I've never said this out loud, so I'm going to try them with you first are the three pillars. But before I share them with you, a quote from the great philosopher Dolly Parton. And what she said was, find out who you are and do it on purpose. They do it on purpose is a lot is a significant underpinning of the kind of ideas that you expose in your work that here's something you might benefit from if you are trying to do X, Y or Z on purpose.
And I would like to flip Dolly's phrase upside down, and I'd like to say do it on purpose and you'll find out who you are. Asking for a guarantee before you start isn't helpful. Instead, we need to look at a concept, an idea and be willing to try it out with intent, because if we do if we try it on for size, we will figure out if it fits us as opposed to the opposite, which is spending a lot of time figuring out who we are and then going and finding the things that fit us.
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There's a quote in your new book, The Practice by sculptor Elizabeth King. And she put it beautifully when she said process saves us from the poverty of our intentions. What does that mean to you? The poverty of our intentions?
If you wake up in a bad mood, if you hit a speed bump, if you get a bit of negative feedback from someone who's just a bystander, it's super easy to spiral out of control and to determine that maybe you should take some time away or that what you're working on isn't really important enough.
And in those moments, you are not the best version of yourself, but you're still yourself.
If you have a practice, you get through them, you get through them because you already decided there was going to be a blog post tomorrow and you already decided that the podcast comes out on a regular basis and you already decided, whatever it is, make the decision once, then you have a practice forever like that.
A lot of creative work obviously doesn't come with any guaranteed outcomes, but there's a pattern to sort of who succeeds and who doesn't tell me more. But that pattern and what it means to succeed.
So what I'm trying to do you do in the practice is decode what works and what doesn't, because too much of the Internet has been about chasing down the longest possible list of hacks and coming up with as many aphorism, shortcuts or best practices as you can, as if having all of them means that you will get to where you're going. And I know a lot of creative people, some of whom are well known, some of whom will never be well known.
And the question is, what does it even mean? To make creative work happen, what does it mean to show up and make change? And I looked for patterns. So years ago when I wrote Linchpin, what I said is the only thing that leaders have in common is that they are leaders. And the only thing that charismatic people have in common is that people think they have charisma. But there isn't a given set of checklist items that you have to have to be creative or to be a leader or to have charisma.
Instead, we can look for what rhymes and what the the patterns are. And in the case of a creative, it involves somebody who has made the decision that they want to change things. And that is different than adopting the brainwashed mindset of I will do what I am told. Can we talk a little bit more into the hacks?
I mean, we see them everywhere. Where does the term "hack" originate and then maybe dive into why they're so prolific? Why are we so drawn to those?
Well, by now the word means three or four things. So let's just isolate them because I'm I tend to use it in two different ways. There is the. Cracking hack of illegally opening somebody's systems and messing with them, there is the esteemed hack of figure out how to use code or other forms of technology to solve an intractable problem in an elegant shortcut way. But there's also the hack of figuring out exactly what the audience wants and giving it to them. That is the original definition of a hack. The borough in London called Hackney used to be on the outskirts of London when London was smaller and they raised horses there. But they didn't raise great horses. They didn't raise expensive horses or thoroughbred horses are beautiful horses or trained horses, just ordinary, cheap horses. And if you were a cab driver, that's the horse for you. And that's why London cab drivers are called ACSA.
Oh, that's interesting. But we're drawn to that, right? It's almost like the illusion of knowledge that if somebody else is giving us the nugget, the gist of something, we've lost something in that.
Right. So the the other definition of hack, which is that I found the core nugget that the mental understanding of what's behind this, it corrupts what the elegance of the original word. Right, that the original word means. If I'm in the Doobie Brothers and I'm doing my fiftieth anniversary tour, the people without a pandemic who would have come to see them don't actually want the Doobie Brothers to sing new songs. They want the Doobie Brothers to be a cover band of the Doobie Brothers. That's a hack in the sense that anybody who sounded like the old Doobie Brothers would have been a substitute because no one could tell the difference. And what I'm arguing is you want to be doing work where people can tell the difference because that puts you on the hook.
Do you think we're naturally drawn to shortcuts?
I think that we've been indoctrinated and brainwashed by an industrial system. And I wasn't alive before Frederick Taylor. But Frederick Taylor definitely changed the world, that when you bring a stopwatch to a factory, suddenly you are taking capitalism and weaponized it. You're saying, if I can figure out how to save 30 seconds for every single part at the end of a year, we're going to have a million dollars. So there's a real incentive to turn that screw to get more efficient. And I was just reading about a machine shop in Kyoto, Japan, that's a thousand years old and building a business to last a thousand years. You're not going to be able to do that with shortcuts or hacks. You're going to do it by focusing on something else. And the thing is, they bought a rice kneading machine, I don't know, 20 years ago. But that was the first major technological advance they'd had in a thousand years because the job of the mochi store is not to be the biggest or most profitable mochi store. It is to do their work the way they want to do it.
There's something noble in that. Right. And I think you mentioned a story on another interview that I was listening to yesterday where you used to eat at this restaurant and you wanted the brussel sprouts because you're vegetarian. You asked for no bacon and maybe you can tell the story a little bit better.
Well, there's a little celebrity angle which makes it an even juicier story. So David Chang, Momofuku, the whole empire that grew from nothing. We used to go to Momofuku when no one knew about it. And it was probably David behind the grill, I'm not sure. And the place only seats 50 people. We would get there for lunch on Saturday with the family five, six weeks in a row. They happily made me the brussel sprouts with no bacon because after all, that saves them the cost of the bacon and saves me having to deal with the fact that only bacon and the six week we went. And David said, you know, there is a restaurant about a block from here that really likes vegetarians and we have almost no vegetarian items on our menu, and I think it would be better if you went somewhere else for lunch next time. And that was the day that Momofuku became Momofuku and the David Chang became David Chang because, yeah, there are plenty of people you could cater to. But the question is, does that help you make the change you seek to make?
I want to just explore this a little bit more, because if that restaurant wasn't successful, the story we would be saying afterwards is, well, they didn't adapt. They didn't serve their customers.
Yeah, I think that's legit, except the word that gets into us, into all sorts of trouble, because nobody has everyone as their customer, nobody maybe the water company. But that's about it, that our goal cannot be to be for everyone, that we have to be for someone the smallest viable audience, not the biggest possible audience. And so for people who are taking notes in search of a nugget, that's one that can change how you do your work, whether you're a professor at York University or whether you are trying to do a startup or whether you're an investor. The whole deal is the Internet is not a mass medium. We haven't had a new mass medium since television. The Internet is a micro medium. It is the best medium ever developed to reach specific people. But it is terrible at reaching everyone. There is no homepage. It is impossible to reach 100 million people in one day on the Internet, which is something TV used to do every night. And what that means is we have the luxury of saying who this is for and who it's not for. And the mistake that so many people building something make is they get hung up on the feedback of people who it's not for, as opposed to being obsessed with the people who it is for. Can they live without it? Would they miss it if it were gone? Let's make that. That's what we should make.
