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The Human Flourishing Project

The Human Flourishing Project

By Alex Epstein
Hi, I'm Alex Epstein.

I started the Human Flourishing project to tackle the problem I care about most: human beings lack reliable access to the knowledge we need to flourish.
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Episode 98: How to not be tired
Alex Epstein discusses how he is able to work long hours while rarely feeling tired or fatigued. He identifies four ways others can have the same experience: 1. Develop deep nighttime empathy with “morning guy” 2. Discover and liberally utilize “inevitable rejuvenation practices” 3. Separate proactive and reactive time 4. Cultivate a love of working energized and a hatred of working while tired
July 6, 2021
Episode 97: The Wisdom of Effortless
Alex Epstein discusses Greg McKeown's new book Effortless, how Alex had benefited from the chapters on Rest and Pace, and how separating proactive and reactive time can make the principles of Effortless even more effortless.
June 8, 2021
Episode 96: How lucky we are to be alive right now
Alex Epstein discusses how to appreciate the many great things that exist today that didn't exist even in the recent past.
May 17, 2021
Episode 95: The joy of security
Alex Epstein discusses his equation for "time security"--expected resources outstrip current commitments + expected threats--and how keeping this equation positive has an enormous impact on happiness.
May 3, 2021
Best-of: The three ingredients of relaxed productivity (with bonus content)
On this best-of-HFP, Alex Epstein discusses the three ingredients of relaxed productivity—inevitably productive processes, high-altitude planning, and real rejuvenation—along with one poison: focus-destroyers. This version features a new introduction in which Alex talks more about his recent experience with inevitably productive processes.
April 13, 2021
Episode 94: Dynamic, handwritten journaling
Alex Epstein discusses how the handwriting experience of the modern iPad makes possible an unprecedented form of journaling that can make your reflections on life far more effective.
March 29, 2021
Episode 93: How to identify your best practices and bad practices
Alex Epstein discusses several ways to identify easy-to-implement best practices that will improve our lives, and easy-to-eliminate bad practices that are unnecessarily undercutting our lives.
March 16, 2021
Episode 92: Vision and persistence
Alex Epstein discusses, using Richard Hamming's allegory about a drunken sailor, why vision and persistence are the two most powerful elements of productivity within our direct control.
March 2, 2021
Episode 91: Overcoming the Problems of Today's Social Media -- with Brian Amerige
Alex brings on Brian Amerige, with whom he cofounded Thoughtful, to discuss the problems of social media today and how to overcome them. They discuss: - Is there any role for government in the content policies of social media platforms? - What content policy would make Facebook or Twitter a better "marketplace of ideas"--or is that even possible given the purpose of these platforms? - What it takes to create a real alternative to mainstream platforms, and where Parler and Gab have struggled. - The purpose and evolution of Thoughtful, Brian and Alex's platform that is "the one place on the Internet that's exclusively for thoughtful content." - How to get on the waiting list for Thoughtful.
February 13, 2021
Episode 90: Mindsets for overcoming adverse circumstances
Alex Epstein discusses two mindsets that can advance one's career even when one is starting from the most adverse circumstances: "customer obsession" and "100% responsibility."
February 1, 2021
Episode 89: Productive role models for 2021
Alex Epstein discusses several characteristics that unite his productive role models for 2021, including focus, optimizing for value creation over advertising, and having very little need for short-term feedback.
January 18, 2021
Episode 88: Lessons from work fortnights
Alex Epstein discusses some lessons that his experimentation with "work fortnights"--11 days on, 3 days off--has reinforced.
January 4, 2021
Episode 87: 6 kinds of focus
Alex Epstein discusses 6 kinds of focus that make individuals more productive and fulfilled: 1) focusing on a high-value and meaningful market 2) focusing on an area of comparative advantage 3) focusing on the most valuable few projects 4) focusing on performing your core work 5) focusing on inevitably productive processes 6) focusing on your progress
December 21, 2020
Episode 86: "Performance time" vs. "feedback time"
Alex Epstein discusses one of his biggest productive breakthroughs to date: maximum separation of "performance time" and "feedback time."
