Jennifer Garner realizes her hidden potential (Transcript)

Listen along

WorkLife with Adam Grant
Jennifer Garner realizes her hidden potential
January 9, 2024

[00:00:00] Adam Grant:
Hey everyone, it's Adam Grant. I'm in the midst of my book tour for Hidden Potential. The day before my LA event, the host, Rainn Wilson, got COVID and had to cancel. Jennifer Garner kindly volunteered to step in, and the conversation was fun and surprising in more ways than I can count. The outpouring of feedback from the audience afterwards sent a clear message: you have to make this into a podcast.

So we did. You've probably admired Jen's range on screen—from spy and superhero in Alias and Elektra, to dramatic roles in Juno and Dallas Buyer's Club, to comedic prowess in 13 Going on 30 and Family Switch. I've been a fan since her early days on Felicity and in Dude, Where’s My Car. And more recently of her impact in advocating for children and in co-founding an organic baby food company, Once Upon a Farm.

Jen has won a Golden Globe for her acting, but as you're about to hear, she's every bit as talented in improv.

I do have a text from Rainn, he says, “The truth is I canceled tonight because I couldn't get through your book.” Thank you, Rainn Wilson. Um, I felt like we should line up a surprise guest to take Rainn's place. So, this morning I s-sent a Hail Mary to somebody I've admired for, I don't know, 25 years, who I've never met in person, who wrote back within an hour and said, “I got you.” And rearranged, uh, a very, very busy schedule, post-strike, uh, in order to come here.

Now, I should say this person is no Dwight Schrute. Um, has never sold paper to my knowledge, but, uh, could destroy Dwight in a martial arts competition, judging by several roles this person has mastered. And also in addition to being a brilliant award-winning actor is one of the only humans I've ever met with a heart as big as Rainn’s. So ladies and gentlemen, thank you for coming tonight and please welcome Jennifer Garner.


[00:02:27] Jennifer Garner:
Hi! Hello! Thank you. That’s so nice! Thank you. Thank you. Hi, well, I'm Jen.

[00:02:33] Adam Grant:
Hi, Adam. Great to meet you.

[00:02:39] Jennifer Garner:
Hi. Hi. Nice to meet you.

[00:02:41] Adam Grant:
Um, eat that Rainn Wilson.

[00:02:43] Jennifer Garner:
Yeah. My gosh, I'm such a fan of his, how about his book, Rainn Wilson's book? The, what was it? The book?

[00:02:50] Adam Grant:
Soul Boom.

[00:02:51] Jennifer Garner:
Soul Boom. I loved the, I loved his book.

[00:02:52] Adam Grant:
I loved it until he canceled, but I still love it. I still love it.

[00:02:56] Jennifer Garner:
Well, um, your book, Adam, you see, I've come out with all of my, my stuff. Your book has a lot to do with discomfort, and I just feel like I should be celebrated as the person who is the most uncomfortable in the room because the time I've spent with this book was the time it took me to drive from the Westside, but you know what? We're gonna be fine, you guys, just hang in. We've got Adam Grant here.

[00:03:29] Adam Grant:
You, you know, I, I, I understand. Thank you all. I understand that someone melted the freeway to give you extra reading time, which I didn't even know was a thing. It's great to be in LA.

[00:03:41] Jennifer Garner:
Yeah, we can invent all kinds of ways to fuck up your day.

[00:03:48] Adam Grant:
Wait, Jennifer Garner swears? This is—

[00:03:52] Jennifer Garner:
Only a, okay. Don't let it leave this room. Okay. Okay? I have a, I have a reputation to uphold here. Um, you know what, I'm gonna dive in. Okay guys? ’Cause I'll feel better once I've asked a legitimate question. So bear with me. We're just gonna dive in. You start off, 'cause I did read the prologue. [laughter] Something you said early on really hit. [laughter]

It's great. Don't worry. Okay. Ahh. It’s, it’s, it says you are able, somebody was able to predict the success that students achieved as adults simply by looking at who taught their kindergarten class. That's so cool. Kindergarten teachers are amazing. You just see 'em like tying shoes and wiping noses and counting lost teeth, and, but they're, they're amazing.

So, te—can I ask you please? Adam Grant, um, why, what is special? What is it about kindergarten teachers? And tell us about your kindergarten teacher. 'Cause they must have been bang up.

[00:05:07] Adam Grant:
Thank you. I think? Okay. So let's, let's start with the data. So a great team of economists, they show that the more experienced kindergarten teachers set you up for adult success not by teaching you cognitive skills first and foremost, not by math and reading, which they convey, but the edge they give you in that wears off over time. What they really instilled that matters is our character skills. Um, they teach you to be proactive and pro-social and disciplined and determined. I don't know, my kindergarten teacher’s Sarita Baghdad.

[00:05:35] Jennifer Garner:

[00:05:35] Adam Grant:
Um, I, I remember being really mad. We had to do a career day and uh, everyone wanted the football player, and I got the young executive. And I had to walk in with a briefcase. And I, I walked, I walked in like a, I looked like a Muppet. I forgot the briefcase. And I had to be reminded to go back and it was mortifying. And that was the beginning of my fear of public speaking.

[00:05:58] Jennifer Garner:
Was it really?

[00:05:58] Adam Grant:

[00:05:59] Jennifer Garner:
Wow. Well, I don't wanna freak you out, but there's some people here tonight listening to you speak. How did you become comfortable? Was it because of your kindergarten teacher? No. It doesn't sound like it.

[00:06:12] Adam Grant:
No. What makes you think I'm comfortable? You're claiming to be uncomfortable, but you do this for a living. Jen, come on.

[00:06:20] Jennifer Garner:
I don't do this for a living. I learned my lines, dude. I don't, this is, this is not how I show up to set, but, um, okay. Yeah. So I do this for a living, but tell me…


[00:06:33] Adam Grant:
You are so much edgier than you claim to be. I love it. Okay. So yeah, I, I did get more, I got less uncomfortable. Can we go with that?

[00:06:41] Jennifer Garner:

[00:06:41] Adam Grant:
Okay. So I was, it was my first semester of grad school. I realized I'm supposed to be a professor. Professor's profess. I should probably learn to get over my fear of public speaking. And I went through all of college where if I even thought about raising my hand, I would literally start to shake. And so I felt like I had to do something about it. And I asked a bunch of my friends if they would let me give guest lectures in their classes. I was able to do a few of these. It was really uncomfortable for a long time and it, I guess that was foreshadowing because, I don't know, three, four years later, I was in my mid twenties and I got asked by, um, the Air Force to teach a four-hour class on motivation. But I'm terrified. These people are gonna be twice my age and they all have, um, like scary Top Gun nicknames.

[00:07:22] Jennifer Garden:

[00:07:22] Adam Grant:
Uh, they have thousands of flying hours.

