Jonathan Haidt (@JonHaidt) is a social psychologist who studies the American culture wars and is widely considered to be one of the world’s leading experts on the psychology of morality. He is the co-author of The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up a Generation for Failure.
What We Discuss with Jonathan Haidt:
- Why should we be preparing the child for the road and not the road for the child?
- How the concepts of safe spaces and trigger warnings are making our society less safe and less prepared for the real world.
- What we should be doing instead to prepare ourselves and our kids for reality.
- Cognitive distortions and how we become victims of our own flawed mindsets.
- The three fundamental untruths being perpetuated by academia and the media and how we can fight these influences.
- And much more…
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As Friedrich Nietzsche once said, that which does not kill us makes us stronger. But what happens when we keep ourselves so far out of harm’s way that we never build resilience against the world’s dangers? What if we never develop the ability to think critically because we’re too busy sheltering ourselves and others from ideas that challenge how we view the world?
The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up a Generation for Failure co-author Jonathan Haidt joins us to sound the alarm against blind acceptance of safety measures that hold uncomfortable reality at bay and make us incapable of coping with the world as it is rather than what we wish it to be. Listen, learn, and enjoy!
Please Scroll Down for Featured Resources and Transcript!
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THANKS, JONATHAN HAIDT!
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Resources from This Episode:
- The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up a Generation for Failure by Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt
- The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion by Jonathan Haidt
- Jonathan Haidt’s website
- Jonathan Haidt at Twitter
Transcript for Jonathan Haidt | The Danger of Good Intentions and Safe Spaces (Episode 90)
Jordan Harbinger: [00:00:00] Welcome to the show. I'm Jordan Harbinger. As always, I'm here with my producer, Jason DeFillippo. Today, we're talking with Jonathan Haidt. He's a social psychologist who studies the American culture wars and is widely considered to be one of the world's leading experts on the psychology of morality. His new book is called The Coddling of the American Mind, which I think is an awesome title, how good intentions and bad ideas are setting up a generation for failure, and this is such an interesting read. This is a really good book about preparing the child for the road and not the road for the child, so to speak. Haidt is really a clear eyed thinker who doesn't take sides simply because he's supposed to, and that makes him the epitome of what a true scholar should be, in my opinion. One, convinced by facts and results and not by appeals to emotion and tradition.
[00:00:51] Today, we're talking about the concept of safe spaces, trigger warnings and other things that are actually making us less safe and less prepared for the real world and what we should be doing instead to prepare ourselves and our kids for reality. We'll also discuss cognitive distortions and how we become a victim of our own minds and mindsets and flood mindsets at that, and what this can do to our mental health and we'll discuss the three fundamental untruths being perpetuated by some in and outside of academia and how we can fight that influence both in our institutions and in our own heads. By the end of the show, you'll know how to spot flawed logic and flood mindsets in yourself and in others, and you'll learn how to counteract those for a little mixed mental arts as self-defense here.
[00:01:35] Today, of course we have worksheets as always in the show notes at jordanharbinger.com/podcast, if you want to make sure you got all the key takeaways here from Jonathan Haidt, and if you want to know how I managed to book all these great people and manage all my relationships using systems and tiny habits, check out our Six-Minute Networking course, which is free over at jordanharbinger.com/course, and for those of you who've been asking, I did the first few exercises where the rest are where there are only two, you get it over time. We set that up on purpose so that you don't just watch 10 videos and never do anything. Jordanharbinger.com/course. That is a skillset that will take you places no matter what your career path, the skills you'll learn there will help you build and maintain relationships for the rest of your life. All right, here's Jonathan Haidt.
[00:02:22] This book was really good, by the way, and you already know that because you wrote it, but what I thought was particularly interesting was at first I thought, “Look, I don't really need to worry about this stuff because I'm not in college. I don't care about the news. I don't get easily offended.” But the book is especially important for educators but also parents, people in college, people who work in any kind of company were doing anything could cost them their job, which is kind of what we're talking about here.
Jonathan Haidt: [00:02:50] Yep, this is all coming to you from a college near you.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:02:52] Yes, and if you think I don't have to worry about that, just make sure that you're not a parent, not hiring anyone, not working with, except for people that look, dress, behave, think, live near, act like you.
Jonathan Haidt: [00:03:05] And you’d be okay.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:03:04] Yeah. If you work and live in your basement, you don't use the Internet, then you're not listening to this right now, chances are, then you're fine. Otherwise, you're probably going to tip toe into hot water, straight into hot water at some point. But I was in the restroom earlier and there was something like bias hotline and I thought --
Jonathan Haidt: [00:03:20] Oh, yeah.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:03:21] That might be useful, but it's probably one of those voicemail inboxes that has 17,000 things in it by 9 a.m.
Jonathan Haidt: [00:03:27] Yes. So, okay, we'll come back to the bias reassurance line because that is something that really bothers me. The fact that in every bathroom at NYU, there's a sign telling students how to report me if I offend them. And while it's important to have a way to report acts of racism or discrimination or harassment, those are illegal. But when we start telling students -- we start teaching them about microaggressions, we start teaching them ways to take more offense at statements that may or may not have been badly intentioned. And then we teach them, if you see something, say something, which is the way that this generation has been raised, what we end up with is a culture in which everybody has to fear everybody else because they could be an informant. We end up with some of the dynamics that students from the old East Block tell us this is how it was when I was a kid, this fear of being reported. So I guess the question we have to talk about is where did this new culture come from, this new culture that we have on many universities? It's not everywhere, but on many, especially elite universities, things changed around 2014, 2015, and so that's what we're trying to do in the book is explain what is changing, why did it change, and is this good or bad for young people?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:04:40] For those of us that aren't news junkies or around the academic drama that is microaggressions and all these different sort of concepts, safe spaces. I went to the university of Michigan, and when I went to visit again to speak there last year, they were talking about like, “Oh we don't talk about the Plato incident and the Teddy bear incident.” And I thought, “That was here? What happened?” I've only been gone for 10 years.
Jonathan Haidt: [00:05:05] What did you do with my university?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:05:07] Yeah. And I'm thinking that wasn't here. This is a place where people yell at each other when stuff needs to be hashed out, but that's pretty much it. Nobody's playing with Plato, it was 35.
Jonathan Haidt: [00:05:16] Yeah. So there's a kind of a phase change that happened around 2015, and so really key to understand here is that we're waiting into a topic that is one of the main battlegrounds of the culture war, and that means that on the right there's an enormous need to exaggerate what's going on and make universities and the left looks stupid and babyish. On the left, there's an enormous need to say there's no problem, there's nothing going on, this is all the fever dream of right-wing media and Fox News. Oh, and by the way, they're just racists who are defending their white privilege. So this whole topic is really fraught, and I got to say, when Greg and I started writing this, I was actually thinking like, “How will this book be received? And might I be drummed out of the core? Might I be called a trader or a racist or something?” And I have tenure, but you don't want to be someplace where everyone hates you in a shaming you.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:06:07] Right, yeah. I'm sure that that's going to eventually happen whether it happens only on Twitter and Reddit is the question, right?
Jonathan Haidt: [00:06:13] Yeah. Although, I think in 2015 when we started all of this, it wasn't so clear that we had this giant national problem. And now here we are speaking in the early fall of 2018, and it's really clear to almost everybody that something's going terribly wrong. So I find when I speak about the book now, whether people on the right or the left, they admit like, “Wow! Something's going off the rails. What is happening to us?” And so that's why I'm so excited about this book and that's why it was so much fun to write is that this isn't really just about college campus. This is about how have we been changing our culture, how have we been changing the way we raise our kids. How’s our national politics been changing? So that we get this swirling mess on many campuses and it's beginning to come into the corporate world, especially in tech and media. It's not in all industries, but in the industries that hire from elite college schools, they're getting this new morality about safe spaces, microaggressions, trigger warnings, and hypersensitivity.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:07:13] So a lot of people who don't know what safe spaces are, or trigger warnings, we'll get into that in a little bit, but I think the problem started to come to the forefront when we see people getting disinvited from speaking at a university because it might offend some people, which when I was in college, was actually the point of having a speak, or would there would be some pro-Israel or anti-Israel or something like that and people would go in there and they would sit quietly and listen, and then afterwards they would ask pointed questions or they would make some sort of political statement and raise their fist in the air, and then people would be like, “Okay, next.” Now that person can't speak because there's a chair through the window and there's marching and rocks and torches or whatever.
Jonathan Haidt: [00:07:54] That's right. So it's not as though those events are super common. There's been not that much violence. There had been a few episodes at Middlebury and Berkeley especially. So it's not, you know, thank God it's not descending into violence, but it is descending into a kind of an angry self-righteousness, very different from what you and I remember from college. And so a concept to keep your mind on is provocation or being provocative, before 2015 in the academic world, that was a really good thing. I mean, this is what Socrates did for a living. We trace our ancestry to Socrates and Plato as Academy and what Socrates called himself the gadfly of Athens. His job was to question the orthodoxies. Now eventually he was put to death, but not by his fellow academics. He was put to death by people in the public square who thought that he was committing sacrilege and corrupting the morals of youth.
