#93 Peter Diamandis and Steven Kotler

Peter Diamandis and Steven Kotler joined James Altucher to talk about the future, the 6 D’s, and how to be bold. Diamandis and Kotler wrote a book about being bold, Bold: How to Go Big, Create Wealth and Impact the World, which they say is like a roadmap for entrepreneurs to follow. It’s the how-to book that might follow their other book, Abundance, The Future is Better Than You Think.

The interview begins with the trio noting how exhausted they are of bad news. Peter and Steven have focused instead on the optimistic view that technology will solve a lot of the problems we have today. Today is really a great time to be alive, maybe the best time to be alive. Kotler points out that crime, poverty, and violence are at their lowest points in history.  Tom Shadyac (episode #15) found out the same thing – in his own way. When he went out to see what was wrong with the world, he really found out what was right with it.

About the bad news, James asks if there is a bias toward people want in to know what might go wrong and Kotler says that there is a bias toward negative news. James explored this idea in (episode #65) when he talked with Dan Ariely. Daniel Kahneman has also written about it, sharing this simple explanation.

The psychologist Paul Rozin, an expert on disgust, observed that a single cockroach will completely wreck the appeal of a bowl of cherries, but a cherry will do nothing at all for a bowl of cockroaches.

Diamandis and Kotler say this bad news is overdone and share a framework they say will “overrun the world” and it’s six D’s – Digitalization, Disruption, Deception, Demonetization, Dematerialization, and Democratization. This alliteration alluring and almost always allows us to remember associations, but will the ideas that overrun the world all rest upon the fourth letter of the alphabet? Let’s see the case they make.

1. Digitalization. Diamandis tells James that “the ability to duplicated at marginally zero cost is what makes this interesting.” These very podcast episodes are a prime example. Ten years ago you had no access to people like this. Beyond the quality of guests on this – or any great podcast – is the convenience of it. Fifteen years ago it took an hour to download a three-minute song. Ten years ago it was faster but the podcast structure wasn’t around. Five years ago things were similar to now, except there was no phone/wi-fi connection. Now these episodes arrive instantaneously. Why didn’t we see this coming?

2. Deceptive. “It was growing just as fast 20 years ago, but now we notice it.” James says to summarize this idea. Diamandis puts it another way, “we have a linear cognitive bias.”
What this means is that the changes we see in the world don’t ever come out of left, right, or center field. They are out there the entire time, we just don’t see them.

As football season just wrapped up, we’ll use the example of Tom Brady and the New England Patriots. Brady might be the greatest quarterback ever. He’s won 4 Super Bowls and he’s near the top of many league wide marks. But he was drafted in the sixth round. He was only the second string quarterback. How does the greatest quarterback of all time now get picked number one, not start playing on day one?

Diamandis makes the case that these things start small, but all that means is that in our scope of observation they take up very little room. I don’t have Uber service in my town, so it’s not on my radar. If I moved somewhere that had Uber, my guess is that I would jump on the bandwagon. So it goes for NFL quarterbacks. There are 32 teams, one starting quarterback to a team, and it’s easy for talented players to not get a chance to play.

In the interview Diamandis gives a nice heuristic for finding these growing ideas, look for friendly U/I he suggests. Ten years ago we had some version of 3-D printing, but only does it have a good user interface. Ditto for the internet.

James speculates that good U/I is a tipping point, that when a concept is easy for the masses to understand, use, manipulate, it will take off. He makes mention in the interview about Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point.

Gladwell has a more nuanced and social explanation. Rather than a clean U/I with a minimalist design and an Apple look and feel, he suggested there were three components. First, the law of the few, which means that things tip only when the right combination of a certain group of people coalesce around an idea. The stickiness factor where a concept is memorable. Finally, the power of context, we act a certain way in certain situations. For example, why do college students burn couches after a sporting victory?

Couches, bonfires, and their combination in an intersection has nothing to do with the game itself, but this has become a thing. Prior to September 2008, there wasn’t a single news headline about it. It fits Gladwells recipe. The few that are wild and crazy enough to do it. The stickiness factor, kids have seen it done before, if only on TV. The context, we’re in college and our team won! Woo Woo!

Couch Burning as a Google Trend 2004 – 2015 (January)

Diamandis (I’m guessing here) defines a tipping point where people finally notice something that’s been happening at the same rate. If your salary increases 5% a year, that won’t seem like a major change until you buy a Lexus.

3. Dematerialization. The things we physically once had are now apps. In the book Diamandis and Kotler sum up that the apps on your phone, as actual devices in 1982 would cost $900K. That’s incredible. Not only has technology made something like this podcast available, but made it relatively cheap.

4. Demonetization. Coupled with #3, money will follow industries and when the industry moves online, the money will follow it. Kotler gives the examples of Kodak and Craigslist in the interview as a failure and success dichotomy.

It’s interesting to note that Kodak created the first digital camera, and yet were bankrupted in-part, because of it. A similar story is told about HP in the Steve Jobs biography. Walter Isaacson writes that Jobs went to HP headquarters to look at licensing one feature, but found another he wanted. This added item was equally if not more enticing. He ended up with both.

Things like Apple running over HP isn’t odd, it actually should be expected. Diamandis tells James that there’s a good reason big companies fall to small ones, “The day before something’s a breakthrough it’s a crazy idea.” he says. Kodak couldn’t experiment on something that might save Kodak because they were Kodak.

In the interview Diamandis says that the hyperloop idea proposed by Elon Musk won’t be solved by Boeing or the government. It will come from someone small. The solution will come from one, or a few but many will try and fail to solve the problem. Nassim Taleb suggests we celebrate them. He writes about a National Entrepreneur Day:

Most of you will fail, disrespected, impoverished, but we are grateful for the risks you are taking and the sacrifices you are making for the sake of economic growth of the planet and pulling others out of poverty. You are the source of our antifragility. Our nation thanks you.

This is the antifragility of systems, which depends on the fragility of others. Let me take one more moment to explain this because it took me so long to understand it myself. Systems are better when they are antifragile (get stronger/better/improved by chaos/destruction/pain) My daughter was reading a science book to me and it said that honey bees die after stinging something. This is the antifragility of the system (hive of bees) at the expense of the fragility of the individual (the bee which drives away the threat). The same goes for companies. Our success in making a hyperloop will also be in part due to the companies that failed. Okay, enough Taleb (for the moment).

Diamandis says that were are now 3-D printing cars and apartment buildings. In the interview this didn’t strike me, but after watching this short video <1min, it’s pretty cool.

One part of this better future is that it will require constant surveillance for optimal data input. Diamandis says that the hullabaloo about privacy isn’t that big of a deal, especially because we’ve already started changing in response to it and we will continue to do so.

James comments that this sounds like big brother, but it’s not. This new frontier will be explored and marked as we go. For example, Disney offers a Magic Band, an RFID device that acts as your park ticket, charging card, room key, and fast pass for shorter ride lines. It also knows where you are in the park. It reunites lost parents. It knows when you ride a roller coaster with a new camera it sends a picture from that camera to you. You can order food ahead of time, cross a digital perimeter and have your food begin to be cooked before you even sit down. About this collection of data, Diamandis says that companies that aren’t data driven, “ain’t gonna survive.”

