and obsession, the title of the book OverSuccess: Healing the American Obsession With Love, Fame, Power, and perfection. The unhealthy part of it is due in part to the changes in the world we live in. An unhealthy success or over success is when people are pathologically pursuing unattainable goals or fixated on unattainable goals. More wealth, fame, power, and perfection of beauty, than can be obtained by ordinary people.

Healthy success: Doing things for personal satisfaction, improving life in your group, mastering something. Unhealthy success: A pathological pursuit of unattainable goals, whatever they might be.

Brett McKay: Have you experienced over success in your own life? Is that what caused you to start investigating this and doing the research about it?

Jim Rubens: Absolutely, yeah it’s a … Human beings are all different. We vary on various scales of behaviors and personal goals and attributes. Myself, I had early in my adulthood I decided to live a very simple life without being motivated much by materialism. Most of what I did for altruistic reasons. With my first business … I started about 10 businesses and my life. Since my first business was started purely out of altruism I wanted to have recycling in my area of the country in Vermont and New Hampshire. There was no recycling.

I called the EPA, asked them, “How do you start a recycling center?” They said, “It cannot be done where you are.” That simulated the heck out of me. I’m a business person and I love entrepreneurship, so I figured out a way to make recycling happen. In about 3 months we were recycling about 5% of the entire solid waste stream of 30 towns around a town that I started this in. I did so on a shoestring and built it into a very successful business, almost instantly. About a year and a half later I sold the business, because … I had seen this can be done, wanted the branding of recycling and so I sold the business.

I was hitchhiking back on a November day, this is the introductory paragraph of my book. I was hitchhiking back on a cold November day. It was spitting snow and I was cold. I was dressed in Good Will clothing and I looked like a bum on the side of the road. That’s the way I dressed, I was not into materialism of any kind. I couldn’t get a ride, because I didn’t believe in having a card, and I could not get a ride back to my house a few miles away. I watched all the gleaming new cars come by with working heaters and well-dressed people inside and decided that my voluntary simplicity lifestyle was too painful to me so I switched sides and I became an entrepreneur and like I said I started a number of businesses.

I discovered that no matter how successful I was at doing things, like getting money, getting recognition, accomplishing stuff that there was, in me, and this is my psychology, I discovered there were these unmet needs that no matter what I did, no matter how high I set my goals, and no matter how well I achieved them, I was always wanting, I always wanted more. I began researching this. It lead to 5 years of research that resulted in the book. I don’t claim or state that every American is subject to these motivations, but I have found, and this is the research in the book, about a 3rd of Americans due to human nature, the human body, the human brain … And what’s unique about the United States of America makes about a 3rd of us susceptible to this set of problems and challenges in their own life. Yes, this book came out of my personal experience.

Brett McKay: You call it over success, sort of a pathological drive for success. What happens when you have that pathological drive? Does it lead to depression, addiction, alcohol? What are the ills that come with being so driven for recognition, money, material goods?

Jim Rubens: One of the things that comes out of failing to achieve goals for yourself that are unattainable, the pathological pursuit of unattainable goals … One of the things that come out of that is that you poison your brain’s reward system. I’ll explain that in a moment. It’s possible in doing this can become depressed and one can degrade ones on life.

I’ll start with a little bit of brain science. We have a rewards system in our brain, all creatures that move have a reward system and it’s been changed by evolution over the millennial. Even singled celled creatures that crawl have a reward system that directs them to things that are good or likely to be good for that creature and directs them away from things that are not good, or likely not to be good for that creature. You’re reward system looks at this whole panoply of things that you can do for yourself. Whether it’s getting some more sex, getting more money, getting more food, doing something exciting, doing something novel. All of these things drive human behavior and this reward system sorts through all of these exposures that we have and helps us determine automatically which of these things we’re going to pursue.