[00:08:43] So I think his life and death illustrate exactly why we need universities as places set apart with different norms of engagement. Places where you can hash it all out. You can argue, you can say things that are provocative. If you're doing it in order to hurt people or “That's bad! That's rude!” You don't belong. But if you're doing it because you're exploring an idea, “Hey, wait a second, maybe everything's backwards.” And yeah, people are going to hate this, but let's see if it's true. We need a special place like that, and that place is the university. Unfortunately, what has happened is in part because of social media, the walls between all of our institutions are coming down. And so the way that you would speak in church or in your family or in in a university or at work, those were all different places. They need different norms, but with social media and especially with a culture of youth that likes to take pictures and record things to show in other contexts, the walls are coming down. And that means we can't do our work at universities. It means that the unique norms, the unique culture that you saw in Michigan or that I had at Yale in 1980s is largely fading away and everything becomes the public square where the point is not what's true. The point is, “Can I beat you? Can I shame you? Can I get my team together to crush you?” And you know who wants to live that way in every aspect of life?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:10:07] So what happens then is students are claiming that offending material affects their mental health or people in general, it doesn't even have to be students. And then it becomes, “Look, can you remove this offensive material from the course?” And professors or whoever has to go, “Do I want to have all these teams against me, shaming me in the public square, which is now everywhere?” Or “Do I just want to go, you know what? Screw it. Let's not read that book.”
Jonathan Haidt: [00:10:31] That's right. So I think the clearest way to understand this is when Charles Murray came to speak at Middlebury. So Charles Murray wrote a book in 1994, I think it was called The Bell Curve, a very controversial book, in which he looks at race differences. Well, the book is actually --this is the thing, the book is actually about social class. There's one chapter about race, but it's a book about what happens when we admit students, when Harvard started admitting students to college, not by who your father was, not by how rich you were, but by your IQ, by SAT, which is a proxy in part for IQ. And so it's a book on what would happen to our society if we had this form of elitism in which we get this Uber class, this upper class of people who are really good at test taking. And if you've been following American politics since 1994, and if you were conscious during the election of 2016, this was the problem. This is why so many people hated Hillary Clinton and what she stood for. So here we are, Charles Murray's invited to campus at Middlebury in March of 2017. He's just written a book about social class. This is the most important thing to understand how America is coming apart by social class. His book is called Coming Apart. This is one of the most important things Middlebury students could learn. But what happens, some Middlebury students choose to interpret his visit as a threat, as a danger to the African-American students because he did write a book, whatever, 18 years early, whatever it was, 20 years earlier, that understandably many black people would be offended by many people were offended by.
[00:12:05] So I understand the negative reaction to him, I do understand that, but it's a choice to interpret his coming to campus to speak about social class. It's a choice to interpret that as an attack on students, and some did interpret it that way. Now almost nobody has read his book, almost nobody who protests has read it. All the petition signed about how dangerous and horrible he is. Nobody actually knows what the book was about, but some students got into their head that if he were allowed to speak, this would not just be offensive, this would be violence against students of color. This would deny their right to exist. This is some of the language that they use. All of this is over the top rhetoric, not really intended to describe what's happening to you, but intended to win a rhetorical battle against your enemy.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:12:52] Okay. So it's not really about protecting our own quote unquote right to exist or anything, and it's not even about protecting someone else. So it's a concept you call, I think vindictive protectiveness.
Jonathan Haidt: [00:13:03] Vindictive protectiveness, that's right.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:13:05] And that's interesting, and we'll get into that in a little bit because I found that to be, that's just sort of a contagious almost disease of the mind in a way.
Jonathan Haidt: [00:13:14] Hypocrisy and self-righteous, that's what my second book was about. Yeah, it's actually, let me just, I should just finish the story because many people wouldn't know. So students came to Murray’s talk at Middlebury and the president introduced him and then a professor who was going to give a rebuttal to him from political science introduced him and then he got up to speak. And they turned their back on and started chanting and shouting, preventing them from speaking. And they did that for about 20 minutes. And the videos are fascinating, I've watched them because what they show is a religious celebration. People are chanting and swaying in time in order to produce a moral community that is united for a moral end. So my second book, The Righteous Mind, the subtitle is Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion. So it's a fascinating event. It really shows human, moral, psychology, and action. All right, fine. So they protest, they shut the talk down. The Middlebury -- the campus authorities were prepared for this because they knew this could happen. So they bring them to a small room in the basement or lower down in that building and they do a livestream from there. But the students find out what room he's in.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:14:18] Oh my god.
Jonathan Haidt: [00:14:19] In part by pounding on walls and pulling fire alarms until they can hear it on the livestream. They close in, they know where he is. When he and Allison Stanger, the political science professor try to leave, they get out of the building, they're trying to get to a car, they're attacked, students are trying to attack Murray, but they end up grabbing Allison Stanger, grabbing her hair, pulling her to the ground. She gets a concussion and a neck injury, she's still suffering from them.
[00:14:42] So this became the premiere episode in which people realize, “Wow! Something's really wrong.” Now again, this is not common. This is the worst of them. And of course, UC Berkeley, the protest against Milo Yiannopoulos had happened a month before. And of course, all of this is happening right in the wake of the Trump inauguration. So thank God the violence has an escalated, it's calmed down, but the overall sensibility that if someone comes to speak on your campus, who holds views, that you find hateful, that this would be violence against vulnerable people, and therefore, it's only right that the university shut it down and we're going to protest and demand that the president and the dean, they've got to stop this. They've got to protect us.
Jason DeFillippo: [00:15:22] You're listening to the Jordan Harbinger Show with our Guest Jonathan Haidt. We'll be right back after this.
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Jordan Harbinger: [00:16:31] This episode is sponsored in part by Varidesk. If you are -- my legs are sore today, man, I'm telling you. I got to stand up, I got to sit down, I got to move around That's hard if you don't have a standing desk, you get a lot less done if you've got to walk around all over the place, and I’m in Silicon Valley, half the people here are sitting on little exercise balls and all that stuff. You need to get a standing desk or at least have a place where you can stand and work. And Varidesk is awesome because this ProDesk 60 Electric standing desk, the new one, it makes it really easy to have an active workspace. It's designed with commercial grade materials, super durable, really stable. You can assemble the thing in under five minutes. Things built like a tank, built to last, and you can try it risk-free for 30 days with free shipping and free returns, if you're not satisfied, and it's great, it's motorized, you can adjust it up or down depending on whether you're sitting or standing. I mean it's just really perfect. It's built by people that clearly use standing desks, not by some random furniture company that's like, “Yeah, we need a standing thing because those are trendy.” These guys know what they're doing. Jason, where can they find it?
Jason DeFillippo: [00:17:35] You can try all of the Varidesk products risk-free for 30 days with free shipping and free returns if you're not satisfied at varidesk.com/jordan. That's V-A-R-I-D-E-S-K.com/jordan. Thanks for 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. If you want some tips on how to do that, head on over to jordanharbinger.com/subscribe. Now back to our show with Jonathan Haidt.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:18:12] So why are universities putting up with this kind of thing? And you've hinted at this that college has almost become kind of an all-inclusive resort and the students are the clients they're not students per se.
Jonathan Haidt: [00:18:23] That's right. So we imagine -- so look, the university presidents are almost all truly liberal people. What I mean is that they are politically on the left, almost always, but I mean liberal in the sense that they believe in the liberal tradition. They believe in free speech. They believe in academic values. They're good people with good values, but they're also put into an impossible situation. As the president of one major university said recently to someone I know. He said, “Universities are becoming ungovernable,” because what happens when you have a moral vacuum, when you have different moral worldviews contesting in any organization, it could be a corporation, although in the incorporation, you have such top down control, you don't have this problem as much, but a university's a very open place. So when you have different moral visions contesting with each other and the leadership steps back and doesn't step in and say, “Look, this is what we are.” This is what we do. We're not going to tell you what to believe. But you know, we have certain academic norms here, which is people get to speak and you don't get to shut them down. You don't plagiarize, you cite your sources. I mean, there's certain basic ground rules of academic life. When leadership doesn't do that and instead they're in a reactive pose, which is what happens, so if the members of any identity group are offended, and I'm not saying there are no reasons to be offended, but if they take offense to something and they make a fuss about it and they demand, usually what they demand is more diversity trans, that's the typical thing. Something happened, someone says something offensive, we need more diversity training. Some food was served in the cafeteria, which was racially and said, “Wait, more diversity training.”
[00:19:54] So there's a demand for administrative action, and what happens in the university world is the same thing that happens in the corporate world. Namely, CYA, cover your ass. This is what leaders do when they're put in a difficult position and they take the short-term strategy, which is make the problem go away today, give them what they want today, don't let this go into the front page of the New York Times.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:20:17] Yeah, let's get this out of the news.