Don’t get all nostalgic about this though. We tend to look to the past with rose-colored lenses and remember only the good things. Past guest Jack Canfield (episode #90) might say the past was what it was.

A good heuristic comes up in the next part of the interview when the trio talk about Amazon and Jeff Bezos. Diamandis says that part of their success, is that Bezos looked around and found something that wasn’t going to change in the next ten years. People will want things shipped to them, and quickly, the thinking goes. Ditto for Google and search. Ditto for Microsoft and their cloud services. These companies see these things as remaining unchanged, but they invest in “exponential change.”

Taleb, you knew we would come back to him, writes that this is a form of barbell thinking and it too is antifragile.

It is why Amazon made a phone, why Google made a car, why Apple is making a (insert Apple rumor of the moment, in February 2015, it happens to be a car). Each of these companies is focused on their entrenched business plus their “positive Black Swans.”

This is the boiled-down version of the investment conclusions that Tony Robbins (episode #62) also comes to. Have some money that is almost entirely secure, annuities or treasuries. Have other assets that can ride the wave up with very little drag: index funds. Skip everything in the middle.

Elon Musk comes up and Diamandis says “he’s driven by the desire to make things better.” Wait, is that all it takes, a strong desire? You know what else Elon Musk is? Smart and hard-working. He reads and learns like crazy, in part to:

… view knowledge as sort of a semantic tree — make sure you understand the fundamental principles, ie the trunk and big branches, before you get into the leaves/details or there is nothing for them to hang on to.

Gary Vaynerchuk (episode #2) talked to James about this, and writes about it in his books, that you should be passionate about the thing you want to pursue but don’t stop there. Remember that passion is the fuel that has to go into an engine and a person with passion but no hustle is the same as car with no engine.

The interview concludes with some far out stuff. James says, “the science of today was the magic of yesterday.” It’s not a direct quote from Arthur C. Clarke but is similar to law #3 of his prediction formula; “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”

There’s also a big at the end about how great virtual reality will be. If this idea appeals to you, you must go read Jane McGonigal’s Reality is Broken. There she writes about how games (virtual and real) do a much better job of guiding us to act in a way we want.

Thanks for reading. I’m on Twitter, @MikeDariano

A few small parting notes:

  • If you are interested in joining the Antifragile Book Club I’m starting, please get in touch. We’ll read a chapter or two a week and I’ll offer additional material to supplement the book. This is for anyone who hasn’t yet, but wants to read it. If you want to chime in as a moderator/instructor please let me know.
  • I’ve not read Bold, but the interview between James, Steven, and Peter focused heavily on rockstars. Jobs, Bezos, Musk, Uber, etc. and we should remember the survivorship bias. Under this heuristic we should ask, #1 what did these rockstars avoid doing and #2, the people who started in similar positions and failed, what did they do? Does Bezos avoid checking his email, does Musk choose to walk to work rather than spend time at the gym? What about the grocery delivery website CEO that started the same time as Amazon, what did he do?
    This is not saying the conclusions are wrong, just incomplete from the interview.
  • Of course the 3-D printing of a building happened in China. It’ll make this a lot easier now.

#92 Andy Weir

WeirphotoAndy Weir joined James Altucher to talk about what it was like to write The Martian, his journey to get there, and how you figure out how to grow potatoes on Mars. Weir’s book is coming out as a movie in November, “thankfully a few weeks” before Star Wars he tells James.

Weir’s journey to best-selling author was a long one, and nothing along the way indicated it. He tells James that he always enjoyed writing but not until a full year after Random House purchased the book rights did he quit his job. His conversation with James begins when Weir had to drop out of college because he didn’t have enough money to pay for the living expenses associated with school. “I can either scrape up enough money to continue paying to work all day, or I can work all day and get paid.” he tells James. Choosing that latter over the former, he went to work.

This attitude of financial responsibility was “drilled into me” Weir says – and it might be a good thing. He says that many of his friends had parents that paid for everything and didn’t learn financial responsibility until they were on their own. Not so for Weir, and not so for many financially successful people.

Fellow father Feiler (Bruce) wondered the same thing, what do the financially most successful teach their children about financial success. Feiler interviewed financial advisor Byron Trott who told him, “One of the biggest problems I see in families, is a reluctance to let your kids make decisions for themselves.” Trott goes on to say that making small mistakes now might prevent big mistakes later.

So, Weir went to work but even then his finances weren’t fluid. He had to take gap loans from his father to cover times when money was tight. James asks if not paying his dad back ever occurred to him – never Weir said. Altucher asked Maria Popova (episode #89) a similar question about dropping out and she told him the same thing – never.

I wonder how absolutes clarify what we focus on. For Weir there was no question about paying his dad back. Popova had to finish school. Even later in the interview when Weir tells James how he works there are absolutes; no TV, no random internetting. (Redditt, we’re looking in your direction).

Weir got a job with Blizzard Entertainment working on Warcraft II. It wasn’t uncommon in the mid 90’s to work 80-100 hours a week to finish a major coding project he tells James. His work at Blizzard led to a job with AOL until he was laid off, but with a decent severance package. There’s no comment in the interview if his salary went to creating more AOL connection cds. Ted Leonsis tells James in a previous episode how they came up with that idea in the first place.

With his severance package and an idea for a book, Weir spent the next three years writing and trying to get published. Almost immediately a wise sage scrolled through his manuscript and found the hidden gem that is Andy Weir. Wait. Tha’ts not what happened. Do you know what happened? Nothing. Three years for nothing. Even David Levien (episode #85), who had Hollywood and entertainment connections, only landed the Rounders script because of a bit of luck.

Instead, Weir went back to work as an engineer and slowly the internet became more popular. He figured he could just write online. The Martian began as a serialized story for his online community. This web version led to an ebook which led to a Kindle book, but not at his direction. Weir said that he “self-published and figured I was done and that was it.” The only reason he put it out as a Kindle copy anyway was because people didn’t know how to download the free ebook version available on his website. This must be when the treasure chest of writing fame opened. Nope, just a bit longer yet.

That September saw 20 copies sold. October about 100. By March the following year sales were up to 35,000.

Weir said that part of the success was the social proof and suggestion that Amazon offered. There were a lot of reviews, James says 6,000 at the start of the interview, but it was also in that “People like you bought” suggestion area of Amazon. I had always thought this was an algorithm, but not entirely. In fact, the NPR Planet Money team interviewed people who do this, the Mechanical Turks. Amazon pays people to go through the suggested items to make sure the pairings make sense.

The Martian was gaining steam. Being at the top of the list for number of reviews also helped with what Malcolm Gladwell introduced as the “Matthews Effect.” Named after the biblical verse, Mathews 25:29, it’s the clever sociological phenomenon that the rich get richer and the poor poorer.

