H@H: Ep 12 – Paulina Lee interviews Lucas Miller,a human performance researcher and the youngest faculty at UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business. A best-selling author on the science of learning and behavior change, he co-designed one of the most popular MBA courses at UC Berkeley called “Becoming Superhuman: The Science of Productivity and Performance” and has been featured in Wired and The Wall Street Journal.
On student takeaways from the course – “I’ve even seen grown men cry and then get into a very personal reveal of how (their phone has) ruined their marriage or it’s made them way less effective and way less intelligent than they used to be in their forties or thirties. They realize that these habits have been completely reinforced over time and they can choose to fight back and take control…if they’re willing to make that trade off.”
On the importance of focus – “It’s not really about time management. It’s more about getting the right things done. It’s one thing to talk about being a faster runner or a better performer or getting more things done in fewer hours. It’s another to make sure you’re doing the right stuff because it doesn’t matter how hard you’re working. If you’re not focusing on what matters, then you won’t get the results you want.”
On maximizing your day – “That’s one concept that sticks with folks, that it’s okay to not be a hundred percent the entire day. I mean, we’re not machines. We’re not like laptops where if we simply have power, we can just run at a hundred percent capacity and run multiple programs at the same time. We have peaks and we have troughs, and if we don’t manage our energy over the course of the day, we have long periods where we’re just burned out and can’t do anything.”
On finding your strengths – “I think something that’s really, really important for folks to learn as they try different careers and potentially go down rabbit holes that may serve them or may not serve them, is to keep a keen eye on what gives them energy and what drains them. Because ultimately, it gives you real insights into what’s going on on a daily basis; and will help make you fulfilled and feel like you’re growing.”
Recommendation & Resources List:
- LinkedIn: Lucas Miller
- Stoa Partners
- Beyond Brilliance: The Blueprint for Learning Anything by Lucas Miller
- The War of Art by Steven Pressfield
- Berkeley Free Ventures
[00:00:00] Paulina Lee: I’m Paulina Lee and this is here@haas, a student-run podcast connecting you to Haasie and the faculty that changed our lives this week on here@haas, we are joined by Lucas Miller, a productivity researcher, author, and lecturer at Haas. Welcome to the show, Lucas.
[00:00:19] Lucas Miller: Thanks for having me. Happy to be here.
[00:00:21] Paulina Lee: How’s your day going so far?
[00:00:23] Lucas Miller: Not too bad. I mean, it’s basically just been getting on zoom and yelling at the internet all day. So, this is more of the same. I’m really excited to be here and share some stories and talk with the class and answer whatever questions you got.
[00:00:36] Paulina Lee: Awesome. Well, we’re very excited to have you. I would love to hear more about your story and how you ended up at Haas. I know you did your undergrad at UC Berkeley as well, so tell us a little bit about your time and undergrad and then in between becoming a lecturer here at Haas.
[00:00:53] Lucas Miller: So, my story is a bit all over the place. I’m originally from Southern California, so not too far away, from orange County.
[00:01:01] I came here because I wanted to be far enough away from home to experience a different world, but also to just expand my mind and you know, see what the world had to offer.
[00:01:12] I wanted to be a mechanical engineering major, and I initially came in on that track. I thought, you know, it’d be really cool to build the next generation of planes or cars or something physical. Even though I was terrible at Legos as a kid, I still to this day can’t fix a doorknob.
[00:01:30] Honestly, I should have known upfront. Anyone would have been able to say that’s not a strong suit. So that’s a terrible idea. I did that for a semester, and then I switched over. At the time, I thought, you know, computer science is really taking off. This seems to be really extensible. I can kind of take it anywhere.
[00:01:49] So I switched to ECCS for three semesters, and then going into my junior year, I decided, you know, I’m not passionate about it. I can always learn how to code on the side. I really want to take advantage of my graduate student instructors, the faculty in a smaller class environment and computer science was so, you know, one person teaching to a thousand.
[00:02:13] So, I actually switched to cognitive science with an emphasis on neuroscience and cognitive science across the board is fairly broad, but I really just wanted to go back to what I was always interested in, and that was fundamental questions.
[00:02:30] You know, why are we here? How do we construct reality in that all really lives in the brain? I see two options for people who are really interested in the big hairy why questions of life, and that’s physics or neuroscience. You can kind of take the outer perspective by examining the external or take the inner perspective by examining what’s in your head and how this two to three-pound piece of gray matter constructs everything we know and remember and who we trust and all the actions we take. I got really into cognitive science and that became my core major. And then on the side, I was super curious and wanted to take a bunch of other classes.
