#99 How Our Minds Heal Our Bodies: Jo Marchant

Have you ever felt a surge of adrenaline after almost getting into an accident? Salivated at the sight of a sour lemon?  Felt turned on by your partner’s voice?  If so, says scientific journalist Jo Marchant, you’ve experienced how the workings of the mind can affect your body.

In this episode we look at the mind's potential to ease pain, reduce anxiety and even cut the risk of infection, heart disease and other serious medical ailments. Jo discusses how the latest findings in mind-body research: How hypnotherapy, mindfulness techniques, Virtual Reality and social connections can play important roles in healing and prevention.

More than one in three Americans have turned to alternative medicine.  But do homeopathy, acupuncture and other therapies actually work? What does science say about the use of placebos in medicine?

"I believe very strongly in an evidence- based approach that we have to investigate things in a scientific way," Jo tells us in this episode.  "On the other hand I also started to feel that science has a bit of blind spot when it comes to the role of the mind in health."

Jo Marchant discusses the findings of her New York Times best-selling book "Cure: A Journey Into The Science of Mind Over Body.

Check out the New York Times book review.

#9 Fix It Shorts Productivity: Charles Duhigg's Top 4 Tips

This episode highlights four key productivity fixes from New York Times Pulitzer Prize winner Charles Duhigg. His most recent book is "Smarter, Faster, Better: The Secrets of Being Productive in Life and In Business." Charles is also the author of "The Power of Habit."

Using cutting-edge science, reporting and real-life stories, Charles explains why being productive isn't just about daily habits, routines and lists.

"Keeping your eye on that thing that matters most to you is the secret to success," Charles tells us. "We need a mental model: a story we tell ourselves about how we expect our day to unfold."

Solutions:  Top 4 productivity tips:

  1. See emails as suggestions, not as obligations.  Be proactive rather than reactive with email.  You don't have to respond to all of them or get to a zero in-box. 
  2. To-do lists should be much more than random reminders.  Put your top priority or today or this week at the top of your list. 
  3. Use mental modeling to be productive. Turn a chore into a choice. Think about your goals and priorities a little more deeply than simply making a list.
  4. The most important thing is the most important thing. Don’t lose site of your higher goal while doing the daily stuff of life.

Charles’s website has short entertaining videos on the science of habit, find them at  http://charlesduhigg.com

A longer version of this show can be found here.

"FixIt Shorts" promises solutions journalism in 15 minutes or less.

#8 Fix It Shorts. Immigrants: Great for the Economy!

When did the arguments for free trade and the benefits of immigration go out of fashion?

Why is the case for scaling back the power of the financial industry under attack by the Trump administration?

Richard and Jim spoke to three experts for this episode of “Fix It Shorts.” 

Rana Foroohar, explains why the power of Wall Street distorts the economy. “The key lessons of the crisis of 2008 still remain unlearned,” she says. “Our financial system is just as vulnerable as ever.” Rana is the author of "Makers and Takers: The Rise of Finance and the Fall of American Business," She is also the Associated Editor and the Global Business Columnist for the Financial Times.

"One of the prizes, one of the treasures of democracy is freedom of thought, freedom of action, freedom of movement," says Peter Coy, Economics Editor of Bloomberg Businessweek. He argues that immigration, especially legal immigration of skilled workers, is a plus for the economy.

Economist Ruchir Sharma, author of the book “The Rise and Fall of Nations - Forces of Change in the Post-Crisis World,” tells us that expanding the workforce is a vital part of growth. Reducing immigration, he says, would slam the brakes on the economy.
 

#91 Geoffrey Colon: Pay-to-Play: A Menace to Society?

Do you know where your information is coming from? Shadowy forces are at work to influence what we think, how we behave, and where we spend our money.

They're part of the explosion in pay-to-play. From bots and branded content to political-influence peddlers’, advertisers and even sports programs in public schools, pay-to-play is a growing influence in our lives.  

Critics of pay-to-play say that instead of "We the people,” the online world is controlled by "We the wealthiest people.” 


Geoffrey Colon, an expert on marketing, tech and how to get people's attention, is our guest. A communications designer at Microsoft, Geoffrey is the author of "Disruptive Marketing - What Growth Hackers, Data Punks and Other Hybrid Thinkers Can Teach Us About Navigating the New Normal." He's the co-host with Cheryl Metzger of the popular podcast, "Disruptive FM." We learn more about the threat from fake news and hate sites alt-right bots to our democracy. Geoffrey guides through some of the recent dizzying changes in the online landscape.

