DR. FERGUS: [00:00:01] When I’m working with athletes or whatever, a lot of them are very driven and we tend to get obsessed about things. So, we work a lot of time and taking time off and about distracting ourselves. But you just can’t say to someone, take time off, you have to replace it with something. And so what I do is I bake.
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JESSE: [00:01:09] Welcome to the Smart Athlete Podcast. I’m your host, Jesse Funk. My guest today has his Ph.D. in Computer Based Optimization. But despite that, he’s done a lot of other things that have nothing to do with that. And that’s definitely what we’re going to talk about. He’s the author of three books, including The Happiness Handbook for High Achievers, which I had the fortune to get through. He’s one of the top performance coaches having worked with teams and groups ranging from the San Francisco 49ers to the US Navy SEALs. Welcome to the show, Dr. Fergus Connolly.
DR. FERGUS: [00:01:38] Jesse, thank you very much for having me. I’ve been looking forward to this for a few weeks now.
JESSE: [00:01:44] Yeah. Thanks for coming back. We’re starting back up, we had a lot of pre-recording chatter because this is actually our second conversation as we had a mismatch in time before we ended up talking for all of like 40 minutes the last time we were on just not recording just hanging out pretty much. So, thanks for hanging out with me a second time, I guess it is.
DR. FERGUS: [00:02:08] No, it was a lot of fun the last time. Really enjoyed it. Thank you for inviting me back.
JESSE: [00:02:13] Yeah, so sorry, to the listener, you missed out on that conversation. That’ll just be between me and Fergus. And that’s just how it goes sometimes I guess when you don’t have the record button going. The first thing I’m going to ask you is, I was looking on your Instagram, and what’s up with the pies?
DR. FERGUS: [00:02:32] Oh, yes. Yes. So, I guess one of the things that — So, when I’m working with athletes or whatever, a lot of them are very driven. And we tend to get obsessed about things. So, we work a lot of time and taking time off and about distracting ourselves. But you just can’t say to someone, take time off, you have to replace it with something. And so what I do is, I bake, and I bake pies, and I cook and that’s my secret hobby. And yeah. And actually, by all accounts, they’re not bad. They taste pretty good. I’ve impressed myself actually.
JESSE: [00:03:19] That’s good. I think the last post you have, which is from like, several months ago is a pie. And I was like did he do it, this is the mathematician in me, a Pi Day was this month, the 14th of March. And I was like did he post a pie for Pi Day? I was like, you’re going to be my new best friend. But you let me down, it was from like, three-four months ago.
DR. FERGUS: [00:03:42] Yeah, actually. And actually, I don’t eat them. I give them away. So, I think that particular day, I made apple pie, triple berry pie. And then I moved on to a key lime pie. And I give them away. But I’m usually strategic. I usually bring them to something so I get to taste them. But it stops me from eating the whole thing. But yes, that’s something that I — Before anybody gets the wrong impression, if you watched me that day, like between going to the supermarket and struggling to find stuff, saw my kitchen with flour everywhere, yeah, it’s a comedy in itself.
But it’s a wonderful way to relax because I can’t think of anything else. Like I can’t start worrying about the relationship between emotion and rationality or things like that. I have to focus on looking at ounces and grams trying to figure them out and what’s a quart on my own mobile phone. And so, yeah, it’s a comedy of errors.
JESSE: [00:04:44] I have trouble trying to figure out how to give things, so I guess I’ll say my, like kitchen hobby is, I make ice cream. So, I’ve got an ice cream machine and that’s kind of my deal. And I have trouble — you wouldn’t think that I would. I have trouble figuring out who to give ice cream away to. So, I would bring it to — we have a family dinner every Sunday, less so during COVID. But as my parents are vaccinated now and basically, everybody besides me in my family group is vaccinated, because I’m on the lowest part of the totem pole for that line, we started to get back together.
But it’s like, that still means I can only make one batch a week. And it just depends on the week whether I have the time or energy. Sometimes I’m like, I want to make multiple. And sometimes I’m like, I have no time. So, I have trouble figuring out who to give it away to. I’ve suggested to my fiance, I said, “I’ll make some and I’ll give it to the neighbors.” And she’s like, “No, that’s weird.” I’m like, “What? Who doesn’t like ice cream?” Like I can’t go to the neighbors and be like, “Here, I made some ice cream, do you want this?”
