How does a founder who lost $6 million recover and built a profitable business?
Today’s guest is Dave Asprey, the founder of Bulletproof Coffee. He’s been called the Heisenberg of coffee. He also blogs about self-improvement at The Bulletproof Executive.
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Dave Asprey, The Bulletproof Executive
Dave Asprey is the founder of The Bulletproof Executive, which is his blog about upgrading the human being using every available technology.
Andrew: Hey there, freedom fighters, in this interview you’re going to hear so much, including why today’s guest says that he should have used the phrase, “I quit.” Wait until you hear how much money he would have saved, and maybe you would save, if you used that phrase.
Also, what did today’s guest do to make and then lose millions of dollars? I’ll push, we’ll find out. And sex, sex, sex, we’re going to talk about that and so much more coming up in this interview. And I of course, hosting this interview, am Andrew Warner, I am the founder of Mixergy, home of the ambitious upstart. This whole interview is sponsored by Scott Edward Walker, a good friend of mine, who is the entrepreneur’s lawyer. You can read more about him at Walker Corporate Law.
And let’s get right to the introduction of today’s guest. I want to find out in this interview how this founder who lost six millions dollars recovered and built a profitable business. His name is Dave Asprey. He’s the founder of Bulletproof Coffee. He’s been called the Heisenberg of coffee- you Breaking Bad fans know what I’m talking about. He blogs about self-improvement at Bulletproof Exec. Dave, welcome.
Dave: Andrew, it’s a pleasure to be on Mixergy with you.
Andrew: Thank you. I used to sell candy as a kid, you apparently used to do that too. Before we get into today’s business, what did you do?
Dave: I noticed a lot of kids were selling charity chocolate bars. This is going back, I’m about 41. This was in whatever, the late eighties. There was this big fad. I realized that there was demand at certain times of the day for candy bars, so I went to Costco and I bought cases and cases of candy. Did a little analysis to figure out which were the most popular ones, hint, it’s the fattiest ones. Mounds and peanut butter cups were the top two, followed by Snickers.
And then I would just carry these around. And I found out that I was making sixty dollars a day in profits at my high school. Which, at the time, minimum wage was whatever, three dollars. I was making more than I could have made working all day long by carrying a case of candy around with me, and I did it for an entire year. To the point where I had more money than I knew what to do with.
Just by understanding the market and understanding Jolly Ranchers or Sweet Tarts didn’t sell as well as the good candy and making myself available by being at the right place at the right time. I’ve kind of taken that entrepreneurial ethos with me that says, “I want to do things.” But I realized that maybe selling candy wasn’t exactly an ethical way to improve the human [inaudible: 2:41]. A little stronger.
Andrew: I don’t know if I’d call it unethical. Did you get shut down by school administrators the way I did? The principal told me to stop.
Dave: Eventually, along the way though I used some cool psychology there and I said, “Well, I am using this to finance this thousand dollar racing bicycle that I want.” Because I was into bike racing, even though I was a pretty severely overweight kid. It didn’t stop ambition. I simply said, “I’m doing it for my bicycle team.” And that let me go for almost a whole year before they caught me.
It was kind of amazing when I just looked at the product selection and being in the right place at the right time where there’s lots of people when they’re hungry. The same thing works essentially for marketing of any type of thing. You’ve got to make sure your product mixes right and you’ve got to understand where people are when they want to buy. If you can arrange to do that, good things happen.
Andrew: You said severely overweight. What does it mean to be severely overweight?
Dave: I used to weigh 300 pounds. I didn’t weigh that in high school. I was 200 and something then. By the time I finished my fourth year of university I hit 300 pounds.
Andrew: What’s it like to be 300 pounds at that age?
Dave: It sucks. It really is bad. It’s more common today than it was 20 years ago, and this was a big problem for me. Your clothes don’t fit, you know you’re fat and you’re always trying to do something about it. I was really self-conscious and I was awkward around women in particular, because you have an unfair disadvantage there when you’re in a room full of guys and you’re the fat guy.
Everyone thinks it’s because you’re lazy or weak or something. It wasn’t until I started measuring and I realized, I eat less than my thin friends and I work out more than they do, and I’m still fat. I’m doing something wrong. But all the stuff that I believed about myself isn’t actually true.
Andrew: Do you remember a time when you were at a disadvantage where it especially hurt? Like you’re saying, there are so many people today who are over 300 pounds, it doesn’t seem like it slows them down. I see a lot of guys who are over 300 pounds and end up with, I even remember even growing up, end up with women that I would kill to date. What happened to you? Do you have an example of a painful moment?
Dave: Well, it’s not that you can’t go out and date when you weigh 300 pounds. It’s a lot more than physical attractiveness involved, but it affects your self-confidence at a core level.
Dave: Give me an example. Help me identify by showing me what happened.
Dave: Oh, wow. This is going back pretty far. And you’re talking about specifically like a dating situation or a [??] situation?
Andrew: Sure. I’ll give you an example of what I’m talking about. I had acne at one point, and it was mostly in my head, not on my face but in my brain.
Andrew: I remember walking down one block away from the Union Turnpike in New York because I didn’t want to be on any turnpikes because people would see me. Then there were kids playing in a yard behind a fence that I couldn’t look over and they were laughing. And I said, “They’re laughing at me. They see this stupid stuff on my face.” It wasn’t until years later that I realized they didn’t see me. They were laughing because they were having fun and playing, but in my head it was everywhere.
So what about you? Do you have a memory like that that’s so indicative of how you were slowed down by your weight?
Dave: I remember one time. I had lost about 25 pounds over the course of a summer. I spent hours a day exercising. It’s like the worst way to lose weight, at least, the least efficient way. And I lost enough that I came back the first day of school, and this guy that I was kind of friends with but kind of not friends with mostly because I was really not self-confident but really defensive.
So he says, “You’re looking like you lost some weight there, Dave,” which is an absolute compliment, right? And being whatever the eighth or ninth grade I was, I was, “Oh God, now I’m going to get teased about the fact that I lost weight.” But I didn’t lost enough weight, so I’m, “F*** you.”
Dave: That was my response to a compliment. “Go screw yourself.” And then I look back on it, and it was a genuine compliment. I had lost weight, and people could see it. So it was meant to be encouraging when that guy told me that, and my internal filters affected me, even as an entrepreneur, until I really dug in on why he did that. They can take what is a positive situation and dating socially or in business, and they can turn it around into a threat or attack when there is no such thing happening. This is all going on right up in here.
Andrew: Is that right? So even a positive now starts to cause you damage. You told Jeremy Weisz in the pre-interview that you grew up thinking that people don’t want to go out of their way to help you. Why did you feel that way?
Dave: If you’re overweight like that, that can affect it because you get picked more when you’re overweight.
Andrew: I see.
Dave: And also it probably has to do with the way that you see the world. So I was kind of into the selfish sort of thing where like, okay, everyone acts for their own interest. You grow up thinking I might steal your stuff or I might help you. You just get the mindset that the world is not full of abundance, and everything’s a potential threat.
Instead of walking into a bar and saying, “Where’s the most attractive girl?” It becomes like, you walk into a bar, “Who could make fun of me?” Or “Which guy is the most threatening who I should get ready to pound on?” So you can look at it either way, and if it’s the way you’ve always looked at it you won’t know you’re doing that because you just think you’re being normal. And you just think everyone else thinks like you.
And so for me to become good at what I do [??] I had to understand that different people see the world very differently and understand the strengths and weaknesses in my own internal filters and then have more control in how to set those. So if you walk into a situation that previously triggered a “fight or flight” response in my nervous system and walk in without any response whatsoever so I could actually [??] instead feel about it and getting ready to run away or fight.