Jonathan Haidt: [00:20:17] Let's get this out of the news. And then what happens? You embolden people who have a particular illiberal morality and they come back for more. Giving bullies what they want tends not to end the problem.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:20:28] Right, it's not even just expectedly controversial stuff. I think that's what I literally highlighted in my notes, it's not just like, “Okay, look, this guy, this is a controversial guy's got a chapter in there that pissed a lot of people off.” Naturally, some of the offensive statements that were included in your Atlantic article where America is the land of opportunity and I believe the most qualified person should get the job. And I was thinking --
Jonathan Haidt: [00:20:53] Those are microaggressions.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:20:54] You really have to jump through some hoops --
Jonathan Haidt: [00:20:58] Exactly.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:20:59] -- to get offended by stuff like that.
Jonathan Haidt: [00:21:00] That's right. And so you know, social life is hard and when you try to create a diverse community, it's even harder. Diversity can pay all kinds of benefits if you do it right. If people get the benefit of being around diverse people. So if you imagine all of these universities doing all they can to create international diversity, racial diversity, gender balance, social class, everything you want diversity, and then what you should do is teach people to give each other the benefit of the doubt because misunderstandings, diversity guarantees misunderstandings, that guarantees it. If everybody is an upper class white guy from New England, they'll understand each other, but the more diverse you get, the more room there is for misunderstanding. And so what we should be doing is saying, “You know what? This is hard. This is an experiment. We all have to work with this. We all have to give each other the benefit of the doubt. We have to try to be less offensive. But man, we all have to take less offense.” Instead, what we do is the opposite, and again, not everywhere, but at the elite schools that go in for this microaggression stuff. Students are literally taught to take statements in the worst possible way to think, could this in some way marginalize a member of one of the seven or so identity groups?
[00:22:12] And so to say, “America's a land of opportunity.” Well, let's take out in the worst possible way. So are you saying that if someone is poor, if an immigrant comes here from Mexico and they're poor, it's their own damn fault? Well, “Okay, if I was saying that, then I could see why you'd be offended. But I'm not saying that. Why are you taking this in the worst possible way?” And the reason, the reason why students take things in the worst possible way is that there is a new economy of prestige, everybody is engaged in an economy of prestige. We all do things that get us prestige from our peers with the people we care about, and in the new economy of prestige enabled by social media on college campuses, the more you call someone out for racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, transphobia, you get a point. Every time you do that, you get a point.
[00:22:59] So every time you accuse some, doesn't matter if it's true, doesn't matter if you destroy it, it doesn't matter. If you call someone out, you get a point, and so you have subcommunities in some universities that are playing this game with horrible external results for everyone else.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:23:13] This is the call out culture that you'd write about.
Jonathan Haidt: [00:23:16] Exactly. So if you talk to young people, if you talk to -- now to make me clear, this is not a book about millennials. The millennial generation was people born in 1982 to 1994, and we used to think that millennials went up to maybe 1998 or 2000. This is a book about kids born after 1995 who were raised in very different ways, which we'll talk about, and who have therefore become receptive to a very protective ethos of view in which people are fragile prejudices everywhere. We have to protect people, and this urge to protect trumps everything else. It trumps free speech, it trumps freedom., it trumps individual choice. We must protect members of certain groups from these verbal aggressions.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:24:02] And even if they're not actually aggressions.
Jonathan Haidt: [00:24:05] Well, that's right because one of the new and really unfortunate conceptual moves is this move to say that it's not intent that matters. It doesn't matter whether you meant ill or good, what matters is impact. So if I say America is the land of opportunity, where if I say America's a melting pot or whatever. If I say something like that, and somebody who is an immigrant takes offense to it. Well, I have harmed them and if I have harmed them with words, I have committed violence, and if I am violent, then someone must stop me, we can't have violence on campus. So you can see how this morality once established, and even a small corner of the university is very hard to stop unless someone stands up against it. But if the leadership stands up against it, they will be accused of all kinds of bigotry and sensitivity, so they almost never do.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:24:58] Yeah, and then the slippery slope, like you said before, that emboldens them and they say, “Well look, nobody made a statement against us,” so obviously we're on the right track, and look, there's five people behind me, and the president didn't say anything. So everybody is kind of secretly on my side, but really everyone's just kind of going, “I'm not standing up for a Professor Haidt. I'm going to get fired. I don't have tenure.”
Jonathan Haidt: [00:25:19] Exactly, exactly, and this is what is called preference falsification. It's a very useful concept from Timur kuran. He’s a Turkish American professor of, I forget if it’s economics or political science, but when you have a system in which people, what they say publicly doesn't accord with what they feel privately, then basically you have the emperor's new clothes, you have people acting as though they're going along with something and everybody looks around and says, “Well, everyone's going along with this.” “Okay, I guess I have to too.” But then you can have very rapid change, and that's what happened in the East Bloc. Once some people started saying, “No, we don't have to take this, we can knock down this wall.” Then all over the East Bloc people said, “We don't have to take this. We can knock down this wall.” And so I think we might see that begin to happen in the next year or two. The campus culture of overprotection, the safetyism, the hypersensitivity, most people hate it. And while they're often afraid to stand up against it, I think we're going to start seeing people standing up this year.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:26:14] We had a lot of that even when I was in college, but it was very fringe. And I remember I had like a very activist roommate, and he was just the furthest to the left I've ever met anyone. And I remember him telling me, “Hey, if these three people come over or call, I'm never here.” Because there were always -- these weren't students, they were just like, career, what would you even call?
Jonathan Haidt: [00:26:39] Provocateur?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:26:39] Provocateurs is just career, “Hey, this person got accused of being a little bit insensitive in a class.” And then it's like “Dot, dot, dot. This person's a rapist.” And I remember this woman handing out flyers saying, “This guy's a rapist, and he shouldn't be allowed to work here.” And the police came while she was talking to us, and they said, “Look, we've told you before, this is a case that's been dismissed. This is slander. You cannot hand out flyers doing this.” And she just was like, “But.” And the police literally had to sit there, and it was like a real world first day of university education for me that there was somebody who's just kind of decided it was their job to whip up this froth of an, I don't know if she was just bored or what?
Jonathan Haidt: [00:27:23] What year was this? What year did you?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:27:24] This was 1998.
Jonathan Haidt: [00:27:26] You started at Michigan in ’98, you graduated in what year?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:27:28] 2002-2003 whatever that overlap was. And then I went to law school, so I got a wider sway of a feel for the place over time.
Jonathan Haidt: [00:27:36] Right. Okay, so I'm sorry, what are you? Are you gen X or millennial or right on the border?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:27:39] I'm 38. I was born in 1980, so it depends on what Google.
Jonathan Haidt: [00:27:43] Yeah, technically your gen X, but the line isn't that sharp. So right, what you saw there was that somebody was trying on a new moral worldview, a different reading of safety and sexual violence. And somebody else stood up and said, “No, that's not the right reading.” Now, norms change, our views about what's acceptable when talking about race and gender have changed. That's generally good. I mean I'm not some reactionary saying, “Oh, we've got us keep things the way they were in the 1950s, things need to evolve, but we have to be careful about the evolution because especially for creating a diverse society, we have to look at our concepts and our cultural evolution of concepts, and see is this going to improve our ability to live and work together and do our work in university, or is this going to just turn us against each other and make people feel hurt, angry, and scared?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:28:33] Before we get into some of this, I'd love to talk about cognitive distortions and you've got a great list. There's a whole list here of other concepts, these cognitive distortions that are, I don't know if they are mindsets or ways of thinking, but they can be really dangerous in that they get in the way of critical thinking, they get in the way of our happiness because they essentially, it's a fertile breeding ground for depressive thinking and negative thoughts because we get trapped in these things. Can we go over this list a little bit?
Jonathan Haidt: [00:29:00] Sure. Yeah. Once you read out a few and all kinds, read it out like three point and I'll comment on that.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:29:03] Sure. So mind reading is the first one in the list. What does this? I mean, it sounds like a great superpower, but most of us don't use it correctly, I guess. Fortune telling catastrophizing which by the way, I'm amazing at, and overgeneralizing or let's say negative filtering is one that shows up a lot.
Jonathan Haidt: [00:29:23] So the origin story of the whole book is that Greg Luciano is prone to depression. He's had it his whole adult life and he had a horrible suicidal depression. He really almost killed himself around I think it was 2007, 2008. And he ended up seeing a psychologist or psychiatrist, who taught them to do cognitive behavioral therapy, which is the most widely used, very effective form of basically mental tune-up. And in CBT, you learn to catch your distorted thoughts, so if any little thing happens, someone doesn't return your phone call, you say, “Oh, she hates me! Oh my God, why am I such a loser? Oh, why did I say that thing to her? Of course, she hates me.” So that depressive thought, that many people get caught in that kind of infinite loop. One of my favorite lines from the Simpsons is Homer says, “Shut up brain or I'll stab you with a Q-tip.” So a lot of us have experienced that. We have these repetitive thoughts, we can't stop, they’re self-critical, and so what you just read is a list of some of the most common ones.
