Eric sits down with Bret Easton Ellis; the two Gen X’ers graduated from rival high schools in a disaffected 1982 Los Angeles that inspired Ellis’ first novel “Less Than Zero”. In this conversation, they reflect on LA, Generation X, and the different notions of childhood held by Gen x and Millennials. 

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Transcript

Eric Weinstein: [00:00:00] Hello, you found the portal. I’m your host, Eric Weinstein. And today we’re here with a fabulous author who many of you will know? Bret Easton Ellis famous from less than zero and American psycho. And now the book white. Welcome. 

Bret Easton Ellis: [00:00:21] Thank you for having me, Eric. 

EW: [00:00:24] So, I don’t know exactly, uh, how to approach this, but one of the, one of the frames that I have is that we’re sitting here in a very unusual city, that many people don’t understand how important it is and what makes it so unusual.

And one way I might frame that is that because Los Angeles is the home of the entertainment industry, there’s a weird way in which this is the only city in the world in which I could make the argument that everyone’s some. Somehow partially lives here, whether they know it or not, they’ve consumed the street scenes, which are used as backdrops for movies and TV. And they have an idea of what the ethos of the places, which sort of seeps into the screen writers, uh, mindsets, no matter who they are and in any way that LA is different, it does broadcast itself to the world. Does that resonate with you? And can you add anything? 

BEE: [00:01:13] Well, I think it, it maybe resonated that way for me maybe 10 or 15 years ago, a lot more. Uh, I think, uh, the entertainment industry is not centralized just to Los Angeles anymore, or at least that’s the way we look at entertainment. Uh, it seems to be this kind of global thing and not wholly concentrated in Los Angeles where it used to be though. Now you, you might have to, uh, say that it is because Disney is the entertainment.

Business Disney now owns everything. That’s the conglomerate that is going to produce an inordinate amount of content for the rest of the world. So maybe it actually has come back here and is centered here. Um, but you know, it’s strange, there are so many. The entertainment business or the notion of the entertainment business is now this global thing, whether it’s China, whether it’s India has a massive, it has the biggest entertainment complex in the world. The highest grossing movies. I mean the biggest. You know, 

EW: [00:02:24] but that’s a diff the consumer base for, uh, Bollywood is very different. So if you’re in Indonesia, for example, or if you’re in East Africa, you’d be much more likely to run into somebody. I mean, famously, uh, Raj Kapoor and, you know, some of his songs are known by all Russians.

Right. But that hasn’t had the same impact. I think. I mean, I think you could take the biggest films, like a show lay and people in the U S have never even heard of they 

BEE: [00:02:48] haven’t. That’s correct. Um, but. Uh, I think it’s because, uh, LA has been so central in our minds to the entertainment business since its inception, I guess, in the twenties or, or, or before that, that we, uh, that’s where all of our associations are.

They’re all. When we think about the movie industry, when we think about the entertainment industry that is just been around for so long that we always think that LA uh, we, we connect LA with that. Um, and I also think that it’s, um, Um, it has a lot to do with, uh, the way LA looks as a kind of a parrot paradise, a kind of identic Eden, like, um, uh, Uh, location. Um, and of course we’ve seen so much of it in so much of our, of the content we’ve consumed over the years. We’ve seen its roads. We’ve seen its hillsides. We’ve seen its beaches. We’ve seen its deserts. Um, that, that, that might be one reason why we’re, uh, we, we connect LA with. The business of entertainment?

EW: [00:03:57] Well, I mean, I think you just, if off what you’re saying, if I just thought about street names, you know, why is it that a Mulholland shows up in Tom Petty’s free fallen or is the title of a famous David Lynch film? You know, sunset Boulevard, all of these. Streets, you know, only New York might have in some sense as iconic street names, which are sort of projected out through the industry.

So that’s one indicator to me that, um, you know, if I thought about the streets in Houston, I have no idea what the name of, of important streets in Houston might be. 

BEE: [00:04:32] No, nor do I, um, yeah, I mean, we’ll look so much at the talent, um, that creates, uh, this content of course lives here. Uh, and they reference everything about the place in their work.

And, you know, look, I have to say as someone who grew up out here and someone who has written about this in about three of my novels were Holy Holy set in Los Angeles. Um, it is. The most, um, creatively, suggestive place that I’ve ever lived. And I’ve lived in New York and I’ve lived in Vermont and I’ve lived in Virginia and I’ve spent a long time in England and in Paris, nothing really compares to. Los Angeles in terms of how it’s activated my mind and made me want to write. Um, and, uh, I still feel that way. I’ve always, I felt that way since I was a teenager. There’s a sense of possibilities and a sense of freedom here because of the constant mobility and especially the freedom I associated with being a young person in LA and having access if I wanted to, to be at the beach. And then an hour later, be the mountains and maybe an hour and a half later be at the desert that this whole thing was still available to me. And I had the mobility to, um, get to all these places and that activated a kind of freedom in my mind that wasn’t only physical, but it was also creative. And it’s very hard to explain that to people. I mean, when I talk to writers that I knew who grew up in New York or grew up in the suburbs, um, I don’t know if they really, uh, can access. That. And I, uh, I think about that a lot. 

EW: [00:06:19] It seems to me that in somehow in some ways, um, that huge number of different environments really defines the place. And because LA doesn’t have in what I consider to be a good general description in the world, we don’t think about it the way we think about Paris, for example, or, you know, even New York, uh, People very often don’t realize that this is like, you know, the home in part of the Rand corporation or that there’s an oil field that partially defines the city.

It’s not a very easy to understand place. And I thought that in part, um, you know, just as you’re talking about the natural environments of Los Angeles, also the ability to go back and forth between skid row and sunset strip and to see the sort of. Ways in which, um, the, you know, the illusion of the Hollywood Hills and the dark underbelly make this place just far more generative and, you know, dark, uh, it’s one of these places that, that fits. The, um, description of sunny place for shady people? 

BEE: [00:07:25] Well, that’s what I thought about a lot when I was growing up out here in the seventies. Right. And particularly in the early eighties, um, uh, when, uh, for example, Venice is a, is a good place to start. I mean, Venice in the seventies was, um, slum, dark varied, dark place.

You didn’t go to Venice after night. Uh, you didn’t even go to the Venice during the day. But I remember they started opening a few restaurants. There were a few art galleries. Uh, I remember at 72 market street was one of the first, very first restaurants, a very upscale kind of piano bar restaurant in a kind of derelict alley. And there was something kind of very Los Angeles about that. Very thrilling right off beach. And, um, And Los Angeles really does have the kind of imagination that allows that to open there and then flourish into other restaurants, began opening. I remember Wolfgang puck opened shin WAM on, on I think, main street. And then everything kind of started to flower out of that, but that was not unusual because I remember. A lot of times there would be, especially as a club kid and go into a lot of clubs, you go to these really cool chic clubs in the sleaziest parts of downtown in the, the lower, lower reaches of Wilshire Boulevard. And, um, there was just something kind of fabulous about an environment that allowed all of this to kind of coexist and, uh, you know, Melrose for example, was a place, a strip that I spent a lot of my adolescents on, and they were very high end stores next to, you know, discount clothing stores next to vintage sunglasses stores next to the seediest bar imaginable. And the fact that all of this could coexistence on a block was really thrilling to me. And you know, it just didn’t exist anywhere else that I’ve lived. Uh, in the world and it’s something that I still appreciate, uh, about the city though, of course, LA I think like all places now to a degree, and I don’t want to grossly generalize about it, but you know, we’re sitting here in a Hollywood basically, uh, in a new-ish high rise and all around us is. Massive construction. Yeah, they’re high rises going up all around Coalinga, all around coal, right by the ArcLight theater here and sunset Boulevard. The sunset Boulevard from my childhood is kind of gone and has become a corridor, not unlike some of the canyons of Manhattan and not unlike the Wilshire corridor in a lot of ways. There is massive expansion and massive building here. And also done on that, on that kind of global style free a zone that is so popular wherever you go now around the world where you’ll, I mean, I know they just redid ’em few years ago, they redid, uh, the Bel air hotels. Restaurant and bar, which was one of the more fabulous enclaves here. A very mysterious you’d walk through a forest over a pond. I guess they were ducks or geese, swans. They were swans. And then you’d enter into this mysterious. A dark dark bar from out of the thirties and a very kind of charming, conservative dining room, um, very, very old school. And when they re when they did the resign, uh, redesign, it basically looked like any airport restaurant in. Finland or in, in London or wherever it just something’s happening. And as someone who tours a lot, uh, I see it all over the place as kind of global style taking over and the, and the restaurant, the bar, the Bellaire, uh, now resemble. Pretty much everywhere else as does. If we’re talking about this, a Spargo in Beverly Hills was Wolfgang puck recently felt he had to re redesign in the same anonymous global style, you know, uh, kind of already black and white photographs. Um, uh, these futuristic like Tiki torches. I don’t know. Um, so the LA that I think you and I are referencing and that you can still find a pockets around here, um, is like everywhere else. It seems, uh, kind of feeding into the new. Generic global. 

EW: [00:12:14] And in a way, I sort of agree with this. However, uh, I’ve been coming here, um, visiting in hotels and there are ways in which the old weirdness of LA keeps sort of, you know, like, like the Rose in Spanish, Harlem popping through the concretes that sort of dark underbelly does a recur.

So I was just for example, at this, um, Is it the Saddleback ranch, which, uh, has a mechanical bull on sunset strip. Right. And I was at a table and a lovely looking young woman says, you know, do you mind if I sit down and that sort of thought that was odd seeding alone. She’s like really quite complementary, very friendly. I just turned to her and I said, are you a working girl? And she says, yes. How would you like to go back to the hotel? And I said, why are you doing this? And she turned to me and she said, well, I’ve just got my real estate license, but unfortunately this month is a little slow. And I just thought, well, that’s a conversation. That’s not so easy to have anywhere in the world. 

BEE: [00:13:18] No, it’s not. And it reminds me a lot of Hollywood and it reminds me a lot of, a lot of actors, uh, that I met out here when I was. Casting a couple of big projects. Um, yeah, that is very much an LA thing. This sort of gay for pay hookup culture. Sure. Right.

That is big among actors. We are in terms of the, you know, the bartending gig didn’t work out, they’re auditioning tomorrow. They, you know, they really need some cash and, um, yeah. LA operates. But Ellie has always operated that way. I wrote a novel about it and less than zero, there is, um, uh, ways that kids can make, uh, payback they’re drug dealers, and I’m one of them is prostituting themselves. And I had heard stories when I was at Buckley about a couple of, uh, Brothers. I knew who, if not exactly having sex with older men, you know, a little teasy, maybe they strip, maybe they’d put on a little bit of a show, not necessarily have sex with, but there’s always been this 

EW: [00:14:25] kind of gray area between sex.

BEE: [00:14:28] Well, also 

EW: [00:14:29] class class listening, 

BEE: [00:14:31] you know, also I was talking to very big mogul, huge mogul, uh, Well, and I was in a conversation, uh, at. Cocktail party. And someone asked me, uh, where do you think the best looking people are? And I said, well, I think, I don’t think, yeah, Italy, Sweden. And then this mogul who’s over listening and said it’s LA LA Angeles.

This person’s very intelligent. Has very good taste. Insanely wealthy and I thought about it and I now believe that’s true. So this intersection of money, sex whoring is it almost feels like an inevitable thing. And I’ve written about this twice and I, and I’m just kind of realizing this now or remembering this right now in this moment. Not that I. You know, I, I don’t think about this all the time is that both of the narratives of my two LA novels, less than zero, and then 25 years later, I wrote a sequel to a called Imperial bedrooms where we kind of figure out where everyone’s landed after they were 18, both center around the center, this the central metaphor of prostitution in a way. And that, and beauty and. Money and that these, with the things that seem so suggested to me about LA, I don’t know. It means it, it, it ties back into the entertainment industry. It ties back into exploitation, 

EW: [00:16:03] right. 

BEE: [00:16:04] And exploiting beauty and. Youth and a certain kind of, uh, handsomeness, if you’re a man and a certain kind of beauty, if you’re a woman and that also being for so many people, um, their, uh, their calling card, uh, it’s what they really depend on.

I remember talking to a very good looking actor and, uh, someone that made a joke about, Oh, it’s not going to be fun to see you get old. And just in this broey to end, he was devastated. Absolutely devastated completely. And that, um, I don’t know, that kind of mentality, um, really becomes the emotional basis for the town in so many ways. So it’s not, it’s not strange. That happens because there is that, that intersection of, you know, beauty money exploitation is just, you know, it lends itself. It lends itself to war, 

EW: [00:17:00] right? Well, this is, this is, um, this is the thing. LA really does. In some sense, live it’s new or at a level that would be fictional somewhere else.

I mean, I think about, so there’s this very strange coincidence that you and I came from essentially the exact same Milu we both graduated high school in 1982. Yes, we were both at. In the same sort of private school mill you, I believe that we knew people in common, although I’ve forgotten who they, who they might be. And I very much had the sense that when less than zero debuted, that you would privatized my childhood and that 

BEE: [00:17:44] it was this, 

EW: [00:17:46] it was this period, which if somebody hadn’t written about it would never be believed. 

BEE: [00:17:51] And it. 

EW: [00:17:52] The reason I’m trying to get at this, I guess, is that I think it had an importance that we didn’t understand while we were living through it.

So I wanted to try some theories with you because I think that you are, since the poet Laureate of. Whatever this firmament was, um, which is sort of Los Angeles, gen X. And then I’ll tie it back if, if, if successful to, um, to what I think its significance is for us now, because I don’t, I think it’s underrated, um, as, as a sort of a point of departure with the past. So I guess what my theory is, Is that, um, if you look out at this backdrop behind, behind us, imagine a neutron bomb went off, which was the divorce bomb. And it started with no fault divorce in 1970 with Ronald Reagan who himself was divorced, signing this thing into law. And if you look at a graph of like divorce rates per. Um, you know, whatever a thousand women it’s got this weird sort of it’s declining, declining, declining, and it just skyrockets for the entire 1970s before it starts with wanting to decline again. And we lived through this. Yes. Well, I’m asking, do you remember that suddenly, like everybody’s parents were on the rocks that suddenly the parents disappeared, that there were like children supposedly of privilege roaming the streets and that it was. Really dark. 

BEE: [00:19:25] I, well, that’s a lot. Um, and my sister, 

EW: [00:19:29] no, 

BEE: [00:19:29] no, certainly remember, um, a lot of divorces, uh, becoming much more aware of them as I entered into junior high school. Uh, my parents’ marriage was very strained by the time I was 15 and I realized that they were going to split, uh, My sisters and I were however relieved because there was so much tension in the house caused by numerous things.

My, including my father’s alcoholism. So that was the, the divorce wasn’t the problem. The marriage was the problem. So that was so I. The darkness. And I have to say, as a teenager, I wished that I had, and I did too. Enjoy this mill you much more than I did, but I was an alienated kid and I was haunted. Uh, one of the reasons I was so alienated, it was, I was gay, which was V even living in liberal Los Angeles. In 1980, 81, even when it seemed gayness was in the culture and announcing itself in specific ways with whether it was David Bowie or Prince or American gigolo or Calvin Klein advertisements, you still weren’t out as a teenager. And so that alienates you and you begin to see the world in a slightly darker place. Or I think you begin to see the world. As it really is. You see through the facade of it, um, uh, you see through kind of the poses everyone is making in order to get through. And you, you really see the lie of high school in so many ways when you’re gay and you’re standing on the sideline and no song is about you and no movie is about you and you have to kind of reprocess everything. So that was a bit of the darkness of my, uh, LA experience divorce. Sure. Um, But, um, I think that for me, it was, it was, uh, Being gay and being a writer. I didn’t know anyone else that was writing a novel. I hadn’t written one already when I was 13 or 14. And those two things really did separate me from the rest of the crowd. Um, it’s not to say that I didn’t participate. I went to parties. I even had a girlfriend. Um, I went to the beach. I had my group of close male friends. I danced at parties 

EW: [00:21:51] at what point? Always or six. 

BEE: [00:21:53] Got it. Seven. Yeah. Um, and it was nothing that ever, uh, I ever agonized over. It was something I just kind of accepted and said, okay, this is another thing that I’ve got to deal with.

How am I going to navigate through this? And it really was never something that tortured me or I felt I had to like. Tell other people or come out to anybody. So I had a very even keel acceptance of that. Um, but it does separate you, you are only 4% of the population. There isn’t a large pool of, you know, of other people like that. Um, so that was, that was my burden in a way, but, um, uh, I also did it there, there was a kind of darkness in LA in the late seventies and into the early eighties, I felt it, I saw it in music. I saw it as a kind of, it was minimalism. And it was a kind of numbness that was being explored in a lot of the art and a lot of the music, certainly in part of the punk scene and in the new wave scene. Um, but it was a numbness that had a fever lean as well. It was numbness as a feeling. This is beauty and I completely, that to me was what. Influence less than zero. This notion that numbness was a feeling and that numbness was something that you could enter into and, and play with and try to express in some ways. And that was where I was at in my late teenage years. In LA, that was what was on my mind all the time. And that’s what influenced the style and the tone of lesson zero. If that makes any sense, 

EW: [00:23:38] this is the weird thing about it. I’ve never heard anyone say this numbness is home to me. Like there’s a weird way.

Uh, I found myself driving the Ventura freeway, uh, After college. And I had gone to some party that hadn’t quite worked out. Aaron was unclear what the address was and whether somebody was squatting in somebody else’s, I think had all of these weird characteristics and the emptiness just washed over me. And I think Tom petty was playing on the, on the radio and I just felt I’m totally numb. I’m completely alienated. And I feel completely home. 

BEE: [00:24:20] That is what I felt, but I do think that might be very specific to our generation. So 

EW: [00:24:29] that’s, I think our generation is weirdly. The key to a lot of what we see going on in general, but because our generation is also invisible and because this place had very different characteristics, I do see it that there’s a little bit, you know, the, the portal theme here has to do with trying to figure out how do we get out of all of these mysteries that we’re trapped within and culturally, and in part, my belief is that LA pushed out a lot of this kind of nihilism.

To the world, um, wouldn’t easily travel. And so you were talking about music before. I remember being very cute into this band X. Yes. And X, I thought it was going to be huge. It was a huge mistake on my part 

BEE: [00:25:19] of mine too. 

EW: [00:25:20] And. How could it not be, they were witty. They had these weird harmonies. I think that happened in fourths between John DOE and Z 

BEE: [00:25:29] Billy zoom.

Billy zoom was ETA bone 

EW: [00:25:31] Carice the, the drummer. Yeah, but they get, so do you remember the song? Uh, their big hit regionally was the song. Johnny hit and run Pauline 

BEE: [00:25:39] horse. I did off the Los Angeles LP 

EW: [00:25:42] right now. This song. Did you remember the loop? Like the lyrics, how it goes? 

BEE: [00:25:46] Um, vaguely, you gotta 

EW: [00:25:48] remind you to sterilize hypo, shoot a sex machine drugs about cereal.

He’s got a rape 24 women in 24 hours. And the last one wouldn’t cooperate. This thing is so. Off it’s so dark, it’s so completely wrong. And it felt normal for Los Angeles at the time. Yeah. And it was like this massive miscalculation that first of all, no fault divorce hadn’t happened nationwide. Like in New York, it doesn’t happen until really late.

BEE: [00:26:18] Right. And 

EW: [00:26:20] so there was something about this period that, um, was highly regional, but also was being broadcast everywhere, uh, even in kind of cryptic ways. And I think that your book probably less than zero probably looked kind of like wildly, weirdly exaggerated to the outside world. I don’t think it was that exaggerated.

BEE: [00:26:45] Well look, certainly there were things in it that I wanted to do as a writer. I certainly did not see a 12 year old girl get gang raped, which happens near the end of the book and where it’s treated as just as natural as. Stubbing your toe or something to come across, something like 

EW: [00:27:04] that. And isn’t, there’s something about where people are hanging out with.

I mean, 

BEE: [00:27:08] well, now that was based on something that I had heard there, there, there wasn’t story going around that there had been this person who to, Oh, deed in an alley. Mm. Uh, I think somewhere along Melrose, this rumor went around in 1981, 82, and that kids just were brought to see the body of another kid and people had heard about it and someone would meet someone up at a party because of course, remember there was.

No cell phones then, and then people would come over, find the space and just gawk at this dead body. Um, and that is a scene in less than zero, but, um, overall I really did try to make it seem as realistic as possible. Uh, and almost as if it was journalism almost as if it was repertory that clay, the narrator of the book, uh, was. Really, um, describing the world. He was a part of, but not necessarily describing what his emotions were and all of the things he was feeling during that time, you understood that he was very detached and alienated because he never talked about himself. And he just described what his friends would say. He just described what he would see, what he would be seen. And I think part of why the book works for people is that this voice never varies. As the book gets darker and more violent and nightmarish in a way. So there, you know, I guess that’s yeah. What I was aiming for when I was riding it to find that kind of accumulation of power. By resisting hyperbole and then describing everything in a very flat I’m away. And of course, writers in the past had done this, but transposing that into a contemporary teenager, living in a big city, uh, was something that I hadn’t seen before teenagers in who were narrating novels were usually very emotional. Uh, look going back to, um, the, the few that there were. Whether you were going to Judy bloom, or whether you going back to the granddaddy of the mall, right. I wanted to do kind of the anti. Catch with the Ryan that way. But I think I drifted away from your question, which was kind of about, I mean, first of all, getting back to X, they were part of the reason that they didn’t fully work as a band was that they didn’t have hits. They kept each subsequent studio album from, uh, Los Angeles to, I guess, adult toys. 

EW: [00:29:51] Yeah. 

BEE: [00:29:52] To, uh, under the big black sun. And then I think it was the eight love grand was their stab at MTV kind of a commercial 

EW: [00:30:02] record. The story then 

BEE: [00:30:04] after under the big black Sunday, I thought that was my favorite of the, of the, of the three records that had been even more so than Los Angeles.

