Ep. 180 – A.J. Jacobs: Four Words That Will Give You Ultimate Freedom

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I was at a restaurant with this beautiful, thick-cut bacon. The kind you use a knife and fork on.

It had fat running through it. And I felt that feeling when you fall in love in junior high school.

My friend AJ Jacobs is going to prove bacon is the the path to immortality.

“I am very skeptical of health gurus,” he said. “You can find a study to support anything.”

I want him to find that study so I can eat bacon three times a day. And live forever doing it. I’d spend the rest of my life experimenting…

That’s how AJ lives his life.

Every year, he does a new one. Then he writes about it. Most of our lives are lived in our head. Creation is when it leaks out.

He’s written four New York Times bestselling books. And he’s the editor-at-large for Esquire.

But you don’t need permission. These four words will give you ultimate freedom to do anything you want: “It’s just an experiment.”

Forget the gatekeepers. Just play.

AJ has done hundreds of experiments. He learns from them. So do I. Here are 3 lessons I learned from AJ’s hundreds of experiments:

1) Filter negative thoughts

I believe in authenticity. But I don’t believe in saying everything you think.

If all the pain we created was just an accident, misunderstandings wouldn’t need explaining.

AJ stopped gossiping. He had to. It was part of an experiment. “There’s a 1-800 number that Orthodox Jews have. It’s like a suicide hotline, but for gossip.”

“How many people call that number a year?” I asked.

“I don’t know. I called it and found it very helpful.”

He said his brain is lazy. Mine is, too. I have to watch it. It takes a lot of effort to clear out negative thoughts. But when AJ’s brain realized certain thoughts were being filtered, it stopped generating those thoughts.

“I started thinking more positively about people.”

Some people don’t know they’re negative talkers. Or negative thinkers. Your brain is Jurassic Park occupied by predators. If you take care of yourself and filter them out, positive thoughts will filter through.

Good people will want to be around you. The landscape will change. And new opportunities will come.

But if you get the urge to gossip, call the hotline.

 

2) Practice radical positive honesty

AJ and his wife ran into some of her college friends at a restaurant. They said, “Oh, we should all get together.”

But AJ didn’t want to. He was doing an experiment where he was being radically honest 100% of the time. “I had to say what was on my mind, which was, ‘You guys seem nice, but I just have no desire to ever see you again.’

“How did they react?”

“As you might expect, they were not overjoyed.”

“Did your wife yell at you?”

“Yes, absolutely, she yelled at me. In one sense it was effective because we’ve never seen them again.”

“I don’t know how she stays married to you.”

AJ laughed. And we still got lunch after the podcast.

Now he believes in radical positive honesty. I told AJ I’d try it.

“Give it a shot. You’re very handsome,” he said.

He was lying.

3) Don’t overlook anything

One of the top 3 moments in AJ’s life was with Chrissy Teigen.

I already knew the story because he called me immediately after interviewing her.

They were talking about religion and she randomly asked if he read “The Year of Living Biblically.”

She didn’t know he wrote it.

“The Bible says you should say thanks all the time. I took it literally,” he said.

It was one of his experiments.

“I would press the elevator button and be thankful it came to the first floor. Then I’d get in and be thankful it didn’t plummet to the basement and break my collarbone. It was a very bizarre way to live, but it was also wonderful because you realize there are hundreds of things that go right every day that we totally take for granted.”

 

 

Links and Resources:

  • Read A.J. Jacob’s books:

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