Please enjoy this transcript of a special episode of The Tim Ferriss Show. As some of you know, I tested a “fan-supported model” in 2019, but I ended up returning to ads by request. That’s a long story, and you can read more about it at tim.blog/podcastexperiment. I recently sat down with the original supporter group for a fun and live Q&A on YouTube.
In this episode, I answer questions on marketing and product launches, premium pricing, user feedback, fasting routines, podcast advertising, my recent gardening adventures, tools for releasing tension in the iliacus and psoas muscles, my current coffee and alcohol rules, advice for artisans, animal communication, tools for adverse life moments, and more.
Transcripts may contain a few typos. With many episodes lasting 2+ hours, it can be difficult to catch minor errors. Enjoy!
DUE TO SOME HEADACHES IN THE PAST, PLEASE NOTE LEGAL CONDITIONS:
Tim Ferriss owns the copyright in and to all content in and transcripts of The Tim Ferriss Show podcast, with all rights reserved, as well as his right of publicity.
WHAT YOU’RE WELCOME TO DO: You are welcome to share the below transcript (up to 500 words but not more) in media articles (e.g., The New York Times, LA Times, The Guardian), on your personal website, in a non-commercial article or blog post (e.g., Medium), and/or on a personal social media account for non-commercial purposes, provided that you include attribution to “The Tim Ferriss Show” and link back to the tim.blog/podcast URL. For the sake of clarity, media outlets with advertising models are permitted to use excerpts from the transcript per the above.
WHAT IS NOT ALLOWED: No one is authorized to copy any portion of the podcast content or use Tim Ferriss’ name, image or likeness for any commercial purpose or use, including without limitation inclusion in any books, e-books, book summaries or synopses, or on a commercial website or social media site (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.) that offers or promotes your or another’s products or services. For the sake of clarity, media outlets are permitted to use photos of Tim Ferriss from the media room on tim.blog or (obviously) license photos of Tim Ferriss from Getty Images, etc.
Tim Ferriss: So here it goes. The first question that I have in front of me is from Jon. I’m going to keep last names out of it, but J-O-N. “If you were going to launch a new fast casual restaurant, how would you gather the crowd before building the restaurant, i.e., making sure people would come when it opens?” Well, the theme that I think is going to recur in many of my answers is one of risk mitigation. Perhaps I’m known by some or thought of by some as a risk taker because I do things like invest in early state startups, which tend to go to zero. I would say a very high percentage, maybe 50 to 70 percent of my investments, go to zero. But you have to keep in mind a number of other factors, and this relates to poker and other games of skill that are blended with a high degree of chance and part of that is, say, bankroll, bet sizing, knowing your maximum downside compared to your maximum upside.
That’s just a frame perspective that I would like to present as one, I look through for evaluating almost any type of question like this, any type of opportunity, any type of risk. Coming back to fast casual restaurant, what would I do? How would I gather the crowd before building the restaurant? I would look at low risk, capped downside ways of experimenting with this concept. For instance, in Austin, Texas where my home base is, you see many successful restaurants begin as food trucks. Why? Because the build out, of course, is much less, the regulations surrounding food trucks in some respects far less onerous than those of restaurants, and you could potentially prototype taking that type of approach.
A even lower cost approach could be having a popup in another restaurant. When I lived in San Francisco, there were a number of restaurants that were later successful that began as popups. Say Thursday nights, or probably an off night, so maybe a Monday or a Tuesday night in a given retail location where they are effectively renting the infrastructure of a preexisting restaurant. Now, I’ll leave it to you and your lawyers to determine the legality of that, but nonetheless, many successful restaurants I’m aware of in San Francisco began that way. And it was important they began that way because they never got it right immediately out of the gate. I think it would be a big mistake to just YOLO all of your chips in at once and try this concept hoping that the crowds will get there, or assuming the crowds will congregate if you haven’t really kicked the tires, so another option would be a popup in another restaurant.
There’s a book. It’s out of date, it is out of print, probably, called Guerilla Financing, that may also give you some ideas for how to bootstrap in different capacities. I found that book very helpful when I was bootstrapping one of my first companies. But the point here is really to identify the risk factors and this relates to an exercise that I do at least once a quarter, many of you have heard of it, called fear-setting. That was the topic of my last TED Talk, which has, I think, 10 million views or so now. Identifying the risk factors and going down the list, risk by risk, and trying to identify how you can either eliminate those or mitigate the likelihood of them occurring.
For instance, if you had a popup and you wanted to try to draw some type of crowd, and really your goal is iteration and improvement of your concept, of your menu, of the experience. You could partner potentially with, say, organizations or groups who would stand to benefit from a rev share. I’m making this up. I don’t know exactly what fast casual refers to here. Let’s say it’s fast healthy. You could approach local CrossFit gyms or gyms of some type and say, “Hey, for every person you send to this restaurant, I will give you…” What do you care? 100 percent of the profit. You don’t have to give them 10 percent. You don’t actually need to make a profit as long as you break even. Beyond covering cost, you could just say, “I will give you all of the revenue that comes from any of your members you send to this restaurant.” Because, again, what you’re trying to gather is feedback first and foremost so that you can improve before you have more sunk cost in some type of, say, food truck or retail location.
All right, let me take one more here and then I’ll jump into the questions in the chat and we’ll see where it goes. Here we go. Here’s a question from Matt. “What would be your approach if you wanted to raise awareness of a new productivity tool? It’s genuinely different from any of the approaches taken so far and helps people apply the great advice they know, but don’t follow. Easy to pick up and use just minutes a day. There’s free versions, but I have no list or platform to gain initial traction. Share to bloggers, podcasts, et cetera in the space. Any advice? Welcome and thanks for the counsel and company over the years.”
I have a few recommendations here and the first is really observing people, ideally, not just asking people. I’ll just draw a contrast here. If you think you have a great idea for a business, it could be a product based business or service based business, and you ask your friends, “Would you buy this? Would you pay X amount for such and such a thing?” In most cases, we will have some friends, maybe most of our friends will say, “Yes, I would absolutely do that.” However, their behavior changes a bit when you then put out your hand and say, “Fantastic, I’m taking pre-orders, I’ll give you a 20 percent discount. Could I take that payment now?”
The point is, asking for opinions and getting people to take action are two very, very different things. And likewise, observing people using a tool is very different from asking them how they might use a tool. What I would suggest in this case is before you even think about launching, make sure you’re solving a problem that people want solved. If something has never been done before, I find this very important to put under scrutiny and really pay attention to. One of my first steps might be paying 20 people to use it. That might sound funny. If there are free options available, why would I pay someone?
You’re paying someone for their time and feedback. This will sound very similar to my first answer, and you could pay 20 people to use it and observe exactly the flow through the product, exactly their feedback, encourage them to speak out loud. There are services that provide for this. Usertesting.com would be one example. I haven’t used it personally, but I know startups who have. May be beyond your price range, but you could also take lower tech options or off the shelf options. You could have people record themselves using something like Loom, which is a tool I use a lot for screen capture for training employees and contractors, feedback on various designs. You could have them simply capture their experience on, say, laptop with something like Loom, and then share those with you. And you could find these people to test your product on Craigslist or really just about anywhere, or you could do this in person.
I know a number of well-known CEOs who began their companies that now have 1,000, 2,000, 5,000 employees by recording user testing sessions in person with video. You could simply have them in front of you at their laptop, encourage them to speak out loud. Then, you have an iPhone or something and you’re simply recording the screen as they walk through it so that you can correlate things properly. But I would say begin with more intelligence gathering. That’s where I would start, and then in terms of how to get the word out, sending free software to bloggers, podcasts that are in the space can’t hurt, but you’re going to need to have a good pitch.
I get sent, or I should say people tend to send me thousands of different pitches per day, literally thousands. The vast majority I simply deflect because I don’t have the bandwidth, nor does my team have the bandwidth to even digest or read these pitches. I would think of other approaches. The way that I have tackled this with each book launch, as an example, is looking for the neglected but powerful channel and then also the nascent, up-and-coming channel that is ramping in influence. For the first book, The 4-Hour Workweek, that was bloggers, for instance. Most people were like, “Blogs, what the hell is a blog?” in 2005. But at the time, I knew that they were pulling more weight for book sales in some respects than the darlings of network television and syndicated radio at the time so I paid a lot of attention to that. For The 4-Hour Chef, it was podcasts. This was in 2012, after which I launched my own podcast in 2014.
I would also look at the landscape of tools. And another question I would ask is, which of these tools or platforms are you actually going to engage in for the long term? You don’t have to decide that upfront, but where do your natural skills and enthusiasm overlap such that you will have staying power? If you’re not going to have staying power, chances are, beyond a flash in a pan, it’s not going to be helpful. You can still use one-time-only PR approaches, much like I really targeted Digg.com, D-I-G-G.com, founded by my friend Kevin Rose way back in the day to try to get on the homepage for launching The 4-Hour Body because I understood the power of Digg at that time for acting as a front-page shopping list, a tastemaking service of sorts, much like landing at the top of Hacker News or something like that today.
Those are a few thoughts, and I will come back to some related themes in the next question and then I’m going to go to some in the live Q&A, so don’t worry, guys. Here’s the third one. This is from Josh, and I’m just going down in order that I have them in front of me. This is a question related to advising tech companies. “When you were advising tech companies, what were your most successful marketing campaigns/contribution to the companies? Any notable misses you’re willing to share?” For those who have not seen the range of companies that I’ve worked with, you can go to angel.co/Tim. You can see quite a handful there. In terms of most successful marketing campaign/contributions, contributions I’m going to focus on because oftentimes where I have aimed to help has been unrelated to anything immediately public facing.
For instance, for TaskRabbit, way in the early days, I helped Leah raise her first round of financing when the company was actually completely named differently based, I believe, just in Cambridge or in the Boston area, and we met in the Bay area. I helped her to syndicate her financing. I introduced her to lead investors who ended up helping her raise money and then much later that company was sold to IKEA. In other cases, it could be related to helping companies apply needed leverage or user pressure for, say, regulatory purposes. I was very active in this capacity with Uber, particularly with some precedent-setting examples where situations were very, very high stakes in places like Washington, DC. With my platform and via other types of back channel work, that’s a separate category of help that I sometimes provide.
