Experiential Science with Troy Campbell

INJ 81 | Experiential Science


Troy Campbell is a social scientist, marketing professor at the University of Oregon, professional designer, and researcher at Netflix Insights. He has worked at Disney Imagineering, Apple, and Comic-Con, as well as the change management organization On Your Feet and the fandom company Power Level Productions.

Listen to Episode #80 here

Experiential Science with Troy Campbell

My guest is Troy Campbell. Troy is a social scientist, marketing professor at the University of Oregon, a professional designer, and researcher at Netflix Insights. He’s worked for Disney Imagineering, Apple and Comic-Con, as well as the change management organization On Your Feet and the fandom company Power Level Productions. Welcome, Troy. 

I am at one of my college hero’s podcast, so this is pretty cool. 

I’m very flattered. I’m happy to have you here. You’re visiting Southern California. 

Yes, I am, my homeland. 

Troy, if you weren’t working as a scientist or designer, what would you be doing? 

I would love to be creating shortform content and any fiction content. One of my dreams is to write a short storybook. That’s just a bunch of different short stories, all that are about something that is quick, to the point and whimsical. Take that on a tour and then do times where I would talk about and read the storiesI would also have the audience write fifteenminute stories themselves and share them with each other because I love short stories. I think everybody can be better when they’re writing short stories and sharing them with each other. 

You’ve given this a lot of thought. 

I literally have the tour planned and how it would work. I’m with this lady. Her name is Casey Elwes. She is a wonderful woman and we fell in love writing short stories together. Our first date at a coffee shop, she said, “Let’s do a free write.” She assumed that I, as a former creative writing student and had been doing free writes all the time and I hadn’t done one for five years. She’s an English PhD, so she does it all the time. I was like, I’ve been doing this all the time. 

Is this date number one? 

I think that is date number twoWe wrote these stories and lots of people do different versions of this, but with another person who you love and who’s positive, it’s amazing. We’ll write a story and sometimes my stories would be dark. Sometimes it will be an idea for a fight scene with a superhero as a curved projectile. Every single time if we take fifteen minutes, we come up with a cool story that has a bright spot it’s worth conversing about. We are not trying to write anything perfect. We’re just trying to explore ideas, concepts, creativity and share with them. It’s insane how quickly we fell in love doing this. 

When you say freewrite, I think of sitting down with my journal and writing down the ideas that come to my mind. 

The idea is you write a fictional story by yourself and the other person is doing it. Usually, you start with the same prompt. For instance, one of the prompts we started with one time is, are we human or are we dancer? Which is a way that we both miss heard the song by The Killers, Are we human or are we dancer? We thought it was just a beautiful start. We each wrote an entirely different story flow from that. Sometimes we’ll have ideas and we’ll each write something we’ve been thinking about for the last couple of days and it’s great. 

Do you hand it to the other person? 

We oftentimes write so fast that we miss words and other things. You tell it to the other person. It’s also more emotional that way and sharing. I do this with some of my students and partly because I don’t think a lot of my students have ever spent fifteen minutes focused on being creative. First of all, I do a bunch of improv games and I warm them up, including standing on the table. We make a list of if you’re stuck words, that if you’re ever stuck, just use that word rocket ship, “That’s the next thing I’m using. We do it and I play fun music at the start and then I slow the music down by about eight minutes. The last five minutes is pure silence. It’s this incredible, beautiful energy in the room and the students come out of it. Every single time I’m like, “Didn’t that feel good? They’re like, “Yes, I don’t do that.” They share with each other. They don’t share in front of the class. Everybody’s thing is flawed, but the point is everybody has come up with something interesting and personal in the last fifteen minutes. Some of them come up with amazing stories in fifteen minutes. Other people have a bright spot to share. 

[bctt tweet=”What is very striking about business schools is how little they use their own business principles that they teach you. ” username=””]

If you weren’t working as a scientist or designer, you would be? 

I’d be a writer. I don’t want to write a long novel. That’s not my jam so much. I would love to work on writing short stories and I’d love to help people who are writing. I don’t want to write a Marvel movie, but I’d love to help people design moments in Marvel movies or help use principles of psychology to use fluency. I’d love to write pitches for Black Mirror episodes. I’ve thought a lot about this ridiculous fantasy that will never come true. 

You never know. You’re young man. You teach classes on marketing, storytelling, scientific communication, the science of cool and experiential design. You have a class called Everything Can Be Awesome With Psychology. This seems to be your first step towards this dream of helping people make it. You’re teaching how to make experiences better. I could imagine this becoming a side hustle and beyond, which is not teaching how to make experiences better, but you actually help make experiences better. Let’s talk about the class for a little while. I’m fascinated by this idea. 

You very kindly said that I was a college hero and this might be one of those the servant becomes master story, Pygmalion story of sorts minus the romance where I feel like I can learn from you. I had a conversation with a marketing guy turned dean. He was lamenting it. He essentially said, “There are twice as much work and less than half the pay. He feels like he’s doing eight times the amount that he used to be doing. He works for Disney. He’s had his own shop. He’s bounced around a little bit. One of the things that he’s doing is taking business principles and starting to apply them to the promotion of the school that he’s at, especially with regard to storytelling. 

If you think about it, you’re in a business school, I’m going to business school, we’re behavioral scientists in this world teaching our marketing classes, consumer behavior classes. One of the things that I think is very striking about business schools is how little they use their own business principles that they teach you. For example, I teach differentiation and yet so many business schools are basically following the Me Too strategy. They’re doing exactly the same thing that everybody else is doing and trying to optimize the same things. 

If you want to have some fun, go to any business school that is not one of the top twenty, but not lower than let’s say 250 and put your screen on black and white so you can’t see the colors and they all look the exact same way. You’re going to find your destiny, you’re going to get jobready and you’re going to care about the environment and why you do it. 

They do a very poor job communicating their value, especially they do a poor job getting the students excited about being students. 

I absolutely hate how much universities play up every single thing but being a student. 

The next thing that they do don’t do well is that they don’t actually create a highlydifferentiated product. That is like if you step into a class, among most of the schools, even the top twenty, they all feel, look and seem the same. Some schools have a bit more leeway and flexibility to offer cool niche interest in classes. It’s usually the best schools that can do that the most, which is ironic. They need to do it the least because they have such demand for the brands anyways. My go-to class at this stage in my career and probably will be for a long time is I teach the core marketing management course. Typically to daytime MBAs, but it’s not limited to that. 