Solutions:

  • Education is first. Improvements to the school curriculum are urgently needed. They should fully take into account dramatic online changes. A recent Stanford University study found that most American students couldn’t tell the difference between carefully sourced news and flat-out lies. The authors described the results as "dismaying" and a "threat to democracy."
  • Tech companies should give non-profits the ability to use their platform free of cost; in fact, Google already does this. Google gives non-profits AdWords for free or through a Google “Ad Grant.”
  • A new look at public service announcements - PSA's. Until the 1980's and Reagan-era broadcasters were required to run PSAs in exchange for using the airwaves, which are a public resource. Policy makers and major information providers should consider a new system for the 21st century.
  • A code of conduct by major online information platforms, this would distinguish between advertising, opinion and news.

#89 Shearly Markowicz: Online Dating:Why It Works

Valentine’s Day is almost here, so we invited Dating Ring CEO Shearly Markowicz to talk about the company and give advice how to find love online. Dating Ring first came to fame when it was profiled by the Gimlet podcast, "StartUp” season 2.

Online dating has lost its stigma and gone mainstream. But do these sites really work? According to the Pew Research Center, six in ten people say online dating is a good way to meet people. But Consumer Reports’ gave online dating sites the lowest satisfaction scores the magazine has seen for any rated service in two decades - even lower than cable TV companies!


Her company is a hybrid - part data, part human matchmaker. Dating Ring uses the algorithms used by online dating sites, but then a matchmaker steps in to help refine the process. "We really try to bring the human element in because that's what I think is lacking in the other dating sites," says Shearly. "We meet with people and get to know their personalities"

Tips for online daters:

  • Be bold, be persistent and be open-minded. Make the first move. Don’t be discouraged if the person you like doesn’t respond immediately, they are probably busy and you haven’t become a priority—yet.
  • Put yourself out there. Dating is a numbers game to some extent. Going on more dates improves your odds of meeting somebody special.
  • Be realistic and open-minded. Don’t make your search too narrow.
  • Be kind. According to Shearly,“When I ask people what are the top qualities they are looking for, the first one that they say is ‘kind.” On that note, how do you gracefully tell someone you aren’t interested? Don’t ghost—avoid—them. Just say, “I’m sorry it wasn’t a fit for me, but it was really nice to meet you.”
  • Having the right photos are critical. Smile. Don’t post selfies and if you take a group photo don’t stand next to the most attractive person in the room. 

#85 Why We Are Fooled by Con Artists: Maria Konnikova

Have you ever been the victim of a con artist? Very often we fall for cons ourselves without being aware of it.

We speak with journalist and psychologist Maria Konnikova, a regular contributor to The New Yorker magazine and best-selling author of “The Confidence Game:" Through storytelling and science, she explains the mind of the con artist and what makes the rest of us so susceptible. 

Con artists are everywhere. Since 2008 the number of reported cases of consumer fraud have shot up 60%. Online cases have doubled. Billions of dollars are lost each year in scams. 

"People are very willing to pay for things that will make them feel better about themselves," says Maria, especially when they're feeling lonely, are going through a divorce or have lost a job. "It can also happen during positive life transitions: you're about to have a baby or move to another city."

Con artists, she says, can swoop in when you're vulnerable and give you a sense of emotional purpose or stability.

Skilled scam artists are very good listeners and learn as much about their victims as they can. The internet and social media make their research so much easier.

Solutions: How to make yourself less vulnerable to con artists

  • Never accept a friend request on Facebook from someone you don't personally know, because your Facebook page has too much information that a con artist can use against you. 
  • Don’t post too much personal information online: locations, habits, and schedules. For instance, don’t check-in to locations, like stores or restaurants. Avoid geotags - giving information about your whereabouts. 
  • Don’t sign up for free trial offers, the most common scams involve fake weight loss schemes, prize promotions and buyers clubs. 
  • Be cautious when you use online payment sites and monitor your bills, because another popular scam is unauthorized Internet billing.
  • Don't click on links in an e-mail unless you've requested a password reset. For instance, if Google sends you an email saying that you need to change your password, go through Google. Don't use the email link.
  • Mindfulness. Go for a walk for one hour without a mobile electronic device. Get out of the immediacy of your everyday life and give your brain time to process the information that you have been given.  Be aware that a broader perspective - even a sense of objectivity about yourself - can make you less of a target. 
  • Businesses and institutions:Send a very clear message about ethics and accountability to employees and associates. A corporate culture that stresses the importance of the bottom line over everything else can lead to fraud.
  • In relationships and while investing beware of "sunken cost bias" the cost that has been incurred in an activity and is not recoverable; some victims have trouble admitting to being scammed because they have already lost money, time or pride. It’s never too late to walk away.

