The Tim Ferriss Show Transcripts: Jason Fried (#329)

Please enjoy this transcript of my interview with Jason Fried (@jasonfried), the co-founder and CEO at Basecamp. Transcripts may contain a few typos—with some episodes lasting 2+ hours, it’s difficult to catch some minor errors. Enjoy!

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#329: Jason Fried — How to Live Life on Your Own Terms


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Tim Ferriss: Hello, boys and girls, ladies and germs. This is Tim Ferriss. Welcome to another episode of The Tim Ferriss Show, where it is my job to deconstruct world-class performs of all different types across all different industries and areas of expertise. In this episode, we have Jason Fried. On Twitter @jasonfried, F-R-I-E-D. He is the co-founder and CEO of Basecamp, previous known as 37signals, a Chicago-based software firm. The company’s flagship product, Basecamp, which I’ve used for many, many years, is a project management and team communication application trusted by millions.

He is also the co-author of Getting Real, subtitle The Smarter, Faster, Easier Way to Build a Successful Web Application, which is available for free at He is also the co-author of The New York Times best-seller ReWork and Remote: Office Not Required. There is also a new book coming soon, It Doesn’t Have to be Crazy at Work. You can actually thread those together to tell a lot of this story. Jason writes a regular column for Inc. magazine and is a frequent contributor to Basecamp’s popular blog – popular is an understatement – Signal v. Noise, which offers “strong opinions and shared thoughts on design, business, and tech.”

Jason, welcome to the show.

Jason Fried: Thanks for having me, Tim.

Tim Ferriss: We have traded so many email over the years and certainly met on a handful of occasions. You have to be one of the most requested guests for this podcast. I’m thrilled that you were able and willing to make the time. So, many thanks.

Jason Fried: Thank you to everybody who wanted to hear me. I don’t know why. But it’s great to hear that I’m wanted.

Tim Ferriss: Well, I think part of why people like to hear from you and maybe it’s a love/hate thing, but I think that what you said to me before we started is indicative. So, one was in response to what I always say to guests, and that is, “You have final cut, so it’s better to kind of go a little over the edge and we can pare it back later.” You said, “Actually, I don’t want that much control. Whatever I say, it should go out into the world.” You are known for being very raw and contrarian, which I think has great appeal to a lot of people, particularly in the current climate that you don’t need to describe for everybody to understand.

I’ll start with a quote from Jeff Bezos, the trillionaire in the making behind Amazon. “Jason is immune to dogma and has much to teach. In 37signals, he has built an elegant company with elegant products based on the idea that less is more.” Now, of course, this is before we went from 37signals to Basecamp. I’d love to talk about this “immune to dogma” component. We can certainly talk about “less is more.” Jeff ended up investing in your company, which is a whole separate story that we’ve covered in some respects with the conversation I had with your partner in crime, DHH, separately. So, we won’t dig into that. But what I’m really curious to know is this immune to dogma ability to question assumptions. How much of that is an innate skill versus an acquired skill?

Jason Fried: I guess it’s hard for me to say from where I sit, but I think a big part of it is that I don’t really pay attention to a lot of things, actually. So, maybe I have different points of view because I haven’t heard the other ones. Or I have different points of view because I haven’t let society’s norms and the general point of view get into my head, so I have to come up with my own ideas. I’ve always sort of – I pay attention to some degree, but I’m pretty oblivious to a lot of things intentionally. I don’t want to be influenced that much.

It’s one of the reasons why I don’t read industry news. I read very little news in general, but I definitely don’t read industry news. I don’t know what to know what everyone else is doing. I find it’s very easy to end up following and being like everybody else when you’re constantly hearing what everyone else has on their mind. It’s very hard then to fight against that. So, by not filling my mind with other people’s ideas, I have nowhere to go but to follow my own. I think that perhaps that’s why I’m immune to dogmas. I just don’t even pay attention to it.

Tim Ferriss: You just don’t have as much exposure.

Jason Fried: Yeah, and that’s intentional.

Tim Ferriss: What are some of the parameters or rules for yourself, structures, systems, anything that you’ve put in place to find that sweet spot of deliberate, selective ignorance, so to speak?

Jason Fried: A lot of it is just kind of going with the flow and not having – I don’t have a lot of structure. For example, I don’t have routines. I don’t have any goals. I’ve never had any goals. Goals are not something that I pay attention to. I just sort of do what I feel like is the right thing to do in any given situation. I don’t look long-term at things other than I want to, for example, be in business over the long term. I’d like to live over the long term. I’d like to be nice and getting better over the long term, but I don’t have goalposts along the way. So, because of that and because I don’t have much of a routine, I sort of just take it as it comes. I think that also perhaps allows me to sidestep a lot of the ways you’re supposed to do things. Because I don’t plan and I don’t think too far ahead on any individual one thing, I’m just able to sort of go where I need to when I need to.

It’s funny because I’ll talk to a lot of people about this and people are, “Come on. You must have some goals like this or that.” I really don’t have any. I can’t remember ever having one. I just do the best I can at any given situation. That’s the best I can do. However that ends up playing it self out over time is how it ends up playing itself out over time. I don’t want to measure up. One of my favorite quotes is – gosh, I forget now who it is. Maybe it’s Mark Twain. But he’s probably said everything or everything is attributed to him.

Tim Ferriss: It could’ve been Abe Lincoln.

Jason Fried: Yeah, or Einstein. One of them, right? Basically, “Comparison is the death of joy.” I love that quote because it comes down to people. It comes down to situations. It also comes down to goals and setting goals. For me, I don’t want to compare myself to an idea I had two years prior of where I wanted to be. I don’t know where I’m going to want to be in two years. So, to set a goal that’s long-term, in some cases you’re actually setting it for who you are when you set it versus who you are when you’re going to get there. That’s something that a friend of mine told me once. A guy named Jim Kudall. It’s a wonderful quote. I don’t know if it’s his or someone else’s, but it really rang true and so that’s kind of how I go about the world.

Tim Ferriss: Let’s look at that in a real-world example. This is something that, as I’m sure you’ve experienced and as you noted, people react to with a certain level of disbelief. You have a profitable company, 17 out of 17 years or now maybe what I read may be out of date, but however many years out of however many years. You have an organization. You are successful certainly by almost any objective measure. What did the last week look like? We’re recording this on a Thursday afternoon, so we’re coming up to the tail end of what most people would consider a business week. If you don’t have goals, you must have some means of making better decisions versus shitty decisions. So, could you maybe walk us through what this week has looked like for you? How you’ve spent your time? I know this is very broad, but perhaps you can use that as a launching point.

Jason Fried: Yeah, this week is a little tricky because I had some personal stuff I had to deal with in the beginning of the week. So, we’ll take like the week before or something like that.

Tim Ferriss: Perfect.

Jason Fried: At Basecamp, we work in what we call six-week cycles. We don’t work on anything – okay, I’m generalizing. But for the most part, we don’t work on anything that takes longer than six weeks to do. So, our goals technically are to deliver something great within six weeks, whatever we’re building. As an organization, that’s sort of where our goals are. But I don’t have personal goals. Like I don’t have a goal – we don’t set personal goals. We don’t set company-wide goals in terms of like “This feature will be successful if,” or “If it brings in this amount of money, it’ll be worth it,” or anything like that.

Our goal, if you do want to use the word, is just to do the best job we can. Last week, I met with a couple teams who are doing some projects and kind of reviewed them with them and tried to help them through some problems, work through some ideas. We’re just finalizing some stuff on our book. So, I’m working on the book we’re finishing. Our manuscript is due in a couple weeks. I did some of that. But really, it’s all about what we’re actually doing at the moment versus sort of the big picture as to why we’re doing it other than we just want to do a good job. We have an idea. We’ve set up some work we’re going to do over the next six weeks. Just helping people get there and do the best we can and also make decisions and cut things and say we can’t do all these things we want to do. What’s the important part of this?

I love trying to get to what’s the most important part of something versus, for example, we don’t have any KPIs at Basecamp. We don’t have –

Tim Ferriss: Key performance indicators.

Jason Fried: Yeah, I didn’t even know what that meant, by the way, until recently. Because I heard everyone talk about them. I’m like, do we have those? They go, no, we don’t have those.

Tim Ferriss: Just to pause for a second. So, for people who are like, what? TPS reports? So KPIs are referred to very often in start-up vernacular, particularly in the tech world, as key performance indicators, which refer to the few or handful of metrics that are prized and most valued within your company. That could be revenue-per-employee. It could be monthly unique users or any number of other things, week-on-week. Growth of X, who knows? Sorry to interrupt, but just for people who don’t come from that world. So, you don’t have KPIs.

Jason Fried: We don’t have that. We don’t have revenue growth number targets. We don’t have – okay, so we don’t have goals and we don’t have targets. We don’t have KPIs. We don’t have those kinds of reasons for doing what we do every day. The reason we do what we do every day is because we enjoy doing it and we want to make what we’re working on better. The thing that we’re making for others, we’re also making for ourselves. So, we technically want to make our own tooling better because it helps us do a better job with what we do.

It really is this day-to-day or week-to-week or every six weeks rolling thing where you set out some stuff you want to do. You do it the best you can. At the end of those six weeks, we take a week or two off from scheduled work and we do other things at work. We roam around, have new ideas, play with some stuff, then we pick another set of projects to do over the next six weeks and we just kind of go as we go and course-correct as we go. We just don’t have any of these big-picture things. My weeks look like feedback. My weeks look like thinking. They look like writing. Sometimes it requires me to debate things internally with people. To lay out some reasons for why we’re doing things.

My week is not pointed in any one direction other than what we’re really doing right now. It is very much a day-to-day sort of existence, which is why it’s sort of an incompatible existence with goals, with long-term goals, with figures and numbers and stuff. I also don’t want to be upset about expectations. So, another thing I don’t have are really any expectations. I would hate, for example, let’s say the company, we were expected to grow 22 percent next year. I’m making up numbers here, right? And we grew 21. That would be a reason in a lot of companies to be upset. That is a ridiculous reason to be upset. Why would I ever want to be upset with that? But when you set out these numbers and these goalposts and these goals and these expectations and you don’t hit them, then you’re upset. And once you’ve actually either hit them or not hit them, then you come up with another set.

You just keep moving these moments of possible joy, but most likely disappointment in a lot of cases. I just don’t feel like setting those up for myself, so I just ignore the whole thing.

Tim Ferriss: Okay. I have all of these various bits and pieces that I’ve gathered to research and I suspect that I’m just going to get hung up on a couple of things I really want to explore. That’s just going to be the way it goes.

Jason Fried: Let’s go into it.

Tim Ferriss: All right. There are many people listening who are familiar with Basecamp and the blog and so on and are saying, I would love to have a company or a product as successful as Basecamp, but I don’t know how to go from where I am, which is goal-oriented, having KPIs, etc. to perhaps the other end of the spectrum, which is closer to Jason. So, I suppose embedded into that is the question of should they even want to emulate that? But secondly, if someone said yes, I want to move more in that direction, what might be a step they could take or steps they could take to inch them a little bit closer to where you are and a little further away from, ohmygod, I wanted to hit 22, we hit 21, we’re a failure?

Jason Fried: First off, I do want to make it really clear that is simply what works for me and our organization. I am not suggesting this is the only way, the best way, whatever. This works for us. If what works for you works for you and you’re very goal-oriented and KPI-driven and you think you need the things you measure, or whatever it is. I forget how that saying goes. What you measure is what you move or whatever.

Tim Ferriss: What gets measured gets managed?

Jason Fried: That’s the one, right. If you’re like that and you think that things are great for you and things are working well for you, please do not even consider changing. Keep doing that. I think though if you’re doing all those things and you feel a sense of sort of a lack of fulfillment or you’re maybe consistently disappointed or you’re reaching for things that you can’t seem to grab, I would suggest trying some of the things I’m suggesting, which is pull back your expectations a bit. Just sort of try to set out to do the best you can versus try to measure up with a number that you’ve made up.

That’s the other thing that I think is important here is that any projection that you set out to hit is a guess. You personally are making or someone at your organization or whatever is making a guess. They’re picking a number. They’re saying this is where we think we should be because this is sort of what we did last year and because of that, we want to do a little bit better this year. But all the stuff is still just manmade. None of these things  are inherent in existence. They’re all manmade things, these numbers, these goals, these figures. So, if you can begin to strip that back and sort of recognize that’s the case and say what if I tried to function without setting any of these but I just did the best work I can anyway because isn’t that what I should be doing anyway no matter what?

My suggestion would be, as with anything, I’m not a big fan of trying to massively change anything at once. I think my suggestion would be like whatever the next project you have that you’re working on, if you would normally set out some goalposts or set out some figures to hit or whatever or measure this, just try not measure one of those things. Just pick one little, tiny thing that you can throw away and not worry about and see what happens. You’ll probably find that the sky isn’t falling and the business isn’t crashing and people aren’t running aimlessly around wondering what to do. But actually, in fact, people will, if you explain why you’re doing it because you want to make this better, because simply you want to make it better and you think it could be better or whatever and you lay that out, people will be motivated enough by that.

