Andrew: Hey there, freedom fighters. My name is Andrew Warner. I’m the founder of Mixergy.com, home of the ambitious upstart. And this is my second interview with Tucker Max. The first time that I had him on, I frankly was interested in him because I liked his books. I liked his personality. But I had no sense of just what was going on behind the business of being Tucker Max. In fact, I didn’t know there was a business of being Tucker Max.
I just came at the interview with this perception that writers are, well, one way. They’re people who sit and think and they don’t really have much else going on. And then I discovered that this guy, frankly, in a Jay-Z sort of way he was a businessman. I invited him here to talk a little bit more about how he turned himself–this is such a bad intro, Tucker. This is the worst.
Why don’t I just say Tucker Max is now the founder of Book in a Box, writing and publishing as a service? Their team will take your ideas and words and turn them into a published book without you ever having to touch the keyboard. I’m just going to leave the intro right there.
Andrew: Good to have you here.
Tucker: Thank you, man. Thanks for having me back.
Andrew: Hey, before we started, we talked about all the good things that came your way as a result of being an author. How much were you paid per speech?
Tucker: At my peak I was making like $25,000 a speech, probably doing 10 to 20 a year at colleges. It wasn’t even a real speech. I would just get on stage with a mic and make fun of college kids for an hour and make them laugh and they loved it.
Andrew: And you got to meet all kinds of people. What kind of people did you get to meet?
Tucker: I’ve had so many unusual people who are fans of my books. I know so many Navy SEAL types. The people who like killed Bin Laden, like I know some of those guys. I’m a big fan of “Deadliest Catch” and those guys were fans of my book. I got to go to the Bering Strait and ride on the Time Bandit like in the Bering Strait. It was nuts. You can’t even pay for that. I’ve gotten to fly private jets with like John Calipari, who’s a good friend of mine now. Go down the list. I’ve met and hung out with all kinds of cool people just because they liked my books.
Andrew: What about dollars and cents? On this computer here, I’ve got an old Huffington Post article about how much you were offered by a major publishing company, I think for your second book, was it?
Tucker: Third book.
Andrew: How much were they offering for your third book?
Tucker: $2 million.
Andrew: $2 million. You rejected it because instead what did you want to do?
Tucker: I’m not the first person to ever do this. I know Mark Twain did it. I think I’m the first author in relatively recent times to do this. Instead of essentially selling the intellectual property of my book to a publisher and letting them capture the upside and me taking a small percentage. I went the other way around and I negotiated what’s called a distribution deal.
Most authors go and they sign a contract and they get a big advance and then they get a small percentage of royalties and the royalties go against the advance and most of them never make anything more than that first check. I instead went to them and said, “I am not an author anymore. I am now a publishing company. You’re going to give me the same deal you gave your publishing companies, you as a distributor.” So, there are only about 10 or 11 distributors and there’s, let’s say, 100 to 200 publishing companies.
So, for example, Harvard University Press, they don’t have trucks and warehouses and relationships with Barnes & Noble. They use Simon & Schuster. So, I basically said, “You have to treat me like Harvard University Press.” And they did. So, it was no up-front advance. I went from 15 percent royalty to 89 percent of net receipts, which in effect tripled my take home.
Andrew: So, at the end of the day, did you get three times the $2 million that they offered you?
Tucker: Yeah. I made about three times what I would have made on that book. Yeah. Exactly. Now, of course, I have to pay the–there are a lot of responsibilities and things you have to do. That’s the reason why publishers exist. They used to do all the work that authors didn’t want to do. That’s why those companies sort of existed. So, I had to do a lot of work and it cost me a lot of money to do all that stuff. So, I ended up making a little bit less, but I ended up making quite a bit more than if I had just gone the normal route.
Andrew: Book in a Box is your company where you’re helping other people publish books. I’ll be honest with you. I had first said, “I think it’s too soon to have Book in a Box on Mixergy. But I really like Tucker Max. He’s a good storyteller. He’ll make it work. And then I saw in your notes from Jeremy Weisz our producer here what kind of revenues you guys are pulling in. I usually like to save that for later on in the interview. Well, why don’t we start with that now? Where are you guys now?
Tucker: We’ve passed $1 million in sales. We passed like three weeks ago, I think, $1 million in sales. I think this calendar year we’ll definitely pass $2 million. We’ve got an outside shot at hitting $3 million this calendar year.
Andrew: $1 million meaning people committed to paying you that much to publish their books. They just haven’t paid it yet.
Tucker: No, they’ve paid.
Andrew: They paid?
Tucker: Dude, I’m not playing funny math like unrealized rate of return nonsense. I’m talking about money in the bank.
Andrew: How old is this company?
Tucker: We started in August of last year. We’re going to be a year old probably by the time this interview goes out.
Andrew: Unbelievable. I couldn’t believe that you did so well before you fully officially launched, I think. Alright. Let’s get into where this idea came from. Some woman came to you and said what?
Tucker: So, I was at an entrepreneur dinner. It was a lot like the dinners that you host at your place. This woman comes up to me and she’s like, “You’re the publishing writer guy, right?” I said, “Yeah, you know. What can I do for you?” She’s in pop-up retail and she basically is one of the innovators and inventors in that space. She has all this knowledge and wisdom that she’s accumulated.
She’s like, “I’m very expensive. Most people can’t afford me. Everyone’s been telling me to write a book about what I do for ten years. And I don’t have the time to sit down and write. My time is too valuable.” Plus, she’s like, “I looked at publishing and the whole thing is a mess. I don’t want to deal with it. It’s a mess.” She’s like, “How can I get my ideas into a book without having to go through this?” So, I kind of looked at her and I was like, “Are you asking me how to write a book without writing?” And she’s like, “Yeah, kind of.”
So, she was like very enthusiastic. I normally hate the elitist, snobbish literary types. I hate to admit it, but I really kind of went to that space. I started basically, very sort of subtly, subtly for me, which means very direct for most people, like making fun of her for thinking that you could write a book without writing it and starting to really condescendingly lecture her about hard work, like as if she doesn’t know. This woman has done way more than me in business.
So, she stops me and she’s like, “Tucker, are you an entrepreneur?” And I’m like, “Yeah, I’d like to think I am.” And she’s like, “I am an entrepreneur. I spend all day helping people solve problems. Are you going to help me solve my problem or just lecture me about hard work?” It was such a devastating, gut punch because she was so 100 percent right and I realized–you know like when someone crystallizes, like I realized on a visceral level that I was being that douche that I hate and make fun of and I was being that guy.
So, I was, of course, mortified in the moment and I couldn’t really think of anything other than what an idiot I was. Then of course I became obsessed with her idea, like how do I get a book out of her without her writing it? Long, long story short, I eventually broke everything down. I had to essentially think laterally.
I just read Shane Snow’s book “Smartcuts,” thank god. I kept spinning in circles not getting anywhere. So, I started thinking laterally, like breaking everything down to its constituent parts and thinking, “What is the point of a book?” I kind of realized obviously the point of a book, nonfiction, is to take information and knowledge and wisdom out of one head and get it to others.