DR. FERGUS: [00:05:55] Years ago, that’s what people used to do is make something, bring it around to the neighbors and things like that. And I also do like, you mean, I like trying to learn new things. And so it’s out of my comfort zone. And yeah, I think it’s good. I think it’s important to play around with things and to try different things. Because I’m sure we’ll move from cooking to high performers and all of that.
JESSE: [00:06:23] Yeah, we’ll get there.
DR. FERGUS: [00:06:24] But one of the things that’s really interesting, though, is that elite performers are people who perform very well in a particular space, they’re just highly adapted to that particular context and event. They struggle and sometimes to — this was another conversation we were having off-air about being humble, or being humiliated and allowing themselves — and seeing value in that. So, when you go and you bake, or you do something that you’re not good at, that’s a good lesson for you.
Like you mean, it’s good, it’s humbling, you can have fun, you can laugh at yourself, all of those things, and then you go back to what you’re really, really good at. But particularly as you move along, progressing in a particular field, it’s good to go and do something else. You go do stand up, write poetry, try and paint. Do something.
JESSE: [00:07:13] Yeah. Well, I mean, there’s value in remembering what it’s like to struggle, and being comfortable with it.
DR. FERGUS: [00:07:20] That’s it. And one of the things that I think we sometimes — and don’t get me started on the education system. But one of the challenges is early on, schools and the education system, their role is not necessarily to teach you something, it’s to teach you how to learn about that one thing and to continue to learn about it. And part of that is failure, part of that struggle. And that, like you said, going into this other space, where you’re going to struggle and fail and embarrass yourself and laugh at yourself. That’s good. It’s good.
JESSE: [00:07:57] Yeah, it’s just I always feel like it’s an invaluable skill to have is — I mean, we talk about it in running all the time, and I’m sure it comes up in football, and pretty much any sport is like being comfortable being uncomfortable. But there’s a certain degree of like you said, specified discomfort where you’re used to. I’m used to going out and doing runs that are hard, and how that feels and how uncomfortable that is.
But even if you, like we don’t even go outside of the realm of sports, you just take me in the gym, and let’s go lift heavy. Like, it’s going to be a whole different realm of discomfort. I’ll probably adapt quicker than somebody who’s never lifted before. But it’s still not the same realm. It’s a different kind of burn. It’s different actual muscles getting activated depending on what you’re doing. So, I feel — [crosstalk]
DR. FERGUS: [00:08:55] Yeah, I mean, like I’ve coached, I’ve worked in sport, you should see me do CrossFit. Like, it’s the most humiliating thing ever. Like you mean, it’s embarrassing. Like there’s a 23-year-old girl beside me, like you mean hasn’t broken sweat at the end of it and I’m looking for a lung and a spleen somewhere, you know, coughed up to two organs in the middle of it. But again, I think it’s important to go on those journeys from time to time.
The one caveat is, like you said, when being uncomfortable, or sorry, being comfortable being uncomfortable branches into overuse or overtraining. And you’re just continuing to grease that single particular groove, then something’s going to happen. And so the diversity and choosing other areas and to enjoy that, and again, to remind yourself of the growth is in the struggle. The growth is in those difficult moments.
JESSE: [00:10:02] I don’t know what your thoughts are on it. But it seems to me like practicing that, if you want to think about where does it have practical value, so to speak, it’s like practice for the uncomfortable parts of life. Like crap’s going to happen to all of us. It doesn’t matter where you’re born, to some degree, greater or lesser, bad things are going to happen at some point, and you’re going to have to deal with them. And getting used to being uncomfortable through a situation you’re not familiar with, I think that’s where that comes in where it’s like this isn’t just an exercise in futility, it actually has some practical nature.
DR. FERGUS: [00:10:49] Yeah. And I know I’ve been guilty of it and I think it’s a common occurrence. I think that sometimes we feel that our life has a certain trajectory, and it reaches a point where it plateaus and things are comfortable then. I’ve got everything sorted. Like I’ve got my job, I’m married, I got my job. So, it’s plain sailing. But it’s not life, we’ll always have those ups and downs. And so for some reason, we’re really comfortable struggling, failing at an early age, but we get to a certain point and we go, that’s it. I shouldn’t have to do this anymore.