This reward system operates, and this is a bit oversimplified, but this reward system in our brain terminates in part and this is part of our brain called the nucleus accumbens. The last state of the reward system is a surge in release of dopamine in the brain, that which is picked up by 5 different receptors in this area of the brain that determine for us what direction we should go in and how rewarding a behavior is expected to be.

We can poison that reward system. Some people poison it through addictions. Some people are prone to addiction. About a quarter of Americans are addicted to at least one substance or behavior. When you’re addicted to a substance or behavior, you begin seeking out that substance or behavior, it culminates and the phonetic desire to do nothing but get more money or get more of that substance or that behavior. Over time you poison the reward system, diminishing it’s response to pleasurable or likely to be pleasurable activities or inputs, so making you less sensitive to rewarding things.

Another thing that can poison the reward system, because human beings are rewarded by attention. It’s very clear that that same part of the reward system that lights up and dopamine is released over the expectation of having good sex, or having a wonderful meal, or a stimulating experience, or something novel and exciting, being recognized and viewed by others are portions of that same reward system. If one is frustrated in getting these rewards, particularly the attention reward, the status reward that I talk about in the book, over time the brain’s reward system is poison making it less susceptible to naturally occurring rewards.

Brett McKay: The status research was just fascinating to me. Because you also relate to how it relates to problems that men are facing today. What’s the serotonin is the neurotransmitter that …

Jim Rubens: Yeah, that’s a different nerve transmitter and I didn’t spend a lot of time exploring that in the book. I don’t intend this book to be a brain science book, but I wanted to explore just a portion of the reward pathway to show that the science, up to the time I was working on this book, was showing the reward system can be injured by addictions, by frustration in ones effort to reach unattainable goals, and in what I call status insults or status defeat.

For example they’ve researched rats and mice. If you take a low status mouse, and all mammals have an inherent status rank, if you put mice in a group they’ll sort out … There will be dominant mice and subordinate mice. If you take a subordinate mouse and a naturally occurring subordinate mouse and put it in the cage with a dominant mouse for 10 minutes a day, once a day, and the dominant mouse elicits certain behaviors in the subordinate mouse. You do that for 10 minutes a day, the subordinate mouse, after approximately a week or 2, scientists call that mouse defeated. The mouse will switch it’s behavior pattern to become more likely to hide in corners, less likely to engage in the swim test where it would swim across some water to get food or to get to a different location in the cage.

Mice and human beings can be defeated by excess exposure to status superiors or be socially defeated, suffer status defeat by failing to achieve goals, again unattainable goals or being under recognized, under appreciated. It’s politically a politically controversial territory, but men and women are different. We have different bodies. It follows and it’s been proven to be so by science and again, it’s politically incorrect to talk about this, but men and women have different brains and different psychological functions. Bottom line men are more sensitive to status defeat, as I’ve described it, than women.

This is some data about 8 weeks after conception a male boy … 8 weeks after conception the body is flooded with testosterone at about twice the levels that a boy is exposed to during adolescence and it alters the structure of brain development as the child is growing. You can see differences in boys and girls, even before they can possibly have any sexual role-models imprinted upon them. Boys, young boys, very, very young attention and gaze is directed at machines. Men and boys are interested in systems and machines and girls are attracted, and this is girls very young, before any kind of sexual imprinting can possibly take place, science has shown this to be the case, the girls will look at faces. Girls are good at reading faces, at social interaction. Males, boys are good at systems thinking, good at building stuff. The male body is bigger. The male is built over time the male in almost every case has been primarily engaged in warfare.

If you look at current data, that grows out of the difference between the male and the female brains, if you look at men they are more prone to drug addiction, for pleasure. Think about that, 2 to 3 times greater drug addiction prevalence among males than females. It’s about 4 times for alcohol. The male brain has more of those dopamine receptor neurons than female brains. All of this, and it’s a lengthy chapter in this book, but all of this leaves to the male brain being more reward sensitive, more sensitive to rank and status in the world.