In terms of marketing, I think the most notable example is probably — and there are many, many, many examples, but the most notable, well-known example is probably the build to business competition that I helped to design with Tobi and Harley of Shopify. If you want to read more about that, there’s a fair amount out there. There is a piece in Fortune magazine called “The Invisible Selling Machine” about Shopify. This was a huge piece in the magazine some time ago, and it goes into quite a bit of detail about my involvement in the build a business competition, and then overall what that looked like. That was very, very, very high ROI, high leverage for Shopify. And if you don’t have a Fortune subscription, you can go to the Web Archive, I think it’s just web.archive.org, otherwise known as The Wayback Machine. You can grab a snapshot and take a look at that article.
All right, let’s hop into the live feed and see what we got here. All right, we got a lot of questions. I’m going to do my best to get to some of them. All right, bear with me a minute. Okay, we’ve got a lot of good questions. All right, well, I’ll take a self-interested one first. This is from Joe Chen. “What is your biggest project/challenge at the moment and how can we support you?” I do have a very absurd and I think hilarious and fun art project coming out in the not too distant future, so keep an eye out for that. At the very least, just taking a break to laugh at the whole thing when it comes out. That’s how you could support, but I’ll keep moving here.
All right, this one is from Scott. “What’s a takeaway or lesson you wish more of us listeners paid attention to/followed through with?” I would say in this day and age, probably the low-information diet as described in The 4-Hour Workweek and here’s my phone here. I have not had any social apps on this phone in two years, and that’s not because I broadcast that for sitting on my moral high horse. It’s because I understand that it is playing a dangerous game to assume that you can use willpower and self-control. At the very least, it is exhausting and you can save your mental calories for something more important.
To have this type of addictive technology embedded into your phone with notifications that you’re subject to 24/7, through which algorithms are being wielded against you that have billions of dollars in teams of data scientists and UI experts behind them, I think it’s unnecessarily challenging to subject yourself to that and to expect to be able to overtake that and single task effectively. And some people say, “Well, I have better self-control. You can just use self-control.” That may be true, but I could also have junk food littered all over my house, and I can make the same argument. I could say, “Well, if I have enough self-control, I won’t eat the junk food,” but it’s a hell of a lot easier just to remove all the junk food from your house.
I do think the low-information diet, this applies not just a social media, but certainly any type of push news, which could just be reactively picking up the newspaper every day when you go to grab a cup of coffee at a gas station or something like that. It doesn’t need to be digital, but the low-information diet, I think is very much underestimated in its power. If you can single task for a few hours a day without any interruption, which is why I use Do Not Disturb and so on my laptop as well as frequently as I do, and my phone is almost always on airplane mode, you will have a huge competitive advantage over the majority of people who are — let’s just call them knowledge workers, anyone who works on a computer. If you have the ability to single task for, let’s just call it, three hours a day in a single block of time, you have an unbelievable competitive advantage. I would say the low-information diet.
All right, let’s see what else we have here. Always takes me a little while to read these things, so thanks for the patience. Okay. Okay. This is a question from Renalyn. “What are your thoughts on Substack as more of a pull way to get information?” Yeah, I think that opting into highly curated sources of information that are either relevant to you in the near term or actionable to you in the near term is far superior to being lost in the waves and chop of online assault that is uncontrolled, if we’re talking about information. I think newsletters certainly are far superior. You can still use them to procrastinate in the same way that you can use reading books as a socially acceptable way to procrastinate, so just be aware of that. As Kathy Sierra once phrased it to me, “Focus on just-in-time information, not just-in-case information.”
If you think you might need to act on say, the contents of a book six to 12 months from now, it doesn’t really do you a lot of good to read it now is my general feeling. I would read it closer to the point at which you need to actually implement it. But I would say that something like Substack or newsletters in general I think are superior in so much as they force you to make decisions about high-priority/low-priority information ahead of time so that you’re not making all those decisions on the fly. Because, look, we’re all simple creatures and the algorithms will beat you, whether it’s just showing a picture of Kim Kardashian ass or some celebrity or who the hell knows? It’s going to pull you off task. I don’t care who you are, so just keep the junk food out of your house, metaphorically speaking.
Let’s see. Comment on Cal Newport and great books on deep, deep learning, deep work. I agree with that. Let’s see. Ila, question, “One of the most enjoyable parts of your show is listening to your personal journey and your interviewees’ journeys of transcendence. Any recent spiritual shifts that you would not mind sharing?” I don’t mind sharing. I was actually recently in the mountains of New Mexico and experienced some of the most profound and extreme time dilation I’ve ever felt, certainly in a sober state with a friend of mine. And so we were hiking at altitude on and off for several days and by, say, day three, thinking back to the morning of even day two or day one felt like looking back to three weeks or four weeks prior. Being in nature, I think partially contributing to that was the fact that we changed locations so many times and that the topography of the land changed so many times. It could as well have been four or five different countries we visited given how different the landscapes were and the wildlife and so on.
But that time dilation I think highlights something for me at least, which is there are different ways to extend or, better said, I think, expand life, to live in an expansive state more often. And many of the, let’s just call them post-economic, extremely wealthy, successful in financial terms, founders and CEOs and so on, I know want to extend health span, which I think is a very worthwhile objective, looking at science and technology for extending healthy years. However, you can live a long time, but almost never be present. I’m not saying that’s true for these people, but I know people who live a long time and they’re so preoccupied about the past or the future or the news or the politician on TV or whatever, that they have a lot of time contraction. Time passes very quickly for them.
What if you could design a life and pre-schedule experiences such that you have the type of time dilation I’m talking about, where let’s just say even twice a year, you have two trips each a week long, and each of those one week trips actually feels like three months? Well, have you then in that case, effectively added — let’s just say each one feels like three months. Okay, have you added six months to each year by doing that in terms of your experiential lifespan? If so, that’s very interesting, right? Now you’re living, let’s just call it 50 percent longer in your remaining years. Does that have the net/net positive or even a greater benefit than simply extending your biological lifespan by that period of time? I don’t know. I do know that’s a question that’s been on my mind and we can certainly pursue both, but one is available here and now, and the others are more so a scientific roadmap with possibilities. I think this type of time dilation through very deliberately designed experience and immersion is very seductive and rewarding.
All right, let’s come back. I think it’s Kale. It might be Kali, I apologize. I don’t know how to pronounce it. “Love your work, Tim. Caught up with Derek Sivers in New Zealand a couple weekends ago. He told me he missed you.” Well, I miss Derek too. He’s a great guy and has been on the podcast several times. If people haven’t heard Derek Sivers on the podcast, they should and I do need to catch up with him.
Let me come back to some of the questions that were pre-submitted, answer a handful of those, and then I’ll come back to questions in the chat. Feel free to drop them in and I will continue to answer them. Let me get back to some of these pre-submitted questions.
All right, here we go. This is from Ben. “We have invented a way, patent pending, to add a second story to a house without the owners moving out. This product and process is revolutionary for so many people. However, we keep going back and forth about whether to create a franchise model or just to sell the proprietary system that allows you to do it. The catch is that it definitely requires training to use it properly. Love to get your feedback about how you would launch it. Very grateful for you and the value you have brought to my life.” Well, thank you, Ben. Here are my first thoughts. Construction, adding stories, et cetera, does not sound, at least immediately to me, as a liability-free endeavor. I assume there are some risks involved, as you mentioned, and I think implied that it definitely requires training to use it properly and using it properly seems important.
Looking at this again through the lens of minimizing or capping your downside risk, I would say a lot of folks think about business risk in terms of profit and loss. How much does it cost me to make X? How much can I sell X for? What is my margin? Can I cover my various costs, maybe employees, et cetera? But there are other factors that are often neglected. In this particular case, there are questions around legal cost and legal liability. I know that developing and rolling out a franchise properly can be very capital intensive if you’re the franchisor, and I wouldn’t underestimate that. Step number one, I think, in evaluating a number of these would be running some models and putting together just basic mathematics based on conversations with competent legal counsel, and there are people who specialize, of course, in both of these.
There is also a great book by Stephen Key called One Simple Idea: Turn Your Dreams into a Licensing Goldmine While Letting Others Do the Work. That’s a great subtitle. I didn’t realize that was a subtitle, but One Simple Idea by Stephen Key. He is an exceptionally successful inventor who generally does not venture, meaning he doesn’t generally manufacture and distribute and sell product himself. He’s coming up with ideas, often with very inexpensive prototyping, and then licensing those ideas to other companies in most cases. That book I think is worth a read, not because it is immediately comparable since he’s mostly operating in the world of toys, but I do think it will raise questions that are valuable for you.
Another one to look at is Built to Sell. This is a book by John Warrillow. If you were ever considering the possibility of being able to sell this company, and that, I think, is worth looking at, even if you’ve never considered that possibility, because it will help you to identify where you as a proprietor, as a business owner, could end up being a bottleneck, whether it’s for scaling the company or ultimately for not just scaling it, but selling the company. I would take a look at that. And on the legal cost and then liability side, I would just say one idea that immediately comes to mind, and this is not legal advice, please speak to your properly vetted attorney for this, but potentially there may be the option of partnering with a larger company who can run pilot studies or experiments in implementing this technology.
You could have a licensing fee. You could have some other type of arrangement. They could take a potential equity stake in the company, although that seems potentially premature at this point. The reason I bring that up is if they were willing to test this technology, you could, and speak to your lawyer, but you could potentially be added as an additional insured, so named as an additional insured on their insurance policies. It may be relevant to have you added to their errors and omissions policy, but these are ways of being covered by their insurance policies and therefore the premiums that they pay, which in the early stages, if you’re bootstrapping, could be non-trivial.
Those are just a couple of things that come to mind in terms of how to launch it. One of the benefits, again, of possibly partnering with larger company is they assume the financial risk, a lot of the legal risk of implementing this and you can see if it actually catches. Do people want this? Can this company sell it? Can this company implement it without assuming all of those risks yourself?
All right, let’s hop back to the live feed and see what we got here. All right. Let me see. Seems like we got a couple of things up here. Bear with — okay, couple of people asking about the O2 breathing device that Bas Rutten and I had talked about. Yes, I have been using it and I’ve actually found it tremendously helpful and I don’t think that’s purely placebo effect. I used the O2 trainer to prepare for my extensive hiking at altitude in New Mexico and I found it to be very, very helpful and easy to use and incredibly soreness-inducing. When you hear Bas say, with the back breathing as an example, “Don’t start with 30 repetitions, start with 15,” take him at his word. If you do more than that, you’ll feel like someone hit you with a pickaxe up and down all of your muscles around your ribcage and mid back the next day, or two or three. So it is then seemingly very effective for stressing and applying a workout to your inspiratory muscles.
