Love of Learning: Podcasts worth listening to

The podcast world is the love of learning’s best friend.

Let’s start with an interview with Josh Waitzkin,  an 8x US National Chess Champion, a 2x Tai Chi Push Hands World Champion, and a Black Belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.  He is the author of The Art of Learning (require reading to train with me).  Josh is now pursuing paddle surfing where I’ve been working with him for the last year.  He is the most positive, inspirational person I know and I’m incredibly thankful he agreed to come on the show. Josh’s Core Training Principles –

  • Reduced Complexity (end game before opening) – training with less variables to focus on larger, high-level principles concepts.
  • Firewalking – learning from the experience of others using empathy and visualization.
  • Mental Representations – have a clear mental model for a skill your practicing.  Like modeling an Agassi forehand.
  • Growth comes at point of resistance – we learn the most when we’re outside of our comfort zone.
  • Living on the other side of pain
  • Train at the few to internalize the many
  • Finding your own way
  • Beacon of Quality
  • Depth before Breadth
  • Loving the storm
  • Have your compass on
  • Most important Question
  • The Downward Spiral – Usually it isn’t the first mistake that’s disastrous, but the first mistake tends to make the second more likely.
  • Philosopher vs. Philosophologist – We tend to study the work of those who study the experts instead of studying the experts directly.

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Think of domain and you can probably plug in and find a podcast to educate and entertain you. So many to explore, but I will highlight a few that do a deep dive. Check out our the posting for Curiosity, the sibling for a love of learning. Here are some of my favorites:

 The Psychology Podcast

Every episode Scott Barry Kaufmann interviews the most intriguing people form the world of psychology, diving deep into their research with good humor. Some episodes to get you started:

The Way I heard it 

Mike Rowe of Dirty Jobs fame, takes the guy in the bar format to share a story, a mini biography of famous people past and present. Episodes are typically five minutes, but will take you far deeper into than you would expect. Each episode starts with a avague but intriguing aspect that leaves you guessing who he is talking about. Check out these episodes:

    • Episode 69: “A Little Dab’ll Do Ya!”
    • Episode 67: Charlie’s Big Break
    • Episode 59: A Hero Under the Influence
    • Episode 54: The Boy Who Loved to Fly
    • Episode 15: Sorry, Wrong Number
    • Episode 3: Clean Up On Aisle 4!

The China History Podcast

LASZLO MONTGOMERY hails from Claremont California whose business takes him to China. Amateur historian does not do justice to this world class sinophile. You can listen from any episode as he does it by topic, not by chronology. Some topics take 2 or 3 or even 10 episodes. I have learned so much. 

Hardcore History

In “Hardcore History” journalist and broadcaster Dan Carlin takes his “Martian”, unorthodox way of thinking and applies it to the past. Was Alexander the Great as bad a person as Adolf Hitler? What would Apaches with modern weapons be like? Will our modern civilization ever fall like civilizations from past eras? This isn’t academic history (and Carlin isn’t a historian) but the podcast’s unique blend of high drama, masterful narration and Twilight Zone-style twists has entertained millions of listeners.

The Daily

This moment demands an explanation. This show is on a mission to find it. Only what you want to know, none of what you don’t. Hosted by Michael Barbaro. Powered by New York Times journalism. Twenty minutes a day, five days a week, ready by 6 a.m.

Philosophy: The Classics

Author Nigel Warburton reads from his book Philosophy: The Classics which is an introduction to 27 key works in the history of Philosophy.

Fresh Air

Fresh Air from WHYY, the Peabody Award-winning weekday magazine of contemporary arts and issues, is one of public radio’s most popular programs. Hosted by Terry Gross, the show features intimate conversations with today’s biggest luminaries.

Freakanomics Radio

Have fun discovering the hidden side of everything with host Stephen J. Dubner, co-author of the best-selling “Freakonomics” books. Each week, hear surprising conversations that explore the riddles of everyday life and the weird wrinkles of human nature—from cheating and crime to parenting and sports. Dubner talks with Nobel laureates and provocateurs, social scientists and entrepreneurs — and his “Freakonomics” co-author Steve Levitt. After just a few episodes, this podcast will have you too thinking like a Freak. Produced by WNYC Studios, home of other great podcasts such as “Radiolab,” “Death, Sex & Money,” and “On the Media.”

Perseverance: Podcasts worth listening to

I love podcasts. I have been stumbling on some wonderful episode directly related to the concept of Strengthsmining. Today, I share a few dealing with perseverance. Identified as one of 24 character strengths, I don’t anyone questions the value of sticking to something. Angela Lee Duckworth quantified this in her work on Grit. With the release of her book, she has shown up on several podcasts like The Art of Charm. She covers

  • Why we shouldn’t label others as talented.
  • Why our potential is one thing — and what we do with it is another.
  • How to focus on high-level goals.
  • When to give up — and when to be stubborn.
  • How to grow our grit and perseverance.
  • And so much more…

And The Mastery Podcast, she covers

  • The value of process vs. outcome
  • How she first came to value grit
  • Her definition of grit
  • Impact of self-control on grit
  • The differences between achievement and mastery
  • Sunk-cost fallacy
  • Setting a goal at the right level
  • Is passion or perseverance harder?
  • The 3 kinds of character that are most important

And Freakanomics Radio

Scott Barry Kaufman interviews Caroline Miller on her New Book, Getting Grit. Caroline’s work feels more actionable than Angela’s as you hear this podcast.