[00:03:13] So, I did most of the Haas undergrad course load as well and you know, I had previously about a year prior to graduating, I met up with Dr. Sahar Yousef, she’s my current co-lecturer. We have a company outside of Haas together and she was doing some really interesting research on how do you take smart already high performing healthy folks like most students at Berkeley, and how do you really crank up the volume on their performance? We’re talking broadband. We want people to be able to focus for longer, have better memories in general, just perform at a higher level without giving them drugs or strapping them into an expensive machine and zapping their brains.
[00:04:00] So, she was finishing up her graduate coursework and you know, we wanted to go in on a company together and that’s kind of dovetailed into teaching this course at Haas.
[00:04:13] In general, I’ve been driven by curiosity and ultimately now I have two feet in two very different worlds. One is in science where I’m still conducting and evaluating research, and the other is in the business world where I’m translating all of those findings into simple, easy to understand terms for students and exacts and teams to actually implement in the business world.
[00:04:40] Paulina Lee: I love that. I think that’s so important because a lot of the research that’s out there, you know, everyone’s turning out all these white papers, but that ability to translate it and then actually make it actionable and easy and digestible for the everyday person like myself who is not a cognitive scientist or neuroscientist is so important.
[00:05:04] So, let’s dig into your research a little bit. You said you were doing some research that last year of your time in school with Dr. Yusef. How did you get involved? What really interested you, and what do you think was the most surprising thing that you learned during your time?
[00:05:20] Lucas Miller: Okay, so I’m going to fork this question into two different directions because I had two research paths. One was individual, one was with Sahar and kind of leads to where we are today. The first, when I was a junior in undergrad at Berkeley, I got really into the topic of learning. Just the science behind it, how it happens, why some people claim that they can’t learn certain things.
[00:05:46] And I really found that there was a lack of operating manual for students. You know, you kind of get thrust into school from an early age and you’re told, here are all the things you should learn to be an educated member of society. You know, here’s what to learn, all these things. But they never tell you how.
[00:06:08] They never say, you know, here’s the best way to study. Here are the most common mistakes students make. Here is the reason why you can cram and it stays in your brain for a week, but then eventually it all goes out and you never get it back. So, I endeavored at that point on top of school to take my position as someone who had done really well in school and personally never found myself in the library pulling all-nighters all the time, and I knew that it was possible and I wanted to give that gift back. So, I spent about three months over winter break just reading books and papers, trying to create this curated manual for students, high school, college, and grad students, all about how to learn and perform better as a student.
[00:07:00] So that was really a research stint where I wanted to become an expert in the science of learning and start to translate that for different schools and for different people who are trying to build better educational experiences. And then I quickly realized that I’m the type of person who gets bored.
[00:07:23] So once I feel like I’ve hit 90 or 95% mastery, I move on. At that point where I was starting to get a little bit bored and went, okay, this is under my belt, but what’s next? I met Sahar and she was doing some really, really interesting research as part of her graduate work on how do we take a crop of students who are fairly normal, already smart, and in a matter of about seven weeks, see if we can improve their general brain performance across a wide variety of domain, general measures. So, we’re talking complex working memory, ability to sustain attention and fight distraction, the ability to regulate your emotions and not necessarily get really stressed or lose control of yourself in the moment. She put together this wonderful course, which is a mix of content and actually applying different skills called from the department of defense, the meditation community, a bunch of different research communities that were all interested in helping humans be better humans.
[00:08:36] And so I got involved with that research and ultimately helped her get to finishing up that thesis. And I remember after, no, her advisor and some of the other people who looked at the results and went, wow, you can actually take people who don’t have any glaring deficits, they don’t have ADHD, they don’t have concussions, and you can make them better in a short amount of time.
[00:09:00] What’s next? You can’t just let this sit. You have to actually take it to the world. And most science just sits in dry, dense, unapproachable journals and no one ever reads it. And you put in 10x the amount of effort to have one/100th of the amount of people read your work.
[00:09:22] And so we wanted to see, you know, what’s the company version of this? How can we take this into a set of educational products, either for businesses or for individuals or it built that class on its own to really expand the impact here? And now, fast forward to today and we have our constant lab and experimental pool of Haasies to try out new content and exercises with, but that’s really the origin story. It started with some really novel research that she formulated and we wanted to see what was next and how we could expand the impact.
[00:10:04] Paulina Lee: And so, how exactly did you guys meet?