[00:07:25] Jennifer Garner:
And bars. They wear bars on their, you know. Yeah.

[00:07:27] Adam Grant:
Yeah. I, I have no business, but I, I, they asked me to do it. So I show up and I, I literally pour everything I know into four hours. And then—

[00:07:34] Jennifer Garner:
Four hours. Dude, that's a lot of public speaking. Okay.

[00:07:37] Adam Grant:
It, it was a lot of time. But there were only, there were like 50 of them and I got the feedback forms afterward, and, and they were less kind than the students. One of the generals wrote, “More knowledge in the audience than on the podium.” And I was like, “Facts”.

[00:07:53] Jennifer Garner:
Well… Yeah. That's not obviously, I mean, come on. So what did you learn from practicing and getting feedback? You changed your approach right?

[00:08:05] Adam Grant:
A little bit.

[00:08:04] Jennifer Garner:
So, yeah.

[00:08:05] Adam Grant:
Yeah. Well, okay. There, so the thing—

[00:08:06] Jennifer Garner:
You think we're still early days?

[00:08:08] Adam Grant:
Yeah, I mean—

[00:08:09] Jennifer Garner:
I'm still up to date.

[00:08:12] Adam Grant:
The thing, the thing that, that, uh, that I think really moved the needle from me was the, the one colonel who wrote, “I gained nothing from this session, but I trust the instructor got useful insight.” [explosion noise]
So here's the problem. I wanted to quit, but I had a, uh, I had committed to do a second session for a different group in the Air Force, and I only had a week. I didn't have time to reboot my content. I couldn't change really any of it except the way I introduced myself. So I asked everybody, um, at the session that I could find, like, “What is the one thing I can do better next time?”

And they said, all of them said, “Change the way you introduce yourself.” Like you're as this kid, you're trying to establish your credentials, you're trying to prove your expertise. And like in the room, if you look around, Striker and Sand Dune were having none of it.

[00:08:58] Jennifer Garner:

[00:09:00] Adam Grant:
So, so you gotta do something about this. And I'm like, “Alright, what do I do?” So I—

[00:09:04] Jennifer Garner:
You like a movie joke here. You can keep that coming. Okay.

[00:09:07] Adam Grant:
Uh, that, that by the way has exhausted all my pop culture knowledge. So, uh, but there are some people in the audience who can help with that, I hope. And maybe, maybe you can too.

[00:09:15] Jennifer Garner:
Yeah. I don't know.

[00:09:15] Adam Grant:
Uh, anyway, long story short. I walked in the next week and did what went against every fiber of my being. I said, “Um, I've gotta, I've gotta call out the elephant in the room and admit that I don't know what the hell I'm doing.” So I walked in, I looked out at the audience, all these stone faced, uh, senior military officers, and I said, “Look, I know what you all are thinking right now. What could I possibly learn from a professor who's 12 years old?”


They did not find that amusing at all. At all. [laughter] And then after what felt like an eternity, one of them said, “Ah, ridiculous. You gotta be at least 13.” And that broke the ice. And I had a completely different interaction with them, and the feedback was much more positive. And I learned that it's much better to admit what I don't know than to claim that I know a lot of stuff.
[00:10:08] Jennifer Garner:
Hmm. Oh wow. Okay. That's a good one. You got us there, didn't you, pal? Okay, great, great, great.

[00:10:16] Adam Grant:
Wait a minute. Okay, so Jen, let me, let me, uh, let me turn this around on you because—

[00:10:19] Jennifer Garner:

[00:10:20] Adam Grant:
Uh, you told me backstage that you are, you are somebody who, uh, has frequently put yourself in uncomfortable situations.

[00:10:30] Jennifer Garner:

[00:10:30] Adam Grant:
I wanna hear more about that. I wanna hear about that in acting. I also wanna hear about learning to ski as an adult.

[00:10:34] Jennifer Garner:
Um, I feel that way at work all the time. I mean, I think probably a lot of us do where we, we are terrified and that's why we take the job and then we get there and we think, “Why did I do this?” And you spend kind of half of your time getting your feet under you and feeling like that I'm in over my head. But—

[00:10:52] Adam Grant:
Wait, did you feel that way on Felicity? Wait, are, is anyone in the audience also old enough to have watched Felicity in college? Okay. My wife and I both love that show and we've been fans of yours ever since we watched it.

[00:11:03] Jennifer Garner:
Oh my gosh. Good old Hannah. I just re-watched it, um, recently 'cause there's a Felicity podcast that I needed to know what I had done to talk about it. And um—

[00:11:15] Adam Grant:
Do you have notes?

[00:11:18] Jennifer Garner:
Yes, as a matter of fact. But yes, of course I felt that way. I felt, I, I just, I always do. I don't think I ever don’t. I think that's what keeps me interested is that I will never perfect it, like men feel about golf or some people feel about golf. You know, I'll never fully. There, I know enough things to feel like, okay, I can master how to do this. Like if there's a hallway and there's a door and you want me to enter the door and look back over my shoulder at camera just before I enter the door to tell you, “Hey, I'm sneaking,” I can do that better than anyone.
I've got that down. That spy kind of stuff? I can do it. But, um, other than that, I always feel, uh, off my rocker, but no, I, I learned to ski at 40.

[00:12:03] Adam Grant:
Um, I have this image of you, like, going on the ski slope for the first time and being like, what would Sydney Bristow do?

[00:12:09] Jennifer Garner:
Sydney really changed me as a person because she had so much more bravado than I did, and she was, she believed in herself in a way that I, I don't know that I did at that age, at that time. Yeah. Walking like her, it, it affected me. It gave me more confidence. But anyway, we're here to talk about you, so—

[00:12:29] Adam Grant:
I have more questions. But keep going.

[00:12:31] Jennifer Garner:
Okay. Okay. Okay. Can we talk about the, the process of writing itself and the process, and just the stumble, the block of procrastination? I mean, how… do you procrastinate? What does it look like for you? What's the way past it? What's the magic bullet?

[00:12:46] Adam Grant:
I've gone on the record saying I'm not a procrastinator. I'm the opposite. I'm a precrastinator. When I have a deadline, I'm finishing at least three months early, maybe six months early, and…

[00:12:58] Jennifer Garner:
Us too, right? Yeah.

[00:13:00] Adam Grant:
No, no, no. Wait. This is, this is not as great as it seems. One, because, um, it made me a really annoying college roommate, I, I learned, the hard way. And two, um, it kills creativity because you rush in with your first idea instead of waiting for your best idea. Um, and a, a, an amazing PhD student named Jihae Shin had to do the research to prove to me that I was stifling my own creativity by doing things early.