Gladwell explained it in terms of Canadian youth hockey, where so many kids on the elite teams had birthdays early in the year; January through March. What does your month of birth have to do with your hockey skills? The theory goes that because the cut-off date was January 1st, the kids born earlier in the year were bigger than their peers born at the end. Bigger meant being a bit more coordinated and a bit better at hockey. If you were a bit better then you got a bit of extra attention from the coaches and got a bit better at hockey. Bit by bit and on it went.

Through all this, Weir’s glad he began in self-publishing, telling James:

“Self publishing has really opened up the publishing world. Now there’s no intermediate steps where someone at the publishing house has to guess on whether a book will sell or not.”

Seth Godin (episode #86) also tells James that the cultural and geographic boundaries are gone. The only thing that can hold you back is the “cultural pollution” in your life. Gary Vaynerchuk (episode #2) told James much the same thing, that the gatekeepers are gone, but they are gone for all of us. There’s a Randy Weir out there who’s book didn’t hit, who’s book isn’t going to be a movie, who’s going to be paying money to read a best seller rather than making money for writing it.

As his readership grew and Amazon sales number began to tick up, James asks if Weir ever considered quitting his job and squeezing the book sales for all they were worth. “Never” he says, he just wanted the readers. Marcus Lemonis told James something similar, suggesting you should worry most about the work and the money will follow that. In On Writing (small note: If you liked this interview with Andy Weir, you really need to read On Writing. It’s a perfect companion to the advice that Weir gives and goes a lot deeper into some of the ideas) Stephen King answers, “Do you do it for the money, honey?”:

“The answer is no. Don’t now and never did. Yes, I’ve made a great deal of dough from my fiction, but I never set a single word down on paper with the thought of being paid for it…I have written because it fulfilled me.”

Another piece of King’s advice that Weir has seemingly followed is to read and read a lot if you want to be a writer. Weir says that Asimov, Heinlein, and Clarke were some of his favorites. Plus he had to do a lot of research about space to write about space. Weir tells James he was always interested in astrophysics, but to get the science right he had to dive deeper into fields like botany. Luckily his serial form lent itself to getting that stuff right. He essentially had crowd-sourced fact checking. Jimmy Wales (episode #54) would be proud. Whales told James that he hoped a crowd funded movie would be made someday and fact checking about growing potatoes on Mars for a book that becomes a movie seems like it might be a good first step.

Another perk of writing in the serialized form was that it let Weir learn as he went, and in a way the form followed function. This constraint was also helpful to David Levien (episode #54) who wrote his most recent series of books on the train during his commute. Levien had to write quickly, with not a lot of time and that’s about perfect for the style of novel he was working on.

James asks Weir what it’s like to have your book sold and be turned into a movie, to which Andy replies:

“I was spectating eagerly, as the writer of the book my only job was to cash the check.”

He tells James that this doesn’t bother him because he sees the different skills required for the different roles. Screenwriting is different that book writing which is different from making the actual movie. These nuanced differences have been part of what other people have told James too – notably comedy writers. Dave Berg told James that for Jay Leno’s stand-up routines were different than his monologues which were different than telling jokes for a TV shows. Carol Leifer (episode #66) also noted that writing comedy for TV was different than writing comedy for stand-up. Simon Rich (episode #83) too shared that in writing his books he can really go off the deep end where as TV (and this is an Alex Blumberg (episode #70) quote) “has to be on rails.”

Not until Weir was mailing a contract back to Random House, on Broadway St., NYC – did he feel like things were real. He signed with Random House in March of 2013 but the book didn’t come out until February 2014 and not until April of that year did Weir leave his job. “Everybody at the company was rooting for me” he told James. Scott Adams says something similar, where he kept working even after Dilbert became popular, in-part, so visitors to the office could see the engineer in his natural environment.

Near the end of the interview is a nice and nuanced explanation of how movie rights work. Simon Rich had hinted at this in a previous interview and it was nice to hear it explained in full. The way it works according to Weir is this: a studio gives you a contract and a “small pile of money” for the exclusive option to buy the movie rights. If they exercise their option, they give you the big pile of money too, but sometimes these rights elapse and another studio can buy them. Weir says that for every movie made 100 options may have been drafted.

For The Martian it wasn’t until the day before they began filming that the studio exercised the rights. This explains why when James asks, did you pop a champagne cork, Weir tells him, “it just becomes more and more likely slowly over time.” There was no single moment.

James also asks if Weir is going to get a big back-end payout but Weir is skeptical. Movies never break-even thanks to tricky Hollywood accounting he says. Maybe not now, but they once did.

Arnold Schwarzenegger told Tim Ferriss that his biggest payout was from a movie you might not expect. Their entire interview is great but this movie part came together like this. Arnold had some success in the action genre but felt he could nail another type of movie too. He teamed up with two other talents (giving names would give it away) and the trio went to the studio saying they could make this movie pretty cheap, but they wanted a certain percentage of the back-end. The studio agreed. That movie was made for $15M but went on to gross $110M.

To James’s disappointment neither Elon Musk or Matt Damon has called Weir to talk about – literal or fictional – survival on Mars. To the former, Weir says that there are a lot of scientists much smarter than him, to the latter he says, “the original intent is less important than the director’s vision.”

The interview ends with James asking about advice for writers. Weir says he gets this a lot and has three suggestions.

1. Write. “It’s easy to daydream and fantasize about what your story is going to be and how awesome it’s going to be. It’s hard to actually write it.” Summon up motivation and do it. Write. Don’t imagine. Write. Write. Write.

2. Don’t tell people. When you tell people, Weir says, you lose a bit of drive that gets you to actually write it. Make yourself a rule that “the only way my friends are allowed to find out what my story is by reading it.”

3. This is the best time to be an aspiring writer. The internet and self-publishing lets you put something out there to see if people like it. There is nobody between you and the readers. Take a moment to appreciate that. This is one of the best-selling authors of the last few years and he spent three years not that long ago, coming up empty handed in getting someone to read his work.

And, to the people that don’t have enough time, Weir says that writing takes time. Two points on this: Ryan Holiday (episode #18) wrote that you find time for anything (like reading or writing) the way you find time for anything. Did you eat today? Brush your teeth? Go to work? Holiday would ask how you found time for that. The other point is that writing takes a lot of time (these blog posts each take 3-5 hours) and you need help to find that time. Ann Bauer wrote in Salon that to finish her book she had to move in with her parents and is now “sponsored by my husband.”

My own process for writing these post is a mix of the two. When I walk our dog and when I make breakfast, my headphones are in and I listen to the James Altucher (and other) podcasts. Most mornings I get up between 5-6AM to draft these (and other) posts. That said, my wife has a good job that lets me do this.

For more Weir, and a snapshot about what things looked like a year ago, check out his AMA.

His talk at Google was also around the same time.

Thanks for reading. Part of my creation process for these posts is to write an idea list. Every. Single. Day. If you want help creating that habit too, I made something that might help. If I had a typo or interpretation error please let me know, @mikedariano.

That Arnold movie was Twins and co-starred Danny Devito and was directed by Ivan Reitman. 