So I, for one, plan on continuing to use that device.
All right. Let’s see here. Let’s see. So this is a question from Meade, I hope I’m getting your name correct, “Would you please share any current recommendations that provide hope or encouragement to a caregiver amid a chronic medical situation?”
Thank you so very much for sharing your experience. So first, I’m very sorry that you’re in that situation or someone you know is in that situation. And the only advice I can really think of offhand is, I guess, it’s twofold. The first is an interview I did with Dr. BJ Miller quite a few years ago, who is a hospice care physician, also a triple amputee who has helped thousands of people to transition.
So that conversation, which is on some levels, deeply philosophical. I still act on and revisit a lot from that conversation. I personally found a lot of it incredibly actionable and impactful. So I would suggest potentially giving a listen to that.
And secondly, I would recommend a book that has been recommended to me several times, including my friends who have lost parents unexpectedly, and that is, On Grief and Grieving. And I’ll find the author right now.
On Grief and Grieving by David Kessler and Elisabeth Kübler-Ross. And all of the people who have recommended this book to me have said they wished they had read it prior to anyone passing away, that in fact, it also acts as fantastic preparation and consolation if you may be on the verge of losing someone.
And we’re all on the verge of losing someone in the grand scheme of things, in the grand scheme of life. So that would be a second recommendation. And apologies if those aren’t appropriate, but given the context I have, those are the best I can come up with. All right. Let me see if I can pull up a few more here.
So there’s a question. This is a question from Carrie, “Can you speak at all about any current information you or any other of your previous guests have on ketamine and bladder damage?”
So for those who have not heard it, I would suggest listening to my recent episode with Dr. John Krystal, who’s chairman of the psychiatry department at Yale, an incredible researcher also in his own right, who along with other colleagues, pioneered research that identified the antidepressant effects of ketamine in humans, speaking in this case of intravenous administration.
But in that episode, we didn’t specifically discuss bladder damage or urinary tract symptoms. And there is quite a bit of literature to support the assertion that these are potential side effects, especially of recreational use of ketamine and sometimes goes by the name ketamine bladder syndrome. And I would suggest going to PubMed, if you just search PubMed, P-U-B-M-E-D, and you search ketamine bladder or ketamine urinary tract, then quite a few reviews, quite a few papers will come up.
So in the abstract here, this is “Ketamine Bladder Syndrome: An Important Differential Diagnosis When Assessing a Patient with Persistent Lower Urinary Tract Symptoms.” Abstract, “The recreational use of ketamine is increasing in popularity due to its dissociative and paralytic effects, ease of availability and low cost.”
This is from 2012, just to timestamp it. “However, serious and frequently irreversible damage to the urinary tract is a recently recognized side effect of recreational ketamine use.” And this goes on to present a number of case studies.
So my understanding is, and this, I’m not a doctor, I don’t play one on the internet, but my understanding is that this is reasonably common in recreational use. But I’m not aware how frequently that pops up as an adverse event in the clinical trials that have been done. And those would be documented in those studies.
So you could certainly look for, say John Krystal, K-R-Y-S-T-A-L on PubMed and look at the studies. And if you get the complete study, not just the abstract, you can look at the frequency of adverse events and most certainly something like that would be included, I imagine.
But you can find more in depth information on PubMed, which is surprisingly easy to use, and I find generally quite user friendly, even though you may need to look up some words now and again.
Okay, well here’s one from Sabrina, “I’m my own bottleneck in my business. Is that bad?” It’s not automatically bad. Depends on what you want to do with your business, right?
If you are a artisanal high-end leather pantmaker. And I actually read a case study about such a person who makes super high-end leather pants or did at least for people like Sheryl Crow and Mick Jagger, et cetera, then you are an artist. You are the business. You are the artisan who is producing your craft.
And if you choose that and you’re accepting the good with the bad, then I think it’s 100 percent okay. Of course, it is. It just depends on what you’re trying to do. And there is no right answer to that. I know many business owners who have chosen not to scale very, very deliberately.
And I actually find those counter examples to today’s gestalt and drive to scale and build, say public companies or companies that get acquired to be very refreshing because it doesn’t get as much fanfare. But there is a book that I haven’t read in a very long time, but I really enjoyed it when I did called Small Giants.
The subtitle is, Companies That Choose to Be Great Instead of Big. And it is a book by Bo Burlingham, B-U-R-L-I-N-G-H-A-M. So Small Giants. But I very much enjoyed that book when I read it. And in fact, the example I just gave you could have come from that book. There’s a decent chance that it did.
This question from Al, “What blogs and newsletters are you excited about reading or receiving every day?” There’s nothing that I receive every day. There are at most newsletters that I get once a week, and there are very few. I mean, The Microdose, which is from UC Berkeley, and gives a synopsis of happenings and new events in the psychedelic spaces of interest to me.
But very few newsletters. And in fact, even with other writers I really, really enjoy — so for instance, bear with me a second. So Matt Levine of Bloomberg, for instance, I think Matt Levine is one of the best writers.
And by best I mean not just prolific, because that is not the measure, volume is not the measure, word count is not the measure necessarily of a good writer, but his combination of volume and insight, the density of insight to words per page is staggering.
Nonetheless, I know that I have three or four friends who read Matt’s work religiously, and I depend on them to forward me specific snippets or specific newsletters that they know align with what I am focused on at the moment. But if I were to add say, one other newsletter to my regular consumption rounds, it would probably be from Matt Levine.
And there are a handful of others I find interesting. But there’s nothing that I get on a daily basis, and that is by design.
A question from Megan, “What are the first steps you’re planning to take on the animal communication journey?”
Well, there are a number of them. And for those who don’t know, this is something that came up in my recent conversation with Dr. Gabor Maté. One of them is identifying, one of the steps is identifying where animal communication can actually be tested, if this makes sense. So and this comes up at all sorts of fields.
If you’re trying to find an expert, right? How can you identify, let’s just take a different field. There are many folks in the US and elsewhere who claim to be animal tracking experts. But how can you as a non-expert in animal tracking assess if someone is full of shit or the real McCoy? The short answer is generally you can’t.
But if you look for the exception, and the exception is any of system or company or organization within which trackers are actually tracked themselves numerically, then you can start to get somewhere.
And in my case, I ended up looking at safari outfits in Africa that keep records on trackers because they could identify, for instance, that the average for, let’s just call it leopard tracking, successful leopard tracking during these hours is 23 percent, but so and so has an average of 71 percent as a success rate.
And you get almost major league baseball statistics, animal by animal, time of day by time of day for these different trackers. And then you can start to assess on an objective level who is actually good. This is even more difficult with something like animal communication depending on how we interpret it.
But I would, I’m starting with, I would say two things. The first is revisiting dog and training and mammalian training. Although a lot of such training is behavioral shaping and using nonverbal cues. I’m okay with that though, by communication, I’m not limiting that to verbal cues.
So it could be using a clicker. I’m going to be revisiting Susan Garrett, who is a master dog trainer I had on the podcast. How do you know a dog trainer is good? Well, for me, I looked for sports. So she is a multiple time, if I’m remembering correctly, national agility champion with her dogs. And these are objective measures, which I like.
I like to start there. And then secondly, I’m very interested in looking at different methods of hunting and how hunters interact with animals. The most obvious example that comes to mind for me being elk, where not only are bull calls being used as a way of drawing in bull, but also cow calls of different types.
And there are actually elk-calling competitions where people get on stage and are asked by a panel of judges to produce different types of calls. And it’s mind-boggling. I mean, it’s very, very, very impressive what some of these hunters can do. So I think those are two places where I’ll start.
There are other examples that are of interest to me that I’ve looked into and will probably spend more time on. Equine therapy is quite interesting from a, I suppose more of a physical kinesthetic, interactive perspective. But those are some of the jumping off points that I expect I’ll spend some more time on.
A question from Dan, and then I’m going to come back to the PR and marketing stuff with some of the questions I have here. Dan, “What is your protocol prior to taking a three-day fast to get your body ready?” So when I fast, again, not medical advice. Talk to your doctor before doing any fasting. You can’t even get approval to do extended fasting.
Probably couldn’t get IRB approval to do three-day fast in humans, depending on the circumstance, it’d be very hard. It’s really hard to do scientific research on extended fasting these days. In any case, what I typically do for a three-day fast is, let’s just say my fast is going to begin after an early dinner on Thursday night.
That is typically how I will line things up. Don’t do your first three-day fast in the middle of the week. It’s going to fuck up your whole situation and you’re going to send a lot of emails you’re going to have to do damage control on. So don’t do that.
So leading up to then, if my last meal is, let’s just say Thursday at 6:00 p.m., what I will do in the two days prior is I will get on a sub maintenance calorie ketogenic diet. So I will be having smaller meals than usual that are going to be predominantly fat. So let’s just say hamburger with some cheese and maybe a side salad, right?
But I will be consuming fewer calories than thought necessary to maintain my lean body mass. And you can calculate resting metabolic rate and try to figure out what that is based on all sorts of factors. So lower calorie keto for maybe two days beforehand with a fair amount of exercise to deplete glycogen stores a bit.
And then last meal would be a smaller keto meal on Thursday. Sleep as long as possible. That’s part of the reason the timing is the way I that I set it up. And then beginning on Friday, what I try to do is prior to that, set up Friday for phone calls so that I can be moving. So I try to get away from my laptop and move.
This will actually be very, very helpful for a whole host of reasons. But on Friday, as soon as I get up, I get a huge bottle of water, I fill it full of electrolytes like LMNT, which is what I’ve been using for a couple years and maybe put in a little bit of lemon just for flavoring, non-caloric.
And then I will walk and talk. So I’ll briskly walk for three to five hours minimum and take my phone calls. This will help on a number of levels. You will still have some residual glycogen and you will break down some of that into glucose so that your brain can actually function on Friday.
And you can have a bit of caffeine. Don’t overdo the caffeine. One of the mistakes that novice fasters make is they feel a little sluggish so they end up having way too much caffeine and then that inhibits sleep. If you do not supplement with electrolytes, there’s a good chance that you’re going to experience lower back pain.
I won’t get into the mechanisms responsible for that, but very often you’ll have lower back pain, especially if you do more than a three-day fast. And you’ll have a cholinergic response where your heart rate is really fast. So I always supplement with electrolytes these days. And it’s water only.
