Dax Shepard Doesn't Believe in Regret: Transcript
WorkLife with Adam Grant
Tuesday, May 3, 2021
Hey WorkLifers-- and ArmCherries. For today’s bonus episode, we have a very special guest: Dax Shepard.
I’ve known Dax since 2019-- I admire his intellectual curiosity, his vulnerability, and of course his humor. I think we’re friends, although every conversation we’ve ever had has been recorded for a podcast!
For this episode, we did something a little different - we had our conversation with a live audience on Clubhouse, the audio app.
Adam Grant: I'm recording. You're recording. We made this happen. Dax. Welcome to clubhouse. Officially. We have Kat Cole and hosting us, uh, Kat hosts. My favorite rooms on clubhouse. Very exciting. Uh, we've got a few thousand people here listening live. We're going to try to only embarrass you a little bit. How's that sound?
Dax Shepard: You know, um, being embarrassed is kinda my calling card, so, um, I welcome it.
Kat Cole: So everyone has have at it, big welcome for Dax…
Clubhouse People: Woo!...Claps! Pew Pew!
I’m Adam Grant. This is WorkLife, my podcast with the TED Audio Collective. I’m an organizational psychologist. My job is to think again about how we work, lead, and live.
Dax is an actor, writer, director, and podcast host. He’s probably best known for starring in the sci fi film Idiocracy, or the tv show Parenthood. His podcast Armchair Expert, where he and Monica Padman explore the messiness of being human, is one of my favorite things to listen to.
So I was eager to turn the tables to talk about his approach to interviewing, receiving feedback, and humor at work. Later, we’ll also have some questions from the audience!
Adam Grant: I do have to say Dax that this is a weird experience for me. It's not every day that I get to interview a genuine armchair expert.
Dax Shepard: well, generally I'm interviewing you. That's the pattern we've, uh, established in this relation.
Adam Grant: I know this feels, this feels very backward, but I'm kind of excited about it because in the past couple of years you've become the Howard Stern of our generation.
Dax Shepard: Oh my good. Except-
Adam Grant: except you're smarter. You're funnier and you're not disgusting.
Dax Shepard: Come on, come on, come on. I'll do anything for a compliment.
Adam: I believe those things.
Dax: Okay. I'm not. Well, first of all, thank you so much. That is a beautiful compliment. I do think he is the best interviewer alive. So I'm, I'm reticent to, to join on the disgusting part, but I will say that's a huge compliment because I definitely think as an interviewer, it's hard to be him.
Adam Grant: Well, I think you've earned it, but I know it was sort of a bumpy road at first. Uh, I remember the early days of armchair expert, you got some tough feedback. People told you, you were dominating the conversation. You were talking too much. How did you take that? Did you think screw this like podcasting is not for me?
Dax Shepard: Well, I had like a two-fold reaction. One was yeah, I know that too. I hear it. And I'm a totally ashamed of myself with how much I'm talking. So that was one. One, one reaction. And then yet another one was like, also, if you think this is me interviewing [00:02:00] people, you're going to be unhappy. These are conversations with people and I'm going to talk half the time.
I mean, hopefully I'll limit myself to half the time, but they they're conversations and it's not, I don't have a clipboard with 63 questions we're going to get through. So. It was a weird mix of like shame because I knew I was, and I'll say, I'll add to that. It was way worse at the beginning because we didn't edit.
So I would panic if someone was like thinking of what they wanted to say for 20 seconds, which is fine and encouraged, usually something better is going to come out of their mouth. After that little break, I'm panicking. Like, what are people doing right now in this 20 second delay? So I would just fill, fill, fill out of anxiety and fear, but once we started editing.
Um, I, I stopped that panic that helped a bunch. And then just finally tiring of my own opinions, which took about 200 episodes.
Adam Grant: Then that actually goes to one of the things I wanted to ask you about, which is, uh, one of my favorite things about armchair expert is all the improvisation [00:03:00] that we get to hear.
Uh, I know that's a big part of your professional training, your a Groundling, uh, one of the world's great improv schools. You had Melissa McCarthy in your class, Octavia, Spencer, lots of others. Would love to hear. I haven't heard you talk about this enough. What the biggest lessons you learned through improv were and how they fit into your work life today.
Dax Shepard: Well, I think the thing that I entered into that world the erroneous belief I had was that improv was an opportunity for me to show how funny I am with, with every, every sentence I say, or every character choice I make. And so I went into it thinking, that's how you, uh, perform there or scored there.
And. It's a long process. It takes years to get into the Sunday company. And what I was told repeatedly, and also got to discover real time was the less you try to do anything other than buy into what the other person is saying. The funnier it'll be this something that'll happen by your [00:04:00] belief, in what they're saying, that will bring out some response that you probably couldn't have thought of or pre-planned or predicted.
