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Next, who’s the lawyer that tech startups trust? Scott Edward Walker of Walker Corporate Law. But don’t take my word for it. Check out what Neil Patel, founder of KISSmetrics said about Scott. “Scott is a great lawyer. He is affordable, responds fast, doesn’t charge you for a five minute phone call and always gives great advice.” Walker Corporate Law.
Finally, if your friend wanted to create a store online, which platform would you recommend? I recommend Shopify. Shopify stores look beautiful, and they increase sales. If you know anyone who wants to start a store online, tell them to check out shopify.com.
Andrew: Hey everyone, my name is Andrew Warner. I’m the founder of Mixergy.com, home of the ambitious upstart, yeah.
Tim: I think that introduction is as good as it’s going to get.
Andrew: Tim, you cheat, you lie, you figure out ways to get people on Amazon to vote for you and give you five stars.
Tim: That’s my introduction? That’s a very leading introduction.
Andrew: And I admire the hell out of that. Most people that I see they get really pissed that Tim’s going to say you can have a great body in four hours or work four hours. I just want to know his method. How does he do it? Let me ask you this. How did you get so many five star ratings on Amazon on the day that you launched?
Tim: About a thousand advance copies.
Andrew: You gave away 1,000 advance copies and . . .
Tim: And then I said, if you’ve read the book and you want to leave a review, here’s the link. That’s it.
Andrew: And you encouraged us to give a review.
Tim: Yeah. That’s what every author does.
Andrew: Okay. Let’s get the mike a little bit closer. Would you, if you were in your audience, take the time to go give a review to somebody who’s given away 1,000 books?
Tim: I think if I’ve put out 300 plus posts over four years and if you’ve benefited from those posts and you’ve read the new book and you like the new book, if I say take 30 seconds, if you feel so inclined to leave a review whether you like it or not, I think that you will get a lot of people to leave reviews. It depends on the quality of your concept, period.
Andrew: You think they’re doing it as a way of saying thank you to you.
Tim: They tell me that’s partially why they do it, and also if they’ve seen results from the book.
Andrew: All right.
Tim: When I speak on Sunday, I’ll be showing photographs of people who have lost 170 pounds. I think that if I take someone from morbid obesity where they think they have less than a year to live, and then they can actually spend time with their kids after losing 170 pounds, are they going to spend 30 seconds to leave a review? Absolutely.
I think saying lying and cheating as an introduction is actually extremely unfair of you.
Andrew: Oh, I’m so sorry.
Tim: I don’t know how much alcohol you’ve had.
Andrew: I haven’t had any, and I’m sorry. I was trying to be funny. I’m so sorry. I was trying to mock the comments that were going out there, and it didn’t come off right.
Tim: That’s fine. Continue.
Andrew: Will you forgive me?
Andrew: All right. I’m sorry. Wow. Can you help me recover here by just giving one example of one person who has read the book and has benefited by it? By the way, I’m one of the people who commented. I knew how you got the ratings because I jumped in there when you asked, and I gave that.
Tim: I can appreciate that.
Andrew: I’m still stuttering right here.
Tim: Can I give an example of someone who’s benefited from the book? Well, I just met someone at the bar a few minutes ago who’s lost 25 pounds. I’m not sure if he’s going to raise his hand, but there are many examples. I think that if you go on Twitter at any given point and search for “at T Ferris” you can see status updates.
Since an underpinning of the book is self-tracking, people are reporting that because they want to be held accountable to the goals that they’ve set. Whether it’s gaining mass or losing fat or any number of performance goals, I wouldn’t have spent three years on the book if I didn’t sincerely hope that it would have some effect, some change for people who read it.
It’s certainly not the best place to spend your time if you’re looking to generate income. I think anybody who’s written a book in this audience or anyone who has ever written a book can tell you that, but I think that’s where my Archimedes lever is through books and the blog.
Andrew: Okay. Wow. I’m still feeling awkward about the way I introduced you.
