Our ability to empathize, belong and love rests on our willingness to be vulnerable. In order for connection to happen, we have to allow ourselves to be seen, really seen.
Jenna Kutcher is passionate about showing something deeper than perfect online. She’s a small-town Wisconsin girl who has single-handedly built a six-figure income photography business, fostered a massive social media following and currently hosts and produces the podcast “The Goal Digger Podcast” where she uses her platform to share the deepest parts of herself with intention.
In this conversation, Branden and Jenna go beneath the surface of her story — her journey of how she sees herself, her second miscarriage and the what no one told her about working for yourself.
Most of us become impatient in the process and loathe uncertainty. However, Liz Vice has reconciled this truth in a profound way by learning to soar despite roadblocks in her story. While battling with an autoimmune disease for 7 years, Liz felt she had to reconcile with the fact that she would have to forfeit her dreams — instead, her life took a turn for the spectacular.
Raised in Portland, Oregon — Liz Vice is a gospel and R&B singer and currently the music director at Hope Brooklyn while balancing touring, playing venues and festivals around the country. She has worked on the background casting for commercial and feature films such as Portlandia, Green Room, the A-List and C.O.G as well as employed by Weiden+Kennedy — an independent advertising agency responsible for clients like Airbnb, Coca Cola, Nike and Old Spice. However, Vice’s path toward film and music was not a straight one, but, rather, shaped by the dreams others had for her.
In this conversation, Branden and Liz discuss the power of calling amidst medical roadblocks and the importance of surrounding yourself by people who won’t let you quit.
Meet Flynn Coleman, a modern-day wonder woman in the world of social justice and advocacy. She’s an international human rights lawyer, educator, author and CEO of Malena, a socially conscious fashion line that focuses on empowering women artisans around the world. She has worked with the United Nations, the United States federal government, and corporations and human rights organizations around the world.
Flynn is a contributing writer for such publications as HuffPost, Global Citizen, and Darling Magazine. Flynn is also the founding fellow at the Grunin Center for Law and Social Entrepreneurship at NYU School of Law. Her passion is celebrating humanity’s diversity while constantly drawing attention to the truth that we’re all just one conversation, one smile, one laugh away from connecting with anybody else.
In this conversation, Branden and Flynn get down to the nitty gritty and discuss the idea that no one can save everything. Flynn helps us discover that this knowledge frees us up to give our energy to do the things that matter to us — and to surround ourselves around the people and causes that make us feel alive.
Every single day, it feels like the media and politicians want us to think that we live in a dangerous world filled with monsters. Inside spaces like prisons, the news wants us to believe that there is nothing redemptive inside, only disappointment and violence, rather than looking at the people inside with compassion and commonality. Nigel Poor, is a social activist, artist and co-creator of the podcast Ear Hustle who has given her life to this idea.
Nigel Poor is a visual artist whose work explores the various ways people make a mark and leave behind evidence of their existence. Her work has been exhibited nationally and internationally. In 2011, Nigel got involved with San Quentin State Prison as a volunteer teacher for the Prison University Project. In 2013 she started working with a group of incarcerated men producing a radio project that eventually turned into Ear Hustle — the winner of Radiotopia's Podquest contest in 2016, chosen from more than 1500 international entries.
In this conversation, Branden and Nigel chat about the important in rallying a belief that commonality and compassion might be some of the most powerful forces on Earth.
The world knows Candace Payne as “Chewbacca Mom,” the wife and mother of two from Dallas who captured the hearts of nearly 200 million people around the world with nothing but a toy Chewbacca mask, a smartphone, and 4 minutes of infectious laughter.
Candace’s viral moment of simple joy became Facebook Live’s top video. But what the video doesn’t show is Candace’s storied journey of daunting obstacles on the way to the joy-filled life—extreme poverty, past trauma, and struggles with self-worth. She recently wrote a book called, Laugh It Up!, where she tells the rest of the story behind the woman in the mask.
In this conversation, Branden and Candace chat about the unlimited positivity and possibility that each day holds if we choose to move toward defiant joy.
Does it ever feel like our souls hold massive record collections: melodies, rhythms and bass lines? Memories that ask you to dance and memories that haunt you in a minor key? Lies that become soundtracks to your days while truths play too softly to be heard? Spoken word poet, author and speaker Amena Brown seems to think so.