I’ve taught evening MBAs, I’ve taught at other universities, whether it be their executive MBA programs, their flex programs or whatever. The reason is this is a turnkey class, essentially the same class in terms of content in every place. I‘ve worked hard to make it an appealing class because it’s one of those classes where no one wants to teach it and take it for the same reasons. That is if you know marketing, you resent having to take the class because it’s just review. It’s a core required course. Those people who don’t know marketing, they want to have their concentration in finance, accounting or organizational behavior. 

They’re like, I don’t want to take this class. I want to take finance, accounting and organizational behavior. You have to teach this class down the middle. It‘s underwhelming to the marketing focus of peopleIt’s a little bit of a stretch for the people who aren’t. It’s a little bit more work than they would like to do. You make the best of it. As a faculty member, no one wants to teach that class. They want to teach a more specialized class where the students opt in. I’ve worked to make the class not only valuable but to create enthusiasm in the class. Some of that is traditional song and dance, not literally, but I bring a lot of effort to the performance aspect of the class. 

There are very few professors who can bring as good stories as you can. 

It gets you pretty far. I wouldn’t say any of these things is innovative per se, but I’ve introduced a hackathon into the class and I’ve had students marvel at this experience, essentially saying to me, “When I signed up for business school, that’s what I thought the class was going to be like. You could bring in guest speakers and I don’t do that anymore. I bring in a panel and then I have little things along the way, exercises and fun stuff to do. 

I think guest speakers are the stupidest thing you can possibly bring into a class because every single guest speaker you bring into a class if they’re not famous, they have a better, more polished thing that they said on YouTube or a podcast. I never have guest speakers anymore. The way that I do guest speakers in my class is I find my friends and I’m going to make you do this. have them record five minutes where they say one thing and they also referenced me and tie in. It’s called Hello Troy’s Class and watch that ahead of time. I have twenty guest speakers in five-minute segments for my class. The students like that and they’re like, It’s this famous person. This person did something for Troy. That means they also did it for us.” It’s good and I like that a lot. 

Interactive is the way to do it. If the person is going to do a guest talk, don’t have them talk for more than ten minutes. We do this with them at the university with the undergraduates, where the undergraduates’ worlds are small. We joke that it starts at Taylor’s and it ends two blocks down at Webfoot, which are the two bars. One of the ways that we have them most strongly interact with them is they all know the University of Oregon. If you’re teaching them principles and you talk about the marketing at the University of Oregon, they just have enough concrete information to engage with it all. We bring in somebody from the University of Oregon who works in the marketing there and talks for ten minutes and then the kids go at it with them. 

INJ 81 | Experiential Science
Experiential Science: No matter how busy you are, spend at least 15 minutes a day to think of new ideas.


One last thing about the panel is they do a four, twelve-minute talks. We get a break and then we do a town hallstyle Q and A. I have the students submit the questions beforehand and then I vet them. I choose what questions get asked. What happens is these panelists, at the end of it, they go, “Those were great questions. I’m like, Do you know why? Because I got 50 of them and I picked the nine best. There’s never a dumb ass question that wastes five minutes of precious time. Help me make my class better. I’m going to set this up a little bit even more because, in your class, everything can be awesome. You do activities. You can find these on your websiteYou do love poems, What’s in the BagEditors Edge, Ideas on the Floor. They all have fun names and they’re all designed to enhance and develop creativity to hammer home some learning point. 

One of the problems we have in every class is what you pointed out. They’re students at many different levels. Students at every different level like concrete things. You are telling a personal story but the other concrete thing they like is applying the ideas. If you give somebody an activity to apply the ideas, no matter what level they’re at unless it’s impossible to apply the ideas. Sometimes that could be getting math or statistics. If I give them an activity where they apply a concept, it changes everything.  

If I teach them something and then they’re making a slogan, for instance, I tell them the research on how when you’re younger, you’re more interested in extraordinary things. As you’re older, you value the more ordinary. They make a slogan right there in the class for the same product for two different audiences. The people who have had a lot of marketing background, they write way better slogans, but they’re all equally engaged. That’s the most basic example. We do lots and lots of more complicated ones. I like what is more or less setting up Mad Libs or story forms. That’s where I’ll set up part of it. I’ll give them a story that has three parts. You need to write a story that follows Disney destiny. 

The person always has this thing inside of them. They struggle to figure it out, they have a discovery point. I’ll give them a logic statement where it‘s if this, then we’ll do this, or I’ll set up a thing where I’m doing the science of cool, where I’ll take a song that’s cool. I’ll just take out most of the lyrics but it still has the structure of autonomously breaking the norm. They fill in the song and all the different genres. What I’ve done is I’ve given them a concept and I’ve given them a structure that everybody in the class can immediately create something in five minutes. Lots of people might say that that’s constricting. It is a little bit constricting, but it’s constrained creativity. The most iconic class I do is the science of cool more or less. 

Did you just call your class iconic? 

Yes, at the University of Oregon Troy’s cool class is iconic because he’s going to drop a bunch of bars in that class. You’re all going to be amazed if you just understand that being cool is insane, you’re the best. Being cool is resisting the rest. It changes everything. You can look at an Eminem song that’s not as good and looking at Eminem song that is good. When he’s bragging, he’s not as good. It’s not as cool as when he’s resisting. You can do this with everything and you can explain it. Freddie Mercury is breaking free. Travis Scotthis shit is way too formal and I’m not following suit. Also, High School Musical is breaking free. For all of those audiences, it’s the same thing. 

I take High School Musical lyrics and put them in a Travis Scott song. It’s something like, “Baller going to teach. It’s me the God who they talk about when they preach, teaching you to keep it hip from the city to the beach. There’s not a star in heaven that we cannot reach,” which is a line from High School Musical. It fits right. What happens in that class is everybody’s making things. If I give them a story form, even though my story form only has room for sometimes ten words or less, they’re adding lines to the song. They’re adding details to their story immediately because the story form starts them and they get creative. 

We need to discuss this idea about story form. I do a couple of things. As I’m listening to you, I’m getting anxious and the reason I’m getting anxious is that I’ve worked hard to get this class to where it is and it’s good. What I’m thinking is, “This is a lot of work. I’ve got a lot of balls in the air, but I’m committed to making the class better. For example, I do two things in the class and of course, these MBAs are competitive. I do something called the positioning challenge and the promotion challenge. They happen at two different points. I show the students a series of marketing communications for a product and then they have to write the positioning statement for the product. For the audience who doesn’t know what a positioning statement is, it’s an internal document that an organization uses. It’s a very brief summary of what the product is, who the competitors are, what is the point of difference and what his reason to believe. You can use that to help you make strategic and tactical decisions with regard to your offering. 

