Some people seem to have all the luck. You know, those people for whom opportunities just magically appear out of thin air? They always get that callback, that big promotion just lands in their lap, AND they get the girl.
Is it just luck or is there more to it?
In this week’s episode, my guest Karla Starr and I discuss a very serious question: can you create your own luck? We talk about the subtle things that lucky people do differently, why just showing up is often the key to success, how to recognize fundamental cognitive biases and use them to your advantage, and much more.
Luck does exist. But it’s in our best interest to believe it doesn’t exist.”
Karla Starr is a science writer, coach, and speaker, and the author of Can You Learn to Be Lucky? Why Some People Seem to Win More Often Than Others, which was named a Fast Company best book of the year. The recipient of a Best Health/Science award from the Society of Professional Journalists and a member of the National Association of Science Writers, she has written for publications including O, Slate, Popular Science, and The Atlantic. More recently, she appeared on CBS Sunday Morning and co-authored The Hilton Effect with Chip Heath. She is regularly invited to speak on motivation and thriving during uncertainty. A resident of New York, she spends an inordinate amount of time lifting heavy things.
People use luck as an explanation when they have no other explanation
Assigning external causality things that happen takes away our power
For many of us, the idea of ditching our job and traveling the world for years at a time seems like a pipe dream reserved for the rich. But if you have the right mindset—and budget wisely—pretty much anyone can quit the cube life, grab a pack and hit the road.
My guest today has spent the last 10 years traveling the world as a 21st century nomad. In that time, he not only survived but also built up a budget travel empire that continues to grow.
In this episode we talk about the biggest misconceptions about long-term travel, unorthodox tips for how you can save money while traveling, how to make friends as a solo traveler, and much more.
…for me the sense of what a traveler is, is looking for the culture and getting a sense of place….You travel like you live: you take public transportation, you go grocery shopping, you look for free activities to do, you don’t eat in touristy areas….”
Matthew Kepnes runs the award winning budget travel site, Nomadic Matt. He’s also the author of the New York Times best-seller How to Travel the World on $50 a Day as well as the upcoming travel memoir, Ten Years a Nomad. His writings and advice have been featured in The New York Times, CNN, The Guardian UK, Lifehacker, Budget Travel, BBC, Time, and Yahoo! He also regularly speaks at travel trade and consumer shows, owns a hostel in Texas, and launched a non-profit called FLYTE, which empowers students from underserved communities through transformative travel experiences.
How new and exotic experiences can create the perception of extending time
Breaking out of cube life and exploring extended travel
Even if you were exposed to classic literature in school, unless you’re a scholar you probably aren’t reading 500-year-old books on a regular basis. But my guest today argues that the Great Books of the Western Canon still have a lot to teach us.
Scott Hambrick is the founder and reader-in-chief at Online Great Books, an online community developing classically educated men and women using the Great Books of Western Civilization.
These books were written one after the other, often in response to each other. So we find that if you start at the beginning, you can follow the thread of thought through Western civilization.”
Scott has been an avid reader and autodidact his entire life. After he and his wife Charity started homeschooling their two daughters, Scott became more rigorous about his own continuing education. This interest lead to the creation of OGB. Through this venture, Scott hopes to introduce tens of thousands of people to the great books of the western world.
In this episode, we talk about why the great books are considered “The Great Books,” why the order in which you read them matters, how these classic works can still be extremely relevant to our lives today, and much more.
The point of the great books of the Western world isn’t who’s right. The point is making yourself engage with these big ideas, and doing this aided discovery thing where you discover the ideas alongside the people who thought the best thoughts about them.”
The history of The Great Books Program
Leveraging the Socratic method and dialectical method of questioning
Intellectual linear progression
How reading these books with a group can provide accountability and also increase your enrichment from them
If you’re at all familiar with the world of men’s websites, you’ve probably heard of today’s guest—Brett McKay of the Art of Manliness.
Brett started the Art of Manliness in 2008 and has grown it into the largest independent men’s interest magazine on the web.
In this episode, we discuss the challenges that men face in the 21st century, why the term “manliness” is often misunderstood, the importance of mentorship and rights of passage, what it means to live well as a man, and much more.
Manliness isn’t just macho chest-beating, it is being a well-rounded, complete man.”
Brett grew up in Edmond, OK, a suburb of Oklahoma City, and attended the University of Oklahoma. He took a break in college to live in Tijuana, Mexico for two years doing service. After graduating with a BA in Letters, he then went on to pursue his lifelong goal of going to law school. While attending the University of Tulsa College of Law, Brett started the Art of Manliness as something fun to do in his spare time. When he’s not working, he enjoys barbell training and spending time outdoors with his family.
Manhood is never complete. It’s always being tested and challenged.”
