Episode 29 - Favo(u)rite Things Revisited


Peter: Hey Jen.

Jen: Hey Peter.

Peter: I thought it might be fun to revisit an old episode that we got a lot of great feedback on, and that was "Favorite Things," and I thought we might take some time to re-do or re-think about our favorite things since "Favorite Things."

Jen: I'm game. I'd love to share my favorite things since "My Favorite Things."

Peter: This is The Long and The Short Of It.

All right, Jen, do you remember the criteria? I've given you all of five minutes to prepare for this, so, I believe -

Jen: I appreciate it. That was really, really generous of you. So what I've got on the list that you sent me less than five minutes ago is, fiction book, nonfiction book, audio book - which I have to contribute this time.

Peter: Yes.

Jen: Podcast episode, website, word, video, and show.

Peter: Yes, I have the same list, and I didn't have website because I thought we decided we were cutting it, so -

Jen: You're right. We did decide that.

Peter: I mean we could never, we could never top the Visual Thesaurus website that came up in the last episode.

Jen: Listen, I love the Visual Thesaurus, and since nothing will ever top it, the website category has to be eliminated, because there will never be anything that is more of a favorite than VisualThesaurus.com.

Peter: You can't out-favorite a favorite, it's totally fair. Visual Thesaurus has won the category.

Jen: Okay, but onto today's list, I'm going to kick it off, because Peter, I don't read a lot of fiction.

Peter: You didn't read one, did you?

Jen: Well, I'm in the middle of - we read as a family, the Harry Potter series. My husband, who is an incredible actor and incredible with voices, plays all the roles, so we're in the middle of The Order of the Phoenix, so I think that counts.

Peter: Order of the Phoenix, okay. Yeah, I'll, I'll pay that. Harry Potter and The Order of the Phoenix, Jen's favorite nonfiction book.

Jen: No, fiction, fiction.

Peter: Sorry, fiction. What did I say? Nonfiction.

Jen: Did you know that wizards are real?

Peter: Isn't that nonfiction? I've lived my whole life thinking that that was nonfiction. Okay, I read one, and it's, it's definitely one worth reading or listening to. I know a lot of people enjoy listening to the sound of this guy's voice. So the book is, it's called The Graveyard Book, and it's by Neil Gaiman, who is very famous and well-respected author. And it's a kid's book, originally intended to be a children's book, but it's super entertaining and interesting, and kind of draws an interesting line between life and death and community and family and all of that. And I read it on recommendation by a few people who, who, the people that have recommended it to me, it's interesting, the people that recommended to me, this book to me, are American and obsessed with his voice. So I wonder if there's, like, something in that, cause he's British, and he has a lovely British accent. And so I wonder if for us, us being in Australia, we are, like, less surprised and amazed by the British accent. But I still found - honestly, I was like, I mean, he just sounds like a British guy. Like, I hear a lot of that. So I thought it was a great book, and definitely worth checking out.

Jen: Love it.

Peter: Okay, what about nonfiction? And given you've rocked my world that this does not include Harry Potter, what have you got?

Jen: I have read so many nonfiction books since our Favorite Things episode, but the one I'm going to land on today is The Fearless Organization by Amy Edmondson. She's the person who coined the term "psychological safety" several decades ago, and this builds on her incredible research. Essentially it is first theory, then case studies, then implementation practices for creating a psychologically safe environment within your organization.

Peter: Wow.

Jen: It's incredibly useful, easy to read, and very thoughtfully put together. So that gets a big thumbs up for me: The Fearless Organization.

Peter: Yeah. That just gets added to my never-ending pile of books to read. So I too read a lot - so many nonfiction books, so many, but one that stuck out cause it was a little bit different - well maybe not that different - it's, it's a book called Shoe Dog, and it's by Phil Knight, who's the founder of Nike, and it's, it's essentially the memoirs of how Nike was created. And it's written, or ghost-written, I believe, by the same person that ghost-wrote Andre Agassi's book Open, which is one of my favorite autobiographies of all time. And yeah, it's just this fascinating insight into how the company Nike was created, especially fascinating for, for a millennial like me, because it was in the sixties, and it was things like, "I sent a proposal in the post, and then waited three months, or three weeks for my response," and I was like, "What? How do you conduct business this way?" And then like, he just flies to Japan to meet these people on unannounced without any meeting or prior consent. Like, it's just the way the business was conducted. It's fascinating. Little bit hilarious.

Jen: Yeah, in the good old days. "We used to do things without machines in the good old days."

Peter: So this is news to me. I've found that especially interesting. But beyond that, it's just a really, a really fascinating book, from talking about, like, failing and starting again, and getting knocked down and getting back up, and all of those things that we know and love to be true about interesting projects. This is a very creative process to create that company. So that's mine: Shoe Dog by Phil Knight. Now I'm excited for the next one, because you mentioned you listened to an audio book, which you'd never done last time.