Now if you want to have, say, some black coffee with a little bit of pure heavy cream, a hundred percent fat or a little bit of coconut oil, I don’t think that inhibits most of the beneficial effects that we’re looking for. Okay. So then that’s Friday. Then Saturday, again, same deal. Right? You don’t have to walk as much, but it will still be somewhat helpful.
And in fact, a little bit of weight training can feel very good cognitively. And then Sunday, you’re going to break fast, right? Not at breakfast time, but that night. So then Sunday night around, let’s just call it six, seven, whenever, you would have your first meal leading out of the fast. And there are all sorts of superstition around this.
Like, “Oh, you have to eat grated cabbage, and you have to do this and you’ve got to start with some unpasteurized fruit juice and this, that, and the other thing.” My uninformed take or semi-informed take is that that seems kind of nonsensical to me.
If we were starving in any circumstance, would our body and evolutionary drives require us to start with shredded cabbage? I mean, it just doesn’t make any sense to me. So when I break fast, I’m generally breaking it with another keto meal. Because I like to extend some of the effects of the fast or at least the ketogenic diet for a day or two afterwards.
You don’t have to do that, but I will very often break the fast with something akin to the meals that I used for the preparation for the fast. And those are some of the thoughts that I have on at least how I personally prepare for three-day fasts and implement three-day fasts. Your mileage will vary and please get professional medical advice.
Let me take a look at some of the questions that were sent in advance. This is a question from Dave, “Are you seeing any trends in successful nonprofit launches? I’m kicking off an effort to generate and share coastal resilience data.”
All right, so the subject area, coastal resilience data, certainly of interest to me. And what I would say is study trends in the for-profit world. Launching nonprofit ventures, launching for-profit ventures, principles are exactly the same in my experience. I think some nonprofits have done a very good job with promotional efforts.
I think DonorsChoose and Charity: Water are two that come to mind immediately that are very good and have for a very long time been very good at this. So you might take a look at those. But I would really borrow from the private sector. The stakes are generally higher, the talent and competition more intense in the for-profit world.
So a lot of the mediocre or B minus approaches will just get massacred before they ever see the light of day. They won’t actually overcome any degree of competition. So I suggest that you look at the for-profit world. Now for fundraising purposes, fundraising is slightly different than selling a product, although I think there’s more in common than there are differences to be perfectly honest.
But I would look at any number of older examples. We don’t need to reinvent the world here. So what I would say is, and I’ve mentioned this book before, but I will repeat it because it’ll come up again in a second just as a proof point.
So I’ll give you evidence that this actually does work. The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing. Get the older one, not the for the internet, which is horribly out of date. Get the older one that has the beer examples, the airline examples. The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing, and take a close look at that.
Also read “1,000 True Fans” by Kevin Kelly, that’s on kk.org, “1,000 True Fans.” And last but not least, read The 80/20 Principle by Richard Koch, K-O-C-H. And the first two of those, “1,000 True Fans” will take 10 minutes to read, The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing, some of which is not going to apply, but a lot of which will, will take you maybe an hour or two to read.
And then The 80/20 Principle will probably take you a day or two to read. So you might sequence it in that way, but I would focus on those. And then I’ll give you maybe an unorthodox recommendation. But in 5-Bullet Friday, my newsletter. If you’re not on it, check it out, tim.blog/friday. About two million people subscribe.
Let me take a look at what I included recently that I found led to a series I was very interested in. And it is a YouTube series. Bear with me a sec. Nope, that’s not the one. Okay. Guys, come on. Man, I’ve been doing 5-Bullet Friday for a long time, every week for I don’t know, how many years? Eight years, nine years, 10 years. Okay, so here we go.
Business Insider has a YouTube video series about business collapses. And one of them I found fascinating called “How the Beanie Babies Frenzy Collapsed.” That’s an 11-minute video. And when you watch “How the Beanie Babies Frenzy Collapsed,” which I recommend, because it may relate to a lot of the implosions that we have seen and will continue to see with some of the activities in NFTs and so on.
But these historical examples can not only teach you a lot about what doesn’t work, but about what works. So embedded in these how, fill in the blank, collapsed are certain principles that I think you can also borrow and apply. So that series by Business Insider I think is exceptional.
I looked at a few of the videos and found them all very, very instructive, and each one had a number of takeaways for me personally. So I would encourage also taking a look at that. I’ll do one more and then I’m going to come back to the live chat.
This is going to serve as both a proof point and a question. So this is from Joel, “Ahoy, Tim.” This is going to be a little long, but I’m going to read it anyway.
“I love your Q and As. I really appreciate the opportunity to hear curious questions from the gigantic diversity of people you’ve helped. So thank you for this.
“My question relates to The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing by Al Ries and Jack Trout. Also, thank you for introducing me to this book in 2016. It has since helped me build a business with 1.8 million lifetime sales from making porcelain coffee books.”
Okay. So this stuff works, guys. It does work.
And I can’t take credit because I learned from the book as well and have applied it. So I’m simply passing along something that no doubt was introduced to me by any number of people. All right, back to the description and the question.
“The problem is that I handcraft each mug with my bare hands using porcelain clay and a pottery wheel. I’m living the dream making a living as an artist, and I’m obsessed with the art of the pottery mug, but it’s pretty hard. And I’m still working on long term sustainable profits. I’ve thought about outsourcing to China, the porcelain capital of the world, but that’s fraught with problems.
“So instead of trying to grow by selling billions of cheap mugs, I’ve decided to grow my business by handcrafting mugs worthy of a higher price.”
I agree with this approach. I think that you do not want to be engaged in a race to the bottom.
“However,” back to the text, “That means creating a sort of luxury brand. Since this doesn’t exist today, we’re focusing on law number one, the law of leadership that says it’s better to be first than it is to be better. These mugs are art, but they’re not better than the world’s best sculptures and paintings, which often sell for millions of dollars each or fancy-ass, diamond-encrusted purses that sell for tens of thousands of dollars each.
But I believe it could be the first mug to inspire people globally as a piece of art that you can enjoy your morning coffee from every day. Law number four, the law perception has been one factor that helped me sell mugs for 500 to 1,000 dollars per mug.” Nicely done.
“But the vast majority of customers want a cheaper mug. How would you evaluate whether or not a luxury mug business is worth pursuing? And if you determined it was worth pursuing, what would you do to grow?”
All right. Let’s hop into this. So there are a few books I would recommend checking out, Joel.
As usual, I have many book recommendations. So the first, which I’ve not read in a very, very long time, but may be helpful, is a book called Selling to the Affluent. That’s by Thomas Stanley. And you may be able to find a summary and to determine if it is in any way relevant to you.
One way that I assess books oftentimes is trying to find a Wikipedia page for the book, which will give you a synopsis of some type. So Selling to the Affluent by Thomas J. Stanley, I found certainly helpful at one point when I was considering many of the same questions for different businesses.
The other book may sound a little funny at first because it would seem to be anti advice, but it is called Deluxe, subtitle, How Luxury Lost Its Luster. There’s a lot of alliteration here. It’s hard for my tongue to get out right now. But this book is by Dana Thomas. I hope I’m getting the pronunciation right.
Deluxe is the name of the book, How Luxury Lost Its Luster. And it talks about different high-end luxury brands and how some of them have compromised themselves by outsourcing supply chains and making other poor strategic decisions.
But embedded through the whole story and the various case studies is the cocktail of ingredients that have made some of the most durable luxury brands the world has ever seen, at least in the last several centuries. So I really greatly enjoyed this book. It’s got 3.9 out of five on Goodreads. For your particular case, it’s about 400 pages long, I think that is worth reading for a whole host of reasons.
And then what I would say is to your last two questions, “How would you evaluate whether or not a luxury mug businesses were pursuing?” So I think that, and I have this predisposition to, it’s very tempting to try to figure it out, right? To sit down with pen and paper, look at a few databases and decide, is this worth doing?
Is it not worth doing? That can be very time consuming. It can also be misleading. Maybe you have, or actually certainly you’ll have partial information. The question I would reflect back to you is how could you test in the real world whether or not this is worth pursuing, right?
So if you had pick a budget that you’re willing to lose, five grand, 10 grand, how could you use that to determine, to test the waters, to see if people are willing to buy whatever you have to sell? And so what does that mean, luxury mug business? Right? If you’re selling mugs for 500 to a thousand per mug, I don’t know what changes in order to make it a luxury mug business.
Does that mean $5,000 per mug? Okay, fine. 10,000, whatever the number is. There are people out there who will buy such mugs. Another question I would just add to this is what story do these luxury mug buyers get to tell their friends? If you look at the contemporary art world, you will see, I’m not saying this is the same, but I think there are overlaps.
The story fucking matters a lot, right? You can’t just tape a banana to a wall at Art Basel with duct tape and have no story. There needs to be a story. And there are many documentaries that you could consider watching. The Price of Everything is a documentary about contemporary art, and I found it very, very engaging. And there are many contrasting styles in here. So check it out.
Here’s the description, “With unprecedented access to pivotal artists and the white hot market surrounding them, The Price of Everything dives deep into the labyrinth of the contemporary art world. It examines the role of art and artistic passion in today’s money-driven, consumer-based society where everything can be bought and sold.” I really enjoyed this. I really, really enjoyed it.
So this would be another recommendation because there’s again, no need to reinvent the wheel. I mean, these are not necessarily identically the people you are going to be selling to, but what does it take to sell the highest-priced X? Fill in the blank, whatever that is. And in fact, some of my answers are going to be overlapping with a question from a listener in Brazil.
Carlos, “I’d like to know your thoughts about how to market a product design to high profile people, consultancy for professional soccer players. Which channel would you recommend? Or are there some case studies to which you’d refer? Thank you for everything. Big fan from Brazil.” Okay. So all of the books, Carlos, this all apply to you too, all of the books and the documentaries I recommended would apply.
Another thing that you can do is study luxury brands. Figure out who their PR firms are. Go to the PR firm websites and look at their campaign case studies. See what they do. Right? And you can learn a lot by doing this. And you can create, in the old days, what was called a swipe file, where you find a, for many years, whenever an ad convinced me to spend money I shouldn’t spend.
So let’s just say back when I was making 35, 40 grand a year, if an ad came across that convinced me to buy something that was $500, that was a lot of money to me. And if it actually convinced me to even pick up the phone or get online to buy it, whether or not I completed the purchase, I would keep that.
I would tear it out of the magazine or I would take a photograph of it, or I would otherwise try to record it in some fashion. Let’s say it was a radio advertisement. I’d try to remember the text and type it out and I would create a three ring binder of all the things that almost or did convince me to spend in an inordinate, let’s just call it unreasonable percentage of my after tax income.