Um, but I think more importantly, I learned while writing this book that I was wrong. I am not always a precrastinator. There are things I procrastinate on, and, um, one of them is editing. I hate editing more than any other part of my job. I feel like I've already figured out the idea. I know the study, I've captured the story, like, this, I’m like on the one yard line. And that extra bit takes a ton of work and I don't care about it, but I know the reader does. I hate that.

[00:13:48] Jennifer Garner:
Mm-Hmm. So what do you do?

[00:13:51] Adam Grant:
So the, the editing thing I really struggle with is, um, is imagery. Like, I am way too cognitive and abstract, and I need to get the vividness and the story and the emotion and I need to over-index on that.

And, um, normally I just find that really boring and repetitive and stressful. And this time what I did was I, um, I tried to impersonate different, uh, different writers that I admire and, um, write in their voice. So one morning I got up and I was like, "Okay, I'm gonna rewrite this paragraph from the voice of Maya Angelou.”

[00:14:18] Jennifer Garner:
Wow. Really?

[00:14:19] Adam Grant:
I picked a bunch of my favorite fiction writers who are really good at that kind of imagery, and I thought to myself, “Okay, um, can I write the John Green version of this? Can I write the Maggie Smith version of this?” And that is a really good exercise 'cause it forces me to enjoy editing, and it makes it fun and playful.

[00:14:34] Jennifer Garner:
And would you find something in there that you could use? Or did it just unlock you going back in your own voice?

[00:14:41] Adam Grant:
Yeah, I think in a lot of cases what it's done is it's allowed me to step outside of my hyperlinear, like, “let me give this the academic treatment” and into the “let's be a little more playful and let's, uh, let's tell a story that may not have a perfect resolution.”

[00:14:57] Jennifer Garner:
Okay. Very cool. Um, so thinking about that, how much of a perfectionist are you? You know, everybody has their own struggles with it. I, I always say I am not type A, I'm type Z. I forget things. I send the kids to school without the very homework that I was supposed to sign that they said they took care of and said, “Mom, please sign.” And then I sign it, and I leave it in the wrong room. You know, like I just am not… But at the same time, I think I might be a little bit of a perfectionist sometimes and get in my own way. So can you talk about that? When has perfectionism mucked with you?

[00:15:32] Adam Grant:
I can try. So, uh, I was really excited to write this chapter 'cause I felt like I had transcended perfectionism. Turns out I'm still in recovery. Uh, I, one of the ways I discovered it was I, I wrote a little, um, a little quiz that people could take to figure out how they scored on the different character skills in the book. And as you always do when you write an assessment, you take it yourself. And I took it, and my lowest score was on accepting imperfections. D’oh!

I failed my own test. I could have, I, I knew what the questions were. I still could not do it. So this is really embarrassing. Um, so I think when it first, it first got me in trouble was when I was a springboard diver, um, which was also a bad choice of sports because I was afraid of heights.

[00:16:17] Jennifer Garner:
So you decide to be a diver, and what, what was it, just, can you tell us about your coach and about what was special about him and perfectionism and other things that take up some time?


[00:16:37] Adam Grant:
Uh, I, I feel like we're done.

[00:16:40] Jennifer Garner:

[00:16:41] Adam Grant:
Uh, yes, I certainly could. So… I had an exceptional coach, Eric Best, when I would stand at the end of the board frozen, he would ask me, “Um, Adam, are you gonna do this dive?” And I remember being like, “Ever?” Like, yes, of course. One day I will do this dive. And he is like, “Great. Then what are you waiting for?”

I have heard that voice in my head every single time I've been afraid to try something new. When I was hesitating to write my first book, I heard Eric's voice, “Are you gonna write this book one day?” Yes. “Then what are you waiting for?”

[00:17:12] Jennifer Garner:
The lessons of coaches and teachers, aren't they amazing? And it, they seem to be able to impart those character lessons better than anyone. Like, my ballet teacher growing up, I was never ever gonna be a dancer, but she did work so hard and was so much integrity that it made me feel like, well, I just want her to be impressed by me. That just a little bit. Not, I knew I couldn't impress her with my dance, but that she saw, I mean, you know, facts, but just that she saw that I cared enough. Right?

[00:17:45] Adam Grant:
That’s amazing.

[00:17:46] Jennifer Garner:
And you talk about that, those, those soft skills. What are the other ones?

[00:17:49] Adam Grant:
Well, I, I actually want to call out something that I think is really powerful in this, in this example of yours, which is, I think so often parents think, “That’s on me.”

[00:17:58] Jennifer Garner:

[00:17:59] Adam Grant:
And the reality is that your kids usually don't want to hear it from you. First of all, they think that you're biased. Like, you have to tell me I'm special. And so they often discount it. And secondly, because they don't wanna be controlled by their parents, they often resist the very thing you're trying to motivate them to do. And I think one of the—

[00:18:16] Jennifer Garner:
It’s so frustrating.

[00:18:17] Adam Grant:
It is!

[00:18:18] Jennifer Garner:
Because you know, and they don't wanna listen.

[00:18:21] Adam Grant:
Well, or maybe you don't know and you think, you know, is the thing I always have to remind myself of.

[00:18:25] Jennifer Garner:
I know!

[00:18:27] Adam Grant:
But I feel very confident in my, in my knowledge. Yes. Uh, but I think so often what a, what a parent has to do is get outta the way and say, “Let me find that coach who's the right source for the message that I think is really important.”

[00:18:38] Jennifer Garner:
So how do you know when you find that coach? I mean, is it that they're fun? Is it that they are tough? Is it that, what, what is it that you look for?

[00:18:46] Adam Grant:
I don't know if there's one, one magic ingredient. I think from the, the Benjamin Bloom research, I think the most important thing is a first teacher or coach who makes learning fun. Um, that's what predicts better than anything, anything else that I know of that you can measure whether you go on to achieve greater in the future.

[00:19:03] Jennifer Garner:
In anything, whatever it is you're learning. Even piano.

[00:19:07] Adam Grant:
In anything. Yes, even piano. Did you not like the piano?

[00:19:10] Jennifer Garner:
Oh, damn it. No. No, but I find it really hard to convince children of mine the value in it, and I don't, I just don't understand. So then I decided if they, if they have that about something else that isn't piano, like, say, they have it about learning to solve a Rubik's cube or say they have it about, I don't know, all kinds of kid things, is that applicable? Is it?

[00:19:36] Adam Grant:

[00:19:36] Jennifer Garner:
It’s just having it, right?

[00:19:38] Adam Grant:
Yeah. It’s, I, I think the, so many parents, like, I think the Mozart effect is one of the worst things that's ever happened to parents. They're like, “Oh, my kid is only gonna, gonna become like really impressive and achieve whatever their potential is if they get into music.”

