Andrew: Hey, everyone. My name is Andrew Warner. I’m the founder of Mixergy, and this is different from my other interviews. Usually I have an entrepreneur who I interview on Mixergy, and I’ve had over a thousand entrepreneurs here talk about how they built their businesses. Today, I’m the one who’s going to be interviewed.
See, Nick McDonald is a guy who took my Interview Your Heroes course, where I teach people how to do interviews, and he emailed me and said, “Hey, Andrew, I took your course. I want to interview you.” I go, “All right, let’s do it.”
I’m sitting here being interviewed by him and the whole time I think, “Boy, these are great questions. I really like where he’s taking me. I like this conversation. I’m really enjoying myself. I should tell some of these stories to my listeners. I think people listening to Mixergy would want to hear this stuff. Why do I not talk about that with my audience? Why do I not tell them that?”
So, when we were done, I liked it so much, I said, “Hey, Nick, can I publish it on Mixergy?” He said, “Yeah, sure.” So, Nick, we’re going to publish this on Mixergy, your interview with me, and you’re going to publish it on your site.
It’s called 3DayMonk.com. Why Three-Day Monk?
Nick: Three-Day Monk because a three-day monk is the person who says, “Hey, I’m going to become a monk.” They go full-force, and then three days later they go, “You know what? I don’t think I’m going to become a monk. I’m going to become a carpenter.” I’m the kind of person that likes to go full-force at the beginning and then they fizzle out. This time I’m going all the way, and I’m trying to figure out how other entrepreneurs have been doing it and how they are able to go all the way.
Andrew: Is that like an old saying, three-day monk?
Nick: Yeah. It’s a Japanese saying. I discovered it I think on Leo–The Zen Habits. He had a–
Andrew: Leo Babauta. I can never pronounce his name properly. I hope I’m doing it justice.
Nick: I wasn’t going to try. Yeah. He did a whole post on what a three-day monk is and three-day monk syndrome. That’s where I kind of got the idea. It was like five years ago. It just took me that long to get here.
Andrew: Well, I won’t be able to read the ads like I usually do in this interview, which means that Sachit Gupta is somewhere going, “What the hell, Andrew? What are you doing to me?” But I will talk about one sponsor. The only sponsor that we’re going to have is a company called Toptal. Do you know Toptal at this point?
Nick: I do. I listen to quite a few of your interviews.
Andrew: What do you remember about Toptal as a listener?
Nick: I know that it’s top of the mountain and tal like talent, because when you first started doing these, I had no idea. I thought you were talking about top cow. So I like that you said top of the mountain, tal as in talent, that they actually will produce–or you can hire your developers and they’re top of the line, the kind of people you would get for Google, Apple, those kinds of people.
Andrew: Yeah. And several entrepreneurs who I’ve interviewed here at Mixergy have hired people from Toptal. If you’ve listened, you might have seen people write down Toptal was I was doing the ad for them because there is a difficulty finding great developers and Toptal obsesses on finding them. What they do is if you need a developer, they will get on a call with you and make sure they understand your needs and then match you up with the perfect developer from their network.
Derek Johnson of Tatango found someone. The person was so good that Derek’s CTO said, “This guy could actually replace me he’s that good.” Derek ended up hiring even more people from Toptal.
If you want to do it, there’s a special URL that will give you more stuff, more benefit than you will if you just go to their homepage. That is Toptal.com/Mixergy. That’s Toptal.com/Mixergy. You’re going to get 80 hours of Toptal developer credit when you pay for your first 80 hours and that’s in addition to a no risk trial period of up to two weeks. 80 hours of developer credit when you use this URL.
Go to Toptal.com/Mixergy and as Nick said, that’s top of the mountain, tal as in talent–Toptal.com/Mixergy.
All right. I’m going to just let Nick’s interview play at this point and thanks for doing this interview.
Nick: Hey, everyone. I’m Nick and this is the Three-Day Monk podcast, the place to learn how to get off your ass, finish your projects and grab your goals.
Now, let’s get into it.
Today, I’m talking with Andrew Warner. He’s the founder of Mixergy, where he’s interviewed almost 1,500 entrepreneurs. Today I want to talk to him a little bit about how he handles distractions, the systems he uses in his personal and professional life and how he actually reaches his goals. How are you doing, Andrew?
Andrew: Good, Nick. Good to see you man. Dude, you lost weight since I last saw you and you lost weight at that point from the time before.
Nick: Thank you, yeah.
Andrew: Speaking of sticking with your goals, impressive.
Nick: Thank you. Thank you. I’m down 60 pounds right now, so I’m pretty actually happy with that. It’s one of the things that’s moved me forward on actually achieving other goals in my life.
Andrew: Cool. Good to be here.
Nick: First, I wanted to ask you about, I guess, what your original vision was for Mixergy. This is way back in L.A. when you first started it.
Andrew: The original vision was when I was starting out, I felt like I could only learn from people who are … You know what? From guys like Tony Robbins. Frankly, a friend of mine just went to a Tony Robbins and said, “Hey, this is actually not helping me,” and walked out of the Tony Robbins conference. Nothing against Tony Robbins. It just didn’t work for him. And the same thing happened to me.
I felt like this whole happy clappy approach that comes from the self-improvement guys just didn’t ring true. It was useful. Don’t get me wrong. I like Tony Robbins. I like his stuff. But I felt like real entrepreneurs give it to me differently. They give me information that I couldn’t get somewhere else.
They talk in a way that–well, they say things like spam. Several interviews that I interviewed on Mixergy talk about spam. Several of them have talked about frankly letting go of people who are good, firing them, let’s say, who are good, but they want to get bigger than these people could let them get, so they fired them and the move on to someone else. Now, that sounds like a very heartless thing when you’re looking as an outsider, when you’re on stage saying, “Be good to everyone and good things will come to you.” But the reality of that is helpful.