Jen: Actually listened to a couple.

Peter: Oh my God, tell me more.

Jen: So I, I might've said this on a previous episode, that I've gotten in the habit of, like, reading things multiple times if I know ahead of time that it's going to be sort of a winner with me. And so now I've started doing a little bit of that, with the first read being the audio book, and then going to the hard copy and taking all of my notes. So I did that with my audio book that I'm going to put on the table here, but I do need to really unpack this, because this was not my favorite book to read. I actually found it very painful to read, very upsetting, incredibly thoughtful, incredibly well-written and well-argued. But like, I haven't stopped thinking about it since I read it, and it is called Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World by Anand Giridharadas. And the reason it is so hard to read is because if you are a person who follows thought leaders, contributes money to organizations, all with the intention to make the world a better place, this will rock your world and make you question whether or not you are indeed part of the problem rather than part of the solution. And I truly have thought about some elements of this book every single day since I've read it, and I'm very grateful to author for having written it, even though he really goes after some people who are heroes to me, I appreciate the well-thought argument, and it has forced me to really check myself and ask myself about the kind of work I'm doing, and whether or not it truly has integrity. So, ooh, it was tough, tough pill to swallow, but really excellently-written book.

Peter: Yeah, I love that. You can admit that though. I think that more people like you and me and everybody that reads things that don't necessarily align with all of the things we believe, the better. Challenge your thinking.

Jen: I actually think that he's right, this is the thing. The hard part is recognizing that I am wrapped up in his argument because I do a lot of the things that he talks about, and I've essentially thought of the work that I'm doing as always seeking to change the world. But what he points out is that we spend too much time on focusing on how the victims of existing structures can make a go of it, rather than attempting to dismantle the structures that made the victimization possible in the first place. And so for example, he has a whole section of the book about Brene Brown who is a personal hero to me, and I believe in her work, and even after reading this book, I still believe in her work, and I will continue to follow her and I will continue to implement her ideas. And I also recognize that her audience is largely made up of women who at some point felt disempowered by a system. So now, instead of only looking at how can people who feel disempowered, disenfranchised, or marginalized, reclaim the power that is rightfully theirs, I also am now trying to look at every issue from both sides of the coin. So, what system or structure made it possible for that to happen to women in the first place? So that's really what he's opened up my eyes to, and my own behaviors, my own actions, my own donations were focusing too much on the marginalized, as opposed to how to destroy the systems and structures that marginalized people in the first place.

Peter: Ooh, now that sounds like an important book. I need to check it out. You recommended it to me. It's on my list. I promise I will get there.

Jen: I recommend it to everyone, and then I'm afraid they're going to read it. It's just so upsetting.

Peter: Feels like a tough act to follow, but my audio book of choice, my favorite audio book since our Favorite Things episode is without question, Michelle Obama's book Becoming. I have a rule of thumb - I think I mentioned this with the last audio book - that whenever there's an autobiography that interests me, I will immediately check if there's an audio version, because often it's read by the author. This book is read by Michelle Obama. It is about, like, sixteen, seventeen hours. And it is just so good. So good. Listening to Michelle Obama talk about her upbringing in Chicago, her relationship with Obama, what she did in the White House, all of the things that, honestly, as an Australian I didn't know that much about, and just found it so unbelievably interesting and encapsulating, and sad at times, and relatable and at the times, and emotional and yeah, just a super important book that I think more and more people should read slash listen to.

Jen: That brings us to favorite podcast episode.

Peter: The hardest category in the world.

Jen: Cause we listen to too many.

Peter: Can't even begin to think about the one of these. Have you got one? Can you go first?

Jen: I do, I have one. And the only reason I was even able to pick one out of the masses is because the interviewer did such a great job of getting some content that we've never heard before from Simon Sinek, and it is Cal Fussman's episode with Simon Sinek. And the thing that I was particularly struck by was the way Simon opened up about his writing process, and how each time he wrote one of his books, the process had to change completely. And it, it seems like so, "oh well of course," after the fact, but I never would've thought of it unless I heard him say it, that as his star began to rise, of course his process had to change, because he wasn't this anonymous person sitting at a coffee shop or on an airplane anymore. Now he was, you know, quote "Simon Sinek," as opposed to just a person. So his process had to reflect this shifting tide of who he was as a public figure, and I thought it was completely fascinating to hear him talk about it. What about you, Peter, have you landed on one?

