The Exciting Journey of Podcasting: From Curiosity to Global Impact.
How to Hack Your Way Into Success at Anything | Alex Banayan on Impact Theory | Transcription
Transcription for the video titled "How to Hack Your Way Into Success at Anything | Alex Banayan on Impact Theory".
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If anyone out there is dealing with an insecurity that they want, help growing through, the first step is getting rid of the shame that surrounds it. Because the shame is what traps that insecurity. And the thing about shame is that shame can only live in secrecy. The second you speak something out loud, it doesn't have power over you anymore. Everybody welcome to Impact Theory. Our goal with this show and company is to introduce you to the people and ideas that will help you actually execute on your dreams. Today's guest is the youngest business author ever signed to Penguin Random House in their 80 year history. He was also widely touted as the youngest VC when he began working for Alsop Louie at the age of 19, not bad for a college dropout, who instead of graduating studied how to hack the prices right and use the prize money to fund his dream project, a book called The Third Door, that would end up gaining him nationwide attention. He is a self-proclaimed missionary who has poured himself into the wild quest to uncover how the world's most successful people launched their careers. He convinced an unimaginable group of the world's most extraordinary thinkers to participate in this book. All, by the way, from absolutely scratch, from Bill Gates and Steven Spielberg to Maya Angelou and Lady Gaga, he got them all to agree to contribute their wisdom and the stories of the grit and tenacity that it took to track these impossible to reach people down will leave your jaw on the floor. He's contributed to The Washington Post, Entrepreneur, Fast Company and many other prestigious publications, as well as being named to business insiders 30 under 30 list and being featured virtually by every major media outlet there is. His enthusiasm and collected insights have also turned him into one of the most sought after speakers around, and he's already presented to Dell, MTV, IBM, Harvard and many others. Nike said that his ideas pushed their team's leadership and Apple said that he represents the voice of entrepreneurship. So please, help me in welcoming the man who chased Larry King through a grocery store and got blacklisted by Warren Buffett, Alex Benayen. That was the funniest and the kindest intro man I appreciate. Dude, easy to do. What you did to write this book is insanity and it's so instructive. And so I don't normally start at the beginning, but with this we're going to have to. What is the third door mentality?
Inspiration And Overcoming Challenges
The 3rd Door Mentality (02:37)
So after going on this seven year journey, I realized on the surface, you know, Bill Gates and Maya Angelou couldn't be more different. At their core, they treat life the exact same way. And the analogy that came to me because I was 21 at the time was that it's sort of like getting into a nightclub. So there's always three ways in. There's the first door, the main entrance, where the line curves are on the block, where 99% of people wait around hoping to get in. And then there's the second door, the VIP entrance, where the billionaires and the celebrities go through. And for some reason, school and society have this way of making you feel like there's only two ways in. You're either born into it or you wait your turn. But what I've learned is that there's always, always, the third door. And at the entrance where you have to jump out of line, run down the alley, bang on the door a hundred times, crack over the window, go through the kitchen, there's always a way in. And it doesn't matter if that's how Gates sold his first piece of software or how Spielberg became the youngest director of Hollywood history, they all took the third door. Yeah, when I heard that analogy, I thought, "Whoa, okay, that actually really makes a lot of sense." Now, for me, that is quite possibly the most terrifying thing. Like going up to people and doing some of this stuff, like chasing Larry King down through the grocery store and into the park and the last screaming is named, like, "Whoa, I like to think I'm pretty hardcore. I don't know if I would have had the gumption to do that." So you talk about the difference between fearlessness and courage. What is that and how did you employ it? You know, one of the biggest and most surprising lessons I learned on this journey was that I just had this assumption that all these people I looked up to were fearless.
Fearlesness vs Courage (04:17)
You know, Elon Musk or Bill Gates, we just assumed they, you know, have no fear in until they achieve what they've done. But what I've learned is that not a single one of them were fearless. They actually were filled with tremendous amount of fear. So while they weren't fearless, they did have tremendous amounts of courage. And the difference between fearlessness and courage is that fearlessness is jumping off of the cliff without thinking. Courage is acknowledging your fear, analyzing the consequences, and deciding you still care so much about it, you're going to take one step forward anyway. What was it that was driving you in all of this? You know, when I first started to understand like why I was going through this crisis, the beginning that led me on this journey was you have to know that I'm the son of Jewish immigrants, which pretty much means I came out of the womb.
