A double whammy is when one of my heroes interviews another; such as Malcolm Gladwell interviewing Oliver Burkeman. This is a lovely interview and unusual in the welcome respect that they don’t spend all that much time asking Burkeman questions that just cause him to repeat everything I’ve already read in the book. It goes more like a therapy session. We learn that Burkeman started getting obsessed with maximizing him productivity at a very precocious age; he faults his over-anxious, get-to-the-airport-14-hours-early father. But I was like that myself, and I think some of us are just hardwired as such. When Burkeman tries to turn the tables, and prods Gladwell to talk more about how he grew up in such an opposite environment, I’m as fascinated as he is. While Burkeman’s parents said, “Just do your best,” which sent him into a tailspin thinking that he couldn’t slack off for a moment or it wasn’t his “best”… Gladwell’s easy-going parents said, “You’re bored? Good! It’s good to just drift along once and a while…” and Gladwell grew up embracing the easy-going life. But he keeps dodging the question of how he’s become so successful without that drive towards productivity – why isn’t he working at a surf shop in Bali? I’d love to know.
Large chunk of the relevant transcript follows, emphasis added by me; in these spots I particularly wonder if these people are genetically related to Xopher:
Oliver: What would be the motivation to have written all the books that you’ve written and to have created all the other content—podcasts, audiobooks, everything else—what would be the motivation to have got on to that escalator in the first place if you were just completely relaxed about your relationship to the world?
Malcolm: I may have inherited it from my parents. I don’t think of either of my parents as being future oriented. They were people we never discussed tomorrow. We only ever discussed today. And I never think about tomorrow. Really. Not much. My most powerful memories of my parents—my father is no longer with us; my mother is very much—are of them being in the moment.
My father would only ever talk about what he was doing, and he would almost never talk about what he intended to do. And my mother was always celebrating the thing that was happening. She’d make a fresh scone, and eat it, and then she would say something to the effect of: “At this very moment, eating this particular scone, I am insanely happy.”
I’m not thinking about tomorrow.