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You probably imagine a man having a midlife crises when you hear the term. He might get divorced, date a younger woman and buy a sportscar. My guest says that the mocking, jokey tropes of midlife crises in popular culture are a disservice to the real feelings of dissatisfaction that people feel during their middle age.

Kieran Setiya is a philosopher and author of Midlife, A Philosophical Guide. Kieran Setiya and I discuss the research that has been done to determine whether or not a midlife crisis exists. We also talk about how Kieran first felt dissatisfied with his life in his mid-30s. We explore how a philosophical reframe can help with dealing with existential issues, such as feeling that you have missed out on some opportunities and regretting your mistakes or misfortunes. We also discuss how to move away from one of the primary causes of midlife depression — the feeling that life is all about putting out the fires and ticking off boxes.

Podcast Resources

Seasons of a Man’s Life by Daniel LevinsonAoM series on Levinson’s researchTransformations: Growth and Change in Adult Life by Roger GouldPassages: Predictable Crises of Adult Life by Gail SheehyOrville Gilbert Brim’s MacArthur study on “Midlife in the United States”David Branchflower’s study on the U-shaped curve of happinessJohn Stuart MillSunday Firesides: Youth Is Not an IdentityAoM Podcast #770: Philosophical Tools for Living the Good LifeAoM Podcast #620: How to Deal With Life’s RegretsAoM Article: The George Bailey Technique — Mentally Erase Your Blessings for Greater Joy and OptimismAoM Podcast #527: Father Wounds, Male Spirituality, and the Journey to the Second Half of Life With Richard RohrAoM Podcast #598: Journeying From the First to the Second Half of Life With James Hollis

Kieran Setiya: Connect with him

Kieran’s WebsiteKieran on TwitterKieran’s Podcast

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Brett McKay, welcome to the latest edition of The Art of Manliness Podcast. When you think about a person having a midlife crises, you might think of someone getting divorced or stepping out with younger women.

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Sunday Firesides: You Don’t Have the Time, Not to Take the Time


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We talk about time a lot in terms of economics. We talk about our attention and how we spend time.

We think that we are being frugal and prudent when we decide there is not enough time to complete a certain task.

In many cases we can be terrible spendthrifts.

We don’t realize that everything we own is a loan. The interest that accrues on these loans can be a hundred times worse if we do not pay them back.

You may not have the time to thoroughly check your new product. . . How will you deal with angry customers, returns and damage to your PR that follow its recall?

You may be too busy to socialize in a way that will keep your depression at bay. . . How much can you accomplish if you are unable to get up in the morning?

You may not be able to get out and exercise every day because you are too busy at work. . . How will you get yourself out of a hole you create when you are in the hospital after a heartattack?

You may not be able to fit in date nights or trips for just mom and dad. . . How will you manage to attend sessions of marriage counselling? . . Separation can be emotionally draining and bandwidth-sucking. . . Meetings with a divorce attorney?

It may seem that you do not have the time to devote to important relationships and activities in your life. Flip a few more pages in your ledger to check the numbers. There isn’t time enough in the world for you to regret it when the debt collectors call.

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Odds & Ends: May 17, 2024

Odds and Ends header v3.1


A vintage metal box labeled

Nuobell Adjustable Dumbbells by SMRTFT. I tried out several sets of dumbbells last spring to find the one that worked best. Nuobell was the winner. One year later, they’re still my favorite dumbbells. The dumbbells are expensive, but they’re worth it for the convenience factor. To adjust the weight you simply twist the handle. Kate and I have used them several times a day and we’ve never had any problems with the quality. Buy a set and begin a full body workout at your home.

Northwoods Baseball Sleep Radio This is one of the most bizarre things I have seen online in a very long time. Northwoods Baseball Sleep Radio features radio broadcasts that are full-length of fake baseball matches. All the games that Wally McCarthy calls (look at his profile picture; he’s serious) are entirely made up. The episodes sound just like a baseball broadcast on AM/FM radio. The combination of Wally’s play-by-play comments and the low din created by the crowd, combined with slight radio static, can be a very relaxing experience.

The majority of people’s musical taste is fixed. Adam Singer highlights Spotify’s research that found our musical tastes tend to solidify between the age of 13 and 16 years old. We stop looking for new artists after that. Adam argues that getting stuck in your musical routine can lead to you missing out on some great artists. To find new artists, you need to be open-minded and have patience. Spotify’s algorithm is a good start, but only shows you music that’s similar to your favorites. You can ask your friends to recommend bands that you may not have heard of otherwise. Kate’s ability to find new music and have opinions on how to create the soundtrack to your life, even as we age, is something I admire.

The Transparency Society Byung-Hul C., a German-South Korean philosopher. He is a very interesting cat. He writes about life in our fast-paced, technologically-driven society. It’s hard to understand his prose at times, but I find it fascinating. He doesn’t give interviews and protects his privacy. The Transparency Society is a book I’ve thought a lot of. Chan criticizes the modern obsession and drive for transparency. We tend to think that more transparency can be good for reducing corruption and other issues. Transparency can also be used as a tool to control and monitor people. He also claims that transparency removes the need to trust in a relation since you can simply follow your child with an AirTag, and not have any faith that they will do and go where that they promised. Secrets have power.

Quote of the week

Tell me about your relationship to pain and I’ll tell you who you really are!

–Ernst Junger

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The James Bond Workout


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You need to be in top shape if you want to have a “license to kill”.

What did James Bond do to work out?

In the James Bond novels we learn that 007 enjoyed all kinds of physical activities, including boxing, swimming and skiing. He also played golf, which was another way he exercised.

Bond, as a former Commander of the Royal Navy Reserve incorporated into his routine some calisthenics that he had learned in the military. He may have even been inspired by the Cold War HIIT exercise 5BX.

From Russia with Love shows these influences. Fleming described a calisthenics workout that his agent did, which was topped off by a “James Bond Shower” in that book (one of the five best Bond books).

The only way to get rid of boredom was to kick yourself out of it. Bond sat on his hands, did 20 slow press-ups and lingered over each one to ensure that his muscles were not resting. As his arms began to hurt, Bond rolled onto his back, placed his hands by his sides and performed the straight leg lift until his stomach muscles screamed. After touching his toes 20 times, he got up and did arm and chest exercises, alternating with deep breathing, until he became dizzy. He was panting from the effort, so he went to the large white-tiled shower and stood under the glass cabinet for five minutes.

We’ve shown you a quick and simple bodyweight exercise. Chair dips work the chest and arms. If you like, you can create your own arm and chest exercises. If you are a spy training for the challenges of international espionage, it is highly recommended that you perform this portion and the others in a tux, with a martini and pistol at hand.

Ted Slampyak is the illustrator.

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