The Crisis (05:12)
My mom cradled me in her arms and then she stamped empty on my ass and just sent me on my way. You know, in third grade I wore scrubs to school for Halloween. You know, I was that kid. And by the time I got to college, I remember really quickly, you know, I was the pre-med of pre-meds, but I remember lying on my dorm room bed, staring up at the ceiling, and looking at the stack of biology books, feeling like they were sucking the life out of me. And at first I just wondered, maybe I'm being lazy, but then I began to question, maybe I'm not on my path. Maybe I'm on a path, somebody placed me on it, I'm just rolling down. So not only am I going through this what I want to do with my life crisis, that's when the question started to evolve too. You know, how did Bill Gates, when nobody knew his name, sell software out of his dorm room, or how did Lady Gaga, without a single hint under her belt, get her first record deal? These are the things they don't only teach you in school, so I just did what I thought was normal. I just went to the library or went on Amazon and just ripped through books, you know, business books, self-help books, biographies, but eventually I was left empty-handed. And that's when my very, you know, naive, 18-year-old thinking kicked in and I thought, "Well, if no one's going to write the book I'm dreaming of reading, why not write it myself?" You know, I thought it'd be super simple. I'll just call it Bill Gates, interview him, interview everyone else. I thought it'd be done in a few months. To my surprise, Bill Gates doesn't do interviews with 18-year-old college students. That I assumed would be the hard part. Or I actually thought that would be the easy part. The hard part would be more about how to fund it because I was buried in student loan debt. I was all out of bar mitzvah cash, so there had to be a way to make some quick money. So two nights before final exams, freshman year, I'm in the library doing what everyone does in the library right before finals. I'm on Facebook. Right. So someone was offering free tickets to the prices, right? And I swear, I know this is very preposterous, but the first thought was, "What if I go on the show and win some money to fund this dream?" Not my brightest moment, but I had a problem not only did I have finals in two days. I'd never seen a full episode of the show before. And I remember telling myself it was a dumb idea to not think about it, but I don't know if you've ever had one of those moments where an idea just keeps clawing itself and she'll mind. So to prove to myself it was a bad idea, I remember I was sitting at this little round table in the corner of the library, and I took out my spiral notebook and made the best and worst case scenarios. And I remember very vividly writing worst case scenarios. Fail finals get kicked out of premed of loose financial aid. Mom stops talking to me, no, mom hates me. Looked fat on TV. There were like 20 cons. And the only pro was maybe, maybe, win enough money to fund this dream. And it felt almost as if somebody had tied a rope around my gut and was slowly pulling in a direction.
Pro v Con (08:20)
So that night I decided to do the logical thing and pull an all-nighter to study. But I didn't study for finals, I started how to hack the prices right. That's great. I went on the show the next day and did this ridiculous strategy and ended up winning the whole showcase showdown, winning a sailboat, selling the sailboat, and that's how I funded the book. I want to go back to that list. Which I think the pro and con list. So really pretty interesting in your whole story about where your grandfather comes from and you know that he was almost killed in Iran during the war. And he ends up escaping with the family and coming to America. And he was very successful in Iran and he has to start all over here. And all of that sort of feeds into your ethos at least once he tells you the story.
What Was It Like to Deal with Immense Pressure from Family Members (09:00)
So when you're making that list and you're the weight of your family, everybody wanting you to be a doctor, how was it like in your whole story, the thing that I think had to be one of the hardest things was, mom not talking to me anymore. Mom hates me. I drop out of med school or pre-med. What was it like for you to buck that and say, "I'm just going to do my thing?" Dude, it feels like you were like with my family during this time because that really was the hardest part. And it's something my friends couldn't really understand because, you know, I remember this moment when I was, I might have been about like five or six years old. And I had this nightmare and you know, I jumped out of bed. It was the middle of the night and I went down the hallway to go to my parents' room. And I remember this blue light creeping out from under my parents' room. So I like crapped open the door and stuck my head in. And I remember seeing my mom hunched over her, you know, little desk with her old computer, you know, working away in the middle of the night. It was around three or four a.m. And the next night I woke up, jumped out of bed because I was curious and I saw her doing it again and again. And it wasn't until, you know, ten or so years later that I learned that at that time, my dad's used car lot have gone bankrupt. And really our entire family was being kept afloat by my mom working, you know, these 20 hour days. By the way, while being a full-time mom. And, you know, being class mom and being part of our school. And only then can I realize and hindsight why it was so hard for me. Because when I was setting up on this journey, you know, everyone talks about, you know, taking the leap and going for your dream. And no one talks about the emotional baggage and pain that comes from turning your back on the sacrifices others have made for you. Dude, that's what I want to talk about. What story were you telling yourself? Like, you talk about turning the volume up on your dream. I want to know what that really means. Like, what are you saying in your head? It's a brilliant metaphor. The notion that, okay, you've got all this noise. I'm going to turn up the volume on my dream. It's going to drown it out. But like, that the reality of that is what. So, this is the thing. I believe, fully, that every single person is going out to chase their dreams, has those voices in their head. I think it's part of the human experience. Whether it's fear or anxiety, whatever it may be, that's part of what it means to be a human being. So, you know, for me, it was my parents coming to this country and sacrificing for you, it might be completely different. What I've learned in hindsight is that not just with my story, with all these people who I studied, the key of taking that first step, the really daunting one, because the first one's always the hardest, as you know.