There’s the, you could see that the songwriting was. Kind of moving away from the, uh, really kind of rough, uh, speed rock of Los Angeles and entering into a kind of more thoughtful kind of song writing. But for some, for whatever reason, they never really broke. And, uh, I think, I think that, um, they were a huge impact influence on less than zero. One of the epigraphs and less than zero is from. Ex. So I was obviously thinking about them, but it was also thinking about led Zeppelin because let’s pull in is also the other epigraph in lesson zero, but exaggerated, I don’t know. Look, I, as I said to you earlier, I really ran with that story. I. Uh, heard and I, so new parts of, from a couple of boys who were living on their own, actually in Beverly Hills who were not staying out of Malibu, they’re divorced, dad couldn’t deal with them. And they got an apartment in town as 17 year olds, or the father had rented it for them. And. I often wondered how they had such nice clothes, how they were able to go to this place or that place. And it was interesting because I look at that they knew a guy named Ronnie Lee Levine who was murdered by Joe Hunt of the billionaires boys club. Uh, is it Levina 11 Ronald. It was 11. Right? 

EW: [00:31:37] I should know this. This was my high school. Cool. 

BEE: [00:31:38] And so I got to know Ron Levin through these kids were all 16. And I remember this just goes to give you an idea. Of what my adolescence was like. Uh, we would congregate because we all had cars at Ron Levins and have drinks in Ron Levin’s living room.

And then Ron Levin would pour us all into his convertible rolls Royce. And we would all, he would drive us to flippers, which was a roller rink kind of bar disco. That’s on the corner of Los sciatica and. Uh, Santa Monica Boulevard that is now a CVS. We will, by the way, this is a weeknight. This is a school night. And so we would go with Ron to his booth. Ron, must’ve been, I guess, 48, 47 maybe. And he was gay. Very, definitely gay. And he would have six, 16 year old boys sitting with them at a booth. Flippers was all ages. By the way, there were a couple of clubs around town that were all ages. He didn’t need to be 18 to get into some of these.

EW: [00:32:42] They were just shortstop. I left this town when I was 16. And when I think about all of the stories that I had in clubs and bars, they have to be 16 and earlier, and it doesn’t make any sense to me. 

BEE: [00:32:55] Um, look, I guess the drinking age was 18 in LA. It didn’t move to 21 until I think the mid eighties, it was always a look I got into when I was 16 in LA, I got into everywhere.

I got into bars. I was ordered drinks. Uh, I could get into the whiskey on a weeknight. Um, I never. And all my friends did too. I never remember having any problems with getting carded or anything, anything along those lines. 

EW: [00:33:27] Right? Like somebody would always know somebody, the place was totally fluid. And th the, I mean, I want you to keep, 

BEE: [00:33:33] keep up with 11th story.

Sorry about that. There’s nothing else about the loving story. It’s just, it gives you an idea and maybe there was a little cocaine involved, but that just gives you an a, and that looked must’ve been 1980, 1981 that kind of just gives you an idea and all and all. Nobody was damaged. None of us were triggered. None of us thought we had to go to the police. None of everyone. 

EW: [00:33:55] Okay. But true. But how many funerals did you go to back in the day? 

BEE: [00:33:59] I have to tell you. I didn’t know. I didn’t go to any. Okay. I didn’t, I mean, look, I mean, compared to now yeah. In terms of 

EW: [00:34:07] emergency rooms, I mean, maybe funerals wasn’t that much, but there were all, this was not cheap.

It wasn’t that everybody was fine at the end of it. 

BEE: [00:34:18] No, but I do think comparatively, there was a kind of gen X resiliency and strength, 

EW: [00:34:26] which is what I want to get to. 

BEE: [00:34:27] Okay. But I do, I think there is, and I think that we, we’re not wimps. Let’s just put it that way. You know, I sure. I knew people, you know, you have to understand drug problems.

I, we didn’t really know what that was in 1981 or 82. I didn’t have friends who had outsize drug problems and I really never heard of rehab 

EW: [00:34:55] poor, doing amazing quantities of drugs, and then going off to Yale and Princeton and Stanford of course, 

BEE: [00:35:02] or, or UCLA. A lot of them went, but, um, you know, the notion that no one believed you could get addicted to cocaine.

No one really believed that. Look, I don’t know if I’ve ever known anyone who’s been addicted to cocaine either, but back in high school, look, the other thing that I hadn’t got to say is that, and by the way, the 11 stories finished that I just wanted to see nothing else. Well, ultimately what happened, Ron Levin got murdered by Joe Hunt, which is a whole other story, but 

EW: [00:35:33] I don’t want to lead over that.

We’ve just had put a Quentin Tarantino released once upon a time in Hollywood. It’s the story leading up to the Manson murders, where with an alternate. Ending. Yes. And I guess for me, I was thinking back to this very, um, I don’t know whether Joan Didion’s writings move you, but they’ve moved me a great deal.

BEE: [00:35:58] She was perhaps the biggest influence on less than zero and my writing. Okay. 

EW: [00:36:03] So when I read, I think it’s the white album where she’s talking about how the, the, the sixties and spiritually with the murders on Cielo drive. And, you know, she writes with this just exquisite prose and it’s so it’s so perfect for this in a city that thinks about earthquakes and Canyon fires.

She says, you know, that the rumors spread like wildfire in the Hollywood Hills or something like this, it’s just dripping with this gorgeous analogy. And I thought about that. And then I thought about how, how that gives way to the seventies and the seventies is this period. That’s like the golden age of serial killers is, uh, and then you, you end up with like this very weird concept of privilege, which is one of the reasons that the millennials concept of privilege absolutely doesn’t work for me where you have like these very privileged schools. And you have a murderous club of investors who somehow the kids are just not happy with their station in life. And, you know, there are these schemes maybe to kill parents and, 

BEE: [00:37:13] you know, you get the 

EW: [00:37:15] Menendez brothers and I get the feeling that her feeling is that things ended with the murders on Cielo drive and our story, like just getting started.

In some weird way that sixties versus the seventies is a big shift because the sixties had this horror and idealism fused together. And the seventies that the sort of the idealism just drops out. But the horror keeps going. 

BEE: [00:37:40] Yes. I think you said something about, that’s very interesting about, um, living here.

Maybe you didn’t say it, maybe I’m I’m taking what you said in some less, um, about how I think me and my peers were very aware that we were living in a, in a particular time. That was a kind of movie. And that was youth culture, uh, of the early eighties really seemed to be centered in LA. You saw it in all of the movies from fast times to Valley girl, to the music that was being made to the Go-Go’s being thrown out there. Um, there, there was this sense that we were at the red hot center of youth culture in Los Angeles. In say 1982, certainly look 

EW: [00:38:30] less than some echo of like Jim Carroll on the opposite coast. 

BEE: [00:38:35] Yeah, I guess so. But there was something more interestingly contradicting about Los Angeles or something, you know, the darkness and the beach and whatever.

I mean, it was this ying yang thing. And so. Um, very being very aware of that, of course adds, um, I don’t know, a kind of artificiality about the way you interacted with people and the way they behave. Now, I’m saying this not on a completely literal level. I’m saying this just an overall sense of that. A costume, your car. The decor of a nightclub that you would walk into and be very aware that this was the place, just the staginess. This really goes back to what you first talked about at LA as. This stage is movie set, sunset Boulevard, uh, cruising around Mulholland drive, going up to mom to get high, the beach, the beach, such a huge part of your Southern California childhood. Um, but that’s also not to say that to move it out for a little bit. But you said this about the East coast. I felt that time for the East coast wasn’t necessarily the late seventies complete. I think it comes in. Well, for me, I felt I was never more in a movie that I was during the yuppie years of the late eighties in New York, right before the crash, 1997. And that to me, and even afterwards the crash didn’t really change or alter the way New York operated, but 87, 88, 89 Manhattan to me was something as evocative as. The roaring twenties or the swinging sixties of London, you were very aware. 

EW: [00:40:18] When was it? Gordon gecko? 

BEE: [00:40:20] 87. 

EW: [00:40:21] Okay. So you’re moving with the party you see for my trajectory was I I’m in the same firm with you in Los Angeles.

Then I go to college on the East coast and suddenly it occurs to me that the East coast has not gone through this. They are having like, people are getting drunk on cold duck for the first time. And I’m thinking that’s so cute. Right. 

BEE: [00:40:42] Um, because we were drunk and cold duck in ninth grade. But anyway, I mean, I mean, Yeah.

I mean, I wasn’t conscious of. Wanting to chase the scene, but I don’t know how you felt, but I felt growing up here, which really now in retrospect was kind of glorious growing up as a teenager in LA is like kidding. Fantastic is the worst thing 

EW: [00:41:06] ever. This is so interesting for writers. You’re able to do 

BEE: [00:41:09] something I wrote less than zero, which is a complete, that was it kind of.

Yes. But there, there is also, I mean, I got to tell you, uh, Eric, that so many people. Who read lessons? There are so many kids loved it. Because they want it to move here and want to be part of that. So weird thing. So it was cool. 

EW: [00:41:32] It wasn’t supposed to be in some weird way, 

BEE: [00:41:34] but 

EW: [00:41:35] when you have death and sex and money, people react and respond.

Memetically even if it’s the most unhealthy thing, 

BEE: [00:41:43] that’s the best here. The late seven Mondays here we are in the, in the late seventies and into the early eighties. Right? But, um, I, uh, I lot completely lost my train of thought. We won’t talk in about, um, Oh yes. I mean, less than zero was dark. There was darkness around my.

The years that led up to me riding it. But I also, when I was living here, I know what I wanted to say it, but it, it, it had to do with the fact that in so many ways, I feel that we were lucky to grow up out here. Yes. It had its disadvantages and its darkness, but looking back, I mean, there, there were things about it that I like, and maybe I loved them. At 17 and 18. And you miss those two years of the massive freedom that one would have. We weren’t living out here in 17, 18, where you graduated at 16 and then you went off or did you stay here? 

EW: [00:42:38] No, no, I was, I was, I, I was 16, turned 17 in Philadelphia and then I was in Boston. And what I found was that. I mean, just to be, to be honest about it, I I’ve stayed away from the city really for 37 years because I just thought it was the blackest darkest most seductive hell hole, um, which it is, which it is, which it is, and it can be, and it was generative.

I mean, and so, so that, that notion of repulsion. And fascination and home and total alienation, it’s been impossible to talk about. Um, because it’s all these things that usually come bundled, uh, you know, like home and support and meaning, and that bundling didn’t happen. And what I start, you know, if I think about the title of this film, that you probably remember the decline of Western civilization about like Darby crash and the cramps and the germs, all that kind of stuff. That seemed like overblown. And in many ways I actually think, well, whatever the thing is that is unraveling. The American tapestry history was really present and visible early here and that, and where I’m going to try to get to and see if you’re willing. And if you’re, if you’re not, that’s fine too. Um, one of the things that people may know me for is coining the phrase or pushing it out, the intellectual dark web, which people don’t. No, I’ve never heard with all the comments, cherry and almost all the commentary on the, on the IDW is bad commentary because it’s the commentary at trying to figure out who are these people without union cards and why are they commenting on the world? So that they’re always trying to figure out some way of getting rid of this thing. It was very much. Two things. It’s an LA phenomenon to an extent that nobody has understood. And it’s a gen X phenomenon to an extent because gen X is invisible to both boomers and millennials, millennials think that gen X 

BEE: [00:44:41] is the boomer they do. They do. 

EW: [00:44:43] And. The idea that there is this in between generation.

That’s not large enough to chant things and devote things into reality, but is extremely generative, very robust. And has this completely, I don’t know how to say it. You couldn’t pick. Um, two more different circumstances. A ton paths gets kidnapped in New York, I guess in 1979. And the milk carton kids start up and suddenly, almost overnight, all the kids who are used to playing in the streets with no adults in sight are brought indoors and things really change. And somehow the millennials are brought up in that world. Whereas. As far as I can remember, I play back so many scenes from the seventies and I can’t see grownups, the moms in particular are absent. Maybe the dads have been absent a long time. Yeah. But like the moms are somewhere else, 

BEE: [00:45:42] but where were they?

Because I would say most of my friends, mothers didn’t work. So were, were they, were they up in their bedrooms? Were they out having lunch with their friends? Um, you remember, 

EW: [00:45:54] I mean, I remember some moms, but sometimes mom was getting high with the kids. I remember that was a particular mom. There were moms who were looking for mr.

Goodbar. Their moms were trying to find some self actualization and that the women’s movement promised maybe there’s some new thing to do, but everybody was having a hard time finding what that was. 

BEE: [00:46:12] Right. I think getting back to one thing you said before we move on to that, is that, um, the real darkness for me, uh, had to do with, um, the Manson family and the Manson family haunted my childhood and my adolescence, and still haunts my notion of Los Angeles.

So if I had to choose something that. I fixated on and honestly became obsessed by were the Tate LaBianca murders and the Manson family. And that book that Vincent Bugliosi wrote about the case Helter Skelter was kind of like a strange Bible for me. And it became kind of a dark touchstone. Um, yes, they’re there. I still saw it. And I was still in a group of people who were trying to have fun when I was in adolescence in LA. And especially when we were free with our cars and basically free from our parents and had that kind of, um, a sense of, I don’t know, ascendancy or able to go anywhere we wanted to, um, It erased some of the darkness. I mean, I, there, there was a lot of opportunity to have fun out here. Um, but I also have to say, and this, I think connects more with what, uh, in a way what your trajectory was. I wanted to get out. I did not want to stay here. Oh, so you okay. I wanted to get out and I knew at. 14. I wanted to get out and I had to wait for the plan to happen because when I was 18, boom, I was going to go as far away from here as possible. I did ultimately feel, I think what you felt, I felt like beneath the facade of beautiful teenagers and, you know, lovely setting and nice houses. That there was, um, a darkness that was encroaching upon everything. And it really, I really did notice it much more strongly after I’d left for a year. And I came back after Ashley left for five or six months and came back after I went to college for my first term, but that was always the plan. I remember seeing so many movies that took place in New York, even if they were dark as hell. I wanted to go there. And I remember seeing Woody Allen’s Manhattan, for example, and then that’s where I’m going to be. I’m going to be in that world. I mean, now, That world nauseates me. But at the time I was 14 or 15, that was the goal. And I was going to go to college back East, and then I was going to move to New York. All of my friends stayed out here. All of my friends were going to get into the film business because that’s what LA is. I mean, in certain, if you live in a certain area of LA is a company town and you end up, you know, working for the company, which is the entertainment complex. And that is what happened. My four closest male friends, all got into the business really. And, um, That was what I was supposed to be doing too, because, um, we were all making movies and writing scripts when we were teenagers and all of our fathers, mine accepted were somehow involved in the industry and that was going to be the next move. Um, and it just. I was writing novels and I was working on less than zero when I was 17, 18, 16, 17, 18. And I knew I had to get up. I don’t know. You must have felt that to some degree, uh, in order to, I mean, I don’t know if the escape was your. Choice, but the escape from LA was certainly mine. I only, um, applied to colleges back East and, um, and so, uh, so I knew senior year that this was going to be over at a certain point. And that summer of 82, I just could not wait 

EW: [00:50:04] for it to, well, that’s the thing. I mean, that. We, we were, we were living through a, something that I think hasn’t been understood or digested in terms of its importance. And I think that if you think about, 

BEE: [00:50:18] well, it’s being resisted, I talk about it all the time.

Yeah. And it’s being resisted. People don’t want to believe that this happened and that we were were okay. They weren’t 

EW: [00:50:31] contradicts. It contradicts what I’ve called the gated institutional narrative, that there is this thing where the New York times is talking to the political parties is talking to the universities and they’ve settled on this thing.

That’s completely wrong. It’s a narrative, it’s a narrative. And the narrative has been cracking. And we have this funny thing, which I heard you, uh, talking about being an anti anti Trumper, where the idea is that you have Trump and the Trumpers. Yeah. Then you have the anti Trumpers, who are the people who are completely deranged by any mention of Trump? Would he ever, he said 

BEE: [00:51:07] my partner, my boyfriend, yeah. Your boyfriend is a millennial. He’s a millennial. And he, as he is, uh, he has had a Trump derangement syndrome, uh, since the election and yet, uh, Eric, he is losing that and he is just simply becoming. An anti-Trump 

EW: [00:51:30] well, because, well, no, sir. I don’t think that that’s fair, sir.

My belief is that. If you were an anti anti Trumper, I am an anti anti anti Trumper. That is, I am against Trump. 

BEE: [00:51:43] Right. But 

EW: [00:51:45] mere mention of his name. Doesn’t send me into paroxysms. I don’t write, I’m not apoplectic with rage. When he said something that’s been carefully constructed to set everybody off who carries certain behavior pattern.

Right. And so what my belief is is that I’m going through a very private, weird little mini hell in which I intellectually can’t. Stand the guy, but I understand him very well. Yes. I understand why it works. I’ve predicted this in some weird way. I wrote an essay on cafe, but I don’t know if you’ve 

BEE: [00:52:17] I do.

Yes. Yeah. That you were one of the people actually suggested he could win. It was at you. 

EW: [00:52:24] Yep. Okay. I just had two more Koran on the program. I thought everyone was lying about their feelings about Trump 

BEE: [00:52:34] when they were asked about it. 

EW: [00:52:36] Public well, because you, you need it. You needed to say how horrible he was.

If you were part of the institutional mill you, or if you needed to keep a job and make sure that you weren’t on the wrong side of your clients and what, what has been, what I find very frustrating. I mean, you have to appreciate the mainstream has no positive interest in this show me or anything that my group is doing whatsoever. Right? Yeah. And it’s, it’s not just, I mean, it’s the fact that we have this very negative view of CNN. And NPR, not what they’re supposedly standing 

BEE: [00:53:20] for. 

EW: [00:53:21] Right? Right. So this, in this narrative, um, you know, I guess what my take on it is is that the dominant, um, I don’t even know how to say idealism of a time is usually a false narrative.

That’s hiding how people can make money during that period of time. Right? So we are, the world is a portrayal of concern about Africa, the poor in Asia. What can we do to uplift people? But really it was a story about if we don’t break our bonds to our fellow countrymen, if we don’t. Make sure that we can not have to take care of Appalachia and the poor and the South and the downtrodden in our inner cities. Um, We’re not going to be able to make money. The way to make money is to move operations overseas, to keep your, your, you know, your, your country, um, with its headquarters, wherever it’s tax advantaged, there was some process by which globalization was the betrayal of your countrymen. Right. And. That thing was portrayed as the Davos idealism. Yeah. And the Davos idealism is cratering. Yeah. Because it was a wealth transfer program posing as a philanthropic effort. Right. And so the reason that nobody wants the Clintons, nobody wants the democratic party. Nobody wants the sanctimonious nonsense, uh, about, you know, our thirst for justice in our hatred of oppression is, is that. This is a search for a constituency. That’s large enough to get people elected who can continue to keep people making money. Who’ve been figuring out how to make money and Trump, the reason I’m anti Trump is, is that he’s taking lots of ideas that are actually originally wholesome and he’s giving them this shitty kind of 

BEE: [00:55:16] mean 

EW: [00:55:17] spirited, nasty 

BEE: [00:55:20] spin.

EW: [00:55:21] Like for example, there’s nothing wrong with restriction ism. Whatsoever. There’s nothing xenophobic about restriction, right? The desire to want to keep a border is not as xenophobic early. 

BEE: [00:55:31] I completely agree. 

EW: [00:55:32] Okay. So when he tinges, is it with hints? You know, he’s playing around with something. He knows what the inference patterns of the left are.

So he’ll say something and the left will say, Oh my God, you’re really saying that, you know, you think all Mexicans are rapists 

BEE: [00:55:48] and then the writer’s fault is that pardon me? I mean, whose fault is that? I mean, that’s the left’s fault for taking the bait or overreact? 

EW: [00:55:56] No, it’s not that they figured out. A means of keeping people in line.

Whereas as you start to explore something that will stop the moneymaking, the transfer of wealth from whoever it’s like forced transfusion, right? The institutional left, I believe figures out how to transfuse one group, uh, to supply blood to another. And. What, what the left is supposed to be something, you know, more wholesome and more decent as you start to question the transfusion, you start to get, surely you’re not suggesting that we should close our borders to the downtrodden. That’s right. And Trump is saying, yeah, I’m not scared. I’m not going to, you’re not going to back me off by just saying that surely you, weren’t saying, you know, that’s a menacing tone and. For that many people love him because do you remember the scene in reservoir dogs of Tarantino where. Um, you’ve got, I guess, is it Steve Buscemi? And I can’t remember the other actor, uh, where they’re trying to figure who the rat is and mr. Blonde comes in and mr. Blonde is the psychopath has shot up the jewelry store and they can’t figure out who they can trust. The only person you can trust is the psychopath because the psychopath isn’t under control. Right? Well, Trump came through as mr. Blonde. And the one person we know isn’t under institutional control is Donald Trump, because he would never say those things. 

BEE: [00:57:30] Yeah. 

EW: [00:57:30] Okay. So now we’ve got a new paradigm where the only trustworthy person is the least trustworthy person, 

BEE: [00:57:37] which 

EW: [00:57:38] I’ve been trying to map this out.

And the problem with it is you can’t wake people up because they’re dying to get back to the process of making money by betraying their fellow countrymen. They, they really, the globalization thing came to an end. There’s no new idea about how to make money. Right. And the pyramid schemes are collapsing.

BEE: [00:58:00] Right. So what’s going to happen. 

EW: [00:58:04] Well, that’s what I’m, that’s why you’re on the portal, sir. 

BEE: [00:58:08] Mmm. Well look getting to that. Um, getting back to what you said in terms of, uh, uh, threatened name of the book, it was about preference versus, uh, 

EW: [00:58:21] uh, public private truths, public lies. Right? 

BEE: [00:58:24] Um, I knew a lot of these people I wrote about them in white.

I write a section of the book is about the mood in Los Angeles, uh, in the months leading up to. The primaries and then to the election and then after the election, and it is a cast of my usual. Entitled characters, even though this is a work of nonfiction and many of these conversations play out in the polo lounge, like they do in my LA novels with irony. Yeah. Rich people who cannot believe that things did not go their way, which is also something that’s lesson zero in a Bureau bedrooms. So even the white is a nonfiction Chronicle of whatever, uh, kind of the arc of a gen exer. I see it, it starts out in the. Late sixties, early seventies with me as a child. And then I’m standing, uh, you know, with my Dick in my hand, in the summer of 2018 going, I can’t say this, I can’t express myself. This was freedom of speech. It just, it seems to be, and I’m much more upset about it than my millennial boyfriend. Who’s used to rules. He’s used to all the rules that have been 

EW: [00:59:32] maddening.