#15 Tom Shadyac


Tom Shadyac (@tomshadyac) joined James Altucher to talk about the paperback release of his book, Life’s Operating Manual, what it takes to change the world, and what his journey to both of those has looked like. If Shadyac’s name is familiar it’s probably because of his litany of movie hits; the Ace Ventura series, Bruce and Evan Almighty, and Patch Adams among many others. His most personal project is I Am, a documentary, here’s the trailer:

Those movies brought Shadyac a lot of money and it wasn’t necessarily the sums of money that brought discomfort into the way he viewed life, but the disparity between people on the set. He tells James that it seemed ridiculous that some people making the movie couldn’t feed their family while others were making millions of dollars. He resolved to make changes. He began selling things. Gone was the huge house, cars, and other things that piled up. In was the smaller house and things he only needed, as he shows Oprah. He mentions to James in the interview that it’s more modest but still nice but it’s certainly not the “trailer” that James suggests.

Shadyac’s own self experimentation and pursuit of less was going fine until he had a bike accident that nearly killed him and left him with post-concussive syndromes. “For five months I had a ringing in my head.” he tells James. This time in his life led him to begin to question “what’s wrong with the world.” If the early phase was one of self-discovering about how to feed your soul, your spirit. His next quest was how to do that for the world. So he set out to answer a straightforward, but not simple question:

“What’s wrong with the world?”

What Shadyac found in his research was what was right with the world. We aren’t as violent as seen on TV. Shadyac references his interview with  Dacher Keltner, who gave a TEDx Talk about his research. Another academic, Steven Pinker, spoke with Charlie Rose:

Shadyac continued on his own journey, having paired down materially he also began to weave in good acts. He’s been teaching, volunteering, and trying to make the world a better place.

At no point in the interview does he pitch this lifestyle to James. Rather, he says that he “respects the path of others.” He had to make the billion dollar movies and life the million dollar lifestyle for things to begin making real sense to him. He tells James that in his experiences and research, that happiness follows our pursuit of the “true, good, and right.” He believes this because it never came with the money. When he made $30M for making a movie, he wasn’t happier than he is now. Being motivated by money is a false fuel that other guests have pointed out too. Marcus Lemonis told James that money is the wrong thing to chase. Rather, chase things that bring value and the money will be a by product of that. Sam Shank (#78) said that he wouldn’t sell his company for $400M because he’d just want to be back where he is now.

Shadyac also echoes what Dan Ariely (#65)suggests about happiness. Happiness isn’t something you can pursue. It’s not like a figure in your bank account that you can choose to make deposits in or a mana bar in a video game. For Ariely it was the pursuit of meaningful things. For Shadyac it’s contentment in many domains of life; health, work, mental and spiritual balance. If you have those basic things satisfied, then you’ll be happy.

A lot of research has gone into Shadyac’s research and throughout the interview his etymology is sharp. He tells James that in his examination of psychology there are two major factors that content people have, positive relationships and service of a cause greater than themselves. Good people in your life has been a common theme with other guests. Lewis Howes (#88) suggested having coaches and mentors. Jack Canfield (#90) said he’s always been part of a mastermind group. Tim Ferriss (another guest) had Canfield as one of his mentors. James often says you’re the average of the five people you surround yourself with- and his interviewees testify to that.

One problem that Shadyac sees in the world is “mineness.” He makes the argument to James that a transition to domesticity and the ability to store and amass led to this. Ditto for education where he says that the attitude of to the winner, go the spoils is all wrong. We’re one big family and the future he says is one where “we’ll literally share like a family would.” His evidence is that we used to be on big tribe, sharing with each other, and not permitting our “brothers and sisters” to be anything less than their best selves. The internet he thinks, will help us get back to that point and healthy competition will be that where we bring out the best in others.

Around the middle of the interview Shadyac explains quantum physics and entanglement theory. Below is a YouTube video clearly explaining it…

Wait, this isn’t an editing error, there was no great video to explain it. There were a lot of clever ones, short ones, long ones, TED Talks, and more but no single perfect source.

Shadyac’s transformation also revolved around the state of the celebrity industry. He tells James that there is a “whirlwind that happens around movies that’s almost like an illness.” He sees this hero worship going on, where people are dying to get their picture taken with/existence acknowledge by so-and-so.

Instead he suggests that we direct our efforts to solve a problem like world hunger or food scarcity, which we can do right now. The self-storage industry is large enough to end world hunger Shadyac says. According to the SSA fact sheet, a trade group, the self-storage industry had revenue of $24B in 2013.  UN estimates about ending world hunger bring the bill to about $30B so it’s certainly in the ballpark. But here’s the twist, and Shadyac admits this, solving difficult problems is difficult. Stephen Dubner (#20) did an episode on his podcast about the cost-benefit analysis of solving problems and things get really tricky. A more broad, economic angle, is that ending world hunger is like aiming at a moving target. Shadyac knows this and has a good answer for it, telling James that “it starts here, by changing yourself.” It returns to his idea earlier in the interview, that if you want to change something follow your path and concern yourself most with yourself.

James asks for specifics, about how someone can start doing this. “If it’s not a win-win for everyone then stop doing it.” Shadyac says.

For more, here’s also Shadyac’s talk at Google.

If I missed something, do let me know in the comments or on Twitter, @MikeDariano. Also, if you want to build your idea muscle, I’ve made something that might help.

#65 Dan Ariely

Dan Ariely (@danariely) joined James Altucher to talk about our irrationality, why it might not be a bad thing, and his origin story. The interview begins when James says that “I’m an expert, having been irrational and dishonest most of my life.” His story notwithstanding, he asks Ariely in what ways do we think irrationally?

Ariely begins by saying that our emotions are largely irrational, though not without cause for being so. When you lived in the jungle, heard a rustling in the bushes, and took off because there might be a tiger – that was all rational thinking. Our evolution built in asymmetrical thinking, before someone like Nassim Taleb coined that – or any other words. If this doesn’t make sense, Ariely explains: “The cost of running when there is no tiger is the cost of running. The cost of staying when there is a tiger is a very high cost.” If this resonates with you, then your next book should be Antifragile because this is the essence of Taleb’s argument. Probabilities don’t matter as much as intensities matter. Taleb gives the example of security checks before you get on an airplane. The odds of a terrorist being on that plane and successful crashing it is miniscule. But we still check people because if a terrorist takes over and crashes a plane there is a huge cost. Ariely explains to James that we act emotionally because there was a time when it helped.

Another area Ariely says we don’t understand well is opportunity cost. When he surveyed people at a car dealership, and asked them what they would not be able to buy, if they bought this car, very few understood the nature of the question. Their responses were, that if they bought a Toyota, they wouldn’t be able to buy a Honda. Lulz.

If we were more rational, we would list the things we couldn’t do. If you buy a $40,000 car you are trading away the chance to go on eight Disney cruises with your family of four. That’s the thinking that Ariely was searching for. Luckily for us, there’s a group of people who have found this idea and created an action plan for how we can think about things this way. They call themselves minimalists.