The Idea of Turning the Volume Up On Chasing Ones Dream (11:52)
It's not about trying to logically argue with those voices in our head. You will never win against the voices in your head if you try to argue with them. What I've learned is that if you, instead of focusing on the voices and the fears, you focus on the desires. And I think no matter what your dream is, if you're able to find a larger purpose, a larger impact that lives beyond you, all of a sudden, all of your bullshit that's holding you down becomes a lot less relevant. Now tell me, what is the mechanism of turning the volume up? Is it just the amount of time thinking about, or is there something more to it? I'll tell you what works for me. For me, I've learned the way my brain works, and it's worked with other friends too. Is that writing things down, and very specifically, like, you know, it's not just wondering, you know, how do I turn up the volume and the theory, I would literally write down, so for this book, you know, I would write down, on a sheet of paper, my dream is to inspire a generation to believe in what's possible. And the act of writing it down, and I had that, you know, it's funny to think about in hindsight, but I had that, you know, taped above my desk, I had that taped above my bathroom sink, I had that, like, folded up in my wallet, I had it on the inside of my spiral notebook in college. The act of writing it down and physically seeing it every single day made it tangible, and it made it feel like a less of a crazy idea, and more of a real possibility. Now that's really cool, and that specificity, I just agree with that so violently, I guess is the right word. Also, it came to help you, because you had the actual list of people that you wanted, so when you would meet them, like, Blake McCousky was one of the stories the founder of Tom Schus, tell us that story, because the way that you ran into him is pretty great. With Blake, I knew he was speaking at this conference in downtown LA, he was accepting this, like, humanitarian award. And I get there, and of course, you know, I'm wearing my tongue, shoes, and I'm wearing my blazer, I'm like 19 years old, I end up going to the event, and this is a crazy thing. This is not the only time this happened, so it's very, very bizarre, but I was in the bathroom, I remember I was in a stall, and I look out from, you know, under the little door, and I see these really, like, brand new red tops, like, out of the box brand new, and I'm like, I wonder, it has to be, so I, like, you know, finish up very quickly. I open the door, and there is Blake McCousky, you know, washing his hands, fixing his hair right before he goes on stage, and it's one of those things where you don't even have a chance to think about what you're going to say, and I just go, "Blake, hi, I'm Alex, I'm 19, and I literally just start," and I ask him, I'm like, "Do you mind if I talk with you for 30 seconds?" "Yeah, of course, as long as you walk with me," and I started just pouring my heart out to him, and I think one of the keys is that I actually didn't have an elevator pitch. I just shared with him what the mission was, and when he heard it on the spot, he's like, "Absolutely, I'm in." And whether it was Blake, or whether it was with Tim Ferriss, or, as also another bathroom encounter, well, with all of these people, it was only when they heard the mission, because they can ask to be in books all the time. I didn't know that at the time, so the book was interesting to them, but this larger mission was actually what pulled at their heartstrings to say yes.
Dealing with Rejection (15:46)
What makes this book so interesting, man, is your story of trying to put it together, which is at least as powerful as the stories in the book, if not, in some cases more powerful. So how did you deal with rejection? Oh, my God. Horribly. Because pretty much the whole book at some points feels like this long string of me getting my ass beat. And dealing with that rejection, I realize is not only a part of the entrepreneurial journey, it is the entrepreneurial journey. So how you deal with it is a lot more interesting than how you got your win, because everybody will get their win in a different way, but how you deal with the rejection in many ways is a universal act. And what I've learned is that I do two things. One, when I'm getting beat up and doors are just being slammed in my face over and over and over again, and I have nothing left. The only thing that keeps me, because I've thought about quitting, you know, I'm a human being, I've thought about, you know, is this worth it. The only thing that would keep me going was that larger belief that we talked about in the beginning of "It's not about me." There'll be points on my journey where I would be, you know, up at 4 a.m. sleeping at midnight, just pounding the pavement. And after, you know, getting rejected over and over and over again with that kind of lifestyle, you lose your spirit of what started it. And it was my best friends that would save me. And they would be like, "Dude, tomorrow, like I'm taking your fucking phone. We're going, you know, on an adventure. We're going, you know, whatever it was."