And we lose track of what it’s like, and it can become incredibly — I don’t know if this is an American word, but discombobulating. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard that word or disconcerting. Okay. So, it becomes, I’m going to use this new word for the day. I’m going to see how many times I can use it. But it becomes discombobulating when something happens that you have kind of forgotten how to manage it. And yeah, and there is — humor is important in it as well, to be able to laugh at yourself. Sometimes you take yourselves just a little bit too seriously.
JESSE: [00:11:52] Well, and that’s, I think, trying to think about the book, you didn’t talk about happiness versus contentment. It is the happiness handbook, but —
DR. FERGUS: [00:12:06] Yeah, that was the twist in the tale was that this idea that you’re entitled to be or supposed to be happy all the time. No. Happiness is fleeting, but to find contentment, that’s I think, the more admirable aim.
JESSE: [00:12:22] Well, I think contentment is hard to find when you’re stressed about expectations that things should be this silky-smooth road. The thing I thought about when I got to that section is this interview a long time ago from this podcast called London Reel, and yeah, it was Peter Sage, as a serial entrepreneur. And he says something about stress comes from the difference between how we expect life to be and how life actually is.
Like, it’s the gap between our expectations and reality that cause stress. So, I come back to that when I read certain things, especially like The Happiness Handbook, a lot of those ideas are presented in different ways by different people. It’s wrapped in different words, but the underlying ideas seem very similar in that expectation plays a role in it. The story we tell ourselves about who we are plays a role in it.
DR. FERGUS: [00:13:37] Yeah. I think the other factor that’s — when you talk about expectation as well, I think today, more than ever, we allow others to outline what our expectations are. Or we assume or we inhabit the expectations of others, or that others might either place upon — also upon themselves. Rather than recognizing, okay, what are my genuine expectations, realistic expectations? And you should have them. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t strive to be better, but make sure that they’re yours, and that they’re truly what you want in life. And, yes, and recognize that and having that awareness, ultimately of and being able to manage it.
JESSE: [00:14:24] If I remember right, I think you touch on this in the book too, talking about I think the specific example is like getting a haircut or whatever and a stranger, an acquaintance, and a family member say something to you and being being more hung up on what the stranger is saying to you than your family member. I would argue none of what they say matters as long as you feel good about yourself.
DR. FERGUS: [00:14:49] Well, yes. Absolutely. Yeah. But it’s amazing and that actually, that was from a colleague in one of the Special Operations groups and it stuck with me. I mean, he was talking about basically, how do you expect what other’s expectations or other comments and how easily we let them affect us. And it’s almost like — and I look at the younger generation growing up today, not that we’re like the two old grumpy man on — one was on the [inaudible 00:15:20]
JESSE: [00:15:21] I’ve been old and grumpy since I was young. So, I mean it’s not an unfair characterization.
DR. FERGUS: [00:15:28] But the younger generation coming through like I mean, like we didn’t have as much social media exposure, and we didn’t have, you know, so it was different. And you were around more real people. And what I mean by real is that you saw people doing daily, in professions locally, you saw them in their entirety. You saw their strengths and their weaknesses. If you exist, if your reality is all social media, well, then everybody’s on a beach with a sports car, and a tall blonde or whatever. And they always have a good day. It doesn’t work. That’s not reality. But it’s very easy to be really influenced by that over time.
JESSE: [00:16:10] Well, it’s such a double-edged sword, where it’s like, I largely try to stay off of social media. But I mean, as a brand owner, it’s like, I need some kind of presence, which is, in part, why I — like with the Instagram, I hand that off to my assistant, and I go over the things — I approve the stuff that she posts. But I’m just like, I can’t — I’m just not good at this. I’m just not. Like, if you want to — Sitting down here with you, I can do this all day. But there’s just something that — [crosstalk]
DR. FERGUS: [00:16:45] We had a great conversation about this the last time as well. [crosstalk] But yeah, absolutely.