That's interesting. I have a friend who is writing a book and I said, who's the book for? And he said, it's for everybody. Why do you think that we default to this big everybody concept?
Right. So that book is going to fail. I happily put that in writing right this minute. That book is going to fail. Harry Potter, the most successful book franchise in history. It made the author over a billion dollars. That book is for almost no one write. That book is for precocious 12 year olds and people who like to remember what it was like to be a precocious 12 year old. That's not everyone. That's a very small group of people. And we say it's for everyone because it's fuel. It helps us be an evangelist. It says I am going to be so generous and I'm going to bring something to the world that everyone will benefit from. But we are not who we are because of our atoms or molecules, our DNA or who we are, because of the stories we tell ourselves about the pain we're in, the hopes we have, the dreams we live with. Pick those, be specific about those. And then those people not only will find you, but they will tell the others.
Are we hiding when we make something for everybody? Because that way we can't really fail. Like if we put something out for a specific audience and it doesn't resonate, then we get this immediate feedback that we missed the mark.
Yeah, the way to be on the hook is to say this is only for people who are like this, because if those people hate it, then you were wrong. Whereas if you say this is for everyone, you're allowed to hide bad. While everyone hasn't found it yet.
Want to come back to the inner stories that we tell ourselves. How do we how do we change that inner voice? How do we listen to it? How do we debug it?
OK, so in listening to your work over time, I love the whole idea of first principles and mental maps. And I think it's very easy in the information tsunami that we live in to feel like our defect is we don't have enough information. If I just had more information than whatever I'm working on would go better. And so I got to thinking about what are the pillars behind how I'm looking at the world. Five years ago, I started the Alt-MBA, which is now an independent B-corp, and the Alt-MBA teaches people to change their mind. And it does it in this intensive 30 day online session. And it combines a lot of the thinking I've put together for the last twenty years in my book. So here are I'm going to I've never said this out loud, so I'm going to try them with you. First are the three pillars, but before I share them with you. A quote from the great philosopher Dolly Parton and what she said was, "Find out who you are, and do it on purpose". And the "do it on purpose" is a lot is a significant underpinning of the kind of ideas that you expose in your work that here's something you might benefit from if you are trying to do X, Y or Z on purpose. And I would like to flip Dolly's phrase upside down, and I'd like to say "Do it on purpose, and you'll find out who you are". Asking for a guarantee before you start isn't helpful. Instead, we need to look at a concept, an idea and be willing to try it out with intent, because if we do if we try it on for size, we will figure out if it fits us. As opposed to the opposite, which is spending a lot of time figuring out who we are and then going and finding the things that fit us. So the three pillars, the first one is the change you seek to make. Are you here to make a contribution or are you here to take something? Are you here to do what you are told or are you here to question and to make things different? And answering that question honestly is really difficult because it's all about the story we tell ourselves. And so if we can figure out how to tell ourselves a different story, then we might be able to make a different level of contribution. So some people wake up in the morning and say, how do I double my net worth? And some people wake up in the morning and say, how do I help the people in Bali, India, get through another night without electricity? Those are two totally different kinds of change that you seek to make in the world. But they are both a change, right? The second pillar which fits into the first one, because I think the first one is too hard to start with, is what possibility do you see? Because we've indoctrinated people from birth to either believe that they are entitled or not, to believe that they are special or not, to believe they have leverage or not. Do you see possibility in the change you seek to make? And the flip side of that which goes with it, is learning to see the world as it is. And this is why, you know, the work that my friend Derek Sivers has done, for example, is so important. Andy Duke on decision making, learning to see the world as it is, because it's so easy to imagine we get to make it the way we want it to be, but we don't. The world is the way it is and learning to see that reality is critical and it changes our understanding of what is possible because no one has ever done the work you hope to do, then you might be deluding yourself if, on the other hand, there's a well trodden path and people have gone on that path, then you might be able to follow it. So if we think about the stock market, of which I know nothing, lots and lots of people, millions of people read Ben Graham, but almost none of them turned into Warren Buffett. So part of that is discipline. Part of it is seeing the possibility. Part of it is deciding what kind of 50 year journey you want to go on and how you will approach it. But none of it is that you didn't meet Ben Graham because all of the people did. Right. And then the third pillar is and this is the one that is the most interesting to me lately. How much emotional labour are you able and willing to expend? To accomplish the thing you set out to do when I think about learning versus education, which I can talk about for hours, education is compliance, education is compulsory, education is coercion. Learning is serial incompetence on our way to getting better. And so the flip, the pairing, the tandem of emotional labors, do you care enough to learn something? So there are all these things in my life. I don't care enough to learn that I could go get a book from the library or I could go listen to 20 podcasts, or I could go practice something and I would get better at it. And I haven't done it. And I'm 60 years old. And the honest answer is not because I'm talented or not talented, it's just I don't care enough to expend the energy of what it would take to get good at that. So you asked me a simple question and I gave you a half hour answer, but there you go, back to you
You gave me a beautiful answer. I have you three follow ups to that that are sort of like different rabbit holes here. The first is how do we learn?
The only way to learn is by doing things. That we can read about how to swim and we can read about how to make a vegetarian mochi role, but you will not learn how to do it until you do it. And the reading, the listening is important preparation, but learning is the act of failing on our way to mastery. And that is part of my beef with organized education, said organized education has precious little learning in it. And you mentioned in your book that when you got your MBA, there was an open book test and I thought that was a typo because when I got my MBA, there wasn't one open book test. Every test was closed book. And what I thought about it, I realized that the only courses I learned anything in in college and business school were the ones that were essentially open book, because what it means to have an open book educational interaction is that you have to do the work. You have to actually learn something, because it is not about did you memorize things for ten minutes and then write them down. It's did you actually do the thing? And now you know how.
I think so much about what organized education is also doing is preventing failure. It's going out of its way to not build those muscles in children for sure.
And, you know, I like to talk about the acting academy, which is now there's more than 100 of them. It's basically a one room schoolhouse. Typically, there are 50 kids and two adults in the whole building, and one of them is the custodian. And one of the rules at acting is: you're not allowed to ask an adult a question. And so we've got kids between 5 and 17 years of age teaching each other, learning from each other, they get a report card every week that goes home to their parents. It says what they built and what they created and who they helped. And the process just keeps repeating. And you got to believe it, that the end of 12 years of that, you are probably more optimistic, more resilient, more generous and better qualified to make a contribution than someone who got A's and was on the pep squad.