Tim: Because I called you out?
Andrew: I know. Is it especially sensitive because people do take the “I’m going to call Tim out and prove that he’s working four hours and one minute this week.” Is it that people do seem to want to challenge you on your claims a lot?
Tim: No, I wouldn’t say that I’m particularly sensitive, but if someone introduces me that way as if it’s fact which I would say, “Show me your data.” For most people, they certainly won’t have that because I think it’s important to realize . . .
I’ll give you an example. The most controversial chapter in the book was not what I expected to be the most controversial. The most controversial chapter in the book was the “geek to freak” chapter where I say I gained 34 pounds of lean mass over the span of about 28 days. Very controversial, very, very controversial with the numbers and the photographs and everything else.
I think it behooves any critic to ask themselves, given I have four years of experience in social media and I’ve seen the absolute worst that the Internet has to offer, what do I have to gain by lying about something like that? I could sell the book just as well without that chapter.
I hope to, at least, require the standards of my critics that people expect of me, namely, show me your data. But otherwise, I think I’ve grown thicker skin over the past few years, certainly.
I don’t think you last long online unless, perhaps, you have no comments and don’t read any other websites, unless you develop thick skin. It’s very important. I think that more than thick skin it’s recognizing that if you have clear stance on anything, you are going to be attacked.
I remember one of my posts. I do a lot with donorschoose.org. I don’t know if anyone here knows the organization. In this month’s Fast Company, it’s one of the 50 most innovative companies in the world. They help public schools in the U. S., and specifically classrooms that are in very high need areas.
I wrote a post about Donors Choose, and I mentioned that I first met the CEO while we were banging heads on the wrestling mat because we were wrestling partners in high school. I received a letter to my assistant, Amy, who’s in Canada. I’ll be meeting her for the first time next month. It’s four years of working together. I’m very excited about that.
She received an email from someone who said, “Dear Tim. I’m not sure if you realize the wording of your latest post seems to encourage people to partake in violence. You might want to reword your post. Sincerely, so-and-so.” Amy sent it to me. I said, Amy, just reply back and thank him for the input and you’ll pass it on to me.
I didn’t change the post. I received another comment or another email about a week later which was, “I’m not sure you understand. You really need to change the wording on your post.” And I said, aw, just ignore it. The subsequent week this particular guy decided to write mini novels on every one of my Flickr posts, on every one of my blog posts calling me the white horseman to our children and that he was going to deliver me upon Judgment Day.
Tim: Which I thought was a little bit of an overreaction, personally. You have to expect, at least, this is how I frame it for myself, that for every thousand readers you have, one of them is going to be completely bad shit crazy. If you have a million unique visitors, all right, that’s a lot of bad shit crazy people. It’s like a small college campus of lunatics, and you have to be prepared to contend with the fallout from that.
Andrew: Has it ever been tough? It seems like you’re able to brush this off. You heard Ze Frank earlier say that it could be hurtful when you’re doing something that you’re really passionate about to have some stranger even come in and rag on it.
Tim: Oh, I’m sure. It is hurtful, but I think, at least, for me the philosophical operating system that I have now is it doesn’t matter how many people don’t get it, it matters how many people get it. The dissatisfied minority are usually very passive. In other words, they’re not looking to change things in the world or themselves necessarily. The most vocal are typically in that group. What matters is how many people get it and how many people you affect positively.
I remember when the first book came out which for those of you who don’t know before, I was turned down by 26 out of 27 publishers and then the New York Times list the first week out which surprised everybody, no one more so than myself.
I remember my first one star Amazon review from somebody who hadn’t read the book. “My gosh, this guy’s a bull shit artist. Don’t believe it. It’s scamming” and it just went on and on and on. I was like, oh my God, he just mustn’t understand. There must be some misunderstanding.