If you read the minimalists at all, you’re familiar with their origin story. Too much stuff was taking away from the things they really wanted to be doing. Then comes the moment lightening strikes – and this happens to every single one. They find out that by giving things up, the gain more. Here’s how Joshua Becker puts it:

Minimalism is about intentionality. It is marked by clarity, purpose, and thoughtfulness . At its core, minimalism is the intentional promotion of the things we most value and the removal of everything that distracts us from it.

The minimalist sees that the garage full of stuff (plus the time it took to work to buy it plus the tie to maintain it plus the time to manage it) isn’t a great bargain at all.

Returning to the interview, Ariely explains that another way we are irrational is that we value things in different ways. His analogy is that if you needed a quarter for parking and I offered to trade you a dollar in quarters for a five dollar bill you’d feel cheated. If, however, I offered to run to the bank and get quarters you would feel less cheated because you also paid for my effort. Your monetary outcome is the same – $1 in quarters for a $5 bill – but there’s something different about the idea.

James brings up the story about a guy who bought stuff online and sold it after creating a story. Ah, Ariely says, you’re talking about Rob Walker.

Walker created the Significant Objects Project. The Idea is this:

A talented, creative writer invents a story about an object. Invested with new significance by this fiction, the object should — according to our hypothesis — acquire not merely subjective but objective value. How to test our theory? Via eBay!

One man’s trash is another mans treasure and when you mix in a story things really change. Walker writes, “We sold $128.74 worth of thrift-store junk for $3,612.51.” For example, this cow plate.


The story begins like this:

As my husband and I were driving back to New York after my mother’s funeral, I spotted a general store on the Rhode Island-Connecticut border, the kind that exist solely for those who forgot to bring something back from Newport or Block Island or Martha’s Vineyard or wherever. Judging from the weathered sign and the rusting trinkets out front, it seemed decades old, and yet I swear I had never seen it in all my travels along this stretch of I-95. Strange.

Ariely says this means that “the consumption equation is very complex.” Think again about the Disney cruise you’re missing because of the new minivan in your driveway. That Disney cruise is a big boat floating around the Caribbean for seven nights and docking at various tropical ports. Royal Caribbean also has a big boat that floats around for seven days and stops at the same beautiful places. Each cruise is the same in almost every way, except price. Some people choose to pay more because they want a better story, a Disney story.

James says that we tell ourselves stories too, noting that “this happened to me. I got wealth in one area of life and invested in the stock market and lost everything.” For Altucher the story he told himself was that if he knew what he was doing in building companies, he knew how to invest in them too. Dubner (episode #20) calls this the halo effect and warns James about it as a bias but notes “it’s ones of the easiest ones to avoid.”

Okay, James says. We know that we are irrational in many areas like emotions, money, and our reliance on stories. How do we become more rational.

You can’t, says Ariely.


“There’s no single answer.” Ariely tells James. Rational thinking requires focused, deep thinking and it’s impossible for us to operate in that mindset throughout the day. Instead, his suggestion is to manipulate things like our environment. For example, “when it comes to temptation…reduce the prevalence of temptation in our lives” Ariely says. I’m a living example of one of his interview examples, cookies. I always tell people that I’m on a one-hour diet a week. If I can not buy cookies at the grocery store during a weekly one-hour trip, I won’t eat the cookies. If those cookies enter our house though, problems ensue.

In their book Switch, Chip and Dan Heath write that we can “shape the path” of our actions and create an easier route to our destination. One of those tweaks is choosing action triggers of when, where, and how we’ll do something. They include this story from the book.

Peter Gollwitzer, a psychologist at New York University, is the pioneer of work in this area. He and colleague Veronika Brand-statter found that action triggers are quite effective in motivating action. In one study, they tracked college students who had the option to earn extra credit in a class by writing a paper about how they spent Christmas Eve. But there was a catch: To earn the credit, they had to submit the paper by December 26. Most students had good intentions of writing the paper, but only 33 percent of them got around to writing and submitting it. Other students in the study were required to set action triggers—to note, in advance, exactly when and where they intended to write the report (for example, “I’ll write this report in my dad’s office on Christmas morning before everyone gets up”). A whopping 75 percent of those students wrote the report.

Knowing when, where, and why you’re going to do something is a good way to shape the path.

Another way to guide our behavior is to hop on the bandwagon that’s full of other people and going where we want to go. Ariel says that “what everybody else is doing is incredibly important.” Famed violinist Joshua Bell participated in this social experiment with the Washington Post where he played for 45 minutes and only a handful of people stopped to listen to the music. One factor wasn’t the business of our lives but that who stops to listen to train station performers. People at a train station have something else to do, to be.

Contrast this with Disney (what’s with all the Disney examples in this post?) where every “street performer” draws crowds of hundreds. Even though the performers at Disney are doing something much less rare than Bell, they draw people in. Remember, Ariely noted that our environment matters too. If you are in a place that facilitates and encourages enjoying entertainment and one where people are showing you what to do, the path toward a certain type of action is quite easy.

At the halfway mark of the interview Ariely starts to tell his origin story. He was severely burned at 18 and while in the hospital he learned that conventional thinking was sometimes wrong. The nurses thought that ripping the bandages off quickly was better for the patient, but from Ariely’s side of the bed it wasn’t.

What Ariely first glimpsed in the hospital and then studied and articulated later on, is that we don’t generally remember our overall experiences. When you go to Disney it’s the special moments you remember and tell your friends back home about those. We remember is the most intense point (high or low) and the ending.

The interview ends with a sort of rapid fire session:

About Happiness: “It’s about a sense of meaning.” Ariely says. There’s no formula for happiness other than finding something you enjoy doing in life. He gives the example of mountain climbing. The actual mountain climbing part probably isn’t all that enjoyable but those people love having climbed. Ten Leonsis (episode #53) told James much the same thing.

About Placebos: Ariel says that placebos are very interesting. When people pay more for a placebo they think it will be more effective. An interesting study from his book is this. He and some colleagues set up a coffee stand outside at a university. They began handing out free coffee to the students and offered an accoutrement of additives; cream, sugar, orange peel, clove, etc. The secret at hand was that sometimes, the accoutrements were in fancy containers, other times they were in styrofoam ones.

What were the results? No, the fancy containers didn’t persuade any of the coffee drinkers to add the odd condiments (I guess we won’t be seeing sweet paprika in coffee anytime soon). But the interesting thing was that when the odd condiments were offered in the fancy containers, the coffee drinkers were much more likely to tell us that they liked the coffee a lot, that they would be willing to pay well for it, and that they would recommend that we should start serving this new blend in the cafeteria. When the coffee ambience looked upscale, in other words, the coffee tasted upscale as well.

About Habits: Make it special. If you want to make flossing a habit think about how important flossing is for you. How bright it makes your teeth. Get a special kind of floss, very soft and white. Light a candle. Play soft jazz. Ariely may not suggest music, but does say to add “ceremonial elements.”

