Maurice Ashley is a Chess Grandmaster, a chess commentator, a national championship coach, and an author. In 1999 he earned the title of Chess Grandmaster, making him the first African American Grandmaster in the game’s history, and was later inducted into the US Chess Hall of Fame.  His latest book is titled Move by Move: Life Lessons On and Off the Chessboard.

 

Some interesting insights from this episode:

  • Going into any big moment, the best way to calm your nerves is to get into the right mindset which is that you can’t be better than yourself. Don’t focus on the results.  Just focus on being yourself and the rest will take care of itself.
  • He is able to play up to ten people simultaneously while blindfolded and win each game.
  • It’s important to cultivate a beginner’s mind and approach the game as if you’re viewing it for the very first time. That way you’re open to seeing something new and having a fresh perspective.
  • Upper echelon thinking is to keep growing every day. Today you need to be a little bit better than yesterday.  Your only race is against yesterday’s self.
  • Focus often dips when you’re ahead and your lowest concentration is often when you have the biggest advantage.
  • To stay mentally sharp and focused over the course of a prolonged game, you have to learn to continually check yourself. You have to be your own barometer. Counting breaths also helps to calm down and stay in the moment.
  • Retrograde analysis is envisioning a future state and then working backwards.
  • When conducting post mortems it’s important to categorize your mistakes so you can become more self aware of the patterns behind the mistake and preempt their happening in the future.

 

Notes:

Book: Move by Move: Life Lessons On and Off the Chessboard

Personal website: Maurice Ashley

Gary Hunt is a professional cliff diver.  He is a 10 time Red Bull World Series Champion with 43 overall victories and counting.  He is widely considered the greatest cliff diver in the history of the sport.

 

Some interesting insights from this episode:

  • Juggling was a practice he used to increase his focus and concentration and take his mind off the stress and pressure of the competition.
  • It took several years diving off increasing heights to build up the confidence and courage to jump off the 27 meter platform
  • He’s afraid of heights when there’s no water underneath
  • To prepare for a cliff dive, you have to practice routines off the 10 meter platform and then assemble the pieces together when doing the actual 27 meter dive.
  • His curiosity to learn new dives and explore what’s possible is what drove him to be the best in the world.
  • His greatest fear is losing his motivation to learn new things

Dr. BJ Miller is a longtime hospice and palliative medicine physician and educator. He currently sees patients and families via telehealth through Mettle Health, a company he co-founded with the aim to provide personalized, holistic consultations for any patient or caregiver who needs help navigating the practical, emotional and existential issues that come with serious illness and disability. Led by his own experiences as a patient, BJ advocates for the roles of our senses, community and presence in designing a better ending. His interests are in working across disciplines to affect broad-based culture change, cultivating a civic model for aging and dying and furthering the message that suffering, illness, and dying are fundamental and intrinsic aspects of life. His career has been dedicated to moving healthcare towards a human centered approach, on a policy as well as a personal level.

 

Some interesting insights from this episode:

  • “I had a basic hunger and curiosity to understand the world in which I was living and to understand myself”.
  • Early on, as he was recovering from the accident with three less limbs, he forced himself to reframe his situation. That life wasn’t going to be extra difficult going forward but just uniquely difficult. And that suffering is something we all deal with in our own way.  Eventually his emotions would catch up with his mind whereby he truly felt that way.
  • Studying art history in college taught him perspective. It taught him how he was in control as to how he perceived his life and how he framed his life experience.
  • In palliative care, you don’t just treat the pain, you treat the suffering.
  • “If you don’t know the depths of sorrow, you aren’t going to know the peaks of joy.”
  • As dying patients reflect back upon their lives, it’s not so much regret over what decisions they made but how they imbued whatever decisions they made. Did they do it with love, did they infuse their spirit into whatever they were doing. That’s what matters most.

 

Notes:

The Center for Dying and Living

Book: A Beginner’s Guide to the End: Practical Advice for Living Life and Facing Death

TED Talk: What Really Matters at the End of Life

Jason Belmonte is an Australian pro bowler. He has won 31 PBA titles including a record 15 major championships.  He is one of two bowlers in PBA history to have won the Super Slam, winning all five PBA major titles. He has been named PBA Player of the Year seven times.  He is widely considered one of the greatest bowlers of all time.

 

Some interesting insights from this episode:

  • When he was just 10 he told his mother he planned to one day bowl 100 perfect games which he actually accomplished a couple years ago.
  • He chose to pursue bowling over the more popular sports like rugby and cricket given his love for the game despite the fact that it would never be as lucrative.
  • He was often teased and mocked for his two handed style of bowling but he let his impressive scores shut the naysayers down.
  • His unique two handed technique allowed him to spin the ball twice as fast as most other bowlers which allowed him to strike with much greater frequency.
  • He has never had a coach and has always been self-taught, learning from his own mistakes and continually improving his game.
  • A turning point that allowed him to begin dominating the sport is when he shifted his mindset from being worried about failure when everything was on the line to just being in the moment and enjoying himself.
  • “Excellence is working and striving toward a better version of yourself every single day.”