How Brett started the men’s magazine he would want to read
Manliness as synonymous with virtue
A boy consumes more than he produces; a man produces more than he consumes
The importance of properly channeling your masculinity
How modern men struggle because they lack positive ideals of what it means to be a man
As men, there often comes a time in our lives when we feel that something is missing…a lack of meaning or direction.
Yes, I’m living day to day, but what should I DO with my life?
For a man to feel whole, he needs to find his purpose, live intentionally, find out what he stands for—and prove his worth.
To the world, yes. But more importantly, to himself.
Let’s be honest, you’re going to have good days and bad days no matter what.
But when you have a sense of purpose, it makes the rough days a lot easier. When you know that your boat is at least pointed towards the shore you want to reach, that helps.
Also, when you are true to your life’s purpose, you come alive. You live more in the moment. Life holds more meaning.
You might be wondering, can an article on the internet really help me find my purpose?
The answer is no. Only you can do that work for yourself.
But what I am going to do in this post is give you some food for thought—a few different ways that you can think about how to find your purpose.
Watch the video below or keep reading.
Big thanks to our sponsor, Moral Code! At Moral Code, they believe that premium leather shoes and accessories should always be obtainable. That style and fashion aren’t exclusive clubs. That luxury should never be a luxury. Use offer code DISTILLED30 to save 30% off .
Does Your Purpose Have to Be Your Job?
Many people think that their life’s purpose needs to BE their career. I think this is only half true.
It reminds of a great quote by Mark Twain: “History doesn’t repeat itself, but it often rhymes.”
Do your purpose and your career have to be one in the same? No, but I think they should rhyme.
Ideally, your career should be in alignment with your greater purpose in life—or you should be able to extract elements from your job that help support your purpose.
Though I have to say, with the amount of time we spend focused on our work, it sure is nice when they can one in the same.
The Pitfall of Pursuing Your Passion
One of the biggest pitfalls about finding your purpose is the notion that you should pursue a career in an area you’re passionate about.
Newport argues that sustained passion for a career path is rarely a pre-existing condition. More often, lasting passion comes later—he calls it “a side effect of mastery.” Newport cites Daniel Pink’s work on the Self-Determination Theory (SDT), a psychological framework which helps determine what motivates us.
“SDT tells us that motivation, in the workplace or elsewhere, requires that you fulfill three basic psychological needs….”
Relatedness (that feeling of connectedness to other people)
Basically, you are more likely to work your way into being truly passionate about something than to find a field that you are passionate about and then go after it.
Secondly, if you are enamored with a particular path, I think you need to ask yourself: Are you passionate about the IDEA of that thing, or are you actually passionate about the day-to-day reality of it?
You need to be energized by the in-the-trenches, reality of it. When you can be fully present and excel in the moment at what you’re doing, that’s when you can make the greatest contribution and you feel most alive.
Passion can also be a trap, because how do you decide between things that are just your hobbies versus finding your calling or vocation? Which brings me to my next point…
One night several months ago, I was making dinner for my wife and my mother-in-law. And my mother-in-law asked, “have you ever thought about being a chef?”
I said that I had, but I realized that I love cooking enough to know that I didn’t want to make it my job.
Because I’ve talked to enough chefs to know that they don’t actually cook at home. They don’t bring that chefy-ness to their personal lives. The eat ramen at home.
So if passion isn’t the right clue to finding our purpose, what is?
What Do You Stand For?
To boil it down, finding your purpose is really about figuring out what you stand for. What fight or crusade do you want to be in? More importantly, where can you really make a contribution?
Ideally, you should think about the intersection of these three things:
Your skills and unique talents/gifts
Where there is a need
It’s the convergence of these things that gives you the sense of living your purpose. As Eric Barker said in Barking Up the Wrong Tree:
Success is not the result of any single quality; it’s about alignment between who you are and where you choose to be.”
So let’s go through each of those 3 things quickly.
1. Find Your Superpower(s)
How do you identify your unique talents or gifts? They’ve probably been right under your nose for years.
Usually your superpowers are the one or two things that come easily to you. While everyone else is struggling, you seem to coast by effortlessly.
It’s almost like that feeling you get if you’re right-handed, but you use your left hand for a while. Then when you switch back to your right hand, you get that sense of power because you feel like “I’m the man! I can do anything!”
The other clue is to pay attention to what other people say about you. What skills, talents or qualities do people remark on? How have you touched other people? In what ways have you helped them?
As they say in the entrepreneurial world, what is your “unfair advantage?”
2. Identity What Lights You Up
To figure out what you’re really interested in, you need to observe yourself.
Pay attention to the ideas that draw your interest, especially the ones you can’t stop thinking about.”
You also need to get out of your head, stop thinking, and start feeling—what does your body say?
Usually, your gut doesn’t lie. When you’re around things that light you up, your body literally responds with increased energy.