So I wrote this really long response hitting all of his concerns point by point and he was, “Oh, go f*** yourself.” I was, “Oh no.” My publisher sent me a note. They’re like, yeah, don’t, don’t do that, but it crushed me. Then I remember my dad got in touch with me, and he’s like, Tim, don’t believe it. Don’t listen to what they’re saying. He took it so personally. He tracked every one of the Amazon reviews, and he got so angry.
Yeah. It’s hard not to take it personally, but if you’re going to have any staying power online, like it or not, your reputation and your presence in the world is going to be online. You need to learn to contend with that emotionally, and you need to learn how to function and to thrive in some respect in that type of environment. I think it’s very important.
Andrew: You’re someone who I’ve always seen look confident, and I feel if you could be confident you could do anything. Are you ever at a place where you’re not, where you just feel like I’m not going to be able to do it? I’m not going to be able to pull this off.
Tim: All the time. Absolutely. I think that . . .
Andrew: Do you have an example?
Tim: Second book. This is “The 4-Hour Body.” The pressure externally and certainly internally, meaning from other people, from my publisher, from elsewhere and then from me, myself was incredible. The sophomore act is a very intense pressure cooker, so the expectation that I would be able to make lightning strike twice was unfathomable to me.
It was unlike anything I had ever experienced because the first book really was not expected to do what it did. I mean, it’s in 40 languages, whatever it is now. It sold more than a million copies in the U. S. There was a plan. I tried to set the conditions such that it could be a best seller, but by no stretch of the imagination was it guaranteed. There were very real moments of doubt.
Charlie, who works for me, Charlie Hoehn is here. He’s effectively my director of operations, but he does so many odd jobs that his title is Director of Other. There he is. [applause] Give a hand for Charlie. Charlie has seen me multiple times in imminent meltdown mode because there’s so many factors outside of your control in this particular case when publishing a book.
It becomes important to separate what you can influence from what you can’t influence. Up until the very moment when I saw the book at number one on the New York Times, I really was prepared for the worst and hoping for the best. I think that is a very practical, tandem pairing of mind sets to have.
As an entrepreneur, as a writer when you’re involved in any creative process and certainly entrepreneurship is one of those, to really in detail explore the worst case scenarios. Prepare yourself for contending with those worst case scenarios, but at the same time plan and hope for the best.
Andrew: What would you have done if the second book wouldn’t have made the charts at all?
Tim: I would have cried crocodile tears, put my tail between my legs and scampered off somewhere and regained my strength and then come back all guns blazing to do something else. But you will have failures and whether you view them as that or not, certainly there will be mistakes. In my particular case, I view failure as feedback, but there’s a very particular reason for that.
I was speaking today with a woman who’s faculty at UC-Berkeley, and she manages a summer sports program. She hires volunteers, college students to help these high school students. I learned to view failures feedback through sports. I was at a very young age, no big surprise, extremely hyperactive, and I was also born premature.
I was very small. I was extremely small, abnormally small up until about sixth grade when I grew five inches in one summer and proceeded to beat the crap out of everyone that had bullied me. But prior to that, I was thrown into kiddy wrestling. If you do any sport, certainly in team sports but even more pronounced in individual sports like wrestling, you fail all the time, every single practice. And then you go to a better team, and you get your ass handed to you over and over and over again.
I think that, even for people who are adults, it’s very valuable to diversify your identity so that you can pursue success in, let’s say, sports while at the same time some type of physical training while at the same time pursuing success in your startup so that your self-worth in any given day is not determined by how your startup performs.
Because there’s so many factors outside of your control, you really should have goals in, at least, two areas preferably three just like investing in more than one stock so that you can control your down side. I think it’s very important, coming back to what you brought up about Ze, what he mentioned about the pressure and the creative process. I go through that as well all the time.
Good Lord, this last book almost killed me in more ways than one. You need to be prepared for those dark times and those low periods, and I think the way you do that is by having multiple buckets in which you have vested your identify. If it’s in one, God save you, you are going to go through some extremely dark times, and you may not pull out.
Andrew: Beyond the Tim Ferriss that we know, what are the other buckets? If the Tim Ferriss as we know it is suddenly getting a bad . . .
