Best Investments, Bad Advice to Avoid, and Other Life Lessons | The Tim Ferriss Show (Podcast) | Transcription
Transcription for the video titled "Best Investments, Bad Advice to Avoid, and Other Life Lessons | The Tim Ferriss Show (Podcast)".
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At this altitude, I can run flat out for a half mile before my hands start shaking. Can I answer your personal question? No, I would have seen it at perfect time. What if I did the opposite? I'm a cybernetic organism, living tissue over a metal entoskeleton. The Tim Ferriss Show. This episode is brought to you by Four Sigmatic. You might remember Four Sigmatic for their mushroom coffee, which was created by those clever Finnish founders. And when I first mentioned that coffee on this podcast, the product sold out in less than a week. It lights you up like a Christmas tree, which can be really useful. However, recently I've been testing the opposite side of the spectrum, a new product. And that is their Reishi Mushroom Elixir to help me end my day, to get to sleep. As you guys may know, longtime listeners at least, I struggled with insomnia for decades. I've largely fixed that, but still shutting off my monkey brain has never been easy, still isn't easy, very often. And I found Reishi, which I've been fascinated by for a few years now, has been very, very effective and calming. Their old formula, however, Four Sigmatic's old formula included stevia. And I like to avoid sweeteners, all sweeteners, for a host of reasons. And I then just pinged them and asked, hey, guys, I would love to experiment with this and maybe actually suggest it, but I'd like a version without sweeteners. If you'd be open to it, if too much of a headache, don't worry. And they are always game for experimentation. So they created a special custom version without the stevia, without sweeteners. Now it is part of my nightly routine. Their Reishi Elixir comes in single serving packets, which are perfect for travel. And in fact, I'm about to leave the country right now and I have a packet in front of me that's just going to sit in the end of my carry-on bag. You only need hot water and it mixes very, very easily. Here's some recommended copy that they put in the read. So I'm going to read it and then I'll give you my take. Quote, "A warning for those in the experimental mindset. Reishi is strong and bitter," in parentheses, "like any great medicine. So if the bitterness is too much, I recommend trying it with honey and/or nut milk, such as almond milk," end quote. So I'm going to say, no, you should suck it up and you should drink the tea because it's not that bitter. And maybe you should take the advice of old Chinese people when they're criticizing youngins when they say, which means you're not able to eat bitterness. Bitter is, in many cases, an indication of things that help liver detoxification and so on. Not saying that's the case here, but I've tested this Reishi Elixir on family members, on friends. Everybody has liked it. It's a little bit earthy. It's not that hard. So I would just say, suck it up and no, don't put in honey or nut milk or any of that shit. Just drink the goddamn tea. It's delicious, I think. If you like Pu'erh, that kind of stuff, that type of tea, you're going to dig it. So just try it. OK, back to then my read. If you'd like to naturally improve your sleep, both onset and quality, I think, naturally, you might just enjoy this Reishi Elixir without any sweeteners. It has organic Reishi extract, organic fueled mint extract, organic rose hips extract, organic tulsi extract. And that's it. No fancy stuff, no artificial whatchamacallit anything. So check it out. Go to foursigmatic.com/ferris and get 20% off this special batch. I don't know if they're going to be making much more of this, since it was made specifically for you guys. So do me a favor and try it out so that they continue to be open to experimenting with me to create products for you guys specifically. Check it out. foursigmatic, that's F-O-U-R-S-I-G-M-A-T-I-C.com/ferris, F-E-R-R-I-S-S, and get 20% off the special batch. And you must use the code ferris to receive your discount, F-E-R-R-I-S-S. So again, go to foursigmatic.com/ferris, and then use code ferris for 20% off of this rare, exclusive, limited run of Reishi Mushroom Elixir for nighttime routines without any sweeteners. Enjoy. This episode is brought to you by Athletic Greens. Every year, of course, people look for new ways to become healthier, to take their fitness, and so on to the next level. For me, step number one is having some form of nutritional insurance. That's how I would look at it. And the nutritional insurance needs to make sure all of my basic needs are met, all the boxes checked, regardless of travel, schedule, missed meals, and so on. There are going to be times in the new year when your diet and exercise will get interrupted. Life will interrupt it. And during those times, you want a safety net. I get asked all the time, if you could only use one supplement, what would it be? And my answer is inevitably Athletic Greens. It is your all-in-one nutritional insurance. I recommended it in the four-hour body, did not get paid for that. And I travel with it to avoid getting sick. I take it in the mornings to ensure optimal performance. It just covers all my bases, if I can't get what I need through Whole Food meals throughout the rest of the day. As listeners of the Tim Ferriss Show, you can receive 30% off of your first order by visiting athleticgreens.com/tim. That is a great deal on one of my favorite products. And it covers my bases each day. It is part of my routine. And it leaves me with less to worry about, if, for instance, I have to skip a meal or just can't get a high-quality meal. So check it out. Go to athleticgreens.com/tim and learn all about it.