And that is another thing that you can start to do now. You do not need to be a professional market analyst to do this, you just need to be aware of your own behavior and what drives you to purchase decisions or near purchase decisions. So just to reiterate something I just said, brands you admire that do a good job, campaigns that are doing a good job or individuals who are doing a good job with selling into luxury markets. Study what they do, figure out who their publicists are, figure out who their PR firms are, and then study those publicists and PR firms. Most of the time, both of those categories are going to be providing campaign examples and so on. You may even be able to get on the phone to have an exploratory conversation with these people. All right, so those are a number of examples. The other question that is worth reflecting back, and this applies to Joel as well as Carlos, that I reverse engineer a lot for myself, is set the price first and then make it worth it. So for instance, when I had an event, and I never do events. I never produce events. They’re such a pain in the ass, but I did produce one very high end event and I decided that I wanted to charge, I think it was minimum $10,000 a seat, and then it went up from there.
So the sooner somebody bought the less expensive it was, and then it just went up in price. So the minimum was $10,000. I started with that as a nice round number, and it was, I think a two or three-day event. Then I thought to myself, All right, I want to charge $10,000. How can I deliver that much value in the first two hours that people are there, so that I don’t have to worry about it? How can I overdeliver in such a way in the first hour or two that everything else is gravy? Everyone is thrilled they came within the first two hours. That’s a creative exercise, and I was able to pull it off. That is because I decided on an ultra high luxury price and then asked myself, How on earth can I make it worth it? What are the different ideas I have for making it worth it?
Ultimately, it came down to sharing the actual book proposals that I used for The 4-Hour Workweek and The 4-Hour Body in entirety with a few things redacted just for sensitivity, and then also acting as a matchmaker for everyone in the room for the period of about an hour to 90 minutes. After that, I mean, everybody was set in some respect. For those people who might want to borrow this format, each person got up and the format was give a brag. You have to give a brag about yourself, so you have to brag in some way. Then you have an ask, and then you have a give. So everybody in the audience, I think there were a hundred or 120 people got up and said, This is who I am. Here’s one thing I want to brag about, or maybe I don’t want to brag about, but since it’s a directive, I will brag about.
Here’s one thing that is an ask. This is what I’m looking for. And then here’s one thing that I can give that I’m really good at, or relationships that I have, expertise, whatever it might be. I just encouraged everybody to take notes. If you can help somebody who has an ask, go help them. If you need something that they have on offer, because that’s a give, go find them. The rest of the event took care of itself. But I would not have come up with those answers had I not asked the right question. It comes down to the right question. So start with the price that makes it work. Joel, luxury mug business. What does that mean? How many mugs at what price? Let’s just say your goal is a hundred thousand dollars a year. Well, the answer could take many, many, many, many different forms.
Is it a thousand? Well, let me step back. We’ll make it a million dollars. Let’s get ambitious, million dollars a year. That could be a thousand mugs at a thousand dollars a piece. It could be one mug at a million dollars, or it could be somewhere in the middle. How can you mitigate risk in these experiments? Well, look, if you look at different examples of collaborations, you have, for instance, CryptoPunks, now owned by Yuga Labs, partnering with Tiffany to create bedazzled, customized CryptoPunk jewelry. How the fuck do these things happen? It’s worth digging into, trying to find out how those things happen. What are the mechanics? What are the agreements? What are the responsibilities of the various parties? Not to belabor that one example. There are many such examples. So for instance, how could you potentially have one or 10 or a hundred of these go into gift bags at the Oscars or at the Golden Globes, or fill in the blank?
This doesn’t automatically work, by the way. I have had my books put into such bags. Sometimes it has amazing effects, sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes it has amazing effects you don’t even know of until 10 years later. So be prepared to play the long game if you’re going to do anything like that. You have to be prepared for your investment to go to zero. So if your material cost and your labor cost is 10 grand, maybe it’s worth rolling the dice. If it’s a hundred grand, maybe not, depending on your financial picture. Okay, there we go. So, that’s that. I’m going to come back to the live feed. Who knew I had so much to say about PR and marketing? It’s been a while. Hopefully this is helpful for folks. All right, let’s get into the live stuff.
I’m just going to keep going guys. I’m having fun. So if you guys are having fun, I will keep going. We’re about an hour and 13 minutes in. I’m happy to keep going. I’ve got my iced tea, so let me know if you’re having a good time and I will keep going. This luxury mug example should not be dismissed if you are in a different business. Even if you are in a SaaS business, software as a service, enterprise SaaS, you might think this has nothing to do with me. It has everything to do with you potentially, depending on your pricing tiers, depending on your funnel, depending on what stage your company is currently slogging through, right? If you’ve already reached escape velocity and you have all your pricing structures and you have your entire sales force, maybe not. But if you’re trying to land the first SAP-like customer, maybe it has everything to do with you. So the principles apply very, very widely. All right, let’s get in here. “Go, Timmy, go!” Thank you, Ellie. I’m going. I’m going.
Ryan: “Any new favorite travel spots to recommend?” Honestly, I’ve been spending a lot of time in the US. The US has so much to offer. And as a young whippersnapper, my early twenties, it’s easy to fantasize about everything else in the world while neglecting all the treasures right in your backyard. So treasures could range from North Carolina and the Smokies to getting to, let’s say British Columbia or the Pacific Northwest and the rainforests in the Pacific Northwest, or going to the Southwest, going to places like Moab. There’s so much diversity and beauty in the United States. I’ve really been trying to pay more attention to what is in the US most recently.
All right, Nick, “The hair band video is a great addition to that 5-Bullet Friday email.” I’m glad you enjoyed that. That was a music video from the BulletBoys, which I listened to when I was probably 12 years old, and I just thought I have to include this video. “Money, Money, money, money.” I think that was related to the Beanie Babies bullet as well. All right. “Ah, Satriani.” Yeah, Russell, Satriani is amazing. What a shredder. So is Steve Vai. Love to connect with those guys sometime. All right, let me take a look what we got here.
All right, Josh, I’ll keep this short, but if you wanted to displace/outcompete an established tech company with a similar product, how would you approach it from a marketing lens, assuming you had no influence on product? This is going to sound funny. It’s straight from The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing, but I would study Avis. “We try harder” versus Hertz way back in the day. The strategy was more sophisticated than just that tagline. If you’re truly similar and undifferentiated, I think you’re going to have a hard time, and you’re probably going to have to compete on price, which is a dangerous game because incumbents with much more money can say, You know what? We have 12 product lines. We don’t like this competitor. We don’t want competition, so we are just going to sell below our cost for a period of time to bleed them of chips until they go out of business.
This is a very, very textbook common competitive approach that incumbents use to spectacular success against startups. So it is a risky gambit to compete on price, but that may be necessary at least for a period of time. But beyond that, in terms of out competing or out marketing, I would say you could do that on a whole lot of different levels. I would study the Avis versus Hertz example, and you could also study, for instance — now this is going to be a price dominant example, but I read the biography. It may have been the autobiography of the founder of Ryanair at one point, and looked at, even though I have no interest in participating in the airline businesses, looking at how low cost competitors and carriers entered the scene and became at least at points as dominant as they did. easyJet is another very, very interesting example. Certainly Southwest, another fascinating example, and I would encourage you to look at all of those, even though they may not seem immediately applicable.
So those are a few approaches that you might take. But the commonality here is looking for comparables, not just within your industry, but outside of your industry. So which startups can you model that have taken on incumbents with similar products? Hopefully not entirely identical, but somewhat similar products. You can also use — I’m not saying you have to do this, but sort of humor and sass is generally going to get neutralized and killed in any bureaucracy within a bigger company, which is why, say, Dollar Shave Club and others had a tremendous window of opportunity that they took excellent advantage of with their advertising campaigns. I think even though one could consider certainly Richard Branson, an incumbent in some respects, and he’s certainly not having to bootstrap things with limited savings. If you look at how he competed, and this is chronicled quite a bit in Losing My Virginity, which was one of the books that had a huge impact on me when I was in my early twenties. So Losing My Virginity by Richard Branson talks about competing in the music business, and it also talks about competing against British Airways with Virgin.
So it’s just happenstance, I suppose, that a lot of these examples are airlines, but in a sense, airlines are the perfect example of largely undifferentiated competition. So it might provide some variables and levers that you can pull and play with.
“Tea over coffee these days,” from Ryan. My rule is one. I get one coffee in the morning these days. Coffee really keeps me up late at night, more so than it should, given the caffeine content. I can have an equivalent amount of caffeine through other sources, whether it’s even energy drinks or iced tea, and it will not keep me up in the way that coffee does. So as it stands right now, I’m having one cold brew from Starbucks in the morning before 10:00 a.m. That’s a rule. And then after that, it’s iced tea. Am I cold? I’m being asked beanie and hoodie. Yeah, it’s fucking freezing where I am. So yeah, I’m cold and I’m bald, so hence the beanie. All right, let’s keep going.
All right, from Jeff, “Steve Vai would be an awesome interview Vai’s unbelievable and spiritual.” I believe it. I’ve seen him interviewed. He’s excellent. So maybe that’ll happen at some point. All right. I am looking at live chat, looking at live chat. All messages are visible. Let me see if anything changes when I toggle this a little bit.
Okay, Justin asks, “Any comments or observations on limiting alcohol intake?” I have been limiting alcohol intake quite a bit. I actually have had my first drinks in a month, beginning three or four days ago. So in prep for the higher altitude and extensive hiking and so on, I did not want to compromise my sleep getting ready for that. I thought it would be a good aesthetic practice/proof of non-dependence to take a 30-day break from alcohol. So I took a 30-day break from alcohol, felt great. I know that alcohol, especially once it gets past two drinks, obliterates sleep. So I have experimented with other options.
Number one is simply not having alcohol, just having peppermint tea or whatever I might want to have for flavor at a dinner, which is perfectly fine most of the time. I’m also looking at other options. There are some keto beverages, which are non ethanol-based alcoholic beverages, if that makes any sense. Where you can actually get a buzz from, say, I think it’s R Butane dial or (R) 1, 3 butanediol. Let me just see what — yeah, so 1, 3 butanediol, also known as (R) 1, 3 butanediol, is not great in my experience for performance at all, but it can give you a slight buzz. And please do not — this is not food consumption advice. 1,3 butanediol is used mainly as a solvent for food flavors. So FYI, right? So there are a number of brands that sell (R) butane 1, 3 diol.
