David speaks with Anne-Laure Le Cunff, a neuroscientist, writer, entrepreneur, and the founder of Ness Labs, which provides content, coaching, courses and community to help makers put their minds at work.

They talked about:

πŸ“’ The importance of journaling

✍️ Developing as a writer

πŸ‘©β€πŸ’» Anne-Laure's journey from Google to Ness Labs

🧠 Embracing uncertainty and building a platform

😬 Why being cringe is crucial to success

βš–οΈ Balancing confidence and humility

πŸŽ™ Listen in your favourite podcast player

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Podcast App smart link to listen, download, and subscribe to The Knowledge with David Elikwu. Click to listen! The Knowledge with David Elikwu by David Elikwu has 29 episodes listed in the Self-Improvement category. Podcast links by Plink.

🎧 Listen on Spotify:

πŸ“Ή Watch on Youtube:

πŸ‘€ Connect with Anne-Laure:

Twitter: https://twitter.com/neuranne

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/neuranne/

The Ness Labs Newsletter | https://newsletter.nesslabs.com/

πŸ“„ Show notes:

00:00 | Intro

02:21 | The emotional journey of losing a notebook

03:09 | Impact of Journaling

04:17 | Developing as a writer

05:17 | Going from handwritten drafts to digital writing

07:58 | The importance of blending work and personal life

09:21 | The impact of handwriting on thinking speed and quality

13:06 | Connection between mental health and creative productivity.

16:47 | Anne Laure's career path from Google to a startup, and then neuroscience.

19:55 | Exploring new opportunities

24:05 | The crucible of cringe and its role in personal growth

28:03 | Balancing between confidence and humility

36:20 | Perspective on manifesting and affirmations

πŸ—£ Mentioned in the show:

Battle of Thermopylae | https://www.thecollector.com/battle-of-thermopylae/

Netflix | https://www.netflix.com/

Blockbuster | https://www.inc.com/minda-zetlin/

TimothΓ©e Chalamet | https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/TimothΓ©e_Chalamet

Michael B. Jordan | https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_B._Jordan

Dune | https://amzn.to/3TAdseM

Dune Part Two | https://www.imdb.com/Dune-Part-Two

Bene Gesserit | https://dune.fandom.com/wiki/Bene_Gesserit

James Clear | https://jamesclear.com/

Ness Labs | https://nesslabs.com/

Full episode transcript below

πŸ‘¨πŸΎβ€πŸ’» About David Elikwu:

David Elikwu FRSA is a serial entrepreneur, strategist, and writer. David is the founder of The Knowledge, a platform helping people think deeper and work smarter.

🐣 Twitter: @Delikwu / @itstheknowledge

🌐 Website: https://www.davidelikwu.com

πŸ“½οΈ Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/davidelikwu

πŸ“Έ Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/delikwu/

πŸ•Ί TikTok: https://www.tiktok.com/@delikwu

πŸŽ™οΈ Podcast: http://plnk.to/theknowledge

πŸ“– EBook: https://delikwu.gumroad.com/l/manual

My Online Course

πŸ–₯️ Career Hyperdrive: https://maven.com/theknowledge/career-hyperdrive

Career Hyperdrive is a live, cohort-based course that helps people find their competitive advantage, gain clarity around their goals and build a future-proof set of mental frameworks so they can live an extraordinary life doing work they love.

The Knowledge

πŸ“© Newsletter: https://newsletter.theknowledge.io/

The Knowledge is a weekly newsletter for people who want to get more out of life. It's full of insights from psychology, philosophy, productivity, and business, all designed to help you think deeper and work smarter.

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πŸ“œFull transcript:

Anne Laure:

[00:00:00] If you don't look back on your previous work and don't cringe a little bit, it's probably that you haven't grown enough. That's what you want to do. This good kind of cringe where you look back and you feel like, oh wow, that's how I was doing things at the time. I didn't know anything.

So yeah, optimizing for that, optimizing for having this good kind of cringe every time I look back on past projects and trying to learn whatever there is to be learned and apply it to the next project.

That's how you grow really.


David Elikwu: This week, I'm sharing part of my conversation with Anne Laure, and if you're watching this on YouTube, you can probably see the big smile on my face. I've been looking forward to this conversation for a really long time.

Anne Laure is a neuroscientist, a writer, and an entrepreneur. She's the founder of Nest Labs, which is an online platform somewhere in the intersection of productivity, neuroscience, and mental health.