#84 Smart Solutions for The New Year

Fresh thinking for the New Year: In 2016 we were exposed to a dazzling range of smart, practical ideas from our podcast guests - from climate change and money matters, healthcare reform, to making room for strangers in our lives.  

 

In this show we start with Rebecca Jarvis, Chief Business, Economics and Technology Correspondent for ABC News. One of her smart money resolutions for the New Year is to be skeptical. Watch out for the know-it-alls and outright charlatans of investing, who pretend to understand how to beat the market. Rebecca also urges borrowers to be aware of the full costs of personal debt.

 

The need to be wary of simplistic slogans and fixes is at the heart of global economist Ruchir Sharma's book, "The Rise and Fall of Nations.” His solution? Look beyond the headlines to long-term trends. Slower growths in the workforce and immigration rates have a big impact on prosperity and growth.  

In the excerpt from our show on nuclear power, Michael Shellenberger, author of An Ecomodernist Manifesto, challenges the views of many environmentalists. He says nuclear is a crucial source of energy that "produces zero air and water pollution." 

"At the end of the day everybody is biased," says John Gable, who joined us to explain the thinking behind AllSides.com.  This news website comes with a left/ center/ right column - showing readers how major events are interpreted by liberal, conservative and centrist media. John urges us to confront our own biases and filter bubbles as we separate truth from fake news.

One forecast for 2017: due to the squabbling in Washington DC, over the role of federal government more solutions will be local. We spoke with obstetrician-gynecologist Rose Gowen, a City Commissioner in Brownsville, Texas. She told us how she was able to reduce high obesity rates using grants, a farmers market and bike trails and other local initiatives. 

Pulitzer-prize winning author, and New York Times journalist, Charles Duhigg talks about how we can improve our bad habits and become smarter, faster, and better. In this clip, we discuss to-do lists, mental models and making the most of our time - in life and in business. 

#83 Best Moments of 2016

 

Alan Dershowitz on Trump; what an Islamic fundamentalist learned in an Egyptian jail; plus a tenured professor explained why she quit her job—trigger warning ahead.

 

 

No doubt about it - the nomination and election of Donald Trump was the biggest, most surprising news story of 2016. At the start of this show we get two fascinating takes on the Trump story from a marketing man and a Harvard Professor.

For decades Alan Dershowitz has been on the front lines in the fight for civil liberties. He also has a refreshing take on the Trump phenomenon. "He was unpredictable: somebody who gave some people hope that maybe things won't be the same," says Dershowitz.

British marketing expert Mark Earls, made a second visit to our podcast, told us that emotion and identity play far greater roles in our voting decisions than many of us realize." We imagine that people consider in something as important as politics the pros and cons and the policy, but we don’t.

We spoke to Karen Firestone, the author of Even the Odds, about the time she met the famous advice columnist, Anne Landers, on a plane. The advice Landers gave Firestone changed her life. Find out why.

Do you like talking to strangers on planes, or talking to strangers? If the answer is no, then listen to Kio Stark (TED author and speaker), she may change your mind. We can all benefit from talking to strangers; find out why and how. 

Joan Blades tells us how she brings progressives and Tea Party supporters together for Living Room Conversations.

As a young Muslim man in Britain, Maajid Nawaz joined a global Islamist group. Jailed in Egypt in 2001, Maajid began an extraordinary personal journey. In this episode he describes his transformation towards liberal, democratic values as a secular Muslim. Today, Maajid is an active counter-extremist and founding Chairman of Quilliam - a global organization focusing on integration, religious freedom, citizenship and identity.  He is also the author of, "Radical: My Journey Out of Islamic Extremism."

Historian Alice Dreger, author of "Galileo's Middle Finger", reveals her personal fight for academic freedom and why it cost her a tenured job at a prestigious university.