JESSE: [00:16:49] Yeah, — feels so plastic about it sometimes it’s hard for me to engage on that platform. I know people get lots of value from it. My fiance gets a lot of value. She finds recipes, which she ends up feeding me. Like, there’s plenty of value there. I just have a hard time with it. It’s also why I prefer, you know, so if you’re listening to this podcast, there is a video version on YouTube, YouTube.com/Solpri, that’s S-O-L-P-R-I. I prefer the video versus the podcast because I want to see the people talking. I connect easier. I understand it’s not convenient to necessarily do the video version for everybody. But that’s just how it works for me. We’ll find packaging product to go out or whatever, I can put a podcast on and have it sitting there and I can watch the conversation. Something missing.
It’s like, I mean, this is not probably unusual that you or anybody listening, but talking about social media is the highlight reel of everybody’s lives and you don’t get to see all the bad things. And it’s like, there are also people that only post the bad drama-filled things. Seems like it’s one extreme or the other. So, I don’t know, psychologically speaking, where the disconnect is.
Is it because you hit publish and it’s a finalized piece of presentation of this is who I am, and you’re not as concerned with that in person? Or is it you peeling back the layers of who somebody really is, and you get to see behind the curtain? Because I think, especially when we talk about like political discourse online, I don’t think you have people being as quite so aggressive in person as you do when you’re not sitting in front of that person.
DR. FERGUS: [00:18:52] Yeah, that’s a great point as well. Yeah. Yeah. [crosstalk]
JESSE: [00:18:55] So, seem there’s some kind of disconnect there. And I certainly am not an expert on what that is. I can’t quite put my thumb on it. But it seemed like there’s something there.
DR. FERGUS: [00:19:07] No, that’s a really good point. There was a guy I was seeing or talking to a little while ago, and he was a powerlifter. But his point was, he said if half the people on social media said in-person what they tweeted or whatever, that there would be a lot of bloody noses. And yeah, people can be particularly brave and outlandish on social media.
But, again, social media is valuable, and it has added value to a lot. But it’s like everything, there are pros and cons to it. And being able to think critically about its value, but just recognizing what it does for you and how you’re going to choose to use it, I think is the important thing. And one of the challenges I think with today’s education system is teaching — well, actually, going back to what we’re speaking about earlier.
But teaching failure, teaching how to fail and how to recover from it, but also teaching critical thinking. And I saw a quote somewhere recently from, I think it was somebody in, I think it was Sweden or Denmark, and they were asking the Swedish or the European politician were they not concerned about Russian disinformation on Twitter and how that could influence their politics? And his comment was, he laughed and he said, “No,” he said, “because we trust the intelligence of our people and our education system.”
And I truly believe that that’s at the core of developing a good society is the standard of your education system. Do you encourage critical thinking? And it’s not alone about the right to free speech, it’s not. It’s about — Free speech is wonderful. But if you don’t have people who can engage and critically, interpret the whole two sides of an argument, understand the other person’s perspective and try and argue it, and try and understand it, that’s what critical thinking is. That’s something that is a little bit more absent today than I think previously.
JESSE: [00:21:11] I have several thoughts. Let’s see if I can keep track of them all. So, this book’s on my mind, the 59 Lessons book, makes me think about this, which is Poor Charlie’s Almanack by Charlie Munger who is Warren Buffett’s business partner. It talks about in part of the book talks — well, in a large section, these mental biases that we have, and recognizing them.
And I think that’s a large component of critical thinking. It’s not just about vetting your sources, which is very important. But also realizing that there are some innate tendencies we have, that as humans, I think comes through just thousands of years of this is how we’ve survived, and these are the mental shortcuts we’ve taken recognizing those things in yourself and saying, am I correct? Am I right? Why am I right?
And having the ability to say, I was wrong. I’m sorry. This is why. That’s the toughest part because the critical thinking to me is not just a matter of, well, I vetted the source and they seem legitimate. It’s being able to be critical of yourself, admit when you are wrong, and course-correct from there. I think that part is so hard. It’s like it’s much easier to just double down on whatever it is that you believe or think or had said. You’re like well, I said it. So, I mean, that’s one of the commitment, consistency, biases, that’s one of them, where you’ve said it, you’ve committed to it. That’s it. Like changing course is so difficult. And I think that comes a little bit like in personal strength.
