#93 Emily Esfahani Smith: The Power of Meaning

Are you happy? If not, perhaps you’re asking yourself the wrong question.

Our culture is obsessed with happiness - a right that’s enshrined in the U.S. Constitution. But living a life of meaning, instead of the pursuit of happiness, may bring much deeper, longer-lasting satisfaction, says our guest, Emily Esfahani Smith, author of "The Power of Meaning Crafting a Life That Matters.

In 2013, comedian Louis C.K. struck a nerve when he spoke of the human condition on the Conan O’Brian show. “Underneath everything there’s that thing - that empty forever.”   The video clip from the “Conan” show went viral with more than 12 million views on You Tube.  

We look at solutions for that “empty forever life.”

“A meaningful life is connecting and contributing to something that is bigger than you," says Emily. Her book examines the wisdom of philosophers, psychologists, sociologists, neuroscientists and novelists and provides insight on how to lead a more meaningful life.

Emily argues that leading a meaningful life is more important than a happy life. "When we don't find meaning, we end up becoming more depressed, prone to suicide and more alienated."
 
Find out why cultivating connections with others, working towards a purpose, telling stories about our place in the world, and seeking out mystery can enrich our lives.

We also discuss belonging, alienation and politics. In a recent New York magazine article, Emily writes: "President Trump is like the neighbor, a man who unthinkingly builds new walls and fortifies old ones — walls to keep out immigrants and refugees, walls to divide the establishment from working-class Americans, walls to protect American manufacturers from American trade partners."

Additional reading: "The Road to Character" by David Brooks of the New York Times.
 

#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.