And so. Just from the repetition of, of experimenting with that. And then being rewarded with that, I think I got more and more comfortable with existing. In the moment and not trying to control them or predict them, or use my little bag of tricks that I carry to most parties I go to.
Adam Grant: One of my Cardinal rules of humor at work, Maybe the Cardinal rule of humor at work is you're supposed to make fun of yourself, not other people. Um, I think back to your days on punked, pulling pranks on other people, and it is often a tight rope walk between people laughing at themselves and actually hurting their feelings. Yeah. How do you make sure that your comedy doesn't offend people?
Dax Shepard: Well, I, I would just say that , that's not been my go-to since I was a kid. My, my, my me being funny, started with being very insecure and [00:05:00] embarrassed by the fact that I couldn't read and everyone else could that I was anytime I got called on, I, I couldn't get it. I couldn't read what was on the chalkboard.
You know, I was. Regularly embarrassed by this. They would come knock on the door and they grabbed me and some other kid and they'd take us to the learning disabled room for an hour and a half. And it was, I did not like it. Uh, and so my defense was to be funny. I don't know if we can evaluate ourselves, but I know a lot of comedians that it's just very mean to other people or they're into burning their friends.
that's just not my bag. And then it was kind of ironic that I got cast on that show.
Cause that's not my bag. My bag is not an elaborate prank where someone's terrified for a while, but I had been auditioning for things for eight years at that point and not getting one thing. So, uh, I was delighted at any opportunity.
[00:06:00] But as far as hurting people's feelings, that's a really big, big question. Uh, because inevitably comedy is not for everybody and a comedian cannot account for the background in history of all 3000 people in the audience. So there has to be a certain reality we all agree to. Likewise, if you have some trauma in your background, uh, maybe don't go to a comedy show. You know, I think there has to be some level of personal responsibility. involved from the audience or they should just not partake in it. But I have friends that do this great improv live show, Ben Schwartz, and Middleditch Thomas Middleditch.
They're brilliant. And they did an improv on stage. And at some point, uh, you know, he said, uh, “how far along are you in your pregnancy?” So of course, Ben had to go [00:07:00] along with it. And so now he's acting like he's pregnant and of course there's the delivery at some point. And this is just all in an improv.
And afterwards someone came up to them and was like, that was so distasteful. I had a miscarriage, you know, it became a whole thing. And you know, you can't do a live show, an improv show, assuming that people that have had miscarriages and you have to beat tiptoeing around that, it just can't be done. It's not realistic. So it's weird.
Adam Grant: Well, I guess that's part of why I've always been so excited about self-deprecating humor is the only person whose feelings could get hurt or your own. And so it seems like turning the joke in word and making fun of yourself as you've already done several times in this conversation is, is always a safe bet.
What's what's your problem with stopping there?
Dax Shepard: Well, because it is cathartic for us, first of all, we would maybe agree or disagree. We are the most social primate, uh, we're the most social animal to ever live. We have all this. Technical evolution that allows us to co-exist in these huge [00:08:00] groups. One of them is gossiping.
Uh, so there were no police, right? So if someone was the leader, the great news was three. Any three people could overthrow them, strongest person in the group. And the way everyone regulated that is they talked about the person and they that's how we enforced in a hunting, gathering society, a bit of a meritocracy and prevented tyranny from happening.
So that is in us. That's who we are. And it's. Not going to go away. So there is something very cathartic about hoisting up in archetype, say the muscle head from Jersey shore. If I start playing him on stage and someone's roasting that character. That's our job as a society. That's what we do as a social group, to self-regulate each other.
And so that's the job of the comedians is to point out those folks and publicly get a bazillion laughs, which tells that person, wow. They couldn't all be laughing as a coincidence. Maybe I need to stop [00:09:00] wearing six gold chains on the outside of my shirt, whatever the thing is, we might want to pick apart.
So you might play, and this is where it gets tricky. And people sometimes have a hard time delineating between whether they are celebrating or roasting. So you'll see like massage monistic characters and things will, they need to be there. That, that's how we all agree. This is a bad thing, but, but, but someone has to play the massage monistic character for us to do that in art.
And so. We have to have some understanding of who's actually being made fun of in the situation. And not just assume because there's a massage dentist work condoning massage. Yeah.
Adam Grant: So what I like about that is it's punching up, not kicking down. What I think is also interesting about it is it captures this, um, this idea that I love in psychology and sociology, which is.
To, to distinguish regular gossip from pro-social gossip, which is, you know, a way that you might warn someone about, you know, somebody who's aggressive or selfish or [00:10:00] unethical. Um, and I've gotten a lot of pushback when I've said, look, this serves an important function in the world, right? It's it's one of the ways that the matchers who believe in fairness, Uh, protect the givers from the takers, right?
