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The Focused Mind Podcast – Ed Caesar

A week after the launch of ’The Moth and the Mountain’, I’m re-visiting an interview from 18 months ago recorded with Ed Caesar about the new book, his journalistic work for the New Yorker, and as an author in his first book, 2 hours.

In February 2019, Ed and I met as he was in the midst of editing. He was gracious enough to agree to talk through his writing process, his inspirations, his role for Wired magazine reporting on the Breaking 2 project for Nike and how he stays disciplined to try and more consistently achieve ‘deep concentration’ when writing.

“I’m drawn to stories where lives are turned on an instant,” says Ed during the podcast. Whether it’s doomed Everest climber, Maurice Wilson, in “The Moth and the Mountain” or marathon runner Geoffrey Mutai who came from terrible hardship in Kenya in “2 hours,” he’s fascinated by his subject’s background and the human spirit in pursuing their dreams. 

Like a psychologist, he aims to get under the skin of his characters to find out what makes them tick and what pushes them to the limits of endurance. 

A key lesson I took from the interview is his application during his writing to obtain and hold focus. As I do in my work with performers across all sectors, Ed has taken lessons he’s seen in sport and applied them to life. Ed speaks warmly about fellow writer Jean Bobet, who became a journalist after first being a pro cyclist. Bobet spoke of what he called La Volupté, “the combination of speed and ease, force and grace,” which Ed references about the state of mind we call “flow” that comes when you’re totally absorbed within an activity in which you feel a sense of both calm and joy. Ed recognizes this within himself on those occasions where time stops during writing. But to achieve these performance states takes the discipline of routine and daily practice, whether you’re a writer or an athlete. 

I’m so pleased Ed’s book is finally out for the World to read (I’m currently enjoying the detail of Wilson’s “derring don’t”!) and feel privileged to have found out about its background story, genesis, and completion. I hope the lessons relevant to your own personal story can be found from Ed’s mindset and ethos and that our conversation is entertaining and that you get to understand more about the man behind the words. 

You can listen to the Podcast here and read The Guardian’s review here, who awarded it their book of the week.

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