About Honesty: Ariely tells james that we have a tendency to lie and those lies aren’t as white as we think. Most lies are more like grey lies, Ariely suggests, because we get to avoid some discomfort. “Yeah, I don’t see a probably opening a pizza shop that doubles as a barber shop” you’d tell your friend rather than lose some social karma if you tell them how terrible it is.

If you liked the interview with Dan Ariely, you’ll probably like his books as well. You’ll also like Stephen Dubner’s interview (episode #20).

Mike – @MikeDariano – (559) 464-5393

#57 Daniel Roth

James Altucher interviewed Daniel Roth, executive editor of LinkedIn to talk about, well, LinkedIn. Before my notes, let me say that I’m not active on LinkedIn because in 2008 I bought a house from someone who after the sale, connected on LinkedIn to highly recommend me. While I appreciated the compliment it hinted that the site was mostly bunk. After listening to Altucher and Roth, it seems like LinkedIn has gotten better, and these posts may end up there soon.

After the opening pleasantries, Roth talks about how Altucher had “one of the fastest” rises to the top to become a LinkedIn influencer. That group of influencers includes people like Kevin O’Leary, Farhad Manjoo, and Suze Orman. Altucher sounds like he appreciates this and comments on how some posts on LinkedIn do much better than others, each medium – even Medium – seems to have its own niche.

Roth suggests that an advantage of LinkedIn is that they can see the consistent things people come to LinkedIn for. Anything about technology, where the world is going, management, leadership, how to further your own career and make them better at what they want to do are veins best served by the LinkedIn content.

Altucher mentions that people got “massively demoted” in 2009 and that he sees why those ideas are the most popular. This political season has brought the great demotion to light in my state, Ohio. Governor Ted Kasich is trying to get re-elected and one of his ads proclaims he added 244,000 jobs in the state since he took over as governor. His opponents says that in that figure is a lot of minimum wage work.

Economist Tyler Cowen thinks that this is the direction things will go. In Average is Over Cowen proposes a divergence where there will be more have-nots but also more haves. Cowen argues that the new economy will mean that some people can capitalize on hard work, intelligence, and persistence – Altucher might call them the Choose Yourselfers – while other people won’t. These latter people, ones that might have been looking for the steady factory job that paid well, will find that those jobs are gone and have to work in a more structured environment for less than they had before. Cowen is one of the most thoughtful people I read online, take a listen to him in this 2013 interview about Average is Over.

Back to the podcast with Altucher, Roth says that when they started the Influencer program in 2012, the most popular articles were those about how to get a job and how to quit your job. This played out in the LinkedIn data and not just the posts.

Altucher asks about this data LinkedIn collects and while Roth doesn’t expound on it, he does say there are algorithms at work.  I don’t know what LinkedIn collects from people, but whatever it is, it will say a lot about you. In Dataclysm, Christian Rudder writes that being a data scientist today like being a chemist. Mix these two variables and see what you get. In his book, Rudder gives examples of the different things data scientists can predict with some degree of confidence, like what Egyptian towns will be most upset by border incidents with Israel, whether or not you are gay based on your Facebook friends, and the spread of the seasonal flu. When we search for “homemade chicken soup” that goes into an algorithm at Google along with some other ingredients and predicts the spread of the flu quite well. (Good broth is the key by the way). Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, are all tracking their users, and often this means a better experience. Roth says that he hopes each article you see on LinkedIn is one you enjoy.

The LinkedIn Influencer program launched with a 150 people to start; Richard Branson, Mitt Romney, and Barack Obama among them. “Richard Branson is to business what Leonardo Dicaprio is to entertainment.” Roth says. Later in the interview the pair mention T. Boone Pickens and J.T. O’Donnell as being some of the better current Influencers. Branson alone is a fascinating figure, and if you’re interested in his story at all, check out  Losing My Virginity.

Roth says that a key to LinkedIn’s success is that the site has remained focused on the professional connections that people want to have. It’s not a dating site, it’s not an SEO orgy, it’s professional stuff. That stuff though, is going to be tailored to you by their algorithm. This is the information people seem to want, but that we need to remember how it’s cultivated to you. Seeing different stories through the same frame will likely make you more dogmatic toward particular issues and might lead to a bit of fragility. Nassim Taleb writes in  Antifragile that the news media needs to fill a page – or 20 articles – each day regardless of their importance. If LinkedIn serves you the same number each day, keep in mind that some of those will be more signal than noise.

Later in the interview Roth tells the story of how they got Romney and Obama to write articles. It turns out that Obama’s team was completely disinterested in getting involved so the LinkedIn people turned to Romney’s team and he was in, then “five minutes later” Obama’s team called and said they were in too.

Altucher mentions his article, 10 Reasons You Have To Quit Your Job in 2014, and said that half the people liked it and half the people hated it, this polarizing nature probably made more people tell their friends about it. In Dataclysm, Christian Rudder applied this idea to attractiveness. The essence of online dating is looking at the person’s picture and then going on a date with them to see if you like them (though Rudder argues maybe the picture isn’t quite as important as we may think*). OKCupid had a lot of data so Rudder asked himself, what if a woman averaged a rating of 3 on a 1-5 scale? Being a ‘3’ could happen different ways, a woman could be a 3 because every rating was exactly a 3, while another could be a 3 because half the ratings were 1 and the other half 5. It turns out that for the latter, the woman who have the people love and half the people hate, will get 70% more messages. Later in the interview Altucher ponders how LinkedIn might serve as a dating site but Rudder’s data suggest that people don’t like their dating profiles mixed with other network ones.

One piece of advice Altucher has is to write about the field you are in. He says, “If I was a lawyer I would everyday take a question I was asked in the past week by one of my clients and write the full answer for free and put it on LinkedIn.”  Roth adds, that people want a post about you, not something thin. It’s not anonymous. “You have to talk about yourself, people love hearing about your mistakes.”

Later on Altucher says, “I don’t really listen to podcasts.” If you’re reading this, you probably like at least some of them; a few of my recent favorites are; Freakonomics, Planet Money, You Are Not So Smart, and Working had an incredible episode about Stephen Colbert.

Altucher asks Roth if LinkedIn could be a podcast network. Roth somewhat declines, saying that the site looks at what people are linking to and making sure they deliver good headlines to the right people. Roth says that of the 20 articles you see upon logging in, that 19 of them should be interesting to you. Roth says that his goal is that “You don’t start your day without using LinkedIn.”

Toward the end of the interview, Altucher starts churning out ideas and Roth is a bit taken aback by the torrent of things to-do, and mentions that it’s a challenge to pick the best ideas. This concept is opportunity cost, and it’s a pervasive situation.

Throughout the interview Roth and Altucher talk about things on LinkedIn, but to find some of those things for links here was impossible. Shark Tank Week never came up when I searched on LinkedIn or a Google search on the site. Ditto for their conversation about a butler sharing his experiences. If you know where any of these are, please let me know in the comments.

Altucher teased that he has another Shark Tank judge coming up on the podcast. That’ll bring the number to 3, because Mark Cuban has been a guest, so has Kevin Harrington.

Let me know what I missed and you liked, here or on Twitter, @MikeDariano.