Guest Introductions And Discussions
What you can look forward to (05:44)
Hello, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls. And welcome to another episode of Tim Ferriss Show, where it is always my job, each and every episode, to interview world-class performers and experts, leaders in all fields. And that ranges from amazing athletes to military personnel to chess prodigies to famous investors and beyond. In this episode, we're going to set a new podcast record for the show, at least, with five different guests. These are people that I have interviewed remotely. And this episode today features Adam Robinson, Debbie Millman, Neil Strauss, Scott Belsky, and Veronica Belmont. These are all people who are, I consider, the best at what they do, or at least one of the best in the world at the many things that they do. And that, of course, includes investing, chess, graphic design, writing, tech, and much, much more. This particular roundtable discussion covers topics posed to all of them, questions posed to all of them, including best investments. What are the best investments they've ever made? What are their favorite failures? In other words, failures that have led to later successes. And bad recommendations in their areas of expertise that you should avoid. This is a composite episode, which many of you have requested explicitly, because you want to be able to see the patterns. And each guest offers a lot of actionable life advice. So without further ado, please give a listen. And I hope you enjoy this as much as I did.
Who is Adam Robinson? (07:20)
Our guest today is Adam Robinson. You can find him on Twitter @iamadamrobinson or at robinsonglobalstrategies.com. Adam has made a lifelong study of outflanking and outsmarting the competition. He is a rated chess master and has been awarded a Life Master title by the United States Chess Federation. As a teenager, he was personally mentored by Bobby Fischer in the 18 months leading up to his winning the World Championship. And Adam and I talked a lot about this in our first conversation on The Tim Ferriss Show, which you guys can check out. But back to the bio. Then in Adam's first career, he developed a revolutionary approach to taking standardized tests as one of the two original co-founders of The Princeton Review. His paradigm-breaking, or category-killing, as they say in publishing, test prep book Cracking the System, the SAT, is the only test prep book to have ever become a New York Times bestseller. After selling his interest in The Princeton Review, Adam turned his attention in the early '90s to the then emerging field of artificial intelligence, developing a program that could analyze text and provide human-like commentary. He was later invited to join a well-known quant fund to develop statistical trading models. And since, he's established himself as an independent global macro advisor to the chief investment officers of a select group of the world's most successful hedge funds and ultra-high net worth family offices. What are bad recommendations that you hear in your profession or area of expertise?
Bad recommendations that you hear in your profession? (08:40)
My field is that of global finance. And virtually all investors have been told when they were younger, more implicitly believed, or have been tacitly encouraged to do so by the cookie cutter curriculums of business schools they all attend, that the more they understand the world, the better their investment results. It makes sense, doesn't it? The more information we acquire and evaluate, the air quotes, "better informed we become," and the better our decisions. Accumulating information, becoming better informed, is certainly an advantage in numerous, if not most fields. But not in the counterintuitive world of investing, where accumulating information can actually hurt your investment results. So in 1974, Paul Slovik, a world-class psychologist and a peer of Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman, decided to evaluate the effect of information on decision making. This study should be taught at every business school in the country. Slovik gathered eight professional horse handicappers and announced to them, I want to see how well you predict the winners of horse races. Now, these handicappers were all seasoned professionals who made their living solely on their gambling skills. Slovik told them the test would consist of predicting 40 horse races in four consecutive rounds. In the first round, each gambler would be given the five pieces of information he wanted on each horse, which would vary from handicapper to handicapper. One handicapper, for example, might want the years of experience the jockey has had as one of his top five variables, while another might not care at all about that, but want the fastest speed for any given horse it achieved in the past year, or the weight of the jockey, or whatever. Finally, in addition to asking the handicappers to predict the winner of each race, he asked each one to also state how confident he was in his prediction. Now, as it turns out, there were an average of 10 horses in each race. So we would expect by blind chance-- random guessing-- that each handicapper would be right 10% of the time, and that their confidence with a blind guess to be 10%. So in round one, let's see how they did. With just five pieces of information, the handicappers were 17% accurate, which is pretty good, actually-- 70% better than the 10% chance they started with given zero pieces of information. And interestingly, their confidence was 19%, almost exactly as confident as they should have been. They were 17% accurate and 19% confident in their predictions. Excellent calibration. In round two, they were then given 10 pieces of information. In round three, 20. And in the fourth and final round, each handicapper was given 40 pieces of information. That's a whole lot more statistics than the five pieces of information they each started with. Surprisingly, their accuracy had flatlined at 17%. They were no more accurate with the additional 35 pieces of information they had. Unfortunately, their confidence in their predictions had nearly doubled to 31%. So the additional information made them no more accurate, but a whole lot more confident, which would have led them to increase the size of their bets and lose money as a result. Beyond a certain amount of information-- a certain minimal amount-- additional information only feeds confirmation bias, leaving aside the considerable cost and delay occasioned in acquiring that information. The additional information we gain that conflicts with our original assessment or conclusion, we conveniently ignore or dismiss, while the information that confirms our original decision makes us increasingly certain that our conclusion was correct. So to return to investing, the second problem with trying to understand the world is that it is simply far too complex to grasp. And the more dogged our attempts to understand the world, the more earnestly we want to explain-- that's air quotes-- explain events and trends in it, the more we become attached to our resulting beliefs, which are almost always more or less mistaken, blinding us to the financial trends that are actually unfolding right in front of our eyes. Worse, we think we understand the world, giving us a false sense of confidence, when in fact, we are almost always more or less mistaken. You hear all the time from even the most seasoned investors and financial experts that this trend or that doesn't make sense. It doesn't make sense that the dollar keeps going lower, or it makes no sense that stocks keep going higher. But what's really going on when investors say that something makes no sense is that they have a dozen or whatever reasons why the trend should be moving in the opposite direction, yet it keeps moving in the current direction. So they believe the trend, air quotes, makes no sense. But what makes no sense is their model of the world. That's what doesn't make sense. The world always makes sense. We just don't understand it. In fact, because financial trends involve human behavior and human beliefs on a global scale, the most powerful trends won't make sense until it becomes too late to profit from them. By the time investors formulate an understanding-- again, a false understanding-- that gives them the feeling of confidence to invest, the investment opportunity has likely already passed. So when I hear sophisticated investors or financial commentators say, for example, that it makes no sense how energy stocks keep going lower, I know that energy stocks have a lot lower to go, because all those investors are on the wrong side of the trade, in denial, probably doubling down on their original decision to buy energy stocks. Eventually, they'll be forced to throw in the towel and have to sell those energy stocks, driving prices still lower. What is one of the best or most worthwhile investments you've ever made?