Successful entrepreneur Derek Sivers uses something he calls “The Hell Yeah test” to help gauge how he’s feeling.
When evaluating something, whether it’s a hobby, an interest, or even deciding whether or not to accept a dinner invitation, he asks himself: is it a no, or is it a “Hell yeah!” Anything in between isn’t acceptable.
But perhaps the best gauge for something being a true interest is when something that makes you lose time. You go into a zone when you’re doing it, and time seems to stand still.
Mark Manson said it best:
What makes you forget to eat and poop?”
Beyond identifying things that light you up or sustain your focus, you should also pay attention to what RILES you up. What pisses you off? Where have you experienced pain or injustice?
What is a fight that you believe, deep in your bones, is worth fighting for? That may point to where you can find your purpose.
3. Pick the Right Pond
The final element of finding your purpose is uncovering a real need—and this is critical. Because your interests and skills may be wonderful, but if they can’t be useful, you won’t feel like you’re making a contribution.
…the question becomes: what struggle or sacrifice are you willing to tolerate? Ultimately, what determines our ability to stick with something we care about is our ability to handle the rough patches and ride out the inevitable rotten days.”
Your Purpose May Not Be a Single Path
One of the biggest things prevents us from finding alignment in our lives is getting hung up on finding THE purpose.
But author and coach Shannon Kaier says we need “break up with the ONE”.
Over the course of our lives we can change a lot—we grow, we evolve. And the idea that we have to stick to one vision the entire time is unrealistic.
The point is not to stay on THE path. The point is to constantly be aligned to A path. To be intentional about how we are living based on who we are.
As Kaier said,
…the real purpose of anyone’s life is to be fully involved in living. Try to be present for the journey and fully embrace it.”
And she’s right. When we’re fully immersed in our purpose, when we experience that weightlessness of pointing our entire lives toward that North star, it’s not about the thing.
It’s about how we are in that moment. On that journey. It’s about being fully alive, and fully realizing our talents and our abilities in an intentional way.
Your Purpose Won’t Come Find You
One thing is for sure, you can’t wait for your purpose to show up and tap you on the shoulder, and say “dude, here I am. Let’s do this.”
In order to figure out what your purpose is, you need to take action on two fronts:
Do the inner exploration and reflection to figure out what makes you tick.
Take outward action in the real world—put yourself out there, and chase after what you need to chase.
Don’t keep reading and watching videos about finding your purpose, get out there and start working towards it now.
In wrapping up, I want to quickly thank our sponsor Moral Code for making this post possible.
Moral Code is a company that knows what they stand for. They have a philosophy that guides everything they do (and I guess with a name like Moral Code, that shouldn’t be a surprise).
First, they understand that a man’s choice of shoe isn’t just about utility—it’s about showing the world what he’s all about…who he is as a man.
More importantly, they believe that guys should be able to look their best without spending a fortune. They believe that premium leather shoes and accessories should always be obtainable.
That style and fashion aren’t exclusive clubs—not just for people with trust funds, old money, or crazy new IPO money. In their view, luxury should never be a luxury.
They also put their money where their mouths are by making premium products that everyday guys can actually afford—and they do this by cutting out middlemen, minimizing markups, and selling exclusively online.
Some stats say that seventy percent of Americans aren’t passionate about the work they do.
And there are a lot of people on the internet selling the dream of “quit your day job and pursue your passion.” But sometimes the actual steps to get there are a little fuzzy. Even with conventional career searches, there’s a lot of bad advice out there.
My guest today, Ken Coleman has created a proven framework that gives you a specific roadmap for how to get closer to doing the work you love. In this episode, Ken breaks down the components of this strategy, which he calls the Proximity Principle. We get into the specific types of People, Places, and Practices that you need to focus on in order to make real progress towards landing your dream job.
In order to do what you want to do, you’ve got to be around people that are doing it, in places where it’s happening.”
Ken Coleman is a career expert and national radio host of The Ken Coleman Show. Pulling from his own personal struggles, missed opportunities and career successes, Coleman helps people discover what they were born to do and provides practical steps to make their dream job a reality. The Ken Coleman Show is a caller-driven career show that helps listeners who are stuck in a job they hate or searching for something more out of their career. In this episode, we talk aboutKen’s latest book, The Proximity Principle: The Proven Strategy That Will Lead to The Career You Love.
Why fear, doubt, and pride keep us stuck in jobs we hate
But up until recently, I never really thought about exactly how they worked, or what separated a good watch from a bad one.
After a bit of research, now I’m here to share my findings with you.
When you’re exploring the world of men’s watches, things can get pretty complicated and even a bit overwhelming. So in this watch primer, I’m going to share the basics of what you need to think about when buying a watch.