Andrew: Part of your mindset changed when you were in your 20s working at 3Com [sp] and someone sat you down and talked to you about interpersonal skills. What did you learn from him?
Dave: It was actually a her. It was a friend who works for a couple of very senior executives. She had been an entrepreneur for years and had come in basically as one of those people who can manage chaos or senior level executive. And she explained a lot of the stuff going on. I was essentially, I had the symptoms of Asperger’s Syndrome so I didn’t understand most of the girls. I didn’t know half of my co-workers’ names. But I knew I did the stuff I did really well, but it was kind of like being a bull in a china shop.
So she sat me down and explained why people did the weird stuff they did because a lot of human behavior is totally irrational. So she painted a picture of, okay, this person’s position gets this person and they do things this way because they’re trying to gain political power. I got a little taste of that, but it wasn’t until I went on to Exodus Communications and I was the youngest… In fact, the only non vice president allowed to go to board meetings. The rule was I couldn’t open my mouth. But, I could of [Laughs] sorry. So, here I am. The company is worth 36 billion dollars. It’s publicly traded and I get to sit there and watch all these people act like nuts.[Laughs]
And when I say act like nuts, nothing they did made sense to me until I read Robert Greene’s book, “48 Laws of Power.” And this book was the road map to what various senior people did to get stay powerful. [??], which is also quite good. And when that opened my eyes, I realized that these people were acting very rationally.
But, they were following a different set of rules and of course some assumptions that I never got a chance to pick up on. That helped me be a better entrepreneur, particularly in larger groups. When you’re dealing with smaller groups it comes to more intensity, integrity and leadership, doing what you said you’re going to do and doing the right thing, even if it’s inconvenient.
In large groups like that where there’s enormous amount of money and power involved. It was really interesting to watch the positioning that people did to maintain what they earned and what they made and protect themselves from people who were really out to not help them. So, big companies politics were a lesson.
Andrew: You also learned a little about business networking. What did you learn that was useful, that maybe we in the audience can use as were networking with people?
Dave: My career was featured in a book called, “Monster Careers.” About how to use online networking, to increase your career. The way I got good at networking was pretty amazing. I… I went to the Stanford barn. This is an old structure on the Stanford campus. I realized to succeed I had to be good at networking. I didn’t have a clue. I didn’t not know how to do it. I was socially really awkward and even a little bit shy.
And for two years, every Thursday night I would should up at this networking event for tech entrepreneurs and I would watch what people did and I would copy them, shamelessly, because I just did not understand how to do it. And I did it until it came naturally. And that was an act of will power and it really helps.
Andrew: What did you see? I don’t know that I can notice people doing it. I don’t know if I can pick up on enough useful information by watching people at a networking event. I can pick up a lot of bad habits.
Dave: [Laughs] Well, it probably comes naturally to you and it comes naturally to me now, but, you have to remember at the time I weighed almost 260 pounds. But, I was dealing with [??] dysfunction. It comes from having a broken metabolism. So, I’m smarter than the average person according to quantitated metrics. There are lots of people smarter than I am. But, my brain works differently.
Andrew: What did you watch as you were looking at them?
Dave: Like you watch the approach. Like, okay, here are two people. They don’t know anything about each other. What do you say to someone? Do you shake hands first? Do guys at different heights shake hands differently? What do the guys do when they come up to a women? What do the women do? How do they act differently? So, for me, this was all cognitive behavior. Which, by the way, it shouldn’t be and it isn’t for most people.
But, I lived so much in my thinking head that I was completely tuned out from like, oh, maybe they just like each other or maybe they’re just out to help each other and it was, it was around and I realize actually people just want to help each other and I realized that if I just made it a goal to help people in every interaction that I had, whether I had something to gain or not, that good stuff would happen.
Andrew: I don’t know. I’ve seen people do that. They end up coming across as very needy and I don’t want to be close to them. You know, the people that all they want to do is help and they end every conversation like if there’s anything that I can do to help let me know and how can I help you this week? Just feels very needy and its just a lot of work for me come up with things for them to help.
Dave: There’s a codependence that some people will try to develop and it can be emotionally unhealthy. Because, what they’re actually doing that to, for their own goals. So, let me know what I can do for you so I can get paid.
Andrew: I don’t know. I think it’s sometimes so I can like or so you can like me or so I can like, fit in here and not come across as a needy person. I tend to think that there’s, yes, being helpful is good. But, there’s a certain self-confidence and ease that makes other people feel comfortable around being with you, that’s the thing to cultivate. Your own self-comfort, your own ability to approach people without anxiety, will put them at ease when you approach them without anxiety. Then you don’t need to offer them anything to help to get any interest back.
Dave: You don’t need to do that. But, when you offer something freely as opposed to offer it because you’re trying to overcome your kindness or because you’re trying to get something from them. But, literally, like if you want an introduction that person, sure I’ll do it. Rather than let me know what I can do to help. That’s also, come to me and ill solve the problem. But, if you talk to someone and you say, oh you should know about this.
Here’s the information you need or here’s the contact you need. Good luck with that. And you part. At that point you didn’t have anything to gain and they know it. And they may come to you, they may just help someone else but I can tell you at least four or five hundred people have upgraded their jobs cause of introductions I’ve made for them. I don’t keep a list. I don’t know how many and if they contact me right now I probably don’t even remember I did it. Because there’s a chance, like, this guy needed an introduction to that company.
There, I facilitated this told this guy about this guy. And then they went on and they did their thing. And I’ve been stopped in the street by people I haven’t talked to in ten years saying, you know what, you really helped me back then. It was amazing. And I’m like, that’s so cool because I totally don’t remember that.
Andrew: I get that. It makes me feel so much pressure when I answer email because I know that every single person just about who I, who is emailing me is going to go somewhere and if I help them right now they’ll appreciate it. And chances are good that almost every single person who emails me, I’ll at one point want to interview on Mixergy and I better help them right now. Because I know that I’ll be begging them to do an interview at some point in the future.
But you’re right; it does help just to put that stuff out there. And so here you were, you put all this stuff out there. Still at the top of the interview I said you’re a guy who lost six million dollars before we get to the losing part. Take me to the exciting part. How do you even get to that level?
Dave: This whole notion of targeting I’ve done a lot of stuff. I started the first company that sold anything over the internet in the very early nineties. I sold caffeine t-shirts to twelve countries out of my dorm room.
Andrew: What is this?
Dave: And it was featured nationally.
Andrew: Caffeine what?
Dave: Caffeine t-shirts.
Dave: It said caffeine my drug of choice. And I sold them on UseNet [SP] because the web browser didn’t exist yet. And Entrepreneur Magazine picked it up, my photo was in there and I also had a degree in information systems. And together a resume that had all this amazing stuff I could do on it. And a vice president at Netscape [SP] looked at this and said, Dave let me help you.
And this is another one of those cases of someone helping me, he didn’t have anything to gain. He said, I don’t know what to do with your resume. You’re all over the place. Like, pick one thing and only talk about that. So I did a little strategic analysis and I said, I’m picking the internet. And I recreated my resume and I went from being a guy was a Swiss Army knife. To being a guy who did Internet. And I went to the next job fair and I got two offers.
One was from a company that wrote software. One of the first SaaS companies out there. The other one was the company that created cloud computing. And two offers, I’m very targeted, both of them were amazing opportunities. And I chose the right one, you know, the company that was the top performing stock on the NASDAQ in 1998. But when I went there, I brought the entrepreneur thinking with me and I went in as a co-founder of a professional service group that grew to a 100 million dollars a quarter in revenue and 1500 employees over the course of three years.