What Do You Look for in Friends (17:38)
And in many ways, that was like my emotional reset, which saved me over and over and over again. Your friends are kind of like a third character in this book, which is really interesting. What I want to know is what do you look for in friends? Like, how did you end up with friends like that? You know, I'm relatively young, so I'm not that wealthy or financially, but I do, and I think about this all the time, I feel like a fucking billionaire with friendship. And it's one of the things I'm most proud of. My friends, like, they'll go toe to toe with anyone as like, "Rider dies, the funniest people, the most supportive." You know, there's this... Yeah, I'll go there with you. Like, there's this one story where, to me, defines who my friends are. This was about a year and a half ago. My dad just passed away from pancreatic cancer. And the way a Jewish funeral works is there's these, I believe it's like six Paul bearers that have to... The sun isn't allowed to touch the caskets, so the Paul bearers carry it out. And, you know, they took it to the... to the hearse, and we drive up from the chapel to the grave site. And when we got to the grave site, I remember for some reason the Paul bearers that carried the casket earlier weren't there. And I just... I got sort of nervous of what are we going to do. It was a really chaotic day, of course. And before I could try to figure it out, this rabbi came over, started talking to us, and I don't know what happened next, but I remember the door to the hearse opening and hearing the casket being taken out. And the next thing I knew, I was stepping out onto the grass on the processional. And I look... I'll never forget this. I looked up, and I saw my best friends. You know, the boys who I grew up with, carrying my dad's casket. And, dude, I just started sobbing. And everyone... I remember looking around and seeing that everyone thought that I was sobbing out of sadness. It's the biggest miracle in my life. And... You know, I don't wish losing a dad on anybody. But it's very hard for me to be mad at God when I look out and see my best friends carrying my dad's casket. And what I learned that day is... You know, you have your friends, then you have your best friends, and then you have the best friends who carry your dad's casket. And, you know, nothing's more powerful than that. And this... Everything in this journey is a testament to the love and the friendship and the support of other people. Yeah, I just love them. And thank you for asking about them, because they're the thing that I'm proud of most.
How Do You Handle the Hard Times (21:10)
And I love the most. Oh, man, I totally get that. And it comes across so beautifully in the book, and it comes across in the talks that you give and stuff. And it just... There's something about the way that you approach life that I think is utterly fascinating. It's obviously captivated a lot of people, like even hearing the guys at Alsop Louie talking about why they chose you when you were like this 19-year-old kid, and nobody knew you. And like, what do you know about VC? And they're just like, yeah, you can tell that they like to be around you. What does it take to be a good friend? To me, it's really easy to be that friend who's, you know, cheering for you and like pumping a fist and, you know, your bachelor party in Vegas or whatever, right? That's the easy part of friendship, being there and cheering and celebrating. To me, the testament of any relationship, whether it's a friendship, whether it's a romantic partner or a business partner, is how you handle the hard times. And to me, the way you handle the hard times is with really uncomfortable conversations. So I am a firm believer that the quality of a relationship is directly correlated to your ability to have uncomfortable conversations with each other. And something that most people don't know about me and my best friends is that we, I'd say like once every few months, sit together and we go around the circle. This is like funny to talk about, but this is what we do. We go around and we share with each other like something that the other person is doing really well that we love and we want to see more of and something that they can improve on.
Advice for Dreaded Meetings (22:58)
Dude, that's like, that's good in any relationship. I mean, that's really brilliant for friends. I don't know that I've ever heard of people in a group of friends doing that. I think that is super wise. Thanks. Yeah, I mean, that will continue to play out incredibly well. So that notion of these hard conversations, I think is something that I want to make myself feel better by making it extraordinary and say that, oh, you're just really good at that. You cover pretty extensively that that is just as hard for you as anybody else. So how, like what advice do you have for people in terms of facing those fears, having those conversations, getting outside of your comfort zone. You had a quote and I'm going to, I'll get close. It was like part of the reason that people don't take the leap is because you're stepping outside of your zone of certainty. But no one ever got, no one ever made their dreams come true in their field of certainty. Dude, you have the best memory. Remarkable. Dude, I was really into the book and just everything. So that makes it easy to remember that stuff. But like, how do you train to do that? Like, how do you get better at that?
