Please enjoy this transcript of my interview with Matt Mochary (@mattmochary), who coaches the heads of top Silicon Valley tech investment firms and companies on how to be the best leaders and build the best organizations possible. His philosophy and method are captured in both the Mochary Coaching Methodology (which is available as a free Google Doc) and in his book The Great CEO Within, which is available on Amazon and online (also as a free Google Doc).
As a former founder, CEO, and investor, Matt knows firsthand the challenges of those roles as well as solutions to the most commonly encountered problems. His coaching is not questions-only; there is real guidance. Matt specializes in helping CEOs and their companies (or investment firms) transition from freewheeling startups to dominant enterprises.
Transcripts may contain a few typos. With many episodes lasting 2+ hours, it can be difficult to catch minor errors. Enjoy!
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Tim Ferriss: Hello, boys and girls, ladies and germs. This is Tim Ferriss. Welcome to another episode of The Tim Ferriss Show where it is my job to interview world-class performers from all different disciplines to tease out the lessons, habits, routines, favorite books and so on that you can apply to your own lives. My guest today, I would say, is not only a world-class performer, but also one who studies world-class performers, advises world-class performers, Matt Mochary. You can find him on Twitter @MattMochary, M O C H A R Y, coaches the heads of top Silicon Valley tech investment firms and companies on how to be the best leaders and build the best organizations possible. There are some names you might recognize, including my friend Naval Ravikant, as well as Brian Armstrong of Coinbase, Sam Altman, perhaps best associated or most associated with OpenAI these day — well done, Sam — and many, many others.
His philosophy and method are captured in both the Mochary Coaching Methodology, which is available as a free Google Doc, and in his book The Great CEO Within, which is available on Amazon and also online as a free Google doc. We will link to all of those in the show notes at tim.blog/podcast. And you can also find, I imagine all of them, I believe, under the top right curriculum at mocharymethod.com. As a former founder, CEO, and investor, Matt knows firsthand the challenges of those roles, as well as solutions to the most commonly encountered problems. His coaching is not questions only; there is real guidance. Matt specializes in helping CEOs and their companies or investment firms transition from freewheeling startups to dominant enterprises. Matt, nice to see you. Thanks for making the time.
Matt Mochary: Absolutely. It’s fun to be here.
Tim Ferriss: It is fun to have you. And I should point out that with every guest, we always ask my team or I that they send any exploratory bullets or topics that we might be able to expand upon and you sent a great list. So we’re going to dig into a number of those that you sent, as well as a few in my secret seven pages of my own notes. And I thought we would begin with perhaps my emotional home bases, fear and anger. So the headline here is “Fear and Anger Give Bad Advice.” So I will let you take this ball and run with it however you see fit, but I’ll pass the mic and I’ll let you get after it.
Matt Mochary: Sounds great, Tim. Fear and anger have good signal in that they warn, “Hey, there’s something new here, pay attention.” But usually the predictions that the brain then makes are far exaggerated and are trying to get us to do something to stay alive. But the reality is, in this modern world, it’s not a saber-toothed tiger that’s attacking us and might actually physically kill us. It’s some threat to our ego that will make us feel bad and so it’s unnecessary to yell at someone because we might feel bad or it’s unnecessary to not tell someone, “Hey, this performance that you have, it’s actually not good enough. You need to do this in order to really perform well.” But because of fear, we don’t want the person to get hurt or rage-quit or whatever. We don’t give them the feedback at all and then they continue to have their performance. So it’s the predictions that are exaggerated, not the warning flag. And I think the most fun thing, Tim, if you’re game for it, is to see how this shows up in your life.
Tim Ferriss: Sure, yeah, let’s roll up the sleeves. I’m happy to be the guinea pig. We’ll see if I hit the abort button, but I’m happy to play in the meantime. So how should we begin this grand experiment?
Matt Mochary: Well, we pick someplace where you’re feeling either fear or anger and we unpack it. And of course, it’s going to be pretty easy for me and the audience will see too, it’s going to be pretty easy for them because they won’t be feeling fear or anger about the subject, only you will. So you’re going to be the only one that has blinders on. The rest of us will see it pretty clearly.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah. Monkey dance, monkey dance. That’s me right now. All right. So I would say the first thing that comes to mind right now for anger is I’ll give two examples that are clear and present for me right now. So the first is when I find myself engaged with what I would consider administrative work, management work, as opposed to making or creative work, that could be, and it’ll sound funny to hear me say this perhaps, given that I do delegate a lot and I’m The 4-Hour Workweek guy, but if for whatever reason I end up being the person who has to chase down a specific K-1, for instance, some type of tax-related document, because I’m the only one who has access or need to find a particular contact, anything related to logistics, I end up feeling angry towards myself. All right, so this is an anger towards myself for not having created a system that removes these things from my life or from my calendar at the very least. So that’s one.
I’ll give you another example, which is a piece came out, it was sent to me this morning and it’s a huge piece in a major magazine about Stoicism and somehow my friend Ryan Holiday and I get labeled “tech bros” in these pieces all the time, which drives me fucking crazy because Ryan, especially, I mean, he lives on a farm with donkeys and cows, he’s not a tech bro. So I feel, number one, some righteous indignation in defending or wanting to defend Ryan.
And then secondly in the charge is usually that we have enabled mass throngs of tech bros to read Stoicism. In which case my thought is, “Well, would you rather have them reading Ayn Rand or Seneca or Marcus Aurelius?” It’s probably better in the latter camp, but I get wound up, I get wound up and the irony of the topic, Stoicism, and the fact that I’m getting angry about it is not lost on me, but nonetheless, this sometimes happens. So those are two that are immediately present for me. In terms of fear, I would say, and this may be getting too far afield, maybe, maybe not, but I would say fear in any compartment of life tends to affect the other compartments, right?
Matt Mochary: Absolutely.
Tim Ferriss: I just recently, a handful of months ago, got out of a five-year relationship and I’m 45. And so the starting from blank slate and it was very amicable and she’s amazing and we’re still in touch and on good terms, but nonetheless, the idea of starting from square one because we were so close to having kids is extremely daunting, so I fear around that. I do have fear around that, being the dad who has to lean on one arm on his walker to throw the baseball to his kid or something is not super appealing to me and I’m sure hugely exaggerated. But those would be a few examples of anger and fear respectively.
Matt Mochary: Tim, the juiciest one there is your relationship and fear that you’re in now. And so if you don’t mind, that’s where I’m going to go.
Tim Ferriss: I don’t mind. Let’s go for the juice.
Matt Mochary: And I always want to make sure I really understand what’s going on. So I’m always going to make sure that I acknowledge you and until you say, “Yeah, that’s it.” So Tim, what I’m hearing is you were in a five-year relationship where this was your best friend and now that’s over and recently ended and your thought is, “How in the hell can I recreate that? And the effort that I went to find this person who really was, I thought, my soulmate. I mean, such huge amounts of effort, I just don’t want to go through that again or can I even. Will people even find me attractive? Or whether they do or not, just the effort required.” Is that close?
Tim Ferriss: Yeah, there is a lot of that. There’s all of that, I would say. I would say this is probably going to sound egotistical. I’m not so concerned about the last part, meaning I have very good self-care. I’ve done a lot of work and I owe my ex-partner a lot of credit for encouraging me, or I’d say us, to go to workshops with say, Gay and Katie Hendricks. I know you’re familiar with their work and many others. So I think the toolkit that I have has improved dramatically in the last five years, so I’m less concerned about that. I wrote this piece some time ago, this is a handful of years ago, called “11 Reasons Not to Become Famous” and outlines some of the issues that you would be very familiar with vis-a-vis perhaps your own experience, but also the experience of many of your clients.
And dating can be a real minefield. There’s a lot of crazy out there. And not just crazy, but there’s a lot of premeditated exploitation or looking to use — I’ve had this experience personally a number of times where ulterior motives are not clear, but they exist nonetheless. And I would say the foundation upon which the love and vulnerability was based with my ex was extreme trust. I trusted her. I still trust her. She does not have a malicious bone in her body. And that made me feel safe enough to do all of the things that I described, to go into all the work, to engage in the way that I engage with her. And that’s the rarity for me. So finding a beautiful woman, not hard, tons of beauty everywhere, finding a successful woman or someone who has established her own identity in some capacity and is not overly free floating, let’s say, which is I think important to me because I think there are side effects when either partner is overly amorphous in their direction, also something that you can nail down pretty quickly, I think.
It’s the trust piece that is the bigger component for me. So I’d say that’s a larger fear and that is pretty ubiquitous in my life. I trust very slowly and there are a lot of reasons for that. But that would be what I would add to your summary, which is also accurate. Just the, oh, my fucking God, really starting from zero, all that work, back to square one. There’s a lot of just not wanting to deal with it. And frankly, because I met my ex in a very serendipitous way in person, when I look at dating apps and these various options, it is so, to me at least, just demoralizing to think that I’m going to have to chip away at this ridiculous process by trying to be clever in text messages on some dating app, which I know is not the only option.
But there’s all of that wrapped into one which equals, I would say, fear. And there’s some anger wrapped into that as well. Why couldn’t we figure it out? And I do think she was, probably is my soulmate, but I’ve come to realize that just because someone feels like or is your soulmate does not actually mean that you are compatible in all ways long-term. So I don’t think that there’s a singular soulmate per se, but that type of match does not immediately imply that you are compatible co-living in the same space, having a family, et cetera. So that’s a mouthful. I wasn’t planning on going into this, but I’m ready to, so your turn good, sir.
Matt Mochary: Well, I appreciate your vulnerability because you’re trusting all of us by sharing this. And so now what I’m hearing, Tim, is that really what it’s about and additionally about is that, let’s cut to the chase, “I’m famous and I’m recognizable. People know who I am. And so when people come at me and if I’m going to be in the dating pool and women come at me, I’ll never know or how the hell will I know? Are they doing this on a calculated basis because they want the famous Tim Ferriss? Or are they doing this because they actually like me for me? And how the hell will I ever know? I haven’t figured out a way of knowing up until now and that’s my fear. My fear is that I have will have no idea.” Is that close?
Tim Ferriss: Yeah, that’s close. There’s definitely that. And I would say other fears would be I that there’s some transaction in mind. So many, many years ago, I mean, when I would go on dates, I had multiple women I’ve been on dates with where on date four or five, they’re like, “Oh, by the way, I have a book coming out in three months. I’d love to get your advice on A, B, and C.” And I’m like, “Ah, I see that’s where this was going. Okay.” And there’s that type of transaction. And there are dangers in being a potential target of sorts. And then we don’t have to get into all the specifics of that. But if you are public facing and have a decently high profile, it doesn’t even need to be that large. You’ve become a target for all sorts of bad behavior, so there’s that as well. But yes, everything that you said and I would say more.
Matt Mochary: Perfect. So there’s a certain point we’re going to dive in. Maybe we’ll do that now. So Tim, now that I’ve understood where you are, there is more and I could ask you to keep going. In fact, let’s go one layer deeper. There is more. Please tell me more.
Tim Ferriss: Let’s see. There is more, where to go with more. I mean, there is more. It’s just a question of which species of more.
Matt Mochary: Let me ask you, what do you predict will happen? You’re now going to at some point be back in the dating pool. What do you predict will happen? Or you’re going to be single, that we know, you’re going to be single. What do you predict will happen and what’s the bad thing you predict will happen?
Tim Ferriss: It’s not a prediction per se. I mean, here’s the bad thing I would predict would happen is that I am afraid of engaging in the dating pool in so many ways that I just sit on my hands, stay home, watch Netflix, which is already on some level happening. So I think that would be the most obvious one.
Matt Mochary: And when you sit around and just watch Netflix, then what bad happens?
Tim Ferriss: Time passes. I get older, and I am not increasing the likelihood of finding someone I want to have a family with or just having fun with. I mean, frankly, it doesn’t all have to be super heavy, some for a lifetime, some for a season, some for a weekend, that’s all fine. So I’m not placing all my bets on this binary lifetime partner or nothing, but I will not make any progress in beginning to try my chances at any of those things if I’m sitting at home watching Netflix.
Matt Mochary: Perfect. “So fear is already working negatively on me and that it’s causing me to sit home. But the fear of if I get out there, that’s really where I want to hone in, what happens then? Because the fear is that people will come at me for a transactional reason and I won’t know that they like me for me.” What happens then? What bad thing happens then?
Tim Ferriss: Bad thing that happens then, I mean, there are any number of things. One would be that I just chase these false leads. So I burn a month here, a month there, two months here, four months there, and a year and a half, two years from now, good God, I’m still exactly where I started effectively. That would be one. Perfect. Another, frankly, and this is not something a lot of people are going to say, but I’ll say it because it is a conversation for a lot of men I know is getting accused of something they didn’t do. If you go on a date with someone and you’re by yourself with them and you don’t even kiss them or do anything, you can still be accused of all sorts of heinous things and that happens, that is a reality, if someone thinks they can extract money from you.
Matt Mochary: Absolutely. Perfect. Two predictions. “One, Matt, I’m going to get out there. I will not have this filter for whether someone is really into me for me, and therefore, I’ll only find out later. It’ll be disappointment after disappointment after disappointment. Two years later, I’ll be right where we are right here, right now. I could have just watched Netflix for two years and been in the same place. Second prediction is that someone somewhere will accuse me of something that I didn’t do.”
Tim Ferriss: Yeah.
Matt Mochary: Is that right?
Tim Ferriss: Yeah. Yeah. And maybe in private to try to extort before the threat of X, Y, and Z. But that stuff, I know dozens of people who are founders of companies or otherwise well known who have these stories. So it’s not that rare in occurrence, but I would push back. I’m just going to push back a little bit on the term prediction. It’s really thinking about likelihoods, right? And I can’t place an exact percentage on it, but let’s just say likelihood of ending up right where I am five months from now, I would say very high. I would say that’s more than 50 percent likely.
