“The point of journalism is to tell the truth. It is not to improve society. There are facts and truths that feel regressive, but that doesn’t matter. The point of journalism isn’t to make everything better; it’s to give people accurate information about how things are.” – Sebastian Junger
“Who would you die for? What ideas would you die for?” – Sebastian Junger
If you want a better understanding of warriors, tribal societies, human nature, and what we can learn from it all, this is for you.
My podcast guest is Sebastian Junger (@sebastianjunger), the #1 New York Times best-selling author of The Perfect Storm, Fire, A Death in Belmont, War, and Tribe. As an award-winning journalist, a contributing editor to Vanity Fair, and a special correspondent at ABC News, he has covered major international news stories around the world and has received both a National Magazine Award and a Peabody Award. Junger is also a documentary filmmaker whose debut film “Restrepo,” a feature-length documentary (co-directed with Tim Hetherington), was nominated for an Academy Award and won the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance.
“Restrepo,” which chronicles the deployment of a platoon of U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan’s Korengal Valley, is widely considered to have broken new ground in war reporting. Junger has since produced and directed three additional documentaries about war and its aftermath.
In this episode, we cover rites of passage (and their importance), warfare, the art of great non-fiction writing, PTSD, evolutionary biology, and much more.
Some of the topics will no doubt offend many of you, and this is a good thing. I urge you to bite your lip, if need be, and listen to the entire episode. There are gems within, including hilarious stories, surprising statistics, and tear-jerking epiphanies.
If you only have 5 minutes and are rushed for time, check out this short segment about the surprising psychological effects of war.
- Listen to it on iTunes.
- Stream by clicking here.
- Download as an MP3 by right-clicking here and choosing “save as.”
Want to hear another podcast providing insights from lessons learned at war? — Listen to my conversation with Jocko Willink. He might be the scariest Navy SEAL alive. Learn what he taught me (stream below or right-click here to download):
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QUESTION(S) OF THE DAY: What documentaries have you enjoyed the most? Please let me know in the comments.
Scroll below for links and show notes…
Selected Links from the Episode
- Learn more and connect with Sebastian Junger:
- Selected interviews with Sebastian Junger:
- Watch Sebastian Junger’s TED talks:
- Check out this biography of Thomas Paine by Craig Nelson
- Letters from a Stoic by Seneca (on Audible)
- Sebastian Junger’s first published piece, Towing the Line
- Learn more about the Stuart Krichevsky Literary Agency
- Read the Paris Review’s interview with John McPhee, The Art of Nonfiction No. 3
- Writing something? Try out Scrivener
- Learn more about Pontiac’s Rebellion
- At Play in the Fields of the Lord and The Snow Leopard by Peter Matthiessen
- Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari
- On Thomas Paine and stoic philosophy [6:11]
- The “chainsaw story” and how it supported his writing career [8:09]
- On athleticism and long distance running [12:31]
- How to develop a writing style [13:31]
- Why Sebastian Junger was drawn to journalism [15:09]
- Sebastian Junger’s writing style and the importance of structure [19:08]
- Commencement speech advice to those leaving high school [32:07]
- What inspired Sebastian Junger to go into a war-torn country [36:07]
- What are “skin walkers” [39:15]
- On striving for political correctness in gender [43:59]
- The Iroquois’s process for peace and how it relates to modern politics [50:29]
- Thoughts on the psychiatric effects of war [59:04]
- Thoughts on bringing primitive, war-time cohesion into our modern society [1:04:09]
- PTSD, the C-Train, and returning to New York City after being at war [1:08:14]
- On the lonely nature of society [1:12:01]
- On the prevalence of PTSD in elite special forces units vs. support units [1:19:25]
- How to “support the troops” [1:26:19]
- The story of Spain and the viking helmet [1:31:13]
- Thoughts on developing male closeness while decreasing violence [1:39:19]
- Thoughts on veterans becoming victims in society after they return from war [1:43:49]
- Photography/videography habits and the moment Sebastian became a war reporter [1:48:55]
- The story of Tim Hetherington and why Sebastian Junger stopped war reporting [1:54:07]
- The future of writing for Sebastian Junger [1:57:47]
- One thing anyone can do for a military veteran [1:59:01]
- When you think of the word successful, who is the first person who comes to mind and why? [2:04:02]
- How do you define courage? [2:04:12]
- Most gifted books [2:04:20]
- What do your close friends say you’re exceptionally good at? [2:05:22]
- If you could combine 3 different writers into one writer to create your ultimate writer, who would they be and why? [2:06:04]
- Advice to your younger self [2:06:33]
- What recent purchase has most positively impacted your life? [2:08:11]
- Something you believe, even though you can’t prove it [2:10:44]
- Habits and common practices of journalists you dislike [2:10:56]
- What do you think your 70-year-old-self would advise your current self? [2:12:27]
- How to know when you should write a book [2:14:58]
- If you could put one billboard anywhere, where would you put it and what would it say? [2:16:22]
- Final requests for the audience [2:18:27]
- Josh Waitzkin
- John McPhee
- Joan Didion
- Peter Matthiessen
- Ernest Hemingway
- William Faulkner
- Émile Durkheim
- David M. Maddox
- Tim Hetherington
- Martin Luther King, Jr.
Posted on: May 22, 2016.
Please check out Tribe of Mentors, my newest book, which shares short, tactical life advice from 100+ world-class performers. Many of the world's most famous entrepreneurs, athletes, investors, poker players, and artists are part of the book. The tips and strategies in Tribe of Mentors have already changed my life, and I hope the same for you. Click here for a sample chapter and full details. Roughly 90% of the guests have never appeared on my podcast.
Who was interviewed? Here's a very partial list: tech icons (founders of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Craigslist, Pinterest, Spotify, Salesforce, Dropbox, and more), Jimmy Fallon, Arianna Huffington, Brandon Stanton (Humans of New York), Lord Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Ben Stiller, Maurice Ashley (first African-American Grandmaster of chess), Brené Brown (researcher and bestselling author), Rick Rubin (legendary music producer), Temple Grandin (animal behavior expert and autism activist), Franklin Leonard (The Black List), Dara Torres (12-time Olympic medalist in swimming), David Lynch (director), Kelly Slater (surfing legend), Bozoma Saint John (Beats/Apple/Uber), Lewis Cantley (famed cancer researcher), Maria Sharapova, Chris Anderson (curator of TED), Terry Crews, Greg Norman (golf icon), Vitalik Buterin (creator of Ethereum), and nearly 100 more. Check it all out by clicking here.