How to Create Work That Lasts with Ryan Holiday
Hey everybody, how's it going I'm Chase. Welcome to another episode of the Chase Jarvis Live show here on Creative Live. This is a show where I sit down with the world's top creators, entrepreneurs and thought leaders. And I do everything I can to unpack their brains and bring valuable information to you with the hope of you living your dreams and career and hobby and in life. My guest today is a New York Times Best Selling author, he was the former director of marketing for American Apparel and then wrote one of my favorite books of all time, called Trust Me I'm Lying, about media manipulation. Then a book called the Obstacle is the Way which has helped popularize stoic philosophy. And we're here to talk about his new book, Perennial Seller, my guest today is the amazing Ryan Holiday.
Thanks man. (upbeat music) (audience applauds)
They love you. Thank you for being on the show!
Of course. And you were my first big interview that I ever did.
Second time on the show.
nd the first one was right at Trust Me I'm Lying. Which was like four years ago now? Three years ago?
Five at least, yeah.
I'll never go five years without you being on the show.
That means we've been doing this for a long time.
Yeah. You could say that it's a perennial show.
Bom, bom, shh! We're going to unpack the book, but before we do. We're in Austin, Texas. We were just talking about you were, the last time you were on this show you were living in the middle of Los Angeles, were you not?
Yeah I think, I either in Los Angeles or I lived in New York.
Yeah, so one of those two places.
Super urban, I thought of you of like, crazy renegade marketer who is hacking billboards for American Apparel and helping people launch best selling books of their own. And now we're in Austin, Texas. You were just talking about you drove past the farm store.
Massive life change. So have you moved to the country to write? Or what's the story behind your life transformation?
I think I think one of the reasons I left New York was that there was too much going on in New York and it was very hard to do work that I liked. In the sense of when you're in Manhattan, and even when I'm there like on business, there's an unlimited amount of things, not only that you can do sort of culturally, or sight seeing or whatever. But there's so many people there doing really great work. And it almost feels like you're being irresponsible not taking certain meetings, taking certain jobs, going to certain events. And so I found it was like incredibly hard, not just to write, but to do any sort of thinking or any of the work that had propelled me to be able to afford to move to New York City in the first place. And so when I, one of the, first I just moved to Austin, just to like Austin proper. And part of it was like, I won't feel bad not being at--
The party, right.
a party in New York City if I live in Austin, because I live in Austin and I shouldn't be there, right? So it was like, it was a way of just sort of radically saying no and simplifying things. And then as things are want to do, it quickly snowballed from me living on the east side of Austin to living very east of Austin on a cow ranch. (laughs) Which has been great.
I follow you on Instagram, of course I follow everything you do. And I'm watching you feed carrots to donkeys. (Chase laughs)
Yeah this morning I woke up and one of our long horns had jumped over the fence. So you spend all this time making this barbed wire fence. Of course they can't go through the fence and you think you've all got it. And then you just watch this, you know 1,500 pound animal just, right over the fence. (Chase laughs) Yeah, I don't know it keeps me busy in a way that's not, it's very the opposite of what I do for a living. And having that balance has been really, really good for me.
I will jump in that bandwagon. I love working with my hands. And so much of the work I'm doing right now is very,
It's, it's very, yeah it's very cerebral work and it's leadership and inspiring others and learning from others and applying that to the Creative Live world, or to make videos and whatever we're doing. And I still love, we had a, mostly in San Francisco now, we have a home in Seattle and we had a big remodel.
There was some, I got to get like into it a little bit.
Felt so good.
I think it feels good, it's also, it takes you away from what you're doing, but I've also found it's very humbling, too. So like, all the things I do on my farm they don't require you to be smart in the way that I always thought of myself as smart. So it's like, we're having this garden built and it's like, I hired my 16 year old neighbor to like show, (Chase laughs) to do 98% of the work. And then I'm just sort of involved on the periphery. But it's like, there's not a lot things that 16 year olds are often showing me how to do. Or there's not a lot of things that I'm having to watch YouTubes videos to like figure out. And so it's like the farm stuff you don't have to be smart, you just have to be patient and you have to be tough, right? That's so just the opposite of what I do on the computer, or what I do when I'm writing. I think it's made better at the other things that I do.