That the numbers and the figures don’t necessarily, they’re not the things that are pulling you forward. What’s pulling you forward, hopefully, is your intrinsic motivation and your desire to do a better job and what you’re doing and that sort of appreciation of the craft and the respect of the work that you’re doing and who you’re doing it for and that’s kind of enough. Everything else is sort of a side effect of that. So anyway, I’d say pick one little thing. Throw it away. Don’t worry about it and see what happens and you’ll probably find out that everything’s just okay and then maybe you’ll have the courage to try with another little thing that you are measuring that you don’t really care so much about. I’m well aware that this flies in the face of a lot of people’s world view and maybe even yours. I know you’re big into measuring things, especially health-wise and whatnot.

So, again, I think it comes down to also, most importantly, knowing who you are and what matters to you, and not trying to be like somebody else. There’s a lot of people trying to be like other people and I don’t want anyone to try and be like me. You should be like yourself and if there’s 5 percent of what I’m saying makes sense to you, then maybe you can pull that in and make that part of you, too. But I don’t think you should be out there trying to be someone else because that’s a bit of an artificial situation.

Tim Ferriss: You’ve mentioned directly and alluded to perhaps a few things I’d like to underscore just for folks listening. The first is that when one reads a quote or hears a quote like, “What gets measured gets managed,” it can often be taken to mean that you should manage everything and therefore you should measure everything and that there is only upside in measuring. But that’s simply not the case. For instance, whether it’s, I remember Andy Grove I believe it was, of Intuit, talking about how for every metric that you track and hold people accountable for, you have to identify and then also assess the perverse incentive you’ve created by imposing that metric.

If people respond to incentives and you create a metric, humans being humans, they will look for easier and easier ways to goose that number up or chop that number down. You have to be aware of what that does to their behavior and so on within the company. But secondly, measurement. There are things worth measuring and then there are things not worth measuring that can become vanity metrics that people use just to feel productive instead of being productive. Just to point to one thing that you mention, which I think a lot of people would assume of me, that is I physically track a lot of things all the time. I’m not saying you assume that, but there is a point to my tracking, which is identifying what works for my physiology, what harms me based on my genotype or whatever it might be. Then I just stop the vast majority of measurement and do it very intermittently.

So, the follow-up to that I’d love to ask for people is since you mentioned you don’t read much, if any, trade publications or news, what do you read? What are you reading? Maybe that’s another opportunity for people to pare back on a – I’m not going to say thoughtless, it’s too judgmental – but a habit that perhaps consumes a lot of time without adding much value. If not that kind of stuff, what type of stuff do you read and what have you been reading recently or what are you reading?

Jason Fried: Let me get to that in one second, but I had a thought about the previous question. Sort of the genesis of this for me is I used to do a lot of jogging. I still do a little bit, but I had some knee surgery a while ago and so I’ve sort of not been doing it as much. But I remember trying to hit certain times. I want to run a 6.5-minute mile or whatever it was at the time. I’d go out and I’d run a 6-minute mile in 52 seconds. I remember being disappointed by that. I remember feeling like why should I be disappointed in that? I’m not running a race. I’m not competing against anybody. I’m sort of competing against myself, but I set that up for myself. That’s not something I had to do. I created that moment to be upset.

What if I just went out and ran because I enjoy running and just kind of run the best I can every time I run and just do that? I found that I started doing that and I enjoyed it more. It didn’t mean I didn’t run faster or slower. I didn’t even necessarily know and it didn’t really matter. I could feel whether or not it was a good run. That was a good run. I had a good run today was sort of a much better way to figure out my satisfaction than to measure it and say it was 6 minute and 42 minute run versus a 6 minute and 38 second run. I think that’s kind of where it came into play for me in business, too. I wanted to share that because I just remembered that. That was sort of a moment. I don’t remember how old I was when I did that. I was probably actually in high school or early in college where I started to think that way. That’s maybe where that came from, too.

But anyway, I wanted to get that in there. Reading. What do I read? Well, I started reading the paper more, like the newspaper. Not online news sources, but actually the newspaper. This happened because I was at a hotel. This was a few years ago. I was at a hotel and you go to a hotel and they ask you at check-in, they say, would you like a newspaper? I used to always go no. A newspaper? Who reads the newspapers anymore? Because I get all my news on the internet, which is instant, all the time. The thing is, most of that’s not actually news; it’s entertainment. I think the news, once a day is a perfectly good pace for the news. If you get the news in the morning, you’re basically getting all of yesterday’s stuff that happened in the world that some editor decided was important.

They put that in the news, they print it, and the next morning you get it. Then if you wait another full day to get the news again, pretty good chance that you didn’t miss anything actually by paying attention to things all the time. Very few things happen during the middle of the day that you really, absolutely need to know that you can’t wait for the next morning to know. I’ve realized that the newspaper is actually a better way to get the news because it’s better, the pace is better. It prevents you from searching and seeking out news that you don’t need to know about necessarily. It prevents you from playing the sport, I call it the sport of information. Trying to know more than everybody else and be faster to the latest story than everybody else. That’s turning into a sport.

In fact, the news is presented, if you watch any news channel now, it’s presented as a sport. You’ve got these chyrons going across the bottom, these graphics scrolling across. You’ve got talking heads that are debating. You turn on ESPN or you can turn on CNN and if you hid the logos, you couldn’t tell the difference, really. So news coverage is turned into sports coverage and vice versa. I would just rather say like once a day is enough of a general interval for me to be relatively well informed about what’s really going on in the world. Also, at the resolution it matters.

The other problem I’m having – by the way, I look at Twitter. I clink on links here and there and I read some stuff that I like. But for the most part, I’m not trying to find out what happened an hour ago. That, to me, is actually the real advantage to something like the newspaper, where you simply cannot find out what happened an hour ago because what happened an hour ago in most cases doesn’t matter. Now, you could say, what if there’s a national disaster or a major tragedy or school shooting and your kid’s at the school? There’s all sorts of moments, of course, where real-time truly does matter. But for the most part, it doesn’t matter at all. In fact, it’s worse because you become – there’s the fear of missing out. I think out. I think of it as JOMO – the joy of missing out. I’m happy to miss out on most things.

Tim Ferriss: Did you come up with that?

Jason Fried: Yeah, I mean, that’s in our new book [inaudible] [00:25:24]. Which is it just, it’s great. I don’t need to know all the stuff all the time. Again, look, if there’s a – I’m in L.A. right now. If there’s a mudslide coming to my house, I should know about that, obviously. But that’s something that might happen every, you know, hopefully never and maybe once a decade. To say that I need to be informed in real-time about anything that could possibly happen at any time because that one thing might happen once, that’s just a recipe for anxiety. I try to avoid that at all costs.

Tim Ferriss: Definitely. Now, I know you are a fan, to give one example, of a book titled Seeking Wisdom: From Darwin to Munger by Peter Bevelin. Could you describe or just explain why you like that book, which is also one that I love. It was actually sent to me by Derek Sivers, of all people. Folks can look him up at if you want to learn more about him. But Seeking Wisdom: From Darwin to Munger by Peter Bevelin. Great book. Can you explain why you like that book and any other books that you’re also fond of?

Jason Fried: So, it’s been a while since I’ve read that. So, a book review would be really embarrassing. But what I’ll tell you is this. I love Charlie Munger and Warren Buffett. What I love about those two guys, and of course this book is not written by them but it’s sort of the spirit of it, which is this very clear, direct, no-bullshit way of writing. This very sort of simple folksiness that you know what? Life really, necessarily, I mean, I know this a broad generalization, but in most cases, it’s not that complicated. We tend to make things very complicated and we tend to make things very hard on ourselves, but really there’s some basic fundamentals of many things that if you kind of understand those, you’re in pretty good shape and you don’t need to go much further than that. I love that kind of wisdom.

I love old people in general. Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger, I think Munger is in his 90s now and Buffett is in his 80s. But they’ve always had this kind of wisdom which is this old-school, almost Farmers’ Almanac style of wisdom. I’ve always been attracted to that. I think complexity has also become a sport, where it’s like the more complicated something is, the better you think you are at it. Like if you make it more complicated, you’re better at it or something. I just think it’s kind of the opposite. So, I love those guys. That book, to me, sort of highlighted a lot of that kind of thinking. So, anything that Munger has written. I love reading Warren Buffett’s letter to his shareholders, which I think is a must-read for anybody.

Tim Ferriss: 100 percent agreed, yeah.

Jason Fried: Yeah. Forget even just businesspeople. If you want to read clear writing, if you want to understand what it’s like to communicate something at a high level, you’ve got to read what he writes. So, that’s the kind of stuff I like to read. I like Bezos’ shareholder letters as well for similar reasons. That’s the kind of stuff I’m really interested in. I don’t read fiction at all. Maybe I’m missing out there. But my argument is always that I feel like the world is so interesting on its own that there’s more than enough I can read about real stuff. I know some people are going to just hate me for this and I always get hate on it. But I would just rather read biographies or I’d rather read about nature. I’d rather read about that stuff because the world is fascinating as it is. So, those are the kinds of things I’m into these days. I’ve been reading – I know you’re deep into this now – I’ve been reading a lot about Stoicism and I’ve been getting into that. Is it the Ancient Art of Joy or something like that?

Tim Ferriss: Yeah, the Ancient Art of Stoic Joy by William something or other.

Jason Fried: That’s the one. I love that book.

Tim Ferriss: I’m blanking. I’ll put it in the show notes for everybody. Which is a compilation of both, I suppose excerpts and samples, but also interpretations and applications of Stoic philosophy. I want to say Irvine, William Irvine maybe?

Jason Fried: That’s it. I think you’re right. I think that’s it. So, I read that recently or last year. I really love that. I’ve been getting into a bit of that. I don’t know. That’s the kind of stuff I’m into these days.

Tim Ferriss: Why is that?

Jason Fried: Stoicism or just –

Tim Ferriss: Stoicism.

Jason Fried: Yeah, it just resonates with me. A few basic things, by the way. I don’t need to go that deep into it again. It’s not like I need to go super deep into the whole world of it. But basically, things like you pretty much only have control over your reactions to things. I think that in itself is enough. I could stop there. I’d go further but I could stop there and say that is extremely poignant, especially today. I see people getting so wound up about what other people say and other people do. When you begin to see that, what they’re actually being wound up about is their own reaction to that thing, not the thing itself. The thing itself, yeah, maybe it’s terrible, maybe it’s great. Whatever it is but it’s how you respond to it and how you allow it to affect you. That’s deep and really important and I think one of the best lessons I’ve learned in the past few years. There’s that. Also, just negative visualization I think is a really wonderful tool. I’m paying a lot of attention to that in my life.

Tim Ferriss: Can you, just for people who aren’t familiar with that, would you mind describing that just in brief, what that is? Negative visualization.

Jason Fried: Yeah, as far as I understand it, at least, it’s basically figuring out what the worst case scenario might be in any given situation and coming to terms with that and realizing that probably in many cases it won’t be as bad as you think it could be, so get used to the worst thing. David and I talk about this occasionally, right? So, DHH and I talk about this in the business. Like what if we made some grave, horrible error? So the business has been in business for 18 years. Or what if the competition destroys us or whatever? What if we actually go out of business in two years? What if that actually happens? We don’t want that to happen. What if it did?

What’s the worst thing that would happen? Well, it would be terrible because a lot of people would lose their jobs and that would suck. But we think a lot of people who work for us would have no problem finding other jobs, so that maybe wouldn’t be so bad. I would have no income and Dave would have no income and that would suck, but we’ve done pretty well for ourselves so we could live fine without that. We couldn’t do what we love doing every day. Well, that would kind of suck, but maybe we could still do it, just not in that capacity? And you know what? A 20-year run isn’t so bad. Like if we only made it 20 years in business, that wouldn’t be so bad either. So just thinking about what would be the worst thing that could possibly happen and then recognizing that probably will not happen, it just helps you calm down about that. And sort of avoid this constant set of worries.

In some ways, you sort of get all the worrying out at once. Then you go about your day and go well, if that happens, then it happens. At least I know what that’s going to feel like or what I think that might feel like. It’s not that it would eliminate all the feelings. There certainly would be other negative feelings I may have missed, but for the most part, I thought it through and I feel like I can probably cope with it now if that actually happens versus having something surprise you in the moment and having it be real. That can be really traumatic and really difficult to handle. That’s my general understanding of that at least.

Tim Ferriss: That’s a great description.

Jason Fried: Is that an accurate description?

