Powerful Books, Mystics, Richard Dawkins, and the Dangers of Safe Spaces | Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks on The Tim Ferriss Show

Tim Ferriss is not associated or affiliated with PodcastNotes in any way. All notes are independently created by PodcastNotes and do not imply any sponsorship or endorsement by, or affiliation with, Mr. Ferriss.

 Check out The Tim Ferriss Show Episode Page & Show Notes

Key Takeaways

  •  When Jonathan Sacks first met his wife, the two of them were totally different. However, that wasn’t a bad thing:
    • “It’s the people not like us who make us grow.” Jonathan Sacks
  • A key lesson from The Choice: Nobody can take away our minds
    • “Nobody can take away how we define the situation. And it is that choice that’s the very essence of human freedom, liberty, and dignity.” – Jonathan Sacks
  • Two important lessons Jonathan learned from Lubavitcher Rebbe (one of the most influential Jewish leaders of the 20th century):
    • Good leaders create followers, great leaders create leaders.  
    • You don’t find yourself in a situation. You put yourself in a situation. And thereby, I think you should put yourself in a different situation.
  • You can have an orchestra of the best musicians in the world, but if they don’t work together, the result will be noise, not music:
    • “Whenever I takes over from a place that should be about we, you get catastrophe.” – Jonathan Sacks
  • The US and UK have done a terrible job dealing with COVID-19 because they’re both nations that focus on the individual
    • Meanwhile, countries that have a “We” mentality have done much better:
      • “It is the countries that maintain that balance, like South Korea, like Taiwan, like Singapore, like New Zealand, like Germany. Those are the countries that have coped really well.” – Jonathan Sacks
  • We currently live in an I society in the US, but it doesn’t have to stay that way:
    • “The I society of the 1920s became the we society of post-World War II. And it can be done again.” – Jonathan Sacks
  • A true safe space is a place where you listen respectfully to the views of those who disagree with you because you know in return they will listen respectfully to your views, even though they’re opposed to them
    • “Safe space means that courteous discipline of respectful listening, which is being shredded and defiled in too many universities today.” Jonathan Sacks

Intro

  • Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks (@RabbiSacks) is an international religious leader, philosopher, and respected moral voice. He was the chief rabbi of the UK and Commonwealth from 1991 to 2013 and the recipient of the 2016 Templeton Prize, in recognition of his “exceptional contributions to affirming life’s spiritual dimension.” 
  • Host: Tim Ferriss (@tferriss)

Books Mentioned

Best Purchases

  • One of the best purchases under $100 that Jonathan has made was a pair of Bose Noise-Cancelling headphones 
    • “These are the most religious objects I’ve ever come across because I define faith as the ability to hear the music beneath the noise.” – Jonathan Sacks
      • “If we could find a way of generating a noise-reduction system in our minds, we would actually see and sense the beauty of life.”
        • “I find that wearing those noise-canceling earphones, it’s not just good on planes; it’s really good for meditation”
  • One of the best purchases under $10 that Jonathan has made was a LEPOWER Clip-On Book Light
    • It allows Jonathan to read without switching on the lights or waking up his wife
      • “It’s absolutely magnificent. Less than $10. Very easy to recharge. And my book light is the joy of my life.” – Jonathan Sacks

Meeting His Wife

  • When Jonathan first met his wife, the two of them were totally different. However, that wasn’t a bad thing:
    • “It’s the people not like us who make us grow.” Jonathan Sacks
      • “Without Elaine, I might have become a very sad human being, a depressive human being.” 

A Life-changing Book

  • One of the most inspirational books Jonathan has ever read is The Choice: Embrace the Possible by Dr. Edith Eva Eger
    • Jonathan describes the author as a female Viktor Frankl. Dr. Eger survived Auschwitz and the German death march.
      • “It’s almost impossible to imagine anyone surviving those kinds of horrendous conditions and that kind of evil. And yet, somehow, she worked it through and she used that experience to work through the pain, the fears, the anxieties of other people.” Jonathan Sacks
  • “I found this an astonishingly inspiring book. Just when you thought there was very little new to be learned from the Holocaust, here was the story of this extraordinary woman. – Jonathan Sacks
  • A key lesson from The Choice: Nobody can take away our minds
    • “Nobody can take away how we define the situation. And it is that choice that’s the very essence of human freedom, liberty, and dignity.” – Jonathan Sacks