How to Get Betters at Fears (24:03)
So something that I've learned from, and you know, over the course of the journey, there's the people who I spoke to for the book, but there's also people I got incredible advice from along the way. And one was Drew Hausden, the founder and CEO of Dropbox. I think I was like 20 years old and, you know, it's a pretty cool brunch to be having. I'm sitting there with him and I'm asking similar questions. And he told me something that was amazing. He said, the problem people have with dealing with uncertainty, which is uncertainty is entrepreneurship. That's the difference between being an employee and being an entrepreneur is the entrepreneur takes on the uncertainty, right? Drew said the key that people misunderstand about uncertainty is that you're not born with it. It's a muscle. And people just assume that because they don't have it, it's not for them. He said, if you think of uncertainty as a muscle and you train it like a muscle, things start changing. Let's say you haven't worked out your biceps. You don't go to the gym and just start lifting the 60 pound dumbbell. No, you start with two and then you just go five and you go 10 and then you take, you know, a couple days off, you have to, you know, have rest days. If you think of it the way you train a muscle, all of a sudden uncertainty becomes this manageable thing where you start small and you work your way up and something that Drew said that I love. He said, when you feel the pain, that means you're working up a weight class. That's cool. And then he said, when you pull a muscle like psychologically, if you've taken on so much uncertainty that you're having a panic attack, you're way too high in your way. You're way too high in your way because it's toning down a little. It doesn't mean it's not for you, but you know, if you're, I've done it, you know, you're lifting weights and you, you know, pull something. All right, you're going to go down maybe 10 or 20 pounds the next time you go into the gym. And then you work your way slowly back up. Talk to me about the flinch. What specifically did you do to deal with the flinch? So there's this great unbelievable passage from the book when things fall apart by Pematro Dran, which I'd recommend to anybody going through any hard time in life. And she's this Buddhist nun and there's this part in the book where she goes, you know, she's a Buddhist nun and she's admitting that she still deals with a lot of fear. In many ways, the flinch is then bodymen of fear. And Pematro Dran goes to the guru and this goes to him and goes, "Goo, how, how do you deal with fear? What is your relationship with your fear?" And the guru goes, "I agree with it. I agree with my fear." And when I read that, I remember sitting back in my chair because in many ways, my whole life has been this struggle of arguing with my fear. You know, I would go with Steven Spielberg. He's standing 10 feet away from me and I literally cannot move my feet. You know, I spent months trying to get into the room, but the second I was in there, I would completely freeze. And what would happen to me is in those moments where I would freeze, the voice in my head would be yelling at me, arguing with my fear, saying really negative things, like, "You're going to fuck this up. Come on." Like, just really aggressive mean self-talk. That line from Pematro Dran, you know, "I agree with my fear." In many ways, it's almost this jujitsu move where instead of fighting your fear, you agree with it.
The Flinch (27:42)
You tell yourself, and I do this every day because with this book launch, there's a lot of things I'm still scared of, truthfully. And what I tell myself when I'm scared, my instinct is still to fight it, but I tell myself, "Huh, that is scary. Normal person would be afraid of that." And the weirdest thing happens. The fear just releases its grip. It doesn't disappear, but it releases its grip. And you can sort of go, "Alright, you're going to sit here. Well, I'm going to go do my thing and we'll be right back." And it's weird. I don't use the word "magic" a lot, but just that thought is like magic.
That's really incredible. What are some of the most impressive third-door moments that you heard from other people researching the book? My favorite is Spielberg's because in many ways, Spielberg's third-door story embodies so much of the third door in general. And the reason I love it so much is because of how it starts. He was rejected from film school, which is bonkers. You know, it's like Bill Gates being turned down from a computer science class. Spielberg was rejected from USC film school multiple times. And what I love about him is that instead of doing what most people would do is think, "Maybe I'm not cut out for this." He decided he was going to take his education into his own hands. So what he did is he registered for Cal State Long Beach, which isn't too far away.
Break into Hollywood (29:22)
And he arranged his classes so he would only be there, you know, Tuesdays and Thursdays. And he decided he would find a way to break into Hollywood. So what he did is, have you been to Universal Studios theme park? So you know that tram ride that takes you on the black lot? So Spielberg, when he was 19, goes to Universal Studios, goes on the tram ride, goes around the back lot, jumps off the tram, hides in a bathroom, waits for the tram to ride away, and starts wandering around the lot. And he's popping his head here and there, and this older gentleman, his name is Chuck Silver, stops him. And Chuck Silver's worked for the Universal Television Library. And you know this 19 year old kid just starts mumbling saying, "You know my biggest dream is to be a director." And they end up actually talking for about an hour. And Chuck Silver's goes, "You want to come back on the lot?" And Spielberg's like, "That would be my biggest dream." So Chuck Silver's writes him this three day pass and hands it to him. And Spielberg, you know, comes on day one, day two, day three, but on day four, he comes back onto the lot wearing a suit, holding his dad's briefcase, walks up to the security entrance, puts the hand in the air and goes, "Hey Scotty!" And Scotty just waves back and he walks right in. And for months, Spielberg would walk back onto the lot and sneak into sound stages, go into editing rooms, asking actors and actresses and producers out to lunch, soaking up as much as possible. And again, what I love about it, this is a kid who was rejected from film school and in many ways he created his own film school. And you know, he's going around the lot and after a while Chuck Silver's, who became a mentor to him, said one of the best piece of advice he could have given. He said, "Steven, there needs to be a point where you stop schmoozing and you come back with something of quality to show people." And Spielberg, you know, took that hard, you know, we were talking about hard piece