Here’s the truth:
Life’s challenges are inevitable.
There will always be an obstacle to overcome, but almost always there will be a remarkable lesson learned in the end.
Ten years ago, when my athletic career ended and I was forced to live on my sister’s couch, I played the victim. I sat around waiting for someone or something to make my life better
I blamed the world for my problems, and I couldn’t understand WHY this was all happening.
It took a massive amount of mental strength, but I had to force myself to get up and find a solution instead of moping in my misery.
And you know what?
Without experiencing the lowest moments in my life, I can honestly say I wouldn’t be the person I am today.
On this week’s episode of The School of Greatness, I wanted to stir up some conversation and hear what conservative political commentator, Ben Shapiro, had to say about playing the victim.
If you know anything about Ben Shapiro, you probably know that he ruffles a lot of feathers. Ben Shapiro is editor-in-chief of The Daily Wire and host of The Ben Shapiro Show, the top conservative podcast in the nation. Ben is the New York Times bestselling author of seven nonfiction books, including his most recent book, The Right Side of History: How Reason and Moral Purpose Made the West Great. Ben is constantly featured on major newspapers and websites and is widely regarded as one of the best debaters of our time.
Ben believes that people need to look within when they have a problem. He’s more interested in root values than debating specific issues.
Ben and I don’t agree on everything politically, but that shouldn’t stop us having a conversation. In this interview, I was more interested in learning about Ben’s personal life, about what makes him tick, and about his debate strategies rather than his political opinions.
A lot of people either love Ben Shapiro or hate him. When I posted this episode, some of you might have unsubscribed. But the way I look at it is, even if you disagree with someone on something, there is usually something you can learn from them! And there’s probably something they can learn from you!
Get ready to learn about happiness, debate, and owning your problems in Episode 724.
Whether you agree with Ben’s political views or not, it’s hard to ignore the fact that he is an outstanding debater. I wanted to learn more about his debating process, so that we all can learn how to state our arguments more clearly and logically without letting our emotions get too involved.
Discussing emotions is extremely important. Our ability to understand one another’s thoughts and feelings is invaluable. But sometimes, we have to put our personal feelings aside when debating, so that our arguments are based on facts and not emotions.
Ben mentioned how a lot of the time, he will go into a debate and his opponent will begin by attacking his character. But just because you don’t agree with someone on everything, doesn’t necessarily mean that they are a “bad” or “immoral” person. To become a great debater, you first have to let go of any personal judgement on the other speaker based on emotion.
Ben sums it up like this: “The truth is we wouldn’t treat any of our friends that way [and] we wouldn’t treat anyone we dealt in regular life that way. On social media, we treat [people] that way, and on politics we definitely treat each other that way. It’s a lot easier to call a political opponent a bad person than it is to actually have necessary conversations about where you guys differ.”
We do this all the time, not just in politics. Just because we might disagree on a public position doesn’t mean that we can’t be human beings to each other.
I don’t agree with everything Ben said, but that doesn’t mean I should attack his character. Ben shared an important lesson that he learned from his dad that really stuck out to me:
“Take everyone that you talk to seriously.”
To debate successfully, you should always try to understand your opponent’s point of view. It’s also important to understand what kind of person they are and how they think. Before Ben debates anyone, he watches that person’s past debates so he can get a feel for how they tick.
He described “debating” as playing a game, which was a metaphor that really worked well for me. Before a big game, you want to make sure you know who you’re up against. You need to understand the other team. You also want to look at yourself and see if there are ways you and your team can improve. With debating, it’s the same thing.
I asked Ben if he has any regrets or sees any mistakes from his career, and he said, “of course.” He said he has a giant list of “all the dumb stuff he said” that he keeps to remember himself how to improve.
“As human beings, it’s our job to grow and change and not only that [but] to evaluate where we’ve gone wrong in the past.” – Ben Shapiro
By putting our emotions aside, understanding our opponent, and learning from our past mistakes, we can all learn to debate better and communicate our opinions more effectively.
I know all about playing the victim.
After my athletic career ended, I found myself on my sister’s couch, waiting for the world to throw me a bone.
I remember thinking, “There’s got to be a way for people like me to be taken care of.” Then my sister lovingly kicked me off her couch after a year and a half. That’s when I realized:
“What if I could solve my problems instead of being a “victim of society.” What if I could get up off that couch and be in complete ownership of every decision I’ve made?
That’s what I did – and it led me to where I am today.
Ben has a lot to say about taking ownership of your life. He says that usually when something bad happens, our first instinct is to complain about that bad thing. We believe that complaining somehow alleviates the pain, but really, it just victimizes us to that pain.
Ben says you should start by asking what the problem is and what the solution is. Sometimes this is simple, other times it’s not, but approaching the problem head on is always better than approaching it as a victim. That was a lesson that Ben’s mother taught him. Unlike his visionary father, Ben’s mother was the practical type. She encouraged him to face his problems and if he wanted to accomplish something, she told him to actually do it instead of talk about it.
Sometimes, hearing this come from someone else can be difficult – like when my sister kicked me off her couch.
Ben explains it like this: “If a good piece of advice is given to you, do you ignore that? Do you fight with reality? Are you more angry with reality than you are willing to change yourself? Because if that’s the case, you’re doomed to lead a pretty miserable life because reality isn’t changing.”
You hold the power of change. Don’t succumb to being a victim, because victims do not become heroes – they stay victims.
In high school, Ben was bullied pretty severely. He skipped several grades, so he was a lot younger than the students in his classes. He said he spent most of his high school years at 5’2 inches tall and weighing 105 pounds. He struggled with socializing with his classmates because of the age difference but also because of his academic record. Ben was really really smart, and being smart doesn’t always make you the most popular kid.
Once, when he was at a weekend retreat, some of the students held him down onto a bed with belts and then handcuffed him to the bed frame. They then dragged the bed outside in front of the entire school. It was humiliating.
Bullying wasn’t his everyday reality, but it did taint his high school experience. To survive, Ben kept his head down and pushed through it. He didn’t let the social pressure “to fit in” silence his passions and beliefs. He remembers being disappointed and upset during high school, but now he looks at it as sort of amusing.
“People treat you very differently when you are less successful and more successful,” he says.
I see my high school situation almost like the inverse of Ben’s. I was the dumb kid. People made fun of me because of my ignorance. I had a second grade reading level when I was in eighth grade. To make up for that, I decided that I was going to be the best athlete that I could be. I was on the varsity team when I was fourteen. And I still got picked on. And that’s when I realized that being better than everyone else isn’t what’s going to make people like you. And that’s not the point. The point is being kind to people, making real friends, and growing as a person – not just in your skills but also your character.
I asked Ben what have been his proudest moments in life. He said he’s the proudest when he does nice things for people. You can be the smartest person on earth and make the most money, but if you’re not being kind, are you really making an impact? Are you really fulfilled?
I really enjoyed this interview. I was fascinated by the way Ben works and solves problems.
Ben showed up very authentically and he has a clear mission to help other people live a better life.
When I asked Ben what his definition of greatness was, he had two answers. First, greatness is finding yourself in a crisis but making a decision to make change and stand up for what you believe in. Second, greatness is “goodness.” It’s making decisions that benefit yourself, your loved ones, and the world in general.
Even if you’re not a fan of Ben Shapiro, I invite you to listen to this episode. He’s a personal growth expert whose mission is to better people, even in controversy. I know I learned a lot from him, and I hope he learned something from me too.
As always, thank you for listening! Get out there and do something great.