Amena Brown’s broken records played messages about how she wasn’t worthy to be loved. The author of five spoken word albums and two nonfiction books (including ‘How to Fix A Broken Record’), Amena performs and speaks at events from coffeehouses to arenas with a mix of poetry, humor, and storytelling.
In this conversation, Branden and Amena explore and debunk the myth that we have to always be searching for the adrenaline in order to make profound work or do impactful things.
The British born essayist, Pico Lyer, once said, “We don’t travel to move, we travel to be moved.” There is a unique power in global experiences that takes us outside our comfort zones and shapes our empathy. Abby Falik is one of those individuals who have discovered this power.
Abby is the Founder & CEO of Global Citizen Year, an innovative ‘for-purpose social venture’ on a mission to make it normal for kids to choose a ‘bridge year’ abroad after high school: an experience that builds self-awareness, global skills and grit.
Abby is a recognized expert on social innovation and the changing landscape of education. She has been featured by Forbes, NPR, The Washington Post and The New York Times. In 2016, Fast Company named her one of the 100 Most Creative People in Business.
In this conversation, Branden and Abby go deep into the philosophy behind the importance of travel and the strength in pursuing a possibility that is not yet happening.
The 1979 Iranian revolution radically shaped who Firuzeh Mahmoudi is today. She grew up witnessing massive rallies, captivated by the excitement, chaos, and hope. Years later, when protests erupted in 2009, Firuzeh — with no prior experience — organized concurrent rallies in 110 cities in support of the Iranian protesters – the largest global day of support for Iran in history.
She is now the founder and director of United for Iran, an independent nonprofit based in San Francisco that works for civil liberties in Iran — with a special emphasis on using technology to fight injustice.
In this conversation, Branden and Firuzeh talk about how working to advance civil liberties globally by advocating for human rights, supporting civil society, and engaging citizens all over the world can be the most challenging and rewarding work a person can be a part of.
Before Dr. Tererai Trent became Oprah’s “favorite guest of all time,” she was a woman with a forgotten dream and a profound desire to recreate our world for the better.
Born in rural Zimbabwe, Dr. Trent is one of the most internationally recognized voices for quality education and women’s empowerment today. She’s the author of ‘The Awakened Woman: Remembering and Reigniting Our Sacred Dreams’ — a book that shares her story of how she planted her dreams deep in the earth and they prayed they would grow and break the cycle of oppression of women today.
In this conversation, Branden and Dr. Trent go deep into the heart of the power of an awakened woman and why our dreams will have greater meaning when they are tied to the betterment of your community.
Clint Smith is a poet whose work goes beyond passion and straight into the world of social engagement — his work creatively invites his listeners out of ignorance and into the world of a real and authentic kind of empathy.
Clint Smith is a writer, teacher, and Ph.D. Candidate at Harvard University. He is a 2014 National Poetry Slam champion, an Individual World Poetry Slam Finalist, and author of the poetry collection Counting Descent. His writing has appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, and The Guardian,and he has delivered two popular TED Talks, The Danger of Silence & How to Raise a Black Son in America.
In this conversation, Branden and Clint go in deep into the heart of our work of building a better world coming from an understanding of how the world has already been built.
Seconds before Kevin Walsh was about to attempt suicide in 2007, he received an unexpected phone call from his first crush, Blake. That phone call saved his life. Now, a decade later, the two are married.
Not many people had heard their story until Kevin posted his story on Quora in answer to the question, “What is one moment in your life you thought could only happen in a movie?” His response went viral and was then featured on HuffPost, Buzzfeed, The Independent, and People.
In this episode, Branden, Kevin, and Blake go deep into the human struggle to find a reason to stay until tomorrow and the power of speaking our love for each other out loud.
When Cody Goldberg and his wife received the news that their daughter, Harper, was diagnosed with a condition that would require her to use a wheelchair for the rest of her life, it would change everything. More specifically, it would make Cody a forever zealot for inclusion of children experiencing disability in playgrounds across America after realizing how alienated they are from them by design. As a graduate of NYU in film and television who then pursued careers at Red Bull and Adidas, Cody has never accepted the idea that you have to let go of play.
