What are the limits of human performance? How can we reimagine sport to boost lifelong adoption? And what is the athlete’s role in moving culture forward?
Today we explore these questions and tons more with the lord of all things overlooked and misunderstood, Malcolm Gladwell.
I suspect most of you are very familiar with Malcolm. Perhaps you’ve listened to his sensational podcast Revisionist History, where every episode re-examines something from the past—an event, a person, an idea, even a song—and asks whether our collective stories got it right the first time.
In the slim chance you are unfamiliar with Malcolm, he is a prolific storyteller, journalist—he’s been a staff writer at The New Yorker since 1996 and prior to that spent many years at the Washington Post—a prolific public speaker, author (of course), and president and co-founder of Pushkin Industries, a true innovator in audio pushing creative limits in the podcast and audiobook spaces.
Malcolm also happens to be a terrific runner and obsessive track and field aficionado, passions he puts on display in his new podcast Legacy of Speed—a limited series that tells the incredible story behind the San Jose State track and field program of the 1960s, which improbably launched the careers of several of the fastest sprinters of the day who are today remembered as much for their protests at the 1968 Summer Olympics as they are for their breathtaking speed. But most of all, it highlights how this pivotal moment in sports history paved the way for the modern-day activism of our contemporary sports heroes.
Today’s conversation begins with running, extends to sport, broadens into a conversation about the role of athletes in moving society forward, and (of course) unearths other topics overlooked and misunderstood—all in true Gladwellian style.
“When it comes to evaluating the greatness of elite performers, we over emphasize peak performance and under emphasize longevity.”
– MALCOLM GLADWELL
Among the many topics canvassed specifically, Malcolm and I discuss: lessons learned from running, Malcolm’s literary mile challenges, understanding the equation between aging and performance, politics in professional sports, challenging notions of amateurism and the “dumb jock” trope, and when competitiveness is and isn’t useful.
We talk about his latest podcast, Legacy of Speed, and why this terrain just might be his most Gladwellian project to date.
Malcolm also shares several of his orthogonal ideas around education, publishing, the future of audio, creativity, and many more fascinating topics.
Malcolm is someone I’ve wanted on the show since day one, and I am thrilled to finally have made it happen.
I hope you enjoy this exchange as much as I was thrilled to host it.
Peace + Plants,
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- Connect with Malcolm: Website | Instagram | Twitter | Facebook
- Podcast: Legacy Of Speed
- Books: Malcolm Gladwell
- Pushkin: Podcasts
- Bulletin: Oh, MG
- Range Widely: Running with Malcolm Gladwell: Arguing About the GOAT, and Sharing What Running Teaches for Life
- Deadline: Malcolm Gladwell To Host ‘Legacy of Speed’ Podcast
- Vulture: 10 Podcasts We Can’t Wait to Listen to This Summer
- Air Mail: Legacy of Speed
- The New York Times: On ‘Revisionist History’: Malcolm Gladwell Unfiltered
- NPR: The Tokyo Olympics Has Relaxed Its Rules On Athlete Protests — To A Point
- YouTube: Remembering Lee Evans’ world record gold and protest at 1968 games | NBC Sports
- HBO: Fists of Freedom: The Story of the ’68 Summer Games
- Documentary: The Stand: How One Gesture Shook the World
- NBC: Mexico 1968 Official Film
- NPR: Those Raised Fists Still Resonate, 50 Years Later
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