Lewis: This is episode 743 with Ben Shapiro. Welcome to the school of greatness my name is Lewis Howes a former athlete turned lifestyle entrepreneur and each week we bring you an inspiring person or message to help you discover how to unlock your inner greatness. Thanks for spending some time with me today, now let the class begin.
Earl Nightingale said “Your problem is to bridge the gap which exist between where you are now and the goal you intend to reach.” Our guest for today is so well known all over the world on the internet and on college campus everywhere his name is Ben Shapiro he is a very popular political commentator, best-selling author, writer and lawyer. He’s written several books and published his first one as a teenager and in this interview we talked about Ben’s journey personally with bullying and not fitting in when he was younger and how that played such a major part of his life today. How to take away personal judgement in a debate, Ben is one of the best debaters in the world and he talks about how to take away the personal judgement and the feelings in a debate so that you can win every single time. Also the power of looking within first when you have a problem as opposed to blaming and looking out, taking full responsibility of the situation and how to be solution focused not problem focused in life and business. Now, Ben is extremely controversial online there are millions of people that love him and a lot of people that disagree with many things he says.
In this interview I want to learn more about the personal side of him, not necessarily what he believes politically and what I believe politically but more why he thinks the way he thinks, how is he so successful in debates? How his mind works so that he can win a lot of this confrontation that he has by backing it with facts and proof and so much more. I want to learn so many other things and it was such a great interview I want him to come back in the next few months to dive in more and continue on the conversation. And if you have any questions then feel free to let me know because maybe I can ask some in the next follow up interview. Make sure to share this with your friends lewishowes.com/742 you can watch the full interview there as well. Tag both myself and Ben Shapiro on Instagram to let us know you are listening while you are listening.
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All right welcome everyone to the school of greatness we’ve got Ben Shapiro in the house.
Ben: I appreciate it.
Lewis: Very excited about this as we are talking before we just started, I don’t know anything about politics, I don’t follow politics I’m probably the most ignorant person about the topic you cover. So this is going to be interesting for me. You know you are really great at debates and winning your arguments and ideas based on facts not just a feeling.
Ben: Facts don’t care about your feelings.
Lewis: And you ruffle a lot of feathers for people, I already know just by having your name on the title of my show. I’m gonna get so much critic, I had Jordan Peterson on and I had so many people just unsubscribed. This is gonna be a bomb for me I already know we’re gonna get a lot of attention and people are going to be unsubscribing just because they’re not willing to listen because they see a name in the title and they are not willing to see what happens.
Lewis: And I was telling people with Jordan Peterson if they just listened there was nothing negative we talked about anything, it was all positive stuff and but you’re very controversial on some of the things you talk about. People call you a lot of different things and we don’t need to go into that. But I’m more fascinated about how you became so smart, I also watched a video of you playing violin I was very impressed with, my brother is the number 1 violinist in the world.
Ben: Really? I didn’t know that.
Lewis: I grew up around violin every single day and watching this and he performed all over the world but I’m curious about the way you think and why you’re so passionate about sharing your message, speaking on the world your company, your media content you put out there and why you think it’s important for you to continue sharing the message the way you do.
Ben: Well you know I think there’s certain eternal value that we’ve lost politically but also just into personal way. So for me the idea of building backup social fabric where we actually have some values in common is really important and politics is one means of discussing that, politics is basically the stuff we fight about the tip of the iceberg, but the thing I like to discuss is the stuff below that and that’s why when I’m discussing ideas or debating in a college setting for example, I am much less interested in debating of what’s going on. In the white house I am much more interested in the root issues as to how do we balance thing like our desire for liberty and our desire for communal commitment in capacity and this are things we have to have serious conversations about what matters to us so that we can reach out any sort of conclusion, or at least clarify where we stand in the issue, because what you find usually is that there isn’t enough clarity and political conversation. So my job is to try and drill down and not only make as clear as possible what I’m saying but also trying to illicit from the person I’m talking to. What is their root core position and what is there for me to disagree with or agree with? And this is the part where I found really frustrating about the level of controversy that’s associated with me is that when I was at Harvard Law School my favorite people who are on the left, I got a recommendation for law firm jobs from [?] so far left that when Clinton nominated for under secretary of housing and development I believe she was rejected by democratic senates. The idea that you have to hate the person you’re talking to is something that I think is push a lot on social media but if you do that.
Lewis: Conversation right if you hate the person you’re talking to, you’re basing things of your emotions.
Ben: It means that you can’t have a conversation because the entire conversation is your judgement of the other person’s character and this is why I’ve always maintained the first move in any conversation has to take that off the table.
Lewis: The judgement?
Ben: Yeah. The assumption that the person is motivated by something bad and because probably being motivated by something good and coming from a different premise doesn’t mean leave the room and agree on anything. But it does mean that at least you know what you disagree on about, because our tendency as human beings because we are cognitively bias, it’s very easy for us to fall into the trap of thinking I disagree with this person and that’s because this person is a bad person and this is super true in politics.
Lewis: I don’t agree on how they judge a character or how they handle the certain situation or they point out 1 thing.
Ben: Right, exactly and the truth is we wouldn’t treat any of our friends that way, we wouldn’t treat anyone we dealt in regular life that way. On social media we treat that way and on politics we definitely treat each other that way, it’s a lot easier political opponent a bad person than it is to actually have necessary conversations about where you guys differ.
Lewis: So you take away the judgement first when you’re going on debate or some type of conversation, how do you take away that judgement?
Ben: Well I mean both, I mean we all fail at this and I try to in myself I try to say “Okay” and now I have to drill down what is that makes them tick, and for them if someone comes with a preconception about me being a nasty terrible human being then my first move has to be pretty kind of harsh. So that’s the first step then you can have the conversation maybe it doesn’t go anywhere or maybe it does go somewhere but you’re not gonna know until out of the headspace where the other person is.
Lewis: When you try to go to a place where you know is heated and you just have a gut feeling that this is not gonna be good based on whatever, what do you think about going to a speech or debates or an interview where you know there could be some emotionally charged expressions happening? How do you prepare yourself mentally for that?
Ben: So first of all I treat debate like a game. So when it comes to this, I actually sit there an hour and watch how they debate. What are their tactics? What are the tricks they like to use? What are the favorite facts that they cite? Maybe they’ve got a point and I haven’t considered that point so do I have to adjust my view points in order to make room for that point? But you actually have to study this stuff and I think most people go on debate and “Okay, I’m just gonna go out there and say what I want to say.” You actually have to know what the lead tactic is before the person uses it. So for example the most famous debate I was probably in was one with Pierce Morgan that was the initial boost to topline status in 2013, it was right after Sandy Hook gun control was being talked about a lot. So, he had been doing this thing where he’s having on a bunch of people that disagree with gun control and then he would lead by saying “If you would disagree with me on gun control it’s because you don’t care about this poor slaughtered children.” And that to me was exactly what we’re talking about, it’s you attacking my character not attacking my argument. Now, we can disagree on gun control effective what’s not certain solution work and certain solutions don’t, we can do a lot of that stuff and that’s important conversation. What we can’t do is I sit down and the first thing you say to me you disagree with me because you’re evil. So, I went into that debate knowing that he was going to lead with that and before he could lead with I essentially punch him in the throat, it was like the Mike Tyson thing like everybody’s got a game plan till they get hit in the mouth.
Lewis: I think I watch a video you talked about this like he was going to bring out a kid like after the break.
