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A Bit of Optimism

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The future is always bright…if you know where to look. Join me each week for A Bit of Optimism - I talk to inspiring people who teach me more about life, leadership and general interesting things.
137 Episodes
Courage isn't about bravado. It's about staying calm. Li Karlsen knows a lot about staying calm under the most inhospitable conditions. One of the most accomplished freedivers in the world, Li is a record-holding champion at holding her breath and diving hundreds of feet below the ocean's surface. I wanted to ask Li what freediving has taught her about managing stress and fear. It turns out the lessons she's learned in the ocean work just as well above the water. Something as simple as changing the way we breathe can have a huge impact on our own fear and stress. A Bit of Optimism. To learn more about Li, check out: her AIDA stats @li_karlsen and her latest venture bkm.healthSee for privacy information.
In Part 2 of our conversation, Brené Brown, Adam Grant, and I continue our journey of out loud self-reflection. We discuss identifying our values, the two types of narcissists, explanation-based parenting, and exercising judgment over our own judgment. Listen to Part 1 here or wherever you listen to podcasts. A Bit of Optimism. For more on Brené and Adam's work, check out: adamgrant.netSee for privacy information.
To become more self-aware, sometimes you need a friend. Two friends is even better.Brené Brown and Adam Grant swing by the podcast for one of our trademark conversations with no plan. It turns into a deep dive about knowing our selves and how self-reflection is sometimes best done with others. What's a little metacognition between friends? A Bit of Optimism. For more from Brené and Adam, check out:  See for privacy information.
Building wealth is an unequal pursuit. Scott Galloway believes no one is getting more screwed financially than young people. Scott argues what the U.S. is doing to the economic future of its youth is nothing less than a war on the young. The massive transfer of wealth from young to old is a topic he explores in his new book The Algebra of Wealth. I was delighted to have Prof G back on the show to share what's been on his mind lately, and enjoyed veering far off topic to discuss love, money, and the nature of true A Bit of Optimism.To learn more about Scott and his work, check out: his book The Algebra of Wealth his podcasts at Prof G Media his TED TalkSee for privacy information.
Seven years after ISIS killed her son, Diane Foley met with one of his killers. Somehow, she was able to find the humanity in her son's murderer.  ISIS held journalist James Foley hostage for 2 years before publicly executing him in 2014, when they uploaded a YouTube video of James's beheading. After her son's murder, Diane Foley started The Foley Foundation, working to free American hostages held abroad, teach journalist safety, and inspire people to act with moral courage. I asked Diane how she found the moral courage to meet ISIS terrorist Alexanda Kotey and see him as a human being. If Diane could find the grace to connect with her son's murderer, the rest of us can find the moral courage to see the good in those with whom we so vehemently disagree. A Bit of Optimism. To learn more about Diane and her work, check out: her book American Mother The Foley Foundation            See for privacy information.
Humility stems from confidence. Confident leaders can admit when they're not the smartest person in the room. Blake Hall exemplifies the type of leadership we need more of in business. A former Army Ranger, Blake was awarded the Bronze Star for leading his platoon in combat during the Iraq War. Now he's the CEO and co-founder of, a digital wallet that simplifies online identity verification. I sat down with Blake to discuss how his combat experience informed his journey as an entrepreneur and why the smartest leaders lead with A Bit of Optimism.To learn more about Blake and his work, check out:            See for privacy information.
The jump from $250 million to $2 billion in revenue doesn't happen overnight. Over 25 years, John Burke transformed Trek Bikes into a global powerhouse — one mom-and-pop bike store at a time.The key to John's success is simple but powerful. Create value for others first, and you too shall be rewarded.  John and I discuss why the best way to win isn't to focus on "winning," but to focus on "play," and how the principles of The Infinite Game have guided his leadership. And he tells me why creative leadership is exactly what's missing in American A Bit of Optimism. To learn more about John and his work, check out: his book, A Bold Plan For America TrekBikes.comSee for privacy information.
War reporters risk their lives to document conflict. And yet, after a career living on battlefields, Sebastian Junger's closest brush with death was surviving an aneurysm. Sebastian's story of his sudden internal hemorrhage and making sense of what he saw while dying is the subject of his new book In My Time of Dying. As someone who usually writes as an outside observer, it's an atypical and personal exploration of death.I was privileged to speak with Sebastian about the fragility of life and why being necessary to others is one of our highest needs of all. A Bit of Optimism.To learn more about Sebastian and his work, check out:sebastianjunger.comhis book, In My Time of DyingSee for privacy information.
Starting a company from scratch isn't easy. Doing it multiple times seems downright impossible. Eric Ryan is one of those serial entrepreneurs. Most known as the co-founder of Method soaps, he's also the founder of Olly vitamins, Welly first aid kits, Cast jewelry, and he has more ventures planned.  I sat down with Eric to ask him about his creative process. What follows is a conversation about serial creativity and why reinvention is the key to repeating creative success. A Bit of Optimism. To learn more about Eric and his work, check out:      See for privacy information.
In 2005, Neil Strauss published The Game, a book about his years living in the pickup artist community. The Game sold millions of copies, stirred up huge controversy, and made Neil a bestselling author.  Neil has totally reinvented himself since writing The Game, and I wanted to talk with him about walking away from that identity of success. This led to a much deeper conversation about what success even is. Is meaning tied to outcomes, or is intention enough?  Neil and I don't see eye-to-eye on everything in this conversation, but I love talking with him because he challenges my ideas. I hope this episode challenges you as well, to continue questioning what the definition of success should be. A Bit of Optimism. To learn more about Neil and his work, check out: The Game: Penetrating the Secret Society of Pickup Artists  See for privacy information.
Society treats marriage like the end goal of human intimacy. Platonic friends can never be as important as romantic partners. What would life look like if we made friendship the goal? Journalist and producer Rhaina Cohen tackles this question in her book The Other Significant Others. She tells the stories of people who made platonic friends the closest people in their lives, doing things together like buying houses, executing a will, and raising children. I wanted to talk with Rhaina because redefining what friendship means in our lives lets us connect in new and deeper ways outside the rigid boundaries of a marriage or relationship. And it might take the pressure off our romantic partners to fulfill every one of our social A Bit of Optimism.To learn more about Rhaina and her work, check out: her book The Other Significant OthersSee for privacy information.