The latter case, the extortion type of case is probably 10 percent, but it’s 10 percent of a very high downside potential. So the way that I orient —
Matt Mochary: And maybe you can —
Tim Ferriss: May I just say one more thing, which is the way I am, and I recognize this as both a strength in some cases, but a super weakness in others, I orient to life in a very hypervigilant way. So from childhood abuse and various things, my entire system is just optimized, at this point, still is, I’ve worked on it, to observe everything with very high sensitivity and if there is a risk to try to risk mitigate in every possible way. So I tend to minimize downside more than I optimize upside, if that makes sense. I just thought that might be helpful to know.
Matt Mochary: Which also by the way, Tim, is fear-based.
Tim Ferriss: Oh, a hundred percent. A hundred percent.
Matt Mochary: But where I’m driving towards, Tim, and I’ll just give away what I’m doing is I’m driving towards getting you to predict something that you think actually will happen. And the reason is is because I want to prove to you that your fear is making an exaggerated prediction. And the only way I know to do that is to make a bet with you. So you’re going to say, “I predict A.” And then I’ll say, “You know what, Tim? I don’t think that’s going to happen. I predict B, which is the exact opposite.” And I’ve made these bets hundreds of times and I have never lied. And that’s not because I’m a magician, it’s because I’m not in fear. This is your life, consequences to you, not to me.
But once we make that bet, and if I win, then the reward is that in the future, whenever you share something with me and I say, “Hey Tim, you’re in fear,” you’ve got to outsource your thinking too. My prediction, not your prediction. And this is the mechanism that helps people click and realize, “Oh, shit, my fear really is giving me bad advice.” Because they really do believe the prediction. So Tim, I’m going to try to nail you down on something you think will actually happen, not likelihood. It can be little.
Tim Ferriss: I’m a slippery pig. I’m a slippery pig. It’s challenging.
Matt Mochary: Yeah, it can be something as little as, “Matt, I predicted it’s going to be just like, ugh, painful to go through the dating process until I find…”
Tim Ferriss: Okay, great. Yeah.
Matt Mochary: Do you think it’s going to be that?
Tim Ferriss: The way that I would say my — I’ll use the word prediction, sure. My prediction is on some level ugh, most of this, not all of it, I don’t expect all of it, but most of this is just going to be a hard slog of me doing things I don’t want to do to try to increase the chance happenings that lead to meeting different people and that it’s going to be more exhausting than fun. That would be my prediction.
Matt Mochary: Excellent. More exhausting than fun. That’s a definitive.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah.
Matt Mochary: Tim, I predict the exact opposite. I think you’re going to have more fun than exhaustion. You’re going to meet a ton of super fun people and you’re going to have serendipitous experiences that delight you. And you’re going to look —
Tim Ferriss: So how does that — yeah, go ahead. Sorry.
Matt Mochary: That’s it. I say more fun than exhausting and you say more exhausting than fun and I’ll trust you.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah, how does the bet work?
Matt Mochary: So we’ll pick a timeframe and I’ll just ping you and say, “Tim, more fun than exhausting or exhausting than fun?” And you’ll come back with an answer.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah. Okay.
Matt Mochary: And if you win, then from now on I can never point out that you’re in fear and outsource your thinking to me, you are in control for the rest of your life. And so we’ll see.
Tim Ferriss: Do you mind if I stray from the exercise a little bit? I’m just very curious. You work with a lot of high profile folks, and of course not to name names, but how have you seen people navigate this in an effective, efficient way? Because I know for a fact, I’m not the only person who has these concerns. This is really common.
Matt Mochary: Dating, no, this is a first for me. In terms of fear, absolutely. I mean, pretty much every single person I coach, this is where we start. And so all the people you mentioned, this is where we started, and they did have something they felt fear about and I did make a bet with them and they did the thing and turns out my prediction was right, not theirs. And then boom, mind blown. Then they started to be very receptive when I said they were in fear, but then over time, they started to catch themselves being in fear, and now they no longer even need me to point it out because they catch themselves and they see the pattern and so they lean into the thing that they feel fear about and it’s giving them such big gifts that now the pattern is broken.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah. So not for me to give up too easily, so if dating is a first, which is surprising to me, but I have to imagine your clients are very transparent with you, some of them in a holistic way. So if they are running an organization and they just had a divorce, that is a material factor that affects their ability. So they end up talking to you about it. So I guess what I’m asking is within the group of let’s just say single, newly single, fill-in-the blank folks who would like to have a partner, what have you seen them do that has worked for them besides just using five different dating apps?
Matt Mochary: Yeah. This is where my coaching is revealed as being insanely simplistic and nothing magical at all. And the audience will go, “Duh, of course.” And that is get out there. Get off the damn couch. Make a list of three things you want to do this week that will, or one thing that will a advance — the goal is to meet someone that you connect with on an insanely deep level eventually. What is one thing, Tim, you can do, or is that the goal? Tell me what the goal actually is. Three months from now, you will say, “Damn, I crushed it,” as long as what happened?
Tim Ferriss: Yeah, I think what you just described would fit the bill or frankly, if I went out and it was more energy giving than energy draining. It doesn’t have to actually be finding the one because I think that’s too much pressure in, honestly, three months. I have no idea if that’s going to work or not. But just going out and having it be more energy giving than energy draining.
Matt Mochary: Perfect. So basically have it be that Matt won the bet in three months.
Tim Ferriss: Correct, yes.
Matt Mochary: Perfect. Okay, great. What’s one action you can take? What’s the next action you need to take towards getting there?
Tim Ferriss: Putting myself on a limited Netflix diet and probably a group activity of some type, whether that’s going to a dance class or asking a friend to help organize a group dinner, something along those lines. I just don’t do well in — going to bars is not my native environment. Dating apps, not my native environment. So I’m probably asking friends for help to organize some type of group dinner or activity. That would be step one.
Matt Mochary: Fantastic. How many friends would you like to ask? Because they’re all going to be super eager to jump in and set up group dinners or invite you to dance classes.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah, making it specific. I like triangles, three. Let’s go three.
Matt Mochary: Perfect. Excellent. By when will you have asked three friends to help set something up that you can do?
Tim Ferriss: End of this week, I can do that.
Matt Mochary: Fantastic. That being Friday or Sunday?
Tim Ferriss: I would say Friday, since I like to take the weekends off of tasks when possible.
Matt Mochary: Perfect. Are you writing it in a place that you’ll see it and remember it?
Tim Ferriss: Yep. Yeah, I’m writing it down right now. I’m good at that part. I’m very good at taking notes.
Matt Mochary: Okay, great. And I’ll check in on you at the end of the week to make sure you’ve actually done it or what you can do even better is once you’ve done it, please ping me. But either way, we’ll check to make sure it gets done. And really, Tim, that’s it. That’s it, coaching right there. I force you to write down an action because when else will you have the time to think about this in this dedicated —
Tim Ferriss: If it’s not now, it’s never.
Matt Mochary: Exactly. And then I’ll just follow up and make sure you did it. And there’s some amount of shame in not doing something when you know someone out there, a real life human being, knows you committed to it and so you will do it or you won’t. And then I’ll ask you why. And you’ll come up with some BS excuse.
Tim Ferriss: I’m ashamed by my public confession.
Matt Mochary: Exactly. And then what I’ll do is —
Tim Ferriss: So what happens?
Matt Mochary: So if you don’t do it, I’ll literally ask you why and you’ll say, “Oh, I forgot” or “Oh, I don’t know, I just felt tension,” or whatever it is. And I’ll say, “Okay. Do you still want to do it?” And you’ll say, “Yes, I still want to do it.” Great. What can you do to not forget it again? What can you do to not feel the tension? Whatever it is that blocked you, what can you do to not get blocked?
And then you’ll declare that and you’ll do that thing, and then you will actually go ahead and do the action. And once you do that action one time, then it’s done. Then the dam is broken and you’re flying. So once you do this one action, Tim, the hardest action you’re ever going to do in this whole process is the very first because once you do the first, all of a sudden it’ll work. Your friends will organize things and they’ll be fun and you’ll be like, “Oh, my God, this is great.” I actually predict, Tim, that it’s not going to be three months before you’re having more fun than exhausting. I believe it’s the first event that you show up to, which will probably be next week.
Tim Ferriss: All right. I appreciate the pep talk. I’m into it. I’ve taken my note and I have made my timeline commitment, so there you have it. And if I have a BS excuse, you will help me make the BS less defensible, and then I will have to choose between taking some first action or extreme shame over my own inability to execute on something I promised I would do.
Matt Mochary: I’m not going to make you feel shameful.
Tim Ferriss: I know, I know. I’m just using what they call on the trade some dramatic flourish. I want to actually segue from this, and I’m happy to come back to it. This is not me bobbing and weaving.
Matt Mochary: No, that was great. That was it. That’s the whole process.
Tim Ferriss: So founders you’ve worked with, including Steve Huffman — is it Huffman? I think I’m pronouncing that correctly.
Matt Mochary: Yeah.
Tim Ferriss: I’ve actually never said that out loud. Co-founder of Reddit. Have said that you always turn conversations into action items. And I’m —
Matt Mochary: As you just saw.
Tim Ferriss: As I just saw, which is why I’m bringing this up. Are there other techniques that you would use, or approaches that you use for this, or is there anything you would like to say as to how this fits into the larger picture of just being an effective, high-performing person or organization? I’ll let you expand on that, or we can move on, but I thought I’d bring it up since this was a question I was going to ask you.
Matt Mochary: No, I think it’s a great place to start. I mean, a lot of people ask me know, “Matt, what’s unique about you? Why are you considered the best CEO coach?” And I have a hard time answering the question because I think what I do is very simplistic, but one of the things I’ve noticed that I do different than others is this what I call biased action. We’re not going to leave a conversation without you having at least one, two, or three actions to take.
Because I think this time spent together is so expensive for you, for me, frankly, that if we’re just going to think deeply about things, come to answers that are likely, very likely to work, and then not turn them into actions and do them, and me not follow up and specifically see if you did them, but then just go to another meeting two weeks from now and start all over of super expensive time and ideate, but not have done anything in between, to me is just — my stomach curls when I think about that.
So my coaching is all about driving towards an action. And I have a system, and the system is all about writing that down and checking to make sure it got done, and that’s it. And I find it works with individuals, it works with teams, it works with companies, and it’s called accountability. And it can be done in a micromanage-y, shameful way, or it can be done in a, “I’d like to help you succeed” way. And of course as a coach, you can stop coaching with me anytime, so it’s much easier for me to make it feel like I’m trying to help you succeed way.
If I’m your boss and giving you a paycheck and you’re afraid to let go of the paycheck, then it can easily feel like I’m micromanaging you. But there is no difference. When I coach someone, I become their manager, period, end of story. And if by the third meeting they feel more successful, more engaged, more empowered, then they know the system works. And it’s all written out, so they can just copy, paste, use with their team members, and then it works with their team members as well.
Tim Ferriss: Let’s look a little more closely at accountability, because this is one of my favorite topics. I mean, the tools can be rusty, they can be even mediocre in a lot of cases, but if you use them routinely, it’s a lot better than the person who has a pristine, perfectly sharpened tool that never gets used. And for me, and I’ve thought and written about this a lot as it relates to behavioral modification, which is what we’re talking about in many respects, whether that’s diet, exercise, quitting smoking, starting a new behavior, whatever it might be, New Year’s resolutions, that accountability beats elaborate planning most of the time. So I want to read something —
Matt Mochary: I would say all the time.
Tim Ferriss: All the time. Great. So let me read something. And I believe this is either something written by you or your team, and I’d love to hear you elaborate on it.
“If we have to do something that isn’t fun and we’re alone, it is painful, but if we’re in the presence of another human, then we’re usually okay to do that thing which isn’t fun. Who that other human is doesn’t matter too much. It can be our child, our EA, or any other random person.”
Could you give an example of how this might work? Because I found this to pique my curiosity.
Matt Mochary: Yeah. So I find that there are generally personality types that I encounter when coaching, and one big bucket is introvert versus extrovert. And obviously it’s a sliding scale, but people generally fall one side or the other. And extroverts, I’ve noted, and I’m an extrovert, just feel more comfortable around humans. And there are these solo tasks. This goes back to — in the beginning, you talked about your anger, your frustration around having to do these administrative tasks that don’t create any value, but only you can do them because you’re the named investor individually, so only you can get the K-1, and your assistant can’t get it because she’s not you, and what a pain in the ass.
And so you’ve got to do it, and you’re probably doing it alone, and you’re probably going, “Ugh.” And so I have things like that as well, and plenty of extroverts have things. There’s some amount of stuff you just got to do. And so what I’ve noticed is, in my own life, and I’ve recommended this to many people and they’ve done it and like, “Oh, my God, that’s amazing,” is just having another living, breathing human in the room creates a sense of peace, enough of a sense of peace that these tasks no longer feel so annoying, because our body is no longer so sensitized.
We’re sensitized, extroverts are sensitized when they’re in the alone position, but when they’re not alone, their bodies just aren’t as sensitized, and so these tasks become less onerous. And I’ve literally hired people to sit in my office with me on a couch reading a book while I do administrative tasks, and it works. And I’ve recommended this to dozens of people, and they now do it, and it works for them. And you may think —
Tim Ferriss: Yeah.
Matt Mochary: You may think —
Tim Ferriss: I was just going to ask, do you find that to help for introverts? I’m a Myers-Briggs INTJ, not that I put too much stock in Myers-Briggs, but nonetheless, just as a footnote, do you find that also translates to introverts?
Matt Mochary: It may. Most of the times, the people who have really latched onto this are extroverts just because they’re feeling even more pain. But there’s only one way to know, Tim.
