GUY RAZ, HOST:
On the show today, Wisdom In Hindsight. And as I mentioned earlier, this is my last new episode. And after interviewing hundreds of incredible speakers for the show, I'm going to switch around to the other side of the table, and if you don't mind, pass the mic on to the next host of the TED Radio Hour, Manoush Zomorodi.
MANOUSH ZOMORODI, HOST:
RAZ: Oh, hi. Hey. How are you?
ZOMORODI: I'm good. I'm good. Yeah.
RAZ: Are you - how do you feel?
ZOMORODI: I feel oddly calm.
RAZ: Right, which you should. Yeah, that's great.
ZOMORODI: I know. I think that means I'm a grown-up now, Guy (laughter).
RAZ: Yeah, I think that's great.
ZOMORODI: OK, so you're wrapping up your last episode, Guy, and I kind of want to turn the tables and ask you, what strikes you about the last seven years? What are some of the ideas, the people that you will take with you as you go into the next chapter?
RAZ: Yeah. I mean, I think that throughout the seven years I've been the host of the show, every interview is like - it's a journey, and every interview is extremely meaningful, right? Like, I interviewed you. You were on the show.
RAZ: And I remember our interview. And it was so great, and you were so kind and funny and warm and generous with your ideas.
ZOMORODI: Aw, thanks.
RAZ: And so every interview is, like - it's going to sound a little weird, but it's like a whirlwind romance. I fall in love with everybody I interview for that hour.
ZOMORODI: (Laughter) I love that.
RAZ: You kind of have to because I am there to bring the - to help that person bring their ideas out into the world because I think that's an idea worth hearing that hopefully will give our listeners something to take with them.
RAZ: There's so many of these conversations, hundreds of these conversations, that have been those experiences. There are a few that I really - I come back to a lot. We had this episode that we did on memory, and we invited Daniel Kahneman on. He had given a TED Talk about memory.
And when I interviewed him, he had just returned from Switzerland. And I said, how'd it go? And he said it was wonderful. It was amazing. And I said, oh, that sounds great. He said, but we left a day early. I said, oh, no, what happened? He said, oh, no, no. We decided to leave a day early because we were having such a good time. And I was confused at that point, right...
RAZ: ...because I thought, well, why would you leave a vacation a day early? And then began this conversation about memory.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)
DANIEL KAHNEMAN: And my wife and I both decided not to.
RAZ: So you decided to cut short your vacation just to make sure that you wouldn't mess it up...
KAHNEMAN: That we wouldn't ruin the memory. I mean, you know...
RAZ: ...Even though you might have had a great day.
KAHNEMAN: Depending on how you look at it, this could be a mistake. It really depends how much weight you want to give to the kind of memory you keep.
RAZ: Why does that happen? I mean, why do we remember things based on the - on what happened at the end?
KAHNEMAN: On the peak in the end?
KAHNEMAN: Actually, I think there is a good evolutionary reason for this. You know, if you were to design an animal, and you were economizing on how complicated the brain of that animal would be, you might say, well, I want the animal to store the peak and to store the end, and how long the episode was really doesn't matter. What matters is how bad were the threat and whether the story ended well. That's what the animal needs in order to plan the future, to decide whether to have that encounter again or to avoid at all costs.
RAZ: And it's the very last memory we take from an experience that shapes how we remember it. And so as a result, he lives his life that way. Like, he will leave things when he is enjoying it. And almost immediately after that interview, it really changed the way I try and experience things. Like, if I'm at a party or an event, and it's really great...
RAZ: ...And I'm really enjoying it, I'll leave.
ZOMORODI: (Laughter) Do you say goodbye?
RAZ: Yeah, I'll go. I won't - I'm not the last person there, you know, singing along with the karaoke and with a drink in my hand. Like, I will leave and go home and go to sleep and just had - have great memories of that evening or that experience. And I was thinking about this conversation I had with Danny Kahneman - this is, you know, four or five years ago now - and it struck me that it is connected to, in some ways, my decision to move on from TED Radio Hour...
ZOMORODI: Oh, yeah.
RAZ: ...Because it's been an incredible experience to be the host of this show for - you know, and to be part of this world. And I'm so happy. You know, it's been so wonderful, and I'm so excited to hear you take the show into a different direction. And that's the - that's, like, the way you kind of want to leave a memory, right?
ZOMORODI: Yeah. That's pretty poetic, I would say. OK, so Danny Kahneman - who else? I mean, which interviews do you find yourself just thinking about all the time, even after all these years?
RAZ: A couple years ago, we had Elizabeth Gilbert on the show - obviously, the writer of "Eat, Pray, Love." And she said something really profound in that conversation, something that I have never forgotten - I think about all the time - which is that we shouldn't necessarily follow our passion, but we should follow our curiosity. You know, that is the thing that is going to lead us down a road towards the things we feel - you know, that we feel strongly about or that bring us joy or pleasure or, you know, inspire us.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)
ELIZABETH GILBERT: We keep telling people to follow their passion. And I feel like that can be an intimidating and almost cruel thing to say to people at times because, first of all, if somebody has one central, powerful burning passion, they're probably already following it because that's sort of the definition of passion, is that you don't have a choice. If you don't, which is a lot of people, have one central, burning passion and somebody tells you to follow your passion, I think you have the right to give them the finger (laughter) because it just makes you feel worse.
