Books I’ve Loved — Cindy Eckert and Alexis Ohanian | The Tim Ferriss Show | Transcription

Transcription for the video titled "Books I’ve Loved — Cindy Eckert and Alexis Ohanian | The Tim Ferriss Show".


Note: This transcription is split and grouped by topics and subtopics. You can navigate through the Table of Contents on the left. It's interactive. All paragraphs are timed to the original video. Click on the time (e.g., 01:53) to jump to the specific portion of the video.


Intro (00:00)

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'll wait to see you in a perfect time. What if I did the opposite? I'm a cybernetic organism living tissue over a metal endoskeleton. The Tim Ferriss Show. Books I've Loved on The Tim Ferriss Show is exclusively brought to you by Audible. There couldn't be a better sponsor for this series, my dear listeners and readers. I have used Audible for so many years. As long as I can remember, I love it. Audible has the largest selection of audiobooks on the planet. I listen when I'm taking walks. I listen while I'm cooking. I listen whenever I can. And if you're looking for a place to start, I can recommend three of my favorites. The first is The Tao of Seneca by Seneca. If you want to hear my favorite letters of all time, it touches on Stoic philosophy, calmness under duress, etc. The next is The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman. G-A-I-M-A-N. One of my favorites. Even if you're a non-fiction purist, this is the fiction book that you need to listen to. Neil also has perhaps the most calming voice of all time. And third, Greg McKeown's Essentialism. Subtitle, The Disciplined Pursuit of Less. This is one of my favorite books of the past few years. It combines very well with the 80/20 Principle. But more on Audible. Every month, Audible members get one credit for any audiobook on the site, plus a choice of multiple Audible originals from a rotating selection. They also get access to daily news digests from the likes of the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post, as well as guided meditation programs. And here are some other amazing Audible features, and I use a bunch of these. You can download titles and listen offline, anytime, anywhere. I use this feature even when I could get access. I'll put my phone on, say, airplane mode, because I don't want to get bothered with notifications, and I'm taking a walk to clear my head, and you can listen to titles offline in a case like that. Or on a plane or whatever. Obviously, I'm not flying much these days. The app is free and can be installed on all smartphones and tablets. You can listen across devices without losing your spot. And Whispersync is another feature I use quite a lot. I love reading my Kindle in bed, for instance, then picking up at the same exact spot where I left off when I go walking and listening the next day. Kindle and audio versions can be synced up automatically. It's just amazing. And if you can't decide what to listen to, don't sweat it. You don't have to rush. You can keep your credits for up to a year and use them, for instance, to binge on a whole series, if you like. Audible offers just about everything. Podcasts, guided wellness programs, theatrical performances, A-list comedy, and Audible originals you won't find anywhere else. And right now, Audible is offering you guys, that's Tim Ferriss Show listeners, a free audiobook with a 30-day trial membership. And again, my list, if you want to check them out, the Tao of Seneca, the Graveyard Book, Essentialism, those are just three. There's so many good ones out there. Just go to and browse the unmatched selection of audio programs. Then download your free title and start listening. It's that easy. Just check it out. Go to or text "tim" to 500-500 to get started today. Check it out. Hello boys and girls, ladies and germs. This is Tim Ferriss. Welcome to another episode of The Tim Ferriss Show, where it is usually my job to sit down with world-class performers of all different types. Startup founders, investors, chess champions, Olympic athletes, you name it, to tease out the habits that you can apply in your own lives. This episode, however, is an experiment and part of a short form series that I'm doing, simply called Books I've Loved. I've invited some amazing past guests, close friends, and new faces to share their favorite books, describe their favorite books. The books that have influenced them, changed them, transformed them for the better. And I hope you pick up one or two new mentors in the form of books from this new series and apply the lessons in your own life. I had a lot of fun putting this together, inviting these people to participate, and have learned so, so much myself. I hope that is also the case for you. Please enjoy. Hi, I'm Cindy Eckert, and I'm an entrepreneur who's built and sold two successful pharmaceutical companies.

Discussion On Notable Figures And Influential Books

Cindys bio and why shes on top (04:30)

I'm perhaps best known for my last Sprout Pharmaceuticals that broke through with the first and only FDA-approved pill for women's low libido. That's right, I said low libido. I sold that business for a cool billion dollars up front and went on to put my money where my mouth is. So today I invest in other disruptive female founders and disruptive technologies and health inside of my pinkubator. That's right, I said pink. I had a little pink pill. I love pink. But perhaps the biggest twist and turn of my unconventional story is that the company that I sold for a billion dollars, well, I got it back for nothing last year. So how does that happen? I fought to get it back because the company I had sold it to never launched it. And that was not going to happen on my watch when we won one for women. Guys, I've had 26 options. I thought it was about damn time that women had one of their own. So we went after getting it back, and I'm delighted to say we're successful in doing that and that the shareholders kept the billion. So now I'm on a mission to launch Addy as well as many other firsts for women, but I should say of all the career highlights, maybe one of the top ones is being interviewed by Tim Ferriss.