Tim Ferriss: Try it out.
Matt Mochary: Would you be open to trying it and see if it works?
Tim Ferriss: Yeah. Yeah, for sure. What I found is that the person really matters. So even though I’m introverted, I don’t like being physically isolated. Talking to people all the time, don’t want to do it, which is why I figured out how to do a one-on-one podcast that gets listened to by a lot of people, but it’s not actually having conversations with all the said people, because from a battery perspective, it’s just not my constitution to be able to handle that.
I have found that if it’s someone I know or have a direct connection with on some level, maybe it’s someone I could even just hire to read on the couch, that the emotional tenor and grounding of that is different from going to a coffee shop or a library and sitting around strangers, which tends to make me feel unemployed or like a crazy person. Both of those demos are pretty well represented depending on where you go to your coffee shop and library. So that strikes me as something I would try, for sure.
Matt Mochary: Perfect. Is there someone you can think of that you’d want to invite to sit with you that you feel comfortable with?
Tim Ferriss: Yeah, I would say I’m actually already doing this on some level. So I’ve taken this action. It’s the friend that I excommunicated from this apartment while recording this podcast.
Matt Mochary: Fantastic.
Tim Ferriss: So it would be that friend.
Matt Mochary: That would be great.
Tim Ferriss: And he’s in the same boat, so we’ve been working together, which makes a big difference.
Matt Mochary: And has that been helping?
Tim Ferriss: Yeah, absolutely.
Matt Mochary: Excellent.
Tim Ferriss: For sure. Yeah.
Matt Mochary: Then you answered the question. Thank you.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah. What is Focusmate?
Matt Mochary: Focusmate is an online app, costs five bucks a month, which just sets you up for this. They just pair people who both have admin tasks to do and they’re alone, and for 50 minutes you just sit on a screen with someone. I mean, it’s freaking genius.
Tim Ferriss: Amazing. That’s amazing. Okay. I may just try that out of curiosity, sheer curiosity, see what effect that has.
Matt Mochary: Yeah. It’s online, so it’s not quite as effective as the in-person. It’s just much easier to schedule.
Tim Ferriss: So let’s, if you’re open to it, and we can always round back to other things, but move to decision-making. So the prop that I have here is separate decision from implementation. What does this mean?
Matt Mochary: Yeah, so this was something I learned recently, and one of the beautiful things about my coaching is that I feel like I’m the student. I have not invented anything. Everything that I do, I learned from somebody else or read in a book, which is also learning from somebody else. And I’m just packaging it in a way that’s easy to understand. So this comes from Wei Deng, who is the CEO of Clipboard Health, who she’s mind-blowing. I’ve learned so much from her.
And we were sitting around at a Sequoia CEO retreat that brought like 10 CEOs to Kauai to see me, and the idea was I was going to sit and coach them for three days. And so I did, and they’re bringing up their issues, but I didn’t want me to just be sitting there, so I would have everybody write in their thoughts, and then whoever the CEO’s answer they were more drawn to, they would ask that person to expound. And Wei Deng ended up being the person that people wanted to hear from way more than from me, and me too. I mean, her answers were insanely good.
And she shared with us this rubric, which is really identifying fear, that oftentimes when you’re having a difficult time making a decision, it’s because you’re conflating the decision itself with the implementation of the decision. So it’s pretty damn clear what you need to do, what the right decision is, because there’s a constituency here that you’re trying to optimize for. So in any organization, there’s a human that you are prioritizing. So if it’s a company, you’re probably prioritizing the customer. If it’s an investment firm, you’re probably prioritizing your LPs. If it’s your own personal life, you need to be prioritizing you.
And then there’s implementation. There’s someone who, when you know what’s right for the customer and you implement it, someone’s going to get hurt. Maybe it’s that you have someone who’s not performing well. If you’re making a decision just for the customer, clearly you would let go of this person, but this person is in the middle of getting a divorce. Christmas is coming, and how will the person pay for the private school tuition their kids are in, and you don’t want to be the one to impose that pain and suffering on that person, so you have a really hard time making this decision.
But if you separate the two and think, “Okay, customer needs this person let go. This person will be pained, and I will be pained too, so I’m going to get hurt by the implementation.” Then think of, “Well, what does this person who’s going to get hurt by the implementation, what is it that they really want?” So the person who’s going to be fired, what they really want is financial security. They want to find a place where they are valued, they are needed, and pays enough money to cover their life expenses. You, what do you really want? You don’t want to be the bad guy. You want to not impose pain on someone. You actually want to help someone find their place where they can have what they want, which is financial security.
So what do you do? You then think about, “How can I achieve that in the implementation?” Well, you can achieve that by becoming the person’s career agent. You say, “This is not working here, but I want to help you find the place that’s going to work for you. So I know that you’re passionate about A, yet right now, we’re having you do B, and you’re not great at it. But A, you’re great at. Let’s find a place that needs A, and I will wholeheartedly recommend you for A. In fact, I’m not going to just recommend you. I’m going to go out and advocate for you. I’m going to send out tweets, I’m going to send out emails, I’m going to send out texts to people saying, ‘This guy or woman is fantastic at this. Can you please consider them?'”
Because as an agent, one hour of time spent will equal 100 hours of time spent by the candidate themselves. And so that’s when you can — once you’re able to separate the two, once you say, “What’s best for the customer, clearly, that’s what’s best. How do I minimize the damage on the person that gets hurt,” now you can actually go forward, and you can make a good decision that doesn’t actually hurt people unnecessarily.
Tim Ferriss: That all makes sense, and I think this is a place where it also makes sense to look at one of the other bullets, which is firing well. And I will just add to set the table that I’m sure there are cases where you can dramatically help an employee who is soon to be an ex-employee by doing the advocacy mentioned, but there are other cases where someone lies or there’s some type of fraudulent behavior and you need to let them go, and there would be extreme reputational risk in recommending that person. Now, there’s a lot of law around what you can or can’t do in all these cases, but it might complicate matters. So I’m just curious to know what your best practices are for firing well, in addition to what you just mentioned, and maybe addressing the instance of problem employees who are not just underperforming, but do something that catalyzes the firing.
Matt Mochary: Yeah. So let’s take the one, just firing well generally, and you basically heard it. It’s recognizing that when someone gets let go, it’s a major life trauma. There are sort of three pillars in your life. There’s your home, where you live, there’s your most significant relationship, and then there’s your job. And if any one of those collapses at any one time, it’s a major trauma. If two collapse, or even, God forbid, three, it’s like mental game over, and you sort of reboot.
And so recognizing that when someone’s experiencing trauma, their brain just does not work well, so it’s very difficult for them to do a job search and advocate for themselves. I mean, there’s a corollary. You just lost your significant relationship. Now you’re thinking about the effort that’s not a job search, it’s a partner search, and the pain, how it feels overwhelming, so you’re just not even starting. Whereas the same thing happens in a job search. And of course, what your friends can do to be helpful to you is help you begin, help you create the setting for that so you don’t have to do it completely on your own. That’s the corollary here.
The manager can help take the first few steps for the person so they don’t have to take those steps entirely on their own. That’s it. That’s all we’re talking about here. That’s firing well. And the reason it’s important to do, because obviously you think, “Well, this person isn’t capable, and why should I be helping them and spending time with them? Shouldn’t I be spending time with people who stay here, who want to be here, who are performing?” And the answer is that the people who stay are watching, and they’re watching how you treat this person, because everybody at the company thinks, “At some point, I might be let go. And if that happens, what will happen to me?”
And if they see that you treat this person who got let go well and really help them, then all of a sudden a collective sigh of relief goes through your company. It’s silent. You won’t hear it, but it’ll eliminate fear. And when people eliminate fear, then their brains work better, and they’ll perform better for you. So you can actually look at this as a very self-interested action. I think it is. You don’t need to be selfless to help people when you let them go. You can be very selfish and actually do this.
Now, the second part of your question was, “Well, what about criminal behavior?” Tim, I like your edge cases. Of the hundreds of companies I’ve coached and the tens of thousands of employees, maybe even hundreds of thousands of employees within those companies, no one has ever brought to me that, “I need to let this person go for criminal behavior.” Now, “I need to let this person go for what I’ve considered to be extreme incompetence. I can’t imagine they’re good at anything.” And in there, I urge the CEO to get curious and —
Tim Ferriss: Yeah, and just to be clear, I wasn’t saying exclusively criminal behavior, but if someone is so bad, or I mean, that would be a case, or you look at their accounts payable and you’re like, “Wow, we are 60 days behind in paying our vendors. This should never happen, and this can’t happen. Therefore, this person needs to be let go,” because maybe conversations have been had, et cetera. So it’s not just criminal behavior. I will push back a little bit and say there is criminal behavior. I mean, I know a lot of CEOs. There’s bad behavior, so it’s not like —
Matt Mochary: I’m sure there is.
Tim Ferriss: — it doesn’t exist, but I’m not limiting my hypothetical to that.
Matt Mochary: Yeah. And maybe the CEOs I coach have just not brought that behavior to me because they don’t want me to cause them to fire that person.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah, or that might be a question for their general counsel. Right?
Matt Mochary: Right. Exactly. Exactly. But when there is a situation, because this definitely does happen, where people say, “This person is so horrible, so egregiously irresponsible, I can’t recommend them to anyone for anything,” well, clearly, and then I would encourage that CEO or that manager to just wait till time passes, wait till the anger dissipates, until they can get curious. Go to that person and find out. Say clearly, “The facts are this. You are not qualified to do this role,” or, “Clearly, you don’t seem to be passionate about this role, but what are you passionate about? What do you really enjoy?”
And they’ll say something. And then say, “Well, let’s see if that can be translated into some kind of money-making effort.” And almost always, it can. And what I find is that many, many, many people, and this is another issue, an energy audit we can get into, are actually stuck in roles that they don’t like. Some they’re good at and they get paid well for it, so they continue to do it. But over time, if you don’t like something that you’re doing, in the end, you won’t do it well. You can’t, because you’re competing against the person — there are people out there who do like it, and they will study it and learn more and give energy towards it. And even if they’re less experienced, over time, they will surpass you and far surpass you. So I find that generally, humans are not incompetent. What they are is, they’re uninterested. But if you can find a place where they’re interested, suddenly they become very competent.
Tim Ferriss: And if you can’t find that place and you need to let them go, what does that conversation look like? Since you’re not going to want to go on Twitter and so on in that case.
Matt Mochary: Yeah. I mean, if they don’t want to play ball and if they won’t share with you what their passions are, what they might be interested in, or what they might want to do that you agree with they’d be good at, then you can’t help. It’s like, if I’m trying to coach someone and they don’t want to be coached, there’s nothing I can do. But you’ve tried. That’s all. You’ve made the offer.
Tim Ferriss: Got it. And this begets a follow-up question from me, which is related to recruiting. And I know you and I chatted a little bit before we started recording, but I’d like to explore this for the following reason. In job interviews, oftentimes candidates, almost always, candidates will try to paint themselves in the most positive, enthusiastic light possible.
And I’ve had the experience of hiring people where the obligations and responsibilities are laid out, not always in maybe the granularity that you would suggest, and maybe we can talk about that, but there is an enthusiastic “Hell, yes!” to all of those said things, and then six months later, lo and behold, they are extremely unenthusiastic and uninterested in half of those things. And it’s kind of this “Oh, fuck, God damn it” situations that perhaps, I’m hoping, with a different approach, could have been avoided. But I’m not the only person, I’m imagining, who has had this experience. So what are some of your thoughts and recommendations for effective and efficient recruiting?
Matt Mochary: Yeah. So there’s two major categories in recruiting. One is evaluating, and two is selling. Because of course, when you find a great person, you’re not the only person that found them, so you’ve got to make sure they come to you and not elsewhere. And so evaluating has a few parts. Selling has a few parts. Selling part is, one, you need to minimize the time you spend with people that you don’t hire so you can maximize the time you spend with the person you do want to hire, because selling, it turns out, requires a lot of time, effective selling.
So now let’s go back, though, to evaluating. We’ll come to the selling afterwards. Evaluating. I find exactly what you find, that there are some people out there who are just really good at interviewing, especially relationship people, salespeople, those types of people. And it doesn’t indicate at all their ability to perform the job or their willingness to perform the job later on. I find that only two things matter when it comes to evaluating. One is, how has the person performed in the past? We’ll start with that. The second is, can I scare them away from the dirty realities of this job?
But we’ll start with the first. How have they performed in the past? This is why people do reference checks, but most people do indirect reference checks. Like, “We know everyone in Silicon Valley, so we see the places they’ve worked, so I’ll just contact all the people I know that worked at the companies they worked at and see how this person is viewed.” That’s actually a terrible system. The reason that’s a terrible system is because very rarely will you know the manager of that person at that company. Instead, you know some random person at that company who didn’t really interact with this person.
All they know about this person is their internal reputation, which also is not at all indicative of the actual work they do. So instead, what I do is, when I interview and I meet someone and I think, “Oh, my gosh, this person’s amazing,” I’ll tell them immediately, “I’d like to do…” and I stole all this from the book Who, W-H-O, which I think is the best book on recruiting there is. And he simply says, “You do what’s called the topgrading interview,” where you go job by job that they’ve had since college, and you ask them, “Who’d you work for? Who was your manager? So-and-so? Great. Can you please spell that for me? Write down the name. Next job, who was your manager? Next job, who was your manager?”
And maybe teammates as well, but manager for sure. Then I go through that whole list, and at the end I’ve got 10, 20, 30 names. And then I say to the person, “I’d like to hire you, pending reference interviews. So can you please connect me with…” and I choose one, two, three, up to however many, seven people, but at least three. And I ask the candidate, “Can you please connect me with that person?” And then the interview I’m doing is of their former managers. And that’s where I get insanely good information.
