Episode 55 Charles Duhigg on Smarter Faster Better [The Amiel Show]

Charles Duhigg pic

Charles Duhigg’s first book The Power of Habit spent over a year on the New York Times bestseller list. In addition to being popular, it was darn good.

So when I heard he was coming out with a second book, Smarter Faster Better, I invited him for an interview. After several back and forth emails with his friendly team of publicists, he accepted. (Although I’ve interviewed other luminaries like David Allen, this was my first experience with a publicist–other than the one I hired to help with Practice Greatness.)

The new book’s subtitle is The Secrets of Being Productive in Life and Business. I forgot to ask him which part of business is outside of life. Or if he thought he’d sell more copies calling it Dumber Slower and Worse–which has a nice ring to it, don’t you think? Otherwise, it was a good interview.

My goal is always to make my guests laugh, praise my genius, or comment on my humility. I’m not sure any of those things happened this time, but I sensed Charles smiling on a couple of occasions. Small wins, people. Small wins.



  • 3:30 Who ate the chocolate chip cookie?
  • 6:00 Charles’s experiments in meeting new people at conferences
  • 11:00 Why psychological safety matters in produces great teams
  • 16:00 Saturday Night Live’s early seasons—how even misanthropes can work well together
  • 19:00 Making better decisions by thinking probabilistically
  • 26:30 Subversives in nursing homes—transforming chores into choices
  • 28:00 Marine Corps Boot Camp—improving self-motivation by asking why you are doing something

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You’ll be amazed by how much self-motivation gets generated by asking yourself why.

–Charles Duhigg  Tweet this quote


Lorne Michaels models psychological safety and he’s not even a particularly nice person.

–Charles Duhigg   Tweet this quote

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Episode 6: James Flaherty on How People Change and Where Excellence Lives

James Flaherty taught me how to coach, created the organization where I met my wife, and challenged me to grow myself as a person.

That’s quite an influence for one person, don’t you think?

In Episode 6 of The Amiel Show, I had the privilege to talk with James about some big stuff I’ve learned from him. We discussed:

  • 3:00 So much of our experience is an interpretation versus a fact “out there”
  • 8:20 Why self-observation is as important as 360 feedback
  • 13:30 Truly changing involves our bodies, social worlds, and language
  • 24:00 Excellence is evoked in relationship rather than something we create alone
  • 30:30 Aristotle’s notion of excellence, including all parts of ourselves
  • 35:45 What’s up with emotions in our culture
  • 43:00 Executive presence happens in the body
  • 51:50 What James is deliberately practicing to develop himself

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Teaching Doctors How to Say “I’m Sorry”

Seven years ago, on a hill overlooking Portland, I taught fifteen medical students how to apologize. It wasn’t part of their curriculum. It wasn’t why I was invited to speak.

But life is about seizing opportunities. In this case, the opportunity was to transform the grief of losing a child into a teachable moment. Not by lecturing. Not even by telling a story. But by cajoling future doctors to say out loud the words I wished I had heard six months before.

What followed was a test case for the notion that you are what you say—and that what you say matters—a lot.


The invitation came from an OB/GYN known in the community for being compassionate with patients, particularly those with difficult pregnancies. He wasn’t our physician, but he heard about us through the grapevine. And we knew him by reputation.

Regaining Center After The Bull Strikes

He came after me like a bull charging a matador.

“What’s your success rate? I need numbers. What percentage of your clients get promotions?”

These were fair questions for a prospective client interview, and I’d heard them before. But this man, an up-and-coming executive, delivered them with an intensity and ferocity that was surprising. He was testing not only my experience, but also my fortitude.

Bull attacking

“I’m not sure,” I stammered, suddenly feeling like a six-year-old boy facing the class bully in a far corner of the playground. “I, um, haven’t tracked that too closely.”

Six-year-olds don’t make good matadors. This bull tasted blood.

“Then what are you going to do for me? What…are…you…going…to…do…for…me?”

ASAP Is A Four-Letter Word

Want to get things done more smoothly and reduce the number of crossed wires in your life?

Then stop saying “As Soon As Possible” (ASAP). Today.

On the surface, ASAP is useful in conveying urgency. It says I’m in a hurry, so do this fast. It also rolls off the lips easily. The two syllables convey that you are serious and need results now.

ASAP sign

Unfortunately, as my first boss taught me twenty years ago, ASAP is one of the greatest sources of organizational conflict and suffering. Every time you say it, you triple the odds of misunderstanding, dropped balls, and disappointment. The reason is simple: ASAP means different things to different people—not sometimes, but all of the time. 

My Interview on Hispanic MPR

Hispanic MPR has posted an interview they did with me about my book, Practice Greatness.

This is my second interview about the book, and I am pleased by how well it went. Although I stumbled a bit early on, after about five minutes, I picked up my stride. We dug into some meaty questions, and I think he interviewer, Elena del Valle, did a really nice job.

To listen online or download the iTunes podcast, go to this web page

And please tell me what you think!