What was I reading? I can’t remember. I was reading some book. Someone was talking about Socrates. I was like, “Wait a minute, Socrates never wrote a fucking word in his life and yet here I am wondering how to get wisdom into a book.” It’s like it all came at once. I was like, “Of course, let’s have her record what she’s going to say.” But the problem is, there are people who do that, like, “Oh, 30-minute book. Let me interview you and turn it into a book.” An audio transcript is not a book. It doesn’t read well. It’s not organized. It’s very disjointed.
So, I basically called up this guy who used to work for me or do projects with me, Zach O’Brien and I said, “I’ve got this idea for this woman. We’re going to test it out if you want to work with me. I don’t think it’s going to work, but I’ll tell you what to do and you do it and let’s see where it goes.” And he’s like, “Alright.” So, I called up Melissa and I said, “Listen, if I told you you could spend 12 hours on the phone and that’s it and then we’ll deliver a book to you in five months, would you be down?” And she’s like, “I’m in.” We cut a check and we started. It took–
Andrew: And she was your first customer.
Tucker: First client. Yeah. Her books ended up doing amazing. The book’s only sold 500 to 1,000 copies, something like that, but because of her book, she’s booked like three keynotes and retail conferences and she just signed a multi-year, multi-million dollar consulting fee with the second or third largest mall company in the world. She does pop-up retail, so like all their mall kiosks.
Andrew: I see it. It’s “The Pop-Up Paradigm.”
Tucker: Right. All their mall kiosks she’s going to redo or something like that. I don’t know anything about pop-up retail. I have no idea how it works. But it has blown her business up.
Andrew: She sold a half-million copies of this book?
Tucker: No, no, no, she sold 500 to 1,000. I mean 500 copies.
Andrew: Got it.
Tucker: Very, very few. We got really lucky. She’s our perfect client. She’s an established professional in a niche that has very little true originality or true innovative thinking. It has a lot of it, but it has very few people writing about it.
Andrew: What’s the point of her writing the book if only 500 people will do it? She can write an eBook and more people will download it. She’s not getting $25,000 a speech. She’s not getting to meet the people from “Deadliest Catch.” She’s not getting all that other stuff.
Tucker: No, but she gets to hang out with Marc Jacobs and Shaquille O’Neal. She gets her equivalent.
Andrew: Because of this book.
Tucker: Yes, because of the book. Well, no, because she had the knowledge and wisdom first. She knew what she was talking about first. And then we helped her translate her knowledge and wisdom into a book where other people could see it and read it and that’s how she got everything from it. Here’s the thing with retail. High level retail, there are maybe 5,000 decision makers in the world, probably.
So her book is only going to be bought by people who really care about retail and really care about these sorts of issues. But guess what? Those are exactly the thought leaders that she needs to influence or the people she needs to influence to be seen as a thought leader in her space. She’s the perfect client because now she doesn’t have to promote the book. She doesn’t have to whatever. She’s the woman who wrote the book about pop-up retail. Anyone in retail, if you Google pop-up retail, she’s the one that comes up and she’s the name to it.
Andrew: I’m going to do it right now.
Tucker: That’s funny. I didn’t actually even realize this. Do you know what the third biggest search engine online is? One is Google. Two is YouTube. Do you know what three is?
Andrew: Could it be Amazon?
Tucker: Yeah. It is. And Amazon is actually the number one search engine for professionals. Think about it. I was just in the process of hiring a tax lawyer, right? I have no idea how to differentiate between tax lawyers, except like, “Oh, he represents this person I know. He represents this person I know.” But there’s literally one in Austin who has a book and it’s exactly about what I need a tax lawyer for. I didn’t even buy the book. I just looked at it on Amazon, set up a meeting and that’s my lawyer now.
Andrew: It seems like this is something you’ve been thinking about for a while, that company you created when you didn’t want to go to a publisher. You instead wanted to be a publisher. It was called Tropaion Publishing.
Tucker: Yeah, Tropaion.
Andrew: Tropaion. I was looking it up on Dictionary.com.
Tucker: It’s Latin.
Andrew: Let me see. They misled me. Listen. Tropaion.
Tucker: It’s Latin.
Andrew: What does it mean?
Tucker: It’s kind of a stupid thing. I love old military historical fiction. Basically there were some honors that you could only earn as a Roman general. One of the big, big ones was if you killed your opposing general, you could take his armor off in the field. Yourself, if you killed him, you could take his armor off and create what’s called a Tropaion, which is you put three spears in the ground, like two diagonal and one across and you hang his armor from it and it was considered one of the greatest trophies that any Roman general could ever get.
Andrew: I see. You wanted to take off their–
Tucker: I wanted to take the armor off of the publishing business.
Andrew: Got it. You did okay with it and then you sold the company. Why did you sell it?
Tucker: Because the way I had structured that company, I essentially thought it would be–we would be the services company for big authors like Janet Evanovich or whatever. I thought every big author would want to do what I did. I made the classic mistake of assuming that everyone is like me and no one is like me. So also, I realized even if they had wanted to do that, that business would essentially be babysitting. I would have to deal with very rich, very famous authors who are a huge pain in the ass and it would be like a client service business. I’d essentially be selling my time. That’s sort of the worst business you could be in.
Andrew: That explains why even this article, you basically had a disclaimer at the top that says, “This is only for major authors.” And at the bottom you said, “If you are a major author and only if you are a major author, this will work for you and you should contact me.” So, your thinking was still at the time, “I want to take away the power of these big publishers,” but only for big authors. The shift with Melissa Gonzalez happened later in life when you said, “I could take other people.”
Tucker: Well, so, it’s not that I was only trying to do it for big authors. It’s that self-publishing already existed then. If you were a smaller author, you didn’t need me. You could just go do it yourself. So, I sold that company because I just didn’t want to be in that business. Quite honestly, once I built it, I realized I was just rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. I was not actually building anything new. I was not actually unlocking a new category of value. I was just making rich people richer, which is like okay, there’s nothing necessarily wrong with that. But all I have is my time. That’s not how I wanted to spend my time.
So, what we stumbled upon–there were two years between these two companies. So, it’s not like it was a seamless transition. I had to stumble around in the dark for a long time. I think what we’re doing now is fundamentally different–in fact, I know it is–fundamentally different than what we were doing before. What I was doing before was essentially trying to make a broken system work a little bit better for rich people. Now I think we’re building a new one.
Andrew: Why do you care about books? I’m looking at BART on my way into work today. There are a handful of people reading books on Kindle. But most people seem to be playing casual games on their phones or checking out Instagram. Why do you care?
Tucker: On a deep emotional level, I care about books because I think that books are what, in a lot of ways–I don’t want to say books raised me, like some melodramatic nonsense. I didn’t have parents who were very good at teaching me or giving me a lot of knowledge. So, I had to go learn on my own. And if you’re willing to dive into books and read widely, you can find almost anything you need in there, at least the structure and the framework.
Most things you still kind of have to learn experientially, but books could shorten your learning curve stochastically in so many different areas and can give you a framework in which to understand and interpret your experiences. And if you have great parents or great people around you to teach you this stuff, you don’t need books. But not all of us had that.