Now, okay, so you go through that process, and you’ve discovered that this person actually really is good. They actually really perform. Great. Now I find that’s not enough. It’s what you described before, where you said, “Six months into it, they’re no longer interested.” That’s what I’m trying to prevent. So I then come back to the person and say, “Listen, your references were fantastic. I think you’re amazing, but before you make this decision, I want to try to scare you away from the reality, so I’m going to tell you the worst things about this job.”
And I do. In fact, I’ll do this before I even do the topgrading or the reference interviews, because I’m trying to disqualify the candidate as early as possible, before I spend any time with them. So I’ll tell them when I first meet them and I think they’re great — most people will turn to start selling. I go the opposite direction. I start anti-selling, and I’ll say, “It’s long hours. We work in California time, and we’re remote. If you’re in Russia or Ukraine or wherever you are, your day starts at 10:00 p.m. and ends at 6:00 a.m.” If you are in whatever the worst things about this role are, I’m going to explain to you and see if I can scare you away.
And then if the person still is interested and now they know, I find those people stay interested in the role, because it’s always better when they arrive than what I described, because I only described the bad parts. So that’s evaluating. Next, so now we’ve got your candidate who has performed well in the past, you’ve anti-sold them, and they still want to join. Great. They are going to perform. The problem is they’re superstars, and everybody else wants them too. And so I find selling is key, and selling requires really getting to know the person and finding out about them and taking the time to understand their dreams, their fears, their angers.
And also, they probably have a partner, and the partner isn’t excited to join your company, but is feeling fear around — let’s say you’re a tech startup, so there’s lower cash pay, but more equity, and that person doesn’t give a crap about the equity and just sees less cash pay, and so they’re feeling fear. So I, one, ask to speak to the spouse so that I can understand his or her concerns and address them directly. And two, I use speed. So from the moment that I meet someone until the moment that I’m able to say, “I love you and I want you to work here, and I want to make you an offer,” I endeavor to have that be very few days, so that the person feels like, “Whoa, Matt has so much conviction about me. From the minute he met me, he loved me, and just boom, boom, boom.”
And the way to do that, again, is to minimize the time I spend with people I don’t want to hire. So my first interview with someone is never more than 15 minutes, because within the first five minutes, I know whether I’m energetically pulled to someone or not. And if you look back on the great people you hired, Tim, I would guess that you also knew within the first five minutes of meeting the person that you loved them or were intrigued.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah. Yeah, one of my, I would say, biggest handicaps right now is I veto. I tend to use analytics and hard number crunching and references to override that first impression. That is something that I’ve deliberately taken to working on. Whenever there’s been an issue, I usually spot it in the first 30 minutes if I end up hiring somebody and those issues come up and I saw them in the first 30 minutes. And this is where I need to weight my first immediate reads more heavily than the textbook recommendations, if that makes sense.
Matt Mochary: Abso-freaking-lutely, because you’re the one that has to work with them, so it’s that chemical reaction that you’re going to keep having over and over again with them, no matter whether they worked well with someone else or not. And so I only have, again, 15 minutes, not even 30, 15 minutes, because that’s what I schedule. Because if I end up loving the person in those 15 minutes, I know they haven’t scheduled anything else in the next 15 minutes, and neither have I. So then I can immediately start going into, “Hey, let’s keep this going. Now, I’m really enjoying this. Let’s find out if this is really a place you want to be.” That’s when the anti-selling begins, and we can continue the process. That’s it, Tim. Those are the things. And so I would say for you, don’t let anyone else — when your intuition says no, end it right there. Because what you want to do is you want to preserve your time for the moment when your intuition says yes. And let go of a hundred people, and don’t say yes unless your intuition tells you.
All of this doesn’t work if you don’t have the ability to fire. Because if you don’t have the ability to fire, then you will feel fear. You will feel fear, like, “Oh, my God, I’ve got to make sure this is the perfect hire because this person’s going to be with me forever.” You won’t say that consciously. But subconsciously you’ll know you don’t know how to fire, you’re not able to do it, so you better, if you’re going to have a world-class team, every single person you hire has to be world-class from the get-go. That is pressure that is unrealistic. There is no system that is perfect. You will screw up. People’s lives will change. Suddenly, again, they will go through a divorce, and suddenly their work will no longer be their priority. And whatever it is, things will change. And there are going to be moments when you have to let people go.
And if you have the ability, as we talked about before, to fire well and not feel pain when doing so, and can do so humanely and with empathy, now you have a system basically that can clean itself. It’s like a professional sports team. If you had a professional sports team that wasn’t allowed to let go of any player they added to the team, that team would end up in last place every time.
And companies are no different. So I would say the most valuable thing about recruiting is first, learn how to fire well. And if you can do that, now the pressure is off, and you can take a little bit more chance on people you have intuition about that you really like, but maybe they’re inexperienced, maybe they’re young. And I find those people are often insanely good performers.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah, that’s been my experience, actually. And I would encourage people to check out Derek Sivers and how he relates to hiring and firing, which I aspire to be more similar too. But that’s a side note. Anything You Want, by Derek Sivers, I think, is an excellent book for folks out there. Short read, fast read.
Past performance and manager questions, and then we will get back to what came up perhaps 10 minutes ago, the energy audit. In assessing past performance and chatting with past managers, what are some of the best questions that you have landed on? And the reason I ask is that, in the US at least, this may be true other places, it is very, in my experience, it is very hard to get past employers to say bad things about an employee for fear of being sued or getting themselves into some type of legal hot water.
And I’ve heard a number of various workarounds, like leaving a voicemail, “Only call me back if they’re, from a scale of one to 10, an eight or higher,” that type of thing where there’s some plausible deniability on the part of the recipient. But aside from perhaps that gambit, which I’ve never actually used, maybe I should, ways to accurately assess past performance and weaknesses when having conversations with these managers.
Matt Mochary: Yeah. The big filter is do you get connected with a person? So I ask the candidate to connect me. And if they’re not able to, that’s obvious at the time. And that’s a disqualifier. Once I’m connected with a former manager, I have never had the experience that they’re unwilling to share reality with me. And the most indicative question is, would you hire this person again? And if they say yes, why? And they tell me. But they also tell me, if they wouldn’t, why they wouldn’t.
And I’ve had so many revealing conversations with former managers that while that fear may be out there, the dozens or even hundreds of former managers I’ve talked to have never experienced that fear. And the information they’ve given me has matched the person who I hired almost one to one. So I can’t speak to that, Tim. And I know that there is that fear out there, but I haven’t encountered it personally.
Tim Ferriss: That’s wild. Okay. Yeah, I don’t know what to say to that. So I guess we can move on. Yeah. Yeah. Okay.
Matt Mochary: And I think it’s because I’m asking the candidate to connect me. And so —
Tim Ferriss: Yeah —
Matt Mochary: — again, if the person didn’t want —
Tim Ferriss: — that’s probably —
Matt Mochary: Right.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah, didn’t want to talk, then that wouldn’t be the case. Okay. Energy audit, let’s talk about that. What is an energy audit? Before we started chatting, I pulled out a few personal references. So if we wanted to, yet again, go back into the game, we could also do that. But maybe we could start with just broadly speaking —
Matt Mochary: I love playing the game —
Tim Ferriss: — what —
Matt Mochary: — Tim.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah, what an energy audit is.
Matt Mochary: I have to give credit to Diana Chapman, who I think was a guest on your show a while back. That’s where I learned this from.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah, she was.
Matt Mochary: And she obviously, Gay and Katie Hendricks were her teachers. And we all have many teachers. But the concept here is that you — we all feel like we have limited time, but that’s actually really not the case. What we have is limited energy. And if we start doing things more that raise our energy, we can actually start doing more and more things.
But it’s hard to add more energy-inducing things. It’s actually much easier to eliminate energy reducing activities. So instead of going to your calendar and looking at what you do and seeing where you spend your — what time on it, where you see where you spend your time and see where you wish you spent your time, this is going and looking at your calendar, hour by hour, day by day, for one week, two weeks, and marking each hour, whatever you did, whether it was scheduled or not scheduled, just remembering what it is you did, and marking it green, “I ended that hour with more energy than I started,” or red, “I did not end that hour with more energy than I started.”
And if you do this, you’ll start to find trends. And one example may be one-on-ones with people that I don’t find competent, or I’m no longer even their manager. Informational interviews with people who are friends of friends. Internal management meetings that are just not well-run. These are very common examples of things that are energy-neutral or reducing. And what you want to do then is, once you identify these things, you want to eliminate them from your calendar.
And there are a few ways to eliminate them. One, you ask yourself, “Does this actually even need to happen?” If the answer is no, then just stop it. Two, “If it needs to happen, do I need to be the one to do it?” So going back to your K-1 example, do you really have to be the one to get the K-1s? If not, if you could delegate it, which you likely have delegated all the delegatable ones already, then you delegate it.
But then there’s a third category, “Yes, it needs to happen. Yes, I need to be the one to do it. Ugh. K-1s, going out and getting the K-1s. Dang it, only I can do it. Okay, what would make it exquisite?” Ask yourself that question. “What would make this actually energy-raising?” And you might say — let me actually ask you that, in reality. Tim, what would make it energy-raising for you when you go and get your K-1s?
Tim Ferriss: I would also like to hear some answers from the crowd or things that you’ve seen, just like you had these common neutral or depleting categories. I’d be curious to know how other people answer this. Look, I’ll give a — I don’t mean it to sound flippant, but look, if I were sitting in a hot tub, drinking a bottle of wine, and doing this email, and batching all that shit together, maybe that would make it less repulsive to me.
Matt Mochary: Perfect.
Tim Ferriss: Right? That would be an example.
Matt Mochary: Perfect.
Tim Ferriss: I’m just pulling that out of the air. But I would be very curious to know how other people answer this.
Matt Mochary: And those are the kinds of things they come up with. And of course, accountability partner was the one that I came up with and shared with people. And that usually resonates with people. Or turning on music that’s really fun. Or again, people or some kind of changing the environment to make the environment fun. But let’s come back to ones that are more — I’ll give examples of each category. So what things that don’t need to happen? You know what? Informational interviews for friends of friends don’t need to —
Tim Ferriss: What do you mean by informational interviews in this case?
Matt Mochary: “My buddy has a niece who’s just graduating from college and looking for a job, and she’s really interested in doing podcasts. Tim, would you please talk to her for 30 minutes and just help her with some direction?”
Tim Ferriss: Yeah. Yeah, got it.
Matt Mochary: Turns out that doesn’t need to happen. And you can just learn to say no. And then of course you want to say no in a very kind way, and you want to have lists of answers that you keep, so you don’t have to keep inventing them each time. And you keep them in a Google Doc, and you copy/paste them. And then no would go something like, “Sam, I love you to death, and I would love to help you, but I realize that I need to focus my time on my priorities, which are the podcast, my family, et cetera. And my schedule is insanely full because I’ve filled it with focusing on those priorities. And I would go against my own philosophy if I deviated from that. So I have to politely decline.” That’s an example. Just learn how to say no. And by the way, there will be blowback. People go, “Oh, are you too famous now? Are you too…?” Yeah.
Tim Ferriss: Oh, yeah.
Matt Mochary: So you’re just going to get that. You just have to live with that.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah.
Matt Mochary: The second delegation you’ve already done. And then the exquisite. I’ll give you real examples of the exquisite. Most people hate internal meetings. Why? Because it’s a lot of talking, nothing ever really gets done, it’s super inefficient. And most people say, “You know what would make it exquisite? If we had a pre-written agenda that we all agreed on that there were meeting owner who was responsible for curating the topics, making sure we stayed time box, like, “This is worth 10 minutes, so we only give it 10 minutes,” and three, that everybody pre-read and pre-wrote their comments so that, once we started the meeting, it had already advanced significantly. We’re not starting from scratch on understanding what the issue is and what people’s thoughts are around it. We can just go to decision and the last few minutes of verbal conversation that are needed.
And I go, “Great. Because, share this with your team. See if they would be energized by the same thing. Write it down, share it with a team.” And so people do. They share it with the team, and turns out everyone on the team goes, “Yeah, that would be amazing. Let’s do that.” So then they appoint a meeting owner, and then they have a written agenda. And then they pre-write and pre-read. And all of a sudden it goes incredibly well. Things like that.
Tim Ferriss: I know I’m shoehorning this in to this example in the broader conversation of energy audit, but nonetheless, are there any shorthand tips, or longhand, it’s long format after all, you’d like to give for running good meetings? Is there anything that you would like to add to that? ‘Cause we were going to eventually wind our way to running effective meetings, but is there anything —
Matt Mochary: We can —
Tim Ferriss: — you’d like to flesh out?
Matt Mochary: — certainly go there, Tim, but that means we’ll have skipped the gameplay.
Tim Ferriss: Ah.
Matt Mochary: [inaudible].
Tim Ferriss: Caught me.
Matt Mochary: We can skip it if you want.
Tim Ferriss: No, no, no, I’m not meaning to skip it. I just thought if it made sense to mention those things here, then great. But if we want to just —
Matt Mochary: [inaudible].
Tim Ferriss: — bookmark it and come back to meetings, we can do that.
Matt Mochary: No, let me mention here, and then let’s go back to your calendar.
Tim Ferriss: Let’s do it.
Matt Mochary: This is one which is — first of all, I believe that good communication is not verbal only, and good communication is not written only. Really good communication is both written and verbal. What I mean by that is most people are very good at collecting their thoughts and organizing their thoughts in a written fashion, but writing only misses the nuance. So the real nuance comes out when people speak. But if people just speak, then if I don’t catch every single word, I missed what they said. And I certainly can’t go back and try to remember what they said because it’s not anywhere, I can’t find it.