He’s currently the Executive Director of Harper’s Playground, a non-profit that is dedicated to leading with the belief that the power of a well-designed and realized inclusive play space can truly transform a community.
In this episode, Branden and Cody chat about the work of being radically inclusive one playground at a time and how we can all benefit from more play.
Former prosecutor, Adam Foss is a fierce voice for compassion in criminal justice reform. He’s currently the founder of Prosecutor Impact, a non-profit organization built around the mission of improving community safety in the US by requiring better incentives and more measurable metrics for success beyond, simply, “cases won.”.
Not only did he advise President Barack Obama on criminal justice reform, but he was also named the 2017 Nelson Mandela Changemaker of the Year. There is no other way to describe Adam Foss but as a 21st century ‘Giant of Justice’.
Recorded together at Life is Good HQ in Boston, Branden and Adam discuss the difference between sympathy and empathy and gain a better understanding of the most important actor in the criminal justice system: the prosecutor.
Drake White is an American country music singer and songwriter from Alabama with a passion for storytelling. With his passionate delivery from the stage, White seems to have inherited his grandfather’s ability to touch crowds with a sermon. However, White stresses that he isn’t a preacher, but doesn’t see a problem with putting his own methods for surviving the world out there.
He’s most popular for his debut single, "Simple Life," for his label release early in 2013. A year later, White signed with Big Machine affiliate Dot Records. In August 2016, Dot released White's debut album, Spark. Most recently, he has been nominated by the CMA for ‘Entertainer of the Year’.
Drake has found the beauty between the partnership of drive and creativity. In this conversation, Branden and Drake talk songwriting, investing in others and living outside the rulebook.
Thank you to Talkspace for sponsoring this week’s episode. Go to talkspace.com/sounds and enter coupon code COUPON to get $30 off your first month.
Sarah Stewart Holland (a progressive) and Beth Silvers (a conservative) became friends in 1999 and haven’t recovered since. Sarah, a professional blogger and social media consultant, and Beth, a human resources executive and yoga teacher, challenged the notion that talking news with your politically opposite college friend is always messy. What evolved out of their friendship was Pantsuit Politics — a podcast that has someone on the right (Beth) and someone on the left (Sarah) having conversations with the goal of listening to each other first and talking politics second.
In this conversation, Branden, Beth and Sarah, talk about bringing a distinctly women-centered perspective to the conversations happening around politics, intending only to learn from each other rather than walking into the discussions trying to win.
Dylan Marron is a writer, performer, video maker and self-acclaimed snacker. He also receives a lot of hate messages on the internet. Producing work that mainly focuses on social justice issues such as race, sexuality and privilege, Dylan’s learned how to take hateful conversations online and turn them into productive conversations offline — an idea and practice that we could all benefit from.
Dylan’s creative resume has included (but not limited to) writing multiple series for Seriously.tv, the voice of Carlos on the hit podcast Welcome to Night Vale, an alum of the New York Neo Futurists, and the creator of Every Single Word (Tumblr's "Most Viral Blog" of 2016; Shorty Award Nominee), a video series that edits down popular films to only feature the words spoken by people of color. And now he’s started a new podcast, Conversations with People Who Hate Me.
In this conversation, Branden and Dylan go deep into the complicated and sometimes hilarious navigation of two strangers who disagree getting to know each other.
Anis Mojgani has been said to be a poet who gleefully spurns the boundaries of poet. He is not only a two-time National Poetry Slam Champion, winner of the International World Cup Poetry Slam, and multiple-time TEDx Speaker, but he’s also an Iranian American living in Oregon with a passion for processing the human interior. Notable to mention: he is one of Branden Harvey’s favorite poets.
Anis has performed his slam poetry around the globe and has performed for audiences as varied as the House of Blues and the United Nations. He is also the author of three poetry collections — Songs From Under the River, The Feather Room, Over the Anvil We Stretch. In this conversation, Branden and Anis (while eating doughnuts) take an in-depth look at how poetry can be a tool for creative exploration through the tremendous grief and joy that life holds for humanity.