So, on a deep, emotional level, that’s why books–you can look around my apartment, man. There are thousands and thousands of books. That’s why books have always mattered to me. I’ve always been a reader, etc. I think books as a business appealed to me because it is this weird overlap of an extremely and culturally influential niche but also extraordinarily an antiquated and poorly run business model. So, it’s perfectly ripe for disruption. It took me 10 years of dicking around and being an idiot until I found something that actually worked for everybody involved.
Andrew: You were mentioning something about your parents. You told Jeremy that your mom was a bad parent. You actually said it just like that.
Tucker: She was.
Andrew: What made her a bad parent?
Tucker: So, being a bad parent is obviously distinct from being a bad person. I don’t think my mom was a bad person. She was just very bad at being a parent. That means that she–the core, I think, core job of a parent is making a child feel unconditionally loved and accepted and cared for.
And my mom, she was a baby boomer and she’s like an iconic boomer, just like the dumbest generation of narcissists that ever lived, that whole generation. Some of them are great, but most of them are just so self-centered and so narcissistic, almost to the point where they don’t understand it themselves. I used to really be resentful towards her for how she was as a parent and now I honestly just feel sad for myself but mostly for her because being dumb and selfish and narcissistic is no way to go through life.
Andrew: What do you mean? You told them something about taxes. What would she do around taxes?
Tucker: Oh yeah. So, my mother and father were divorced when I was very little, about a year and a half old. My mom did not deal well with sort of being a single parent. I get it. It’s a very hard thing. But she just didn’t handle it well. So, her relationship with me was very much like friends or roommates, like she would lean on me for emotional support. Like a ten-year old, that’s ridiculous.
I told Jeremy a story about how when I was 12, I basically learned how to file tax returns because my mom, she was having a break down or something and couldn’t deal with it. I just kind of figured it out. It’s not like I was doing sophisticated tax shelters and K-1s and nothing like that.
Andrew: You were filing the EZ form.
Tucker: Exactly, like the EZ form.
Tucker: I don’t think that existed, but same idea. I was doing the basics of it. I knew how to cook. I cooked myself meals, everything from mac and cheese and hot dogs all the way up through to turkey tetrazzini or anything else. I could cook for myself when I was very little. I had to be very independent at a very young age because my mom was not very good at sort of providing those sorts of things.
Andrew: How did you even learn how to cook? I’m learning how to cook now. It’s not easy.
Tucker: Man, when you don’t have an option, you just figure it out.
Andrew: When you don’t have an option, you end up with frozen meals.
Tucker: We didn’t have a lot of money either. So we weren’t dirt poor. It wasn’t terrible like that. But it was definitely not a situation where we had money. My mom, she was not stupid. She had like nice things around the house or decent food. She would buy good food. She wasn’t like, “Oh, here’s your Hungry Man dinner.” But she’d be working late or whatever. I’d be hungry and it’s like what do you do? You either cook or you starve.
Andrew: What does it say about you instead of even eating the raw vegetables? What is it about your personality? I feel like there’s something to it. A lot of adults who struggle with taxes just don’t pay it.
Tucker: Yeah. I don’t know. That’s a good question. You know, it’s funny. I’ll tell you a very specific story that I think might exemplify this point. Ryan Holiday could tell you this story too. I was with him and his girlfriend and my girlfriend at the time. We were in New Orleans and we went out gator hunting, like on the Bayou, right? It was sort of cold out. So, there weren’t a lot of gators out.
There was one maybe like three and half, four-foot gator, three-foot. It was not four. It was swimming along the guide is kind of swaying around. He was in the back of the boat. He put the front of the boat up and he ran to the front and tried to get it. The boat kind of drifted away. I said, “Here, I’ll get to the front. You guide us in and I’ll pull it out.” And he kind of starts laughing.
So, I get to the front and he puts it up and I reach in and I grab the gator out and Ryan took a picture. I don’t know if it’s on my Instagram. I think it’s on my Facebook. I pulled the thing out and the guide, he had chew in his mouth. The chew like fell out of his mouth. He like ran to the front of the boat, grabbed the gator from me. I’m like smiling holding the thing. Those things are pretty strong.
Even three feet, you think it’s not big, that thing is strong. He grabs me and he’s like, “What are you doing?” I’m like, “What do you mean what am I doing?” He’s like, “Why did you reach in the water and grab the gator out?” I said, “Well, you were going to do that, right?” And he’s like, “Yeah, but I’ve been living here for 35 years.” And I’m like, “Well, if you could do it, why can’t I do it?” And then of course, everyone in the boat starts laughing. It was an honest question for me. If he can do it, then so can I, right?
And I think I looked at cooking the same way. I’ve seen my mom cook. I know people can cook. Why can’t I cook? Of course I can cook. I’ll just figure it out.
Andrew: And that’s just an innate part of who you are?
Tucker: I don’t know if it’s innate.
Andrew: That’s impressive.
Tucker: I don’t know, man. I don’t know. I’ve always expected if someone could do it, then I could do it too.
Andrew: You know, the other thing that I noticed about your personality and I was struggling about whether I should bring it up or not because it’s a personal thing. But I’m sitting next to your wife at a dinner. I like you more because of her after having gotten to know her.
Tucker: She’s great.
Andrew: She really is.
Tucker: I’m happy she married me.
Andrew: Frankly, after some of what I’ve read that you’d written, I would have thought you would never marry or married some idiot who just looked great. But she’s incredibly bright and easy to talk to. One of the things she said was you guys had this really deep conversation about her family and I won’t say what she said about but that you drew her out and allowed her to have that. How do you do that? How do draw people out in personal conversations and why do you do that?
Tucker: You know, I’m not trying to pitch a course or you, but I think I learned a lot of those lessons from you. The first interview that you did of me was so good, I’ve watched it three or four times to figure out how the hell did this guy get me to talk about things that–it’s not that I was unwilling to talk about it, but no one had ever really brought it up or brought it out before. So, that and I took your Interview Your Heroes course. Part of the reason I took that course was to help us build Book in a Box because we use an interview process to get the wisdom out of authors.
Also because I’ve always been interested in trying to understand people. The thing I think that I do that not a lot of people do that’s so basic and easy is that I’m always willing to ask why–the why question–and then go into an awkward place, not like make some awkward observation, like, “Oh, I bet your mom was a piece of shit or something,” but just more like keep asking why and keep asking why and then even when you get awkward or it gets a little bit whatever, I just stay pretty emotionally even keeled or even like I’ll share something of my own thing.
I have no problem sharing vulnerable stuff. Obviously I wrote four books about pooping myself in a hotel lobby and all kinds of other awful things that I did to myself and other people. So, I have no problem with that. So, as you well know, if you share a little bit of yourself, people are almost forced to open up back to you. If you give them space to talk and you give them space to be vulnerable and you keep asking why and why and why and why, you’re eventually going to get to places that even a lot of them haven’t ever thought about themselves.
Andrew: For me, I learned to have really deep conversations when I forced myself to go out and start dating. And I just forced myself to have conversations with strangers without any of the evaluation of them that I instinctively would have. I learned through therapy that I was very judgmental and I couldn’t just relax and bring in the moment. If someone would bring up something like a suicide in the family, I would talk about it.
