Adam Grant — The Man Who Does Everything (#399)

Photo by Pasi Salminen

“When you feel like you’re not productive, it’s not necessarily because you’re lazy or because you have bad habits, it’s because you’re not working on the right projects and you haven’t found the ones that are intrinsically motivating and meaningful to you.” — Adam Grant

Adam Grant (@AdamMGrant) is an organizational psychologist at Wharton, where he has been the top-rated professor for seven straight years. He is an expert in how we can find motivation and meaning, and lead more generous and creative lives. He is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of four books that have sold over two million copies and been translated into 35 languages: Give and TakeOriginalsOption B, and Power Moves. His books have been recognized as among the year’s best by Amazon, The Financial TimesHarvard Business Review, and The Wall Street Journal and been praised by J.J. Abrams, Richard Branson, Bill and Melinda Gates, Malcolm Gladwell, and Malala Yousafzai.

Adam hosts the TED podcast WorkLife, and his TED talks have been viewed more than 20 million times. His speaking and consulting clients include Google, the NBA, and The Gates Foundation. He has been recognized as one of the world’s 10 most influential management thinkers, Fortune’s 40 under 40, and a World Economic Forum Young Global Leader, and received distinguished scientific achievement awards from the American Psychological Association and the National Science Foundation. Adam writes for The New York Times on work and psychology and serves on The Department of Defense Innovation Board.

He received his B.A. from Harvard and his Ph.D. from the University of Michigan, and he is a former magician and junior Olympic springboard diver.

Please enjoy!

Listen to the episode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Overcast, StitcherCastbox, Google Podcasts, or on your favorite podcast platform.

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Want to hear an episode with the author of one of Adam’s most-gifted books? — Listen to my conversation with Susan Cain about her love for minor key music and how she became a public speaking introvert. (Stream below or right-click here to download):

#357: Susan Cain — How to Overcome Fear and Embrace Creativity


QUESTION(S) OF THE DAY: What was your favorite quote or lesson from this episode? Please let me know in the comments.



  • Connect with Adam Grant:

Website | WorkLife Podcast | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram


Note from the editor: Timestamps will be added shortly.

  • Adam began his career as a professor who was so nervous he made his students physically shake in their seats. What was he teaching, and how did soliciting feedback from these students help him improve his form?
  • What is Adam’s challenge network, how did he assemble it, and what tips does he have for our listeners who want to not only survive criticism but grow from it?
  • What kind of informal challenge network do I currently utilize — especially when I’m writing?
  • What do the structure and frequency of Adam’s challenge network look like?
  • How does Adam turn praise — faint or otherwise — into something he can actually use?
  • Why does Adam keep a resume of his failures?
  • How did Adam accidentally write his first book, why did he throw away the majority of its first draft, and what simple advice did his agent offer that made him a more engaging writer by the time he was ready to write a viable second draft?
  • In spite of the fact that Adam doesn’t consider himself a wizard of time management, he still manages to get a lot done in a day. What does he manage well instead?
  • The efficacy of chunking or sprinkling good deeds, how Adam minimizes the chance he’ll break a time commitment, and how he makes up for it when it does happen.
  • How has the way I renegotiate broken commitments changed over time, and how has this changed the way I react when others have to break commitments to me?
  • What’s proper email protocol: inbox zero, or inbox infinity?
  • What are Adam’s processes for dealing with email?
  • How does Adam prioritize who gets time out of his day? What correspondence earns a categorical no? What common lie does Adam refuse to tell?
  • How does Adam ensure he’s not spending the majority of his life answering emails? What would prompt an intervention from his triage team, and where does an email go from there? Who makes up the triage team?
  • How does Adam choose projects? What’s the appeal of writing a book over a series of articles?
  • How does Adam determine if a project has succeeded or failed? For that matter, how do I?
  • In what ways can projects that seem like failures lead to success — or pay unexpected dividends?
  • What books does Adam recommend and gift most often?
  • Other tools and questions that have helped Adam further seek out his own blind spots.
  • Adam points out that not only do we have blind spots about our weaknesses, but we often have them about our strengths. He calls them bright spots. We compare how the Reflected Best Self Exercise and 360 interview process examine our blind and bright spots and guide us toward appropriate use of the information uncovered.
  • I reveal the typical structure of my weekly routines, and Adam weighs in on routines he’s changed up lately — including a conscious attempt to become less routine-driven.
  • What does Adam’s workout regimen look like, and what prompted the former junior Olympic springboard diver to recently revisit diving after a hiatus of more than a decade?
  • What would Adam’s billboard say?
  • A common productivity mistake Adam sees people make and how to navigate around it.
  • Adam asks me what big projects are currently in my sights, and what dream guests would I love to interview in the not-too-distant future?
  • Parting thoughts.