To say, Hey, wait a minute. Like that guy is a selfish jerk. Do not trust him. Uh, and you're, you're saying we should still be doing that because a lot of people will say, no, you shouldn't talk about people behind their back.
Dax Shepard: Yeah. Um, Again, I mean, it's, it's so complicated to say that gossip is good or bad.
I'd love that you just gave me the term pro social. My favorite thing of talking to you is always like I have some of these ideas or understandings, but I don't know any of the vernacular around them. And you, you get, you give them to me. It's so fun.
Adam Grant: That's why I exist. Right. To give you language for things you already know.
So there's so many layers there's yet. So pro social gossip, I'm in favor of, we should call out people who, who have repugnant behavior that doesn't benefit anyone we should do.
Also people should be self. Where, why are you talking about somebody I've caught myself? Here's something I'll tell. I find myself sometimes at work like 10 years ago, I go, Oh, did [00:11:00] they show up yet? Right. Well, so you can say on the surface, I'm doing something pro-social, which is, we want everyone to get to work on time so we can get our job done and go home to our families.
But in reality, when I really examined it, what I'm really saying is I'm on time because I'm in a position to point out this person's air. And I started really recognizing anytime I was gossiping pointing out someone's character defect. It was really a subtle message that I don't have that. So once I recognized that it was kind of just a brag, then I was grossed out by it. And I really tried to reign that in, but I will also talk about someone who's an aggressive asshole. I will do that.
Adam Grant: I think we need more of that in the world. And that also speaks to something that I was, I was thinking a lot about. So we're, we're here in part to talk about your work and your life. Uh, one of my favorite things you've done in your work life is employee of the month.
Uh, but I'm going to talk about the real life version of, uh, you hire a lot of people. For projects for [00:12:00] movies for shows, uh, you have had the chance to work with a lot of people. What makes someone a star? What do you look for when you hire? What do you wish your younger self knew about being the employee of the month?
Dax Shepard: Well, um, I'm so glad you liked that movie. It's uh, it was probably, I mean, it's, it's in the top three for me of fun. I've ever had playing a character. Cause again, I was the archetype that should be made fun of, I was, I was misogynistic. I was handsy. I was all these terrible things and it was quite fun to live that out. But you know, the thing I appreciate most is just competence. You know, I am so horny. For competency.
Adam Grant: that is such a weird way to describe it.
Dax Shepard: No, it's not because I it's. It's what I it's, what if I, if I had to find a, a, uh, some connective tissue between anyone I’ve dated, that's it, like, I am so attracted to people who can do things and tackle things and handle things it's very attractive.
So I am in fact horny for it. Um, [00:13:00] with competency comes. All of my bad characteristics. I don't take direction. Well, I think I know everything. I'd rather figure it out, not be told. I know I'm just really attracted to people who are crazy competent, but then of course, navigating how to help them becomes its own challenge, which is fun.
Adam Grant: You are married to Kristin bell. Uh, we'd love to hear a little bit about how being married to Kristin and also working with her on some projects has changed you as a leader or a collaborator,
Dax Shepard: uh, prior to meeting her my childhood plus who I chose to be around.
Most of my twenties, I really thought the world was, was all wolves. I just that's what I thought. And I thought. One's full-time [00:14:00] job should be to protect themselves from all these other wolves that are circling at all times. And she didn't even think there was wolves in the world. If there were, there was some good explanation.
I think the last time you and I talked to she and I are the poster children of attribution error. So everything. She witnesses. That's distasteful has to have a situational reason. And all of the stuff I witnessed is you're a bad character and I need to watch out for, so having to co-exists with someone that when we're walking down the street and we see someone coming, I think they're going to steal my wallet.
She thinks they're going to cure cancer. You know, those are such radically different views and. And, and in another really profound way, I always thought she was getting taken advantage of financially. Like she let all these people live at her house for free. I'm like these people aren't even paying them.
They don't even chip in for the house cleaning, you know, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. [00:15:00] And then lo and behold, I watched, well, abundance came her way. Well, however much she was getting taken advantage of. She seemed to be profiting greatly, um, more than I was in my super. Stranglehold approach to everything.
And I think just, it's not like she ever suggested I become a certain way. It just, I got to watch someone move through the world in an almost opposite fashion of myself. And then I saw the results up close and personal. It allowed me to slowly inch towards her. Yeah. She has really, really. Forced me to really try to at least imagine there's some situational.
Cause for this thing, that's driving me bonkers about somebody and I run everything by her. So I'm about to launch off an email. It's going to burn all the bridges in and out and she'll she'll go look, go ahead. Go crazy. You're you're you're a gunslinger. Uh, let the whole village on fire. But it is possible that they meant this and that.