Like you said, it’s an awkward thing to talk about, but they just brought it up and no one else is going to and they’re yearning for a conversation. I bring it up and I just let them talk, no judgment and keep on going. I only bring my own stuff in because for a while I realized if I don’t say anything personal about myself, it feels really tough for the other person. You called it, like an emotional vampire. They feel like I’ve been an emotional vampire, just sucking away their stuff. So, I share. For me, it’s because I want to get deep with the person. Why is it for you? Why did you have to allow her to get into that place where she could talk about her family and vulnerability?
Tucker: Yeah. So I’m not sure this is a strength of mine. But it’s something I did. Obviously we’re married now. But between the time I met her and maybe about two or three years previous, I had started to realize, “Okay, I really want a wife. I want a serious relationship that can develop into other things.”
So, I very much knew the type of woman I wanted. But there’s nothing more annoying to me then like, “Oh, what does she think? I don’t know what does she think. I’m going to talk about it with five other people instead of asking her.” I like being very direct. I also like figuring out quickly who someone is, especially someone that I might like.
So, I liked her obviously and if I like you, especially as a woman, if I’m really into you, it sounds ridiculous but it’s really kind of what I would do is I would essentially find the weak spot and just hammer it for 45 minutes.
Andrew: What do you mean?
Tucker: I don’t mean like aggressively. I mean like what is she not understanding about herself or not seeing about herself or what is she uncomfortable about and why. Let’s figure that out. Let’s see how she responds to that and how she deals with that.
Andrew: Do you have a specific example? I think it’s easier to understand through that.
Tucker: Yeah. Like, I talk about this. The example of my wife is a perfect thing. So, when I met her, her father had died a year before we had met. She had a lot of unresolved issues surrounding that. So, like, listen, I’m not so genius that I can look at her and know everything about her, of course not. But all I did was essentially keep asking her questions, like, “How do you feel about that? Why do you feel that way? Why do you feel that?” I just kept asking those questions until it got to the point where she was like–I could tell she was visibly agitated.
Most people, when you get below the sort of rationalizations, everyone tells themselves lies and rationalizations to cover up some sort of pain or issue that they’re hiding from. So, even people that are really well-adjusted to that. But everyone does that to some extent. So, I was trying to find that level and then see what’s beneath it and how she reacts.
That’s an extremely important piece of information about who this person is and how she is like as a partner and what her–not just weak parts are but what her strengths are and how well she understands herself. So, she was very uncomfortable that night. Obviously, she basically just–I don’t want to say she ran away. But after about 30 minutes of this, she kind of didn’t want to talk to me anymore. Long story short, we ended up going on a second date.
Andrew: Why? First of all, are the questions really as continuous as it sounds like right now?
Andrew: It’s just constant questions. So, why this, why that?
Tucker: It wasn’t like a three-year old child or anything, but it was very directed. It was very like–you actually said it. I could tell if she had said, “I don’t’ want to talk about this or we need to change the subject.” It’s not like I would have been like, “No, we’re going to have to talk about it.” But like most people, she was hiding from an issue but also wanting to bring it up.
Tucker: Most people, whatever their pain or their issues are, they don’t want to bring it up but they also do, sort of like a conflict. I gave her space and she got really deep into it but it got so deep it became uncomfortable. Like after a couple days, we went back and forth on email, a few texts, whatever. She agreed to go on a second date with me.
I knew I liked her, but I wasn’t sure about her yet. You push someone hard and you’re not always sure what’s going to come back. But I liked her enough that I wanted a second date. We went on a second date and the first 30 minutes of the second date were a little bit stiff and awkward. I could tell there was something she wanted to talk about, but I wasn’t sure what it was. So, I kind of gave her space.
Maybe after the second glass of wine, she’s like I wanted to tell you something. And she’s like, “The conversation we had last week was very difficult for me, but the conversation brought up a lot of things that I’d been hiding from and I knew but I didn’t want to admit.” She’s like, “I’m going to start therapy to deal with those things and I know you’re in therapy. I was wondering if you can recommend some good therapists to see.”
Dude, I was fucking flabbergasted. No one does that. No one. Years, thousands of women I’d dealt with in one form or another and I’ve maybe met four women in my life who were that emotionally put together and strong. God knows I wasn’t that emotionally strong even a few years before this.
Andrew: I was going to say pushing, but it’s not pushing, it’s digging. People will signal what they want, but they don’t say it at first and you need to give them space to go deep with you. I got to read the Google Docs that you guys put together for Book in a Box that you used to draw out authors. One of the things you say is–actually, the best example of that comes from a surgeon who came to you and said what he was trying to do was write a book that showed how surgery was a metaphor for life. That’s that front that people put up. You guys do what with that?
Tucker: Well, it’s nonsense because no one cares. No one is going to read a book about how surgery is a metaphor for life. He’s one of the guys that really helped us nail our process. It’s really refined now. But what we do is we figure out what’s your goal.
So, with him, his goal was to be an influencer in the medical community, specifically in the surgical community. He had like a surgical consulting firm he wanted to be known for and drive business to and he wanted to be a thought leader. So, it was like, “Okay, what audience do you have to hit to reach that goal?” Quite clearly, surgeons and other people in the medical community, that was his audience.
So, we had one question then. What wisdom do you have or knowledge do you have that’s valuable to that audience that they don’t know? Clearly, surgery is a metaphor for life–no one cares. Even surgeons don’t care, right? So, he thought about it for a while. He said a few other things that were kind of nonsense. Then he said something about med school teaching doctors careers. We said, “Tell us about that.” He went on a 20-minute rant.
I didn’t even know this. Apparently, med schools don’t teach doctors anything about how to run their career, like nothing, nothing at all about the various options available to them, especially a surgeon has a very specific, like three specific career paths that are available and then which one you pick depends on a lot of factors and each one is run differently and all this stuff.
Andrew: And they don’t teach you anything about that?
Tucker: They don’t teach you anything about it in med school. So, he like went on this rant about how ridiculous this is. We’re like, “That’s your book.” He’s like, “But that won’t even sell. There are only like 5,000 near surgeons a year. That’s the limit that book will sell.” We’re like, “So what? Every single new surgeon for eternity is going to buy your book and you are now going to be the granddaddy of surgical careers, which by the way, makes you a thought leader with who?” He said, “Oh, yeah, surgeons.”
So many people don’t understand. That’s really what’s called book positioning, understanding what your goal is, what audience you need to reach to hit that goal and what you have to say that that audience will find valuable. So, we kind of have broken that down into a systematic set of questions. That’s how we get that out of people. I have a hard time explaining this the way we message. Our process, I think, actually creates better books. It doesn’t just help you turn your wisdom into a book in 12 hours. It actually creates a better book than 95 percent of people would write.
Andrew: Why? If he can’t sit down and write the book and you guys are doing his homework for him, is it really a better book or is it just like ersatz intellectualism, where he’s paying you guys to be smart for him because he’s not smart enough to write a book?