Ben: Yeah he brought out a kid who had been crippled and had been really hurt in a gun violence situation. His plan was to swiveled and have me say ‘Okay, make all your arguments to this kid whose been wounded.’ And from my point of view that’s a dishonest thing to do because the content of the argument does not change based on who it is that you’re talking, that’s an emotional appeal that’s not an argument. So, you can do it but it’s intellectually dishonest to do it, I mean there’s argument to make on politics every day and those political arguments affect any number of people and any number of given ways. The question you have to ask an intellectually honest person is, what is the best solution? Understanding that bad things happen in the world and if you’re argument changes because you’re talking to one audience vs another audience, there’s a level of dishonesty to that. So, once I did that basically you’re emotionally manipulating your audience by stacking the deck against me, he couldn’t do that anymore because the trick have been called out. I mean it’s like watching David Copperfield make an airplane but once you know what he’s doing you can’t unsee it.
Lewis: Do you ever go into a situation where you kind of do the Eminem 8 mile like ‘yes I’ve said this, yes I’ve said this and bad here or whatever.’
Ben: A hundred percent yeah because as a person who’s been writing a syndicate column since I was 17 years old, sure I’ve said some really dumb stuff. I’ve said some stuff that I regret I have a full column that I have online called here’s a giant list of all the dumb stuff I said, because I think it’s important to do that and some of that stuff was said a year ago or 2 years ago. As human beings, it’s our job to grow and change and not only that, to evaluate where we’ve gone wrong in the past. One of the nastiest thing in our current political environment is that people made a mistake 10 years ago and now they don’t hold by that, they don’t provide any evidence and now we’re going back 10 years ago and digging up stuffs they said in order to destroy their careers and the most obvious example recently is Kevin Hart, where you go back and find a tweet that he wrote in 2010 and now he can’t host the Oscars in 2018 because he said something back in 2010.
Lewis: What did he say?
Ben: He tweeted something about it was an anti-gay tweet or he suggested that he wouldn’t want his 5 year old son to be gay. So people got all over him for that and he can’t host the Oscars. Well, number 1 there’s no evidence that he’s done ever actually that’s anti-gay. Number 2 we actually have to evaluate the question is whether you should be barred from hosting the Oscars if you had prefer that your 5 year old son be heterosexual vs homosexual which I think actually is an interesting conversation. But more than that regardless of all that it’s now 8 years later and you’re digging back some guy’s history because you saw he’s going to host the Oscars. So on that end if somebody calls me something and I feel like I’ve done something wrong I’m more than happy to repent for, I mean as a religious person I repent 3 times a day to God so I am more than happy to repent for the stuff that I said in the past that I think is bad, stupid or wrong.
Lewis: What is a moment you wish you had taken back something you said?
Ben: So, I mean this sort of stuff happens all the time I mean first of all because I was writing when I was 17 there are several when I was 18, 19 or 20 years old that are half baked, stupid you know ridiculous.
Lewis: What an 18 year old would say right?
Ben: Right exactly. So, I’ve said that was dumb and shouldn’t have done that, I’ve actively rejected my writing on that score in terms of kind of interpersonal relations. So, a few weeks ago taking an example there is a speech that I did at a particular university and it’s front of a couple of thousand people and a transgender person gets up and asking me about my position on transgenderism, which is that man are man and woman are woman and woman can’t become man and man can’t become woman very controversial but that’s the way I feel about this and so it happens to science. In any case we’re discussing this and this transgender person is really pressing me on the issue and we’re going back and forth and at one point this person bring up personal story the genetic male who is a transgender woman and when I speak publicly. So my rule when I use pronoun when I am speaking publicly about the issue because I believe that the gender is biologically based and that he and she are descriptions of biological status not a subjective mental state. Because of that when I speak publicly about this I used biological pronouns, I’ve always used biological pronouns as most human beings virtually all human beings.
Lewis: So a transgender woman you are saying even if they asked we used [?].
Ben: It depends on the scenario if it’s public or not.
Lewis: Personal 1 on 1.
Ben: If it’s 1 on 1 for sure because then it’s just being rude not to and if we’re discussing it in the context of should I use transgender pronouns or before society then the answer is no. So on national TV I’ve done that right, so my position in interpersonal relationship and specifically about this and we’re at dinner, I would be calling she if there is a 3rd person in the table because why be a jerk. But it’s not the same thing you talked about as a society what should our standard be, in any case this conversation goes on and the transgender woman starts telling his personal story and I said I really don’t want to do personal story stuff, because personal story stuff there’s no way to avoid this becoming offensive and emotionally charge and this person insisted on telling a personal story. At a certain point this transgender person said something and I said something and got very offended and started to cry and walked out the room, and I regret how the entire exchange went. So, in that case what I did is, I knew the organizer of the event the organizers of the event turns out knew the person. I called this person I had,I asked them if they move from the video version, because I didn’t want this to go out and embarrassed and so. When things don’t go the way that they should then I want to make sure that they do. So, I think this is what anybody with a good heart should be trying to do and we all make mistakes in that process.
Lewis: So you had a 1 on 1 with this person and they felt fine.
Ben: But we can still treat each other and be nice people to each other and just because we disagree on a public position doesn’t mean that we can’t be human beings to each other.
Lewis: Who is the most influential person in your life growing up?
Ben: Well I would say my parents obviously, my dad was extremely influential so my home life was, and my parents have been married for nearly 40 years at this point. So thank God I grew up in a very stable home, my mom worked and my dad stayed at home so that was unusual. My dad was a musician and he came out, my parents came out to L.A so he can write for TV that didn’t really work out but my mom ended up as a film exec having a degree in education. So, my dad was home with me and so that meant that I was constantly talking with my dad about ideas and him recommending books for me to read and because he was a musician I got very into music and I was a very highly train musician. So, he was really influential in my life obviously continues to be influential in my life. As far as sort of other folks who were influential I had certain teachers along the way, I had 4th grade teacher in public school name Ms. Lanetti and she was just wonderful I mean really focus in on being creative in how I was educated because I just skipped certain grade. So, when I skip in 3rd grade she was very grateful about that and she also understood that she could be exacting with me, and people asked like what’s the most memorable thing somebody ever said to you, the most memorable thing somebody ever said to me is that I was in 3rd grade and she said “Don’t let potential to be written on your tombstone.” So this is pretty deep stuff at 8 maybe, but she was like that and she was great. The principal of the school was also terrific and then I had a teacher in high school who is Anthony Miller was a really a good writer and training in college, he was really creative in his writing and that had an impact on me in terms of I wrote.
Lewis: Since your dad was with you a lot during the days what was the greatest lesson he ever taught you?
Ben: Well I think that the biggest lesson he ever taught me is to take everybody you talked to seriously. So with my dad there really is no gap in, I mean folks who know him my dad they know that he treats everybody exactly the same. So he whether it’s a member of his family or he’s the kind of person where if you get into an elevator with my dad he will have your entire life history by the time you get out of the elevator. But he was also like that with us his kids meaning if I had a question he took it extremely seriously and get the best answer. He always addressed me as if I were an adult when I was a kid and he took that stuff very seriously. So for me that’s always been the case and I think that’s one of the reasons why my show and the stuff that I do has particularly appeal on the young people because I treat his idea seriously and I’m not dumbing them down for young people. First of all I’m still relatively young I’m 34 but part of that is also in politics people who think they know a lot tend to think “Well if I translate this into 2nd grade then that’s what people really need.” I think people are capable of understanding a lot more than they think they are capable of understanding if they are treated with respect in how this stuff is presented. I mean when I’m presenting I’m presenting with high level, I mean I used 5 dollar word and I cite philosophers and I cite data from actual think tanks and people like that.
My parents weren’t the type of person if you have a problem at school they blame the teacher. Their first question was ‘Did you do it?’
Lewis: Right how can you change it and how you respond differently to it?