How do we learn to become an observer of reality?
This one is so important, particularly in our siloed world, that it is really dangerous to deny science and accurate reporting of the world around us because it permits us to live in our own reality, which is fun for a while. But then you try to do something and you discover that the laws of thermodynamics are actually correct and you discover that viruses don't care, that you tried really hard for five days and now you deserve a break. That's not how epidemiology works. And you could learn how epidemiology works by actually exposing yourself to the data and the experiences around it. So when I read Annie Duke's first book and she tells the story about Jim Carroll and the Super Bowl, it blew my mind because for the first time I really understood what it meant to make a decision or when I teach people about sunk costs, it's really fascinating to watch some people get it because they'd never properly understood what sunk costs were and how they were holding them back. These fundamental principles are at the core of so much of what you've been sharing. And so I don't have to persuade people who are listening to this that there is a shared reality we live in. But pursuing it, by testing it, by exposing ourselves to: why is this true? Not just did it get past a peer reviewed journal? If we understand it and it holds up to examination, then we've learned to see it as it really is.
There's a little wrinkle or nuance to that that I would say that I see occasionally, which is we understand how the world works, but we think it should work differently.
Yeah. And, you know, if you listen to David Deutsch, who I don't think you've interviewed him, have you?
No, if he's listening, I'd love to have him on the show.
What a character. And I, I listen to his stuff on audio book because I would just slow down so much if I had to turn the pages, but. Everything he says makes absolutely no sense, and yet it's coherent and so multiplying multiple universe quantum mechanics times, how can someone not, you know, donate to a charity? How can someone eat this unhealthy food? I mean, all around us, there are people who make choices that we would not make, who do things that we would not do. It's not quantum mechanics. What it is, is everyone tells themselves a different story. They don't believe what we believe. They don't know what we know. They don't want what we want. And if we don't have the empathy to say that's OK, then we have no hope of ever serving or working with them.
I wanna come back to sunk costs, what are those?
OK, so the first lesson of almost any business school is ignore some costs. And then people who are smart say, what are those? A sunk cost is a gift from your former self. Maybe it's a law degree, maybe it's tickets to the movies, maybe it's the deposit on a vacation that you had long planned, maybe it's the emotional connection you have to a certain kind of thing happening in your future like a big wedding. It was hard for you to earn that dream and it was hard for you to get that degree. And now here we are. It's a gift from your former self. And the question is, do you have to accept that gift? So the story I tell is they were doing some construction work across the street from my house and the guy put in a new flight of stone steps. And I waited till he was done. And then I went over and I said, you did nice work. He said, thanks a lot. And I said, I don't know if anyone mentioned to you, but you have these signs that say quality masonry with your phone number on them. And we live in a fairly literate town. And I was just letting you know, you spelled the word masonry wrong. And he was like, yeah, I know it cost me a lot of business, but I already paid for 50 of these signs. And that's a sunk cost, because if he had found 50 signs lying by the side of the road with his name spelled wrong, he wouldn't have picked them up because he would realize these signs aren't going to help. They're not worth having for free. And these signs are free because the old him paid for them. He didn't pay for them. And every time he's using them, it hurts. And I have a pair of shoes at home that don't fit me anymore. And I should throw them out, but I don't because I remember what it took to get them when I was younger. And I can't throw them out, but I should, because I didn't pay for them. My former self pay for them. And if you're walking around with shoes that don't fit. You should probably get a new pair of shoes.
Do you think that applies to relationships as well?
It does, but it's largely misunderstood with relationships in the sense that a new relationship is like fresh powder. It is new and shiny and exciting, but it will not be a new relationship for a long. And then you're still stuck with an old relationship. And the question is, will your old relationship a year from now be better than your old relationship that you currently have is? And if the answer is yes, then yes, sunk costs completely apply. But if the answer is no, then what you're really doing is shopping for novelty, not ignoring sunk costs.
Are there other ways that we don't think of sunk costs that are non-intuitive?
Well, our ability to rationalize sunk costs is really spectacular. And one of the things that we do is we increase to dramatize how expensive it will be to tell other people that we are ignoring sunk costs. It will break my parents heart if I tell them that after 10 years I hate being a lawyer because they paid for me to go to law school. And so therefore I'm going to be unhappy for 10 more years because I don't want my parents to be unhappy for an hour. Right. That we really like being hooked on the effort and the feeling it took to get our neurons aligned around who we thought we were, the story we tell ourselves, and that is probably why sunk costs are so challenging. So what I encourage people to do this is a hack in the good sense is establish new sunk costs for yourself to keep you going. This is part of the practice. So I've written seven thousand five hundred blog posts in a row, having missed one. It's really emotionally expensive for me now to miss a blog post. My blog is a sunk cost in the sense that if it stops giving me joy for the long haul, I should stop writing it. It doesn't matter how hard it was to build the streak. Going forward, it's a gift from my former self. But I can tell you on a Thursday, if I just don't have anything to write, that sunk cost is enough to get me over the hump. All right, we're coming out of this rabbit hole slowly here.
How do you make decisions?
Well, how do I make decisions that I talk about in public? Because I'm proud of how I make decisions or how do I make decisions most of the time.
In reality, how do you make decisions? How do you make important decisions?
What I found when I was 12 is that my mild case of ADHD was either a curse or an asset. And it certainly got me in trouble at school. And it certainly made my life a lot more interesting because I'm easily swayed by novelty and bright, shiny objects and opportunity and possibility. But what I also discovered shortly thereafter is that I could develop the willpower to wall off certain areas of choice so that I wouldn't end up chasing those sorts of novelty. I just decided and so I don't look back. So I haven't had meat since 1981 or 1979 or so. I just decided I'm done not going to do that. And I have no yearnings, cravings whatsoever. I'm just done. And by walling off areas of what I do and don't do and how I do it, I've narrowed the frame of the decisions that I need to consider. And then within that frame, I try to use this this this math of how do I build resilience into the process, how do I see the dip that lies ahead with any given path? Because if I'm not willing to commit to something, it's probably not worth starting doing it. Because again, the novelty will be satisfied. But then I might be stuck without the objective that I sought to serve. I will tell you that certain things that are designed to be really difficult but somewhat trivial decisions like what kind of car to buy, they can really messed me up for weeks at a time because there's no dominant choice. But when it comes to something like should I have a podcast?The way that I did that math was I care about the form of media. I always come up with my media boundaries before I come up with the media content. And I learned that when I was book packager, meaning I don't say I have a good idea, I'm going to make a book. I say, what are the constraints of books? How do I explore that? And then how do I find an idea that fits into that container? So with podcasts, I did want a really long time ago. It was the number one business podcast for years and years, but it was completely out of date. And so the question was, should I make a new podcast? So I explored the format in my head because that was novelty. That was fun. The commitment didn't exist. I didn't have to say yes to anybody. And once I solved the problem in a way that made me happy, there was no point in making the podcast because I'd already gotten all the satisfaction I was going to get out of solving the problem. And then I got a call from somebody who said, we will pay you to make a podcast. And in that moment, I wasn't taking intentional action. I was reacting to something that was incoming, that was sloppy. But it's OK because I was busy doing other things and this wasn't my intention in the moment. But I looked at the options, which is why you've solved this problem. And so you could say no and then you get nothing, or this person will make a contribution to the things that you care about and you'll get a laboratory to explore new ways to do this. And so I said yes, and now I'm on the eighth season. The question is, is there a dip or is this simply part of my practice? And I've come to the conclusion there probably isn't a dip in the sense that this podcast is going to get to become as popular as yours. And that's fine, because that's not why I built it. But as long as chopping this wood and carrying this water satisfies me, I'll keep doing it. And the day it doesn't, it will become a sunk cost and I will walk away.