I can’t live. Like 

BEE: [00:59:33] I know I can’t live like this either, but anyways, so I, I knew these people once Angeles, I knew the Obama Trump voter. I knew many of them who were making that jump. And I just sense something different by little looking at everything. Then my millennial boyfriend did, who was already printing out his Hillary t-shirts and you know, uh, can’t couldn’t wait for the, he had his lashings.

No, he’s a Bernie, Bernie. He was a Bernie guy, a Bernie Sanders guy, and he. Held his nose I’m voting for Clinton, but anything but Trump, because Trump drove him insane and there was just no fucking way that Trump could be, uh, elected president. So that was all going to be. Um, but you know, so I did, and I, and I write about this in white. Uh, people said, don’t tell anybody I’m going to vote for Trump. Uh, don’t tell anybody I’m voting for Trump. And, um, so. Uh, I wasn’t completely surprised when Trump won, but in, but what surprised me and this ties into what you were first asking, what completely surprised me for the next two years leading up to now is how so many of my smart friends, uh, became infected by Trump. Well, look 

EW: [01:00:54] the most, say more of what you mean by that. 

BEE: [01:00:56] W well look, all of our narratives, we have been forced. To deal with Trump. I talked about this in an interview that I gave with the Washington post, where, uh, I, even, if you don’t want Trump in your life, he’s in your life and you have to have an opinion about him because everyone else is talking about him.

Either people loath and to such a degree, that you are sucked into the conversation. And I believe it’s the same with people who love him. And I ju I know you’re w w what was it? Huge exhale. What was that about? 

EW: [01:01:29] No, no I’m awake. I’m with you. I’m with you. I want to write an Eliza program. I swear I could write a small program that generates his tweets.

Like, for example, before Trump, I had a simple idea, which is that if I wanted to win an election as a Republican, all I would have to do is to talk about the nuclear family. And every educated person would say, you mean nuclear, not nuclear. And then they’d lose. It was like an automated reaction. That there was a class thing that says correct. Anyone who says nuclear. Okay. Well, that’s a pretty simple program. Yes. You win the correct pronunciation of the word nuclear. And you lose an election because you’re a Dick, right? So Trump is going to hit this thing over and over again, it’s a, the left is programmed to say certain things to defend certain things. And you know, if you have to make the point that there is absolutely zero connection whatsoever between Islam and terror, there is no connection whatsoever. Zero it’s an illusion. 

BEE: [01:02:39] Okay. 

EW: [01:02:41] Somebody can hit that. I mean all day long, every day, when I remember reading an issue of Dabiq put out by ISIS where their point was, I think it was called, they had an article called why we hate you, why we fight you.

And they said, you’ve marginalized. All the people in your society who point out that there is an aspect of fundamentalist, Jihadi, Islam that just hates you because you don’t believe in all of the way we do. And because that couldn’t be said, 

BEE: [01:03:12] They couldn’t be set. I mean, that’s why there’s the break set 

EW: [01:03:18] there.

There was once upon a time, a heuristic that said the best way to have a multicultural society is that you have to have some load bearing fictions. Like all religions are equally problematic in all ways. There’s no way that’s true. Jane Jane’s are not equally problematic as Jews, Jews are more problematic than Janes. And I’m able to say that because I’m Jewish. 

BEE: [01:03:45] Yeah. 

EW: [01:03:47] As a result, those sharistics hardened into dogmas because they were necessary to keep our society operating. We have to believe at the moment that a jury of 12 people knows how to convict somebody based on guilt, even though the DNA evidence shows that that’s not a real rubric.

Okay. Well, I mean, it’s a heuristic. Maybe it, maybe it works some of the time. Right? Okay. So as these sort of heuristics have been breaking down and these heuristics of the left are on top of the ones that are necessary for civil society. They, the desire to maintain this complex of ideas. Like trade is always good. No trade is not always good for all people that’s, it’s beyond moronic. Right, right. But it’s only recently. That you have economists like Brad DeLong saying actually it’s a, so, you know, the, the, what you’re optimizing is a social Darwin. Darwin is a function which trade is good for you based on the cube of your wealth. So the richer you are by the cube of your wealth trade is good for you. Right? Well, Brad DeLong was also saying, and why are those everybody complaining about the trade deals we inked since they helped people in Mexico as if like American voters are gonna vote to help Mexican peasants. I mean, it’s great if. Mexican peasants are helped, but I just don’t see the lowest echelons of American society having as their top priority, helping Mexicans with their vote. I mean, none of this makes any effing sense, 

BEE: [01:05:19] but then why aren’t they deprogramming themselves because. They’re not going to move them forward, say in the new world order.

And that’s the problem with Trump. Trump presented something extremely new, uh, into the conversation and the left couldn’t deal with it. The media couldn’t deal with it. I always felt that if they had kind of dealt with them in a neutral way and just reported what he did without all this hyperbole, I don’t know if he would have one necessarily kind of 

EW: [01:05:49] all just smart, honest people.

Had to be rejected from the institutional layer 

BEE: [01:05:56] terrifying. Well, no, no, 

EW: [01:05:58] no. It is your universal expulsion of people who will not go along with the gated institutional and I, my, my theory about this, if you haven’t met it is that we grew very quickly in a very stable way. That was totally anomalous post world war II to about 1972.

And every, the single institution that you see has an expectation of that kind of growth continuing. And so what happened is, is that all of those institutions, when they went pathological, They became Ponzi schemes and you needed to have a group of people in that institution who would not reveal the Ponzi scheme. And so effectively our expert class has been selected for as the people who will not blow the whistle on the fact that they’re lying. Right. Right. And so you can get this at Harvard, or you can get this at Stanford. Maybe the university of Chicago is something of an exception 

BEE: [01:06:54] Hollywood while 

EW: [01:06:55] Hollywood is right.

Exactly. 

BEE: [01:06:58] Valley. 

EW: [01:06:59] And so all of these institutional things are suffering from the embedded growth obligation disease or ego, right? And so these egos have turned 

BEE: [01:07:09] like the 

EW: [01:07:11] institutions are not interested in hearing how to beat Trump because it’s easy. It’s easy. You see to be Trump. It is. But the only problem is is that if you beat Trump in the way, that’s easy to beat Trump, you will not service the people with second and third homes in the Hamptons.

Right. Right. And so those people are saying, well, I wasn’t thinking of spending that much to beat Trump, right? No, no, that’s really, 

BEE: [01:07:37] yeah. 

EW: [01:07:37] That’s what the issue is. Is that right now? I, the exciting part is I want to retake the institutions.

Do you, do you really want nine conservative Supreme court justices? If you do, if you want, if that’s, if that’s what excites you, I highly recommend talking about reparations for slavery. Why don’t you tell some, some sort of a child Holocaust survivor that they need to pay reparations for slavery. See how that goes.

BEE: [01:08:07] Oh. 

EW: [01:08:09] I mean, this is insane. We got some, you know, it is 

BEE: [01:08:13] insane. And 

EW: [01:08:14] self arm used to self hating Jews. We’ve had that as an issue forever. Right? The self-hating American. Oh man. You know, just suck it up, man. You okay. So you were born with white skin. Wait, what is D D D do you want it it’s like watching people.

It’s like watching a teenage girl on a cutting episode. You’re not responsible for every bad thing this country has ever done. We’re not going to write all wrongs. It would be absolutely unjust to go after every past injustice. And like, are we going to get rid of the arch of Titus in Rome? Because the Romans sacked Jerusalem and it commemorates, you can see they’re carrying off like this giant menorah. They stole our stuff, man. Alright. Let’s tear down the arch of Titus. Let’s burn the merchant of Venice. How deep do we want to go with this madness? We’re nuts. 

BEE: [01:09:14] Well, uh, it needs what look, I think part of it. Why? Um, I’m very sensitive about this, is that because I am a gen X or, uh, I think boomers, like my parents, like my mom, my stepdad, 

EW: [01:09:31] my parents 

BEE: [01:09:31] born, uh, my father was born in Nevada and my mother was born in Illinois.

Uh, they were born in the, you know, technically not 

EW: [01:09:41] Island, they’re 

BEE: [01:09:42] silent, but my mom. Completely relates to boom, technically. Yeah. The last boomer. Yes I am. But I, 

EW: [01:09:49] yeah, no, I know, I know that you are, 

BEE: [01:09:52] but in terms of the chart, right, right, right. In terms of the chart. So yes, my parents were my mom and my stepdad are silent, but they really are boomers.

Um, but no, I don’t. 

EW: [01:10:01] I’m going to disagree with yeah. I think that what we don’t understand is that we settled on a narrative in which the boomers are the problem. The silent generation really begins the problem. And we are letting the silent generation off just as we are not paying attention to gen X.

And I believe sir, that you are the last of the boomers, but that you are spiritually gen X and that you figured out you almost started really defining gen X. I forget. Who was he wrote the book gen X. You probably not 

BEE: [01:10:33] does this split. Right, 

EW: [01:10:35] right. I think that what I remember from this is that a few years, either way was really important.

Right? And I believe that the silence or the first generation to wrestle with the problem in 1972, 73, that the country won’t wake up to, which is that. Our growth pattern changed for structural reasons. It wasn’t about some bad decision. It wasn’t about the gold standard. It wasn’t about the Arab oil embargo. Something really structurally changed. Okay. And in my telling of the tale, silence, try to figure out how to restart real growth. It’s like the engine has gone out. They’re going to try to restart the engine. It doesn’t work. The boomers look at these efforts and they say, huh, that doesn’t work, but it’s good enough for redistribution and to play games with fake growth. So why don’t we help ourselves to fake growth and we’ll just grow our slices of the pie as if the pie we’re growing. And I’m sure that that must mean that somebody else’s slice isn’t growing, but that’s really too bad for them. And so the silence start a lot of these problems. The boomers continue it. All right. The millennials confused. Who’s the gen Xers for boomers because to them boomer means older than me. 

BEE: [01:11:51] Right. 

EW: [01:11:52] And the only generation. And this is the thing that I find fascinating that I think really has a good hope of restarting sense-making is gen X. 

BEE: [01:12:01] I agree. I completely agree with that. And I do know that whenever I attempt to do it, millennial thinking shuts you down.

And so that is what I see. That is what I’ve come up against on this last book tour I’ve done earlier this year, and I’m going back out on the road, uh, in the fall, uh, millennial hysteria, and overreaction to my talking about millennials and any kind of critical way, and even being somewhat sympathetic to them. Completely more than sympathetic Brett. Oh, 

EW: [01:12:32] completely. You’re you and I are both hanging out with tons of millennials and we’re having some success. We’re having some, like, I don’t understand this thought pattern and the millennials. This is another thing that I believe in you. You please correct me if I’m wrong.

I’m fairly disagreeable. Yeah. I think the millennials are starving to know what actually happened. And partially what I try to tell them is your. The, the super ancestors, the silence and boomers who like, I think bill Ayres, you know, was the head of the weather underground. And he gets his job as a professor. Whereas people, I know they, they see the slightest wrong thing in their out, right. You’re like, okay, you were a, you were a leading terrorist and you can have a job as a professor, 

BEE: [01:13:19] um, 

EW: [01:13:20] that world, in which 25 year old men. You know, could take down a home and immediately build a second home and everything just turned to gold.

It’s like, well, it’s not really that they were doing anything so clever. They just, they were in a stream that was moving really fast. And you got a dry Creek bed. Right. And yes, a few of you are going to do something so brilliant that you can do something against that. You know what I mean? Like Ariana Grande’s is not hurting for money. Okay. However, the idea that you could have in the financial sense, beta to a process where you could just like, I don’t know, go to law school or open a dry cleaner, or, you know, start some new nonprofit and you can have a perfectly fabulous life. That thing died. And the millennials have the sense of like, okay, well this is all hopeless. And maybe we’re not really that good. 

BEE: [01:14:19] Oh yes. 

EW: [01:14:20] And my point is, look, man, these other guys could have three martini lunch punches, and everything’s still worked out. 

BEE: [01:14:26] Yeah. Um, there is this sense of it. And I talk about it in. In my book, I talk about all of the things I’ve noticed and I’ve Mark down with living in close proximity with a millennial, a key millennial, uh, For the past 10 years and, uh, the things that I’ve noticed about them and that I’ve experienced.

And I started to write about this. I actually tweet about it quite harmlessly, uh, and under the hashtag generation was because I was so surprised how offended he was, how over-reactive he was bordering. I felt on hysteric about. Just the normalcy of the world and the way human beings are with all of the contradictions and all of their flaws. Um, as I said earlier, uh, he, and I’m not saying that he, um, puts it out there, but there seem to be, I found a love of rules. That rules offered a kind of pathway, a narrative that wasn’t there otherwise, and that all of these rules about what you can say, what you can’t say, how you can express yourself, how this is sexist, how that is racist was a way of kind of controlling a world that they felt was had just abandoned them in a way that w there was no way to make money that the economy was 

EW: [01:15:52] well, this is something they can do to you.

BEE: [01:15:55] Which is what they are doing. So it is now happening. And I see it in the reaction to this book, which is critical of a lot of ways of thinking. And I think you and I are pretty much aligned on what the problems are right now. 

EW: [01:16:10] Let’s, let’s explore that. What do you, what do you see is because I have a different take the rules thing, for example, maybe I’ll try that and see whether, 

BEE: [01:16:16] yeah.

EW: [01:16:17] Okay. I think people have not understood the role of Marshall Rosenberg’s nonviolent communication starts off with a good idea, which is that. Maybe there’s a way in which speech that is particularly damaging has a physiological impact on us. Our cortisol levels, spike. We go into fight or flight. There’s all sorts of, you know, fighting words as part of our legal structure.

What if we call that violence? Okay. Now we have to have nonviolent communication. So then you have all these rules about what it is that constitutes violent versus nonviolent communication and speech becomes violence. And then the entire concept of free speech goes out the window. Furthermore, you have an abandonment, I think. Thank you. If you probably looked at the gender ratios of teachers in schools, my guess is that you’ll find that it has changed quite considerably from being dominated by one gender, rather than a mixture of the two. And as a result, you have the sort of thing that I don’t think people have really understood, which is then in part there’s a way of boys will be boys was used to disguise a lot of behavior, which I would have called toxic masculinity, had that term not been polluted and turned into something metastatic and unusable right there. Really. I went to an all boys school and man, I saw some stuff that would absolutely curl your toes. On the other hand, we’re now using it. Uh, to mean somebody makes the joke in the elevator third floor, women’s lingerie. Career’s over like what? That’s insane. 

BEE: [01:17:48] Look, my problem isn’t necessarily with the things that you’re talking about, kids getting bullied, for example, no, that shouldn’t be happening.

It’s a part of life. I look back on my life and I think what if I hadn’t been bullied? What if I had been 

EW: [01:18:03] bullied? 

BEE: [01:18:05] Mmm, look just as much as anyone else I knew any other boys I knew. Yes I was. And, um, but it w I don’t know. I mean, was it traumatic? Did it help me become a writer? Did it make me want to become an artist?

I certainly don’t think I would have been a writer if I had been captain the football team or the prom King, certainly things that happened to me that were painful, helped create an artistic persona and helped my voice as a writer. All of the stuff that you were talking about. Fine. Maybe there should be a big fix for them. I don’t know. I mean, I also think that life is really hard and basically how you toughen up is that you go through the hardships that build you into a person that can deal with life’s everyday hassles and the pain that inevitably comes to all of us. What worries me is how this affects. The arts and how we, um, deal with art, how we, um, how we, uh, let it into our lives. Uh, and. That is the most worrying thing to me in the last five to 10 years, seeing that art must be a certain way that there have to be rules for the art to be accepted with the community that outlaw art. I don’t know where it is anymore. Certainly was a big part of. Uh, the world that I came of age and, and certainly it was something that I wanted to explore as the writer of lessons zero or the right of American psycho two books that I think because of sensitivity editors that they have now, publishing houses would never be allowed to be published in American mainstream fiction. So that lawlessness and that kind of recklessness, um, uh, that great artists, um, trafficking. Is really being minimized because it’s it, isn’t following a set of rules. And I talk a lot in the book about how aesthetics don’t really matter that ideology has become the aesthetic and that what people want is kind of an affirmation. They want a lesson. They want to learn something and they want it to be very, very explicit, um, ambiguity, metaphor. I really don’t know if anybody traffics in that anymore in terms of, you know, uh, communicating with millennials. Um, so that is the thing that has bothered me the most, uh, the other things that you’re talking about. Yeah. And people shouldn’t be in pain, but. Being having to include certain things in your art for it to be palatable or for you to make money or for someone to publish it or for it to be shown in as many places as possible. That is that’s a problem. And being told what you can or cannot say in something you create is also a problem. Um, the list of rules now being handed out to artists about. What’s acceptable. What’s not acceptable as a writer and as a public person who has a podcast and writes essays, you know, about entertainment and about, um, the world that I’m a part of and getting attacked. Is crazy. I, it is the insanity that you’re talking about. I recently wrote a piece for Italian Vogue about the differences between fashion in 1999. When I published a large novel that took place within the fashion world called glam Arama. And today. And so I thought about it, I thought, okay, well they’re pain quite well when no one else pays well. And I can riff on this for a couple of thousand words. And so I wrote about how mysterious the fashion world was and in the late nineties and how, uh, it’s exclusivity was, what it made, what it made it. So Lorraine, um, it’s, um, it’s, it’s lack of income. Illusion is what made people want to be a part of it. So. So badly compared to now where you can see the met gala streaming online, and everyone can be interacting. Uh, and throwing out the comments while I see in closeup, the inside of the party and the dresses right. As they’re happening. Um, is that, I dunno, is that exciting? Is it more exciting to not know exactly what’s behind the curtain? And of course I’m writing this as a gen exer, I’m writing about this in a way that is really conforms to mind. Sensibility. I also talked about how, uh, the model bottles, the women and the men were really quite extreme, nearly beautiful. And they were, they were goddesses and they were gods and we looked up to them because they weren’t us. They weren’t us. And that’s why we were so drawn to them. These women were other worldly. These men were otherworldly and there was something about that, that I thought we don’t have anymore where we need models that look like us, that we have to be more inclusive of, you know, um, body image and that we have to accept and that, and that the modeling world and the fashion world is trying its best to do that. And you can see it in shows. Um, where, you know, they have, uh, whatever buck, tooth, whatever it is. No, not, not people who conform to normal. Not even normal, 

EW: [01:23:31] but let’s be clear about it. Model bone structure is almost like a mutation 

BEE: [01:23:37] completely. 

EW: [01:23:37] It’s what we traditionally think of is something that is, is extraordinarily rare.

It does particular things for clothes that norm normal humans don’t a friend of mine is a supermodel. And at some point I said to her, Um, I never realized it, but you’re really a mutant. Yeah. And her response was, yeah, I’m all legs and no. So in her, her hands are like Edward Scissorhands hands. Like just, just the way that Mike Michelangelo had to distort the David. Somehow these people are actually distorted. 

BEE: [01:24:15] I got blasted 

EW: [01:24:17] for writing this 

BEE: [01:24:17] one. Yeah, absolutely. Blasted by millennials. Huge. A huge controversy about this piece. Now I think part of the problem was that it was translated into Italian and then someone wanted to translate it into English. So when you’re translating Italian back into English, it’s a whole, other can be all of these other meanings.

But basically the beef was, I don’t believe in inclusivity in the fashion world. Well, I meant, I meant exclusivity was what made it so erotic and alluring? No, that’s they, they read it as I’m saying that. Inclusivity. I don’t believe in inclusivity means that I’m a racist that I, uh, am a body shamer and it was so remarkable to me that that’s the message that they got out of an older man talking about what he liked about in the late nineties, about fashion that moved him to actually write a novel set in that world. I’m a complete distortion of really what I was saying based on this emotional idea of being. Excluded themselves. And 

EW: [01:25:27] it’s 

BEE: [01:25:28] just such a remarkable way to, um, to, uh, reread something so that it conforms to your view of the world. Uh, I certainly didn’t have that when I read things that I didn’t necessarily agree in when I was 

EW: [01:25:43] that age.

Can I push back on the slightly? Yeah, please. So the way I read it is. That they might’ve actually had a point and then they missed a point. Right. So. One of the costs of having fashion be mysterious, aspirational, and dare I say, transcendent, uh, is that it does remind us of our merely mortal nature. There was a period of time where, you know, you, you would show people without makeup, uh, and just how completely plain and ordinary. They were right there. They’re all sorts of faces that lend themselves to being turned into something that cannot be as canvases on which to be painted. Let’s say. There is something powerful about, um, deconstructing fashion. If I, if you remember, when I bring up sometimes as Jennifer Lopez is famous for Saatchi dress. Yeah. Um, I am sure that adhesive is somehow lurking in the background, but the idea of having adhesive on your boobs and, and having the fabric somehow stick, you know, all sorts of contrivances. That’s much less. Exciting and alluring if I know how the magic trick, of course. So the idea of a magic show in which the demands to know how every trick is done is a very weird thing because some of us want to be fooled. We want to be seduced. But we also are shamed in this process because of our own very plain nature. One of the things that I have to deal with is, is that I have moles all over my face and some, some percentage of every YouTube video that I’ve ever done comments. And you think the guy would have some money, you need to have the moles removed. Why is that guy wearing a wig? Right? Yeah. It’s clearly a weave. No, but nobody, his age has hair like that, you know, or whatever. And the shaming is incredibly powerful. On the other hand, the transcendence is incredibly powerful. And the number of people who can see both of these things, which is, yeah, they have a point and they’re also creating a huge negative externality and costs that they’re not taking into account. We are in some sense in some sort of awkward waking up that there has been a very dark side to fashion, to the models, to the way in which we’ve eroticized children. Very often, these women are recognized when they’re 12, when they’re 14, um, And we have been complicit as a society in the, you know, eroticization of children for a great deal of time. So what, what astounds me is not that they push back, but that the quality of the pushback is so shitty. 

BEE: [01:28:32] Well, it it’s, it’s just, uh, a reflection of their way of thinking. It is pure ideology. I don’t send someone, I mean, look, writing anything is kind of, you know, I don’t want to say an act of magic or an act of willing disbelief in terms of you’re you’re creating something out of nothing.

