Jane McGonigal (@avantgame) specializes in designing games that challenge players to tackle real-world problems, and is the bestselling author of Reality is Broken. Her new book is SuperBetter: A Revolutionary Approach to Getting Stronger, Happier, Braver, and More Resilient — Powered by the Science of Games.
What We Discuss with Jane McGonigal:
- Discover how suffering from suicidal ideation after a concussion led Jane McGonigal to design games to help people overcome depression and recover from trauma.
- Find out what games can teach us about critical thinking, problem-solving skills, and our ability to collaborate.
- Explore the ways a “gameful” mindset can boost our motivation, confidence, and ability to pick up new skills in the face of obstacles.
- Examine the benefits of post-traumatic growth — and how it can counterintuitively coexist in tandem with the disadvantages of post-traumatic stress.
- Identify how developing psychological flexibility can help you conquer phobias, recover from injuries, and achieve what you once thought impossible.
- And much more…
Like this show? Please leave us a review here — even one sentence helps! Consider including your Twitter handle so we can thank you personally!
While it seems that video games have been a popular scapegoat among politicians and media outlets for the exacerbation of social ills almost since their invention, some would make a case for the power of such games to galvanize positive change in the lives of those who enjoy them.
By creating a game to overcome suicidal ideation after suffering a concussion, it’s easy to see why game designer and SuperBetter: A Revolutionary Approach to Getting Stronger, Happier, Braver, and More Resilient — Powered by the Science of Games author Jane McGonigal crusades for the latter case. Join us for this episode as Jane explains how alternate reality games help heal, improve lives, and solve problems in the real world. Listen, learn, and enjoy!
Please Scroll Down for Featured Resources and Transcript!
Please note that some of the links on this page (books, movies, music, etc.) lead to affiliate programs for which The Jordan Harbinger Show receives compensation. It’s just one of the ways we keep the lights on around here. Thank you for your support!
Sign up for Six-Minute Networking — our free networking and relationship development mini course — at jordanharbinger.com/course!
More About This Show
When game designer and SuperBetter: A Revolutionary Approach to Getting Stronger, Happier, Braver, and More Resilient — Powered by the Science of Games author Jane McGonigal suffered a debilitating concussion in 2009, she found herself depressed and entertaining ideas of suicide. Fortunately, a little digging found a logical explanation for what she was experiencing.
“I’m very lucky that, because I’m a little bit of a geek and I love science, after my brain was not getting better, I was trying to use the one hour a day that I had a clear head to look for research on concussion recovery,” says Jane. “I found one article, it was probably about a month in, that said that suicidal ideation is a side-effect of concussion. Because when your brain is trying to heal, it diverts resources and the part of your brain that is able to anticipate good things happening, the part that loves dopamine…is like, ‘No, I don’t want you to be motivated, because you might go out and hit your head again! You need to stay in bed and heal.’ When your brain is telling you [to] never get out of bed again, you interpret it as ‘My life is over; I want to die.’
“When I read that this was not something that was a rational feeling…but actually my brain trying to protect me and it was normal and it would go away, I was able to start to wrestle and step away and say, ‘Okay. I’m having these feelings. My brain is telling me something, but it’s not really me. It’s not my true hopes and dreams. Just sit with it.’ And I had to sit with it for a while. You live with these thoughts, but you learn to separate yourself from them.”
In other words, Jane came to understand that her depression was simply an evolutionary response to the physical trauma she had experienced — a mechanism designed to protect her from further trauma (similar to the purpose of heartbreak as hypothesized by Guy Winch in episode 66). The suicidal urges were an unintended side-effect based more in chemistry than reality; Jane knew they would pass as she recovered from her concussion.
Sadly, suicidal ideation too often gives way to actions from which there is no recovery among those who don’t recognize that these feelings fade with time. In hopes she could prevent others from succumbing to such urges, Jane sought to spread the lessons learned from her own experience in the best way she knew how: by designing a game.
Listen to this episode in its entirety to learn how gaming helps people overcome depression and recover from trauma; how a “gameful” mindset can be leveraged to develop critical thinking, problem-solving skills, and the ability to collaborate — as well as boost motivation and confidence; the benefits of post-traumatic growth — and how it can counterintuitively coexist in tandem with the disadvantages of post-traumatic stress; how developing psychological flexibility can help you conquer phobias, recover from injuries, and achieve what you once thought impossible; how playing games can actually get you out of a procrastination rut; a physiological reason many panic attacks happen and what can be done to counteract them, and much more.
THANKS, JANE MCGONIGAL!
If you enjoyed this session with Jane McGonigal, let him know by clicking on the link below and sending him a quick shout out at Twitter:
Click here to thank Jane McGonigal at Twitter!
Click here to let Jordan know about your number one takeaway from this episode!
And if you want us to answer your questions on one of our upcoming weekly Feedback Friday episodes, drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Resources from This Episode:
- SuperBetter: A Revolutionary Approach to Getting Stronger, Happier, Braver, and More Resilient — Powered by the Science of Games by Jane McGonigal
- Reality Is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World by Jane McGonigal
- Jane McGonigal’s Website
- Jane McGonigal at Facebook
- Jane McGonigal at Twitter
- Jane’s TED Talks
- SuperBetter (The Game)
- What a Concussion Looks like Inside Your Brain by Rebecca Jacobson, PBS
- The Terrifying Link Between Concussions and Suicide by Erin Blakemore, The Washington Post
- TJHS 66: Guy Winch | How to Fix a Broken Heart
- 6 Simple Brain Games That Will Make You Feel Stronger, Happier, and More Resilient by Jane McGonigal, Reader’s Digest
- Men, Women, and Pain by Dan Ariely, The Blog
- Virtual Reality In Healthcare: Where’s The Innovation? by Alex Senson, TechCrunch
- Tetris Shown to Lessen PTSD and Flashbacks by Robin Nixon, Scientific American
- Tetris Online
- Candy Crush Saga Online
- Diversion Drives and Superlative Soldiers: Gaming as Coping Practice among Military Personnel and Veterans by Jaime Banks, John G. Cole, Game Studies
- Study: 40 Hours of Complex StarCraft Is Good for the Brain by Stephen Shankland, CNET
- How to Stop Procrastinating with Video Games by LeProcrastinationGuy, Reddit
- 10 Relaxing Games to Play Online to Help Chill You Out by Alex Morris, Lifehack
- The Many Social Benefits of Playing Video Games by Jennifer Wilbur, LevelSkip
- How Video Games Benefit Students with Special Needs by Hilary Smith, AANE
- Farming Not Alone: FarmVille Play and the Implications on Social Capital by Shaojung Sharon Wang, Social Networking
- Pokemon Go Saw a 35 Percent Growth This Summer by Mariella Moon, Engadget
- Influence of Pokemon Go on Physical Activity: Study and Implications by Ryen W. White, Microsoft Research
Transcript for Jane McGonigal | Gaming Your Way to Health and Happiness (Episode 96)
Jordan Harbinger: [00:00:00] Welcome to the show. I'm Jordan Harbinger. As always, I'm here with my producer, Jason DeFillippo. And today's conversation, we're talking with my friend, Jane McGonigal. She's a game designer, future forecaster, and bestselling author of Super Better, which I've just read among other books, of course. She is a world renowned designer of alternate reality games or games that are designed to improve real lives and solve real problems. She writes and speaks about alternate reality games and massive multiplayer online gaming, especially about the way that collective intelligence can be generated and used as a means for improving the quality of human life or working towards the solution of social ills. In 2009, she suffered a debilitating concussion that helped her in the development of a game, Jane “The Concussion” Slayer. She developed this to treat her concussion and another similar conditions. The game was later renamed Super Better, hence the book.
[00:00:50] And today, we'll discover how games teach us critical thinking, problem solving skills, and increase our ability to collaborate as well as recover from traumatic experiences. We'll also explore the ways that a game full mindset can boost our motivation, boost our confidence and our ability to pick up new skills in the face of obstacles and we'll examine the benefits of something called posttraumatic growth and how that can counter intuitively coexist in tandem with the disadvantages of posttraumatic stress, and we'll identify how developing psychological flexibility can help you conquer phobias, recover from injuries, and achieve what you once thought was impossible. Of course, we've got worksheets for today's episode so you can make sure that you solidify your understanding of all the key takeaways here from Jane. That link is in the show notes at jordanharbinger.com/podcast, and if you want to know how I managed to book all these great people and manage all my relationships using systems, tiny habits, and other little tips and tricks, check out our Six-Minute Networking course which is free. That's over at jordanharbinger.com/course, jordanharbinger.com/course. I've got a dozen or so videos in there for you to help you get your network on.
[00:02:01] All right, here's Jane McGonigal. You actually had that crazy concussion happen. So does that have epigenetic repercussions? Does that kind of thing happen or is it mostly like smoking and exercise?
Jane McGonigal: [00:02:12] Research suggests that there can be long-term consequences to having multiple concussions. I actually had one when I was pretty young. It's actually one of my first memories. I fell off a slide. There was like -- you know like sides when I said bumps, I was just a little too enthusiastic, went right over the side and knocked out. And so apparently I didn't know what at the time, but that made if you later get a pretty serious concussion, it can be worse because you've already had one in your brain kind of responds differently the more times you get it. So yeah, when I'm older I might have a different brain than my sister, and that'll be interesting to see.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:02:54] Yeah, we'll end with all the games and stuff that you're doing.
Jane McGonigal: [00:02:56] Well see, that's my, that’s my light. Get out of jail free card because I gained more and I run more and that's also really good for the brain. So I think I've like hopefully reversed the little long-term traumatic effects.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:03:08] Yeah, I actually had a brain scan just from out of curiosity from this guy who's a doctor -- I wish I could remember his whole name and I could plug him here, he shows you these games where if you relax a lot, the dragon flies through the rings or whatever. But it's really interesting stuff, and you did the initial, they do like a baseline thing to see where you start. And he goes, “Hey, you had a concussion, do you remember this?” And I said, “I never had it concussion.” And he goes, “Yeah, look, I'll show you on the scan. You hit the back of your head really hard.” And he goes, “You might've just been like two or three, and not remember it, but he's like there's just dormant, I can't remember the term, but there's kind of like this.
Jane McGonigal: [00:03:46] Like a kind of plaque.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:03:48] Plaque. Is it amyloid plaque or something? It's just there. And it's in the back of your brain. He goes, you probably have had it for so long that whatever area of the brain that was your brain kind of adapted.
Jane McGonigal: [00:03:56] You’ve adapted.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:03:58] And he goes, but we can probably regain some of this if you play our cards right, and it's actually a game where you fly either, you can pick dragons, planes, boats, whatever, and just flying around. And I thought, “But I've never had this stinking concussion.” So I called my mom and she was like, “I mean, I can't think of anytime you hit the back of your head.” And I said, “What if I called the doctor back,” I said, “What if I hit the front of the head?