Grit is not without some controversy: NPR highlighted some on The Hidden Brain in an episode called “The Power And Problem Of Grit”

But other research has also pointed to a potential downside to grit. Like stubborness, too much grit can keep us sticking to goals, ideas, or relationships that should be abandoned. Psychologist Gale Lucas and her colleagues found in one experiment that gritty individuals will persist in trying to solve unsolvable puzzles at a financial cost. And that’s a limitation of grit: it doesn’t give you insight into when it will help you prevail and when it will keep you stuck in a dead-end.

Training in positive psychology coming to Shanghai

Want training in positive psychology training? I will be doing some training in Shanghai in January 2016. 

Date: Jan 16-17
School: Shanghai American School

Title: Flourishing in Schools: Utilizing groundbreaking research and tools from positive psychology to improve student’s wellbeing.
Consultant: Shaun McElroy
Coordinator: Janet Claassen,
» Download Flyer
» Registration

PERMA Reading List: Positive Emotions

Barbara Fredrickson identified 10 positive emotions that Broaden and Build our capacities. 



Joy. Joy emerges when one’s current circumstances present unexpected good fortune. People feel joy, for instance, when receiving good news or a pleasant surprise. Joy creates the urge to play and get involved, or what Frijda (1986)termed free activation, defined as an “aimless, unasked-for readiness to engage in whatever interaction presents itself” (p. 89). The durable resources created through play are the skills acquired through the experiential learning it prompts.

 Choose Joy


89,000 people can’t be wrong

Just hours from now, Apple will unleash its own form of happiness in the form of a shiny new ithing. More importantly, UC Berkeley launches a Massive Online Course. join 89,000 of your new best buddies for this Mooc on the Science of Happiness. 


The course will include:

  • Short videos featuring the co-instructors and guest lectures from top experts on the science of happiness;
  • Articles and other readings that make the science accessible and understandable to non-academics;
  • Weekly “happiness practices”—real-world exercises that students can try on their own, all based on research linking these practices to greater happiness;
  • Tests, quizzes, polls, and a weekly “emotion check-in” that help students gauge their happiness and track their progress over time;
  • Discussion boards where students can share ideas with one another and submit questions to their instructors.

The Science of Happiness

Starts September 9, 2014 – Register Now!

An unprecedented free online course exploring the roots of a happy, meaningful life. Co-taught by the GGSC’s Dacher Keltner and Emiliana Simon-Thomas. Up to 16 CE credit hours available.

Register now!


It is fitting this course starts the day before World Suicide Prevention Day. 

Finding and building flow

What’s your flow profile?

Don’t know the answer? Well there is a personality test to help you capture it. What is flow?

Csikszentmihalyi is credited with defining the experience as “being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you’re using your skills to the utmost.”

How often do people experience flow?

“If you ask a sample of typical Americans, “Do you ever get involved in something so deeply that nothing else seems to matter and you lose track of time?” roughly one in five will say that this happens to them as much as several times a day, whereas about 15 percent will say that this never happens to them. These frequencies seem to he quite stable and universal. For instance, in a recent survey of 6,469 Germans, the same question was answered in the following way: Often, 23 percent; Sometimes, 40 percent; Rarely, 25 percent; Never or Don’t Know, 12 percent.” (Source: Psychology Today)

Nakamura and Csíkszentmihályi identify the following six factors as encompassing an experience of flow. 

  1.     intense and focused concentration on the present moment
  2.     merging of action and awareness
  3.     a loss of reflective self-consciousness
  4.     a sense of personal control or agency over the situation or activity
  5.     a distortion of temporal experience, one’s subjective experience of time is altered
  6.     experience of the activity as intrinsically rewarding, also referred to as autotelic experience
Csíkszentmihályi follows build’s on Maslow’s notion of Peak Experience: “Peak experiences are transient moments of self-actualization.”

Jamie Wheal has spent much of his adult likfe researching flow:

He explains his ideas in this compelling TED talk: Hacking the GENOME of Flow: 

His colleague goes deeper in the Rise of Superman

Getting strengths training

Now that you have taken the VIA and have a sense of the power using it can havve on students and clients, consider taking some training:

VIA Character Institute offers online webinar-based training. Not to be missed are their free Pioneer speaker series

Coursera offers a free four week course entitled Teaching Character and Creating Positive Classrooms led by David Levine, founder of KIPP schools and leading proponent of Strengths based education. His course includes interviews with some big names from positive pscyhology. 

Gallup offers a variety of training options for their strengthsquest program

I teach a course for the Couneling training center (CTC) called Counseling Accross Cultures which embeds positive psychology into practice. 