I’m mixing up all of my chemistry here. So there are some brands that sell hard keto drinks, and I have been experimenting with those as an alternative to ethanol based drinks, like a gin tonic or something like that. It does seem like the hard keto drinks, if consumed close to bedtime, will still negatively affect sleep. So if I consume alcohol, I try to do, whether it’s the hard ketones or ethanol, I try to consume it on the early side. So if I’m having an early dinner, say 5:30 or 6:00, I want to give my body and my liver time to metabolize as much as possible before I lay down to bed. That means I’ll go out to dinner. If I’m going to have a drink, as I did yesterday for instance — actually, I had two glasses of wine last night and I sat at the bar instead of at a table so I wouldn’t be rushed.
I had two drinks while writing for about 30 minutes before getting my food. Because what I didn’t want to do is have one drink with an appetizer, eat a huge entree, and have two or three more drinks just to feel the buzz. Ultimately, all of that lands on my system and needs to be dealt with. So those are a few of the thoughts I have, but I have dramatically cut back on my alcohol content or I have dramatically cut back on my alcohol consumption, and that might change depending on where I go. If I’m going to Italy and I’m going to be eating pasta and drinking wine everywhere, then I’m going to drink wine everywhere. It’s not a big deal to me. But as it stands right now, I have cut back very substantially.
All right. Stephanie suggests visiting Shaved Ice Island in South Austin. Life changing Thai tea shaved ice on the menu. I’m into it. I will check it out.
All right, Sheri, I think is the name here. I hope I’m getting that down properly. “With your various endeavors into hobbies, have you ever tried archery? And if so, any directions as to books, teachers, et cetera, to check out? Specifically looking at traditional longbow?” Yes, I have looked quite closely at archery, and I’ve been spending the last several months going deep down quite a few rabbit holes related to archery. I have one, two, three, four, five — five or six bows. No, more, seven, eight, probably eight bows within 500 feet of where I’m sitting. So yes, I’ve been getting into it. That includes a traditional longbow made by someone named Byron Ferguson, who has a lot of incredible video online. I believe Byron has a book called Become the Arrow. Let me see, Yeah, Become the Arrow, second edition by Byron Ferguson.
He has some of the most incredible longbow shots I’ve ever seen. He is the one, as far as I know, who was first to develop the trick shot progression of shooting a disc out of the air that is about the size of, say, a bread plate, and then shooting a golf ball out of the air, and then shooting a lifesaver out of the air, and then shooting an aspirin out of the air using field points. So he’s quite incredible. Longbow, I think is very, very interesting, very, very challenging also. I am quite interested in both Olympic recurve and bear bow competition. So I’m looking at both of those. Most of my experience from a precision standpoint is with compound bows. But from the looking at a spectrum of say, aiming. Let’s just call it aiming on one end of the slider and then biomechanics on the far other end of the slider, I would say that compound bow, for me at least, has the most in common with rifle or firearm marksmanship.
So if I were going to train someone for compound, and I’m not a professional by any means, but just to help someone get accustomed to breath control and aligning front rear sites, I would actually have them start with prone rifle shooting and move from there to compound. There are a million different types of releases. We won’t get into that, but if you have compound there, and then on the far other end of the spectrum with biomechanics, you have longbow, then I would put something like Olympic recurve close to the middle, I would say. And then bear bow would be somewhere between the Olympic recurve and the longbow. But the further you get to the biomechanics side, the better your shot sequence.
People are going to disagree with me on this, but the more you get to the biomechanics side, the better your body awareness and kinesthetic control and sequencing of your shot sequence will need to be. I think that’s probably most easily illustrated by watching video of say, Korean archers in Olympic recurve. They’re just unbelievably good. So take a look at that. But yes, I’m very interested in archery is the short answer.
Here’s a question from Joel. “You and Steve Pressfield talked about writing fiction on your podcast. Did that inspire your NFT or have you tried other fiction writing?” I have tried other fiction writing. So there are a number of pieces that are unpublished, short stories that I have not shared, which are fiction, mostly because they’re not complete. These are longer short stories. Then the first fiction piece I ever published was put out as my first experimental NFT with Kevin Rose. If people want to check that out, you can read it online. There’s no issue with doing that. If you just go to tim.blog/nft, you can go on and just zoom in and read that story. If holders of that NFT are open to it at some point, I may just put three quarters as well. But I have tried other fiction writing to answer your question.
So this is a question from Cindy. “When unexpected life or people/challenges try and knock you down, what go to tools help you keep grounded?” I think that’s what you’re asking. “Are there two to three podcast guests who brought those tools?” Yes. I would say the people who come to mind are immediately, first off the top of my head — and there are more. One would be Tara Brach, who wrote an incredible book called Radical Acceptance. So I’d say Tara Brach is definitely one. Another would be Jerry Colonna, who has a number of questions that I think are fantastic and worth keeping in mind constantly, including how am I complicit in creating the conditions I say I don’t want? That would be one example of many. So we have Tara Brach, Jerry Colonna, and then I’ll throw in Jack Kornfield. All of his interviews I think are very, very powerful.
The reason I bring those three up is that when I feel I have been hit unexpectedly with something, or perhaps I have precipitated something happening that is undesirable, my defaults, and I think this is from a lot of family history as well, are anger. Mostly anger directed at myself, but anger and self-flagellation. Just incredible and beating myself up mercilessly. For those reasons, I mention those guests because for me, it’s not the events that are the problem per se. It’s my reflexive response to those events being self-abuse through inner monologue or dialogue and being able to, number one, create a greater awareness of that. Number two, developing, or borrowing in these cases, toolkits and questions that allow me to calm that reactivity and not to push it away necessarily, but certainly in the case of Tara Brach, to befriend in a way, to have a conversation with it or with those parts is very helpful. Another person I would add to that is Richard Schwartz, who is the founder of IFS. I had him on the podcast. So those are the first few names that come to mind.
Andrew: “Proud holder.” Cool. Let me know if you think it would be a good idea. I think it could be interesting for me to share the actual text from the fictional short story in the NFT. Let me know what you think. I’ll keep an eye on the chat. All right.
Christopher has a question. “Which mental model or helpful tool do you often go back to regarding prioritizing projects and things you want to pursue?” I’ll keep it at that. So I have one really simple question that echos also a guest I’ve had on, Let me just get this right, Bear with me a second. I want to give proper attribution here.
Okay, so I do have one question and there’s a very good chance that I adapted this from Gary Keller. So Gary is legendary in the world of real estate. He is the co-founder, chairman, and CEO of Keller Williams, the world’s largest real estate franchise by agent count. 2019 KW, which also ranks number one in units and sales volume in the US was named by Fast Company as the most innovative company in real estate. So Gary is a fascinating, fascinating character. You can find him on Twitter @GaryKeller. The name of this podcast episode is “How to Focus on the One Important Thing.” “Gary Keller — How to Focus on the One Important Thing.” I’d recommend folks listen to this. He also has a book called The ONE Thing, subtitled The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extra Extraordinary Results. I believe the question that I ask myself is adapted from this, but I can’t say that with a hundred percent certainty.
That question is this. In this list of things, five or six or 10 things, whatever your list of priorities might be or to dos, which of these, if done, make other things or all of these things, either irrelevant or easier to do? So look at this list of 10 things. Which of these, if done, make other items on this list? Hopefully many or all of them, easier to do or irrelevant. That is my sorting function. That’s it. Now, on top of that, let’s just say that doesn’t yield the clarity I’m hoping for. I could look at that list again and ask myself, which of these, if done or brought to the next milestone, would leave me feeling proudest at the end of the day? I know people who do this with workouts. I know CrossFit champions who do this with certain types of workouts.
Just asking yourself, which of these, if done or pushed to the next milestone, would lead me feeling proudest at the end of the day? That’s another one. A third would be if you’re trying to choose between, say, major projects. So you’ve got this branching tree and you have three different professional options. Let’s just say different projects, different endeavors, joint ventures, whatever, creative projects. I’ll ask myself, which of these, even if it fails, can be the greatest success? That’s a success in terms of new skills, new relationships or deepened relationships, and also just energy. Which of these will give me the most energy, will I be most energized by? So I’ll repeat that. Three options, having trouble choosing between them. Let’s just say they’re creative projects. Which of these can be a success for me, even if it fails?
Let’s say the launch doesn’t work, people don’t want to buy it, whatever it is. In terms of new skills or directing old skills, in the case of me choosing my new absurd art project, as a resurrecting old skills. So resurrecting old skills or developing new skills, developing new relationships, or deepening current relationship, and then providing life energy, energizing you. That is how I’ve decided to spend so much time over the last, say, six to 12 months on this hair brained thing that’ll come out in the next few months, which absolutely could be a flop on every commercial/financial level. So that’s part of what makes it kind of exciting to me, honestly. So we’ll see how it goes. John said, “The lead domino.” Exactly. Choosing the right domino to tip over that tips over many others.
Bill has a question. “Did the book Four Thousand Weeks change your approach to life and living in any way?” I thought Four Thousand Weeks was an exceptional book, and I plan to go back and reread it. I have a lot of Kindle highlights and shared one chapter in particular from that book on the blog, on tim.blog called “Cosmic Insignificance Therapy.” So if you want to read that chapter, I encourage everybody to read it. “Cosmic Insignificance Therapy.” You can find that on tim.blog.
All right, since we’re at an hour and 40 minutes, I’m going to do a handful of additional questions on the pre-submitted and we’ll see where it goes. All right.
Okay, this is a question from Al. “If you had to build a launch strategy for The 4-Hour Workweek in 2022 versus 20007, otherwise known, 2007, what strategies and channels would you employ? Which strategies would stay consistent from 2007 and why?” I think the crux decision, which was to engage with people in person at events, at the time, those were predominantly bloggers. Now that might be different, but not necessarily. Blogs are still actually a thing, despite what people may think. But that core approach to taking the uncrowded channel of engaging with people in person at events, in recreational settings over drinks would remain consistent. You could remove every other prong of The 4-Hour Workweek launch strategy. If I simply executed well again on that type of in person engagement, I think the book would still be a success today.
To reiterate how I did that, or to give one example, I would go to the after party after some conference event where people are on panels, and sometimes I would approach them afterwards. Very often when I would approach a panel, I would not approach the panelists who are getting mobbed. I would approach the moderator who is deservedly neglected a lot of times in cases like this, and chat with the moderator, usually asking a handful of follow up questions, which are sincere questions about the topics on the panel.