Jane McGonigal: [00:04:18] Oh yeah, reverberates back.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:04:19] And he goes, “Yeah, you could've done that.” And I was like, “Oh, I totally jumped off a climber in preschool and smash my head.” And I fell downstairs and he's like, “Oh yeah, that could easily have done it.” And this stuff sticks with you forever.
Jane McGonigal: [00:04:30] It does. Well, it's so funny. I had exactly the same thing because when I wasn't healing from the concussion that I write about in Super Better, I was really confounded. My doctor was confounded. She's like, “You should be better by now.” Because I didn't think I'd ever had a serious concussion.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:04:45] Stuff you never want to hear [indiscernible][00:04:46]
Jane McGonigal: [00:04:46] And my parents like two months into the healing process or like, “Oh yeah, well you had a really bad concussion when you were three.” And I'm like, “Wait, why?” I mean, I remember falling off the slide and breaking my collarbone, but I didn't know I had a concussion. I'm like, “You guys could have mentioned that.” That would've helped in my planning for how to get through this if I had known.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:05:04] Sure.
Jane McGonigal: [00:05:05] Yeah.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:05:05] Was it a concussion in the same part of the brain? Do you happen to know?
Jane McGonigal: [00:05:08] No.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:05:09] No. And that doesn't matter, your brain just has a different reaction.
Jane McGonigal: [00:05:12] I mean, it can matter, but I mean, we know nothing about what happened to my brain in the 1980s really.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:05:18] Of course, because you didn't even -- there was no scan. They went, “Oh, her head doesn't have a hole in it, so we're good there.”
Jane McGonigal: [00:05:24] No, and they didn't really treat concussions 20, 30 years ago. I mean, it's like you just went on and the brain will fix itself and the idea that it would come back to haunt you later or not really something people are thinking.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:05:37] So if you've ever had a concussion, lose plenty of sleep over the fact that it's still there. It’s dormantly waiting.
Jane McGonigal: [00:05:41] Okay. I mean it's okay to acknowledge that you may want to do a little bit more for brain health if you have. I think that's important. It's like a little bit anxiety producing, but the reality is you can do things the rest of your life as the game designer in L.A was showing, you can play games, you can meditate, you can get better sleep. I mean, even just improving your sleep regimen can improve your brain health. And so it's just like, “Oh yeah, maybe I have a little deficit to make up.” But in making it up, you may actually rebound way better just because you're a little bit concerned now you're going to have double, triple better brain health.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:06:24] Good point. Yeah, it's like those friends of mine in my 20s, I had a couple of buddies and they got some -- their pale and they got melanoma and they're like, “Now, I'm not eating red meat and I'm going to be vegan and do endurance athletics. And I'm like, “You went from normal guy with a mole to super healthy guy,” because he's like, “I don't want to die when I'm 30 from skin cancer.” And I'm like running outside and swimming for lunch, never mind, never mind.
Jane McGonigal: [00:06:46] It's true. You may, I'm an endurance runner also. And the sunscreen is, it's never enough. I mean, if you're out there for four or five hours in the sun, yeah.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:06:55] Yeah, yeah, it can be a can be an issue. Now look, you had the concussion, you weren't getting any better, and one of the things that, that I thought was really interesting about your story was you were having all these feelings and they were kind of like terrifying and you had to -- I don't know if compartmentalize is the right word, but go to the doctor and go, “Look, I'm having major anxiety and depression.” Is it because I feel -- what's going on here?
Jane McGonigal: [00:07:20] And it was even worse than that because I was afraid to tell anybody about these thoughts which were, I mean it was essentially suicidal ideation and it doesn't quite start out that way. It starts out with you're never going to get better and you're going to live the rest of your life without being able to think clearly or have a normal job or be out of bed for more than a couple hours a day. And then you start trying to imagine your future and you just can't think of anything good that could ever happen to you again. and that sort of slowly becomes, well, if nothing good is going to happen to you again, you're going to be a burden on your husband, what's the point? And then it very quickly becomes thoughts of suicide and it feels sort of rational at the time And I'm very lucky that because I'm a little bit of a geek and I love science, after my brain was not getting better, I was trying to use the one hour a day that I had a clear head to look for research on concussion recovery. And I found one article, it is probably about a month in that said that suicidal ideation is a side effect of concussion because when your brain is trying to heal, it diverts resources and the part of your brain that is able to anticipate good things happening. The part that loves dopamine, right?
Jordan Harbinger: [0:08:42] Right.
Jane McGonigal: [00:08:42] All your listeners know about, you're always trying to like high jacked open means so you get motivated. That part of the brain's like, “No, I don't want you to be motivated because you might go out and hit your head again, and we need to stay in bed and heal.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:08:53] Right, nice and safe under the blanket.
Jane McGonigal: [00:08:55] Exactly, exactly. But when your brain's telling you never get out of bed again, you interpret it as my life is over, I want to die. When I read that this was not something that was a rational feeling that I was making sense and saying, “Yep, it makes sense to die.” But actually my brain trying to protect me and it was normal and it would go away, I was able to start to wrestle and step away and say, “Okay, I'm having these feelings. My brain is telling me something, but it's not really me. It's not my true hopes and dreams and just sit with it.” And I had to sit with it for a while when you know, you live with these thoughts but you learn to separate yourself from them.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:09:37] Yeah. That can be useful, because then you're looking at like, “Okay, my brain's a really complicated machine. It's wanting to put me in a kind of timeout or standby. It doesn't mean that we're going to shut down and that's what's good for me.” It's just like, “Calm down. Don't go outside and hit your head again. Relax.” “Oh, I can't tell you that in a logical way because I'm the emotional part of your brain.”
Jane McGonigal: [00:09:57] I'm just chemicals.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:09:57] Right. I'm just chemicals. So I want to do is just make you feel like crap and then you won't go anywhere and I can work on the problem at hand.
Jane McGonigal: [00:10:03] Yes. And later I learned as, I mean obviously I got really interested in brain chemistry. Once your brain breaks you're like, “Oh my God, I need to know how it works.” And a lot of depression research in the last few years has come to believe that there's a really strong evolutionary advantage to depression. I mean, why would we still have it all these many millennial later?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:10:22] Put it right out.
Jane McGonigal: [00:10:22] Right. And the theory is that we will oftentimes become depressed when our brain figures out, before we do, that we're putting effort into the wrong area. If you're depressed at your job, it may be because your job actually is not a good job for you. It might be meaningless work and you're putting energy towards something that doesn't matter to you, or it's really not a fair environment and you're never going to get ahead and you should get out while you can. Or if you're studying the wrong thing or you're putting pressure on yourself to complete a project that in fact doesn't matter, your brain will make you depressed so that you stop putting so much damn energy and effort into something that is not actually going to help you. And so if you're depressed, one of the things that can really help is to give yourself permission to say, “Am I putting energy and effort into things that I really don't care about?”
Jordan Harbinger: [00:11:12] Yeah. That's interesting. I think a lot of us look at it from the other way around. We go, “Oh, well, since I'm depressed, I'm not able to focus on my CPA exam.” It's like, “No, you're depressed because you're focusing on your CPA exam and you freaking hate accounting.”
Jane McGonigal: [00:11:24] Yes, yes. And it can be -- you might find yourself in a situation where you're being asked to jump through hurdles because that's the way it's done. When I was in graduate school, you have to do a lot of things that are intimidating and high pressure for no good reason. I mean, getting a PhD is not like saving someone's life or flying a plane. It doesn't really matter if you meet this expectation or that expectation, but they put the pressure on you because it's like this hazing that you go through.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:11:48] Yeah. Those feeder courses where they're like, “It's graded on a curve.” I only give out one a, and everyone's like, “You're just deliberately making my life miserable.” He’s like “Yep, because you have to take this class.”
Jane McGonigal: [00:11:58.2] Yes, that's right. And they're trying to build up your ability to withstand stress or prove that you really want it. And a lot of people get depressed in those situations because they accurately perceive this is not fair and this is not right, and I shouldn't have to play this game. So it's an interesting hack for when you're depressed, it's okay to say, “I'm not going to do this stuff. It's not actually going to help me or help me be happy, and let me find something else that I actually care about.” And give yourself permission to step away from whatever game you think you're supposed to be playing.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:12:33] Sure. Well, speaking of games, you talk about the concepts in super better of being, being gainful or games thinking. Can we talk about that a little? What actually is that? What are gameful qualities?
Jane McGonigal: [00:12:44] Yeah, so at a neurological level, when we play a game, our brain responds to stress and challenged differently. When we're confronted with a problem that we have to solve, our brain will go into one of two modes. It'll say, “Ah, I don't know if it's worth the energy or time. Let somebody else deal with it.” Or we'll say, “Ah, I'm going to fail. I hate failing. I hate being embarrassed. Waah! Runaway.” Or it says, “Ah, I might succeed. Let me try. Let me find out. I'm curious to see.” It says, “You know what? I might learn something even if I fail, and I believe that through failure I can learn and improve.” Now, most of us when we play games go into that challenge mindset, that positive mindset, nobody expects the first time they're playing Fortnight and dropping off the airship to be number one. I mean, some people do, but if they're not, they're still okay with it. They're like, “Okay, I was out number 50, I'm going to come back in.” We naturally go into this mindset when we play games where we have experienced since we're born. The first time you played Tic-Tac-Toe, you're like, “I don't get it. What am I doing?”
Jordan Harbinger: [00:13:46] So hard.
Jane McGonigal: [00:13:46] Yeah. Your whole life, you have firsthand experience being bad at something, not understanding it and getting better. And so that builds up a certain kind of mindset and confidence. The problem is schools don't necessarily reflect that. If you fail an exam, you don't get to take it again, right?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:14:02] No. I tried that doesn’t work.
Jane McGonigal: [00:14:04] Yeah. In real life we might actually be embarrassed if we try something and we don't succeed the first time. And so the gainful mindset is about basically figuring out how to hack your brain or trick your brain into being the person you already are when you play games and being open to that growth cycle in other contexts where anxiety or shame or fear of failure might stop us, and you don't want to do this in every situation. There's some situations where failure really mad. I don't want like my pilot or surgeon should be like, “Oh, just learn as I go.”
Jordan Harbinger: [00:14:41] Some people are going to die when I try. This might be one of those people.
Jane McGonigal: [00:14:45] Yeah, so it’s not always good, but most of us are over anxious or over concerned with failure and not as aware of the opportunities to learn and grow and don't feel that kind of freedom in context where we really could.