It's like, no, whatever the activity is, it's a Trojan horse. What you're smuggling in are a set of character skills. And I mean, honestly, Jen, I, I don't say this publicly generally, but I think before diving, like the best place for me learning character skills was video games. I know. Blasphemy, right?

[00:20:13] Jennifer Garner:
No one show this to my son. What? Why? What?

[00:20:19] Adam Grant:
Because you lose and it's really frustrating and you have to build the resilience and the grit to try again and then improve your skills and then you get reinforced for that and you level up and, like, I would sit there trying to beat the game.

[00:20:31] Jennifer Garner:

[00:20:32] Adam Grant:
And that, like, that's what I do as a writer now. I like, I have to sit there at the blinking cursor and try to defeat it. Same skill.

[00:20:40] Jennifer Garner:
What, pow! Okay. What were you playing? Was it Frogger?


[00:20:46] Adam Grant:
No. Uh, it started out with, uh, Super Mario Brothers of course, and then graduated to—

[Jennifer sings the Super Mario theme]

[00:20:57] Jennifer Garner:
Okay, go ahead.

[00:20:58] Adam Grant:
That… Yes.

[00:20:58] Jennifer Garner:
[00:20:59] Adam Grant:
Um, then it was Zelda, then it was, uh, Mario Kart and Mortal Kombat. Um…

[00:21:05] Jennifer Garner:
Mortal Kombat.

[00:21:06] Adam Grant:

[00:21:07] Jennifer Garner:
Yeah. First person shooter.

[00:21:09] Adam Grant:
It’s not a shooter, it's a fighter. Come on.

[00:21:10] Jennifer Garner:
I don't know. I don't want, I don't do these things. Okay. Alright. Alright.

[00:21:13] Adam Grant:
You literally, you literally have played Mortal Kombat characters almost multiple times. You did it on Alias, you did it in Daredevil, and you did it in Elektra. And some of us hope you will do it in the Marvel Cinematic Universe again.

[00:21:29] Jennifer Garner:
Mm. Interesting. Um, okay. Alright, that, well, you know what, that's a real key insight we just learned here about the video games.

[00:21:43] Adam Grant:
I, I have to tell you, I, I did a whole podcast on this last year 'cause so many parents, uh, were upset about the initial post. But, um, there's a really, a good set of meta-analyses, studies of studies, longitudinal studies and randomized controlled experiments showing that video games actually build willpower and self-control.

[00:22:01] Jennifer Garner:

[00:22:01] Adam Grant:
Surprise, surprise.

[00:22:02] Jennifer Garner:
You’re every 11-year-old boy's best friend.

[00:22:05] Adam Grant:
To be fair, I didn't have very many friends as an 11-year-old boy.

[00:22:08] Jennifer Garner:
Oh my gosh. Oh man. Wow. You can come—

[00:22:12] Adam Grant:
You shouldn't feel sad.

[00:22:12] Jennifer Garner:
You can hang with Sam Affleck anytime. Um, okay. So can you tell me, you know, as a big, big fan of up to page 73, what's your favorite story in the book?

[00:22:25] Adam Grant:
Favorite story in the book? Um, hard to argue with, uh, with the Raging Rooks and the prologue. I love them. I was even tempted to carry them through the whole book, but then I realized it's too much writing on one story. So…
[00:22:40] Jennifer Garner:
Well, the Raging Rooks are, they have main character energy. So tell us a little bit about them.

[00:22:44] Adam Grant:
Um, I think the main thing to know about them is, uh, their coach, Maurice Ashley, like, changed the way that I think about coaching. Uh, so Maurice took a, a bunch of poor racial minorities in Harlem. He helped them see more potential in themselves than anyone saw in them, including their parents and their teachers and them.

And um, one of the things he did that I thought was brilliant was he taught them chess. They were trying to learn chess against all these rich, ritzy private schools. He taught them chess backward. Instead of teaching like, okay, here's an opening move, like you can move your king's pawn up two squares. He would put a few pieces on the board and have them just try to checkmate.

And he said, “I don't care if they know how to play. What I want is for them to get the thrill of victory and the pain of defeat. And I want them to be motivated by feeling like they can win and motivated by the fact that they just lost. And once you have that satisfaction, then, and also that frustration, then you can rewind and start learning the skills to get the game going.” I thought that was ingenious and I think that everything should be taught endgame first.

[00:23:45] Jennifer Garner:
So good. It's so good.

[00:23:47] Adam Grant:
You think so?

[00:23:48] Jennifer Garner:
And they won.

[00:23:49] Adam Grant:
They did win.

[00:23:49] Jennifer Garner:

[00:23:50] Adam Grant:
Uh, which was one of my favorite parts of the story, but I think the, the interesting part, which we won't spoil here is why they won. Can Jen, can I ask you, why did you say yes to this? Because I, no, I don't mean it that way. I, I don't, I don’t. What I, what I mean is I didn't even know we were friends. And, and you said, like, “Of course I would do this for a friend. And I was just blown away by your kindness.”

[00:24:18] Jennifer Garner:
You really were helpful to me.

[00:24:20] Adam Grant:

[00:24:20] Jennifer Garner:
Do you remember that?

[00:24:21] Adam Grant:
I did nothing.

[00:24:22] Jennifer Garner:
Yes you did. We had a phone call. I was trying to figure out how to give a TED talk as an un—yet given TED talk about—

[00:24:29] Adam Grant:
Still gonna happen one day.

[00:24:29] Jennifer Garner:
Rural poverty in the United States and, um, you took time to help a stranger and to talk to me for a really long time and talk me through it, and then I think we spoke again and then emailed. I mean, that's friendship, right, guys? And I feel like if you're gonna give a yes, give a yes right away. You know, just be a full on “You got it”.

[00:24:53] Adam Grant:
But you, I mean, I think you've, you've invested what, five or six hours just to do this?

[00:24:56] Jennifer Garner:
That's okay. It's totally my pleasure. And now I got to be with all you guys, and now I've, I'm well into an awesome book that, and I—

[00:25:06] Adam Grant:
Rationalizing your decision right here. Uh, no, I just, um, I, I was really stunned. You are one of the rare people who's actually more impressive up close than from a distance.

[00:25:18] Jennifer Garner:
Oh my gosh. You look so nice. Thank you. That's, that's undeserved and very kind. Can I ask you another question about your book? Are we done talking about me?

[00:25:27] Adam Grant:
Uh, if you want to.

[00:25:28] Jennifer Garner:
Okay. I do. I have more. I have more questions. So if you were, um, if you were designing a school, your perfect school. What would it look like? What would be different about it than, than what we have now?

[00:25:39] Adam Grant:
I'd reverse the trend for kindergarten to be more like first grade and I'd make kindergarten more like recess.