Brett McKay: I think you’ve even mentioned how they’ve done tests where they’ll expose men and women to status defeats. They’ll create some sort of experiment where they do that and the women, they don’t really have much of a response. In the men, cortisol floods the body, there’s parts of the brain that light up that don’t light up in women’s bodies. Yeah, like you were saying that men are I guess wired for being very, very sensitive to status.

Jim Rubens: To status defeat. Now this is not to say that men and women are … All men are one way and all women are the other way. This is a spectrum of behaviors that cross, but it’s more likely that a male would be more sensitive to status defeat, more sensitive to his rank within his group or society than a typical female. But there can be females that are more sensitive to status rank, more interested in power relationships than males. These are tendencies across the spectrum of human behavior, but it does lead to men, as I mentioned being more sensitive to status failure, to status defeat.

We’ve also seen changes in America that is aggravated this. We will keep talking males here versus females. Before about 1970 in America, after World War II the male was typically the breadwinner. We had a lot of jobs for breadwinners. You had typically the male would go out and work and be able to support an entire family. Since that time in the past 40 years, the bottom 80% of men, and this is by income, the bottom 80% of men have seen their wages decline as we’ve shifted from laborer to professions demanding intelligence and social skills.

Yet, women over the past 40 years have seen their incomes go up 33%. There was a disparity between wages between men and women in the 1970’s, that gap is closing. This is just fairly recent data. Over the past 10 years if you have a man and a woman, never married, no children, in their 30’s to 40’s they now earn about the same amount. The wage gap is closed between the sexes in America for never married, childless men and women. Men have seen their income status drop, this is the bottom 80% of men by income and women go up due to the changes in our economy.

Males have less of the traditional rewards that those breadwinners roles as the economy has changed. #1, men are inherently more sensitive to rank, to questions and the American economy has aggravated this problem, uniquely for men. It doesn’t mean that women are not affected by this, but just on average throughout the whole spectrum of behavior and people these changes have been in general more adverse for men. The shift from the manufacturing economy to an intelligence and social skills based economy.

Brett McKay: You’ve served in public office and you’ve run for public office, how does this shift where men are no longer breadwinners? Is that having and will that have long-term implications for our society and our country as a whole?

Jim Rubens: Definitely so. When the women’s movement really began in the younger part of my life, in the 70’s, society was called upon, and did and is paying attention to problems unique to women. That’s really the point now where we have to begin paying serious attention to problems that are unique to men. We can see data showing how serious this is for as you look at data related to whites not in school, young men between say 18 and 24, if you look at this data you see this spike over the past 20 or 30 years and ruthless disconnected men who don’t have specific roles in the economy or society. They’re hanging out, not being productive, not fulfilling themselves. This stems from the change in the kind of jobs available, the kind of economy we have right now.

It’s important for policy makers and myself and others in office, I was attune to this as much as I could the need to pay policy attention to these questions. It relates to, if you look at data, higher education. You see women approaching 60% of college attendees now and college graduates are now females compared to men. We have to pay attention to the need shift the way our education system works with men versus women, is one thing that needs to be done.

Brett McKay: A few months ago I was talking to a relationship expert who, she had her PhD and she claimed to be a feminist, she called herself a feminist and she even said that this shift that’s happening, it’s really disrupting marriage because while they’re advancing in the workplace, they would still rather prefer to marry a man who makes more money than them. That’s what the statistics are showing. When more and more men are doing worse in the workplace there are fewer and fewer eligible bachelors, so to speak. This could have long-term implications on a lot of things on a side level when it comes to things like our welfare system, it’s based on us continuing to have children and if we have a decrease in demographics, that can affect a whole wide range of things.

Jim Rubens: Right, it’s very well known that healthy families need a man and a woman, husband and wife. I’m fine with gay marriage, so it can be two men, but typically it will be a husband and wife rearing a child. Because we’re having this growing population of young loser men, and what I mean by losers is people who are not in school, not productive, or employed. It’s a growing fraction of young white men fall into this category and women who are seeking to assisting a healthy role in the economy are not attracted to an economic loser.