The Triple A route to happiness

Happy “Happy day” everyone. 
Yes, the UN has designated today, March 20th, as the International Day of Happiness!
What makes you happy? Vote now.
Friend’s in Shanghai Morphed Pharrell’s Happy video to get you in the mood:
Want more? offers up some great suggestions including 10 keys to Happiness
ALl good, but it missing a key aspect, so I got thinking but the core of happiness: Authenticity, Accepting and Appreciating
Living true to yourself is the heart of being yourself. Many people love ee cummings take on self: “

“To be nobody but 
yourself in a world 
which is doing its best day and night to make you like 
everybody else means to fight the hardest battle 
which any human being can fight and never stop fighting.”

But they miss where the whole passage comes from: He was responding to you young person asking for advice on becoming a poet:

A real human is somebody who feels and who expresses his or her feelings. This may sound easy. It isn’t. 

A lot of people think or believe or know what they feel—but that’s thinking or believing or knowing: not feeling. And being real is feeling—not just knowing or believing or thinking. 

Almost anybody can learn to think or believe or know, but it’s very difficult to learn to feel. Why? Because whenever you think or you believe or you know, you’re a lot of other people: but the moment you feel, you’re nobody – but – yourself. 

To be nobody – but -yourself– in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else–means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting. 

As for communicating nobody-but-yourself to others, that means working just a little harder than anybody who isn’t real can possibly imagine. Why? 

Because nothing is quite as easy as just being just like somebody else. We all of us do exactly this nearly all of the time–and whenever we do it, we are not real. 

If, at the end of your first ten or fifteen years of fighting and working and feeling, you find you’ve loved just once with a nobody-but-yourself heart, you”ll be very lucky indeed. 

And so my advice to all young people who wish to become real is: do something easy, like dreaming of freedom–unless you’re ready to commit yourself to feel and work and fight till you die. 

But where to begin? Who is this you? Start with your strengths. There are mutiple of instruments to help you idnetify them. Two are free right now:
The Buddhist have a very strong notion of accepting things as they are. Tara Brach explains this in some detail in her talk:
Our capacity to accept this life is key to our freedom, yet there are many misconceptions about acceptance: People wonder, if acceptance makes us a doormat in relationships? Isn’t acceptance akin to resignation? Doesn’t it make us passive when what is needed is action? This talk explores some of the misunderstandings about acceptance and offers teachings on the nature of genuine and liberating acceptance.

Actor Thandie Newton covers one aspect of acceptance by telling the story of finding her “otherness” — first, as a child growing up in two distinct cultures, and then as an actor playing with many different selves.

Vunerability Researcher Brené Brown, whose earlier talk on vulnerability became a viral hit, explores what can happen when people confront their shame head-on.

Writer Andrew Solomon shares what he learned from talking to dozens of parents — asking them: What’s the line between unconditional love and unconditional acceptance?


There has been a growing body of work focusing on mindfulness and gratitude. Like the great philospher sang: Slow down, you move too fast. 

Character Day coming March 20th

Get involved: Let it Ripple Productions invite syou to join 750 like minded groups in premiering their 8 minute science of character. In addition to free customized versions of the film, Let it Ripple and partners like Common Sense Media will offer a list of films,games, and apps to strength particular character strengths, a free curriculum, a character strengths survey, and resource guide.

This film was inspired by the work of: Martin Seligman, Christopher Peterson, Carol Dweck, Angela Duckworth, David Levin, Paul Tough, Dominic Randolph, Neal Mayerson, Adele Diamond, Clifford Nass, The Bezos Family Foundation, The Character Lab, The VIA Institute on Character, and many more. – See more at:

Calvin and Hobbes inspire Happiness

Calvin and Hobbes launched in my senior year in high school. Never acused of being too cool for school, I adored the little man’s antics and philosophical queeries to his tiger. Bill celebrated the Child’s immagination before society has beaten it out of him, Character Building dad’s, brave mothers, teachers and babysitters who will have their revenge, slimy girls and deep friendships with tigers. He tooks us back to our day dreams and reminded us to invent our own rules because with out it how can you play Calvin Ball? Bill gave the commencement speech at Kenyon College back in 1995. Poignant. Inspired. A few months latter he retired Calvin and his world: “I will be stopping Calvin and Hobbes at the end of the year. This was not a recent or an easy decision, and I leave with some sadness. My interests have shifted, however, and I believe I’ve done what I can do within the constraints of daily deadlines and small panels. I am eager to work at a more thoughtful pace, with fewer artistic compromises.”
Now, Cartoonist Gavin Aung Than, of Zen Pencils, hasn taken the key elements of that speech and set them to a Bill Waterson stylized comic strip complete with Dinosaurs, red wagons and otherwroldly landscapes (although lacking any tiger).  This panel is a celebration that living life authentically, being true to your own values, is the path to happiness. From Gavin’s profile of Bill, we learn that Watterson is not just creative, but persistent and full of intergirty. His comic strips reveal his humor, curiosity and wisdom