One of the best & most worthwhile investments made (14:37)
I've made many investments in my life-- money, of time, of energy, of passion, and emotion. And one of the best payoffs for the amount invested was learning to meditate. I've always been driven, excited by the world. So my mind is continually racing at 1,000 miles per hour, pursuing this question or that, creating this system or that, nonstop, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, 366 on leap years. Now, all that nonstop mental and psychic stimulation gets exhausting, of course. And if you want to perform optimally at anything, you need to find a way to recover from the stresses of that activity. So I knew that though I should find a way to turn off my mind and, air quotes, "just relax, just enjoy, just be," for years, I had failed to find a way. I tried everything-- yoga, exercise. I even tried hypnosis. I researched once the best hypnotist in New York City as a way to somehow turn off my hyperactive mind. But after four attempted and hugely expensive sessions with this guy, the hypnotist gave up, saying, "your mind is too active to submit to the hypnosis." "Well, thanks a lot, doc," I told him, not concealing my annoyance. That's exactly why I had come to him. Then, about two years ago, my bestie Josh Waitzkin, recognizing that I couldn't unwind or disengage from my relentless analyzing the world, especially the financial world, recommended that I take up meditation. "Sorry," I said, "it doesn't work for me. I can't sit still long enough for any benefits of meditating to kick in." So he asked, "have you ever tried heart rate variability training, HRV training?" And I said, "no, what's that?" He said that you just focused on your breathing using biofeedback to measure the smoothness and the amplitude-- hence the word variability-- of your heart rate. The heart, not surprisingly, registers all our real-time emotions and stresses. So the normal heartbeat is highly erratic, staying within a tight band around an average. The goal with the biofeedback training is to gain control over your own heart rate by focusing on your breathing, making your jagged heart rate smooth out like a sine curve and to widen its amplitude. That sounded interesting, but it wasn't until I reframed meditation that I submitted to trying it. The problem with meditation, I thought, was that it wasn't practical. And worse, the time I spent meditating was time I could have spent analyzing the world. But I eventually reframed meditation as a way to relinquish control of my conscious mind so that my more powerful, unconscious mind could take over and my analysis of the world would improve. Motivated by that reframing, I enthusiastically adopted biofeedback HRV training and, in a few weeks, learned to quiet my mind after just a single, deep diaphragm belly breath, gaining the ability to achieve a zen-like calm on demand. Now, whenever I need to detach from the world or from the stresses of daily life and to allow my mind a rest, I simply get centered and inhale from my diaphragm. And I do so numerous times a day, a minute here, a minute there. And at least once a day, I "waste"-- that's air quotes-- I "waste" a larger 15 to 20 minute block of time meditating in this way. But it's not wasted time, of course, since the increased creativity and productivity from these many restorative sessions is far more valuable than the time I spend being "unproductive"-- again, air quotes-- while meditating. Meditation is one of the most practical, powerful, productivity-enhancing tools ever created. And learning to meditate is one of the best investments I've ever made.
Who is Debbie Millman? (18:35)
Today's guest is Debbie Millman, one of my favorite people. Debbie Millman, @DebbieMillman on Twitter and Instagram. So please say hello, debbiemillman.com. She has been called one of the most influential designers working today by Graphic Design USA. She is the founder and host of Design Matters, the world's first and longest running podcast about design, where she's interviewed nearly 300 design luminaries and cultural commentators, including Massimo Vignelli and Milton Glaser. Her artwork has been exhibited around the world. And she's designed everything from wrapping paper to beach towels, greeting cards to playing cards, notebooks to t-shirts, and Star Wars merchandise to global Burger King re-brands. She's done everything. Debbie is the president emeritus of AIGA, one of only five women to hold the position in the organization's 100-year history, the editorial and creative director of Print magazine, and the author of six books. In 2009, Debbie co-founded, alongside Stephen Heller, the world's first master's program in branding at the School of Visual Arts in New York City, which has received international acclaim. Debbie is brilliant. She is one of the sweetest humans I know and has taught me so, so much, including, as you will learn, busy is a decision. So without further ado, please enjoy the ever interesting and insightful Debbie Millman. How has a failure or apparent failure set you up for later success?