Now you feel that. Yeah. And [00:16:00] I listened to her, which is shocking because, uh, as my previous character defects, I mentioned, um, I really listened to her and she, she has prevented me from untold wreckage in my life.
Adam Grant: Well, I'm, I'm glad that she's rubbed off on you a little bit that way, because I felt like this was one of our big conflicts when we first met is I was saying here, look, you can be a generous person and actually achieve great things.
And you were at this point in your life where you said, I didn't believe that I was completely opposed to it. Kristin has opened my eyes to the possibility, but I still mostly don't believe it. And it sounds like you've even shifted more.
Dax Shepard: Boy. I don't want to lay down that easy. It's not, I don't know that.
I agree with your summation.
Adam Grant: I have data. I can logic police you if you want.
Dax Shepard: Oh, great. But what I first want to say is, I don't think, I definitively think you can't prosper by being generous. I think we got to look at this as a spectrum. So she's a 10 on [00:17:00] this spectrum. You know, I'm a five. And so I definitely believe that yields results.
And yet I also, I think we disagree a little bit here. Um, I do think everyone is ultimately selfish. I don't think, uh, an animal on planet earth can operate out of anything but selfishness. And yet within that selfishness, you can find lots of virtue. And hopefully the story you're trying to write about yourself, selfishly includes you being a good person, just what I've had to adopt
Adam Grant: Dax Shepard. You are betraying your anthropological roots. It's here Darwin, Darwin road, a tribe of altruists would out survive a tribe of selfish people because all the selfish people would be infighting and the altruistic people would be trying to save each other and protect the group. And therefore natural selection would actually favor generous genes.
Dax Shepard: That that is all fine and dandy. I want you to tell me a single thing you do in your life that doesn't run through the [00:18:00] filter of, I want X, so I'm going to do Y Y the brain doesn't work that way. Give me an example.
Adam Grant: So this is like the friends episode with Phoebe trying to find a selfless act.
Dax Shepard: Yeah. They don't exist in my opinion, but give me one.
Adam Grant: Well, I, I just, I want to get away from the false dichotomy and say, look there, there are lots of things we do at a personal cost to benefit others. And you're going to say, well, that's because you want to see yourself a certain way. Right. And you're trying to live your identity or your values, which I accept.
Um, but there's still a cost. Um, and there are other times where I would say, you know, it's just both, right? I'm not, I'm not suggesting that we're purely altruistic, but I also wouldn't suggest that we're purely. Selfish.
Dax Shepard: Okay. Here's my singular complaint about you Adam Grant. First of all, I love it. I think so you're such a disappointment, but keep going, because I, I expect this of you cause you're so f-ing brilliant.
So I listened to your Malcolm interview [00:19:00] and then I listened to him interview you and it was fascinating. And what you did was call out. The contradiction of his books that each book seems to contradict either the previous one or three back. And when you phrased it that way, it was amusing. And I was like, you're absolutely right.
I wouldn't have seen the global picture the way you had. And that was, that was exciting. But, and then also struck with the great, great irony that your book is think different, and you're literally preaching this thing he's doing. And you somehow find faults in that. So I think sometimes you forget to acknowledge the filter you're looking through.
And so whatever opinion you have on whether someone can be selfless or not is fine. And I accepted it's your opinion, but I think it should come with a little bit of prerequisite knowledge of why Adam is this way. And no one's excluded from this. So you are too.
Adam Grant: Yeah, I think that's a good point. Like, well, okay.
When did we have that conversation? We hadn't moved. It was the fall of 2019. I had just started writing think again, although I'm even thinking, I wrote an article on the virtues of contradicting yourself a couple years earlier. And so maybe I was already wrestling with this tension a little bit, but I think, I think acknowledging that evolution would have been helpful.
Dax Shepard: was just really fun. And it's funny too, because you're. I think if, if like, if I had to evaluate like who I thought would win a court case and the great thing we discovered last time I interviewed you is that we're both prosecutors, which is insufferable for the people around us. But I'm
Adam Grant: trying really hard not to summon my inner defense attorney right now.
You know, what tax he made a really good point. I contradicted myself on the point about contradicting yourself. So I met a contradicted myself delay.
Dax Shepard: There was a beautiful irony to it. I
Adam Grant: one of my favorite things about armchair expert is the sheer diversity of views and guests that you and Monica and gateway. I'm wondering of now, a few years of doing this and hundreds of conversations, what are, what are a couple of the big insights that have stuck with you and right.
Dax Shepard: influenced you? Well, I think it's bad. I think I'm less, I'm less definitive than I used to be. I think, you [01:11:00] know. Great. Are you sure? Do you want to hedge that a little bit? The app as one of those annum, granted, you got me with one of those jokes last time, but I got it right. Is this a pattern? It is a pattern, but that's good.