Andrew: So my goal was to bring that kind of reality to other entrepreneurs, to talk about the stuff that’s a little bit frowned on by the rest of the world, a lot frowned on.
Nick: And you started that with more like events?
Nick: And not necessarily interviews, it was kind of like energetic mixers?
Andrew: Yeah. Speaking of–yeah, that’s where the name Mixergy came from. Since we’re here to talk about getting things done, I’ve got to tell you that one of the things that I found when I was organizing events is really relevant here.
I would want to get to know people in Santa Monica or Los Angeles and I’d want to organize an event and it would just take forever to do it. Then I started teaming up with other people. I said, “I will cohost with you and you and you.” And we had four other cohosts. When we have four other cohosts, it’s so much easier because we all pick a date together and now we’re held accountable to each other to hit that date. We all say we’re going to do an event at that place.
And that gives us even more accountability. Then when I see one of my cohosts is inviting people, I have to start inviting people too. I can’t not do it. Then it starts this whole bit of momentum that you can’t stop. They invited people to the event so it’s really on. You’re inviting people to the event so it’s definitely on. Then you have to keep following through. A lot of my life has been about that, about how do I get external forces to help me get things done and how do I deal with my own internal stuff so that I’m not blocking myself?
Andrew: And part of the internal stuff is sometimes I’ve got the external forces of other people who are helping me and I start to think, “That’s kind of a cheat. I shouldn’t be doing it, having other people help is kind of a weakness. I have to learn to stop that.”
Nick: Yeah. I kind of have the same feeling, like I’ve got to do it all on my own. Then I find myself falling on my face a lot. So, might as well put it out there because I have more accountability for myself.
When you were back there in L.A., how did you go about finding your cohosts and whatnot? Because you were new to the area, did you have like a big following you tapped into? How did you find the original people to kind of start conversing with?
Andrew: You know what? Anyone could have four guests come to their party, right? If you were brand new to a city and you put a little bit of effort into it, you could have four people show up to your party.
All I did was say, “Instead of having them be my guests, I’m going to have them be my cohosts.” So every one of them just had to invite four other people. Again, the same thing is true. Anyone can find four other people that they can invite to a party. That’s basically what it was. And at that point, you end up with 25 people at a party all connected to each other through one other person or two other people. That actually ends up being a pretty good event, you know.
Andrew: And the fall back of that is if you really fail, you end up with five people who are all together for the night, which is actually not bad either. A conversation with five people is good. So that’s where it was. But the interesting thing is that once you have an event scheduled especially with the kind of attitude that we had for these events, you could start inviting people to it, anyone. So, when you’re meeting somebody for the first time, you could say, “Hey, here’s my business card and we should do business sometime,” or you could say, “I’m actually organizing event at this art gallery in Santa Monica. It’s on Friday at 6:00 p.m. I think you should swing by after work. It would be good for you to get to know some of my friends or why don’t we have a drink there?” So now, instead of having a drink one on one, you bring them over to this event where you get to have a drink with them but they also get to experience more people who are all connected to them through one or two other people. That’s a really powerful event.
Nick: Okay. Very cool. And what happened after that? You posted a video, I saw, that you were talking about how you failed.
Andrew: Yeah. The failure was I said, “Huh, all these people are coming in. I want them to get to know each other before. So how do I get to know. . .” I knew that if you were coming to an event–if I was inviting you to an event, you would be more likely to show up if there was someone you wanted to meet there, if there was someone that you were curious about. So what I would do is I would tell you, “We actually have this other podcaster, Nick, who’s going to be there. I think you guys might want to talk about your shows.”
Or, “There’s somebody else who’s really into goal setting, I think you might want to get to know them.” It becomes a little bit tougher to do when you’re going to 5 then 25 and then sometimes we’d have 100 people there. I thought what if I could automate that? What if there’s a way to make the invitations become the introductions. So, you don’t just find out about the event but you find out about two or three other people that you might know at the event. That was the idea.
Andrew: That’s where we started to build–I think that the building of it didn’t work out so well and I don’t know that other people had the need for this kind of invitation. I was starting to build it for myself and then I spent tens of thousands of dollars on it and I said, “If you’re spending this much money, Andrew, you better make it make sense for other people too.” So then I started to spend even more money to make it into a bigger web app and then I realized I had no interest in getting in this in the first place. I don’t want to be in the invitation business.
Andrew: So I eventually said that thing you saw, which is I failed.
Nick: And what happened next? Why didn’t you just decide, “Hey, this was a failure, I’m going to just scratch it and move on to something new?” Why did you decide to keep it going but like pivoted to something new?
Andrew: I started doing events with companies like Microsoft and there was a woman named Lynn Langit at one of my events, she sponsored it, actually, who said, “You know, Andrew, you’ve got these events but you’re not doing much on social media to tell people about it. You should do. . .” and then she gave me all these ideas.
One of them was you should interview the people who are coming in. I thought, “Actually, that is a good idea.” I think maybe she said put photos of them and then some text underneath it. She was trying to make it easy. And I was listening to this guy, Gregory Galant, who was doing a podcast with entrepreneurs and I thought, “I like that. Why don’t I do that with the people who are coming to my events?” So, I started doing that with the people who are coming to my events hoping that others would get to know who was at the events.
I had such a good time doing it that I kept doing it, even when the invitation didn’t do well, even when the event started to slow down, I kept doing the interviews. Then when Gregory Galant stopped doing interviews with software entrepreneurs, I said, “I think that needs to exist in the world. I’ll start doing software entrepreneur interviews.”
