Back to Work

Back to Work

Back to Work is an award winning talk show with Merlin Mann and Dan Benjamin discussing productivity, communication, work, barriers, constraints, tools, and more.

Hosted by Merlin Mann and Dan Benjamin.


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#84: Every Genie is an Actuary

September 11, 2012 at 1:30PM • 1 hour 43 minutes

TOPIC: Superpowers, Madness, and the Pursuit of Interesting Problems

Dan and Merlin talk about the superpowers you have and can't control as well as the demons and drivers that our heroes have and can't control. How sometimes we find ourselves craving the screaming in someone else's head. Because, we surely do love and revere our Beautiful Losers and Genius Lunatics.

Entered into evidence: Hunter S. Thompson, The Incredible Hulk, Sylvia Plath, Brian Wilson, Nightcrawler, Van Gogh, Syd Barrett, Tom Waits, Robert Lowell, Howard Hughes, and Corporate Stooges (n.b.: Dan said that; not Merlin).

The upshot? Try not to get too obsessed with someone else's ether in the convertible or, for that matter, the cake in your own conference room.

Get excited about constantly releasing that "better version of yourself"—and make the world a happy beneficiary of your own particular madness.


#83: Way of the Future

September 4, 2012 at 12:00PM • 1 hour 32 minutes

TOPIC: Obsessions, Compulsions, Obsessions, and Compulsions. Also, Obsessions—and Compulsions.

This week, Dan and Merlin lick the doorknob five times, tap their heads with their shoes, and ponder the problem of obsessions and compulsions.


#82: Blue Food in Your Refrigerator

August 27, 2012 at 3:45PM • 1 hour 26 minutes

TOPIC: Capture, Contracts, and Mapping the Territory.

This week, Dan and Merlin talk about keeping an honest calendar and ensuring you regularly review your "contracts" with yourself.

Chock-a-block with practical COM-ponents for making sure your map is up to date with the territory.

¿Spanish question marks? ¡Si!

Zibba-zabba! Fax my gal!


#81: LAMP for Your Productivity

August 20, 2012 at 3:30PM • 1 hour 29 minutes

TOPIC: Honesty and Sociopathy Go to Work

Merlin and Dan talk about the cultural divide between you and your work. Coping with work is a little like being a sociopath so you better make sure you're taking away the right lessons and being honest about the right things. Anything else is a little dishonest.

You don't need to quit your job, but you made want to at least resign your certainty.

Nice!™


#80: Cascading Wave of Bad

August 13, 2012 at 2:45PM • 1 hour 29 minutes

TOPIC: Kicking and Screaming

Merlin has been dragged kicking and screaming into at least two things this week. Sometimes, that works out, and sometimes it doesn't. But, how many of those things do we need? How many can you sign up for? How often do you see Beast coming down the hall?

There aren't that many things you have to do, but how can you see it coming? Well, you know where your cumin is and you haven't checked your MySpace this week. How's that for complicated?


#79: Mayor Pro Tem of Hoboville

August 6, 2012 at 2:00PM • 1 hour 24 minutes

TOPIC: Adapting to the Danger Room of Life

Dan and Merlin talk about how the protagonist of your story handles change in personal and work environments.

How do you respond in the face of change you haven't anticipated or isn't conducive to who you want to be? What is the worst that could happen? Who can help you except you?


#78: Scream, Poop, and Run

July 30, 2012 at 1:45PM • 1 hour 17 minutes

TOPIC: Gut Churn, Pointing Arrows, and Recognizing Change

This week, Dan and Merlin talk at length about a recent article by Radiolab's Jad Abumrad, called, "The Terrors & Occasional Virtues of Not Knowing What You’re Doing."

From the genesis of Radiolab through casting about for what comes next, Jad's article reads like a Greatest Hits of Back to Work. Just terrific.

It all comes down to working through the times you don't know what you're doing and making, then accepting that—even once you do know—you still have to push through change and evolution.

Working through the fear to make something awesome? Well. That's Fine for Jad Abumrad.


#77: Sadness Harmonica

July 23, 2012 at 1:45PM • 1 hour 25 minutes

TOPIC: Motivation, Hardware Stores, and Fighting the Last War

This week, Dan and Merlin talk about motivation—how it changes, how it doesn't, and how it can be fueled by anxiety and cognitive dissonance.

There is also discussion of Merlin's pear tart problem, the challenge of the engineering triangle, and, yeah, a new t-shirt That's Fine for Merlin.


#76: The Avatar of Dorian Gray

July 16, 2012 at 4:00PM • 1 hour 27 minutes

TOPICS: Better Meat & Working Backwards

This week, Dan and Merlin talk about the many strategic and tactical benefits of reverse-engineering your next project.

There is also extensive discussion of choosing, preparing, and cooking meat.

It's not food until is sounds like food and it smells like food.


#75: The Mayor of Perspective

July 9, 2012 at 3:30PM • 1 hour 27 minutes

TOPIC: Feeling Stuck in the Middle

This week, Dan and Merlin talk about a topic suggested by listener, @toddsandends: what happens when you're stuck enforcing rules you don't agree with?

Whether you're a security guard, an RA, a SysAdmin, a character on The Wire, or pretty much anybody else, sometimes there's just stuff you gotta do. Even when you think it's a terrible idea.

So, who's allowed to corrupt you, what's it worth, and how long is that going to be okay with you?

As ever, work is a lot of work.