And my stock options quickly became with just an amazing sum, both just because the stock market rising. But also because we were the place that Google first server was at. Hotmail, Google servers, Yahoo servers. The who’s who of the Internet from the ’90s was all in our buildings using the Internet [??] and using the services that team and I put together to keep them self-running.
So it was just an amazing time that came about from being targeted. And understanding, where do I want to be and how do I want people to see my image. Versus the guy who can do a lot, versus, I can do what’s just most important. And knowing your pitch, it’s really important. And that was my first example to myself of honing my pitch.
Andrew: I see. And so it’s the options that were worth six million. Could you have exercised those options and actually taken the money off the table.
Dave: I took a lot of that money off the table. The problem was that I grew to be an executive at the company so I ran technology diligence. Which meant whenever we were about to buy a company, which was quite often. That I was not allowed to trade my shares. Because I knew too much. So I had inside information almost always. So I watched as the shares went from 60 dollars a share to five dollars a share. I wanted to sell my shares. And it was illegal for me to do so.
All I had to do was say those two magic words. I quit, and I would have walked away with millions of dollars in my pocket. But because of greed, honestly, and because of an unhealthy emotional attachment to money. And the inability to be wrong. Like, I just wouldn’t be wrong. And this is [??] people who trade options and trade stocks all the time. You hold on to a loser because you can’t stand to admit that you were wrong.
So you just ride it into the ground and then you’re really a loser. All I needed to do was walk into the senior vice president I worked for. Walk into his office and say, I quit, I love you man. You’ve changed my life and I’m happy to be a consultant here. But I’m taking my money off the table. [??] million dollars [??] million dollars it just doesn’t matter. Because I’m under thirty and I had millions of dollars.
Andrew: I see.
Dave: If I’d have done that, I would have been set for life. And as it was, I paid for my BMW, put a down payment on my house, paid off some student loans. I got comfortable but not as wealthy as I could have been. I also got to spend a lot of money upgrading myself. That paid for… A lot of it went invested. The $300,000 I invested in upgrading my [??] and things like that.
Andrew: I want to make sure and come back to that, but you’re saying you took some money off the table. You couldn’t take it all because, “Hey, if this thing is going to go up, like a stock trader of your own company stock even though you saw the writing on the wall from inside. How much money did you take off the table?
Dave: I took a few hundred thousand dollars off the table. I was pretty lucky because many of my colleagues went bankrupt and had the IRS down on them because they exercised their stock option, then they got the shares. They were taxed at the rate as if they received the money for the shares and then the shares went away. The company just cratered when the whole market did.
All of a sudden they showed on their tax returns that they made $5 million, and in their pocket they had $50,000. And then there were IRS taxes on $5 million. So I can say probably tens of thousands of people went bankrupt, middle class people who had a lucky break and then had the rug pulled out from under them and then got stomped on after the rug was pulled up.
By the time I paid taxes and all that stuff there was not a lot left. As it was, it was like a rocket ship for three years where I was ridiculously wealthy. I was making $80,000 to $100,000 which when you’re under 30 and you didn’t come from money it was an unimaginable experience. It was incredibly stressful both to make the money and to lose the money.
Andrew: I want to say $80,000… Sorry, the connection broke off for a moment.
Dave: I made $80,000 to $100,000 a month for a year. That was with the stock option investing and my salary.
Andrew: Did you get depressed after the collapse?
Dave: Oh yeah. I measured my stress levels on a stress hormone test. a salivary test [??]. These are stress hormones. If you’re reaching burnout levels you’re at a 12. That’s the ratio. And when you’re at high performance levels you’re at six, and my ratio was at 42. So I was three or four times the normal level for somebody who’s mentally focused because I was just so stressed, just the morning you go through, I thought I was done and, no, I’m not.
I really realized as a part of that just the strange emotional attachments to money and to success and to self-worth. You identify yourself with your money. You identify yourself with your job. None of those are actually you, but I definitely had massive stress. I winded up getting divorced after that happened. That wasn’t the only driver there, but that was certainly a part of it, just…
Andrew: How did this affect your divorce, your relationship with your wife?
Dave: Well, it’s probably easier to get divorced when you don’t have money than when you do.
Andrew: So, yeah. It does make it easier to separate, but what about the way you’re looking at the world, you’re thinking? How does that influence the husband that you are?
Dave: At the time I don’t think I was a particularly good husband just because I hadn’t dealt with a lot of the internal stressors that come from being overweight and not liking yourself when you were a kid.
Andrew: Give me an example. Show me like a time when you weren’t a good husband, especially since later on we’re going to talk about six. It’s on your website. You give sex tactics. I don’t want people to think that this is a guy who’s a know-it-all where everything works out. I want to identify with it and learn from the mistakes that you made.
So what’s one example of a time that you were so depressed or so out of it that you made a mistake in your relationship.
Dave: Well, a big part of it was not listening. So a relationship is a partnership, and when you’re in a situation like I was making millions of dollars, I just wanted to get stuff done and that whole being emotionally available and being vulnerable in a relationship so you can open up to another person was not a skill that I had. And that didn’t help when all of a sudden you feel literally when you’re losing millions of dollars if you’re in that mindset you feel like you’re dying, literally, it’s that level of stress.
Your whole world is coming down around you. The money was there that was going to make you safe, and it was going to make you worth something. And it was going to make you loved. Money doesn’t do any of those things. If your nervous system is set up to believe that’s what’s happening, it feels like the world’s falling down around you.
So you’re not going to come home and be nice. You’re not going to come home and listen. You’re going to come home and be angry and being angry all the time doesn’t generally be too good to a relationship.
Andrew: Little things would set you off.
Dave: Yeah, little things would set me off. Absolutely. This was ten plus years ago, and I have a great marriage now. I’m trying to like go back to little things from a very long time ago, I’m not sure I have a great example for you there, but you know, I get in lots of fights and arguments over things that are so little, I don’t remember what they are now?
And there were other times when I’d get in, like, fights about money where, and I’ve certainly heard about these from other friends at the time where, you know, this is your typical thing, you know, I want to drop $20,000 on jewelry, and I’m like, if it’s a wedding ring, okay, fine, whatever, but like couldn’t you fund a scholarship for that? But like there’s some core values where like, okay, have some money, but can’t you do something good with the money, versus something that probably isn’t, like if it’s a $5,000 piece of jewelry versus $20,000, did you really get $15,000 more?
But if you’re making a $100,000 a month, and, you know, your spouse really, for some fundamental level really (?) this, okay, maybe that’s something that you want to do, but in my world then, I’m like, it’s absolutely wasteful and unethical to me, to make a decision like that.
Andrew: Even small things, I imagine, not imagine, I know, become a problem like why did we go out for dinner last night, or worse, why did you go out for lunch when we could have food at home, and that becomes an argument.
Dave: Oh yeah, those sorts of things all the time, and I live in a pretty different world now, where honestly it’d be like, why do we go out for lunch, because the food sucks compared to what we can make at home, and, you know, I have children now which changes things as well, but I can say that having sudden wealth as a young guy has taught me a lot, and in my coaching practice I sometimes coach people who are in their mid-twenties, and, you know, super high performance people.
There’s very little written about this, because not that many people experience it, but I look at what must be happening in, you know, the current wave of social media, multimillionaires under 30, guys like, even Zuckerberg, right, the stresses that they go through in having that much success, it is not all party, it is a party, it’s phenomenal and amazing, there’s also just a lot of like, okay, how many of those people who are my friends are actually friends because I have money now?
And it’s very hard to know. So then you tend to find, well, maybe if I’m friends with other people who have a lot of money, then at least they’re not friends with me for my money, and then you end up like being the rich snob who only goes to the country club and, you know, and has a sweater tied around your neck, and you end up like being an elitist snob.