Nick: You also told a story about how when you were interviewing your friend, Rosalind Resnick, you told your wife afterwards that, “This is what I want to do for the rest of my life. I really love interviewing people.”
Nick: Was it really that definitive or was it–
Andrew: It was at that moment, 100%. I remember exactly where I was standing where I told her. I had this window in my home office. Now I’m in like a real office, but back then, I had a home office. There was this window that went from floor to ceiling. I remember talking to my wife on the phone, looking out this window and staring out at Santa Monica and saying, “This is it. This is the thing that excites me.”
And the reason it excites me is I had a company before that I built up largely because I saw that other entrepreneurs were able to do it. I read all these biographies for years. And if I read those biographies and I was influenced by them, there was a part of me that always wanted to have that kind of impact on the world, to create biographies and have similar influence on other people. So, when I did that interview with Rosalind, I felt like this is tapping into that need.
Plus, I knew Rosalind forever. We did work at our previous company together. She bought a substantial piece of the business when I was ready to get out of the company. I felt like I knew her really well. Still in that interview, I got to know her even better. I realized through interviewing, I get to know people much better than I can over dinner, for example.
So think about how efficient that is. Imagine, yes, it’s passion, but also think of the efficiency. Even if no one listened, if I wanted to get to know Rosalind better, I could take her out for dinner, we could talk and I could walk away with maybe this little smidge of an understand of her, maybe two or three questions that I really care about answered.
But if I interview her, I have an hour to go through a lot of questions, deep depth. I can’t get anything better than that. I thought anything I do in my life should include interviews that I could get that kind of depth from someone, that I can really get to know them. Then the upside is an audience can discover it. The upside is other people could benefit from it too and I tap into this need that I had since I was a kid reading other people’s biographies.
By the way, I like your shaved head. I’ve got to buzz my hair again. I always feel so much more alive when I buzz my hair. I think that me keeping this long hair is like for my wife and for other people because no one seems to like that I buzz my hair. Not a single person sees that I buzz my hair and goes, “You look so much better,” but man, I feel better when my hair is buzzed.
Nick: Have you ever gone all the way down?
Nick: You see, I used to just keep it buzzed and then like the top just kind of getting thinner and thinner. So I pulled out my electric shaver one day and finished it off, and I haven’t gone back. Every morning it takes 10 minutes and I’m done and I don’t have to ever feel like I get to that ugly stage where your hair is just too long. I can’t not have a beard, but if I could shave that, I would shave that too.
Andrew: It looks good, actually, yeah.
Nick: My wife says, “Get back in there and grow it.”
Andrew: I think I’m going to shave–I think I’m going to buzz down tonight if I get done with my dinner plans early enough and just live. Go crazy. Forget what other people say.
Nick: You should.
Andrew: Throw caution to the wind.
Nick: Be careful though. The first time I ever did it–
Andrew: No, I’m not shaving it.
Nick: I was going to say the first time I ever did it, I went to the beach the day before and I was really sunburnt, so when I shaved it, my head was bright white, and it really stood out from my red face.
Andrew: Yeah. I run outside a lot too. So I can see myself getting burned on my head even with a buzz. Thankfully that hasn’t happened.
Nick: You have too much fog there. That’s why.
Andrew: Yeah, true.
Nick: When you were in Argentina, you talked about getting your office in like the Wall Street section. Why did you get it there versus working at like a home office or a little spot down the street?
Andrew: I got a place in Santa Monica specifically so that I could work from home with a home office and everything. I knew that I get to be obsessive about my work, so I got myself a dog too knowing that I’d have to go for a walk at least three times a day. But the rest I wanted to sit and obsess and I didn’t want to have a commute.
Nick: Can I just–real quick, when you say you got a dog, you got that dog for the purpose to get you out of the house?
Andrew: And to get me up at a certain time.
Andrew: I also always wanted a dog and loved dogs, but there’s never a right time for it.
Andrew: I could justify it with my–Like the mental side of me could justify what the emotional part wanted by saying, “And it will get me out of the house at least three times a day and he’ll make sure that I get up at a specific time every day because he needs to go out for a walk.” The truth is that definitely helped and even though I was working at home a lot, it gave me a sense of comfort to have the dog there.
Andrew: Well, anyway, then my wife and I met and she started to stay at my place more and more. I actually like started moving her in without her even knowing it, like I moved her cat in for her good for some reason, and then my wife needed to be with the cat and we ended up living together. And that was great except for one thing. If I was working at 5:00 and she got out of work early enough that she could be home at 5:00, it’s kind of awkward and rude for me to say, “No, I don’t want to talk. I’m here. Don’t even come and say hello and then go do your own thing.” I couldn’t say that and she didn’t want to just do that.
She wanted to come and tell me about her day. That became a distraction. So I said, “From now on, now that we’re living together, I need a place to go work where there’s a clear understanding that I’m out of the house.” I know some people will put a sign on the door saying stay away and all that and I get it. I think that didn’t work for me. The other thing is about Argentina, I take my work seriously. I don’t want to have weak internet where I’m working. I don’t want to have distractions of I don’t know what. I don’t think electricity is going down in Argentina.
But I could see issues popping up. So I started walking around, looking immediately when I got there for an office. I ended up with a very professional office. I have to tell you–we as Americans have forgotten what professional service is like. We’re talking about–they’re old world over there in Argentina when it comes to a lot of things, especially giving you a real professional feel. I’m talking about you get in the office and you ask for something, it’s there.
The receptionist was wheeling around yerba mate and coffee to make sure that the executives were taken care of. But those are small benefits. Here’s a significant one that shows you how when someone is professional, it comes through and it’s different. The internet was down a little bit at that office. As soon as it was, I told the receptionist. She didn’t just say, “It will be up soon.” She said, “Okay, Mr. Warner. I’ll find you another office.” She found me another office. She gave me a sticky note with the address of the office so I could give it to the reception, so I could give it to the cab driver and he’d know exactly where to take me and there would be no issue with my accent and then she called ahead to say, “Andrew’s coming. Clear out office space so that he could work there.”
