Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Interview with A.J. Jacobs

If I were to pick an author I think I would most enjoy having lunch with, A.J. Jacobs would definitely be in consideration. From his books he comes across as very funny, unassuming, and dare I say a little unbalanced? He is the editor at large of Esquire magazine who has written four books, all of which I highly recommend. Three of his books have chronicled his efforts of self-improvement and one of them, a series of month-long experiments in which he used himself as the guinea pig.

His books will make you laugh and sometimes make you squirm as he boldly subjects himself to situations that your average self aware individual would never consider. Here is a real quick interview with the author:

You set out initially to improve yourself mentally, spiritually, and physically. Now that you've addressed all three aspects of your life, how successful do you think you were? Do you think you're a significantly different person today having gone through those years of self-improvement, compared to the person you'd otherwise be?

Well, part of being a better person is being humble. So I don’t want to say I’m the Most Improved Person in the World. (Or that I’m the Humblest Person in the World). But I will say, my life has changed in hundreds of ways, and most of them for the better.

Numerous times for your books you knowingly placed yourself in situations that a normal man would never have subjected himself to, (i.e. attending a pole dancing aerobics class, your month of radical honesty, and your month of abiding by every command your wife could come up with). But when you write about those situations, you write about them as if you don't have any reservations. Was that really the way you felt going into them? If not, was there any one thing you were most anxious about subjecting yourself to?

I do get nervous. In fact, sometimes it can almost be an out of body experience. When I practiced Radical Honesty and said whatever was on my mind, part of me was observing myself with disbelief. But I put myself into these situations because they are usually fascinating, and usually end up improving my life. Even pole dancing is healthy.

Many of the experiments you've subjected yourself to also had a significant, and not necessarily enjoyable impact on your wife as well. Is it safe to assume she demands significant gifts for her birthday, anniversary, Valentine's Day, etc? Did she ever veto any of your plans?

Yes, my wife has the patience of Job. Or actually more patience. I learned from studying the Bible that Job actually gets kind of short-tempered and cranky. Though you can’t really blame the guy. Anyway, my wife is patient, and does receive significant gifts. In my book The Guinea Pig Diaries: My Life as An Experiment,  I let her get a little payback. I spent a month doing whatever she said. Essentially, I was her servant. She became drunk with power, it was kind of scary. As for vetoes, yes, she’s nixed quite a few. Several readers, for instance, suggested that we reenact all the positions in the kama sutra. She put the kibosh on that quite quickly.

In your latest book Drop Dead Healthy you took the approach of trying to achieve perfect health for one part of your body at a time. If there was only one piece of health advice that you think everyone needs to know about and implement into their life, what would it be?

If I had to choose one, I’d say: Stop sitting! The research on the effects of sedentary life scared the bejesus out of me. Sitting for more than four hours a day raises the risk of heart disease by up to 60 percent. If I’m sitting, I try to get up every half hour and walk around for a couple of minutes. I actually took it to the extreme: I bought a treadmill, balanced my laptop on top of it, and wrote my book while walking. It took me about 1,200 miles.

What's next? Are you working on a new book currently? If so, can you tell me anything about it?

My kids want me to write a book about Spending a Year Eating Nothing But Candy. They say they would join me in this quest. Not sure that would be a big seller. I do have a few half-baked or quarter-baked ideas, but I haven’t settled on which one yet. I think taking a month off is probably healthy.

Thanks very much and I look forward to whatever you come up with next.

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