Tim Ferriss: Definitely. I think it’s a great description. Just by analogy, I was just thinking this. I’m sitting in this room where I do a lot of recording. I did an episode with a former MMA fighter, but also Special Forces sniper named Tim Kennedy. He’s a beast of a fighter and a fascinating buy. But he was saying, “Oh, in my bag right now, I have X, Y, and Z firearm. I have enough first aid that I could patch you and the videographer together if one of you had an arm chopped off. I’m looking at how I could block the doorway in case of A, B, and C.” He knows exactly how to assess the situation in specifics.

The reason that I bring that up is as you were describing this negative visualization, I was thinking to myself, it’s something akin metaphorically speaking to taking a fear, let’s just say you have a semi-nebulous fear of something going wrong. Let’s say that fear is then embodied by a person. That person says, “I’m going to destroy you!” and then you run away and all day or all week you’re thinking, oh, my God. That person’s going to destroy me. How are they going to destroy me? There’s this ambiguity that’s really stress producing. But if you were to sit down with that person and say okay, I know you’re going to destroy me, but I want to know exactly how you’re going to destroy me. Like, well, first, I’m going to ambush you at the corner of Second and Colorado and I’m going to try to hit you with this type of bat.

You’re like, okay. Now, I know where. I know what they’re going to do. I can start planning a response, right? Or, they say I’m going to beat you death with a Nerf baseball bat and you’re like that’s actually not going to beat me to death at all. You start to realize how recoverable a lot of this is. Almost all of these fears are either completely unfounded or completely recoverable or preventable. It’s really, arguably the most valuable thing I have learned from any type of reading of philosophy is this negative visualization which I tend to do in written form in an exercise that I call fear-setting, which you can Google and find for free everywhere.

I’ll stop my soap box speech at this point about fear-setting and negative visualization, but it’s extremely powerful. I think this is particularly true, at least in my experience, if you come from a family, as I did, of worriers. People who spent a lot of time focused on the future with a high baseline of anxiety. Whether that is innate to my code, to my DNA or simply an adopted set of behaviors and beliefs and thought patterns, I don’t know. But it’s really been hugely helpful.

Jason Fried: I feel like that’s similar. I feel like I worried a lot and I still do. I still battle with this. I do kind of feel like it is a battle, actually, in a sense, with worrying. I’ve stopped worrying about myself, but I have a three and a half year old now, so I worry about him. I find myself realizing that kids are actually really quite resilient. I shouldn’t be worrying so much. Things are going to be just fine. It’s actually a really good practice for me to use negative visualization when I’m worrying about things like he’s going to go to school and get sick and then he’s going to have the flu and then I’m going to get the flu. If I get the flu, then I can’t do this. And then my wife’s going to get the flu and she’s pregnant.

You go through all this stuff and it’s like, yeah, that could happen and you can’t stop it. I can’t prevent it. Kids go to school and they get sick and you might get sick. And like okay. But if you think about how bad it can be, you start to really ruminate on it versus like yeah, that could happen. If that happens, it happens. You just deal with it and live with it. But I remember before I got into this negative visualization, I would actually worry a lot. What’s cool about negative visualization I think is it clears the worry out of the room, in a sense. You give it a worry. You worry about it for a while and it’s over. The worrying is over.

I think that’s the key insight for me in it, which is it gives me a moment to say okay, I’m going to worry about this and I’m going to worry about it as bad as it could possibly be and think about how exactly horrible it could be. Then I’m done with that. That’s the difference compared to consistent, low-grade, always-on worry, where you never have that moment where you can really confront it until it happens, when it usually doesn’t.

Tim Ferriss: Definitely. I looked up the title of the book. The author is William B. Irvine. Like Irvine, California. The title is A Guide to the Good Life, subtitle The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy.

Jason Fried: That’s the one.

Tim Ferriss: It is a fantastic introduction to Stoicism. By itself, if you never read another book on the subject, extremely helpful. You mentioned your son. You have a son. I’m curious if we turn back the clock, do you remember the first time you got in trouble or any memorable, early memory of getting into trouble?

Jason Fried: Oh, my God. I got into so much trouble when I was younger. The first time though. I remember the first time I cried so hard that I almost couldn’t breathe. You know that crying where you hyperventilate? I’m trying to remember why that happened. But I’m sure I did something really bad and I think my parents reminded me how bad it was or something and I got really scared, I think. I don’t remember how old I was. But I remember that moment.

But I got in a lot of trouble when I was younger. I probably should have got in more trouble. I probably got away with too many things as well. But I got into a lot of trouble with my parents. They’d have to pick me up at the police station when I was younger. I had a bad reputation. When I was younger, I’m talking like 15, like that kind of thing or 14. Actually, junior high was bad. What is that 13, 14, something like that?

Tim Ferriss: Somewhere around there, yeah.

Jason Fried: Yeah, I was really bad. I kind of got in with the bad crowd and started doing some bad stuff. Although it wasn’t so bad.

Tim Ferriss: What were the offenses?

Jason Fried: Let’s get specific. Okay. It’s actually entrepreneurial stuff.

Tim Ferriss: Side hustle.

Jason Fried: Right, before it was called that.

Tim Ferriss: Continue. Sorry, I’m just imagining the expression you just made. Like the wince as I said that.

Jason Fried: Yes, you know me well.

Tim Ferriss: Go ahead.

Jason Fried: I don’t when the entrepreneurial bug bit me, but it bit me early. I loved knives and throwing stars and switchblades, although I couldn’t get those because those were illegal. I just loved that kind of stuff.

Tim Ferriss: How old are you, if you don’t mind me asking?

Jason Fried: Today?

Tim Ferriss: Today, yeah.

Jason Fried: 43.

Tim Ferriss: Okay, so we’re of the same vintage. So, I had too much caffeine, so I’m interrupting you, but we grew up when ninjas and breakdancing were as cool as you could possibly be. There was a catalog called Asian World of Martial Arts. I don’t know if you remember this.

Jason Fried: Yes.

Tim Ferriss: AWMA.

Jason Fried: Yes!

Tim Ferriss: Anyway, just to put some context. At that time, people like you and me, it was not infrequent that young guys, definitely mostly young guys would fantasize about throwing stars and climbing claws and grappling hooks. So, just to set the stage.

Jason Fried: Oh, man. I had them all.

Tim Ferriss: Please continue.

Jason Fried: Somehow – I don’t remember how this happened – somehow, maybe it was my Dad who got on this mailing list or I got on this – we were starting to get these catalogs at home. One of them was that one. Another one was called Sportsmen’s Guide. There were a few other ones. It was kind of like Army surplus stuff. I don’t really remember exactly how it all happened. But I started looking through the pages and there were these cool knives and throwing stars and some ballistic knives, like knives you could actually shoot with a spring. Crazy shit. Crazy stuff. I just got into it. Like tear gas and this kind of weird shit.

As a 13-year-old boy, for me, it was just the coolest thing in the world. I don’t know why, but I was so into it. So, I started to take that catalogs and make Xerox copies of these pages and then cut them out and then reassemble my own catalog. I would kind of scratch out the prices and put new prices on them and then make catalogs which I would then distribute to my friends. My friends then would buy these knives and stuff from me. So, I’d take these orders and I would make an order form and everything. I would take these things, this was back in like ’85. I remember I got my first MAC in ’85. So, I was using my MAC to print stuff out on my ImageWriter or whatever I had at the time. I would make these catalogs and these order forms and print this stuff out and distribute it to some friends and they would make orders. I’d get the cash from them.

Everyone had part-time jobs, so they’d give me some cash. I’d get the cash. I would place an order through these catalogs for this stuff. I’d order it C.O.D., because which I don’t know if they have that anymore, called cash on delivery. I don’t think they have that anymore. But I didn’t have a credit card. For those of you who are much younger and don’t know what this was, UPS could actually come to your house, bring a package and you would pay the UPS driver. The UPS driver would then take that money and put it in an envelope and then send it back to the company and that’s actually how you would buy things sometimes.

So, anyway, I’d get cash. I’d order stuff C.O.D. I’d fake that I was sick that day. I’d stay home from school. I knew when it was going to be delivered. The UPS driver would come. I would give him the cash and I’d get these things and I’d distribute them to my friends and I would make a profit. And then I did that with like cigarettes and chewing tobacco and all sorts of stuff. Then I had a bit of a reputation as a pyro because I loved fireworks and fire and stuff. Anyway, I got into a lot of trouble eventually, as you can imagine, selling contraband to 15 year-old boys in the suburbs of Chicago. Then I got in with the wrong crows and all sorts of weird things happened at some point.

But anyway, I eventually got that out of my system. But that’s how I started getting into being an entrepreneur is that. I loved the idea of carving up other people’s catalogs and making my own. Then I got a reseller’s license somehow and got into electronics and started to buy things at dealer cost from these big distributors and then, for example, radar detectors so my friends could speed. You know, 16, let’s go speed. Let’s get a radar detector in our car. So, I’d buy radar detectors at cost, doubled the price, sold them to my friends because they couldn’t get them. Cordless phones back then, then computer hard drives in the early days and then computers. That’s kind of how I got into all this stuff.

But it’s funny because the way I think about business today, even the business I’m in today, Basecamp, I just see it as a continuation of when I was 13 selling knives, honestly. It’s all one business where I’m buying or making the thing that I want and then finding other people who want the same thing. It’s the same business as it ever was when I was 13 as it is today. I’m not selling illegal stuff now. But other than that, same spirit. Anyway, so I got in trouble. I don’t remember what – I got in trouble probably before that too. But my parents let me get away with a lot as an only child. I think they let me get away with an extra amount of stuff.

But those early days I think paved the way for me to really learn how to sell things, how to market things, how to promote things, how to package things, how to mark things up, and how to also charge for things. Which is, in a strange way, the thing that’s so deficient about our industry today, the tech industry, which is a lot of companies don’t charge for anything. They give stuff away from free and then they have to live with the negatives of that, which we’re even seeing play out in the news now. So anyway, I learned a lot of lessons from doing the wrong thing, let’s say.

Tim Ferriss: You mentioned a bunch of weird things happened. We don’t necessarily have to go into that, although I’m certainly happy to.

Jason Fried: I’ll go into one of them. Let’s do it.

Tim Ferriss: Yeah, because I’m curious. And then you’re like, “And then I got it out of my system.” For a lot of people, they never quite get it out of their system, so there had to be, I would imagine, a catalyzing event or events or something that encouraged you. Let’s go into one.

Jason Fried: There was and there were. So first of all, I had this friend – I won’t mention his name – but he was a bad influence on me. My parents spotted him immediately and said, “This kid’s no good. We don’t want you to be with this kid.” But anyway, I still was because he was cool and I wanted to be cool. Anyway, one day during lunch, we put like a Tic-Tac, like a mint. It wasn’t a Tic-Tac, but it was some sort of mint, in this other kid’s milk at school. After he drank his milk, he told him – again, I’m so ashamed of this whole thing, but anyway – we told him that we poisoned him, right? Bad. This was bad. This is bad shit.

Tim Ferriss: And how old are you? Were you 15?

Jason Fried: I was 15 or something like that.

Tim Ferriss: This is kind of – I hate to say it and not to excuse it, but sort of par for the course 15-year-old boy behavior.

Jason Fried: Yeah, it was shitty, but I’m just being honest. So, we did that. We obviously didn’t poison anybody. But we told him we did, okay? It was funny because it wasn’t a bullying thing. He was actually a friend of ours. It wasn’t like we were picking on anybody. He was like a friend of ours and we did this. Anyway, in math class later that day, he passes out because he was probably anxious and thought we had poisoned him. So, he has to get his stomach pumped because he told the teachers and the police got involved that he’d been poisoned and I had to go down to the police station. My parents had to take me to the police station and all this shit. It was a mint. But we set this up in away where he didn’t think it was.

Anyway, that was some of the shit I got into. Eventually, I got into that and a couple other things. Eventually, my parents said, “Hey, look. Enough. If you get in trouble again, we’re sending you off to boarding school. Which means you’re away from all your friends and you’re away from us and the whole thing.” It was that statement alone that changed everything for me. I don’t know why either. I didn’t even know what boarding school was. It probably sounded kind of cool. Like I get to go away and sleep away. There’s something kind of almost cool about it in a sense like when you don’t really know what it would be. But they said it in such a stern way that it was so clear that this was not where I wanted to go and not where I wanted to be.

Tim Ferriss: Right, the tone made it clear it was no desirable for you.

Jason Fried: Yes. That was the moment when I basically went back to my old friends, who were awesome. I never really left them, but I kind of, sort of did. They were very cool about it. They welcomed me back, basically. I just stopped doing all that shit. I just stopped it. It sounds like how could I have just stopped it, but it’s probably because I wasn’t really, it was sort of this stunt that I was pulling and not really what I wanted to do. It was just kind of a fun thing. Then I realized that there were consequences and the ones I realized were true consequences, I changed it. I think that was the thing for me is that, especially when I was younger, I would sort of do things.