I love the connection. I'm gonna go back five years ago to Trust Me I'm Lying. And maybe even how you got into that whole world, 'cause you were a marketer.
And so talk to me about A, how you ended up in marketing and then the transition to, you know maybe how you identify today.
Yeah, so five years ago I sort of sat down and wrote a book, which today we would say is sort of about fake news and about the manufacturing of fake news, and how the system can be and is, sort of manipulated by marketers to sort of get messages out into this very noisy world.
And whether marketers are companies or politicians or messages.
Yeah. How information spreads in this sort of internet age. I thought I was basically sort of lighting my marketing career on fire by, literally like destroying it by writing this book. And it sort of went the opposite direction, and I started a company that's worked with all sorts of cool clients since then. But what it really opened up for me was the idea of writing as a profession. And so that was my first book, and then I've done now, I think I'm on my sixth book. So six books in five years it's been let's say exhausting, to put it mildly. Just the idea of being able to wake up and have an idea and write about it and communicate it to an audience, to me is, not only is that the end of marketing, like the goal of marketing, but that's sort of very creatively fulfilling. I would say I sort of identify as a writer first and then I keep my hand in the marketing world as a way of keeping things interesting and then also making sure that I'm not, I don't ever just want to be on the sidelines, sort of talking about how things might be going. I want to actually know.
Be doing the work.
So when you wrote your first book, I'm gonna go back to the fake news comment.
Of course when you, the political environment here in the United States is unlike anything I think that anybody saw coming, or if you saw it coming and you talked about it, people would like downplay it.
You say, go ahead.
Yeah, I mean it's, what I was writing the book about, one of the messages I felt in the book was like here's how I'm doing this when I work with author clients or when I work with clothing companies or when I work with funny people who are trying to get, like trying to do some prank or some stunt. And to me the ultimate message of the book was if I can do this so easily with these things that don't matter, what do you think people with more resources and less ethics are gonna be able to do? And I would say that, I don't want to say that message was dismissed,
but it was, there was a lot of shooting the messenger there and I think that came at our peril. I mean if you, and I don't think we want to talk about politics on this show, but it is interesting to think that Donald Trump was, has been talking about running for president since longer than I've been alive. Like his first, I think it was '86, '87. So he's talking about it. And then every four years he would talk about it again. And so what changes in 2015 and it's that these forces that have been operating in our media system for so long, got to a stage where this sort of act became real.
And that's very, very alarming. So I think people need to understand these things, not just like defensively,
because you don't want to be manipulated. How many people were sort of, they wake up every morning and they're upset and they don't know why they're upset and they don't see what's acting on them. And then also you have to know that these are the things that you're competing with. Whether you love Donald Trump or hate Donald Trump, what he is an embodiment of how information spreads and operates in 2017. And you need to know, okay at the very, one of the things I remember I was saying that was people that was put in your last show. You know you have this charity that's supposed to help, you know kids in Africa or you have this message of inspiration or hope about, some thing you deeply believe in. And then you're competing with cats and internet pornography and fake news and all of these things, so we're all competing in the Facebook feed for everyone's attention.
And if you don't know how to break through that you're gonna wonder why no one knows who you are.
So true. And to me that was, I would say made, largely made my photography career on the back of information spreading quickly.
So that's one of the reasons that I was initially, besides just was it Tim that introduced us?
Yeah I think so.
Tim Ferriss. Besides just being friends with another, you having mutual friends, I was fascinated because I hadn't deconstructed like effectively deconstructed my own success. And it was largely around information moving quickly. And the information of how to take amazing photographs in a world, wasn't just about some special technique that I had. That if, the information was gonna spread and that information was gonna be available to everyone, so you can like lean into it and leave with it, or pretend it doesn't exist and try to keep it quiet for as long as you can. And so I was the recipient of the benefit of sharing before it was trendy to do so. And when I saw the similarity to, I mean I aware of why I was doing it and that it was effective. But when I saw it as, "Wow this is going to be much bigger than, "my little world."
And today to have it affect politics the way it does and international news has been a mind blower, so.