Dax Shepard: um, Uh, so you, you, you, you throw me with this. Oh, a definitive. So what often happens is I have a guest come in and I totally agree with them that they're making great points. And then I have a different guest that comes in.
They have a different opinion on it, and I agree with them and I I'm more and more and more do not. That's why I'm a little, I'm not all in on facts is as crazy as that sounds. There are a lot of interpretations running through this machine that is not a computer and it is not, uh, uh, adhering to all the rules of physics, as much as certain people want to believe that there is this huge, emotional things, swelling in us at all times that can make [01:12:00] a lot of things right.
For a lot of people. And I think I'm just less and less of the opinion that there's going to ever be a unified thought, but rather there's going to be great, great points. And we got up navigate those houses. We see fit. It'd be great if someone could come in and just drop the definitive truth on us once and for all.
But I don't see that as that, that
Adam Grant: tracks really nicely with one of my all time favorite academic papers, which I don't know that anyone is going to want to read, but it was as I think back in. The mid seventies, Warren thorn gay wrote this brilliant paper where he said no theory of human and social behavior could ever be simultaneously simple general and accurate.
You said you've got to be accurate, but the theory about people that's non-negotiable accuracy has to happen. Right. So, so we're going to take truth and then you have a choice. You're either going to be simple, but then you can't generalize it to a lot of people or a lot of cultures, or you're going to be general, but you're going to have to be very complex and have [01:13:00] lots of different pieces.
And that's, that's basically the world view that you've arrived at. It sounds like.
Dax Shepard: Yeah. Well, and you've raised children, right? So at first, like, let's say still work at it. Okay. We're all, we're in the process of raising children. And at first I'll hear something like the right technique and I'm like, Oh, that's intriguing.
Let me hear about, Oh, okay. Part I like about it is I'm not searching for outside validation at all times. And that sounds encouraging and blah, blah, blah. But then I'm like, well, we should want outside validation. That's how we function. That's how we need feedback. We need to, I don't want my kid to be solely, uh, self assured at all times.
That's not, I don't think that's healthy, but that's not even my point. My point is you have one kid. I had a system, she did everything just as she was supposed to, it was going great. I could have written a book. Second kid comes along opposite. None of them will work. It's garbage. It would not yield any results.
And what I realized is like, Any parenting book, that's not including every single approach to a child is [01:14:00] insufficient. There is there, there is not a way to raise a kid and there's not all way to be married and there's not a winner. There's no a way to anything. And that's very, that makes us very uncomfortable and I get it, but that we need to accept that.
Adam Grant: Oh, I love that. That's I mean, that's a life philosophy right there to say, I am definitive about being non definitive and maybe, maybe there are wrong ways, but there's not one right way.
MUX / AD BREAK
Adam Grant: Welcome back to WorkLife, and more of my conversation with Dax Shepard. We want to go to it with a lightning round. I've got a bunch of rapid fire questions for you. Can you give me one word or one sentence max?
Dax Shepard: This is my kryptonite, but I'll try.
Adam Grant: I know. That's why I'm [00:21:00] bringing it. You said you liked being embarrassed. Okay. First thing is you mentioned employee of the month as one of your three most fun things you've done, right? Uh, what are the other two?
Dax Shepard: Uh, hit and run and Parenthood. Ah, I was with kids for six months straight.
And they're lovely kids, but you know, adult peers are fun to work with.
Adam Grant: Um, I'm glad you didn't say Paw patrol also because now I have your voice in my head singing paw patrol, which of course our kids love. Uh, is there a show or movie you wish you'd been cast in?
Dax Shepard: Oh yeah, several. Um, Uh, Peaky blinders, uh, Sopranos.
I would have been a waiter. I would have done nothing across, just give me a cross. I wanted to cross so bad in game of Thrones. Just put me in that outfit. Let me walk in the background. I didn't want much, they were, I thought they were very humble aspirations.
Adam Grant: So [00:22:00] disappointing. Uh, who are the guests you most want to have on armchair expert, but have not succeeded in recruiting yet?
Dax Shepard: Donald Glover and Obama.
Adam: Okay. But Which Obama?
Dax: Oh, good question. Uh, Barry.
Adam Grant: All right. [00:23:00] What about—
Dax Shepard: I'd love Michelle. I would love Michelle as well, but I have a whole father figure thing. So I would love to get, I want his approval very bad in a fatherly way. I, I
Adam Grant: respect that. Is there a biggest regret you have?
Dax Shepard: You know, I'm a part of this call AA. So I, I don't, I have a hard time seeing things as regret. Um, I have, I have guilt over things and then I apologize for those things and I try to change my behavior, but I don't, I don't have shame and I don't, I have regret, but I cannot imagine living. Daily with an error you made 10 years ago is productive in any fashion whatsoever.
Assuming that after you made the error, you addressed it and made an amend and then changed your behavior.