Andrew: That kind of thing, when you take your work as seriously as I do is critical, right?
Andrew: I didn’t like how when I looked at other offices, it was all about we do parties every Thursday so you get to know other people on your floor. I get the value of that. I don’t want anyone distracting me on a Thursday. I want to work. I don’t want anyone saying–I think what they said to me when I moved to Washington, D.C., the internet was down it was like, “It’s down, but it’s still pretty fast.” It’s like, “Wait a minute. . .”
Nick: Pretty fast–
Andrew: Do you not understand what I’m saying here?
Nick: I had that same problem with–that’s why I just changed internet companies because they didn’t understand, “It’s mostly up.” Well, mostly up isn’t up enough.
Nick: You also paid someone to work in the office with you. Was that in Argentina?
Andrew: That was an inspired move. That happened here in San Francisco. What was happening was one of my interviewees started a company called Exec, which would just charge $25 an hour to have people go and do things for you.
Andrew: I guess the thought was you were the executive. You should be able to hire people on demand to go and help you with things like shopping, like office work. I hired them for a bunch of stuff, like I paid someone to do nothing but scan in all my childhood memories from the wall in a bedroom where I grew up. It was in a folder somewhere. I wanted it accessible, and I didn’t want to have to keep carrying this folder of stuff. So that was kind of cool.
Then I thought what always happens when I start answering email is my mind starts to wander. What if someone was watching me? Then I couldn’t wander. It would be kind of awkward to start going and doing other stuff.
And then the other thing I was doing was I started systemizing my company a little bit and looking for things that I could organize in a better way. I thought two and two together, you end up with something really powerful. So I hired someone, I had them sit next to me. It’s weird to just say, “Hey, stare at me.” So I said, “Here is a grid on paper. I want you in every row to write down any new thing that I do via email and then if I do it again, in the column to the right of it, put another mark, a checkmark.”
Andrew: So we then can see what things am I doing over and over again and talk about how to systemize them and how it was so helpful. So I’ll give you an example of what was happening. I was in San Francisco. There were a lot of people in the area here, a lot of entrepreneurs. They all want to get together. I would start going back and forth, “Do you want to get together Monday? No, how about Tuesday? What about this?” It takes forever. So I said, “How do we fix it?”
And one of the ways that you fix a problem like that is you batch it. So I said, “All right. We’re going to do once a week and everyone I meet during the week or everyone who wants to meet during the week can meet me on that one day,” and then Thursdays became my day for that kind of a meeting. I did scotch night, when then became a big thing, rarely more than five people. We kept it small, big in impact, not big in number of people and it also helped speed things up. So, I got email that was in the moment faster than if I did it on my own.
And then I also got a system to improve email long term and then the system often ended up producing results that were way better than what I had before. Scotch at the office is way better than going out to dinner with somebody. Scotch at the office is way better than coffee, for sure, at 10:00 in the morning, which is a distraction.
Andrew: That’s the way that I want to look at the world.
Nick: So you basically were just sitting there realizing, “I’m having a problem getting this done on time.” How did you get to the point where you realized you needed to actually analyze your actions? I ask because Mixergy had been running for a while before you got to that point, before you realized you needed somebody to sit there and help you out or was there some other shift there?
Andrew: You know what? I think just having the potential there was really helpful. The fact that there was Exec–I’m kind of bummed the thing is gone. Yeah, there’s still TaskRabbit. I use TaskRabbit. I’m going to have someone, I think, from TaskRabbit come to the office on Monday to install a new sit down, stand up desk with a treadmill underneath it. I thought, “Let’s try that.”
So someone from TaskRabbit will come. I like that. But there’s something about Exec that was so good. That was they had dependable service because they screened all these people. It wasn’t just a marketplace. They had a clear predictable price, $25 an hour. I didn’t have to pick out who the person was. I just knew I’m paying $25 and someone would go do it. I needed a shirt laundered and pressed and I needed it for tonight. Maybe there was only one place–actually, there was one time. There was only one place in San Francisco that can do it. I call up Exec, someone comes and takes it over to the laundry, then another Exec comes and brings it back. So you come up with creative uses once you start seeing this opportunity there.
Andrew: I’m not a big fan of software as I think software becomes a distraction. I’ve been watching YouTube videos of people who are using project management software, and I can see they are so geeking out on project management software that this one guy was putting every book he wants to read into it, everything he wants to do the next week, everything for the rest of his life.
And I can see that this is not going to work. It’s overwhelming. But I do try to look at different software on sites like Product Hunt just to get a sense of what’s out there because if you see a possibility of what’s out there–software, new service like Exec, your mind will start to come up with potential creative uses for it that then will grow your business, help you stay focused.
Andrew: Zapier is a good example of that. Zapier, for anyone who’s listening who hasn’t tried it, is really powerful, but you won’t know how powerful until you see other people’s examples of it and then you can start to see how it will help speed up your business.
Nick: Okay. When you have like hard stuff to do, like stuff that you don’t really want to do, the dreading stuff, maybe like taxes, whatever you don’t like doing during the day, do you try to schedule that stuff first or do you put that off until the end?
Andrew: Neither one. Taxes it’s interesting that you bring up. I used to have an issue with taxes. And then I finally sat down and I examined what was in my head around it. Why am I resisting sending out all my paperwork for taxes? I really made a list of all the things that I was resisting. I bet I could find it in my journal somewhere. What I realized was a lot of those things were just bullshit. It was things like it’s going to take too long. It’s too boring. It’s too tough. Then I realized it’s not too tough. I have a bookkeeper do my books, a service do my books. It’s pretty much organized. It’s not too boring. I love numbers.