of advice, he took that hard piece of advice to heart. And he stopped coming to the lot and started creating this short film called "Amblin." And he spent months editing and even the way he produced and got the money for the film is like a third door story in and of itself, but he makes this little short film. And he comes back to the lot, shows it to Chuck Silver's and it's so good that a single tear comes down Chuck Silver's face. And Silver's reaches for the phone and calls up Sid Schienberg, the vice president of Universal Television, and goes, " Sid, I have something you have to see." And you know, this guy's the VP of Television at Universal, he's like, "Look, there's a lot of things that I need to see." And he goes, "No, no, no, no, you need to see this right now." And he goes, "You think it's that goddamn important?" He goes, "Yes, it's that goddamn important. If you don't watch this tonight, somebody else will." And the best part of the story is Sid Schienberg still was sort of like lukewarm. So Chuck Silver's called, this is back when we had projectionists. Chuck Silver's called the projectionist for Sid Schienberg's office and was like, "Look, Sid doesn't want to watch this, but when he gets to the projection room tonight." "Put this first." He pretty much put his entire reputation on the line for this young 19-year-old Steven Spielberg. And as soon as Sid Schienberg watched the movie, he said he wanted to meet Spielberg immediately. His people ran over, got to the big office, and on the spot, he got offered a seven-year contract. And that's how he became the youngest director in Hollywood history. And when I reflect back on this story, you know, there's a million things that worked well. But Spielberg had incredible talent, but so do a lot of aspiring directors. What made the difference? And to me, it was really like this people game that he played, you know, jumping off the lawn, meeting different people. But a people game sort of sounds like, you know, networking at a career fair. To me, it was like this Spielberg game. You know, jump off the bus, find your inside man, and use him or her as your way in. And really the key is that inside man. Because if you think about it without Chuck Silver's, one, writing that pass. Two, which I think is one of the most important, giving Spielberg that advice that only someone inside of the studio would know to tell him. And then three, which is the ultimate one, putting his reputation on the line so Spielberg could get his foot in the door. None of this would have happened. And to me, I've realized every single person, it doesn't matter if it's Bill Gates, Lady Gaga, Maya Angelouci, Wozniak, they've all had an inside man or woman. Who's believed in them enough to put their reputation on the line to open that door. What I love about that is that inside man comes from, they've gotten good at something, right? Like even Spielberg in his story, knowing how early he started and how he's making these movies, like when he's a little kid. And so even by the time he's 19, he's been doing it for years and years and years. One story that I found really interesting in the book, I think his name is Chi. Chi Lu, yeah. So tell that story, man. Like that's an incredible story. And then his quote about what luck really is.
JI LU STORY (34:42)
I thought it was just breathtaking. My personal belief is that Chi Lu is the most wild story in Silicon Valley history that no one talks about. I had never heard of it before. And there's a reason too. It's by design because Chi Lu believes that every hour he talks to a journalist is an hour he's not giving back to the world. You know, talk about a guy who's committed to his impact, right? So it's crazy because the thing about Chi Lu is I didn't know who he was. So it was a mentor of mine who insisted I interview him. And I soon found out why. Chi Lu grew up in a rural village outside of Shanghai, China with no running water and no electricity. You know, people walked around with deformities from malnutrition. Like that's how bad it was. And we think our education system's bad in America. For every 300 school children, there was one teacher. I remember him even telling me that they had meat once a year on, you know, the new year as delicacy. And, you know, but she was very smart and very hard working. And by age 27 was making the most money he's ever made before. Seven dollars a month. Fast forward 20 years later and he's a president at Microsoft. And it is just mind blowing. And the story is equally as crazy. So if you pull back the layers, this is what happened. So his original goal was to be like a ship builder because that paid really well. But he was too scrawny and too short. So he had to go focus on his studies. And around college he had this realization that changed his life. You know, his biggest dream was to go to America and study at an American university. But to put it in perspective, it would cost, I think, about 60 dollars. Just to take the entrance exam to take the test to apply to an American university. And this guy, you know, at the most he's making seven dollars a month. So it's impossible for him to even take that exam. But he decides that he's not going to focus on the obstacles. He's going to focus on what he can control. And what he can control is he can't control his money. He can't control him circumstance. But one thing in his opinion that God has fared to everyone on earth is the amount of time they have in a day. So he said, "Okay, that's something I can hold on to." Because whether you're the president of the United States or a rice farmer, you get 24 hours every day.
3 And Half Hour Sleep (37:23)
So Chilu went to the library and started studying famous people in history who hacked their sleep. Because Chilu was normal sleeping about eight hours a night like everyone else. So, you know, Leonardo da Vinci, there's all these people who have hacked their sleep. Thomas Edison. So Chilu starts experimenting. And over the course of months he goes from eight hours, seven hours, six, five, four, three, two, one hour a night. He goes, "Okay, one hour isn't working." He goes back up two, three is still not working. Four, and at four he finally perfected for his body because everybody's different. For his body he was able to work at the same speed and awareness that he was able to do at eight. And he has this various different systems that he uses. And what's crazy is that if you do the math from eight hours of sleep a night to four, and if you're using those four productively, that's adding two whole months of productivity per year. So if you're crushing it, he's crushing it 14 months for every 12 months you're doing. And it all paid off. You know, he didn't know where it were to go, but it all paid off one night. He was in graduate school at the time and it was a Sunday. And normally on Sundays he rides his bike back to his village to visit his parents.