That is one component of the cause of a delay and a reduction in initial marriages. That’s not healthy for society. As you mentioned you need to have babies born in a country so there’s a natural flow from young to old, so we don’t run into the problem that Japan is having where you have this rapidly aging population with young people not wanting to form families, with women not wanting to marry men, and young people not being born.

Brett McKay: You talk about how over success is this pathological drive for unattainable goals which raises the question, how did we get these unattainable goals? Right, like why do we have these unattainable goals now? Was there a time in our country’s history where we had a little bit more modesty about what we were capable of accomplishing or did something happen where the limits became pretty much endless for what we could achieve in life?

Jim Rubens: Yeah, there has been a change, and again this is in one measure caused by the kind of media that forms the groups that we inhabit psychologically. If you look back through human history, this is going back to hunter/gatherers and up until fairly recently, the average group that we inhabited, the people related to. We related to these people face to face, these groups were stable, they could be a tribe, a hunter gatherer tribe, they could be a village in classic New England. The people with whom we related we knew for our entire life, those relationships were stable. People had a very good sense of one another’s roles.

In these smaller groups, the number in the dozens or small number of hundreds, in these smaller groups, everyone regardless of their capacity, almost everyone, had some kind of role that was valuable for the group, they did something. The groups hierarchy’s were selected, again face to face often in small groups like this a leader is selected by consensus from the bottom up as opposed to the imposed by a boss from above. As society changed and as we moved away from small groups, the group that we now inhabit, and this is partly due to globalization, in large measure it’s due to the kind of media that we spend looking at.

The average American spends 8 hours a day looking at screens. People still spend 4 hour a day looking at television. Retired people in America are pushing over 8 hours a day watching TV. We are now inhabiting a psychological group in the billions. I estimate the number being 2 billion as the people on the earth who inhabit this world where we spend hours a day looking at people who are more beautiful, richer, more famous, more talented, than we are.

Not only that, when these people are on television or media they often have a battery of publicists and retouching, digital retouch artists making them even more perfect than they actually are. The people with whom and against whom we compare ourselves in order to determine our rank, we’re no longer looking at a small group that might be a village or a tribe. We’re looking at the brightest, the most famous, the most successful, the most talented, the most well-trained people that the earth can produce. These human beings have become phenomenal at attaining remarkable looks.

Look at the women soccer team that just won here for America. The stent of training and selection that members of that team go through to get to that point is phenomenal. The sorting process, the sifting and sorting process that we go through in America to select our most recognized people is more intense than it has been throughout most of human evolutionary history. We’re comparing ourselves to people that we can’t possibly emulate, if we’re realistic about it.

This causes to some people who, and this is not everyone, but that fraction of human beings and Americans who are sensitive to this, it causes some of us who are sensitive to this to suffer status defeat simply as a result of being forced to compare ourselves to people like that. You see this in the checkout center as you’re walking through your supermarket, look at the covers of the tabloids, typically the people you see, they are gorgeous, they’re famous, they’re rich, they’re successful, why can’t I be like that?

Brett McKay: When did … Go ahead.

Jim Rubens: Go ahead.

Brett McKay: When was OverSuccess originally published?

Jim Rubens: 2009, early 2009. My data … Yeah.

Brett McKay: This was before like the big social media explosion. I think that like with Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for example, may have just compounded what you just talked about even made it more acute and more intense.

Jim Rubens: Yeah, well Facebook was certainly around at that time. I spend time talking about it. Apologists for the system say, “Well Facebook groups and communities are a good substitute for face to face communities.” That is absolutely not true, anyone who participates in Facebook. Facebook is easy to enter, it’s easy to exit, you may never see that person face to face. The reputations of people, their trustworthiness is determined, is sometimes indeterminable.