And I’m creating this idea about my memories of, uh, The nineties and what I was attracted to about fashion and contrast seen it negatively to what I feel fashion is now where I just, it’s not as interesting. Um, because it’s, uh, I guess more, uh, Inclusive in terms of letting you see the strings and everything, but letting you see the strings and letting you see how everything is made is really endemic to this culture. Now it’s, it’s in every Wikipedia page, it’s in connecting all the Marvel movies and all the backstories to all the characters generation that’s there is no mystery in terms of that they don’t want mystery. I think mystery frightens them and makes them feel. Whatever unsafe ambiguity makes them feel unsafe and it confuses them. Um, so I don’t know, is it really shitty? That thinking is shitty. I guess it is to a degree. It also is overly reactive to me and it, and of course it is because the minute something is posted, you want to get your voice out there. So you post something 20 minutes. 

EW: [01:30:03] That’s true. But like, I would say that for example, I always ask this question.

Do people want to be seduced? If you, if you believe that you don’t want to be manipulated, you’ll never have the experience of being seduced because seduction is in some sense, a willing manipulation, usually on two people’s part. Right? And so when, when Jennifer Lopez was trying to seduce the world at scale with this dress, that miraculously stayed on her body. We wanted to be in the audience and I’m sure, you know, one of the beliefs I’ve had about gay men is that in some sense, very often gay men are like magicians assistance or consultants. They very often take great pleasure in seeing how the trick is done. Um, without wanting to be completely like the heterosexual men are just sitting there in the audience, lapping it up. And the gay men are like, Oh, you know, did you see her makeup? It was fabulous. Like they’re actually thinking about the construction, the craft, you know, there’s sort of a different, I, 

BEE: [01:31:09] an outsider. I 

EW: [01:31:10] mean, outside of that is you’re not being carried away. Like women at all also will say, Oh, did you see, I love the way she, you know, she wears her false eyelashes.

Right. Whereas men are like, If they’re heterosexual, they’re sort of believing the whole thing. 

BEE: [01:31:23] Right? I can’t imagine living in a world where I didn’t want to be seduced daily. That’s what I want to be. I want to be seduced all day long. I want to be seduced by every book I pick up. I want to be seduced by why else would I drive to a theater?

Why else would I drive to the ArcLight, pay a ticket and sit in a dark empty room, unless I want it to be seduced. I want to be seduced by my coffee. I want to be seduced by everything. And I do think there’s a pushback on that because giving insists a deduction is being out of control. It is an out of control, but that’s the pleasure.

EW: [01:31:58] I think you’ve made this point before. It has to do with this crazy loss of trust and in a world. Characterized by a loss of trust. I do understand the desire to worry about, well, you weren’t careful and you are shaming and you’re having a negative effect over here. Right? Whereas in a world of higher trust, people say, you know, like in Silicon Valley, the concept of pitching people say pitch me, you know, because the VCs who have the money are used to being seduced.

You know, like, Oh, your, your pitch was in insufficiently, manipulative and insufficiently seductive. You’re going to have a harder time with your company. If that’s how you do things, let me show you how to be, uh, how to orient things so that you’re more likely to succeed because that way I’m more likely to make money with my investment. I think that there there’s some aspect where this desire for radical transparency has to do with people who feel very cut out of society. 

BEE: [01:33:03] I think it has to do with, because people don’t read anymore. I think it has to do with people don’t read fiction anymore. I think it has to do with a tiny, strange lack of empathy, even when everyone says.

You know, warm, fuzzy things to each other, uh, which to me increasingly is just virtue signaling and acting out, you know, feeling 

EW: [01:33:27] virtuous and being virtuous as a writer, the book are two very different. 

BEE: [01:33:30] Thanks. I think it’s, I think it really is down to people. Don’t read anymore. And that someone can find more meaning in, uh, Cuphead, which is the new video game that all the kids are playing and that they’ll never be reading.

They’ll never know the mysteries of HP Lovecraft or whatever. I do think that something has been. Severely minimized in terms of experience and in terms of a breadth of experience. And I don’t care if I sound old, I’ve always sounded old. I sounded old when I wrote less than zero was an old man at five, 

EW: [01:34:05] but you’ve said that you wouldn’t choose novels again.

BEE: [01:34:07] I wouldn’t, I absolutely would not. 

EW: [01:34:09] What would you choose in 

BEE: [01:34:10] a world? Uh, a web series, a TV show, a mini series. I choose it. I, I do think they’ve replaced it. I think, uh, adult literary fiction has slid down. Uh, we’ve lost about three. 13% of the readers since 2013, that is a lot that is a bad business. And that’s over a loss of a billion dollars in sales that is suggestive of something.

And I also don’t meet anybody anymore. Who reads serious adult fiction, serious meaning quasi literary to literary adult fiction. I’m not talking about, you know, obscure. Writers that are only taught in academia, but, um, it is something that, um, I don’t know. I am, I really do believe that reading that kind of long form fiction encourages empathy and encourages you to step into other people’s shoes and to see the world from. Three or four or eight different angles rather than your own. I think that that to me is the purest example of getting that experience more than theater, more than listening to a record, more than going to a movie, because it is not a passive experience. It is an active experience of actually putting yourself in the shoes of the character and seeing the world through the way that they look at it. And it’s just that you can’t get that in any other kind of medium. And if that’s going, um, I mean, I don’t know. I mean, what’s, what’s replacing that. 

EW: [01:35:40] Well, I don’t know that there is, and that’s one of the things I wanted to get to, which is if we are in fact losing the capacity, as I’ve said for a semi reliable, communal sense, making that we can’t make sense of the incoming information in any way where we can communally kind of agree on, well, what just happened and what should we be thinking about, about how to, how to.

How to approach at our approach that if we don’t have a cannon where I can reference a line or two, uh, you know, to get at a really complicated thought in my own tradition, we’ve lost canned humor where a lot of, like, let’s say Talmudic teachings were contained in a joke and you would just use the punchline that nobody. Told the joke. Once everybody knew it, you just used the punchline to say, well, that’s a super subtle principal, you know, like, well, referencing one line, the idea is that does protest too much. Me thinks is a complicated concept. I don’t want to have to explain it from scratch, but if I can point out that somebody is falling over, you know, Alan Dershowitz seems to be protesting too much at the moment. Right. And I don’t want to have to say more. Right. Um, if we don’t have common literature, common Canon, if we don’t have the time to sort of take a more Strauss in view, which is what is the, what is the writer really trying to, to say that can’t be said in the open, if we believe that transparency is always the answer and that sunlight is always the best disinfectant, is there any way of waking up into a different era? So that th this thing that is, uh, suffusing our culture. Um, doesn’t take the whole enterprise down. 

BEE: [01:37:18] Sometimes, I think I’m old sometimes and I am, I am old. And I think that this is the natural state of things and that we are just moving forward on this trajectory and that bit by bit, you kind of get. Um, you can fight, I suppose, in an unnatural way to try to stay on that trajectory, but it’s moving along and, uh, you know, that golden world that surrounded you is moving on to younger people and to sexier people and to.

More vibrant people. And I, I think sometimes, and I S I, I don’t believe this is true about reading. I sometimes think that, Oh, this is what it means to become somewhat obsolete in terms of a pop culture world in terms of being a member of the pop culture world. And it. And it just goes this way and people are left behind, I think a lot about why, um, the Quintin Tarantino movie, uh, struck a chord among so many middle aged men I know is because it’s really an exploration of that, of being, you know, um, so all of this is a roundabout way saying that maybe people are figuring out and the trajectory that we’re on is the one that they want to be on. But I just don’t know if it, I don’t know if it is, and I don’t know if, um, I, I don’t, I think we’re ever going back to Reed. 

EW: [01:38:50] I agree with that. I don’t know that I want to go back to the previous world. 

BEE: [01:38:54] Yeah, no, I don’t think I do either. And I am. I just, I just wished it to a degree and I think it’s it’s as with you that, um, that I guess a little bit more.

Empathy critical thought. And that this notion that you can see two things in, um, in a sentence or in an opinion, you know, Fitzgerald’s famous dictum about. The only smart people are the ones that can really see both the beauty and the horror and arose. And if you, if you, you need to be able to see both to be an artist or to be a person in the world, uh, if you just see one or the other, whatever. Um, and I, and I don’t see that, uh, anymore, and it is, um, That’s what I miss. I mean, I don’t really want to necessarily go, but they’ll look watching, watching the Quintin Tarantino movie. I mean, I wouldn’t, I don’t know if I wouldn’t mind going back here to Hollywood, 1969, just in terms of a certain kind of fetishistic level in terms of clothes and decor and.

EW: [01:40:05] Yeah, I think that there is a golden age of Hollywood. I think one of the things we’re missing is we developed this idea of critical thinking and it turned out that there was a parallel theory that never got developed, which I’ve called critical feeling, which is how do you get your feeling to be responsive and adaptive as opposed to reflexive and kind of right.

And that the group feel. Is this very weird thing that the millennials traveling my theory about this, whether you’ll bite on this or think it’s really is that maybe generation X are there so-called magic Negroes to, um, the millennials, the millennials are a larger cohort. Maybe they’re going to mean. More, you know, nobody from the 1930s who was born in the 1930s ever became president of the United States. Maybe the idea is the gen X has a different role and that the millennials, uh, are hungry to be inducted by something older, something more established to be recognized. The boomers are weirdly not going to do it. The silence are almost spent. Yeah. And I wonder whether our problem is that we were angry. Like, I don’t think generation was really working because what it does is it sets us up. Oppositionally we’re taking their nonsensical energy, which by the way is completely maddening. And I think it’s very strange that I grew up in a very threatening world, really physical, physical. Yeah. And I’m more worried about Twitter. Than I ever was in the world where people are wrapping their cars around telephone poles or ending up ODing in the Cedars, ER. Something about this world is weirdly dangerous because there are no normal rules. It doesn’t know when to stop. It’s willing to take away your ability to earn, to destroy your reputation, to move your private life into the public sphere. And it doesn’t seem to have any empathy. I wonder if the real trick, and this is like, the hardest thing to even imagine is to realize that these are damaged kids and now damaged adults and that our grit. It’s supposed to serve them. Maybe we’re supposed to lose twice, lose one to the baby boomers and the silence more supposed to lose again. But we are supposed to take up. Our place, helping them become a better version of themselves. I think most of my audience is millennial and I bet yours is too 

BEE: [01:42:31] great deal of his millennial. Uh, and, uh, I talk about the demise of a lot of things. I talked about the demise of reading. I thought I talk about the demise of American cinema, which you would think would not be interesting to them at all, but, um, They’re there.

Uh, and certainly I have a large millennial following despite how often millennials attacked me this past spring with the publication of the book. Uh, they were definitely there at the readings. They were definitely there at the signings and a lot of them were there when I gave a talk at the Peter deal. The oven foundation about a month ago. So there is that audience and I agree with you on a certain level. I do think they want to learn and they do want guidance. I think they’re hungry for it or to a degree. Um, but they are overly sensitive about how people, um, see them. And that is very interesting. Uh, and I think a new thing in terms of shame because the, the, the guiding principle or one of the strongest, um, uh, signifiers in the millennials, I know is shame. Shame is a huge motivating factor to be shamed. And, um, that is something that I, I don’t know, I can’t relate to, and I don’t think gen X can really relate to that. As much either it’s not as PA it was never as powerful, motivating how you express yourself in terms of being online in terms of how people talk about it for us.

EW: [01:44:09] I think that what we don’t understand is is that we’re not, this is another theory. Feel free to shoot it down. I’ve watched the very strange interactions between millennials from a perspective of a gen X or whatever often say is that was a little rapey. Yeah. And. If you use the word rape to a gen exer, it’s like, boom, you’ve just dropped a bomb.

But like rapey, like I would never use the word rapey and then another one of them will say, yeah, you’re right. It was a little bit rapey. And then they go on. And so the idea is that they’re trading there. They have an agreement, which is like, it’s normal for people to say things that are kind of. Rapey and racist and kind of, kind of like you’re starting to get into dangerous territory, just I’m signaling to you. You probably don’t want to go there and there. And he was like, thank you very much. I didn’t want to go there. And then they all go on their Merry way. Very often. What we do is say, what did you say. Like we we’re back on our heels. Cause we’re not part of this agreement. And we have an idea of like, there was nothing wrong with what I said, dare talk to me that way or no, no, no, absolutely didn’t mean it. I promise you. I promise you so we don’t understand that it’s relative to an agreement that we’re not part of to warn each other to back off and give a quick apology and then keep moving on. And I don’t even agree with it, like from their perspective. If I’m showing them a George Carlin routine and they say that was a little racist.

BEE: [01:45:45] Mmm. 

EW: [01:45:46] We’re now at a weird impasse where if I continue to say, I think that routine is actually quite important and you really need to look at it and pay attention. Try to figure out what he’s saying now we’ve escalated. Wow. You did. I gave you your warning shot and you declined it. Now I’m going to have to call, call you out as really a bad person.

And now I’m going to have to potentially use my high leverage position as a reporter for a famous newspaper to actually ruin your life. Like we don’t understand that. That’s not what they’re hoping for. They’re hoping for this sort of, Oh yeah. You know, what was I thinking? I would never want to point somebody to that. George Carlin routine, 

BEE: [01:46:25] the ambiguity of irony. That’s missing the ambiguity of irony and ironic I irony and being ironic was, you know, a key, a key part of it. Our generation. Um, and it was a way we express ourselves and it’s a way that we dealt with things. A lot of it in our, in our novels, in the music that we listened to, um, very rarely was music, this declaration of myself and how I’m feeling, um, at least as a gen X or growing up in the late seventies and the eighties.

Um, but that lack of irony. Rips up, takes away shading and takes away, uh, humanity, um, because nothing is exactly as it seems. And if you want to look at the world in that way, and then every little, um, thing that you don’t like becomes racist or rapey, and you’re not able to. Place it within a context and taking the totality of it and look at it from three or four different angles. And you’re, it’s just pure reaction to, I dunno, a litany of rules that you’ve been told you have to follow. I’m not doing it. I mean, I’m just not, and I don’t apologize to them and I don’t say anything, but I just don’t say anything. People. I mean, I didn’t, I’ve never written an apology to anybody and I’ve never defended myself to any of these people either because the arguments just isn’t worth responding to on a certain level you’ve, you’ve taken you’ve, you’ve decreased, structured to a degree where there’s an ounce or so of sympathy, but I also think that they should know better. I think I’m giving people way too much credit for those pulling up their pants and understanding what it means to be an adult and that you 

EW: [01:48:23] well, I’m trying to get them to entertain the idea that, for example, if you chase injustice with greater injustice, you have not gotten rid of injustice. You have a problem with the old lady who swallowed a fly, right?

I’m trying to figure out how to get through to their minds. What I see now, maybe there are ways in which I’m wrong. I’m open to that, but I’m not open to the idea that suddenly every everything has been wrong and one generation has suddenly figured it out. 

BEE: [01:48:53] I have to say something please, as I realized that I don’t really care.

Yeah. I really don’t care what millennials think about me. And I really don’t know if I care. What I think about them. The overreaction to the hashtag generation was, which I thought was a perfect example of a kind of snarky gen X way of looking at millennials was intended as comedy. And it was tended as something to 

EW: [01:49:17] talk about.

I understand exactly. I got all chuckle out 

BEE: [01:49:20] of it. Right. But still. Two two. And then when I did it, take it a bit serious, more seriously, and expanded on it in my book, um, and realized that I was sympathetic as well as annoyed. Um, I just, I don’t know. I think that the reaction to that was endemic of, of, uh, you know, millennial thinking and that it is, um, I don’t know it was problematic, but I also realized I’ve got other things, so not to worry.

That’s 

EW: [01:49:52] fine. But what I’m worried about is we’ve got a generation that is now going to probably use its high leverage positions to derange a lot and, and cancel it and well canceling, you know, some of us can afford w what worries me is I see this as eroding the. Outer layers of our civil society.

They’re about to get to core structure and it’s going to keep going. And I don’t think it’s cute. I think now I think it is absolutely capable of getting us into war. I think it’s capable of getting us a president that would be dictatorial as far as an overreaction to their nonsense. Yeah. So I don’t think nothing is riding on it. I think a lot is riding on it and I have two contradictory impulses. One is to say, Well, what is it that you’re actually trying to say? Maybe we can work to try to understand you better. And the other one is cut that shit out. No, of course. And so I don’t have the indifference. I think that you do. I think what I have is I have two contradictory impulses. One of which is to say, I bet you’re saying something and I’m just not getting it. And the other is you’re wildly out of control and you need to see a different path. 

BEE: [01:51:05] Of course, boom or youth. Millennial youth, gen X youth. I know which one that I am probably, uh, uh, most, uh, impress apply on a certain level in terms of I’m shocked in terms of a kind of a level of.

Clear headed. I don’t want to say adulthood, but just a, a way of dealing with the world that is wildly different from millennial and boomer. And I think that’s interesting that you think that there could be a moment where gen X might step up to the stage and announce itself forcefully in a way that perhaps we 

EW: [01:51:46] have, I mean, you and I.

We’re modeling a conversation, which we have a couple of diff disagreements. Yeah. I think it’s polite. Both of us are capable of taking our sabers out of their sheets, but there’s usually no reason to 

BEE: [01:52:00] no, and I don’t 

EW: [01:52:01] never, and what I do find is is that I just think. What I was hoping to do here a little bit is to talk about this context and this firmament, which I think has been invisible, that we’ve have a boomer millennial story.

There’s a very important role of gen X that has been ignored. And your, your, your work, I think, has been probably the best example of it. To be honest, I find it almost impossible to read because it’s so, it’s so right. And that what. What we do next is we have to think about the longterm longevity of our stuff. Society. I’m very worried for example, that some of these millennial females need to start families, even though they’re pretending it doesn’t really matter one way or the other, whether they have, uh, families are not, I think it’s going to be incredibly destructive if we don’t have people invested in the longevity of our society. Through somewhat normal structures. Now I could be wrong in that. Maybe the idea is, is that a family is an outmoded concept and that people don’t need this to be fulfilled. But I do think that if we don’t actually have adults in the room and if we don’t become those adults and strong and caring above, let’s just the way you’re dealing with a bratty child. We’re, we’re too cowed by these bratty children. We actually have to say, Hey. I’m really sorry, but you have to stop throwing a temper tantrum. And if you have to go to your room, go to your room, but you’re out of control you. We can’t have the New York times becoming the agent of like individual destruction as it destroys the reputations of people who fall out of line of the orthodoxy. That, that thing is a threat to our society. Writ large. Anyway. I don’t know whether you agree with 

BEE: [01:53:40] that note. All right. I think I, I completely agree. Well, I agree. 

EW: [01:53:46] It has been fantastic having you here and you’ve been through the portal with Bret Easton Ellis. Uh, I hope for those of you who are listening on Apple or Spotify, You’ll subscribe to the program and hopefully we’ll be putting it out on YouTube as well.

So make sure to subscribe to our channel and we’ll see you next time. Thanks very much.

Jocko Willink is a man who radiates decency. He is also part of a community of warriors drawn to test themselves in the crucible of deadly combat against an evil and implacable foe. Eric sits down with Jocko Willink to learn how this cerebral Navy SEAL and hero of the battle of Ramadi against ISIS managed to bring military discipline home to the fight for personal freedom in peacetime writing kids books that teach ‘extreme ownership’ and radical accountability to children. 

Give warriors a chance, and then subscribe to The Portal to be sure to catch our next and future episodes when they drop.

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Transcript

Eric Weinstein: 0:09 Hello, welcome to another episode of the Portal with Eric Weinstein, and I am pleased to be joined in studio with none other than Jocko Willink, Jocko? Sir, and I just did the Jocko. Didn’t call for an immediate response, and so none was given. Jocko, it’s great to be here with you.

Jocko Willink: 0:28 Thanks for having me on. I appreciate it.

EW: 0:29 Thanks for coming. One of the things I’m really excited to talk to you about is just how our military interacts with our civilian society. But before we get there, what I’d love to do is to just have you talk a little bit about your trajectory through special forces in the Seal program into this situation where you’re now a podcaster. I guess you were brought to the world of podcasting by our mutual friend, Tim Ferriss. And what was that trajectory? What are the highlights of that trajectory so that we have someplace to begin?

JW: 1:11 I was born and raised in a small New England town on a dirt road out in the middle of nowhere. I joined the military when I got done with high school. I went through SEAL training, I went in the SEAL teams, it was now 1991 when I showed up with a SEAL team SEAL Team One. I was an enlisted guy. So then I spent several years there, and then I got picked up for a commissioning program, which meant I was going to become an officer and move into a leadership position. And I did that, and then I went to the east coast, went to SEAL Team Two from there. I had to go to college. I went to college at the University of San Diego and majored in English and went back to a seal team. I did two deployments to Iraq once as a platoon commander and once as a task unit commander. I got done with that. I ran training for the West Coast SEAL Teams, and the training that I ran was the tactical training. Not the training where you see the guys on TV carrying boats on their heads and carrying logs around. That’s the basic SEAL training. And I ran the advanced kind of tactical training where seals learn to shoot, move and communicate and where they learn their tactics and where they learn combat leadership. And that’s where I spent my last three years. And then once I got done with that, I retired from the Navy. And when I got out, I started working with companies teaching leadership and that expanded. Eventually, I started working with a friend of mine I was in the SEAL Teams with Leif Babin. We got a lot of business consulting about leadership. Eventually, a lot of those businesses asked us to write down the concepts that we had or have to be able to give them something to do. Handouts of some kind. So we wrote down the concepts, and that eventually became the book Extreme Ownership. The book Extreme Ownership came out in 2015. And in 2015, I was on the Tim Ferriss podcast, through a mutual friend through two mutual friends Kirk Parsley and Peter Thiel, and was on the Tim Ferriss podcast. When I got done recording with Tim Ferriss, he pressed stop on the recorder and he looked at me and said, “You should do your own podcast.” And I noted that, and then a couple of weeks later, or a couple of months later, I was on Joe Rogan’s podcast, and in the middle of the podcast, he told me that I should have my own podcast. So I started my own podcast because when Tim Ferriss and Joe Rogan tell you to start a podcast, you should start a podcast. So they told me and I started a podcast. I’ve recorded 180-something podcasts. Since then I’ve written a bunch of other books. A book called Discipline Equals Freedom Field Manual, a book called The Dichotomy of Leadership. I’ve written three books in a series called The Way of the Warrior Kid series. And I’ve written one book for smaller kids called Mikey and the Dragons. And we’ve continued on with the business at Echelon Front working with companies all over the world teaching leadership. I think that’s where I’m at right now.