[00:30:21] Mind reading, I said that thing and she must have thought I was an idiot. Like, “You don't know that.” You're mind reading. Catastrophizing, and now “She's never going to go out with me or she's going to tell her friends and I'm going to loser,” you know like making a mountain out of a molehill. You're guessing that things will be terrible. So Aaron Beck, a psychiatrist at the University of Pennsylvania in the 1960s, discovered that he can catalog these thoughts. Like if you talked to a bunch of depressed people, they all do the same 10 or 15 things. And he had the foresight to say, “Well, maybe this isn't the result of something that happened in childhood,” which is what the Freudians would have said. He said, “What happens if we teach people to stop doing that? What happens if we teach them to challenge their distortions?” So he did that and it worked like magic. Like you break people out of this infinite loop and then they actually get happier. So that's the backstory to CBT and to Greg. So Greg is running the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, working to push back restrictions on counts speech for students in many campuses. And then he cures his depression in 2008, 2009, and then in 2013, he suddenly starts hearing all these students doing exactly the same distortion that he learned not to do. Like, if Charles Murray come to speak on this campus, it will traumatize the African-Americans, how do you know? Because actually a lot of them say “It wouldn't,” and it would be a disaster and black and white thinking.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:31:48] It's the end of diversity as we know it on campus.
Jonathan Haidt: [00:31:50] Yeah, exactly. That kind of language. That's right. So what Greg realized is, well previously it had been the university administrators who were afraid of speech because they were afraid of liability issues. Now suddenly students were asking for protection from professors, they wanted professors and administrators to stop people from speaking to remove books or put warnings on them, and so that's what gave Greg the idea. So it's these distorted thought patterns that make people anxious and depressed, and even if you're not anxious or depressed, they're really bad thinking. I mean, we should be teaching critical thinking and good thinking in college. We should not allow students to do this and not challenge them.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:32:26] And emotional reasoning is one of the things that led to the trigger warnings and all these feelings of fragility and being unsafe in a class where we have to read huckleberry Finn or something.
Jonathan Haidt: [00:32:36] That's right. So emotional reasoning is probably the most basic of all the distortions, and you know my book, The Righteous Mind and The Happiness Hypothesis were both based in part on the insight that when we're making decisions, we do consult how we feel. So if you're happy, when you're thinking about the odds of success of a business, you're going to think, “yeah, I think things will work out.” “I don't know, I just kind of think that things will fall into place.” Whereas if you're sad or fearful, and you're thinking about the future, you'll feel, “Oh God, so many bad things could happen.”
“No way. Oh my God, this is a disaster.” So we do often consult our feelings when making decisions where our feelings are not even relevant, so it's kind of normal. But we have to learn, we have to teach how to do less of that in an academic context. So the main feature of academic talk is that you have to have a warrant for everything you say. And the warrant can never be I feel, it has to be, if you make a claim, it has to be. Here's my footnote, here's my source, here's the evidence, here's the experiment, here's the biblical verse, whatever it is, you have to have some citation. So we're supposed to teach them not to do emotional reasoning, but in the new morality, in the safetyism, morality, each person has their lived experience. And it's often thought that the members of each demographic group have their lived experience. And somehow it's shared among all members of that group, even though they're very different. And so this is just a really poisonous way to prepare young minds to engage with ideas and with diversity.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:34:03] What happens when people who've been trained in this way get into the quote unquote real world of the working world? There's got to be some sort of, it's like walking into the ocean and then a giant wave hits you and you go, “Wait a minute, I thought we were done with this, these waves, these aren't allowed anymore.”
Jonathan Haidt: [00:34:18] So yeah, if you're the only person, so suppose you graduate from Amherst or Smith or Oberlin or one of these schools that really has gone deep, deep, deep into this kind of ethos, and you go to work at a mining company in Colorado, it's going to be beaten out of you pretty quick.
You're not going to be able to pull this stuff. You know, if someone makes a joke, so like one feature of the new morality is if you're walking across campus and you overhear someone telling a joke, you can report them. But if you go to work for a mining company or manufacturing company and you hear some guys on break telling a joke, you're not going to be able to turn them in and get them punished for telling a joke on their lunch hour. But that's if you're the only one, what if there are seven of you? What if you go to work for the New York Times or the Atlantic, or you go to work for a tech company that recruits, so it's a lot of Ivy league grads and top liberal arts grads. So now there's 15 of you in the new entering class, and there were 15 last year and many of you endorse this new morality, and now you overhear someone telling a joke, what are you going to do?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:35:27] Right. And then the other 30 are afraid to say anything because they don't want to be, “Well, you're enabling this kind of hostile work environment.”
Jonathan Haidt: [00:35:34] Exactly, that's right. So the hypersensitivity, the economy of prestige, and what you gain points by calling others out, if there's a group of you, then that new culture can get a foothold in the larger culture. So just as an example, a woman who works in a tech company wrote to me last week and said, she read something that I'd written and she said, “Oh man, you know, I thought this was just on college, but now what's happening in my company is everyone's trying to please the interns. The interns have the best job. Everyone's worried are the interns happy, what do we have to do to keep them happy? We have staff assigned to help them, to answer their needs. We're all joking the intern used to be low man on the totem pole and now they have the best job.”
Jason DeFillippo: [00:36:21] You're listening to the Jordan Harbinger Show with our guest, Jonathan Haidt. We'll be right back after this.
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Jordan Harbinger: [00:38:48] My agent yesterday said, I was talking about our upcoming interview and she said, “Wait a minute, this is like if my three year old who throws temper tantrums all the time, if we just did everything that he wanted to do, no matter where we were and what time it was, we would be playing with Plato at a restaurant and throwing things at the airport because that's what he wants to do and he otherwise he wants to cry.”
Jonathan Haidt: [00:39:11] You know, that's all right. And that's a good metaphor for what happens in the extreme case. Now, there's only been a couple of extreme cases, and of course, the story of Evergreen State University, which we tell in chapter five or six is the best example. So when you have weak leadership and you encourage the most radical students to keep increasing their demands. Yes, it ultimately, it can be as if a family were to just say, “Oh, whatever you want, sweetie. We'll do whatever you want.” Evergreen State College is a very progressive liberal arts school in just South of Seattle, but it's a place in which there was essentially no political diversity. Everybody's on the left and this is not a thing about the left or the right. It’s this is my concern is orthodoxy. If you have an academic community with no viewpoints, diversity where everybody shares the same moral beliefs, you're at high risk of orthodoxy and you have the makings, you have the raw materials for a witch hunt, which is what happened there. A professor said, so he opposed to diversity policy in a very progressive way, giving very sort of traditional liberal justifications, but this set off certain people on campus that called for his firing.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:40:17] Trigger it, if you will.
Jonathan Haidt: [00:40:19] Triggered if you will. Yeah, so he stepped on a landmine there. And that's what happens in a lot of these cases is it's typically somebody on the left who questions a diversity policy for progressive reasons, but again, intention doesn't matter. It's if you question something that is an orthodox belief and someone gets upset and they can therefore interpret your words in the worst possible way. So start a big student movement to protest this professor's racism and the racism of the whole place. They ended up taking the president of university hostage essentially until they worked out their demands and made him apologize and he went right along with it. He did everything he could to validate their view, to never criticize them even afterwards. In fact, he gave an award to some of his worst tormentors.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:41:04] Geez, talk about feeding the flames, I think I saw a video of this. Was this the one where he wanted to go to the bathroom and they said, “No.”
Jonathan Haidt: [00:41:11] Hold it.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:41:11] Finally they like escorted him so he could relieve himself after hours of just being, and this is like this kind old guy.
Jonathan Haidt: [00:41:19] Yeah, that's right.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:41:20] And they're just leaning into him.
Jonathan Haidt: [00:41:22] That's right. That's what's shocking in a lot of these videos is the cruelty. And so again, I don't want to be too hard on this generation, it's not their fault, but they've been led to believe a set of ideas that if you put them all together, it gives you a black and white view of the world in which there's good and evil, where on the good side there on the evil side in which everything is a political struggle. And so they were in a sense doing what they had learned and they were responding to the environment as they found it, because nobody stood up for more general principles, it was left to just run and run and run to its logical conclusion. Now Evergreen is very rare, it's the worst case I've seen. So it's not as though you know the right wing narrative that “Oh, campuses are out of control and they're burning the,” that's not true. But most schools, nothing's happening. But at many schools, especially in the Northeast and the West Coast, a lot is happening.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:42:08] Yeah. My younger cousin is a school of engineering and university of Michigan and he was like, “Yeah, you kind of hear about this in the paper and then you just skip that story.”
Jonathan Haidt: [00:42:17] That's what engineering schools is not happening, business schools, dental, dental schools. Now medical schools, I hear it's the beginning.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:42:22] Sure, law school in Michigan.
Jonathan Haidt: [00:42:23] Law school. It's all boy, it's there.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:42:25] We were in it. I was there during that Supreme Court case and that was, so that was a hot topic.
Jonathan Haidt: [00:42:30] Oh, the Michigan versus a group, as a group or what was the?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:42:33] Oh, gosh.
Jonathan Haidt: [00:42:34] But there's the big affirmative action.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:42:35] I should probably know this off the top of my head, but I can't remember. And it was just, that was at the forefront because it was going on right then.