It sounds like when you're walling off certain areas of your life that you're forcing yourself to focus, through other environmental constraints or mental constraints. How did you go about deciding which areas to put barriers on?
It doesn't matter. That's the key. It doesn't matter that I just said I'm not going to watch television, and with all the time I saved not watching television, I got all these other benefits. But I could have just as easily said, I'm not going to do this with my time so I can watch television. It doesn't matter. It's just limiting the incoming. Limiting the distractions forces me to be on the hook because I can't go home. At the end of the day, I can't go to bed at night and say, well, that day went fine, because if I don't do the things that I'm left with, I do nothing. And it's that doing nothing becomes a fuel for someone who needs novelty, that doing nothing deprives me of the fuel that I need to to feel alive. And so I don't do nothing like that.
I want to come back to the emotional labor to which is do you think that that's our willingness to accept a certain degree of pain or effort that is associated with the goals you want to accomplish? Is that really just asking us like, how bad do we want it?
OK, so let's talk about labor labor first. Karl Marx, labor, labor. Most of the people listening to this, not only don't we do it, we don't even live next to somebody who does it right. The person who worked in the mine, the person who worked in a dark factory in Manchester surrounded by candles for light, who was grinding their way through work that was painful, tiring and ultimately unhealthy. That's what Labor used to be, digging ditches, being, you know, outdoors in the heat, having someone tell us how to expend our energy emotional labor. AR Hochschild named it in 1963. Emotional labor is showing up when we don't feel like it. Emotional labor is smiling when we're grimacing. Emotional labor is being kind to a customer who's not being kind to us. If it's your hobby and you can do it when you want to do it, there is no labor whatsoever, right? Hobbies are great. Hobbies help make us more human. But if we're going to get paid at some point, we're doing some form of labor. What I argue in some of my writing is if you're going to run a marathon, you're going to get tired and you shouldn't hire a coach to teach you how to run a marathon without getting tired. And if you're going to do this work of emotional labor, you're going to become afraid, you're going to get fatigued. You're going to feel like giving up. You can't make that go away. That's part of what it means to do emotional labor. The question is, what emotional labor do you want to sign up for and when do you want to do it and what do you get in return? And there are definitely people who are so privileged they don't have a requirement to do labor, emotional or otherwise. And I don't think those people are very happy because part of what makes us modern humans is we are on and we are off. And when we're on, we're doing some sort of labor.
Do you think that part of that is our need to contribute to something larger than ourselves?
Now, that's a really good question, because that's what I grew up with. I had amazing parents. And when the birthday lottery, a lot of people didn't have that luxury, that privilege. And yet many of those people have grown up to make a contribution. They're also surrounded by people, many of whom are in the media, who make no contribution at all, who are just taking all the time. And sometimes we lionize those people and sometimes we call those people heroes of ours. I don't think that that makes sense. I think the Forbes 400 is actually a toxic pox on our culture because that's no way to measure someone's contribution. But apparently some people in many pockets of our world believe that their role is not to be a contribution, but to get rewarded for exerting their power.
How do you think about success?
Well, I try to keep track of would they miss you if you were gone? Would they miss you if you didn't show up? Have you done something for which there are few happy substitutes? And have you done it in a way that leaves things better than you found them? And so that's the compass I'm trying to use each day. I don't you know, plenty data shows that after 70000 U.S. dollars, happiness does not increase for people. And, you know, there are billionaires who had a really bad day yesterday because something changed in there, the numbers on their screen. And that seems like a really bad reason to have a bad day.
I wanna come back to something you said about sort of winning the birth lottery here. The ovarian lottery, I think is often calls it. And how how that puts us sort of on a trajectory that we didn't control, right, we get to push into the world based on this and then other people get a push that may be more or less than than we are with the different trajectory. And yet at some point, we take control of our trajectory, become an adult and we're responsible, you know, ignoring luck. We're responsible for our outcomes. So you can you can outperform your initial trajectory or you can underperform. And I'm curious as to how you see things that we control that would help us outperform versus things that we would spiral us downward or change our trajectory into negative.
That's a really elegant way to talk about it. I'm not sure I completely agree because the imagery of Hollywood movies in freefall and people pushing off with puffs of air and stuff, I think it diminishes two things: friction and luck. How many times does someone have to get lucky as an adult for the outside world to say that person is succeeding? And are you in a position to maximize your luck or are you in a position where you need to get lucky again tomorrow? And the choices that we need to make in that regard are available to us, but are often invisible, you know? So when I think about how deeply we've been indoctrinated on matters of caste and how the benefit of the doubt goes to people like you and me, and the benefit of the doubt is not given to somebody who maybe doesn't look like us or speak with the same accent as we do or have the same kind of parenting that we did, that the benefit of the doubt is profound and putting yourself in a position to leverage, you know. So when I think about I started one of the first Internet companies and when I started it. Everyone said I was delusional, in fact, in a best selling book, I was... They used the word delusional to talk about me. The thing that I thought was going to work didn't work. And we were resilient enough to shift gears. And then I met Jerry Colonna and Fred Wilson, and I was their first investment as a team. And that was a really lucky thing. But then super unlucky things happened in very quick succession and we almost got wiped out. And so when I think about all of the lefts and the rights and all of those choices, some of them were mine and many of them weren't. And. I didn't know one fiftieth of what I know now, but I'm not sure if I did know the things I know now that the outcome would have been any better. So I'm. I think luck is way more important than most people give it credit for.