And so I always say to people, forget it. Like, if you don't have an obvious passion, forget about it. Follow your curiosity because passion is sort of a tower of flame that is not always accessible. And curiosity is something that anybody can access any day. Your curiosity may lead you to your passion, or it may not. It may have been for, air quotes, nothing. In which case, all you've done your entire life is spend your existence in pursuit of the things that made you feel curious and inspired. And that should be good enough.
RAZ: In a lot of ways, that's sort of been a metaphor for what we do on the show because it's really about watching a lot of TED Talks and just getting inspired by an idea and then building a show around that idea.
ZOMORODI: Wanting to know more about what they said.
RAZ: Yeah, yeah.
ZOMORODI: I'm going to assume that there are some people who just think because you have interviewed all these amazing people and had so many hard conversations about so many topics that you must have internalized a lot of the lessons that they bring to you, to these interviews, from their talks, and that maybe - I don't know, maybe you're, like, a super better person in some way because you get to (laughter) - I mean, am I going to go through a transformation, Guy? - I guess, is what I want to know.
RAZ: I mean, yes, of course. I think what I've learned even from, you know, talking to people who are just so inspiring to me, that I have so much admiration for, is that we are all flawed and complex, right? Every single one of us, right? Every single one of us can be unkind and unforgiving.
But what I - I love this idea that we also change a lot. We had Dan Gilbert on. He's a professor of psychology at Harvard. And he did a lot of research into how our personalities really change profoundly over the course of our lives. We don't think that's the case. But what he has shown is that, more or less, every 10 years, who we are, our personalities, our values change a lot.
(SOUNDBITE OF TED TALK)
DANIEL GILBERT: Most of us can remember who we were 10 years ago, but we find it hard to imagine who we're going to be. And then we mistakenly think that because it's hard to imagine, it's not likely to happen. Sorry - when people say, I can't imagine that, they're usually talking about their own lack of imagination and not about the unlikelihood of the event that they're describing.
The bottom line is, time is a powerful force. It transforms our preferences. It reshapes our values. It alters our personalities. We seem to appreciate this fact, but only in retrospect. Only when we look backwards do we realize how much change happens in a decade. It's as if, for most of us, the present is a magic time. It's a watershed on the timeline. It's the moment at which we finally become ourselves.
Human beings are works in progress that mistakenly think they're finished. The person you are right now is as transient, as fleeting and as temporary as all the people you've ever been. The one constant in our life is change.
RAZ: I love that because I think that you could argue that over the course of our lives, we become increasingly sort of better versions of our previous self, which I hope is true because I - you know, like, I think, most people, I am still a work in progress, and I hope - you know, hope you are. I hope most people listening are, too.
ZOMORODI: That's lovely. So any words of wisdom for me as I go forth - (laughter) do's or don't's?
RAZ: Yeah. I mean, I think you already do this, and I'm just going to double down on on Elizabeth Gilbert's advice. But it's follow your curiosity. You have this opportunity to really follow it in any direction, to go down any rabbit hole, to have conversations with people who have thought really deeply about their ideas. Some of them are simple; some of them are more complicated. But there's almost no idea that, in my view, isn't worth at least hearing out.
ZOMORODI: And I think, you know, one of the ways that you've been such a great host is that you have modeled for listeners how to be curious about ideas. You've shown them that if you just keep digging or ask the next question or keep going or pull a thread, you might find something extraordinary, certainly unexpected, something that maybe unlocks a door that you didn't even know was there. And I think that that has been the pleasure and joy of listening to this show for the last seven years. So thank you.
RAZ: That's very nice. Thank you. Thank you for saying that. It's been amazing. And I can't wait to hear what you do with it. I can't wait.
ZOMORODI: Time to go, man. This is the height of the party.
RAZ: This is it.
ZOMORODI: We're out of here.
RAZ: We're out of here. Party's over. We're having fun. Let's go.
ZOMORODI: (Laughter) It's so good.
RAZ: It's good. Let's not stay.
ZOMORODI: Good memories. Bye.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LIFE AND HOW TO LIVE IT")
REM: (Singing) Burn bright through the night. Two pockets lead the way. Two doors to go between. The wall was raised today.
RAZ: Hey, thanks for listening to our episode on Wisdom In Hindsight this week. And thank you for being such an amazing community of listeners. It's been an absolute honor to be your guide over the past seven years. I won't be far. You can still hear me on How I Built This, Wow In The World and Wisdom From The Top. And if you want to find out more about who was on the show this week, go to ted.npr.org, and to see hundreds more TED Talks, check out ted.com or the TED app.
Our production staff at NPR includes Jeff Rogers, Sanaz Meshkinpour, Rachel Faulkner, Diba Mohtasham, James Delahoussaye, J.C. Howard, Katie Monteleone, Maria Paz Gutierrez and Christina Kola (ph), with help from Daniel Shukin. Our intern is Kiara Brown. Our partners at TED are Chris Anderson, Colin Helms Anna Phelan and Michelle Quint. And a special thanks to Manoush Zomorodi. You can hear new episodes of the show with Manoush starting in the spring.
I'm Guy Raz, and you've been listening to ideas worth spreading right here on the TED Radio Hour from NPR.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LIFE AND HOW TO LIVE IT")
REM: (Singing) Oh, I'm going to write a book. It will be called life and how to live it.
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