It's not just what we eat but how we eat it that counts. Eating the same meal in a different order can dramatically change how we feel! Glucose Goddess is the viral Instagram account of Jessie Inchauspé, who's inspired millions of people to change how they eat. With simple and easy dietary hacks, Jessie teaches people how to prevent glucose spikes -- large influxes of sugar into our bodies that make us tired, stress our organs, and cause us to age. Since adopting her eating habits, my energy has never been better. I was thrilled to talk with Jessie about creating Glucose Goddess and her personal story behind showing people a better way to A Bit of Optimism. For more on Jessie and her work, check out: @glucosegoddess  See for privacy information.
Relationships are hard. No matter how much we like, respect, or love someone, conflict seems inevitable. But even as we fight and disagree, we can also learn the skills we need to resolve our problems. For over two decades, Shawn McBride has helped thousands of couples do the work to strengthen their relationships. And he has tons of practical advice. Shawn sat down with me to discuss the three biggest problems couples face, why I'm a huge fan of his Instagram, and how love can keep relationships afloat, but it's often not A Bit of Optimism.For more on Shawn and his work, check out: @couples_counseling_center@shawnmcbridespeaksand  See for privacy information.
Loneliness is now an epidemic, with devastating impacts on our health. How can we rekindle the deep human connection we need now more than ever? For Rabbi Sharon Brous, this question is the focus of her work. Considered one of the most influential rabbis in the U.S., she's founded her own congregation and has led multiple White House faith events. In her new book, The Amen Effect, Sharon explores how grief and heartbreak can be gateways to truly seeing each other.Sharon and I talk about what it means to be present to someone else's pain and how a 2,000-year old ritual taught her the meaning of healing together. A Bit of Optimism.For more on Sharon and her work, check out:her book The Amen Effect her congregation iKARSee for privacy information.
Apple's "1984" commercial, the Energizer Bunny, and the launch of Air Jordans all have one thing in common. They're all creations of legendary ad man Lee Clow.As creative director of Chiat/Day, Lee spent decades making work that transcended advertising and became cultural icons. He shared a close relationship with Steve Jobs, and his Think Different campaign revitalized Apple, transforming it into the brand we recognize today.As someone whose career started in advertising, Lee's a hero of mine, and I was thrilled to sit down with him. He shares the entertaining stories behind his most iconic work and some insights into Steve Jobs's leadership, his rare ability to fearlessly embrace A Bit of Optimism.For more on Lee and his work, check out:Apple's "1984" Macintosh commercialLee in the Creative Hall of FameSee for privacy information.
Anxiety disorders affect Gen Z at astronomically higher rates than previous generations. There's plenty to be anxious about in the modern world. But the reason behind Gen Z's mental health crisis might be simpler than you'd think.According to social psychologist and NYU professor Jonathan Haidt, the answer lies in growing up with a combination of smartphones and social media. In his new book The Anxious Generation, he argues that Gen Z's anxiety is a symptom of being the first generation to go through puberty on Instagram and TikTok, with iPhones available to access them constantly.Thankfully, Jonathan believes the problem is solvable. He shares some advice he has for concerned parents and tells me how we can fix the mental health crisis affecting our kids in just a few years A Bit of Optimism.To learn more about Jonathan's work, check out:anxiousgeneration.comjonathanhaidt.comAnd for parents, visit:letgrow.orgSee for privacy information.
Most of us would count ourselves lucky to live to age 80. And yet, there are places on Earth where people regularly live to 100, suffer virtually no chronic disease, and live life with a sense of purpose.  These "Blue Zones" are the focus of Dan Buettner's work. He's a National Geographic explorer, an author, and a documentarian. He spent years traveling and studying the Blue Zones to understand why these 5 places on Earth produce some of the happiest, and longest-lived, people in the world.  Dan and I discuss why happiness is the key to longevity, creating Blue Zones in our own lives, and how a longer life can begin with simply rearranging your A Bit of Optimism. For more on Dan Buettner and his work, check out: his Netflix documentary Live to 100: Secrets of the Blue Zones or bluezones.comSee for privacy information.
As the private space industry races to colonize space for profit, where does NASA fit in to the equation? Laurie Leshin is just the person to answer that question. She's the Director of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the first female director in JPL's storied history. To her, NASA's future is defined by its mission — exploring the cosmos for the greater good of humankind. Laurie and I discuss the role of Space X and Blue Origin in the new space age and why NASA should set its sights on Mars, and flying to even deeper space beyond. A Bit of Optimism.To find out more about Laurie and her work, check out:jpl.nasa.govSee for privacy information.
If great leaders are those willing to suffer for their beliefs, Leopoldo Lopez is certainly a great leader. After he led the massive 2014 Venezuelan protests that swept the nation, the regime of Nicolás Maduro sentenced Leopoldo to over a decade of political imprisonment. He suffered four years of solitary confinement and psychological torture before he escaped.  Leopoldo tells me about his time in prison and how he cultivated the mental strength to endure. The story of how he smuggled himself into exile is a truly remarkable one. Most of us will never experience military prison, but what Leopoldo discovered about surviving enormous stress is something each of us can learn from.  This…is A Bit of Optimism.   To find out more about Leopoldo and his work, check out: worldlibertycongress.orgSee for privacy information.
The thrills of pleasure-seeking don't last long before we need even more. And when the excitement isn't enough, what is? Scott Harrison's life as an elite nightclub promoter was an unending cycle of drinking, drugs, models, and fast cars. After ten years, his vices caught up with him, and a health scare forced him to reflect on his life. Scott felt decadent, wasteful, and morally bankrupt. He decided to completely reverse course. Scott spent the next 2 years in West Africa on board a nonprofit hospital ship, where he saw a level of human suffering that led him to his true calling. Today, solving the global water crisis is Scott's life's work, and he's built one of the most trusted nonprofits in the world to do just that. His organization charity: water has raised over $750 million, helping more than 17.4 million people access clean drinking water. Scott shares with me the painful road that led to his transformation and why living a life of service can be a path toward redemption. A Bit of Optimism   If you would like to help solve the global water crisis, visit:   For more on Scott, check out: his book ThirstSee for privacy information.
Comments (54)