I think it's important to we do have some control over the things that we control. But you mentioned friction. Can you explore that a little bit?
Yeah. So, you know, we the convenience obsessed Internet and the tech behind it have made it so certain things have so much less friction than they used to. I mean, I'm talking about trivial things like how long it takes to reach somebody with a message, because back at Spinnaker, when I worked there in the early 80s, there were 30, 40 FedEx envelopes waiting every day just to leave the building. Two more difficult bits of friction like how do we end up finding the resources to get the next piece of the puzzle in place? You know, the shelf space still matters. Your product might be great, but how do you get it on the shelves of Wal-Mart or how do you get it on the shelves of Google? Because if you're not on the shelves of Wal-Mart, you're not on the shelves of Google, you might be invisible. And it's friction that kept you there, not some sort of merit contest in that in order for something to go forward, something else is going to have to move out of your way. A lot of what happens in Silicon Valley is friction, reducing activities. But these friction, reducing activities create their own sort of friction because maybe you don't know read and maybe you don't get introduced in that one setting where things would have been easier. I mean, I just completely irrelevant story. It was nineteen ninety seven and they were launching ZD Net, which was Softbank TV Network about technology, and my office was outside of New York City and I get this call. Mr. San would really like it if you would come to the launch party for ZD net. And I'm like, well, he's an investor and the people who are investors and me, I'd be happy to help. They said, great, it's tomorrow at four o'clock and figuring, well, I could get away from the office for an hour and they said in San Francisco and I had to go and it was nothing but friction. Right. It's all around us. But it's easy to imagine that it's not.
For somebody like yourself who who's so accomplished. I think you've got 19 books now?
Well the new ones, the 20th best seller. But I used to be a book packager and there were one hundred and twenty of those people don't talk about.
How do you get all these inbound requests? How do you decide what to do and what not to do?
I don't get particularly hung up. I know that's one of my disciplines. It's one of my boundaries is that I think people appreciate a thoughtful, quick, generous, no more than no response and more than a yes you don't follow up on your work is your work and defending it is critical because otherwise you are going to do nothing but be a cost free and prioritize contribution to other people's work that will never amount to what it needs to be because your your work will not be appropriately allocated.
And so, you know, a long time ago, computers changed my life by blurbing one of my books. So I try to do that. But I can't do it for every book because I read every word and I write my own stuff. So more and more, several times a day I write back saying, I didn't read what you wrote. I'm really sorry. I can't no, I won't be able to do this. Good luck. Not having cognitive load associated with that is critical because otherwise there'd be no more work for me.
I like that because so often we just do this nonresponse or the other sort of other things in that script that you have, because it's really hard for us to learn how to say no, like how do we say no with grace and appreciation for the other person, but also put up that boundary in a way that doesn't affect that relationship. And I think that we struggle with that so often. We just I won't reply to this email.
Right. So, again, I take the I won't reply off the table, except for the now dramatically increasing number of semi personalized spam that's coming from virtual assistant farms. That is going to be the end of email forever. But leaving that part aside, why is the person asking you so, for example, I give speeches for a living.
It's one of the only things I charge for. And if it's a nonprofit in New York City, I never charge them. But everybody else, I charge them because it's not fair to some people to charge them and not others. I need to be able to honestly say to somebody, this is how much it costs. So someone will send me a note and they'll say, I'm doing this thing for these twenty entrepreneurs. There's no budget. Will you come speak to us for twenty minutes?
What I'll write back is, well, here's four videos of me on YouTube. I have found it's way more effective for your group to have everyone watch the videos before the meeting and then have a discussion with each other about what I said. Way more effective. Ninety nine times out of 100. That never happens. Because they weren't actually asking me to come say something to them that they couldn't get somewhere else, what they were actually doing is saying I will gain status in the eyes of my peers if I can persuade you to give us a very expensive speech for free.
And I heard that and I saw that and I wrote back basically saying, yes, but you will gain more status with your peers if you can persuade them to exert emotional labor to actually learn something. So I'm not doing it to tweak people. I'm doing it for the one out of 100 who were doing what they said they were doing, which is trying to help people. I think that that distinction is important because just because I'm easy to find and just because I'm sort of known doesn't mean that I have an obligation to make you happy right this minute.
Talk to me about some of the lessons you've learned about giving good talks versus bad talks.
We're going to talk first about a post covid, pre covid world where we're live in person. I've seen ten thousand talks live in person because I've given a thousand of them and almost all of them are terrible and they're terrible for a couple of reasons. First of all, the person giving the talk is afraid. And secondly, the person giving the talk is mistaken about what the talk is for. If you want to exchange or deliver information to a group of people, one of the worst ways to do it is with a live verbal presentation.
If your goal is actually to deliver that scientific paper or that insight, then you should either write a book or write a memo and say here in an asynchronous way, this is what we know. If you're going to show up live in person in real time, synchronized, you are performing and the goal is to not deliver the information, but to deliver a motion to cause a change in the people who are hearing you. That is its purpose. What change are you seeking to make?
So when I give my classic presentation, it's different every time, but basically it's one hundred and fifty to one hundred and ninety slides delivered over the course of 45 to 50 minutes. And in that period of time I will tell a large number of stories and I will change the emotional state of the audience up and down and back and forth. And it will be better because other people are in the room with you. That is critical.
The same way Twitter works better if your friends are on Twitter. My talk works better if you are not the only person in the room. And yet almost every talk I've ever seen, that's not true. And then when we moved to the virtual world, most conference organizers completely missed the memo and they think their job, because they're buying status is to cram a TED talk into a zoomer, and that just doesn't work. It works to deliver some level of status in the sense that we got this person to come live.
But what I can tell you is I could deliver and as live talk pre-recorded, that eliminates all tech hassle and all synchronous risk. And you can just hit play and no one will be able to tell that I recorded it a week before. And yet most organizers don't want that because they think what they want is the status, not the energy. And what I believe in a virtual talk is if you're going to do it synchronized, the goal is to change the energy in the room to sell people on the idea.
Not to say here's the idea. It's the difference between sushi and cold fish on rice. Right. Sushi is a sales process called fish, and rice is what it actually is. What we have is the opportunity to say we all came together here. You can see the other people. You can feel that I am sincere and what I am doing. You can engage with Q&A, you can stress test this. And when you leave, you will have seen the look on the other people and realize people like us do things like this.
This is the way it's going to be around here from now on. That is what makes it a good talk. And so I think we're on the cusp of some actually become a useful tool for what is holding it back is status focused management that wants to make sure there's butts and seats and enforcement as opposed to using it as the peer to peer magical tool it could be.
I really appreciate that insight. It sort of makes me wonder now what is the goal of a book and what is a good book?