If you’ve ever looked at a company that seems to not make sense, it’s because they don’t understand their own positioning. 

They probably haven’t done this. A good marketing communication, a good ad, television, print and radio will either cover all of the elements of a positioning statement or part of the elements. If it’s done well, the positioning statement then serves as a foundation for a creative brief that you hand over to an advertising agency and then they make this stuff for you. What I have the students do is back the positioning statement out for the positioning challenge. I have all the students go up on the board and write the positioning statements that they’ve come up with and we discuss it. It’s a big win. It’s applying an idea that feels abstract and easy until you have to do it. 

I love teaching students. They don’t know as much as they think they know. I do this thing where I give them a term and a lot of it is just define apply. I give you a concept and you have to explain in a way that you’d operationalize that content, whether it’s the IKEA effect, loss aversion, identity marketing, side identity. It’s so hard for the studentsThey can come up with good ideas but the idea might not be the principle that they gave. It shows them how much structure they actually don’t have in their thought process and helps them get it. 

I think the issue is universities are very good at teaching concepts and having students regurgitate those concepts. The world is good at rewarding people’s ability to apply the knowledge that they have. We’re doing them a disservice if we don’t have them working through application. 

We have a bunch of board members at the University of Oregon who more or less says this about students, “Whenever I go to businesses, this is what I hear about students. They know a lot, they’re good people, but they do not know how to apply and communicate what they know. It’s a huge problem. 

[bctt tweet=”Teaching a concept is nothing. Give an activity where the concept can be applied; it changes everything. ” username=””]

How should I be thinking about applying this shortform storytelling? You know what the core marketing management course is like. How do I use what you do in some way in my class or should I? 

How do you get a story form into almost every class? That’s what I try and do. 

The question, is this a technique that I can start to use to get students to reflect on what I’ve been teaching them, what they’ve been reading? My syllabus has videos and podcasts in addition to traditional Harvard Business School readings, because why not? 

My class uses a lot more techniques than just story forms. I try to get a story form or a large experience in class and/or I do something that I call fire lecture because I have to put a name on everything. Let me explain the fire lecture because when you can’t put in a great activity, it actually works well. Here’s how fire lecture works. We know certain times the best way to do a lecture is to give a long lecture and then have the students do an activity at the end. Maybe you do an 80-minute lecture, ten-minute activity, or maybe it’s 30-minute lecture, 60-minute activity. 

The other version of the lecture that we know about is the minis. We have fifteen minutes, then we ask the students to think about something, they discuss in their group and then they share it with the class. Students organize what they did and present their ideas. The problem is the discuss, organize and present takes a heck of a long time and you actually lose any sense of flow in the class. What I like to do as much as I can is to structure it so that the student’s think of things, they organize things and them present things and I mix those up with my lecture. For instance, one of the ways that you can do that is to do a strong ready set, which is you have the students come in and you give them some questions and they prepare things. 

They find examples that they need to do. You give them one of the terms and they apply that idea. If they just read the definition, they can come up with a good thing. You’ve already set them up with some stuff. At any moment that I need, I can call and draw an example that the students have already done and then we can discuss it a little bit or I’ll teach an idea and then they will come up with, “What’s an example of a problem based upon what Troy said?” They’ll write that and they’ll figure it out. I’ll explain how to solve the solution to it and then they’ll do that. I’ll do a little bit of a story or some extra thing that’s cute that they’ll edit after I say that or maybe they’ll listen to it and I’ll provide context for the next thing they’ll say and they present. 

When I get the class right, sometimes I can actually get it where I can go five to ten minutes over and over through this thing. It’s this wonderful thing. One other way I do is a story form class. I teach them the science of love and sex one day. In doing it, they design a date for a couple. The idea is that this couple is going to different places and every location, whether it’s a restaurant, a theme park, an arcade, a park. That part needs to have an element like the Capilano Bridge is pitchable. When you’re excited, you fall in love more with people or the love languages. I teach the concept and then they write an idea for the date down on the board. They’re up there and I can say a couple of them are not. At the very end, after we’ve gone through it, they refine that idea. It’s this constant creativity. I’m making sure that I recognize at least every group, every twenty minutes for something that they’ve done. It’s not that hard. 

What’s immediately coming to mind and I can imagine if there’s a teacher reading this saying, “That’s great, but my class is packed with content. All of it’s important. I can’t fit this in? 

The first thing I would say is your students aren’t going to remember most of the content from an educational standpoint. What I do a lot with my stuff is I take anything that’s boring and I make it reading. Anything that I’m going to lecture on that is essential to that class is in the textbook or I can find an open-source educational resource that has it, especially in a marketing management course. There’s nothing that I’m going to say that I can’t give them something to read. 

I use a video to teach them break-even analysis. 

I’m not going to do that in class. I might have them come in after they’ve applied break-even analysis and we’ll do the game, but I’m not going to waste the boring lecture time on that. There were some classes where I can understand the way you’re like, “No one reads. I’m like, “Who cares? Your students deserve to fail. There are some situations where that would not be appropriate. I teach at quite a privilege school. I’m in certain situations where we know that people don’t have as much time outside of class. That would not be correct potentially to do, but in my privileged situation with my awesome business students, I can do it. That’s my general idea. If it’s boring to teach, just move it to a reading or course resource that’s consumed. 

I’m coming around to this idea. First of all, I agree with you that students don’t remember most of what you want them to remember. The good news is they can always look it up. It’s easier than ever to look things up. I feel like my primary job is to build enthusiasm for the topic, to teach them the language associated with the topic and to get them to think as I like to say, “Think like a marketer.” Not the evil marketer that they have in their head when they come into the class, but the marketer who truly is creating value in a world and making the world faster and more convenient, safer, cheaper and more exciting and is connecting to these major ideas. 

I would exaggerate, but I also believe this exaggeration, which is marketing and psychology is the most widely applicable and useful type of knowledge you will ever learn and know in this class. I don’t think this class is the most important class that you guys will ever take. Hopefully, you’ve already taken that and you know what you want to do. The class that I’m teaching you is the most important class to help you with the most important class and topic you’re going to go into. What is more important in the world than understanding how you and other people think and behave. It means it’s everything. It’s art, it’s business, it’s your relationship. 

I point out on the first day that I’m going to teach you what makes people spend money. I’m also going to tell you what makes people happy. You can use that in a business situation, but you can also know how you can save money more and how you can make your significant other happierOne of the things I do in the class is I have them apply every homework they have to a business, but then they have to apply it somewhere in their own life. Persuasion. How would you persuade a relative who disagrees with you on something? Experience. How would you use this on a date or when throwing a party? My students give me far too many examples of parties. 