I remember – so I went to Hebrew school after school. I hated it. I absolutely hated it because it was like two hours Tuesdays and Thursdays after school. I wasn’t religious. My parents weren’t really either, but it was just sort of something everyone in the neighborhood did and I kind of did. It was out of respect for my grandparents, who were more religious. Anyway, I went to this thing like two days a week after school. I remember my Dad telling me once that – because I was kind of bad there too. I was extra bad there. I would always question the teachers. Like, wait, prove it. Can you prove that God exists? Stuff like that. I was just being an asshole. I was just pushing them because I knew you couldn’t prove it. I was being difficult. I got in trouble and my Dad –

Tim Ferriss: That’s so surprising to hear.

Jason Fried: Right. So, my Dad is like, “You shouldn’t do this, but I just want you to know, none of this goes on your record.” You know the record? I don’t know if you were ever threatened with your record?

Tim Ferriss: Sure, yeah, yeah. I didn’t have exactly a pristine record as a kid. So, yes, I had the record.

Jason Fried: And there is no record. But I didn’t know it at the time. So, my Dad’s like, “This isn’t going to go on your record.” That actually made me do more bad shit. Eventually, I got kicked out of Hebrew school for doing some other stuff, which I really won’t go into.

Tim Ferriss: Gross insubordination?

Jason Fried: Yeah, basically. They just had enough of me and they knew I had enough of them and the whole thing. They let me go through and get my bar mitzvah. They let me do that but they’re like, just don’t come to school anymore, okay? So that was –

Tim Ferriss: Creative differences.

Jason Fried: Yeah, exactly. Anyway, all those things, at some point, my parents kind of said boarding school or stop this. I stopped. Back then, as high school kids do, you drink a bit. I got that all out of my system also. All that stuff, I kind of got out of my system. That’s kind of one of the reasons I didn’t really like college, because in college everyone was experimenting with stuff for the first time, in a sense. I felt like I’d already been through all that. So, the social experience in college was actually really boring for me and almost felt childish, actually, because I felt like I’d been through it when I was a child. Now, I see everyone else doing that.

So, I didn’t really enjoy college at all for that reason. I just sort of kind of muddled through and got it done. Then by that point, I was already doing website design like freelance. I had a software business that I’d already started on the side selling software that I’d made to organize my own music collection. All this stuff I’d started doing and to me, college was actually just getting in the way of me getting out there and doing the things that I really wanted to do.

Tim Ferriss: So, you mentioned organizing your music collection. We could dig into that. I remember reading a story about it. People could send you in $20 to get audio file, right? They would do an upload to AOL. I read this story of you were getting this envelope from Germany or some other country, the air mail envelope that I’m sure some people have seen with the red and blue around the edges. Lo and behold, right? Order form, $20 bill. Like big deal. Was that the first time that you were like holy shit, I could do this? Or I’m an entrepreneur. Or I’m successful. Do you remember of these many entrepreneurial experiments and ventures that you’ve been involved with, was there a particular incident that stands out like wow, holy shit. This is something that I could actually make a living doing? I could do this.

Jason Fried: Yeah, the $20 – well, first of all, I never thought about making a living, really. But I thought about, what was different about getting $20 in the mail for software that I made was that it was the first time that I realized – actually, let me step back. I’d been selling stuff before, right? We talked about that. Like throwing stars and that bad shit. But I had to do work for that. I had to make a sale each time. I had to get inventory each time. I would sell inventory. I’d have to get more inventory. I’d have to go out and convince my friends to buy more shit, right? What was different about the software thing was that I could make this thing once. I could put it out there into the world and a lot of people could pay me for it. I could, in a sense, make money while I was sleeping.

I didn’t think about it necessarily that way. I can look back on it now and say that’s what I felt. I didn’t feel it that way, but what I did realize was that I could make something that I wanted. I could put a lot of effort into it and put it out there and let it speak for itself. If people liked it, they’d be happy to pay for it. That people are happy to pay for things. That I don’t have to go out and sell each one. I could put it up and people could buy it from all over the world when they find it on their own. That was, I think, the distinctly different thing for me at that moment versus everything else I’d done in the past was sort of one-off sales. Including eventually I was doing some logo design and website design which came a little bit later, after – well, actually, I’m not sure what the timeline was.

But even that, you have to find a client every time. You have to find someone new every time and the whole thing. Software was different. That’s what I do today is I make software, we put it out there, and technically you’re making money while you’re sleeping because it’s running and people pay you on a monthly basis. You kind of make it once and put it out there versus – although, of course, you’re making it every day. You’re changing it and tweaking it, but it’s still the same spirit. So that was the big change for me, I think.

Then I realized that the deeper realization was that I don’t – I can make this for myself. I can satisfy myself and that then the next step is to find other people like you versus trying to dominate an industry. I think this is a fundamental thing that we have today at Basecamp, which is I have no interest – DHH and I talked about this all the time. We have no interest in dominating anyone or anything. I’m not up for land grab. I don’t know what our market share is. I could care less. It doesn’t matter to me. None of this stuff – I’m looking to put any competitors out of business. I’m not looking to be No. 1. None of that stuff matters.

What matters is can I make something that I like? Can we put it out there to support our costs and make more money than we spend? If that means we have 1% market share or 0.1% market share, fine with me. If it means wee have 50% market share, fine with me. I don’t care. None of that matters. What matters is can I build something I like and can it be sustainable and can it fund our continued development and endeavors.

That’s also with the music thing. Because I made it for myself. I was loaning out my CDs and tapes to friends and never getting them back and I forgot who I loaned them too. So I’m like, well, maybe if I organize this, I could have an inventory of all the stuff I have, like bootlegs and CDs and the whole thing. Whenever I loan one out to someone I’ll just note the date and who it was and then I’ll build a system that will send me a reminder about that 30 days later. And I can go, “Hey, Bill, remember that CD that I let you have and I said I need this weekend, I still don’t have it.” Then I would get all my stuff back. So, that’s kind of what I’ve been doing ever since is building stuff that works for me.

Tim Ferriss: So, I want to tell a story through your words about how the world welcomed you with open arms and immediately started buying everything that you had to sell. I’d like to read a bit of text here. I’m pretty sure this is not a misquote because you typed it out and sent it to me some time ago. Here we go.

“Way back in the ‘90s, when I was getting started as a web designer, I sent my work into an awards site called At the time, it was the shit. If you were awarded a High 5 award, you were recognized. Now, I sent my stuff in (and I’m going to leave his name out just so I don’t have anybody chasing me around), the guy who ran it emailed me back. I don’t have the original email anymore, but basically he told me I sucked, I had no business being in the web design business and that I should never email him again. That rejection filled me with so much fire. Not anger, not resentment, not disappointment, but fire. Fire to kick ass and prove his impression wrong. I loved the rejection. It made me.”

That was in response to a question I asked you, which was “How has a failure or an apparent failure set you up for a later success?” That was in my last book, Tribe of Mentors. My question about this, and you can certainly take this anywhere you want. If you want to elaborate, correct, do anything else. But my question, speaking personally as someone who has struggled with anger. I spent so much of my childhood being bullied really badly. I was born premature, really, really small and with a lot of health issues up until about sixth grade, that I built up this anger that I used as fuel to then later compete and fight and do all of these things so that I wouldn’t be taken advantage of again, effectively, right? This was a coping mechanism.

Now, I’ve realized that anger is very often not helpful and that it is the acid that damages the vessel, not that which it is poured upon. So the line, I’ll read it again, “That rejection filled me with so much fire. Not anger, not resentment, not disappointment, but fire.” What was the self-talk that made it fire and not anger or resentment? If that makes any sense. How do you transmute what could be a negative response into something that’s actually helpful in a case like this?

Jason Fried: Yeah, I remember that distinctly because it was the first time I got enough courage up to submit work to an awards site thing. The rejection was so in your face. Like, you suck. Basically, don’t do this. Because it was so, it was almost a caricature of a rejection. To actually have someone be like, “You suck. Don’t do this.” No one would ever say that but he did! It almost made me laugh and be like, I’m just going to prove you wrong. It was that kind of energy. That was the fire.

In those cases, I have always responded to those sorts of moments as motivation to prove somebody wrong or to prove myself right maybe. Maybe that’s sort of the bit of the flaw I still have to work out or one of those two. But I just wanted to say okay, fuck you. I’m going to show you that I can do this. I shouldn’t even care, right? Now, I realize that this is again like my reaction to someone, like who cares about this guy? Who cares what he thinks about my work? It’s also tied to the fact that I just, I know, look, obviously I come from a position of privilege to say this whole thing, but I don’t let people offend me.

I have been in situations where, for example, as I mentioned earlier, I’m Jewish. I remember in college some people called me a kike, which is a fucking horrible slur. I’ve had people, I’ve walked by a penny and they’re like, “Oh, you should pick that up.” I’ve had some of that shit, right? It doesn’t matter. I don’t care. To me, that kind of stuff just has never upset me. Because it’s like that’s just a reflection on the other person’s ignorance or point of view. I’ve never let that kind of stuff get to me.

Tim Ferriss: Is that something your parents instilled in you? That’s not the most common reaction.

Jason Fried: Yeah, I don’t know where it came from. I don’t know where that came from. But I just never remember ever feeling offended by anyone’s sort of slight at me for whatever reason. Look, I’m 5’7”, so I’m a relatively short guy. There’s been those kind of things that you have. There’s all sorts of stuff that you get. I know a lot of people have it way fucking worse than I do. So, I totally get all of that. I’m just using – the only examples I have are my own, right? So, but I’ve been in those situations where I could see someone flipping over it and be like, what the fuck? That’s a horrible thing to say. How could you ever say that to somebody? I just never felt that way. Like, okay. That’s where you come from, fine. That’s fine. Like, I don’t really even have the energy or the care to try and set you right or whatever. It’s not my job. I don’t really want to do it.

It is what it is. It kind of just bounces off me, in a sense. But one reaction I have had is motivation. That’s the thing that I’ve always had when someone says I can’t do something or I’m not this enough or I’m not that enough. It’s motivation to prove that wrong. I don’t know if the dark and dirty side of it is it actually revenge or is it motivation? I’m not sure that I necessarily know what that is. Maybe I think it’s motivation but maybe it’s more revenge, which is a pretty crappy emotion or whatever that would be called. But I never do it trying to hurt somebody, so maybe it is motivation and not revenge, but I’m not totally sure, to be honest.

But I don’t know where it came from. I just never ever remember being angry about something that someone said about me or how they judged me or whatever. I just never really cared.

Tim Ferriss: To maybe provide a contrast to that, it seems like you have an abhorrence for wasting time. It seems like you have a strong dislike for wasting time and you’ve talked about this before, written about it. What rules for yourself, commandments, systems, anything, do you have in placed to help minimize time wasting?

Jason Fried: So, something that I think I mentioned. I wrote this up in your book, actually, as a response. It’s sort of first of all, getting better at saying no is a critical thing to begin with. Being honest about the things you really want to do and things you really don’t want to do and not sort of just doing things because you feel obligated because it’ll make someone else feel good. Who knows how someone else is actually going to feel? It’s sort of presumptuous to suggest that I should do something because it’ll make someone else happy. It’s actually kind of hard to know what makes people happy. I try not to go down that road because I think you can find yourself in a difficult spot and it’s really hard to do.

I just try to get better at saying no and really recognizing the things I like to do and I don’t like to do. I kind of describe my life as – a weird description of my life – but partial description of my life is I just try to do everything I can to avoid hassles. I don’t like hassles. To me, a hassle is like something I don’t want to do in the future. It’s almost never something I have to do now. It’s something I have to do in the future. So, it’s something I’ve been getting better and better at is basically just being honest with people who ask me to do things far in advance and say I can’t make commitments that far in advance. I know that you need a commitment that far in advance and you’re planning an event. I totally understand that.

But I find that I tend to – this is a strong word and it’s not fair to what other people are doing, so it’s going to come off strange, but I don’t think of it in terms of that what they’re about to do isn’t worth it, but I tend to regret things that I say yes to far in advance. Not because of the thing itself, but because it actually prevents me from having opportunities to explore other things in the moment when I get there that I might be more interested in doing. So, this comes back to the goal setting, perhaps. Maybe it’s all the same thing, which is that I don’t know how I’m going to feel six months from now on Friday night at 4:00, where I’m scheduled to speak at an event. Maybe I’d rather not be doing that six months from now. The only way I’m going to know that is to basically wait until that moment and decide whether or not I want to do that. But, of course, I can’t cancel on people if I booked events.

So, I’ve just found in my life that the things I put on my calendar, because it’s so easy to put something far in advance on your calendar because it costs nothing, in a sense. It doesn’t take any of your time now. It doesn’t take any of your time now. It doesn’t take any of your time next week. It’s like four months from now. Sure, I’ll do that. Then it comes up on that and I’m like, I wish I wouldn’t have said yes to that. Not because the of thing itself but because of the feeling of being now obligated to do something that I may interest choose to want to have done in that moment had I had the choice then or now.