So a book when we say book, we're not talking about Shakespeare or Steve Martin. I think we're talking about this kind of advice, how to and miscellaneous that you and I Traficon, I think. Well, I know when I first started, I did 120 books as a book packager. That was my job. And I woke up in the morning and I said, I need to invent a book today or I will not get paid. But after permission marketing, it wasn't my job anymore and the last 19 bucks I've only written because I had no choice because the idea would not let me just turn it into a blog post, because I would argue of my seven thousand blog posts, I could easily have turned two hundred of them into books.
They could have carried a book, but. I did the blog post, and that's off my chest, I'm done a book is two things. First, it's a signal to the reader to say this person who, you know, could have written a blog post, decided to devote a year of his or her life to handing it to you in this complete form that is timeless and shareable. And the second part is and now you can share you can have a book group.
You can hand it to somebody else and say this. Let's talk about this. And those two pieces together are what every one of the successful books I've ever done have in common that permission. Marketing helped invent email marketing as an industry because you could hand it to people you hired and say, this is what we do around here. And tribes' has been used by people on every side of the political spectrum and other forms of organization because it's a touchstone and that's what the practice is supposed to be to.
What do you think most books get wrong? The authors of most books are looking for many of the magical elements of status that come from successfully being published.
They pay attention to the bestseller list. They game it, they pay attention to reviews. They worry about what their friends think of the book, even though their friends don't read books, even though it wasn't written for those people. And they listen way too much to risk averse editors who are going to do 50 or 100 bucks a year. Those people are only going to spend three days total on your book and then there's going to be another one, whereas this is your book and you should write it at the length you need it to be to make it singular and idiosyncratic and peculiar, because we don't have an information shortage and we don't have a book shortage.
Why is it that we can get a thousand compliments and then one criticism and we focus relentlessly on that one criticism, even if it's from somebody we don't know, don't like, don't respect, hasn't even read the book? Perhaps, but that's what sticks in our mind. Why is that?
Well, I don't think that's true for everybody because narcissists and sociopaths don't have that problem.
So if you do have that problem, welcome reassurance is futile. Reassurance that we seek is like a warm bath. It feels great. And then you need more of it because the future is unpredictable. And when the future doesn't match what you hope for, the reassurance you used to have isn't enough. You need more reassurance.
Reassurance is part of our armour against the criticism that helps us feel like a fraud, that amplifies our impostor syndrome. That makes us believe that for every person who had the guts to criticize us, just 10000 people who feel just as badly about the work we did but don't want to speak up. And I have a hunch. It because a high school. I think it's a combination of high school and mortality. I don't know about you, but most of the people in high school and me, that was brutal.
The idea that there's kids at the other lunch table who are talking about you behind your back when the thing you most want from an evolutionary biology point of view is to procreate. And it's, you know, think about what happens if you're in a tiny village on the savannah and the chief kicks you out, you're going to die. That we have deep, deep need to be in community and to be part of something in harmony because it connects to our survival.
And criticism feels not like the generous act of a professional, which is a different kind of criticism, but it feels like an assault. And I'm not surprised that in our head we've weaponized it into this threat. You've said that creativity is a choice.
It's not a bolt of lightning from somewhere else. Can you explore that for me?
Yeah, this really rubs some people the wrong way, which makes me like it even more. What does it mean that creativity is a choice? Well, first thing. Have you ever been creative once in your life, have you ever solved an interesting problem, told a funny joke, said something to somebody else? It needed to be said? I've never met anyone who said no. Everyone has been creative at least once. So what does it mean to be creative more than once?
It means that you have to extend yourself with empathy to the person you are seeking to serve, to the person who the work is for. And you have to extend yourself not just to space, but through time into the future. Announcing something that might or might not work. You don't know yet. That's what makes it creative. If you exert the emotional labor to do those two things, sometimes you will have a successful creative outcome. That's a choice.
So the people who say, I don't have any questions, well, no, it's impossible. You don't have any questions where you're actually saying is I don't care enough to ask a question that might embarrass me. That's what you're actually saying. And that's a euphemism for I don't want to make the choice to be creative.
I have this theory that one of the biggest things that holds us back in life is that we're unwilling to look like an idiot in the short term to be successful in the long term.
Yeah, that's brilliant. You should write that one down.
What does it mean to trust yourself? So the original title for my book was Trust Yourself. I even own Trust Yourself Dotcom, which is lying mostly dormant and it wasn't inexpensive.
When we say I am talking to myself, nobody thinks that's a weird thing to say. Who is I and who is yourself? Why does it feel so normal to have two voices in our head? Because we all do. One voice is hyper literate and verbal and vocal and a critic. It is responsible for getting us to fit in all the way.
The other voice not that good at being verbal. That self is the one that wants to make things better, that's curious as inquisitive, that might color outside the lines. And it's the first voice that is mostly in control, and so when we look at great shortcuts and hacks like morning pages, they exist to bypass the first voice that so many of the things that creative people do as part of their practice exist to make the first voice, the monkey mind, be a little calmer so that the other voice can be trusted enough to speak up.
That doesn't mean it will always work, and it doesn't mean we should let that voice do whatever it wants to. But it should at least be allowed to present its agenda so that our more cognition focused brain can make a decision.
What does it mean to be a professional? You said doing what you love is for amateurs and loving. What you do is for professionals. Can you expand on that and then explore some other differences?
OK, so there are very few amateur surgeons, right? You want a professional surgeon, you want the surgeon to show up and do her work beautifully, even if she's in a bad mood and you want her to keep going to continuing education classes to be understanding the state of the art, not because they are fascinated by how the knee works, but because they said to you, I'm really good at knee surgery and I will take care of you. A professional makes a promise and then keeps the promise whether or not they feel like it.
Amateurs get to be authentic, whatever that means, amateurs show up when they want to and make what they want to make. I love being an amateur at some things. Don't sell your hobbies, do your hobbies for you. But if you're going to be a pro, it means you need to understand the state of the art. In these means, you need to raise the bar. You need to understand who it's for and what's it for. What changed you seek to make.
There's a whole bunch of obligations that go with being a professional that put you on the hook. And for years I've had uniforms at work. I don't usually wear them in public. They change from time to time. The beginning was a lab coat. Lately I've just been trying the Japanese volunteer fireman hoppy coat because when you put on the uniform, you've just sent yourself a message to your work at your workspace. Do it at the appointed hours. Never, ever miss a deadline.
Never, ever go over budget because professionals don't miss deadlines, don't throw tantrums, and don't go over budget. And every once in a while, a creative breaks do because they're doing their hobby for money and they do those things.
They missed their deadline, blah, blah, blah, and people applaud them and then eventually they fade away because the industries we work in, they want to work with professionals.
