by Matthew Boulton: Student of human flourishing and proponent of objective optimism
We can derive tremendous benefit from associating with other people, but only under certain conditions. We can learn from, trade with, enjoy the company of, and share romantic love with others. Here, I share ideas, stories, experiences, and other content related to defining and choosing the kinds of people who add to our flourishing, helping us each think about what are healthy versus unhealthy relationships.
“Giving is getting” but this popular idea does have a qualifier that must be highlighted and properly understood, as it is often mistaken to refer to some kind of losing in the short term to gain in the long-term—which it kind of is yet isn’t. In this episode, Matthew distinguishes “giving” from “losing” so that we’re not trying to say anything paradoxical like “losing is winning.” There need be no losers for everyone to win.
What stories are we telling ourselves and the people we love? Are they serving us or hurting us? And them?
In today’s show, the power of story is made alarmingly clear—I mean powerful at the neurochemical level, and I mean alarmingly in that many of us are mostly passive in allowing old, unchecked, and disempowering stories about ourselves drive us—and not anywhere we want to go.
At minimum, you will leave this interview feeling confident and optimistic about yourself, your world, and the prospects in it, as Christmas Hutchinson convincingly reminds each of us that we’re worth more than we give ourselves credit for. Not a little more…way more.
Whether you’re depressed or not, none of us are operating in perfect mental health. And in any case, we all need to be better educated for those around us who may be struggling and for whom we might make a difference. Lewis Page, successful and respected soccer coach, loved father, husband, friend, and all-around popular and healthy guy, does not fit one’s typical image of what depression looks like. Yet he lives with it.
In this early milestone 50th episode, Matthew reflects a bit by sharing a brief history as to why he proceeded to call the show “Mr. Bright Side,” knowing full well that it would always be confused with the 2004 mega-hit Killers song. He also shares a few personal stories over the years which have reflected back to him his natural tendency to optimism and enthusiasm, long before he ever developed his mature and formal philosophy. Listeners can take a lesson in self-awareness from these reminiscences.
At what age does one become a fully-formed individual? One modern-day comedian and one sage character from a short story published in 1939 have both offered a similar magic number. How is that two people from distinctly separate eras and experience have both identified the same thing?
How does charity fit into a life dedicated to gaining—not surrendering—values? If healthy human relationships are about win-wins, and charity is about gaining nothing for oneself, then is it good? And why do many of us feel so unfulfilled after engaging in sacrificial charity, if it’s the right thing to do?
How are billionaires and trillionaires regarded in our culture, and what does it say about us?
Last week, Matthew referred to a children’s science textbook outlining three symbiotic relationships in nature: mutualism, parasitism, and commensalism, and argued that only win-wins (mutualism) are good while win-lose/lose-wins (parasitism) are immoral.
If win-win relationships are possible, why should we want any part of a win-lose or lose-win? Yet lose-win is what conventional morality offers us explicitly if we take it seriously. And we ought to take it seriously. Our self-esteem and mental health depend on it.
What would embolden you to take on a suicide mission against a terrifying and colossal evil? What makes a leader? How can a leader be convincing and motivate those he proposes to lead? Aragorn in The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King shows us the answers.
Does good etiquette lead to self-esteem? Or is etiquette just a social convention imposed upon us and a show put on for others?
Learn the “meaning behind the manners,” as Nita Patel distinguishes traditional and modern etiquette, defining the latter as “where outer actions and your inner awareness come together to achieve your best self.”