[00:10:07] Lucas Miller: I actually was part of an organization called the Cognitive Science Student Association, and the current president at the time just sent out, you know, if you’re interested in being a research assistant, here are some people looking for positions.
[00:10:25] I remember seeing her position and being fairly interested in reaching out and sending, quite honestly a poorly worded email. It was really dry and robotic.
[00:10:37] She had one more position, laughed and said, you know, sure, we need diversity on the team. It’s a new perspective. And then we met and hit it off and pretty quickly we’re talking about different businesses and long-term life plans. And we went, you know, there seems to be a potential partnership here.
[00:10:56] Paulina Lee: That’s great. And so, you did the research and then you formed your company Stoa Partners, correct?
[00:11:04] Lucas Miller: So, we decided when we were both graduating, we were going to start a company. We weren’t sure what form it was going to take so we went into Free Ventures, an accelerator program that as student org at Berkeley runs, spent about three months screwing around, coming up with what’s the scalable version of this, you know, software diagnostics and personalized content, and we just were screwing around, coming up with a wonderful pitch deck that can hopefully garner some investment interest.
[00:11:37] And then we had a conversation about, you know, what do you actually want? What are you in this for? What do you want to do on a day to day basis? And we decided we don’t want to take investment. We could, but we like being controlled. We want to build something slowly and on our terms. And if that means that ultimately reaches fewer people, that’s okay. But we then looked around and said, okay, so what are we going to build? We looked around at the coworking space that we were working in and went, no one is productive here. None of these founders are getting anything done. We could probably create value by just building a better workspace based on our background. As you know, we’re neuroscientists, we know how people should ideally work, and we actually rented out a house in North Berkeley, called it productivity house and had premium clients come in for workdays in an optimized space. Ultimately it ended up being called Exec daycare.
[00:12:38] By some of the clients they re-pitched it. They would pay $500 or $1000 to come and it’d be once every two weeks or once every four weeks. And they would just reserve all of their most important strategy work or deals they’ve been putting off.
[00:12:57] And then fast forward, we eventually decided one-on-one is not scalable. You know, we like having an impact. We like meeting people, but we really want to get to the place where we’re training entire teams and companies and really changing the DNA of how folks work. Especially given now that so many people are struggling with how to get things done in a world that’s just bombarding us with constant emails and notifications and distractions.
[00:13:26] We have so much of an ability to get high-quality work done today. But many people complain that they’re getting less done and are more stressed than they’ve ever been before. So, we wanted to broaden the scope, and that’s now why we’re teaching consulting companies, and the Haas course is just a part of that, basically our lab from which everything else comes.
[00:13:48] Paulina Lee: So, the course has been around for about a year. What has been your biggest learning and putting the course together and what have you learned from the students in the lab and putting the course on?
[00:13:58] Lucas Miller: That’s a wonderful question.
[00:13:59] I’ll address what was challenging first. Originally it was the impetus behind this idea and when I want to start teaching a course, let’s actually concretize everything into a more robust behavior change program versus just, you know, spewing content out there. And what was challenging at first was, you know, we only have a limited amount of time now. Just given the structure of courses, it has to be either a couple of days or perhaps four days, and it’s not even over that long of a period. So, we were struggling with what’s actually essential. To give you some more insight. Sahar and I negotiate constantly on what to keep.
[00:14:43] She wants to keep everything and if she added her way, she would just lecture the entire time and be like Tony Robbins and it would be wonderful. And I like to cut everything where it’s, you know, if there are three things I could have people walk away with, and I really want to drill them in and give people practice and customized feedback, this would be it and let’s build the course around that. And ultimately, we come to a happy medium. So that was challenging upfront. Another thing that’s been really challenging is, you know, as you can imagine the course name for those who aren’t aware of Becoming Superhuman, and you know, that’s obviously something just in the name that sounds attractive and interesting and appealing to most people.
[00:15:29] That said, it means something different to everyone. Right? A lot of people may be in a new role, and so becoming superhuman to them means I just want to get onboarded fast. Other folks are now new managers, and that term to them doesn’t necessarily mean I want to be more productive. It’s more about how do I make sure that people under me, which, you know, their productivity is really my productivity, but how do I make sure that they’re performing well for others? They’re new parents, and so the term means something different. So, trying to take a course built around the value proposition of we’re going to upgrade you as a human and put that into fairly standard content that has an order, but where you have people who are there for different reasons, who will stay for different reasons and be engaged for different reasons.