I feel safer with numbers than I do in conversation with you. There’s a chance I might say something awkward to you about your head or about your weight and then suddenly it’s like a big thing, “Why does Andrew have ageism or weight-ism or whatever?” all these things that people can take personally for reasons that aren’t even related to me, really, they’re related to your own baggage. It’s hard to predict.
Numbers are so much easier to predict. Plus, once you know your numbers, you want to increase them. So I liked actually going through my financials. I liked going in and being forced at least once a year to look at my brokerage account and get a sense of how it’s grown over the year.
I like all that. So, all the stuff that was in my head was bull. I call this stuff the True Mind process because you fill your mind up or there’s a part of your mind that fills your brain up with bullshit and it’s things like, “This is too tough. This is going to take too long and so on.” That’s what was going on in my head. Then on the other hand, I wasn’t spending nearly enough time thinking about what I got excited about with taxes. What I got excited about was I liked seeing where I stood financially.
I liked uncovering that there were all these other accounts that I had forgotten about or wasn’t paying attention to. I liked the organization of being able to send back my tax binder to my accountant. I liked the fact that most of my stuff was getting done. I liked the fact that I had an accountant that was taking on more work. I’ve never thrown anything at–first it was him, not it’s a her–never thrown anything at either one of them that they couldn’t do. It’s amazing. I had an issue with our nanny. It has nothing to do with what this accountant is supposed to do. I said, “Can you figure it out?” She said, “Yeah.” She figured it out, right?
So that’s an issue for me too. We talk a lot about external stuff–external accountability buddies and all that stuff. I don’t discount that value of it, but for me I needed to also think about what was going on in my head to get results. Once I did, it became a lot more fun. I actually kind of, I hate to say it, I look forward to taxes now every year.
Nick: Good. Well, at least it makes it so you don’t dread the whole month. I got mine done the day they were due.
Andrew: You know what? I end up doing that too. Here’s the thing that I’ve realized. I don’t think it’s me. I think it’s external reasons why I file my taxes the day that they’re due, maybe like a day or two before. The reason is I think my accountant doesn’t pull everything together for all of her clients until pretty much the last day. The accounting firm always seems to want more. I think there are people that need to give me data that take too long to send it over. I’m thinking about things like my wife’s stock trades. There weren’t that many, but I don’t think she got paperwork back from them until like a month before.
Andrew: But that’s where we are.
Nick: So how do you get to the point where you start moving that–you were talking about the True Mind process. You start moving the clouded negativity out and let you focus on the stuff you actually enjoy?
Andrew: What I do is I actually sit down with a journal and I write it out. I just will let all the bullshit come–am I cursing too much for your. . .?
Nick: No. We are uncensored.
Andrew: I let it all come out. I say, “Let’s just see what’s in my head. What really is there?” And do it to a place where I just don’t get too embarrassed. It’s a little bit harder now because everything is so connected to the cloud and I don’t trust the cloud. We’re seeing more and more about how things in the cloud are getting breached. I started out journaling on paper and then I moved to digital and it’s hard to go back from digital. My original way of journaling was I would journal on paper then I moved to digital to something that wasn’t cloud-based and that was encrypted.
And that gave me a sense of security. It’s on my machine or on my device. It’s not encrypted and this was before my device was easily accessible. It would be like on an SD card. It’s possible that someone could take it, but less likely. Now it’s hard to resist the–
Nick: The cloud?
Andrew: I haven’t found a really good piece of software for encrypting. The reason I bring all this up is I find that it’s easier to really let the black stuff out of my head when I feel safe, like no one is going to read it. That’s when I give myself permission to really let loose.
Andrew: And if I don’t really let it out, then it becomes bigger in my head. If I do let it out, it always ends up being easier.
Nick: It’s something I’ve been working on too. I read an article talking about Morning Pages. It’s just like you write three pages of just freeform thought, whatever is in your head. I felt myself like censoring at first, like, “I can’t write that down.” And then I’m like, “If I need to get the best out of this, I need to just put everything down there.” And then afterwards I was like, “Wow, I didn’t even realize all this shit was connected in my brain.”
It’s like going back to my childhood. I’m like I didn’t think I had any problems with my childhood and I guess I do because here it is right here on this paper. Do you have like a set day you journal or is it just when you feel the itch for it or. . .?
Andrew: It varies. I’ve journaled for most of my life. There have been times when it was years of daily, then times when it was maybe a year–I haven’t gone a year without. But I journal pretty regularly. I journal regularly. Right now it’s not at all at a specified time. I’m just at a place where I don’t want to journal too much.
Andrew: I’d like to journal more. I just don’t have the time for it now because my calendar is packed. But no. I don’t. In the past, what’s helped me was like running to the gym, showering at the gym, journaling for a little bit and then walking to the office. That’s helped.
Just set your routine up that works for you, right? How do you actually like set a goal? For Mixergy, maybe you have like an upcoming goal. How will you actually decide this is a good goal to go for and it’s not just some–I guess maybe break it down how you break it down.
Andrew: You know what? I have to admit that we aren’t very good at setting goals as a company. We don’t set it often. I don’t set it often for the company. We’ve done a few of that this year with different teams.
I’ll give you an example of how it happened. I sat down at the end of last year, I think, right here at the Hyatt–I like to go to the nicest hotels possible and go work from their lobby. There’s a Hyatt a few blocks away from the office. I went down there with Sachit Gupta, who sells our ads for Mixergy. We just kind of went over what happened all of 2016, and advertising became a significant source of revenue in 2016, largely because he sold it and before he wasn’t, and also because podcasting was starting to take off. So, advertisers were starting to understand it and more people were listening.