Tim Ferriss: Can you give us some sample language or just a basic kind of template that you would use to politely decline something? Somebody hits you up. Let’s just say you actually know them. They’re like, hey, six months from now on such and such a date, we’re having this event. A, B, C impressive speakers are coming. Blah, blah, blah. What does your response look like?

Jason Fried: Well, sometimes I will say yes. But most of the time, I’ll say, “Thanks for writing. I appreciate the invitation. I can’t book anything that far in advance right now. I have a hard time filling my calendar six months ahead of time or something like that.” Let me think about the language. Basically, I would say, “I can’t book anything that far in advance.” Sometimes, I’ll be specific. Like, “My wife is pregnant and that’s too close, so I can’t do that.” But there’s other times I’m just like, “I just can’t book that far in advance. If there’s an opening closer and you need someone, let me know then. I’d be happy to do it or perhaps another time, but six months from now is just too far out for me to book things” is kind of what I’ll say.

I always try to, first of all, it’s an honor to be invited to anything. The fact that anyone wants to hear me talk still surprises me. So, I always appreciate it. I always make sure to lead with that. But I’m honest about it, which is I can’t put anything on my calendar that far in advance. I can’t book things that far in advance. Also, another thing for example, I’ve been asked a lot lately to speak internationally. I’ll just tell people, which is true, “I just don’t like to travel internationally for business.” If I’m going to go somewhere, I’d like to go somewhere for personal reasons. But I don’t like to travel internationally for business. So, I’ll just say, “I’m not traveling internationally for business right now. It’s not something I’m really doing. I appreciate the invitation. Again, if you ever have an event in the United States, let me know.” That kind of stuff.

I think if you just make up stories, why? Why not just be honest and clear about it? People are very understanding, actually. They go, “I totally get that. If we have an opening, I’ll let you know. If not, no big deal. Maybe another time. Maybe there’s some other thing we’ll have coming up that’s sooner.” I said, “Yeah, of course. Let me know if something sooner. That’d be great.” So, kind of do it that way. By the way, this was sort of inspired by, and I don’t know if this is true. I read somewhere that Warren Buffett kind of does this with meetings. Again, I don’t know if this is true. I read it. Which is that if you want to meet with him, you basically have to write his assistant or whatever, the day before.

If you write – I’m sure there’s exceptions to this rule, but in most cases, if you want to meet with him, you can’t say “I’m going to be in Omaha on March 22nd, can I meet up with Mr. Buffett.” The answer would be, “When you get in on the 21st, email me then and if he has any openings the next day, then he’d be happy to meet with you.” Now, of course, he’s Warren Buffett. People have written about this. Oh, he’s Warren Buffett. The thing is that, yeah, he’s Warren Buffett but you are you and your time is yours, just like his is his. His attention is his and yours is yours. Who cares how wealthy he is? What does that have to do with any of this? Who cares what position he’s in? I understand that yeah, he is in a position where he can maybe say no more frequently than others, but so can a lot of people.

I don’t think people give themselves enough credit and give no enough credit and defend their own attention and time as much as they should. People will protect money. They’ll protect all sorts of things, but they won’t protect their attention and their time. I think more people should get better at that. I’ve been practicing getting better at that. I was sort of inspired in part by hearing about – if it’s true or not, I don’t know – but hearing about how Buffett does that.

Tim Ferriss: And how people respond to the boundaries that you set, particularly if you do so tactfully, tells you quite a lot about the nature of your true relationship with these people.

Jason Fried: That’s true, too.

Tim Ferriss: I remember one time I was going through a very difficult period and was trying to set up a number of different rules to simplify and clear my calendar. It also just took me a long time to get back to people. Even people I cared quite a lot about. But the people who are really close to me know that is the case. Who knows? I could be lost in the Amazon jungle for three weeks. They don’t get too upset about things. At one point, I got an angry text from this, more of an acquaintance. A very powerful guy. He was like, “Tim, dude, what the hell? You’re harder to get a hold of than the President. I just talked to him last week,” or something like that. Then we hopped on the phone and he was really upset.

I said, “Well, the President has a bigger team than I do, No. 1. And No. 2, I hate to say it, but you’re being really aggressive right now. Of all the things on my list of priorities, including my family and this,” and I mentioned a few things that were pretty heavy, “You’re kind of No. 17 right now.” That doesn’t mean that you’re unimportant to me, but it means you just have to wait until I’m done with the first 16. So, if you can’t do that, I get it, I suppose, but it’s not going to change. It’s definitely a learned skill. I’ve absolutely and you’ve maybe had this experience but when my first book came out, I was so absolutely astonished that anyone would pay me anything to talk about anything, that I said yes to everything that came in. Then six months later, I was like, oh, my God, I feel like I’m in Death of a Salesman. This is awful.

Over time, I’ve become better at setting parameters. You mentioned, since we’re talking about Warren Buffett, clear thinking and clear writing, which you seem to value very highly. In doing a little bit of homework for this conversation, I’ve read, and you can tell me if this is true or still the case, but how one of your top hiring criteria is whether the person is a great writer. Whether the person can communicate well in written form. I’d love for you to say whether that is still the case or not and why that is the case.

Jason Fried: It’s definitely the case. It’s sort of been the case forever for us. It’s the case because first of all, most communication is written these days. First of all, let me step back. We’re a remote company, so especially most communication is written. If you’re going to have, if you’re a local company and you’re having meetings all the time, sometimes verbal is enough. But in most cases, people are writing more and more and more than they ever have before. One of the most costly and inefficient things is having to repeat yourself or answer questions about something that should’ve been clear in the first place.

If you can’t communicate clearly, you’re communicating probably three or four times more frequently than you need to. That can be really inefficient and really frustrating, extremely frustrating. So, we’ve always looked at clear writing as a prerequisite for every position we have at the company because everybody is supposed to communicate with themselves, with the rest of the company, with their team. Most of it’s done via the written word.

We also, for example – by the way, the first sort of gatekeeper of it is the cover letter. When people apply for a job, if they just send a résumé or whatever, they’re out instantly. It’s not even something we look at. I always want to see a cover letter of some sort. It can just be an email, of course, with an attachment of the résumé or whatever, but I want to see how you open the conversation. How do you describe yourself? Why are you applying for this job and not just any job? You can tell very quickly if someone can explain themselves, if someone can advocate for themselves and advocate for their ideas and their position and who they are and why they should work here.

If they’re clear minded, if they’re friendly, all that stuff comes through in writing. I think if you pay enough attention to the words, you can see a lot of that. Also, for example, when I hire designers, I look at their design, but I look at their writing almost a little bit more. Whenever we hire a designer, when we get down to the last five candidates that we really think could be finalists, we hire them to do a project for us. $1,500 a week and they do a project for us so we can kind of see their actual work. But even more importantly is we ask them to write up why they did what they did because there’s a lot of great designers out there. But people have to advocate for themselves. I want to see why they did what they did and I want to read their point of view and their line of thinking and how they came up with the solutions.

When I read that, it helps me understand what would it be like to work with that person for real. Are they able to explain why they did what they did? Are they glossing over little details that actually matter? What is it? How do they see their work and how do they write about it? It’s a very important part of the job here at Basecamp. So, yeah, writing’s important in every position. It doesn’t matter what position you’re in, you still have to be a great writer. We typically start by looking at the cover letter. The actual work assignments to get hired here typically involve writing, no matter what the position. I think it’s always proven, in our case, to be a really good indicator of someone’s success here.

Whenever we hire someone, we’re like, I don’t know, the writing wasn’t quite right. It almost always pans out that it turns out that they’re not the right fit for the company, even if their work was great. But they’re just unable to really convince people and persuade people based on a missing bit of – it’s not magic, but I’ll call it that – in the writing. Where you read something and you go, this is great.

Tim Ferriss: I’d love to dig a little deeper on the example you gave with the design finalists. Let’s say you’re hiring for a position. You have a handful of folks you’ve narrowed it down to. You’re going to pay each of them $1,500 for a one-week project. Do you assign them a project, give them a range of projects? I’d love a little bit more in terms of specifics. And then when you ask them, why did you end up doing what you ended up doing, do you provide them with guidelines for how to answer that or do you keep it totally open-ended? I’d love for you just to walk us through a hypothetical or real example of what the project could look like and how it unfolds from there.

Jason Fried:  First of all, the reason why we do that is because you basically can’t trust anyone’s design work in the past. The reason why is because a lot of people work with other people. You don’t really know what they did. We’ll get résumés like, “I did” It’s like, no, you didn’t. You worked on I can’t tell what you did exactly. So you’ll see a lot of that. Or people will share screenshots with you of things. You’re like, I just don’t know the process that went into that, so it’s hard for me to judge it. It’s not that I think the work is good or bad. It’s none of that. It’s I don’t know what I’m evaluating here.

So, the idea is that once we get down to the five finalists, after looking at work and looking and writing and the whole thing, we feel like these five people could be great fits for this particular position. We give them all the same assignment. The assignment – sometimes there is a choice, like two or three different assignments. But for the most part, historically, it’s been one. Lately, we’ve been doing a few. But it’s been one. Where everybody who is applying for this job does the same project. Everyone gets a week to do it. They have to figure that in how to fit that in with the rest of their – most people have jobs already, so they maybe have to work at night or whenever they do it.

I’m well aware of the fact that they don’t have a lot of time, so I’m not expecting perfection. This is part of the reason why I look at the writing and the expansion of the work. Because I recognize that who knows? Maybe you have a full-time job. Maybe you have kids at home. Maybe you don’t. Whatever it is. Maybe you only have an hour a day to do this on the side and you’re already tired. I get all of that. So, I’m more interested in how you approach the project and how you describe what you did and why you did it.

Anyway, for example, we take a screen from Basecamp and, to get really specific about this, like here’s the way you add people to a Basecamp project. What would you do to make this better. Now, you have no data. You’re not talking to anybody about it. I just want to know what you would do. What would you do? Because a lot of the work at Basecamp is all based on what would you do? We don’t do a lot of user testing. We do use customer interviews and stuff, but we don’t get into a testing lab. We don’t watch people use our product. We don’t do any of that. We don’t really look that much into usage data to really determine what we’re going to do. So, a lot of this is about gut and feel and what would you do? What’s wrong with this screen in your opinion?

I’m really interested in people’s opinions. I want people to have a point of view when I hire them. I don’t want people to say I need this data and that data to make decisions. I go yeah, yeah, I get all of that. But what would you do. I’m hiring you. What would you do? So anyway, they do the work. Then they present it. I say present it anyway you want. There are no guidelines. I just say present it any way you want. But I guess the one guideline is I want to understand why you did what you do. So, some people present this work as like an elaborate website with a bunch of different screens. Some people present it as a static pdf. Some people write something up and sort of tell a linear story with screenshots interspersed. There’s a variety of different ways people do it.

But ultimately, I’m looking at the explanation of the work and sort of the thoughts behind the ideas that are presented. That’s what I’m most curious about. It’s not necessarily whether or not the work is great, because you’re already a finalist. I already know that you’re capable of designing things well. What I want to make sure I understand is where the ideas are coming from. How they’re filtering through your head. How they’re filtering through your fingers into the design itself. And why you did what you did. And can you defend it? One of the things is even when I agree with the solution, I’m always going to push back on it on these kind of situations because I want to see how people take criticism as well.

That’s a big part of this, which is constructive criticism and critique. I want to see that. One of the things we don’t do and we don’t believe in at all are like these riddles and these bullshit text crap, right?

Tim Ferriss: The McKinsey how many golf balls can you fit in a 747 type of stuff?

Jason Fried: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Like everything we try to do at Basecamp is about real stuff. This is actually a real project that we would take on. It’s not bullshit and it’s real. Riddles and stuff, forget it. Real work. I want to see how you explain it, what you do with it, why you did what you did with it and then I’m going to push back on it and see how you respond with it. That says a lot. One of the designers we hired recently for iOS, Tara Mann is her name. One of the things I was really impressed with when she delivered her project and we started talking about it was that when we were going through it, she goes, I don’t even know if I like what I did here. I loved that because that shows, first of all, a real sense of confidence in talking to an employer and going I don’t even know if I like what I did here?

Most people are like, this is the best thing in the world. This is the best idea ever. But she’s like, I think I like it, but I’m not totally sure. I liked that and we dug into that. Then we got into why she didn’t think it was great. That was just a very real conversation. I felt like I could work with someone like this, absolutely. Because they don’t think that everything they do is going to be great and they’re self-aware enough to recognize that. We can talk it through and figure it out. That was a great thing. So, there could have been, for example, in this case there weren’t, but there could have been five designers who were better than her visually anyway, I still would’ve gone with her because of her sort of approach to the work and her honesty about it. That’s what I’m looking for when I talk to somebody who I’m about to hire.

Tim Ferriss: What would be an example of pushing back? Let’s just create a hypothetical or a real example. Then what would trip the wire as far as red flags go or positive indicators?