[00:16:26] It was really, really difficult because you can’t say, you know, this is negotiation for executives, or this is solely for private equity analysts and it’s going to be very attuned to your needs. So, in terms of challenge, that would be number one for me. In terms of what I’ve learned, you know, I think constantly, and this goes across the board for people who make and deliver content for a living, I think there’s always a bias towards in order to improve something, you have to add to it. I’m getting this feedback. Okay, great, let’s just add this module. I’ve found that consistently, when we get feedback, it’s usually that we’re trying to do too much or we’re repeating a point too much and it would be a better experience if we just focused on less, let people share their experiences, learn from each other a bit more.
[00:17:32] And so that’s been challenging where there’s so much I would love to go over and inculcate and folks, but ultimately what will enable them to get what they need out of the class is to focus on less and give them those moments too. Take the nuggets or share the nuggets that they need more than just the set sequence based on what we think is most important.
[00:17:58] Paulina Lee: Yeah. And so, the current structure of the class is four class dates, right? Would you guys ever consider making it a longer course? So, a full semester, two-credit course?
[00:18:08] Lucas Miller: Sure. First course was two Sundays. It was all day. Personally, it was too much too fast without a gap to really digest the material, practice things, even fail and come back and say, Hey, this doesn’t work for me. I’m in consulting. We got to try something different. So, there wasn’t enough of a gap to really reinforce the habit change necessary.
[00:18:33] The new iteration of the course is over four Sundays. Most of the Sundays have at least two weeks in between them, so there’s enough time to equip people with some of the core practices. Here’s the homework. We actually mandate as part of your grade for the class, implementing some of the practices.
[00:18:54] So in general, I’m happy with the current layout of the course. If I had it my way, ideally, you know, I had no constraints from Haas, I would love to have this be over 7 to 10 weeks, and we would do about an hour of content and an hour of workshopping where we actually then make the changes that we’ve just talked about.
[00:19:17] So, for example, one of the first ones, one of the first modules we would be all around focus and distraction management. And so, we talk about the science of notifications and how evil versions of people like me and Sahar made them and why they made them like they made them. And we would equip people with all the research on how your phone is silently yet pernicious, the drain, your cognitive resources.
[00:19:43] And then we turn right around and say, okay, you’re in breakouts now, go through your notifications and think critically about what needs to be on and what you can turn off. Go into grayscale, set up do not disturb. We’d actually take some time to make some of those changes, so it’s not, Oh, that sounds like a great idea.
[00:20:03] I’ll get to that someday and then you never do. So, we take advantage of the inspiration and the desire to change in the moment. Make a few changes that are one time. Or you buy a few products and then they’re on their way and then in between we give a little bit of practice, something that we’re trying to reinforce as a core habit that makes all the other changes, either easier or automatic.
[00:20:30] Ultimately, not everything will become a habit, but that’s how I would structure it. Having more time, focus on less and have some content and then concrete action that we’re all taking in a synchronous real time, intense manner. And that’s ultimately something that I’d love to pilot with the broader consumer base.
[00:20:51] I mean, there’s so much content out there on how to be more productive. I mean that that space will never dry up. It’s an endless demand. But if I actually look at how effective some of the books are, some of the courses are, and you actually look, you know, after consuming this, were you better or did you make the changes?
[00:21:14] Often, you don’t, and I would love to continue experimenting with finding a way to in a short but still reasonably lengthy period of time, get people 80% of the changes they need to actually be a different person pre-post.
[00:21:31] Paulina Lee: Do you have any moments where you were like, we are truly making an impact on these students or any student stories that you can share?
[00:21:39] Lucas Miller: Sure, I’ll anonymize them because a couple get really personal.
[00:21:43] You know, there’s obviously the data behind phones and their impact on cognition and how they often distract us, but we’ve had examples where we use someone’s phone as a prop and we’re just walking around and potentially notifications or texts are coming in. We’re kind of joking around with the students going out, is this really that important in this way? Who’s Jessica? You know? But we’ll take someone’s phone and we’ll do this demo and exercise for 10 or 15 minutes, and you start to see people get visibly uncomfortable initially, you know? They volunteer and they go, sure, take my phone. And then within 30 seconds they’re tense. They’re kind of rounding their shoulders, they’re getting a little bit angry.