Tucker: That’s the thing, though. We’re not writing the book. Once we had that structure down, then it was just like, “Okay, what are the three surgical careers and then what do you have to know in each one? What are some overview, thoughts, whatever? Then from the outline, we have one of our editors interview him off the outline.
We can’t do research on this because none of us are surgeons. We wouldn’t know anything. He already knows everything. This dude has been 30 years a surgeon. He’s had three career paths. He knows it all. So, he didn’t even really have to research. All he had to do was talk about what he already knew by heart and the book ended up amazing, at least if you’re a surgeon starting off on your career. It’s amazing.
Andrew: You know what? Is this something you guys meant to publish online? I was doing a deep search on your site and I see the outline for “The Unwritten Rules of Surgery: Everything You Didn’t Learn in Residency.” David’s story.
Andrew: What’s the pain of not reading this book, etc.?
Tucker: No. It’s on Book in a Box?
Andrew: Yeah. I’ll put it in the Skype chat. I like to deep dive into people’s sites to see what I can figure out.
Tucker: Yeah. We probably put that up and sent it as a link to someone so they could see the outline. It’s not like some secret thing.
Andrew: No, there’s nothing especially embarrassing. I was hoping there would be. But it seems like it’s fine.
Andrew: Alright. So, I see the process. I see as you guys developed it. What about getting customers? The first set of customers, did they come in from that LinkedIn article I saw?
Tucker: Yeah, that was not the first. The first was so funny, man. We started Melissa’s book–we knew we had something that was going to work in August of 2014. I was already scheduled to go on Lewis Howes’ podcast to talk about some other stuff. So, I went on his podcast and Lewis, as you know, is dyslexic. You might not know, but he dyslexic.
He was talking on his podcast about his book and the problems he was having writing it. I said, “Oh, dude, it’s funny you mentioned that. I have this new service that I think I might start offering.” We hadn’t even named it. We thought we would call it like Book as a Business Card or something back then, something really stupid. In the moment essentially I was like, “We call it Book in a Box.”
I just talked about what we did. It was pretty vague in that interview. It wasn’t nailed down the way it is now. We sold, I think, six or eight packages off of that podcast alone, like people paying $10,000 or $15,000 apiece. I think we were charging $10,000 at the time. I was like, “Oh my god.”
We had a product market fit before we even had a company. So, we did no marketing–that was August–no marketing for September or October. It was all word of mouth. I think we signed two or three more clients or four or five more clients, all word or mouth. And then I wrote that LinkedIn piece and I published it when Melissa’s book came out in November.
Andrew: The LinkedIn piece basically told the story of what happened with Melissa and others who told you they wanted to write books but they didn’t want to write.
Tucker: Right. It kind of walked through how we came up with this process. Oh my god, dude. Zach was eight to ten sales calls a day for like three weeks. We had so many clients off of that. It almost ruined the company. We couldn’t handle the influx. So, from that point forward we did virtually nothing until last month. We just did tiny little things. We knew we had a product market fit. We knew there was a market. We think at the time, we realized we were unlocking a whole new value chain and maybe unlocking a whole new market.
So, it’s like, “Alright, we need to get this scalable.” We spent January or December through May building all the processes, hiring the right people, getting the teams of freelancers, all the tests to scale, like everything done so that we could scale up and intake about 40 or 50 authors a month, which is where we want to be by the end of this year.
Andrew: 40 to 50 authors.
Tucker: New authors.
Andrew: New authors a month.
Tucker: So, last month we did like 10, 11. This month I think we’re going to be 15. Then we’re going to start kind of ramping up.
Andrew: The podcast that you did with Lewis Howes was back in August, 2014. The topic is “The Ultimate Guide to Book Marketing and Selling Thousands of Books Yourself with Tucker Max.” So, it’s perfect for you.
Tucker: Right. We talked about Book in a Box like 10 or 20 minutes. That’s it. It’s just one of those things where there’s such a demand for this. No one has done it in any sort of smart, systematic way. I think it’s because the people who can do it are blind to it and the people who can see this don’t have the skills necessary to do it. I just kind of stumbled into it through luck because this woman called me out in my hubris and arrogance.
Andrew: Why do you think that LinkedIn article got you so many customers?
Tucker: Because honestly I think there’s just–Marc Andreessen has a great quote, that markets will pull products out of startups, meaning that like Twitter, as we all know, started as a different company doing something else. Twitter was like a side project. There was such a demand for that. It pulled it out of the company. Andreessen gives a bunch of examples in one of his famous blog posts he wrote a few years ago. I think it’s the same sort of thing.
There are so many accomplished, intelligent professionals who know that they have a great book in them and who want to turn their wisdom into a book, but who are not going to go through the book writing and publishing process because it’s ridiculous and tedious and their time is too valuable. If your time is worth $100 an hour, which is way low for most serious professionals, then the opportunity cost for writing a book, it depends how quick you are, but it’s anywhere from $20,000 to $50,000 in opportunity cost. That’s if your time is worth $100 an hour.
So, it’s a no-brainer, this service. It’s just no one was offering it. So, we didn’t even–dude, I wish I could tell you I’m a genius who saw this a decade away because I didn’t. I could have done this six, seven, eight years ago. The technology existed. I wasn’t smart enough and neither was anyone else to see this. I had only figured this out because I got help from my cofounder and a woman called me out in my arrogance. I was so ashamed of myself–
Andrew: This post that you wrote on LinkedIn, I think was just really well done for a few reasons. One was the headline was spectacular. It was, “My Startup Made $200,000 in its First Two Months and I’m Embarrassed.”
Tucker: I was embarrassed.
Andrew: Who’s not going to want to see it? Then you start off telling a story, the story that you talked about Melissa. And then you give some question and answers about what the process is like and you put a little plug in for Book in a Box for anyone who wants to join in. I could see how that would be effective. Did you do anything to get more traffic for it, to get people to read it?
Andrew: You just tweeted it out? Did you email it to your list?
Tucker: Yeah. I put it to my list, probably 10,000 to 20,000 views to my list. LinkedIn, things that get traffic, they pick them up and push them out. LinkedIn did a great job. I guess their algorithm picked it up or something. I don’t know.
Andrew: Alright. So, that gets you some more customers. What else did you do to get more customers for this business?
Tucker: Man, that’s pretty much it. We launched on Product Hunt. It got us some customers. I did James Altucher’s podcast.
Andrew: That got you customers?
Andrew: How many customers from there?
Tucker: Less than Lewis. Actually, at this point I think it’s the same, maybe six to eight from his. Product Hunt, Altucher… I’m trying to think. Oh, I did a speech. I spoke about this at The Next Web and I spoke at Jayson Gaignard’s event, Mastermind Talks. We got some from that. It’s mostly been word of mouth, over 50 percent. We have three forms on our site–name and address on and how’d you hear about us. 50 percent of our clients come through word of mouth, some sort of word of mouth.
Andrew: And I assume the other 50 percent are from you speaking at conferences and speaking at podcasts.