Favorite failure? (20:07)
Do you have a quote, "favorite failure," end quote, of yours? Oh, Tim, I have so many failures. I think the first decade of my career were experiments and failure, rejection and humiliation. But I do have a favorite, so I will share that. In early 2003, a good friend sent me an email with a subject line that read, "Begin drinking heavily before opening." The email contained a link to a blog titled, "Speak Up," the first ever online forum about graphic design and branding in the world. Suddenly, sprawled before my eyes, I found myself reading an article that disparaged my entire career. This particular incident, in tandem with a number of historical rejections and setbacks and humiliations, sent me into a really deep depression. And I seriously considered leaving the design profession altogether. However, however, in the 14 years since this occurred, this utter takedown of everything I'd done to date and everything I thought was a complete and total failure for a long, long time ultimately transformed into the foundation of everything I've done since. Everything I am doing now contains the seeds of origin from that time. So it turns out, for me, the worst professional experience I've faced ultimately became the most important defining experience of my life. What is one of the best or most worthwhile investments you've ever made?
Best Investment (21:54)
This answer might surprise you, or maybe not. But the best investment I've ever made was in psychotherapy. When I first started, I was in my early 30s, and the bills practically killed me. But I knew I needed to deeply understand all the destructive things that had happened to me in order to try to live a remarkable life despite these things. And I wanted this more than anything. Over the years, I still sometimes smart at the monthly invoices. But I've never doubted that this investment has profoundly, profoundly shaped who I've become. And although I still think I have a lot of work to do, it's changed and then saved my life in every imaginable way. And I'm in what is called psychoanalytic psychotherapy, put another way, psychoanalysis, with an emphasis on self-psychology. And so for me, talk therapy is the only thing that I've ever really felt drawn to. Things like EMDR and behavior modification might be really, really helpful for other people, but they seem a little bit too voodoo for me. So some things that I think are important to consider, strictly from my perspective, I'm not an expert at assessing or analyzing the value or worth of psychoanalysis. Only I am able to convey what this has done for me. But for me, once a week therapy did not work well. Twice or more gives you continuity and an opportunity to germinate in a way that once a week doesn't. Also, once a week almost feels like a catch up. You sort of bring the therapist up to speed on what happened in the last week, and then you have 20 minutes to sort of talk about what's happening right now. Therapy takes time. I often say that anything worthwhile takes a long time, and therapy is one of those things. I've been in therapy for a really long time, for decades. But I can now, after those decades, actually point to empirical evidence of how my behavior in the world, my sense of who I am, has fundamentally, fundamentally changed. And so being in therapy, and being in therapy for any length of time, it takes dedication, it takes stamina, it takes resilience, persistence, and a lot of courage to face things that you might be really afraid to look at. So it's not a quick fix, but like I said, it's really saved my life. Try and tell your therapist everything. If you edit who you are, or if you pretend to be something that you're not in order to impress the therapist, if you want to project who or how you want to be seen, it will take that much longer. So just be yourself. They've likely, in their practice, heard everything. They understand humanity. So just be yourself. If you're afraid your therapist will judge you, tell them that also, because that whole projection is really critical to understanding the dynamic that you have with people in general. So all of these things are really important to talk about. There is no shame in feeling shame. And I'm saying this from a place of deep empathy. Almost everyone feels shame. I think Brene Brown says that anybody that doesn't feel shame is likely a pathological person. So almost everyone does, and therapy will help you understand it. There is nothing like understanding your motivations and insecurities to help you integrate all of those feelings in your psyche in the most healthy and authentic way. So for me, I would not recommend going to a therapist Asking your friends for a referral and then going to somebody that they see might seem like a good idea, because that person trusts them, and therefore, by extension, you might feel like you can too. But it ends up blurring things quite a bit. And I think most therapists abide by this rule now of not seeing friends or clients of friends. Things really do get very blurry, and boundaries can get weird, and I just don't recommend that. Okay, big elephant in the room here. It is going to be expensive. But what is more valuable than better understanding who you are, breaking intrinsic bad habits, getting over much of your shit, or at least understanding why you do the shit in the first place, and generally living a happier, more contented, more peaceful life? One thing that I've come to understand recently, and this was actually not only through the help of my therapist and guidance from my therapist, but also through my dear, dear friend Seth Godin, is understanding the difference between happiness and pleasure. And I think people are often trying to reach for and strive for pleasure.
Seth Godin on the Hedonic Treadmill (26:43)
And the response to trying to seek pleasure is actually wanting more pleasure after that. We live on this hedonistic treadmill. We metabolize our purchases and our experiences very quickly. And so when we have that pleasure or experience that pleasure, then we want more. Happiness is very different. Happiness essentially means you're okay as is. You don't need more. You don't want more. You feel good with what you have. And I think that therapy really helps you understand the difference between what you seek, what your motivations are, and ultimately what you want and how you can manifest that in your life. So breaking these intrinsic bad habits, getting over much of your shit, and generally living this happier, more contented, more peaceful life is something that I think is the ultimate gift of therapy, or the payoff. And lastly, my advice to anyone looking for a therapist is to make sure they're really trained.