Peter: Not really, I can't. I have - no, I have, I have, I have like seven on the page in front of me that I wrote down, but there's one that sticks out to me. I think the reason it sticks out to me is I remember where I was, what I was doing when I was listening to this podcast, and I don't necessarily remember it because the podcast blew me away more than other podcasts, but for whatever reason I just remember I was out for a walk on a Sunday. It was a really nice day, I was like just having some zen time I guess, and I specifically remember listening to the Krista Tippett podcast, which is a great podcast called On Being, and she was interviewing someone by the name of Maira Kalman, I think is how you pronounce it. M-A-I-R-A K-A-L-M-A-N Maira Kalman, and the episode - I can't specifically remember the title - but Maira was talking about basically looking for things, everyday things in your day that she talked about falling in love with; basically like, looking for moments of joy within your day, and how she does that as a, as an artist, and I was absolutely obsessed with that. This idea of sparking joy, of looking for joy, of bringing joy to other people is something that I think about a lot, and while I didn't frame it as "things to fall in love with," I think of it as "things to bring joy". I think it's the same premise, and super, super interested and into that podcast. So that was the one that I ended up landing on.

Jen: Love it. I'm going to have to give that one a listen. Can I do an honorable mention for best podcast episode?

Peter: Yeah.

Jen: Do you listen to The Nod?

Peter: Oh, the best podcast - I saw, I, that was the other one on my list.

Jen: It's so good.

Peter: I couldn't pick an episode. I just wanted to say The Nod as a whole.

Jen: The Nod as a whole is a great podcast, but the one I want to give the honorable mention and favorite thing to is, they did an episode called "Medea's Homecoming," where they do Medea's funeral, and it is such a brilliant piece of comedy and commentary fused into a single experience, and I was at certain points angry, and at certain points laughing out loud, and at certain points moved to tears - it was such a great episode. So, shout out to The Nod.

Peter: Plus one to that: also, they have the best theme music of any podcast that I know. I just love their theme music.

Jen: See, that's a Gimlet podcast, and we tend to go for all things Gimlet. So -

Peter: True that.

Jen: - let's also shouted out to Gimlet Media. All right, so next up is favorite word. Do you have a favorite word?

Peter: I mean, I think so. My favorite word since, since we last spoke about it, is "initiation." And it's such a boring word when I say it out loud, but let me tell you why - there was a, a podcast, or an interview, or something that I heard with someone - clearly wasn't that memorable other than this one line which was that "Struggle and doubt and the hard parts can be framed as an initiation to get you where you need to go."

Jen: Ooh.

Peter: And like, ever since I heard that, I've just been like, wow, if everything is an initiation, or if something that's really tough, if you're in the middle of something really tough, and I just think to myself, "Okay, initiation," then I know that it's like, "Oh, this is a necessary part of helping me get to where I need to go." So I've been using that a lot. I mean, to the point where, Jen, I was struck down with a virus a few days ago. I was bedridden for a few days, and I actually was saying to myself, in my, in my absolute state, "This is an initiation."

Jen: Well that's a, that's a very healthy frame of mind.

Peter: So, that's my word. What about you?

Jen: Spruik!

Peter: Yes.

Jen: I keep promising that we're going to do an episode about "spruik."

Peter: We are. We definitely are.

Jen: So, let's, kay, put that on the agenda. We don't usually plan, but now we're going to plan. We are going to do an episode about spruiking.

Peter: What agenda? Do we have an agenda?

Jen: No, that's what I'm saying. Put it as the only item on the agenda. But the quick bite-size version of this is that one day Peter and I were getting off a call, and he was like, "Wow, I've got to go spruik a podcast." Okay, my Aussie dialect's not so good. And I was like, "What word are you saying?" I could not figure out what word he was saying. And then he spelled it: S-P-R-U-I-K. I believe I asserted that that was not a word. And then he was like, "Yes, it is a word." I Googled it, and it turns out it is. The first definition of it I saw said, "to promote an idea using the human voice." And I was like, "Ah, what a great word." Now as an American, I have no idea what connotation "spruik" has in Australia, so I've decided to create my own connotation and make it a beautiful thing to do, which is to share an idea with someone else, rather than self-promotion or advertising yourself. You spruik an idea. I love it.

Peter: I have no further comments, other than I don't know whether to be offended by your version of my accent or not.

Jen: Don't. It's really just my incompetence on display, it's not a commentary on what you sound like.

Peter: And so yeah, it turns out "spruik" is an Australian word, so yes, we will do an entire episode on what that means and what it looks like.

Jen: Cool.

Peter: Video. Video, video, video. Now, last time you reduced me to tears of laughter with your favorite video. What have you got for us this time?