Ben: And this is my pet peeve with is I deal with family, friends and society is if a good piece of advice is given to you do you ignore the advice? Do you fight with reality? Are you more angry with reality than you are willing to change yourself? Because if that’s the case you’re doom to lead a pretty miserable life because reality isn’t changing. Now that doesn’t mean there are certain social circumstances that we can’t all work together to change, but if you’re running smack into certain baseline reality like some people are smarter and some earned more money and some people earned less money and you are living in a free society and you are running into reality like I made a bunch of decisions in my life and now I’m poor.
Lewis: Because of those?
Ben: Because of those decisions, that aint society’s fault. I mean there was a joke going around that if I were to run for president my slogan would have been ‘Solve your own problems.’ Because every politicians is I’m gonna solve your problem and this is something I despise on all sides of aisle. I think that President Trump is an example campaign that you have a dying factory, it’s been dying because technology is ripping away those jobs and because the market doesn’t help create new jobs in this particular area. Well, we’re not going to say that you should leave your town and go to a different town where the jobs are and treat your life as an adventure and go forward, instead we’re gonna say no and bring those jobs back because the Mexican and the Chinese stole those jobs, that’s nonsense because politicians like Elizabeth Lauren who recently spoken historically at a black college and she said to a group of black student that America is inevitably stacked against you. I’m thinking these are people who are at a top level college who majored in probably useful things and will probably get a job after that major.
If your solution is focus then you should be asking what the problem is and what the solution is. But I think that we as a country and just generally as human beings oriented towards being problem focused, meaning that something bad happens then we think ‘okay, how can we complain this problem?’ as opposed to how can we solve this problem.
Lewis: Take ownership.
Ben: How can we do something about it? And my wife and I have a basic rule and this imply in relationships also. So my wife and I have a basic rule that came up early in our marriage, so my wife she does the thing that many woman do and she will want to talk to me about her problem and as a man my first instinct is ‘Okay, here’s what we should do.’ And she gets pissed. So, I said to her that’s fine but I need to know upfront before the conversation is this a problem solving conversation or is this a me hearing you conversation? So this is an actual rule in our house and very often she would say I want you to listen. So I think that is politics also, we mixed up what we want with our politicians with we pretend with what we want out of our politicians is solutions. But what we actually want out of our politicians is sympathy. The problem is that sympathy does not create solutions, sympathy is just a way for people to pander you with money.
Lewis: You know it’s interesting because about 10 years ago I was playing professional football kind of like minor league football, it’s getting teams 250 bucks a week so it wasn’t, I wasn’t making a lot of money but I was doing what I love and I got injured and I was sleeping on my sister’s couch about a year and a half afterwards. I didn’t have a college degree yet it was in 2008 when economy was pretty bad and people with degrees weren’t getting any jobs and I remember thinking at the time how am I going to get out of this and can someone help me out. I was thinking like there’s got to be a way for people like me who can get taken care of and then I realized after my sister you know lovingly kicked me off her couch after a year and a half. I remember what if I could solve this problem as opposed to being a victim to society, what happened to me or whatever what if I could solve this problem and be in complete ownership of every decision I’ve made. I think one of the reasons I don’t follow politics or watch the news or do any of that stuff is that I try to instill what you talked about with people on this show is like how do we overcome challenge by not putting the blame on someone else. With the society we’re in how can we develop new skills and be more valuable to society so that we can earn more, how can we take care of our health better so we’re not sick and needing medicine or someone to supplement that through whatever it may be? And I think when we can focus more on improving our life is the political things don’t really matter much, I mean what’s happening in the world doesn’t matter.
Ben: What John Adams said and I think this is right the constitution of the United States and what he meant by this is freedom is really only built for moral and just people. What he meant by that really is by that if you got a group of people who are waiting around or saving them externally you can’t have a system where even if we can take care of each other. There’s going to be situation in which the community needs to come together and legitimately can’t take care of themselves or going through a rough stretch understood all that’s right. But if you don’t have a group of people who are motivated not to take advantage of that or who are not told by politicians that they should be taking advantage of it or that society has a duty, why don’t we focus on our own duties before we focus on everybody else’s duties to us. We focus a lot on our rights in our society, we focus very little on what our duties to ourselves and to society and that doesn’t make us happier it makes us more depress.
Lewis: What’s the difference between rights and duties?
Ben: So there are a couple of different visions of rights and I think that this is actually where we get political. So I think that there are 2 different visions of rights according to people on the right of conservatives, what rights are things that you have a right to do X without the government controlling you. So, basically these are called rights the power that sort of used is that you have a right against the government. So for example I have the right to free speech, what that really means is that the government does not have the ability to compel me to speak in a certain way.
Lewis: No matter what I say anything at all even threats or.
Ben: Well not threats because that’s actual assault but anything that is not indicating violence.
Lewis: If someone grabs you by the throat and says you’re going to be in an ambulance if you keep speaking.
Ben: That’s illegal that’s actually a violation of the law. But me saying something that offended that person is not a violation of the law and the government can’t compel that. So the idea for people who sort of believe in traditional constitution freedoms is that the bill or rights is the expression of a bunch of negative for the most part, things where rights to freedom or religion means government can’t impose upon you, things like what John Lockwood call state of nature that if there were no government you just live in a community with your families or whatever that the government wouldn’t be there to impose things on you, so what would you have without the government imposing on you. So rights to bear arms the government does not have the right to take away your arms. Now, what people on the left have said is that those rights are not sufficient you need actual material good to provide you a sense of well-being sufficient that you can lead half of your life. So for example: A right to healthcare that’s something that we have to force somebody to provide for you, whether through taxation or forcing a doctor to take care of you, a right to healthcare is an affirmative duty on someone else, a right to free speech is an affirmative duty. If I am just sitting here I have the right to free speech, if I have a right to healthcare and I get hurt now I get to compel somebody to provide that healthcare to me, because I have right to it which means it doesn’t, if I am just sitting here the healthcare doesn’t just arrive there should be a doctor qualified to take care of me and if that doctor doesn’t take care of me he has to be force or she has to be force to take care of me.
So when I say rights versus duties this applies broadly to virtually all rights but particularly it’s important for people who believe in a positive version of right. So the right to free speech comes along the duty if you want to have a functioning society. The right to free speech comes along with the duty not to be a generalized jackass because if you do that it wrecks the social fabrics. So if you are just going around like I believe that you have the right to call somebody ethnic slur you do you have a right it’s not illegal. If you do it it’s a bad thing to do. But if people act like jackasses within the balance of their rights all the time there’s no social fabric we can’t live together.
Lewis: If you [?] people all day long then what’s the point of being here.
Ben: Exactly. If the offense comes with a point actually we have to have a substance of conversation that’s one thing, there’s a concentration that I have a lot during 2016 about President Trump and also the conversation I had about a couple of folks like outright in Minneapolis for example is that they would say things that would deliberately taboo, like I want to say something taboo because you have to break political correctness. So what I said was political correctness is only bad if it’s trying to bar speech that is valuable, meaning that there’s a politically correct taboo that’s using the N word. But if you’re going to tell me that politically correctness says I am no longer allowed to say that male and female are biological categories that’s a valuable thing that has ramification to society their anti-political correctness. So that’s an example of you have the right to say that things but you shouldn’t do them just to be a jerk, at the same thing holds true comes to positive rights even and I think the leftist failed to recognize this particularly when they say for example the northern countries they’ll say “Well there’s a right to healthcare.” Okay let’s assume that you are right, I disagree I think there’s no right to healthcare and I don’t think you can compel somebody to provide your healthcare I think that’s wrong. But let’s take your point of view for a second that there’s to healthcare, well this should come along with a continent duty to take care of yourself.