Adam Grant: Yeah. I think the whole point of feeling regret, just like any negative emotion is for it to become a teachable moment. And then you can say, Oh, I didn't like that feeling. What can I learn from that?
And how do I avoid it in the future?
Dax Shepard: Yeah. But to walk around all the time, like, Oh, I really regret selling that stock. It's like, okay, well [00:24:00] now what a waste of your day today?
Adam Grant: Yeah, that's kind of sad. And that, that goes to one more lightning round question, which is your anti regrets. Is there a bad piece of career advice you've gotten that you're glad you didn't follow?
Dax Shepard: No, this just came up the other day on, uh, on, on our show and it was, um, at one point. Adam Sandler told me that I got in too good of shape for a movie I did. And that comedians shouldn't be in good shape. And he was right. He was a hundred percent, right. That is really great advice for a committee, but it, it turned out that I just kept being mean.
This other thing happened that I liked just as much as if I had become Adam Sandler. So it was great advice, but I just kept on the me train and it has worked out thus far.
Adam Grant: That is a perfect segue to our audience questions. We have a mix of pre submitted and also live audience questions. So I think Kat and I are going to alternate.
Uh, let me start, uh, we have a skinny Canadian who pre-submitted, uh, his name [00:25:00] is Malcolm Gladwell. No. Yeah, he, he actually sent a detailed question. Here it is. Malcolm says, Dax, you described yourself as a second rate comedian. Do you think that makes you a better interviewer, a better husband, a better person.
In other words, is there a price that great comedians pay to be great that might not be worth it?
Dax Shepard: Yeah, I've um, I've been lucky enough to meet a lot of the great ones and there seems to be a disappointing correlation with just general happiness. Um, I think being the greatest is a very, very lonely place to occupy.
I think it can be an isolating experience to be recognized as the greatest and you have less and less people that you feel like you that understand you. And all of those things to me, uh, are, are antithetical to community. The things that I think make you feel happy. So, yeah, I'm delighted to be a middle rung comedian about at a party.
I'll go toe to toe with anyone, for what that's worth. Turn a camera on [00:26:00] me, Jim, Carrie's going to blow me out of the water, but you get me at a dinner party. It's going to be a good time when the
world opens up.
Adam Grant: I'm in. All right. If you can hear us and clubhouse, cat is going to ask a question. Hey,
Kat Cole: Dax, uh, I would like to bridge from what you both just said, that topic of.
Loneliness and given where the world is and has been over the last year with people in isolation, what is a moment that was deeply lonely for you? And what were the beginnings of coming out of that?
Dax Shepard: Um, in quarantine specific or in my life. Um, I can give you two. When I left Detroit and move to California the first year and a half, I was here.
I didn't know people. I didn't have my tribe, all the things that were cool and Detroit were not cool here. Uh, I was too aggressive. I thought fist fights were cool. I mean, I was, uh, I was not [00:27:00] a good match with LA for a while and I felt very lonely from that. And then. I'd say the total may dear of, of loneliness for me is, is, um, is addiction when I've got tons of secrets and I'm juggling 55 lies to all the people I love.
Um, and yeah, and I really can't talk to anybody. Uh, I can't tell the truth to anybody or I'll be found out and I'll have to quit again. I think for me, uh, when you're in the deep throes of addiction, it's, it's the loneliest. You can be.
Adam Grant: Well, Dax, that goes to one of our other pre-submitted questions from, uh, a surgeon general recently reappointed the Vedic Murthy.
Dax Shepard: Oh my God. Well, look, this is all star cast. You've assembled. I just, I just wasted like lotions. Ocean's 11 of podcasting. I just went to your former guests.
Adam Grant: But Vic says that society often tells us it's the strong who are worthy and being strong. It's about how [00:28:00] independent you are, how little you need others and not letting your emotion shifts.
What does being strong mean to you, especially as a parent wanting your kids to be strong. How do you talk to your kids about cultivating true strength?
Dax Shepard: It's, it's embarrassing how much I abided by the, the, the definition of masculinity I inherited, where I did think all those things that, that any, any need of help was weakness and, uh, And I lived that way for a very long time, but I did start noticing that the people I thought were the bravest people I've ever heard.
I can think immediately of this guy, Jason Ellis, who was on Howard stern, he's an MMA fighter, X skateboard, uh, X games winner. And he shared about me molested by his father for years and years and how he still loved his father greatly and how complicated that is. And I remember thinking, man, this is.
Braver than any backflip I've seen on a [00:29:00] motorcycle. It's braver than what Mike Tyson does in the ring. It's it's, it's so brave and I've, I've come to kind of fetish size that, that layer of bravery to me, that's now how I define like apex masculinity is someone who's strong enough to. Be vulnerable and admit fears that that takes the, it takes way more than swinging your fist at somebody.