Big thanks to our sponsor, DAEM Watches! Designed in Brooklyn, NY, DAEM watches are handcrafted with the finest materials for form and function. Use offer code DM20 to save 20% off .
Watch the video below or continue reading.
Men's Watches 101: How to Choose a Wristwatch - YouTube
Types of Watch Movements
You can’t really talk about watches without talking about “movements.” You can think of a watch movement as basically like the engine inside of your watch that keeps it running. It moves the hands, plus any other extra features of your men’s watch.
There are really three main types of watch movements that you need to worry about.
A quartz movement is what you’ll normally find inside of an everyday watch. Quartz watches come in a wide range of quality. From the inexpensive watches you’d find in mass retail chains to higher-quality watch brands. Quartz watches are battery powered, and their movement causes that signature “ticking” of the second hand.
They’re called quartz timepieces because there’s actually a tiny piece of crystal quartz inside. The electrical signal from the battery passes through the quartz, which makes it vibrate exactly 32,768 times per second. These vibrations get measured and converted into one pulse every second.
Pros and Cons of Quartz Watches
Here are some of the pros of quartz watches:
They’re the most accurate – Quartz mechanisms are far less likely to lose or add seconds throughout the day.
They don’t need much maintenance – Quartz timepieces have fewer moving parts, which means less stuff that can go wrong. Aside from swapping out your watch battery every couple of years, there isn’t much maintenance that needs to be done.
They’re the least expensive – Sure, you can find higher-end quartz watches that cost hundreds of dollars. But as a general rule, quartz watches are almost always cheaper than men’s watches with automatic or mechanical movements.
They’re more durable – The fewer moving parts in a quartz watch benefits them in this area as well. If your job involves getting dusty and dirty every day, you might want to wear a quartz watch.
Now for some of the downsides of quartz watches:
They don’t have a smooth movement – If you’re looking for that signature sweeping motion of a mechanical watch, unfortunately you’re never going to get it from quartz. That exaggerated ticking second-hand motion is just a signature part of how a quartz movement operates.
Less craftsmanship – Quartz watches are more likely to be mass-produced. So there often isn’t the same level of care or hours of specialized technical work that goes into creating a mechanical watch.
A mechanical movement doesn’t use a battery but instead needs to be manually wound to keep it running. Instead of ticking, a mechanical movement produces more of a smooth and steady sweeping motion.
A mechanical movement uses a spring-driven mechanism, called a mainspring, which needs to be periodically wound. Energy is transferred from the mainspring to smaller springs and gears, powering the hands and other functions of the watch.
Pros and Cons of Mechanical Watches
Here are some pros of mechanical men’s watches:
They last longer – A quality mechanical watch will last for your entire lifetime if it’s properly cared for and maintained. It might even be something that you pass down to the next generation.
No batteries required – With a mechanical movement, you never have to worry about batteries dying and needing to be replaced. Manually rewinding your watch each day can be an enjoyable ritual.
Better aesthetics and more luxurious – Mechanical watches tend to just look and feel better and of a higher quality than most quartz watches. Some may have gears exposed so that you can see the internal workings and oscillations of the watch. They tend to feature overall higher quality materials, like scratch-resistant sapphire crystal instead of glass. Mechanical watches are also just more tactile and have more character to them.
Smooth hand movement – Personally, I love the smooth sweeping movement of a mechanical watch and even find it a bit hypnotizing. I can just sit and enjoy watching it for minutes at a time. If that’s important to you, you should definitely consider a mechanical watch.
Here are some of the downsides of mechanical watches:
They require regular winding – With a quartz watch, you can just put it in a drawer for several weeks and it will keep on ticking. That isn’t the case with mechanical watches. At most, they can usually go about two days without winding. Some people really enjoy winding up their watch each day and look forward to it, while other people find it a bit of a nuisance. If you fall into the latter category, a mechanical watch might not be the best choice for you.
They aren’t as accurate – Even the best mechanical watches are only about 99.99% accurate. That might seem amazing. But even a 0.01% difference can result in your watch getting a second fast or slow each day. As your watch ages, it will start to get less and less accurate. Every 5 or 10 years or so, you’ll need to take your watch to a jeweler to get it tuned up a bit. Quartz watches don’t tend to fall out of sync like that.
They’re environmentally sensitive – A mechanical watch is full of tiny gears and springs. So any exposure to dust, shock, moisture, or even magnets can potentially wreak havoc on them. Most modern mechanical watches are designed to counteract most of these issues. But if you’re constantly hammering or working with dirty parts every day, it might be better to wear a quartz watch for everyday use and reserve your mechanical watch for when you get dressed up.
They’re more expensive – A lot more work and craftsmanship goes into creating a mechanical watch. Naturally, that gets reflected in the price. It’s hard to find a quality mechanical watch for less than $200, with most of them costing more than $500. When it comes to Rolex or Cartier watches, you could be looking at tens of thousands of dollars.