They would at some point generally ask me, “Well, what are you doing here? Why are you here?” And I would say, “It’s my first time at this event. I’ve just finished writing my first book. It’s this, this, and this. It’s based on guest lectures I gave at Princeton University from 2000 x to 2000 y. I’m trying to figure out how to launch a book since it’s really on me. The publisher effectively prints and ships books. I have to figure out how to market this. Is there anyone you think I might want to meet? Is there anyone you think I might get along with?”
Then they would make a referral and I would be on to the next referral. I would repeat something like that each time. Separately, if I came upon, say, a group of people, bloggers, let’s just say. I knew at least one blogger was in this group, at a bar. They’d be talking, and I would wander up and I would say something like, “Hey, guys, do you mind if I join in and just listen in?” And they’d be like, “Whatever. Fine.” And so I’d hang out and if I finish my drink first, I’d be like, “Hey, does anyone else need a drink?” Don’t be a fucking weirdo, just be a normal person. But anyway, “Hey, does anyone else need a drink? I’m going to grab another one.” “Okay, great.” Get a couple drinks. And eventually somebody in the group would be like, “What’s your story? Who are you? Why are you here?” And I would give some answer along the lines of what I just mentioned. And then I would just stop. I would not start pitching. I would not immediately start humping their legs to ask them if they wanted to read an advanced copy or something like that.
But I would say that, and then I would leave the window open to more questions, and then I would see if anyone took the bait. And if they did, that is an indicator of, at least I took it as an indicator of interest. So let’s say one of the people’s like, “Well, okay, so you said your book is — what’s the book about?” And then I would elaborate. Then maybe they would ask some follow-up questions. And then at some point I would offer, I would simply say, “Look, it might not be of any interest to you. I totally understand if you’re just too busy. But there are I think maybe one or two chapters that would be really interesting to you. If you’d like, I have a ton of advanced copies. I could just send you a copy and put in some post-it notes for the 20 pages or so that I think would be most interesting.”
And I would say, I don’t know, 60, 70 percent of the time that I went up to one of those groups, at least one person would be like, “Yeah, that sounds cool. Yeah, totally. Yeah, please send it.” And that is a high-labor approach that also can have a very, very high ROI. And I would replicate that. I still think in-person is the least crowded. It just takes a set of skills that most people have neglected I think in a world where everything is thought to be digital and text first via email. The interpersonal piece I think gets lost a bit and the ability to navigate social dynamics in a way that is interesting, but not overwhelming or irritating takes practice. You’ve got to practice this stuff. And fortunately, I got a lot of practice doing that on the phone and in-person in my first job out of college, which was being an outside sales rep for fiber channel storage area networks, I had to learn how to navigate this stuff. So in-person, it still works or it can work.
All right, let me check out some more questions in the live chat. We’ll see what we got here. Okay, so Andrew, on the “How to Start a War.” Why don’t you just chat with the folks and prove who are holders and see what they think.” I don’t see the downside, I really don’t. I think it all that we’ll do is draw attention to it and increase interest in it. I don’t see the downside and I certainly don’t have to share all of it. It could be, I don’t know, 70 or 80 percent.
Okay, here’s a question. “What’s your gut response to the metaverse and its potential use cases?” Very conflicted. Very conflicted. I think as much as people talk about the utopia and ideology of decentralization, humans like centralized discovery or some centralized service where they do not need to make decisions. Humans are fucking lazy. And I’ll throw myself in there too, honestly.
Discovery is hard and humans want to identify tastemakers or curators to help them with making choices in areas of high complexity or in situations where there is a paradox of choice challenge, which is almost everywhere. And this will certainly be true in the metaverse or the metaverses, although I find that oxymoronic, I guess, when we start looking at it that way. So I do think that there will be likely a handful at most of virtual spaces like the metaverse in Snow Crash, let’s say, where people interact through avatars. So let’s just call it in a Second Life on mega steroids with all sorts of technological innovations that have started to crest in the last handful of years.
I find it hard to believe that there are going to be dozens and dozens and dozens of these things. I find it hard to believe that that will be compelling to users if a few dominant players with massive amounts of capital and employee coordination are focused on creating the most addictive compelling versions of these spaces. I hope I’m wrong, but if I’ve noticed anything in the last year or two, it’s that people claim to hate centralization, but man, do they love it. It saves them a lot of time and it saves them a lot of decisions. So we’ll see where it goes.
Oh yeah, okay. Elrique, “How is your gardening going? Did you get this gardening season? If yes, what worked and what not? There’s nothing like trying experimenting.” So yes, the answer is the gardening has worked. Hold on a second.
So I’m holding up a huge basket of veggies, and this came right out of my garden, few hundred feet away. We’ve got these beautiful beans that are purple in color, but you could eat them whole. They’re absolutely delicious. Then we have these amazing, huge beets. So check that out. We’re going to be eating a bunch of those later today. We’ve got the biggest, check out the size of these things, the biggest Swiss chard you can imagine. Look at this. That’s Swiss chard. It’s the size of my entire upper torso.
So it did work this year, and I’d say the two main differences are relocating the raised beds so they have more consistent sun exposure. But above and beyond that two things, setting up a very, very simple electric fence that can be turned off and on. It’s solar powered and it’s very, very thin meshed. It’s just to keep out, to the extent possible, the deer, the groundhog, all this kind of stuff. And then second is an aeration system, a timed watering system. So simple, not that difficult to install. And the combination of all those factors has led to just an incredible harvest this year, for the first time ever in my life, tons and tons of stuff. For whatever reason, the kale gets annihilated by pests. Everything else is fine and intact, the kale gets completely killed. I’m not using any pesticides, but for some reason, the kale specifically is just the sacrificial lamb. It seems to get absolutely naced by everything that wants to snack on some domesticated veggies. So there you have it, but thanks for asking.
I can feel my brain slowing down a little bit, guys, so I’m probably going to do another 10 to 15 minutes. All right.
Ranjit: “What is your workout routine these days?” My workout routine’s super simple. I go to the gym and I lift weights doing full-body workouts, and it’s called twice a week. That’s weight training. I have a sled, a weighted sled that I push, I would say three to four times per week in the morning, usually after my first cold brew. And I am intermittent fasting at the moment where I will effectively not have anything to eat until noon. I say effectively because sometimes I will have a few macadamia nuts or something like that. But generally no calories to very, very low calories. So I’m intermittent fasting in the morning and am doing kettlebell swings. Right now I think I’m using a 72-pounder for sets of 50 and really just doing one set of 50 to a hundred reps twice a week.
And I jump rope in the mornings oftentimes before I do the sled pushing just as a way to wake up my nervous system and my cognition, honestly, just jumping rope for two minutes, hopping around, having my dog bark her face off at me, which is hilarious, is enough to change my mood, to elevate mood. Sauna, probably four to five times a week, generally before dinner. So let’s just say I’m eating at seven o’clock. I will finish up my day, my work day at five or 5:30, do the sauna for a half hour, and then take a cold shower post. That’s about it. That’s about it. It’s nothing crazy. If I go for a hike with my dog, which I do pretty regularly, if the weather permits, I will throw on a rucksack. I have a GORUCKsack for an hour hike. I’m not using crazy weight also because this rucksack does not have a waist strap.
So I am supporting all the weight on my traps and shoulders usually use 35 pound weight. But you’ll notice none of this takes more than — the weight training at the gym is going to take the most time because of the transit. There are weeks when I just skip that all together and I’ll do the other things I described, but we’re talking about at most 30 minutes a day, unless it’s an activity that doesn’t function for me exclusively as exercise, like an hour long hike with my dog, then I’m just throwing on weights to get some additional stimulation. But that’s what the workout looks like these days. I am using a new device that I’ve enjoyed. I’ll just go grab them to show what they look like.
Okay, so for decreasing lower back pain or alleviating lower back pain and also helping tremendously with sleep, there are two devices that I’ve been using for some time now. This one is called the Pso-Rite, and you lay on top of this, and for those who can’t see this, it is a piece of plastic that looks almost like a U. And the tops of either side of the U are these rounded plastic ridges that you lay on top of and they apply pressure to your psoas. So this is called a Pso-Rite device, pso-rite.com. And this is a device that I used last night, for instance, prior to sleep. And I’ve been comparing and contrasting that with another option, which is a lot easier to travel with. So I have traveled, for instance, when I was hiking in the mountains and at altitude, I traveled with this.
So if you look at this thing here, this is the Hip Hook and it more effectively gets into, and you can see how aggressive this looks, right? You’re laying on this. So this really gets into your psoas and can also get to the iliacus more effectively than the Pso-Rite. I’m not an anatomist, but if you think of where your psoas is, let’s just say a few inches up from your iliac crest, those hip bones that stick out right under your obliques or love handles depending on your condition, those hips, if you go directly up your sides and then towards the center, say, I don’t know, three or four inches, and then press directly towards your spine, this is not a precise description, but you will be getting into your psoas. The iliopsoas. The iliacus is going to be lower down, inside the cradle of the hip architecture, which is where the Hip Hook comes in.
And this really works well, I’ve been using it for the last several weeks on the road. And these two I have found to be tremendously helpful for improving sleep. Often what disrupts my sleep is lower back tightness and I end up having to flip flop like a rotisserie chicken from side to side to side to side, which, surprise, surprise, does not improve your sleep architecture or quality. So these two devices I have found very helpful.
Let me do another question here from Michael. “What would be your suggested criteria for choosing podcast to allocate advertising dollars towards product/industry agnostic if possible?” This is a difficult question to answer. I would say because there are a number of articles that have been written about it. Athletic Greens has the most methodical, quantitative and strategic approach to podcast advertising that I have ever seen in any company.
So to the extent that you can study that, and there are articles that discuss their approach to podcast advertising, I think it is it worth looking at. It is not possible, I think, to make any answer product/industry agnostic because Athletic Greens has a high-end premium product with a very high LTV, customer lifetime value. And you can timebound that, let’s just say their value over two years or three years, something like that. But it is a product that has a very low amount of churn. In other words, once someone subscribes to receive Athletic Greens, they tend to remain an Athletic Greens user. And this is the type of product that I think is particularly well-suited to certain types of podcasts, especially long form interview podcasts where ad reads are host-read. Very specific I know, but Athletic Greens is worth studying.