I've just come to recognize that Kat.
Adam Grant: You, you ready for some live audience questions?
Dax: I am.
Kat Cole: Let's see, we've got a rough Hoff for who's coming up. There's real Hoff.
Adam Grant: Welcome digital anthropologist Rahaf Harfoush
Rahaf Harfoush: Hey guys. Ah, was, um, my question was actually, uh, in reference to something that you just said in passing, which is, uh, when you were auditioning and it had been eight years that you were auditioning for stuff and not getting callbacks.
[00:30:00] And I was just curious as to how you were thinking about, you know, The hopes that you had for your careers, were you rethinking, uh, was there like a timeline that could given to yourself that if exit happened, you would quit? Like I'm it's eight years seems like a long time to be so like determined. So I was just really curious as to how you thought about that as that time went on.
Dax Shepard: That's a great question. And, and it was horrific. It was absolutely horrific. Cause at that time I was 28, so that represented 33% of my life had been getting rejected and not making money. And I had also graduated from college with a degree. And most of the people I knew were buying speed boats and going on vacation.
And it was a, it was super depressing. And I think it was one of the, you know, several components of why I was escaping so much, um, In my substance abuse, it was, it was brutal. But the thing that, that kept me going, and this is so anti [00:31:00] inspirational, but it, but it is the truth, which is I never had any illusion I was going to succeed.
I simply had a belief that I would, I would hate myself for not trying that I would, I'd rather be miserable, failing at this thing. Then I, then I would be succeeding at something I didn't love. And that's really what kept me at it.
Adam Grant: Dax. I love hearing, hearing you say that, that you were more afraid of failing to try than you were failing.
Kat Cole: Coming up to ask a question Amir. Welcome.
Amir: Hi guys. Thanks for having me. Um, Dax, I have noticed in all of your strong opinions and perspectives, you also have illuminated the ways in which we are open to change or shifting. So, you know, the fandom of Adam A. Little bit, I'm curious. What, since the pandemic, have you found yourself thinking again about as either a partner [00:32:00] or a parent?
Dax Shepard: Okay, Mir uh, thank you for that question. Uh, let me start by saying that the, the, the pandemic was brutal. We've been very open about this. We, we, we had two different moments in the last year, or like, do we want to do either? I mean, it was, uh, as I've said, we, we, we were a well-oiled machine at seeing each other three hours a day that we did that perfectly, but 24 seven was a huge adjustment.
And I'll say the thing that got me out of it was, I literally had to say to myself while standing next to her in the bathroom at night, while we were brushing our teeth, that is a human right there. That is a human who has feelings, who needs love, and approval and attention. And she's not a co-parenting robot that I am bound to through this contract, because you can start feeling that boy, uh, for anyone who's raised [00:33:00] kids with someone, I think it's a pretty relatable feeling.
And just reminding myself that there's a real person in there. It sounds so silly, but I forget, I, I often just see her is. Uh, opposition to how I want to parent or opposition to what meal I want to eat that night. So. The more I could approach her with the compassion. I wanted her to approach me with the better things went and, um, and look, I didn't do well.
I, I relapsed in, in, in, um, in quarantine. So the whole year was, was, was, uh, there was a ton going on. So I don't know that I navigated it also successfully, but I am here, uh, and I'm six months sober. So, so, uh, you know, I, I made it.
Kat Cole: Well, congratulations on your sobriety and thank you so much for your candor.
Let me, uh, let me call up a former armchair guest, Liz.
That’s the journalist and author Liz Plank.
Liz Plank: Ok! I love your podcast. Particularly I'm such a fan of the way that you talk about men and, and, and to men, and, you know, as a person that is kind of obsessed with. Masculinity and how we have inclusive, uh, and productive, um, conversations about masculinity.
I think you are one of the very few people that is actually able to talk about masculinity without ever seeing the word masculinity. And they think that you use language that is. Like so disarming and ex and, and accessible is not the right term because [00:37:00] sometimes people say that about me and I'm like, you just mean, I don't sound, but that's not what I'm saying.
It's like, you, you, you just have a way of talking about things without, um, yeah. Just without people feeling like you have an agenda or that you have a specific political perspective. So I guess I'm curious, like, What is the biggest mistake and you can be really, uh, I'm like, Adam, I love direct honesty.
Like, even if it's about the way that I talked about it, like, what do you think is the biggest mistake that we make? Um, and, and particularly maybe Progressive's make when they, when they talk about masculinity.
Dax Shepard: Um, my number one complaint about it is that there doesn't seem to be. An equal acknowledgement that we suffer enormously from it.
Like it's of course women are so often the victim of this terrible definition of masculinity and rightly so, um, you know, th- that [00:38:00] they are generally, they're going to be the victims of domestic abuse. They're going to be the victims of sexual assault. There are th- that, that is all very, very true. We are also the victims of it.