She Rode The Bus (38:49)
But randomly that Sunday it was raining, he couldn't ride his bike, so he stayed in his dorm room. And that night a friend came knocking on his door and said, "Hey, there's a professor downstairs from Carnegie Mellon University who's giving a guest lecture, but it's raining. Nobody's here. Can you come down and fill the seat so it's not embarrassing for us?" And, you know, she's a very nice guy. And he's like, "Of course, yeah. You'll do anything for anyone. He's just the nicest person." So he goes downstairs to fill the seats. And the professor's talking about this very crazy computer science stuff. And she raises hand and asks a few very smart questions. And at the end of the lecture the professor from Carnegie Mellon goes, "Hey, you. How did you know so much about this? Where did you get those questions from?" And she's very modest. "Oh, you know, I've just done a little research on the topic. And the guy's like, "Have you done any research papers on it?" She had done five research papers on the topic. And that's the power of cheat time. He was the most prepared person in that room, not by an inch, but by a fucking mile. So the professor says, "Can you show me the research paper?" So she sprints to his dorm room, grabs the papers, runs back down, shows it to this professor. The professor is reading them on the spot and goes, "Do you want to go to the United States at all to study?" And she tells him, "You know, it's a big extreme, but he can't afford to take the entrance exams." So on the spot the professor's like, "I'll cover your fees." She takes the tests, and a few months later he gets an envelope in the mail. Carnegie Mellon offered him a full ride to get his PhD. Wow. And, you know, you can't study success without asking yourself what role luck plays. Whether it's Bill Gates or Buffett, there's all these moments you wonder, you know, Malcolm God will order a whole book outliers on the whole question of luck and random coincidences.
Luck Is Essential To Success (40:40)
So I asked Chilo, because if anyone in many ways had this lucky break, it was him. On a Sunday, if it wasn't raining, he wouldn't have been there. But on the other hand, there was nothing lucky about him writing those five research papers. So I turned the question on to Chit, and I said, "You know, what have you learned about luck?" And he's like very wise. He like sits back in his chair, and he's like, "Luck is essential to success, but no one understands the way it works." And I was like, "Huh." And what he told me is that people think luck is completely random. Cheese belief is that luck isn't random. It's almost like a bus that keeps showing up at the same bus stop over and over and over again. So if you miss one opportunity, don't fret, there'll be a next one at another point. But if you don't have the right fare in forms of your preparation, you'll never be able to get onto that bus no matter how many times it comes to the stop. And what he said is, you know, luck is like a bus. If you're not prepared, you won't be able to jump on. Dude, when I heard that, I was like, "Alright, that's powerful. I will remember that for a very long time." It so resonates with me as being true. Yeah, so that I really... He's the man. He's unbelievable. I was really impressed with that. One of the things that you said is driving you is that being the... You're in a big family, and you said literally among all your cousins, you were like dead in the middle. And one thing that always bothered you was feeling invisible. And I think that's something that a lot of people can relate to. How have you dealt with that? Is it something that's helped you? Is it something that's hurt you? But how does it impact your life? So... It's so funny because with these childhood emotions, to me, they're so visceral, they're... I can see them if I close my eyes. I remember sitting at my grandma's house. She has this big dining room table, a big round one. And we have 25 people, my mom, all these cousins and stuff. And I remember sitting there as a kid, because like you said, I'm dead in the center. I have like, you know, 10 older cousins, 10 younger cousins. And I remember sitting at that table and feeling like... You know, I could start having a seizure and nobody would notice. It's weird when you're a kid. These feelings are very visceral. And that feeling of being invisible followed me through a lot of my life where... I remember in high school, there would be some days I'd be like walking in the hallways, feeling like people were looking like right through me. Like I was this ghost. And I didn't know this at the time because I know self-awareness, but that became the story that I told myself. And that story turned into an insecurity.