* OKCupid ran an experiment where they jumbled the faces of possible connections in what they called, the Blind Date experiment. For a few hours on a single day this was the only way to make connections and some people tested the service and reported their connections as being about the same as the non-blind date ones they had. This brings up the point, if love isn’t yet blind, maybe it should be.

**This is one of a handful of posts that have already been published but needed migrated to a new blogging structure.

#91 Brad Feld

Brad Feld (@bfeld) joined James Altucher to talk about work-life balance, how to take care of yourself, and what the best entrepreneurs look like. To start, James apologizes for having to do another interview to which Feld replies he’s, “not pissed at all.” He says, “I’ve lost plenty of data in my life.” This reminded me of the very measured tones that Sam Shank (episode #78) said he saw Wes Craven exhibit. It would be easy to yell at the person who messed up, but what does that do? Not a lot.

James and Brad remark about the decreasing latency in communication. Even since each of them began working, communications have gone from overnight via FedEx to instantaneous via fax and now digital messages. It’s an interesting observation that as recently as 100 years ago, wireless communication didn’t exist. In the wonderful Thunderstruck, Erik Larson tells the story about the invention communication via radio waves and the obstacles. People didn’t believe they could travel in anything but a straight line and certainly not through physical obstacles. Reading Reddit in your basement is still inconsistent, but this discovery has taken a long time to take hold. In 1902 Guglielmo Marconi finally sent a message from Glace Bay to Poldhu in 1/13 of a second. A decade earlier the greatest scientific minds of the time would have called this impossible.


The bulk of the conversation between James and Brad is about finding the right sort of balance in your life. James says that “if I don’t focus on my wife and kids, something is subtracted out of my life.” Feld says that this is a good perspective to have and that we would be wise to remember that “at the end, all the lights go out.” In Meditations, Marcus Aurelius wrote something similar (about 2,000 years ago):

Survey the records of other eras. And see how many others gave their all and soon died and decomposed into the elements that formed them.

But most of all, run through the list of those you knew yourself. Those who worked in vain, who failed to do what they should have- what they should have remained fixed on and found satisfaction in.

Wait, what should we remain fixed on? A moment later Marcus writes, “the famous dead as well: Camillus, Caeso, Scipio and Cato. Everything fades so quickly, turns into legend, and soon oblivion covers it.” What then do we work for? Aurelius suggests – and I would guess that James and Brad agree – “proper understanding; unselfish action; truthful speech.”

For James, it’s been a transition from a life of ambition to a life of meaning. As I listened to this part I wondered if it’s wisdom and time that bring this along like a horse might pull a cart, or if it’s success. James has been financially very successful and I wonder if a life of meaning comes from that. My guess is the former, watch this Patagonia video, and make up your own mind.

The people in that video are living out their bucket list and Jack Canfield (episode #90) told James that people wait too long to make up their bucket list. Make that list now he says. Feld echoes this idea telling james that he’s 49 and might have 30 good years left, but there’s also a chance he could die tomorrow. Another quote from Marcus Aurelius:

Suppose that a god announced that you were going to die tomorrow “or the day after.” Unless you were a complete coward you wouldn’t kick up a fuss about which day it was-what difference could it make? Now recognized that the difference between years from now and tomorrow is just as small.

A lot of this reflection comes after Feld went through three periods of serious depression. He failed to take care of himself physically and find the right stimulus until, “my inner introvert threw a shit-fit and said enough already” he tells James. This brought along a period of enlightenment where Feld explored his own motivational structure and learned what depleted his energy stores and what built them up. Feld found that he needed time alone to recharge where other might want to be in a group. Then he gives advice that many don’t, that we all need to find the thing that works best for us. We won’t always get it right he says, but we can keep experimenting to find what is right for us.

Another revelation for Feld was that he didn’t need to swoop in to solve every problem, and often the swooping was bringing more swooning than saving. He tells James that “traveling on a plane to a meeting rarely accomplishes anything.” Feld suggests that people need two things for solving problems, clarity to think clearly about the ideas and time to collect more data.

This all comes in part of the conversation where both James and Brad admit that travelling takes a lot out of them and they need time to recharge. Feld says that another perk of traveling less is having to deal with fewer gatekeepers. There are no junior partner he and his venture firm need to navigate, they just speak to whoever they need to speak to.

Feld tells James that his firm invests in certain themes like human-computer interaction and protocol systems. From their site:

Our themes tend to be horizontal in nature and are often based on an underlying protocol, standard, or market trend that we believe is on the cusp of widespread adoption that has the potential to drive a cycle of innovation and company creation for at least a ten year period. We try to focus on themes and their underlying technologies that are ready to be rolled out to consumers or the enterprise and are well beyond the science-experiment phase.

His Foundry Group portfolio isn’t flashy with a lot of popular companies but each has passed the Feld filter.

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For each investment Felt and his team ask:

  1. Is the product interesting to us?
  2. Are the entrepreneurs obsessed by it?
  3. Is this a good long-term partnerships for both sides?

Each of those questions need to range from a weak to firm “Yes.”

Besides the investments, Feld helped start FG Press, the publishing arm of Foundry Group. They are responsible for publishing Ben Mezrich’s (episode #84) Q. Feld tells James that this is an experiment. Besides upcoming FG Press books, James asks what else an entrepreneur should read. Feld suggests:

Before the interview closes, James shares two books that he thinks Brad will like.

  • The Martian by Andy Weir, which Brad says was “one of my favorite books of 2014.”
  • How to Fight Presidents by Daniel O’Brien, a past guest on the James Altucher show.

Thanks for reading. As always, you can let me know how smart/stupid this post is/was on Twitter/Text.

One note, after listening to hundreds of hours of these shows I’m pulling out trends and themes. You can click on the “Products Pages” here or in the upper left to see more. Right now there is a 21 day plan for building your idea muscle. This is a pay-what-you-want plan designed specifically for people who have failed to maintain a daily idea list and are willing to take one small action every day for three weeks.

#90 Jack Canfield

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 “If you’re willing to work the principles, the principles always work” – Jack Canfield (Tweet This)

Jack Canfield (@jackcanfield) joined James Altucher to talk about the release of his book, The Success Principles, telling stories, and why you should make up your bucket list now. James tells Canfield that he is “one of my heroes” and that his initial book “practically saved my life.” That’s a ringing endorsement and he’s probably not the only one. Among his other books, over 500M copies of the Chicken Soup series have been sold.

Canfield’s origin story is as compelling as many of the other podcast guests. He tells James that he was teaching high school students but they just didn’t care. He noticed that that weren’t motivated to learn and they didn’t value personal improvement. This was during a time when Canfield himself was in the midst of self improvement, meeting W. Clement Stone, a friend of Napoleon Hill. The problem, Canfield resolved, was that schools weren’t teaching things like goal setting and the kids weren’t getting this important lesson anywhere else. So he began to teach it. Around the same time in the late 1960’s, but in California rather than Chicago, another person was putting goal setting to use. Arnold Schwarzenegger told this Tim Ferriss:

“My confidence came from my vision. I am always a big believer that if you have a very clear vision of where you want to go, then the rest of it is much easier.  You always know why you are training five hours a day. You always know why you are pushing and going through the pain barrier. Why you have to eat more. Why you have to struggle more. Why you have to be more disciplined. All of those things become much more clear. It’s not like, oh my god, I have do another two-hundred sit ups, it’s more like I can’t wait to do two-hundred more sit ups because that will get me one step closer to the abs that I need to win the Mr. Universe. And that’s my goal.