Lewis: If you are smoking and drinking and never move your body and you’re eating junk food all day then you’re not taking care of yourself.
Ben: Yes you are throwing away the obligations onto this entire other group of people. One of the reasons that you’ve been able to support practically speaking a larger social welfare state in place like the northern countries is because they have a very strong social fabric where everybody, people know their neighbors and they feel an obligation.
Lewis: They help each other.
Ben: Yeah. You saw Cinderella man the movie with Russell Crow. So James is this champion boxer who rises from being basically on welfare, so you remember there’s a scene where he’s at welfare roles and now he’s the champion of the world and he goes back into welfare office with a roll of cash and he hands it back to the welfare agent. Well they said you don’t have to do it, he said it’s a duty that he owe to you.
Lewis: It wasn’t his right, it’s a duty.
Ben: It’s a duty for me to bring that cash back to you. That’s something that I think Americans have lost and something also happens in the context of government taking care of us because the government by nature is faceless, the government is a barrier between you and your fellow citizen. When you get a check from the government you try think the government it’s what’s giving the check, the government doesn’t have any cash providing of its own, the government is taking money from another human. Well we don’t think of that way in our churches or [?] like I belong to [?], when somebody in our community has a financial problem we all get together and we contribute to the person via the Rabi. The Rabi will come to us and say this person is having a rough month we need to pay his rent, well that’s good in the sense that this person knows who exactly is giving him the money and he feels an obligation to all those people not to mooch off them because we all share a community together. Well that sort of social fabric has to exist that feeling of obligation has to exist if we are to have functioning rights in the first place and that include people who believe that you have rights to other people’s stuff.
Lewis: I love this. Now I’m curious what was the biggest lesson that your mom taught you growing up?
Ben: So my mom is really different from my dad and for variety of reasons and she is imminently practical.
Lewis: Your dad is the artist?
Ben: Exactly the visionary and likes to dream and my mom was like ‘Okay, but who’s gonna sign the check.’ So then that when my mom comes in. My mom is a lot more to the point the word in she’s like down to the [?] and so from her it’s more a manner of we’re not going to waste time, we’re going to get right to the point and get things done because she’s very practical. So, I would say that the lesson that I learned from her is just like go do it now and stop talking just go do it. Like if you don’t have an excuse then you shouldn’t be wasting time doing that. So my dad taught like a lot of life lessons about morality and decency and my mom was much more about like you got to take action now like you need to go out and make a move and make a plan. Honestly I’ve had depressed folks in my family and to me whether or not you’re talking about clinical or depression where you need actual care, but if you’re talking about just your down the number 1 thing you should do is make a plan.
Lewis: Step by step. Jordan Peterson’s way
Ben: Exactly and I think honestly its Jordan’s way or my way or everybody’s way. Successful people in life make a list of things they want to do and then if you really want to be successful then what you do is you take the little things first and cross those off and you can tackle the big things.
Lewis: I think the key is that’s why routines and habits are such a big hot topic right now just like when you have a routine where you do something every day and you build momentum and start to feel better and you feel less depress and if we don’t have something to aim at then we are aimless, we’re just wandering in no man’s land and the worst comes to as opposed to creating the best.
Ben: Exactly and I think those have some deep philosophical roots. So I have a book that’s coming out in March and it talks sort about why suicide is up and depression is up and my basic thesis is that we’re sort of living. I think there’s certain eternal values that are free and prosperous and we’re living on the fumes of those values having undermine a lot of those values.
Lewis: Maybe a few core values you can talk about.
Ben: So I think that there are four things that human beings need to be happy: You need individual purpose and that you’re alone in a deserted island so you need individual purpose, you need individual capacity like you have the capacity to do something and you live in a world where you have freewill where you can make a freewill decision. So you need that on an individual level and you need that on a communal level, you need to feel that we together have something to do. Then you need to feel like there’s communal capacity we as a group of people can do it without violating the rights of the individual.
Now my view is that western civilization was really good at creating a system where people had all 4 of these things based on historically speaking a unique set of circumstances that springs from Jerusalem and Athens. So Judeau Christian values this ideas that there is freewill that you can act to the world, that there is a creator who stands behind a rational universe. I think you have the capacity to understand that universe if you apply your thinking to that universe that you are made in God’s image, I think this comes from the Judeau Christian value system and that you have an obligation to treat your fellow men in certain ways and on the other hand you have Athens which is the idea that reason and logic can allow you to delve into the depths of the universe and really understand the world around you and to apply that reason to even the biblical roles that you received.
Lewis: So it’s not the literal word it’s the interpretation?
Ben: The interpretation was always taken for granted because as human beings that’s what we do. Anytime I say something new you’re interpreting, if God also says something to me I’m interpreting. So the basic interplay the tension between faith and reason is what created the west because without certain core assumptions then you couldn’t actually feel as though you have capacity to operate in the world. So, I think we’ve ripped a lot of these things, I think we’ve ripped away the Judeau Christian value system and said that you don’t need to go to church the bible is worthless and not only that it’s oppressive and repressive and you have the capacity to make your own meaning. Well the problem is the same book the same set of values that created this set of morals and meaning also says that you are made in God’s image that you have an [?] value as a human being that separates you from the animals, that you are not just a series of fire adapting evolution to your environment. So I think what happened over the last couple of century’s western civilization got rid of all the basis for why human beings are unique which religious assumptions are and then it substituted reason but reason requires certain religious assumption. And so what we ended up with is we are a bunch of emotional creatures who are manipulated by our environment. So that being the case you actually don’t have the power doing anything in your life, you’re just what you’re.
Lewis: Is that why you think people are suffering and more depressed than ever right now?
Ben: I think the cause of that is knowing it and I think the question is what gets you up in the morning, what’s your mission today and I think that we’ve been basically as long as you don’t look at it you’re okay, as long as you don’t look too deeply at the problem you’re all right. So you just say ‘okay my goal is to act more morally today.’ I know what’s right I’m a nice person okay define all these terms. But those having no roots that’s why if you strip 3 layers down then none of it makes any sense. So I think that you’ve seen this manifest in basically well I’ll do what I want and I’ll let everybody do what they want and I’ll be happy. That’s not right I mean happiness is according to Judeau Christian values is in service of God and in Greek thought happiness was at least in large part living in coordination with reason. So what exactly is it supposed to make us happy?
Lewis: Even if those who are watching and listening are not religious or don’t believe in God I’m sure that you’ve done the research on just the studies of what brings people happiness.
Ben: Religion is one of this things by the way.
Lewis: Or belief system right? Belief something greater than yourself.
Ben: Well this is the thing people are religious even if they don’t want to be, so if you’re not you’re going to be religious the question is what are you going to be religious about? I mean communist are the most religious people on planet earth I mean they religiously believe ideal of a new Utopia that’s going to be created. Every people need a vision of what life is supposed to be and they need a vision of what meaning is supposed to constitute. The number of people who are honest enough to just say ‘okay you know what I’m an idealist.’ That’s 5 people and their lives won’t end up very good. None of this is a suggestion you have to be religious in order to be moral, I think there are plenty of people I know who are atheist which I understand.
Lewis: There’s a lot of religious people who are not.