And if you are a tech entrepreneur, that’s not who you are because you’re a tech entrepreneur, there aren’t a lot of snob, elitist tech entrepreneurs. So that is kind of area of questioning those around you who weren’t friends with you before you’re wealthy, so there is a lot of stress that is not likely to be apparent.
People think it’s all a party when you make a ton of money, but the study actually shows sudden wealth can be as stressful as sudden lack of wealth. So I experienced both the stress on the upside, some positive but some negative, and the stress on the downside, when you lose it again and go, oh crap, like the safety net I thought was there wasn’t there anymore.
Andrew: Let me do a quick plug here for thank you to Scott Edward Walker of Walker Corporate Law, and then I want to talk about this business that you’re running right now. And I’ll tell you guys that I had an experience with Scott. I’ve known him for years, and I needed an agreement to put on a website for an experiment that I was running.
I called, actually I didn’t call, I try not to call, I e-mailed him, I try not to call anyone, I e-mailed him, he was very good about responding to e- mails, he responded right away, he said, look, I can’t create that agreement, it’s just not what we do here at Walker Corporate Law, but here’s an introduction to someone who can handle it, and then he did.
And I’ve had that happen several times where, if he can’t handle something, or it’s just not within his practice, he makes an introduction to someone else who can help. If you ever seen on his website this quote, let me see if I can get it, did I grab it? Yeah, Neil Patella on the website says the same thing, and all these other people have had positive things to say about Scott Edward Walker of Walker Corporate Law.
If you’re a startup entrepreneur, I think he’s the lawyer to talk to, because he gets our community, and he’s not going to charge you hundreds of thousands of dollars, or big piece of your business to do work for you. Actually I don’t even know where I pulled up hundreds of thousands of dollars, Dave, I don’t know if other startup lawyers charge that, but I know that he his prices are very reasonable, and he gets our community, and there’s a reason why so many people that you guys know have worked with Scott Edward Walker. I recommend you check out his website, which I pulled up a screenshot of too, here we go, Walkercorporatelaw.com. Thanks, Scott.
Andrew: So, I think you launched, I know that your bio says you launched your business in 2010, but I think it was June 2011 that you launched your site, am I right?
Dave: Mmm. Let’s see.
Andrew: [??] the sneeze button and sneeze here.
Dave: No problem. I’m trying to, I’m trying to think of the exact time, I think the first post I wrote was in December of 2010.
Dave: So I was about . . .
Andrew: What got you to start writing?
Dave: [??] book called the “Better Baby Book” that Wiley published earlier this year in 2013. It was every single thing you can do to have kids with better genes, using all the latest research, 1300 references. It took five years to write the book, and it’s what I did for my own kids so that I could reduce their chances of having ADD or Asperger’s Syndrome or autism that tends to run in my family.
Dave: And it was an amazing, an amazing book, and it was really hard to kind of make noise out there and just to get people to understand it. I also, I had that book in me, and I had this other idea around the bulletproof executive where I looked at my ability to lose 100 pounds, to absolutely change the fundamental wiring in my brain, to change my biology, my biochemistry, and I realized it’s absolutely not fair that I was an overweight kid with a brain that wasn’t working that well, and I had this burst of money that we just talked about.
And I also had the ability to sit down and meet with some of the world’s top anti-aging experts and health experts because I run an anti-aging nonprofit group called the Silicon Valley Health Institute as part of the nonprofit work that I do. So, I realized that I had an unfair advantage, that I’d been able to spend a lot of money stuff that worked and stuff that didn’t work, and I’d walked this path, and that if I could share what I did with people without charging for it.
Like, there’s a quarter million words up on the site that’s free, and just let people take the shortcuts that I’d discovered through a lot of investment, a lot of time, and honestly, a lot of hard work and some suffering, that I would kind of make the world a better place. So, it kind of sounds a little bit lofty and altruistic there, but honestly, if I’d had access to the stuff on the Bulletproof Executive when I was 20, my whole life would be different, because my brain would have turned on a lot faster, I would have been able to focus, when I would just beat myself up because I would lose focus.
I was losing focus when my brain was starving and I didn’t know how to feed it right, right? If only I had known that, my grades in school would have been higher, probably my social skills would have been better, and the amount of wasted time and energy in my life would have been much lower. So, I thought the most impactful thing I could do to make the world that I’m in and the world my kids are growing up in a better place would be to share the things that I discovered and put them out there. And now, a million people a month later, this stuff works. Like, I’ve lost track of the number of people who lost a pound a day until they were done losing weight. The people . . .
Andrew: Let me ask you about this one thing that I know was on the site back then. When you launched, it said, Dave is a New York Times-published Silicon Valley entrepreneur executive angel who hacked his own biology. What does it mean to be a New York Times-published Silicon Valley entrepreneur?
Dave: It means the New York Times has published my writing, which is kind of cool.
Andrew: Ah, Okay.
Dave: So, that’s cool. For me, one of the, as a writer and as a public speaker, the New York Times is up there as one of the loftier newspapers in the US. Probably the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times are the two big ones. And for me, it was really an honor that they would publish some of my writing in the newspaper, so . . .
Andrew: When did they do that? So, I started doing a search, site: NYTimes.com David Asprey, and I just don’t see anything. And then I tried it with Dave instead of David and nothing comes up for that except for Asprey plans to open a Fifth Avenue store.
Dave: [laughs] Yeah, I wish I was that related to those Asprey Jeweler people. Let’s see if I can find this for you.
Dave: Um, here. I’ll send you the link on Skype.
Andrew: Okay. I thought it was a marketing thing where what you were trying to do is say, I’m a writer who the New York Times ta-, I don’t know what it was. I
Dave: In 2009 they . . .
Andrew: . . . marketing.
Dave: . . . they published a piece I wrote on strategy and cloud computing.
Andrew: I see, via Gigaom. So you published on Gigaom, Gigaom gets on New York Times, through their blog, and then you get to be a New York Times- published author, which is a damn good idea.
Dave: Amen, brother. And this is also, it comes right down to self- marketing.
Dave: I could have said, I wrote a piece on cloud computing a while back for Gigaom and that would be true. I could also say the New York Times published my writing about the cloud. They don’t publish everything written on Gigaom by a long shot. And I love the guys over at Gigaom, they’re awesome. And, I think this was a great piece that I wrote, and it made so much sense.
So, from that perspective, I’m happy to tell the world that my thinking is good enough to reach one of the top newspapers, to reach the level of being publication-worthy, to go through the editorial team, and I’m pleased with that. I’m grateful that I was there. So to use that as a way to help people understand, when you read one of the billion blogs out there, how do I know this blog might have some content that’s worthy of my precious attention span?
And one of the ways you do that is you have social credibility and using the New York Times to establish credibility for a new blog, it’s only natural and it worked. It let people know I should read the first blog post here, and if that blog post was as good as I could make it, maybe they’ll read the next one and they’d subscribe, and they did.
Andrew: What do you say to someone who’s hearing that and goes, “I just don’t trust people who do that”? There’s a message that that kind of intro sends, and once you see that the message and the reality aren’t the same, you feel, maybe I just don’t trust him. Not that he’s lying, but maybe I just don’t feel that we’re, at least, understanding each other.
Dave: I’m looking at the newyorktimes.com website and it says, “By Dave Asprey and GigaOM” is the byline on my article. I’ll be damned if I did not write something that was published in the New York Times. I stand by that. And if someone doesn’t like it because it was also published in GigaOM, and by the way five other magazines, and I chose the most impactful one to tell them about, they don’t have to read my blog. I’m okay with that.
Andrew: Okay. You launched at the same time two different sites and, where are my notes, there we go, it was upgradedself.com and Bulletproofexec, right?