Tim: As we know him. I would say that most of it is transparent. I talk about most of this. I think that for me it might, at any given time, differ, but let’s say during the writing of the book I had . . . I was writing the book. I had startups I was involved with so I could gauge progress there or lack thereof. Fortunately, it’s been very, so far, so good with startups.
I had the dead lift, which is a particular power lifting movement that I’ve obsessed on to the nth degree. Let’s say one of my startups was doing poorly. The book was stalled. If I added ten pounds to my dead lift on that weight that was a good week. I could pull through it. It was very, very valuable to have those different scores to keep track of.
For every entrepreneur I see who has everything vested in their startup and I do think it’s important to have a lot vested in your startup. If you have everything vested in that startup, it’s actually very precarious, psychological and emotional position to be in. And one when I’m investing or advising a startup, I actively look to see if they have a safety net in the form of some other activity.
Andrew: You know what and still now, I’ve got to ask you for your advice and I’ll tell you why. I’m still thinking about that intro, and I’m not just thinking about the intro. I’m thinking, boy, did I say it to the audience that Wistia is like a spying mechanism instead of it’s a business tool for analytics? God, I love Chris, and now I’ve just done it.
How do you snap yourself out of it? You’re very good at coming up with methodology that we can use. When you get into that mind set, how do you stop it?
Tim: What mindset?
Andrew: The mindset of oh, oh, I just did the wrong thing by Tim, and then, maybe, Chris is now insulted because of what I said about Wistia and blah, blah, blah. It all goes out of my head, and then I can’t find the right follow up question because of it.
Tim: Well, I would say that we all make mistakes. There’s a Dr. Seuss quote, of all people. This is how I segue to Dr. Seuss. I have to bring him up. It’s a Dr. Seuss quote that I think of often which is, “The people who matter, don’t mind, and the people who mind, don’t matter.”
Andrew: All right.
Tim: If you’re with someone, they may be offended by something you say or if you stick your foot in your mouth, like you did earlier or something like that. But if they hold that grudge and they don’t recognize that in themselves they are fallible and they make those types of mistakes. I’ve said some stupid shit on stage, I mean, well beyond what you just did.
Andrew: For example.
Tim: Usually, it’s after I’ve had too much to drink which is why I paced myself earlier. I love alcohol. Who was that?
I find that the people I enjoy spending the most time with and that I learn the most from are also very forgiving of missteps because they make them as well. And they have enough self-awareness to realize that. If I get caught in a “what if” downward spiral, let’s just say, it comes down to the power of practical pessimism, I would say, which is envisioning the worst case scenario, accepting that worst case or knowing how to contend with it and mitigate the consequences of that and then moving on.
Andrew: One of the things I love about you is that you are good at breaking down difficult topics and difficult goals into processes that you can achieve that are repeatable, that you can learn from and fix. I think that way, too, as people who have seen my interviews notice.
And then, I interviewed Seth Godin, and he says basically that Andrew, when you get into that mind set of wanting to systemize everything, you take away the passion from it, and you take away the creativity from it, and you lock yourself in and the people have to live with this into a plan that they could never shine with because they could never come up with new ideas.
Tim: I don’t think that’s entirely true. I think there are a few assumptions in that statement. The first is that if you systematize something you don’t allow people to deviate from it. If I, just to bring up Charlie again, let’s say propose a process for Charlie doing A, B or C. I want Charlie to improve that process. That’s fantastic if he comes up with a better way of doing things or eliminating that task altogether because it’s less important than something else. That’s fantastic.
I think that systematizing or creating process does not have to be a hindrance. I think also in the United States people tend to view constraints as a negative thing. I think constraints can be a wonderfully positive thing. If you have, let’s just say, a routine or process that frees your creativity to be applied to the areas where it can have the greatest leverage.