Jonathan Haidt: [00:42:43] Yeah, but that's normal politics.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:42:44] That were.
Jonathan Haidt: [00:42:44] But what you were experiencing was normal and there was political correctness that goes back to the ‘60s or earlier. But you probably did not hear people saying that this will be violence, that people will die, that --
Jordan Harbinger: [00:42:54] No, and talking about it was okay. Nobody laugh, and nobody got in trouble for saying, “You know, I don't understand why we're doing that.” People might say, “Look man, that was a little ignorant. You got to wrap your head around this affirmative action thing.”
Jonathan Haidt: [00:43:06]But you wouldn't be shunned for questioning.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:43:08] No, you're having that conversation at lunch with your black and African American friends that are like, “Look, this is why we're pissed off about some of this stuff that people are saying.” And you go, “Huh, I never thought about that.” And they're like, “Yeah.” That’s it, that’s it.
Jonathan Haidt: [00:43:19] Yeah, that's what college should be, exactly. But what happens when you knock down the walls and you're not just sitting there next to some fellow students who happened to be black, you're on camera all the time. And even if you're not literally on camera, the current generation, because they were raised in an age of social media, they self-censor as though they were on camera. And so that conversation that you still remember to this day where you learn something, you saw something from a different perspective, that conversation is much harder to have now.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:43:45] There are plenty of times where I think whatever stars that there was no Facebook or social media back then because I'm thinking, “I'm glad nobody had the ability to film that particular moment of my life.”
Jonathan Haidt: [00:43:57] That's right.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:43:57] I don't want to remember it. Nobody else has any proof of it. Thank goodness.
Jonathan Haidt: [00:44:02] That's right.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:44:02] Yeah. Aside from these cognitive distortions, you sort of mentioned these us versus them mindset, these three untruths.
Jonathan Haidt: [00:44:10] Yeah, I'll list them for you so that the three great untruths, these are the three of the worst ideas in the world are what doesn't kill you makes you weaker. Therefore, you should avoid unpleasantness, avoid speakers and authors and books that are upsetting. Number two is always trust your feelings. Don't let anyone question your feelings, that'd be invalidating you. And number three, life is a battle between good people and evil people. Never forget that, and devote yourself to fighting the evil people. Of course, they think that about you, but never mind.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:44:43] Right.
Jonathan Haidt: [00:44:44] So those are the three great untruths. And you know, part of the reason that I wrote this book with Greg Lukianoff is that when Greg came to me in 2014 with his concerns, I realized, “Oh my God, it's as though people on campus read my book and then decided to do exactly the opposite of ancient wisdom. Exactly the opposite.” So the three things I just told you. Well, I'd see I've got the book right here. So the happiness hypothesis, finding modern truth in ancient wisdom, chapter seven is the uses of adversity. The ancients knew that you actually need adversity in order to grow. So I'll just read you one of my favorite quotes here. This is from Mencius in the -- was it third century BC. When heaven is about to confer a great responsibility on any man, it will exercise his mind with suffering, subject his sinews and bones to hard work, et cetera, et cetera. So as to stimulate his mind, harden his nature and improve wherever he is incompetent. People are anti-fragile, we are not fragile. We need as children and teenagers, we need to face challenges sometimes get knocked down by them, sometimes fail to surmount them, but then eventually surmount them, that's how we grow. And if we protect kids, we protect them from being excluded on the playground, from hearing hateful words. If we protect them, we're not helping them in the long run, we're only helping them in that moment, we're making them weaker. So great on truth number one, the opposite is obviously niches formulation, what doesn't kill me makes me stronger.
[00:46:13] Great in truth number two is the exact negation of chapter two of The Happiness Hypothesis. Changing your mind. Let's see, page 23. What do the ancients have to say about this? The whole universe is change and life itself is, but what you deem it, that's Marcus Aurelius. I've been reading a lot of Marcus Aurelius to cope with the craziness of our political world. I was very anxious last year and reading Marcus are really is here is writing like 170 AD, and he's telling them self-things like you don't have to get upset, you don't have to turn this into something. Nobody can make you upset without your participation, something like that. We have a choice in how to interpret things and if someone says America's a melting pot, you have a choice in how to react to that. Is that an attack on me or is that just a statement about something that is true about America and maybe debatable? But at least.
[00:47:04] Anyway, the point is you have a choice, and we're teaching young people to make the wrong choice, to make a choice that is bad for them. And then life is a battle between good people and evil people. That's great on truth number three, chapter four of The Happiness is the faults of others. So if we turn to page 59, let's see what the ancients had to say on this score. Why do you see the speck in your neighbor's eye? But you do not notice the log in your own. I mean, come on. You know the ancient, and here's Buddhist saying the same thing. It's easy to see the faults of others, but difficult to see one's own faults. One shows the faults of others like chaff, winnowed in the wind, but one conceals one's own faults as a cunning gambler conceals his dice. So Jesus and Buddha and sages in every culture I looked at, no, that we are hypocrites. That is normal human beings, we're hypocrites. And that the way to wisdom, the way to happiness is not to keep attacking others. It's to turn the lens on yourself, recognize that you have the same problems. Take responsibility for yourself. Fix yourself. Stop being so self-righteous. I mean, the message comes from every culture. And on campus, we're telling kids, forget thousands of years of wisdom, look at life through the lens of oppression and domination and violence. Everything is against you.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:48:24] Right. Do the opposite, but you can't teach that book might trigger someone.
Jonathan Haidt: [00:48:27] Well, especially if you have Jesus, I mean you can't teach Jesus.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:48:31] That's right, yeah, hateful, hateful. So these untruths, these three untruths. I'd love to talk about what we can do instead, instead of just saying, “Hey, let's do the opposite.” The untruth of fragility the example that comes to mind was the peanut allergy story. Was that from your personal life? Yeah.
Jonathan Haidt: [00:48:47] Yeah. Yes, it was from my personal life.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:48:50] [indiscernible] [0:48:50] people.
Jonathan Haidt: [00:48:51] Yeah, that's right. So on the first day when my son entered preschool at age three in Charlottesville, Virginia, in the parents' orientation meeting. The teachers were going on and on and on about peanuts and like “No peanuts.” “Okay, fine.” No nuts of any kind, even though peanuts aren't nuts, no dried fruit, because that sometimes is produced in a factory that produces peanuts. And after like minutes and minutes of this, I raised my hand and I say, “Are any of the other parents here, if any of your kids have an allergy, tell us, because you know, if there's an allergy in the class, we'll of course respect that. But here we're being told we can't bring all these snacks that our kids like, “Do we have to do this, if there's nobody with an allergy?” And the teacher got really mad at me, because you're like, “Nope, these are the school's rules, don't make people feel uncomfortable. Nope, don't answer that question folks.” And so, “All right, it's just part of this national mania thing.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:49:42] Somebody might be upset that you even ask if their kid has allergy.
Jonathan Haidt: [00:49:44] Exactly.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:49:45] If that kid was going to die because a peanut was near him, I want everyone to know that.
Jonathan Haidt: [00:49:49] Right.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:49:50] Right.
Jonathan Haidt: [00:49:50] That's right. If you're practical, yeah. But this is also the bureaucratic mindset. But there's only much later that when I was doing the research for this book, that I discovered that there is actually now really good research on why peanut allergies have been skyrocketing, because they were very, very rare in the 1990s, and now they're very common. And the reason is because we started protecting kids from peanuts in the 1990s, because the immune system needs things till -- it has to learn. And peanut proteins are not harmful, it's mostly the skin of the peanut that does it. And if you expose kids to that protein, when they're infants, they don't get peanut allergies. And if you protect them from it, they do, at least they're much more likely to. So it's a great -- it's a metaphor, it's actually homology, it's not just a metaphor. Many parts of our mental and neural development are like this, that if you protect kids from getting the experiences the brain is expecting, that evolution is expecting, if we deprive them of play, if we deprive them of social conflict. So my daughter is eight, when she was at last year in third grade, on the playground, the kids would form clubs, three friends would say where the kitty cat club and if another girl came over, “Oh, you can't join. This is only for the kitty cut club.” All right, this is what seven year old eight year old girls do.
[00:51:05] Now what should we do about that? And if you're a modern teacher, you say, “Well, we can't have exclusion. Nobody can be excluded. Kids, let's talk about that.” She didn't force them. She didn't say, “No, you're being punished for excluding.” But she walked them through why they should not exclude. What are the kids learn? They have to include everyone in everything. That if they are excluded, they should go tell the teacher because the teacher will make it right. These are terrible lessons to teach, the name for this is moral dependence. So over and over again, we're training this generation that is iGen or gen Z, not you, millennials, yeah, but if your kids born after 1995, we are training them, if you see something, say something, don't try to solve this yourself, and this is terrible training for college and for life.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:51:55] Right. Justice people are supposed to have the building a little bit of a thicker skin. You're out of mom's house or dad's house, let's be inclusive. You're about to go into the real board, we're all going to get a job. And then we just do this radical jump backwards where we go, “look, look, actually, your parents just weren't protecting you enough from ideas.” “You grew up in a bubble. Let's expose you to all this stuff.” “Oh wait, we shouldn't do that.” “Let's make it even more restricted.”