Red Flags in a Prospective Therapist (27:57)
I highly recommend training here, a PhD, an MD, plus postdoctoral training. You really do get what you pay for here, and I highly recommend somebody that is truly fully educated in what they do. - What are bad recommendations you hear in your profession or area of expertise?
Bad Advice from Career Advice Columnists (28:12)
- I don't believe in work-life balance. I believe if you view your work as a calling, it is a labor of love rather than laborious. When your work is a calling, you are not approaching the amount of hours you are working with with a sense of dread or counting the minutes until the weekend. Your calling can become a life-affirming engagement that can provide its own balance and spiritual nourishment. And ironically, it takes hard work to achieve this. So when you're in your 20s and your 30s and you wanna have a remarkable, fulfilling career, you must work hard. If you don't work harder than everyone else, you will not get ahead. Also, if you're looking for work-life balance in your 20s or 30s, you're likely in the wrong career. If you're doing something that you love, you don't want work-life balance. You want to be able to do this thing that you love as often as possible. - Our guest today is Neil Strauss.
Who is Neil Strauss? (29:17)
You can find him on Twitter @NeilStrouse, Instagram @Neil_Strouse and at NeilStrouse.com. He is an eight-time New York Times best-selling author. He is a glutton for punishment, likes to write a lot of books. His books, "The Game" and "Rules of the Game," for which he went undercover in a secret society of pickup artists, made him an international celebrity and an accidental hero to men around the world. In his follow-up book, "The Truth," subtitle, an uncomfortable book about relationships, "Strouse" dives deep into the worlds of sex addiction, non-monogamy, infidelity and intimacy, and explores the hidden forces that cause people to choose each other, stay together and break up. He most recently co-authored with Kevin Hart, the instant number one New York Times bestseller, "I Can't Make This Up, Life Lessons." How has a failure or apparent failure set you up for later success?
How has a failure or apparent failure set you up for later success? (30:04)
Do you have any favorite failure of yours? - And it's funny, like it's such a theme, right? Like those failures might hurt at the time, but I think anyone who's got anywhere say those failures are the best thing that ever happened to them. I mean, for me, and it's kind of embarrassing because I ended up writing at the New York Times for 10 years, is I was actually rejected from journalism school, right? What's the lesson there is like, if you're rejected from something, it doesn't mean it's not right for you. It just means it wasn't right for the person who made that decision. And especially if you're doing something new or different, and you're trying to go somewhere that's very status quo, they're not gonna get you or accept you. So it's a powerful thing, and not a lot of people have this inner confidence to know, this is my passion, and I don't need someone to give me a green light to live in my passion. So I got rejected from journalism school, and I think if I got accepted, I would have followed the regular route and like been covering like city hall meetings and like, we-hawking New Jersey or something, and no offense to anyone with everything we-hawking. Yeah, so not getting into journalism school was the only reason I became a journalist and wrote for the New York Times. And often, right, there's other paths to get to where you want, and sometimes you have to trust that the path you're on is the right path. In fact, you have to trust it because there's no other path but the one you're on. And the bigger idea is this, the outcome is not the outcome. And what I mean by this is there's a famous, I wanna say it's a Zen parable, and I'm gonna totally misquote it and get it wrong, but there's a farmer and his horse breaks, his horse, I don't know, his horse runs away, let's say. His horse runs away and they say, "That's too bad. "I'm sorry your horse ran away. "It's really gonna mess up your farm." He's like, "No, no, it's all right. "We don't know yet if it's for the good or for the bad." And then maybe his horse, I think his horse came back with like four other horses. And again, I'm totally massacring this parable, but you'll get the point. His horse came back with four other horses, and they're like, "Wow, that's amazing. "Now you have four horses. "How lucky are you?" He's like, "Well, I don't know, we'll see." Then one day his son is riding the horse. One of the new horses, the horse bucks him. The son is thrown and he breaks his, really badly shatters and breaks his leg. They said, "Oh, that's too bad. "I'm sorry your son broke your leg, broke his leg. "That's horrible for you and him. "And now he can't work on the farm and all these bad things." And the farmer says, "I don't know, we'll see. "I don't know if it's bad or good." Then there's suddenly a war, and they go to kind of draft people into the war. And turns out the son can't go off to fight because he's broken his leg and his life is saved because he's broke his leg. They said, "Oh my God, thank God that horse "threw your son, now his life was saved." And the farmer says, "I don't know, we'll see." And the point is, you don't know if something's good or bad because there's only one ending, right? And even that ending, the universe goes on, your family and your loved ones, they go on too. So the outcome's not the outcome. The end is not the end. We measure these things by these endpoints that are not their real endpoints. So the truth is, you don't know, you'll see. Keep moving forward, you don't know. The outcome is not the outcome.