Purple Cow (05:55)

So when he called and said, "All right, Cindy, what are books you love?" I got to thinking the first one that came to mind, no brainer for me, Purple Cow by Seth Godin. It is such a good book. So what's it about? Well, it's right there in the title for you. There are tons of brown cows out there, but it takes a purple cow to grab your attention. And his book is a marketing book. It talks about the model of marketing. It talked about how the old model of marketing was the huge companies with giant budgets who got to have the Super Bowl ads. Like they were going to win. They were going to win through money and exposure and how that model really has been disrupted. And that we have these remarkable brands that attract remarkable to them. That's the purple cow philosophy. So as I was reading it in the context of marketing, it really struck me, but isn't that a philosophy with which to build a business? So I said I'd build two companies, dial back to my first one, Slate, and really Purple Cow from a philosophical standpoint, the standing out in a sea of sameness was so fundamental to the core of what I was trying to accomplish that literally if you go back and look at email signatures from people, instead of saying best regards, cheers, whatever your sign off is, many times when you look at my original team that worked with me, the sign off is moo. Moo because I talked about it so damn much. The Purple Cow philosophy. How are we going to go out there and stand out in a sea of sameness? I'd been in big environments. I was in those big environments and I was successful, but totally uninspired. I was in environments that believed the only way to be successful was to homogenize, was to make us all brown cows, and we had to follow the certain way. And really the hunch was when I started Slate, wait a minute, there are other people out there just like me. They're in those environments. They are successful because of their own drive and determination, but they're not inspired. And you're actually not tapping into this Purple Cow aspect of them that will make you remarkable. And so I hired against it. I fired against it. I incentivized. We dressed up at Halloween. My employees came in dressed as Purple Cows. I mean, we really got it because if you come into my office, let's just say hiring, for example, by the time somebody gets to my desk and has been vetted by my team, they're abundantly qualified to have the job. What I was looking for was Purple Cow characteristics. How did they stand out from everyone else? How were they remarkable in a way that was going to attract remarkable to them? And so those were really what I was torturing. Purple Cow, I believe, is an outstanding read for everybody, not only if you're in marketing and you want to understand how the old rules don't apply anymore, but really philosophically for how you embrace how you show up in this world. You know, I show up in pink, hot pink, to be exact. And that was born out of irreverence, if I'm being quite honest, because people would pat me on the shoulder when I was trying to get the first ever pink pill approved for women. And the pink became a symbol, if you will, of what I was fighting for. I like pink, by the way. I've always liked pink. I look back at childhood photos. I'm almost always in pink. And that was the signal to me that you have to show up really loudly, exactly as you are. And I will say, though, despite my best efforts, Seth Godin has still not released the Pink Cow, but I'm counting on that coming out maybe 2020, Seth? I don't know. Let's look at it. So Love, Purple Cow, highly recommend it. Let's talk about another book that I love, and Tim and I haven't talked about it before, but I bet you this one is on his list, too. And that is A Curious Mind by Brian Grazer. And if you don't know his name, I got to tell you, you definitely know his award-winning movies. I mean, he's worked with Tom Hanks on so many projects. He's partnered with Ron Howard, these little names. And he's had all of these 40-plus, I think, Academy Awards he has won. And A Curious Mind is about this one thing that has the ability to connect us all, and that is curiosity. And, like, I cannot agree more enthusiastically with that concept because if I think about all of the successful people I've had the privilege to meet over the years, I do feel like that's it. They are wired with curiosity to the core. And in his book, Brian and A Curious Mind, he talks about really techniques in which you can cultivate your own curiosity. So he gives very practical tips, but one of his is that he schedules a curiosity conversation with somebody he doesn't know who's outside of his own discipline. And he really sits down as a discipline on his calendar. He puts aside time really for a curiosity endeavor because he knows that when he sits down and learns from others, he can apply that to what he's doing. And I think that's it, right? The hallmark of the best and most successful entrepreneurs is that they are almost insatiably curious. It allows them the ability to not only be constantly learning and applying those new lessons, but open minded enough to be able to do that because I got to tell you, it is not a straight line to success. And if you're not open minded enough to listen and make the turn slightly to the left or slightly to the right, you'll never get there. So it inspired in me a lot of thinking about, you know, why did I become an entrepreneur and what laid the foundation for that maybe very early on in a way that I wasn't even conscious of. And what I think in that regard is my parents cultivated my curiosity. And I have two big brothers. We laugh about this. We share this story. And this is when we were little and we would go to our parents for help with homework. You know, you want the leg up, you want the quick fix and the answer. Regardless of the question, it could have been a math question. It could be an English question. When we asked them the question, they would reply with the same four words and they were, what do you think? It was infuriating, by the way, at the time in which you just wanted the assist from your parents, make it a little bit simpler. But really what they were doing, I give them a lot of credit for this. I think sometimes they genuinely were just tired. But I think at the core of it, the what do you think was cultivating curiosity and that curiosity showed up in this way. So if they weren't going to give me the answer, I was going to have to be willing to go and ask others and get their point of view. I was going to have to develop my own point of view and independent thinking along the way. And all of that cultivation of, you know, the approach of constant learning, the approach of forming your own opinions, the approach of realizing that it's not going to be handed to you by someone all knowing above who's going to pass down the perfect answer really is foundationally so very helpful to me as I've gone through my career, as I have built businesses from scratch, as I have sold them, the curiosity is what has kept me showing up for more. So if I'm thinking about, you know, two books that I truly love and I couldn't recommend them more highly, it would be Purple Cow from Seth Godin. For all of you listening, I hope you always show up as the purple cow and separate yourselves in the sea of sameness. Let's be honest. There's a lot out there today. We get a lot of messages coming at us fast and furious. You got to stand out. And really the simplest way to stand out is to be authentically you. That separates you from everybody else. And The Curious, A Curious Mind by Brian Grazer. The curiosity factor is the difference between good and great. It will be, I don't know, the recipe in my mind for the most successful and frankly fulfilling life. Do yourself a favor and have a curiosity conversation. Put it on your calendar. If that's how you roll or just open up your mind to the thought that mentors don't come just looking up. Mentors come to your left and your right every single day. And you should be challenging yourself to learn from them. Thanks so much for having me, Tim.