I don’t need creativity to decide what my morning routine is going to be. If I waste my decision making gasoline on that, less of that resource is available for when I need it, let’s say, writing later in the day to try and synthesize chapter for a book. I think routine and positive constraints . . .
Toyota Manufacturing is a good example of this. It can be very, very positive. Secondly, I would say that when you examine something and analyze it closely enough to try to create sequence or system, I think that allows you to see more magic in that subject than less.
Richard Feynman is one of my heroes. He’s a physicist. He wrote a book called, “Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman”, a fantastic teacher. He came out of Princeton long ago. He talked about understanding the stars. Who has a greater sense of wonder, the person who looks at the stars and says that is a sheet through which the Gods have poked holes, or someone who understands the chemistry and the astrophysics of the stars?
He said, I believe it’s the latter group, and I would agree with him. I think that by knowing more and exploring more, it creates more wonder than it removes.
Andrew: By the way, this is your water. I moved it, by the way.
Tim: Thank you.
Andrew: How do you break a topic down into a process that you can follow up on, that you could repeat?
Tim: Not only is it breaking down the acquisition of a skill into a process, but it’s trying to find the shortest path between A and B. Let’s just say that that is running a hundred miles. So, I’ll be exploring running an ultra marathon at some point this year. I’ve never run even an official 5K, so doing 50K is a bit daunting. How do I go about looking at that type of goal?
The first thing I do is, and this is very easy online. You don’t need to be me. You don’t need to be someone with any special access to do this. You look at first defining who the prototypical ultra endurance runners are, and then you find the best in that group.
So prototypical Bill would be something like six foot two, 150, 140 pounds, someone like Scott Jurek. Scott Jurek has won the Western States 100 race six consecutive times, a hundred mile race with a lot of altitude changes which used to be a horse race. That’s another story.
And then I would talk to the Scott Jureks of the world who are the best in breed, but they fit that particular mold. I would ask them to cite the anomalies. Are there people who are, let’s just say, five foot nine and 230 pounds who run ultra marathons. Identify those people and then talk to them which is not hard to do about their methodology. Ask them if they learned it from someone else, or if they have replicated it with students.
Then from there, a lot of it is borrowing a methodology or a combination of methodologies and then testing it myself to see, much like in Lee Manfacturing, if I can remove steps. What can I remove? The key to an elegant process or an elegant startup or an elegant work chart is having the fewest number of moving pieces necessary to reach a very specific, quantifiable objective that I test.
I look at the effects of, let’s say, stride rate. I look at the effects of forward leaning and pose method versus other methods of training. I look at how 100 meter repeats or 400 meter repeats affect my 10K time trial as opposed to larger steady state running.
Andrew: You’re personal. You’re testing it out on yourself, and you’re saying, this doesn’t work for me, this does.
Andrew: I see.
Tim: If I can replicate it with other people, male and female, in this particular case, then I would say I have codified the process sequence that can be used.
Andrew: What about this? I’ve talked to Noah Kagan of AppSumo, and he shares his ideas all the time. But in private he says, you know what? There are a few marketing ideas I’m not going to tell anyone. You have to believe that those are the ones that are really effective for him. Those are the ones that are taking him from nothing to something that AppSumo is having in sales now. I don’t know how much. If people are hiding those key effective techniques, how do you get at them?
Tim: Well, there are a few things to consider. In the business world it can be very challenging because when you look at revenue generation, many CEOs and rightfully in many cases, look at the market as a finite pie from which they will carve their piece. In many cases, unless they have enough alcohol, they will not divulge certain aspects of how their business runs. And this is oftentimes intellectual property on top of that.
If I approach, let’s just say, an elite runner who realizes immediately upon meeting me, there’s no chance in hell I’m ever going to beat him in any race, they will disclose in many cases how they train, how they perform, particularly if you approach someone who was in the limelight several years ago as opposed to someone who is currently in the limelight.
If I want to learn how to swim, I’m not going to approach Michael Phelps at the peak, the zenith of his fame in the Olympics. I’ll approach someone else, someone like Spitz, I think it was, someone who won several gold medals or several medals a number of Olympics prior. Those people are very generous with their time.