I used to do that for my consumer behavior course. I used to say, “Only a fraction of you will end up in marketing, but all of you are consumers. I’m going to teach this class with those two prongs. The marketing management course, I’m not as explicit about that. I slow play the personal stuff a little bit more. For anybody who’s taught a class knows what happens is you’re like, I’ve got to teach this class.” It’s this huge daunting thing to build a class. What do you do? You get one to three people’s materials and then you cobble together a class. Initially, it seems like a cobble together a class from these other folks. With timeyou make it more yours. You cut that and revise and figure out a style, that’s if you’re dedicated to it. Most people just keep teaching the cobbled together class their whole career. 

There’s no incentive for them to do any different because of how universities reward people to some degree. 

Anybody who’s researchfocused like we are. I remember I used to teach Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. I’d talk about how needs are the foundation for creating value. If you can understand what are the problems that people have, you can think creatively about different ways to solve those problems and you can build a business on those solutions. I was like, “Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is just a shit model of needs.” Its easy to teach. It’s familiar, the students love it. It’s linear, and yet it goes against everything that I know about what motivates people and about wellbeing. Not everything, but a lot against it. 

I was like, “I’m going to teach Maslow and then I’m going to introduce the PERMA model, Martin Seligman’s model of wellbeing,” which is my goto model of wellbeing. If you want to understand how people are trying to live a good life, you have to understand the paths to living a good life. Here are the paths and the model is far superior way to think about this stuff. It’s not linear. The paths change due to life circumstance, due to developmentIt’s more complex, but it’s much richer. It’s also more applicable so you can actually use it in your own life in a sense. I was like, “Why am I teaching Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs?  

I cut that out and I just teach the PERMA model. I do this under the auspice of, “You need to understand this because if you’re going to create value, this is how you do it. I get to tag the lesson and go, “Maybe you’re not a freak for wanting to live a different life than the person next to you. There’s this word in marketing called heterogeneity, variants and people needs, wants, preferences, tastes. It’s the closest we get to being a snowflake or uniqueness. There’s this tendency to think about this homogenous path to living a good life. 

It’s super problem in business school, especially if you’re a marketing major because the stereotype of somebody in business is somebody who’s more going to get a job in accounting or financing. The way people dress, talk, the way people think about it. Marketers, if you’re dressing, talking and thinking like somebody who’s going to get into accounting or finance, sometimes that’s wrong. I talk to my students, if you show up to your interview in a frumpy suit, that’s going to work for this person, but it’s not going to work for this person. You have to think about all these different things and stuff. My students, just what you said, it’s okay to go a different path and live a different path. 

When I say these things the first timeI made them as offhanded comments because I’m like, “I’m just quoting Disney movies.” It resonates with the kids. They come up to me after class when I talk about taking multiple paths and being yourself but understanding that there are different ways to be happy and it works differently for different people. Success means very different things. We talk about the different types of goods. Good as an art, good as success and good for the world. Their brains are pleasantly blown and comforted at the same time by it. 

Marketing is interesting because it does have this one-two punch where it’s increasingly quantitative so it behooves you to have good mathematical skills. Statistical skills, programming skills and yet it still is a problemsolving creative pursuit. think one thing that is helping a lot is this rise of the nerd founder who may have the traditional kind of programming, but they’re essentially marketers. The Bezoses of the world and Elon. These billionaire rock stars are not the Warren Buffett-types. Their organizations have a very strong marketing focus. 

They understand feelings. Even if you argue that sometimes it’s abusing and not understanding, they do understand it’s about feelings and emotion. It’s not how fast it gets to you. It’s how you feel about how fast it gets there. It’s not that this is an eco-friendly car. It’s the sexiest eco-friendly car. 

I told that story about the associations that people have with cars that are good for the environment. They’re slow and drab and they’re uncool but good. Why does that have to be a negative correlation? Why can’t it be good for the environment and badass? 

Another great thing about being a marketing professor is Bobby Jones has a book called Good is the New CoolIt’s the idea that at least for the moment, the appearance of doing good for the world is the new cool. Cool is always just resistance to the norm that came before it. The norm in business was not doing good things. If you want to succeed in marketing, have a video about transgender rights. That works for companies. Obviously, companies abuse that. They don’t do it right. They don’t understand the populations they‘re trying to serve, but it’s more fun and better to teach than it was several years ago. 

The obvious misstep was the Kendall Jenner Pepsi commercial with the idea that Pepsi can help smooth race relations and end police violence. Pepsi did that badly, but at least Pepsi was trying to do it versus this very vapid positioning that they had before. I want to give some background because people don’t know this, but you and I have known each other for a long time. 

I heard about you when I was 22. 

[bctt tweet=”The appearance of doing good for the world is the new cool.” username=””]

Wmet when you were applying to graduate programs. 

I wanted to work with Pete, but I also wanted to work with Dan Ariely at Duke University. For those people who were never accepted to graduate school, you have to make a decision by a certain time. It’s 5:00 PM on a Wednesday. I literally went down to the last 45 minutes and I literally threw darts at a board. Eventually, I decided to go to Duke because what everybody says when you’re picking a university is going to the university where there are multiple faculty that feel right for you. I liked a lot of people in Colorado. I like John Lynch. The research wasn’t a good fit for me and you need to have lots of people who are a good fit. I went to Duke University and I thought I wanted to work with this guy named Gavan Fitzsimons who did unconscious stuff. By the end of the second year, I was like, “I love you, Gavan. You’re so coolbut I do not like doing this type of research.” It’s like, “Fine. Here’s a Diet Coke. Let’s talk about sports.” 

One of the things that I loved both about you and about Dan is I was interviewing at your schools. You both were good researchers but having these very interesting livesYou said this to me and I have repeated this many times. How do I make decisions? One of the values that I think about is, will this make my life more interesting? I think that if that was the only thing you had, it obviously would mess things up. It’s a very good thing to be thinking about all the time. Does this make my life more interesting? I’ve thought about that all the time. Also, when I’m in a situation that’s not so good, I’m like, “This is going to be a good story. I’m learning something. I’m living by Pete’s principles. 