An automatic watch movement uses the kinetic energy from the motion of your wrist to automatically drive the watch mechanism, instead of relying on a battery or needing to be manually wound.
Automatic watches are also often called self-winding watches. If you think the idea of winding your watch every day could be annoying, then an automatic movement is worth looking into.
These movements use a metal weight called a rotor, which spins when you move your wrist. This spinning transfers energy and winds a mainspring inside the watch.
Pros and Cons of Automatic Watches
Here are some pros of automatic men’s watches.
No winding or batteries required – An automatic watch is almost like magic! It doesn’t need to be wound or be powered by a battery. As long as you wear it regularly, it will keep functioning as normal.
Smooth movement and aesthetics – An automatic movement is everything that a mechanical movement is, just with the additional self-winding feature. That means it comes with the same sophisticated look and smooth hand movement that you’d expect from any other mechanical watch. Just with the added bonus of not having the hassle of winding it every day.
More hefty – Automatic watches will tend to be thicker than a regular mechanical watch. That’s because extra room is needed inside for the rotor. An automatic watch feels more weighty and significant on your wrist. I like the heavy feeling. But if you’re looking for something more minimalist, this could actually be a downside for you.
The cons of an automatic watch are similar to those of any other mechanical watch:
They’re less accurate than quartz and will need some tune-ups. They’re also sensitive to the environment as well. Like other mechanical watches, automatic watches similarly come at a higher price because of the high level of craftsmanship and engineering involved in making them.
The biggest downside to an automatic watch is that it needs to be stored in a watch winder when you aren’t wearing it. Just like parking your car in a garage for months without driving it, leaving an automatic watch sitting for extended periods of time can actually damage it. So you need an automatic watch winder to keep it going.
A watch winder is a machine that slowly spins and keeps your automatic watch wound while it isn’t being worn. They don’t cost much, but they’ll take up space on your shelf and it’s one more thing to have to worry about.
Of course, the alternative is just to make sure that you wear your automatic watch every single day.
The 5 C’s of Watch Terminology
The world of watches is full of an entire vocabulary. Here are a few terms you might hear when looking for the perfect watch which don’t have immediately obvious meanings.
Caliber – This is just another word for a watch movement.
Chronograph – A watch that has a stopwatch function in addition to being able to keep time.
Chronometer – This is a watch that has been independently tested by the COSC (Official Swiss Chronometer Testing Institute.) To meet this standard, a watch has to be able to remain accurate to within certain thresholds in different positions and over the course of several days.
Complication – Any extra features that a watch has, besides simply telling the time. A watch might have a calendar or moon phase indicator built into it.
Crown – The crown of your watch is what you use to change the time. It’s normally a little knob on the side of your watch that you’ll pull out slightly to adjust the time.
Bonus Term: Bezel
Okay, I know this one doesn’t start with a C. But it’s still important for you to know.
A bezel is an outer ring on the case of your watch. It might be made of the same material as the case, or it may be made of a different metal. Higher end watches may even have bezels embellished with precious gems.
How To Buy A Men’s Watch
When it comes to deciding on what kind of watch to get for yourself, or as a gift for someone else, here is a quick guide with some key things to keep in mind.
What Kind of Movement Does It Have?
I already discussed the differences between quartz, mechanical, and automatic watches so I won’t go into too much depth again.
The main thing to keep in mind is that mechanical or automatic watches are more expensive to buy and maintain.
Quartz watches tend to be better if you’re on a budget, and can still look great.
What Is The Case Size or Diameter?
This one really depends on the size of your wrist. So I’d recommend going to a jewelry store to try on a few different types of men’s watches and see what works well for you. If you’re a bigger guy, you might want a really large and hefty watch. If you’re smaller, you might want something that matches your proportions—more slim and lightweight.
For most guys, a watch with a diameter of around 40mm tends to be ideal though.
In addition to matching the watch face to your proportions, you also need to be mindful of the thickness of the watch—especially if you wear tightly fitted sleeves.
What Materials and Colors Is It?
Watches come in all different case and face combinations when it comes to materials and colors. It really comes down to personal preference and the kind of fashion statement that you want to convey.
Some people love all-black watches, because they’re easy to match with just about anything. While gold and silver are more traditional.
I’d recommend looking at what rings and other types of jewelry you usually wear. You want to find something that matches your wedding ring instead of clashing with it, for example.
What Band Type Do You Want?
A leather band or metal links are great for a professional or business setting.
Fabric or canvas is great in terms of comfort and durability, but style-wise it works for more casual settings.
Suede bands are a bit more modern and urban.
Plastic or rubber bands are more common on inexpensive or sport watches.
With leather and other fabrics, one thing to look for is whether the materials have been glued together or stitched; stitching can often hold together better than glued components.
