In this On Purpose episode, Jay Shetty interviewed President Joe Biden at the White House, a milestone made possible due to the massive support and love for this platform.
Jay Shetty’s mission is to contribute to a happier, healthier, and more healed world by exploring personal narratives. This conversation with the president was around mental health. The intention is to reveal the person behind the podium, his life experiences, and stories of healing, grief, loss, and growth, thereby humanizing him.
The President’s Bullies
President Joe Biden recalls two pivotal childhood experiences. The first involves confronting a neighborhood bully. When his mother learned about the situation, she encouraged him to defend himself. She pointed out that if he didn’t stand up for himself, he would never be able to walk in that alley again. This incident made a lasting impression on President Biden on the importance of standing up for oneself.
Another profound memory President Biden shared with Jay Shetty was his struggle with stuttering, which he deemed “the worst curse” due to the teasing he endured. Yet, he considers this difficulty to have a positive impact his life. It made him more compassionate and understanding toward others who’ve had similar challenges.
Jay Shetty empathizes with President Biden’s experiences, as he, too, faced bullying during his youth. Jay was made fun of due to his weight and his Indian heritage. Despite these hardships, he remarks on the transformative power of compassionate individuals who lend support in difficult times.
Biden discusses the power of ‘showing up’ for others. He shares instances where his presence provided solace to those in distress. He passed down the value of being there for others to his son Beau, who consistently ‘showed up’ for those in need. President Biden also mentions his friend Admiral Vivek Murthy’s observation of the growing anxiety and loneliness among young people today. He emphasized the necessity of being there for each other to alleviate such feelings.
Jay Shetty and President Biden agree that our struggles often catalyze personal growth, fostering empathy and compassion. They also underline the power of reaching out and being there for one another, which can significantly impact someone’s life.
Grief and the Village
Joe Biden opened up to Jay Shetty about his journey of handling grief and loss. Biden explained how he managed to navigate the devastation of losing his wife, daughter, and son.
The president attributed his resilience to the power of his close-knit family. He shared how his sister and her husband moved into his house, and his brother converted a barn loft into an apartment to stay close after his wife and daughter perished in an accident. These selfless acts demonstrated the substantial influence of a supportive network during traumatic times.
President Biden also pointed out that when experiencing hardship, having someone reach out genuinely does matter. During his tenure, Biden made it a point to visit wakes and funerals personally, lending comfort to grieving families. He expressed how these empathetic gestures, regardless of their simplicity, make a significant difference for those dealing with sorrow.
Everyone Needs Help
Jay Shetty wanted to know how the President of the United States allowed himself to accept this help. President Biden shared how his upbringing in an extended family encouraged open communication. The importance of active listening and being available for his children and grandchildren was a consistent practice in his family, reinforcing their bond. Moreover, he emphasized that being there for someone, whether to hold or hug them, has an undeniable impact.
Finding the perfect words to comfort someone in pain is often challenging. Biden pointed out to Jay Shetty that half the task is merely showing up. Acknowledging someone’s pain or reminding them they are not alone can be extremely comforting. The capacity to recall a cherished memory and smile before shedding a tear signifies that one is on the path to recovery. Even with the pain lingering, one knows they can make it through.
Biden acknowledged the role of deep faith in coping with grief. He shared an anecdote about his family’s unique communication method – leaving messages on the bathroom mirror. During a difficult time, his daughter reminded him that happiness lies in having something to do, someone to love, and something to look forward to.
Jay Shetty noted the relationship between vulnerability and strength, especially as a leader. He talks about his experience coaching a CEO, who was initially hesitant to share their struggles with their team, fearing it might display weakness. However, Jay explained that being vulnerable and sharing one’s growth is a sign of strength. President Biden’s experiences mirrored this notion, showing how leaders can display power through vulnerability.
Family Comes First
Joe Biden shared with Jay Shetty how he manages to maintain a work-life balance, make difficult decisions, and understand and empathize with people’s struggles.
The president asserts the importance of his staff putting family first, even during crucial work periods. As a senator and vice president, his principle was that no working issue outweighs personal or family crises. His rule is clear – if someone’s home life is suffering, they need to attend to it, no explanations required. Biden highlighted that one can’t perform at their best when dealing with personal issues.
Decisions and Difficult Times
President Joe Biden explains to Jay Shetty his decision-making process as a blend of the heart, gut, and head. His heart highlights the problem, his gut suggests an initial response, and his mind checks the feasibility of the solution. He underscores the significance of one’s value set and treating everyone with dignity, an ethos instilled in him by his father.
Biden discusses individuals’ difficulties when dealing with major life crises, such as health issues. He mentions the fear associated with words like “cancer” and the crucial need for guidance and support during such challenging times. President Biden believes in offering a helping hand, big or small, to relieve anxiety and make people’s lives easier.
The conversation between President Joe Biden and Jay Shetty touches on the mental and emotional toll of helping others through experiences that mirror your past trauma. President Biden acknowledges the pain but emphasizes the importance of supporting those going through hardships.
President Joe Biden shared his methods of gauging people’s intentions with Jay Shetty, especially when it involves complex issues like international diplomacy. It is a particular technique essential for understanding people’s underlying motives.
President Biden emphasized the need to recognize the unique circumstances and challenges that individuals might be facing. He explained to Jay Shetty that comprehending other world leaders’ constraints and limitations is crucial to finding common ground. Often, these leaders might want to undertake specific actions or decisions but are held back by political restrictions within their country.
Moreover, President Biden outlines how he steps in during such predicaments, offering assistance that doesn’t necessitate these leaders to make significant concessions. This could involve allowing them to publicly criticize or even express gratitude toward him, creating a space for them to act without considerable detriment.
The president stresses that this approach isn’t just a tactical maneuver but is firmly rooted in the fundamental principles of human nature. President Biden believes in valuing and understanding an individual’s capacities and accepting that not everyone can manifest exceptional courage or performance during challenging times. His method is crafted to create pathways toward mutual objectives, letting the other party maintain their dignity and reputation while still achieving the intended outcome.
Biden’s diplomatic approach is broader than interactions with world leaders. It also extends to his understanding of the complexity and variety of human behavior. He recognizes that accommodating the constraints and limitations of others is part of leading compassionately and effectively.
Furthermore, President Biden’s insights into this subject demonstrate his belief in working through problems rather than around them. He illustrates that sometimes working with two individuals might facilitate reaching an agreement, employing an understanding of what might hinder them from doing what they feel is right. This displays a deep awareness of the nuance involved in human interaction and leadership.
President Biden’s unique blend of empathy, diplomacy, and strategic negotiation isn’t about manipulation. It’s an approach that combines respect, practical wisdom, and a willingness to work within human imperfections to achieve a greater good. This discussion stands as a powerful example of leadership, offering valuable insights into leading with understanding and empathy, and it paints a picture of a leader deeply in tune with the human condition.
More From Jay Shetty
Listen to the entire On Purpose with Jay Shetty podcast episode on “President Joe Biden ON How to Navigate the Path of Grief with Resilience and Hope & Ways to Make Challenging Decisions Under Pressure” now in the iTunes store or on Spotify. For more inspirational stories and messages like this, check out Jay’s website at jayshetty.me.