Alex Blumberg 3

Supported by Greenhaven Road Capital, finding value off the beaten path.

Alex Blumberg was on James Altucher’s show to talk about being a leader at Gimlet and making good podcasts. Here are the notes.

1/ Be naive. “You don’t even know how hard the thing you’re thinking about doing is.”

Not knowing how hard something will be is important to starting something hard.

2/ Play infinite games. About difficult times Blumberg said, “The trick is recognizing this is a sucky feeling, there’s nothing you can do about it but try to fix it.”

Gimlet was founded in 2014 and they still don’t have all the kinks worked out – and they never will be. Blumberg has begun the business game where the finish line always moves. Brent Beshore calls it a “daily knife fight.” It’s Groundhog Day.

You’d better love the game. For a long time Andre Agassi didn’t. He had to answer the essential question, why am I playing this game? before he enjoyed it. Phil Jackson coached players to “Forget the ring, what matters most…is the courage to grow.” Scott Adams uses the systems and goals framework to describe this.

The best games have no finish lines.

3/ The lightbulb moment. About starting a podcast company. “It seems obvious that this is something that needs to happen. It felt very clear from where I was sitting. The idea didn’t feel risky. It felt like I was in a unique position to see it and that I just needed to act.”

People in the weeds find spots for future flowers. Jenn Hyman said that Rent the Runway:

“was a lightbulb moment for me because I realized I was having a conversation with my sister about the experience of wearing an amazing dress. Of walking into a party feeling self-confident, feeling beautiful.”

Joe Peta hurt his back and looked at baseball statistics to have his lightbulb moment. Thomas Russo advised to “listen for things that surprise you.” Patrick Collison had his moment when he wondered why it was so easy to sell things on App stores but not the internet.

4/ Be different. “Our theory about what kind of podcast we want to launch is, if we’re going to try to compete in a space where we know people are already listening, we want to come with an approach where we can differentiate ourselves…there are other areas like sports shows and we haven’t figured out a way to crack into sports yet.”

To Be Different is important.

5/ Decentralized command. Blumberg can’t make every decision. “I don’t have the right information to make every decision so you have to set up a process for who’s making a decision and how they are making it.”

The invested people have the relevant information. During Hurricane Matthew, Waffle House didn’t order a shut-down. Why?

“We’re a 24-hour restaurant, so oddly enough shutting down is a big deal for us,” Waffle House’s Vice President of Culture Pat Warner tells “When it comes to making the final decision, we let our operations team on the ground, like individual restaurant managers, make the final decision based on local conditions. But our job [as corporate officials] is to give them all the support they need to stay open.”

Jocko Willink would point out the dichotomy in that. Leaders must understand the micro and macro views. Charles Koch said:

“The way we look at it is that certain things need to be centralized…But there are other things where the people at the plant have better knowledge…we’re very centralized on some things and decentralized on others. It’s not perfect. It’s a constant balance and rebalance and reworking and trial and error.”

6/ Certain skills. “It’s really rare to find people with the right mix of temperament, skill set, and desire.”

The two-jar model is a way to think about outcomes as being skill or luck based. We can control both our domain skills and our collegial skills.

On his podcast, Bill Simmons talked about Colin Kaepernick, Tim Tebow, and Michael Vick. Each has different domain skills like strength, speed, and reading defenses. Each also has collegial skills like interviewing, commenting, and interests. Vick’s domain skills overwhelmed his non-domain ones and he had a longer career than Kaepernick and Tebow.

Blumberg wants people who aren’t assholes and can host podcasts.

7/ Shut up and listen. Good leadership means meetings where everybody was heard. “I’ve taken that to heart and try with every meeting that I’m in to get everybody to talk at least once. It’s a simple thing that people want to be heard.”

In Negotiation, conversations, or meetings people want to be heard.


Thanks for reading, I’m mikedariano. Want more podcast notes? Subscribe here:

7 thoughts on “Alex Blumberg 3”

  1. […] Alex Blumberg was in a similar situation to that of Doyle when he started Gimlet Media and immediately tried to arrange a workable structure. “I don’t have the right information to make every decision so you have to set up a process for who’s making a decision and how they are making it.” […]


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