Jason DeFillippo: [00:15:02] You're listening to the Jordan Harbinger Show with our guests, Jane McGonigal. We'll be right back after this.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:15:06] This episode is sponsored in part by MeUndies. You've heard me talk MeUndies a million times, but why am I so obsessed with them? It is simple as this. When I wake up in the morning all groggy, I get a little excited to go to the underwear drawer and pick out which MeUndies I want to wear for the day. It's like my own little secret. Now one I'm wearing a fun crazy print when I go into work, which is actually just kind of downstairs or next door to the room where I'm sleeping or possibly in bed depending on the day. But I really like these, they're made of micromodal fabric, a full three times softer than regular cotton. Just when you thought cotton couldn't get any software, micromodal comes to save the day. So I couldn't believe how soft these things are. It's kind of like when something's brand new and you're like, “Wow! It's so soft.” And then you wash it and you're like, “Nah, not anymore.” They actually retain the softness, which I love. And like I said, fun prints, 100 percent satisfaction guarantee. You know, being dissatisfied with underwear, just let your imagination run wild and figure out what that might be like for you. This is a 100 percent satisfaction guarantee and I can tell you I'm pretty satisfied with these undies. MeUndies just launched a brand new membership by the way, you can level up your top drawer with new undies each month and members gain access to exclusive prints that no one else can get. They get special member pricing on every product of MeUndies makes and you can switch styles, skip any month you want. Jason, tell them where they can get their own MeUndies.
Jason DeFillippo: [00:16:22] To get 15 percent off your first pair, free shipping and a 100 percent satisfaction guarantee. Go to meundies.com/jordan. That's meundies.com/jordan. And today, I'm wearing my army men MeUndies. They're very comfy. Support for the Jordan Harbinger Show comes from our friends at Rocket Mortgage by Quicken Loans, America's premier home purchase lender.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:16:42] Let's talk about buying a home. It can be one of the most important purchases you'll ever make, but today's fluctuating interest rates can leave you with unexpected higher payments, which can turn a great experience into an anxious one. That's why Quicken Loans created their exclusive power buying process, and here's how it works. They check your income, assets, and credit to give you a verified approval. This gives you the strength of a cash buyer making your offer more attractive to sellers and once verified, you qualify for their exclusive rate shield approval. They'll lock in your interest rate for up to 90 days while you shop for your new home. Then once you found the one, if rates have gone up, your rate stays the same, but if rates have gone down, you get to keep that new lower rate. Either way you win. It's the kind of thinking you'd expect from America's largest mortgage lender.
Jason DeFillippo: [00:17:24] To get started, go to rocketmortgage.com/jordan. Rate shield approval only valid on certain 30 year purchase transactions. Additional conditions or exclusions may apply based on Quicken Loans data in comparison to public data records. Equal housing lender licensed in all 50 States, NMLScConsumerAccess.Org number 30.30.
[00:17:41] Thanks for listening and supporting the show. To learn more about our sponsors and get links to all the great discounts you just heard, visit jordanharbinger.com/advertisers. And if you'd be so kind, please drop us a nice rating and review in iTunes or your podcast player of choice. It really helps us out and helps build the show family back up. If you want some tips on how to do that, just head on over to jordanharbinger.com/subscribe. Now back to our show with Jane McGonigal.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:18:05] One concept that I loved that you did relate to your concussion was something called posttraumatic growth. That was new for me and I thought, “Wow! I want, I mean I, anytime I hit trauma I want posttraumatic growth. It's kind of like a little bit of gasoline on the trauma fire or on the development fire.
Jane McGonigal: [00:18:22] Right. And it's not accidental, I mean there are things you can do if you experienced something traumatic to improve your odds of experiencing growth rather than the opposite would be, well, it's actually not the opposite because you can experience posttraumatic stress disorder and still have posttraumatic growth because obviously trauma--
Jordan Harbinger: [00:18:41] At the same time?
Jane McGonigal: [00:18:42] You can be having both the same time and eventually get out of the stress disorder and into where you're just in a growth position. But having one doesn't mean you'll never have the other.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:18:52] That’s good. Is it like a launchpad? What is post-traumatic growth really?
Jane McGonigal: [00:18:57] There are a few different ways that it's defined, but the most common experience is you give yourself permission to live your life differently. If there were hopes and dreams you had that you put aside, if there was a part of yourself that you are afraid to express or something you've been wanting to say that you've been afraid to say, or a goal in life that you were going to do later, you're going to do it now. It's basically about--
Jordan Harbinger: [00:19:21] It's like a midlife crisis.
Jane McGonigal: [00:19:22] It's like, yeah, it's like a midlife crisis, but you can have it anytime you want.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:19:25] Great. Go get it now.
Jane McGonigal: [00:19:27] Yeah, and it doesn't mean that you're glad the trauma happened. I mean, one of the things I'll tell you, I had a really tense moment once I was about to give a talk about Super Better and my concussion, and the person managing the event said, “You know, in a way this concussion is really the best thing that ever happened to you because look, you went onto make a meaningful game that's helped a million people.” And I was so mad because--
Jordan Harbinger: [00:19:48] Yeah, it’s a little offensive.
Jane McGonigal: [00:19:50] Yeah. Because the reality is I'm still traumatized by it. I mean, you won't believe how much of my life I spent holding my hands over my head. Like literally every time I stand up. I put my hands over my head because I'm still--
Jordan Harbinger: [00:20:00] So you don’t hit it on something.
Jane McGonigal: [00:20:01] So I don't hit it on something again and I miss my old brain. It's not exactly the same brain I used to have. I still have migraines all the time and it messes up my life, and I would rather go back and not have it. That's the reality.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:20:12] You’d trade Ted Talk for not having to worry about hitting your head.
Jane McGonigal: [00:20:16] I think so, I think so, and that's the really. Most people turn to trauma, you lose a loved one, you witness some terrible violence, you're not grateful for it, but you've done the hard work of making meaning out of it and you found a way to become a stronger version of yourself. And that's the positive side of it. So people who are like, “Oh, post-traumatic growth, that so Pollyanna and it doesn't acknowledge the reality of suffering. No, you still suffer. It doesn't mean you're happy something bad happened, but there is something -- it allows you to live in a way that other people maybe don't give themselves permission to live, and that is a wonderful thing. It is wonderful to be able to say no to things you don't want to do because you just don't care anymore about pleasing other people in the same way. Or you give yourself permission to write that book or take that trip. It's great. It's like essentially it's like a near death experience. Maybe you didn't actually almost die, but you have that ability to live in the moment.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:21:23] You just get so much new clarity among other things. Can we get the growth without some sort of massively traumatizing PTSD inducing event?
Jane McGonigal: [00:21:32] Yeah. It may not be as profound, but there is something called post-ecstatic growth is what they call them, the research literature, and I think a better way to talk about it is challenged by choice where you agree to do something that is really going to stress you and test you, and marathon running or triathlons or iron man, that's probably the most common thing that people do to try to achieve this, because it breaks down is your body, it breaks down your mind, you think you're not going to be able to do it. As having run a marathon myself, I can attest that you really have to break through pain and wrestle with why am I doing this? What are my values? What do I want to represent to the world about myself? So you can pick something really, really hard to do. Writing a book if it's hard for you can accomplish a lot of this, giving yourself a really difficult, any really difficult challenge even something simple like going vegetarian or going vegan, especially if you're going to get shit from it from friends and family.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:22:41] All of your friends and family, yeah.
Jane McGonigal: [00:22:43] Yeah. And you got to I mean, even if it's not something you want to do for the rest of your life, it's almost like a kind of monk training, like going in the mountains and not speaking, do a silent retreat for one week.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:22:55] That sounds worse than a marathon, including all the training leading up to the marathon for sure.
Jane McGonigal: [00:22:59] That's one -- actually one of my favorite strength training. I designed a game a while ago around the 24 character strengths. So these are kind of universal strengths that every culture throughout history has admired. It's kind of the deepest side of humanity of what brings out the best in us.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:23:16] Are these virtues like patients and understanding or something?
Jane McGonigal: [00:23:18] Yeah, exactly.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:23:19] Okay.
Jane McGonigal: [00:23:19] Yeah. So things like ability to love and be loved, or appreciation of beauty or curiosity or bravery that sort of thing. And so I designed a series of things you could do to basically test and strengthen these virtues. And determination was my favorite challenge and it was the most fun to watch people do. It was literally just don't talk for 24 hours.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:23:42] Oh my gosh. I was imagining how though that would actually be for me.
Jane McGonigal: [00:23:46] It is, and what's great about challenges like that is it doesn't take time or money to do and yet it's really, really hard, and it's really going to make you feel amazing if you do it.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:23:57] My wife's like, “Why don't you try that right now today after this interview?”
Jane McGonigal: [00:24:01] But it could backfire on her because then you will never shut up about it. You're going to be like, for the next month you're going to be like, “I am so awesome.”
Jordan Harbinger: [00:24:08] I didn't talk for 24 hours. Do remember that Jen? You remember that one?
Jane McGonigal: [00:24:11] Yeah.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:24:12] When I didn't talk for 24 hours? Remember I have that?
Jane McGonigal: [00:24:12] Yeah.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:24:14] Yeah, I can imagine that would be the case for me. What determines whether we actually make it through these either post-ecstatic growth or post-traumatic growth or whether we just kind of buckle under the pressure?
Jane McGonigal: [00:24:25] Oh, I mean--
Jordan Harbinger: [00:24:27] A lot of things obviously.
Jane McGonigal: [00:24:27] A lot of things, but having one of the most practical ways that you can approach it, is a kind of learning mindset or curiosity mindset. Looking for one thing that I can learn today or one thing I can get better at today that tends to open you up to new policies.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:24:52] Is that the challenge versus the threat mindset that you've read about?
Jane McGonigal: [00:24:55] Yeah, exactly. And it builds hope in the brain because every time you try to learn something, that part of the brain that loves the dopamine fires up and says, “Hey, I might get good at something.” I have created the conditions for a positive outcome. So every time, even just trying to learn a foreign word and you're trying to pronounce it correctly, and you can pick a language, it's really hard for you like Farsi or Mandarin, you have created the conditions for a positive outcome in your brain. Your brain is going to get some of that dopamine going and that translates to other things, so that when you are facing obstacles that you're not in control of, it's more likely that those neurological pathways are going to fire back up and say something good could still happen.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:25:37] That's interesting because I find that I actually moved my Mandarin Chinese vocab study to the morning, and I was like, “Oh, it's just a good way to get it out of the way, and sometimes I don't do it, but I always feel better on days when I did it, and some of it's just, “Yeah, you accomplished something today,” but I don't get the same sense of accomplishment if I go for a walk or if I read a chapter in a book. I feel better having knocked out 10, 15 minutes of vocabulary.
