James Allworth: You Are Your Own Best Teacher

James Allworth: You Are Your Own Best Teacher

My Favorite Part of the Podcast:

David: Can you elaborate on the life lessons you gained from swimming?

James: "Swimming is a hard sport, but it taught me the importance of working hard at a very young age. There is a direct relationship between hard work and outcome. Now, that's not to say there's not always luck involved, and I feel like, particularly in the United States, people consistently underestimate how important luck is in terms of getting to outcomes. But you don't have any control over that. The things you have control over is how much work you put in and when you don't do the hard work, you're only cheating yourself. Sports and swimming taught me that lesson."

David: What are the day-to-day rituals that have brought you to where you are today?

James: I think of life like a holiday. The aim of a holiday is not to get to the end, but the way that many people live life is so much about getting to the end. I have to get on the plane, I have to get there, and then I have to get back. Then they check the box. That's not a great holiday. In the same way it's not how you have a great holiday and it's not how you have a great life. Many people see life as a series of checklists that will make them happy. I'm not saying that you don't have to do the hard work. You do. You're going to have to shovel poop sometimes. Just the way life works. 

But at the same time, you want to find out the kind of hard work and pain you enjoy because this is what you've got. The aim of life is not to get to the end. It's to enjoy it. This is the trap of ambitious people. Be conscious of it. 

In terms of daily habits, I think the things that's made an enormous difference, and there's tons of research to back it up, is the amount that I exercise. I am fastidious about getting in a workout. And not just walking on a treadmill. I go and sweat! Even if it's just 20 minutes and you get your heart rate up. This idea that the human body was just designed to sit behind a desk all day is so wrong, it does so much damage to us, and it prevents us from thinking well. The return on investment I get from the hour and a half or two hours a day spent exercising is infinite. It's the best time I spend all day. 

I sleep better. I think better. And I am a better person to be around. 


In this episode, I interview James Allworth. James is the host of my favorite podcast, Exponent. James is the former Director of Strategy at Medallia and a frequent contributor to the Harvard Business Review

He grew up in Australia before moving to the United States to get an MBA at Harvard. While at Harvard, James co-authored a book called How Will You Measure Your Life with the famous Clay Christensen. This wide-ranging conversation stretches from the importance of travel and fitness to the future of technology. 

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