EW: 4:17 Well, it’s quite a story. Something that would be meaningful for me to know more about is. Yeah, I’ve always understood that our military has had to have really a separate culture, right down to let’s say, marriage ceremonies looking different in the military than they do outside. And one of my questions is, to what extent is the military still a separate culture? Do I have that wrong? And then following up on that, to what extent are the individual Special Forces units really an entirely alternate world with different practices different disciplinary regimes? Things that are unthinkable, let’s say, in the civilian world.

JW: 5:08 The military is made up of a bunch of human beings. People from America from every different walk of life in America. And they all come in, then certainly you go through Boot Camp, or whatever indoctrination program that you go through, and you learn some of the fundamental military methodologies of living, such as being disciplined, such as Chain of Command, such as rank structure, tactics, so you learn those things. But at the end of the day, those are just overlaying on a bunch of human beings that are just human beings. And so the military is just a subsection of American society. And it reflects that way inside the military, as far as the Special Operations Forces, sure they all have their own little culture, but, you know, you go to different colleges and they have different cultures. And you go to different businesses, I work with different businesses all the time, they all have their own little cultures going on inside and…

EW: 6:06 You don’t think it’s more profound…

JW: 6:08 … the military…

EW: 6:09 … of a difference?

JW: 6:12 I don’t know if it’s more profound. There are some really dynamic companies out there that have very, very deeply rooted cultures. And those are probably in some cases even more distinct than what you have inside the military. One thing that’s interesting about the military Sure, there are some military traditions that go back hundreds of years. But the military people come and go in the military all the time, you know, as an officer in the military, you might spend two, maybe three years at an individual unit, and then you’re gone and someone’s gonna take your place. So it’s not like a business or a company where sometimes you go to a company, I work with companies where there have been people there for 28 years, you know, throughout the chain of command, maybe it’s a frontline worker that’s been running some machines at a company for 27 years, or maybe it’s the CEO who’s owned the business or started the business or inherited the business or bought the business but he’s been there for a long time. So those cultures can have kind of a more unified way about them because there’s that continuity of, of human beings in it, whereas the military people move around and they get stationed they get out they retire. But so there’s there are cultures I think, in, in everywhere in the military, certainly has a culture button, depending on what you’re into. You know, if you go to a Grateful Dead show, you’ll see a strong culture there that everyone dresses the same, everyone looks the same. Everyone probably thinks very similarly. If you go to a Metallica show, same thing, you know, people are going to dress very similarly. So I guess it just I think everyone’s got a culture and it’s present in the military, for sure. But I think there are cultures everywhere.

EW: 8:03 Somebody that was in the military once said to me that you have to understand that the military values interoperability in place of continuity. That because people are constantly being moved around the culture is almost defined by a kind of mental flexibility of a certain kind, and that person went on to say that American companies used to move people around and have stopped doing that largely so that it used to be in his estimation, that our companies like Procter and Gamble or an Exxon would be much more like the military, and that they would have an expectation that you would be posted to a particular place for a couple of years there would be sort of a Welcome Wagon. There was a way of absorbing families and that had actually been given up and that the military had retained some of that, but that that was in fact also at risk. I don’t know whether that resonates at all?

JW: 9:07 Well, certainly in the military, you have to be adaptable.

EW: 9:11 Right.

JW: 9:11 And when you take different people all the time, and you cycle them into different military units, you learn to work with different people, that’s for sure. And you can’t get used to working with one type of human being, because even though that human being has been through Boot Camp, and they’ve been indoctrinated, they’ve still got all their own personal emotions and drives and personality and idiosyncrasies and things that are going to drive you crazy. And things that work well, and things that don’t work well. And you’ve got to deal with all those things.

EW: 9:36 Right.

JW: 9:37 And so it is that that does happen in the military, and it happens in the civilian sector. Now, what I find interesting about that statement is, I think nowadays people change jobs a lot more than they did when I was a kid. When I was a kid, all my friend’s parents worked at the same company for 29 years…

EW: 9:52 so they might have been moved around by it and now you might move around a lot but stay in the same city.

JW: 9:57 Yeah, but you might move around from company I need a company.

EW: 10:00 Right, exactly. So, you know, following on that. One thing that I had heard that I thought was kind of interesting in it, and almost a biological level was a description of boot camp, which was that boot camp was a recapitulation of human development for adults that needed to be retrained as if they had always been meant to be soldiers. So that the idea being that you have a civilian set of instructions in your brain, and you have to more or less blow it away, to accept all of these differences, that there really is a chain of command and it’s not flexible in the way that your regular life might be flexible or that you think that you can’t do something that is within your physical capacity to do it, but requires a lot of effort for you to get to that level. And that, in essence, would bootcamp was was it was a Second childhood that was imposed to make you safe to be a soldier to be in harm’s way. Whereas if you took your regular self onto a battlefield, your instincts would be completely counter to what would be safe for not only you, but for others who are attached to do do by that bootcamp as effectively. Another version of childhood that is overlaid over the previous one.

JW: 11:23 I don’t know if I’d call it another version of childhood. But I can tell you what the military boot camps do an incredible job of taking normal human beings from every walk of life and turning them into someone that is, in many cases. Now, the military is not perfect by any stretch of the imagination. But if you take a kid like me, will use me in as as an example. You take a kid like me, that was a marginal student, a marginal athlete, I was very rebellious. I was getting in trouble a lot. And you put me into boot camp and say, Okay, here’s you have a blank slate. None of your past matters. We don’t care. where you’re from, we don’t care what your parents did. We don’t care about any of that. We don’t care about your history, your past at all, what we care about what you’re going to do now. And if you do these things, you’re going to move in the direction you want to move into. And here’s what you’re gonna do. You know what you do in boot camp, you fold your underwear a certain way, you walk a certain way, you eat a certain way. And that’s what you do. And if you do what they tell you to do, you can move forward and you can advance and things work out. Well. Now, what the thing that you got to remember is boot camp is a miniscule fraction of what your career in the military is, right? So for instance, obedience to orders, right, that’s something that you get drilled to do in boot camp. In fact, the purpose of military drill, you know, you see the guys marching around with rifles on their arms, and they’re all coordinated doing synchronized movements, right? That’s called close order drill. And they used to do it because when you were in battle in ranks in the Revolutionary War period, of course, we didn’t fight this way in America, right. We won But the the British military, close order drill, hey, you’re gonna draw your weapon at the same time you’re gonna load your weapon at the same time, you’re gonna fire your weapon at the same time. And you’re gonna follow these orders when they come out directly. That’s what it was originally for. Right? But they, we still do close order drill in boot camp. And the reason that they do it is so that you learn immediate obedience, obedience to orders. That’s why you do it. Now what you find out after boot camp, and what I tell people all the time is the last thing I want as a commander is people that are just going to obey my orders without questioning them. I want to be surrounded with people that question what I’m saying that gives me pushback when something doesn’t make sense. And the last thing I want is somebody that’s just going to blindly obey my orders. So boot camp is like childhood, I guess, but it’s really only like infancy. It really just teaches you get you potty trained. And then once you get into the military, that’s where you actually learn to maneuver, how to lead how to interact with other people. You learn how to flex up and down Command, like you talked about the inflexibility of the chain of command. That’s actually once you get the further you get in the military, the more flexibility you see in the chain of command.

EW: 14:09 So in part Wouldn’t that be because the people who rise to positions of power cannot get there by doing it highly egoically, that they have to actually recognize that the guy at the bottom might have the best information. And that so that it’s really because we refuse to promote people who are crazily egoic that we have that kind of flexibility.

JW: 14:33 Well, that is an ideal outlook. And And certainly, that would be a nice thing. But no, there’s, there’s people that, you know, like I said, in an ideal situation where people are getting promoted, because they’re the ones that are open minded. There’s the ones that put their ego aside, but I have to explain this to people all the time that because I always tell people, hey, you need to keep your ego in check. And I have to explain to people Yeah, sometimes that person that is concerned about themselves and they’re taking care of themselves, while I’m telling you, Eric, hey, don’t Don’t worry about, you know, don’t worry about yourself, take care of the team take care of the mission, and and things will be okay. And you have to say, Listen, you this other guy who’s taking care of himself, he might actually get a promotion ahead of you, he might move ahead of you this time, he might even move ahead to you next time. But guess what, eventually people are gonna look at that guy. They’re gonna characterize him for what he is, which is someone that’s taking care of himself doesn’t care about anyone else. And that is going to undermine his future. So in the long run, right, you’ll, you’ll advance because you took care of the team, you take care of the mission. Maybe in the short term, you might advance because you took care of yourself, but that’s not a long term solution. So ideally, yes, people that put their ego in check. Those are the people that get promoted, unfortunately, doesn’t always work that way. Sometimes, some people are ego maniacs, and they they step on people’s backs and they make it to the top that absolutely happens.

EW: 15:47 Do you find that there’s a I mean, I’m always suspicious of the idea of really sidelining the ego the ego is in some sense this receptacle For we, you know, our life needs a protagonist somehow and the ego provides that sense that it is about us because we have one set of eyes and that’s how we tour the world. Do you find that the people that you respect the most keeping their ego in check as you say it are people who are really not highly ego or they people who have their ego involved in like a Mexican standoff with other parts of their personality, so that there’s a tension and a dynamism?

JW: 16:32 Yeah, certainly, there’s something that I call the dichotomy of leadership which are these opposing forces that are pulling you in opposite directions all the time. And and yes, ego is absolutely one of those things because if I, if I truly had no ego, well, then I wouldn’t care what my performance was. I wouldn’t care about anything right. I would just be happy to be sitting watching television and eating Cheetos. That’s what a total lack of ego could do to me. The other extreme is I’m gonna step on everyone’s back in order to rise to the top and I don’t care. Whoever gets in my way, I’m going to take him down. Where do we want to be? We want to be in a balanced place where we’re confident, but we’re not cocky. You know, I went and spoke with some inner city kids here in LA. And he whenever whenever I speak to people, one of the topics that I talk to him about is a you’ve got to stay humble, because normally I’m talking to people that are CEOs of companies or, you know, people that are in positions of power. And so I have to constantly remind them to keep their ego in check. And that originally, that originated in the fact that I was training young SEAL leaders and young SEAL leaders, their their, their front runners, they’re overachievers they’re, they got a strong ego. So they have to be told, Hey, you got to keep that thing in check. You’ve got to make sure you’re listening to other people. You got to hear other people’s ideas. You got to make sure that you’re taking care of your team ahead of yourself. They need to hear that. I went and spoke with these inner city kids and it was an interesting group of inner city kids because they weren’t just they weren’t just underprivileged. They were underprivileged. But they had done some kind of tests so that they were they were they were smart kids. And I was going to talk about the normal topics that I speak on and one of them is humility. And I went in this room and I immediately realized I wasn’t gonna talk about humility at all, because every one of these kids in this room was was beat down you could see it

EW: 18:15 That wasn’t the message they need

JW: 18:16 their their heads were hung low,

EW: 18:18 right

JW: 18:18 They weren’t looked me in the eyes. So what they needed to hear is, Hey, be confident you, you have capability, you can do this. So they were there’s a group of people whose ego was, was crushed too far, and they needed to have confidence built up. So again, this is another one of those classic dichotomies that needs to be balanced. You need Yes, you need to have an ego. But at the same time, you you have to be humble enough to listen to other people and you can’t let your ego get out of control.

EW: 18:41 So I’m super glad to hear you bring up the dichotomy of leadership and I was just trying to touch it lightly. Can you talk more about what that theory is and how you’ve come to it?

JW: 18:55 It’s interesting the way I came to it, the way I came to, it was by re…, I actually had to have the ultimate form of humility with myself. Because I realized as I preached these, many of the theories that I had, as I preached them, I realized that I wasn’t always right. And I’ll give you an example is one of the things that I always talked about, especially on the battlefield was that you had to be aggressive, like you have to be aggressive. That’s what you have to be. You have to be ready to maneuver, you have to take the fight to the enemy. If you see a problem, you need to attack that problem. I talked about that all the time. And then plain as day clearly, Are there times when as a leader or as a human being, you can be too aggressive? Yes, there absolutely are. And we used to call that running to your death if you’re super hyper aggressive. Because Jocko said you got to be aggressive. And so now there’s a machine gun nest on a hill and you just go charge that thing. You’re going to die and whoever follows you is also going to die. So you you have to be you have to you have to modulate your aggression there’re sometimes we have to back off. And that was sort of the first thing that I said, Well, on the one hand I talked about, you got to be aggressive, but there’s times where you can be too aggressive. And then I said to myself, well, what about what about talking as a leader? Because Because as a leader, you have to talk, right? You have to communicate with the other people on your team,

EW: 20:19 right

JW: 20:21 Is there such a thing as a leader that can talk too much? Yes, there absolutely is. And if I as a leader, all I do is talk, talk, talk, talk talk. Well, eventually, people stop listening to me, they don’t know what’s important and what’s not. I over-communicate to them to the point where they stop listening. So you can talk too much. But the other side of the spectrum is I don’t talk enough. And now you don’t know what’s going on. The team doesn’t know which direction we’re headed. So this is where this idea came from, is that the quality that we’re looking for? Isn’t on the extremes. It’s a balance it’s a dichotomy of leadership and finding the balance in those dichotomies led led me and my buddy Leif write this follow on book to Extreme Ownership. The reason the follow on book to Extreme Ownership. The reason for that is because that’s as we work with companies. Not only did most questions revolve around this idea of the dichotomy of leadership, but most answers, most answers that I give are someone says, Oh, my team isn’t taking any initiative. Okay, well, let’s break that problem down. Why is that happening? That’s happening because you perhaps are taking so much ownership, so much Extreme Ownership, you read the book, Extreme Ownership, so you’re taking so all this ownership. Well, now, your team doesn’t have any ownership. So they’re just waiting for you to tell them what to do. So when you do that their initiative gets crushed. You go too far in the other direction, and you’ve got people doing things that they shouldn’t be doing working on. They’re stepping outside their bounds. They’re they’re not staying within the parameters you’ve given them because you’ve got them running wild. So you’ve gone too far in the other direction. Where do you want to be you want to be balanced and, and that’s where that dichotomy of leadership comes in.

EW: 22:05 So, I mean, it’s fascinating to have to tell people that the best advice is to constantly recalibrate the forces that are in opposition within your mind. Do you have any way of helping people in general with dialectics that need to govern them… I feel like you know, I thought it was beautiful what you said before about these inner city, inner city kids. So much of what I hear is people giving blanket advice, which has no sense of what listener it’s finding. So you know, like you teach people to be humble, who are already humble, you’re just cutting them off at the knees. Or if you teach people you know, you need to be assertive and you’ve got somebody who’s like, wildly over aggressive. The person just takes it as license how how do we respond sensibly push out a framework for balance, which isn’t mealy mouth, but really has full blown versions of these opposing ideas with within one mind?

JW: 23:13 Again, that’s that’s why this book The Dichotomy of Leadership was we had to write it. Because Because we put the name on the first book, Extreme Ownership, we gave it that name. And, and that’s a great concept. When you’ve got people that don’t want to take responsibility for things like listen, you’ve got to take Extreme Ownership of what’s going on. But it’s like you said, when you give it that to someone that’s already a micromanager.

EW: 23:41 Right.

JW: 23:41 Oh, they’re all of a sudden they’re running with it like, like, would you say a license? It’s like they have a license now to micromanage

EW: 23:47 double-O-micromanagement

JW: 23:48 Yeah. And they’re wondering why things are falling apart on them, and why no one has any initiative anymore, and why they’re having to make every single decision and why the frontline troops aren’t maneuvering on their own. Well, it’s because you’re micromanaging them now you’re micromanaging them to the extreme. So that is why we had to do it because these these things, as you said, you have to constantly modulate all these different balances all these different dichotomies, you have to constantly modulate them. And by the way, once you get it modulated today,

EW: 24:19 right,

JW: 24:20 tomorrow, it’ll change a little bit.

EW: 24:21 Yeah.

JW: 24:22 Because all of a sudden, you know, if you were if you had no initiative, Eric, and I said, Hey, listen, I might have been micromanaging, I need you to step up more. And you go, Okay, cool. And the next day, you show up, and you start doing some project that I hadn’t even authorized. And now I gotta come back, and I gotta, I gotta adjust, because now I got to tighten you up and say, hey, I want you to take initiative, and I appreciate it. But you still got to stay within the bounds of what we’re trying to get done. So I was right yesterday. And now all of a sudden, same mindset. I’m wrong and I have to adjust again. So you’re 100% spot on there. You have to modulate all these principles for the people that you’re dealing with and the situation that they’re in.

EW: 24:59 So So, one of the things that I’ve been really curious about, I don’t know whether this, whether you react to this in any in any way at all, is we always talk about teaching critical thinking. But we don’t talk about teaching critical feeling. And but what my critical feeling, I mean that most of our emotions are susceptible to becoming maladaptive. And because they’re not analytic thoughts, they’re, they’re sort of harder to access and harder to influence. I would imagine that when you were in some situation where you’re, you know, in harm’s way, and you’ve got a bunch of people that you’re looking out for, and you got to get something done and stakes are very high. The emotions that you might have around your house on the weekend, when you’re with your family are very different than the emotions you can afford when you’re actually engaged in some sort of action in a military context. Can you… Do you relate to this concept of critical feeling at all? Does that sound like something that you have had to think about? Am I off base,

JW: 26:08 I have had to think about emotions a ton. And what I have found with emotions is just like every other thing that we have as human beings, they can get out of balance. So if I have a leader that gets super emotional about every decision or flies off the handle, or shows a bunch of anger and loses his temper, that is not going to be good. People will not respect that. People will not trust his judgment because they’re emotional. So we can’t go and be super emotional human beings, if we’re trying to be in a leadership position. And that includes in your house, right? If you fly off the handle with your wife, or you fly off the handle with your kids, that is not going to be healthy for those kids. They’re not going to trust your judgment. They’re not going to respect you. How can they respect you can’t control your own temper. And if they do respect it, that’s actually scary because what you’re teaching them is that In order to get respect, what you have to do is have a violent, crazy temper. So you so you don’t want to be a super hyper emotional person. What’s the other end of the spectrum? The other end of the spectrum is I’ve shut my emotions off completely. I don’t, I’m totally and completely detached. I have no emotional connection with the people that I’m leading, whether they’re on my team or in my family. And guess what if I don’t have that connection, as a, as a human being, as human beings are working for me, they are not going to do what they need to do to accomplish the mission when they see me as a cold blooded robot. So with these emotions, you have to keep them under control. I’m not telling people and I don’t tell people that they should be void of emotion,

EW: 27:42 right

JW: 27:43 Because if you’re void of emotions, you’re a robot and people don’t follow robots. people follow other human beings people follow human beings that they’re connected to emotionally. However, let that go too far. And your emotions are out of control and you’re making bad decisions. You know, I always ask people when what what kind of decisions do you make when you’re super emotional? The answer is not really good ones.

EW: 28:01 Yeah.

JW: 28:02 But if you completely cut emotions out, you know, if you’ve got a team and you’re going to make a decision, that’s going to be a massive negative impact on them. And you don’t let those emotions play a little bit, and you just make the perfect business decision. Okay, great. You made a perfect business decision. You saved X amount of dollars, but but you cut that emotional connection with your people, and they saw that you didn’t really care about their emotions. Okay, you got the short term when you made a little more money this quarter, guess what’s happening next quarter, you’re losing in three people, critical people that went and found a job somewhere else. Somebody, some other leader somewhere made an emotional connection with them, and now they’re gone. And so your short term win turns into a long term loss.

EW: 28:43 How do you how do you think about the concept? We’re used to hearing You’re overthinking this. And I’ve started to try this phrase, I think you’re over-feeling this. I’ve noticed that in our public square, it’s become more important to constantly explore one’s feelings and to the point where I find it. Absolutely distracting the extent to which people are now sharing their feelings feels to my way of thinking wrong. They’re not holding anything back. There’s nothing intimate, you’re expected to go into this performative kind of heart connection to, you know, various abstractions. Do you think they’re, I know there’s a better way of saying, like, you’re over feeling this is not an easy thing for people to hear. How do you get people to rein in some of those emotions?

JW: 29:34 No, I actually don’t i don’t know if there’s a better way of saying that over-feeling is a great term. I think I might have to use that. That’s great. And that’s explaining what I just explained, right? If I, if you tell me something, and my emotion is this or my reaction is this massive, emotional reaction. What’s horrible about it from a strategic perspective is if you tell me some opinion, and I just immediately fly off the handle emotionally,

EW: 29:58 right

JW: 29:58 You don’t listen to another word that I I say and it means nothing to you other than “Oh, he’s super emotional”, you dis you discount everything that I say, because I’m emotional and and you as a human being know that someone else being super emotional isn’t thinking straight and isn’t making good decisions. And, and they’re just just being emotional. So I’m better to say, “Oh, interesting point. Let me give you what what my take on that is” and all of a sudden you’re gonna sit and, you’re gonna listen to me and you’re gonna, you’re gonna hear me out. And so yes, over-feeling is something that happens all the time. And again, that’s just going too far out of balance in the dichotomy of leadership with your emotions.

EW: 30:34 So another thing I want to explore with you is this question. Well, come at it from kind of a funny angle. Are you familiar with Esther parral at all the relationship expert?

JW: 30:46 no

EW: 30:47 she’s specializes in thinking about very difficult topics she’s touched. You know, what happens to marriage in a monogamous setting when it feels very constrained. She’s touched on infidelity. She’s now talking about workplace issues where she’s exploring, you know, sort of forbidden thoughts about what happens in the workplace. And one of the things that she said to me that was very interesting is that she was reconsidering masculinity. And she said that masculinity is clearly an incredibly powerful thing. But did she hadn’t appreciated that it is as fragile as it is powerful that the number of ways of invalidating men is quite high, and that there is some sort of dependence on kind of a bargain in which men tend to be more disposable, particularly in times of war and conflict. Let’s be honest about it,

JW: 31:47 no doubt about that.