Jane McGonigal: [00:26:01] Right, because it's probably authentically challenging for you.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:26:04] It is hard. Yeah. Yeah, of course. I mean it's frieaking Mandarin. Of course, it's hard.
Jane McGonigal: [00:26:08] Yeah, well, and that's why, I mean taking a walk, it can be pleasurable, but it's not going to do the same thing for your brain.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:26:15] Right. I'm not on the same part of the curve of like, “This is tough.” Maybe if I went for a run it would be.
Jane McGonigal: [00:26:20] We keep talking about running. I feel like we should do part of this five casts while jogging because that's my favorite thing is you can tell, are you running at a good pace as if you can just barely keep up a conversation is a good training pace, so we could.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:26:34] I've heard that and I thought, you haven't seen me try to run and talk at the same time. It's really hard for me to do that.
Jane McGonigal: [00:26:41] Can I tell you something embarrassing about myself that I'm actually not that embarrassed about probably or I won't say it, but when I train for distance running, I'll often sing along to whatever I'm listening to as a way to make sure I'm not going too fast--
Jordan Harbinger: [00:26:54] Oh, interesting.
Jane McGonigal: [00:26:54] Because the further you go, the more you have to make sure you're not just like sprinting out the gate. So when I'm racing I'll often repeat that habit so I'm like, you know, it's like mile 20 or whatever, and I’m like blasting out to some Broadway song.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:27:09] Wake me up before you go, go.
Jane McGonigal: [00:27:10] Oh, totally! I'm like the most annoying person and somehow I'm actually not that I kind of liked being the most annoying person because I'm like, “Look, if you were singing, you would be training at the right pace.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:27:22] That’s right, that’s right. Are you on a treadmill or are you outside?
Jane McGonigal: [00:27:24] Outside.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:27:24] Okay, then you don't have to worry about, I mean unless someone's following you, they're not that annoyed.
Jane McGonigal: [00:27:28] Yeah. If we're running the same pace, you're really going to hate me, yeah.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:27:33] Yeah, we'll do that. I'd say to the interview for sure. The challenge versus threat mindset I found really interesting. You also talk about striving for psychological flexibility. What is that? What does it mean?
Jane McGonigal: [00:27:45] Okay, so let's look at like one really interesting specific example of not having psychological flexibility. So it turns out, if you get an injury like a back injury or a knee injury, the number one predictor of it turns into a chronic injury that's going to affect the rest of your life is psychological flexibility or inflexibility. Meaning if you avoid things that cause pain or you avoid things that you think are going to make you tired early on during the recovery process, if you basically say, “I don't want to feel pain. I don't want to feel exhaustion. I don't want to fail at trying to do something.”
That's the number one predictor of the injury actually not getting better for the rest of your life. It's not how bad the injury was, how severe it was, how much pain you're in. It's literally the mindset that's the best predictor and the reason why is that the more you avoid things that are hard for you, the more incapable you become of basically being resilient or saying engage when things are tough. And so the way that you increase psychological flexibility is by being really clear about your values and making a commitment to do something every day to act in those values, even if I will be in physical pain, even if I will be more tired at the end of the day, even if I might not actually finish or I might fail, you basically have to pick values that mattered to you. And it could be something like, I just want to be a great parent or I want to be adventurous. I want to be of service to others, and whatever it is that matters most to you, like you would want people to say about you on the day that you die. This is what Jordan was at his heart.
[00:29:31] You make commit to do that every day. Whether you're depressed, whether you're anxious, whether you're injured, whether you're sick, you find a way to do it. Even if you can't get out of bed, even if you can't talk, you find one way to do one small thing that is with that in accordance with that value and that trains your brain to be so much more resilient when things aren't going your way and let alone when things are going well, then you become basically super empowered to do the things I've added you.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:29:56] Can you give us an example of what that might be? Like what context we might be in, are we sick or injured?
Jane McGonigal: [00:30:01] Oh yeah. Well even just things that you're afraid of. So for example, I used to have a really bad phobia of flying, and I would--
Jordan Harbinger: [00:30:08] You don’t anymore?
Jane McGonigal: [00:30:10] Eh!
Jordan Harbinger: [00:30:11] Got it.
Jane McGonigal: [00:30:12] This is a perfect example. I mean, I used to cry and shake every time I would get on a plane.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:30:16] Oh my gosh.
Jane McGonigal: [00:30:16] I would cancel trips the night before because I couldn't handle that negative experience of being anxious, and it was more that feeling of anxiety and dread for five hours on a plane or eight hours on a plane or whatever it was, more than actually being afraid of crashing or something.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:30:34] Right, it's not rational. You just realize that’s going to happen.
Jane McGonigal: [00:30:37] Yeah. It's just, I don't want to feel like this for eight hours and I'm still trapped for eight hours.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:30:39] Gosh, the night before. No sleep probably.
Jane McGonigal: [00:30:42] Yeah, exactly. Yeah, anticipatory anxiety they call it.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:30:45] Yeah, that’s the worst.
Jane McGonigal: [00:30:45] And so at some point, I had to make a decision that I have values in my life that are greater than being comfortable, okay? And this is basically what psychological flexibility means for everyone. That you value something more than being comfortable. And in my case, having adventures and seeing the world, being the kind of person who can say I have been to South Africa or I have been to Singapore, and being able to share that worldview or being able to go give talks and hopefully try to connect, inspire with people. These are values that mattered to me more than being comfortable.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:31:20] It’s a long boat ride to South Africa. [indiscernible][00:31:22]
Jane McGonigal: [00:31:23] You could not get me on the boat, but that's every day you have. If you're the kind of person who struggles with anxiety or chronic pain and people who live with current pain, they do this every day already. You have to constantly say to yourself, there's something about you more than being comfortable, and people who don't get on the plane or don't try to publish that book or don't apply for that dream job because they don't want to be rejected. It's because they value being comfortable more than pursuing their dreams, and when you put it that way, you can see this is stupid. Jordan Harbinger: [00:31:56] Yeah, it's not helping me get where I want to be for sure.
Jane McGonigal: [00:31:59] Yeah, who cares if I'm uncomfortable? That's just your own little -- that's just your feelings, you know.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:32:04] Right. Your feelings that you can either choose one or the other and that if you're giving yourself that your choice.
Jane McGonigal: [00:32:10] Or just feel bad for eight hours, you know? I mean like I just say I'm going to be [indiscernible] [00:32:16 ] for eight hours. It's like having the stomach flu. You feel bad for eight hours and then it's done and you move on.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:32:21] Then you’re in Europe, and it's amazing.
Jane McGonigal: [00:32:22] Yeah, exactly. You get off the plane, you're like, “I am the person I want to be. I am a person who has adventures and does awesome stuff, and I'm not the person who would either be comfortable.”
Jordan Harbinger: [00:32:32] Did you find yourself making your trips longer so you could not fly back right away? Because you're like, “Oh, if I want to come back I have to fly again.”
Jane McGonigal: [00:32:38] Oh yeah. Whereas now, like last month I went to Australia for like not even two days.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:32:44] Oh my gosh!
Jane McGonigal: [00:32:44] I'm like totally. Well, and it was great and I ran on my favorite trail, which is like right on the ocean.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:32:51] Is that near Bondi?
Jane McGonigal: [00:32:52] Yeah. Oh yeah!
Jordan Harbinger: [00:32:52] That's a good one
Jane McGonigal: [00:32:53] Yeah.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:32:54] Yeah. I learn to walk slowly.
Jane McGonigal: [00:32:57] Now, it's like a goal of mine. Someday we'll both be in Australia and you'll be walking on the trail practicing the Mandarin vocab and I'll be like, “Hey John, running up that hill.”
Jordan Harbinger: [00:33:07] And I'll be like, I should have done that years ago, I have a midlife crisis right away.” One thing that I found in the book that I thought it was so -- it sounded so hokey, but I tried it in real time on an airplane as well. Was the palms up trick. What is this like, what is this? How does it work? How do we use it? Because little simple hacks like this that seem totally BSE, but actually work are golden somehow. There's only a few of those.
Jane McGonigal: [00:33:28] And by the way, I love that you tried it even though it sounded stupid because that's the most important thing we can do, and all the guests you have on your show, your listeners, just try it, and if it doesn't work for you, you do the next thing. So with palms up, this has to do with evolutionary psychology. It's when you sit with your palms up as opposed to palms down. So like when you're typing, your palms are down. If you turn your palms up for a minute, your brain and your nervous system switch into a mode that better facilitates creative thinking, trusting, and being open to other people, hearing information that you might normally not be willing to hear, you kind of have more of an open mind, and that's it. The thinking behind this is that, before we even had language, the way that we would communicate to each other that we could be trusted or that we were willing to help was through physical gesture that involved in open palms.
[00:34:28] So if I'm asking somebody to help me, I might put my arms out, like help me up and my palms are up. Or if I'm willing to help somebody, I offer a helping hand, that hand is up. If I want to show you that I don't have a weapon, I show you my open palms. There's a physicality towards showing trust and openness, and it's baked into our neurons and our nervous system. So if you are feeling closed off, whether it's to an idea or to a person, maybe you have social anxiety, maybe you're with a bunch of people that you have -- maybe it's a family reunion and you're not feeling like these are the people you want to be around, you just turn the palms up and you can do this even right before you listen to a podcast or you're listening to a talk and you're like you want to really absorb the information. You turn the palms up and it puts your mind and your body in the state where you can be open and receive positive experiences and new information.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:35:25] That's interesting. And like I said, it sounds so hokey and I tried it and it was like, “Oh, if you're a writer and you want it, be more creative, just turn your keyboard upside down.”
Jason DeFillippo: [00:35:33] You're listening to the Jordan Harbinger Show with our guests, Jane McGonigal. We'll be right back after this.
