#526: The Rise and Fall of the Most Powerful Indian Tribe in American History
For nearly 400 years, the Comanche tribe controlled the southern plains of America. Even as Europeans arrived on the scene with guns and metal armor, the Comanches held them off with nothing but horses, arrows, lances, and buffalo hide shields. In the 18th century, the Comanches stopped the Spanish from driving north from Mexico and halted French expansion westward from Louisiana. In the 19th century, they stymied the development of the new country by engaging in a 40-year war with the Texas Rangers and the U.S. military. It wasn’t until the latter part of that century that the Comanches finally laid down their arms.
How did they create a resistance so fierce and long lasting?
My guest today explores that question in his book "Empire of the Summer Moon: Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches, the Most Powerful Indian Tribe in American History." His name is Sam Gwynne, and we begin our discussion by explaining where the Comanches were from originally and how their introduction to the horse radically changed their culture and kickstarted their precipitous rise to power. Sam then explains how the Comanches shifted from a hunting culture to a warrior culture and how their warrior culture was very similar to that of the ancient Spartans. We then discuss the event that began the decline of the Comanches: the kidnapping of a Texan girl named Cynthia Ann Parker. Sam explains how she went on to become the mother of the last great war chief of the Comanches, Quanah, why Quanah ultimately decided to surrender to the military, and the interesting path his life took afterward.
This is a fascinating story about an oft-overlooked part of American history.
#525: How to Stress Proof Your Body and Brain
Oftentimes, our ancient brains don’t seem well equipped to deal with the speed and complexities of modernity. The landscape bombards us with perceived threats and problems, and we have trouble not ruminating on them. To navigate this environment, while maintaining our composure and sanity, we need to strengthen our resistance to stress.
My guest today has written a guidebook to how that’s done. Her name is Dr. Mithu Storoni, and she’s a medical doctor who also holds a PhD in Neuro-ophthalmology, as well as the author of Stress-Proof: The Scientific Solution to Protect Your Brain and Body — and Be More Resilient Every Day. Today on the show we discuss the difference between acute stress and chronic stress and why acute stress can actually be good for you, while chronic stress can change your brain so that you get more stressed out when you experience stress. We discuss how both cortisol and inflammation can actually be beneficial in the right amounts, and how to get them in the right doses — including the particular type of exercise that will best help you recover from stress, and the role diet and even Tetris can play in managing it. We end our conversation discussing how making time for hobbies can prevent you from falling into the stress trap.
Get the show notes at aom.is/stressproof.
#524: Boxing Trainer Teddy Atlas on What It Means to Be a Man
Teddy Atlas was born to a well-respected doctor in a wealthy part of Staten Island. Most kids like him end up going to an Ivy League school to become some sort of white collar professional. Teddy? Teddy dropped out of high school, went to jail, and ended up becoming a trainer to 18 world champion boxers, including heavyweight champion Michael Moore, who defeated Evander Holyfield for the title in 1994.
Today on the show I talk to Teddy about how and why he took the path he did in life. Teddy explains how he ended up boxing under legendary trainer Cus D’Amato, and how Cus guided Teddy towards becoming a trainer himself. Teddy then shares stories of training kids in the Catskills, taking them to unsanctioned amateur fights in the Bronx, and the lessons he learned from boxing and his father about personal responsibility, managing fear, overcoming resistance, and what is means to be a man.
Get the show notes at aom.is/atlas.
#523: How to Keep a Happy Relationship Happy
Most marriage and relationship advice books focus on solving problems.
But my guests today argue that we shouldn’t wait until problems arise in our relationship to work on strengthening it. Instead, they say, when times are good, we should think about how to keep that good, and act to make it even better.
Their names are James Pawelski and Suzann Pileggi Pawelski, and they’re husband and wife. James has a background in philosophy, and they both have backgrounds in psychology. They combined insights from both fields to write the book Happy Together: Using the Science of Positive Psychology to Build Love That Lasts. We begin our conversation discussing how most relationship advice falls short, the biggest myths people have about relationships, and the contrast between Plato’s and Aristotle’s approach to relationships. We then dig into the role emotions play in a relationship, particularly passion, and what we can do to continue to cultivate and experience positive emotions in a marriage even after being together for years. We then dig into how our character influences our relationships and how our relationships influence our character. James and Suzann share insights on how and why to focus on our strengths, help our partners develop their strengths, and even go on a “strengths date” together. We end our conversation talking about the power of appreciation in relationships.
Get the show notes at aom.is/happytogether.
#522: What Is Wit and Why Does the World Need It?
When you think about wit, what comes to mind? Someone who’s quick with a funny remark?
My guest today says that while humor is one part of wit, it’s really better thought of in a broader way, as a kind of “improvisational intelligence.” His name is James Geary, and he’s the author of "Wit’s End: What Wit Is, How It Works, and Why We Need It." Today on the show, we discuss all things witty. We begin our conversation describing the nature of wit, and how it’s linked to one’s all-around sense of resourcefulness. James then makes the case that instead of getting our contempt, puns should actually be praised as a sophisticated form of wit. We then dig into what fencing and jazz can teach us about the role of improvisation in wit, why we need wit more than ever these days, and what you can do to start being a bit more witty.
Get the show notes at aom.is/wit.