Jonathan Haidt: [00:52:21] Exactly. And so there's the useful concept I think Steve Pinker coined the term of a helicopter college. So Pinker teaches at Harvard, and Harvard is really a leader in this concept. At Harvard, they have these single sex clubs, they go back on 19th century probably, I don't know, the all-male back then of course, because they have these single sex clubs and many universities have single sex fraternity's and mixed sex fraternities, and there's a problem with sexual harassment, no question, and it's so related to alcohol, the date rape, the rape crisis on campus. Well, the issue of rape is very intimately tied to alcohol use. So definitely good to talk about it, definitely good to, if that is where a lot of the problems happen, definitely good to be working on that. But to then say, “We are going to ban these clubs.” Now if they're on campus, they can regulate it. But these are off campus to say, “When you leave campus, there are things you can do, and there are things you cannot do, and we have decided for you.” And Harvard has this chilling or [indiscernible][00:53:24] message, I've just found it a couple weeks ago, where they justify it. We will not allow organizations that do not align with the mission and values of the college. Now, that might sound good, but are you kidding me? You're not going to let people do anything that doesn't align with your values. Oh my God! What country are we in?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:53:43] Yeah, that's scary because of course when you read that you're thinking, “Well, yeah, I don't want the Ku Klux Klan around me, but you know, let them handle that, but we're not talking about that either.
Jonathan Haidt: [00:53:52] Yeah, that's right. That's right. We're talking about a particular morality. Okay, it's a progressive morality. Universities are governed by a progressive morality. That's a perfectly good morality, but it's not America. If you say, this is the morality of your organization, you will be assimilated. You will live your life off campus. Okay, maybe some Christian schools do that because you're going for inculcation in a way of life. So I'm not saying, “Okay, this is America. If a school chooses to do that, people choose to go there, of course, they have freedom of association,” and Christian schools do that. A military school might do that, they might insist on certain norms of behavior off campus. So it's not completely unprecedented, but for our secular universities that are supposed to be politically neutral for them to say, “We have a certain set of progressive values and you will live by them.” “Wow!”
Jordan Harbinger: [00:54:41] Yikes. Yeah, that's scary. And it also -- it touches upon this concept of safetyism, that's maybe more peanut allergy than university club. But this was something that I saw recently of course go downhill and in your peanut example is great too. But the idea that you can't touch snow because that might lead to snowballs, which leads to dot, dot, dot, somebody loses an eye. It's literally a joke from sitcoms is now in real life.
Jonathan Haidt: [00:55:08] That's right. And one of the hard things that writing the book is as we're, you know, we finished the first draft and every day new stories are coming in. And so that one that you just gave was actually from London, because Britain is just a year behind us on all this stuff, and Canada is, is similar and it's just beginning to go to Australia from what I hear, at any rate.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:55:23] So if you're in a Commonwealth country, you're laughing at us for this. Just wait--
Jonathan Haidt: [00:55:27] It's coming to you.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:55:27] Yeah, we listen to this in 12 months.
Jonathan Haidt: [00:55:29] And if you're in France or Germany, laugh your heads off, you deserve it because they're not infected. It's something about continental culture is not going this way, but the Anglosphere, it's very similar all over the Anglosphere.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:55:40] Interesting. Yeah, the idea that this stuff can actually evolve into harm. I understand the logic, but I disagree with the results, of course.
Jonathan Haidt: [00:55:51] That's what our book is about. We're not blaming and condemning, nobody's a bad person. So The Coddling of the American Mind is the title. We didn't make it up. It was made up by a really brilliant editor at the Atlantic, Don Peck, and it was catchy and we didn't like it and we tried to come up with something else, we couldn't and so we went with it. And then when we wrote the book, we are title was misguided minds because we wanted to focus on the misguiding. We didn't want to convey the idea that kids are coddled, but the publishers hated all the ideas we came up with and they were right, like this is a much catchy title. So he said, “All right, fine. We'll take it as long as we get to pick the subtitle.” And so the subtitle How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up a Generation for Failure. That is exactly what the book is about. It's an attempt to figure out what's going wrong and fix it.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:56:35] What about people or what about the idea that maybe, “Look, maybe we're just finding out that things are more harmful than we thought before, maybe we do need to be protected from some of this stuff, maybe things are more traumatic or dangerous than we previously thought?” Am I just being that old grandpa who's like, “Well, back in my day I don't have to worry about this kind of thing.” And the kids are like, “Yeah, you also ate asbestos for breakfast. I mean that's bad for you now.”
Jonathan Haidt: [00:56:57] So in almost in just about every way, life is safer and easier than it was for our parents, and it was safe and easy for them and for their parents. So on almost any measure, infant mortality, crime, we did have a real crime wave in the ‘60s through the ‘90s, so ironically we cracked down on our kids, we stopped letting them out on their own just as the crime rate was ending, because we were freaked out, not by the actual rate of crime, but by our exposure to it.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:57:21] Yeah, by milk cartons.
Jonathan Haidt: [00:57:22] That's right. So it's cable TV, milk cartons, missing kids. So we did have a moral panic about abductions beginning in the 1980s and it reached a fever pitch in the 1990s, and it's still with us, even though kids are almost never abducted by anyone unless there's a noncustodial parents. So if you have a divorce, one parent doesn't get custody. Yeah, that other parent might abduct the kid. But other than that, in a country of 330 million people, we're talking about a hundred a year. Now I'm talking rationally to you and people can say, “Oh, a hundred out of 330 million. That's not bad.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:57:54] So a hundred too many.
Jonathan Haidt: [00:57:56] Any parent, any parent, if you draw that attention, a hundred kids get kidnapped. It's very hard to deal with that because you have kids.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:58:02] That’s all the kids in the neighborhood. They’re all getting kidnapped.
Jonathan Haidt: [00:58:04] “My kid, that's my kid. My kid can be so.” So we freaked out because of that, and we started overprotecting them. So again, this is not blaming the kids. This is blaming the adults who while trying to keep their kids safe and prepare them to get into a competitive college and cramming their childhood full of training and afterschool activities, we did exactly what we should not have done. What we should've done is preserve play time, give kids more opportunities to play unsupervised, let them work out their complex themselves. We can talk about bullying, that you do have to do something about bullying that goes over multiple days. But we have concept creep in which now my kids think if someone says something mean to them, some system in cruel, it's bullying. And if it's bullying, well we have zero tolerance for bullying, so the teacher has to get involved, and that teaches moral dependence.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:58:52] So that concept creep is essentially like the transitive property of, “Hey, that's shirts ugly.” “I'm bullied by that.”
Jonathan Haidt: [00:59:01] That's right. If you make me feel bad, and especially if you make me feel bad in front of others, so I feel humiliated, you're bullying me, but you know humiliation is not good. But if you can imagine, if you could have a magical cloak that you could put over your child on the day she was born that says no humiliation, we'll get through this cloak. My child will never be humiliated, and at 18 the clip comes off and she goes to college. Would you do it? Would you put that cloak on her for 18 years?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:59:29] It seems like a bad idea.
Jonathan Haidt: [00:59:29] You'd be crazy to do that.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:59:31] Yeah.
Jonathan Haidt: [00:59:30] I just committed to microaggression.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:59:3] Yep, yep.
Jonathan Haidt: [00:59:33] Let's just say crazy.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:59:34] No, you're not mentally ill, please.
Jonathan Haidt: [00:59:35] Right. No! You're not even supposed to. I don't know--
Jordan Harbinger: [00:59:38] Boy, you do then.
Jonathan Haidt: [00:59:38] Just don't, juts don’t.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:59:39] Ignore the problem. Yeah, ignore it entirely. I don't label it a problem. Sorry about that. Yeah, can't really deal -- this is a minefield that is just actually, there's no spaces between any of the manifests,
Jonathan Haidt: [00:59:49] So just don't talk.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:59:50] It’s like Minesweeper where you click on any square and it close up. There's no place to put the flags.
Jonathan Haidt: [00:59:55] Yeah, that's right.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:59:55] Yeah. Avoiding triggers is a symptom of PTSD as you note in the book, not actually a treatment for it. So this sort of exposure therapy, which is what college kind of was supposed to be for everyone has now turned into like this sterilized hospital like emotional environment.
Jonathan Haidt: [01:00:11] Yeah. So just for those who don't know what a trigger warning is, a trigger warning is the idea -- it came out of I think chat rooms in 1990s, so if you have a feminist chat room or a rape survivor chat room and someone's going to tell their story, they would say trigger warning, I'm going to be talking about rape. And that seemed perfectly fine, thoughtful, sensitive, because you have a community there that’s all organized for that purpose. And so just to say this story could be very difficult for some of you to hear that's seems fine to me. But what happened is that ethos was brought into the classroom, and if in a classroom, professors are asked to give a trigger warning anytime something upsetting might be discussed, it seems well-intentioned, it seems thoughtful. And you know, if it was maybe limited just to horrific violence, like images of horrific violence as they do on TV, like you know, I watched the news hour with my kids and sometimes let's say this contains graphic, if it's read like bodies that are dismembered, okay, that's really upsetting.