I’m super flattered. I think you made the right choice also. I was disappointed obviously, but I understand it. It’s hard to predict the future, but choosing a place like Duke that has resources and then Dan is a rock star. Part of the reason that The Humor Research has become so prominent in my life is because of Dan Ariely. The thinking goes something like thisI always teach differentiation in my course. The fundamental idea is that you need to provide value, but you need to provide value distinct from the value that other competitors are providing. Otherwise you just have to price it lower. You offer it cheaper and it’s a race to the bottom. At the time when I was starting to think about doing more publicly facing stuff, Dan and I were doing very similar kinds of research. I was focusing on moral psychology, he’s doing emotions and decision making. We‘re cut from the same cloth in terms of our training and perspective. Dan is way smarter than I am. Dan already had a bestselling book. 

At the time that we metUpside was coming out. 

I was thinking, if I’m going to do more outward-facing work, what do I do it on? I’m like, “Dan Ariely is essentially doing what I do. He’s leaps and bounds. He’s so far ahead of me. I can’t outDanAriely.” I knew I couldn’t do it. Not only did he have the headstart, but he also has the acumen. You know Dan, he’s a freak of nature both intellectually and his motor. 

He has this understanding. He’ll go in a room and he’ll tell a five-minute joke to start something. It works because he’s amazing. He’s also great at using other people. I mean that in the best way. I’m one of those people. 

I was like, “I can’t do it. I’m not going to try. It’s this humor stuff though. I chose to go out into the world with the humorous stuff way early. What most people when they write something, they’re writing it after ten years of experience. The Humor Code, we started writing it maybe two years after I started studying what I’m studying. That’s why the book is written as an exploration, as a journey of discovery. It was not written as an opus in any way. I’m flattered that it went down to the last minute. I think you made the right choice. 

I remember you actually said almost what you said exactly where you said, I’m going to be some version of a poor man’s Dan Ariely.” You joked that I wasn’t going to come because you didn’t park well. You’re sharing a very personal thing. I’m making this decision and I’m this 22-year-old kid being like, “Pete imy friend. We’re getting brunch.” 

You were a delight and it’s amazing to be here and to try to squeeze knowledge from you. I like when I have firsts on the podcast. I’m a big fan of firstsWe have a first with you. You were like, I’ve got some ideas of some things that we should talk about. I said, “Don’t tell them to me. First of all, no one has ever done that before. No one‘s brought in notes like this. I have had people ask me questions and it’s amusing. What’s interesting is it’s usually the most accomplished people. They’re not interested in what they have to say. They want to mind this experience for something that benefits them. It’s part of the reason why they’re accomplished. Their egos can set aside in many ways. I’ve been fussing around with a question, I haven’t ever gotten to it. To be honest, I think I might‘ve asked it once and the question is, “What do you want to talk about? Given that you’re prepared, let’s do it. 

Let’s do one of these two things. We got to talk about one of the things that I’m most passionate about, but I’ll tag it one more time. We’ll see if we get to the other ones, which is I think that we should spend time making things and doing art, whatever that means. My art is existential short stories about aliens comparing themselves to humans. Maybe your art is like my dad, which is narrative, interesting versions of dodge ball that he did for his boys and girls club kids. Halso invented this free for all version of dodge ball. I’m not good at painting, but I paint every couple of months because it’s fun and to make stuff. When other people see it and you express parts of your soul and you share it, just make stuff. 

INJ 81 | Experiential Science
Experiential Science: Universities that are good at teaching concepts and theories but don’t do a good job of teaching life skills.


This is something that I come up on the podcastI’ve talked about and I’m fussing around with writing about, I don’t know where it’s going to go yet. It’s probably going to end up in my secret project. I think about it in terms of ratio. I’ll tell you where the first place that it has come up. That is with the secret project. Cal Newport has a book about digital minimalism. Cal Newport has written some very good books about career development, learning how to make things. He has a book called So Good They Can’t Ignore YouHis other book is called Deep WorkThese are books for creative types, people who are making stuff for a living. His follow up book Digital Minimalism is like throwing your smartphone in the ocean. He has this thing about every week, make ofix something. The idea is that when you’re fixing something, it’s very hard to be on your phone. It takes concentration and effort. Cal’s orientation is that of craftsperson. If it was up to him, he would bring back the craftsperson mentality and put it into a whitecollar world. 

Think about a blacksmith. The average person sees a blacksmith or imagines oldie times blacksmith and be like, “That works drudgery, just sitting there all day, banging on stuff, working at a hot fire. I couldn’t disagree more. A blacksmith is a great livelihood. The reason is one, you are up, you’re not seated, you’re moving around. You’re more of an artist than you are of a person who is swinging a hammer. Every hammer swings with a blacksmith matters because you’re making something. It has this ability to create a flow state where time melts away, where you become so focused and mindful of what you’re doing that you reach this good feeling. It‘s a path to living a good life. I think about this in terms of ratios. You used to say, make stuff. What I want to do is change your ratio of consuming to createThe average person’s ratio of consuming to creating is like ten to one. I might be generous when I say that. Why is it ten to one? Because our educational system makes you think creating stuff is unpleasant. 

Creating stuff and art is reserved for these special people and/or exist only to make money. 

Creating is hard and consuming is easy. 

Make the money to watch the thing on the biggest TV and you pay for the XD version of Netflix. 

We walk around with these consumption machines in our pocket where we never need to be bored. The quality of the consumption is out of this world. There’s something for everyone. It’s limitless. You’ll never run out. It’s easier and it’s pleasurable. The issue is creating stuff is difficult and it’s not pleasurable. What happens is that it can become easier and it never becomes pleasurable, but it can become good. It creates goodness in our lives. What I want people to consider is can you flip the ratio from ten to one to one to three? For every hour that you spend consuming, you spend three hours creating. 

I don’t think we should ever stop consuming. I think that if you want to be a great writer, you need to read great writing. If you want to become a great director, you need to watch good and bad movies. If you want to become an artist, you need to go to museums. If you want to be a singer, you need to listen to music. The consuming is the nutrition and the creation is fitness. The nutrition fuels fitness. This is easy to say, but it‘s hard to do because what you need to do is commit yourself. Here’s what you say. I’m going to start creating stuff. You’re like, “On Saturday I’m going to sit down and start to write or paint.” It’s going to take a long time to start to see the benefits of the creating because at first, it’s going to be agonizing, ugly and painful. Eventually, you can start to become the thing that you’re compelled to do as a result. 

There are also little ways you can get in to start creating. Cooking is a good concept of creating. One of the coolest things about you and my life is that we know so many cool, smart people. We all know somebody who’s a great cook in our life. As you said, whenever I’m hanging out with him, I don’t want to tell him anything about psychology. I just want to know, “How do you properly sear that meat as you did? I learn a little bit from him and then I try it and it’s not the best thing the first time, but it’s still good. 