I think that part of the reason is it appears that I have a unique ability to do this because I actually reach out to these people. They’re very responsive. It’s because I ask. That’s it. It doesn’t take much. I’ve been doing this for a long time, well before I was ever an author or ever known.
Andrew: How do you get through to somebody when you’re unknown and you want to basically pick their brain but give them nothing in return? You want them to sit down and tell you what they do well and how they do it.
Tim: I think the way that you do that is number one, never asking to pick their brain.
Andrew: That’s an odd phrase. People think they’re complimenting you when they say, can I pick your brain?
Tim: Can I take you to lunch and engage in an open-ended conversation with no termination point, please? What I would say is you contact them with a very short email. First paragraph indicates who you are. Typically, if I’m contacting . . . at this point in my life it’s a little different.
But many years ago I would contact and say, Dear so-and-so. My name’s Tim Ferriss. You don’t know who I am. This is completely out of left field, but here’s who I am in two sentences and try to throw in some type of credibility indicator, whether that’s, in my case, I’m a student at Princeton University, or I’m writing a piece for XYZ Magazine which is a fantastic way to get in touch with people, just free lance for some type of magazine or publication.
Then, you say, I’ve tried A,B,C,D and E. Indicate that you’re not using them as your personal Google which is infuriating. People go all the time, can you write a hotel in Buenos Aires? Oh my God. I’ve tried. I’m doing my best to achieve X. I’ve tried ABC. I have great respect for you. I understand if you’re too busy to respond, so you give them an easy out. You get more responses.
I understand if you’re too busy to respond, but it would really mean the world to me if you could help me with these two questions, boom, boom, two very short questions or one very short question and then, sincerely so-and-so. It’s not particularly complicated although you’ll notice there are a few threads that I make common in my emails, and it does take practice.
And then, once you do that, I would disagree that they’re not getting anything in return. Let’s say that they respond to that with two answers, however short. I would also say even if your response is two sentences long, it would mean a lot to me. Give that ability. Given them permission to respond in a short email as opposed to saying, oh God, I don’t have time to get back to this.
If they respond, I would say, fantastic, thanks so much. I really appreciate you taking the time. I’ll absolutely do this, and I will let you know how it turns out. And so, if I then send them a before and after, let’s just say, that it’s completely a by-product of their advice, that’s karmic payback. I do believe that you get something back from them.
Certainly being, in many cases, on the opposite end, on the receiving end of those types of emails, if someone actually puts my advice into practice, and I’ve met a number of people since coming to South by Southwest, that’s hugely gratifying for me. That’s why I write these f***ing books that take three years. So, I do think that you can give something back.
Andrew: By using it and showing that you’re valuing it and getting something out of it.
Andrew: You’re good at getting people to open up. What’s your technique? People have seen mine. What’s yours?
Tim: I think that people mirror your behavior in many cases. If I’m open to people, and I allow myself to be vulnerable and I talk about my weaknesses, my insecurities, et cetera, people, I find, reciprocate. I think you also get people to open up by being interested instead of being interesting.
Ask a lot of questions. It seems so rudimentary. In a way South by Southwest in 2007 was really responsible for the tipping point for the four hour work week, and the way I met people was I would ask moderators of panels and different people who were organizing to recommend people I might get along with. Hey, this is what I’m up to. I don’t know what the hell I’m doing. I’m here for the first time. Who do you think I’d actually get along with?
They’d say, hey, you should go talk to that guy over there. I’d walk up and it’d be, let’s say, one engineer with a bunch of other engineers talking. I’d just kind of wander up, and they’d be talking blah, blah, blah, Ruby On Rails, and I’d go, hey, sorry, I have no idea what that means. I’m pretty deep in the ignorance pool at the moment, like what’s Ruby On Rails?