[00:35:38] This episode is also sponsored by Wrangler. Everybody has a favorite pair of jeans. The pair that fits perfectly and always looks great. The pair you wear out at night, at home on the couch, at work, wherever. They’re the go to, do not underestimate their importance. No one knows this better than Wrangler, the authority on jeans using their expertise in comfort and durability, Wrangler jeans are made for the adventurers, the go getters, folks who like to keep moving, whether you ride a bike, a bronc, or a skateboard, or if you're the type who walks the Earth in search of something. These are the jeans for you. Classic or modern styles, a range of fits at a price that works for you. Vintage rereleases Wrangler has something for everyone. Visit wrangler.com and check out their great selection of jeans, shirts, pants, outerwear for men and women. New styles, great fits. Wrangler, real comfortable jeans.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:36:23] This episode is sponsored in part by Purple. The mattress company, which also happens to be named after my favorite color. Better sleep, better you. That's a theme that's been going on in some of the books and interviews that I've been reading and conducting here on the Jordan Harbinger Show. And I got to tell you, changing my sleep has been a game changer for me personally from my emotional mental health, whatever you want to call it, for the business, my attitude, my ability to be happy and productive, depends on my ability to get a good night's sleep. I've got sleep scores, I've got sleep monitoring, rings, watches everything. And I'm telling you if you're struggling to get a good night's sleep, you've got a problem. You've got to get this handled. Purple mattresses are comfy, they're made well. It ends up giving you this zero gravity feel. I'm putting that in there with a little asterisk because it's not actually zero gravity, so don't return the thing if you get it because you're not floating. But it does work for any sleeping position, and the Purple mattress will probably feel different than anything you've ever slept on before because it uses this new material that was developed by an actual rocket scientist. It's not like the memory foam you're used to where you're sweating you know what, like crazy. 100 night risk-free trial. If you're not fully satisfied, return the mattress for a full refund backed by a 10 year warranty, free shipping and returns, free in-home setup and old mattress removal. So you don't have to keep it out front of your place and a attract the wrong kind of crowd by throwing your mattress out on the curb. Jason, where can they get the Purple?
Jason DeFillippo: [00:37:46] You're going to love Purple, and right now our listeners will get a free Purple pillow with the purchase of a mattress, that's an addition to the great free gifts they're offering site-wide. Just go to purple.com and use the promo code JORDAN at checkout. That's purple.com code JORDAN. The only way to get this free pillow is to use the code JORDAN at checkout, purple.com, code JORDAN. Thanks for listening and supporting the show. Your support of our advertisers is really what keeps us on the air, so the learn more and get links to all the great discounts you just heard. Visit jordanharbinger.com/advertisers, and we also have an Alexa Skill so you can get inspirational and educational clips from the show in your daily briefing. Just go to jordanharbinger.com/alexa, or a search for Jordan Harbinger in the Alexa App. Now, let's get back to Jane McGonigal.
Jane McGonigal: [00:38:31] I think about game controller all the time, and I'm like, “Okay, you know, if I hold the switch or if I'm holding an Xbox controller or if I'm gaming on my PC, it actually makes a difference, and that is something long-term for the gaming industry. There is a lot of interest in changing the control device so that the hands aren't like this the whole time.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:38:51] Really?
Jane McGonigal: [00:38:51] Yeah.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:38:51] Because of carpal tunnel also?
Jane McGonigal: [00:38:53] Well, I mean right. And obviously, if you're an East force, you've got the physical trainers who deal with all of that, but just because it actually turns out it's better for our mental and physical health even just in terms of breathing when our hands are up rather than down.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:39:07] Really?
Jane McGonigal: [00:39:08] Yeah. I mean, you may literally see in the future, upside down keyboards even just for offices, although probably we'll all be doing vocal implant in the future.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:39:17] Hopefully by then, for crying out loud.
Jane McGonigal: [00:39:18] Keyboards, we may just get rid of the keyboards, yeah.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:39:20] Yeah, I always think about interface devices and I'm like, “Wow, the real limiting factor is not the CPU anymore.” You can put everything you need and in 10 years, something that says of your iPhone that doesn't need a screen or input area could be 10 times, a hundred times as powerful and half the size. So we're limited by, “Oh, we've got to have this giant screen and we have to have an input device that's big enough for our clunky club hands to type on.” So eventually they have to sort of figure that out. And they were doing things for a while like, “Oh, this laser projects a keyboard onto a surface.” And it's like, “Eh, kind of a half measure.”
Jane McGonigal: [00:39:56] Yeah, I know, and the vocal stuff is really interesting. I mean, I think it's pretty clear we're going to be talking to computers a lot more in the future rather than tapping them or typing. I'm really interested in how that will change our social dynamics. I mean it's pretty clear computers will be listening to us wherever we go.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:40:17] They already are, if you have an Amazon Echo in your house.
Jane McGonigal: [00:40:19] Yeah. And there'll be in public spaces or shared spaces. You go to a restaurant, you go to an office, will it change our speech patterns? I'm really curious.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:40:30] It already has. Have you ever whispered around your Amazon Echo because you don't want it to hear that you said its name.
Jane McGonigal: [00:40:34]Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:40:36] Yeah, that's already. And I'm like, “Yeah, this is weird. This thing is not living. I should be able to say whatever I want my damn house.” And it's like, “Sorry Jordan, I can't figure out what you mean.” And I'm like, “Oh God.”
Jane McGonigal: [00:40:45] But just imagine like 20 years from now, people can be like, “Remember when you could just talk? Remember when you get to like walk down the street and talk?” That's going to be -- you know, and right now we're living through a time of kind of technological regret. Facebook and Twitter are regretting like, “Whoops, we invented fake news and state sponsored trolling and propaganda bots.”
Jordan Harbinger: [00:41:05] Oh yeah.
Jane McGonigal: [00:41:06] I wish we had maybe known 10 years ago when we were really launching or scaling, we could have prevented this. This is not too early to be thinking about 10 years from now, what are we going to be facing technologically? I mean, this is a sort of my gamer size futures mindset is gamers can play out a lot more moves in advance maybe than other people.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:41:28] Yeah, good point.
Jane McGonigal: [00:41:29] And so a tiny bring that game or mindset to like, “Whoops, we accidentally destroyed democracy or people's civilization.”
Jordan Harbinger: [00:41:38] [indiscernible] [00:41:38]
Jane McGonigal: [00:41:39] Yeah, so yeah, that's just an accidental benefit of being a gamer is you can kind of--
Jordan Harbinger: [00:41:44] Catastrophize better than anyone.
Jane McGonigal: [00:41:45] Yes. And maybe figure out strategies for not waking up in a future that you would hate to be living.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:41:52] And slaved by a robotics, yeah.
Jane McGonigal: [00:41:54] Yeah, yeah.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:41:54] I have one prediction that I had that was so random. Speaking of this is, if you are saying things around your Amazon Echo, let's say, I'm like, “Oh, you know what? My cousin's coming in, he's going to be here for Christmas. We should get him a new camera.” And then that thing's just listening, and then suddenly we're shopping online. All these camera ads are popping up, and it's like, “Oh, whoops.” Or what if we share a computer, and then he's like, “Why are all these camera ads pop all?” “Oh, I bet this is what I'm getting.” Your kids are going to be able to figure this out. Like my parents must've really been talking about where we're going to go on our surprise trip, because all of this stuff for Bali is now popping up everywhere.
Jane McGonigal: [00:42:29] Right. So, okay, the tech companies are already gaming that out.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:42:32] For sure, yeah.
Jane McGonigal: [00:42:32] And they're developing basically silos of information so they can already recognize different family members. So if you don't want your kids to know that you're actually asking about Disneyland, they can start to basically hide information from family members. And so that's something that I've been thinking about, like “What transparency levels do you want to set?” Like “Children's voices?” “No, I want to know everything that they're searching for.”
Jordan Harbinger: [00:42:56] Yes, exactly.
Jane McGonigal: [00:42:57] Spousal will I pretend that I'm letting like full transparency or not?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:43:03] Hey Alexa, don't tell my wife about my porn addiction.
Jane McGonigal: [00:43:05] Well, I mean that is going to be one of the really interesting challenges for, does our assistant become our accomplice in a way?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:43:15] Definitely.
Jane McGonigal: [00:43:15] And if it's the same assistant for, I mean, do you trust? There's going to be a lot of emotional baggage around this technology.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:43:22] Alexa tell me what Jen was searching for. Jordan, don’t put me into this position.
Jane McGonigal: [00:43:26] How does Alexa know who to help? It's like a real -- who will encode in the AI that says I will help this person and not this person. I mean, somebody is writing code that will determine the ethics of your assistant.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:43:39] Oh that’s so weird, like “I pay the electric bill.” “Yeah, but it's her house.” “Yeah, but I'm the one that bought you.” “Well, I'm already [indiscernible][00:43:47].”
Jane McGonigal: [00:43:47] That’s what I'm saying. How does it prioritize?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:43:50] Yeah, it's like, “Oh, I'm already here and I have power for the rest of the month.” Who could realistically throw me away and get away with it? That's what I want to know.
Jane McGonigal: [00:43:57] It's coming. It's coming.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:43:59] So bizarre. Gosh, that's so strange. That was quite the tangent. I definitely want to -- okay, let's talk about pain. Speaking of a cheerful subjects and dystopian futures, I thought it was really fascinating that virtual reality can, I don't want to say cure pain because it's not really doing that, sort of distract as well enough for pain more so than it's like better placebo than drug. What are the words I'm searching for?
Jane McGonigal: [00:44:23] Yeah. And I'm so glad you used the word distraction because the reason why virtual reality is a breakthrough for pain treatment is that it, it's not just distraction. It actually prevents the brain from experiencing pain. So most distraction techniques, the pain is there and you have to just try to ignore it. But virtual reality hijacks enough blood flow in your brain to literally prevent blood flowing to the regions that normally receive information from your body to say like, “Am I on fire or not?” So it actually stops the pain from happening, which is unlike any medication. It's not how we treat pain with pharmaceuticals and it's not how we try to distract ourselves. And since I wrote about virtual reality for pain in my book and I wrote about some of the early studies that found that it actually relieved pain more effectively than morphine or burn survivors.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:45:19] It's super crazy.
Jane McGonigal: [00:45:20] Right, super crazy! This field has just exploded on hospitals are using it regularly. Insurance companies are trying to get VR to people who have been in painful accidents so that they can reduce the amount of opiate prescriptions because an insurance company does not want you getting addicted to opiates. So everybody's getting involved from doctors to insurers, and the results are really profound. I haven't been more excited about anything in games or technology than I have specifically about this because I think we are going to see a massive reduction in the need for pain medication. And it sounds, I mean, if you were given a choice do I want VR or pain drugs? You might say, “No, no, I want the drugs.”
Jordan Harbinger: [00:46:04] I want both.
Jane McGonigal: [00:46:04] Right, both, and you can get both. I mean, you do get both. You just get less drugs. You need a lower dose or you need it for a less extended period. So you do get some drugs, but you have to try it to see that it works. And people who see that it works, they're like, “Great, I don't have the side effects of the medication. I don't have to worry about getting addicted.” It's super exciting.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:46:31] Yeah. It's crazy to think that running around with an Oculus on or whatever, sitting in a place.
Jane McGonigal: [00:46:36] Lying in your bed.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:46:37] While someone's replacing burn bandages and me throwing virtual snowballs at virtual snowmen that are laughing and jumping around or whatever's going on in this VR world, is more potent than me slamming morphine and Tylenol 800, and watching some cartoons or something like that. I remember you probably know Dan Ariely, right?