Once I get it good, then I add something complicated and I have my own version of it. I told him about it and he’s like, I never thought of that. I know lots of people do this, but try it. Sear it on your pan, steak or whatever food you’re making, then you put it in the oven. This is the classic technique, but what I like to do is then I take it out and slice the steak or the meat. I like to do it a little bit more on the pan and it resears and it’s good. If you like your stuff rare, it’s not good, but if you’d like anything of medium to well, it’s so good. Do it. 

The point is to bring up cooking as a possibility. To me, the domain is irrelevant. It doesn’t matter if it’s music, writing, cooking, or improv. I don’t even care what the thing is. I think that our lives become much richer. Also, the world becomes a better place. Also, you become a more interesting person. If you find your relationships underwhelming, if you find your dating life to be poor, this is probably a reason for it, because you have nothing new to bring. People who consume all the time forgo the ability to be interesting. It has this unanticipated secondary benefit of giving you something that other people don’t have. 

I always say about rich people, some of the time it’s like, the most boring people with the coolest shoes has brain they never even seem to have used. I see so many people like that all the time and people are like, I’m cool because I’m wearing this shoe.” That shoe technically is about this concept and this breaking the norm, this athleticism or this artistic thing. You had none of those qualities. You’re a poser and you should take off those shoes. 

I did a workout. I was doing this ladder drill and shuffle drills. You can imagine I’m not a young man. I’m doing these high school football, basketball and lacrosse style drills. This guy in the gym and he can’t help it. He’s like, “Are you a ballerDo you play basketball?” I was like, “Not anymore, but yes, I used to play basketball.” He was enjoying the fact watching you do this thing. I’m not saying I was doing it well by any means. When I used to play basketball, you used to pick teams. It depends on the way it worked but sometimes the first two guys to shoot, they were the captains of each team and then they would pick from the folks that are waiting or the other one is you call next and put together a team and then you go out. 

It’s winner take all. The winner stays. You’re eager to win, especially when you’re young and you can play for two and a half hours. You don’t want to sit and wait. The key was always figuring out the guys who were good from the guys who look good. The guys who have all the gear and have all the look, they are all sizzle, no steak versus the guy whose shorts were a little too short. Maybe he’s a little too old, maybe he wasn’t quite as athletic as some of the other guys. You put that guy on the team and he can knock down open shots. He never takes a bad one. He moves the ball, he gets back on defense. You win with a bunch of guys like that. The really cool people in the world don’t always look cool, but they’re doing the cool things. What do you want to talk about? 

The other thing I wanted to talk about is two things. I’m unsure whether it’s best described as all the experiences. My lady and my friend, we do lots of different things and we always joke all of the experiences or the fact that we have many selves. 

I understand the idea of having many selves. What do you mean by having all the experiences? 

The idea is doing lots of different things that potentially are almost contradictory. For instance, we like fancy food, but we also like cheap messy food. Sometimes we are going to a fancy French place with a totally expensive style. Also, lots of times we go to Sonic and get their Oreo ice cream. I’ll start with my students and I see this in the whole world is all they are trying to do is find who they are as if who they are is one thing. I don’t think that’s the correct way. When you look at the Avengers and people are like, “Who are you on the Avengers? I’m like, I’m Tony. I’m Steve. I’Hawkeye sometimes. I’m nerdy and I’m The Hulk sometimes as well. 

[bctt tweet=”Learn how to remove distractions from your life to immerse yourself into challenging endeavors.” username=””]

We have all these different pieces of ourselves. We don’t create worlds where we allow to accept ourselves as all these different versions of ourselves and experience those things. On top of that, it’s taxing to young people who are trying to find themselves when there are lots of different people who can experience lots of different things. Maybe it’s not the most interesting thing in the world. The idea is, how do you create this space for you to have experienced all these different parts of you fully is something that people need to plan out more than their life. 

This is why I think academia is difficult for you and me. Also, it might be because I wasn’t sure if it’s you and me or you and I. You can tell that I’m just a state school kid. Let’s say, five years of university. First of all, it’s crazy expensive and seen as essential to being successful in life, but weirdly, not in the way that it used to be that it gave you a leg up. It’s that if you don’t have it, forget it. It’s gone from the point of differentiation to the point of parody. University education is the starting point. If you don’t have thatyou can’t even get in the door. 

There’s so much emphasis on graduate school. The extreme critical thinking and the true finishing of an intellectual mind are getting pushed up those degree levels. College is so complicated in the fact that we have more people in it. You have the diversity of preparedness in it, that it is bad for everybody at every level in that with some exceptions. 

What happens is that universities are very good at teaching concepts, they’re very good at teaching theory. They’re very good at teaching strategy within these particular domains. They’re getting better at it, but they don’t do a very good job of teaching life skills. Even some of the things that we’re talking about. I’ve railed on this idea before. I’m going to forgo a long conversation about it, but if you think about, one of the most important character attributes that we could try to develop is resilience. We know that employers want it and we know the benefit of being a resilient person with regard to our own personal lives, health and wellbeing. Yet universities are very good at creating the adversity associated that you need to build resilience, but not very good at developing the skills. 

They’re good at building the adversity. They’re good at apologizing for it and creating spaces for you to calm down and relax, but not good at actually building the skill. 

One is universities could stand to do a better job turning the volume down on the adversity a bit. My example of this is the average student has five classes and you have two weeks at the end of the semester where everything’s due. It’s a crazy idea if you want people to actually learn. I think there’s a missed opportunity. We were talking about how these universities do a very poor job of differentiating themselves. If you wanted to get serious about it, I’m offering one random idea, but it’s along with the idea of we’re not going to teach you how to do calculus, statistics and understand poetry. We’re going to help you become a better person, a more productive person. You’re going to learn the techniques, good nutrition, fitness, mindfulness and how to do negotiations. Not just sitting across from the table negotiations. You can imagine wellbeing based curriculum. If you think about it, why is it that people still buy books? They’re either buying for entertainment or they’re looking for an edge. What’s happening is the world is out looking to make their lives better. They missed a perfect opportunity during those four years to do that. 

I’m going to call it wellbeing 2.0 is that there’s part of this world that its wellbeing, but it’s tough. It’s not this idea of wellbeing is a comfort, a hug and you’re fine and it’s good. It’s the idea that if I need somebody to have a good life, I have to build the strength of character. It’s not mind-blowing at all. It’s teach to fish rather than give a fish. I like that it’s coming in there a little bit. Universities have this amazing opportunity and they don’t have enough. They think that they’ve succeeded oftentimes where they’re like, “We added a leadership class.” I’m just like, “No.” 