Andrew: Was there supposed to be a difference between the two of them, where one was going to sell a product and the other was going to be a blog the way that it is today?
Dave: Yeah. It was designed that way. One of the problems that people have because of some, I would call marketing abuses in capitalism, is that if you sell something, immediately you’re a lying bastard. And, okay? I definitely have seen lots of marketing hype. On the other hand, I can do whatever I want. I can start a cloud security company tomorrow and get venture backing. I know that cult. I’m a successful senior executive. I’ve worked on [??]. All that kind of stuff.
Why would I spend my precious time and energy making a fake coffee product or creating something that I could just buy somewhere else. I can’t fathom why I would want to do that and not create something else. And would I become an expert in the things I write about? I would. I created an e- commerce site consciously to keep it separate from the content. So, the content’s free. You can do the stuff I talk about without buying any of my things.
My stuff is unique, and it works, and it does what I say it does, and I stand by it. I put my name on it. But if you want to just go shopping, go shopping. If you just want to read the content, you can just read the content, for free. I could charge you for the content…
Andrew: I see. So it adds credibility and it takes away one more argument from someone who’s just looking to troll you. Who says, you’re only publishing these posts to sell a product. If you separate the two, it’s hey, I’ve got a store and I’m being open about it on my content site but I also have a content site where I’m just helping you with great ideas.
Dave: Yeah. And honestly, I don’t care about the trolls. There’s always trolls. They essentially get off on tearing down people who are trying to do good things and I used to respond emotionally to them, and it’s just not worth the trouble. And I’m not going to change them. They’re not going to change me. They’re just a cost of doing business online or offline too. There’s trolls offline.
So, it wasn’t as much about them as about, okay, there’s a smart person who has a limited attention span and they come to the Bulletproof Executive site. Do they want to take the time to learn how to upgrade their focus and their attention? I believe that if I help them do that, they’re going to do more of whatever it is they’re here to do. I’m actually, I want them to do that. And whether or not I make a nickel from that is not important for the mission of the site.
And if I make it too commercial, that gets lost. And the credibility gap, not for the trolls. Screw those guys. The credibility gap for someone who honestly would be better off if they learned what eating more saturated fat does for them, I want them to have the opportunity to read the content and judge for themselves. And if I repel them by being too salesy on the front page, then it wouldn’t work.
Andrew: And then Jeremy asked you, “What’s the first thing you did?”, and you said something interesting. You said, “I opened a Twitter account and a Facebook account”.
Andrew: Why so soon? I mean, obviously people do it. But I feel like for you, it was part of a strategy.
Dave: Of course.
Andrew: Talk about that, if you could.
Dave: So, being viral is something that I’ve always [??]. In fact, the quote in Entrepreneur Magazine when I was 23rd was about not polluting the internet. It was an article about environmental businesses. It was very early days for green companies. They didn’t even call them green back then. I made the argument that if you pollute your business environment with, we didn’t have a word for spam yet either, although the first spam came out right after this article was published. I said, if you pollute the environment of the Internet where it’s information and you put a bunch of crap in it by spamming and by being overly commercial, you’ll offend your community.
I’ve always been a community builder online since we had online communities. I know this intuitively just in my gut that it matters. So, I realized that I could connect with the right people who cared about things I cared about and I want to do something that hadn’t been done before. The techniques on A Bulletproof Executive are becoming more talked about, but when I started writing this stuff a lot of it’s brand new. It’s unheard of things. (?) without a community, it doesn’t matter if I put out good content. If people don’t see it, I’m not achieving my mission which is to help a lot of people upgrade themselves.
Andrew: The coffee started early on. In fact, even before you launch a site. What’s different about your coffee?
Dave: There’s two parts to Bulletproof coffee. The first part is the beans themselves. I mentioned that my products when I was selling shirts out of my dorm room was a caffeine t-shirt. The only time I ever got an A in calculus was the semester I discovered espresso and I had an A in calculus class because I came to class so jacked up on espresso I could actually pay attention.
So, coffee’s a part of life. I gave it up for five years because I’d drink coffee and then I would crash. I’d get like, headaches and joint pain and I just realized coffee was making me not feel well. So, being a (?), I went in and I looked exhaustively at the research on biochemistry of coffee, the agricultural side of coffee and I realized there’s a way to produce coffee that doesn’t contain certain classes of toxins in it that affect human performance.
When I did this I realized that I could drink a cup of coffee reliably and always feel really good. I started sharing this with people and other people were like, oh my God. This coffee is different. It gives me a high and I ended up quantifying just black coffee beans. My coffee, upgraded coffee versus mass market coffee from the store on the corner. We had 50 for people in an IRB approved study and we looked at nine measures of executive function with two batteries of tests per day and we found a very large difference on seven of nine.
Literally, the coffee that I made, the processes of that coffee affects you different and it increases cognitive function over normal coffee. So, it’s a real effect. Then you can use coffee when you add grass fed butter instead of cream and you add something called brain octane oil which is, yes, something I am very pleased to be manufacturing because it rocks and it kicks ass so much.
What it is, is an 18 times extract of coconut oil, so it’s 4% of what’s in coconut oil and you put that, the butter and the coffee in a blender, you blend it and it tastes like creamy delicious heaven. It is absolutely delicious. Not gross or buttery or disgusting and when you drink it two things happen. Number one, you have more energy and focus than you’ve had probably in your entire life unless you use speed or something like that. I mean, it is really profound.
Number two, you lose all food cravings. (?) an interest in food for at least six hours, sometimes eight hours. So, you wake up. You have a cup of coffee like this instead of a smoothie. It’s the same amount of time to make it and suddenly it’s like limitless. The (?) you sort of get honestly tunnel vision has been described by more than a few people and you just kind of realize it’s two in the afternoon, you haven’t thought about food, you ignored the bagel and the cookies and whatever other crap people put in front of you because you just didn’t care not because you had will power.
Andrew: And hunger power. I worked with someone, [??] Gupta. He does your coffee. He’s the kind of person who would have probably reached out to you. Might even be in your inbox somewhere talking to you about this, but he swears by it including the butter that he puts into the coffee and he says that he’s not hungry later on in the day. I start my day with cottage cheese and toast and coffee and he starts his day with this butter coffee and he’s less hungry.
Dave: Also, I mean, the hungry thing great, but the focus you get from not having the carbs and the protein in the morning and just giving your body enough to turn off the hunger response and also specifically the brain octane oil goes directly into ATP, the cellular energy that your body uses. It takes 26 steps for sugar to go into ATP and it takes three steps for brain octane oil to go to ATP.
What I discovered in hacking my own brain is that if you want to have attention all day long as an entrepreneur in meetings and have enough energy at the end of the day to date or go home to your family or whatever it is you like to do, go exercise. You have to feel yourselves properly and in my own situation, I hadn’t been doing that for most of my life. I was eating the wrong foods and getting the brain octane in fuels the brain.
Once you get the pre-frontal [SP] cortex turned on, once you get that energy, you then become a better human being because you’re better at your business, you’re better at your personal relationships just because you have enough cellular energy for your brain to do what it was meant to do.
Andrew: Yeah, it’s huge. Let me ask you about this other thing that I noticed. This is the one section of my notes on your conversation with Jeremy in the pre-interview that I used big letters to make sure that I bring up. You wrote a book, Better Baby and you said that that started your journey towards writing down and documenting. What do you mean by that? I’m wondering if you mean by at the same thing that I have been doing and it’s really been helping me.
Dave: Well, I realized that I have a huge amount of knowledge about increasing metabolic performance, increasing cognitive function. A lot of the time when my friends were watching football games or doing whatever it is they do, I was studying the stuff because I’m a geek. Like, hardcore. I like understanding how my brain works. I like understanding how my body works and my book shelf is full of all sorts of books that most people would never read because it helps me to figure out the things that I’m just passionate and curious about all day long.