[00:22:29] They’re kind of shifting around and you watch the emotional trajectory of some people. This is more common with executives where they’ve gotten to the point where they maybe have a couple of phones and they’re just really attached to their devices, but you see this emotional trajectory from uncomfortable to fearful that something has come in that they’ve missed or it slipped through the cracks. So then angry that they’ve volunteered and they really just want you to stop talking and they’d give them their phone back then sad that they’re having such an emotional response and they realize in that moment, no, excuse my French, Holy shit, I am so attached and even addicted to this device. I can’t even go 10 minutes. While I’m listening to a class instructor that I’m paying a good deal of money for, and all I can think about is that small of a rectangle in her hand, for example. And you just see time and time again this emotional trajectory.
[00:23:33] And I’ve even seen grown men cry and then get into a very personal reveal of how it’s ruined their marriage or it’s made them way less effective and way less intelligent than they used to be in their forties or the thirties and just realized that what they think is how it has to be, is just completely reinforced over time and they can choose to fight back and take control.
[00:24:06] If they want, if they’re willing to make that trade off. So that’s one. Just seeing the emotion on people’s faces when they realize how over time they’ve unintentionally become so addicted and attached to their devices, especially phones. Another one we have on day two of class, it’s all about time. And, it’s not really about time management.
[00:24:33] It’s more about getting the right things done. It’s one thing to talk about being a faster runner or a better performer, you know, getting more things done in fewer hours. It’s another to make sure you’re doing the right stuff. Because it doesn’t matter how hard you’re working; if you’re not focusing on what matters, then you don’t get the results you want.
[00:24:52] And we walk people through this exercise called the deathbed exercise where they’re basically projecting their current self onto their future self when they’re at the moment before death. And then looking back on all the decisions they’ve made and where they spent their time and the tradeoffs that they had to make.
[00:25:14] And they have to come to terms with potentially what their past self has done. And they use that perspective to figure out based on where I currently am, am I living my life in the way that I want to? You know, in terms of what actually matters when I’m 80 or 90 years old, the things that I will regret most deeply, I will be so disappointed that I didn’t try.
[00:25:43] I will never be able to forgive myself if I didn’t give this person enough care and attention. And you realize that people’s current time and energy allocation is wildly out of line with what they will actually care about when they’re older and more mature and potentially more focused on what matters.
[00:26:05] So those are a couple of breakthrough moments.
[00:26:07] And, ultimately from that exercise, you have a lot of people realize, Hey, everybody, you have a lot of people realize that they need to quit their job, that they need to start a company, that they need to get out of a relationship, whatever they probably knew in the back of their mind and never really put words to or never acknowledged fully.
[00:26:33] They get agency and confidence in that moment to make that decision. So that’s really, really encouraging to see when you get on the phone with someone after and they go, yeah, thank you, I’m quitting. I’m like, I’m not sure if you should thank me, but how can I support? Do we need to refer it? What’s going on?
[00:26:52] They’re like, no. That exercise was, I’ve always wanted to do it. I feel like I should be doing this, but again, it’s something that’s so important but never urgent enough to actually make it onto your calendar because if you’re in the swing of things, you don’t have two or three hours to actually carve out time to ponder what your 80-year old self is going to think about, all the meetings you have tomorrow and the next day.
[00:27:20] Paulina Lee: I think that’s one reason why I’m personally so interested in your course, and as I think about all the courses that we have access to as MBA students, you know, they run the gambit between all our core courses, like accounting, marketing, finance, these very tactical business courses.
[00:27:37] But at the end of the day, you know, we are all here to also become better leaders and in order to become better leaders, we first have to, you know, be self-aware, be self-reflective of who we are today and who we want to be tomorrow, which is why I love that exercise you talked about kind of who are you going to be on your deathbed and like what are you going to be most proud of and what are you going to be most regretful about?
[00:28:03] And you kind of mentioned it a little bit, but have you had a chance to check in with that, call it first cohort of students that you had at the beginning to see what stuck, what habits they’ve, you know, really leaned into and made a part of their everyday identity and kind of the ones that potentially have fallen off?
[00:28:23] Lucas Miller: Yeah. I’ve checked in with a few folks from the first cohort. What typically stays with people in terms of the habits that they actually continue to exhibit on a week to week basis are the ones that ultimately, if I only had an hour, I would talk about, there are really three. One is a method of work called the focus sprint that we talk about on the first day of class.
[00:28:50] If you have an important assignment or deliverable, the best way to get that done in the least amount of time without burning as much energy in the process. So, that’s one way that we teach people when you actually have time to sit down, no distractions. How do you actually achieve your objective without burning as many resources as potentially in other ways?