December 7, 2020
Episode 85: How to spend time
Alex Epstein discusses one of life's basic questions--"How do I spend the very limited time I have on Earth?"--and shares three techniques for answering it: life-blocking, ranked lists, and calendar comprehensiveness.
November 23, 2020
Episode 84: The wisdom of Cal Newport
Alex Epstein discusses the work and new podcast of Cal Newport, his favorite thinker on productivity.
November 9, 2020
Episode 83: The danger of moral safety
Alex Epstein discusses why he is suspicious of any “morally safe” activity—any easy way to be seen by oneself or others as a good person. Doing the “morally safe” thing, he argues, often involves 1) a lack of critical thinking, 2) wasting time, and 3) acting on unhealthy motives.
October 26, 2020
Episode 82: The three ingredients of relaxed productivity
Alex Epstein discusses the three ingredients of relaxed productivity—inevitably productive processes, high-altitude planning, and real rejuvenation—along with one poison: focus-destroyers.
October 12, 2020
Episode 81: Learning from master practitioner-teachers
Alex Epstein discusses why we should seek out the rare phenomenon of the master practitioner-teacher wherever we can find it, using Netflix CEO Reed Hastings' new business book as an example.
September 28, 2020
Episode 80: Avoiding overwhelm (part 2)
Alex Epstein discusses how to avoid overwhelm when one feels totally overcommitted for the upcoming week. The key is "calendar comprehensiveness," which Alex shares a quick process for achieving.
September 14, 2020
Episode 79: Avoiding overwhelm
Alex Epstein discusses three interrelated ways to avoid the pervasive problem of “overwhelm”: time blocking, choosing projects carefully, and scoping projects carefully.
August 31, 2020
Episode 78: Best-case, worst-case thinking
Alex Epstein discusses how thinking through best-case and worst-case scenarios can dramatically improve anything from the planning of your week to a hiring decision to a new project.
August 17, 2020
Episode 77: Working easier through strategic discipline
Alex Epstein discusses the main resolution he made upon turning 40: being more disciplined about setting the right conditions for work--so that the work itself is far easier, more relaxed, and more enjoyable.
August 3, 2020
Episode 76: When it’s difficult to get started
Alex Epstein discusses what to do when you’re having trouble getting started on a valuable activity, from a workout to a challenging project.
July 20, 2020
Episode 75: Being proactive about health
Alex epstein discusses why the mainstream approach tends to be reactive, and how to take a more proactive approach to health--including nutrition, breathing, and stress management.
July 6, 2020
Episode 74: Focus and opportunity cost
Alex Epstein discusses the value of focus and the “opportunity cost” of dividing focus by doing multiple projects at once.
June 22, 2020
Episode 73: How to think constructively about public injustices
Alex Epstein discusses how to think about the recent death of George Floyd and other public injustices. He shares four useful questions to ask: 1) What actually happened? 2) What, if any, mistakes in policy caused this to happen? 3) What changes in policy are being proposed? 4) What are the likely positive and negative consequences of the proposed policies?
June 8, 2020
Episode 72: Mining the past
Alex Epstein discusses how to mine the past for things we used that worked well—but that for some reason we stopped doing.
May 25, 2020
Episode 71: An organism-based understanding of the new Coronavirus
Alex Epstein interviews Katherine Epstein, MD, on how to understand the new Coronavirus and other infectious diseases from an “organism-based” perspective.
May 11, 2020
Episode 70: Triumphing Over Distraction
Alex Epstein shares concepts and tactics he has developed to avoid destructive distractions.
May 2, 2020
Episode 69: The disruption playlist
Alex Epstein shares a “playlist” of Human Flourishing Project episodes with helpful tactics for dealing with disruption. He also answers a listener question about how to productively deal with fear.
April 24, 2020
Episode 68: Triumphing over disruption (part 2)
In the second Human Flourishing Project live workshop Alex Epstein guides participants through an updated version of the “Triumphing Over Disruption” exercise.
April 18, 2020
Episode 67: Triumphing over disruption (part 1)
In the first ever Human Flourishing Project live workshop Alex Epstein guides participants through the “Triumphing Over Disruption” exercise.