Ben: Deeply immoral. The question is what can you build a civilization? I don’t think you can build a civilization on mirror matter, I don’t think you can just say like the world is made up of stuff and then stuff happens. But somehow we end up that mirrors the Judeau Christian system values built over 3,000 years. It’s a question I asked Sam Harris we did a podcast together and at 1 point I said “You know Sam you and I hold 95% of the same values but you’re an atheist and I’m a religious person so why is that?” and he said “Well, I’ve studied this different philosophies and religions and then I came up with this moral system that I think makes sense for me.” And I said “Right that explains why you think that you think this things are true but why is it that we have such overlap here?” People living in the same environment having grown up in the same civilization do have certain commonalities but I think what we’re seeing right now even the most basic commonalities are being ripped away and I think this has political overtones. One of the most devastating lines I’ve heard in politics came in 2012 when President Obama during his 2nd inaugural addressed said “We in the United States we don’t need to have the same definition of liberty. We can each define liberty in our own way.” And I thought well then you can’t have a society, we can’t agree on what liberty is I don’t know how you can say that we have a free society together. I mean your definition of liberty is like a conflicted mind, so we need to have at least a baseline of definition.
Lewis: [?] what does that mean?
Ben: Right if we don’t share that definition then what exactly.
Lewis: It’s our interpretation what it means.
Ben: I mean if we all decide to go out and get ice cream then you tell me that by ice cream you meant you wanted to go salad bar.
Lewis: It’s different yeah, interesting.
Ben: But if we’re saying like polar opposites my liberty involves taking a thing from you because I’m not free and my liberty involves you not being able to take that thing from me, we now have directly conflicting visions of what liberty is.
Lewis: Now, I’m fascinated by I keep coming back to your childhood because I’m fascinated by this. You skipped a couple of grades 3rd and 9th I think you said, you went to UCLA like 16 and I’m assuming you took like college credit classes when you’re 13 I’m assuming. What was that like jumping the 1st grade? Was there a big difference going from 2nd to 4th and being with kids older than you there or is it harder when you jumped from 8th to 10th?
Ben: 8th to 10th was a lot harder I mean when you’re.
Lewis: Middle school to like sophomore year in high school.
Ben: Right, when I skipped the 1st grade I was merely a little bit younger than all of the students when I skipped the 2nd grade I was a lot younger than a lot of students, also I didn’t hit my growth spurt until basically I was a senior in high school, so I spent most of my high school year 5’2 and 105. So that made a bit of a difference also because I’ve gone to a private Jewish school for high school. So my family only became like fully religious in terms of being orthodox Jews when I was 11. So a lot of these other kids have been [?] their whole life so they all have a friend groups and I only went to a fully Jewish school full time a couple of years earlier, but I went to a fully Jewish school when I went to high school. So all the cliques have been formed so then an outsider coming in and I skip a grade.
Lewis: Small school this is like few hundred students?
Ben: Yeah a couple of hundred students. There’s a boys school and girls they kept them separate which is typical orthodox Judeau schools and so it’s probably 200 students in the boys and 200 in the girls. So it was small and we live in the valley and the school is in the city, so that meant that almost all of the students were from the city. So yeah socially it was pretty difficult and also I was a real smartass, I was one of the smarter kids in the class even having skip and so that’s not conducive to leading a rich social life.
Ben: So high school was rough.
Lewis: What was the biggest challenge for you? That you kept speaking out or you feel like you can share your voice because people are making fun of you.
Ben: Mostly it was that you know how are if you are not a part of the in group you’re part of the out group or there is no out group.
Lewis: Even if it’s religious loving.
Ben: Does not people are still people. Religion is based on the assumption that people are still people and religion proves it out. There are a lot of religious people that treat other people viciously and this talking particularly about teenagers talking about by in large.
Lewis: So you spent 2 years in high school then.
Lewis: Did you feel like you were outside the whole time? What were people saying or doing to you?
Ben: I mean I was on the outside the whole time for sure, I mean I be physically accosted there’s one situation where I was on there was kind of a weekend getaway and there’s one situation where guys legitimately like held me down on a bed with belts.
Lewis: No way.
Ben: There are situation where and then that concluded with somebody brought handcuffs and then drag the bedframe outside the cabin and handcuff me to the bedframe in front of the entire school.
Lewis: The guys and the girls?
Ben: Well the girls weren’t there so this is just guys.
Lewis: Can you imagine if it were guys and girls?
Ben: If girls were there it would have been even worse.
Lewis: So they were pinning you down and hitting you with belts and then they handcuffed you to a bed outside?
Ben: Yeah the next morning and so you know high school was not a lot of fun for me.
Lewis: Was that your 1st year sophomore year?
Ben: That would be yeah.
Lewis: Did it get better or worse?
Ben: It got better than that, it wasn’t like that every single day. It was unpleasant again I don’t think most the kids there were like that.
Lewis: It’s tough you get this group mentality when it’s everyone is like rallying against a cause.
Ben: And in school the cause is always somebody. So you know I was that for a while and I was excited to get out of high school, I mean I enjoyed like the learning aspect but I was very excited to leave and when I got to college I was so happy, especially because when I was in college I live at home so I was not with the other students full time, I was spending a lot of time commuting but I’d go to class and I learn stuff and then I’d leave and I got along with people in college because in college nobody cares how old you are.
Lewis: Smart or you’re kind or whatever.
Ben: Exactly, I love college I thought college was great and then when I went to law school I love law school too. High school was the worst of it for sure but the question was just the mentality of what do you do about it.
Lewis: How did you overcome it during high school?
Ben: I just put my head down and push and I never shut up I mean I never. So you just learn to grow a thick skin and basically tell people go F off or you not go under to it.
Lewis: Did you have any close friends?
Ben: No, I had people I was acquainted with but I don’t have any strong close friends.
Lewis: So did you get invited to like birthday parties?
Ben: Occasionally but not really. Honestly I spent most of my childhood talking to adults, most people are having conversation with 45. I’ve never been a friends person I’m like a very family oriented person so I spend almost all my, like my best friend is my business partner but aside from that all of the people that I am closest to are my parents, my wife and my 2 kids.
Lewis: So if I ever call you and say do you want to hang out?
Ben: I mean unless my wife and kids are out of town yeah basically because for me every interaction has to be weight against the opportunity.
Lewis: Like you mom very practical.
Ben: Exactly, there’s a certain economic cost in every conversation, in every bit of time you spend. So I turn down dinner invites like it’s very difficult to get me out to dinner even with people who are prominent because I don’t want to.
Lewis: Do you feel like you got robbed of your childhood then?
Ben: In a sense I supposed I mean high school wasn’t fun. So if childhood was supposed to be kind of fun then yeah but it was an alternative used of time for me, I spent a lot of time reading and a lot of time writing and a lot of time involving myself in stuff I wanted to be involved with. So I consider my childhood pretty happy without, it was just not social.
Lewis: You had focus, you had goals in the eye.
Ben: I mean I was a professional musician and I was 1 of the top 10 teachers at the time.
Lewis: In violin and piano?
Ben: In violin not piano, my dad is a professional piano.
Lewis: Were you Suzuki trained?
Ben: Yeah originally and then I move on to a teacher named [?] who’s a Russian top level teacher who live out here in West L.A and then I would fill it with a lot of reading and a lot of conversations, it was a good time to pick up on my movie watching, so I’ve seen every Oscar nominated film since 1933. So that’s how you create the cultural knowledge base for doing a show, it all pays off in the end. But in a sense that I wasn’t getting invited into the cool kids party yeah that was disappointing and upsetting and I remember it was much more disappointing at the time than it is now and I will say that it is amusing. People treat you very differently when you are less successful and more successful.
Lewis: Now they are all coming back and be like. What was your most proud moment growing up?
Ben: Well I mean the best moment growing up [?] but my most proud moment growing up.
Lewis: Before college.
Ben: I would say that my, I would say doing nice things for people like but as far as, you know I was proud when I was in high school I was 14 and I won a 10 minute play contest for Princeton.
Lewis: A 10 minute play contest?
Ben: Yeah like a fiction play.