Well you think about advertising right. It like on the one hand, as the photographer let's say, their job is to take this photo that's supposed to sell the product in the magazine or on TV or in social media. But then actually what advertising has really become, given the infinite amount of news sources we have, is really it's supposed to generate discussion and attention and chatter. And so it really changes what a lot of people's roles are. It's like, no my job isn't to capture how the shoe looks. My job is to capture the way the show looks in such a way that other people will start talking about it on Twitter. So these forces sort of crank up how controversial and interesting and provocative, or crazy or weird things have to be. And if you just think your job is to take the best photo possible, you're gonna be continually disappointed why your work's not breaking through.
I just read that Adidas passed Jordan as the number two sneaker brand.
It used to be Nike, then Jordan and then Adidas was, their market share didn't equal, they're whole global market share didn't equal to what Jordan was in the US. And there were people just a couple years ago saying they should just totally throw in the towel.
And through tapping into cultural icons, for example, they have used that, whether it's unintentional or intentional or just like we're gonna go celebrity route or whatever. And that has, the fact that people are talking about Adidas, making Adidas different and interesting. Is more valuable than all of the actual advertising in and of itself.
Yeah, of course, or you look at like cryptocurrencies. How much of it is that people are like, "Oh I really believe in this." Or how much of it is like, "Everyone's talking about it, "so I must," these things we're just so exposed to them and get so much attention that they, they become real. And that's both really empowering and really terrifying at the same time.
I'm gonna shift gears from, from Trust Me I'm Lying, to Stoic Philosophy.
A very natural transition.
Yeah of course. But to me it's, it is natural because it explains so much of your recent success. I'm unabashedly applying a lot of this to my life. And I grew up, I don't know if a lot of people know this, but I was in a PhD program in philosophy. And people ask me all the time, or I remember my parents saying, "Are you gonna philosophize about being unemployed?"
Or like, you know. What is philosophy? When I met my wife Kate she was like, philosophy she's was like, "That's like sociology, "it's like whatever path is gonna get you "the shortest, the quickest degree." And yet it has been a tool for critical thinking. And when I think about stoic philosophy I remember learning about it a little bit back then. But you've brought this just with a, maybe even the first book The Obstacle's the Way, you thrust it into the limelight of popular culture, now it's everywhere. All the football coaches are talking about it, strategists, politics, pop culture, it's everywhere. What, give us a little back story.
It's kind of sad, right that this thing that we've done as a society or culture for like thousands of years is dismissed as this thing for academics. And it's obviously a tool for critical thinking that you even got that out of it is like unique or unusual, right? But the truth was for most of its history, ancient philosophy was not this academic discipline. It wasn't about thought exercises. It was supposed to be sort of practical lessons for what they would call the art of living. And so, the stoics almost didn't believe in what people were writing they were like, "How do you live your life? "What do you do?" And so, I, that's the kind of philosophy that I'm really interested in. There's a line--
Is it practical, is that practicality?
Is that what it is about it, or?
Yeah, so Epicurus who wasn't a stoic, but he would say "Vain is the word of the philosopher "which does not heal the suffering of man." Like the point is it's supposed to help you in your life do what you're doing. Or Marcus Aurelius who is one of the stoics he would say that, "No role is so well suited "to philosophy as the one you're in right now." The idea is you're a photographer, you're an emperor, you're a writer, you're a janitor, how can you apply these principles in your actual life? Right it's not, can you have this interesting debate about, do we exist or not? Is this a computer simulation? They would say like, "What should you do when "you feel your temper coming up? "What should you do when, you know, "you're in a position of power or leadership? "What do you do "when you start to think about the fact "that you might only have 20 or 30 years left in your life? "Or what do you do when a friend of yours passes?" Those are the kinds of situations that they would say that philosophy is designed for. And so I was really interested in it, specifically there's one exercise from Marcus Aurelius that the book is based on. Where he basically is saying, "The impediment to action advances action. "When it stands in the way it becomes a way." And really what he meant is that we don't control what happens we control how we respond. And that's the sort of element of stoicism that I've tried to introduce as a writer. Yeah it's shocking, the New England Patriots read it on the way to the Super Bowl in 2014. And then they beat the Seahawks.
You shut up.
They beat the Seahawks.
I'm just kidding. (laughs) I love my Seahawks, that was the worst game ever, sorry.