EW: 31:48 And that there is something both extremely powerful but also fragile about the concept of masculinity itself. It’s very difficult for us, even in our society to find things that are wholly positive that we ascribe to the concept of masculinity that we would deny to the concept of femininity. Like we’ve gotten to a point where we’re just unsure it would seem as to whether or not there’s a compelling reason for half of humanity. Now, war, of course, is an easy counter to that. But the more distance we’ve gotten from World War Two, I worry that we’ve forgotten exactly why men exist in terms of their full complement of abilities and skills and functions. Do you think that there’s anything to the concept that masculinity may be intrinsically fragile? Like it’s subject to veto, if you say, you know, if you do something that’s heroic, let’s say and nobody chooses to acknowledge it or like, well, you’re showing off, you know, it’s a very hard thing to, to protect, you detect a crisis in masculinity. That’s a big topic, we get a lot of young people who come to some of the shows of the friends of both of ours. And it’s very clear that there’s the search for how do I make my way as a young man? Are you are you getting this energy?

JW: 33:26 Yeah, you know, I don’t get a lot of that energy. Alright. And the reason I don’t get a lot of that energy is because, I mean, I do what I do, my friends, they do what we do. You know, I think the the thing with with masculinity is just like everything else, if I take any masculine trait, and I take it to an extreme, it turns bad

EW: 33:49 it turns toxic.

JW: 33:50 I and you know, I should say, traditionally masculine trait, because if I take any traditional masculine trait, and I take it to the extreme, it turns bad.

EW: 33:58 Yeah.

JW: 33:58 The thing is the masculine traits that we talked about, but I have three daughters and one son, I, I raised them all the same, and I want them to have the same amount of the masculine traits. Hey, do I want you to be assertive? Yes, I want you to be assertive. That’s a traditionally masculine trait. Do I want you to be brave? Yes, I want you to be brave. Do I want you to be stupid? And and go overboard

EW: 34:22 hopefully that isn’t just a masculine trait

JW: 34:24 Yeah, yeah. We have to check with my wife on that one. But so so these

EW: 34:30 but even those aren’t really I mean, I wouldn’t say that assertiveness is a masculine trait, I would say we have our flavor of assertiveness has been traditionally different than the female flavor. But, you know, definitely. You know, I think of my wife as one of the braver people, I know there’s nothing that contradicts the feminine in that but she doesn’t do it the way let’s say my brother would, would behave in a in a brave context. And so the question in some sense has to do with it’s, you know, I give people the puzzle names some positive trait that you would associate with masculinity to distinguish it from femininity. There’s plenty of things that we say that are feminine, that are positive, but they’re very few things that we can say are masculine that are positive without an immediate claim that that is as female as it is male.

JW: 35:23 Hmm. I don’t know.

EW: 35:26 All right.

JW: 35:26 I mean, I don’t know. I’m over here doing what I do. I don’t know whether it’s considered masculine or whatever. But this is this is kind of what I do, how I live my life. The people that I know that are men, they all seem kind of similar to me.

EW: 35:47 Okay.

JW: 35:48 I mean, not all of them, obviously. Because you got I mean, I have friends that are that are not like me at all. But yeah, I don’t know.

EW: 35:57 Let’s try another one.

JW: 35:58 I don’t know if I have the best, the best answer for that.

EW: 36:01 Okay. What is it that I guess I think about the few people I’ve gone through life and death situations with, and I feel a very special, strong bond to them. That was catalyzed by the peril that we went through together. And I watched how they performed. But it wasn’t in a military situation, it was just sort of, you know, you’re like, you’re out on a remote hike and people perform, and they come through and you take that knowledge for the rest of your life that that’s somebody I can depend upon. Is there any substitute for putting your life at risk when it comes to deepening bonds between people, particularly men?

JW: 36:46 going through hard things together as what brings people together and for sure, the harder things that you go through, the tighter the bonds gonna be. So if you take the military, for example, to start with the military, Well, the first thing you do is you put them through boot camp, like We talked about, well, that’s hard and you go, and you form bonds with people that other people that went through boot camp, we all kind of have that common bond, then you go to airborne school where you’re going to jump out of airplanes. And that’s a little bit of a death defying thing. And you’re going to be the airborne crews are going to be a little bit tighter, you go to Special Operations Training and all of a sudden, you’ve done something that’s harder than that. And and now the bonds are a little bit tighter. Now you take that unit, and you put them into a combat zone, and their bonds are going to be even tighter. Now you take that combat zone and you make it super intense, those bonds are going to be even tighter. So there’s no doubt about it now in the business world, what that looks like, and especially, I mean I retired in 2010. So the companies that we worked with a lot of them that the company that we work with were many of them, survivors of the economic crash. And believe me, they talked about that like that was their battle zone. That’s where they formed these really tight bonds, and they weren’t going anywhere now they were tight. So whether you can replace it? I don’t really think so I think the harder strife you go through with someone, the tighter the bond is going to be. And maybe over time you form a strong bond. You know, if I had to rely on you for something, and you came through for me, and then you did it again and again, and then I did it for you and we we stuck together. I mean, over time, you can definitely form really, really strong bonds with people. But I think the harder something is the stronger the bonds, if it doesn’t fracture, if it doesn’t break you,

EW: 38:25 right, but and then you have that guy you’ll never speak to again, because where were you when I needed you

JW: 38:30 exactly

EW: 38:31 right, My concern though, I mean, let me just open up about the fact that my least favorite phrase in the English language at the moment is “I’ve got your back.” And the reason is because I think it migrated from the military into civilian life, where civilians have no idea what it means. They think that it’s like, it’s a good thing to say it’s like, I really care about you and I don’t want anything bad to happen, but it has nothing to do with I’ve actually got your back. Do you find That there is this kind of military envy and bleed where people talk as if they’re in these situations and it actually just doesn’t match in any way?

JW: 39:12 I don’t know if it’s envy or if it’s just slang terms that expand over time in there’s slang terms that we use all the time

EW: 39:20 farming, sports, and the military provide a lot of language.

JW: 39:23 Right, Right. So I think I don’t think that when someone says, I got your back, you know, you and I are our you know, Hey, can you I’m gonna go to McDonald’s,

EW: 39:33 right

JW: 39:33 you know, I got your back you need anything. You know, let me grab some chicken nuggets over here. I don’t think that my intent in saying that wouldn’t be like Hey, brother. I got your back with the chicken nuggets deep. You know, I think it’s just a slang thing that people are throwing around. Yeah, I percent.

EW: 39:49 I think it comes up as a situation in which like, you know, the boss is going to come and ask a bunch of questions and one guy says, Don’t worry, I got your back and he immediately folds Because he did not even think about what he was saying. And I think in part, one of the fears I have and I don’t know whether you resonate with this is that I think a lot of American men, men in the developed world don’t have any bonds that are comparable to the bonds that you’re talking about. In other words, their closest friend is untested, in any real way.

JW: 40:25 Yeah, that’s, that’s not good. That’s not good. We’ll definitely want to have some friends that you know, when you call them, they will answer and when you make a request, they will deliver. And you don’t need a big group of friends like that. But it’s nice to have a few.

EW: 40:43 And one of the things that I’m curious about is that I’m seeing kids not be allowed to work out their own problems, and that they’re taught if that anything goes wrong, immediately go find an authority figure. And as a result, I worry that these kids are never going to have those strong bonds because you have to get into trouble and out of trouble repeatedly with the same people. Do you think there’s anything to that?

JW: 41:06 Yeah, definitely. You form good bonds, doing hard things. And also, would you get in trouble. Can you let’s bring it

EW: 41:13 is there anything that you got in trouble for that you can discuss from like, before you entered the military?

JW: 41:19 Yeah, I mean, I, you know, just every other knucklehead thing that every other boy was doing when they’re 13, 14, 15 years old,

EW: 41:25 such as

JW: 41:26 whether it was, you know, blowing up fireworks, driving like maniacs, just every stupid thing fighting you know, big giant street fights, just dumb stuff. And yeah, I did it all like an idiot. like a like a 14 year old boy like a 15 year old boy.

EW: 41:43 Did you enjoy street fighting?

JW: 41:46 Yeah, yeah.

EW: 41:47 Okay. Can you so there, It’s a good example of violence with probably very little point. But the pleasure of fighting. You know, I think it was PJ O’Rourke who pointed me too, it’s one of his writings that he said we used to discuss the drunk delight of bout battle before we decided that war was generally a bad thing.

JW: 42:10 You know I think people like competition, right? And, you know, there’s no more heightened form of competition, war is number one, whereas I’m trying to kill you, then you take, take a step down from that and where are you at your we’re going to fight each other. We’re not going to kill each other, hopefully. Maybe, but, you know, so. So people like to fight. Many people like to fight. It’s the whole it’s a very good challenge. And, you know, especially when you’re when you’re young when you’re 14, 15, 16, 18, 22. We’re going to fight. There’s these people up in where are they up in Oregon. With their they’re fighting each other protesting wearing masks all these guys up in Oregon, beating people up and whatnot. And everyone’s all surprised. And I say, Yeah, they’re their guys beating people up. Yeah, that’s,

EW: 43:13 that’s normal.

JW: 43:14 That’s that’s what that’s what guys do Oh, they’re but they’re wearing masks and stuff. Yeah. Okay, that’s what they’re doing right now in the 50s they didn’t right in the, well, you know, it’s just just a different what they’re What are they trying to do? They’re trying to fight other people. They’re, they’re, they’re tribal, you know, and and DNA, their DNA their combative DNA is leaking out. They don’t know how to control it because they’re young, and they’re gonna go beat people up.

EW: 43:40 So is fighting an important part like physical fighting an important part of human development?

JW: 43:47 I think so. I’ll tell you what I think. And again, this is I don’t I don’t want to sit here and talk like I’m making some sort of assertion for mankind and I think you might have just framed the question as if human development right?

EW: 44:00 i was trying to trick you, no, no no

JW: 44:02 But which for human development, I don’t know. But let me tell you from my experience, because I don’t like to talk in broad, you know, statements for all of humanity. It’s as you would like me to do, right now. I, I, for me,

EW: 44:16 yeah.

JW: 44:18 There was there was three things that really helped me out. I gave a speech at my friend’s wedding. Yeah, he was getting married. And he was a guy that I had trained Jiu Jitsu with a lot he’s a guy went to combat with and now I was at his wedding who’s getting married, and I was giving the speech. And what I said was, there was three things in my life that sort of made me feel secure as a man,

EW: 44:44 okay?

JW: 44:45 And the first one was learning how to fight. So, like learning jujitsu and knowing that, hey, if I get into a fight with someone, I can handle myself. That was number one. Number two was going into combat because when you go into combat you, you want to know that you’re going to perform your duties, and you’re not going to cower. And you’re going to be brave, and you’re gonna do your job. So when to combat, I was good with it, I liked it, it was fine. And then the last one was, I got married and had kids, and all of a sudden now I’ve got people that depend on me. And I’ve got people that are higher priority than me ever than I will ever be. And so those three things were very important to me feeling secure. And, and, you know, I always say when I was young and stupid and didn’t know how to fight, I used to fight all the time. And then once I learned how to fight, I didn’t fight anymore, because I didn’t have anything to prove anymore. You know, I’m not trying to prove that I’m tougher than humans outside the 7/11. It’s like, hey, if you want to find out who’s tougher, come to go to the gym, and we’ll, we’ll get on the mat and see who would would win. But let’s not do it in the street. Like like dummies. So those three things I think are helpful for people to do. They were helpful for me, I know that they were helpful, you know, as a young, insecure kid, which that’s what, that’s what kids are. They’re insecure with who they are, you know that no one’s walking around at age 15 thinking, you know, “I’m the man.” And when they project that, which I certainly tried to project, what they’re really projecting is I’m pretty insecure about what’s going on right now. Okay, cool. How are you going to get over that? Man, you know, learn how to fight, learn what that feels like, take responsibility for you know, when you have a wife and kids, you have a responsibility, a big one. So those are things that I think move you in the right direction.

EW: 46:37 So if I take that sequence, right, the first one is learning theoretically to be capable in a fight, so that you don’t need to worry that if something happens, you need to back down instantly. You can assess the situation, figure out how you want to handle it on your own terms, hopefully. But then you say the second thing which is beyond being able to fight I really enjoyed or combat helped make me who I am. Can you talk about and feel free not to if it’s not right, what, what is the sort of the poetry of combat that allows you to more fully develop that allowed you to more fully develop as a human being beyond the ability, let’s say to just handle yourself in a fight where you’re actually applying this now with leverage in terms of weaponry in terms of command in terms of strategy tactics in a life and death situation?

JW: 47:38 You know, all that stuff that you just mentioned. I absolutely love and I’ve spent my entire life trying to get good at tactics with weapons maneuver on the battlefield, combat leadership, and all those things are awesome and that is certainly the the the things in combat that you get to experience But the bottom line is, is this when you go into combat, you got people that are trying to kill you. And at some point you realize, okay, I could die tonight. And if I die, bring it. And I think for me, you know, the the idea, you know, people people go through life, they, they, they, you got death out there in the future. And they either don’t want to face it, or it’s so far away that they they don’t need to face it. Or they put it in the back of their mind. When you go into war it’s coming to the front of your mind. And you get to answer that question that some people wait their whole lives to answer is “what am I going to do when it’s time to die?” And once you answer that question for yourself, then for me, I was like, okay, you know, I Here we go. And if I die, okay,

EW: 48:54 are you familiar with this movie? No Country for Old Men.

JW: 48:58 Absolutely. Well and I’ve you know, read the book Cormac McCarthy’s

EW: 49:01 right.

JW: 49:02 My favorite fiction author

EW: 49:04 oh is that right

JW: 49:05 Yes.

EW: 49:06 The famous gas station scene where Anton Chigurh is this sort of methodical Hitman with potentially supernatural origin is offended that this guy transgresses a politeness boundary and asks one too many questions. And he traps him into this coin toss. And he says, What’s the most you’ve ever lost on a coin toss? And the guy says, You know, I don’t know. He said, Well, you have to call the coin as I didn’t put anything up. And the Hitman says, Oh, you’ve been putting it up your whole life. Every day. As you leave the studio, you’re going to be taking a risk with your life as you walk across the street that somebody is on their phone, texting and not paying attention. And yet you don’t most people don’t know that they they’ve imagined the death is this incrediblely remote thing they don’t see bodies and there fewer open caskets probably. We we cremate people, we don’t visit graves, there are all sorts of things that are keeping us in an abstraction where death seems very, very remote. Are you saying that combat was liberating? specifically because you were forced to say, I am playing with the full stack? And I’ve accepted that and your comment, “bring it” mean, it’s a terrifying thing to say in a life and death situation? How do you? How do you how do you see that have you crossed over some threshold?

JW: 50:38 I think it’s a matter of acceptance of accepting the fact that this is what is going to happen. And you know, you talk about not visiting graves. I mean, my visit my friends, graves all the time.

EW: 50:49 I go to national cemeteries and I see, you know that there’ll be some some person who died in, like, let’s say the 50s or the 40s. And they’re fresh flowers on that particular grave, it’s very moving.

JW: 51:02 So I don’t know if liberating is the is the word but perhaps it is. I think, again, and you know, Sam Harris, he asked a very pointed question on his podcast, he said, you know, you talk about war being hell, which I do, and and being awful, which I do, and which it is. And then, you know, I say that combat was the best time that I’ve had in my life. And he says, How do you reconcile those two statements? And, and what I said to him, was, I asked him if he ever knew anyone that had cancer, and that had cancer and lived. And he said, Yes. And I said, and when you ask those people, they very often give the answer. I’m glad it happened to me. This is what I learned from it. They had to face death. And once they were through it, they realized, you know, they wouldn’t wish it on their best…. on their worst enemy, but they’re they’re glad that they went through it because they learned. And I think I said that, to me is what combat is like you have to face your own mortality. And you have to recognize that, you know, you could die. And then when you’re done, you get back and you realize that the sun coming up in the morning is a beautiful thing

EW: 52:20 I can imagine. What about so you were most associated in my mind with with the Iraqi theatre? And what I wanted to ask you about is what was in your estimation, what was unusual and peculiar about operating in that theater at that time? And what did you bring back from the particularity of that experience? It wouldn’t have been the same if you’d been in Afghanistan or posted somewhere else.

JW: 52:54 One thing that’s interesting is I did two deployments to Iraq and and the amount that the battlefield changes all the time, how quickly the enemy adapts, and then how coalition forces have to adapt to what the enemy adapted to. And that’s a cycle that just doesn’t stop. And so you’re constantly trying to keep your eyes open and be humble about what the enemy is doing and never underestimate what their capabilities are. As far as the operating theater, my first deployment, I was all over the country. We operated all over the place. And I was living in Baghdad, or we we had our compound was in Baghdad, and then but I operated all over the place and we travel and fly and drive everywhere in Iraq, or to a lot of different places. And then my second deployment where we were in the Battle of Ramadi, I didn’t leave Ramadi. I didn’t leave that little, you know, three or four square miles of neighborhoods. And so that was very different.

EW: 53:49 And who were the belligerents on both sides was ISIS on the other side, though. Yeah.

JW: 53:53 My first deployment what it was was a bunch of thugs, criminals from regime elements running around causing problems. And they were very disorganized. So that was in 2003 2004 by 2006. When I went back to Ramadi, when I went to Ramadi, there was now a full fledged insurgency that was organized and financed and led. And they were operating as a paramilitary organization and

EW: 54:25 the same folks who’d gotten disciplined.

JW: 54:27 The same folks, but they had gotten disciplined?

EW: 54:29 That’s what I’m trying to figure out.

JW: 54:30 Yes, the same folks disciplined but more important, they had leadership now, because al Qaeda started bringing in foreign fighters, foreign leadership to go in and run and direct operations. And that’s when you when you have a, an organization without leadership isn’t an organization at all

EW: 54:45 right

JW: 54:46 Sure they can. They can nip at you, and they can do some random attacks, and that’ll be problematic. But once you organize an element and you put leadership over them, then that’s when they can start to do real damage. And that’s exactly what happened.

EW: 54:58 And where was the experience coming? Was that Chechnya, or

JW: 55:01 all over, all over from the from all over.

EW: 55:10 One of the things we talked about in World War Two is the sense of being the good guys. And I think in the era that followed World War Two, we were less convinced that we were always intrinsically the good guys, but you had the opportunity to go up against some of the most horrible people we’ve ever seen in modern times. Is that a fair characterization of the of the enemy?

JW: 55:36 Yes.

EW: 55:37 Can you talk about and I would actually like to do it someone unflinchingly what distinguished ISIS in terms of I talk about a concept most people don’t react to called message violence where the point of the violence is to be so picturesque that it works its way into your mind that it won’t let you go because somebody did something that was unnecessarily unthinkable, just for the purpose of torturing your brain with knowing that that’s what’s on the other side. Is Is that a fair characterization?

JW: 56:15 Yeah. So the, the, the term ISIS started being used around 2007. I, my last deployment ended in 2006. But the characters are still the same. And they were they weren’t as organized as they became when they became ISIS when they started flying the ISIS flag. And then what you had was this recruitment is a worldwide recruitment of sadistic evil human beings coming to the the caliphate to torture and murder and rape systematically, girls and boys. And yeah, what we saw in Ramadi in 2006 was it’s it’s the worst nightmares that you can imagine from people being skinned alive. People being beheaded people being tortured in all manners, rape, you know rape used as a weapon of war, just everything every horrible thing that you could imagine

EW: 57:12 family members being violated in front of other family.

JW: 57:16 Absolutely

EW: 57:16 right.

JW: 57:16 And and that’s why, you know, for us when you ask, did you feel like the good guys? Oh yeah, we definitely felt like the good guys. And we especially felt like the good guys because the local populace is who was enduring this this this heinous, these heinous acts was the local populace, though the local people that lived in Ramadi, that’s who was enduring and suffering these horrible acts. So when we came in and started eliminating the insurgents, they were ecstatic and they were happy that we were there and they believe me, they wanted nothing more than for to help us get those insurgents out of the city and out of the country.

EW: 57:53 What is it that you think, you know, you mentioned the caliphate and my fear is That the caliphate was sort of a remote dream. And that what we allowed to happen was that the caliphate came to be a potential reality in a world of people who hadn’t been used to thinking about it until recently that in essence, there have been a couple of major shifts in the Islamic world. One is for example, the suicide bombing was an almost unknown before the Lebanese barracks, and then it was perfected in Sri Lanka by the Tamil rebels against

JW: 58:35 against the Sinhalese.

EW: 58:36 Yeah,

JW: 58:36 populous well,

EW: 58:37 and then it comes back to the

JW: 58:38 not everyone in Sri Lanka. I mean, the Sri Lankan the Tamil Tigers, there was tamils that were in the Sinhalese or that were in the Sri Lankan army,

EW: 58:45 right. So it wasn’t all

JW: 58:46 it wasn’t all it wasn’t pure. It wasn’t a pure ethnic war

EW: 58:49 but that tactic was was very strange in the way in which it’s been a relatively modern invention, and then it came back to the Middle East and that together with the concept of the caliphate, started to animate a kind of sleeping Islamic identity that hadn’t been wildly present. I mean, I sort of analogize it to what would happen in Judaism if somebody started rebuilding the temple, and all of this code that has not never been run, like where you can reconvene the Sanhedrins to mete out death penalties according to Jewish law. Thank God, we don’t have a Third Temple, right. But somehow we we let this idea go from fantasy to some kind of reality is that is that wrong, that somehow we allowed something to animate this portion of the world and it went very sadistic and psychopathic?

JW: 59:47 I think it is wrong that we allowed that to happen. And it was it was clear to people that had been in Iraq, that there was embers of the insurgency of this this sadistic insurgency that there were embers that were still burning when we pulled out and so once we pulled out all of a sudden you know, the fire the firemen, there was a fire at a house. They came spread some water on it, the flames were gone, and then they left. That’s what we did. Well, the fire is not out yet.

EW: 1:00:18 Right.

JW: 1:00:19 Right. And so then it didn’t take long for those embers to rekindle and start completely burning out of control. And then we we let it get to a point where I mean in the city of Ramadi, we had people that we knew who when when ISIS took over Ramadi, which Ramadi was peaceful from 2007 till 2014-2015, like completely peaceful, when ISIS came in they rounded up about 500 families that had families members who had worked with the coalition forces and they murdered them all.