So we sat down and we said, “Wow, this actually is unexpectedly high.” Neither one of us realized it was going to be this big. I forget what it was. We said, “How about if we set a goal to get it bigger next year?” So he put it down on a spreadsheet and we worked out how we can get there. He and I had a call yesterday where we were talking about how far along we are on that.
Nick: Okay. You’ve talked a couple times in an interview too about working at like hotel lobbies, like real nice ones or museums or something. Why would you go to do something like that when you have an office?
Andrew: To just shake things up. I love my office. Everything is exactly the way I want it. Not right now because I’m gearing up to get the standup desk. I’m starting to like break things up. But I don’t have that much usually in the office. It’s pretty minimalist.
Usually it’s pretty clean. Today it’s not. There’s a bunch of stuff here. But it’s basically set up exactly as I want it. Everything is exactly in the right spot. This computer here is dedicated to interviews, and when I’m ready to do an interview, all I need to do is just hit a couple of buttons and I’m ready to go and this mic is there to record it. My lights are on this remote control–not a big one, a small one. So I can turn it off once we’re done, turn it on whenever we’re on. If I need to take a quick photo for something, I just turn it on. Boom, so perfect.
I have the receptionist who puts food in my fridge every Monday so that I don’t eat junk food. Because it’s there, I’m much more likely to eat it. If I want junk food, I have to go down 12 flights and then out. So it’s all perfect.
Sometimes the perfect feels a little blah and I need to shake things up. So what I do is at first what I did was I did what everyone else will do. I went to coffee shops and coffee shops are a big distraction. We all go to coffee shops and I think we’re not recognizing how bad it is for our work. Too many people talking, too many food options available too close by and they’re not the inspiring places, I think, they used to be because they’re packed with people. It used to be you go to Starbucks and it’s like, “Wow, this is a third place. Howard Schultz was right. He did create the third place, the one we feel more comfortable in even than the house or the office.” Now it’s the place where everyone feels too comfortable, too many people talking, too many distractions.
So here’s my tip for anyone who’s listening and I’ve done this for years now, it’s fan-freaking-tastic, here’s what you do–go to a hotel lobby and work from there. When I say a hotel, I don’t mean the one that you feel comfortable in because it’s inexpensive and they’re not going to say anything to you. I mean find the most expensive hotel you can possibly find, the most, put all four or five dollar signs on Yelp, go in there and sit in their lobby, no one is going to make you feel uncomfortable. Just sit and work. They have work areas.
People at expensive hotels–if you ever stay at the Hyatt you know that you leave the hotel, you have work to do, you know you can count on the lobby to be there for you. Some hotels are going to require you to buy a cup of coffee. Guess what? You’re going to buy a cup of coffee anyway. You buy the coffee, you sit there all day. You have tons of space. I go to the Fairmont Hotel, it’s like sitting in an opera house, just giant ceilings, really spacious. I get a big table to myself because they have a lot of space there.
And if I ask for coffee, they don’t give me a cup of coffee. They bring me a carafe of coffee, just put it there. Make me comfortable. I want to sit on the couch, there’s a couch right next to the table I’m working on. I slide over to the couch. Everything is taken care of. Need high speed internet? I can hot spot, but they also have high speed internet at the nicest hotels, right? You’re not going to find it at the Best Western’s lobby, and if you do, they’re going to need you to put a password in or something. That’s the way to do it.
Nick: Yeah. It’s kind of nice because I do all my work in the garage. I’ve got the kids and everyone comes in and you were talking about keeping the door closed earlier. So I think that finding like a good dedicated spot once in a while really makes a difference because then you can focus on your work without any distractions.
Andrew: Yeah. Here’s the one downside that I should warn everyone against and I keep falling for this. Everything is freaking expensive there. So I wanted a bagel and coffee yesterday at the hotel I went to. I was in Napa, a beautiful outdoor space. I sat out there, but before I did I wanted coffee and a bagel. Coffee and a bagel was $20. Maybe like $19 and change, but we’re basically looking at $20. Was it a better bagel? No, not at all. It was just a regular bagel. I asked for jalapeno slices on there. They were completely tasteless. It tasted like pickles. So it’s not like they were charging me for the great taste. They were charging me because I’m paying for the atmosphere. You’re basically paying rent.
Nick: Yeah. That’s your rent. Instead of paying x, y, z in electricity, you’re paying in bagels
Andrew: Yeah. Or I think a lot of people have more discipline and more concern around it. They can just buy one cup of coffee and sit there for the day and be totally fine. I think that’s a really important thing to do to get away from the office, get away from the home, go find a good inspiring place to sit and work.
Nick: Yeah. I’ve heard you also say that sometimes thinking just ruins what you’re trying to do.
Nick: How do you realize where you’re actually getting to that part where thinking is interrupting your plans for the future?
I think sometimes I get in this like feedback loop where I don’t realize exactly what’s happening and I’ve been trying to, I guess, take a closer look at myself lately and I can see it more in the past, but in the past I never actually saw it happening at the time.
Andrew: It helps to work with other people and it helps to bring this up with them so they can kind of catch you. There’s someone who said, “Hey, Andrew, why didn’t you post this thing?” And as I responded to her–what was the thing that she wanted me to post?
We’re doing this whole thing around bots and the team is saying, “Hey, Andrew, if we’re doing it around bots, people are going to be confused about where the whole bot thing is coming from unless you start opening up, even on your own Facebook page, tell people what you’re working on with bots, be open about it.”