And then they, well so that's what's so interesting. It's like you lose a game, on the one yard line, that you thought you were gonna win. That the decision you made in probably 99 times out of 100 should have given you that win.
I sat in P. Carroll's office in his chair and he was like, look, what do you, he was talking about, what do you do in that situation? Like how do you? And these are precisely the situations that
yeah, the philosophy's designed for. 'Cause you can't go back in time, you can't undo what you did, you only control what you learn from that situation, how you carry yourself forward. You know what I loved, and he hadn't read the book yet, so this is all him, you know P. Carroll's response afterwards. You know they're blaming the quarterback, they're blaming the receiver and he's like, "I made the call, it was my decision and I own it." That is a philosophical decision, to decide to take responsibility for something that you very easily could have pushed off on someone else.
So that's the kind of philosophy that I'm really interested in.
So. What I, would like to do is take the, 'cause even still conceptually.
There is a barrier from people saying like, "I really want to embrace stoic philosophy "as a mechanism to," again the audience who are listening here largely, creative, entrepreneurial, you know that's what I lean into in my profession and that's what Creative Live stands for. And so for the folks at home that are going like, "Whoa, stoic philosophy." Now let's now go specific. And in even the Seahawks and the Super Bowl, those are some abstract things.
Right. Well so first off they're probably not saying by the way, "That sounds super boring, "I don't want to do any of that." (Chase laughs) But I get what you're saying. So the way that I sort of, stoicism is basically three disciplines that I talk about. So the first is perception. So how do you look at this situation, right? Any situation. Someone is rude to you, your company's in trouble.
You need to get your work out there and be discovered and seen.
So do you look at it as this, this negative situation, do you look at it as being, totally unfair, do you look at it as impossible? The way you're gonna look at it is largely gonna determine how you're going to be able to respond. Not The Secret, not like wish that it's good and it becomes good, but like how are you going to see it and what are you going to focus on? So the stoics would say, first off you want to look at it as objectively as possible. They would say like, "There's no good or bad. "There's just how we look at things." Like which is true, right? Because a negative situation to you, there's somebody in another country who would literally kill for the opportunity to have that amazing thing happen to them.
So what you take from that is, that, "Oh wait, how I see this, "the perspective that I look at this thing, "is gonna change whether it's, "it's gonna change what I'm gonna be able to do with it." And that we have a huge amount of power. On the one hand it's sort of disempowering to think that we don't control, 98% of what happens to us in life. A car crashes through your living room, your plane is delayed, you know an investor backs out, all these things, you don't control those decisions, 'cause other people make, and physics.
But, that final 2% is like what we tell ourselves that those things are or me. Do you know what I mean?
Like I had a thing that went south a couple days ago and I got this nasty email and there might be some dispute over money about it. And I was really upset about it and then I was thinking like, "Well first off, what did I do wrong in this situation?" And I did a number of things wrong that led up to it happening. And so it's like, "Okay. "Let me take responsibility for those." And then second, "Is this not a wake up call about those things?" So obviously I'm gonna try to fix this situation I'm gonna get it right, maybe I am in the right, but at the very least this is gonna wake me out of a, wake me up out of a sort of a stupor or a status quo where I allowed these things to happen. Does that make sense?
So like that, the perception that we bring to things is like the most, that's probably the most important discipline of stoicism.
And is there, is there a sense of it's almost like awareness practice where you're asking yourself a question, "Like what does this mean?"
Yeah. Well if you think, so Marcus Aurelius, his famous book is called Meditations. Right, so? He's meditating on these ideas, not in sort of a zen pose, but he's writing, we have this book that survives from this great man, where he was just sort of like... You know there's this one line I love where he goes like, "Are you afraid of death "because you won't be able to do this anymore?" And he's like just implying like whatever crap that he did that day, that was a total waste of time. You know one of those days where you're just like doing nothing and then he's like, "Wait, "this is what I'm protecting?" And so he's like, he's just working on these things mentally and he's also writing them down, I think journaling sort of part of it. But yeah it's, let make sure we're thinking about these things right.
So you talked about a framework.
And the first part of that framework is really thinking like, "Wait, what does this mean? "What attitude am I going to bring to this challenge?" And this is where I love the practicality of this system. And you know, I've seen it in the Obstacles the Way and just your work everywhere. But talk to me about steps two and three.