And then an additional factor that is less discussed. Because on the buy side, if you are a podcast advertiser, generally you don’t want to allocate, you don’t want to discuss the implicit value of what I’m going to describe because it lessens your bargaining position. If you’re on the buy side for the podcast equation, you want to say, “Okay, here is our URL with a code at the end,” and people are going to go to this link. We’re going to track how much traffic goes to that link. And then they need to enter this really onerous code. It’s TIM08#43_7, and based on how many people redeem that code, we will see what the ROI is on our podcasting advertisement. Now anyone listening to the exaggerated example I just gave will realize there’s going to be a tremendous amount of slippage. What does this mean?
This means that the vast majority of people aren’t going to remember, nor even if they remember take the time to input such a code if the savings is for instance, say 10 percent, which is why I almost always insist that if sponsors are going to give a discount, they make it compelling enough so that people will use an actual tracking code. Because if they are setting the measure of success based on a code, which most people will not put in, unless the discount is significant 30 to 50 percent, then I am being set up for failure. Because, especially this is true with larger companies, if there is someone who’s a middle manager, junior VP of marketing, or associate director of marketing who is in charge of monitoring ROI and they’re basing everything on, say, the one out of 10 people I refer who actually fill in a code, then they are deliberately or unknowingly putting themselves in a position to say the podcast ad didn’t work. This fortunately doesn’t happen very often with me, but I’m painting a picture that is something that applies all over the industry.
So there are a couple of things here to keep in mind, right? There’s slippage number one, you’re not going to track anything perfectly. Unless it goes through something like a newsletter, in which case, now I have access to the data as well. I can look at the click-through rates and I can identify, for instance, is it a copy issue? Is it a read issue? Or, and this is very common, is it a website conversion issue? My team spends quite a bit of time with podcast advertisers looking at their websites saying, “Hey, look, we can send a bunch of fish towards your net, but your net sucks. It’s full of holes right now. Doesn’t make any sense. It’s upside down and we’re not going to do it unless your conversion can be optimized.”
We’re more polite about it than that, but it’s critical that I think for me at least, because I care about having long term sponsors for extended periods of time, it’s a hassle and very energy intensive for my team to deal with any type of churn that I want, all pieces of the chain to function optimally before I put forth the effort to test all these products and services and then vet them down to the top five percent that make the cut. And then to do a good read. I don’t want to go through all that hassle if someone’s not going to do the heavy lifting on their side to ensure optimal conversion.
I know we’re getting a little off topic, but the reason that I bring all of this up is allocating advertising dollars. How should you allocate advertising dollars? There are different reasons you may advertise, and I’ll give an example. There was a billboard in the Bay Area, it was on 280, which takes people from the airport, from SFO to San Francisco, and there’s this big billboard and it was a huge tech company. I’m not going to mention the name because I don’t know if they’d like it, but the advertisement didn’t really make any sense to anyone, except for one tiny sliver of the population. Huge billboard, no doubt, very expensive. And lots of people drove by it and they’re like, “That’s the dumbest billboard ever. It doesn’t even make any sense.”
And then someone in this group conversation said, “Actually, it makes perfect sense. You just have to realize who that billboard is for. It is for investment bankers who are visiting the Bay Area. That’s it.” So if you’re looking at that billboard for conversion purposes and there’s some unique URL, the value is probably going to amount to zero. If you are looking at it from a customer acquisition perspective, and this was a gaming company, the value is probably zero if you’re viewing it. However, through the lens of courting the top operators in the rarefied world of investment banking, okay now perhaps you only need one person or two people or five people to pay attention to that, and suddenly that can be worth many millions upon millions of dollars for a given company. The reason I bring that up is you should ask yourself, who do I want to know this brand?
Who do I want to understand the marketing positioning of this brand? Is it for instance, the broadest population possible, say all readers of USA Today and all viewers of late night television, something like that? Or is it most valuable for me to get in front of, say, the audience of TED? Would I want just the two to 3,000 people at TED to all be aware of this? And that can dictate your choice of platform. So if you want to say, get in front of New York Times, Wall Street Journal, policymakers, tastemakers, directors, producers, et cetera, I know for a fact that you can very easily do that through the podcast, my podcast that is, or through 5-Bullet Friday, through the newsletter, right? And that is highly, highly, highly targeted. The absolute numbers may not be large, even though the newsletter’s got two million subscribers or so.
In the grand scheme of things, in a country of whatever, the 350 to 400 million people, that’s not a gigantic percentage, but you don’t need a gigantic percentage, if similar to our earlier conversations, you choose the right lead dominoes. And this maps perfectly to how I launched The 4-Hour Workweek also, in choosing outlets. How did I choose outlets? I was looking at the first domino as the very tightly defined demographic of say, 20- to 35-year-old tech savvy males living in New York, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. That was it.
And what that allowed me to do as someone with very little budget was to take whatever time and capital I had and to think about four or five outlets, let’s just say at the time, probably Gizmodo, TechCrunch, Lifehacker perhaps, and a few others. And Robert Scoble was a very, very influential blogger at the time, if I could get noticed and some degree of coverage from these outlets, I would create the perception of surround sound in so much as I would appear with The 4-Hour Workweek to be ubiquitous to a very, very tightly defined demographic, recognizing that the target, the initial target market is not the total market.
And people get all caught up about this where they’re like, “Oh God. Well, what if we know we need to be inclusive with everybody?” If you try to make everyone your customer, no one is going to be your customer. You will fail 99 times out of a hundred. There is a time to broaden, but it is not in the early phases. In the beginning, you need the strongest foothold and handhold possible. So you need to choose your niche. And this is true with so many products that end up being mainstream successes. They do not begin by trying to boil the ocean at once. They choose a very surgical, precise demographic. So I started with that, and the expectation was if I were able to establish a critical mass of attention within that group, that it would then cascade. It would cascade from male to female.
Now you have 20- to 35-year-old tech-savvy females in the same cities looking at the same outlets, and that is exactly what happened. And then from there, the age would start to bleed out and creep both younger and older. That’s exactly what happened. And then from there, from those cities with very high density and large populations, including a critical mass of people with broadcast capabilities, let’s say bloggers, people using Twitter, et cetera, which launched publicly officially at the same South by Southwest that The 4-Hour Workweek did in March of 2007, that if you choose the right initial dominoes, you can allow cascades to take care of a lot of the heavy lifting later. But if you are imprecise in the beginning, you’re fucked. It just will not work. Even if you, I had a million dollars to put into The 4-Hour Workweek launch, and I think I capped my total expenses at $10 or $20 grand, almost all of which went to events registration and travel and housing for those events, just FYI.
But if instead of that 20 grand I’d had a million dollars, number one, I would’ve made much worse decisions, I would’ve been much less precise. I would’ve been much less creative. And if I had made poor decisions in the beginning, chosen the wrong dominoes, and then tried to fix it, say six months later by pouring money into it would’ve all been cash in a pile lit on fire on the sidewalk. It wouldn’t have done anything. So how the hell did we get onto all this? Wow, I’ve got a preacher’s fire my belly. I don’t know what happened there. Oh yes, we were talking about suggested criteria for choosing podcast allocate advertising dollars towards. All right, so there you go. You got a long rambling sermon instead of a short answer, but hopefully that at least provides some questions that might be helpful and a recognition of some of the invisible risks and benefits of choosing through one criterion alone.
If you run a direct-to-consume or direct-response business, you need at least some, if not most of your advertising to return a positive ROI or a media efficiency ratio. But you don’t need all of it to do that. You don’t need all of it to do that. There is some degree of brand advertising or creation of awareness, which unfortunately are smoke screen excuses that get used to justify a lot of decision making. But you can be very surgical about how you might approach such things. And in the very beginning, for instance, sponsoring the UFC for my sports nutrition company was exactly that. I did not need the UFC to return all of my sponsorship cost. It was a strategic decision on a whole bunch of different levels, and you can afford a couple of those experiments as long as you recognize or assume that the trackable ROI will likely be $0, at least in the intermediate phase. Okay, so long answer.
This is from Bradley. “My wife is wonderful, but she has a bad relationship with herself. What advice do you have for people to increase self-love? Thanks, Tim.” Read Radical Acceptance by Tara Brach, T-A-R-A B-R-A-C-H, and I believe she has an online course that also focuses on radical acceptance, so you can take a look at that as well.
From Joel, Would I ever appear on Joe Rogan’s podcast again or would that level of exposure bring too much unwanted fame at this point in life? I think it’d be fun to be on Joe’s podcast again, it was a lot of fun when I did it the first two times very long ago. This is before Joe Rogan was the undisputed king of all podcasts.
So I know he has an overabundance of guest options, but at some point, if it ever made sense for him, I think it would be fun to be on again.
Have I ever tried backcountry skiing? This is from Elrique. Could be something for you. I just got some good recommendations in Austria. Yes, I did my first backcountry trekking, so with conversion skis that allow you to lift your heel, but then lock in for downhill last year in the Rockies, and well effectively the Rockies in the American West and thought it was absolutely spectacular. I anticipated it would be more like crosscountry skiing, which I find very awkward and slippery and feels unstable on the knees. But using the touring boots that allow you to connect and disconnect or elevate the heel, I absolutely had a blast. So yes, I may want those recommendations in Austria at some point, had a great time.
All right, here, I’ll answer this one just as a teaser. So, all right, this is from Theren. I think it’s a cool name. Hopefully I’m pronouncing it correctly. So here is the question. Can you give us some alpha on your NFT project code named Project 555? Is KevKev helping you with it? When can we expect more about it? Can we, the supporters group, get first access? So all I’ll say is I will confirm that Project 555 is in fact me. So I will give you that, and there will be a lot more coming soon. I do have a lot of excitement, and I get giddy just thinking about it surrounding this. It’s going to be ridiculous and completely absurd. I’m just going to warn everyone in advance. It’s going to make a lot of people cover their eyes with their hands with a huge “WTF, Tim Ferriss?”
Oh, my God. I’m sure that some percentage will think to themselves, “I’m so disappointed.” No doubt they’ll tell me that. The internet loves to tell people that. “I’m so disappointed. I expected so much more.” So, key to happiness, low expectations. Don’t expect anything other than possibly letting out an “Oh, my fucking God!” laugh when you see this whole thing. So for the time being, I will just confirm that Project 555 is in fact yours truly. All right, guys. Thank you so much for all the time. Hopefully this was helpful. I had a good time. There are some great questions both in the live feed and in those submitted. And I think we will come to a close right now at, well, I am on EST, so almost 5:55 EST, which I will take as a good omen. All right, everybody, thank you very much and have a wonderful evening.
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.