Who is Alexis? (15:24)

This is Alexis Ohanian, best selling author, co-founder of Initialized Capital, an early stage venture firm and and read it.

Masters of Doom and why shaped my life course and my career (15:35)

But today I'm here to talk about books I love and shout out to my buddy Tim Ferriss for this really great idea and for inviting me to talk about it. I have two books that I want to talk about today and one made a pretty big impact on my life at a pivotal moment. The other I just recently read and have been obsessed, obsessed with. First, Masters of Doom by David Kushner. Now, this book is about the founding story of id Software. And if you were like me, grew up playing video games. This company invented the genre of the first person shooter with a game called Wolfenstein 3D. And it was pretty special. I played a lot of video games as a kid and most of them were made by id. But this book came into my life at a really important time because I was I was a student at the University of Virginia. I was actually on my way to becoming a lawyer. I had majored in history and business. And like any good history major was taking the LSAT when I walked out, I walked out of the LSAT and I walked into a waffle house because I was hungry. That was it. I just really wanted a waffle. And eating that waffle, I realized if I chose breakfast over the LSAT, I probably should not be a lawyer. So I went home and I started thinking about what I was going to do with my life, since it obviously wasn't the law. And this book, Masters of Doom, had recently been recommended to me. And I dug in and found myself hearing the story of John Carmack and John Romero, the two founders of id, and how they built this business eating pizza, staying up late, writing code and doing something they genuinely loved. And that somehow managed to be a video game empire, really shaped an entire industry to this day. I mean, if you're playing Call of Duty or Battlefield, you're playing a game that is a sort of relative, a great, great grandson or daughter of Wolfenstein 3D, which was really the first first-person shooter. And so here were some random dudes, not unlike me and my co-founder, who built something that changed an entire industry. And that really crystallized for me what some really passionate founders who could write some code could do to change things. And this gave me the confidence to say, "You know what? They can do this. We can definitely do this." And I convinced my roommate to start a company with me. That company was called My Mobile Menu, MMMM for short. It would let people skip lines by ordering food from their phones, but it was like 2004, 2005, so there were no smartphones. It was a terrible idea. It was ahead of its time. And thankfully, we got convinced to not pursue that idea by Y Combinator, and instead started another company called Reddit. So without a doubt, Reddit would not exist if it weren't for Masters of Doom. Well, and also Waffle House. So thank you, Waffle House. But I can think of no better place to read Masters of Doom than your local Waffle House. There you go. It changed my life in so many ways, and at the time felt so insignificant. It was just the right book at the right time. And I've gotten the chance to actually thank the author, David, for writing it, because really Reddit would not exist if not for Masters of Doom. So there you go. It's a great read. Highly recommend it. And especially if you're a gamer, because these are the forefathers of everything that we really know in gaming today. The other book that I want to recommend is one that I actually read pretty recently for the first time. Or if I'm being really honest with you, I listened to the audiobook. I still don't really know how you're supposed to describe that. Do you read an audiobook, or do you listen to an audiobook? I mean, I guess you really listen to it. It just feels, I don't know, it feels less impressive when you're like, "Oh, listen to this great audiobook," rather than read. But anyway, consume your books however you like.