So I find that if someone writes up their thoughts and then shares them verbally, the combination gives me the full picture or as full of the picture as I can possibly get. And to make it even fuller, I then repeat it back and say, “Is that right?” And then once I do, that’s really the fullest picture. Because often when I repeat it back, they’re like, “Almost,” like when I did with you in the beginning. And you’re like, “Yeah, kind of. But there’s actually this other thing about fame and trust.” And so I didn’t catch that the first time, but I did once you said it the second time.
So I have written this all up. The reason I’m saying this is because I’ve written this all up. So I’m going to share it verbally now. But there’s a document on how to have effective and efficient meetings. And so if anyone’s interested, they should also read that document because, compared with this, it’ll be the full picture.
Tim Ferriss: And we’ll link to that in the show notes so everybody will be able to find it.
Matt Mochary: Okay, great. And pretty much everything we’ve talked about here, I’ve written up at some point because I also believe that, once I say something once and it comes up again, I need to write it down, so that in the future I will have this both written and verbal. And I encourage —
Tim Ferriss: I want to mention one thing for folks. If you have a blog, if you are consistently giving polite declines, I’ve actually written blog posts explaining all the rationale for a handful of different polite declines. So there’s an entire blog post called “Why I’m Not Reading Any New Books,” and it just explains it. Because I get a hundred of those a week. And if you’re going to say it more than once, put it down somewhere people can read it. So just wanted to reinforce that.
Matt Mochary: Awesome. I love it. So then in terms of running effective and efficient meetings, I believe there are three types of meetings. Meeting one is all verbal. 99 percent of meetings are like this, and they’re usually really inefficient, and everyone gets frustrated. And the only people that get to speak are the people who are bolder. And the people who are quieter and more introverted don’t even speak. And so we think they don’t have anything to say, but it turns out they have a lot to share. And they also don’t feel bought in because they don’t feel included in the conversations. Second type of meeting, people pre-write. This is where Amazon goes. This is saying, “If you want to bring something up in this meeting, you’ve got to write it out. And in the beginning of the meeting we’ll all read it, and then we’ll give our opinions, and we’ll make a decision.” And those are much more effective meetings because now we have real content that can be shared and consumed, and so the conversation is not superficial. The conversation to run to a decision is on a much deeper level.
And then the most effective meetings is the type three, which are very difficult to get to. And that is people submit in advance their issues, topics in writing, but 24 hours in advance. Then in that last 24 hours, all the meeting participants read and comment on all of that material so that when the meeting starts, we’ve now gone one level, two levels down, and the verbal portion is at the third and much deeper level.
I now already know what everybody thinks, including the people are introverted and don’t like to speak up during a meeting because they’re just not that bold. Now I know everybody’s thoughts, and now everybody is actually bought in to whatever the decision is because they participated in it. That’s level three. And the only, frankly the company that does this best is Brex, that I know of. And it requires a lot of holding people accountable. And if someone does not enter their issue by 24 hours before the exec team meeting, they don’t get to enter it.
And if people have not commented on the issue by the time the meeting starts, they don’t get to comment. It’s an extreme version of accountability that drives — one time, people will miss. But once they miss one time, they are absolutely prepared the next time and from then. So that to me —
Tim Ferriss: What percentage?
Matt Mochary: — is the quick and dirty version.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah, I love quick and dirty. But what percentage, I’m just curious, of meetings get canceled once a document is created and people add all of their comments? Maybe a precise percentage not needed, but do they still tend to proceed with the meeting and verbal portion of that? Or are there a lot of cases where, “You know what? We didn’t actually need a meeting. This has resolved what we needed to resolve.”
Matt Mochary: There’s always a little bit of synchronous time that’s required because again, the writing doesn’t fully satisfy the communication. And so, at least Pedro, I don’t think Pedro at Brex is canceling exec team meetings because the issues and the comments are so thorough. He’s like, “Got it. Got everything I need. I don’t need to see you guys anymore.” That’s not happening. It’s “Let’s do the final — I’ve seen your comments. Now I’d like to hear verbally. You and you and you, please share your verbally. Okay, now I get it. Now I have my decision. Here’s my decision. Let me share it with you.” Or I’m going to appoint someone else to be the decision-maker. But yeah, the synchronous portion is needed to finalize the decision to really make people feel heard.
And then there’s another portion which cannot be done asynchronously. And that is feedback. Because it’s so dangerous to give feedback asynchronously. Because if I give you what I think is constructive feedback, and you get insulted or feel defensive, and I don’t see that, or I don’t hear that, then I can’t say, “Oh, Tim, wait a second. I meant that with love. I didn’t mean to make you feel anger.” So if I’m not there to catch it, you’ll feel anger towards me. You’ll go —
Tim Ferriss: It doesn’t get resolved.
Matt Mochary: Exactly. And within a few days, because of confirmation bias, you’ll have already amassed enough evidence to prove that I’m the devil that our relationship will be destroyed forever. And so feedback must be done, I believe, in person. And I also think that’s a critical component of successful meetings.
Give me feedback as manager. Give each other feedback as peers. It doesn’t even exist in most companies. Rarely do people give feedback to the CEO, but almost never do people give feedback to each other at the peer —
Tim Ferriss: Very true.
Matt Mochary: — exec team level.
Tim Ferriss: Very true.
Matt Mochary: So I introduce that. Certainly Brex does, and almost all the companies I coach do. And that again, must be done synchronously.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah. I’m just thinking out loud here based on some of the reading and prep I did for this conversation. It also seems, and this is not to negate anything you just said, that Pedro self-admittedly does not like to focus on the reading and writing. That’s not his superpower, if I’m remembering correctly.
So it would maybe also make it more valuable to have the voice component. Or am I misremembering? That was in the Fast Company profile.
Matt Mochary: I think that’s Henrique.
Tim Ferriss: — profile. Henrique. All right, there we go. Corrected. I stand corrected.
Matt Mochary: Yes.
Tim Ferriss: Pedro, never mind. Okay, good. Well, I’m glad I just checked that because I think the nature of how people on the team and how the CEO prefer to consume information often informs how these things take shape. So I just wanted to double check. So thank you for that. All right. Should we look at some examples from my calendar?
Matt Mochary: Yeah, please. Let’s take a representative day, Tim. And let’s start first thing in the morning.
Tim Ferriss: Representative day is going to be harder than what I have in front of me. Let me tell you what I have. And I’m happy to try to improv jazz the day in the life.
Matt Mochary: Okay.
Tim Ferriss: What I have is I went through — I do this typically every year around New Year’s, which is a past year review. So I looked at every week for the last two years actually, and made a positive and negative column, looking at broader categories. So I have that. But we could look at a day, or we could look at a week because I tend to schedule things in a more predictable way on a weekly basis than on some days, which can get squirrely, if that makes any sense. For instance, tend to have podcast recordings on Mondays and Fridays, depending on where I am. If it’s central time in Austin, then it’s usually 10:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. That’s the bracketing. Tuesdays, such as today also. Today’s a bit of an exception where things had to move around because of some unexpected stuff this week.
Also team call day. So I’ll have one-on-one calls and a group team call, which is shorter. That’s usually about 20 minutes long. And then later in the week there are other things. But we can approach this in any way that you like. I’ve got the list from the last one to two years, categorically speaking, and then we could dive into a week or a day, however you would like.
Matt Mochary: If you already have the list, we don’t need to do any more. I’d like you to pick something that is de-energizing that is stumping you, that’s like, “Man, I don’t know how to get this off my calendar. I don’t know how to get this out of my workday.”
Tim Ferriss: Hm. Well, let me just read the list.
Matt Mochary: Okay.
Tim Ferriss: And then I’ll come back to that question because there might be something juicy to chew on that doesn’t necessarily fit the answer to the question. But let me give this a shot. Actually, I probably have the answer to your question. So negatives, and this is not a slight to any of my friends in the legal profession, but lawyer time. I spend a lot of time in email and on phone calls with lawyers of different types. It is remarkable to me, although not that dissimilar from a lot of my friends, just in terms of how complex your life can become from a legal perspective, professionally and personally, as time moves on, doing the kinds of things that I’m doing. So I would say lawyer time, generally, I do not find energy-additive. It is important. Very often there are decisions that only I can make within my very small team. That would be one.
Another would be traveling alone. For instance, I took a trip this past year to the Azores, which are off of Portugal. Beautiful place. But having enjoyed traveling to dozens of different countries on my own when I was younger, I find that I experience it as more lonely now than I did then, I think in part because I’ve had five years of sharing these experiences with my significant other.
I’m going to mention a couple of things, and then we can revert probably back to the lawyers. But next was a very loud event or events. My senses are very sensitive. And loud environments I just find it incredibly depleting. Even if the event otherwise has many redeeming qualities, if it’s loud, it just negates everything else. Next one would be —
Matt Mochary: [inaudible].
Tim Ferriss: Yeah. Yeah, exactly. Noise in Austin, honestly. Austin is like the Shanghai of the United States. The construction is never-ending. So being surrounded by noise is very problematic for my system. For my dog too, who’s kind of my external nervous system. She’s grown less tolerant of all of that. Handling admin stuff, decisions related to what I perceive as logistics or admin stuff, would be net negative. Investing, generally, I find net-negative. Not always, but predominantly funds, I would say, I find net negative with if capital calls are unpredictable, which makes it challenging at times, if you have a lot of commitments, to budget for various capital needs and so on.
So the investing, which could also fall into the informational interview category on some levels. Just lots of email and phone calls, which is why I took a break completely from startup investing in 2015, I guess, and I wrote a blog post so I wouldn’t have to repeat myself on why I’m taking a long startup vacation.
The last one, net negative, and this is actually related to the traveling alone and other things, and this might not be the conversation within which to unpack this, but it’s something I know I’m not alone in experiencing, which is I’ve made so many decisions and optimized for a degree of freedom in my life, say on a, let’s say a Wednesday afternoon, to be able to spend a half day skiing or whatever it might be. But I find that that has freed me to do these things, but it can be a lonely experience because so few other people actually have engineered or simply had the good luck, the good fortune to be in circumstances in which they can create that freedom. So you can end up feeling very, very lonely in the pursuit or experience of this freedom that you’ve worked so hard to create. That’s a meta issue —
Matt Mochary: You’ve basically created —
Tim Ferriss: — that I’m working on.
Matt Mochary: — the experience of retirement before you’re retired.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah. Yeah. But none of my cohorts retired.
Matt Mochary: Right?
Tim Ferriss: And I’m still doing the podcast, and I’m doing art stuff, and I’m doing things I enjoy that are actually energy-positive. That’s the only reason I’ve done the podcast this long. But those are some of the energy negatives. And lawyer time would fit into almost every week, I would say.
Matt Mochary: Perfect.
Tim Ferriss: There is a component of —
Matt Mochary: Well, let’s start — Let’s go through them chronologically until we’re like, “Okay, we’re done. We’ve done it enough.”
Tim Ferriss: Okay.
Matt Mochary: Let’s start with lawyer time. And let’s just put it through the framework. One, does it actually need to happen? Could you just say, “You know what? I’m not doing the lawyers. We’re not getting legal advice. I’m just doing these things. I’m making decisions without legal advice?”
Tim Ferriss: No.
Matt Mochary: Okay.
Tim Ferriss: I could do it. It would be a very bad idea.
Matt Mochary: Perfect.
Tim Ferriss: So I would say, yeah —
Matt Mochary: Okay. We can also look at the activities that are leading to requiring legal advice.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah. Sure. What precursors.
Matt Mochary: Right. Are there any of those activities which you don’t need to do? You stopped investing personally. I stopped investing personally a long time ago for that exact —
Tim Ferriss: That would remove that category of law, right? Because I have lawyers for investments. I have lawyers for liability reasons, exposure. I have IP lawyers. There are many different categories. So even removing some of those categories would be valuable. So if I stopped all investing that required document review and deal structure review, then that would remove that entire component. However, the deal review stuff is probably the least time-consuming of the categories that I have.
Matt Mochary: Okay, but that doesn’t then require capital calls as well, or this is one-time —
Tim Ferriss: Only if they’re funds. Funds require a lot more than one-off deals, because you have subscription documents, you have capital calls, you have ongoing obligations and a degree of unpredictability, which of course, you sometimes get rewarded for, so I want to make it clear.
Matt Mochary: Right. That’s a [inaudible] issue. Let’s come back to the law.
Tim Ferriss: Lawyers, yeah.
Matt Mochary: We scanned through the activities, and the ones that are really onerous, are actually not the ones that you would be willing to stop. The ones that you’d be willing to stop is investing, or deal structure, but that’s actually not onerous for you.
Tim Ferriss: It’s not the most —
Matt Mochary: You don’t mind that legal time.
Tim Ferriss: That’s not the most time-consuming. Yeah. Yeah. It’s the other stuff.
Matt Mochary: Let’s get specific here. Of the legal work, which is the most time-consuming and energy-reducing?
Tim Ferriss: I would say dealing with liability, state, corporate-structuring stuff. That would be very high on the list of things that are necessary, I think, largely necessary, but not energy-giving and then —
Matt Mochary: Is that related to what activity? The podcast or something else?
Tim Ferriss: No, that’s just life in general. If there’s a new book, it’s within a new company for limited liability and so on. Imagine being a film producer. It’s like every film is a new thing. It’s a new LLC or limited partnership or whatever they happen to use in film. So, it’s that and the complexity that that entails, although maybe a better example to work with, just because the former could get really complicated, is intellectual property and management of intellectual property. All of the books, the podcast, that type of stuff, I would say, and that may be a more fruitful place to focus.
Matt Mochary: Perfect.
Tim Ferriss: Because that’s ongoing, and there are also elective things that I do, that I definitely don’t have to do to survive, that create more of this work.