This was the mindset Canfield was trying to teach.

Another things Canfield was trying to impart was a willingness to try and fail. Throughout the interview Canfield brings up our resistance to trying things, telling James that many people would rather know their discomfort than discover their joy. Amanda Palmer (episode #82) told James that risking anything is hard. For her the risk was in asking. It was putting her art on display and being judged. About this Palmer says “there’s not an easy way, and that’s the point. If there was an easy way we’d all be happy and everybody would do it all the time and we’d be living in a fantastic society.”

Canfield says that he also finds himself teaching people that life’s not fair or unfair.

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

He eventually left the school to teach these ideas to everyone rather than teacher history to kids, but he took a tool from teaching history; stories. This interview with James is full of stories and Canfield says that he clips them whenever he can. He copies pages from books, cuts out newspaper articles, or grabs pages from Parade magazine. He also suggests that all authors put a blurb at the end of their book and ask readers to write in about how that book helped them. This is another way to accumulate stories.

His 10th anniversary edition of The Success Principles has some of these stories and a few other updated sections.

  • About Leadership. “Everyone should be a leader” Canfield tells James and this is one of two things Seth Godin (episode # 27) thinks should be taught in school.
  • About Networking. “Most people when they are networking are saying refer people to me, or buy my whatever.” Canfield says. Rather we need to focus more on sharing. Adam Grant (episode #73) found that people who give rather than take have better, wider, and more diverse networks. Giving is also central to Gary Vaynerchuk (episode #2) who advocates building relationships.

My favorite part of the interview (13:45) is when Canfield tells the story about being overseas and talking to an interviewer who had almost nothing, $3 or so. Canfield gives him some money and wants to give him one of his books, but he doesn’t have any so he goes to a local bookstore to buy his own book to give the guy. Then the story gets crazy. He tells James the guy made this resolution.

 “I’m going to do everything in this book for one year. If it doesn’t work all I’ve have wasted is a year, if it does work maybe I”ll be as successful as Jack.”

Things work out for the guy in quick time, but often it takes much longer. Canfield says that Chicken Soup was rejected 144 times before finding a publisher, and then he gives one of the best answers I’ve ever heard. James asks, when do you give up?

Jack responds, “When would you give up teaching someone to walk?”

It reminded me of this:

“When you want to succeed as bad as you want to breathe, then you’ll be successful.”

Canfield tells James that the universe will test us by throwing things at us to see if we are really resolved to the course we are on. This verges on something that Ryan Holiday (episode #18) told Altucher “This is what successful people do. Period. They don’t get impeded by things, in fact, when bad things happen they get better.”

Canfield and James caution the excited listener to not have a single goal, which James says, “is almost self-sabotaging because it’s too easy to fail.” Canfield says that the successful people find a passion umbrella to roost under.

Past guest Scott Adams would say that you need to focus on a passion system. “Goals suck” he writes, because you’re either in a state of not achieving them (failure) or you have achieved them but then you have nothing else to pursue.

Another one of the success principles James and Jack talk about is that success leaves clues. In 2005 Steve Jobs spoke to the graduating class at Stanford and said:

Again, you can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.

Steve Jobs did some amazing things in his life, but there is an aura about him that we propagate in our stories. James takes a crack at it, saying that Jobs succeeded in part because he combined the art of calligraphy with that of computers but that he wasn’t great at either one. This is what Scott Adams advocates, to build up very specific skills so that when you combine them, you’re the only one who can combine them well. He writes:

I’m a perfect example of the power of leveraging multiple mediocre skills. I’m a rich and famous cartoonist who doesn’t draw well. At social gatherings I’m usually not the funniest person in the room. My writing skills are good, not great. But what I have that most artists and cartoonists do not have is years of corporate business experience plus an MBA from Berkeley’s Haas School of Business.

You don’t have to be the best saleswomen. You just have to be the best saleswomen in the Pacific Northwest selling diamond engagement rings.

My own take on Jobs is this, he was very smart, very lucky, and worked very hard. The only person who had the chance to be Steve Jobs was Steve Jobs. That’s the best lesson we can take from his life, work hard, do your best possible work on everything, and hope to get lucky. Though Canfield has advice on this last part – to use the law of probability, meaning that we need to take a lot of chances to have something hit. Seth Godin (episode #86) told James that he would be the first to admit that selling his company to Yahoo! 18 months before the stock market crashed was luck. But he’ll also point out that he was unlucky hundreds of times before and after that, saying “you have to get up to bat many times” to have a success.

Canfield advocates finding mentors and gives some advice for people who don’t have a mentor. Start small he says, asking for a ten minute phone call once a month. If you get that, try to have something specific to talk about and give back to the person who is taking time to mentor you. When they give you advice, take it, act on it and report back. Ramit Sethi (episode #36) told James that this is the best way for people to reach. Tell them what you’ve done, how you applied something they suggested and what happened.

For a more nuts and bolts punchlist about what it takes to create a mastermind event, the Tropical MBA podcast has Taylor Pearson on to talk about the ideal size, logistics, format, and the 3 biggest mistakes a mastermind CEO makes.

Canfield tells James that mastermind groups and meditation are the two most powerful techniques included in the book. Dan Harris (episode #12) had a wonderful exploration of meditation and mindfulness if you want more of that.

Toward the end of the interview James says that the Rule of Five is one of the “most powerful ideas in the book.” Canfield explains that his is the idea that everyday you take 5 actions to move something forward. You tweet to people, you email contacts, you generate ideas. One of the ways his team did this was sending out free books to certain groups like the OJ Simpson jurors and Navy families after the attack on the USS Cole. Unfortunately I couldn’t’ find pictures of the front page newspaper coverage the Canfield says both acts got. That sort of advertising may be priceless, but Google failed to archive it.

The end of the interview has a bit of talk about the current state of a book tour. James says that “the podcast tour has replaced the book tour” and that “marketing is happening everyday.” Canfield echoes the advice of Gary Vaynerchuk (episode #2) that guest posting is one of the most important things you can do.

Finally, you can buy Canfeild’s book at TheSuccessPrinciplesBook.com and get $100 of free material with it. But that’s not all! It also comes with a money back guarantee.

Thanks for reading. Every 10th one of these I ask for something. If you enjoyed it could you please share it on your social network of choice, or make a donation.

Whenever these type of guests come on, I get excited and ready to take over the world but need to remember that passion alone won’t get me anywhere. If passion and the law of attraction is hooking a fish, doing the work is reeling it in. As always, let me know what you liked or didn’t on Twitter, @MikeDariano.