[00:29:14] So that’s one method that really sticks with folks. We’ve been reaching out just to see if they’re still doing them. And often they’re doing them with pairs or sometimes with their teams now, I mean, everybody’s remote, so the need to connect with others, not necessarily in the, it’s a hundred percent social, we’re doing a happy hour or a hundred percent business.
[00:29:38] It’s a meeting that’s not through the agenda, but just that need to connect almost informally. Now we jump on and we’re brainstorming an idea or we’re working together in the same conference room. Know we’re doing different things, but there’s a little bit of chit chat, a little bit of social connection.
[00:29:56] We’ve seen folks take zoom and use that to recreate this sense of, we’re working in the same space and you know, you jump on and share something that’s happening in your life that’s good or maybe even bad, and then we’ll scope out what we’re going to do. And then we just kind of sprint together. A couple other core changes that have really stuck with folks is, and we talk on day one again about when you’re at your best on a 24-hour timescale, and when you’re at your worst, right, what does your circadian rhythm look like? And it’s different for everybody. We all, based on our genetics, have a particular set curve. It’s optimal. You can’t fight it. You know? This is especially prevalent for people who are classic. Nine hours or what’s called PM shifted in the literature.
[00:30:48] You know, the world is not kind to them, but whenever they try to fight it, I tell them, I’m sorry, I wish we could flip things, but this is genetic. It’s optimal. And so, the best you can do is set expectations and prove that this way of working that you know is more in line with your biology, can be more effective for you and doesn’t slow down your team and anyone who’s data driven and reasonable, we’ll let you set up that experiment and we will help you go to your manager or your team and help you try to make that work.
[00:31:25] But ultimately, that’s one concept that sticks with folks that it’s okay to not be a hundred percent the entire day. I mean, we’re not machines. We’re not like laptops where if we have power, we can just run at a hundred percent capacity and we can run multiple programs at a time. We have peaks and we have troughs, and if we don’t manage our energy over the course of the day, we have our long periods where we’re just burned out and we can’t do anything.
[00:31:55] Or if we try, we make mistakes and then it creates more work for us, for other people down the road. So really giving people a term and some acceptance that comes along with, you’re not alone. This is what the curve looks like. Here’s some tips you can use to use it to your advantage or to get around it where you can, but otherwise it’s not changing. And so just accept it.
[00:32:21] And if you’re working with a bunch of other people as well, you should know their types so that you’re not making them do things that are less important. When the ROI on that time could be better spent in a different way.
[00:32:35] Paulina Lee: And then as you think about your career and your past so far, so you came to UC Berkeley, changed your major a few times. Finally landed in cognitive science, did a bunch of research, wrote a book, started a company. Now you’re lecturing at Haas. As you look back, do you think you have any defining moments that clearly stand out or defining forks in the road where you chose a specific path that really clearly defines who you are today?
[00:33:10] Lucas Miller: Oh yeah. Most definitely. I mean, I actually think of a look back. Many of the changes that I made. We’re probably more emotional in the moment as opposed to this clear, logical progression that I’m imbuing via the narrative that I’ve somewhat constructed in my head. I do know one of the decisions I made that I still am not really sure why I made it, but I knew it was right, was deciding to write a book, you know? I knew that this was something that was pulling me and I had to do this for myself. Even if no one read it, I didn’t care. I would get the gift of having this knowledge internalized forever, and I knew that it would always be useful, and I spent many, many months just reading and spending time with my own brain, and I was the happiest I’ve ever been.
[00:34:11] And I think in that moment, even though at times I wanted to quit and it was terrible, and I went, why am I doing this? Which happens to everybody, you know? There’s a book called The War of Art. For anyone who makes anything that I highly recommend reading, it’s by Steven Pressfield. It’s all about the emotional journey of actually producing some body of art.
[00:34:31] I remember in that time going, I don’t know if this is actually going to pan out. I don’t know if it’s ever going to make money. Don’t know if it will ever lead to anything, but I’m happy now. This is what I know I’m good at. If I only did this and money was never an issue, I would be fine, and that’s when I feel like I really had a defining moment in terms of you get a chance to leverage a strength and really find out who you are and who you’re not. And I realized that role as a translator where you’re able to engage your curiosity, but then you also have to turn around and you have the challenge of taking something that is inaccessible or not useful in its current form, and then taking it and repackaging it and reordering it and adding in some interactivity.
[00:35:25] So that’s actually helpful to real folks who have challenges that are so close to what this body is mentioning, but still far off in terms of language that most folks can understand and use.