Matt Mochary: Got it. It’s elective that you write the books, it’s elective that you create the podcast, but it’s also elective that you file the trademarks and that you file the copyrights.
Tim Ferriss: Totally. Yep. Yep.
Matt Mochary: Okay. This is really about trademarks, filing trademarks?
Tim Ferriss: Let me think about that.
Matt Mochary: Copyright and trademarks.
Tim Ferriss: It’s about trademarks. Yeah. No, I mean, some of it’s trademarks and enforcement of trademarks. Some of it is that then if somebody, for instance, and I’m glad I did this, but there’s a great documentary called The Alpinist or Alpinist, I think it’s Alpinist, which I actually highly recommend to folks. They did an amazing job and they wanted to use some audio from the podcast for the movie. I didn’t know it would be in the opening sequence, which was quite cool. And there was a lot of back and forth on the release and the verbiage and indemnity and A, B, C, D, E, F, and G for that. And I’ll take the blame for that. I mean, I think they sent something which probably many other people simply signed, but there was a lot of review on my side. Very happy I did it, but that took up a good amount of time.
Matt Mochary: Perfect. Okay. That’s a great example, Tim. So, in your mind, it has to happen. And in your mind, you have to have that back and forth.
Tim Ferriss: I think there’s part of me that has that, and this was going to be actually an upcoming question for you related to Naval, and the I-have-to-be-a-CEO and the testing of assumptions, so I don’t want to interrupt. But yes, I would say there are many things that I almost certainly erroneously believe I have to do. And this would be one where, coming back to the hyper-vigilance piece, the fear of downside risk, leads me to feel like in order to protect myself, we do need to have this back and forth.
Matt Mochary: Perfect, perfect. Okay, great. But I’m going to challenge that assumption right there.
Tim Ferriss: Great.
Matt Mochary: I’ve written a book, I’ve actually made a movie shortlisted for an Academy Award. I get requests for clips. I get requests for “Translate my book into this language in this country.” And Tim, I just say, “Yes.” There’s no back and forth. There’s no legal document. I just go, “Great, go for it.” Now, your books may be more widely distributed and your podcast much more, so you may want some interaction therefore, but there actually is an option for you to simply not do the legal work around this.
So, second, so let me challenge you. Would you be open to no longer doing legal work around this? “If someone wanted a clip for the opening of a documentary, we just say yes?”
Tim Ferriss: I don’t want to speak for these guys. I believe that is actually what I started with. And then the response was, “In order to use it, we need you to sign this document.” I think that is how it came about. I might be misremembering that, but I believe I said, “Look, I don’t want to deal with any legal stuff, but if you want to use it, go ahead and use it.” I believe that’s actually where I started.
Matt Mochary: And then would you be willing to just sign whatever they send over?
Tim Ferriss: If I’m being honest right now, I think the answer’s probably no, but I could use some, maybe I just need more therapy.
Matt Mochary: No, no, no, no, no, that’s perfect. I’m not going to push you there. And you can also do, “Listen, if I have to sign something, then the answer is no. I’m not going to sign it.”
Tim Ferriss: Yeah, it’s just not —
Matt Mochary: You can take it and you can use it, or not. So, that’s one possibility.
The other possibility is, could someone else do this for you? And simply when it’s all done, say, “Tim, I’ve looked at this, it’s worth signing.” Signing.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah. Yeah. There certainly is the possibility for that. I do that with a lot of stuff currently. So, I have people send some PDF and the process is, it’s sent to whichever legal team is responsible for that stuff. And then once it gets into shape where my legal folks have vetted it, it’s converted into HelloSign or whatever it’s called now. I think it’s owned by Dropbox. And then I go in and I sign it.
There’s a chance also that I am exaggerating how much of this I do. The perception that I have is that I spend a lot of time on this, but maybe it’s just because I see these emails and I’m just like, “Ah, fucking logistics to deal with,” and I blow it out of proportion and maybe I’m handling it a lot better than I perceive myself to be handling it. There’s that distinct possibility too.
Matt Mochary: There’s certainly that because it annoys you to see it and then it goes on. And therefore your perception, of course, you are sensitized. So, pain, we notice much more intensely than joy or pleasure. Time flies when you’re having fun is literally, disappears, but you sense every second when you’re not having fun. So, that we’re not going to stop just because time-wise, it’s short. We’re going to get rid of the fact that it’s not fun. So, now, it’s —
Tim Ferriss: Yep. And I feel obligated to say. The lawyers I work with now, I really, really like. They do excellent work. I tend to feel energy-negative when I am not creating something that is harnessing my combination of abilities that I think I most have to offer, of highest value. So, if I’m not working on writing or the podcast or some creative project, I’m like, “I am not the best at reviewing legal documents. I’m not the best at emailing about legal processes,” therefore I get angsty.
Matt Mochary: Yeah. There’s any number of, and you also mentioned all these admin things that you uniquely can do. One of the reasons is because you uniquely have a way of making decisions and that you need to decide whether you’re comfortable with the risk in this legal document. Only you can decide that because only you know how you think, but it’s actually not true. You actually could train someone to think like you think, and it’s actually not that hard.
The way you do it is, so, we’re going to skip into, assuming you can’t get rid of the stuff, only you can do it. What would make it exquisite? I’m going to give you a thought. What might make it exquisite is if you could train someone to think like you think and then they could interact with the lawyers and they could assess the risk and they could make a decision and they could even, you could give them authority to sign, they could even sign on your behalf. And so would that make this exquisite? If you could have something like that, someone like that?
Tim Ferriss: Sure. It would. Yes.
Matt Mochary: Okay. Great. It’s actually quite easy. It turns out that very effective learning happens in the following way. I watch you do something over and over and over until I think, “You know what? I think I could do that.” Then I say, “Tim, hey, let me try it the next time.” Then I do it and you watch me do it and you give me feedback, and I do it over and over with you giving me feedback until I’m doing it just right. And now you have full trust that I actually do it right. And then the third thing is I then teach it to somebody else because in the act of teaching, it helps you to clarify what I’m really doing. That is the most effective learning model that I know.
And it turns out you can do that with an assistant. You can have someone to sit and simply watch you. Now, they’re going to need access to your email. They’re going to need to sit in on all your meetings. They can be off to the side. I have someone sitting to my side right now through this entire time, and they will simply watch everything that you do. And it usually takes about three months of just watching before they really start to make correlations of the information coming in and your decisions going out. And they start to make correlations between the two. After about three months, they’ll start to say, “Hey, let me do these low-level tasks.” And you let them, and then you give them feedback on it and go. And they’re never perfect the first time they do them, but they’re at 80 percent and then they get to 90 and finally 100. And it gets to the point where they can do the tasks as well as you can.
And a really good test is, you’ll write down a question and both of you write down your answers, and then you copy and paste, and then you read each other’s answers. And when your answers are almost identical, then you know this person thinks like you. And at that point, they can start doing these actions for you. By the way, this is also a very good technique I found when I have a disagreement with somebody and we’re just not seeing each other, I then do this and we write down the question. We both write down the answer and look at it because we —
Tim Ferriss: Do you mean disagreement with someone internally on your team or?
Matt Mochary: Yes.
Tim Ferriss: Oh, okay. Got it. Could you give an example just to concretize that? Could be anything.
Matt Mochary: Yeah, we should hire more coaches. We should not hire more coaches. Look, that’s an example. And when I then said, “Okay, let’s answer the question.” What I find out in writing and then both read it, what I find out is that our similarities are actually 98 percent. Our differences are two percent. But what we always, in a conversation, unfortunately, each person focuses on the two percent.
Tim Ferriss: The two percent.
Matt Mochary: And so it looks like we don’t agree, where in reality, we actually do agree, mostly, except for this very small thing. But that’s a little side note.
So, coming back to the assistant, basically the super-assistant. I have required this of everybody that I coach. And the reason I require it, it’s very pragmatic reason, is because I’m teaching a system. And by the third meeting, the CEO has learned whether or not the system makes them perform better in life. And it almost always does. And then they want to use that system with their team. But almost everyone I coach is a founder type, meaning they’re not a process person. They love to solve problems, but they don’t love to follow checklists. And mine is a checklist. So, then they say, “This is great. I want to implement my team, but can you please teach someone else to do it because I don’t want to have to be the one to do this.” And I go, “No, you should have had that person here from the very beginning.” And so now I have people observing in all of my coaching meetings so that they do learn the process and they can implement it with the CEO’s reports.
So, in this case, I think almost all of my CEOs have what we call a chief of staff, and that may be a bad name because it’s too big of a title. This is really a super-assistant, not a chief executive anything. That’s it. And it’s worked insanely well. So well in fact, that many of these chief of staffs have then gone on to run whole departments in these companies. They run people, they run marketing, whatever department is failing. And the success rate of them running departments has been close to 100 percent. Whereas the success rate of new executives hired to run departments who are much more senior, much more experienced, is about 50 percent.
So, now what we’ve done is we’re said, “Wait, the only difference is you’ve got this young chief of staff who spent six months shadowing the CEO and now is performing perfectly as a chief people officer, or you’ve got this much more experienced chief people officer who comes in and half the time doesn’t work out. What’s the difference?” The difference is the shadowing. This executive from the outside didn’t shadow the CEO, or didn’t shadow the person who was running people beforehand. And so they were forced to make decisions way before they knew the lay of the land of this new company. So, now what we’re doing is we’re having new executives come in, shadowing for 30 days, 60 days, the CEO, shadowing the person they’re replacing in their head of department role, and the success rates have now shot through the roof to also close to 100 percent. So, the shadowing concept is insanely effective. And that’s what I would offer to you. You already have an assistant. If you’d be willing to have —
Tim Ferriss: Yes, yes. Yeah, she’s great.
Matt Mochary: — her actually shadow you, physically, I believe that within three months you would have, and certainly within six months, you would have someone that could do this, that you would trust to do this for you and make the same decisions you would make.
Tim Ferriss: Related to the shadowing, are there any other fine-tuning notes or format notes related to the shadowing? Is there a discussion after, for instance, someone shadows you in a meeting? Is there some type of note-taking on the part of the super-assistant? Are there any other details that you think are very helpful when one is considering doing something like this?
Matt Mochary: Well, is the EA considering or you considering? There’s a whole list of best practices for the EA, for the chief of staff, which I’ll share with you so that you conclude — excuse me, include in the podcast notes, and people can read through those. Those are all written by my former chief of staff. And she’s incredible.
Tim Ferriss: Regina?
Matt Mochary: Yeah, Regina, yes, she’s amazing. But the biggest thing is what I’ve found, the biggest danger is that people take on this role as a stepping stone and they really want to do something bigger. I have now found actually EAs are actually kind of the best people for this role because they will continue on in this role. If you get some, like the ex-McKinsey consultant who comes in, they’ll do it for six months, but within six months they now want to go run something, something big.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah. Yeah, totally.
Matt Mochary: So they tend to want to leave, whereas the EA will do this for year after year after year after year. And because an EA wants to support, and so I think you’ve already cracked the first most important piece of advice.
The next is yes, the EA will want your feedback constantly so that she can perform better. But the whole point of this is to make this cost less for you, have no cost, and it’s no cost if you don’t have to constantly answer questions. So, yes, it’ll take them a little longer to get the information if they observe only, but it’ll be —
Tim Ferriss: With the shadowing?
Matt Mochary: That’s right. But it’ll be 100 percent, it’ll be zero cost for you. So, therefore, I recommend that you focus on what’s good for you, not what’s good for the assistant.
Tim Ferriss: Now, I have to imagine that you have many clients. Well, if it’s a pre-req, of course, all your clients, so close to all of your clients have a super-assistant or chief of staff, and some are better at making things cost less for themselves. Some are better at really making good use, for instance, of a super-assistant. What are some of the best practices you have observed or common mistakes on the opposite end of the spectrum?
Matt Mochary: The best practices, I think, are giving full and total access, saying you are going to spend 12 hours per day with me in-person because in-person just frankly does work better than remote. And because we’re remote, you’ve got to screen share. And then it’s just a lot of stuff, it’s 70 percent bandwidth, not 100 percent bandwidth, and that’s it.
Oh, and another thing is you’ve got to really like this person. If you’re going to spend 12 hours a day in person with them, you have to, that’s the number one criteria. I find this does not require extreme experience or competence. This requires you like the person, period.
What other things? There really isn’t much that you need to do in terms of having people making sure they understand because if they see the same information that you see, that’s all they need. And if they see the decisions you make and the actions you take, that’s all they need. Eventually, when you want to make sure you don’t skip the step of reverse-shadowing, so they shadow you for a while, eventually they’re going to be like, “Tim, I can do that.” You don’t have to assign them anything. After a while, they’re going to get so freaking bored, just watching you, all day long. They’re going to be dying to do stuff. So, they’ll start taking things off your plate. And then as they do, check out what they do, this is the reverse-shadow, and see and give them a little bit of feedback on how it could be done even better until it’s being done perfectly. And that’s it. So, don’t skip the reverse-shadow spot, but don’t worry about assigning them things. They’ll assign themselves.
Tim Ferriss: So, this is going to be a hard left, but I’m going to ask anyway because I’m super-curious. The documentary film that you referred to earlier, I believe is Favela Rising, if I’m getting that right?
Matt Mochary: Yes, yes.
Tim Ferriss: And then there’s a line in this profile. “He made one more documentary and he was done.” Why’d you stop making documentaries?
Matt Mochary: Good question. It was a lot of work. And yes, it was fun, but I’d already had so much fun and I told myself, “I’ll make another film when my kids want to make a movie and I’ll help them make that movie.” But for me, it had become more work. And at that point also in my life, I had had so much fun that I didn’t want to have any more fun. It had become kind of empty for me. And now I wanted —
Tim Ferriss: Now, what type of fun? What do you mean by that?