Why We Sleep (20:10)

The second is Why We Sleep, The New Science of Sleep and Dreams by Matthew Walker. And this was something that I had recommended to me so many times. And it was funny because I was a new dad at the time. So my daughter, Olympia, was born on September 1st, 2017. And this book must have come out around then or some point that year, because I was getting it recommended to me all the time while I was unable to sleep because I had a newborn. And I thought, "This is some delightful trolling." And, you know, like a lot of things, I kind of put it off and put it off. And then finally, I was like, "All right, all right, let me check this thing out. Everyone keeps recommending it to me." And so I prioritized it in the Audible account, gave it a listen, and have not been able to stop thinking about it. Because really thanks to technology, we now can really start to understand this really important process that all living creatures need, but we've never really been able to understand. We've been able to do so much research on so many other things that we humans need to survive, except for sleep. But thanks to improvements in all kinds of technology, brain scanning and whatnot, and just years and years of research by neuroscientists like Matthew Walker, we're now starting to understand just what sleep does and why it is so damn valuable, and then also how we can better sort of orchestrate it in our lives. And I've been someone who is very fortunate, sort of genetically blessed, and thanks to my mom, I think. I've never had any trouble sleeping, ever. I can sleep, knock on wood, anywhere. Right now, in the middle of this podcast, if you said, "Alexis, I really need you to go to sleep." I could go and curl up in a nice chair, or ideally in a nice bed, but I could curl up in a nice chair and be out in probably 10 minutes. And most nights, I would get probably six hours of sleep was my goal. If I got six, I thought, "All right, great, let's do it." But I never really understood why any of that was important. And in fact, during my 20s, and especially founding Reddit, I'd sleep even less. And I almost, I think I relished it at the time, because in some weird perverse way, I thought that was showing that I was more serious than anyone else about my startup, which was dumb in hindsight. And really, thanks to this book, I've started to understand just how damaging that was, and lack of sleep is, and just how important it is, especially if you're trying to do next level type work, how important it is to get rest and recovery. And it may seem obvious to you, it definitely didn't to me, but the recovery and rest is as or more important than the work one actually does. And you don't need to look much further than even professional athletes who have the most objectively hard and demanding industries, because there are winners and losers every day, and it's all ranked and a fairly level playing field. And so we make up the wins and losses in business and the way we keep score, but in sport, it's very objective and very clear. And so it should have been no surprise to me that sleep mattered, because every one of the greatest athletes talk about the time that they spend recovering as being as important, or more so than the time they spend at work. And so it was a humbling thing to be listening to this and realizing just how dumb I had been for 15 or so years of my life, where I was really almost always sacrificing sleep in the name of whatever else it was I was trying to do. And I am a new parent now, and thankfully my daughter is sleeping quite regularly, because you'll learn from the book, it's actually really important in child brain development. And I'm really trying to prioritize it now. I am really going out of my way to get eight to nine hours of sleep every day, almost no matter what. And I have found so many subtle improvements in my own life that have come from it, and I hope the long term ones will add up to, I won't know, you'll have to check back in within a few years. But the research really is starting to help us understand just how important that time is, and just how dangerous it is for us to be living our lives on not enough sleep. The author talks about everything from drowsy driving to the health impacts, like the actual internal damage you're causing in the long term with consistent sleep deprivation. And so, these are two very different books. They are, I think, indirectly going to help you build billion dollar companies, which is the business I'm in now, is to help founders build companies that are even bigger and better than Reddit. And I love that job. And so, as an investor at Initialized, I get to give occasional pearls of wisdom to founders, and sometimes they come in the form of books. And these are two books that I found myself recommending quite a bit over the years. And so, hopefully, they'll be helpful for you too. And either way, whether you like them or you hate them, let me know. But those are masters of doom, and why we sleep. So, thanks for listening. It's been a pleasure. I'll see you on the internet. Hey guys, this is Tim again. 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?

Five-Bullet Friday: sign up! (26:10)

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.


Outro (26:51)

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 That's 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. Thank you. Thank you for watching.

Great! You’ve successfully signed up.

Welcome back! You've successfully signed in.

You've successfully subscribed to Wisdom In a Nutshell.

Success! Check your email for magic link to sign-in.

Success! Your billing info has been updated.

Your billing was not updated.