EW: 1:00:56 right.

JW: 1:00:57 So just just Sick, sadistic sub-human beings that should never have been allowed to do that. Now they did it. And once they did, and they took they took Ramadi and they took muzzle. You know, when Iraqi forces went back in with the support of heavy American firepower, they clean those places out. And and it took, I mean, they wiped out about 40,000 ISIS fighters, which is pretty much all of them. pretty unique situation

EW: 1:01:33 where they skilled fighters?

JW: 1:01:35 some of them were, but what was interesting is you had them wearing uniforms, carrying flags, and in trying to act like a conventional military force in many ways, not always, but in many ways. And so, you know, you want to get into conventional war with basically with America. That’s that’s not a good tactic. But it was a good tactic for us for them to do that.

EW: 1:01:58 Right

JW: 1:01:59 because you know, fighting an insurgency is much more difficult than fighting an open conventional war.

EW: 1:02:05 Now I have a very unpopular opinion in this country, which is somewhat popular outside of it, which is that Saddam Hussein while a horrible in all the ways that we claim he was horrible was in fact holding together some powder keg and that was using was a relatively secular government and that brought some order to a potentially very chaotic communal situation. His sons of course, you know one one in particular was a stone cold psychopath and he you know, Saddam Hussein did terrible horrible things by American standards but if we evaluated him by the standards of the region, we might come up with a different answer. Is there anything to that? I mean he’s obviously a bad guy.

JW: 1:02:59 He certainly Provided stability for the region. No doubt about that.

EW: 1:03:02 Yeah. Have you ever seen the video by which you took over the bath party?

JW: 1:03:10 No.

EW: 1:03:11 So he shows up on stage smoking a cigar and he says, “we have a special guest today.” And this guy comes to the microphones start saying, “I’ve plotted against saddam and I’m here to read the names of my co-conspirators.” And you see panic takeover in the audience and names are called and people are led out of the auditorium. And people start to understand that everyone whose lead out is going to be killed. And so they start screaming like, you know, “long live saddam. We love saddam” in order to save their own lives. My understanding is is that the people who were left were given sidearms to execute the people who had been led out to consolidate power around a founding atrocity. To me, that’s an example of this message violence concept that for people who don’t speak other languages, violence, and even sadistic language is their poetry. And there’s poetry in which our fighters who are doing the right thing, and there are on the side, you know, the side of the angels are engaging in brutal poetry and the other side is engaged in some sort of very disturbing art form. Is there a way of looking at this that’s profitable that people who have not been in battle can understand about how, how these messages are used to hold together societies that are dangerous and fragile?

JW: 1:04:44 Well, as you pointed out, I mean, all human beings have a guttural reaction to violence. And violence is a language that every single human being understands. You know, you were asking me earlier what languages I speak Can I said English, And you said “you didn’t learn in Arabic?” And I said, Well, I learned enough to say “get down, show me your hands.” But But when I would speak those words in Arabic to, you know, enter a building in their home and there’s, you know, a military age male, and I’d be speaking to them in Arabic, he didn’t he didn’t even understand that I was even trying to speak Arabic, a) because my Arabic is bad and b) because it’s it’s just he’s not expecting that. And so they don’t they don’t respond very seldom what I have until we get them to calm down a little bit, then I could maybe speak a little bit of Arabic to them. But in that initial moment of terror, there’s they don’t understand. They don’t understand what you’re saying they’re not they’re not ready to hear it. But when you have somebody that is resistant, clearly resistant, there though there is some non-verbal communication that you can do. That is violence, and they will understand it and the other people that see it will understand it, so there’s no doubt that Violence is a method of communicating with people a message stronger than words in many cases and people like saddam people like ISIS, they’ll absolutely use that to the best of their ability. And then they’ll exploit when things happen, you know, one of the one of the horrible strategic losses or strategic setbacks we had in in the Iraq War was the, the abuses that went on at the Abu Ghraib prison, because now we had photographs of these Americans with doing things that look like extreme torture to the prisoners there and, and the al Qaeda elements just absolutely took those and ran with them to make to fuel that insurgency. And it did it did a great job of fueling that insurgency. So you have to be very, very careful about the way you treat your enemy. Because if you treat if you mistreat the enemy, then the enemy will use that as propaganda and they would do that on purpose. They they would love nothing more. Then Then for you to accidentally kill a kid or, you know, drop a bomb on a mosque or drop a bomb they love they absolutely would love that. And so we had to do everything in our power to prevent those things from happening. Because the strategic the negative strategic impact was phenomenal when events like that occurred.

EW: 1:07:17 Did you watch the video of the Jordanian pilot who was executed by ISIS?

JW: 1:07:22 Yes.

EW: 1:07:23 So a lot of people stateside did not watch that video. And one of the things that I found very interesting about it was that it had a point that was disguised by our unwillingness to watch the video. Now maybe it’s important that ISIS not be allowed to communicate its point. But the point was, you’re up there in the skies, meting out very particular forms of death in particular, incinerating people and burying them in rubble. And our aim in this video is to subject a captured pilot to the exact form of death that you are dispensing from the skies. And so you’re normally not here to see this, let this be your death. And, you know, it was cinematically beyond belief it was shot to be gorgeous, and to be repugnant and sickening. And that concept of a Hollywood style death filmed for real a snuff film, if you will, with a point and then offering bounties showing the homes of the Jordanian pilots, you know, by street, I think in Amman, Jordan. My sense was is that Americans didn’t pick up anything of what was going on. Because we had decided that we didn’t want our population exposed to anything coming from the other side. Even their propaganda informed us as to how they were thinking and feeling but it was as if we plugged our ears and didn’t want to understand what we were watching. Do you Do you see that?

JW: 1:09:02 I see. Yeah. And I would agree with the point that when you disconnect people from war, it’s they lose track, right? I mean, in America, you know, we, when I was in Ramadi, in 2006, I was, you know, sitting in some combat outposts in the middle of nowhere with mortar shells coming in. And meanwhile, everyone in America was, you know, going to the mall and driving around their SUV and ordering a Starbucks. I mean, that’s, that’s just the way it is. I’m not mad at that. But there’s a definite detachment there

EW: 1:09:37 I’m mad at that. No, here’s, here’s why I’m at it. First of all, I think I’m slightly older than you are. And so I have some memories of the Vietnam War as it was playing out on American television. That’s some of my earliest childhood memories. And let me say this, it was spectacularly gruesome. What We saw on the TV during that period of time, I believe that my parents turned off the TV when it showed an image of a GI’s head on a pike, and it was just like, Okay, this is too much. And on the one hand, this was real information coming from the war. And on the other hand, it was propaganda. It was meant to strike fear in our hearts. There was a self hatred that was playing out, just as there was concern about the excesses of American kids being turned loose in a jungle with too little discipline and supervision. I mean, there was so much happening in Vietnam, which was hard to pull apart. And what I found was is that after that war, we never went into a conflict the same way again, the embedded journalists didn’t seem to want to report in the same way that a non-embedded journalist did. And there’s a need that we have to be able to go to war without constantly second guessing ourselves and putting our own troops in harm’s way and not working through all of our psychological nonsense when we have people who are, you know, definitely at risk and doing our work as the military. I don’t know that we’ve ever really come to grips with the lessons of Vietnam, we we don’t have a clear sense that we should go to war as a nation where the newsreels should talk about our side versus the other side. We don’t know how to do this. Do you have a sense that, like I my sense is, is that Vietnam really broke something in terms of our ability to go to war.

JW: 1:11:55 Vietnam was well you know, I’ve been lucky enough to have a lot of podcast guests that were in Vietnam and their experiences were all different. I mean, from one guy Captain Charlie Plum who was shot down and was in the Hanoi Hilton for six years. I’ve had SOG operators special operations or Studies and Observation Group guys that were fighting behind the lines in Cambodia and Laos. I’ve had helicopter pilot that was shot down in the jungle prisoner prisons for months and months being tortured and and mock executed the whole nine yards. So what was what was horrible.. There’s so many horrible things about Vietnam. And you know, I’ve did I did a podcast about the My Lai massacre, which, which really is by far the most the biggest atrocity that American troops have ever committed. And it was absolutely heinous. Now, you could go to Sand Creek and maybe some of the Native Americans there were some some significant horrible atrocities there is well, those generally weren’t as clear cut. You know, most of those had American soldiers that were saying “no stop.”

EW: 1:13:09 Right

JW: 1:13:09 My Lai for a while for at least several hours. It was no, no one would no one was stopping. So what you had, you know, what you have, I think with the press and the media in Vietnam was you had a lens into what war is. And in war, you’re killing other people.

EW: 1:13:27 Right.

JW: 1:13:28 And when you’re killing other people, it’s you know, you you just take one step back, if you don’t know what that other person did. And you take one step back and you watch someone kill someone else, that is that is not going to go over well, in most people’s stomachs. Most people are going to look at that and say, why is this happening? Why are we doing this? So that’s what happened in Vietnam. You take one step back and you see you take one step back and what you see is killing you see a human beings killing other human beings and why in God’s name, are we doing this? And so that’s what I think happened in Vietnam, how it broke us? I mean, I don’t know if broke us is the right word. But we certainly are more cautious and should be more cautious always about going to war. I mean, you know, you want to talk to the people that don’t want to go to war. It’s the people that have been to war. The people that have had their friends get killed, like they’re the ones that don’t want to go to war unless it’s absolutely necessary, unless we’ve tried every other method unless we’ve used every other technique that we could use to prevent us from going to war. Now that when you have to go to war, like go to war, and win that’s, that’s my attitude, we don’t want to go to war at all. If we have to go, go and win win as quickly as you can, with use whatever means necessary to achieve a quick, dominant victory.

EW: 1:14:49 I mean, there’s so much and that’s so so rich as an answer, I guess where I want to go back to is, I think that it’s irresponsible. For us, as a nation, to allow this much insulation of the homefront, from the raw facts of what we’re doing abroad, and that if you’re going to mean if you know if you take my assessment that the United States is the most dangerous machine ever constructed, right? We do not have the right to wield that power if we’re not interested in what it looks like, and what it means. If we’re not willing to celebrate heroes who come back from the battlefield, if we’re not willing to look at murderers and psychopaths who fought under our flag, I mean, you know, my belief is is that you to have a mature relationship with your country requires being able to look at something like My Lai and seeing it for the horror that it was, and still coming to an understanding that there’s going to be some amount of breakdown that looks something like that, maybe not that bad, Anytime we deploy troops that that’s part of what it means to deploy troops is that you can’t monitor how every particular unit functions, and particularly if they’re no eyes on them.

JW: 1:16:14 One of the things that I’ve said before is that if you go to war, you have to be willing, you have to have the the will, the will, for the following two things to happen. Number one is you have to have the will to kill. And when I say kill, I’m not just talking about killing your enemy, because although you will try and kill your enemy, you will absolutely have collateral damage in war, and innocent people are going to die. And if you think that you can pull off a war without killing innocent people, you’re wrong. So you have to be willing to do that you have to make sure that the cause, the reason, the why behind why you’re going to war, you need to make sure that you understand that you will kill innocent people and you have to be willing to do that

EW: 1:16:56 even if you net save innocent lives. There will always be Innocent casualties,

JW: 1:17:01 there will absolutely be innocent casualties. And the other will that you have to have is you have to have the will to die. And that is that no matter how surgical you are, no matter how good your weapons are, no matter how good your technology is, when you go to war, you will have young American men and women being killed in horrible ways, way too young, over and over and over again. And if you’re not ready for those two things, then you need to stop and think about what you’re actually doing

EW: 1:17:30 yeah. What do we do about changing the relationship between news media and combat troops so that we have the ability to understand what we’re doing abroad say thank you to the people who need to be thanked and welcomed home, keep an eye on what needs to not happen, such as a place like Abu Ghraib. It seems to me that we’ve got a we are developing a fragility is the people that is incompatible with our level of lethality. And we have to get information back to the homefront. Am I wrong in this?

JW: 1:18:11 I mean, we had embedded troops in Ramadi there was combat photographers, there was photographers, there was reporters, they had very open access to everything that was going on. So I think I don’t know how many clicks on the websites, the normal military news stories got compared to, you know, whatever entertainment Hollywood gets books. So

EW: 1:18:38 let me give you an example of what I’m talking about. This isn’t strictly foreign foreign involvement. But when 911 happened, the most famous photograph from 911 is this photograph called falling man of this inverted human being sort of doing a weird kind of like bicycle motion and he’s falling to his death and I think it ran once. briefly in the morning, it was spiked. And it didn’t become the iconic photograph of 911. If I think back to Vietnam, we all have the same set of 10 photographs seared into our minds. And yet, I don’t know, you know, beyond like a statue being toppled what we would associate with iraq except for the Abu Ghraib photographs. So it didn’t seem to have that kind of effect of, in my mind, commemorate commemorating what that war looked like, How long were we there? How many troops did we have? How many families you know, lost somebody? I just I feel I feel like it sort of took place out of sight.

JW: 1:19:47 Yeah. And the interesting thing is, there’s thousands and thousands and thousands of pictures. I just don’t think they were i don’t think i think more. I think the the I don’t know if we call it a problem, but I think it’s more the fact that people weren’t Clicking on those pictures and remembering them, because if you google iraq war, you’ll see hundreds of thousands of pictures from all kinds of news agencies all over the world. It’s just people. Maybe there’s they’ve seen so many pictures that they’re over it.

EW: 1:20:16 I don’t believe this actually Jocko. here’s, here’s my take on it. If you think about what the cartels have been doing on our southern border, it is spectacular. The violence is so graphic and so disturbing by design. And yet so many Americans are unaware of just how bad the drug wars have been in Mexico, because the information doesn’t percolate. And these photographs, if they were run, would capture the public’s imagination. I don’t think there’s any question.

JW: 1:20:48 Okay. I see what you’re saying. Now, I didn’t I didn’t quite understand that. It makes good sense with the cartel, because certainly they’re down there.

EW: 1:20:55 I think we’re terrified to show people the extremes of what life actually Looks like anymore.

JW: 1:21:01 Yes. And if that is a bad thing, you are correct

EW: 1:21:05 yeah, it is a bad thing

JW: 1:21:05 you are correct.

EW: 1:21:06 Okay.

JW: 1:21:06 It’s taken me a while to understand your point. I apologize.

EW: 1:21:09 No, no, no,

JW: 1:21:10 you are correct. And and you should people should see what you know, I would, when I would talk to young SEALs, even now, I have pictures of My Lai color photographs of My Lai which, you know, you don’t see very many of those. But they’re absolutely horrible to look at, even for even for a young SEAL. That’s, you know, in his mind super hungry for combat. They see these pictures that I put up on the big screen for them and it’s it’s stomach turning, then so that’s what they need to see. They need to understand that you go a little bit off the wrong direction. If somebody doesn’t step up and say no, when things start to go sideways. This is where it can end up.

EW: 1:21:51 That’s right.

JW: 1:21:52 So yes, what you are saying is correct. If you want people to understand what’s happening, one of the best ways to do it is The same technique that you were saying earlier that the enemy can use, which is a message of violence. Here’s what is happening on the southern border. These are the people that are one mile away. And this is what they’re doing to whole families in certain cases. Yes. Should that be propagated? Absolutely. So that we understand the seriousness of the situation down there. Same thing with when ISIS was acting this way. Anybody that looks I mean, you know, here’s another good case it was the Rwandan genocide. Right?

EW: 1:22:31 Yeah.

JW: 1:22:33 800,000 people in 100 days, mostly with machetes. And we, I don’t want to say we let that happen. But we could have intervened in in a very powerful way. And we chose not to, and part of the reason that we chose not to is because of the very graphic images you’re talking about from a year and a half earlier when Somalia took place. They were dragging American soldier’s bodies through the streets and, and we got, we got completely turned off by that. And so when Rwanda happen, it’s like we don’t want to we don’t know if we want do this again.

EW: 1:23:10 this is really what offends me, which is that, like, when you send somebody into a position where they could have their body dragged through the streets by enemy combatants, and they know that, and you turn away, because, like you sent them there, and then you can’t bear to look because of your delicate sensibilities, that strikes me as something very, very wrong, as opposed to, we know why we’re someplace. And thank God, we have people who are willing to do this. And you know, I mean, I appreciate the the the depth and the complexity of your perspective. You’re saying, on the one hand, people who’ve been to war, the ones who don’t want to go us to go to war, on the other hand, you’re saying that war can be more fun and more meaning than you could have in the rest of your life. And these are these are really not contradictions, but there are incredible tensions. And instead of having this be part of our makeup, where people come back from the front, and they talk, maybe in measured ways about what they saw what they participated in, and what they saw this is doing for our nation. I mean, I think that these things are very progressive in a certain sense that we’re standing up for people who might be completely defenseless what you’re talking about in Ramadi. And in fact, I’m very worried that what you said was that in Ramadi, the people who got killed were the people who’d helped our coalition. And so did we have an obligation to stay there in order to make sure that the people who helped us weren’t in harm’s way, we saw the same thing with the Marsh Arabs in the south of Iraq, where they were told to rise up by a former president

JW: 1:24:54 and we saw the same thing in Vietnam.

EW: 1:24:56 We saw the same thing in Vietnam. I mean, it It matters to me that we’re engaged enough to realize, hey, we just issued an instruction and people trusted us. And now those people are in a world of pain and hurt. And where are we? And we have to we need a tougher country.

JW: 1:25:16 There was a it was it was sickening. For me when I when I saw the flag, the Black Flag of ISIS flying over the city of Ramadi, I mean, clearly, first and foremost, because of my own friends and my men that were killed in that battle and and wounded in that battle. Then, obviously, the Marines, the soldiers, the sailors, the airman that that fought alongside of us, who made the same sacrifices were killed or gravely wounded. And then I knew, you know, as soon as we as soon as I saw that, that flag flying. I mean, before we even got reports back, we knew what was going to happen to the civilian populace. The Civilian populace had been was going to be was going to be annihilated. And that’s exactly what happened.

EW: 1:26:04 And they do it at the level of families, right? Like somebody collaborates entire family base

JW: 1:26:09 the family is done.

EW: 1:26:10 Right.

JW: 1:26:11 So did we have an obligation in my opinion, which again, this is just one man’s opinion, in my opinion? Absolutely. We absolutely had an obligation.

EW: 1:26:19 I’m so glad to hear that.

JW: 1:26:20 And the fact that that we didn’t uphold that obligation. It’s it’s not good. It’s It’s It’s a letdown. It’s, and luckily, we went back and they were able to take back the city and Americans did support that and but the Iraqis, they did the bulk, they did the fighting, which was very impressive, because when we were in Ramadi, in 2006, the Iraqis didn’t didn’t want they didn’t really have the stomach for the fight. But I have friends that were in Mosul, and the Iraqi troops were fighting hard. They were taking massive casualties. In fact, the Americans were saying look, I don’t know if we’re gonna have enough Iraqis to do this. And but the Iraqis kept Fighting so so that was a really positive thing to see that the Iraqis were now fighting for themselves. But do we have a moral obligation? I think once we commit to something like that, then we need to see it through.

EW: 1:27:14 There’s a certain amount of you break it, you bought it,

JW: 1:27:17 especially because you know Leif, who wrote the books with me, he went back to Ramadi, in 2010. And during so when when we were there together, there was, you know, there would be one, two, three, four, or five casualties a day,

EW: 1:27:34 right.

JW: 1:27:34 Several of those wounded Southern was killed every single day just in the city of Ramadi. When Leif went back in 2010, during his entire six month deployment, there was a one fatality one coalition fatality it was from a vehicle rollover wasn’t a combat incident. So it was completely settled down.

EW: 1:27:53 Yeah,

JW: 1:27:54 it was it was peaceful. And we took that as Okay, we should leave now and and that was the wrong move. That was the wrong move. And people say, how long are you gonna stay there? Well, let’s say we’re still in Germany.

EW: 1:28:08 Yeah, well,

JW: 1:28:08 we are

EW: 1:28:09 right.

JW: 1:28:09 We’re still in Japan. So,

EW: 1:28:12 I mean, this is the thing where I want us to think about total cost of ownership of a conflict. And I want whoever is going to lead us and it’s very concerned watching the Democrat, right. I come from the democratic side of the aisle. watching these Democratic presidential nominees and wishing more people came from a tougher perspective, knowing that American troop deployment is a real issue and who are we going to fall into they have the presence of mine the gravitas to tell the country “Hey, we are going to go into something and you guys need to toughen up because otherwise we’re going to be inconsistent sending messages to the people who are deployed abroad” and leading the the interior of the country, you know, which is going to the malls and just trying to figure out how to have a nice weekend. Somebody’s got to take us along. I mean, it’s just irresponsible for us as a country to be this focused on on what’s going on, you know, Keeping Up With The Kardashians, when we have people in uniform and in harm’s way am I my off?

JW: 1:29:25 No, you’re definitely not off. And if you don’t understand what’s happening overseas, then you’re more willing to send more people overseas, you’re more willing to not think about the consequences of what you’ve started, and more willing to abandon those situations before they’re finished. So I guess your your entire thread of this and I think I missed your your point in the beginning is, is Yes, absolutely. Americans should know and understand what is happening overseas so that we can make informed decisions back here

EW: 1:29:59 and be able to see stomach it

JW: 1:30:00 and and have that will that I talked about earlier the will to kill and the will to die, which is what you need.

EW: 1:30:07 Do you have some stories that illustrate not only the will to kill the will to die, but also the genius of improvisation, which is something I associate with our armed services in general, but also particularly with our special forces were really brilliant stuff was was hatched out and and tried.

JW: 1:30:34 Yeah, I mean, like I said earlier the entire the entire war for me and Iraq, which for me, I only deployed twice, which is which is not a lot. But the adaptations that were made all the time was you know, I’ve I’ve often said that war is an exercise in creativity.

EW: 1:30:50 That’s right,

JW: 1:30:50 because you’re constantly looking at, you’re looking outward at the enemy. You’re seeing what they’re doing. You’re seeing how you can adapt what you can change what you can overcome. You’re looking at your own troops, saying Okay, how can I lead them in a way that they understand what’s happening, that they understand the value of what they’re doing, that they’re making the right decisions out there on the battlefield by themselves. And they’ve got to make a decision whether they’re going to kill somebody or whether they’re going to let them live. that’s a that’s a 22 year old sniper on a rifle with someone’s life and death in their finger. And you’ve got to get them to a point. So how can I get that message? Yeah, combat is an absolute exercise in, in creativity, and, which is one of the interesting things is, you know, you talked about earlier about who gets promoted,

EW: 1:31:35 right.