So I said, “Yeah, I will.” I said, “Look, the problem is I’m not going to do it because I’m going to get carried away with everything else I do. Can someone here help me?” Ari on the team said, “Once a week, I’ll get together with you on a Zoom call, and we’ll talk about what you’re up to and you’ll start to see that stuff comes up that you can post on Facebook and other places.”
And we did it. We had a couple of things this past week–we had a couple of things last week that came up for this week and someone on the team said, “Hey, Andrew, you didn’t post anything. What happened?” I said, “Well. . .” and as I responded I said, “I feel stupid now that I’ve responded. Now that I’m saying it out loud, I realize how stupid that excuse it. It’s an excuse. I’ll take care of it tomorrow.” And I did.
Andrew: It helps that I can say that to them. It helps that we can be that open with each other, otherwise I think it gets worse when you work with people because then you start to make excuses without realizing you’re making excuses or you start to beat up on yourself like, “Dammit, I’ve got to double down here. I’ve got to work harder,” without recognizing what’s keeping you from working harder.
Nick: Exactly. And can you tell me a little bit about what’s up with the beads?
Nick: I saw a video online. And you’re talking about beads and I’ve always seen the beads on your microphone. I don’t know if those were related.
Andrew: The beads on the microphone were–for a long time I thought, “I’d like to have something on here.” When you watch a broadcaster, radio broadcaster, for example, they have a mic, but they’ll often have a logo of their station on the mic, you know? I see some people who are podcasters will do it. I never felt like I want the logo in your face. It never felt like a place for me to stick anything. Then I had these beads, and I realized that’s more representative of me. That’s what I should have on the mic.
It looks kind of plain and naked without any of this stuff on it. Let’s put something. The beads feel good. That feels like me. So, I put it on. The reason it feels like me is we talked about all the junk in our heads. I felt like it was there much more than I ever would have expected. I remember in Santa Monica once when I was trying to date–that’s why I ended up in Santa Monica. I said in New York, I remember going and trying to meet new people there and there was a girl who I was talking to who I didn’t realize I actually was in school with.
She just looked different outside of school than she did in school. I realized this whole city feels big to strangers, but if you grew up in New York the way that I did, you bump into the same people over and over again. You can never escape it. I could never go driving with someone I was dating without it coming back to my parents from someone else. It was so weird.
Andrew: So I went to L.A., Santa Monica specifically and I lived there. I just wasn’t going out as much. I wasn’t talking to as many new people as possible.
I said, “What’s wrong? Do I not know what to say?” I said, “I think what’s happening is I’m filling my head up with junk about what they’re going to do, about how I’m going to fail, about how I’m not going to be the person they’re looking for, whatever it is.” I had this exercise. I eat a lot of vegetables and when you buy produce, they often put a rubber band on the produce. I took one of the rubber bands that came with something, I don’t know, celery. I put it on my wrist and I said, “Every time I have one of these thoughts, I’m just going to move it from one wrist to the other, just like that.”
Andrew: And then move it back. Just be aware when the thoughts happen. I remember specifically crossing the street, Main Street, which actually is a real street in Santa Monica, crossing that street through traffic because I’m still a New Yorker, pissing all the drivers off and moving the rubber band from one side to the other and I realized, “This really happens everywhere. No wonder when it’s time for me to go out, I’m not myself. I’m not talking at my full capacity.”
Andrew: So I realized those counter mind thoughts–that’s what I call them–they’re countering what I really want to do. That part of my head is screwing me up. That’s happening all the time. I said, “What about the part of my head that knows I don’t care who the hell these people are because I’m never going to see them again. How often do I think about that? How often do I think about how everything I do is practice?” I’m a kind of person who will talk stupidly on 50 times just because I know on 51 to 100, I’m going to talk way better than anyone else. My first 50 interviews were me accepting that about myself and just going through it.
How often do I think about that? I don’t think about it when I cross the street against traffic. I don’t think about it. I think about the shitty part of my head. How often do I think about what I really want out of these interactions with people so that I don’t become one of these people who I see in LA who’s still picking women up at 50 and because he has a process, he’s patting himself on the back. That’s not me either. How often do I think about who I want to be as opposed to who I’m worried I’ll become?
Andrew: I realized it doesn’t happen that much. I said, “I need something that will hold me accountable.” When I finally came up with it, this was a while afterwards, maybe even years after that–I went to the supermarket in Santa Monica and there was a woman there, just a really wonderful woman who was selling all this incense, all these beads. She actually doesn’t come from a spiritual point of view on it. She’s just a beautiful person who happens to have really interesting things in her store that you can wear that have some sense of authenticity. I wanted some of that. I wanted to have that look, so I bought a set of beads from her. At the time, I think it was a necklace.
People always remarked on it. They always liked it for some reason. It gave me a sense of cool with some people, not that I was going for it. I guess maybe I was. I was going for whatever atmosphere she had I wanted to have along with me. Then when I moved to Argentina, I happened to have that with me. I said, “You know what? Now that I have some time to think about it, I need something to hold me accountable.”
When it comes to talking about the good part of my head, the part that’s true, the part that I really want, the part that I call the True Mind, I think about it once or twice and I go, “Yeah, I got it.” Then I move on. My counter mind never goes, “Yeah, yeah, you got it. You’re going to be an idiot tonight.”
Nick: It’s there all the time.
Andrew: It keeps going. So I need a way to make sure that I actually do it. So the way that I was going to focus on it was I was going to come up with something that’s true, useful and wanted that I really wanted to spend time thinking about and every time I thought about it I moved a bead and every time I thought about it again, I moved a bead. I didn’t stop until I went all the way around and hit this guru bead, this fat bead again. The first thing that I had was that necklace I bought from the woman in Santa Monica.