How do we define work?
Well, there's the work and then there's work. The verb for me, the work is what the professional said they would do. And. There are definitely times that the permission marketing, the phrase that enabled me to be an author, came to me in the shower, right. But it didn't come to me to shower accidentally again in the shower with intent. I went into the shower and I was getting close to the self-appointed deadline and I said, I'm going to stay in the shower until I have a name for this thing we do here, even if the water gets cold.
And we only had a 40 yard high water tank at the time, so I knew I didn't have a lot of time, I was in there to do work. And I think as we get more and more privileged, where our work looks so much more like where people used to think of as hobbies, we can get confused by the fact that our work is a hobby. It's not. And treating it like our work, I think helps us make it better.
You mentioned earlier something and I forget the context, but maybe you can expand on it about meeting the spack. Talk to me about that.
I know I've been ranting, so thank you for giving me this platform. This is beautiful. Keep going. And there's there's lots to be said about spec. First, let's talk about Edwards Deming and what spec and quality meat quality is not luxury. Quality is not expensive. Quality is not that you love it. Quality is just one thing. It meets spec. So if I look under an electron microscope at any part of a Lexus, which is by any measure the highest quality car there is under an electron microscope, it's filled with defects, but they're not defects that matter because they're defects that are within spec.
And so we begin by understanding what is the spec of the work we're going to do if it meets spec. Not only is it quality, but it is good enough and good enough is not a slur. Good enough is a definition. It met spec. So once it's good enough, we ship the work. If you're not happy with that, change your spec. But let's be really clear about what the spec is. That what it meant for a Lexus to be good enough when they first came out was it had to be a standard deviation better than a Mercedes.
That was their definition. And if someone's going to say no, no, we can't ship this Lexus because it's not perfect, the product manager should say, no, no, no, no. It was never supposed to be perfect. It never can be perfect. It's simply met spec. The hard work was in defining the spec, a spec that will get you to the next step.
Two questions about spec. Do you think that applies in a world of leverage where the difference between something that, you know, meets spec and something that exceeds spec can be massively disproportionate?
Yeah, no, I think that we're having a semantic discussion here. But if. The massive shift that you're looking for that comes from leverage is important, that should be part of the spec.
And do you think we hide behind perfection? Oh yeah, all the time. Talk to me all the time, Double-Click, on that. So if we've had one hundred years of industrialism and industrialism has been all about don't ship things that are defective, if we have brainwashed every human being who is alive, who has been through organized schooling, into understanding that an A is better than a B, and there are wrong answers and right answers on the test, well, then it's super easy to say good enough and perfect are the same thing.
So when I was in college, the logic, symbolic logic was all my favorite classes. The symbolic logic exam was not only open book, open note, it was unlimited time in the room.
So you got there at eight a.m. you could say as long as you wanted. I decided when I got to college I would take as many classes as I could because it was all the same price and I wasn't going to care about my grades because I didn't want to be tempted to go to law school. And so if I could take a class pass fail, I would suspect was easier to meet, right? And after three and a half hours at the in the logic exam, I said I could probably get a few more points here.
But I have met my spec and I left and I was one of the first people to leave, but someone stayed there for I think it was 18 hours. And the question is, what did they get in exchange for that focus on perfectionism? Because I know what I did in the other 15 hours that were free to me. And I think unless you believe you're immortal. Using your time wisely is probably a good practice. I like the way that you think about that in terms of SPAC, I often think about it as the bar sort of, and there's areas where you want that bar to be raising and there's areas where you just want to sort of do the do the table stakes or the bare minimum possible.
And you need to decide what those leverage points are for you in those areas that you care about and then identify people and surround yourself with people who are going to encourage you to raise that bar.
So here's a great approach, which is next time you're working on a project, turn on kind of blue for Miles Davis. First of all, surround yourself with the right people, the people who joined him in the studio for those four days with the right people. But secondly, he made one of the most important one of the best selling jazz albums of all time in four days. And the question you need to ask yourself is, if they had spent four more days in the studio, what would have happened?
And it's a great point, I'm going to listen to that after this, talk to me a little bit about shame. We avoid shame by avoiding blame. Can you expand on that?
OK, so what has happened in my lifetime? And it happened hundreds of years ago in Salem, Massachusetts, and it has happened in many other places, is that shame has been sharpened into a tool for cultural coercion and compliance, that what people have figured out is that shame is a is a soft spot on almost everybody. And if you press that spot, people will shrink, they will run away. It is particularly used against women, but it is used against large numbers of people to cause them to not take an action.
It's a ridiculous method because it doesn't scale. It's not. You mean it is not kind and it's unpredictable. And yet we use it all the time. How dare you is not said often enough to people who are seeking to shame us. That what we need to do is take shame off the table because it extinguishes part of our humanity when we shame people and shaming yourself. There's that trust yourself thing. Shaming yourself is something we do all the time.
There's a rant in my book called The World's Worst Boss, and I just gave away the punch line. But basically, if you had a boss who woke you up in the middle of the night, scolded you for not working hard enough, criticized all your work and told you you were never going to amount to anything, you would not work for that person for very long. And yet most of us that is our own boss, that's who we work for, that voice in our head.
And if that voice is shaming you, you need to figure out how to undo that internal narrative because it is extinguishing your work.
How do we learn that? Like, what does that process look like? Well, I'm a huge fan of cognitive behavioral therapy and trained CBT practitioner is certainly better at it than I am. But catching ourselves when we begin the cascade is the key to the whole thing, because once the cascade of shame begins, it is very difficult to stop.
But if you can figure out what are the trigger points, where are the moments, what is that phrase? And in that moment, intercede and replace it with a different one. And that's part of why I wear a uniform. And I like the idea of being a professional, because now and this is key, the work is not personal. The work is the work in the resources I had allocated. I did the best work I could to meet the spec.
Here it is. This is not me. This is the work. If you don't like the work, teach me so I can change my spec for next time. But I will not shame myself, nor will I let you shame me because that's not helpful. What's helpful is to learn from this interaction of what we put in the world. And you know, some of the workshops inside akimbo in the NBA people give and get. Between 400 and 600 pieces of feedback a month from fellow travelers who are doing what they're doing and what they say is that's more feedback than I got in two years.
And it's useful feedback from people who know how to give criticism. And it doesn't come with shame. It's just information. And that's so freeing.
You know, I learned the first year I was in the book business, I sold my first book the first day, and then I got 800 rejection letters in a row. I would go to the mailbox every single day and there'd be letters there with stamps on them that someone had paid for to write me a letter saying, we don't like your idea day after day after day, sometimes five or 10 or 15 in a day. And learning to separate the feedback of this idea isn't working for us from you're a bad person who will never amount to anything was a key part of my internal development as someone who could do this work.