They’d explain it. Okay, cool, thanks. And then I’d be like, hey, do you mind if I eavesdrop? I’ll buy you guys some drinks. Oh, all right. I would ask questions that I generally wanted to know the answer to, and eventually they’d be like, who the hell are you again, like, who are you? Oh yeah, I’m working on my first book for Random House, and I’m here to see if I can learn something about this, this and this.
They’re like, okay, what’s your book about? And then, I would let the conversation develop from there. Asking questions, it’s a real forgotten art, I think, unless you’re [??] maybe although I think that exercise that Ze recommended is fantastic. That’s a great way to learn about social media quickly.
In any case, I think the more you share on one hand and the more you express your vulnerability and talk about your weaknesses, what you’re not good at, the more people will reciprocate and talk.
Andrew: Do you talk publicly about your weaknesses?
Tim: Sure, oh yeah.
Andrew: You’ve got it up on your blog?
Tim: Sure. Yeah. I write about it all the time, like my inability to swim until about two years ago or something like that.
Andrew: Do you talk about it while it’s still a weakness?
Andrew: Or only after you’ve overcome it?
Tim: I’ll talk about both.
Andrew: Really? For example?
Tim: I still can’t shoot a foul shot in basketball. Let’s see. It’s the first one that comes to mind just because it’s so bad. I’m like a monkey with a basketball. I’m so bad at it.
Others that come to mind? I think I have trouble with forgiveness. That would be another one. I’m not very good at that.
Tim: Kidding. I’m kidding. That was pretty good, right? Vengeance. I shall deliver you upon Judgment Day.
I don’t feel like I lose anything by talking about my weaknesses. I don’t feel like that harms me in any way, and in many cases, at least, at this point I don’t think you need 200,000 or a million followers for this. Even if you have a thousand followers, if you’re like, I’m having trouble with this, chances are somebody is going to come out of the woodwork and say, hey, dude, you might want to try this.
I find that there are more benefits to being transparent that way than issues that come along with it. I’m not self-conscious about it.
Andrew: I talked to a guy, Paras Chopra, the guy from Visual Website Optimizer, about how to create great conversion pages. Once he starts pointing out the flaws in the pages that don’t convert, you start to see it everywhere.
Andrew: When you look at business people everywhere, now that you’ve analyzed it, you’ve come up with all these processes, what flaws do you see just across the board and you go, come on guys, this is so basic. Why aren’t you doing it?
Tim: Well, I would view my own productivity still a work in progress. I try not to be too judgmental, but I would say that in terms of, if I look at the most productive CEOs and founders that I know or executives, let’s say, the people whose hourly output is 10, 20x, the vast majority. And then, we compare those to, let’s just say, the average performer or average executive who isn’t average at all if you’re an executive to begin with.
I would say there are a few things that I observe. Most people immediately jump into a reactive work flow. First thing in the morning, inbox. As one billionaire put it to me, email is everyone else’s agenda for my time. So setting aside, at least, an hour, maybe, two hours to focus on your most critical “to do” items which means you have to get them out of the inbox the prior day. It separates people very cleanly. It’s a very clear delineating line.
Secondly, I would say that the . . . I was just talking about this today. The most effective executives I’ve met actually make very few decisions, which is surprising. The reason for that is when they encounter a problem or challenge they immediately classify it into one of two groups.
This is a one oft problem that will never occur again, unlikely or this is a problem that I can define and establish a policy for. And from that point forward, it’s if then.
Andrew: I see.
Tim: If this problem fits in this category, this is how we handle it. Instead of spinning cycles, wasting that creative energy, trying to solve the same problem repeatedly, just a slightly different species, they establish policies and process it.
Andrew: For anything. So even like the awkward moment at the beginning of the interview, it’s going to happen to me again as an interviewer. You would say, look, accept that it’s going to happen again. Come up with a way to deal with it, have the process down. Next time you’re going to be so golden people will think you thought of it on the spot.