You’re someone who advises people on how to make experiences and you know that adding another attribute is often not the way to improve an experience. 

At Disney, with the fantasy rides, the rule is one ride, one emotion. Don’t add more. If you do, you end up with little mermaid and it sucks. 

I’m going to give you one more chance to choose something to talk about. 

Let’s talk about Disney. Let’s talk about how you can make your experiences good. Let’s take the phrase, “The amazing Disney imaginary Tony Baxter taught me at Imagineering.” Tony Baxter is the guy who did Star Tours, Splash Mountain, Indiana Jones and that is all great Disney rides, thrill, take and connect. He says, Great Disney rides do all three of those things. Okay Disney rides do two of those things and rides do two less than two are gone. 

Tell me this take. 

Thrill, take and connect. Let’s talk about it with Disney and then we can talk about how we can use this anytime we are designing a little day for ourselves. Let’s take Disney’s big roller coasters. Obviously, Space Mountain or Indiana Jones thrills. The ride is in the darks. They’re cool, but they don’t thrill like a Magic Mountain roller coaster at Six FlagsThey do something else. They take you somewhere. It takes you into space and it takes it Indiana Jones and connects you with the theme that you love. People love Indiana Jones and adventure. People love the concepts of space. Oftentimes Space Mountain is theme for Star Wars or other things to further that connection. What makes Disney rides more magical than other parks? Why are other parks as magical as Disney? It’s when they thrill, take and connect. You can even actually take the fantasy rides at Disney and most of the fantasy rides have an element of thrill. 

Peter Pan, it zooms you and it makes you feel like you’re flying. Alice is wacky in a way that offers thrill, at least for a kid. Snow White Scary Adventure has the emotion of scariness. Each one of those takes you in a space and they slowly bring you in this space. The first room is always a slow transitional room. Most likely the last room, except for some pointed differentiations from this is a slow transition back. It’s connecting with the story that you already know and love. The idea is if thrill, take and connect makes a great Disney ride, how can you do that the next time you’re going on a date, the next time that you’re designing a party and what are you going to do? For instance, if I throw a party, lots of times I have a theme to the party, whether it’s a nostalgic theme, it allows people to connect to something. 

spend time on making the theme. I make sure that when people are entering my party, I create a zone for where the party is in a slow transitional space into it, replicating the portal so it feels like they’re being taken into a certain space. Backyards can serve as more space that’s different than a living room. There are lots of different options. Thrill, I always try and do something that’s a little different or crazy, whether that’s a food or in my case, usually a weird game that I make people do. My students have taken this and told me lots of crazier things they’d do. They’re all excited when I teach them about take. They’ve actually told me, The next time we’re doing a party, we’re going to elongate the idea of the entryway through the stairs, so it’s going to feel like you’re being taken. Right as you go up, it’s going to introduce you to the theme more so that once you get into this space, you’re fully ready to enjoy,” whatever stupid theme they have. 

The timing couldn’t be better. I’m going to get some free consulting out of you. I’m in Los Angeles. I’ve moved here for my sabbatical. I’m throwing a welcome party for myself. It‘s on the rooftop of my friend’s business on Hollywood Boulevard. It feels very LA and I’ve already created the invite for it, which I had made as an image. Also, I’ve had it printed out and I’ve been handing it to people. It’s based upon the Quentin Tarantino movie Once Upon a Time in LA. It’s like, “Peter McGraw, welcome to Los Angeles.” It’s in the font and the colors of the movie posters. What’s very nice about it is if you have seen the movie, from the rooftop, you can see two Hollywood iconic signs that also show up in the movie. One is the Supply Sergeant neon sign on Hollywood Boulevard and the other one is Musso and Frank’s, which is a steak house that’s 100-years-old. There are scenes in the movie and Musso’s. What are we going to do to thrill, take, and connect for this welcome party? 

You’ve got a rooftop. That sounds super cool to have a lot of people out there, but that is more mundane to Hollywood people. I would say is what you want to do is make that space seem like a special space. The reason that Disney feels like this constant adventure is you keep going to spaces that feel differentiated from other spaces. Let’s say whatever the theme is, have an entryway to the stairs. You could hang things for whatever the theme is and have that slow transition and introduce people to the theme. 

INJ 81 | Experiential Science
Experiential Science: When you’re planning events or experiences, make sure you “thrill, take, and connect.’


Also, when they leave, have a sign or something somewhere that they couldn’t see before when they walked up that suggests that they look back. I’m doing this research on the idea that meaning is associated with a time for reflection. If you give them time to reflect on where they’ve been, they think they’ve been somewhere more meaningful and stuff. Disney does this on all the rides. Most of the time, the last room you’re in, like the last rooin Toy Story is you going back to the real world and there’s only one target. The last room is actually boring but reinforces the journey and that you’ve done something amazing and important. On the top, I’d lean into what the theme is somehow. 

The theme overall is this idea of Welcome to a New World. First of all, I recognize that it’s strange to throw yourself a welcome party. I love throwing a good party. Also, no one else is throwing me this welcome to LA party and I’m excited to be here. People are going to drink my booze and eat my food. 

What else are we going to do? 

It’s interesting because one is I’d certainly want to use some music from the movie. 

Especially if people hear that right when they’re entering, you might not be able to play that music on nonstop up at the top, but you could put that right in the final floor stair. That’s a place to do it. You can have music that may not be that exact thing but themed on it, maybe less The Chainsmokers. 

All the music is from 1969. 

Another thing that people love to do is they like to have something to do. If there’s some activity and using that activity to allow them to contribute and some constrained creativity to the theme, it will also allow them to be stronger connected. The basic thing would be recommending, whether you get food at certain places. You could have a wall that’s a vote for Shake Shack or InN-Out. All these ways in which they’re welcoming you and they can put their identity into it because the theme is Los Angeles. How can you get people to establish their personal connections to Los Angeles publicly? 

I think there could be a recommendation board, “What should Pete do? 

I also liked the idea of doing if we’re to Caleb Warren cool research, we do the thing that people normally want to do is don’t ever do this board. It will also be fun because I’ll put something up there that people like and that will start a controversy. It could be fun. 