But, the body of knowledge there is so incredibly difficult to think about. It’s like have a PhD in some kind of physics. I don’t have a PhD in physics, but because I know who do, they think about things in a way that’s so different from me. In other words, I think about human performance unlike anyone else that I really know, but to share that with someone would take a year, so how do I compress that into actionable things?
I started writing down and documenting what we had done to turn my wife’s fertility back on to the point she wanted to be infertile at 35. Just having two children without fertility is just (?) age 39 and 42 and she’s a (?) trained physician. Like, we weren’t messing around. We did a very comprehensive program. One that she actually uses in her fertility coaching practice today.
So the problem is how the heck do you take 10,000 variables and put them into a single info graphic and tell someone this is how to do it. Well, that was what I spent five years working on the book to do and I realized that those same information transmission techniques would be well served for not the fertility people, but just entrepreneurs and people who care so much about . . . they have passion for what they do every day and they bring it every day.
Andrew: So, you document for them so that they could see how you do it, but I found even documenting for myself when no one else gets to do it, improves my work. For example, before we started here, I had a checklist of the things that I do to make sure that I’m recording properly. Things like, start, Skype, start Ever Note first, sync it up then create a checklist of things that I want to talk about with you. Let’s see. Write the intro, turn on the lights, start Skype after a certain set of programs because I find that if I start Skype first it causes problems and so on. Load up Chrome so that your website is up on my screen, etc.
Then just before I hit record I said, let’s add another item to that checklist. I should be writing the bullet points way before I’m ready to record the intro. Usually I just kind of riff and set them up just before the interview starts, but maybe I should be thinking about that ahead of time and so I added it to my own documentation and that will make my interview better next time. Is that what you do?
Dave: You know, I don’t write down every step like that unless there’s enough of them that I’m likely to forget. I used to do that exhaustively, but since I’ve hacked my brain my ability to pay attention to stuff like that is so much better than it’s ever been in my entire history. It’s like my awareness is there, so I’m not going to forget to hit record on Skype.
I’m not going to forget the things at that level, but where I would write things down is (?) interviewing someone. The Bulletproof Radio Podcast is like top ranked on iTunes and health right now. You know, 300 and something thousand people a month come to it and in order to do that there’s exhaustive preparation that goes in.
I have my questions written out much like you do. You’ve clearly prepared to interview me in a very actually admirable way. I do (?) process. I write it all down, but whether I remember to hit Skype or not I don’t think I have to remind myself to do it because I just know to do it.
Andrew: Okay. Let’s see what else I want to find out. Oh, you had a setback, hacking. My site was hacked. What happened to your site?
Dave: Let’s see. My site has been hacked two times actually which is kind of embarrassing because I have a background in computer security. These are all WordPress vulnerabilities, and you know, this is call-out to the tech entrepreneurs listening to this today, there is a market, a big market, for protecting WordPress sites right now, and I ended up, you know, putting in multiple layers of security and moving around so my hosting providers and all that, and the site’s been stable for quite a while.
But I was particularly embarrassed by that at the time because, like, I have high standards, I thought I was doing stuff right, but a lot of the enterprise grade techniques that I’ve used in my career as a tech guy, aren’t accessible for WordPress sites. So when you’re using a hosted site, you don’t get access to put a firewall in the server. You don’t get access to the server. You just have a WordPress thing set up with some plug-ins, so I think I’m past that, but it happens all the time to other people who are running sites, and be ready, set aside a couple thousand dollars through Incident Response, because you’re going to need it.
Andrew: I was just, I felt like I lost control of my own business when that happened to me, because I can’t even keep the website going, and it’s a simple WordPress site. The whole idea of WordPress is to make it so simple that any kid can run it, you know, people who just have online journals for themselves and their friends do it.
Dave: The security companies have largely ignored that market, and it’s so big that they really, there’s tens of millions of dollars of revenue from people who run WordPress sites. I mean, would you spend $20 a month to keep your site safe? I would. I do.
Andrew: I pay, you know what, I actually started paying Sucuri.net to do it, and they got rid of my virus, and they kept me from getting more viruses. And then you’re saying 20 bucks, I think I pay even more because I moved up to WP Engine and an outside company WP Valet to manage my site. I pay them, I think, a combined thousand bucks a month to keep my site going, so yeah, it’s worth the money.
Dave: It is, and funny you mention Sucuri guys, I actually brought them in for my Instant Response as well when the site was hacked, because I’m a hacker, I actually unencoded the basics D4 hidden in your URLs, and the guy, I picked around, and everybody said, oh crap, like this is a very clever attack. But for God’s sake, I have the skills and no time to handle it, because for the first two, two and a half years of the Bulletproof site,
I just did it in the evenings and weekends, and I just took it out of my sleep because I was a vice president at a big company, and at the beginning of it I was, let’s see, I was CTO at a tech startup doing monitoring of the human body. So I had a full-time job, a full-time (?), and that’s where I put all of my time and attention for 40 or 50 hours a week, and after that it’s like, oh, it’s late at night, it’s 2:00 a.m., I’m going to write the blog now and I would just bring it.
Andrew: How did you get users, or how did you get viewers to your blog? It’s really hard to get people to come over to your site.
Dave: It’s hard to say. I’d like to think that it’s good content, and it’s also good PR. I have a good sense for what’s topical because I absorb information in a very fast way, so I try to write about what was topical. Like it took hours for me to figure out the Steve Jobs diet, because it was not well known, not well published, and when he died, we knew he was a fruitarian, and he ate only carrots for a while.
But he was on a “Special Steve Jobs anti-cancer diet.” Very few people knew that it was the Ornish Diet, by all evidence that we could find. So I found an interview in an obscure place with someone who claimed it was the Ornish Diet, and I put it up there, like, you know, how this diet killed Steve Jobs, and exactly the biochemistry of it. It was topical, and was I taking advantage of Steve Jobs death, absolutely.
I was taking advantage of his death to prevent other people from dying of the same mistake he made. He had pancreatic cancer from largely being vegetarian and vegan, that is (?), low fat diet contributes to cancer, we know that this happens. And to use that as an example, if it could happen to him, it could happen to you, and as an educational experience, I feel very clean and ethical about doing that. It pissed off Dr. Ornish. I invited him to come on my podcast, he refused. So what do you say about that? I think I wrote something that people cared about, and they came in and they talked about it, and I also think it helped a lot of people. And (?)
Andrew: So finding something that’s topical, and then your own angle on it, and talking it through, that, I can see the power of that.
Dave: And most people, honestly, there are a dozen sites out there, every time I write something, a week later they all have the same article that I just wrote. You know, I wrote a thing about kale, within 20 minutes there was someone copying my kale recipes, and if you want your site to rock, you better not do that because people will know, and they just won’t talk about it.
You need to do the homework, do the research, come up with your own angle and your own thinking and people will care about that. I think that’s why people came (?) and the reason they still come because you’ll find stuff there that you don’t find in other places or at least you’ll find it there first now that it’s become a bigger site. It has its fans.
Andrew: It looks like you’re big on Reddit that Reddit seems to send traffic to you.
Dave: I haven’t even checked how much traffic Reddit sends to me.
Andrew: Let me see where else I can see that traffic’s coming in.
Dave: What system are you checking?
Andrew: YouTube. YouTube is a major site for you and that’s one of the places where I learned about your coffee.
Dave: I’ve been focusing a lot in the last year on YouTube because it’s pretty obvious every one and their mother is starting a podcast.