Jason Fried: Sure. I can’t really, it’s hard to describe that particular project because we’d all have to be looking at it to point out the –

Tim Ferriss: It could be anything. In other words is pushback like wow, I think this really sucks. What say you?

Jason Fried: Not like that.

Tim Ferriss: Or is it like hmm, not sure how I feel about that. Or is it something else?

Jason Fried: Yeah, it’s more obviously the latter. I don’t ever say anything sucks.

Tim Ferriss: I was using that just because of the rejection letter you got.

Jason Fried: I get it, yeah, right, the High 5 thing. Yeah, it’s more “I’m not sure that I see why you went down this road.” Or “Doesn’t this seem like a lot of steps?” Or, “This word save, maybe it should be preview. Why is it save?” Usually pushback is with questions. “I don’t understand this” or “Help me understand this.” That’s kind of the real one I like to use. “I’m not sure I get this. Can you help me understand this?” But sometimes the red flags are very clear. People hunch down into a defensive posture and fight for their idea, which is fine. It’s good to do that sometimes, but not when it’s like “Help me understand why you went this direction?” “I went this direction because I felt like it was the best possible thing.”

When people get rushed about things – I actually like when someone takes a pause and goes, “Hmm. Let me think about that. Well, here’s where I went through to get to here.” The reason I use the word “save” was because this reason or that reason. Or the reason I called it a draft and not a preview is because of this and that. I’m not interested in people retracing their steps than just sort of purely explaining the outcome. That’s not really – that’s kind of a deeper thing. But you’ll see people in design reviews get very defensive very quickly. You can tell that they’re not listening anymore. They’re just telling you what they want you to listen to instead of listening to what you have to say. That’s very obvious in design reviews. When that comes up, it’s very clear. It’s that.

Fundamentally, I’m looking for a deep degree of introspection in the work and an understanding of how they ended up there. It’s kind of like if you think about back in school where your teacher would ask you to show the work when you did a math problem. What they’re basically looking for is they’re looking to see if you understand how you came out with the answer versus like did you somehow memorize this or guess? Or was it lucky? Or did you actually understand how you arrived there? It’s kind of the same thing. I want people to show their work, basically. That doesn’t mean showing all the drafts of the design work necessarily. It’s not like going through previous versions. It’s again coming down to explaining the path that they took to land where they landed. That’s what I’m looking for.

Tim Ferriss: Yeah. That makes perfect sense. This is also with the understanding that very different company from Basecamp, but I’ve spent a lot of time with Matt Mullenweg of Automattic, which runs, among other things. He values written communication exceptionally highly. They do all their interviews via text and also have every, at least for a long period, up until maybe I want to say at least 50 or 100 employees, had every prospective employee knew they would have to spend, and I don’t know if this part of the vetting process or post-hiring, a week or two handling customer service, which also – not to say it’s perfect for every company certainly, but also tells you a lot more than just how they handle a user error in a customer service situation.

If they refuse to do that, what does that tell you? If they do poorly, what does it tell you? There’s a lot more than just the words that come out of them.

Jason Fried: Yeah, and actually at our company, everybody works customer service also. So, no matter what you’re position in, every single person rotates one day through customer service every number of days. Like we have 54 employees in the company, about 15 or 16 on customer support. So, about 30 of us every 30 days we rotate through and do one day of customer service. That’s another reason why it’s important for you to be able to write is because on that one day a month or one day every 40 days or whatever, you are on the front lines speaking with customers and empathizing with them, understanding what they’re dealing with, helping them understand what they don’t understand, helping us understand what we don’t understand. All of that stuff, which is what customer service is really all about.

Of course, it’s also about troubleshooting and solving immediate problems, but a lot of it too is getting to the real, what are they really asking for and why? And what are we doing wrong and what are our blind spots? It’s all that stuff. A lot of that comes down to having a conversation with the customer and all of our customer service is done via email or Twitter or chat or something. So, we don’t have a phone – although we do some phone support, but we don’t have a phone number that you can call in, for example. So, it’s all written. We want to make sure that if we’re going to put someone in front of customers, they know how to write as well. That is a big part of it, too. I didn’t know that Automattic did that as part of their hiring process, but I love the idea.

Tim Ferriss: Yeah, it’s such a key skill for so many reasons. For people who want to become better writers, better communicators, are there any books, resources, exercises that you would recommend?

Jason Fried: There is. One of my favorite books is called Revising Prose. The cover is horrible.

Tim Ferriss: That’s how you can spot it.

Jason Fried: Yes. It’s like a CD-Rom and a pencil or something. It’s like what? I don’t even understand how that happened. Maybe they’ve revised it since, but I think it’s that bad still. It’s so horrible. Anyway, Revising Prose.

Tim Ferriss: Thank God the title is so catchy.

Jason Fried: Yeah, exactly right, yeah. Right. But what’s cool about it is that – and I forget the author; you can look it up and put it in the notes – is that he dissects things one sentence at a time. His ability to take a sentence and cut it up and explain it and simplify it. I think it’s a wonderful skill and a great book. It’s not really even about writing paragraphs or stories or how to organize and outline stuff. It’s like a sentence at a time and figuring out how to structure things. Love it. Great book. It’s actually – there’s this class I’ve talked about before. I’ve written a blog post about it. This class that I’d want to teach if I ever taught a college class.

I think one of the biggest disservices that college does, actually, is that it doesn’t teach people to write well. In fact, it teaches a lot of people, especially in MBA programs, to write very poorly.

Tim Ferriss: That’s so true.

Jason Fried: A lot of it is based on length. Like write a ten-page thing or whatever. So, the class I’ve always wanted to teach, if I was ever to teach, would be a writing class. I don’t care what the subject is, it doesn’t matter. Pick a subject. I want you to write a five-page version of that article. I want you to write a one-page version of it. I want you to write a five-paragraph version, a five-sentence version, and a one-sentence version. That’s the assignment. We would do that over and over and over with different topics. I don’t care the topic. It doesn’t matter. I just want you to be able to write at different levels of resolution and continue to clarify it as you cut things out to the point where you can write it in one sentence.

Of course, there would be more detail in the five-paragraph version. Maybe it was three pages, one page, three paragraphs, one sentence, whatever it is. But this idea of going from writing a long piece and then cutting it down and editing. Editing is something that’s rarely taught. And really trying to hone in on what it is and realize the big idea here is that you can realize that so much of the stuff that you put in the five-page version just doesn’t really matter that much. And actually, the one-page version is probably better. Maybe the three-paragraph version is much better than the one-page version. There’s probably a point where you begin to lose it. It’s still a great exercise. So, I’d love to see that kind of writing instruction versus length, like long things and then not actually editing.

This is the other thing that blows me away about education. It was when I was talking to – my son is in preschool and I was talking to the head of the school about this. The thing that is not taught in schools is iteration. Iteration is everything outside of school. Where you do something and you launch it or ship it or whatever and then you’re on to making a better version of that thing pretty quickly. In school, we would always do something and then sort of hand it in and the assignment would be done. Then you’d go on and do another assignment. You never get to revisit things. In the professional world, you’re revisiting things all the time. I would love to see you hand something in – like this one page to five page to one page to five paragraphs or whatever, that’s a short-term version of like revisioning, in a sense.

Perhaps the better way of doing that would be you first hand in the five-page version. You get it back with notes. Then you’re required to write the one-page version of that. But anyway, the point is that being able to revisit something that you did and make it better and hand it in and revise it again and hand it in and revise it again is something that you don’t see often. Sometimes you see that with drafts in a document, but it’s not really quite the same as being able to come back to the idea. So, for example, if you’re doing something in school and you’re building something or you’re doing a science project or whatever and you do it and you’re done and you present it and it’s over, like maybe a month later you’re going to have a better idea for something that you did and you go, I want to do that again. But school doesn’t give you a chance to do anything again, really.

Unless you’re stupid and you’re held back and they say, you can’t go further. Of course, not stupid. That’s the wrong word. But the school is like, you didn’t hit the criteria, so we’re going to let you do it again. In some ways – of course, there’s a lot of other reasons why this probably isn’t necessarily a good thing for kids – but to get a chance to do it all over again, maybe you see it better the second time. So anyway, I would love to see revision and iteration built into education. This sort of writing assignment is sort of a way to get that.

Tim Ferriss: I pulled up this book. The cover is truly awful. Like what is the CD even doing there on top?

Jason Fried: How’d that happen? I don’t even know how that happened. I’d love to get to the bottom of that.

Tim Ferriss: But Revising Prose by Richard A. Lanham. Does that sound right?

Jason Fried: I think so, yeah.

Tim Ferriss: It’s got to be because the cover is this pen and a CD on top of a page with a bunch of markups on it. Richard A. Lanham. Another book that I found very helpful – I haven’t read it in a very long time, but it’s called Simple and Direct. It should be fairly easy to find. I don’t remember the name of the author. I had the great, good fortune, maybe too many modifiers on that, but now that I’m thinking about writing. The great, good, helpful fortune of taking a class in college – I was at Princeton undergrad – with John McPhee, who is the senior writer at The New Yorker. He’s won a Pulitzer or two at this point. The course was called The Literature of Fact. It was about non-fiction writing, creative non-fiction, which doesn’t mean making up 50%. It means taking fact and weaving it into a narrative, which John McPhee is exceptionally good at it.

Actually, one book that I think you would really enjoy is called Draft No. 4, which is about his writing process. I think you’d be fascinated by it from a structural standpoint. Really fascinating. It gets into the weeds, which is not for everybody. But I think you’d appreciate it. I remember the first time, it was the first time we had our writing assignments returned to us. Every week, we had a seminar, which was 12 students or so. We had to apply to get it. A writing assignment, and then a one-on-one session with McPhee to go over the writing assignment that he had already marked up and given to us. I remember when he handed back the first writing assignment to all these students – before he handed them out, he said, “Look,” he didn’t say look because that’s not what he would say, but he said, “I want you to know that you’re all good writers. You can all write, so I don’t want you to be intimidated by what I’m about to hand back.”

As he handed it back, you saw student by student, their faces drop. I got mine back and there was more red ink on the page than black ink that I had typed out. It really looked like there was more red ink. It became so clear how fuzzy so much of my thinking was. How many unnecessary words there were. How much gristle and fat there was in between the actual meat that was necessarily on the page. The reason I bring up this story is that over the course of the next few weeks, as we were learning more, practicing more, and honing the sharpness of our writing, getting progressively less red ink, ideally, my grades in all of my other classes went up. There was a very clear, super clear correlation between cleaning up my thinking and everything else running more smoothly. It could not have been more obvious. Such an incredibly valuable skill.

Jason Fried: It is. You know, something that I would also encourage people to do is to read Tom Petty lyrics. It sounds weird. But if you read, Tom Petty has such a wonderful efficiency in his storytelling in his lyrics. Every word really counts and there’s no filler. He paints these really broad pictures with four or five words per phrase and really, truly, I thought one of the best songwriters, of course, but really just a great writer in general when you read the lyrics. I would look at that and go, look at the pictures he can paint and the emotions he can evoke and the story he can tell with very few words. He’s extremely economical with his language or was. It’s a great thing to read. Look at some of his albums. Go look up the lyrics online. Don’t even listen to the songs, but just read them. You’ll go, I see where he’s going with this. I always enjoy doing that from time to time. He was so good at that.

Tim Ferriss: I will have to check that out. Elmore Leonard, also another fantastic one for people to look up. It makes me think you were talking about the one page, or five paragraph, three paragraph, one paragraph, one line. It makes me think of the Hemingway story in one line, which I’m sure I’m going to get slightly wrong, but it was something liked “Used baby shoes never worn.” I fucked it up. “Baby shoes for sale, never worn.” The sort of five or six-word story. It’s a really valuable exercise and it’s not just for academic purposes, as you point out. It translates to everything.

Jason Fried: No doubt.

Tim Ferriss: Vintage watches.

Jason Fried: Oh, my God. Here we go.

Tim Ferriss: Tell me about vintage watches.

Jason Fried: I’m into that. I’m into vintage watches. Let’s see why. Well, first of all, I’m into watches. I’m into a lot of things that seem like there can only be one way to do it, but it turns out there’s a lot of ways. So, for example, I love designing chairs. I don’t design them myself, but I love looking at chairs, which are very simple things. It’s like you sit on them and that’s what they do. You’re like, well there can only be a few ways to do a chair, but it turns out there’s so many different ways to do a chair. It’s really interesting. Watches are the same thing.

Tim Ferriss: Do you have any favorite chairs? Just as a side note.

Jason Fried: I like a lot of stuff that – his name is French so I’ll probably get it wrong, but Jean Prouvé. I love his stuff, his designs, his styles. There’s a bunch of others. Maybe I’ll send you an email afterwards to some of my favorite chairs. Perhaps I’ll send you some links. So, watches are similar. A watch basically, look, it’s there to tell the time. Some watches can do more than others. But basically it’s there to tell the time. Especially if you look at analog watches, which is one of the reasons I like vintage stuff because a couple hands, three hands maybe or two hands. But there’s so many different designs and so many different styles and so many different elements and so many different approaches to it that there’s an endless amount of curiosity in it for me. And plus, the cool thing about mechanical watches is that it’s a combination of all the things I like.