Jane McGonigal: [00:46:55] Of course.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:46:56] And he told me in person about how his burn bandaged treatment was and it was just like the most horrifying kind of simulation.
Jane McGonigal: [00:47:02] Yeah, it is literally considered the most painful condition a person can suffer. There is nothing on the pain scale greater than it. And so testing VR on that is basically, if it works for that, it can work for anything. And the thing that's interesting is like, obviously most people don't go through that level of pain, but the kind of “A-ha moment” is that you can control where blood flows in your brain that will profoundly affect your experience day to day, whether it's your appetite or your cravings or your emotions, that you are more in charge of what you're actually feeling than you might've realized. And if you're not into VR, even a game like Tetris or Candy Crush Saga has been studied that you can basically shut off cravings for junk food, or if you're trying to put smoking or drink less, whatever you're trying to avoid, even porn, you can divert.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:48:02] Like how you looked right at me when you said that.
Jane McGonigal: [00:48:05 ] Jordan, I'll leave that to you, what your vices are.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:48:08] That’s right.
Jane McGonigal: [00:48:09] But you can divert resources from the part of the brain that visualizes. So like we get addicted to things because we visualize them. And when we have that really immersive picture in our mind of what we want, then we'd like almost can't stop ourselves from going and getting it. So when you basically hijacked that part of the brain to visualize falling puzzle pieces or swapping candies, you have decided that you can control what your brain wants, and it's kind of amazing. So whether you're in pain, you're trying to change a habit, these games give you the chance to control your brain.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:48:47] It's really nuts. That in, I mean an Oculus, I think is like 600 bucks and then you plug it into a computer. Pretty soon it's going to be a 100 bucks and you won't need the computer because it will be inside the occupants 10.0 or whatever.
Jane McGonigal: [00:48:58] And your employer is going to be giving it to you.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:49:00] Sure, yeah.
Jane McGonigal: [00:49:01] Or your colleague is going to give it to you, I mean everyone's going to just -- they're going to be giving away VR headsets because it's going to be such a good way to help people's mental and physical health that, I mean, somebody’s going to give it to you.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:49:11] Epic battle brewing between big pharma than in tech companies.
Jane McGonigal: [00:49:14] But they are in fact, one of the biggest studies right now, it's a pharmaceutical company and an insurer and a hospital all working together. I think the pharmaceutical companies are going to pivot. They're going to start investing in prescribable technology.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:49:29] Sure. Yeah. We're going to see some, like why did Glaxo Wellcome or whatever, whatever it's called a GlaxoSmithKline by this VR game company out of Palo Alto. What the hell is going on? And that's what's going on.
Jane McGonigal: [00:49:42] That's right.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:49:42] Yeah, that's really cool. That's good news.
Jane McGonigal: [00:49:45] It is.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:49:45] Because with the opiate stuff, I mean that stuff is a nightmare. Is this something we can sort of harness now? Like “Can I carry my phone with a version of Candy Crush or Tetris on it?” And whenever I'm like, “Oh, I really want a cigarette or something, I can just go, let's do a couple of Tetris levels and see if I still want it.”
Jane McGonigal: [00:50:02] Yeah, yeah. Literally you can do that for 10 minutes. And the repeated trials have shown that it lowers your cravings by about 25 percent, which may not sound like, “Wow! I'm super human.”
Jordan Harbinger: [00:50:13] Might be the bar you need to not go out and smoke.
Jane McGonigal: [00:50:15] That is the bar that changes behavior. And so basically it gives you a 50, 50 chance compared to what? If you would normally 100 percent of the time do it. Now you're doing it half as often and when you like to do things half as often, then you actually start to wrestle control back from your stupid dopamine system that fires every time you see a thing or hear a thing, so it gives you that fighting chance. And I always do my PSA for putting Tetris or Candy Crush on your phone because there've been three randomized controlled and now a clinical study showing that if you play Tetris within 24 hours of experiencing a trauma, you can prevent flashbacks to the trauma, which is the hardest to treat symptom of PTSD. And people are like, “Oh, I'll kind of file it away,” but you should put it on your phone because if something bad happens, you want to have it, and I work with EMT groups who first arrivals on accidents or traumatic, and they're starting to introduce this into the sort of first treatment, and I hear from people who've survived school shootings or were in really traumatic car accidents, they've witnessed physically terrible things you would not want stuck in your brain, and they use this and if you have it on your phone, that's going to help you.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:51:35] Because you carry that in your pocket.
Jane McGonigal: [00:51:36] Yes. And you're not going to be thinking like, “Let me open the App Store and get a thing.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:51:41] We at Advanced Human Dynamics, which is our training wing. We train a lot of special forces guys and they do a lot of gaming in Djibouti or wherever, because they have electricity and running water and not a whole hell of a lot else going on. So they've got Xbox and stuff there. And I'm wondering if there's a difference in, are there any studies on those? Is there any study that says, “Hey, when you play Xbox after you go and take down Osama bin Laden, are you a little bit mentally healthier because of it?”
Jane McGonigal: [00:52:07] There’s an amazing study on this. So one of the things people like me obviously care about is, is there a tipping point when you're gaming too much, you're not getting the positive effects anymore now it's starting to affect you negatively? And every study that's looked at this has found that when you start to get over 20 hours of gaming a week, you start to lose some of the benefits and get some of the positive effects. Except for people who are serving in the military and are serving in theaters of war, they can gain up to 40 hours a week and every hour they game, they improve all of their mental health and long-term sort of return to home. So they're less likely to experience PTSD. The more they gain while they're serving, they are less likely to participate in domestic violence when they come home, less likely to have drug addiction, depression, anxiety, and they get more benefit the more they came up to 40 hours.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:53:03] That's so crazy.
Jane McGonigal: [00:53:04] And it's just because it's such a stressful situation that the ability to control your brain, not create the flashbacks, not experienced a physiological the cortisol that just changes your brain when you're totally jacked up all the time and cortisol. So yeah, that's actually been studied that well, they can actually gain more than the rest of us and benefit.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:53:28] Well, they've earned it, I suppose if they’re dealing with that. And what's even better about this is this probably isn't one of those BS like cigarette companies studies where they're like, “Well, Bungie paid for this study to show the video games are good for you.”
Jane McGonigal: [00:53:41] No.
Jordan Harbinger: [0:53:41] They're selling these games anyway.
Jane McGonigal: [00:53:42] It was actually a military study. It was a long-term military study. I was given it by a general actually, shared it with me when I was doing research for Reality Is Broken, and they were actually confused that they found that the single most effective thing for improving mental health and resilience in returning home was either gaming for 40 hours a week or being in the gym for almost 40 hours a week. Those were the two.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:54:09] So you basically have to get obsessed with some kind of progressive.
Jane McGonigal: [00:54:12] That's right.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:54:13] Something around skill if you will.
Jane McGonigal: [00:54:14] Yup. Exactly.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:54:15] Wow! What if you do like 20 hours of gym and 20 hours of gaming?
Jane McGonigal: [00:54:20] I think that would both be effective and you would probably look and feel better.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:54:24] Yeah, probably. I mean 40 hours of gaming when I look at somebody who probably spend so much time gaming. I'm not thinking that dude is jacked.
Jane McGonigal: [00:54:32] Probably not.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:54:33]No, no. That’s yeah, that's so interesting. That Tetris technique I think if you haven't coined that yet is really so it's really a great thing because it's free.
Jane McGonigal: [00:54:45] Yes, it is.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:54:46] A dollar, and you have it in your pocket all the time and playing 10 minutes of a game after a stressful event. All you really have to do is remember to distract yourself with a video.
Jane McGonigal: [00:54:56] Yeah. And it helps a little bit more if you also try to sleep less the night after trauma, because it's that first sleep cycle that allows your brain to lock in the specifics of the memory and the really the intense visual specifics. And as somebody who suffered flashbacks from my accident that had the concussion, I would wake up in the middle of the night, convinced that it had happened again. I'd flake with my husband, be like “I know I just hit my head again,” it was so realistic.
If you can prevent that with 10 minutes of a free game on a phone, somebody's quality of life can be transformed, and so even if it sounds stupid, I mean--
Jordan Harbinger: [00:55:35] This is like Penicillin.
Jane McGonigal: [00:55:37] It's such a small thing to do and when it works you have saved somebody years of emotional distress.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:55:46] Do you mind if I ask you how you got the concussion that comes with?
Jane McGonigal: [00:55:47] Well, you should never ask somebody that because it's interesting. I started having more flashbacks when I talk about it.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:55:54] I’m sure.
Jane McGonigal: [00:55:55] Yeah.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:55:55] That’s why I said, can I ask? And I was like, “Yeah, probably not.”
Jane McGonigal: [00:55:57] I know, that's another good PSA. and I've learned now, when somebody like rolls up in, they're on crutches and I'm like --
Jordan Harbinger: [00:56:04] What'd you do to yourself?
Jane McGonigal: [00:56:05] Oh my God, what happened? Yeah, I have learned now that is actually can retraumatize somebody and make them more likely to experience PTSD.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:56:14] Why don’t we skip that question, what do you think?
Jane McGonigal: [00:56:15 ] But I think it's a good question to ask and say, “No, I choose not to answer that because then people can learn like, “Oh, from now on, I'm not going to ask people to” -- because you know somebody who's on crutches or whatever, they've been asked that by a hundred-- people a hundred times, replay, replay.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:56:30] Oh, I broke my leg, you didn't notice?
Jane McGonigal: [00:56:32] Yeah, yeah.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:56:33] Yeah, exactly. Yeah, it's kind of like asking it when I was in my 20s or something, I'd always, I don't know how I didn't learn this earlier. You'd be like, “Oh, how old are you?” And women are like, “I'm in my 30s,” and it's like, “Never ask a woman how old she is, what’s wrong with you? Knucklehead.” It took me a long time to learn that for some reason and it's like, “Oh yeah, people don't like talking about that.” And now that I'm 38, I'm like, “I don't love the discussion about getting older, because I'm still young, but it's like that's quickly coming to an end.”
Jane McGonigal: [00:56:59] Well, you know, the research suggests we kind of fix ourselves at age 28, and our mind and most people tend to see themselves as a 28 year old version forever. And I think that's totally fine.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:57:12] It is, unless you're delusionally, “No I’m good, I can eat this.”
Jane McGonigal: [00:57:15] I'm going to be delusional. I plan to act like I'm 28 for the rest of my life.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:57:20] Oh boy, yeah. Who am I to stop you? The Tetris technique also works for things like cravings for junk food and things like that, which I think that's important because a lot of people go, like you said, “Oh I'll file that in case I ever get in a super traumatizing train wreck.” But it could just be, “Hey, maybe you shouldn't have that third donut, buddy.”