Investments, Failures, And Advice
Most worthwhile investment (33:18)
- What is one of the best or most worthwhile investments you've ever made? - I would just say that for me, it was time. Time is obviously the most valuable resource we have. Side note, and this is something that's often talked about here, is just people are so careful with their money, even with getting ripped off for a dollar, three dollars, five dollars, yet they're so generous with their time. In fact, I shouldn't even be doing this right now. I've got things to do. A little exercise that I learned from a marketer named Dan Kennedy is there's kind of a formula you can do, which is figure out what you make in a year, divide it by the amount of work hours in a year, and then divide that by three 'cause the average person only spends one third of each work hour working, and that's what your time is worth. So next time you feel like an obligation to go to lunch with someone, add that up and see if you really wanna be giving that person however many dollars that is. So the point is, the best invention I made was actually an investment at Time, which was I was an unpaid intern at The Village Voice, and I think the secret, and again, Robert Greene says this in his book, "Mastery," it's something that's often said, but being willing to work, and this goes against everything in the culture right now in a lot of ways, but really being willing to work for free and to be totally exploited as a resource, just to be around people who are writing, around people who are creative, inside a sort of busy newspaper newsroom that was full of culture and life, and to be around artists and critics and writers I really admired, that changed my life. If I was not an unpaid intern at The Village Voice and got rejected from journalism school, again, I wouldn't be writing and talking to you. I literally spent a year just opening mail and doing people's expense reports and waiting for the chance just to write once. But the crazy thing is once I wrote once, no one knew I was an intern, they just thought I was a writer for The Village Voice, and that got me really, really far. I think I stayed there for years. I think it was really hard for them to get rid of me. So that actually was my journalism school, and I only learned to write by having great editors there. So I would say being willing to listen to someone who is more proficient at you than something, telling you what you're doing wrong, and internalizing that and not taking it personally is huge. Are they always right?
Ego Gets in the Way (35:44)
No, but they might know more than you, so it's worth seriously considering. I've seen amazing people who are just starting something new who let their ego get in the way of a good lesson or opportunity. I've sat there while maybe the greatest surfer in the world is giving an amateur surfer advice, and the amateur surfer is so worried that they'll be judged by the famous guy that they're trying to pretend like they know what they're talking about and what they know about surfing instead of just shutting up, listening, and trying it. And here's another thing about everybody who's great. I could go off on these questions forever, but another thing about everybody who's great is even if they don't agree with it, they're willing to try it if it won't hurt them or someone else. So again, if we talk about surfing, adjust your stance. For me with writing, I remember my editor saying, "Brush off the academic dust." I would like to quote French postmodernism to show people I was smart or something. I don't know what I was thinking, but try it first. Seriously try it and see if it works before you discard it. The big idea that's gonna change your life or gonna change your creativity is the one you disagree with. If you have the resistance to it and you try it anyway, that's where the big breakthrough is. The ones you agree with, you're already doing or believing, so there won't be a big breakthrough there. Today's guest is Scott Belsky. You can find him on Twitter and Instagram @ScottBelsky, B-E-L-S-K-Y, and @ScottBelsky.com. Scott is an entrepreneur, author, and investor. He is a venture partner at Benchmark, a very, very, very highly regarded venture capital firm based in San Francisco. Scott co-founded Behance in 2006 and served as CEO until Adobe acquired Behance in 2012. Millions of people use Behance to display their portfolios as well as track and find top talent across the creative industries. He is an early investor and advisor in Pinterest, Uber, and Periscope, among many other fast growing startups.
Scott Belsky (37:47)
He is a friend and one of the people I call most often for startup and life advice. He's crafted a very, very, very unique career and life for himself. So without further ado, please enjoy a few questions with the ever so interesting and insightful Scott Belsky. What are bad recommendations you hear in your profession or area of expertise? - The first thing that came to my mind was that industries are led by experts. You know, we idolize the experts in our industry. We often forget that industries are often transformed by neophytes, right? I mean, look at, you know, bold transformations like Uber disrupting transportation or Airbnb disrupting hospitality. These are all plays that were led by outsiders. I remember talking to Joe Gebbia, co-founder of Airbnb, who was saying that he didn't even know common hotel industry terms when he had started Airbnb. He had no background in the business and as such, a concept that so many hotel executives discounted as ridiculous that the customer would never want, you know, they were more open to. And which begs the question, you know, perhaps the playbook to change an industry is to be naive enough at the start to question these basic assumptions and to stay alive long enough to employ skills that are unique and advantageous to the space that you seek to change. You know, perhaps this naive excitement and pragmatic expertise are as equally important traits, but just at different times. The second bad recommendation you hear in your profession is that customers know best. And the only, gosh, the only focus group I ever ran at Behance was in the very beginning in 2007, when we were debating a number of different approaches towards our mission, which was to organize the creative world. We presented the focus group that we had gathered together with a bottle of wine and one evening, we presented to this focus group participants five or six different ideas and then asked them to complete a survey 'cause we were really trying to triangulate in what we would be doing first in our business. Universally, participants said that the last thing that they wanted was quote unquote, yet another social network to connect with creative peers. They figured that Myspace was sufficient for this purpose, but when they were asked by us about their greatest struggles participants talked about, you know, the expense and efficiencies of maintaining an online portfolio and how difficult it was to get attribution for the creative work that they had made. And so we were faced with a classic example of don't ask customers what they want, figure out what they need. And we ultimately built a social network for creative professionals that is now the world's leading creative professional community with over 12 million members and you know, six years later it was acquired by Adobe. And so there was an important message there, which is you do always have to be seeking empathy with your customer. You can't always necessarily expect them to know what you're supposed to do for them. - What advice would you give to a smart driven college student about to enter the so-called real world? What advice do you think they should ignore?