Healthy human communities, in which ordinary people have roles that are satisfying and satisfy their need for status, their need for recognition, these groups typically, if you look throughout human history, these groups typically are in the range of 100 or 200 people. You are with members of that group for your entire lifetime. You know who can be trusted, you know who is good and whose not so good at various tasks and also, as I mentioned there are roles for almost everyone in that group. Valuable, valued roles for almost everyone. Facebook and social media is not a substitute for long-term stable, face to face relationships.

Brett McKay: I’m curious if there’s any connection to some of these mass shootings that we’ve had in our country. One thing I’ve noticed, some of these … they’re usually males, always men who do this. One thing I’ve always noticed is they typically write a manifesto of some sort before they take part and they’ll explain why their doing this. Oftentimes it just filled with just writings about how they feel they’re not respected and that people are not respecting the way they think they should be respected and then after they do this then they will be known and be respected and get the respect they think they are entitled too. Is status defeat connected somehow to that or are they two completely different issues?

Jim Rubens: I attempt to make that case in the book. Now my data ended in about 2007, 2008, but if you look at them, it’s still true today males are responsible for at least 80% of all violent crimes. The question has to be asked, why is it that it’s almost always males perpetrating these things? Again it comes back to my thesis that males are simply more status sensitive, they’re more sensitive to status insults than females. It’s not that females are not subjected to these pressures. 80% of females in America don’t like their own bodies as a result of this media pressure. Females are confronted with these unattainable goals and have this idealized “Perfect body.” Females are also subjected to this pressure, but the female brain responds differently to this kind of status insult than the male brain does.

Brett McKay: What are the solutions, because whenever these sort of shootings happen or whenever the travesty happens or whenever we talk about … There’s always sort of these trite responses about, “Well the men just need to get used to this new system.” Is that the appropriate response or is there something else that we need to do to handle this?

Jim Rubens: Absolutely not. Absolutely not. If we’re talking about school shootings, first of all I don’t believe that taking guns away will help anything, I myself back arming, trained and certified individual in schools and we’ve seen that these acts of school violence can be mitigated reduced and nipped in the bud earlier when there is a trained person in the school. There are clearly things we need to do to help, again it’s primarily young boys who are subjected to status defeat. Often as a result of bullying. It could be … It’s often boys that have B’s and A’s in their grades. It’s not that they’re not smart. It’s boys that might look or behave odd and we need to be very, very careful about stopping bullying and finding places where help can be given to people before this kind of violence erupts.

I advocate in my book that we ought to be ramping up single sex schools, and it should be by choice. A parent should not be obligated to send their boy to an all boy school, but there are about 500 in the US now. We can see that properly managed, because boys learn differently than girls … This is again politically incorrect to say that, but boys are experiential, tangible learners, they’re spatial learners in general. This is not true of everyone, but girls learn better in the classroom where you sit down and hear lectures. It’s just the brains are different on average. Again, I’m avoiding being politically incorrect here, this doesn’t apply to every girl and every boy, but there should be a greater use of single sex schools for parents who wish their child to be in such schools, that would be 1 solution.

The end of bullying, very, very important. Very important that peers, if you look at these studies at the school violence, you see in many, many cases, 80% of cases a peer, someone who knew the perpetrator, knew the precise features of the violence plan before it was executed. Schools should pay very great attention to encouraging peers to report these things to the teacher or to the school leaders. The school leaders acting in a humane way with people who might have such a plan or plot in mind.

Brett McKay: Besides, so these big policy ideas that we can do to mitigate status defeat and over success, what about like just an individual’s own life? Maybe there’s someone whose out there listening where they feel like they’re just frustrated, they don’t feel like they have the amount of success or the levels of success that they should have. Are there things that individuals can do that sort of can take the kind of blunt the effects of over success?

Jim Rubens: Yeah, absolutely. The last chapter of my book has about 20 things that we can do. About half of them are things that individuals can do the simplest. The first of my bullet points, the first of the 20 is that people in America and throughout the world, but in America here we ought to start being polite and responsive to one another. When we’re walking down the street, nod and smile at the person. Complete stranger, you may never see them again, but nod and smile at that person. You will brighten that person’s day, you could change that person’s life in a particular time. Hold the door for someone, don’t be obnoxious about it. Someone that’s within the few 5 or 10 steps of where you are, hold the door open for them, regardless of how old or young or what sex they are, hold the door for them.