I’m a big theme party thrower. One of the best parties I’ve ever thrown, it started out being called the Six Degrees of Separation party, but by the end of the party, it was renamed A Stranger Danger party. The idea is very simple. If that person wants to bring someone, they can, but that person can’t know you and on down the line. The first thing about Six Degrees of Separation party is it’s a full party. You triple the number of people who usually show up because of the extra people. The thing that unbeknownst to me was I put up a big board in my living room and wrote my name in the middle with a circle and people built the relationships off of it. You would have aligned to you and if you invited Mary, they‘d be aligned to Mary and we started connecting people. If you went then you know Jonathan and you would connect to Jonathan. You know Dan Ariely and all three of us then would be connected. built this magnificent web of people. 

Dan Ariely would love that because he was always talking about how you want to create norms and certain situations and that party creates an entirely different norm of a party. If people are there with tons of strangers, then the idea is there’s no reason you should click out. The clicks can’t form at a party. I want to go to a Peter McGraw Stranger Danger party. One thing if we think of thrill, being cool and breaking the rules is you’re on a roof. Can you throw anything off the roof? Can you seem to break a rule even if you’re not breaking a rule? 

It is a group of people who don’t know each other. I’ve got the USC, UCLA people that I know from Academia, a bunch of comedy people is coming. There are people from the coworking space. I like the idea of giving people missions. When you arrive and you get an envelopethen there’s a mission in the envelope that if you choose to accept it, you need to complete it before you leave the party. If you do a good job with the missions, then it brings people together. If you’re an academic, find one of Pete’s comedy friends or vice versa. If your comedy friend is one of Pete’s academicsthen do something with that person whatever that thing is. 

You can make them hard. You know the only one of them has performed at the Knitting Factory. Find the person who’s performed at the Knitting Factory and they‘ll be like, “The Knitting Factory is like a performance space.  

As a quick aside, we did a trashy Jersey night when I was at Princeton. We went to a minor league hockey game and then we went to this club outside of Princeton. 

How old are you in this story? 

I was 33 and we did missions for the group. It was maybe a dozen of us. It was fun because I came up with the missions. We hand out all the missions and they’re handed out randomly. One of the guys who you might actually know. His name is Jason Reese. He opens up his mission and goes, I am so excited about my mission. I cannot wait to do this mission. I’m thinking to myself, “I must hit a fucking home run with this mission.” The whole night, he’s like, “When I’m done, this mission is the best mission. I’m the luckiest guy here. Dumbass than I am, I wrote the mission. It was, “Your mission is to brag all night long. What a great mission you have. I just wanted to build enthusiasm for the mission. I gave away one mission that was designed for marketing purposes. I forgot that I had done that. I was racking my brain, “I wonder which one he has. He has the one where he could brag the whole night. I might do that as one of my missions. First of all, Troy, thank you for being the most prepared guest I’ve ever had. 

I don’t think it added much structure. 

I do have a final question and it’s on the consumption side of things. What are you reading, watching or listening to that’s good? Not just good, but like you’re like, “The world needs to know about this. 

Let me do two obvious things that if you haven’t done, do it and then maybe I’ll think of something more original. For music, The National. That’s the band everybody says, but I remember people like, “I can’t listen to The National. That’s just the cool indie band. I’m way cooler than listening to the cool indie band. They are so incredible. There is an existential, wonderful vibe about them. I’ve been writing some songs to approximate what they’re like. Here’s the one that’s like, “There’s this sadness inside me that you’ll never know. I could tell you all about it, but I doubt you’d ever feel it whole, we are silly people together, but we feel so alone at the end of every day, everyone’s tragedy is their own. 

That’s my example I do for my students to explain the themes of what The National is before I go and instead of playing one of the songs. That explains all their themes together, which is, I’m an adult, I’m in this relationship, things are good but not perfect. If you’re above the age of 30, I turned 32. I’m finally ready for The National. It’s amazing. Another example is Jane Austen. I’d never read Jane Austen and I’m like, “That’s such an obvious thing to read. She’s an incredible lady psychologist. Her books are all about social dynamics. The two books that I would recommend reading from her is her first and last book, it’s Northanger Abbey and that is where she has a character who is annoying. The character is making the wrong decisions and is confused about stuff. 

It’s interesting to read a book where the author is critical of her main character. That‘s a little less fun of a book, but it’s interesting and she has interesting commentary on it. Her best book, in my opinion, the last book is Persuasion, where she has this strong character who is named Anne. The other thing that you will read Jane Austen is you’ll be like, “This feels a lot like the present.” It’s amazing how certain norms around at the aristocracy, around how we think about things, even gender norms, how parents are with their kids, how dads and moms, unfortunately, have these stereotypes that they lean into sometimes. It’s like, “Progress is slow.” 

She’s also a brilliant writer just from appreciating the use of language and the clarity by which she writes is nice. A little call back to Cal Newport. I think a deep work, Cal talks about a book called Daily Rituals by Mason Currey. What he does is he pieces together these great thinkers, scientists, artists, inventors and their daily rituals. He pieces them together from their autobiographies. Their biography is their letters and to see what the beats in their day areWhat Cal does is an analysis of a subset of these great minds. He uses this to support his thesis about deep work. That these people on a daily basis remove distractions from their lives in order for them to immerse themselves as craftspeople into these challenging endeavors, painting, writing or whatever it might be. 

Jane Austen is one of those people that he does a profile of. As you might imagine, the book skews heavily male in part because for historical reasons, the advantages that men had as artists and scientistsWhat’s fascinating about Jane is she didn’t have the luxury that a lot of the men had, which was a wife or caretakers who took care of thingsThere was this expectation that Jane has a daughter and a sister who would be involved in the daily household activities. What happened was that the other people in Jane’s life recognized her brilliance. She would be around and be present, but she would be writing. 

At times when there were visitors, she would have to quickly hide her notebook so it appears proper and present. In this way as her sisters and other people did the other things around the house to allow her the time and space to engage in this deep work. Think about what Jane Austen has done. Imagine if she had the advantages that contemporaries had in that way. Thinking about her creating these incredible stories. Let’s be honest, the female characters in her stories are the most interesting characters. To be able to build these characters into these things is quite striking. 

She’s fantastic. The female lead is slightly different. In Emma, the female lead is mean and not a good person. The male character is less interesting but is the rational one that provides that. She gets so many different types of characters such that it’s not like you’re reading the same book over and over again. 

I wish I liked those stories more. 

You’ll find those same themes somewhere else. 

Troy, this was super fun. Cheers.

Resources mentioned:

About Troy Campbell

INJ 81 | Experiential Science

Troy Campbell is social scientist, marketing professor at the University of Oregon, professional designer, and researcher at Netflix Insights. He has worked at Disney Imagineering, Apple, and Comic-Con, as well as the change management organization On Your Feet and the fandom company Power Level Productions.

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