[00:35:40] Paulina Lee: No, that’s great. I’ve definitely never written a book. So major props, and four are your like defining moment
[00:35:49] Lucas Miller: Don’t do it. Don’t do it.
[00:35:53] Paulina Lee: Well, we’ll link to the book to our listeners. It’s called Beyond Brilliance, so if you want to check it out, you can support Lucas and give it a read. A few more questions for you on the personal side. So, you’re a certified strength and conditioning coach and a nutritionist. Is this something that you use actively outside the classroom?
[00:36:12] Lucas Miller: This is more of a personal passion of mine. I’ve been doing powerlifting and CrossFit for as long as I can remember since high school, and now one of the best ways I’ve found to learn is to set up some accountability and be forced to really prove competence. So, a couple years back, I went through some certification programs and have taught people more informally on the side, you know, some exact here and there. Really want to figure out how sleep and nutrition and exercise really tie into their focus and their presence during meetings and in general how much energy they feel. Obviously there is a strong correlation and crossover between the brain and the body, you know. Ultimately it’s just one system where there’s much interplay.
[00:37:07] S, I wanted to round out based on what I enjoy spending my free time on and what I feel like is really a potential leverage point. More of that knowledge around how the body works and how we can optimize it. But in terms of personal training or any kind of core, use of that content. It’s more theoretical.
[00:37:30] It’s more know here’s the research on sleep and nutrition and fasting and all these other things. But I personally thought, I mean, this is me definitely getting personal. I personally find one on one interactions with folks so draining.
[00:37:46] I mean, I’m a natural introvert. I love a little bit of distance where I can collect my thoughts, I can really sequence what I’m going to say, how I’m going to say it, and play around with the order without also having to process a face and be emotionally intelligent in the moment and all that. So, yelling at Zoom and having everything be a little bit further away has been honestly better for me. I think I’m better at it, but I tried the one on one coaching and consults and even a little bit of personal training for fun. I just went, this is so draining. I can’t do this.
[00:38:26] Paulina Lee: You’re like, not for me. I like standing at the front of a lecture hall, 10 feet between me and my students.
[00:38:32] Lucas Miller: I mean, in person, when you’re lecturing, that’s a different story. But if it’s just someone who’s coming for two hours, almost like tutoring or there’s just a lot of informal reading and responding, and it’s not just about, Hey, here’s my problem. We solve your problem. Oh, that’s not working. Okay, try this.
[00:38:54] You know, really tactical, more problem solving together. I find it draining and I think something that’s really, really important for folks to learn as they try different careers and potentially go down rabbit holes that may serve them or may not serve them, is to keep a keen eye on what gives them energy and what drains them.
[00:39:20] Because ultimately, yeah, it gives you real insights into what’s going to on a daily basis. Make you fulfilled and feel like you’re growing versus, you know, this just seems prestigious or interesting or may make money, but I actually just want the result of getting that thing versus to actually walk through the process on a day to day basis.
[00:39:47] Paulina Lee: And something I feel like I’ve noticed through your career and as we’ve been chatting today is I feel like you have a really strong passion for the pursuit of mastery and just curiosity. Any idea where that comes from?
[00:40:03] Lucas Miller: I think if you asked this to people who have never known any other way, you often get, or at least I’ve heard this, and that’s what other way is there? You know, what’s the other option? Just stop and rest on your laurels and just do the same thing every single day. And so, no, I think as unsatisfying as an answer it is, I think that I’ve always been this way. You know, I definitely have a more, to quote, fixed mindset about certain things. You know, I mentioned that fixing anything physical or taking it apart or reading instructions, I’ve tried and it’s as if I can’t read a map.
[00:40:50] Paulina Lee: Is like your arch nemesis.
[00:40:53] Lucas Miller: Oh my God, Oh, it’s terrible.
[00:40:56] I would pay someone thousands of dollars to do that. It’s just, it’s terrible. But that said, you know, in terms of always being curious and always being engrossed by books and wanting to try new things and figure out a better or different way, I think that’s always been there and I think everyone has the option to be that type of person. That said, I think most people aren’t, and it’s usually because there was some episode or some aspect of their initial development. Maybe it was a teacher, maybe it was a parent. Maybe it was just not having enough of a push. They ultimately don’t get that formative episode. They need to go, wow, if I embraced this, yeah, maybe short term, painful and awkward at times, or I may risk looking dumb or failing, but ultimately it’ll give me a better, more fulfilling reward along the journey.