It had 108 beads on it because I don’t know what it is, but it has some significance, some religious significance to Buddhists. Think about that. At least once a day, I’d go through 108 repetitions of something that is true, that is useful in my life, something that I really believe but don’t give enough time to. That’s really powerful. That’s what helped me start to focus, not only on the thing I was doing the beads for, I’d pick one True Mind thought, but it also helped me learn how to focus in general.
Andrew: I do these interviews, I actually have now done a few interviews or Skype calls with other people. It’s very hard to stay focused on a conversation when someone is talking to you. It’s very hard when we’re so used to using our phones to not stay in there. I notice their minds shift and they’re wrestling with themselves to stay there. I don’t do that. I’m focused. You can see me in my interviews. I’m here. I’m paying attention. If my mind is wandering it all, it’s to do more research.
Go more in depth on what the person is saying. I wouldn’t have been able to do it without that. So, yes, the beads helped me with the goal I had, but what I found was it was also kind of adding muscles to my focus and that was a tremendous help.
Nick: Okay. I have one last question because I know we’re kind of running out of time here–I guess we haven’t talked about it yet. How do you go about actually planning your days? I know Tuesdays and Thursdays are usually your interview days. Monday, Wednesday, Friday, do you pick when you do x, y, z? Do you have it structured out or is it more like freeform, “I’ve just got to work on whatever needs work on.”
Andrew: I had this interesting realization a while back. The founder of ToutApp, that’s an email app that lets you keep track of whether people opened your email and clicked your links and so on, I’ve known him for years. He got on the phone with me to just pick my brain about something. He’s a friend, so I’m happy to talk him about anything. I’ll talk to him about a mole on his back for an hour because I like the guy so much.
And at the end of the call, he said, “Thank you, that was useful.” I said, “Thanks.” He goes, “You know, by the way, I’ve gotten a lot out of this thing I’m doing. I’m batching all my phone calls with people on one day.” I thought, “Another productivity hack. It’s a distraction.”
Andrew: I don’t know why I dismiss things pretty fast.
Nick: I do the same thing.
Andrew: Thankfully I sat and thought about that a little bit. I realized, “No, that makes sense.” So I started to batch all my phone calls for Thursdays. If we’re going to get on a call, it’s going to be on Thursday, and it’s back to back phone calls with like five minute breaks in between.
And that was so helpful. I started to do the same thing for my interviews where I used to record an interview a day where my goal was to have one interesting conversation every day for the rest of my life. I realized I actually am more productive when I’m batching. If I’m going to sit here, I’m much better having more conversations instead of getting lost in work, then breaking it up with a conversation, going back to getting lost at work and it’s hard to regain that focus. So Tuesdays and Wednesdays became my interview days. Thursday became my phone call day.
Up until recently, Mondays and Fridays would be my out of the office day, go somewhere inspiring, it could be outside, it could be by the pool, it could be anywhere and work from there. Lately I’ve been focused so much on these bots that I’m staying in the office more, which is why I’m getting a stand up, sit down desk and the treadmill.
Nick: Okay. Very cool. Well, thank you very much, Andrew. Do you think there’s anything I missed in this conversation?
Andrew: No. I really liked this conversation a lot. You did your research.
Nick: Thank you very much.
Andrew: You were fantastic. I liked the level of research a lot. I admire it.
Nick: Thank you. You’re actually the third one I’ve interviewed. The other two were family and friends, but I tried to do the same level of research because I want to try to get like real answers, not–it’s easy to say, “How do you set a goal?” and you can say, “X, y, z, I go out and write it on a piece of paper.” But I want to know what some of your goals are in the past and what you’ve done to achieve them.
So I kind of went back through quite a bit of your stuff. Plus I’ve been listening to your podcast for a while and you do let nuggets fly every once in a while.
Andrew: Thanks. I like it. You know what? When I say to people that interviews are not just good for the interviewer and the audience but that the person being interviewed gets a lot out of them, this is the feeling that I think a lot of my interviewees feel. We’ve kind of had like a therapy session where I got to work through some issues.
We’ve had a process where I got to think through out loud why I do things and what we’re doing at work. It allows me to be more aware and frankly if nothing else comes out of it than that, I’m happy to have done this.
Nick: Well, thank you very much. This is great. It’s super helpful for me and I’m sure many other people too.
Andrew: Cool. How are you enjoying interviewing?
Nick: I actually really enjoy it. I really like talking to people, but one of the things I’ve found myself in a rut in is I really don’t have as many friend or go out as much as I need to.
I kind of got in this line of work where I just kept working by myself for quite a few jobs and then I just kind of turned myself into a hermit, not on purpose, it just happened. So, I like doing this because I actually get to talk to people. I like talking to people. So, it’s really fun. It’s really fun to be able to, like you said, pick someone’s brain, where instead at a conversation at dinner, you kind of feel these social obligations where you can’t really go here. I know in your interview with your wife, you talked about how you don’t have those as much as other people or she mentioned that about you.
Andrew: That I don’t have what as much as other people?
Nick: That you will ask about the divorce and just come straight out, where other people will beat around the bush and be like, “Oh, are you okay?” And not really come out with it. But I feel like in a situation like this, I can ask you stuff that’s not inappropriate, but might not be as accessible as if we were in a dinner.
Andrew: That’s the wonderful thing about interviewing. I think people don’t recognize it. if nothing else, the person who’s interviewing and the person who’s being interviewed have a great conversation for an hour.
I’m about to have dinner with the founder of Chatfuel. I know that I can push the conversation so we get a very meaty and useful, only because I’ve done it so much on interviews. It still won’t be as much as you can get if you’re just spending an hour in an interview because at some point, he’s going to want to turn things back to me. He’s going to talk about the food, right?
Andrew: I’m really glad I got to do this. Thanks for having me on.
Nick: Thank you. Have a good one.
Andrew: You too.