This was a really engaging conversation. So in this part, you're going to hear Anne Laure and I starting with talking about journaling and our

[00:01:00] notebooks and the ways in which journaling can be useful, how it might enrich your life.

We talk about shifting from traditional notebooks to digital tools and finding the balance between digital and analog in our creative lives. We talk about the importance of work life balance and what that means. We talk at various points about Anne Laure's journey, from working at Google, building a startup and then building the current platform that she runs now.

We talk about the idea of embracing uncertainty and staying open minded, chasing opportunities, carving a lane out for yourself. We talk about the concept of being cringe and how crucial it can be in your personal growth. That's a really important segment. And then we talk about balancing confidence and humility and many other things.

So this is definitely a must listen and also don't forget to tune in for the next part as well, which will also be awesome.

So you can get the full show notes, the transcript, and also read my newsletter at thenowledge.io. You can find Anne Laure on Twitter and Instagram [00:02:00] @neurranne. And her website and newsletter are at neslabs.com. But again, we'll have all the links in the description below.

So if you love this episode, please do share with a friend. And don't forget to leave a review wherever you listen to podcasts because it helps us tremendously to find other listeners just like you.


David Elikwu: Where I thought we'd start is you lost your notebook a while ago, and we had a previous conversation about this, but I've had a bunch of notebooks and journals and all kinds of things for the last eight years. I probably should have brought them out to show you. It's quite funny seeing them all.

But yeah, I can't imagine ever losing my notebook and I can't imagine how horrifying that would feel. Especially because some things you write in there might be just normal. I write ideas or posts that I want to write and I write my plans and all kinds of stuff like that.

But then you might also write a lot more personal stuff in your notebook as well, and I think that's the reason you mentioned that you don't write your name in your details at the front of your notebook. But what I was interested in is, imagine just someone [00:03:00] picked up that notebook and they read it and they have no idea whose notebook this is.

What might they learn about the anonymous person there?

Anne Laure: I think they would feel like this person is all over the place because I think a lot through writing, I really use writing as a thinking tool and that means that sometimes the process can be a little bit messy. I can start on one page with a bunch of questions and ideas and feeling quite lost.

And by the time I'm done thinking my way through the problem and looking at the question from different angles, I'll have a lot more clarity. But the in-between, before I get to that clarity, doesn't really look like, it's not exactly an organized process. So there's this part and there's also the part that I often have lots of different ideas, lots of things I wanna try, I am constantly running little experiments. So I think someone who'd pick up this notebook would think that. [00:04:00] I am a little bit crazy and all over the place, which maybe would not be such a, a bad description, but I think from the outside I look a lot more calm, collected. Like I know what I want to do, but because I've been through the process of thinking through things with those notebooks,

David Elikwu: That makes sense. So would you say, I guess the inverse of that question is what might they be missing from the you in real life? Like is there a real difference from, let's say, the personality that you have when you are writing in private, in your notebook as you're thinking through things and how you might think in real life or in public.

Anne Laure: I'm both a thinker and a doer, and the doing part is completely missing from these notebooks. So you may have a feeling that I'm someone who keeps on overthinking everything and doesn't do much about it. If you only read what is in those notebooks, what you're missing is the work that I tend to do more digitally and my digital note taking apps where I do, when I write on my blog, on my [00:05:00] newsletter, when I have brainstorming calls with my team. All of that kind of stuff that is going from idea to execution is missing from the notebooks. So you're really missing half of the equation if you're only thinking, if you're only looking at what's in the notebooks.

David Elikwu: Has that process evolved over time? Because I was just thinking for myself and what is quite funny is, I guess depending on what you think of as the, the final outcome, maybe I've regressed. I don't know. So when I used to write my newsletters a few years ago, very often I could just write a first draft. I'd always write by hand. So I'd write in my notebook, and that was just the practice I had of doing that every morning. And I wasn't necessarily intending to write a final draft. The whole point was, okay, if I sit down and force myself to write every morning for seven days in a row, hopefully one of those ideas will be good enough to become a newsletter. So I might get something out of it.

But very often what I had down, I'd probably write, you know, at least three pages, three to five pages of A5. And when I typed it up, that kind of became the first draft. So as I was typing it up, I wouldn't type it up [00:06:00] exactly. I would make some tweaks as I was writing. And very often that could be good just by itself. Like, you know, sometimes I could just write very clearly and it would come out just like that. But funnily enough now, after a few years of having written my newsletter and having a much bigger newsletter, now a lot of it is more fragmented. And I might just be doing a lot more like what you are saying now, where I'm actively thinking through things as I'm writing.