In 2015, WeRateDogs was born. If you would've told Matt Nelson then that he’d be entertaining 750,000 people in less than a year, he would've laughed in your face. For those of you who never knew something like WeRateDogs existed, it does. More than 3 million Twitter followers eagerly await the internet phenomenon of dog photo submissions being paired with witty captions — and the final products are brilliant.
Not only is WeRateDogs used as a “joy outlet” for it’s followers, Matt has also ventured to use his online presence to converse and bring awareness to global conversations. In this episode, Branden chats with Matt on the creative craft of molding your words to convey your embarrassingly quirky thought or idea in 140 characters for your unpredictable audience.
Never disregard an 8 year old who dreams of becoming Oprah one day. Noor Tagouri, a Libyan-American storyteller and journalist, is currently one of the most talked about young adults in the country having worked with the CBS Radio, Newsy, CTV News while being known as the first hijab-wearing news anchor on American television. After the release of her first documentary passion project, The Forest Haven Story, and she went on to embark on a unique journey to achieve of her dreams of exposing cultural injustices and combating the challenges facing women on a global scale.
In this conversation, Branden digs deep with Noor to truly understand the power of the right question while always aiming to break the glass ceiling.
Where does true optimism come from? How do we choose to gravitate toward hope when there is so much pain in the world? These are questions that John Jacobs, co-founder and CCO (Chief Creative Optimist) of Life is Good, has been resiliently living out the answer to ever since his early childhood. 1989 marked the beginning of his passion for three main things: spreading optimism, helping children in need, and making rad and iconic t-shirts.
In this conversation Branden chats with John about trading blind positivity for meaningful optimism.
The Shine Project began when Ashley Lemieux’s heart was taken by the inner-city youth of Phoenix, AZ. What began as a small project has now resulted in over 40 scholarships being given to help kids go to college since 2011. Ashley’s life’s work has been a testament to the love she pours out amidst a story that has been embedded with so much pain.
In this heartfelt conversation, Ashley shares about how a call one Sunday morning asking both she and her husband to become permanent guardians to two kids overnight changed their lives forever — and how it took a dark turn 3 years later with a letter from the court in the mail.
This is the first time she publicly shares her story.
Zim Ugochukwu believes that everything about travel comes from a spark of curiosity. She’s currently the founder and CEO of Travel Noire, an award-winning boutique travel company and is a passionate advocate for personal transformational. Her background consists of everything from cloning genes at 19, to running a national anti-tobacco campaign, working on the Obama campaign, becoming a precinct judge while in college, and travelling through 90% of Asia.
In this conversation, Branden and Zim unpacked the importance of seeking to call out the beauty in ‘otherness’ in the people around you while asking the questions that take you places.
“Who are you? Are you you?” British visual artist Shantell Martin has originated her work upon the foundation of these two questions and is now an unconventional truth-teller in her field. After moving to New York from Tokyo, she became best known for creating stream-of-consciousness drawings and light projects with childlike wonder and joy. Her artwork (mainly lines and stick figures) has appeared in the Brooklyn Museum, Museum of the Contemporary African Diaspora, Bata Show Museum, as well as many other well-known art venues in New York.
In this conversation, Branden and Shantell discuss how understanding who you are and asking unconventional questions are keys to keeping the wonder alive in your work.
You've probably seen @jonnysun's "weird Twitter" tweets of his life as a lonely alien experiencing earth. What you might not know is that Jonny Sun, the Asian Canadian playwright, artist, architect and comedian has a master's degree from Yale, is a PhD candidate at MIT, and is a fellow at Harvard's Berkman Klein Center.
In this episode, Branden talked to Jonny about navigating the world of happiness in art and academia while wrestling with depression and anxiety. They also giggled through a conversation about Jonny’s news book, ‘Everyone's a Aliebn When Ur a Aliebn Too’.
In 2014, Rolling Stone referred to Eric Holthaus as “the Rebel Nerd of Meteorology”, mainly in regards to his reputation for being defiantly optimistic in the world of science. His work as a meteorologist and writing has highlighted the belief that climate change is the most important and consequential story of our time. Furthermore, Eric’s transparency about living with autism and advocating for self-care have changed the way he interacts with the rest of the world.
In this conversation, Branden and Eric discuss how weather unites us in unique ways — and how this notion should be celebrated.