[01:01:08] But it's a Greek myth that involves the rape of Europa, and it's just words, it's not visual images, should we announced to the class that this myth has this story, so trigger warning? And so it's an open question and it's an empirical question. Maybe women, men too, who have been victims of sexual violence, maybe they'd be helped by that. It's possible, but the psychiatrist and psychologist are pretty much unanimous in saying that, “No, the way you overcome trauma is by getting back to the point where you can experience not the trauma itself. It's not that you have to be now immune to violence and rape,” but to words, to stories, to images. You have to get back to the point where the word rape, even to see it, doesn't trigger PTSD, and to do that you do it by exposure therapy, that's by far the leading therapy.
[01:02:00] And if well, meaning people say, “Well, in this class of 300 students, we know that some of some of them had been raped, we know that, therefore, we're going to either not include texts or give a trigger warning. Is that helpful? And so again, there's not much direct empirical evidence, but the first study was just done recently, which suggested it’s indirect, it certainly showed no benefit to the trigger warning and helping people deal with anxiety. And there are reasons to think that this whole attitude just makes people more sensitive, more fearful of words.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:02:30] I find it almost a little bit disingenuous, and look, I don't have all the evidence sitting in front of me, but plenty of the same people online who are clamoring for trigger warnings and things like that are probably up on the latest episode of Game of Thrones.
Jonathan Haidt: [01:02:44] Yeah, that's right. That is right. So again, the point is, I don't really think that students are more fragile, rather what I should say is the rates in college now, the percentage of students who have anxiety or depression is actually much higher. So there are more people who are fragile in that sense, and they're the ones who most need to be exposed to challenging situations in a supportive climate. So there are more people on campus who are fragile, that is true. But the language here is not usually I am traumatized, I will be upset, I will be harmed. It's usually someone else will. It's usually, and that's why, again, we call it vindictive protectiveness. So I think it's best understood not as an attempt to just have students to protect themselves, but as the expression of a new moral order in which you get points by generously heroically calling out others to protect the people that you're trying to protect. Again it’s well intentioned.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:03:41] Sure.
Jonathan Haidt: [01:03:41] But it basically, it's like you bring people on to campus. We're being paid to shoot a BB gun left and right all over the place. It's not very pleasant to live in that environment.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:03:50] As someone who runs a show with lots of people listening to it, there's a lot of emails that I'll get, a lot of them I agree with the feedback and some of it's helpful, some of it's not. But what I've found is I'll say something and someone will write me and say, “Hey, try to be a little bit more woke, man. This was a little bit of a silly comment. Love your show. Thanks for what you do. Don't say yellow fever when you're talking about Asian women,” that was like a real example from years past. And I went, “Oh my gosh.” Rolling my eyes at myself. Sorry, I can totally see how that sounded ridiculous. Obviously, and the person's like, “Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know you. You're good, sort of benefit of the doubt.
Jonathan Haidt: [01:04:26] That's great.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:04:27] Then I get another email from a white dude who has never experienced anything along the lines of what this woman was writing in about, and he is absolutely incensed. That's all caps, you know one of those all caps emails, 17 paragraphs long, one star review in iTunes about how I'm clearly a racist and blah, and it's just ridiculous. And I thought, “You're not actually offended by this, you're worried that this other person might be, but here's one person in that group actually thinks.”
Jonathan Haidt: [01:04:58] Yeah. So those are great examples. The person who wrote to you directly, that's good. That person was not trying to get points, she did it privately. She tried to correct you. We can talk about that, but it sounds like in that case maybe it was a reasonable thing to do.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:05:11] Yeah. I mean, my comment was a little bit like very bro, it was dumb.
Jonathan Haidt: [01:05:15] Fine, so good. So in other words, she was not truly calling you out. She was not even calling you on it. She was reaching person to person and giving you feedback, so that's great. There's nothing wrong with it.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:05:26] Right.
Jonathan Haidt: [01:05:26] Whereas this other guy, if he just wrote to you privately, angrily, “Well, okay, that would be a clumsy attempt to communicate.” But presumably he was doing it in order to broadcast how woke he is by attacking you, that's exactly what call out culture is, and so it's also some it’s called Victimhood Culture is a great book on Victimhood Culture by Manning and Campbell are the authors, but they pointed out that in a victimhood culture, you get prestige either by being a victim. So you emphasize how much you've been victimized or by standing up for victims and attacking their oppressors. So when you get people in those movements who are especially there are a lot of white people in those movements. They tend to be doing that vindictive protectiveness thing.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:06:08] Yeah, he'd BCCed my ISP, which I thought was, or I mean CCed my ISP.
Jonathan Haidt: [01:06:12] I see, right. CC, yeah.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:06:13] Yeah. And I thought the only reason you would do that is if you're trying to go -- and then I got that guy shut down.
Jonathan Haidt: [01:06:20] Yeah, that's right. So this is again the moral dependency. So the first one when you talked about she tried to work at it with you directly, nobody else. That's great. That's a skill we want our students to have. But this other person was trying to call in the authorities, and that's moral dependency. You want to get the other person punished.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:06:36] Yeah, it's something that was new for me. This was a couple of years ago and it was new--
Jonathan Haidt: [01:06:41] It's going to be a lot more common.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:06:42] And there's a lot more now, yeah. Now though, I just go, “Okay. Yep, got it.” I interviewed somebody who you disagree with politically, so queue firestorm of just angry, I guess triggered people possibly, I don't know. Although that word's being through our [indiscernible][01:06:57]
Jonathan Haidt: [01:06:58] And you can have both sides obviously, the things we're talking about tend to come from the left, but man, the right wing mobs, they've truly are more racist and threatening of violence. So even though a lot of what we're saying here is a critique of the academic left because that's the dominant view on campus, but the dynamics of our polarization cycle are that social media brings out just nasty, aggressive, violent stuff off from extremists on both sides.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:07:23] I'd love to go through the last two untruths quickly. I know we're rounding out on the time here, but the untruth of emotional reasoning, we did touch on this a little bit, or a lot actually, always trusting your feelings. This is of course dangerous because now our feelings are evidence in the academic tribunal or whatever for this professor's tenure review. And that's a problem because it drips down to all levels where now I have to think, and I literally have to think, “Hmm, if I ever want to, this used to be politicians. If I ever want to run for office, I better not invest in this strip club that's being opened in my town. It's going to look bad.” But now it's like, “Well, if I ever want to maybe teach a class or move up in this organization or move to another company, I've really can't have anything to do with,” and then you just fill in the blank of something that might even remotely controversial. And then now we're getting into another layer of this, which is you can't avoid being controversial because someone's looking for it because microaggressions.
Jonathan Haidt: [01:08:26] That's right. So what kind of world would you rather live in? One in which everyone is polite because they're afraid of offending, or one in which people will sometimes say things that they think are true, even if they're offensive? Now, if we're talking about running dinner parties or, well actually personally, some of us would like dinner parties that had more the latter, but I can understand contexts in which you really value politeness. But a university, a law school, a journalism, there are all kinds of places where people really understand that what we're doing here requires challenge. It requires disconfirmation, requires argument. I'll just repeat that list because I think it's important to keep in mind basically the academic world, any world of scholarship, the legal world, Ss the world of law, our whole system is based on representation of both sides combating, and journalism. Those are the three areas where people really understand that you have to foster disagreement. If you're just a really nice, polite person in those three realms and you don't want to upset anyone, you can't be a good professor, journalists or lawyer. Of course, you don't want to be unnecessarily rude or insensitive, but if you get carried away by the idea that people's feelings are sacred, you can't offend them, people should go with their feelings. You're creating a world in which a lot of what we think is important to do cannot be done.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:09:47] We want to have that internal locus of control where the power is within us to decide how we're going to interpret things, how we're going to manage our particular emotions, or not, maybe not having an emotional reaction to these types of things.
Jonathan Haidt: [01:10:01] Yeah, that's right. It's actually, let me just read -- I just read one of my favorite quotes in the book from Van Jones. So Van Jones was Obama's queen energies are at any rate, he's a very progressive political commentator. He's really doing an amazing job of reaching out and while being very clearly on the left, reaching out and talking to people of all sorts. So I think he's a wonderful, wonderful figure for in our politics nowadays. When he was interviewed on David Axelrod's, David Axelrod was Obama's political advisor. He now is at the University of Chicago. Van Jones comes out and Axelrod asks him, “What do you think students should do when a Trump appointee was invited to speak here at Chicago, and some students were protesting? They thought that there should not be someone in the Trump administration should not be speaking here on campus.” It was Corey Lewandowski, and he was a political adviser, at any rate. So Jones says, and this is just so wonderful, Jones says, There's this new emerging idea that you need to be kept safe emotionally and safe ideologically, that we shouldn't have such people speaking on campus.” And he says, “I disagree,” and here's the line. He says, here you speaking to progressive college students, he wants them to come out ready to fight for progressive cause. He says, quote, “I don't want you to be safe ideologically. I don't want you to be safe emotionally. I want you to be strong, that's different. I'm not going to pave the jungle for you. Put on some boots and learn how to deal with adversity. I'm not going to take all the weights out of the gym, that's the whole point of the gym. This is the gym.”