Matt Mochary: You name it. Any type of fun you can imagine I’ve had and a lot of. Because that was my job, frankly. My first job in life was to make money. And then I did. And then I made enough money that I never had to make money again. And then I thought, “Okay, well, now, I’m just going to go have fun.” And it was my job and it was my job for one, two, three, four, five years. And I’d had so much — I mean, that’s my sole focus. I had so much fun. It was just like, “All right, enough.” And then I thought, “Well, gosh, what do I do now?” And then the only thing I could come up with was, “Well, I guess do good. I don’t know. There are people who do that and they seem to think that that’s really satisfying.” And then I thought to myself, “Well, yeah, but if I do good, I don’t want to just write a check to charity. That doesn’t feel right. I want to do something that’s other people are afraid to do. I want to do the hard stuff.”
I don’t know why I thought that thought, but I did. And so I thought, “Well, the thing that people are really afraid of is they’re afraid of violent criminals.” Because I thought, “I’m afraid of them too. And my guess is nobody’s helping them.” I mean, plenty of people are helping kids with disabilities or poor people in Africa, but no one’s helping violent criminals in the United States. And so I said, “Doesn’t sound like fun, but if I really want to get my hands dirty and be in a place that other people aren’t and help where other people aren’t, that’s a place to look.” So, I went there and I started spending —
And also in the making of these two movies, Favela Rising was about the drug war and the slums of Rio. So it put me in the poorest slums, frankly, in South America, in Rio de Janeiro. And I realized that there are no schools there. So, if you want to eat, you want to get a job, basically the best job you can get is to join a drug gang. And so it wasn’t the worst kids that were joining the drug gang, it was the best kids that were joining the drug gang.
And then I went, came back to the United States, and the second film I made, it was a movie called The Gloves. It was about amateur heavyweight boxing and the best amateur heavyweights in the world, and they collect in the South Bronx to compete against each other. And so I spent time in the South Bronx, which is arguably one of the worst ghettos in the United States. I went there and realized, “There are schools here, but they’re so bad, they might as well not exist.” So, once again, the same dynamic is going on. You want to get a job and eat, you join the drug gang. And it’s again, the best kids who are joining, not the worst.
I realized, “Oh, my God, is it possible that criminal behavior in the United States is actually rational?” This is rational behavior to the circumstance that I’m find myself in. And I thought, “Whoa, I’ve got to find out.” And the only way I know is to take someone who is already incarcerated, who’s getting out of jail or prison, and say, like a little Eliza Doolittle, My Fair Lady experiment, say, “Can I have this person, get them to get and keep a legitimate job and no longer revert back to that behavior?” So, I thought, “Ugh, this is not going to be fun, but I’m going to try.”
And so I went to Rikers and I asked them, there’s a halfway house out in Manhattan for folks who’ve gotten out of Rikers. I asked them for their hardest case, and they just laughed and they just said, “They’re all hard.” And then so I got assigned a guy, and this guy was a known killer, six foot two, prison tattoos, Black guy. I would meet him at the halfway house, but he didn’t have a cellphone and he was homeless. So after I met him one time there, I got there and I didn’t know if he was going to show up or not. And I realized, “Wait a second, I could be here for hours and hours and hours and I’ll never know.” It’s like, “That doesn’t work.”
So, I said, “From now on, you’re coming to my place.” I had this floor of a building in Manhattan. Half of it was my residence, half of it was my office. So I had him come there the next time and he showed up. And as soon as he showed up, I realized, “Oh, my God, what have I done? I’ve just brought in a known killer 30 feet away from where my wife is.” And I mean, “What the hell have I done?”
But at the end of the first day, he went back out and not a penny was missing. And I had hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of equipment. And I felt completely safe with this guy because what I realized is is that there are plenty people that he can steal from, but I’m the only person that’s reached out to help him. So why the hell would he do anything negative to me? And he didn’t, he never did. And it was pretty damn easy to help him because what I realized pretty quickly, and he would come each day, and I realized there were three things that made me not want to hire him. One, he looked like a thug. Two, he’d talk like a thug. And three, he acted like a thug.
So, I figured, if I could get him to look like a not-thug, talk like a not-thug, and act like a not-thug, then he would be employable. And so to look like a not-thug, we went to this — I’m making this a little bit long, I apologize, but —
Tim Ferriss: No, we’ve got plenty of time.
Matt Mochary: You can tell me to edit later. I took him to a Goodwill. And for 80 bucks, we bought him a complete week’s worth of collared shirts and khaki pants and belts and socks and shoes. And he looked like a preppy guy.
And then for talking, it turns out there were basically five or six phrases that were non-grammatical. Like “I done did this. I be chilling. Can I aks you a question?” And I said to him, “Do you want to speak like me?” And he said, “Yes.” I said, “Okay.” So, each time he said one of those phrases, I would just write down what he said, then I’d write down what the grammatically correct phrase is. And it turns out he’s a native English speaker, so it was super easy for him to learn it. And within three days, he was speaking like this, like I’m speaking, and frankly, the only guys I’ve known, African Americans I know that speak like this tone were my two roommates at Yale. So I have this reverse bias that if an African American guy speaks like this, I think he went to an Ivy League school and I’m not the only one who thinks that.
And so then third thing was act like an non-thug. I just shared him how to say, excuse me, please and thank you and hold doors open for people, and we’re walking down the sidewalk. And when someone’s, you’re coming in the same path, just step to the side. So he started doing that. And I remember we went to practice it. We went to a deli and he ordered a sandwich and he said, “Excuse me, can I please have a roast beef sandwich?” And the guy made it, gave him a sandwich. My guy I’m working with said, “Thank you.” And afterwards we went up, ate our lunch, and as we’re eating, he said, “Matt,” and the guy behind the deli counter was super-nice and super-friendly. He said, “Matt, that’s the first time in Manhattan anyone has ever smiled at me.” He didn’t have that experience because people were afraid of him. They looked at him and they saw a thug. So they were afraid. And now he had a way of making them not afraid.
Anyways, so I get emotional. And so with all that, we sent him out to get a job, and first interview, boom, gets the job. Super happy, amazing. Because again, the people he’s competing against are, it was an overnight stock boy at a warehouse or something, they’re not dressed like he is, talking like he is, acting like he is. They’re kind of like, they’re not polished, and he’s acting polished. And so he gets the job.
Two weeks later, he calls me back and says, “Matt, I got let go.” Like, “Whoa, why?” He said, “Well, the background check came back and they saw my criminal activity.” I go, “Oh, okay, let’s start again.” So we did another interview. He got the next job, boom, like that, same thing. Two weeks later, background check came back, they let him go. This happened seven times. Then we realized, you know what? This isn’t working. Everyone does a background check. It’s always going to show your history. You’re never going to keep a job where they don’t allow history.
So now we have to find jobs where a criminal history is okay. And doing research, we found that there’s basically, it requires that there’ll be such desperation on the part of the employer that they’ll hire anybody who’s got the skill. And it turns out, there’s three categories we found like that. One is construction, the other is truck driving, and the third is farm work.
Well, we were in the city, so farm work didn’t count. Construction is interesting, but it requires very physical hands-on teaching. So, it’s not scalable. It’s an apprenticeship thing. So it’s almost like you get hired by your uncle, and this guy didn’t have an uncle in the construction trade. So the last one was truck driving. And it turns out truck driving, there’s schools out there, and that cost about anywhere between two and $4,000. And the hardest part is passing the written permit exam. But once you do that, then getting behind the truck is very physical and it’s pretty easy. This guy is physical and he was able to learn it. So we sent him to truck driving school and 60 days later he had a job as a truck driver and making 60,000 a year. Now it’s what? 14 years later and he’s married, three kids, and he’s doing great. And I used to do that with three, four, or five people a year and it was really fun. I really enjoyed it. And one day, about four or five years ago, a friend of mine came along and he discovered what I was doing. He said, “Oh, my God, man, you’ve got to make this national.” I said, “No, I don’t.” He said, “Yeah, it’s your obligation. This is the most effective thing out there.”
So I said, “I’ll tell you what? I’ll do it if you do it with me. We will have board meetings every two months and you show up to it and then I get to hang out with you.” So he said, “Okay.” So we hired a guy named Jason Wang, who himself been incarcerated for many years, amazing guy, and he now runs it. And I think this year they’ll probably put 1,000 felons in truck jobs. And of the hundreds that Jason’s put there so far, I think the recidivism rate is like one percent. It’s insanely low because it turns out that criminality is an economic problem. If you don’t have enough money to buy food, it turns out you still have to eat and you’ll resort to illegitimate activity in order to eat. But if people get a legitimate job that turns out their problem of eating goes away and they no longer have to resort to criminal activity.
It’s not like they’re committing crimes because they want to, they’re committing crimes because they feel they have to. And that’s it. The organization’s called FreeWorld, and I’m scrolling quickly. I think it’s in dozens of states now and doing well. Sorry, that was a very long answer to a very —
Tim Ferriss: You don’t have to be sorry at all. I am really glad that you’ve opened up and shared all of that. And I imagine a lot of people listening will have had an emotional reaction to that in some way or another. I imagine many of them were paying very, very close attention. And I would love to ask you a follow-up, and I’ll do this by way of sharing a story about a friend of mine who’s not a prototype, but an example of conversations I’ve had many times with founders. They start a company, maybe it does well, maybe it doesn’t, but at some point along the line, they have ceased to have the need to make more money really. They’ll figure out a way to spend more money if they have more money plausibly, but they don’t really need more money. And what I hear often is, “Man, I am done with startups. No more startups. I’m going to make a woodworking shop and I’m going to have a small group of people who help me with art projects, and this, this, and this, and fuck startups. What a massive amount of headache. I’m never doing that again.”
Now, the reason I’m bringing this up is looking at you, watching you tell this story, I mean, there’s so much deep emotion, and I have to imagine there’s a lot of gratification. I must imagine that it’s very rewarding and meaningful to you. It seems like you are building another startup. And I just have to wonder, not to say that it’s not something you should do, but I wonder, I would love to hear why, given all the things that you could spend time on?
Matt Mochary: You’re right, it was a startup, but remember I kept it small. I kept it three or four or five guys a year, which I could do very easily through text and phone calls. And to make it big, I didn’t want to take that on. So I hired someone to do it, and then I coached him. And we’d meet once a month and I coach him just like I coach anyone else of a big tech startup. I’m not running those startups. And I would say the reason I came back to coaching frankly, was because I did say, I’m not doing any more startups myself. I don’t need the money, like you said, and it’s just a lot of work. But I then realized there was some part of it that I actually did miss.
I missed the conversations, I miss the strategizing. I miss the feeling like things I did had a slightly wider impact in the world than just my home. And I thought to myself, how can I get the good without the bad, the bad being having to do all the work? And I realized, wait a second, if I coach, then I can be in all the conversations, but I don’t actually have to do the work. And so that was actually an impetus for me starting coaching. And it turned out to be even better than I thought. I literally get to feel like I’m part of the creation of ChatGPT, and I didn’t have to do any work. I just coached Sam Altman back in the day at OpenAI. And so I think it is sort of having my cake and eating it too. But it also allows me to do this effort with training truck drivers.
And there’s an awesome effort in Kauai where we’ve built a vocational school for construction skills, as I mentioned, that’s one of the other categories, and for free to the students, and it’s working and it’s for the local Hawaiians, and it’s working incredibly well. But again, there, I’m not running it. I’m coaching the guy who is running it. And that to me allows me to feel like I’ve got my hands in many pieces without actually taking on the burden. And it reminds me of a time I once went to a friend’s ranch in south Texas and he brings us to a pond and he brings out shotguns. There’s doves that fly over the pond and we’re supposed to shoot the doves over the pond. I don’t even know what they were, birds. I didn’t hit a damn thing. And it was getting pretty frustrating. And there was a guy on the other side, I could see he was clearly the best shot.
And so what I did was I just walked around the pond and I stood next to that guy, and then when the birds came over, we would both shoot at the same time, the bird would be hit and would go down. And it was unclear who actually hit the bird. So in my mind, I could imagine that it might have been me, which of course we all know it wasn’t. But then it became much more satisfying. And so that’s what I feel like when I coach. It’s obviously the CEO who’s doing this, but I get to, in some small way, imagine that maybe I actually had some impact too.
Tim Ferriss: What rules or guide rails do you have for yourself in your current business? And the reason I ask is that in profiles and so on, they’ve mentioned your annual recurring revenue and profit margins and growth rates and so on and so forth. And not to say that you fall into this category, but to quote, I think it’s AA, “If you don’t want to slip, don’t go where it’s slippery.” And people who have had a good track record of making money, sometimes when they get a hit of that dope again, they fall back into old habits, get pulled back into operational roles, et cetera. So what rules or guide rails have you set for yourself in terms of what you will do, what you won’t do? I’d love to know how you think about that.
Matt Mochary: So what I did was when I first started coaching, in the beginning I invested, but when I looked back over the first 20 people I coached and I saw where is there any friction that’s occurred here? And I noticed there were two people there was friction, and both of it was around equity. And one was, “Hey Matt…” he wanted to do another round and the company frankly wasn’t performing. And he said, “Matt, you’ve got to lead the round.” And I was like, “Oh, no, I don’t.” He said, “But if you don’t lead it, then no one else will because they know that.”
Tim Ferriss: It’s a negative signal.
Matt Mochary: Exactly. I realized, oh, no, I’ve got to stop this entirely. So then I just went with this policy like no cash, no equity, no investing, no nothing. I am doing this for free. That’s it. And what I quickly realized also was that would force me to only interact with people that I love and do things that I love because it would be pure insanity for me to do anything that I didn’t love when I was doing it for free. And I did that for many, many years until I knew exactly who I loved and what I loved. And there was no more question about that. Now, recently, a bunch of the CEOs that I coach have said to me within the past two years, three years, “Matt, your system is amazing. I’d like to use it with my entire company, but I don’t want to have to play your role, Matt. I don’t want to have to teach each person how to do it because it’s all on a Google Doc, to teach people. Can you please make software that just makes it plug and play?”