DR. FERGUS: [00:23:07] So, this is another project that I’m working on. But everything ultimately starts with survival, even at a cellular level. The goal is simply to survive. As humans, our intention is to survive, ultimately, thrive. One of the core factors in that is security. And when we are secure we feel safe. And the reason for that is that it’s incredibly costly to be constantly on alert, and trying to survive. So, when we get moments of security, we can relax. And it’s almost — it’s like a dopamine addiction. So, when we find a secure place, somebody who agrees with us, or we find, in that security, we can relax for a moment. And that’s very addictive.
When somebody comes and presents an argument that is absolute, adamant, and secure, there’s a certain security mentally in that. Now, whether — sometimes we switch off then because we’re in this place of comfort, and we don’t challenge it, but we thrive on the security that it provides. And that is really, at the basis of what you’re saying is that it doesn’t really matter, necessarily what that point is, we forget to challenge ourselves.
And even with the source itself, going beyond that, like you mean, there are some incredible people that have influenced me in my life, and I’m so grateful to them. But I would still challenge their thoughts and perspectives and I’ll go you know, is that right? And think it through and ask the why question to yourself and enjoy that. Again, I keep coming back to enjoying it because if you don’t, and you don’t see the benefit, then you just see it as a task. But yeah, like I mean, taking perspective.
You know, that seems right, but is it? And I think our desire for security and absolutes sometimes compromises our ability to critically think. And then further on, to your point, the ability to say, you know what, I’ve seen better information, I’ve seen more evidence, I’m changing my view. And to be happy doing that.
Mike Boyle, coach in Boston, I remember him saying he said, “If somebody presents better evidence, I reserve the right to change my opinion.” And that’s the most beautiful thing in the world that, to me, is intelligence and strength. Somebody who’s prepared to change their opinion, because they’ve seen something better, that’s — like how many people say that? Like you said, you want to double down on something? Because it’s not security, and they’re all of a sudden going, “Oh, no, hang on. No, this isn’t real. I got to go back out into the survival mode and security.” And that’s what, I think, a lot of it comes down to, particularly as we get older.
JESSE: [00:25:50] Along the lines of security, it’s in part, I think that sense of security comes through a sense of self, right? Where it’s like, if you believe something, and it’s a reflection on who you are as a person, and then you have evidence, strong evidence provided to upset that idea, then, who are you anymore? And that’s a bigger fear than simply I have to change my mind. It’s, who am I? What do I believe? Like that’s — [crosstalk] you got to arrive at it quickly.
DR. FERGUS: [00:26:27] Yeah, or even stretch it a little bit further, in the sense that that’s where I think I am, and that’s who I want to be. And all of a sudden, hang on, whoa, whoa. Yeah, that’s worrisome because you’ve set an expectation. Yeah, and we do thrive on formulas, and we thrive on simplicity, clear black and white. The reality is, the world is gray. There’s very, very little black and white. There’s various shades of, 50 shades of grey if you want, but there’s lots of shades of grey, and we have to understand and navigate that and understand that nothing is certain. And I know in my career whether it’s been coaching or anything else.
The greatest learning for me has come and challenging everything, even not public or challenging people, but taking something and going, something that’s taken as an absolute and going, is that right? Is that really right? And where would it not work? That’s learning. And the best coaches or the best people I’ve been around are those who have — they have principles, but a principle isn’t a law. You know, there are very few laws. Principles are — it’s a general guideline that I believe to be true at this moment in time. But should in five years’ time something come along and change that principle, the principles, and they have a certain amount of flexibility within them.
And I think, again, there was a Tetlock study done years ago where they asked people to watch a number of political commentators and get their opinion on which commentators they liked the most. What was interesting was, all of the commentators who are adamant about the success of a particular election were the most popular ones, even though a lot of them were wrong, or they weren’t quite accurate.
But the fact that they were adamant, they provided security, direction, and clarity for people, they were more appealing. Rather than the other commentator who said, “Yeah, I’m not quite sure. It looks a little bit like this.” Which was, again, more truthful, and more accurate. But the person who was adamant — That’s why very often, your sociopathic or narcissistic leaders are so appealing to people because they make it simple and clear, black and white.