And so what's funny, especially when I look back at my notes sometimes, 'cause I still have to type them up, sometimes what I do now is I just put it all into chat GPT and I say, okay, unscramble this. Because sometimes as I'm writing, I'll write one sentence and then a few sentences later I'll go back and change what I said. But I haven't crossed out the original sentence. I just keep writing things and changing my mind. So the idea evolves, so that by the time you get to the end, it's really just the process of me thinking through the thing as opposed to I'm trying to write something. And that's one thing that I've noticed has probably changed a lot for me.

I wonder if you've had any evolution at all.

Anne Laure: I love that. I love that also that your process is [00:07:00] evolving because that's what should happen, right? If you were, if your creative process was exactly the same year over year, it probably means you're not growing. So, for me as well, it's changed a lot.

I know that now I'm using my notebooks a lot more as journals as well, so It's kind of decoupled from the creative output. I feel very comfortable with the idea of writing pages and pages of reflections and ideas in my journal that may never, ever become anything public, that may never lead to any kind of creative output. That's fine.

I think at the beginning of my creative journey, I had a bit of an efficiency mindset where I felt like anything that came out of my mind had to be processed and turned into some sort of artifact output that I can put into the world and share with other people. Now, I'm really fine with not being that productive when it comes to my creativity. It's okay to do things that [00:08:00] may feel like on the surface that they're a waste of time, when really is just you slowly thinking your way through interesting ideas that cannot be solved with three bullet points turned into an outline and quickly published in a newsletter. So I'm, I'm a lot slower.

And something have been experimenting with very recently as a result of losing those notebooks actually, is that I had so many people on Twitter when I posted this tweet saying, "Ugh, I lost my, I lost my notebook. I feel so sad." And several people recommended getting a remarkable tablet, and I've been playing with that recently. It's kind of nice. I'm still trying to figure out if it's for me or not, but I feel like maybe this could be a way to bridge that gap between the analog thinking that I really like, I really like thinking by writing by hand, where it's a bit slower and a bit more organic. And then you can [00:09:00] automatically digitize these and as you said, upload it to chat GPT to process. Or you can just put them in if, if you use Rome or Notion or Obsidian, you can put them in your note taking system and maybe removing some of the fear of losing the notebooks because you know all of this is in the cloud now.

David Elikwu: Yeah, that's a really interesting point. I think a few things about that. One, the remarkable thing, I think the remarkable looks really cool. My one issue with it is my writing is probably not gonna be legible, so that's the one frequent problem that I have with a lot of these tools is that my writing is illegible.

But I think that is probably the best balance of, I think the analog is really important. I know a lot of people, most people have never even touched a pen in the last however many years. People only write digital, they use Apple Notes and then they just type stuff in Microsoft Word or Google Docs or whatever.

But I think for my thinking process, the analog is invaluable and I can't imagine life without writing stuff down on paper. [00:10:00] It helps me to remember stuff a lot better, it helps me to think through stuff.

And I think, okay, going back to my previous writing process, part of the reason I would do the first drafts writing by hand is also because I can type a lot faster than I can write by hand, and I can think a lot faster than I can type, but because thinking and typing are quite similar in their speed. Very often you think something, then you go back, you change it because you can do it all so fast. Whereas with writing by hand, it is always pretty slow. And so the time it takes me to write down a full sentence gives me a lot more time to think of the words that I'm putting into that sentence.

And so that's why I think at least before the actual quality of each sentence would be a lot better. And you notice the difference, especially if you write by hand a lot and then type it up. Like my sentences usually are a bit, shorter because I'm not just rambling and just typing whatever I am actively thinking of, okay, you're thinking in chunks. Okay, I'm gonna think of this sentence. I'm gonna write that down. I think of the next sentence. I might think of one or two [00:11:00] different versions, but you just commit to whatever you're writing at any point in time.

Even when I am journaling, I often find that journaling itself can be, I don't know, just better quality. I like it because there's more thought that goes into it. If I was typing into a diary, it would be way more chaotic because I could just be writing all kinds of stuff and you could just write and write and write. And there's a sense of impermanence about it 'cause you have the delete button.