How do you think about the difference between coaching and criticism?
That's a really good question. So Michael Bungay Stainer has written the best book on coaching, and I would be great for you guys to chat. He's in Toronto. Coaching is not telling someone the answer. And I think I heard you talking to Derek about what happens when you make someone's idea one percent better. You make someone's idea one percent better. You actually dis incentivize them, not incentivize them.
And with little kids saying to a little kid, you're so smart or the horrible you're really cute or beautiful is not helpful. What's helpful is helping people see what they are capable of, given what they told you was important to them. Criticism is completely different. Criticism is what happens when someone with domain knowledge who is not trying to earn status by hurting you is able to help you see the world as it is. And those three pieces are the key, right, because most of the criticism I've gotten in my life has come from people who felt like they would feel better if I felt worse and they maybe didn't verbalize that to themselves.
But we certainly see that. I mean, you know, I don't know what Canadian Thanksgiving is like, but that's one of the things that happens with American Thanksgiving all the time. Stock analysts do it all the time. The person who said Amazon toast, no one remembers their name. But at the time they were a sensation because one person might be enough to take on Amazon.
And then but the part about domain knowledge is critical because you not only have to know it when you see it, you have to be smart enough and practiced enough to put it in words to teach someone else. So years ago, American Express hired me to interview Diane von Furstenberg, and it was absolutely fascinating interview because I felt unprepared, because I don't understand the fashion world very well. So I read both of her autobiographies. As I was talking with her, asking her questions, I realized not only had she written her autobiographies, she hadn't even read them.
But leaving that part aside, she was unable to describe why the things she had done that succeeded had succeeded, and she was unable to describe why the things that had failed had failed. She was just completely intuitive. She just had a hunch she saw it, but she didn't have words to explain it. So she didn't have domain knowledge. She had locked into good taste. What she liked is what other people liked. And if you can hire somebody like that, you should do it.
But you shouldn't work for somebody like that and you shouldn't have somebody like that as a client because it's going to be really hard for you to get better. And when I met two of my colleagues from the book industry, Michael Carter, who still the most influential person in the book business, he writes publishers lunch every day. And John Boswell, who did French for Cats and Dogs legal pad. They were the first two people in the book industry who could explain to me in words why things that worked worked and they weren't always right, but they gave me a grounding, a taxonomy.
And as somebody who thinks with both sides of their brain, that was really useful to me because I need a taxonomy. And that's why I love media, because I had a set of theories about how the Internet worked.
And if you read Unleashing the Idea virus, which I wrote 20 years ago, I was right about so many things because I had a theory. And once you have the taxonomy, you can say and then maybe this and then maybe this. And there may be this. I didn't, on the other hand, trust myself enough to invest in any of the companies that change the world because that's not what I do. But learning a narrative and then changing it based on new data.
I mean, that's what you've been doing for years. It's super generous work.
Who is the first person to ever bet on you? My parents did. Do you remember how you felt in that moment when you realized that they were doing that?
The high school thing was really painful and seeing them show up. With more than parental obligation was I mean, it was 10 years of fuel, it made a huge difference to me.
Do you find your biggest mistakes in life? Are commissioner amission? Omission, for sure, people didn't help things, I didn't start things I didn't say folks who I could have given the benefit of the doubt to who I didn't. I worry a lot about the commission ones, but there aren't that many of them. The omission ones is an endless list. What are some of the hard earned lessons that you've paid for in business that we can benefit from?
I would think I think the biggest one is people don't want what you want. Employees don't want what you want. Customers don't want what you want. You know, one of the challenges of the whole stock option thing is entrepreneurs and founders think that other people will be as motivated by owning part of the company as they are.
They're not not even close. It's a sort of a prize pool at the end of the game show. And it ends up becoming a massive motivator.
And almost every organization, because it hasn't cashed out yet like you promised me and in people's minds, 100 shares without knowing any percentage numbers. They've just decided that that whatever. So people don't want what you want. And that means we have to extend ourselves and go to where they are.
Like, I already read the book, but everyone is going to read the book, hasn't read it yet. So they need something I don't need. Right. Or what fuel someone to go to work every day is different than what fuels me to go to work every day. So I was part number two is if you play any game in which money is involved, the fact that people have a different story about money. Will cause you to make mistakes and they will either be mistakes because other people are better at piling up money than you are, which is extremely likely.
And so part of what you're seeking to do is play on that axis.
They'll beat you if they have the chance, because they think that because it's easy to measure and socially acceptable, that is all that matters. And so people the phrase it's just business is really a horrible phrase, but lots of people mean it, which is what they're saying is right.
So when I worked at Spinnaker for David CS in 1983, he loved board games and I've been a game designer since I was 16. And so we were playing diplomacy, me and the seven other senior people at the company. And David and I formed an alliance. He was the president. I was 23. There he was, Russia, and I don't remember who I was, and we had a mutual non-aggression pact at around five, I double crossed him and knocked him out of the game.
It took a year for our relationship to recover because my old thing was it's just a game. That's the way you're supposed to do in diplomacy. And his thing was there was this overhang of yeah, but I'm your boss's boss and I'm your mentor.
You're not supposed to go double crossed somebody else and.
I didn't learn nearly as much as I could have about some people's story of money until much later, and then I'd say.
You know, we talked about the criticism thing, you know, I had a guy on my board when I had my first startup who gave me not one useful piece of advice and completely maximized his income through the interaction. And I took it all personally, as opposed to realizing that that's just the game Larry played. He was very transparent about it. And I just assumed he would act the way I would act if I were in his shoes. But I wasn't in his shoes.
He was in his shoes and he was acting in a consistent way for him. And then. I guess the last one is finally coming to grips with the smallest viable audience and not just settling for but completely embracing the fact that one thousand true fans is more than enough, you don't need to be on the cover of a magazine. You don't need to be on a bestseller list that the status game's.
Are really significant that I used to go to Ted and there's some really cool people there, but there's also way more cocktail party status games and I can handle and I felt like I was failing because I wasn't good at them and didn't enjoy them. And then I realized I don't have to go anymore. And that was so freeing because I'm not here to make those people happy, I'm here to make the people I made my promise to happy because that's my professional work.
And who else is sitting with me at the lunchroom table? I got done with that in high school and I want to stay done with it.
It's a great place to NASA. Thank you so much for your generosity and your time.
Well, this was worth waiting for, but I hope we wait as long before we do it again. I would like that. Hey, one more thing before we say goodbye, the knowledge project is produced by the team at Furnham Street. I want to make this the best podcast you listen to, and I'd love to get your feedback.
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