We, we, we, uh, whether it's those things happen to us, which is, has happened to me or, um, the feeling that you're, you're never living up to it, that you haven't achieved it, that you're a failure. Like it it's, I wish it was approached that this, this definition we have is just unilaterally destructive for all of us.
And I think that would help. People be less defensive. And I know there's a big movement to go, Oh, we don't need to worry about people being defensive that's on them. You can have that opinion, but I don't believe any progress will be made. So I think you have to start by saying like, Ho, how could we have this conversation with the people didn't get defensive, like their gender was on trial.
And I think the way we do that is like, I just share with you how it's hurt me and all the, I mean, I [00:39:00] forgot 85 surgeries because I'm trying to make dudes think I'm cool on motorcycles. I mean, physical damage and then emotional damage. And, um, and yeah, so I think that would be. What I wish was more, a part of the conversation is like almost approaching it.
Like we're going to help you men liberate yourself from this thing because you deserve that as well. I think that would just be helpful.
Liz Plank: I love that a genderless revolution, the dog, all the genders. Thank you, dad.
Dax Shepard: I love you. I follow you on Instagram. It's so fun. You're the funnest follow on Instagram.
Everyone should follow you.
Adam Grant: I just want, I just want to build on a little bit, uh, what, what you were saying in response to Liz. So you're, you're talking about precarious manhood, right? The idea that it's, it's really hard to win masculinity, but it's very easy to lose it. And so we have to go proving it over and over again. There's an aspect of that that I think is a [00:40:00] hell of a lot easier for you.
Than most men. Right? So you're six, three, you're married to Kristin bell. You have this super successful career. And I don't think you face the same pressure to prove your masculinity that most men do. What do you say to the rest of us?
Dax Shepard: I totally agree with you. And I almost brought that up to own that in, in Liz's question, which is, yeah, I'm in this crazy privileged position where I can.
Be vulnerable because I'm big. I have fought a bunch of people. I do ride motorcycles. I do all this hyper-masculine stuff that I feel like buys me the cover fire to talk about getting molested or talk about whatever the things are I talk about that are really hard for guys to do. I, yeah, I had to do all this other crap to feel confident enough to do it.
Now mind you. I did it in high school. I wore like I wore, I wore French braids in my hair. I wore the Tutu in the school thing. Like I was always trying my hardest to push against this thing, but yeah, it's not [00:41:00] super fair for me to say to some other guy that doesn't have all these outward accomplishments of generic masculinity to just open up and be as confident and trusting that their peers won't ridicule them.
It is way easier for me to do. Then for a lot of guys out there and I'm very cognizant of that. Um, but again, like the Adam Sandler thing, I can't, I am me. I like these things. I do these things. And so that's the package. It's all in.
Adam Grant: That is, that's an amazing place to land for this conversation. Uh, I want to first thank Kat as always for amazing hosting and moderating.
I want to thank everyone on stage, who was with us before and now. I'm and Dax, especially. I want to thank you for coming to clubhouse and agreeing to do this live podcast. Recording together.
Dax Shepard: Thank you, Adam. I'll add this to the list of [00:42:00] thanks that I give you. Uh, this was a ton of fun and I would be happy to do it many more times with you.
Adam Grant: Take care of everybody.
Liz Plank: we love her.
Next Time on WorkLife: what if we let people set their own salaries?
Ricardo: And so we said, here's what everybody makes. Here's what you would make somewhere else. Here's what we make as a profit, put that together with the other two and set your own salary.
By rethinking pay, we can do what’s right for employees and what’s best for the bottom line.
WorkLife is part of the TED Audio Collective. The show is hosted by me, Adam Grant, and produced by TED with Transmitter Media. Our team includes Colin Helms, Gretta Cohn, Dan O’Donnell, Constanza Gallardo, JoAnn DeLuna, Grace Rubenstein, Michelle Quint, Banban Cheng and Anna Phelan. Thanks to Jess Shane for production assistance.
And for all the ArmCherries, let’s call up one more audience member.
Monica Padman: Hi, I, um, I just want to start by saying I love the good place and I love your wife's so much. Uh, he's a big hero of mine. Um, I do have a question, but actually it's for it's for—
Adam Grant: Hi Monica, who do you like more Dax or me?
Monica: Listen, I love Dax more than you, but I like you more than Dax. How about that?
Um, but for real, uh, we have a debate that I need you to weigh in on badly. So would, do you think Dax can perform a surgery? A full-blown real surgery by watching one YouTube video? Well, wondering on why over and over and over again, let's be clear about the like on yourself. Okay. No, on somebody else, a knee surgery.
Dax: I think that sounds like a horrible idea.
Monica: Thank you. That's all.