Whereas if you have a journal, you only have so many lines as you're getting towards the end of a page, you've got three or four lines left. You're actually thinking a lot more intentionally about, okay, how am I gonna fill this space? And, and so there's that thought process that goes into it. But funnily enough, I'm glad you gave me a way to redeem myself in terms of the change in my writing process, because I think you're quite right in what you mentioned about.

The evolution, at least for me, being less precious about needing to publish the things that I write. And actually, I think you are very correct in that. When I think back, having just looked through a bunch of my old notebooks, there was one from a few years ago where most of the stuff that I'd written there, a lot of that was newsletters. Like if they [00:12:00] all became a newsletters or published in some way. Whereas now, most of the stuff in my notebook is all kinds of stuff and it changes the way my thoughts change. And I just use the notebook as a vessel for me to think about things. And then there's a separate process of actually writing.

Yeah, that change has been strange. 'Cause funny enough, thinking back to it as well, when I said that I had that newsletter that was mostly, or the journal that was mostly for newsletters. I had a separate journal that was like personal stuff and that one never left my room. So there's no chance of that ever getting lost, or I'm never gonna leave that on a train that's not going anywhere. That is like, you know, hidden in, in a safe space. And then I have my separate notebook that's for serious stuff. Whereas now it's a much more organic process.

And I actually think that that makes my writing better in a way, because I am just thinking, I'm not thinking about producing, I'm not thinking of everything that comes out of that.

 What has that journey been like for you? I know that when you started your newsletter, initially, I think it was just sharing the things that you were learning. You'd just gone back to do a master's in neuroscience and so you are like, [00:13:00] okay, here I'm gonna start sharing some of the things that I'm learning on this course.

David Elikwu: And you are writing also improved as as you were going through that process and loads of people came to read it and then it became, it grew quite quickly, I think, from there. But yeah, I wonder how that process evolved for you as well.

Anne Laure: It is funny because I almost had the completely the opposite journey you had where, at the beginning I didn't have notebooks when I started the newsletter, I only had my digital notes. I was taking notes during my classes at University in Neuroscience. I was taking notes while reading blog posts, reading articles, listening to podcasts, watching YouTube videos, all of this would go into my note taking system. And I would also capture ideas for newsletters and articles while having conversations with friends. If I was on the bus going somewhere and I thought, oh, this could be a good idea. All of that was going into my note taking system and then every week I could pick something from there and write about it. And that was it, that was my process, [00:14:00] and it worked well.

The notebooks initially started as a way to manage my mental health, not as a way to be more creative or to, to create content. And I initially only wrote in my notebooks about how I was feeling today if I was anxious, stressed, a bit depressed, tired, excited, happy, looking forward to some different things or struggling, et cetera. It's slowly that some of my work started seeping into this writing that I had in my, what was my, it's more like journals really, and I think we ended up being in the same place, you and I, but just coming at it from a different angle where I had the same realization. Whereas like you can't separate them if like us and like other people who write online or create any type of content, you hopefully care a lot about the ideas and the topics that you're exploring, it is going to have an impact on your mental health and your mental [00:15:00] health is going to have an impact on your creative output. If you're feeling particularly anxious or stressed, you may write something that's not as good because you're rushing to get to an answer and to publish something because you haven't really had time to have that space to, to think. And equally, if you create content you're not too happy about that, is not really a reflection of what you wanted to put into the world. This may also impact your mental health. You may feel like, oh, this is not good enough. Maybe you know, I'm not at the level I want to be at when it comes to my creativity and the way I express myself.

So to me now it makes a lot more sense. Same as you in those notebooks to just, I mix everything together and I don't try to have those neat little boxes where I have work and life. I just know that my work and my life are so intertwined that it makes sense to think about them and fill my way through them together rather than separately.


David Elikwu: And so I know now the stuff that you write about makes a lot of sense because it's what you do. So you study neuroscience, you write about neuroscience. All of that makes sense. I wonder where you might see the seeds of that in your background. Was that something like, okay, so one [00:17:00] thing that I've written about actually in the past is this idea that very often when we tell our stories, everything kind of makes sense in retrospect. Like it's a lot easy to draw the line backwards and say, oh yeah, I did this, then I did this, and of course then I did this. Whereas that very often hides that when you were going forward half the time you had no idea what was coming next and everything seemed chaotic and things might not have seemed very linear. But then, looking back, then you can see the line. And very often that turns up in a lot of different stories, a lot of different legends.

