New York Times bestselling author Julie Lythcott-Haims says she is “so American it hurts.”  Why so much pain in this American success story? How did this daughter of a prominent black physician and white teacher come to loathe herself despite her academic success as an undergraduate at Stanford and a law student at Harvard, followed by her professional accomplishments as Stanford’s Dean of Freshmen and a best-selling author? In our conversation about her new memoir, “Real American,” Lythcott-Haims reveals, with powerfully poetic transparency, how she came to internalize the often shocking stories of the racial prejudice she experienced growing up as a biracial black woman – how they became embedded in her, and how she, ultimately, became comfortable in her own skin. Featuring a conversation about “The Talk” that Lythcott-Haims and so many black parents  give their children – the one designed to keep them safe without crushing their self-esteem.  

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Michael visits one of the most influential and beloved figures in the field of psychotherapy on the eve of the release of his memoir:  Becoming Myself.  At 86, after a recent health scare, The Atlantic magazine wrote:  "As a psychotherapist, Irvin Yalom has helped others grapple with their mortality. Now he is preparing for his own end."  Not quite.  Yalom's legions of fans will be gratified to hear his impassioned response to that analysis in this intimate Wavemaker Conversation.  He is still actively creating ripples, a therapeutic concept he explains here and which any of us can apply to our lives. He also shares a never-before-heard story about a recent patient who believed she was "beyond repair."  In Dr. Yalom's orbit, it's hard to imagine that anyone is beyond repair. 

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6’2” Carey Kauffman, a March Madness veteran of the Duke University Blue Devils, couples her insights from a life in basketball with her experience as the mother of two children born with rare diseases.  Kauffman, the daughter of an NBA all-star. will help make you one of the most insightful people in the room during the Final Four – and help give your kids an edge if they play the game.  But it’s her mission in life, which she pursues through her company WellSelf 360, that will inspire you.  She applies what she learned on the court to empowering those who suffer from rare and chronic health conditions.  If you listen to the entire episode, I think you’ll find Carey Kauffman’s resilience is contagious.

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You may be tempted to scream -- “don’t do it, Jack!” -- at the outset of this podcast.  My conversation with author Jack Gantos, at the Nantucket Book Festival, begins with a choice he made in 1971 that led him to a horrifying year-and-a-half as an inmate in a federal penitentiary.  He describes the crime and the time in unforgettable detail.  Where did he find the resilience to survive prison, catapult himself to college, and become a prolific and acclaimed author?  It begins with reading, which taught him how to “spelunk down” into the emotions.  Gantos won the Newbery Medal for his book “Dead End in Norvelt,” and other honors for his young adult fiction and his riveting memoir, “Hole in My Life.”  This is a long episode – 50 minutes.  I believe you’ll agree that listening to Gantos tell his story is worth every second.

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Bob Chapman turned a small, teetering 19th century manufacturing company that served the beer industry, into a 2.5 billion dollar enterprise. He owes his success to a traumatic experience, which forced him to find value that others couldn’t see. He figured out how to protect thousands of American jobs, rejecting the option of cheap, foreign labor. And he developed a new way of leading – focused on empathetic listening -- that he believes can help businesses, families, and our nation thrive. His journey as the Chairman of the Barry-Wehmiller companies is worth hearing and sharing.  So is his book, "Everybody Matters:  The Extraordinary Power of Caring for Your People Like Family."

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Former NFL Head Coach Dan Reeves, who led the Atlanta Falcons to their only other Super Bowl (and the Broncos to three) takes us beyond the play-by-play.  His 101 on the “silent count” – essential for the offense to communicate when the stadium noise is deafening – is a perspective changer.  Plus – how to be ready for the Patriots’ master of surprise – Bill Belichick.  Reeves shares what he learned playing under the Cowboys' legendary Tom Landry, including what Landry noticed watching game film that others would miss.  Cameos from Georgia’s own Super Bowl champ Bill Curry and Nick Buonico

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After 52 years of war, on the eve of the signing of a peace deal between the Colombian government and the FARC guerilla force, I speak with William Ury, author of a seminal book on negotiating, Getting to Yes.  Ury was part of the Colombian President’s “kitchen cabinet” of peace advisers. He recounts a risky, secret move, deep in the jungle, that jump-started the peace process, and an exercise critical to the peace effort – in effect, writing your adversary’s victory speech, as well as your own.  Ury speaks to us by phone from Cartagena, site of Monday’s historic signing.  

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Introducing Cathy Salit -- a master of improvisation. Salit started improvising young. When she was only 12, she was so miserable at school, her mother convinced her to drop out and create her own school.  She has been improvising ever since.  Like any great improviser, when Salit sees a “crappy” situation, she sees an opportunity to create something better.  Do you know what happens when you take that improvisational mentality out of the theater and into almost any other workplace? That’s what Salit reveals in her new book, “Performance Breakthrough:  A Radical Approach to Success at Work.” What she shares during our half-hour conversation will, I believe, help make your work life a more satisfying production – and your home life too. 

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“The Sports Gene” author, David Epstein, joins me for a conversation that will empower young athletes, their parents, and coaches.  Our launching point is the case of late blooming QB Carson Wentz, the number 2 pick in the 2016 NFL draft.  Did Wentz rise to the top despite the fact that he was a late bloomer, or because of it?  The answer has profound implications for youth sports. Epstein’s superb synthesis of sports science studies (combined with his personal experience as an athlete) finds that, in most sports, specializing early puts young athletes at a disadvantage as they approach college age.  What is the best approach to maximizing a person’s athletic potential?  Epstein provides actionable intelligence on the key concept of “trainability.”  And it does not depend on 10-thousand hours of practice.

 

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April 20, 2016

The Comma Queen

Mary Norris tells me she prefers to be called a Prose Goddess.  But Comma Queen has stuck.  Norris, a copy editor at The New Yorker for more than 30 years, is author of Between You & Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen – just out in paperback.  Mary Norris -- with her wonderful sense of humor – helps make us feel more secure in our use of language.  She demystifies fine points of grammar and punctuation.  She liberates us to break rules that were never really rules to begin with.  Her journey -- from a teenager hired to check swimmers for foot-fungus at a public pool in Cleveland -- to published author -- is worth sharing.  So is her experience, recounted 23:30 into our conversation, of learning that her brother was becoming her sister (a singer/songwriter known by many New Yorkers) – which leads us back to grammar and the debate over the correct pronoun for transgendered individuals.  

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