Advice for College Students About to Graduate (41:09)
- So I started with the fact that they should not hold out for the perfect job or title. Don't optimize for the slightly higher salary. You know, instead focus on, I think the two things that actually matter early on in a career. Number one, every step in your early career must get you incrementally closer to whatever genuinely interests you. And the most promising path to success is pursuing genuine interests and setting yourself up for the circumstantial relationships, collaborations, experiences, or mistakes of the eye that will make all the difference in your life. I like to say that a labor of love always pays off. Just not how and when you expect. So you want to set yourself up by, to succeed by taking new jobs and roles that get you incrementally closer to the things that are genuinely interesting to you. And I think we oftentimes fall into that spotlight of seduction where we're offered a great opportunity that sounds great, but isn't getting us closer to interest us over the longterm. And that is, I think, where we get off the rails of a great career. The number two is the fact that the greatest lessons you learn in the beginning of a career are about people. You know, how to work with people, be managed by people, manage expectations with people and lead other people. And so as such, the team you choose to join and your boss are obviously huge factors in the value of a professional experience early in your career. And again, I see so many people optimizing for a higher salary or a cooler sounding job and not actually doing the diligence on who they're actually going to be working for or with. My guest today is Veronica Belmont.
About Veronica Belmont (42:44)
You can find her on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook @Veronica. That's one hell of a handle. And learn about her work and her goings on projects and so on at veronicabelmont.com. Veronica is a bot obsessed product manager in San Francisco. She works for Growbot, helping to make sure employees get the recognition they deserve on their teams. She also helps to admin botwiki.org and botmakers.org. A huge community of bot creators and enthusiasts. As a writer, producer, and speaker, her primary goal has been to educate audiences of all types about how technology can enhance their lives. Through the years, her love of innovation has led to advising many startups on product, communications, and marketing, including Goodreads, which was acquired by Amazon, About.me, which was acquired by AOL, Daily Drip, Soundtracking, acquired by Rhapsody, Milk, acquired by Google, WeGame, acquired by Tagged, Forge, Shixeo, and more. She's also a podcaster and hosts IRL for Mozilla and Sword and Laser.
What is your favorite failure? (43:42)
So without further ado, please enjoy the wisdom of Veronica Belmont. How has a failure or apparent failure set you up for later success? Do you have a favorite failure of yours? - This one is kind of tough to talk about. My favorite failure, I guess, was hosting the season six premiere of Game of Thrones for HBO. It was great, outwardly, but of course I made the mistake of going online afterwards and reading the comments. Super bad idea. I spent what should have been a really magical evening sitting in my hotel room sobbing into the phone with my husband. But with that feeling, like, really came certainty. I had been casually thinking about making a career switch for the previous six months or so, but I was scared of trying to do something I had never done before professionally. So sitting there in that hotel room, I thought, why am I spending my time doing something that consistently makes me miserable? Why not finally just take that chance? So I did. I stopped taking any freelance gigs. I wrapped up all of my video contracts and I spent all of my time learning about product management and figuring out where I'd best fit in. So overall, I mean, it was a horrible night, but it was also the impetus for something completely new and wonderful. And I don't know if I would have been able to really make that leap if I hadn't had such a horrible experience that particular night. I can almost see myself just having spent the next year waffling on that decision. So it was nice to have that finality. - What are bad recommendations that you hear in your profession or area of expertise?
Professional Recommendations And Advice For Students
What are bad recommendations you hear in your profession? (45:34)
- I think people assume that you have to weigh all feedback on your product, whether that's a podcast or an app, whatever, equally. Not all feedback is created equal and not all ideas from your users are going to be good ones. Taking too much stock in feedback can really change the vision for your own product. And suddenly it's not gonna feel like yours anymore.
What advice would you give a smart, driven college student? (46:03)
- What advice would you give to a smart driven college student about to enter the real world? - I've given this advice so many times throughout my career. It's kind of ridiculous, but I think it still holds true for almost any kind of career path or project you're working on. Don't wait until you get a job to do the thing you wanna be doing. For most careers, showing that you have initiative by working on projects related to your future hopeful job is an amazing way to get a foot in the door. So for example, if you wanna be a writer or a journalist, start keeping a blog that you update regularly, something that you can show them later that says, hey, I've been writing about this topic for the past year now, I'm an expert in this area. If you wanna be an engineer, a programmer, create and maintain a project on GitHub. GitHub is basically like the new resume. Anything that you can point to on your LinkedIn that is screaming, hey, I'm passionate about this stuff is gonna work. - Hey guys, this is Tim again.