April 11, 2020
Episode 66: Flourishing during a massive disruption (part 2)
Alex Epstein discusses a powerful question for coming up with creative ways to improve life during a massive disruption.
April 4, 2020
Episode 65: Flourishing during a massive disruption (part 1)
Alex Epstein discusses strategies for transforming the massive disruption of our lives into the basis for significant personal growth.
March 28, 2020
Episode 64: Flourishing during a pandemic
Alex Epstein discusses some tactics for overcoming the mental and emotional challenges of the current pandemic + recession.
March 14, 2020
Episode 63: Insights on fasting and food frequency
Alex Epstein is joined again by nutrition expert Ray Cronise, who shares insights on Alex’s experiments with fasting and gives Alex a new fasting goal.
March 14, 2020
Episode 62: An Invitation to Thoughtful
Alex discusses his new app, Thoughtful, with cocreator Brian Amerige, and shares an exclusive invitation for Human Flourishing Project listeners.
March 7, 2020
Episode 61: Lessons From Fasting
Alex Epstein discusses what he’s learned in the attempt to incorporate more fasting into his life.
February 29, 2020
Episode 60: The value of meditation, revisited
Alex Epstein discusses the new insights about meditation he gained from the Flow Meditation online course by James Brown.
February 15, 2020
Episode 59: The Wisdom of Terry Hayes
Alex Epstein discusses the wisdom and inspiration he gained from reading the thriller I Am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes.
January 31, 2020
Episode 58: An Exploration of Expectations
Alex Epstein discusses some challenges he have faced in setting healthy expectations for his work, and asks listeners for ideas or recommended reading on the subject.
January 17, 2020
Episode 57: The most important New Year’s resolution
Alex Epstein discusses three exercises to make the most out of your time in 2020.
December 31, 2019
Episode 56: Optimizing nutrition for healthspan
Alex Epstein interviews Ray Cronise, a nutrition researcher who optimizes for “healthspan,” about his new book “The Healthspan Solution.”
December 16, 2019
Episode 55: Choosing the right thinking medium
Alex Epstein discusses how choosing the right medium for different kinds of thinking tasks—editing, planning, brainstorming—can make an enormous positive difference.
December 13, 2019
Episode 54: When to work “too hard”
Alex Epstein discusses his recent choice to work “too hard” for 20 days straight—and how to avoid making this level of intensity a habit.
November 29, 2019
Episode 53: How to guarantee progress
Alex Epstein discusses what he has learned over the last year about how to guarantee progress on long, difficult project.
November 15, 2019
Episode 52: Mastering 80%
Alex Epstein discusses what he has learned about the “80% strategy” during a particularly intense two months of work.
November 2, 2019
Episode 51: The wisdom of Flow (part 3)
Alex Epstein discusses how he has been applying the concepts of Flow to architect his own “flow zones” for different productive activities.
October 19, 2019
Episode 50: The value of a clear operating standard
Alex Epstein discusses what he learned from a major achievement in the martial arts world about the value of having a clear “operating standard.”
October 4, 2019
Episode 49: The wisdom of Flow (part 2)
Alex Epstein continues his exploration of how the insights of the book Flow can dramatically improve the quality of our leisure time.
September 20, 2019
Episode 48: The wisdom of Flow (part 1)
Alex Epstein discusses how he is applying the thesis of the book Flow to his leisure time.
September 14, 2019
Episode 47: Internal direction vs external direction
Alex Epstein discusses his challenges and successes with going on a “distraction diet” and being more internally directed.
August 24, 2019
Episode 46: Reengineering routines
Alex Epstein discusses three recent disruptions to major life routines and how he reengineered his routines to get back on track.
August 9, 2019
Episode 45: Tracking mental metrics
Alex Epstein discusses the mental metrics that he tracks on a daily basis.
July 26, 2019
Episode 44: No Means Yes
Alex Epstein discusses how saying “no” to most requests is essential to saying “yes” to your most important values.
July 12, 2019
Episode 43: Recalibrating standards of success
Alex Epstein discusses how to recalibrate your standards of success in work and in personal life.
June 29, 2019
Episode 42: The Joy of Reverse Procrastination
Alex Epstein discusses “reverse procrastination” and how it can lead to increased creativity, joy, and “time choice.”