Dave: I think that we have a let me make it cheaper and easier for people to create digital content. They do and the (?) ratio for podcasts this year and next is going to start resembling like the web from ten years ago where there was good sites and all of a sudden there was just a proliferation of just kind of crap on the internet where the quality of average content went down because the volume went up. We’re seeing that now in recorded media like, podcasts so the higher quality sources are going to video, but it needs to be well produced video.
Like, I love what you do. You send a document similar to the one that I use that says, hey. If you want to look good on camera, this is what you should do. Like, I don’t turn on the crazy lighting like . . . when I’m at work, I have halogen lights on me like this because they actually help with cognitive function and . . .
Andrew: Look at the difference. Anyone who’s got video up and is not looking at it, come back and check it out.
Andrew: That is a huge difference and that’s more comfortable to work with, but you’re right. It doesn’t make you look good on camera.
Dave: Yeah. It looks like crap. I’d never go on camera with this kind of light even though living in the Pacific Northwest to having that kind of light triggers better sleep later in the day. Like, that’s how I work. It’s replicating the sunshine with 1,000 watts of halogen. So, that’s the sort of thing you and I understand that, but the average person maybe doesn’t.
Andrew: By the way, just to answer your question from earlier, I’m just looking at Alexa right now. I sometimes use other sites to see where traffic’s coming from but in this case Alexa’s just clear and easy enough. What do you do on YouTube to make it work out? For many people, YouTube is just a time socket. It doesn’t deliver any traffic and you then have to spend time getting viewers for it too.
Dave: I’m just figuring that out. I don’t think I have a lot of subscribers on YouTube right now where it’s probably 5,000 or something compared to the number of people who come to the website depending on which metrics you leave. It’s about a million people. It might be half a million, but then there’s like the Facebook crowd and if you correlate them, I’m actually investing in analytics to even try and understand all that.
I’m also the opposite. So many people are metrics driven on a website. I care and I’m using more metrics now, but number one, I’m going to put the information up there so people who can benefit from it who are searching for it will find it. That’s always been my goal. I want people to benefit from it and if the people who benefit decide they want to try the coffee and they feel the difference which they actually do, great. There’s a business there, but when I started this if I didn’t sell a single thing that was okay.
Honestly, if just the website went up and it just had 10,000 people a month who came to it and said, oh my God. I just lost all this weight and I don’t have brain fog anymore, I would consider that the hugest win. I could do the (?) hat for 25 years as much as I need to.
Andrew: Top of your site I see New readers and I like how you have a place for them to start off. Coffee, Diet, Mind, Body, Sleep and Sex. Why do you write about sex?
Dave: (?) Hill who wrote, Thinking (?) Rich is one of the first kind of personal development writers of this century. His chapter on sex in his book trans . . .
Andrew: That (?) sex transmutation I think he calls it, right?
Dave: Exactly. So, do boxers, mixed martial arts fighters and (?) and Buddhists and this whole long line of people have looked at the effect of sex on human performance, human wellness. In fact, the (?) even looked at sex as an anti-aging technology. They’re trying to live forever and they realized well, you know, if you have frequent ejaculations you’ll die sooner. At least that was their belief.
So, of course I’m interested in sex because A it’s fun and B it does have a profound effect on how interested you are in living and in life. So, I realized I could do a study on that and there’s a video up on my YouTube channel where I talk about a one year experiment where I tested the (?) variables for guys my age. They tell you how often you should ejaculate to live a long time and what I found out was if I didn’t ejaculate as often as I used to, I’m not saying less sex, I find out that if I ejaculate less, I have a lot more sex, because, well, you know, you don’t quite finish, so then you’re more interested in going at it again later.
But on top of that, I track my satisfaction with life, in terms of how much energy I have, how much I like my job, how much I like my family, everything, gave it a number every day, and I found out that when I followed roughly the (?) recommendation for my age, that I actually had a lot, I was just happier on a regular, sustained basis. So I became aware that sex was one of the variables in how I perform as an entrepreneur, and (?) other, so it’s something that I pay attention to now, in a way I didn’t before.
Andrew: So Napoleon held observations was men who are highly sexed, and I don’t know if he even looked at women, but he said men were highly sexed, who then stopped channeling that energy toward sex, and get in a long term relationship, then that energy has to go somewhere else, and often it goes towards work, and creativity, and ambition, the same drive that they might have before to sleep with a lot of women now goes into getting a lot of customers, and building their businesses, or running faster, whatever it is that, their obsessions.
What have you noticed, is having sex often without ejaculating, that’s the thing that creates the clarity and the energy?
Dave: Well, ejaculating takes away the energy, so having lots of sexual energy, which actually comes from having lots of sex if you don’t ejaculate a lot, creates more energy in the body. So then you have this ton of energy, more like you would when, you know, you were a teenager, or, you know, in your early twenties. But you have the wisdom and the knowledge and the power as, you know, a more, just as an older person.
You’d say, all right, I’m not going to act out that, like I’m in charge now, whereas, you know, when you’re 18 you’re not that in charge of your sex life. So yeah, you can consciously transmit that energy and focus it, and whether use that energy to just be more awake when you need to get something done, or to work a full day and still be full of energy at the end of the day, I find, for instance, there is an absolute hangover. Like if I have sex and ejaculate, the next day I’m not quite as happy, I’m actually kind of little bit cranky . . .
Andrew: Oh wow.
Dave: . . . a little hangover there. It’s subtle but it’s noticeable, and I just have less interest in cranking through the e-mail and, you know, writing and getting all the stuff done, whereas if I had sex, I had a good time, I didn’t ejaculate, not only do I not get the hangover, but the next night I’m like, we should do that again. And when you track the data, I have a lot more sex when I don’t ejaculate every time.
Andrew: And as you know a wife say, hey, enough of this already, I need a little bit of a break.
Dave: I’m pretty sure she likes it, too.
Andrew: Going from sex back to business, or more directly to business, one of the things I admire about you is your ability to get press. I don’t get nearly as much press as you. What do you do that gets all these mentions, all these articles? I’m going now on your site to find a plate, to find an example of it.
Dave: I spent a year as a tech journalist very early in my career. I read about the first wave of internet businesses, how to use Netscape 1.0 versus Mosaic, one of the first web browsers ever made, like in which one is better, and those kinds of things. It taught me a lot about what reporters are looking for, and if you are well-spoken, which is something that I am, count the number of times that I’ve said “um” in our interview, and I’m guess it’s less than one, I might have said it once or twice, and that’s because it’s a practiced skill.
I actually used to stutter a little bit, and when you hack your brain that way, you can think about what you’re saying to a reporter, and you can craft the sound as you’re saying or before you say it, that when you deliver that one sentence that’s quotable, your whole interview should be, what’s your story, in other words what are they trying to accomplish, what’s their goal, how does what you say support their story.
How do you say it in one single sentence, so that you’re going to be the guy who’s photo’s there with the quote, versus one of the little footnotes at the bottom. If you can deliver the (?) consistently, in a way that’s not self-serving, but in a way that’s going to get you quoted, you’ll find your PR is better.
Andrew: Give me an example of how you did that, of how you find those short statements that are going to be quoted?
Dave: The reporter will ask you a question in your interview, and you listen carefully, you know the context of the interview, you know the audience, and you need to say something that is a little bit unusual, a little bit outrageous, but not too outrageous to be ridiculous, and that’s important. So they’re looking for a headline that’s going to sell the story, they’re looking for that quote, wherein people read the quote, they’re going to go, “Oh, that’s interesting. I want to read the rest of the story.”
So one of the other things that I do I think well on the Bulletproof Executive is I’ve gotten to be pretty good at writing headlines that get people’s attention so that they want to see what’s in there. And then the first paragraph has to also bring them in. So every word matters when you’re writing, every single one. Throw out the ones that don’t need to be there.