So one is how you look
what your attitude is.
Then what do you do with this information, right? Again not The Secret, not like, "Hey I, "this horrible thing happened "and I said it's positive so it becomes positive." Right, no it's like what do you do with this information? I think one of the most compelling examples of this if we go historically is, you think about, you think about Eisenhower in the second world war and over and over again this sort of German Blitzkrieg has just had this devastating effect on the Allied Forces. And after D-Day it's this massive counteroffensive, like 200,000 German men in tanks. And there's this scene where Eisenhower he calls all of his generals in this conference room and he walks in and he says, "Look, "I want you to see this as an opportunity "and not as a disaster." And he says, "There will only be cheerful faces "at this conference table." So that's sort of the, that's the perspective side of things. What he's done is he looked at it differently and he realizes that this sort of massive counteroffensive, this offensive mindset that the enemy is doing is also desperately overreaching. Right, so they're rushing at you. If you break and you are intimidated by this then it works. But if you absorb it and you encircle it, then there's an opportunity there. So this is what they do, if you think about this first happens at the Falaise Pocket and then at the Battle of the Bulge. Well people have heard of the Battle of the Bulge. What you don't realize is that the Battle of the Bulge was the Nazis thinking that they're winning, right they create this giant bulge in the Allied lines. But then slowly the bulge begins to close around them. So the discipline of perception is how am I gonna see this? What good is in this terrible situation? And then how can I take action and decisions based on this information? How can I exploit this opportunity? Which he does and it becomes this, basically they take something like 50, German prisoners in the Battle of the Bulge alone. And so it's this idea of catching yourself, seeing it differently than everyone else, and then doing or zooming in on that thing that that other people aren't willing to do or aren't able to see. So the second discipline of stoicism then is action. You have to make this into something. Just because you see it, is not enough.
Take some notes, and now it needs to be active.
Yeah. We both know Casey Neistat and Casey's saying I remember at this interview he did a couple months ago or years ago. And someone just was like, "Look I want to run "this idea for a business by you." And he was like, "I don't care about your idea." He said, "Tell me when you've started it, "and then show me what you've made. "And then maybe there's something to do together."
And I think that's true on books, or movies, or companies, or just, people are like, "I'm thinking about running a marathon." Well who cares, right? (Chase laughs) I'm thinking about doing a lot of things that I never do, right?
So what are you gonna do? And what is your actual plan for doing so? I think that's the critical variable.
That is number two?
That's two, the third discipline would be the discipline of the will. How do you deal with those sort of overwhelming moments, when life just sort of kicks your ass, you know?
I tell the story of Thomas Edison in the book. And as an old man he's the most successful inventor in America and his factory burns down. And he rushes to the scene, it's still In flames and his son is standing there sort of shell shocked. And Edison famously goes you know, "Go get your mother, she's never gonna see "a fire like this again." And he's just sort of embraced this thing that he can't do anything about.
And he tells a reporter that, "This prevents an old man from getting bored," essentially is what he says. And so the stoics have this image they call it, their metaphor is fire. Their translation was amore fati, which means a love of fate. But basically the idea was like anything you throw in front of a fire only fuels the fire. And so the stoics had this idea for the problems and difficulties that we face in life that they're even the ones that we can't do anything about can still transform us or change us in some way. And we always have that power. And so, they're almost, on the one hand they're almost like preparing for bad things to happen, they're almost visualizing them in advance. And then in some ways they're almost like looking forward to them, because they know it's gonna change them or improve them, and they'll make the most of it in some way.
The way I have, I have loved this so much. And the way I have translated this into a message for the folks who pay attention to what is that we're talking about here or the show, is that. When shit gets hard, and it will,
I 100% guarantee that if you commit yourself to anything that matters or is meaningful to you or any cross section of the world, shit's gonna get hard and when it does, you can either look at is as something that's there to keep you out, or as something that is there to keep everybody else out who doesn't want it as bad as you do.
No, I love that I say that all the time. I go like with books, if it were easy there'd be more amateurs doing it and there wouldn't be in any money in it, right? Like, what creates the financial upside or the, recognition or the things that people are after, is scarcity.