Jane McGonigal: [00:57:39] Yeah. Because like literally anything you don't want to do. Maybe you're like really pissed off at somebody and you want to leave a really angry comment on their Facebook page or you want to write an email that you might regret later, you can do it then. Anything that kind of takes you out of the moment and gets you away from whatever scene you're playing in your mind that's really getting you aggravated. So basically anytime you want to control your thoughts or behaviors. You played the game for five or 10 minutes. There's actually a kind of reverse side of this too, which is if you are procrastinating and you're trying to like motivate yourself to do something, this sounds really counterintuitive. “Oh, you should play a video game for five or 10 minutes when you're procrastinating.” “That sounds like a terrible idea.” But actually if you play a specific type of game, which is something that you're not great at yet. So this is like, don't do a Sudoku puzzle if you're like the master.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:58:31] Mindlessly reaping.
Jane McGonigal: [00:58:31] Yeah, yeah, yeah. Open a game that you haven't played before or open something that's still pretty hard for you or a level you're stuck on. Do it for five or 10 minutes, and that actually will change your physical energy levels and your mental focus and attention because you've now engaged with something that's a little bit hard for you. It's kind of like doing 20 pushups before you want to take a photo showing your biceps.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:58:56] Oh, yeah. Not that I ever do that? Yeah, I know exactly what you're talking about.
Jane McGonigal: [00:58:58] Yeah, it primes your brain, it gets the blood flowing in the right ways and then you turn your attention. So you set a timer and when the timer goes off, you put the game away and let the round finish or whatever and then turn--
Jordan Harbinger: [00:59:09] Don’t not finish the level. Come on!
Jane McGonigal: [00:59:12] No, no, don't leave you're playing a game with them, don't leave them hanging, yeah. And then you turn your attention to whatever was hard for you or you are avoiding. It is, I mean if you just try it, you'll see this is incredibly effective. And I do it all the time when I've been putting off some work thing or I don't want read email or whatever it is. I just do the game for five or 10 minutes, and not only is it like, “Cool, I've tried a new game. I know something new.” Then my brain is in the right spot to be like, “Yeah, I'm engaged. I'm not avoiding, I'm engaging.”
Jordan Harbinger: [00:59:45] If games work for cravings obviously anger management or whatever it would be now and pain, do they work for anxiety too?
Jane McGonigal: [00:59:52] Oh yeah. And I mean, anxiety is one of the best use cases for games, and there are couple of things. A lot of anxiety is physiological and then we make up a story afterwards. So somebody will say, “I get panic attacks when I'm in a social situation. I have social anxiety.” It turns out now we know that most panic attacks occur in people who are more sensitive to changing carbon dioxide levels. So the reason why you get--
Jordan Harbinger: [01:00:20] Really?
Jane McGonigal: [01:00:21] Panic attacks in social situations or crowded places.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:00:24] Airplanes.
Jane McGonigal: [01:00:25] Yes. It's not because you are scared of being on a plane or you have social anxiety, it's because there's less oxygen relative to carbon dioxide.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:00:33] What?
Jane McGonigal: [01:00:34] This is another PSA, because some people think that they have anxiety when what they really have is a brain that sensitive to carbon dioxide.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:00:41] That's crazy! I've heard that before.
Jane McGonigal: [01:00:43] And my brain became more sensitive to carbon dioxide after my concussion. So this is something I had to learn too. I'm like, “I actually had to go to the hospital ones from a panic attack, and once I learned that it's an oxygen thing and not an anxiety thing, what you can do is you do, first of all, get more oxygen if you can. But do an activity that regulates your breathing. So video game play is a really good way to regulate breathing. We breathe very regularly when we play. There've been all kinds of studies where they put these breathing device measuring devices on people and the rate at which we inhale and exhale, it starts to approach the rhythm that we naturally do when we are calm. Even if we're engaged in a high stress game, especially if we’re good at it, we go into a very controlled mode.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:01:32] Like a flow stakes feel.
Jane McGonigal: [01:01:34] Yeah, exactly. And we're not going to hyperventilate because we know we need our resources, and--
Jordan Harbinger: [01:01:38] Pushing all these buttons mean max oxygen.
Jane McGonigal: [01:01:41] Oh you know that gaming can actually be stressful, right?
Jordan Harbinger: [01:01:43] Sure, yes, playing Far Cry Five yesterday and my heart was going crazy.
Jane McGonigal: [01:01:47] Yeah, yeah. But so great, and your body's like, “How can I control this stress?” When you're in a game, you actually control stress very effectively or you could play a soothing game, there's all kinds of like Zen games and you're pushing balls around. But you can actually control your breathing with the game, which will change the underlying physiology of anxiety because for most people, anxiety starts with chemical experience. It's not that you are actually scared of something. Now, You may actually be scared of something and then it works by just preventing you from thinking about, from ruminating about it. I mean, I think people may actually be scared of certain things. That's fine. But you want to prevent yourself from visualizing it. The more you visualize it, the more your brain learns that it's scary because--
Jordan Harbinger: [01:02:33] It just reinforces something like that.
Jane McGonigal: [01:02:34] Yes, yeah. So you're just in that case, it is a matter of distraction. It stops you from ruminating. So games are great for anxiety and the best thing about all of these techniques is you just build your confidence and your ability to control your thoughts and feelings. And when you realize that you can control them, everything gets easier. You have less anxiety about being in situations outside your control because you know that you have tools that you can use.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:02:58] And it removes a lot of that emotional baggage of like, “I'm always going to be scared when I get on an airplane. It's never going to get better. It's going to negatively affect my career and I can't go to Disneyland with my kids.”
Jane McGonigal: [01:03:08] Yeah. I do think we're living in an era where people over identify with mental health challenges, where we say I'm somebody with depression or I'm somebody with anxiety. In reality, we all go through cycles of these feelings and some of us, our brains get stuck or our bodies get stuck. But you still have control and you will not necessarily be somebody with depression or with anxiety your entire life. And we can separate from that and makes it easier to, I think to tackle it effectively,
Jordan Harbinger: [01:03:41] Move on from it especially. So if games can help sync our breathing. I know you've mentioned some relationship strengthening, through other types of synchronization, what's going on here with the gaming and our relationships?
Jane McGonigal: [01:03:54] Yeah. When we play a game with somebody else, especially for in the same physical environment. So this is great for e-sports where you're actually sitting with your team members competing or if you're just at home with friends or family playing a multiplayer game in person. All these sorts of weird synchronization effects start to happen. Your heart rates converge on the same beats per minute. Your breathing rates converge, posture will start to mirror each other. Facial expressions, electrical activity in the brain will start to look very similar. If you hook people up, you'll see very similar electrical patterns. And this is interesting for two reasons. You're like, “Why does this happen?” That's kind of interesting. And then more importantly, what happens when you've gone through this kind of mind, body merge with somebody? And maybe we'll just start with the impact. It's like, “Why does this matter?” When you have synchronized with somebody in the sort of mind and body way, you observe it, you don't know that you've observed it, but your brain is--
Jordan Harbinger: [01:04:51] The brain knows.
Jane McGonigal: [01:04:51] Constantly at a subconscious level looking at other people's like, I mean, you may not realize that you are observing somebody's chest for how they're breathing. You're observing their posture and the little muscles in their face to see how they're feeling, because we're constantly trying to figure out, is this person like me or are they different from me? Can I relate to them? Do they mean to do me harm or do they mean to help me? When you're gaming, you start building up all of these positive beliefs about the other person. They're like me because our bodies and brains are doing the same thing, and I can trust them therefore, and I have something in common with them and so we start to like each other more. We're more likely to help a person. We have more empathy for them. it just builds such a positive foundation and it persists after the game because we've used the game to build a belief about the other person.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:05:38] Does it matter if we're playing against the person or co-op with the person?
Jane McGonigal: [01:05:41] It doesn’t matter.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:05:42] Really?
Jane McGonigal: [01:05:43] That is the greatest thing. If you're playing in person, it does not matter if you're playing online, it actually does matter because you have fewer cues. Maybe you all have vocal cues.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:05:55] Get little headset.
Jane McGonigal: [01:05:55] Particularly when we compete against strangers online, then we don't see these effects because it's a more of a dehumanizing process. You're not seeing their face, you're not seeing their body language. You don't think of them as a real person, you probably will never see them in real life. So it doesn't matter.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:06:11] To a 12 year old kid who lives in Saudi Arabia who just own you.
Jane McGonigal: [01:06:15] So that's not going to be as good for your relationships. But it's really more about in person or if you got the headsets on and you're playing with people you know in real life, that's where you get the benefits. And it does not matter if you're trying to destroy them or you're on the same team because when you're trying to beat someone in a game, you're still actually trying to emulate what's going on in their mind. Like, “I have to figure out what you're going to do before you do it.” So my brain starts trying to act like I think you're thinking and feeling, and that's why we get the brain synchronization is our brains are basically running simulations of each other. We're trying to get inside each other's heads, which is super cool.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:06:55] Yeah, that is cool. That's neural coupling concept or something.
Jane McGonigal: [01:07:00] Yeah. And so that's the why. That's the why you sync up is that you're basically trying to get inside someone else's brain. And when you try to understand somebody better then your body and brains start to mimic them so that you can feel what they're feeling and see what they're seeing, and yeah.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:07:15] If we play video games with our kids or maybe if they're not getting along and we give them games to play with each other, is that kind of -- am I doing something right here? I'm trying to out -- I'm trying to do the lazy parent possible.
Jane McGonigal: [01:07:24] Oh my God. Yeah, like if your kids are fighting, make them play a game together. Even if they're trying like against each other. I channel that negative energy, and also this has been shown to be really effective for kids with autism, so it can create a positive connection with people in a very structured environment. And studies have shown that kids with autism will do more physical touching with people after they've played a video game with them. They're more open to high fives and hugs. They'll do more positive facial expressions after, more likely to give each other compliments, and so a lot of the things that can sometimes be hard become easier after a game. So there's lots of use cases and different types of people who can benefit from this.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:08:09] In Super Better. You'd tell the story of how it was some woman who had gotten married outside of her culture and then they started playing Farmville or somehting.
Jane McGonigal: [01:08:16] I know, that was so great. I mean, I love what I do for a living. I get to go give talks about this research and then people will come up to me and share their stories. And this was a case of a couple of marrying outside of their religion and the in-laws hated each other and it was really driving their family apart. They won’t talked to each other. And then one day, someone's mother started doing a co-op mission with the mother-in-law. And I mean, this is at the height of Farmville where at the height of Farmville, one in 12 people on the planet were playing this game. I mean, it was a big connector for humanity.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:08:55] That’s crazy.