JESSE: [00:28:47] Yeah, I think about that sometimes. I think about myself and this show. And I wonder, or I think probably that’s in part, why maybe I’m not more popular, because I’m not sure of anything.
DR. FERGUS: [00:29:01] Well, you know the joke, like you mean the answer to every question is it depends, and particularly in coaching and sports.
JESSE: [00:29:06] Right. That comes up all the time on the show. I’m like, “Well, it depends.” When people ask me, like on the YouTube channel, I have a running show, and people ask me questions, they’ll ask me very absolute questions. You know like, is this shoe good for me? I’m like, it depends. I can’t feel your feet. I don’t know what size you need. I don’t know what other — like, it depends on all these factors.
And sometimes I’ll write back and say, well, here’s the other things and we can kind of get into it. But it’s like, gosh, I’m trying to remember what — Oh, it was a nutrition question and somebody said, “I’m eating this before I run. Is this good?” I’m like, “What are your goals? How much are you running? Like what —
All I could tell for sure was that the amount they were eating was roughly equivalent to the amount they would have burned when they ran. That’s all I could tell from the information they gave me. I was like, I can’t say whether that’s good or not, it depends on what you’re after. Anyway. So, that’s something I think about where I’m like, maybe that’s why more people don’t want to listen to me because I seem like I waffle on so many things. But I think it’s a matter of I feel more honest if I’m like, it depends, because I think that’s the reality of it. There’s no — We love hard and fast rules, because it’s like, well, that’s the answer, I can stop thinking, there’s security in that answer. There’s no instability.
DR. FERGUS: [00:30:33] But again, Jesse, it’s understandable, because if you look back at like the education system, it is largely based on rote learning. So, there is an answer to the question. So, we’ve been conditioned to say, to believe there is an answer. Like there’s a black and white, and that is basically down to recall and memory. And that’s the consequence of it, as opposed to having a good, interesting debate. I mean, when I was younger, I did some debating at school. And I used to hate it initially. There’s always two sides of an argument, there’s one that’s good, and there’s one that you don’t want to get. And when you get the one that you don’t want to get, you get annoyed or whatever, but you have to debate it.
And slowly as it’s coming closer to the debate, you go, you know what, I’m actually enjoying this. I don’t believe it necessarily, but I love the value of debating something. And now I’ve had to see it from — And all of a sudden, you’re going, you know what, maybe this there is a perspective because nothing is ever just black and white, like we say. But again, not all people like you are truth-seekers necessarily. There are people who just want solutions. They just want the solution without the understanding, which is fine. And there is a time, it’s like emergency medicine. You know, if you fall or break your leg, you want a solution. So, you go straight to emergency medicine.
But if you want to learn how not to fall again, and for it to cause, then you got to go see a biomechanist, or whatever that might be, or go on that route. But there is certainly a time for it. There is a time when yeah, I just need an answer straightaway. I’m going to come back and figure it out, but I urgently need an answer to this. And it depends on different spheres because of course, there are some spheres of your life that you don’t necessarily want to know everything.
For example, the electrical wiring in your kitchen, if you’re doing a renovation, you don’t necessarily want to go and learn everything. But you want to get a solution for that. Then there are other things that you truly that are important to you, that you should spend the time trying to explore and discover, and yeah, investigate.
JESSE: [00:32:35] Thinking about critical thinking and having the ability to say, I’m wrong, and the ability to explore a different viewpoint. And going back to thinking about social media, to try to tie this back in the happiness handbook, very common phrase, you’re the average of the five people who you spend most time with. I think that happens a little bit in social media too where we end up in these echo chambers and [inaudible 00:33:04] thing. And you touch on the various levels of social circles, and I’ll say types of people, that you characterize them as in the book. But I wanted to know about your thoughts on should you and how do you go about changing your social circle?
DR. FERGUS: [00:33:25] Yeah. So, people have asked me this before, and it’s really — The very first stage is having self-awareness. So, lots of different people talk about having, when they talk, for example, about physical, mental and social. I always start with physical, mental, and spiritual, first and foremost, because people look to the social circle without first reflecting on themselves. And it starts with yourself. And the point is, how do these people impact my life?