Reflections And Conclusions
And in many ways... I've gotten myself in hindsight in a lot of trouble. In social situations, in career situations, where that insecurity was calling the shots. When you don't know the story that you're telling yourself is one of the most dangerous. So I thought I was invisible. So I would do things to try to stand out. And that gets you into a lot of trouble. You know, there's this great moment from Tony Shane, the book where he sort of like snaps me into getting more self-awareness. I've learned that insecurities will never leave you. Just like with fear, they're a natural part of the human condition. So your goal shouldn't be to rid yourself of insecurities. It should be to become so aware of them that they could be yamering away and you go, "Oh, that's just the insecurity." Because when they're calling the shots, when they're determining your actions, whether it's your insecurity of, "I'm not enough, I'm worthless, I'm invisible, I'm unlovable, people are going to abandon me." When you're not aware that that's driving your actions, that's when you get yourself into the biggest disasters of your life. If anyone out there is dealing with an insecurity that they want, help growing through, the first step is getting rid of the shame that surrounds it. Because the shame is what traps that insecurity. Think of the insecurity like a bug and the shame is like the glass on top of the bug. You can't deal with that bug if there's this guardrail. And the thing about shame is that shame can only live in secrecy. The second you speak something out loud, it doesn't have power over you anymore. And even in the writing of this book, that was some of the hardest stuff. When I was a kid, I would get bullied and they would call me like Fatty Benayan. First of all, it's still weird to even speak those words out loud. But the act of writing it, even the act of saying it, the next time it's going to be easier. And as soon as it doesn't become the secret anymore, you can start dealing with it. So anyone is dealing with an insecurity, whether it's being invisible or not being enough, speak it out loud, whether it's in therapy, whether it's in friends with friends, or if it's just writing it in your journal. Because only then can you start to deal with it. It's incredible, man. Incredible. Before I ask my last question, tell these guys where they can find you online.
Alex's Book (46:40)
So social is very easy. All the accounts are Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, it's all @AlexBenayan. So B-A-N-A-Y-N. And the book website is very easy too. It's thirddoorbook.com. So THI-R-D, thirddoorbook.com. And of course it's on Amazon and Barnes & Noble and Audible and all those places. Alright, my last question.
What's the impact you want to have on the world? (47:05)
What's the impact that you want to have on the world? It goes back to that line that I wrote on that sheet of paper when I was 18 and starting this mission. I want to inspire people to believe in what's possible. And there's this one story that I came across during my research that really stuck with me. It's a story of this teacher who is teaching in Teach for America in Baltimore. You know, really, really tough school. And young teacher, you know, full of coke, and she's dealing with these elementary school kids, I think maybe second grade, third grade. And she realizes just how hard of a situation they're all in. So one day she decides, alright, we're not going to do the math class today. We're going to instead draw pictures of our biggest dreams. And she passes out, she eats the paper to these kids in crayons and all the kids start drawing pictures of what they want to be when they grew up. And there's this one young boy sitting in the corner of the class whose face is blank. And 30 minutes goes by and he hasn't even picked up a crayon. And then finally his eyes light up and he starts drawing. And at the end of the class, the kids pass into the papers and the teachers reviewing them once they leave. And she sees that young boy drew a picture of a pizza delivery man. And the teacher was very concerned. So she called the mother of the boy and she said what happened and the mother wasn't surprised at all. The mother explained to the teacher that the only man in his life is his uncle, who's not on drugs and not in jail and delivers pizza. And what that story showed me is that young people will always look up and reach for the highest branch they see as possible. And it's not their fault what branches they see. Because they'll always reach for the highest branch. And so whether it's up to parents, whether it's up to schools or society at large. And it's a reason I love impact theory so much. Because in many ways what you're doing is you're illuminating branches for people. You're changing what they believe is possible. And what I've learned is that when you change what someone believes is possible, you change what becomes possible.
And that's the impact I'd like to have. I love that dude. That was amazing. Thank you. Guys, alright, just right now run out and get the book. I'm telling you, I'll just be uber shameless because it is that damn good. Go get this thing. You know I don't normally do this. I think I've held up a book maybe three times in the existence of the show. It's amazing what you're going to love about it. For sure you're going to love each and every one of the people, the famous people that you know that you've heard of and hearing how that they broke through will be incredibly fun and many times enlightening. But the transformation that he goes through as a person in the creation of this book is absolutely astonishing. You need to think of this video as a compendium to the book and the way that the two go together and to hear the stories that he tells about himself and that that kind of transformation is there for anybody that wants to avail themselves of that. To work that hard, to strive that hard, to fall in love with their mistakes, to understand that that's where the value lies. That the way that he so openly talks about the things that went wrong, like this was basically an hour of all the things that were difficult or went wrong and they're so beautiful that somebody can share something like that. That I know you guys will be able to see yourselves in. I saw myself in each and every one of them and to know that there's a way to get past that, to leverage it, to use it, to grow, to become more powerful, to do what you want to do is just absolutely astonishing. I'm telling you this is somebody to watch, get on that train right now because wherever this guy goes, it's going to be incredibly impressive and useful to you and that is the highest compliment that I can pay. If you haven't already, be sure to subscribe and until next time my friends, be legendary. Take care. Dude, I love you man. That was a great show.
Thank you. Thank you so much for watching and being a part of this community. If you haven't already, be sure to subscribe. You're going to get weekly videos on building a growth mindset, cultivating grit and unlocking your full potential. Sure.