So I wrote this post about Netflix, where, okay, I think there's actually two parts, and one of them I might not have talked about in that post that I wrote, but using the example of Netflix, I think. Everyone knows that at one point, they were trying to be acquired by Blockbuster. Blockbuster said, no, and the rest is history. They became great.

The other part that people forget is when Netflix actually, so Netflix used to do, the CDs in the mail and then they started the streaming platform. But the streaming platform had a completely different name. The original Netflix was the CD thing, and people used to pay for two separate subscriptions for [00:18:00] both of those separate things. And then at one point they tried to turn it into a completely separate business, so they like, were gonna rebrand the other part. I forget the name, but it was like a really corny name, it was really terrible. And that was their proposition to everyone. It's like, okay, don't worry. The solution to Netflix is actually, you're gonna pay for two different services. You're basically gonna pay double what you're paying now and the streaming platform is gonna have a completely different name. It's gonna be a completely different thing. Everyone hated it. The CEO had to come out and give an apology on national TV and say sorry to everyone for ruining their platform and all of this. But again, that's something that's completely forgotten now, and it wasn't actually that long ago. This is probably okay now, slightly over 10 years ago.

In retrospect, it's so easy to be like, wow, Netflix, they were so smart. They knew streaming was gonna be the future. They did this and this, and everything worked out perfectly. But in retrospect, it's, it's completely different story. And I drew some analogies, there's loads of other stories that are like that, like the Spartans for example. Everyone's like, oh my gosh, the Spartans, they were so brave, they had these, this culture of war, [00:19:00] all of this stuff. And then you look at the actual history books, and prior to the War of Thermopylae, the view of Sparta was completely different. There were these cool songs of Alcman. They were writing about like birds and bees and you know, pretty flowers. This is not about like some brave hardcore warriors. It's a completely different thing. And then they had one war, which they actually lost, but they took a moral victory from that war and then it became like a self-fulfilling prophecy where okay, after that war, people were like, wow, okay. These guys were kind of brave. Even though, the way that we remember the story of the 300 spartans is very different from like, I think there was 1700 people there out of like, the 300 spartans were a small proportion of the 1700 people that stood to fight after everyone ran away. But because their king was the one that said, okay, we're gonna stand and fight, they get all the credit because it was their king that said it, even though there was a small number of these troops.

So anyway, I bring all of that up to say like, in retrospect, it's so easy to make this story sound great. And funnily enough, in the case of the Spartans, because they had the [00:20:00] moral victory, they had a reputation to live up to and they kind of built everything up from there. So that's when all the stuff that we remember them for came after that war.

So all of that to say, you now do work, that makes a lot of sense. And it seems like, oh, of course you were gonna write this neuroscience blog and you were gonna have this big platform and you were gonna have a PhD in neuroscience, blah, blah, blah.

I am interested to know like where you think the seeds of that came from? Was that always the path? I know that you, at one point you were at Google and you built a startup at one point, but you know, maybe even going back to like when you were at school, were you always interested in science? Was this always something that, like, did you have a practice of writing or were these things you picked up along the way?

Anne Laure: Yeah. I find it fascinating how we all do such a great job at rewriting the past, whether it's our collective past or our own personal past, and I could absolutely go and pick up, like, pick different things from my childhood and my past experiences and, [00:21:00] and put together a story that makes sense, that feels quite linear and almost inevitable by choosing the right experiences. And I could probably be quite convincing in saying that, yes, absolutely this is where I should have ended up based on all of these experiences that I had. But the truth is very different. I had no idea what I was doing. And at every step of the way something happened, whether it was meeting someone, having a conversation, reading a book, finding myself in a new city, or finding myself completely lost because a project I worked on didn't work out. And then I was like, what's next? What should I be doing next? And then following my curiosity and following different opportunities that when you all add them to together, create the path that I've had so far. And I think the only common thread throughout all of this is that, I've always been pretty open to exploring, to trying new things, I've always [00:22:00] loved learning as well.

But I could have ended up learning something completely different than neuroscience because there were other interests that I had. And the way the brain works was one of the ones that I was very curious about at the time. I think when you look at a lot of people who've had these kind of like wiggly careers where it looks like it's a bit all over the place, they've done lots of different things I'm one of those, I worked in tech, I managed a magazine with lots, like 70 authors that I sold. I worked in a plastic surgery clinic. I had a couple of failed startups and I'm now writing a newsletter and doing this PhD in neuroscience.