Jen: This time I will reduce you to tears of inspiration! My favorite video recently is Stacey Abrams' Ted Talk. Now, Stacey Abrams has been in the American news cycle quite a bit lately, because there's speculation that she's going to be named as Joe Biden's potential Vice Presidential running mate - who knows what's going to happen there - but what I can tell you is that she did a brilliant and beautiful Ted Talk about what inspired her to enter the race for governor of the state of Georgia. And what I found particularly moving is she lost that election, and it fueled her fire even more to go after the change she's seeking to make in the world. Sometimes when people lose, they give up, but she lost, and at the same time, won a whole new sense of self, a whole new sense of purpose. And it's incredible to watch her talk about it. So Stacey Abrams' Ted Talk.

Peter: Boom, love that. Gonna check it out. I cheated a little bit, but I have, I have a backup. So my cheat - it's, it's not a cheat, it's just that it's not really something anyone else can access or share.

Jen: What?

Peter: I can't share with anyone, but my favorite, my favorite video is a video that my sister sent me of my niece saying my name for the first time, which I thought was pretty cool. So I've got that saved, and I've watched that a few times, but I can't - again, like, it's not accessible to anyone else. So I've come up with a second one, which is not quite as sweet and cute.

Jen: Okay. What is that?

Peter: It's a video by a guy called Matt D'Avella, who is a, an amazing freelancer video production film creator, essentially. And he did a video just before Christmas, and it's titled "Slowing Down," or, "It's Time to Slow Down," I think it is. And ooh, yeah, it got me, it got me good. It's just one of those reminders that sometimes we sprint and we don't take a breath break, and sometimes we need to slow down and take a break, and whether it's put the phone down, or just turn your laptop off, or take some time away from your brain and yourself, and do something a bit slower than perhaps we normally do. So, it was, I remember it got me just as I got back actually from a trip to New York where you and I had done a bunch of work, and I was like, come back a million miles an hour because I was so pumped up, and I watched it and was like, "Huh, he's got a point. I think I need to just take a deep breath here." So, Matt D'Avella, "Slowing Down" or "Time to Slow Down." Check that one out.

Jen: I will check that out. Okay, we've got one category left, which is favorite show.

Peter: Which created a little bit of conversation last time. Surprise. And when I went to, when I actually was in your studio, a lot of people came up and mentioned to me that they know I loved Les Mis, which I thought was hilarious.

Jen: That's amazing. That is hilarious to me.

Peter: Now that you can't pick Hamilton, what is your favorite show since our "Favorite Things" episode?

Jen: Well, I have one live and one recorded.

Peter: Okay, I'll allow it.

Jen: So, favorite live show since "My Favorite Things" is the new Broadway revival of Rogers and Hammerstein's Oklahoma. It is breathtaking. It's terrifying. It is contemporary, and it absolutely honors the original script. I think the director is a complete visionary, and anyone who is in New York should do whatever they can do to see it. It is so good. The recorded one is - I can't remember if I ever brought this up on this show before, so if I'm repeating myself, sorry about it - a show called The Terror. It is a show that my husband and I committed to watching ten episodes. The writing is absolutely extraordinary. To me it is Sondheim-ian in its writing in that every single word matters. Every single word will come back at some point to deepen its meaning, and I have actually decided I'm going to watch the whole series again. I don't watch a lot of television, so this is, like, unheard of, but now that I know where the story's going, I need to go back and at least watch the early episodes again to see how they laid the groundwork for what came later. It is so good, and the acting is beyond compare.

Peter: Okay. I have a live one too that I just, now that you had a recorded one, I'll add one as well. So, live show, without question, hands down, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, parts one and two. So that is in Melbourne at the moment.

Jen: So good.

Peter: Oh my God, it's magic. I don't understand it.

Jen: It's literally magic. There are some things that they do in that show that defy explanation. And even after having thought about it for months, I cannot tell you how they did it.

Peter: Thank you. Cause I thought, I was like, "If anyone knows the answer to how they do this, it's Jen Waldman, because I have absolutely no idea. This is genuine magic." But Harry Potter is, ugh, so good. It's so, it's just magic. That's the only word to describe it. Real life magic. And then my recorded show is a show on Netflix, actually, it's called Afterlife, and it was written and starred in by Ricky Gervais, and it's a new show that will make you laugh until you cry, that will make you cry with absolute sadness and emotion. It is about a guy who's just lost his wife and coming to terms with that, and it's, in typical Ricky Gervais fashion is very funny, but there are moments where you're just like, bawling your eyes out and feeling all the feels, and I think that's healthy. So, Afterlife, Ricky Gervais, check that show out. But also, Harry Potter, magic.

Jen: Wow. We did it. Our favorite things since our "Favorite Things," raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens and Schnitzel with noodles. You name it. We talked about it.

Peter: I have no idea what you just said.

Jen: The musical theatre folk out there will know. And I guess, my friends, that is The Long and The Short Of It.