From: Howard Jacobson <>
Reply to:
Subject: I'd rather eat a cookie than send this email

I've been really bad about emailing you when a new podcast drops.

It's part of my theoretical workflow: Publish an episode, email my subscribers."

But I haven't done it in months. 

It's like right after I hit "publish" - following the research, the interview, the audio and video editing, the writing, the artwork, and the audio and video publishing - my mind hits a wall and says, "You've been working too hard - get out of the office and treat yourself to a cookie."

And who am I to argue with my mind?

Who Am I to Argue With My Mind?

That's a damn good question, isn't it?

In fact, isn't it at the crux of dealing with temptation. With cravings. With the urge to binge, to skip the workout, to avoid the hard conversation.

Because my mind is the one telling me to take the path of least resistance, the "seize pleasure now and worry about the consequences later" path.

  • "Have a cookie; you deserve it," my mind tells me. 
  • "Stay in bed for another 15 minutes; you can work out after lunch," my mind tells me. 
  • "You've been under a lot of stress lately; you need to watch 3 hours of club Ultimate Frisbee tournaments on YouTube right now," my mind tells me.
Who's Talking and Who's Listening?

If my brain is talking to me, then who exactly is "me" and how is that person related to my mind? 

Isn't my mind also the one listening to whoever is talking?

Ooh, now I have a mind-ache. (That's like a headache, but for philosophers.)

So what do I do when I'm confused about who's talking, who's listening, and which one is really me?

Simple. I un-ask the question.


In Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, author Robert Pirsig introduced the western world to the Japanese word mu. He uses it to "unask the question," when the question is framed in such a way that it will never elicit a useful or true answer.

(I don't want to get into Zen weeds here, but if you're interested here's a short essay by Pirsig.)

Let's mu the question of who's talking and who's listening by changing the context of the question. Here's a better context: "What's the outcome I want?"

What's the Outcome I Want?
  • Do I want to eat a cookie every time I feel stressed, or accomplished, or bored, or anxious?
  • Do I want to lie to myself about an afternoon workout that never materializes? 
  • Do I want to replace meaningful work with mindless video consumption when I experience self-doubt or overwhelm?

If not, then it really doesn't matter "who" is advocating for or against those behaviors. Instead of tying myself in existential knots, I can do something much simpler: Stop thinking.

If I decided to think about whether to brush my teeth before going to bed, I swear to you that I could come up with a Talmud's worth of arguments pro and con.

Luckily, I don't think about it. I just do it.

And wherever I want consistency in my life that moves me forward rather than soothes me in the moment, I have to preemptively decide to decide, and then not question my decision. 

That's how I handle the temptation of a cookie, or a skipped workout, or a YouTube binge: by making my urges completely irrelevant. 

That way I don't need those urges to go away, or soften, or convert into a desire for kale. 

That I don't need to beat myself up, or feel guilt or shame, for having those urges. 

The Podcast Email Outcome

So I'm going to decide, right now, to send that email right after publishing a new podcast episode.

That means the email might be short, without the verbiage that I currently associate with an email. Without the polished essay; the attempted wit; the striving after depth.

It might be as simple as:

"Hey, I just published a conversation with Josh LaJaunie, where we talk about what it's like for him to grieve for the loss of his beloved Louisiana bayou due to climate change. You can listen and watch here."

Or, from last week:

"Are you struggling with back pain? Today's guest, Leon Turetsky, shows us how good posture can make a huge difference - and how telling ourselves to "stand up straight" actually makes things worse. Check it out here." 


"The medical system can be redeemed! Meet a couple of ER docs who, weirdly enough, started their own lifestyle medicine clinic. Listen to my conversation with Sagar Doshi and Zak Hourmouzis here.

That's my commitment: at a minimum, to let you know when a new episode drops, and include a link so you can check it out. 

Of course, a commitment that I make now doesn't automatically set me up to fulfill it. But in keeping with my commitment to get this newsletter out of the drafts folder and into your inbox, I'm going to save that conversation for another day.

Thanks for reading.

PS If you're looking to change your diet and lifestyles behaviors, I have one coaching slot available right now. Find out more and apply at