Tucker: Right. It’s some sort of media or some sort of other–I’ve written a few other things. We did a Book in a Box for a conference. That got some attention. There are a few other things. Someone wrote about us on one of the not Inc. or Wired, but one of those things, not a big post. They just mentioned us somewhere and we got clients from that. It honestly is like one of those things where if you have something–it’s so funny, man.
So many people struggle to find an idea or to sell their idea. If you have a great idea, I don’t want to say it will totally sell itself because that’s not true. But you generally don’t have to bust your ass to get sales.
Andrew: I interviewed someone else who did this. I interviewed the guys, I think they were called TheProductPros.com. They’re a professional operation. They do more info products, it looks like. But they will create books. There are companies that will do that, that will interview you and then turn it into a book.
Tucker: They’re not books, man. They take a transcript and they throw a cover on it that they paid someone $50 for. That’s not a book, dude. That is a garbage, bullshit info product that is scammy and everyone knows it. No one buys that, man. Most of our clients are people who have heard of other services that claim to do this. They haven’t thought about using them.
I think part of the reason that this is so popular is because I am a number one bestseller and because people know whatever you may think of me as a person, I’m a legit business man and I’m a legit thinker and our stuff is awesome. Our books look awesome. We get amazing stuff out of people. They look great and they are professional.
So much of what a book is is the perception that it creates. A professionally designed, professionally laid out, professionally organized book is very high status. A book that is not those things is very low status. So, most people would rather not have a book than have a garbage, self-published book.
Andrew: Let’s talk a little bit about your hiring process. I really admire the way you did it. I’m way too complementary, actually, in this interview. I need to me more of an asshole or else it really comes across as very flattering and also you’re a good speaker and I’m letting you run with the conversation, where as an interviewer, I should be reining things in so it’s not promotion.
But I liked what you did when you were hiring people where you asked them to do some research and you knew the first place they were going to go was Wikipedia. You changed the Wikipedia entry so you’d know if they went just to Wikipedia without checking their work.
Tucker: That was pretty smart.
Andrew: Is that how you met Marc Plotkin?
Tucker: No it’s not. I met Plotkin through the sales job we advertised on Book in a Box. Basically, we got so lucky, lucky sort of. I think what we’re doing is truly new and is truly unlocking a new market. We don’t compete with traditional publishers. I really don’t think. If you’re a writer, you’re not going to come to us. Why should you? Just go write your own book. You already know how to do it.
But if you have wisdom that could be a great book and you’re not going to do it yourself, we are the option. We’re going to do to books what the iPhone did to photos. And the reason I said all that is because in the sales ad, I think I really did a good job expressing that about like my vision for the company and what we were doing and why we didn’t want a normal sales person, why we wanted someone who was more of a problem solver.
Man, people came out of the woodwork to apply for this job because it was an inspiring job. The bar set for people to apply was ridiculous. They had to do a five-minute video. They had all this stuff they had to do. We had 350 people or something like that apply and some of the people who applied were like ridiculous. Marc Plotkin, the guy who ended up getting the job has built and exited two companies and was on like Businessweek’s 30 under 30 two years ago, like 30 under 30 entrepreneurs. If a VC was looking at his resume and mine, he would fund him before he funded me. My job interview for Marc was basically five minutes of asking questions and he’s clearly qualified. And then it was like an hour of like, “Are you sure you’re okay working for me?”
Andrew: How could you tell he had all that going for himself when you’re looking at 300 applications?
Tucker: That’s why we had them submit videos. Sales is such a personality-driven thing. We didn’t actually have them submit resumes. We had them submit videos. You can basically tell in about five to ten seconds if someone is wrong. You can’t tell if they’re right in that time, but we eliminated, I don’t know, 250 or something of the 300 within 20 seconds of the video just by energy levels, tone of voice, all those sorts of things. That’s what you’re going to be doing all day, talking to people on the phone.
The other 50 left, we watched those all the way through those videos. But even that, 30 seconds to a minute, you can tell how smart someone is, how curious they are, how hardworking they are, their general–it really boils down to how do they make you feel? You can find a lot of smart people who know all the scripts and all that sort of stuff, but how does someone make you feel is going to create the vast majority of the sales success.
Andrew: Now you’ve got to guide them. In your 20s you said you were a bad leader. What made you a bad leader?
Tucker: Everything a leader could do wrong, I did. Everything about me, I was angry and would yell at my employees, the people who worked with me. I would blame everything on everyone else and never take any responsibility.
Andrew: Ryan Holiday used to work for you?
Tucker: He was my first assistant, actually.
Andrew: He was your assistant?
Tucker: My first assistant.
Andrew: First assistant.
Tucker: When he was 19, seriously.
Andrew: Was there one thing that you said to him that even now looking back you regret it and maybe you can’t even bring yourself to apologize for it?
Tucker: There are probably 100, dude.
Andrew: There’s not one that stands out? Give me one? One that you really feel is especially a stand out crappy thing to do.
Tucker: I’ll tell you one. This is a tiny, small, weird thing. But I was thinking about this the other day. Do you know the book, “The Eaters of the Dead” by Michael Crichton?
Tucker: It’s an amazing book. It’s all fiction. There’s basically this scrap of historical stuff he found and he expanded it out from that and wrote the novel and it’s a novel. I thought the whole thing was taken from an old manuscript. I misunderstood. I really thought it didn’t start with a scrap. The whole thing was a historical manuscript. Ryan and I got into a knockdown, drag out, not a physical fight, not really an argument.
He was 20 at the time and I was 31 or something. So, I’m going to beat him in any argument even if I’m wrong. I was totally beating him in this argument and being so condescending about it like, “Oh, this is what happens when you read just a little bit. You think you’re smarter than you are.” Like every argumentative and sort of like rhetorical trope, I used all of them.
And then we were sitting in the living room and then my buddy, Jeff, got up, picked the book up off the shelf, read through it, he goes, “No, Ryan’s right. It’s right here.” I looked at it and I got all angry and stormed out, which is like ridiculous.
Andrew: Didn’t even just take it and apologize and say, “These things happen.” You got angry and stormed out.
Tucker: I think I might have said, “You’re right. I guess I was wrong.” I’m not so ridiculous that I can’t even say that. But you could tell it was like–like choking back the bile.
Andrew: So, how did you learn to be a better leader?
Tucker: It all had to do with changing myself. You read every goddamn article you want on every stupid blog. It’s never going to help you as a leader. If you’re a bad leader, it’s probably because of your emotional issues. You have to fix those before you can even like care about–
Andrew: What’s an emotional issue that you had to deal with?
Tucker: Well, if you’re yelling a lot, then you’re angry about something and you need to address your anger.
Andrew: Who were you angry at?
Tucker: I think a lot of things. I think one of the reasons–let’s tie this back all the way to the beginning of the conversation. Like why was I so obsessed with disrupting publishing with the Tropaion? Because I think my dad wasn’t around when I was a kid. It took me four years of analysis to figure all this stuff out. Here’s what I really think is going on with me or was at the time.
My dad wasn’t around as a kid. He wasn’t a good father when he was around, but he just wasn’t around for the most part. So, obviously like there’s a lot of ways you can emotionally react to that. As a kid, I think I was just angry. Instead of being angry at my father–where does that go? It just doesn’t go anywhere. I think I started becoming very angry at anything that I saw as an authoritarian power structure that was sort of holding me down or had some, I don’t know, some power over me that I didn’t agree with.