It’s design. It’s engineering. It’s materials. It’s like patina and seeing age on things. I love things that age well. It’s art. It’s science. If you crack open one of these watches and look at the movement, there’s serious engineering going on in there. Some material science and some really fascinating stuff. The idea that mankind can capture time and tell it this way using springs and gears, it’s kind of an amazing thing, and be that accurate. I haven’t always been into them but my Dad was into them. Maybe still is. I don’t know if he collects stuff anymore, but he used to when I was younger. I got into them. The vintage thing, I’m actually into vintage and modern these days, but more so, I find vintage more interesting because there’s more character in the objects because they have time on them. They actually have age on them and that’s kind of cool to see how things age.

That’s one of the reasons why I like a lot of natural materials in general. Now, I’m branching into an architecture discussion here. But I like brick. I like wood. I like things that pick up age over time versus a lot of modern materials. I feel like they don’t age very well. They look when you do the photoshoot right after it’s built and then they just age poorly. They show their age in a way that’s not flattering. But it detracts from the quality of the object. It’s cool to see. The other thing I’ll say about vintage watches is that it’s really cool to be able to look down at your wrist and go, this thing I have on my wrist has been working for 50 years and if someone looks after it five more times over the next 50 years, 100 years, it’ll still work. There’s basically nothing that is being created today where that is true anymore. Except really watches, mechanical watches.

Most other things these days are disposable. So, it’s kind of a great reminder that you can actually build things that last and you can look down on your wrist and go, someone else 50 years ago was looking down at their wrist and seeing the exact same thing and it worked just as well. 50 years from now, my kid can look down on his wrist or her wrist and see the same thing I looked at to tell the same amount of time and it’s going to work as well. I just kind of love that idea. So, anyway, that’s sort of why I’m into it.

Tim Ferriss: So, a few things.  The first is at some point, I need to introduce you to Peter Attia, M.D., who is a close friend of mine and an extreme watch nerd.

Jason Fried: Okay, good.

Tim Ferriss: I think you guys would have a lot to talk about. If you could only pick, and I have no idea how many watches you have. You don’t have to divulge that. But if you could only choose one to three watches to keep, do any come to mind where you’re like yes, these are definitely on the list?

Jason Fried: Yes. I have what’s called a Rolex Milgauss. 6541 is the model number, what they would call the reference number in the watch world. It’s from 1958. I just think it’s the coolest fucking thing ever. I just love the way it looks. It’s so cool looking. It’s awesome. So anyway, Rolex Milgauss 6541 from 1958. That’s definitely one keeper. I have like an old Patek Philippe – I’m blanking on the reference right now. It was built for – similar to this Milgauss that I was telling you about. By the way, Milgauss means 1,000 guass. So, it was a watch built for scientists who worked in high magnetic environments. Watches typically vintages ones, especially now modern ones are a little bit different, but they don’t work well in magnetic environments because the spring that’s inside them once it’s magnetized can’t tell time properly anymore, basically.

So, these watches were built for scientists to be a-magnetic or anti-magnetic. The Milgauss was one of them and then Patek made one, I can’t believe I can’t remember the reference right now. Anyway.

Tim Ferriss: You can send it with your links to the chairs.

Jason Fried: Exactly. It’s also an anti-magnetic watch. It was sort of their answer to the Milgauss. It’s funny that the two things that come to mind immediately are watches for scientists, which, you know, what a cool niche to make a product for. Scientists in the ‘50s. How cool. If you can imagine scientists in the ’50s with their white coats learning all sorts of new things about physics in the world and biology and all sorts of really cool stuff happened back then. Those are the two watches the immediately come to mind that I really, really dig. There’s another one actually, which is, I may get this name wrong too, so I’m just going to call it Jaeger-LeCoultre or something like that. I never know exactly what it is. Anyway, it’s called the Polaris from 1968. It’s a dive watch built for divers. It has an alarm on it, a mechanical alarm, which is really cool and really unique and rare, especially at the time.

Which I think is really beautiful and just a really neat complication for a mechanical watch to have an alarm on it. So, you could say like, for example, at 5:00 I want this thing to buzz very loudly so I would know that it’s 5:00, which of course, which is so silly and easy to do with an iPhone or any digital thing. But mechanically, it was quite a challenge and every few watches have ever had a mechanical alarm. I also like the way it looks. So anyway, there’s some of that stuff that I’m into. There’s a bunch of other things. But those are kind of the three that initially come to mind as ones that I’m really into.

Tim Ferriss: If you had to give a TED Talk on obsessions and it couldn’t be related to your company, it couldn’t be related to watches, these are personal obsessions, what might you talk about that a lot of people wouldn’t know about?

Jason Fried: Well, I don’t know if I’d be able to talk about it.

Tim Ferriss: I’m imagining all of the unacceptable, socially awkward sexual fetishes that you wouldn’t be able to talk about on the TED stage, but continue.

Jason Fried: I guess I didn’t finish the sentence. I wouldn’t be able to talk about it with authority, let’s say. One of the things I’m really into strangely is prairie restoration. Okay, so stand back here for a second and let me fill you in on this. Maybe ten years ago, I bought a farm up in rural Wisconsin, about three hours from Chicago where I live. It’s like 50 miles west of Madison, Wisconsin for those who kind of know the geography. It’s very rural and it’s kind of hilly. It’s very beautiful. I bought it and I’d always wanted some land. I love nature. I love just getting out and walking in nature. To me, it’s the most refreshing thing you could ever do. So, I bought this land. I looked at it and I thought it was just beautiful and amazing. And it was, but I learned a couple years in it was full of weeds and invasive species and not really the way it should be or was.

But modern farming and the fact that the land has been tilled a bunch of time and there’s invasive species and stuff that sort of took over the land. I got on this kick to find a prairie restoration specialist, which I learned there’s this thing called prairie restoration where you can sort of bring the land back to the way it was. To prairie in this particular part of the country. The prairie is, in fact, the most endangered natural habitat in the United States. There’s only something like 1,000 or something acres left of it in the entire United States. So when people talk about old-growth forests being gone and stuff, there’s actually more old-growth forest in the United States than there is prairie. Prairie is gone, basically. But I visited some actual prairies that have been restored and also some that are still around.

Tim Ferriss: Endangered due to agriculture, I assume? Or something else?

Jason Fried: Yeah, usually farming. Yeah, all the land has been tilled, basically, for farmland. I visited some of these prairies and they just are the most beautiful thing. Hundreds of species of plants and flowers and shrubs and insects and birds. It’s just this beautiful, beautiful, beautiful thing. And so I have this land. It’s quite a bit of acreage. I hired this guy to help me restore it. We’ve been doing it for seven, eight years now or something. Bringing the land back to the way it was like five acres at a time. Planting native species and getting rid of all the invasives, and also doing the same thing. There’s some forest on the property and I’m doing oak savannah restoration.

A lot of invasive trees have grown up around these big, huge, beautiful oak trees that are hundreds of years old, but they’ve been crowded by these other trees, so we’re getting rid of some of the other trees and letting the oaks be the way they were and then returning the forest floor to the way it was. It’s just such an incredibly rewarding but super-slow process. It takes like – you see these prairies. First of all, you kind of have to get rid of everything that’s there. Then weeds pop up. You have to get rid of everything that’s there because there’s what’s called a seed bank in the soil. So the seed bank is basically hundreds of years worth of seeds that have been waiting to sprout. So you clear out all the living stuff and then there’s all these seeds that are then now exposed to sunlight and then they sprout and you have to basically just kind of nuke it all for a while until there’s nothing basically left in the soil, or invasive species left in the soil.

Then you can go and get native species by actually doing seed gathering. You can gather seeds at certain prairies or you can buy seeds, native seeds. You can also find individual prairie plants in what’s called prairie remnants, which are like small vestiges of old prairie that might still be on your property and harvest the seeds from those. It’s this really, really slow, amazing thing. Then you seed it. Then it might take five or six years for a prairie to grow because prairie plants typically invest all their energy in the first few years in the roots. So, you don’t see anything growing. It’s really frustrating. It looks like shit for a long time. Then all of a sudden, a few years in it starts to come up. And then it’s just so rewarding and so wonderful to walk through. So, that’s something that I’m really into in a deep way and probably most people don’t know about it in general.

I didn’t know about it until a few years ago, but I love it so much. I’m kind of on this crusade now, like this anti-corn crusade. I want to basically – whenever land comes up next to my land, I want to buy it because most of it’s corn. Corn is sort of at the root of a lot of different problems. I want to get rid of the corn and return the land to the way it was and create this patchwork of land and eventually put it in some sort of trust so it can never be touched and there can always be these beautiful tracts of land forever. Of course, it would have to be maintained and the trust would have to be able to figure that out. Maybe part of it farmed to fund that. But anyway, that’s something that I would love to talk about, although I don’t know enough about it to give a TED Talk, but I could certainly talk someone’s ear off for about an hour on all of the little detail that I’ve learned.

Tim Ferriss: What a fantastic project.

Jason Fried: It’s such a fun thing, man. It’s so cool.

Tim Ferriss: It sounds therapeutic too, in the sense that having to embrace slowness in at least one compartment of your life seems to be a nice counterbalance to potentially external or internal drives. Not necessarily in you, but in a lot of people certainly, myself included at times, to do bigger things faster.

Jason Fried: No doubt. The other thing about that I’ll say is that you can’t even speed this process up if you wanted to. That’s what’s so awesome about it. By the way, the process is multi-layered and multi-tiered and probably by this point, you’re like, I should never have asked him this question. But anyway, real quick, what’s cool about it too is not only do new plants come and all sorts of species bloom, but you start to see new insects. New insects come a few years later. They somehow – you’re like, where’d they come from? They’re still out there, but they find it and they’re wired to proliferate in these environments. Then you see new birds and new bird species. There’s like 100 and something bird species now on my property, when originally there weren’t.

There were like 40. You’re like, where did they come from? They just come from – they find it somehow and they come in. Then like the other thing I’ve been learning is if you build a pond, for example. I don’t have any pond, but I have a river. But if there’s a pond – if you just fill a pond with water, within a few years, you will have fish. You’re like what? How does that happen? How could that possibly be? It turns out fish are – a bird might be eating a fish and drop it before it’s dead and it pops into there and that could’ve been a pregnant fish and before you know it, the whole thing is like life, it’s just waiting. First of all, it’s not waiting. It’s everywhere. But if you restore a property or restore some land and give it some space and let it do what it does, nature is so resilient and just wants to thrive. It’s so cool to watch it happen on its own schedule. Nature is never in a hurry.

That’s the thing that I love so much about it is that it’s never in a hurry, but it accomplishes everything. That’s a quote that I read somewhere and I don’t know where I read it, who said it, but I love it and I always think about it. Which is that it will take its time and it will get whatever it needs to get done done and however long it takes, it takes. Which is such an opposite to humanity, which is always rushing, which is actually typically destroying and which is getting faster and faster and faster. I don’t think it’s the right path, but it is what it is.

Tim Ferriss: Thank you for sharing. I love that. It also makes me think about how much of life is setting the conditions for good things to happen, not trying to force good things. To give another example the bio hacker/nutrition crowd might be interested in is the contrast between probiotics, where you’re swallowing bacteria you hope will take root in your gut, among other things, right? Which often does not work very well. Contrasted with prebiotics, where you’re consuming different types of food stuffs. It could be certain types of fiber. Baobab root, for instance. Which is effectively – and this is very simplified – but restoring the soil conditions in your gut so that the types of bacteria you want to grow naturally begin to take root and grow. You can’t just take a handful of seeds and drive them into the ground expecting them to pop out overnight. It just doesn’t work that way.

And so thinking about setting the conditions is something I’ve been thinking a lot about. Setting the conditions for positive, emerging properties. Then secondly, and I was just thinking about this today because I was watching a documentary last night where this mother was giving her son advice and she said, “I just want you to learn patience. You need to learn patience.” I’ve thought over the years a lot about this word and whether I need more or less patience. I was thinking today that maybe it’s unproductive to think of it in terms of more or less patience, but rather in terms of developing the ability to discern between the things that can and should be accelerated and the things that can’t be accelerated and if you attempt to accelerate them will just do more damage, right?

Jason Fried: Related to that, I love this idea that you’re bringing up about probiotics versus prebiotics and creating the conditions for growth or creating conditions for desired outcomes or whatever. I’m going to tie it all back. I mean, let me tie prairie restoration to business building, and gut building, basically, that gut health and the whole thing, which is that part of it too is not only creating the conditions for things to thrive, but also not creating conditions for certain things to thrive. Something, for example, our business is self-funded. Yeah, we did take money from Bezos in 2006, but that was personal founder shares. None of that money ever went into our business. David and I took some money off the table. So we’ve been 100% bootstrapped and funded by customers ever since day one. Which means we’ve created a situation where we don’t have to answer to anybody.