[00:25:47] Jennifer Garner:
Oh yeah. I would even say before that I would add, ploop ploop ploop ploop, all the way down to babies to mommy and me to ba—universal. Moving your way up to very early preschool, uh, childcare. Can we just say that if with like, if wishes grew on trees, high quality early education, high quality childcare so that moms could, could be there and so that the brain architects of daycare workers, and of, you know, preschool teachers could be in there, bringing these kids' brains to life?

[00:26:22] Adam Grant:
I mean, that seems, no pun intended, like a no brainer.

[00:26:25] Jennifer Garner:

[00:26:26] Adam Grant:
Uh, you were, you were just with Nick Kristof, right?

[00:26:28] Jennifer Garner:

[00:26:29] Adam Grant:
So Nick wrote, I thought, the best article I've read on this topic, it's called Too Small to Fail.

[00:26:33] Jennifer Garner:

[00:26:34] Adam Grant:
And it, the science is so clear. Early childhood education in investment.

[00:26:38] Jennifer Garner:
Really. And we don't spend a cent on kids until they're five as a country.

[00:26:42] Adam Grant:

[00:26:42] Adam Grant:
Yes. Especially when you're in places in this country where parents haven't had it modeled, haven't had, they don't have books in the home. They haven't had early childhood singing, playing, um, reading to modeled for them.

They don't have neighbors. They don't have, um, community to lift them up and Mommy and Me classes or anything like it. And you don't have a shot if you don't have a shot. Right? If all of us got to kindergarten and we were all in remediation the first day we started kindergarten, and we know how smart we are, we would hate it.

And your brain has to do something. So it's gotta think of ways to hate school then. Right? Because you're never gonna make it up, so you have to go in ready to learn. So in our school, Adam, we're gonna start with babies and we're gonna get 'em into kindergarten ready to learn.

[00:27:29] Adam Grant:
We just started a school. I love this.

[00:27:30] Jennifer Garner:
Yeah. Okay.

[00:27:30] Adam Grant:
Yeah. Um… No, I mean this, like, I, I do not understand how this doesn't compute for people. I'm like, you pulled yourself up by your bootstraps, but what if you didn't have any boots?

[00:27:41] Jennifer Garner:

[00:27:41] Adam Grant:
Like, how are you gonna do that?

[00:27:44] Jennifer Garner:
Um, so I grew up in West Virginia. I was surrounded by rural generational poverty, but I grew up in a middle class house. My mom grew up on, in Oklahoma, on a farm where she was really, really happy, but they didn't have much at all. And she kept getting a little bit of luck her way that led her to college. And then that changed everything for my sisters and me. And I was very aware that there were kids in my class who were not gonna have that same kind of luck, and in a first and second grade, and it felt really unfair to me then. And it kept feeling unfair, and it kept feeling like people like my mom or people like these kids are not talked about enough.

[00:28:24] Adam Grant:
Um, can you tell us a little bit about your work with Save the Children?

[00:28:28] Jennifer Garner:
I went looking for the organization with the most efficacy in rural America, and it would Save the Children because Save’s overall mission in the hundred years of helping over a billion kids is to go where nobody else wants to go.

And in America, that's rural. And I just go and sit with people and learn and see what their lives are like. And then I watch the magic that the Save the Children home visitor creates in their house just by encouraging the mom or the caretaker or the dad to sing to their baby, play with them, just encouraging them to show them they have all the tools they need to raise a successful kid who's ready to learn. Um, can we go back to our school though?

[00:29:04] Adam Grant:

[00:29:04] Jennifer Garner:
Okay. That's, we’ve got that figured out. Alright, now what?

[00:29:06] Adam Grant:
Uh, we're gonna have a program where, I just actually heard about this from a teacher today. Um, I got a great email from a teacher this morning who said, like, “Loved your idea of letting kids choose their own books instead of like shoving the classics down their throats.” Like simple, not rocket science. She said, “What I do is I hide books in the classroom for kids to find.” We're gonna do that. We're gonna play book hide and seek, or, like, scavenger hunt. Um, and we're gonna get kids excited about reading that way.

[00:29:33] Jennifer Garner:
I love that. Okay. All right, great. Keep it coming.

[00:29:37] Adam Grant:
Okay. Uh, what else are we gonna do?

[00:29:39] Jennifer Garner:
So they're gonna play outside. They're gonna have recess all for a whole year and just play. And I, they're, everybody just has to find something they're interested in and follow it.

[00:29:48] Adam Grant:
I could get behind that. Um, I had a student, uh, years ago, Lauren McCann, who came up with this great idea for college seniors to write letters to their freshman selves and then give them to entering freshmen so that they could avoid the mistakes of their predecessors. I would love to do that for graduating elementary schoolers and middle schoolers and high schoolers.

[00:30:08] Jennifer Garner:
Yeah. Wow. Yeah. Okay.

[00:30:10] Adam Grant:
So what else do you wanna talk about? Because I have more questions for you.

[00:30:15] Jennifer Garner:
Wait, I have more questions. It's not like I don't have questions.

[00:30:18] Adam Grant:
Can we talk about your, over preparing for a second?

[00:30:21] Jennifer Garner:
Over preparing? What are you talking about? Oh my gosh.

[00:30:25] Adam Grant:
I, I, I told you this morning, “You do not have to read the book.” In fact, I prefer that you don't read the book because then I'm gonna tell you stuff that you already know.

[00:30:33] Jennifer Garner:

[00:30:33] Adam Grant:
As opposed to you being surprised, and yet, you defied my instructions. You read a lot of the book, you have it underlined and there are corners folded. So why? Why did you ignore my advice?

[00:30:45] Jennifer Garner:
Because I've never, I've never shown up to anything this unprepared in my whole life. I mean, except for a couple of auditions. Let's face facts, but yeah.

[00:30:54] Adam Grant:
Oh, so this is you learning your lines. Got it.

[00:30:56] Jennifer Garner:
Yeah, exactly.

[00:30:57] Adam Grant:

[00:30:58] Jennifer Garner:
This is me learning my lines in the cab on the way to this audition. Um, okay, so hang on. I like this one. I’ve underlined this one. “Don't hold yourself hostage to a fixed routine,” and that's kind of like you writing like Maya Angelou. Right? Or, or not that?

[00:31:12] Adam Grant:
No, no.

[00:31:13] Jennifer Garner:
It’s not?

[00:31:13] Adam Grant:
I mean, I wish, no, that's actually, um—

[00:31:16] Jennifer Garner:
It’s either or it's not that, or it's not that at all. Oh. To avoid burnout. Tell us about that, Adam.

[00:31:20] Adam Grant:
I think the, the thing that a lot of people do is they think they have to push themselves in order to, like, to get through whatever is hard in their job or in the skill they're trying to build. Um, and what they forget is that pushing yourself through the daily grind, um, is not going to be sustainable in the long run.