Andrew: I see.
Tucker: So, it’s really easy to look at the structure of the entertainment business and see the evil oppressive sort of father. So, that’s why it became so important to me. That’s one of the reasons why the movie was such a disaster, the business behind it. I pushed Hollywood that way. Hollywood is evil. Make no mistake about it. It’s super easy to rationalize. But it became a personal fight for me because Hollywood was a stand-in for, I think, what I felt probably towards my dad.
Andrew: And that would even come out in a conversation with Ryan. Like why is he the authority on this book?
Tucker: That’s a different issue. Everything is not one issue.
Andrew: I see.
Tucker: That’s not just anger, but it’s also when you’re very insecure, then you’re sort of confidence is very fragile. So, the way you reinforce your confidence is always being right, whereas one of the best hallmarks of true confidence is a very powerful person saying, “I don’t know,” or, “I’m not sure.” I don’t think I ever said that when I was 28. Now, I’m 39. I say that five times a day.
Andrew: And this is from analysis, a lot of work? You go in how many times a week?
Tucker: I just stopped in May. But I went four years, four times a week.
Andrew: Four times a week. What happens when you walk in that room?
Tucker: Your job in psychoanalysis as a patient is to go in and talk about whatever is on your mind because the idea in analysis is that it’s very difficult to go directly at your issues because you have so many defenses built up against pain and fear or whatever. But ever thing you do is sort of a way to get yourself away from pain and fear from the issues you’re sort of resolving.
It sort of ties back to what we were talking about earlier with my wife. People want to talk about it, but they don’t want to talk about it. So, analysis actually operates on the same principle. The idea of analysis is a totally safe, judgment-free zone where you can talk about anything and you should talk about anything and everything that comes up, whatever you’re thinking about–your dreams, your arguments that day, anything.
And then what the analyst does is they try to be a mirror that helps you see a true, accurate reflection of what your behaviors are and what the patterns are and then eventually you start to make unconscious feelings and unconscious fears and unconscious drivers in your life conscious. Once they become conscious, then you can understand them and you can start to change them.
Andrew: And that’s how you understood that your anger towards your dad was coming out in different ways.
Tucker: Exactly. That was essentially driving my strategies in business decisions, how can I defeat the giant? That’s not how you should make strategic decisions. That doesn’t make any sense. Dude, if you ever watch “The Profit,” by Marcus Lemonis, that show on CNBC, it’s the same thing or “Shark Tank.” You watch any show about entrepreneurs, you watch any show about addiction, like “Intervention.” You’ll see the same issues. They just look different because they play out in different ways in different people’s lives.
I don’t even think I’m a good leader. I think all I am now is I am adequate. I don’t get in my own way. It’s funny. You’re like, “I can’t believe how much money you guys are making.” I feel like we’re doing okay. I know we’re going to do a lot better. I feel like business is so easy now because I don’t get in my own way and screw myself up anymore. It’s not even that I’m good at it.
Andrew: It’s not that $1 million is the be all, end all. It’s just that $1 million in a year for something that really takes a long time to create and a reputation that people need to trust with their ideas, that’s impressive. So, how would you have gotten in your own way in the past here with this business?
Tucker: A million ways. Let’s see… I had a different original idea about where this business was going and how we should run it that ended up being wrong. I would have stuck to those because I would have connected those ideas to my identity.
Andrew: I see.
Tucker: So, even if we had found the right path, it would have taken a lot longer. I think I would have been a much bigger dick to my cofounder and I don’t know if he would have worked with me. Maybe he would have because he’s young. But he’s a rock star, man. I caught a rocket ship cofounder. It’s really amazing the stuff he can do. And I’m able to really guide him and sort of help him.
He’s a very high energy, go-getter, a total hustler and he makes a lot of the same mistakes I did, not emotionally-wise, but just like a lot of the young hustler mistakes. I have the patience. Instead of getting angry and telling him he’s wrong, I have the patience to kind of let him play it out a little bit and see the mistake and then help him correct it at the time without making it, “I was right. You were wrong.” But making it more of a mentor, big brother instructional as opposed to a battle for wills, which I always used to do.
We have amazing talent working for us, these incredible people. Mark Chait, he was the executive editor of HarperCollins. He’s done 15 or 20 bestsellers. He came to work for us. He is a genius, but also kind of quiet, introverted, sensitive guy. He never would have fucking worked for me five or ten years ago because I was too angry and I would have made this company about screwing publishing and destroying the old model, which is not what we talk about at all.
I don’t think we’re at all disruptive of traditional publishing. I think we’re actually additive in a lot of ways. I think we’re unlocking a whole new market. That’s one of the things he loves. It’s not about trashing traditional publishing. It’s about building something new and different that will help other people.
So, that sort of–it’s not just blindly positive. It’s just sort of I think I’m more constructive and I’m a builder now, whereas before I was very confrontational in a lot of ways and I was very aggressive, both personally and strategically. And that might work for an MMA fighter, but it doesn’t work when you’re trying to build a company.
Andrew: For a leader of a publishing company, no.
Tucker: It doesn’t work.
Andrew: By the way, is your dad Dennis Max, who’s running a restaurant, Max’s Grill in Florida.
Tucker: He fired me from that company, yeah, when I was in law school.
Andrew: Right. That was in your book, wasn’t it?
Andrew: The weird thing is that he is in your Wikipedia entry but your mom is completely out of it. Is that intentional?
Tucker: I didn’t write my Wikipedia entry. He’s sort of a public figure. She’s not a public figure at all. That’s the only reason why.
Andrew: Is she still in your life?
Tucker: The whole situation is just sad.
Andrew: You fucking did her taxes and she’s not in your life?
Andrew: Why not?
Tucker: I only have room in my life for healthy people who are givers, in a sense, additive.
Andrew: Was there one incident that made you say, “That’s it?” There isn’t? Yeah. There always is. When you’re breaking off with your parents, there’s one thing that’s just too much.
Tucker: You can’t have a–I don’t want to say you. I don’t know of anyone and definitely not me who can have a conversation and interaction with her that isn’t toxic. She’s one of those people who’s like very shrewish and harpie-ish and nagging and very hen-pecking.
Andrew: What did she dig at you about?
Tucker: It doesn’t matter, anything.
Andrew: Why are you wearing earphones on this interview?
Tucker: So, if I called her now, half of her would be happy to hear from me and then the other half would be, “Well, it took you long enough. It’s been six years since you called,” or whatever. She’s just a toxic person.
Andrew: It’s been six years. You’re so much more advanced now. Don’t you think you can have a conversation with her today?
Tucker: You’re operating under the assumption that you have to always have a relationship with your family. I don’t operate under that assumption.
Andrew: I don’t think you do. I just think you have this talent for bringing out whatever it is that’s bothering people. You did that with your wife. I feel that Tucker Max today could draw her out and let the bad stuff go over.