And so if it was easy, if everyone can do it, if it was naturally gonna go your way, if there weren't those walls keeping you out, it wouldn't be worth anything. It's like, no one's proud of you for knowing how to drive, because everyone knows how to drive, right? (Chase laughs) Like a 16 year old can learn how to do it, right? Like it's not an accomplishment. But you know, launching a company or building a brand, or working for this or that, these are things that not everyone can do. And that's why they're impressive.
Appealing, or impressive or yeah.
So. Let's, I'm gonna talk about ego for a second.
You have another book of the six now, I can't believe you've done six books man, that's nuts. The title of the book is Ego is the Enemy.
And, I think in, let's just talk about popular culture for a second, 'cause it goes hand in hand with ego. There's so much in popular culture, and I think so many creators and entrepreneurs as you try and stand out from everyone else. You know I advocate being different, not just better. But there's so much ego baked into, the highlight reel of one's self. Or the highlight reel of others, and comparing it to all your dirty laundry.
What role does ego play in both the success and if you don't believe it contributes to the success, to the problems for so many?
Well I make a big distinction between ego and confidence. I say like, I don't believe in myself, I have evidence. That's where, and I'm only gonna have confidence up until the point that the evidence supports it. And then everything is sort of beyond where I want to go. But the nice part about that is it's in my control, I can go get more evidence, I can go prove more things about myself. I think one of the things that's so hard about our culture, clearly ego's always been a problem, right? Going back to the Greeks. You know Hubris is the theme of all great Greek tragedies, right?
Tragedies, of course.
But you know Odysseus didn't have to have an Instagram account. (Chase laughs) Didn't care how many Twitter followers he had. I really pity very like people, you and I were both lucky enough to grow up, I was just on the other side of it, to grow up and become a fully formed human being without social media
warping who you were as you were becoming it.
Whew, yeah. Yeah I think about that a lot.
Cheryl Strayed says, "In your 20s you're becoming "who you're gonna become, so you might as well "not be an asshole." And, social media makes people into assholes, I think. Because, it's like when I look at my Instagram feed, I know that that's not my life. First off I know that I'm not that good of a photographer. (Chase laughs) That's it's the whole, the smartest programmers and designers in the world are working to make, to trick me into thinking that I'm better at this than I am. And then I only take photos of things that I think other people will like. And so, I know what happened in between those photos. But then when I look at other people's I'm not like, "Oh this is a snapshot of their life." I see them running up the steps of a private jet, or getting out of their Lamborghini, or on the beach in Bali or something. And you go like, "Well why am I not doing that? "Are they better than me? "Am I doing something wrong? "Should I feel bad about myself?"
And so. So these things are sort of working. On the one hand I would never dispute that this is not part of the age that we live in, that this isn't part of having a brand, that there isn't marketing. But, it used to be that only public people had to do that delicate balance between their image and who they actually were as a human being. And increasingly that's a problem we all have. Which is like how do you, how do you play the game without believing in it? And how do you do the marketing without marketing to yourself?
Wow. That is a, how do you marketing without marketing to yourself? Is that like a, fake 'til you make it thing in there?
Yeah it's like how do you play the hype game without buying into your own hype? And I think one of the things that I found about like really great companies and entrepreneurs and stuff is like, for instance, if I was like, "Pitch me Creative Live." You would give me the best pitch in the world,
'cause you know it. But then if I was like privately I was like, "Chase, "tell me all the problems with Creative Live." that would actually be a much longer list. So the like the CEO or the leader has to know, okay here's what we're working on, here's where we're going, here's what we sell to people. And then on the other hand you have to be this ruthless perfectionist who's zooming in on the, always trying to get better.
Yeah. And so I think as a person you have to know, you have to know what you're working on where you're weakness. If confidence is an understanding of your strengths, then you balance that out with humility by a very real understanding of your weaknesses. If ego is just has all the things you wish were true about yourself. Right, so it's the most (Chase laughs) dangerous because, you know it's like, "Look just because you believe "you can do something doesn't mean you can do it." On the other hand if you don't believe you can do it, you're probably not gonna do it. But, the idea of like faking it 'til you make it, to me is very dangerous.
Oh, it's toxic.
Yeah I've transformed that saying, I write fake it 'til you make it, and then I cross out the fake and I put make.
Right, just make it.
Make it until you make it.