JW: 1:31:36 And certainly, the person that conforms to what they’re being told to do, and they follow instructions, they’re going to get promoted to a point. Their going to do fine. Yeah. But they’re not going to be exceptional. The really exceptional guys are the ones that look at the situation, say, Okay, here’s what I know what we’ve been told to do, what matters what the the doctrine says to do. Here’s what we’re actually going to do, and here’s why we’re going to do it and and so those are the people that you want to follow on the battlefield. Those are the people that truly step up and lead and it’s the same thing in the business world as well.

EW: 1:32:07 Who do you look up to as being a great improvisational commander that you served with?

JW: 1:32:13 I don’t really want to name the names of everybody yet. You know, Colonel David Hackworth is a guy that that I espouse his methodologies and his philosophies all the time. He was a young kid, at the end of World War Two, he joined right at the end of World War Two. Then he fought in Korea, and he fought in Vietnam, he ended up writing a book called about face because at the end of Vietnam, he was the guy that that went on the Primetime and said, if we don’t change the way that we’re fighting this war, we are going to lose he was the end he was a full bird Colonel when he did that, and they drummed him out of the army in like a month. And he, you know, went to Australia and and and he wrote this book called About Face. And obviously part of the meaning of about faces he turned. But and he was very, very misunderstood. Well not misunderstood, but he was he was hated right by the big army. And then what happened was, he actually wrote an article later about the Chief of Naval Operations, a guy named Admiral Borda. And he said that he hadn’t earned some of his combat decorations, and Admiral Borda committed suicide. And so he was hated. So while David hackworth was hated by the Navy, he was hated by the army. And part of the reason why is he was hated because he called it like he saw it,

EW: 1:33:37 right

JW: 1:33:37 and he ended up writing this book and and he’s, he explains and in this book is not a leadership book at all. He doesn’t talk about leadership from from a perspective of leadership only at all ever in the book, but the entire book, it’s 800 pages long. The entire book is a leadership book because you see how he led his troops how he dealt with people up the chain of command. And, you know, he got to that point. And that’s, that’s one of the things you know, he played the game and I talked about this often with from a leadership perspective is, you know, if I work for you and you, you know, you do some things that I don’t really like, but you know what I’m gonna play the game because I want to build a good relationship with you and I want to get your support and I want to give you the support so that you give me more support so I can go on accomplish my mission, like that’s playing the game and, and he definitely played the game. You know, he was a soldier’s soldier. And he was, he was absolutely adored by his troops, and even up the chain of command the people that he worked for, they loved him. And so but he played the game until he finally got to a point in Vietnam, where he saw young men getting killed. And he said, You know what, and he tried to change it. He went over there as a battalion commander, and he changed the way they were fighting and they they turned things around for themselves and he cut their casualties and took the fight to the enemy did all those great things. But he got to a point looked at it from a strategic perspective and said, Look, we need to change what we’re doing. We need to change this and or we’re going to lose, and and they drummed them out. So That’s the guy I would say, from, you know, from a grand perspective of who I look at and really try to emulate his leadership and I stole all kinds of things from him. You know, I, I had a when I was assigned my task unit, which is a group of two seal platoons. When I was assigned my task unit and it was called task unit Bravo, which is, which is the phonetic B, right phonetic letter B. And in Hackworth’s book, he changed the name of his units to something that he wanted to reflect what the guys were. And so I changed the name of my task units, task unit Bruiser, and, and we had that attitude of we’re going to go you know, smash. But so that’s one, you know, leader that I really try to emulate. And then the other one was when I was in my in my second SEAL Platoon, and I won’t mention any names but I had a, I had an officer that I worked for, who took over actually the we had a mutiny against our against our platoon commander, and we rebelled against him and went before our commanding officer and told our commanding officer, we don’t want to work for this guy. He, He doesn’t listen to anyone.

EW: 1:36:01 Wow.

JW: 1:36:02 And our commanding officer, who was a great guy said, “this sounds like a mutiny. Get out of my office, go do what you’re supposed to do.” And then a couple days later, he fired the guy and brought in a new, a new platoon commander.

EW: 1:36:15 Yes.

JW: 1:36:16 And when he brought a new platoon commander, this guy was very, very experienced, tactically, tactical genius, very skilled, you know, good shooter, just good athlete, just just just an awesome guy. It was who was held in very high regard. And I thought, hey, this guy is gonna come in, and it’s gonna be like, we’re just gonna, we’re gonna follow this guy, and, and he’s gonna tell us how to do things. But he wasn’t like that at all. He came in and said, Hey, why don’t you guys plan on this operation? And why don’t you guys take ownership of this and why don’t you guys lead this patrol?

EW: 1:36:45 What was that like for you?

JW: 1:36:47 It was awesome.

EW: 1:36:47 Yeah,

JW: 1:36:48 it was awesome. That’s when I realized, Oh, wow. If you actually give people ownership of things, they take it and they do a better job. And that was like the, that was the very first kernel the very first seed in My brain about leadership seeing it from the perspective of Oh, if you actually listened to people, then then they’re gonna want to work for you more and this was contrasted with the the guy that got fired who didn’t listen, anyone?

EW: 1:37:13 Well, this is this is something I’m glad you bring this up. I don’t know whether this is going to dovetail properly. But I always surprise people that I talk about followership because we always talk about leadership. And I think we have a terrible relationship to it, which is that leadership. It’s like, yeah, I’m kicking back. I’m in the corner office, I got this thing. And in fact, I think that’s nothing to do with leadership. I think that leadership involves followership and that people who hate the idea of following other people can’t lead themselves. And so when you find that people have a finite, the’ll smrik, you’re interested in followership, the greatest gift I can give many people is saying I’ll take direction from you. And you know, it’s very weird people think that they want to be in the top spot as soon as they have responsability for somebody, somebody sort of following their directions. They’re not sure that they love it.

JW: 1:38:05 Yeah, well, just to dovetail into that I people are generally surprised when I build up and I’ll be talking about build up the most powerful leadership, one of the most powerful leadership tools that they have in their entire inventory of leadership tools that they can, they can utilize, they can exploit, and they can take advantage of this tool at the right time. And it’s gonna do wonders for them is to listen to people,

EW: 1:38:27 right

JW: 1:38:28 Like it, just be quiet as a leader and just listen to what people are saying. And if they have a good idea, support their idea,

EW: 1:38:35 well, you know, sort of a weird thing to bring up because it’s not as intense as what you do. But when I have when I work with an assistant, one of the first things I do is to teach that person to tell me when I’m over a line, like because if that person doesn’t have the comfort with saying, Hey, you know, you’re calling me on a Sunday, and this is not an appropriate reason to call me on a Sunday “you’re at a line,” then I don’t feel great because if I’m in a leadership role with that person, then I don’t know if they’re doing these things because they want to be doing. Another thing is always, like, “Can I get you coffee?” I want to make sure that somebody understands that if we’re forming hierarchies, it’s not for the pleasure of working out, you know, love we didn’t get as a child, it’s because we actually have to accomplish something. And trying to take the sting out of it without taking, you know, in some sense, the the necessity of forming hierarchies, because I think that most people don’t have an idea that if people below you don’t want to follow you, there are a million ways to sandbag you

JW: 1:39:42 oh yeah, they’ll they’ll, they’ll sabotage you they’ll, they’ll sabotage you. I say this all the time. You know, it’s like if, if, if I if I’m in charge of you, and I say okay, Eric, here’s what’s going on here. Here’s the mission. Here’s the vehicles I want you to take. Here’s the people I want you to take, here’s the weapons I want you to use. Here’s the method I want you to use, here’s the route I want you to take to the target. Here’s the route, I want you to take home. And here’s what time we’re going to debrief. You take that plan and take ownership of it and go execute it. And even even a really great guy in the back of their mind, they’re thinking, why would do this a little bit different. That’s not the best way to execute that. And so when you go out to execute the mission, and you hit an obstacle, right, you you, instead of trying to overcome the obstacle, you just call up and say, Hey, we couldn’taccomplish the mission. Sorry, we’re coming home, you didn’t think of this? Your plan wasn’t quite what you thought it was. So what I should do as a leader is and say, Hey, Eric, here’s the mission, we want to get accomplished. Go get with your team, figure out how you want to do it.

EW: 1:40:36 Or here’s some things that I’m thinking about. Do you see any problems?

JW: 1:40:40 Yeah, I would, I wouldn’t even I would say, Well,

EW: 1:40:43 it depends.

JW: 1:40:44 Well, here’s what it depends on. If you and I work together already. You already know what those things are. You already know me well enough to kind of I’ve already educated I’ve already trained you. So you’re, you’re you already I don’t even have to say those things like hey, I’m thinking this that you already know that so I just say hey, come up with a plan. You already know the parameters we work within. Yeah. You come up with your own plan, you actually if you’re a good leader, you go with your team. And you say, Hey guys, here’s the mission. How do you all think we should do it? And now we have a now we have a plan that your team came up with you came up with, and and now there’s no talk of how do I get you to buy into my plan,

EW: 1:41:14 right

JW: 1:41:14 You it’s your plan. You’re already bought and sold your whole team when you bring it back to me and you say, hey, Jocko, here’s the plan. Now I look at the plan and I say, hey, Okay, looks pretty good. And maybe there’s a little nudge I give you maybe there’s a little course correction, but it’s still your plan. And and now you go and execute the plan when you hit an obstacle now, out in the field, you go over it, you go around it or you go through that obstacle.

EW: 1:41:36 Yeah.

JW: 1:41:37 Because you have ownership of the plan. So no doubt about it. That’s that that that leadership thing of actually say, you know, people always talk about leading from the front and you got to lead from the front, and you certainly do, but there’s many times where I want to lead from the rear a little bit. I want to lead from the back, I want to let you lead.

EW: 1:41:56 You know, this is Isreali theory of follow me where you put the highest value person in harm’s way first, and it doesn’t make sense initially. But then you realize, okay, well, if he’s willing to go over the side first, then maybe I’m going to take direction from him because he’s putting it all on the line.

JW: 1:42:13 Yeah. And there’s there are limitations to that plan as well.

EW: 1:42:16 Sure.

JW: 1:42:17 Because if you’re the most experienced guy, and you have the most tactical knowledge, and you have a full understanding, and you’re gonna be able to make the best decisions in the shortest amount of time, that’s gonna keep everyone alive. And you decide you’re the one that’s going to go first and you get shot the first episode,

EW: 1:42:29 right? That’s

JW: 1:42:30 guess what it did wasn’t a good

EW: 1:42:31 didn’t work.

JW: 1:42:32 And and even though I’m following you, yeah, I’m following you into a bloodbath. So what I would rather have you do, and this, this happened all the time with me, if I was approaching a building, and I happen to be one of the first two guys, three guys on the entry, I would take one step to the side, and my guys knew my guys knew exactly that they didn’t

EW: 1:42:48 but it was predicated on the idea that nobody that everyone knew that you were making a decision for a strategic or tactical reason. But in order to have that known, you have do something that demonstrates that you’re not doing it for a personal reason.

JW: 1:43:03 Yes. And and there are times, there are absolutely times where no one’s going to move until they see you move.

EW: 1:43:12 Yeah.

JW: 1:43:12 And so you’ve gotta.. again, this is the dichotomy. You can’t lead from the front all the time, you can’t lead from the rear all the time. Sometimes you gotta be up front. Sometimes you got to be in the rear. Sometimes you got to be in the middle. You got to be able to modulate that appropriately for whatever situation you’re in.

EW: 1:43:25 You know, it’s very, very interesting. We get to watch some of these films from Afghanistan and Iraq. And, you know, I remember particularly poignant films, one of which was some convoy that they’re trying to make positive identification, they decide that its enemy. light it up, Fire Fire along the convoy, and then you know, there’s sort of muted celebration job well done, blah, blah, blah. And you’re like, wait, we’re getting reports that there are friendlies in the area. You listen to just like how flipped out these people are about what they’ve done in the interpretation. Another one, I remember the sniper was talking and something to the extent of you know, what do you think about this target? Yes, no, yes. no. somebody says something like, Okay, well, here comes pink mist. And, you know, this human being effectively evaporates you know, with it with a well placed sniper shot and the ambiguity of the situation and the weight that comes from taking life as well as from putting your own life on the line. You know, I think one of the things that those videos have done for me is to remind me of the professionalism that we’ve moved towards and how seriously people are taking these decisions. And I worry that in some sense, we need to update ourselves. For how much we changed after Vietnam in this context,

JW: 1:45:04 well, the the opening chapter of the first book that I wrote, Extreme Ownership is about a fratricide that took place with my guys. And I was in charge. And there was a chaotic situation. I had multiple elements on the battlefield, including myself all engaged in firefights. And there was some miscommunication, there was some non-communication, and there ended up being a small element of friendly Iraqi soldiers attacking one of the positions that my guys were in, and one of my guys shot and killed an Iraqi soldier. They were then attacked by the Iraqis and then the, the army, who then who was called in as a quick reaction force and engaged my guys in a building with 50 caliber machine gun

EW: 1:45:59 yikes

JW: 1:46:00 I had one of my guys wounded there was several other Iraqis wounded. And all this took place in five minutes. By the time I went down, I was in I was a couple blocks away and when when my guys called in the what they called the heavy QRF for the Heavy Quick Reaction Force which was a section or two Mr. Abrams tanks when they called in the Heavy QRF I told the guys I was with I said, Hey, those are my guys we’re going so we went down there and all the sudden folded in like I said in like five minutes, but it so that that’s the opening chapters how that happened. In the book, Extreme Ownership. There’s two other situations that les wrote about another situation where the very situation you’re talking about his sniper, which was which was Chris Kyle was looking at a building he sees an enemy with a snipe with a with a scoped weapon and he’s asking hair. Do we have any friendlies in that building? Leif, who’s the platoon commander calls the army and says, Hey, do you have anybody in this building? And the army says Nope. And he says will we see a guy with a scope weapon? They’re like take him out because of course we were losing guys too

EW: 1:47:14 right

JW: 1:47:15 snipers the whole time. They’re saying take him out and Leif says “Well, can you confirm?” he says “I’m confirming right now we have no one in that building.” And Leif didn’t feel comfortable with taking the shot and Chris didn’t feel comfortable taking the shot and he didn’t take the shot and in Leif said “we’re not going to shoot he says can you send someone did that building” and the army guys mad on the on the horn thinking “Are you kidding me? Now you want me to send someone into that building where there’s a bad guy?” He’s like “fine,” and there’s continuing watch that building and so we’re sending the assaulters now and the assaulters leave the building that they were looking at because it was a miscommunication on where the where the bad guys were.

EW: 1:47:57 Wow.

JW: 1:47:58 And in the chat, one of the chapters I wrote about this a similar situation, there was a, a Bradley fighting vehicle with a 25 millimeter chain gun getting ready to engage armed sniper positions on the rooftop of a building. And as I deciphered the situation, and told him not to shoot, and eventually had them confirm exactly, by literally I said, count the buildings from where you are to where you see the enemy. And they counted the buildings and they said, “standby, we have an adjustment.”

EW: 1:48:27 Oh my god,

JW: 1:48:28 and guess who it was? It was my guys. So those horrible situations they unfold and that’s the that’s the that’s the reality of combat. That’s the harsh reality of combat.

EW: 1:48:40 Well, I wish more people understood that when we talk about leadership, it’s not necessarily glamorous, it’s heart wrenching. Heart in your mouth situations where you don’t even know and with incomplete information, what to do, and there’s no one there’s no one to lean on. I would imagine

JW: 1:48:58 there’s no one to lean on. And there’s also So, no one to blame. ….. when you’re in charge, every single thing that happens on the battlefield absolutely is on you.

EW: 1:49:08 Well, and this is where I want to sort of maybe close out this, this sit down with you, although I’d love to continue another time. As you know, this, this podcast is known as the portal. And the idea for the portal is how to extricate yourself from wherever you feel trapped towards some sort of more transcendent existence, and what I understand from everything that you do and project and I just feel very grateful that he was connected to you by some of our mutual friends. This is our first meeting is this concept of liberation through extreme discipline. And that sounds sort of counterintuitive. It looks like you have this oppressive life where you get up in the morning at 4:30am. You’re taking a picture of your wristwatch and there’s sweat everywhere. The point is, you know, there’s A path and you can fall off it. But if you get back on it and you own it, there is freedom and liberation, even though it seems like an oppressive regime. Can you talk about this as a portal and as a as a way out for people who haven’t understood what they’re capable of doing by toughening their mind and sort of making use of all of these very hard won lessons that you’ve decided to share with us from places they’ll never go?

JW: 1:50:28 For me when I was a young new guy SEAL I wanted to be a good SEAL that that’s what I wanted to do. I wanted to be a good seal, and I looked at other seals that were respected for their operational capability. And I I’m not gonna sit here and tell you that I did like a Tim Ferriss assessment of breaking down each and everything and what what is it that makes him great, but I looked at them as a young kid and said, “What They doing that’s making them better.” One of the things I noticed that they were doing is they got to work before I did. Okay, so guess what? I’m going to start getting to work earlier. I’m going to start getting up earlier in the morning, guess what else they do? They work out every day, regardless of what’s going on, they get that done. Oh, guess what else they’re doing. They’re studying. So they understand tactics. They’re on they, they train with the weapon systems as much as they can. So they impose these disciplines on themselves. And with the more discipline they imposed on themselves, the better they were. So when you had somebody that was hardcore disciplined, they ended up being a hardcore operator. I saw that and said, Okay, I need to and I didn’t even call it discipline. I just said, Oh, I got to get it get to work early. Oh, I got to study more. I got to train more. And then the more I did that, guess what, I’d go to a training event and I would have freedom there because I was in better condition or I understood the weapons better. I understood the tactics better. So or I just was more prepared because I’d gotten to work at five o’clock in the morning and prep my gear and, and prep my dive rig before anyone else did. So I was just a little bit ahead. So I could spend a little more time doing a chart study of the water I was going to be diving in. So I kind of got a better lay of the land, or the ocean in this case. So these little disciplines that I imposed on myself, made me more equipped to handle what was going to what I was going to face in these training situations. And then you know, very soon you realize that the more discipline you impose on just about every aspect of your life, the more freedom you end up with, whether it’s the the example of financial freedom if you want financial freedom, guess what, you gotta have financial discipline to get there. If you want to have more free time, guess what, you gotta have more discipline, time management. And if you’re a part of a team, then the way that you you, if you saw my SEAL platoon, you’d see that we had discipline standard operating procedures for just about everything that we did. And you might think that that constrains us on the battlefield, but it actually is gives us freedom that and and that’s the way that it is. That’s the way that that’s the way that for me, discipline in my life has given me from my perspective right now, an immense amount of freedom. Now, as far as the portal, that that allows someone to kind of transition. For me. Another thing that I talk about all the time is the ability to detach from the chaos detached from mayhem, and detach from your emotions so that you can make good logical decisions about what you’re doing in your life in the world. And this is something that I remember the day I learned it, I was on an oil rig and we were doing a training operation on an oil rig and we approached one of the the main deck of the oil rig with my platoon and everyone gets out on-line on this Platoon, we’re all lined up waiting for a command to be made, whether to go left, whether it go right whether it go forward, and no one’s making any decision. And I’m, I think this is my, my first platoon as a new guy,

EW: 1:54:18 right

JW: 1:54:18 And I’m waiting. And no one’s making any decisions because everyone’s doing what I was doing, which is staring down the barrel of their gun, looking for targets. And I stood there for a second and then three seconds in five seconds, and I said, Okay, I’m just gonna take a step back. So I, I lifted my gun into the High Court position, so I wasn’t looking down my weapon anymore. I took a step back, I looked to my left, I looked to my right, I saw that no one was looking around to make a decision. And I I said, “Hold left clear, right,” which was a common standard operating procedure. And everyone repeated the call because that’s what you do in the seal teams. When somebody makes a verbal call. Everyone repeats it. So everyone says, you know, “hold left, clear.” Right and Then everyone held left and we cleared right. And I realized at that moment, I was the least one of the least tactically experienced people. But because I had taken a step back, I was able to see things with a lot more clarity than anyone else on that line could.

EW: 1:55:15 So this is a phrase you use, “take a step back,” which essentially, as far as I can tell, means, go metacognitive witness the robot that is you,

JW: 1:55:23 yes,

EW: 1:55:24 acting robotically and find something that is not the robot to evaluate the situation,

JW: 1:55:28 you have to, I just call it detach, you have to detach from all that chaos. And what you’re really doing and this, you know, makes me think of your portal ideas. You’re detaching from you, right, you’re taking a step. You’re You’re detaching from your own brain, and you’re looking at things from a different perspective. And the better you get at it, you know, it got to a point where I don’t even have to move, and I’m detached. I’m looking around. So that to me, is one of the most powerful tools you have as a leader and really as a person is to instead of be being constantly in the, in the firefight,

EW: 1:56:03 right?

JW: 1:56:04 Take a step back, get out of the fire. Just like when you’re watching a football game on TV, you watch that football game. You wonder why these idiots on the field can’t see what you see? Well, it’s because you’re seeing it from nine different angles, or at least an elevated angle on the television, you can see everything that’s happening. So if you do that with your life, you detach, it’s going to make, it’s going to give you much more visibility on decisions you should make and directions you should go.

EW: 1:56:28 So both at the level of cognition and the level of emotion and feeling.

JW: 1:56:33 Absolutely, absolutely.

EW: 1:56:35 Well, this is some incredibly powerful advice. I’m going to try to put it into action. By the way, if you’ve never seen, Jocko discussing a moment of weakness where he tried to resist eating a piece of cake eventually succumb to eating a piece of cake and realize that he had to get back on the path. It is one of the most powerful minutes because it’s as if he’s locked in combat somewhere in Iraq and in fact, he’s simply In the same struggle that everyone else is making it human. Thank you so much for being one of the first guests on the portal. I learned a ton. And I would love to have you back at another point if you’d be willing to do it.

JW: 1:57:10 Absolutely. Thanks for having me on. Appreciate getting to meet you.