Throw out the weasel words, the words that make you weak, the ones I just wrote about in a recent post called, I think, “The Four Words That Make You Weak.” And really focus in your interview with the reporter about not using those words and using short sentences they can write down that say something, where if you only saw that written on a tee shirt or one of those Facebook postings where there’s some picture with some words on it, you want to deliver your information in that kind of speaking. Doing that as a practice skill . . . I’ve actually spent four days training with a guy who taught John Chamber how to present for his IPO roadshow. The guy’s taught hundreds of executive teams how to deliver the most important presentation of their life. His name’s Jerry Weissman.
Andrew: Will you . . . I remember Jason Calacanis invited me to do this weekend’s startups to talk about the news for the week. And I don’t talk about news, really, but they gave me a list of stories that they wanted to cover. I sat down with someone here at Mixergy and I said, “Let’s come up with my angle on each one of these stories and an easy way for me to say it.”
And it was easier than I expected, because I thought it would be impossible. But I still didn’t have a process for coming up with that. And here you must have some process that’s so well-developed that now on a call with a reporter, without taking time off and thinking it through, on a call on the spot you can come up with it.
Dave: I do.
Andrew: Is there documentation or a process you can teach me?
Dave: It’s a real time process and in my coaching practice, I can work with people and teach them that. But the number one thing – you’ve got to ditch your toast in the morning.
Andrew: My what?
Dave: Your toast that you have for breakfast. I’m dead serious. The gluten slows your brain down. My brain does not work like it used to work. I’m feeding it specific things that increase mitochondria and I’m pulling out all the things that slow it down. If I had beer last night – I don’t drink beer, it’s the most toxic of the alcohols and vodka’s a lot cleaner – but if I had beer last night and I had toast for breakfast, my ability to deliver the sound bite is going to go down.
Andrew: I have gluten-free bread, by the way. And I have gluten-free bread, not because I . . . I don’t have an issue with gluten, but I have gluten- free bread because it’s the smallest, lightest bread that they have at Trader Joe’s and I have that delivered.
Dave: There you go.
Andrew: But you’re saying that it’s your food that impacts your ability to communicate.
Andrew: But you still have some kind of process. You’re a document-oriented person. What is it?
Dave: There’s also . . . I do this 40 Years of Zen thing and in this one week of very difficult effort, you can teach yourself to have the same brain state as someone who’s spent 40 years doing Zen meditation. So I’m dead serious that this is the thing that’s made the most difference for me in terms of personal capabilities. So the diet plus this brain training, there’s a computer hooked up to eight channels of my brain and for one week I get to teach myself to be cool in brain state as a Zen master. So to be able to . . .
Andrew: What did you do? I’m sorry. The connection’s starting to get a little bit lacking. Where did you get this computer that you hook up to your brain? I’d like to look at that.
Dave: There’s a program called 40 Years of Zen that I bring my executive coaching clients through with me. And it’s pretty much invitation only. There’s a little bit of info on 40 Years of Zen.
Andrew: 40yearsofzen.com, I see it here.
Dave: It’s ridiculously expensive, to be perfectly honest, and I don’t have it on the main site because I don’t make money off doing it. I just go through it with my clients and it benefits them so much that it’s worth doing.
Andrew: I see.
Dave: It’s the thing that’s taught my brain to be able to think and talk at the same time, and to be able to listen to you, and to be able to be aware of the variables happening around me, and to be able to just nail it over and over and over – that, plus some practice. I’ve been a spokesperson for two companies with more than a billion in revenue, or more than a billion in market cap. And that ability just to practice over time so I have zero fear, and before I do an interview, I do the same thing I teach my clients to do. I do [??] variability, breathing exercises.
I literally put a monitor on my ear and I track my nervous system to take myself out of sympathetic fight or flight mode and put myself in parasympathetic mode. So I’m the zone when I walk into the interview. I’m in the zone when I walk on stage and I can bring it because my cells have enough energy, because my brain is properly fueled, because I’ve trained my nervous system to stop misbehaving and telling me to run away or worry about what people think about me. And when you put all of that stuff together, you get a very powerful result.
Andrew: Alright. Let me do a quick mention her for mixergypremium.com. There, that’s how quick it’s going to be. And mixergypremium.com, final question is this, what kind of revenue do you bring in? I see that 40 Years of Zen is $15,000 to be a part of it. I see coffee being drunk by Sachet [SP] and so many other people.
Dave: I don’t take the money for 40 Years of Zen. I work with a partner on that. I don’t get paid on that. So that’s something that I do with my clients when I can and I refer the appropriate people to a very small training facility that I work with. But there’s not an economic incentive for me to do that.
Andrew: What do you feel comfortable sharing regarding your revenue?
Dave: I don’t talk about revenues. We’re a really small company. It’s a media site that delivers content, a quarter million words for free to help a lot of people and that’s my goal and that’s my mission and if I can pay for the site and I can pay for people to help run the site and things like that, it’s really important, but I’ve had a pretty good career and I’m really pleased that people like the coffee and things like that but I just generally don’t do it because we’re still a small company.
Andrew: I see. Now I thought you guys were so much further ahead. I guess because I’ve heard so much buzz about it, I figured . . .
Dave: There’s a lot . . .
Andrew: . . . at least 400 to 600 thousand a year.
Dave: That’s still pretty small. That’s not an unreasonable number. But, you know, by the time you . . .
Andrew: So that’s, you’re above 400, we’re saying?
Dave: Yeah. About 400 is safe to say. Yeah. And it’s one of those things where it’s not just me though. I have lots of contractors and you mentioned $1000 a month to run the site. I spend more than that. I actually have employees and legal costs and all that sort of stuff. So it’s one of those things where I could be making a lot more money if I wanted to sell information products.
Andrew: Yeah. And that’s another thing. You’re selling product, which is expensive. You’re also selling product that spoils if it’s sitting around for too long, so.
Dave: I’m a contrarian. Everyone else is selling [??] Summits which are Evergreen content and I’m like, I’ll sell you stuff that requires cash so I did not quite know what I was getting into, to be honest. So I had never run a retail products company. But people love the stuff. It helps them and it helps me. I can always drink my coffee in the morning now and that was my goal at the beginning. And it’s growing. I’m really pleased with the growth and I’m really thankful for it and I hope it continues at the rate it’s grown.
Andrew: I do, too. The site, for anyone who wants to, the coffee we’ve been talking about is upgradedself.com and it looks like a small 12 ounce bag. Actually, that’s not small. A 12 ounce bag is $15.16. Why 15 and 16 cents?
Dave: Because we’re running a sale right now. It’s normally $18.95.
Andrew: Oh, I see. And so that’s . . . Okay . . .
Dave: The idea is . . .
Andrew: . . . maybe I shouldn’t have said that price on-line because they’re probably not going to get it during the sale by the time this is published.
Dave: Here’s the rational and pricing matters. And our listeners would care about this. Starbucks is charging $32 a pound for their Central American high end stuff.
Dave: And, well, mine’s a lot less than that. It’s $18.95 for three quarters of a pound. So it’s about what you’d pay for normal coffee if you went to a local roaster but mine is tested to be toxin free and it’s sourced using the Bulletproof process. So if you go to the five pound bag though it’s exactly $15 a pound or maybe, you know, five or something.
So is you like it and you find that it works, you can pay exactly the same amount per pound for my coffee that you would pay at Starbucks for a pound of their blend from whatever country. So you’re paying for purity and performance of the coffee but you’re not overpaying for it.
Andrew: Alright. Thank you so much for doing this. It’s upgradedself.com or bulletproofexec.com. Thank you for doing this. Thank you all for being a part of it guys.
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