June 22, 2019
Episode 41: The lesson I relearned from my new dog
Alex Epstein discusses one of his favorite lessons he’s learned about learning—which he has recently relearned with his new puppy, Sherlock.
June 8, 2019
Episode 40: The wisdom of The Fountainhead (part 1)
Alex Epstein discusses what he has learned about the psychology of human flourishing from Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead.
June 1, 2019
Episode 39: The case for achieving 80% of your potential (part 2)
Alex Epstein continues his discussion of "80%" actualization, focusing on how it creates productive momentum and increases productive enjoyment.
May 18, 2019
Episode 38: Clear thinking and human flourishing
Alex Epstein is joined by his friend and fellow Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt Matthew Blasdel to discuss some interesting questions he had about clear thinking and human flourishing.
May 11, 2019
Episode 37: Life recipes
Alex Epstein discusses his favorite new “life recipe” and how you can create your own great life recipes.
May 4, 2019
Episode 36: The case for achieving 80% of your potential
Alex Epstein discusses the counterintuitive idea that you can get better results with more enjoyment by consistently striving to achieve 80% of your potential.
April 26, 2019
Episode 35: The search for truly great content (part 3)
Alex Epstein shares some of the fascinating recommendations of truly great content he's gotten from listeners so far.
April 20, 2019
Episode 34: The search for truly great content (part 2)
Alex Epstein shares the new and improved survey he’s created to get recommendations of “truly great content” from you, the listener, about crucial, complex, confusing issues. Everyone who fills out the survey will get access to all the recommendations.
April 12, 2019
Episode 33: Cultivating appreciation
Alex Epstein discusses three recent experiences that have motivated him to cultivate the habit of appreciation.
April 5, 2019
Episode 32: 2019 resolutions--progress report and lessons learned
Alex Epstein discusses how he's made rapid progress on his 2019 New Year's Resolutions through "weekly altitude time."
March 22, 2019
Episode 31: How I learn from other people’s systems
Alex Epstein discusses, using last week’s interview as an example, how he learns as much as he can as quickly as possible from other people’s successful systems.
March 16, 2019
Episode 30: An innovative psychotherapist
Alex interviews Brent Charleton, an innovative psychotherapist and executive coach, about how he developed a system that has yielded dramatically positive results with his clients.
March 9, 2019
Episode 29: The search for truly great content
Alex Epstein shares a new survey he’s created to get recommendations of “truly great content” from you, the listener, about crucial, complex, confusing issues.
March 2, 2019
Episode 28: The wisdom of Arnold Bennett (part 2)
Alex Epstein discusses some of Arnold Bennett’s positive insights on: personal finance, finding life interesting, taking control of one’s own mind, and integrating the present with the future.
February 23, 2019
Episode 27: The wisdom of Arnold Bennett (part 1)
Alex Epstein discusses why he loves the century-old self-help writings of Arnold Bennett, a master of "wise ridicule."
February 16, 2019
Episode 26: The search for superior systems
Alex Epstein discusses the rare value of “superior system builders” and three attributes they have in common.
February 9, 2019
Episode 25: Q&A on resolutions, contexts, and personal assistants
Alex Epstein answers listener questions on how his New Year’s Resolutions are going, how to think about other people’s contexts, and how to make the most of a personal assistant.
January 26, 2019
Episode 24: The benefits of a time-blocked life
Alex Epstein discusses how he is applying "time-blocking" to every major category of life.
January 19, 2019
Episode 23: How to evaluate controversial technologies
In this episode of The Human Flourishing Project I discuss my framework for evaluating controversial technologies such as AI, genetic engineering, and, of course, fossil fuels.
January 12, 2019
Episode 22: The “altitude walk”
Alex Epstein discusses “the altitude walk,” a tool for improving the quality of your important decisions.
January 5, 2019
Episode 21: New Year’s resolutions for 2019
Alex Epstein discusses his resolutions for 2019, how he decided on them, and how he is going to ensure that he keeps them.
December 28, 2018
Episode 20: How no news leads to good news
Alex Epstein discusses his perspective on “news” and how avoiding it or time-blocking it can improve your ability to advance your own agenda.