 

Show Notes:

Jason Belmonte website

YouTube videos:

Jason Belmonte YouTube Channel

Nascar bowling: fastest strike ever recorded

Bowling trick shots with Dude Perfect

John Mather is a Senior Astrophysicist in the Observational Cosmology Laboratory at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. He is also the Senior Project Scientist on the James Webb Space Telescope. His research centers on infrared astronomy and cosmology. He was the chief scientist for the Cosmic Background Explorer and received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2006 for his precise measurements of the cosmic microwave background radiation.  He has served on advisory and working groups for the National Academy of Sciences, NASA, and the National Science Foundation.

 

Some interesting insights from this episode:

  • The James Webb Space Telescope uses infrared technology which allows us to see through the dust clouds to see stars being born.
  • “Maybe the formation of life doesn’t require a rare and exotic coincidence but maybe it’s something that always happens when given the chance.”
  • Like Neil deGrasse Tyson, John visited the Hayden Planetarium as a kid which ignited his early passion for astronomy.
  • He didn’t have his entire career mapped out but rather followed his curiosity and said yes when opportunity would present itself.
  • While society holds the theorists in higher regard than the experimentalists like John, that never deterred him.
  • Stephen Hawking called his discovery of hot and cold spots in the cosmic background radiation “The most significant scientific discovery of this century if not of all time.”
  • COBE took 15 years from inception to launch and the James Webb 27 years but John was able to stay the course on both, keeping himself and his teams motivated along the way.
  • His secret to success isn’t being the smartest one in the room and always knowing the answer but rather not being afraid to ask others.

Joaquin “Jack” Garcia is the former undercover FBI agent who infiltrated the Gambino crime family of Cosa Nostra in New York for nearly three years, resulting in the arrest and conviction of 32 mobsters.  He worked on over 100 major undercover investigations over his 26 year career.  He wrote a New York Times bestseller called Making Jack Falcone: An Undercover FBI Agent Takes Down a Mafia Family

 

Some interesting insights from this episode:

  • Being a good undercover is not something you can learn. It’s something you’re born with.
  • Undercover skills include thinking quick on your feet, being comfortable around all types of people, knowing how to read people, being quick witted, and likeable.
  • Sometimes he was juggling upwards of 6 different identifies and roles at the same time.
  • The Gambino case led to the arrest and conviction of 32 mobsters.
  • He worked on over 100 major undercover investigations over his career.
  • “Excellence is being the best in what you set out to do. Look in the mirror and see if you’ve given it 100%. And if the answer is yes, then you have attained excellence.”

Show Notes

Book: Making Jack Falcone: An Undercover FBI Agent Takes Down a Mafia Family

Rob O’Neill is a Navy SEAL combat veteran with decorations which include two Silver Stars, four Bronze Stars with Valor, a Joint Service Commendation Medal with Valor, three Presidential Unit citations, and two Navy/Marine Corps Commendations with Valor.  He is a public speaker, TV personality, philanthropist, and cofounder of the Special Operators Transition Foundation, a charity supporting special operations military personnel making the difficult transition from the battlefield to the boardroom. He is a New York Times bestselling author of The Operator and his latest book is titled: The Way Forward: Master Life’s Toughest Battles and Create Your Lasting Legacy.

 

Some interesting insights from this episode:

  • You learn a lot more from failure than you do from success.
  • Life isn’t about a big goal but having a series of achievable smaller goals.
  • Whatever is going on in your life that’s not working, learn from it and get over it. It’s only dead weight and not helping to fixate on it.
  • The worse thing you can say when you’re leading a team is this is the way we’ve always done it. There can always be a better way.
  • If you’re worrying about something and your worrying isn’t going to change it, stop wasting your energy on it.
  • Sometimes in life it doesn’t really matter why you’re here, you’re just here, so get over it.
  • “Excellence is taking care of your family and teaching your children to be good people and then repeat the process.”

Show Notes

Book: The Way Forward: Master Life’s Toughest Battles and Create Your Lasting Legacy

Website: Robert O’Neill

Barry Sonnenfeld is a director, producer and writer who broke into the film industry as the cinematographer on the Coen Brothers’ Blood Simple, Raising Arizona, and Miller’s Crossing.  He was the director of photography on Throw Momma from the Train, Big, When Harry Met Sally, and Misery.  Barry made his directorial debut with The Addams Family and has directed several other films including Addams Family Values, Get Shorty, and the Men in Black trilogy.  His television credits include Pushing Daises, for which he won an Emmy, and Netflix’s A Series of Unfortunate Events.  His memoir is titled: Barry Sonnenfeld, Call Your Mother: Memoirs of a Neurotic Filmmaker.

 

Some interesting insights from this episode:

  • Most movie directors use the camera as a recording device whereas he uses it as a story telling device.
  • Lots of cinematographers have tried to become directors but have failed. Part of Barry’s success making the transition was hiring a world-class cameraman so he could focus on the actors and other areas as opposed to micromanaging the cameraman.
  • The key to successful directing is to hire people better than you, answer everyone’s questions to ensure a consistent tone, and feign self-confidence.
  • He’s known to be very neurotic but neurosis is a superpower when directing a project.
  • His philosophy about comedy is that nobody on the show should think they’re working on one. The formula is to have an absurd situation or an absurd character played for reality.
  • “Excellence is being capable, responsible, and the willingness to make the tough decision.”

 

Show Notes

Book: Barry Sonnenfeld, Call Your Mother: Memoirs of a Neurotic Filmmaker