What About Water Resistance?
Some watches are stamped “water resistant” which means they have some basic protection against humidity. They can handle some splashing while washing your hands, but you shouldn’t take a shower or swim with them on.
If you plan on submerging your watch, you should look for a watch with that’s rated to at least 50M or “5ATM”, which means it can maintain its seal up to 50 meters or about 164 feet.
How Much Do You Want To Spend?
There’s almost no limit to the amount that you can spend on a quality men’s watch.
No, literally. There are mechanical watches out there that cost upward of a million dollars!
It’s possible to find quality mechanical watches for under $300, but most are in the $300 to $700 range. While some luxury brands can go for thousands of dollars.
Big thanks to DAEM, who sponsored this post and made it possible for me to get this information to you.
The name DAEM is an anagram of the word “made.” They make watches for ambitious men on the journey to becoming self-made. It’s a watch for people who create opportunities for themselves and others.
DAEM’s watches are designed from scratch in Brooklyn, New York. They have a wide variety of designs, whether you’re looking for something casual or a bit more formal. Their timeless designs go well with almost any outfit.
What really sets DAEM apart is their emphasis on quality components and extensive testing. Their watches are built so they can be handed down to the next generation.
They use Swiss-made Ronda 505 movements for precise and accurate timekeeping. Their face is protected by an ultra scratch-resistant sapphire crystal glass. The straps on their watches feature genuine stitched Italian leather for added longevity and comfort.
DAEM watches have a diameter of 40mm, which I think looks great on just about any wrist. The watch isn’t too thick either. I love the slim profile of their watch, which measures just 9mm from case bottom to top.
Despite all these finer touches, DAEM watches are still extremely affordable for the everyday guy.
If you’re interested in checking out DAEM watches, use offer code DM20 to save 20% off . Visit DAEM website.
When you hear the word “improv,” you probably envision those brave actors who get up in front of a live audience—without a script, without a plan—and somehow pull together a scene out of thin air that makes people laugh.
But it turns out improv skills aren’t just about comedy. Becoming a skilled improvisor can be a huge asset in business, not to mention other high stakes environments like sports, combat, and even in social situations.
In this episode, my guest Bob Kulhan shares how the fundamental principles of improv can help skyrocket your success at work. We talk about how learning to observe and think more quickly on your feet can improve your influence, leadership skills, and even the morale and productivity of a team.
Improv is the ability to relax enough to let your natural intelligence come to the surface so that you are performing at the top of your intelligence in that moment.”
Bob Kulhan is an Adjunct Professor of Business Administration for The Fuqua School of Business, Duke University as well as an Adjunct Professor of Business for Columbia Business School, Columbia University. He also is the Founder & CEO of Business Improv®, a world-class leader in developing experiential learning programs for businesses. He is also the author of Getting to “Yes And”: The Art of Business Improv.
For 25 years Bob has performed and taught improvisation internationally at such places as Chicago’s famed Second City, Improv Olympic , Columbia College, London TheaterSports, The Banff Centre, The Australian Graduate School of Management, Koç University in Istanbul, The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, UCLA Anderson School of Management, Columbia University Business School and more. Since 1998, his business Improvisation programs have served bluechip clients like GOOGLE, PepsiCo, American Express, Capital One, Ford Motor Company, Procter & Gamble, the US Department of Defense, the US Naval Academy, just to name a few.
Improvisation thrives at the pivotal moment when planning and strategy meets execution.”
Why improv is often misunderstood
The baggage around “team building” improv in business
The real-world value of improvisation in other environments like sports, combat and social situations
How the core improve technique “yes and” works in business
Why “yes and” makes brainstorming sessions far more productive
Separating divergent thinking from convergent thinking
How to Stop Saying "Um", "Like", and "You Know" - YouTube
Everybody uses filler words occasionally. I’m definitely guilty of it myself!
You’ll even hear big celebrities like David Letterman or Terri Gross use filler words if you listen to them for a few minutes. It’s not a huge deal if it’s something that you only do every once and a while.
The problem is when your speech becomes so full of filler words that it starts to take away from your message. People might find themselves so annoyed by it that they begin to count every “like” or “um” that you’re saying instead of actually taking in your message.
If you think that might be the case for you, then I’ve got a few tips on how to stop saying um, like, you know, and other common filler words.
You might be wondering why we use filler phrases to begin with.
Think of the little spinning circle on your computer when it’s trying to load information. Our brains are basically computers, and when there’s a gap between your mind connecting one word to the next, it can create a natural space that filler words rush in to fill.
Filler words hurt presentations. But even if you’re not presenting, the way you speak still affects how people perceive you. We’ve all heard someone with that stereotypical “valley girl” accent that seems to use the word “like” every other word. Regardless of whether it’s true or not, overusing filler words can make you seem uncertain or less intelligent.