What is 5-Bullet Friday? (47:08)
Just a few more things before you take off. Number one, this is Five Bullet Friday. Do you want to get a short email from me? Would you enjoy getting a short email from me every Friday that provides a little morsel of fun before the weekend? And Five Bullet Friday is a very short email where I share the coolest things I've found or that I've been pondering over the week. That could include favorite new albums that I've discovered, it could include gizmos and gadgets and all sorts of weird shit that I've somehow dug up in the world of the esoteric as I do. It could include favorite articles that I've read and that I've shared with my close friends, for instance. And it's very short. It's just a little tiny bite of goodness before you head off for the weekend. So if you want to receive that, check it out. Just go to fourhourworkweek.com. That's fourhourworkweek.com all spelled out and just drop in your email and you will get the very next one. And if you sign up, I hope you enjoy it.
Athletic Greens - nutritional insurance. (48:10)
This episode is brought to you by Athletic Greens. Every year, of course, people look for new ways to become healthier, to take their fitness and so on to the next level. For me, step number one is having some form of nutritional insurance. That's how I would look at it. And the nutritional insurance needs to make sure all of my basic needs are met, all the boxes checked, regardless of travel, schedule, missed meals and so on. There are going to be times in the new year when your diet and exercise will get interrupted. Life will interrupt it. And during those times, you want a safety net. I get asked all the time, if you could only use one supplement, what would it be? My answer is inevitably Athletic Greens. It is your all-in-one nutritional insurance. I recommended it in the four-hour body, did not get paid for that. And I travel with it to avoid getting sick. I take it in the mornings to ensure optimal performance. It just covers all my bases. If I can't get what I need through whole food meals throughout the rest of the day. As listeners of the Tim Ferriss Show, you can receive 30% off of your first order by visiting athleticgreens.com/tim. That is a great deal on one of my favorite products. And it covers my bases each day. It is part of my routine, and it leaves me with less to worry about. If, for instance, I have to skip a meal or just can't get a high-quality meal. So check it out, go to athleticgreens.com/tim and learn all about it. This episode is brought to you by Four Sigmatic.
Four Sigmatic - Four Sigmatic Reishi Mushroom Elixir. (49:34)
You might remember Four Sigmatic for their mushroom coffee, which was created by those clever Finnish founders. And when I first mentioned that coffee on this podcast, the product sold out in less than a week. It lights you up like a Christmas tree, which can be really useful. However, recently I've been testing the opposite side of the Spectrum, a new product, and that is their Reishi Mushroom Elixir to help me end my day, to get to sleep. As you guys may know, long-time listeners at least, I struggled with insomnia for decades. I have largely fixed that, but still shutting off my monkey brain has never been easy, still isn't easy very often. And I found Reishi, which I've been fascinated by for a few years now, has been very, very effective and calming. Their old formula, however, Four Sigmatic's old formula included stevia, and I like to avoid sweeteners, all sweeteners, for a host of reasons. And I then just pinged them and asked, "Hey guys, I would love to experiment with this "and maybe actually suggest it, "but I'd like a version without sweeteners. "If you'd be open to it, "if you're too much of a headache, don't worry." And they are always game for experimentation, and so they created a special custom version without the stevia, without sweeteners. Now it is part of my nightly routine. Their Reishi Elixir comes in single serving packets, which are perfect for travel, and in fact, I'm about to leave the country right now and I have a packet in front of me that's just gonna sit in the end of my carry-on bag. You only need hot water, and it mixes very, very easily. Here's some recommended copy that they put in the read, so I'm gonna read it and then I'll give you my take. Quote, "A warning for those in the experimental mindset. "Reishi is strong and bitter," in parentheses, like any great medicine, "so if the bitterness is too much, "I recommend trying it with honey and/or nut milk, "such as almond milk," end quote. So I'm gonna say, no, you should suck it up and you should drink the tea, because it's not that bitter, and maybe you should take the advice of old Chinese people when they're criticizing youngins, which means you're not able to eat bitterness. Bitter is, in many cases, an indication of things that help liver detoxification and so on. Not saying that's the case here, but I've tested this Reishi lecture on family members, on friends, everybody has liked it. It's a little bit earthy, it's not that hard, so I would just say, suck it up, and no, don't put in honey or nut milk or any of that shit. Just drink the goddamn tea, it's delicious, I think. If you like Pu'erh, that kind of stuff, that type of tea, you're gonna dig it, so just try it. Okay, back to then my read.
If you'd like to try Four Sigmatic Reishi Mushroom Elixir (52:14)
If you'd like to naturally improve your sleep, both onset and quality, I think, naturally, you might just enjoy this Reishi elixir without any sweeteners. It has organic Reishi extract, organic fueled mint extract, organic rose hips extract, organic tulsi extract, and that's it. No fancy stuff, no artificial, whatchamacallit, anything. So check it out, go to foursigmatic.com/ferris and get 20% off this special batch. I don't know if they're gonna be making much more of this, since it was made specifically for you guys, so do me a favor and try it out, so that they continue to be open to experimenting with me to create products for you guys specifically. Check it out, foursigmatic, that's F-O-U-R-S-I-G-M-A-T-I-C.com forward slash ferris, F-E-R-R-I-S-S, and get 20% off this special batch. And you must use the code ferris to receive your discount, F-E-R-R-I-S-S. So again, go to foursigmatic.com forward slash ferris, and then use code ferris for 20% off of this rare, exclusive, limited run of reishi mushroom elixir for nighttime routines without any sweeteners. Enjoy.