Lewis: That’s pretty cool.
Ben: Yeah that kind of stuff is pretty neat. You know there is the occasional school fight that you win those are always proud moments or there is a sports moment where you finally make 1 move play basketball like when I was in junior high I got incredibly hot and hit 15 shots in a row and the coach was there and said ‘Why don’t you try out for the basketball team.’ So there’s that kind of stuff.
Post college my proudest moments are getting married, having my kids and taking care of my family things when I step in to help people and that’s all the stuff, and then listen I’m very proud of the stuff that I do daily basis. I’ve gotten letters from people who say that they were drug abusers and they listen to the show and then because of the constant messages and that doesn’t mean we won’t help you out if you need it, like I give out a lot of charity and people should give out to charity but the first step has to be you, that’s the stuff I’m really proud of all the other stuff are just ancillary I think.
Lewis: It’s funny I feel in some ways very similar to you because I was picked on a lot growing up even though it doesn’t look like because I’m this bigger guy. I was the complete opposite of you, you are like the smartest kid in the class and I was the dumbest kid in the class so I was in the bottom 4 every year through high school and middle school, I had 2 years my whole life I was in special needs I had a 2nd grade reading level on 8th grade. So I was the kid that they would call in front of the class to speak and read and I couldn’t read the first lines and I would just stutter and mumble. So I was being made fun of for being the most ignorant kid and I used that kind of frustration and anger on being picked on to being like I’m going to be the best athlete I can be to like prove everyone wrong. So when I got into high school I was one of the better athletes as a freshman, I was like the opposite of you. So I was on varsity my freshman of every sport and everyone was 17 or 18 and I was 14 so I was the one they picked on. So every year I was just like the younger one that they picked on and kind of like hazed or whatever until I was a senior then all of a sudden I was like all the people I was hanging out with are gone and I remember having a moment going my senior year, like all my friends and the ones that picked on me are gone. I can be like them to lower classmen but I was like that feels horrible to me, I don’t want to repeat what they did so instead I’m gonna focus on trying to connect with everyone. I think hearing you say your most proud moments like you give and when you’re kind to people, I think it’s really inspiring to hear because same thing for me like I don’t feel good when I’m constantly you know making money is fun but it’s like the times that I’m in the most flow and love and fulfilment is when I’m in service to someone else or in service to humanity which is what my mission is.
Ben: That’s also the big thing is that learning from your own mistakes and mistakes that other people have made dealing with you, you learned from that and you decide to react to that instead in a way that’s better or you just react to it and lash out because somebody did something bad and you also do something bad. As I get older I think that the mark of a good person is the person waking up in the middle of the night worrying about the mistake he made the previous day.
Lewis: Reacting in a negative way. Now curious if you have this normal childhood like you didn’t skip grades, kids were nice to you they invited you to birthday party and like celebrated you as opposed to putting you down. Do you think you would be as driven as a human being that you are today and as focus on building on everything you’re building.
Ben: I doubt it, because one of the things when you get beat on a lot is that you either have to care what people think or really don’t care what people think, and I think it’s something that doesn’t help you in high school what people think because caring what people think is what makes you popular in high school and trying to cater to that crowd.
Lewis: Yeah going into the herd as opposed to like screw you guys.
Ben: But because I was sort of out of the herd from the time I was young it was like I don’t care and at the beginning you do care obviously and then at a certain point you know what, but I actually don’t like in my life it’s not maturely worse because I’m not dealing with this people and if I followed them would have been dumb. So I feel the same way with politics and principles like I’m not somebody who is typically tend to move with the herd and that’s true on specific issues and it’s so far in things like election, in 2016 I took the most unpopular position you can take.
Lewis: You announced it too.
Ben: I said that out loud I said it repeatedly, I was extraordinary critical of president Trump’s character and personality I still am and it’s not my job to please people, I mean if people are pleased with me then great but it’s not my job to please people, my job is to say things that are true and if I start sacrificing what I think is true in favor of pleasing people then I’m not doing my job.
Lewis: You become a politician.
Ben: Exactly authenticity is saying a bunch of unpopular stuff which is why politicians are generally inauthentic because their job is to say what people want to hear or you don’t win.
Lewis: I guess Trump proved us wrong by saying a lot of things that people didn’t want to hear.
Ben: But I mean I think that’s right but we’ll find out whether that’s, not to get into 2016 analysis but I would say that president Trump, I would say Hilary Clinton loss the election much more than Trump won it. So I think that she and it is true that in politics there is this weird thing where people hear what they want to hear but they also hate inauthenticity and so.
Lewis: So his authenticity.
Ben: Obama was an authentic politician he tended to believe what he was saying, he didn’t feel like he was pandering as much even though. Obama is Obama is and I’m not even sure Hilary Clinton knows who Hilary Clinton is, I think that’s a problem for her in 2016, Trump is exactly who he is for better or for worse and for all things that are bad about him.
Lewis: So you think if you have a normal childhood where you weren’t bullied or picked or these things what do you think you would be today?
Ben: I’d probably be a successful lawyer.
Lewis: You went to a law school.
Ben: And worked in a law firm part of being in a law firm requires you to be part of the social group because otherwise working in a law firm really blows, it’s a terrible job especially [?] and for me it was like I don’t care about any of this stuff. I was the guy and so the authenticity has it’s upside and downside like the interview for a law firm job, I was way too authentic for the interviewer and it did not work well. I had the worst law interview of anybody I’ve ever heard of at Harvard Law. I had 32 interviews and I had 1 offer and I graduated cum laude from Harvard and I’ve written 3 books at the time so the resume was pretty good.
Lewis: Wow 1 offer.
Ben: But that’s because I would be asked questions like somebody would say, I remember 1 interview they would say something like “Well, why do you want to work in corporate law?” Now we all know the answer, you’ve got 200 thousand dollars of debt and no one grows up thinking “You know what I want to do with my life, I want to spend the next 4 years of my life after law school reading for page numbers and for missing commas and indents.” You work 2,100 hours in a major law firm, you are there from 8 in the morning to 9 at night reading for page numbers and paginations. So they said you know why do you want to work in corporate law? And I said for the money and which is the true answer.
Lewis: Being authentic.
Ben: But not the good answer right?
Lewis: Because I want to help people who are wrongfully accused.
Ben: The answer they want is ‘because I want the intellectual stimulation.’ The money maybe is because I grew up middle class and not poor, not rich very middle class. So my first home where I was living until I was 11 was probably 1,110 sq. foot home in Burbank where we had 1 bathroom for 6 people and I shared 1 bedroom with 3 of my sisters. So not poor but we were fine but not loaded or anything. So, because of that I was never really afraid of either living like that and also because I grew up with a solid education and I wasn’t afraid of like falling completely off the ladder completely. The 2 biggest privilege as an American is being born here and having 2 parents at home and I had both of those things. So I wasn’t really that afraid of not earning tons of money or anything. So, I never had to be force into a position that I need to take a job just for the money, I worked in a law firm for 10 months and the initial pay at law firm are about $180,000 a year.
Lewis: That’s a nice first salary.
Ben: Which is a great first salary. It’s great a salary $180,000 is a lot of money and I worked there for 10 months and I hated it, I mean just despised it and after 10 months I walked in and I quit with no job line up and a mortgage because I just bought a condo with my wife.
Lewis: Here in L.A?
Ben: Yeah here in L.A and I walked in and quit and I took a job about a couple months later working for a top rated network [?] and because I didn’t feel fulfilled, I hated it. I remember turning to my fiancé and saying I hate this so much I’m miserable. My normal weight was like 160-165 and I was down to like 138. The funniest part of that was when I quit, I walk into [?] associates office and I said I can’t deal with this I need to quit and he was trying to convince me not to do it and he brought in another senior associate who played minor league baseball and this guy was still young.