Dropping the filler words from your vocabulary can make you seem more organized and confident. People will take what you say more seriously and give you more respect. It’s sad that these superficial details can distract from an otherwise compelling message. But at the end of the day it’s just human nature.
Now you’re probably wondering how to avoid filler words exactly. Well here are a few of my favorite techniques that can help remove the “ums” and “ahs” from your vocabulary.
1. Get Comfortable With Silence
Silence is the reason that people feel compelled to use filler words to begin with.
We try to fill the silence in our speech with filler expressions because we worry about what it will sound like. We worry that people will think that we’ve lost track of what we were talking about.
But letting silence become a natural part of your speech actually adds emphasis and allows people to consider our message for a moment and let it sink in.
2. Record Yourself Speaking
If you aren’t sure if you use a lot of ums and likes in your speech, a good place to start is to record yourself speaking naturally for a few minutes.
Most cell phones have a recording app that you can use to record your voice.
If you don’t have access to any kind of microphone, you can just practice speaking a little louder than you usually would. This alone is a powerful tool that will allow you to hear your filler words and become more aware of them.
You’ll quickly see if filler words are a problem for you!
3. Replace Filler Words With The Word “Period” or “Pause”
Imagine that you’re ending the sentence with a period every time that you make a pause in your speech.
“Period” or “pause” are great words to use instead of filler words. This is one of my favorite techniques, and personally I think it’s one of the most powerful ones. It’s especially powerful if you struggle with “ums” and “ahs” between sentences.
Start by replacing the word “like” or “um” with the word period or pause. Actually say the word out loud.
If you would typically say “My favorite fruit is a banana. Uhhhh… that’s because bananas are yellow. Um… and yellow is my favorite color.”
“My favorite fruit is a banana. PERIOD. That’s because bananas are yellow. PERIOD. And yellow is my favorite color!”
It will feel pretty strange at first, but give it a shot. Obviously don’t start shouting the word PERIOD in the middle of sentences when you’re at work. But if you’re just talking with a family member or a friend, let them know what you’re trying to do and they’ll understand.
Once you’re comfortable saying the word period or pause out loud, then start doing it silently in your head. When you’re silently saying period or pause in your head, your mouth should be fully closed. Otherwise filler words tend to slip out. Imaging a fly buzzing around your mouth if that helps you keep it closed!
Eventually you’ll get to the point that you can drop the internal “period” and “pause” entirely and just be comfortable with the silence.
4. Stop And Take A Breath
Stop using filler words and just take a breath instead!
Taking a breath is a good option when you need to stop for a split second and think of an answer.
It will make you seem a lot more confident and composed.
Instead of saying “I want to get, like, Chinese food for dinner,” try this instead… “I want to get (inhale) Chinese food for dinner.”
5. Name Them And Shame Them
A great way to make yourself conscious of your filler words is to write down a list of them and keep them on your desk or somewhere that you’ll see them several times each day.
The repetition of seeing the filler words will help make your brain more aware of them in your everyday speech. After just a couple of days you might start to catch yourself saying filler words more often. Being aware of them is the first step toward eliminating them!
Everybody has different filler words, so having a list of your worst offenders will really help hone your attention in on them.
6. The “Uh” Bell
Get a family member or a friend to hold a bell or pull up an annoying buzzer noise on their phone. Have them listen to you talk, and get them to make a noise every time you use a filler word.
You’ll want to protect yourself from hearing the annoying noise and will naturally start to use filler words less and less often. This technique works so well that even just five minutes every day for a week will really help start to condition you.
I got the idea of the “uh” bell from Toastmasters, which is a group of worldwide clubs that focus on promoting public speaking and communication skills. If you really want to take your public speaking to the next level, I’d recommend looking for a Toastmasters group in your area.
7. Chunk Your Information
Filler words slip into our speech when we don’t know what we’re going to say in advance.
If you break your sentences into chunks ahead of time, you’re less likely to resort to using fillers.
Breaking your speech up into chunks in your head before speaking creates a natural rhythm. You’ll say a bunch of words, then take a pause. Then say another bunch of words, pause again, and repeat.
Like other techniques I’ve talked about, this one can take some work to get sounding natural while you’re speaking.
8. Make Eye Contact
You’re less likely to use filler words like “um” or “ah” if you’re looking someone directly in the eye.
Part of why we use filler words comes from a lack of confidence, and making eye contact with someone can help to boost your confidence.
The next time that you’re in a meeting, try speaking individually to people one on one and look them in the eye. See if this helps you to use fewer filler words than just speaking to the room as a whole.
9. Take A Moment To Calm Yourself Down
If you’re about to give a big speech (or even if you just have some big news to share with a family member or friend), take a few seconds to calm your nerves before you begin. I find that taking a deep breath is an excellent way to instantly reduce your stress and tension in a significant way. Just make sure not to inhale audibly so that it sounds like a big sigh to everyone around you!