You're much, much better off trying to turn the daily grind into a source of daily joy. And the way you do that is to actually build play into your skill development. So this is why I'm trying to write in different voices. It makes writing more fun and more playful and less exhausting and less boring.

And I think people could do that in any job. I, um, I once did a study with a couple colleagues. I remember this one nurse in particular, in our experiment, this horrible task of giving kids allergy shots. And this nurse couldn't stand the experience of kids coming in and thinking, “This person's trying to hurt me.”

[00:32:05] Jennifer Garner:

[00:32:06] Adam Grant:
And our experiment was on just reinvent your job title. Really simple. It's the first thing that most people learn about you. What if you could choose something that was more creative and more self-reflective? And a lot of skeptics said, “This is never gonna work.” Like, a title is just a bunch of words. It doesn't matter.

I was like, “Eh, I've seen this work.” And um, sure enough, when we randomly assign people to create their own self-reflective job title, their burnout went down over the next five weeks. And the nurse, uh, who's giving allergy shots helped me understand why. Her title that she came up with was Nurse QuickShot.

She introduced herself to families that way. You would walk in and she'd be like, “Hi, I'm Nurse QuickShot. Nice to meet you.” The kids lit up. All of a sudden they realized this person is actually trying to minimize my pain, not, not accentuate it. Um, they would ask for Nurse QuickShot by name when they came back; the parents were relieved.

It was a whole thing. And I think that giving people autonomy over how they present themselves is a really basic form of freedom, and we ought to have that along with many other kinds.

[00:33:05] Jennifer Garner:
I love that. Thanks. Look at that.

[00:33:07] Adam Grant:
It’s all yours.

[00:33:08] Jennifer Garner:
I have to say, you're really good at taking whatever I tossed out there and turning it into gold, and I really appreciate that about you.

[00:33:15] Adam Grant:
Okay, so I, I actually, I feel like I, I've started to develop my own job title.

[00:33:20] Jennifer Garner:

[00:33:20] Adam Grant:
Yeah. I, I feel like when I get on stage now, I've been turned into a human jukebox.

[00:33:25] Jennifer Garner:

[00:33:26] Adam Grant:
Somebody can give a topic and I'm like, “Here's a study that I once read,” and now I'm gonna not feel like I wasted the time reading the study or doing the study because someone else will about.

[00:33:36] Jennifer Garner:
How do you guys think up your studies? Where does it come from?

[00:33:40] Adam Grant:
I mean, usually it comes from having conversations with people out in the world who are stuck on something and, like, seeing in this case, um, Make-A-Wish had reached out for help when I was in grad school, and they were all extremely exhausted doing some of the most heartbreaking work I've ever seen.

And they had this incredibly visionary leader, Susan Fenters Lerch, and Susan says, “I want you all to come up with your own job titles.” And uh, there was like a person in accounting who was like, “Ah, I'm not part of the Make-A-Wish mission at all.” And she ended up coming up with, her title is Keeper of of Keys and Grounds.

And she was like the, the Hagrid of, of Make-A-Wish. And like it really, it just injected some levity and joy—

[00:34:21] Jennifer Garner:

[00:34:21] Adam Grant:
Into her day and her interactions. And I was, that's a study. We should, we should see if that works. So that's, that's usually where my ideas come from.

[00:34:29] Jennifer Garner:
What's it like to be your kid? If you're a jukebox for us, what do you like as a dad? Do you make yourself, do you try to temper? Yeah.

[00:34:40] Adam Grant:
Yes, lot. My wife, Allison, like, very often has to say to me, like, we, you don't wanna be the psychologist who screws up your kids. Uh, which is apparently a common thing. Um, I think what I've, what I've tried to do with our kids is to be as open as possible about the things that I'm bad at.

Uh, last winter I was supposed to give a speech and our kids, for the first time ever, came to one of my talks. And afterward our son came up, he was nine, and he said, “Dad, somehow you were actually funny.” And I was like, “That is the best backhanded compliment I've ever gotten.”

Uh, like normally they make fun of my dad jokes and I like, I deliberately make more dad jokes because I want them to see me bad at stuff and willing to laugh at myself. And that, I guess I'm like the butt of all of our family jokes is, um, and I'm not funny, but they're laughing at me. Yeah. How about you?

[00:35:38] Jennifer Garner:

[00:35:38] Adam Grant:
Talk about what you're like as a parent.

[00:35:45] Jennifer Garner:
Oh, I mean, I'm kind of what, I guess in an—just annoying way, I'm kind of what you would think I would be, you know?

[00:35:53] Adam Grant:
Go on.

[00:35:54] Jennifer Garner:
I just, I bake cookies and I like, hmmm, and I am like, you know, a room mom, uh, giving it my all and you know. I'm kind of your worst nightmare.

[00:36:13] Adam Grant:
Wait, why is that bad?

[00:36:15] Jennifer Garner:
Just because it's so, I don't know. It's just so…

[00:36:20] Adam Grant:

[00:36:21] Jennifer Garner:

[00:36:23] Adam Grant:
I don't know. Those are good qualities as far as I'm concerned.

[00:36:26] Jennifer Garner:
Yeah. I don't know. Ask my kids. No, I, I arranged for my, my son's class, um, to get a special viewing of this movie I have coming out, Family Switch on Netflix. And it's like exactly for his age group. Exactly. Alright. I'm gonna tell you something really, really personal and vulnerable here right now.

My son said he heard about it and he was like, “Mom. It's as if you're giving every person in my class a cake with your face on it. And then they're supposed to tell you how great the cake is and how pretty they think you are,” and I was like, “You're not wrong. You’re not wrong, but I think you're gonna like the movie.”

I don’t know. You can be sick that day. I, it's the, the teacher asked, I set it up. It's happening. I don't know what to tell you. So it's happening.

[00:37:23] Adam Grant:
Wow. Wow. That, that's painful.

[00:37:24] Jennifer Garner:
Yeah. All the cakes. I'm passing out all the cakes.
[00:37:29] Adam Grant:
Okay. This reminds me of something you said backstage on our way in, um, about, uh, about dealing with age as an actor.

[00:37:37] Jennifer Garner:
Oh. 'Cause you said something, you said something about appreciating progress depends on remembering how your past self would see your current achievements. So you think that you haven't gotten anywhere, but when you were first learning, what would you have thought if you could see, right?

And I said this is the same, the inverse is true for aging. That at 51, I tell myself, if I get like, “Oh my gosh, what's happening? I have one eye squinting and like, things are falling, it's fine.” But um, I tell myself, you know, "Dude, it’s… Imagine in 15 years you're gonna think, I wish I looked like I looked at 51 and a half.” So you might as well enjoy it. 'Cause it's not like it's gonna go the other way. So live it up, yuck it right on up.