Be kind, say please, say thank you, chivalrous. I see that on your Art of Manliness website the renewal of male chivalrous roles. Both sexes ought to do this. Again, what this does is creates a warm place for people, possibly at a moment in their lives when they needs this, they can make a difference.

Another thing we can do that is personal, and this is for ourselves, be rational about the goals that we set for ourselves. Be rational about the goals you select for yourself. I use the 50% rule. Select goals that you are about 50% likely to attain in your life. You don’t want to select goals that are impossible. If you’re not good at running, don’t try to become an Olympic runner. It’s just going to frustrate you. Select goals where you have the talents, the aptitudes, the social networks that are feasible in your own life and don’t perpetually set goals that are impossible for yourself. 30% of American teenagers think they’re going to become famous some day and they literally structure their lives, and Facebook is a culprit here, about trying to become famous on Facebook or by some other means. That’s not a realistic goal. That’s something that an individual can do. Set realistic goals for yourself.

Something that’s more structural, that individuals can participate in, I call them new villages. Again, I talked about the natural, evolutionary adaptiveness of human beings to small, stable groups where we know one another and we are with one another face to face over long periods of time and we form durable relationships. We know one another to the extent to know whose good at what and whose not so good at what and roles are found in such groups, I call them new villages. We can install these new villages in our workplaces and in our communities. We ought to be working very hard in America at finding alternatives to these mass scale organizations composed of millions of people where only 1 or 2 or 10 people can be recognized.

I point this one out in my book, a company called W. L. Gore, they make GORE-TEX, they’re a large company with several thousand employees, but they break their work groups into not greater than 150 or 200 people. When a work group making a particular product or service gets bigger than that, they have a corporate policy to break the group down. They literally build buildings that are sized to hold only 200 or so people and they build new buildings and break groups down that can be work groups when they get bigger than that. They do that specifically so that people know one another. In each work group leaders of that group or selected bottom up by consensus.

People bid for the opportunity to lead work groups in W. L. Gore based upon their ability to sell themselves to other people, to their peers and their work group. You can structure a large, and this is a very profitable private organization, W. L. Gore, but they structured their corporate organization around the natural human tendency to want to thrive and be recognized in groups that are small enough so that almost everyone in that group can be recognized for something.

Another thing I speak about in the book, have friendships. The number of Americans who have zero friends, and this is good social science data has been cut in half over the past 30 years. About a quarter of Americans report having no friends what so ever. Friendships are one of the most highly important things. Obviously loving relationships are important, but friendships, durable, long-range friendships where you can share deep stuff, very, very important to human life. We’ve got to spend a lot more attention on this. Instead of looking to get a bigger car, a bigger house, a bigger boat, a prettier face, think about getting a friend or 2. There’s some examples of things that we can do individually.

Brett McKay: Fantastic. Jim Rubens, this has been just a fascinating discussion. Thank you so much for your time, it’s been a pleasure.

Jim Rubens: OK, thank you for having me. Very, very appreciative of this Brett.

Brett McKay: Our guest today was Jim Rubens. He’s the author of the book OverSuccess: Healing the American Obsession With Wealth, Fame, Power, and Perfection. You can find that on Go ahead and get it. It’s a really fascinating read and you’ll get a lot out of it.

Well that wraps up another addition of The Art of Manliness podcast. For more manly tips and advice make sure to check out The Art of Manliness website at Again, if you enjoy this podcast, if you feel like you’re getting something out of it, I’d really appreciate it if you’d go give us a review on iTunes or Stitcher. A lot of you have done that for me, I really appreciate it. Your feedback will help us improve the site and you giving your view will help spread the word about The Art of Manliness podcast. Until next time, this is Brett McKay telling you to stay manly.

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