Lisa Ling — Exploring Subcultures, Learning to Feel, and Changing Perception (#388)

“It requires time and energy to get invested in other people’s stories, but I do in my heart of hearts believe that you emerge a better and smarter human as a result of taking that time.”

— Lisa Ling

Lisa Ling (@lisaling) is the host and executive producer of the CNN Original Series This Is Life with Lisa Ling. It returns for its sixth season on Sunday, September 29, at 10 p.m. ET. In each episode, Lisa immerses herself in communities across America, giving viewers an inside look at some of the most unconventional segments of society. In 2017, the series won a Gracie Award.

Lisa is also host of the CNN Digital series This Is Sex with Lisa Ling, which explores the taboos around sex in America and This Is Birth with Lisa Ling, which explores how healthcare legislation, income inequality and cultural shifts shape how people have children in America.

Before coming to CNN, Lisa was a field correspondent for The Oprah Winfrey Show and contributor to ABC News’ Nightline and National Geographic’s Explorer. She has reported from dozens of countries, covering stories about gang rape in the Congo, bride burning in India, and the Lord’s Resistance Army in Uganda, among other issues that are too often ignored.

Lisa got her start in journalism as a correspondent for Channel One News where she covered the civil war in Afghanistan at 21 years of age. She later went on to become a co-host of ABC Daytime’s hit show The View, which won its first daytime Emmy during her time at the show.

Lisa has also served as a special correspondent for CNN’s Planet in Peril series and is a contributing editor for USA Today’s USA Weekend magazine. In 2011, her acclaimed documentary journalism series Our America with Lisa Ling began airing on OWN.

Lisa is the co-author of Mother, Daughter, Sister, Bride: Rituals of Womanhood and Somewhere Inside: One Sister’s Captivity in North Korea and the Other’s Fight to Bring Her Home, which she penned with her sister Laura. In 2014, President Obama named Lisa to the Commission on White House Fellows.

You can find the transcript of this episode here. Transcripts of all episodes can be found here.

Listen to the episode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Overcast, StitcherCastbox, or on your favorite podcast platform.

#388: Lisa Ling — Exploring Subcultures, Learning to Feel, and Changing Perception

This episode is brought to you by ExpressVPN. ExpressVPN is an app you run on your computer or mobile device that easily secures your Internet connection, hides your public IP address, and lets you bypass regional restrictions on content.

ExpressVPN is consistently rated the fastest VPN service on the market, and it’s incredibly simple to use. Just download the app, tap one button, and you’re connected to a secure VPN server. Visit my special link, and you’ll get an extra three months of ExpressVPN protection for free!

This podcast is also brought to you by the Wondery network’s Business Wars. Hosted by David D. Brown, former anchor of the Peabody award-winning public radio business program Marketplace, Business Wars shares the untold and very real stories of what goes on behind the scenes with the leaders, investors, and executives that take businesses either to new heights or utter ruin.

I suggest starting with the latest series, “WWF vs WCW.” It’s a pretty epic one filled with all your colorful cast of wrestling characters—Hulk Hogan, Stone Cold Steve Austin, and others. You can search for Business Wars on Apple Podcasts or your favorite podcast provider, or you can just go directly to to start listening right now.

Want to hear an episode with another journalist who got an early start? — Listen to my conversation with Ezra Klein in which we discuss influencing the rules of the game by which this country is run, how Ezra lost 60 pounds, and his ascension into the ranks of the most respected media companies in the world (stream below or right-click here to download):

#208: Ezra Klein — From College Blogger to Political Powerhouse

QUESTION(S) OF THE DAY: What was your favorite quote or lesson from this episode? Please let me know in the comments.



  • Connect with Lisa Ling:

This Is Life with Lisa Ling | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram


  • Lisa touches on her motivation for pursuing journalism and the path that led to her becoming a correspondent in Afghanistan as a fresh-faced 21-year-old with Anderson Cooper as her colleague in the early ’90s. [09:24]
  • As someone who hadn’t done much traveling prior to this experience, what was Lisa’s impression of Afghanistan and her first few days there? [11:31]
  • How does Lisa cope with the emotional toll taken by being in proximity to the worst aspects of humanity, and does getting close to her subjects ever backfire? [13:36]
  • Lisa details one particularly heartbreaking interview with a girl who had been sold into commercial sexual exploitation — and how her subject was the one who consoled her and her team. [22:39]
  • What Lisa hopes people take away from her work, and why she really loves what she does. [26:17]
  • Coming from a family that wasn’t particularly communicative, how did Lisa train herself to feel and discuss emotions more openly? How did learning to open up affect her relationship with her mother, put her own situation in perspective, and ultimately make her a stronger reporter? [28:57]
  • What did Lisa do to lay the groundwork that allowed her mother to finally connect and share her story for the first time? Why do Lisa and I urge listeners (particularly men) who have difficult relationships with their parents to similarly connect? [34:29]
  • Knowing how it turned her own life around, how might Lisa suggest someone in need of therapy find the therapist who’s right for them? [39:36]
  • What was Barbara Walters’ most valuable advice to Lisa when they worked together on The View, and how did Lisa go from someone who didn’t really want to have kids to becoming obsessed with the idea? [45:36]
  • Was Lisa able to take Barbara’s advice at the time it was given, or did it take a while to sink in? Is there any other advice Lisa has received that she wasn’t able to take in the moment but only later realized its value? [49:54]
  • After six seasons (and counting) of This Is Life, How hard does Lisa have to push to tell the stories she wants to tell? [53:07]
  • Reflecting on the humanity-elevating and fund-raising power of Oprah, and Lisa’s satisfaction at raising awareness and understanding — of everything from cultural differences to gender fluidity — in her own way on her own show. [55:55]
  • Lisa still has to remind herself to break out of her own bubble in order to understand the world and the people who live on the other side of it — even if those people are affiliated with MS-13. [1:00:50]
  • What can we expect from the upcoming season six of This Is Life, and where and when can we catch it? [1:04:48]
  • How does Lisa choose which subjects to pursue, and how many of her pitches get made into shows? [1:07:04]
  • What parents need to know about their children’s access to pornography, why young people may not be able to separate the fantasy of pornography from its realities, and how one woman is crusading against artificial pornography by producing real sex videos for the masses. [1:07:45]
  • Why the benzodiazepines episode has been the most difficult episode for Lisa to make this season, and what it tells us about a medical culture that’s quick to prescribe potentially addictive substances without having an escape plan when it’s time to kick them. [1:10:19]
  • What we should all be doing more regularly when we’re prescribed medication of any kind. [1:16:05]
  • What books has Lisa gifted or recommended most? [1:16:43]
  • How to develop, flex, and maintain a healthy dose of empathy. [1:26:28]
  • What would Lisa’s billboard say, and why would it serve as a reminder to herself as well as the world at large? [1:31:05]
  • Parting thoughts. [1:34:17]