[01:11:30] Okay. And actually I guess that's more relevant to the antifragility point. So that's a great entry number one, but it is also number two, that the students are paying attention to their feelings and then working themselves up to outreach. He's saying, “Stop it. Just get over it.”
Jordan Harbinger: [01:11:41] Yeah. I like the idea, and I hope, I hope that more and more people are realizing this and that what we're seeing is kind of this temporary blip where it was like, “Hey, remember all that craziness back those three years.” and it's not something that we're going to struggle with for an entire generation. The us versus them, the good versus evil people thing. That's quite disturbing, the great untruth number three, because neuroscientist and friend of mine, David Eagleman has pointed out that we are already wired for tribalism, and he's got this cool experiment where if you're in a religious group and you prick the hand of somebody in a different group, you don't care as much or you don't feel as much pain and things like that.
Jonathan Haidt: [01:12:19] Your brain doesn't react as much to seeing a pin go into skin. That’s right.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:12:22] Right. And that's kind of bad news for all of us living together in dead poet society. However, realizing that, having an awareness of that, which is one of the primary reasons I wanted to have you on, is because the practicals here are, be aware of this and spotted in yourself and spotted and others and counteract the bias, not counteract the idea or the idea that might be presented in front of you. We have to figure out how to mitigate this, because it's always tough to fight our own biology, but our biology is set up in a way that might not be super-efficient for us to move forward in the 21st century.
Jonathan Haidt: [01:12:58] Yeah, that's right. So there's a lot of writing nowadays about how human nature is basically tribal. And that's the view that I took when writing The Righteous Mind. But we have to also keep in mind that when you look at actual tribes, when you look at pre-state societies. Yes, they generally organized on a tribal basis and kinship basis, but they're also really, really good at trade. They form political alliances, they form trading networks. They're curious, they're curious about people far away. They're curious what goods do they have, what do they have to barter. So we're very good at drawing and building those walls, but we're also very good at lowering the drawbridge and sending out an exploration party. That's how humans covered the Earth. We had some problems along the way, lots of fights, but man, it's getting awfully peaceful out there. As Steve Pinker has shown war as declining violence is declining, so things are moving in the right direction. We're actually doing pretty well for a species of primates that evolve to dance around campfires, worship rocks and trees, and then kill each other. We're doing really, really well.
[01:13:59] So it takes a little work, and if we're going to create diverse societies, diverse schools, diverse corporations, we have to be turning down the us versus them, turning down the tribal sentiments. Our minds track group distinctions, they track race and gender and everything else. If those distinctions are useful, thinking is for doing. So the more you play up these distinctions, the more you make conversations frightening because you could be called out for insensitivity. The more people will notice who they're talking to, self-censor in regards to that group or person, and the more you move away from the kind of outcome that we all really want, which is a peaceful, harmonious, productive, diverse society. So I think the untruth of us versus them that life is a battle between good people and evil people. It comes so easily, so naturally to us, but it's not -- we're not doomed to think that all the time. There are conditions that turn that down and we need to look in all of our institutions. We need to be looking for the conditions that turn that down. That's part of what leadership should be. I guess maybe I'll end, maybe the last quote I'll read is from -- so we read a lot of Martin Luther King and the early civil rights leaders.
[01:15:13] There's one that I hadn't had known before working on this book, named Pauli Murray, this writing is in the 1940s. She was getting a law degree at Yale, I think at the time. She says, “I intend to destroy segregation by positive and embracing methods. When my brother has tried to draw a circle to exclude me, I shall draw a larger circle to include them. When they speak out for the privileges of a puny group, I shall shout for the rights of all mankind.” So that is a perfect statement of what we mean by common humanity, identity politics. That approach that she and King and others took that made the world better. It might've been seen as -- it was seen as divisive at the time, but it was not turning people against each other. It was appealing to our better angels and in the long run they won.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:16:02] Thank you very much. I am wondering how we encourage people to recognize these untruths as untrue in the first place, but I guess that's why you're writing a book.
Jonathan Haidt: [01:16:13] Well yeah. Look, if the people just read The Coddling of the American Mind available at a store near you, I mean I think once we -- it was the same with the happiness hypothesis. Once you lay out the arguments, people get it. People understand why these truths are true. The other thing, I'll just close by saying is that we've developed a resource, if you go to openmindplatform.org working with a team is originally grew out of Heterodox Academy and organization that I helped to co-found, but now it's an independent organization. Openmindplatform.org, we have a program that can be used in any group, any corporation, any religious congregation that actually walks people through what's going on, why is it so hard to listen to each other, and here are some skills for doing it better.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:16:52] That's great. We'll link to that in the show notes as well for people who like the practicals and these cognitive distortions I think are useful because once you're aware of those, you start going, “Oh, I'm doing that right now. I'm doing that right now.” And have you gotten any blow back just for talking about this?
Jonathan Haidt: [01:17:06] When the original article came out in the Atlantic, my wife was concerned that people will know where we live.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:17:12] Right, you’re racist now or something.
Jonathan Haidt: [01:17:13] Yeah, but actually what happened was nothing. That is a lot of people loved it, a lot of people could see this was happening. Everybody cares about their kids. Nobody wants their kids to be weak and over protected. So there's a lot of positivity, the only criticism we ever got was, “Oh, you're white men defending your privilege.” That's pretty much it. I mean, there were a few people who said trigger warnings are maybe not bad. I mean there were a couple of substantive discussions, but overall there was really, we kept expecting the worst, but it really hasn't happened and so far that's been going on. As I'm talking about the book now, I think people understand there's a problem and if we think this through together, we can actually figure it out.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:17:48] Thank you very much.
Jonathan Haidt: [01:17:49] My pleasure, Jordan.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:17:52] Great big thank you to Jonathan Haidt. The Coddling of the American Mind is the book. How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up a Generation for Failure, he coauthored that with Greg Lukianoff. Really interesting read. The examples in there will keep you up at night, I'm telling you. There's all kinds of stuff in there, Jason, that's like a president of a university was trying to help a student who felt like she didn't fit the mold. And the president said, “Don't worry if you don't fit the mold, we're working on that.” And then the student gets offended that the president said she didn't fit the mold, even though she was just repeating what the students said. Dot, dot, dot, angry mobs. Dot, dot, dot, president resigns. And you're just thinking, “Oh my gosh, this is why we can't have nice things.” Ridiculous.
Jason DeFillippo: [01:18:33] Wow! Yeah. That's insane.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:18:35] And then I'm thinking when this student graduates and their boss says, “Yeah, don't worry if you don't look like you fit the normal mold of our company.” And then she goes, “Oh, I'm offended!” And then everyone goes, “So what?” She's just going to have it -- just going to get, I have a breakdown. How are these people going to freaking function? But Jonathan's point that if you have enough people getting offended about everything, society's really screwed. That's a little scarier as well. So I really enjoyed this conversation, and I think there's a lot more to be discussed in this particular area. If you want to know how I managed to book all these great people and manage my relationships using systems and tiny habits, just for a few minutes a day will get you through the door with a lot of these amazing folks, amazing relationships, if you're in an industry, outside an industry, if you're trying to become an author, a thought leader, this is always going to apply to you. Check out our Six-Minute Networking course, which is of course free over at jordanharbinger.com/course. And a lot of people say, “I'm going to do this later. I'm going to do this later.” The problem with that is that we're not able to make up for lost time when it comes to networking, when it comes to relationships. The number one problem I see here is people postpone this until their website's ready or they got this new job. You got to dig the well before you're thirsty. Once you need relationships, you weren't just way too late. These drills are designed to take a few minutes a day. It's the type of habit that we ignore only at our own peril. I wish I knew this stuff 15 years ago, jordanharbinger.com/course.
[01:20:02] Speaking of building relationships, tell me your number one takeaway here from Jonathan Haidt, and you do so on Twitter or Instagram @jordanharbinger. I'm doing a lot on the Instagram these days. Post a lot of videos, a lot of how to’s, I do kind of a Feedback Friday type deal on there, not just on Fridays, but I answer questions I get a lot in video form on Instagram @jordanharbinger. And don't forget, if you want to learn how to apply everything you heard today from Jonathan Haidt, make sure you go grab the worksheets also in the show notes at jordanharbinger.com/podcast.
[01:20:34] This episode was produced and edited by Jason “Don't Coddle Me, Bro” DeFillippo. Show notes by Robert Fogarty. Got help with prep on this one from Eric [indiscernible] [01:20:42]. Worksheets by Caleb Bacon. Booking back office and last minute miracles by Jen Harbinger, and I'm your host, Jordan Harbinger.
[01:20:50] 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 and we're excited to bring it to you. 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.
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