[00:41:58] Paulina Lee: Awesome. Well, I wanted to transition to the end of our interview and kind of do a this or that list. So, as you think about what you prefer, are you audio books, eBooks, or paperbacks?
[00:42:10] Lucas Miller: Okay. eBooks meaning digital, so Kindle or laptop. Okay. My answer here is multifaceted because if I had to pick one form of content consumption, it would be reading books. I find audio books are wonderful for things that are not too difficult to understand or when you’re moving or when you’re doing something somewhat passive and you’re really listening to something.
[00:42:41] But if there’s a new book where there’s any kind of active processing required or we’re going over research, audio is terrible for me. And I actually think for most people, because it is such a passive activity where you may be doing something else and you’re only really directing about 50% of your resources towards the incoming stream, and only when something is really counterintuitive or weird or new, do you then tune in and just kind of listen for that minute and then go back to whatever you were doing aside from that. For books that I don’t care that much about and can get a sense just based on the title and the structure, and I know it’s just going to be a quick skim. I like it to be on my laptop.
[00:43:30] But I like that to be on my laptop because then I can just take notes quickly and triage from there. And then for anything else that I’ve deemed I want to reread this at some point, this is timeless, I wish I had encountered this book earlier. I have a special library of reread books and they’re all paperbacks and I have copies.
[00:43:54] I have two copies of them. One is fresh in case somebody wants to come over and read it. Or I want to go back to it without any bias. And then I have another copy that has inline notes that I frequently go back to and has a bunch of connections or questions that have come up based on my multiple passes through those books.
[00:44:20] Paulina Lee: So, on that realm, do you take your notes on paper or on your computer?
[00:44:25] Lucas Miller: It depends. If I’m at the gym, which is actually probably where I get my best ideas, and I like to do a lot of high level thinking and entertain different experiments and different ideas, I like to just have a paper journal nearby and I’ll scribble things and maybe come back to it. But if I’m really trying to intentionally remember something such that I can go back to it, find it easily, repurpose it, use it, it’s all digital. I mean, I just, you’d have to have a really elaborate paper system if the goal is to be able to find and use relevant information quickly, which I think is the goal of any kind of note taking. It’s not about taking the best notes. It’s not about getting it all down. It’s you wanting to store and find information that you need as quickly as possible, and that has to be digital.
[00:45:30] Paulina Lee: Do you have a preferred note taking app that you use online then?
[00:45:35] Lucas Miller: I used to use Evernote, and I’ll skip the story because we did an engagement with Evernote a while back, but I have since transitioned to Notion. That’s the core note taking tool that I use. I’ve experimented with Roam, but I’m not sure about it yet.
[00:45:56] Paulina Lee: Alright, last one. Are you a morning or an evening person or I guess PM shifted as you said earlier?
[00:46:03] Lucas Miller: I’m in the middle. So, my chronotype is actually by phasic. We call it type two by phasic in the assessment that we give out, which is neither one. This is actually the vast majority of the population, over 50%. So, it takes them about an hour or two to get fully up to speed. They hit their peak focus and feeling of really being zoned in mid to late morning. That goes until about 2:00 PM. And then there’s frequently an afternoon dip from two to four if you’ve exercised or you’ve had too much pasta, that dip will either be more severe or last longer. But in general, there’s always that dip about eight hours after you wake up and then you come for a second peak towards the evening and are particularly less inhibited. So that’s actually a better time to schedule creative time, think time, entertaining new ideas as opposed to just doing executional or focused work. So, in summary, I’m in the middle two peaks and one dip, and if I can, I’ll exercise or take a nap or do something to just take a dedicated off during that time since I’m quite frankly not that useful and I’ll make mistakes.
[00:47:28] Paulina Lee: You’re like, I’m not a full human between these hours, but otherwise I’m good to go.
[00:47:31] Lucas Miller: A hundred percent I’ll tell people that.
[00:47:34] Paulina Lee: That’s great. Well, thank you, Lucas, so much for being on our show.
[00:47:38] Lucas Miller: Thanks for having me. This was a pleasure.
[00:47:41] Paulina Lee: And for our listeners, we’ll link to Lucas’s book, as I mentioned earlier, for current and prospective students, highly recommend checking out his and dr. Use, of course, Becoming Superhuman and others can check out their website at stoa.partners.
Thanks for tuning into here@haas. Know a Haasi that has a story to tell? Nominate them on our website onehaas.org. And, if you enjoyed this week’s episode, please subscribe and leave us a rating. And don’t forget to share this podcast out with your favorite bears.