If you or another person is in danger or experiencing an immediate crisis, use one of these resources now:

Resources for locating a therapist for in-person treatment:

Because insurance plays a big factor for many people who are searching for a provider, here are “find a doctor” pages for four of the largest healthcare providers in the US:

Online therapy apps (live sessions with human therapists, chat sessions, no in-person appointments.)

Wirecutter, a review website owned by The New York Times Company, provides recommendations in The Online Therapy Services We’d Use.

Disclaimer from the editor: Please carefully vet anyone with whom you may be sharing confidential information.

The Tim Ferriss Show is one of the most popular podcasts in the world with more than 900 million downloads. It has been selected for "Best of Apple Podcasts" three times, it is often the #1 interview podcast across all of Apple Podcasts, and it's been ranked #1 out of 400,000+ podcasts on many occasions. To listen to any of the past episodes for free, check out this page.

Leave a Reply

Comment Rules: Remember what Fonzie was like? Cool. That’s how we’re gonna be — cool. Critical is fine, but if you’re rude, we’ll delete your stuff. Please do not put your URL in the comment text and please use your PERSONAL name or initials and not your business name, as the latter comes off like spam. Have fun and thanks for adding to the conversation! (Thanks to Brian Oberkirch for the inspiration.)

7 Replies to “Lisa Ling — Exploring Subcultures, Learning to Feel, and Changing Perception (#388)”

  1. Lisa Ling recently interviewed my career-idol-turned mentor, Cindy Gallop, for her CNN show. Not sure if you’ve ever considered having Cindy on your podcast, but she’s FABULOUS and has a lot to say about advertising (especially in FemTech), ageism and more that your listeners would get a lot out of. She was just on Gary V’s podcast and YouTube series, too. Would be happy to help you connect with her, if you’d like to get her on your show!

  2. Dear Lisa,

    Towards the end of this podcast you said you look at people’s perfect lives on Instagram.

    I would like to comment on that statement because I do not think people post their perfect lives on Instagram.

    In my opinion people are trying to post ideal moments and events or times of activities they enjoy. One extreme example is they do this by shoving people out of the way to get a quote on quote perfect picture of their travels(this actually happened). The other extreme is they are drunk as all get out and are with their friends. Being drunk is just what they think is a good time. There are also a lot of pictures on Instagram where people post what they think will get the most likes or think is something to show off when in reality the moment they are sharing isn’t a true moment.

    I may have misunderstood what you said about Instagram but I hope you remember( and you may know this already) that there is always another story to each picture that is posted. Sometime we forget to look at the context behind the photo or picture posted. What journey or tribunals did that person go through to get to that moment they are choosing to share with their new and old viewers?

    I enjoyed your conversation and interview and want to thank you for asking the questions that go unsaid and unasked.


    Sam S.

    Artist and Poet.

  3. Thank you for the great podcast Tim & Lisa! Please invite more successful female guests to your podcast. I found this episode greatly inspirational and insightful not only because of what Lisa does in her career but the hurtles she overcame as a female and minority in a majority white male industry. Perhaps many of your female following would also feel the same way. Thank you for supporting female representation.

  4. Hello Lisa,

    I enjoy some of your topics.

    I’m watching your show as i type this e-mail.

    A few comments, on a few of your comments:

    Regarding the woman who was addicted to the benzo, who was attempting to get off benzos……you asked her incredulously, why she would listen to a stranger from Australia, that she communicated with on-line, when his suggested process was not doctor/medically approved. What??

    Why would you want approval, from the very ones that are in on the pharma scam…..the very ones that created these mass problems?

    We put way too excessive trust in pharmaceutical firms and doctors. The opioid crisis is another pharma scam induced catastrophe. As you well noted, with each subject on tonite’s show, the medical community’s answer to the benzo problem was to prescribe another benzo. The pharmas have no desire to cure.

    The pharmaceutical firm’s only goal is to create the new “drug of the week” that will be prescribed into infinity, to create annuity-like income, irrelevant of any societal catastrophe.

    Expecting the docs and pharmas to solve this (unless the solving drug can create even more income), is like asking Donald Trump to chair a committee to investigate corruption.


    John R