Tim: Why not? Yeah. Absolutely. If you do something like a radio interview or a satellite radio tour, for example, for those who don’t know. I like batching tasks. I’m sure some of you realize this, so doing similar tasks all at once, much like you wait for dirty laundry to build up to a certain point before doing your laundry.
In the case of interviews, I would hire a company to organize radio interviews, so I’ll start at, let’s say, 5:00 in the morning, end at 6:00 p.m. and do 40 interviews, and they patch you through from one interview to the next to the next. You’re doing the same God damned interview 40 times. It’s always the same five to ten questions.
Within the first 20 minutes, you have a cheat sheet, and you’re on auto pilot. That’s not to imply that you should be on auto pilot for all of your life because that’s boring, and who wants that? But I think for high stake scenarios, if you can establish a rule that works, of course, you should use it. Absolutely.
Andrew: Let me ask you this. Noah Kagan is the guy who introduced us. Noah Kagan, you’re comfortable with him. You guys are friends with him. I see that a lot of people somehow gravitate and hang out with him. Break it down. What is it about Noah that makes him so comfortable that – this is a little weird, right? But seriously, is he in there? He’s in there somewhere.
Tim: His manly cologne.
Andrew: What is it about him that makes people like you, other entrepreneurs who are hard to get to, Ze Frank, I met through him? What is it about him that makes it so easy for you guys to get to hang out with? And what can the rest of us copy from Noah? How can I steal?
Tim: Burritos, lots of burritos. I would say that with Noah what you see is what you get. If you do something stupid, Noah will tell you it’s stupid. If you do something awesome, he’s going to tell you it’s awesome. If he f***s up, he’ll be the first person to tell you, I totally f***ed that up. I’m really sorry. Let me fix it. I’ll get on it right now, and it’s fixed 30 minutes later.
Andrew: What else? Because what you see is what you get.
Tim: I think that for many people . . . you mentioned people who are hard to get a hold of. I’ll speak from that vantage point. The more people perceive they can benefit from being your friend, the more false friends you have around you. And that’s a shitty, shitty experience. This is almost, without a doubt, far more than the haters online. That’s whatever, but the fake friends who are really smart, that is crippling. It is so, so difficult and really heartbreaking a lot of the time when you realize ulterior motives.
With someone like Noah, because he is so transparent and honest about what he’s thinking and direct about it, not necessarily in an abrasive way although he has that quality as well, as do I, I think. I value him as a friend because he is an extremely good source of feedback, positive and negative.
I know that if I ever got to the point, and I try not to but if my head got too big and I was like, my shit doesn’t stink, he’d be like, dude, your shit’s the worst. Let me tell you why, and you bring me back down to earth. Aside from what I would consider the obvious, I mean, he’s a very smart guy. He’s a very capable entrepreneur.
Tim: Very excited to be creative. He’s excited about what he does, but he’s very honest. I think that the higher up you go, the more people value someone who will give them the bad with the good.
Has anyone seen that Seinfeld episode with Costanza when he tries to be the opposite of everything he’s ever done. He’s like, I’m fat, bald, live with my mother. And the girl’s like, so, when are we going out? He goes to Steinbrenner, and he goes like, yeah, I hate the Yankees. I think you’re doing a shitty job. He’s like, I like that Costanza. He’s an honest man. I think there’s some truth to that.
Andrew: I want to wrap it up here, but I’ve got to ask you this. I didn’t think that we’d get you to come here today because you just did the big book tour. You’re now number one on the New York Times best seller list. You don’t have anything new to promote. Why did you say yes?
Tim: Because I owe a lot to South by Southwest for giving me my first opportunity to speak here in 2007, and I owe everything to my readers and my fans. I wouldn’t have a writing career if it weren’t for them. I wouldn’t have the opportunities that I have now if it weren’t for them. This is the least I can do is to get up here and hopefully answer some questions that end up being of value.
It’s fun for me, also, but I have to do this. I can’t imagine not doing this for people who have given me so much. It’s that easy. So thank you.
Andrew: Thank you. Thanks a lot, Tim.