A lot of people who have these weekly carriers, that's the common denominator. It's not any kind of story that you can make up and make it sound like it was linear by looking back. It's that whenever they found themselves in a situation where there was a new door in front of them that they could potentially open and [00:23:00] peek behind it and say, oh, what's there? This is new, this is new territory, this is different. This is something I don't know. Instead of closing that door and going back to whatever they're doing right now that's comfortable and that's known, they will open the door, go through it and explore what that is.

And I think that's what I've been trying to do so far in my career and I want to keep on doing. So, hopefully if we record another podcast in a couple of years and we look back, we can say, oh wow, that's what you're doing now. There was no way to predict that, that was what you're going to do next.

David Elikwu: Yeah, funny enough, I think about that the same for myself now that I am, you know, on a similar part to you actually, but we've both previously been in careers that are quite linear. So I was previously working in corporate law and then also I was working in startup as well. And yeah, there's a career path, there's things you're supposed to do, there's a a way that you go and you know exactly where you're going to be at every stage in that process. Whereas now, who knows, five years from now, I [00:24:00] have absolutely no idea what I can be doing. That is exciting, also a little scary, and you hope, okay, maybe I get to be one of these people that has this long career as a writer and doing all of these things, but who knows? Because life is funny like that.

What I'm interested in is you mentioned, okay, well, you know, you've tried a few different startups. Did those feel serial to you? Like, okay, I'm just trying a, a bunch of different things. Obviously not at once, but each thing is its own thing. Or did it feel like there were some lessons that you learned and some skills that you developed that compounded with each attempt.

Anne Laure: Oh, definitely there's a compound effect to trying new things we're, it's funny. I was going to say, we're not robots. We don't just keep on doing the same thing over and over again. I'm like, no, but robots are really smart now, so they wouldn't do that either. So you can't even use that phrase anymore.

We're all I think smart enough to, to learn whatever there is to be learned from our mistakes and our failures, [00:25:00] and then take it to our next project and try to improve a little bit.

I can't remember who said this first, but so common thing to say, but if you don't look back on your previous work and don't cringe a little bit, it's probably that you haven't grown enough. That's what you want to do. This good kind of cringe where you look back and you feel like, oh wow, that's how I was doing things at the time. I didn't know anything.

So yeah, optimizing for that, optimizing for having this good kind of cringe every time I look back on past projects and trying to learn whatever there is to be learned and apply it to the next project.

That's how you grow really.

David Elikwu: Exactly. I couldn't agree more. And I think it might have been a tweet of yours that I commented on, and I was talking about the crucible of cringe, which was this idea that I had, and the best analog that I had for that was, ironically, you're gonna see Dune today, but Timothy Chalamet, who is so hilarious or, you know, interesting in retrospect, if you go back and watch some of his early videos when he is an aspiring [00:26:00] star, you know, he went to theater school and went to like a bunch of those kinds of institutions when he was quite young. But he had like this rap persona and he called himself like little Timmy Tim. It was hilarious. But this is extremely cringe, I can't imagine anything more cringe than this. It's only by doing that level of cringe that you now get to be the star of Dune and you now get to be doing all of these incredible shows. And he is actually a really great actor. I think when I first heard of him, I thought maybe people just like him 'cause he is like hot, right? And that seemed to be the lens through which people saw him, or at least how people were talking about him and not only what she was in The King, which I don't hear people talk about a lot, but it was such an incredible performance. I was like, wow, this guy is, is seriously, seriously good. But there's a lot of people that like, you know, in a similar way with cringe at one point.

I remember there was a story about Michael B. Jordan. He was on the red carpet and he was being interviewed with someone that used to laugh at him at school. And there was a bunch of people at the school that he went to that used to be, and obviously that's a funny meme by [00:27:00] itself, but there were a bunch of people that at his school that remember when he used to, you know, be bringing his photo shoot pictures because he would always be, you know, trying to go and get castings and things like that when he was 16 and he was in, I think it's Fruitville station when he was in high school at the time. So it kind of worked out, but they probably had no idea of how much it was going to work out over the next 10 plus years.

And again, it's funny that it's only by being corny when you're a kid or at whatever stage, it's only by being willing to put yourself out there. It takes some vulnerability, it takes some willingness to be laughed at.

What I'm not sure about is there's a balance where for some people they already have the certainty. Like those two examples I think are were people that were very internally certain about the outcome that they were going to have, and they were very set on the outcome. I don't know if that's always the case, but I do think it's more about the approach and when you approach things with that level of earnestness that even if I don't have the exact perfect outcome that I want, but I'm going to approach this thing with seriousness and being willing to [00:28:00] be laughed at or looked at in a particular way, that is what allows you then to have that outcome.