If you find yourself getting flustered in the middle of your speech, don’t be afraid of taking a deep breath to regroup and reset. It’s often better than trying to struggle through for several more minutes without relaxing first.
10. Keep Your Hands Out Of Your Pockets
People perceive speakers who use non-verbal communication like hand gestures to be more confident and persuasive.
If you keep your hands in your pockets, you’re ignoring an important tool at your disposal. That tool is the ability to use gestures to emphasize your speech.
Having your hands in your pockets also makes you both look and feel insecure. And when you don’t feel confident, the number of filler words that you use tends to go up.
So don’t keep your hands in your pocket or feel like you need to hold your arms at your sides when you’re speaking. Just let your hands do their natural thing, and the words will come out better and with less filler.
11. Keep Your Sentences Short
You’ve probably listened to someone who seemed to do a lot of talking, but not actually get a lot of information across.
The longer that your sentences are, the more likely it is that you’ll start adding filler into them.
Short sentences sound a lot more confident and forceful. Plus they get the message across more clearly.
So try to keep your sentences short, sweet, and to the point!
In addition to cutting out filler words, you also want to cut out hedge words like “probably” “just” and “hopefully.” These words make it sound like you’re not confident about your ideas and are walking on eggshells in case you’re wrong or might offend somebody.
12. Preparation Is Key
The more that you’ve prepared what you want to say, the less likely you are to use filler words.
If you’re giving a speech, repeat it out loud or in your head a few times in advance before you need to actually deliver it.
If you’re going into a one-on-one meeting with your boss or have an important conversation to have with your significant other, think about the message that you want to get across. As well as what some of their most likely objections may be. That way you’ll be more prepared and won’t be caught off-guard if the conversation doesn’t go exactly as you had hoped.
The fresher the information is in your mind, the less likely it is that you’ll need to rely on filler words while you’re retrieving the information from your memory.
13. Realize That You’re Your Own Worst Critic
Nobody can tell that you’re nervous, and most people listening to you won’t pick up on all of the little mistakes that notice yourself making. That’s true whether you’re speaking to an audience or even a group of friends who knows you well.
Your pauses are also probably way shorter than they feel in your head. When we’re presenting, it can feel like we’re moving and talking in slow motion. Sometimes it can even feel like you see people in the audience blinking in slow motion while you’re talking.
A three second pause can feel like an eternity to you while you’re talking. But to other people in a meeting with you, it will probably look completely natural or go totally unnoticed.
So how do you stop saying um, like, uh, and other filler words? Now you should have a pretty good idea.
Hopefully at least one of the strategies I’ve talked about here will resonate with you. Feel free to try whichever you think will help the most. Or even combine several of them together.
Usually the hardest part is realizing that we have a problem with filler words. Now that you’re aware that you use filler words, you just need to make a conscious effort to reduce your use of them.
The good news is that it isn’t a hard habit for most people to overcome. For the first few days, you might constantly find yourself slipping up and adding “likes” and “ums” to your conversations. But if you really watch yourself, before long you can expect to see a big improvement in how you sound to other people.
As I mentioned earlier, it’s not the end of the world of filler words creep into your vocabulary from time to time. But now you’ve got the techniques to feel confident and more in control about how you’re coming across to other people.
In the age of social media, it’s now almost impossible to separate personal life from business. Whether we realize it or not, all of us have our own personal brands.
But if you’re an entrepreneur (or solopreneur) the question of whether you should inject your own personality into your business is even more of a consideration.
Today in the podcast, I talk with Chris Ducker about why everyone needs to lean in to embracing their personal brand. We discuss how The Rise of the Youpreneur (as Chris coined it) is already happening and why “making it personal” is a competitive advantage. Plus, we talk about how you can identify your strengths and how to craft your story so it helps attract the right people and weed out everyone else.
Your brand becomes what people say about you when you’re not around.”
A serial entrepreneur and author of the bestsellers, Virtual Freedom and Rise of the Youpreneur, Chris also owns and operates several businesses, which house over 350 full-time employees internationally. He’s also a trusted international business mentor, keynote speaker, podcaster, blogger, as well as the founder of Youpreneur.com, the world’s number one personal brand business education company, as well as being the self-proclaimed “Proudest Brit” doing business online.
People want to align themselves with people who are kickstarting and pushing movements.”
How leaning in to your personal brand can have big impacts
How being a Youpreneur gives you flexibility as your interests evolve
Attract the people who love what you’re doing and repel everyone else
When you build “the business of you,” it ultimately becomes future-proof
The balance between authenticity and oversharing
Being yourself can be a competitive advantage
Build a business around you, but not completely reliant on you