December 22, 2018
Episode 19: Engineering your life routine
Alex Epstein discusses his specific “life routine” and guidelines for engineering your own.
December 15, 2018
Episode 18: Seeking stimulation vs. seeking nourishment
Alex Epstein discusses a concept he’s been refining this week as he’s been sick: the tendency to seek short-term stimulation when we’re uncomfortable—and why we should seek “nourishment” instead.
December 8, 2018
Episode 17: Focus and opportunity cost
Alex Epstein discusses his "secret project" and how working on it has helped him understand the vital concepts of focus and "opportunity cost."
December 1, 2018
Episode 16: The art of self-experimentation
Alex Epstein discusses two thoughtful reader comments on his exploration of nutrition, both of which point to the value of self-experimentation to personal flourishing.
November 17, 2018
Episode 15: Nutrition (part 3)
Alex Epstein discusses the latest developments in his quest to get real knowledge about nutrition. To access the debate he recommends go to Share your thoughts on the debate, as well as your questions for our upcoming psychology guest, on our Facebook page.
November 10, 2018
Episode 14: Nutrition (part 2)
Alex Epstein discusses how to understand the essentials of expert claims and expert disagreements through "reverse outlining." At the end of the show, he invites listeners to create their own "reverse outlines" of content they like. You can submit your reverse outline (and read his Ultimate Outline guide) at
November 3, 2018
Episode 13: Nutrition (part 1)
Alex Epstein discusses two processes he is using to sift through self-proclaimed experts on nutrition.
October 26, 2018
Episode 12: The weekend crisis and the Playtime Planner
Alex Epstein discusses why he and others have difficulty flourishing on the weekend. To address this “weekend crisis” he introduces a new tool called the Playtime Planner.
October 20, 2018
Episode 11: Q&A
Alex Epstein answers listener questions about creativity, meditation, planning the week, and many other topics.
October 13, 2018
Episode 10: Review and survey
Alex Epstein discusses lessons he’s learned from the podcast so far and asks listeners to answer four questions to help him improve the show.
October 5, 2018
Episode 9: Relaxed productivity (part 2)
Alex Epstein discusses two contributors to relaxed productivity, “cash confidence” and “collaborator confidence.” He also discusses the importance of “thinking through implications” in utilizing these ideas (and any ideas).
September 29, 2018
Episode 8: Relaxed productivity (part 1)
Alex Epstein discusses what "relaxed productivity" is, why it's so desirable, and what practices can help us achieve it.
September 21, 2018
Episode 7: Rejuvenation
Alex Epstein discusses the role of rejuvenation in human flourishing and shares some methods to identify what will rejuvenate you the most.
September 14, 2018
Episode 6: Respecting context and independence
Alex Epstein discusses the importance of explaining ideas in a way that respects the context and independence of the other person. To accomplish this goal he suggests using “opinion stories” to explain crucial, controversial ideas.
September 7, 2018
Episode 5: Constructive conversations
Alex Epstein discusses how to have constructive conversations—conversations where two people combine their knowledge and abilities to build a better understanding—about controversial issues.
September 1, 2018
Episode 4: The science of explanation
Alex Epstein discusses why it’s crucial for the specialists with the best knowledge to have far better systems for persuasively explaining their views. He shares two parts of his own explanation system: the context-bridging model of explanation, and the process of framing explanations.
August 24, 2018
Episode 3: How to enjoy growth and progress
Alex Epstein discusses the challenge of enjoying ourselves as we grow and progress. Most ambitious people are taught a self-defeating system for evaluating their progress—one that leads to a perpetual state of dissatisfaction. By changing how we evaluate our progress we can enjoy it more and be motivated to achieve more.
August 17, 2018
Episode 2: Upgrading our knowledge systems
Alex Epstein discusses how we as individuals and as a society can develop the *knowledge systems* we need to flourish.
August 11, 2018
Episode 1: The problem I most want to solve
On the first ever episode of The Human Flourishing Project, Alex Epstein introduces the problem this project exists to solve: human beings lack reliable access to the knowledge we need to flourish.
August 3, 2018