Lewis: You’re 22?
Ben: At this point I was 23. So we all sat down and Doug is trying to convince me not to quit and then Andres is trying to convince me not to quit and I’m saying “Guys this is miserable the hours suck, the work is boring and all the people here are jerks.” And about 5 minutes into the conversation Andres turns to Doug and says “You know maybe I should quit.” And he was dead serious.
Lewis: Andrew is the?
Ben: Andrew is the other senior associate. So it turn from them trying to stop me from quitting and into 1 guy trying to stop 2 guys from quitting. He didn’t end up quitting I think he had a mortgage too, but then I walked into the boss’s office and I said I’m quitting and he said “You’ll never make as much money as this again.”
Lewis: That’s the bully that in us that wants to prove people wrong right. I always did that too, all my 20’s people say I wasn’t going to make it as a pro athlete and now.
Ben: Success is a great revenge it really is.
Lewis: Emails I get and the messages I get from Facebook from like back in the past this is so funny to me. But it’s all good I used to be so motivated to prove people wrong and it worked, I would achieve everything by proving people wrong and then I realized this doesn’t actually bring me fulfillment or happiness.
Ben: That’s exactly right you’ve seen back to the future 3? The train where they keep throwing in this incendiaries into the train and changes the smoke color coming out. So anger can be that boost but it can’t be the actual baseline fuel that you are using to run the train, it gives you that temporary high to do something today. But what actually makes you go to the work on an increasing level amount of time is the actual purpose and meaning.
Lewis: What is your purpose and mission moving forward?
Ben: So I’m deeply interested in revitalizing the values that I think we all ought to have in common under the idea of God given limited rights to the government. So on a political level I was very committed to the idea freedom is based on: We as an individuals are made in the image of God and that means that we have certain rights that go along with that. All of that is rooted in certain fundamental values that requires us to also have social fabric. So, we need to help other people, we need to live in communities where we have a common set of rules, we need to stand up against discrimination when we see it and also stand up against pandering politically when we see it. I’ve always been committed to the idea that we need to change how people think in order for them to change how they want to live.
Lewis: Get people change the way they think.
Ben: Yeah and think more, it’s everything we’ve talked about you know change the mindset why is the world being mean to me? So I think as a religious person I think that I’m here to fulfill a godly purpose in doing all of those things but I don’t think that I have to speak specifically in Godly terms in order to justify I do that stuff. So it’s why whenever I talked on my show about politics and lecture I never cite the bible, I never cite religion and I tend to cite values and principles but I don’t tend to think that I have to, well I believe as a religious person I’m doing something that I think is in the service of God. I think that it can also be secularly justified something in the interest of a functioning civilization.
Lewis: that’s why you are very detailed on your research and your facts to try to back this things as opposed to religious.
Ben: Well again the argument from authority touch with people who don’t accept the authority. If I saw the bible says X and somebody who doesn’t believe is gonna go say “So?” And they’re right that is a so question, but if I say ‘You should believe this and here’s the data.’ Then that’s a different thing.
Lewis: This question is something I asked everyone at the end called the 3 truths. So imagine it is your last day in the future sometime you get to choose the day and you leave this earth when you want to. You’ve achieved everything you want, you’ve achieved all your dreams your family is thriving and everything is great and I hope it all goes great for you. But for whatever reason it’s got to be the last day and you’ve said your goodbyes but everything you’ve created you have to take with you in your death. But you get to write down in a piece of paper 3 things you know to be true about your life, the lessons you leave behind that people would have to remember you by. So what would you say the 3 truths that you would leave behind to the world?
Ben: You as a human being have inherent meaning and I don’t just mean that you have something to live toward but you are actually a meaningful thing that your life matters and the decision that you make matter. Number 2 that as that person you have obligations to yourself and to others that can only be achieve through you making actual decisions, reasonable decisions that you can explain the reasons for. 3 is the money is in the banana stand, I mean the third would probably be that you are going to be the power that you have been given in using that reason and being made with that inherent value. So you ought to respect their ability to have a conversation with you and use your powers of reasoning in order to convince rather than to compel, because compulsion is the sign of a weak argument.
Lewis: Those are great truths.
I want to acknowledge you Ben for a moment for your authenticity. You are very authentic and you show up as yourself, you know I love that you have a clear mission for your life and your mission is to serve people, to support people, to help people live a better life and I don’t think you’re as bad as a guy as people call you.
Ben: That’s the highest compliment I can get.
Lewis: So I acknowledge you for also overcoming a lot of challenges, I’m sure there’s a lot of things that you didn’t talked about that happened growing up, I can only imagine the amount of insecurities or guilt or shame or whatever that you felt. So I acknowledge you for not destroying your life in those challenge but actually saying ‘how can I improve my life? How can I master skills?’ You dove into mastery as opposed to depression and I think of those 2 options I’m glad you did because you’re doing a lot of good things. So, I already know I’m going to get flagged by a lot of people just by acknowledging you and I’m not saying that I agree with everything that Ben has said, but I acknowledge you for who you’ve become and for work in the world in trying to make it a better place. You’re like a personal growth expert, who would’ve knew that your mission is to better people even in controversy and even when people disagree with you and I think your mission is to better people.
How can we follow you online? How can we support you?
Ben: A book coming out in March called ‘The Right Side of History.’ That’s all about these questions and specific meaning purpose and then if you want to check out my podcast you can go to iTunes or any other place podcasts for the Ben Shapiro show, and if you want to subscribe over at dailywire you have stuff come January 2 hours show every day.
Lewis: Your Sunday, I’ve been listening to those because they are not political those are really good. Final question is what is your definition of greatness?
Ben: Can I get two?
Ben: So I think there’s greatness as in you are presented with crisis in your life and you make a decision that is valuable and moral and decent that you make change and then you stand up and you make something great.
I think the other sense of greatness is I think that’s just goodness. I said this about George H.W Bush, I’m not even sure he’s a good president but I think he was good man and it’s a lot harder to be a great person. To be a great person requires you to stand up in a crisis and its press upon you, there’s a moment in time you have to stand up and now is the time to make that heroic move and that’s what makes you a great man or a great woman or a great person. But being a good person which is the process of making decision that are beneficial to you and your family and moral every day knowing that you’re not going to be remembered. But your legacy on being a good person lives on in promulgation of a civilization where a new part. So being a great person really means being a brick in the wall that is a civilization that in it is great.
Lewis: And there you have it my friends I hope you enjoyed this episode. Ben Shapiro has taken over the world lately with his conversation and controversy and with his insights. Now whether you love him or hate him you can learn a lot from him and you can apply that to your life. And some of you are going to unfollow me for interviewing him and that’s fine because I am looking for the truth from everyone. My goal is to learn something from everyone and I really respected Ben the more I got to know him and I can’t wait to have him back on. So take the things you like from people and apply that to your life, if people are doing things in a successful way we can learn from those individuals. So I hope you all enjoyed this one and make sure to share with your friends’ lewishowes.com/742.
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And as we bring this back to the beginning of the episode Earl Nightingale said “Your problem is to bridge the gap which exist between where you are now and the goal you intend to reach.” Whatever that gap is it’s your responsibility in life to learn the lessons, to learn the information to meet the right people, to master certain skills so that you have the ability to bridge the gap from where you are now to where you want to be in the future that desired vision, that desired goal. It’s yours for the taking but you’ve got to be willing to rise up and take what you want by taking action consistently. I love you all so very much and you know what time it is, it’s time to go out there and do something great.