But I wanted to know how you would respond to that.

Anne Laure: Yeah. Being earnest, I love earnest people. I just love that there's, you know, and on the flip side, I struggle to connect with people who are a little bit cynical and making fun of these other people who are earnest. Like even if you don't want to pursue something or explore something you're interested in, I think, It's really not a good look to make fun of someone who's really curious or passionate about something that they want to explore. So I really love people who are earnest.

And then this idea of being absolutely certain of the outcome, I think is a little bit more cultural. It's a very American thing to me. And to, you know, have this deep faith that if you work hard enough, you will get the outcome you want. And this would take a lot of unpacking, but I think it can actually be a little bit toxic [00:29:00] sometimes because not everybody succeeds at what they set out to do, not everybody's going to have this massive success. And not everybody's going to even, you know, succeed on the first try. Sometimes you need to try several times, sometimes you need to try different things, different approaches.

We just talked about wiggly careers, like sometimes you do need to get a little bit lost, not knowing what you want to do, opening those different doors. And it's only when you look back a few years later, you're like, oh, that's where I am today. It's pretty cool, I like it. But there was no way you could have predicted when you were 16 that that's where you would end up.

And so there's something a little bit dangerous. I feel like with this culture of saying, pursue your passion, pick that one thing, and then work really hard. And if you do that, you will succeed.

Because the flip side of that is if you do not succeed, it's your fault. Maybe you did not work hard enough, maybe you didn't take this [00:30:00] seriously enough. And I think this is a little bit dangerous to instill that into people. And yeah, it's, it's something that I think is part of the American culture. And because in Europe we do consume a lot of content, great content that is produced in the U.S. We are also influenced by that thinking sometimes, and we do tend to start thinking in this way, which can be a little bit harmful I think.

David Elikwu: I wanna open a few loops here, because you've said so many interesting things. So on the point about the wiggly careers, I think what you said there is extremely strong and I think just as I was thinking about you repeating it again, I just remembered, it is something I wrote about, but something I came across a while ago, which is this idea of the crinkle crinkle walls. I'm not sure if you've heard of or seen them, but they are these like wavy walls. You kind of see them maybe in like Surrey or Sussex, some places where there's a lot of wind, mostly in England, I don't think, I've never come across these in any other country.

But essentially the point is that normally if you are building a wall like [00:31:00] this, out in the country, you would use two layers of bricks. So kind of back to back to fortify against the wind, so it doesn't just get knocked over. But instead of building a straight wall that is like two layers thick, you could actually build a single layer wall, but you make it wave so each part of it is a curve, and so the wall kind of wiggles, but because of that, it's actually stronger than, and you only need to use one set of bricks, you don't have to use all this extra brick. And so the fact that it's wiggly is actually what makes it good. Thinking about that from a career perspective, I think very much the same in that, sometimes you could have a straightforward career and it's just one straight line and it's as strong as is, but you could lose your job or something had happened and and you could easily get thrown completely off course.

But I do think personally that when you have a bit of a wiggly career, when you've learned things in different domains, you've had to compound your skills from different experiences. You are a lot stronger for it because, funnily enough, I think you just know that you have skills that you can rely [00:32:00] on and also you've been in positions where you had no idea what was coming next. And because of that, if you are ever in another position where you dunno what's coming next, you've been there, you've done that, you've dealt with that before, that's completely fine. You can take it in your stride and move on to the next thing.

So that's why I wanted to share about that. And then I think the other thing that you mentioned, which is interesting, I think two things about it, which is this idea you mentioned, I guess the, the American framing of, I guess it's like a hyper confidence, right? And I'm just saying, okay, this is what I'm gonna do. I'm very confident about it. I think you can go both ways because also thinking, you know, the having lived in the UK for a long time now, there's also a very British thing of people fear failure at the same time. So I think maybe we go too much towards the other side where people don't actually want to stick out, no one wants to do anything that other people aren't doing, even if it's a good thing. And because of that everyone stays at a very low level. Whereas if you had some people that were more entrepreneurial, so these are the things I also think that we struggle with at the same time. So there's a balance there where, [00:33:00] you also wanna have a culture that does encourage people to, to try things.