Tucker: The thing is, my wife is very emotionally mature. She’s more emotionally mature than I am. I helped her see a certain part of her life she wasn’t seeing, but on balance right now, I would say she’s–you met her. She’s more put together than I am in most ways. My mom is not like that.
Andrew: And you can’t just let that stuff roll off your back?
Tucker: Why should I?
Andrew: Because if you do it right now on camera it would be so freaking entertaining and we would learn so much.
Tucker: I’m not calling her on camera.
Andrew: You’re not going to call your mom on camera and reconcile with her?
Andrew: You’ve got to take these bold steps in your life.
Tucker: Here’s the thing. It’s not like we had a fight and there’s an issue and then that issue can be resolved.
Andrew: But she hasn’t seen your son. You know you want her to see your son.
Tucker: The issue is who she is as a person.
Tucker: I actually don’t want my son around people like that. I have a little bit of a relationship with my father. My father, he’s not a super healthy person either, but you can be around him. He’s relatively pleasant to be around. He’s a great grandfather and I would never deny my son his grandparents because of my issues with them. But my mom is just kind of a toxic–she doesn’t mean to be, but she just is a toxic person. She’s very difficult to be around.
Until she deals with her issues, it’s sort of like saying, “Well, it’s just a little bit of arsenic. Why can’t you just put a little bit of arsenic in your food?” “Uh… it’s poison.” Why would you want to be around that? I wouldn’t tolerate that from anyone not my mom. I don’t believe that because she’s my mom, I have to tolerate abuse. It’s not right.
Andrew: That makes sense. Do you ever find yourself secretly daydreaming that she’d meet your son and they’d have a good time in your ideal world? No?
Tucker: The reality is I checked out on my mom so long ago, probably about when I did her taxes at 12. I checked out on my mom. I’ve seen her for who she is, which is not evil, but just flawed and incompatible with a healthy life, at least as she is now, for a long time. I’ll tell you what I do, man. When I see people who have supportive, loving, caring moms, like I do wonder what that would be like, same with dads. It’s not just moms.
Weirdly, it’s even more acute with my dad. My mom raised me. So, she probably gets more–I say more negative things about her maybe because I spent more time around her and less around my dad. My dad is not any better. He’s just not so actively toxic that you can’t spend time with him, whereas that sort of is how my mom is. Weirdly, it hurts me more when I see someone with a great dad. I’m not mad that they have a great dad.
I’m just saying I see that and I feel like–you know what it is? I have talked about this in analysis. You know why that is? I think I checked out my mom way earlier than 12. So, I never dreamed of having a great mom because the reality of my mom was always there. I could dream of having a great dad because he wasn’t there.
So, I could create a fantasy about my father very easily. The reality of my father never met that fantasy because he’s a terribly flawed person too in a lot of ways, especially as a parent. So, maybe that’s why it’s really painful to me to see people with great fathers because it’s hitting a fantasy that’s still there, whereas I don’t really have a mom fantasy, you know?
Andrew: Yeah. So, my parents are not like yours, but they’re also not that–at least they weren’t growing up. They weren’t the kind of parents that would let you do whatever and not be critical of it. I see people who would get away with just being human actually and get that support. It feels, “Wow, that seems strange.”
Tucker: I know. It’s funny. I have a son now. It’s funny. Everyone is like, “Because of all the things you did, you’re going to have daughters.” I assumed I would have a daughter. I think in a weird way I secretly wanted a daughter. I think it would have been easier to connect with my first kid as a daughter. And then I had a son. That actually brought up a lot of old emotions because it’s like–I love my son to death.
But it’s like I live now with a mother-son relationship that’s amazing and a grandmother–Veronica’s mother lives in Austin too and she basically lives with us. So, my son has two amazing maternal females in his life. And it’s like I’m not resentful of it, but looking at him it’s just like, “Wow, I can see the deep security in him.” He has such secure attachments.
On one hand, I’m so excited that as a parent, I can provide something for my kid or I can help provide something that I never had. But on the other hand, I’m marveling at this. It’s almost like my grandmother grew up in the Great Depression and she would like marvel at all the food we would have and be like, “When I was your age, we had to fight for nickels so we could eat,” or whatever. So, I’m seeing the same thing except it’s emotional and not material.
Andrew: Yeah. Did you expect that we were going to go this deep?
Tucker: Man, I never know with you, dude. I’m prepared.
Andrew: I wasn’t sure either. We even had this whole pre-interview outline and I said, “Well, Tucker put in all the time. I should get to as much of this as possible.” And then I said, “I’ll let wherever it goes go and let the good stuff come out and just be okay with it.”
Tucker: Man, I’m happy going wherever you want, dude. You’re the interviewer.
Andrew: You know what? You’re a good–you know why I’m pausing? This guy sent me this long, detailed analysis of my interview style and one of the things that he said that he hates is when I compliment my guests. It got in my head because I don’t like this sycophantic interviewers. I don’t want to be that person. But at the same time, I don’t have people on here who I don’t like.
Tucker: Here’s the thing.
Andrew: He got in my head.
Tucker: He did. Let me tell you the other side of that. I watch a lot of your interviews. What I love about you, you compliment your interviewees, but you compliment them about something that’s non-obvious, usually something that’s non-obvious.
I try to do this with my employees. When one of them will do something, something that requires a lot of emotional intelligence, like someone’s having a problem and another employee will see it and help them proactively, then I will compliment that. I’ll be like, “Hey, Employee X, great job on seeing Employee Y’s problem and anticipating it and helping him before he asked for it. That’s really amazing. Good job. I love it how you do that so much.”
And then that gets in their head, “I am the type of person that helps people without asking.” And that becomes their identity and they do more of it. But they didn’t necessarily realize it about themselves before. They just did it. Your compliments, I think, a lot of times are the same thing. You point things out.
Andrew: I didn’t notice I was doing it.
Tucker: You point things out that people do that’s great, but they don’t’ necessarily know they’re doing, so it kind of helps them be like, “Oh, yeah, I do do that. That is awesome.”
Andrew: Well, alright. That’s a great place to end it. I appreciate you saying it. Now I’m going to be aware of that. But that’s a good thing. It won’t be distracting. The website is BookInABox.com. Go check it out. It’s really well-designed. Who does your design? I just discovered your book cover designer.
Tucker: Erin Tyler? She’s the best.
Andrew: I didn’t realize that she’s the woman who did your book. She also did Ryan Holiday’s book that his a really nice style.
Tucker: James Altucher’s.
Tucker: She did a bunch. She’s really good. She’s not cheap either anymore, unfortunately. She used to be cheap and then James wrote about her in a piece and now she’s off the charts. She’s really good. I think she did our site. I feel like she did. We might have had someone cheap do an initial mockup and then she came through and made it awesome. She’s amazing. She’s booked so much. But if you can get time with her, she does really great work.
Andrew: Alright. It’s BookInABox.com if you want to check it out. If you do publish a book because of this interview, let me know because I’d love to read it and I’d also love to just tell the audience about it. Thank you, Tucker.
Tucker: Of course. Thank you, man.
Andrew: Of course. Thanks for doing this. Thank you all for being a part of Mixergy. Bye, everyone.