And are they impacting it in a positive way or negative way, and understanding that awareness first. It’s like, somebody goes into a relationship and says, “Oh, this person’s going to make me better. I need them, they’re going to –” No. Whatever problems and issues you haven’t addressed, you’re going to bring those into the relationship.
So, it’s first about reflecting and seeing the people who are actually being a positive source or positive light in your life. And again, being open to other people as well, that you meet and recognizing that this person has good qualities. I enjoy being around them. I learned from them. We have similar values. And then spending more time with them. And people, we end up getting drawn to that.
And sometimes you find people who we are influenced by the people that we spend time around, whether consciously or unconsciously. But reflecting on it, I spend time with this group of people and when I come back to my family or whatever, I do or I don’t behave — it filters through, it comes with me. Well, one example, again, this is a very concrete example, and might not be the best one, but one of my friends was, he would go into rugby camp, say for 10 or 12 weeks with the team. And so they’re largely in hotel, playing games, traveling.
When he would come back, he used to tell me that for the first two weeks, his wife used to, she got used to it. When he would come back, and he might have seen her a few times, all right. But when he would come back and spend time with the family, the very first thing she used to put on the kitchen table was a swear jar, because he had — being around guys, he had just — his language hadn’t been great. And he would come back, and so for the first few weeks afterwards, he just had really poor language use.
And so she got used to it. She goes, “No, listen, you come by, you spend time with these people, great people, but you picked one bad habit, one or two bad habits. You got to fix this.” And that’s an example of how — and that’s a really concrete, I guess, objective example of how suddenly different environments influences and influence our behavior.
JESSE: [00:36:06] And I’ve talked about this with previous guests before, anywhere from Chris — what is his last name — he’s a police officer with the Chula Vista PD to [inaudible 00:36:18], but just the influence of social media and the news, I talked to my father about the news, I say, turn off the news. It’s just like, excuse the language, we just talked about this. To me, it feels like a constant shitstorm of just bad things happening all over like all the time. And it’s like, well, yes, there are 7 billion people on the planet.
There is always something bad happening. And if you allow that to be the news, or social media or whatever, which we as people kind of feed on negative information, that’s why it gets run. If you allow that to be the thing that’s influencing you all the time you’re probably not going to feel as well as if you like, just take a break from that.
And I’ve mentioned this to people, and I get counterarguments about wanting to stay current with what’s going on in the world, and all that kind of stuff. And I guess — I understand, but I also feel like you don’t have influence over basically any of it. There may be a few things that you do have influence over, but you’re just not important enough to have influence over these things.
And so you’re like you’re allowing those negative emotions, those negative influences to come and be a part of your social circle effectively, affecting you, affecting your day, when you get basically no positive benefit from it. And not that everything should be a strict — everything has to affect me positively. But just, I think the amount of value you get from the 24-hour news cycle is minuscule compared to the harm that’s probably done.
DR. FERGUS: [00:38:14] Yeah. I would love to, I haven’t looked at it, but I would love to know what the percentage of, not stories but time spent on positive and negative stories on each of different — And the reality is today, there is a certain amount of voyeurism, and we do get drawn to a scandal or a tragedy, because we do want to see that, so there’s that aspect. The other thing that’s particularly important as well as, you know, and I’m going to throw a percentage out here, which I’ve just made up out of the top of my head.
But I believe that 80% of people who go to vote, go to vote against someone, not for someone. And the reason for that is that negative campaigning, and that scandal is a far greater motivator. And again, I’m going to go back to survival and fear and that, but that somebody is presenting somebody else as a threat to your either financial security, your emotional security, your ego, whatever it might be. And that becomes the motivator that we live in. So, the world and the motivation, the fear motivation that is used today is incredibly powerful, and it works. There’s no doubt it works. But I think that this could be legislated for, there’s no doubt. But it’s — [crosstalk]
JESSE: [00:39:35] I mean, it could be.
DR. FERGUS: [00:39:37] It could be but again, then you come up against the freedom of speech. And that as a concept is preserved and that’s what you have to live with. If we’re going to have — if freedom of speech is going to be a cornerstone, well, then you have to accept the consequences. Now, the question comes is there freedom from responsibility then? But there has to be some way to manage it because things have developed beyond when it was first written and what it was intended for. So, there has to be a certain amount of consequence or those consequences have to be enforced. Do you want to rewrite the constitution this morning?