I think the golden meme, which is like in the middle of the two, is you don't have to have an incredible amount of certainty that something is going to work out and having this almost overconfidence, but you have to be willing to try things. And if you're either only just gonna be trying random things and you have a hundred percent conviction that everything is gonna work out, then that could also lead you to trouble. But then if you are too scared to try things and you are playing it safe all the time, then that is another problem state as well. So the golden place you wanna be in between is where you are trying things.

But I think this is actually kind of separate now, but on the same point, it's something I was thinking about for myself quite recently. It does tie to the idea of Dune, after I watched the Dune part two. It's not a spoiler 'cause you've seen parts of this in part one, but you know, there's the Bene Gesserit voice and if you've read the books, you, you, that is as well. And I was just thinking of how powerful a concept that is. I'll probably have to write about it to figure out exactly what I think or exactly how this is gonna work. But [00:34:00] I'll just tell you the thoughts that are on my mind.

I really like the idea of, you know how people talk about affirmations or manifesting things and there's a part of it that's obviously very like woo. And you can be very skeptical about the extent to which that's useful, but I do think, and you maybe could explain this better than me, from a neuroscience perspective, there's a part of it that absolutely makes sense.

I am not necessarily gonna stand in front of my mirror and repeat things to myself every day, but by having a focus on a particular thing or a particular behavior that you want to exhibit or a particular outcome that you wanna have, and actually putting that at the forefront of your mind by going through whatever practice, whether it's writing it down a bunch of times or looking at yourself in the mirror, like by saying something with a sense of conviction, it can actually lead to that thing coming about. Just because you are putting it at the forefront of your mind and you are reminding yourself of it very frequently.

So there's that part of it that I think is interesting and I was just toying with this idea of what it might be like to give myself or to give other people, like these kind of Bene Gesserit [00:35:00] commands where you are speaking with conviction and just saying things with some level of strength or certainty, which I think perhaps because of my background as a lawyer, there's a lot of things that I don't say with a lot of certainty, largely because I don't like to be wrong. So if there's a situation and I'm not very certain about what's going on, I will say, "Hey, if it's like this, this is what I think. If it's like that, this is what I think." But I'm not just gonna say, "you know, I only think this." And I think there can be a very big problem and you see this online on Twitter with people that are, you know, what do they say? Is it like wrong and strong? Something like that where people will very loudly say absolutely crazy things.

So I don't want to go all the way to that extreme, but I think maybe there's some balance of being able to say, even just yourself internally, like, I'm gonna do this thing. And you say it with the conviction that compels you to go out and do that thing. How does that resonate with you?

Anne Laure: Yeah, I, obviously being a scientist, I definitely don't think that manifesting [00:36:00] in the most extreme sense of the way where people say, I'm going to manifest being rich or anything like that. And I've seen some crazy stuff on TikTok where, you just like write it and, and, do some sort of ritual and whatever, like this is going to happen. But witchcraft has always existed and it's not going to go away, so that's not surprising.

That being said, as you said, there is a version of it that totally makes sense when it comes to affirming things that you want to be true about yourself and the world. And so when you see people saying, I am manifesting the fact that I attract healthy relationships in my life, or I am the kind of person who takes care of their health, or I am the kind of person who stands up for themselves and who is not going to let anyone being abusive to me, or the kind of person who creates, who writes, who draws, who [00:37:00] paints or whatever.

It's almost more similar to what James Clear has described as identity based habits, where you make it part of your identity and you say, this is who I am and by believing that this is who you are, this is who you become because you keep on showing up and acting in a way that is aligned with what you want to manifest. And even on the days where you don't exactly act in the way you would like to be acting, as you said, those kind of affirmations make it front of mind for you. So in the same way that when you try to build a habit, it doesn't mean it's perfect every day. The fact that you're trying at least, will make you orient your life in a way that is more aligned with this person that you want to be.

So I think that's absolutely great when people do this, and I think a lot of people who are successful actually do that. They may not call it manifestation, they might not call it an [00:38:00] affirmation, they may call it something else. As I said, identity based habits or there are other terms for it, but this idea of believing that you are a certain type of person and then manifesting this in your actions, and then in this way, molding the reality to that dream that you have, that vision that you had of yourself and the world absolutely makes sense without having to get into anything woo woo.

David Elikwu: Thank you so much for tuning in. Please do stay tuned for more. Don't forget to rate, review and subscribe. It really helps the podcast and follow me on Twitter feel free to shoot me any thoughts. See you next time.

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