Nishma Manek

Good but too many ads

Jul 5th

Nishma Manek

Way too many adverts now. Such a shame

Jul 4th

Angela Wilson

Such a great conversation, going to download parts 1 and 2 again to listen one more time

Jul 2nd


Simon you can't get an intellectual like Scott G to understand true male friendship. It was nice of you to try, but Scott is the trope of the money=affection guy. He will never understand brotherhood. He's a boss archetype, not a battle buddy.

Jun 22nd

Fabiano PS

I hear 2 loud birds screaming how they want OTHERS to be great leaders. Hby?

Jun 19th

Fabiano PS

The ads are intense on this one! 2 ladies loud over my ear

Jun 18th

Nishma Manek

Crazy amount of ads... Such a shame

May 12th

Melisa Torres

Listening to this made me cry without realizing it. This is such an emotional episode. I resonate with Sara in so many levels. Thank you to both Sara and Simon for doing this episode. I don’t feel so alone anymore.

May 1st

Nishma Manek

Way too many adverts now!

Mar 4th

megan castignoli

Replace awkward with autistic. Every fiber of this episode is screaming autism 😂 Sincerely, Late Diagnosed Autistic Woman

Jan 30th

Mr kibria


Jan 27th

Aakash Amanat

It's truly refreshing to come across a post like this that brings a touch of positivity to our online space. In a world that can sometimes feel overwhelming with negativity and challenges, taking a moment to focus on the brighter side of things can make a world of difference. Optimism doesn't mean ignoring the difficulties we face, but rather, it's about acknowledging them while also holding onto the belief that we have the capacity to overcome and grow from them. It's like a ray of sunlight breaking through the clouds after a storm, reminding us that better days are ahead.

Aug 21st


what a great episode!

Jun 3rd

Gol Naaz

really really moving

Jun 2nd

Abbas Foroozanfar

it was really interesting to hear about his success

May 2nd

Mahliam Bitaraf

I was wondering if I could get the transcript of your podcasts. It is very helpful to learn English language to me.

Feb 21st

Charles Packwood

To boldly go where no man has gone before...

Feb 19th

Sama Esm

I need transcription of every podcast.

Jan 3rd

Azam Ghasemi

It was really great . Thanks Ms.Francesca and dear Simon😘🍎

Nov 6th

Mário Fonseca

😍 wonderful

Oct 22nd