Jane McGonigal: [01:08:55] Even if it was like not the greatest game of all time, it was one of the greatest, I think up until Pokémon Go, maybe the greatest connector, I mean even more than religion, you have more people in common with a video game. When you think about it, it's kind of easy. Anyway, they started doing co-op missions in Farmville and suddenly they acknowledged that the other person was not a terrible stranger, but somebody that has something in common with and they could help. And then they started leaving comments on each other's page and liking each other's posts and then the whole thing just melted and they were a family. And it’s --
Jordan Harbinger: [01:09:28] It's crazy! It’s a catalyst for something that important.
Jane McGonigal: [01:09:31] Yeah. But I mean there has to be a reason why games have been important to humanity since humanity existed. Like there has to be reason that you can go back and dig up any archeological site and you find dice made out of sheep’s knuckles and you find these ancient game boards from thousands of years ago. I mean, there's a reason why we have always played games. It powerfully changes how we relate to each other and how we feel.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:09:56] Yeah, they're going to find an Xbox fossilized in ruin in San Francisco.
Jane McGonigal: [01:10:00] 10,000 years from now, they'll be like, “Wow, look at those ancient really ridiculous humans who had no technology and they have these little computers that they’re playing with.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:10:09] Controllers are front, why don't they have upside on control?
Jane McGonigal: [01:10:12] They were still using their hands instead of just their mind.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:10:15] Unbelievable. Yeah, I think that's so interesting. I love that Farmville saved a marriage from like a grape collecting mission or whatever you do in Farmville. I've never actually played, I was one of the other people in the world who wasn't playing Farmville.
Jane McGonigal: [01:10:29] But you were seeing it in your feed.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:10:32] Oh, yeah. You couldn’t escape it.
Jane McGonigal: [01:10:32] Okay. Can I just say, this is like for people who pride themselves on not playing the games that everyone else is playing. If there's like one habit you wanted to change as an experiment, it would be go play the game that everyone else is playing because it's amazing when you -- say like right now, like anybody who hasn't tried Fortnite, you have to.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:10:50] It looks hard.
Jane McGonigal: [01:10:52] Okay. But it's so much fun when you fail that it like doesn't even matter and you get to start the next game immediately. It's like literally you get shot. It's like, “Okay, see you later. I'm going to jump out of the air ship again and try again.” And the games, if you're bad at it, games only take a few minutes.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:11:08] That’s true, because more like Halo if you’re not good at it, you just keep getting killed, and you can’t do anything.
Jane McGonigal: [01:11:13] No, no. Fortnite is actually still fun even when you're bad at it because you can at least -- you can adopt strategies. You can go as far away from civilization as you can and at least spend a few minutes like looking around and before everybody converges and kills you, it's still fun. But it's amazing to be playing the same game as 100 million other people. Or in the case of Pokémon Go, I mean, it was like half a billion people playing this game. When else are you going to have something in common with that many people?
Jane McGonigal: [01:11:41] Where were you geographically during the Pokémon Go insanity?
Jane McGonigal: [01:11:45] I was in Berkeley.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:11:47] Okay, because I had a trip to New York.
Jane McGonigal: [01:11:49] Oooh!
Jordan Harbinger: [01:11:50] And I remember being on Fifth and whatever near Central Park, 59th or something. And there were so many people and something happened where like, I don't know, a rare Pokémon something--
Jane McGonigal: [01:12:03] Snorlax is popping up.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:12:04] It popped up.
Jane McGonigal: [01:12:05] Everyone running.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:12:06] The streets got flooded with humans. And I was like, how did no one die right now? And it was a middle of trek and I thought, “No, Elton John's over there, that's it. It can't be Pokémon.”
Jane McGonigal: [01:12:14] Yeah.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:12:15] It’s got to be Lady Gaga, because there were thousands of people all sprinting, screaming, running.
Jane McGonigal: [01:12:19] Were you playing?
Jordan Harbinger: [01:12:20] I wasn't, I was not, I know.
Jane McGonigal: [01:12:21] So that's why you [indiscernible][01:12:23] negatively.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:12:23] I know I felt super left out. Oh, it wasn't negative. I just felt really left out.
Jane McGonigal: [01:12:27] Yeah. Yeah. I mean when you see all of these people converge and so this is -- Pokémon Go was amazing. They made some design decisions that like nobody had made before that allowed this to happen. One of which was, it was not a zero sum game in the sense that if there's a Snorlax on this corner, we all can get it. So suddenly these like hundred people running towards the corner, you can high five them. You can be like, “Yeah! Did you get it?” And you can actually celebrate each other's success instead of feeling like, “Oh, I have to hoard everything for myself.” Boy, did that make it fun to be out and to be able to ask anybody like, “What have you seen here? What's hanging around? Where can I go to find this particular creature?” To have that ability to talk to strangers. I talked to so many people who are younger than me, people who were cooler than me that I would never think I could talk to. Like just some really cool teens and be like, “What are you catching?” I mean.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:13:25] It’s the only thing you could possibly relate on with some of these people probably.
Jane McGonigal: [01:13:30] I think so. It was like kind of a utopia and that was like, “I feel like that was our summer of love.” Like 1968, 1969 San Francisco.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:13:36] Probably more of that though for sure.
Jane McGonigal: [01:13:38] Yeah. But I think for a lot of people we will look back at the Pokémon Go summer as like this really utopian not, I mean that was 11. That was a lovefest.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:13:48] There was a lot, yeah, there were a lot of people roaming around. Adults, old people, children with their parents.
Jane McGonigal: [01:13:53] Getting in shape.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:13:54] Oh yeah, there you go.
Jane McGonigal: [01:13:54] Getting healthier, getting sunshine and fresh air. I mean it was just all these like positive. And I don't know if you know this, Microsoft research did a study of that summer and they found that in the United States they had increased the life expectancy by millions of years for the people who are alive in 2016 that we are as a population going to live millions of years longer just because of what in US, I think it was almost a hundred million people. But those hundred million people did that summer will change how long they live and will change at a population level for the whole country how long they live.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:14:35] There’s a ripple effect from freaking Pokémon Go, that is going to ripple into the next like five decades. That's insane.
Jane McGonigal: [01:14:43] Isn’t it? And it's super cool.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:14:44] That's really cool. I wonder, can they find health data accelerometer data, Fitbit data and go “Wow! that summer we had 58 billion more step.
Jane McGonigal: [01:14:51] Oh yeah, that's how they tracked it.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:14:52] Oh, that’s how they did it, okay.
Jane McGonigal: [01:14:54] They combined data from people who had the game and played on their phone and also had a step trackers and other fitness trackers and settled on their phone and cross, like the correlated and cross compare the data and found that the average Pokémon Go player took 50 percent more steps that summer than they were in a comparable period.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:15:13] I’m surprised it's only that much because honestly people were, I mean it was crazy.
Jane McGonigal: [01:15:18] Well, think about it this way. So people who already are using a fitness tracker are already engaged with fitness, and it's for people who weren't engaged in fitness, we were seeing three times, four times as much physical activity.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:15:29] I couldn't even ride on my bike trail because there's a bridge that's about two bikes wide and it has 800 people on trying to catch water Pokémon. And I’m like “Can you guys please take your headphones off so that I don't hit one of you?”
Jane McGonigal: [01:15:41] Aw. Well you had to do was be like, “Hey, you guys --
Jordan Harbinger: [01:15:46] There’s a Snorlax in the park.
Jane McGonigal: [01:15:46] Snorlax is that way. Clears the road. You had to use your strategy.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:15:50] See if I'd been playing Pokémon Go, I would have freaking known that.
Jane McGonigal: [01:15:53] You could've manipulated hundreds of people.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:15:55] That’s right. Social engineering via augmented reality. There's so many other questions, we could do this for another hour. Literally, I think I'm halfway through some of my notes, so I really appreciate your time. We'll have to have you back some time.
Jane McGonigal: [01:16:07] I would love that. And having back with my sister, we could do a--
Jordan Harbinger: [01:16:10] there you go.
Jane McGonigal: [01:16:11] Your first, have you ever had identical twins on your show at the same time?
Jordan Harbinger: [01:16:14] I don't think that I have, no.
Jane McGonigal: [01:16:15] We should do it.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:16:16] There we go. I'll take you up on that.
Jane McGonigal: [01:16:17] Awesome.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:16:18] Thank you.
Jane McGonigal: [01:16:18] Yeah, thank you.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:16:21] All right, great big thank you to Jane McGonigal. The book title is Super Better. All her books have great though. I have really recommend it. I thought this episode was fascinating. I could have recorded for another hour, but again, I want to keep it concise as possible for you guys. We'll have to have Jane back at some point on the show.
Jason DeFillippo: [01:16:39] Along with her twin sister. That should be fun.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:16:40] She did offer that. Yeah, we're going to try and make that happen, so stay tuned for Kelly McGonigal as well, and if you want to know how I managed to book all these great people and manage my relationships using systems, using tiny habits, check out our Six-Minute Networking course which is free. That's over at jordanharbinger.com/course, and a lot of people say, “Yeah, I'm going to do that later. That's fine. I'm on it. It's on my list.” The problem with procrastinating or kicking the can down the road here, you can't make up for lost time. When it comes to relationships and networking, the number one mistake I see people make with especially business owners and people who are really busy, postponing, not digging in, not digging the well before they get thirsty. Once you need those relationships, you are way too late, and I know you don't have time. These drills are designed to take a few minutes per day, four to five minutes literally. This is the type of habit that you can really only ignore at your own peril, and I wish I knew this stuff 10, 15 years ago. It is not fluff. It is crucial, and you can find all of that at jordanharbinger.com/course, and it's freaking free. So quit crying already and go do it. Jordanharbinger.com/course.
[01:17:45] Speaking of building relationships, tell me your number one takeaway here from Jane McGonigal. I'm @jordanharbinger on both Twitter and Instagram. I'm doing a lot on Instagram these days. I post little previews of the show, do little videos, take some questions and stuff here and there. And don't forget if you want to apply everything that you heard here from Jane, make sure you go grab the worksheets, also in the show notes at jordanharbinger.com/podcast.
[01:18:08] This episode was produced and edited by Jason “Game Over Man” DeFillippo. Show notes by Robert Fogarty. I got help with prep from Eric Roush and Kelly Inuzuka today. Thanks for that guys. And of course worksheets by Caleb Bacon. Booking back office and last minute miracles by Jen Harbinger. I'm your host, Jordan Harbinger. The fee for this show is that you share it with friends when you find something useful, which should be in every episode, so please share the show with those you love and even those you don't. Lots more in the pipeline. We're very excited to bring it to you and in the meantime, do your best to apply what you hear on the show so you can live what you listen, and we'll see you next time.
Sign up to receive email updates
Enter your name and email address below and I'll send you periodic updates about the podcast.