JESSE: [00:40:20] I mean, we can get started. It might take us a while.
DR. FERGUS: [00:40:26] No, no, but I think that’s what it — I think it’s being able to recognize why these things happen. I’m not saying they’re good or bad, but this is the reality. You know, a lot of people do go to the polls to vote against someone else. And that comes from being motivated by fear. That’s the reality and people — that’s what’s being used. Is it good or bad, who knows? That’s the reality. That’s what it is. And so it’s interesting because let’s —
We’ll do religion after we do politics, but just so we cover all of the touchy subjects. But if you talk to people, and you know, the number of people say, oh, well, I voted for this person and they followed up with a but because I didn’t — You know what I mean? Because I didn’t like the other person or whatever. Like they have to reinforce it. So, it’s just interesting. That’s the way that our society is at the minute.
JESSE: [00:41:18] And we could probably go on this for a while. But we’re running out of time to talk about religion because we both have things we got to get to. But — [crosstalk]
DR. FERGUS: [00:41:27] But it’s funny, sorry. Growing up in Ireland, like you mean during the troubles and whatever, like you mean, there were three things that you didn’t talk necessarily about during the 80s. One was politics, which is obvious. Your political leanings would indicate what side of the fence that you — Religion, absolute no, no. And sport, ironically, was the other one because rugby was a [inaudible 00:41:49] or British sport and [inaudible 00:41:51]. So, yeah, so I joke about those are the three things that you try and avoid in any conversation. And we’ve covered at least one of them.
JESSE: [00:42:01] I mean, it’s not unusual, if you’re talking to me that one of them’s going to probably come up. I feel like in a lot of ways, you can have a polite conversation about it if you understand how to accept that not everybody’s going to see things the way you see them. And that’s fine. Like, you know what I mean? [crosstalk] But that’s the thing, right?
DR. FERGUS : [00:42:19] Oh, and absolutely. And I love talking to people who have different perspectives than me because I learn. I understand why they think that way. And you know what, very often a lot of them have really valid points. And that’s why I love the term Reagan Democrat. Like, I love that term because it shows that, at one point, a few generations ago, people were able to switch, compromise, and see the benefit of [inaudible 00:42:43].
And I think that’s what’s sorely missing now is just the growth of extremism on either side. There’s no middle ground. But when you’ve good healthy debates about something, you hear someone’s perspective, and I love that. Because it allows me to understand where people are coming from. And it allows me to truly understand other people. And you need that. You need to be able to do that.
JESSE: [00:43:07] So, Fergus, we’re running short on time, so I have to jump to the end. We missed one of those — I had a question I was going to get to. There was a non-sequitur, but we’ll have to leave it for another time. So, I’m asking everybody the same question this year. I have like a yearly question. My question for you, as everybody this year is, how do you stay motivated after you fail to reach a goal?
DR. FERGUS: [00:43:33] I learned, I guess, a number of years ago that the beauty of failure and actually seeing that as a positive. I just changed my mindset around it. And when I fail or when I struggle, I’ve got used to not stopping myself getting annoyed and smiling and going, this is the growth moment and I have a choice which way I go. And so I’ve got really good at it. I get worried actually if things are going really well because then I’m going okay, I’m not seeing where the failure is.
And a lot of people I work with or coach, that’s one of the key things that we work on is going, good, okay, this is good. Now, we’re going to really bounce back from that. And the best people that I’ve worked with actually use that, and I’m not just saying this flippantly, but they do use it as a springboard and that to watch is amazing. It’s beautiful.
JESSE: [00:44:34] Thanks for the answer. Fergus, if people want to grab your books, find you, where can they do any of that?
DR. FERGUS: [00:44:43] My website, FergusConnolly.com is the easiest. Everything from there.
JESSE: [00:44:49] Thanks for hanging out with me today. I’ll let you get on to your day. And maybe we’ll chat another time and make it a third appearance.
DR. FERGUS: [00:44:56] Jesse, thank you for having me. Humbled, honored, thank you.