And Brian Armstrong was the first person to ask me this, and I was like, Brian, you’re an engineer and you’ve got at the time, 500 engineers on staff. Now he’s probably got two or 3,000. I was like, “I’m not an engineer and I don’t have any engineers on staff. Why don’t you go build it?” He’s like, “No, man, I’ve got to stay doing crypto and I can’t deviate.” And so I was like, “Well, I’m not doing it.” And then Steve Huffman from Reddit asked me the same thing, and then the next person and the next person. And finally after about a while ago, this is about two years ago, I said, “Okay, I’ll do this, but then you’re all going to have to participate because I’m not going to go into my pocket to pay developers to build software so that you guys can have it. You guys have to now pay your fair share of the developers.”
So now people pay and it all goes to developers. I don’t take a penny because I still want to maintain the, I’m not getting any cash out of this because again, I want to stay pure to what’s really joyful and that I love. That’s how I do it. That’s how I not get sucked in again, although you could argue, I’ve gotten sucked into this software company.
Tim Ferriss: So if you got sucked in and there was complexity creep and all of a sudden you woke up one day and you’re like, “Fuck,” what would your extrication plan look like?
Matt Mochary: It would be one of two things. It would be, “Hey team, I’m shutting this down,” or “Hey, team, I’m no longer doing this, would one of you like to take over?” That would be it.
Tim Ferriss: I’d like to ask you just a few more questions and then we can wind to any closing comments or requests in my audience you might have. We talked about fear and anger at the very beginning of this conversation, and I’ve read that your trigger emotion, or one of them, is anger. So what role has anger played in your life and what have been effective tools or approaches for downregulating when need be? I think it could be very valuable to me to hear this, and I’m sure to many other people, and I’ve read, for instance, I think this is from Regina, where she discusses times when she’s open, she has the ability to say, “Matt, I perceive you to be in anger,” and then you stop talking. You sit there, but you don’t say anything until you’ve shifted out of that anger. But the mechanism by which you shift out of anger is so far invisible to me. So I’d love to hear anything you have to say about all that.
Matt Mochary: The shifting out of anger often is just time. Just as time goes by, I start to realize, whoa, I don’t need to be this angry. Two, breathing, breath work seems to calm the nervous system. Exercise clearly does, heat like sauna or anything heating up the core, frankly, drinking hot tea heats the core as well. Anything that chemically alters my brain state, simply getting up and going to a different physical space, walking into another room, all these things change my perception of the world. And so having someone outside of me who says, “Hey, you’re in anger,” that’s fantastic and a good hack, but it’s not 100 percent and it’s not foolproof.
And the problem with anger is that the people who experience my anger the most are the people who are around me the most. They’re the people who I love the most. They’re my coworkers and they’re my family. And so what I found was is that, and they would tell me this, my family tells me this too, and I’ll catch myself, but there’s a moment in there where they may feel too much fear to even mention it to me. They may go into freeze themselves, and then I’ve already acted in anger and then they feel extreme pain. And so Tim, you’ve be transparent with me, I’ll be transparent with you. I am also recently out of a relationship, but mine was an 18-year marriage with three children, and it ended because of my anger. And my wife had expressed to me many, many times, “Zero anger, Matt, zero. You can’t act in anger at me at all.” And I’d gotten to the point where I could mute myself and catch myself or have her catch me and shift out of it quite quickly.
But there was a moment of something that happened and I acted in anger and she said, “That’s it.” And for many years she’d been trying to share with me that it’s zero, it can’t even start. But I didn’t think that was possible. I didn’t think that you could not go to anger ever. That seemed unrealistic to me, so I didn’t try to find out about that ’cause it seemed like a myth. And the day after she shared this with me, I’m surrounded by coaches. So I happened to be talking to a coach, world-class, and he shared with me, he said, “Matt, anger is not a base emotion. Anger is a cover for pain. But if you allow yourself…” Because it’s so painful that the brain doesn’t want to experience it, so it takes it and shoves it outward as anger, but all you’re doing is taking your own pain and shoving it on the people around you.
So he said, “I want you right now to think of what is causing you pain. What about that situation that you got angry about is causing you pain? And just share it with me.” So I started to think about it and started to share, and all of a sudden words came out, and all of a sudden tears started to come out. And it was so painful, and I realized, oh, my God I’ve never felt this before. I’ve never actually felt pain before until now. And immediately I didn’t feel anger. Now it sucked. I hated feeling the pain, but I stayed in it and that was six, seven months ago and I have purposely not numbed myself in any way. No drugs, no alcohol, no comfort foods even. I’ve lost 50 pounds in the last six months because I’m eating so cleanly, and the result has been I’ve sat in that pain and Tim, I have not experienced anger I don’t think in that whole time. So you want the real answer?
Tim Ferriss: Mm-hmm.
Matt Mochary: Allow yourself to feel pain.
Tim Ferriss: This is important for me to hear, how do you that? I mean, this might sound like a dumb question, but I don’t think it’s going to sound dumb to you because it sounds like you and I have perhaps a very similar experience. So if someone had said, “Just allow yourself to feel the pain,” I wouldn’t even know what that means. Physical pain sure, but to make that shift, how do you do that?
Matt Mochary: Well, let’s go back. Let’s pick a real example. So we can even pick an example — well, I’ll let you pick the example. Where’s a place recently that you felt anger?
Tim Ferriss: I mean, it’s a dumb example, but seeing that piece this morning honestly, that media piece. And I’ve developed generally pretty thick skin with that stuff, I think what bothered me — well, one of the aspects that bothered me, and then we can keep going, is that the piece was actually very well written. So I was like, this is laziness and [inaudible] unfair because this person has the chops, they actually know how to write, whereas, if it’s just shitty a piece from start to finish, I’m like, “Eh, whatever. Take the bad with the good. So it goes.” So I think that example is the most present for me right now and just the easiest one.
Matt Mochary: Perfect. So now we experience things at three different levels, we experience things as physical sensations, as emotions and as thoughts. So when you think about the what hurts you about this because there is pain here that you’re experiencing, where in your physical body do you experience a sensation?
Tim Ferriss: I would say that I experience it in my throat, which is very common.
Matt Mochary: Perfect.
Tim Ferriss: Sort of the lower half of my throat and then a bit in the chest and probably also prefrontal.
Matt Mochary: Perfect. So as you breathe, I want you to imagine yourself breathing into those areas. So pick one and breathe into that area. So it’s just causing you to focus on that physical area and that physical sensation. And I want you to then think of the pain that this experience causes you. And I want you to share with me the thoughts that occur as you focus on that physical sensation and think about the pain and the hurt, this unfairness, this injustice, this exposing of you in a way that isn’t even true in your mind. How does that hurt? Why does that hurt?
Tim Ferriss: Yeah. I would say it hurts because in some respects, Stoicism has, I think, saved my life literally in combination with other tools, and so it became a very valuable lifeboat of sorts at times of feeling lost or finding myself in dark places. And so I made a very deliberate decision to try to share Stoicism, Seneca, Marcus Aurelius, et cetera, starting in the 2000s. And then bought the audio rights to The Obstacle Is the Way by Ryan Holiday, which was sort of his biggest hit that also puts Stoicism on the map for a lot of people, including high performers. Which then sort of created this self propagating cycle, which then I think helped open Stoicism up to the mainstream. So he deserves, of course, a huge amount of credit to make this ancient philosophy, perhaps one of the most unsexy of things in the modern world, take a toe hold in a way that I think has helped not to take full credit, but maybe partial credit in driving that relentlessly for years where it’s helped so many people and saved lives. I mean, legitimately, people who are suicidal have emailed me. I feel very attached to that. I feel very proud of that. I think Ryan should as well.
So when someone is clearly smart but lazy or maybe just deliberately misrepresenting how things happened, it’s very hurtful. It’s very upsetting to me. I think in part because it’s such an important tool that if someone casually minimizes it as something for tech bros who have too much money and are looking for some excuse to enjoy their excess, I’m just like, “No, that’s completely wrong. Not only is it wrong, but I know you know it’s wrong.” I take it very personally and I’m not proud of taking it personally. And I’m once again aware of the irony of talking about Stoicism while talking about feeling hurt by words on a screen, which is also, I hope, reassuring to people on some level because Stoicism is a practice, it is not an ever-present, non-fluctuating state. And it is a set of practices, so this is an opportunity to practice. But I would say unpacking that partially, at least to the extent that I can put words to it, explain the pain, right? The hurt that one would feel.
Matt Mochary: Yes, so here’s what I’m hearing. “Matt, Stoicism literally saved my life and I want to share it with others because I figured that I wasn’t alone. And you know what? I have shared it and I’ve heard from people, from many others that it’s also massively improved, if not saved, their lives. And there are thousands and thousands more that as this expands out will continue to experience this and it will likely save their lives or at least improve their lives. And this article made light of all that, and made it sound like you shouldn’t try this, you shouldn’t even try it and that’s what hurts. Is that I can see, I can now imagine many people who would benefit from Stoicism won’t even try it because they’ve read this article and that just makes me sad. But then also it makes it look like I’ve done this thing that I just did it to help people and it makes me look like I’m a bad person for doing that, and that makes me sad that I get painted into this negative light.” Is that even close?
Tim Ferriss: Yeah, I would say a lot of that lands. And the piece interestingly was not totally anti-Stoicism, in fact, the writer claimed to be this long-term Stoic, but wanted to point out some of the downside risks of Stoicism, which I found interesting. I thought that that’s an article worth writing, what are the shadow elements if perhaps taken to an extreme or followed too literally, for example? But I would say the other, which I think is partially what made it sting so much, because I was like, this person thinks. They’re capable of thinking, but either they didn’t do enough homework or they’re just looking for a sensational paragraph so that they can paint themselves on the thoughtful, positive side while putting someone as a strawman on the opposite side. Which was upsetting because it’s all been done for free. He gave away three compilations of Seneca’s writing called The Tao of Seneca, free PDFs, anybody can find them. Huge project, really time consuming. In any case, but yes, I would say a lot of that lands.
Matt Mochary: Perfect. So as long as you can keep sitting with that pain, if you focus on the pain, you won’t go to anger likely. But you’ll notice as you described it a boundary was crossed, and this is where anger is valuable. Anger points out a red flag, someone just crossed a boundary that I have. And your boundary is making Stoicism appear to be not valuable so people don’t even try it, and making you appear to have bad intent when you know only have good intent. Those are two boundaries that just got crossed by this article. And if you then can stay feeling your pain, not feeling the anger, and if you want to open up conversation with this person and say, hey, I’d just like to chat and share only here’s a boundary that I have. You crossed it. Here’s how it impacted me. I don’t know if you care or not, but if you do then I’d love to see you do something different. And what’s interesting is, Tim, that when you share your pain and a boundary that got crossed, you’re never accusing. You’re just saying, “This is what’s going on with me,” and people are actually open to hearing that.
But anger is “You!” And instantly people’s brains will shut down and they won’t hear a goddamn word you say. So in terms of being effective and influential in changing behavior, anger is a zero and expressing your pain and the boundary that got crossed is larger than a zero. It has a chance of being effective. So you just [inaudible] out, you’d have to keep that practice going and keep each time this happens thinks, how does this hurt? And really say it out to yourself, say it out to someone, write it down on a piece of paper, write a poem about it, that’s actually insanely effective — I don’t know why — and it will prevent you from even going to anger and it’ll make you much more effective in your relationships. Now, I’m yet to start a new relationship, so I’m not the expert here and clearly I failed in mine, but I’m hoping that I will be able to test out in a new relationship how not going to anger makes it a much more harmonious relationship.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah, thank you, Matt. I mean, just talking about it honestly is helpful. And I think it’s notable for me also because, and I must give credit where credit is due, my ex was such a spectacular communicator and so emotionally intelligent and effective at persuading me to take workshops that never in a million years would 25-year-old Tim consider for a nanosecond. Whether it’s the work of the Hendricks or non-violent communication, the anger shows up much, much less for me now. It could just be plummeting testosterone levels as I get older, who knows? I’ll take whatever I can get in that department frankly. And I think for that reason this morning was notable. I was like, “Wow, I’m getting really — to use more active language, I am allowing this to trigger me or I am triggering myself by reading this article. What the fuck is going on here? Why is my response so noticeable?” And I appreciate you taking me through the practice because I do think this is something that’ll be valuable to me. Matt, and we’ve covered a lot of ground today and I really appreciate you taking all of the time that you have.
Matt Mochary: Thank you.
Tim Ferriss: People can find you online at themoacharymethod.com, M-O-C-H-A-R-Y, on Twitter at @mattmochary. Is there anything else that you would like to add? Any requests of the audience, anything you’d like to point people to? Anything at all that you would like to say or ask before we wind up?
Matt Mochary: No, it’s been super fun, Tim. And we’re going to post the link to the entire curriculum, which is all free as you pointed out before. I am completely full in terms of my coaching, but I actually have hired other coaches who I think are frankly better than I am. So people who want the Mochary Method applied, we have coaches that can help them do it and that’s it.
Tim Ferriss: All right, man. Well, I appreciate the time once again. And to everybody listening, as per usual we will link to everything in the show notes at tim.blog/podcast. You can just search Matt and he will no doubt be one of the first results. And until next time, just be a bit kinder than is necessary. That includes to yourself, if you’re feeling anger, see if you can find the pain. And as always, thanks for tuning in. Until next time.
Matt Mochary: Thanks, Tim.
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