Speech Topics

Working Smarter (and Happier)

Scientific strategies for being more productive and living better, drawn from the New York Times best-seller, Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength. These tactics for improving self-control have been tested not only in the lab but in White House (by President Obama) and by business executives such as Mark Zuckerberg.

Researchers have found that self-control is even more important than intelligence in predicting who will succeed in school, business and life. The key is willpower, a source of mental energy that is depleted whenever we use self-control or make decisions. Once it’s gone, we’re prone to “decision fatigue,” procrastination, carelessness, overspending, overeating and other problems. Tierney offers a set of specific strategies to conserve willpower throughout the day and also to strengthen it over the long haul through exercises that build up stamina. By blending practical wisdom with the best of recent research science, he shows that however you define success — a better career, a happier family, good health, financial security – it depends on harnessing your willpower.

John Tierney’s talk was in turns funny, scientifically informative, witty, thought-provoking, and inspiring. I had read his book Willpower and loved it, which was why I invited him to be a keynote speaker. He far exceeded our expectations and was a great addition to our program.

— Tom Palmer, Atlas Network

“John Tierney’s speech was a delightful combination of humor and insight. He makes important scientific matter accessible to lay audiences while keeping the audience’s attention throughout. It’s a rare skill, and our audience loved it.”

— David Boaz

The Optimists Are Right, So Why Don’t We Believe Them?

In a preview of his next book with Roy Baumeister, Tierney makes two scientifically based predictions for the future: The world will keep getting better, and people will keep thinking it’s getting worse. People around the world will become healthier, better educated, richer and enjoy more political freedom. There’ll be less disease and pollution, and more abundant food and natural resources.

We’re living through the greatest miracle in the history ofour species, the doubling of life expectancy since the Industrial Revolution, but we keep listening to false doomsayers. Our problem lies partly within our brains, which evolved to focus on the bad instead of the good, and partly in the daily bombardment of catastrophe from news outlets and social media. Tierney put our problems in perspective and offers practical strategies to overcome fear so that we can savor the good in life.

“John Tierney gave an engaging talk for our group on the case for optimism about human progress – and why public policy suffers if we don’t get that right. He handled audience questions with keen insight and candor.”

— Chad Thevenot, Executive Director, Institute for Humane Studies at George Mason University

The Real War on Science

Who poses the greatest threat to science, the Right or the Left? It’s the Left, Tierney argued in a recent article that set off a national conversation. He accepted an invitation an from Intelligence Squared to defend his position in a debate on NPR, but so far the debate organizers haven’t found anyone on the Left willing to take him on. He remains willing to debate anyone anywhere on the topic, or to lay out his case in a speech. In light of recent campus protests that prevented conservative social scientists from delivering speeches, the topic is more timely than ever.

Saving the Planet – the Right Way

Most of our current “green” policies do little to improve the environment – and too often they do real harm. We feel virtuous recycling, but it’s actually one of our most wasteful activities. Most of the policies to combat global warming won’t keep the planet significantly cooler, but they’ll make it harder for future generations to cope with climate change. Many efforts to protect wildlife and conserve energy do exactly the opposite. Tierney explains how to replace feel-good policies with do-good policies – and how to transform environmentalism from a religion to a science.

John Tierney

John Tierney is a science writer. His book, Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Greatest Strength (Penguin Press, 2011), was a New York Times best-seller and has been translated into 20 languages. He is a contributing editor to City Journal and a contributing columnist to the science section of the New York Times. He is also a public speaker and frequent guest on “CBS This Morning,” Fox News’ “Red Eye,” and Fox Business’ “Kennedy.”