“The messenger matters as much as the message.”
– M. Sanjayan
M. Sanjayan (@msanjayan) is a global conservation scientist specializing in how nature preserves and enhances human life. He serves as CEO for Conservation International, having joined CI in 2014 as executive vice president and senior scientist. He has led several key divisions including Oceans, Science, Development, Brand and Communications and Strategic Priorities.
Sanjayan holds a doctorate from the University of California, Santa Cruz, and his peer-reviewed scientific work has been published in journals including Science, Nature, and Conservation Biology. He is a visiting researcher at UCLA and distinguished professor of practice at Arizona State University.
Sanjayan has hosted a range of documentaries for PBS, BBC, Discovery, and Showtime. Most recently, he was featured in the University of California and Vox Media’s Climate Lab series.
Sanjayan is a Disneynature Ambassador, a Catto Fellow at the Aspen Institute, and a member of National Geographic Society’s Explorers Council. I hope you enjoy this conversation as much as I did!
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QUESTION(S) OF THE DAY: What was your favorite quote or lesson from this episode? Please let me know in the comments.
Scroll below for links and show notes…
Selected Links from the Episode
- Connect with M. Sanjayan:
- Sixth & I
- Nebraska by Bruce Springsteen
- Icebreaker Merino Underwear
- Tumi Bags
- The World Bank
- Respect by Aretha Franklin
- Respect by Otis Redding
- A River Runs Through It by Norman Maclean
- Team of Teams: New Rules of Engagement for a Complex World by General Stanley McChrystal, Tantum Collins, David Silverman, and Chris Fussell
- Deep: Freediving, Renegade Science, and What the Ocean Tells Us About Ourselves by James Nestor
- Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch
- The Nature Conservancy
- Environmental Defense Fund
- World Resources Institute
- Climate Lab
- The Giving Pledge
- Casamigos Tequila
- Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President by Candice Millard
- Introductions. [06:15]
- What is Sanjayan’s birth name? [08:05]
- Not everyone has a monkey birthday cake story. [11:14]
- How did Sanjayan’s family wind up moving from Sri Lanka to Sierra Leone? [15:38]
- How does Bruce Springsteen tie in to Sanjayan’s move to the United States and a career in science and conservation? [17:41]
- Important advice Sanjayan received — and why it might not hold true today. [21:39]
- What recent purchase of $100 or less has had the most positive impact on Sanjayan’s life? [23:38]
- As a frequent traveler, what does Sanjayan rely on for saving his sanity and health on long flights or boat trips? [25:32]
- What freshman college class would Sanjayan like to teach? [28:38]
- What key principles would Sanjayan try to hammer home in a seminar on getting things done? [30:46]
- Sanjayan considers these subjects crucial to a balanced education. [33:25]
- Why Sanjayan feels his summers at The World Bank were “unbelievably useful” — even though he was studying wildlife biology at the time. [33:39]
- The power of skill stacking and crossing disciplines. [35:25]
- “Storytelling is one way to rule the world.” [36:39]
- How does a good storyteller know when to stop? [43:33]
- Same story, two tellers: “Respect” from the perspective of Aretha Franklin and Otis Redding. [44:52]
- Influential books Sanjayan gives most as gifts. [46:41]
- The big change that occurred after 3 hours of freediving instruction. [48:51]
- Why you need to use the buddy system when experimenting with breathing. [50:11]
- What would Sanjayan’s billboard say? [51:23]
- Common misconceptions about conservation, and how to approach it without getting overwhelmed. [52:34]
- Suggested resources for someone who wants to get informed about conservation issues. [57:15]
- Why the people today are in a unique time and place to save the planet. [58:46]
- How can we train ourselves to think more long-term. [1:00:55]
- The messenger matters as much as the message. [1:04:05]
- A final book recommendation. [1:06:11]
- How does Sanjayan start his mornings — and avoid getting derailed early? [1:06:54]
- The value of regularly meeting with mentors (and how to select them). [1:08:22]
- How M’s mentor group coached him to aim for the CEO position at Conservation International when he was having doubts about interviewing. [1:13:22]
- As a busy person meeting with busy people, how does Sanjayan schedule time with his mentors? [1:16:44]
- Bruce Springsteen
- Michael Soulé
- Jeremy Moon
- Scott Adams
- Marc Andreessen
- Michael Jordan
- Warren Buffett
- Chris Sacca
- Albert Einstein
- Elon Musk
- Steve Jobs
- Cal Fussman
- Mikhail Gorbachev
- Aretha Franklin
- Otis Redding
- Norman Maclean
- Stanley McChrystal
- James Nestor
- Shelby Eisenberg
- Jimi Hendrix
- John Glenn
- Charlie Munger
- George Clooney
- Candice Millard
- James Garfield
- Chris Fussell
- Thomas J. Tierney
- Paula A. Kerger
- Seth Neiman
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