And to me that's a little bit more healthy. But it's directly tied into that ego thing about, like feeding yourself your own bullshit. Like you think that's positive thinking or mental visualization, but it's really not, I think it's toxic and undermines your ability to succeed.
We both love Austin Kleon's work. I wrote about this in Perennial a bit, but I love his concept of like, you can't be the noun without doing the verb. And in some ways the healthiest thing is to almost forget the noun and fall in love with the verb. And then that way it's like, you're not even concerned with how these things are coming off, because... I'm not thinking, I got very lucky when the Obstacles the Way really started to blow up, because I had already sold Ego. And I was getting my ass kicked every day by it, so there wasn't like, parties and celebrations. It was in a weird, good way I almost wasn't able to enjoy it because I was too busy on the craft of the next thing.
Focus on the next book.
I think it, social media makes it really easy to celebrate things before you've done them. And then to, reflect, to sort of become absorbed by them when you do have them, rather than, you know, doing the verb.
Like the verb, I just was with someone who's wildly successful. You know most people would know this person's name off the tip of their tongue easily, easy to roll off the tongue. And, they have an amazing opportunity at their hands and they're asking some advice from a friend. Like, "Hey man like, what should I do here?" The immediate place that I went to, and like I'm not a great therapist, I end up being a pretty good career counselor,
'cause I've talked you know, face to face with thousands of people offstage and said, "But what do you love to do?" So what part of this potential area of massive opportunity, like what are you going to actually do? What are you gonna wake up and put your shoes on, your boots on and go do? And if you don't love the doing part, the rest of this is a shit sandwich and it's not gonna work out. And how do you think about the, like apply that, use a little bit of Ego is the Enemy to talk to the people at home about the thing that they want? Whether they want to be a photographer or an entrepreneur or what not? Try and make a story out of that for me.
Well one of the things I look at in my own career when I'm deciding to work with clients or I'm deciding to work on, you know a different project or whatever, is it try to go, okay let's say I have these two opportunities. One's gonna pay me a lot, and one's gonna pay me not as much. Obviously depending on, you know, do I need this to survive? These variables are very real and I don't want to dismiss them, but which one am I gonna learn more by doing? And I think if you always take the learning one or you take the learning one more often than not, it's gonna keep you humble, it's gonna make you, by definition better in some way. And it's gonna, you're gonna enjoy it more. We always appreciate what we've learned and that process of learning. Oftentimes we tend to resent. There's a reason that people who make lots of money are often still very dissatisfied. People who are being challenged and learning and growing I find that that's, it's less often that you're, "I'm learning a ton, but I'm just so miserable." You know what I mean? Those don't go together.
Don't often go together. All right, I'm gonna fast forward to Perennial Seller. 'Cause we've been, (sighs) I feel like there's a nice lily pad from the media stuff up to Perennial Seller. I, thank you very much for including me in your galley list.
I got the early copy. To me it was, it was sort of an ah-ha thing, it was right there in front of you the whole time, right there in front of all of us. In popular culture, we're trying to be successful not for the sake of success, but to make something that matters.
And it was like a face palm, like duh. So walk us through the concept behind Perennial Seller the Art of Making and Marketing Work that Lasts. And you know what was the ah-ha for you that said this is book that needs to be made?
The big, the weird ah-ha moment was this tiny thing in publishing. If you look at the New York Times Best Seller list, which everyone sort of uses as a rubric for success in the publishing industry, it says very clearly in the fine print like, not tracked in the New York Times Best Seller list are perennial sellers. I said, "What's a perennial seller? Well it turns out the vast majority of income in the publishing comes from books that were published a year ago, five years ago, 10 years ago, 100 years ago.
Seven Habits of Highly Effective-- (laughs)
Good to Great, the Great Gatsby, To Kill a Mockingbird, What to Expect When You're Expecting, sells like a million copies a year. And yet, 90% of the focus of the industry is about chasing something new.
And it's been cool to see my book sell, like the Obstacles the Way sold more copies last year than it did the year before, than the year before, than the year before.