[00:38:27] Adam Grant:
It reminded me of one of my college roommates, uh, who said to another one of our roommates, uh, listen, you should never be down on yourself because you're only gonna get uglier from here.

[00:38:38] Jennifer Garner:
Exactly. Thank you. Your college roommates really understood.

[00:38:41] Adam Grant:
Uh, that's amazing. Wait, there, there's something that you, you glossed over, which is, do you call yourself dude?

[00:38:47] Jennifer Garner:
If I need to, if it's appropriate in the conversation. Yeah.

[00:38:51] Adam Grant:
So interesting. You're, you're reminding me of Ethan Cross's work on self-talk, where he finds that if you talk to yourself in the, like the second or third person, um, it's actually more motivating. Because—

[00:39:00] Jennifer Garner:

[00:39:01] Adam Grant:
Yeah, because it's like, it's distancing. It feels like someone else is telling you to do the thing.

[00:39:07] Jennifer Garner:
Bruh, bruh, get it together. Bruh.

[00:39:11] Adam Grant:
You've never said that to yourself.

[00:39:12] Jennifer Garner:
I don't know. I, I have little kids, so… Yeah. It's come across.

[00:39:17] Adam Grant:
Wow, that’s amazing.

[00:39:21] Jennifer Garner:
Mm-Hmm. Okay. Let’s see.

[00:39:22] Adam Grant:
I love your segues.

[00:39:25] Jennifer Garner:
I mean, I dunno. Okay, here's something that I wanna know legitimately, and so do we. Um, and we are aligned. Um, what—

[00:39:34] Adam Grant:
I like how you've co-opted my audience who didn't even know you were gonna be here. Yep. Keep going.

[00:39:41] Jennifer Garner:
Okay. True. They gave me such a nice welcome. So, how did writing this book change you?

[00:39:48] Adam Grant:

[00:39:48] Jennifer Garner:
’Cause I imagine each book, I mean, if I think of Sydney, she changed me. How did this book change you?

[00:39:53] Adam Grant:
That's a really good question. Um, I think I didn't expect it to change me because I feel like when I sit down to write a book, I want to teach something that I've learned. And so I've kind of already figured it out, and I've realized that if that's what happens, then I'm doing myself a disservice because I ought to learn new things while I'm writing. And I think the biggest thing that this book changed about me is it made me much more comfortable sharing my own stories.

Uh, I've been accused of, uh, of using data as a crutch, and I'm like, it's not a crutch. It's literally how I think. Like, ask me any question and my first instinct is to cite a study. Like, that's how I learn. And, uh, some of my friends did not like that particular behavior and called me Mr. Facts growing up.

Um, luckily I had one friend who is here tonight, thank you, Kaan, because Kaan, um, decided that it didn't matter that I made him uncool. Um, and he hung out with me anyway. I think that I've shied away from telling my stories, one, because it feels self-centered. And two, because it feels idiosyncratic. And while writing this book, I realized Hidden Potential is something I've lived over and over again.

I lived it when I wasn't naturally talented as a diver and got way better than I expected. I lived it when I failed my college writing exam. Um, and here I am as an author, and it was definitely how I felt as a public speaker and, and we're doing this. And I thought, I, I can't keep distance from this topic, but more importantly, if there's something I've learned from something I've lived, why would I not share that? So that, that was the big change.

[00:41:23] Jennifer Garner:
I love that you added your own stories in there. From what I've seen so far, they add a lot of color to it. No, they really do. I, I appreciate that.

[00:41:32] Adam Grant:
Well, thank you.

[00:41:33] Jennifer Garner:
Yeah. Um, okay. Um, can you tell me something else?

[00:41:41] Adam Grant:
I think it might be time to go to audience questions.

[00:41:43] Jennifer Garner:
There are a lot of questions. Okay. Okay. Liz. The same kinds of people seem to keep getting installed in leadership positions. What wisdom do you have for mid-level professionals whose senior leadership is stuck in that bias? Way to bring it.

[00:42:02] Adam Grant:
Wow. Yeah. Alright. So Liz wants to know how we can diversify leadership, um, beyond people who are selfish, Machiavellian, narcissistic, psychopathic, male, and white. Um, which I've been told is redundant, but I, I, I dunno. Um.
Oh look, I think we've gotta stop confusing confidence for competence is the easy answer.

[00:42:37] Jennifer Garner:

[00:42:38] Adam Grant:
Stop it. Like, stop falling for the superficial charm of narcissists, uh, they don't actually know what they're talking about. Um, stop assuming that the person who talks the most is the most capable. That's called the babble effect. Um, and it's a real thing. Um, that's usually the person who's most insecure, not the person who's best suited to guide the group. Let's look at whether people make those around them better, whether they're more interested in making the room smarter than being the smartest person in the room. What else do people wanna know?

[00:43:07] Jennifer Garner:
Wow. Okay. Um… [humming]

[00:43:15] Adam Grant:
Wait, was that White Lotus?

[00:43:17] Jennifer Garner:

[00:43:20] Adam Grant:
Okay. Because we're all trying to find out what you're watching is really what's happening here.

[00:43:23] Jennifer Garner:
Oh, yeah. Uh, for someone who is six months into a startup, Kevin wants to know, what is your best advice regarding overcoming perfection to get in the way of progress?

[00:43:35] Adam Grant:
Oh, yeah. So Kevin, people always say like the, “The perfect is the enemy of the good.” That's not helpful because they still want you to ship something that's better than good. I think one of the lessons I took away from diving was I needed to sit down with my coach and agree on what's an acceptable score for every dive.

So you're doing a basic front eye pike, we're aiming for sevens, and as soon as I hit a seven, we agree it's time to move on. Uh, as opposed to me asking, can I do 30 more of them because I didn't point my left pinky toe on the entry, uh, which was an actual conversation once. Um, for, you know, a more, a more complicated dive, like when I was learning reverse two and a half, like target was fours. Like we want it to be not totally deficient. And I remember, like, shaking on a three meter springboard, having to do a full twisting front, two and a half where you do two flips, a 360 turn, and then a dive and just freaked out outta my mind.

And Eric says, “Our target is a 0.5 for this dive.” Like, like, if your, if your head or your hands touched before your feet, and it's a legal dive, we're gonna count it. And I don't think we have this conversation in startups. I don't think we have this conversation in our jobs, but we should. I'm aiming for a nine when I write a book.

Because hopefully, a lot of people are gonna read it and I'm gonna pour multiple years of my work life into it and I, I want it to be something I'm proud of. Um, and I don't wanna waste other people's time. Social media posts? Target is six and a half, which is where I put the line, this far above being canceled.