We don’t have to be on anyone else’s time scale. I don’t have to build something that I know is going to have to be sold in seven years because a fund is coming due and they need their money out of it. Or I also don’t have to build something that grows at a certain rate because you need to grow at a certain rate for a certain return. I don’t care about returns. The conditions we’ve set are not to have returns thrive and generate returns for others. But actually what we’ve tried to set up is conditions for profitability and for sustainability because as long as we make more money than we spend, we can exist for as long as we want. There’s no external pressures, artificial pressures that we’ve set up or conditions that we’ve created that will force us to make a decision about when we have to sell the business at some point.

So, it’s not only about creating conditions for thriving, it’s about, in fact, putting up barriers for certain things not to happen. I’ve been thinking a lot personally about putting a lot of, I’ve been putting a lot of energy into making sure certain things don’t happen versus putting energy into making sure certain things do happen. I think if you can prevent a lot of things from happening by thinking about what you don’t want, you do create the conditions then for other things to come in, which are the things that you actually do want. So, I think there’s a lot of similarities here between nature and business and gut health is nature, as well, of course, and conditions, and letting things sort of thrive and preventing other things from happen.

It’s cool, like for example, we have over a hundred species of birds now on the property. We didn’t put bird seed out. You don’t put bird seed out. What you do is you put seed out that grows in the ground that then creates the conditions where actually it grows seed, so it does actually grow bird seed, right? It grows bird seed. It just takes five years and then birds find it. And then everything just happens the way it naturally should at the right pace and the right scale. It’s just very rewarding to see that happening. I think it does color your impression of other things and sort of shows you in many ways how sort of silly speed is in a lot of other things where it’s injected unnecessarily and sort of the damage that it does.

Tim Ferriss: Absolutely. Yeah, absolutely. It’s a topic we could go on and on with for hours, I’m sure. So, maybe we should do that at some.

Jason Fried: Yeah, another time.

Tim Ferriss: But let me wrap up with just a few more questions. One of them I’ve asked you before and this will sound familiar. Then I’ll pause for a second and buy a little time. If you could have a giant billboard anywhere with anything on it, what would it say and why? It could be a quote, it could be a word, it could be a question, it could be anything. It could be someone else’s quote. Now, I asked you this question in Tribe of Mentors. You said one of these quotes and you gave about 15 to 20, maybe more, 25 fantastic quotes. These are excellent quotes. But right now in your life, it doesn’t have to relate to anything in the external, wider world – let me read a few just to give people a taste and then I’d love to know which one you would pick right now in your life. Let me pick a few here. “If you think you’re too small to be effective, you have never been in the dark with a mosquito.” – Bette Rees.

“Every great cause begins as a movement, becomes a business, and eventually degenerates into a racket.” – Eric Hoffer. This one has proven very popular. “The fairest rules are those to which everyone would agree if they did not know how much power they would have.” – John Rawls. I’ll read one more, since we’ve mentioned him a few times. “Price is what you pay. Value is what you get.” – Warren Buffett. Where would you go at this point in your life with a message, a word, a quote, a question, anything on a gigantic billboard. Metaphorically, of course, getting a message out to millions or billions of people.

Jason Fried: Yeah. Well, I think it’d be fun just to say the word “Billboard” on a billboard and just pay for it for 100 years and there it is. It’s called billboard. But that would be kind of fun but also a gag. I like that John Rawls quote so much, which is the fairest rules are the ones you would – I forget. Can you read that?

Tim Ferriss: Yeah. “The fairest rules are those to which everyone would agree if they did not know how much power they would have.”

Jason Fried: Yeah, that, to me, is at the root of so many things. We’ve been dealing with a little bit of this in our own business. It’s slightly different, but information asymmetry and recognizing that not everybody has the same information so they look at things through different lenses. It’s very important to recognize the fact that you can’t just come at something one way because you know if. If someone else doesn’t know it, you can’t assume that they knew that. It’s the same sort of idea, which is you can’t be upset when someone has a reaction to something when they just have a different set of information. Similarly, the rules are based on who has the power to make them. Basically, today, that’s kind of how it is in almost everything. It’s a good reminder that rules basically are the fairest to those who make them, unfortunately.

But they would be the fairest if no one knew who they applied to. It’s just a good reminder on a lot of different levels. It’s one of my favorite quotes and I think that’s probably something I would put up on a billboard. It’d be hard to read at 70 miles an hour as you speed by it, which is why I still like “billboard,” but as a quote, I think it’s one of the most meaningful quotes and most important quotes to keep in mind, whatever it is that you do.

Tim Ferriss: Definitely. I’ll read one more just because. Actually, I’ll read two more of your quotes because there are many to choose from. Here’s one that applies certainly to a few things we’ve talked about in the conversation. “Not everything that can be counted counts and not everything that counts can be counted.” – William Bruce Cameron. Then the next and the last one I’ll read is by Albert Schweitzer. “In the hopes of reaching the moon, men fail to see the flowers that blossom at their feet.”

Jason Fried: Yeah, I’ve got a story, but maybe for another time about that quote. Or I can tell you know.

Tim Ferriss: Let’s do it. Let’s just get into it.

Jason Fried: Sure. So, I don’t know, a number of years ago, I was invited to go to this – John Mada invited me to go to this thing at the Glass House in New Canaan, Connecticut, I think it is, the Philip Johnson Glass House. It was like a summit on simplicity. There was, I think, 10 or 15 people invited. One of the people invited was this older man, this Japanese man. I think he was in his 80s or close to it. Almost everyone else was much younger, much, much younger. 20s and 30s, 40s maybe. Like I said earlier, I love older people, so I sort of gravitated to him. He was really well dressed and seemed interesting. I noticed that whenever we were going – so, the Philip Johnson Glass House, the whole campus I think is about 50 acres and there’s maybe a dozen different buildings.

It’s kind of a neat idea because Philip Johnson had this idea and that it’s actually one building and the hallways are just outside, which is kind of a cool thought. But really, it’s like 12 different buildings. Like, for example, he has an office which was a separate building which doesn’t have a bathroom, doesn’t have plumbing, because he doesn’t need it because it’s so far to the house that has plumbing, you just have to walk outside to get there. Anyway, we were talking between these houses and you have a 50-acre site, so there’s a bit of distance between these buildings. I noticed that this guy was always last in the line to walk. I kind of sat back with him on one of the walks. But he was also like – it wasn’t because he was old. That would be the first thing you would think. That he’s just older, so he’s going to walk slower. But actually, he’s like no, and I could tell that he was physically able to walk as fast as everybody else. It wasn’t that.

He goes, “No, everyone’s just walking too fast and they’re missing things as they go.” He just kneeled down and he looked – he took like this square foot of ground. By the way, I noticed as he was walking, he was looking down as well. So he’s walking slowly and looking down. He kind of took this square foot of land and pointed out some flowers and some insects and some shapes and some stuff. He says, “This is beautiful. People feel like they have to go all over the world to see something new. All they have to do is look down.” If you walk slowly and look down, there’s a world under your feet all the time. An interesting world. He goes, “These people ahead of me, they’re younger. Yeah, maybe they can walk a bit faster, but look at everything they’re missing.” I just, that really just kind of totally smacked me in the face. I loved this point.

Yeah, they’re going faster and they look like they’re going somewhere, but look at everything they’re missing along the way. So that point about, that other quote that you just brought up about going to the moon and missing the flowers, like that’s sort of a similar thing. Especially today, where everyone’s rushing over the place trying to get somewhere. Where are you actually going and what are you actually missing? I thought that moment, this guy actually stopping and physically explaining that to me and looking down and pointing out some things was a really poignant thing and something I’ve always remembered since then.

Tim Ferriss: What a lovely story.

Jason Fried: He was a lovely man. I think he’s still around. From what I understand, he’s a Japanese garden expert. He has an amazing Japanese apparently in his backyard somewhere in Northern California. He’s also a wine connoisseur and supposed to be a really fascinating guy. I never really caught up with him afterwards. I always meant to and missed that opportunity and I should probably figure out how to get in touch with him. But a wonderful man, a really interesting person, and I appreciate the lesson he taught me there.

Tim Ferriss: Well, if you track him down, let me know. He sounds like maybe the type of person I ought to have on the podcast.

Jason Fried: Definitely.

Tim Ferriss: Someone who can really embrace the joy of missing out. JOMO. Jason, well this has been so much fun. I really appreciate you taking the time today to chat with me and share your stories with the world, also.

Jason Fried: Well, thanks for having me. This is super fun. It’s always fun to talk to you. Thanks for giving me so much time to do that.

Tim Ferriss: My pleasure. And is there anything else before we wrap up that you would like to ask of the audience, suggest to the audience? Any closing comments of any type?

Jason Fried: No, I don’t have any actually. I like answering questions. I don’t have any proclamations or anything to share. I don’t. If anyone wants to get in touch, I think you’ll have some of that stuff, so feel free to hit me up on Twitter or whatever. Oh, the other thing I actually will mention, David and I, DHH and I are doing this new YouTube channel which is kind of something that people have been asking for a while. We’re calling it “Getting Real.” We’re basically showing, kind of like you asked me, what’s your day like? People are always like, “What’s your morning like?” “What do you do?” I’m like, well, why don’t I just show you. So, we’re doing these videos of actually walking through code samples, walking through design decisions, walking through design reviews and making them all public.

So, I think it’s kind of a neat thing to check out if you’re interested in sort of how we look at design and how we look at code and how we look at writing. One of the things I actually did was I wrote an article for Inc. recently. I just recorded my screen and sort of talked out loud as I was writing it to show here’s how I write an article. I don’t start with an outline. I start with a blank sheet. I kind of just write. Then I was sort of doing the director’s cut as I went and editing live as I went. Sort of a fun sort of thing. So, I’m doing some of that, which will be kind of fun to follow if people are interested in that. Other than that, I don’t have anything else to share.

Tim Ferriss: You’ve written a lot and you have many popular articles, essays, blog posts, etc. online. If someone wanted to start with one or two, are there one or two that you could mention as a gateway drug into the mind of Jason?

Jason Fried: Well, speaking based on our conversation today, there was this article I wrote about I’ve never had a goal, which would be a good thing to start reading, or a good place to read. I think it’s on our blog, Signal v. Noise, which is on Medium. If you search for my name on Google and say “never had a goal,” you’ll probably land on that article. “Jason Fried never had a goal.” It’d probably be a good one to read. Then I also wrote one about not having expectations, which might be another interesting thing to look at. If there’s any other ones, I’ll – I mean, there are some other ones, but I’m not sure if they’d be good places to start. But those might be a good place to start.

Tim Ferriss: Great. I’ll include chairs, maybe prairie restoration, the Polaris watch.

Jason Fried: Yeah, I’ll send you all that stuff.

Tim Ferriss: We’ll include all that in the show notes. So, for people listening, you’ll be able to find all of that at and just search Jason and he’ll pop right up and you can find all of these links and more, as well as every other episode. Jason, at some point, maybe we’ll do a round 2 and it would be lovely to see you in person sometime.

Jason Fried: Yeah, you’re down – where are you now?

Tim Ferriss: I’m in Austin, Texas.

Jason Fried: Okay, you’re in Austin, okay. Well, at some point, yeah, we’ll run into each other again. But I’d love to do it again and if we want to do it in person, that’d be even better. So, let me know. I’m around.

Tim Ferriss: Definitely. Yeah, Austin, Texas, it’s the third coast, as they say.

Jason Fried: They say that about Chicago too. I think every other place is the third coast.

Tim Ferriss: Is the third coast? Fantastic.

Jason Fried: Don’t you need water to be a coast? At least in Chicago, there’s a lake.

Tim Ferriss: Yeah, we have lakes. We do have some creeks.

Jason Fried: There’s a river.

Tim Ferriss: We’re not entirely dry. There are rivers, so we do have that. But, to be continued, and to everyone out there on the interwebs and beyond, as always, thank you for listening. Be safe or not. Pay attention to what’s under your feet. Until next time. Thanks for listening.

The Tim Ferriss Show is one of the most popular podcasts in the world with more than 900 million downloads. It has been selected for "Best of Apple Podcasts" three times, it is often the #1 interview podcast across all of Apple Podcasts, and it's been ranked #1 out of 400,000+ podcasts on many occasions. To listen to any of the past episodes for free, check out this page.

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One Reply to “The Tim Ferriss Show Transcripts: Jason Fried (#329)”

  1. Another terrific episode- thank you Tim, and thank you Jason!

    I’m so grateful for this transcript too. I really appreciate being able to come back and pull out the key quotes that trigger insight and action for me.

    Thank you so much for this resource Tim.

    Huge gratitude and respect,