#25 Adam Carolla

Adam Carolla joined James Altucher to talk about rejection, patent trolls, and how to podcast. Carolla also has a book out, President Me: The America That’s in My Head.

Their conversation begins by Carolla telling James how he met Jimmy Kimmel. Carolla wanted to get into doing radio and heard that the morning sports guy – Kimmel – was going to fight in a boxing match with another guy at the station. It was the typical morning radio shenanigans and Carolla says, “I didn’t go there to meet Jimmy.” It was a lucky moment of serendipity that the two hooked up and began working together. A bit of luck has been a common theme of some of the other guests too. Recently Kevin Kelly (episode #96) said he “lucked out to be at this moment when the digital culture and the nerdy stuff I was interested in became mainstream.” Scott Adams likened it to being in a casino.

“I find it helpful to see the world as a slot machine that doesn’t ask you to put money in. All it asks is your time, focus, and energy to pull the handle over and over. A normal slot machine that requires money will bankrupt any player in the long run. But the machine that has rare yet certain payoffs, and asks for no money up front is a guaranteed winner if you have what it takes to keep yanking until you get lucky…All you need to do is stay in the game long enough.

Carolla and Kimmel began the game, working together, sharing hotel rooms and cutting their teeth in show business. It took a lot of work for them, but Carolla says not a lot of people see this. “I don’t think people can intellectually understand that there was a time when Jimmy Kimmel wasn’t Jimmy Kimmel.” Carolla says.

None of the guests have manifested their way to success like a magician’s spell. Rather, they work their way there like a bricklayer would build a house. Tony Robbins (episode #62) wanted to first be a truck driver. Jim Luceno (episode #60)was a carpenter during the first three years of his writing career. Andy Weir (episode #92 )needed a sabbatical for writing, then return to work, and then a start in blogging before he finally assembled the set of tools he needed.

Carolla’s advice then might be, don’t assume there’s no hard work involved. He also tells James that “we also need to figure out what we suck at.” Too often this is overlooked with kids, Carolla says. It would be foolish to tell a sixth-grade basketball player that they’ll make it in the NBA if they just try hard enough. But that’s sometimes what we do with kids.

Maybe instead of telling our kids they can do anything, we should give them more salient suggestions. Seth Godin (episode #86) said we would do well to teach our kids two things; solve interesting problems and learn how to be a leader. And avoid the ‘P’ word – passion. James says that it’s not about finding your passion, it’s about finding how to get good at things. In episode #36 Ramit Sethi said, “when you get good at something, you get passionate.”

What do you tell those kids that only dream of basketball then? Jack Canfield (episode #90) would suggest you tell them to keep their options open. “Having a single goal is almost self-sabotaging because it’s too easy to fail.” he told James. Rather teach the kids about the business of basketball, of sports. Teach them about marketing or the logistics about how their favorite player’s shoes are made.

Returning to the interview, Carolla tells James that rejection is common and “three-quarters of the things I try don’t work out.” He doesn’t see this as rejection though, more like a cost of doing business. How do you feel, he asks, when “a cop gives you a chicken-shit ticket for rolling through a stop?” Are you taking that personal?

“Life is just the way it is. Life’s not unfair. It’s just so.” – Jack Canfeild

Carolla says that the networks have passed over thousands of shows since his. He doesn’t care. He only cares about doing his best work and if something doesn’t work out, it doesn’t work out. This brings up an idea that Marcus Lemonis (episode #51) also shared, focus on the inputs. Carolla cares about doing his best work, and then if it means a contracted project he moves on to work on what that means. He doesn’t chase and judge himself on the outcome. Lemonis told James, “if you do all those things (talk to customers, have a passion for the work, love employing people) and you do them right, making money is going to become a byproduct of it.”

The middle of interview focuses on Carolla’s book and some stories from it, all of which were funny if you like Carolla’s style. The pair also talked about the patent troll lawsuit that was ongoing when his interview with James was conducted, but has since wrapped up. Carolla settled his case, though no details were announced.

The end of the interview offers a pair questions, which Carolla poses is his own flair, but that have good roots in rich thinking.

  1. “What would Switzerland do?” Carolla suggests this as a joke, saying, “you never hear the evening news start with ‘Trouble out of Switzerland'” but it brings up an idea others have shared, compare yourself to good people. James is always mentioning that you are the average of the five people you surround yourself with. Lewis Howes (episode #88) said that the successful people he sees all have coaches. Tom Shadyac (episode #15) said to find the people who bring out the best in you. Jack Canfield has always been in a mastermind group. Choose a baseline for yourself.
    Find good people to compare yourself to.
  2. Ask yourself, “Is this out of control?” Carolla uses the example of asking if taxes in California are out of control because people are leaving the state, something Tony Robbins literally admitted to in his interview with James. Beyond issues like local taxation, we can ask if is this an extreme event and categorize our next action appropriately. For example, if your kid throws a fit at the grocery store because they want candy, is it out of control? As a parent you’ll be mad and calming down from that in the moment is really hard, but if you can get past the first surge of emotions, you’ll see that it’s not. She’s a kid, kids throw fits. They shouldn’t throw too many of them, but it’s not out of control.

These two questions were partially in jest, but they bring out deeper ideas we can weave into our lives to make them better.

Thanks for reading these notes. If I messed up a fact, quote, or figure, do let me know in the comments on Twitter, @MikeDariano.

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