Today I sit down with Kaj Larsen. To say that Kaj is a former
US Navy SEAL is just the tip of the iceberg. He is also a
journalist who's work you've probably seen on VICE and CNN. He went
to Harvard. He worked with Sorkin on "Newsroom" --one of my
favorite shows. The depth of his experience is significant —just
take a look at his bio below.
In this episode, however, we talk about his SEAL days. I've
been fascinated with SEAL training for years so this conversation
was an absolute blast. Among many other things, we talk about
leading men in combat, building team cohesion, and how some of the
ideas from SEAL training can be applied to people in leadership
positions outside of the military.
### Kaj's bio:
Kaj Larsen was born in Santa Cruz, California, and graduated
from the University of California at Santa Cruz with a degree in
Political Science. At Harvard University he received his Masters
degree in Public Policy from the John F. Kennedy School of
Government. At Harvard, Kaj was awarded a fellowship from the
Shorenstein Center for Press, Politics, and Public Policy. He was
also a joint fellow at Tufts Jebsen Center for Counter-Terrorism
studies. His focus includes international security policy, media
politics, and political affairs.
Kaj is an award winning filmmaker and correspondent. He was
recently the Senior Correspondent and Producer for Now This News.
He previously hosted the Emmy award winning series VICE on HBO. At
VICE Kaj has produced documentaries on conflict and national
security issues. He is the only journalist to be embedded in the
Nigerian fight against Boko Haram, and conducted the first
exclusive interview with the architect of the CIA’s enhanced
interrogation program. Prior to Now This and Vice Kaj was a
correspondent at CNN as a member of CNN’s Special Investigations
and Documentary unit. His on-camera career began in 2005 when he
covered the war in Afghanistan for Current TV. At Current TV Kaj
helped develop the Emmy Award winning Vanguard Journalism series.
He was the first journalist to bring the issue of waterboarding to
the public by having himself waterboarded on TV. He broke the media
silence on Somalia by being the first western TV journalist in
Mogadishu in over a decade. He has since gone on to report from war
zones and conflict spots around the world, in places such as
Pakistan, Yemen, Cambodia, Colombia, West Africa, and Latin
America. His feature documentaries have covered topics ranging from
the drug war in Mexico to the devastating floods in Pakistan to
Wikileaks. His reporting is distinguished by his in-field and
in-depth examination of difficult and dangerous topics around
conflict zones, national security, and criminal justice.
Kaj’s intrepid reporting and powerful filmmaking has put him
at the vanguard of a new broadcast journalism. He frequently
appears on other media outlets such as ABC, NBC, MSNBC, and the
Huffington Post. He was the senior correspondent and host of The
Current Election, a daily show about politics and public policy. As
a producer Kaj has created hit television series such as US Navy
Pirate Hunters, a one-hour special for Spike TV, and LOCKUP the
highly rated show about life in American prison for air on MSNBC.
He was Aaron Sorkin’s private consultant on the hit HBO series
Newsroom. His work has earned him critical acclaim including an
Emmy nomination, a Peabody nomination, two Telly awards, and
several Golden Cine awards.
Prior to his work in television, Kaj spent five years on
active duty serving as a US Navy SEAL. As a Lieutenant he led a
team of special warfare personnel in covert operations overseas
deploying as a detachment Commander in support of the Global War on
Terrorism. He continues his service as a SEAL reserve officer
assigned to US Special Operations Command.
Kaj is a two time national champion open-water swimmer, and
placed third in the Escape from Alcatraz duathalon. Kaj has lived
extensively overseas, including Thailand, where he studied Muay
Thai boxing. He is a practitioner of Brazilian jiu-jitsu and
frequently competes in mixed martial arts competitions.
Kaj used his pay from the service to help launch The Mission
Continues, and served on the Board of Directors for five years. Kaj
also serves on the Boards of Advisors to the Veteran service
organization Team Rubicon Global. He has deployed three times in
support of Team Rubicon to render Humanitarian assistance in
Pakistan, the Philippines, and the US.
Follow Kaj on Instagram:
Follow Kaj on Twitter: https://twitter.com/kajlarsen