From Follower To Leader

  • Two important lessons Jonathan learned from Lubavitcher Rebbe (one of the most influential Jewish leaders of the 20th century):
    • Good leaders create followers, great leaders create leaders.  
    • You don’t find yourself in a situation. You put yourself in a situation. And thereby, I think you should put yourself in a different situation.
  • Meeting Lubavitcher Rebbe changed Jonathan’s life forever:
    • “When you are told by one of the greatest spiritual leaders of the 20th century you are going to have to lead, and you’re going to have to lead because you are in that situation where you can do something, that did actually change my life.” – Jonathan Sacks

Rabbi & Rebbe

  • The word “rabbi” means teacher. He instructs, teaches, and educates.
    • A “rebbe” however is a sort of all-powerful leader of a sect of Jewish mystics
      • “Somebody who could actually order them to do things; go and live in this country, go and do that, in that particular job of work. So they endowed their leaders with enormous authority of a kind that never existed before in Jewish tradition. And that is what a rebbe is.” – Jonathan Sacks

Winning Respect of Others

  • What do you do when you’ve done something that has generated widespread disapproval?
    • “Win the respect of people you respect, and you can forget the rest.”Jonathan Sacks
      • “There are 1,000 people saying you’re wrong, but if the two people that you respect say you’re right, you can ignore the 1,000 people.

I Society < We Society 

  • As social animals, our existence depends on being in groups and using altruism in order to survive:
    • “Groups only exist when we put the we before the I, when we accept collective responsibility for the common good. There is no other way of survival.” – Jonathan Sacks
  • You can have an orchestra of the best musicians in the world, but if they don’t work together, the result will be noise, not music:
    • “Whenever I takes over from a place that should be about we, you get catastrophe.” – Jonathan Sacks
  • The US and UK have done a terrible job dealing with COVID-19 because they’re both nations that focus on the individual
    • Meanwhile, countries that have a “We” mentality have done much better:
      • “It is the countries that maintain that balance, like South Korea, like Taiwan, like Singapore, like New Zealand, like Germany. Those are the countries that have coped really well.” – Jonathan Sacks
  • We currently live in an I society in the US, but it doesn’t have to stay that way:
    • “The I society of the 1920s became the we society of post-World War II. And it can be done again.” – Jonathan Sacks
  • Robert Putnam, a professor of sociology at Harvard University, used Google Ngram to search for the relative salience of the word I and We.
    • “What Robert Putnam discovered was that the word I and the word we appear more or less in tandem, around the same sort of level, from 1800 until 1964. 1964, suddenly the I begins to predominate over the we.” – Jonathan Sacks

Creating A We Society

  • To create a We society, you need 3 things:
    • A national story
    • A national ritual
    • A national service
      • We need to empower young people:
        • “The way to teach young people how to be moral is to just send them to disaster zones, to people who need care…Because once you empower people and you give them the opportunity to make the world better by their altruism, they learn that much more powerfully by doing it for themselves than by getting a lecture on it.” – Jonathan Sacks
  • However, you can have too much of a We society. That’s what China has become.
    • “Now you have too much we, you get China and you lose freedom. You have too much I, and you get the States and Britain today, which have just gone a little too far. Maintaining the balance between I and we is not easy. It’s a constant challenge.” Jonathan Sacks

A Truly Safe Space

  • “There is nothing less safe than safe space” Jonathan Sacks
    • Today’s safe spaces are more dangerous than ever before:
      • “What they are doing is creating very, very unsafe space”
  • A true safe space is a place where you listen respectfully to the views of those who disagree with you because you know in return they will listen respectfully to your views, even though they’re opposed to them
    • “Safe space means that courteous discipline of respectful listening, which is being shredded and defiled in too many universities today.” Jonathan Sacks

Additional Notes

  • Jonathan wears a yellow tie whenever he has an important speech to give
    • He prefers yellow ties because it’s a lot more cheerful than a standard gray one
  • “The very existence of the universe is unbelievably improbable. The very existence of life is even more improbable.” – Jonathan Sacks
Tim Ferriss Show : , , , , , , ,
Notes By Alex Wiec

More Notes on these topics

Top Insights and Tactics From

31 Best Podcasts of All Time

FREE when you join over 12,000 subscribers to the
Podcast Notes newsletter

No Thanks