Like I, I don't care if I get everything right on social media. I don't mind if I learn something and somebody tells me that I screwed something up. And I think that's a conversation to have. Like, when do we need a, a four? When do we need a six and a half? When do we need an eight? And let's calibrate. What does that look like for each of the things we're doing?

[00:45:16] Jennifer Garner:
Very good advice. Yeah. Do you have wisdom for one who mentors younger members of a team?

[00:45:27] Adam Grant:
Okay. So let, let's do a, a quick comment on how to give criticism and then how to receive it. Um, on the receiving side, my favorite lesson comes from Sheila Heen. Uh, she calls it the second score. And the idea is that when somebody gives you a piece of constructive criticism or advice, um, what most of us do is we try to convince them if we don't like it, that they were wrong. And so somebody gives you a D minus and you become the world's most dedicated grade grubber, and you're like, “Let me prove to you I actually deserve an A minus.”

And the problem is they've already determined the score. They can't, there's nothing you can say that will change their mind because the past has already happened. The best thing you can do, according to Sheila, is you can give yourself a second score, which is, “I wanna get an A plus for how well I took the D minus.” I think about this every day. Every single time I make the mistake of reading Instagram comments. Do you, do you read yours, by the way?

[00:46:21] Jennifer Garner:
I'm so careful about what I take in. Like I read nothing where I will accidentally see my dumb face or my name, or anyone who is related to me in print, in the computer, phone.

[00:46:35] Adam Grant:
That seems like a very healthy attitude. I have not adopted that.

[00:46:39] Jennifer Garner:

[00:46:39] Adam Grant:
And every once in a while I go into the comments and end up reading all of them. Like I've been called a logic bully. Um, my wife had to explain to me that was not a compliment. I, I, I was like, “Good. I wanna, I wanna hammer you with, with evidence and facts until you realize you were incorrect.” Alright, every once in a while, it's fun to smack down someone with a, an ignorant, overconfident opinion, but, uh, most of the time what I need to do is I need to convince them that I'm willing to learn.

And so, let me ask a question about like, “Oh, that's really interesting. What led you to that view?” And I think trying to ace the second score and say, I want to get an A plus for how I took the D minus is something I would encourage anyone to try if you haven't already. On the, the giving constructive criticism side, my favorite experiment shows that you can say 19 words and people become dramatically more receptive to what you're about to deliver. You ready?

[00:47:33] Jennifer Garner:

[00:47:33] Adam Grant:
Okay. Don't count them, Jen. 'cause I might, I might say 18, but the words are roughly, I'm giving you these comments 'cause I have very high expectations and I'm confident you can reach them.

[00:47:45] Jennifer Garner:
Oh dog, that's so good.

[00:47:49] Adam Grant:
It changes… a word on that, it changes the equation. Like now I'm not attacking you.

[00:47:53] Jennifer Garner:
Very high expectation.

[00:47:53] Adam Grant:
And I'm confident you can reach them. So, here's the thing, I, I'm not attacking you. I'm not judging you. I'm here to coach you. I'm trying to help you. So I taught this a few years ago, um, to my undergrads at Wharton, and then about three weeks later, I give out these mid-course feedback forms, and three different students wrote at the top. “I'm giving you these comments 'cause I have very high ex…”

I'm like, “No, you don't have to say the words verbatim.” The point is to communicate that I believe in your potential and I care about your success and wellbeing. You, you establish that upfront, and all of a sudden you have a relationship as opposed to, um, uh, uh, an attack that you need to defend against.

[00:48:34] Jennifer Garner:
Do you believe in the compliment sandwich?

[00:48:38] Adam Grant:
So I try not to believe in things. Um, I try to look at what does the best evidence tell us and then form an opinion accordingly. And I, I think here. See this is the logic bullying, right? I'm doing it right now.

[00:48:48] Jennifer Garner:
Yeah. I wanna hear. Yeah. I’m not, I'm not a proponent, I'm just asking.

[00:48:52] Adam Grant:
Yeah, I think that's a fair question and I think my read of the evidence is that the compliment sandwich does not taste as good as it looks. People are like, ah, I gotta say something really unpleasant. So I have to take the meat of the criticism I wanna give you and, and hide it between two slices of bread that are the compliment.

First problem is, um, a lot of people are just waiting for the other shoe to drop. And they're like, wait, compliment, are you just buttering me up so I take your criticism better? And they see right through it. Number two, um, people who are narcissistic actually have the opposite response, which is primacy and recency effects dominate.

So you pay, you pay attention to the first thing and the last thing, and you forget the meat of the sandwich.

[00:49:34] Jennifer Garner:

[00:49:34] Adam Grant:
And you come away from the, the meeting skewering you thinking like Billy Madison, I am the smartest person alive. Um… So yeah.

[00:49:44] Jennifer Garner:
That explains a lot. Yeah. Okay.

[00:49:47] Adam Grant:
No, I don’t like it.

[00:49:48] Jennifer Garner:
Okay, good. Good, good, good.

[00:49:48] Adam Grant:
I would not put it on your menu.

[00:49:48] Jennifer Garner:
Well, you know what, we're kind of coming to the end here, so, um, can I just say what a total pleasure and what an awesome way to get to know you, and I'm so grateful for this time. I really, I don't know why you reached out to me. I don't actually. It's very rare for me to leave home on a school night. I can't believe, um, that I did. But I love that you asked.

[00:50:13] Adam Grant:
I took you away from your kids. I feel even guiltier now.

[00:50:15] Jennifer Garner:
They're thrilled. They're thrilled out of their minds. They’re, they couldn't be. They…

[00:50:21] Adam Grant:
Why does it sound like a threat when you say it?

[00:50:23] Jennifer Garner:
Well, because it kind of is, but um, yeah, they're, there's, they're delighted, truly. Um, and so am I. And so thank you. Thank you for reaching out.

[00:50:33] Adam Grant:
Well… No, thank you. When I woke up this morning and realized we needed a Rainn who is not Rainn, um, to, to take his place, um, I thought, who's the person that sees the potential in every single person she meets? And that was you. Every single time I've had any interaction with you, you have looked for the best in everyone.

Um, and I think that's such a gift that you give to people, and I wanted this audience to get to benefit from it. Um, Jen, this is just beyond generous of you to do, um, and I cannot thank you enough and I really will be trying to pay it back and forward, uh, for the next few decades.

[00:51:10] Jennifer Garner:
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

[00:51:10] Adam Grant:
Our team includes Daphne Chen, Constanza Gallardo, Grace Rubenstein, Daniela Balarezo, Banban Cheng, Michelle Quint, Alejandra Salazar, and Roxanne Hai Lash. Our fact checker is Paul Durbin. Our show is mixed by Ben Chesneau. Original music by Hansdale Hsu and Allison Leyton-Brown. Our live show was hosted and produced by Live Talks Los Angeles.