Paradoxically, less marketing from me, because the book does something for people. It's solving a problem, it's real. And so it's just so interesting to me that, no one would dispute that it's hard to start a company, write a book, make a movie, yet most of this stuff just disappears. Like even the successful ones sort of disappear very quickly. So I'm fascinated by stuff that lasts, that really survives. My favorite restaurant in Los Angeles is not some fancy Michelin Star restaurant, it's the original Pantry Cafe. Which is across the street from Staples Center that opened in 1924. And it's open 365, 24/7. So there's no locks on the doors of the restaurant because they'd never closed. And I just love that idea of like, first off, they only accept cash. So it's probably just made millions and millions of dollars. (Chase laughs) And they probably report very little of it to the government. I would much rather own that business than like Nobu, or Mr. Chau's or you know?
That's so cool. And that, if you're really honest with ourselves, that's what we're trying to do. But we just end up getting distracted by the fact that you know fidget spinners are popular or that everyone's on it. I can only imagine in your space where it's like you start this company, because you believe in it. But then you see all these other people who have much worse companies that do, it's like and then they sold to Microsoft for x amount. And they sold to Yahoo and they--
And it's like, even though we set out to make something that lasts, we can get distracted by all of the stuff that's going on around us. And so I tried to write sort of like a glorification of things that last, like the really great things. Because why not, you know what I mean?
But those are the things that take up, I believe the, the space in between what's the new, just stuff that people are churning on.
And when, shit gets hard or when pop culture goes south, or when there's a terrible catastrophe, or what do you fall back on?
And there's something that's sort of more real, or I don't know what it is. And I'll give you an analogy around Creative Live. We have now, like almost 2,000 classes, 10,000 hours of content, we've been making from the ground up for seven years. And when people, well first of all when we, you know started making this an investor said, "Why you should just open it up and be "a two sided marketplace, so you get 100,000 classes." But I'm like, "Oh my god there's so much junk in there, "so we're gonna do it the slow way."
And very, very intentional. But what we did is we developed this amazing muscle to make the world's best learning content with the world's top experts, like yourself and Richard Branson and Tim Ferriss and Ann Huffington and the list of names is long and impressive.
Well we got so good at making stuff that what we were not good at is marketing things that were the best stuff in our catalog.
What we ended up doing is just focusing on like what's tomorrow, because you get addicted. When shit gets hard it's like, "What makes us feel good, we've celebrated "as a culture in our company?" The releasing of a new title.
And so then you're just like when stuff gets hard you don't actually stop.
We need more, we need more.
Yeah, and I realized that this is a, fortunately we realized at Creative Live and we still make a ton, but we're looking at the things that like what, like for example your class.
We can continue to go back and like how to stand out and get great artists for PR, or great PR for artists and creators, because is that ever going away? (laughs)
No, no and it's crazy because like, I mean I still I get the checks.
And I'm like, "whoa how is this happening?" I've actually noticed that started to happen on Creative Live. About a year ago it seemed like there started to be a spike again,
which is very cool. And the truth is almost all the creative industries are that way, right? Movie studios are putting out the new Transformers movie, but it's a really a Christmas Story and Shawshank Redemption and Star Wars. You know all these movies that are just churning out, that people are discovering or watching on television for the 50th time. You know Seinfeld has made three billion dollars, not Jerry Seinfeld, the show, Seinfeld has made three billion dollars since the show went off the air. Right, that's the value of making someone something,
that's per, do you know what I mean?
Because we still work in offices, people still move to New York they're still there, like the themes of the show are still so true. Yeah just think about it, it's like all the people that are chasing the new popular business book, right. How to become rich, you know, in the Trump era. You know show me things like that. And then it's like What to Expect When You're Expecting or a book that college grads, you give to your son when he graduates from college. Or that you give to your daughter when she gets married. You know like what are the books that solve a part of your life?
The example you give in Perennial Seller's like turning 50.
Right? Pretty much everybody, unless you have an unfateful death before then, you're gonna turn 50.
And that is a thing that everybody goes through, so how can you solve a problem? Maybe we can shift and get into some tactics right now.
Yeah, I mean that's right what so, you want to go like, "This is a blank, "that does blank for blank." Like so can you actually fill in that question? I talk about Red Wing Boots. Red Wing Boots starts making boots in the early 1900s, to equip the US Army in the first world war. And they're still making the same boots. Like the boot is called like the 1915 boot, or something like that. I have a pair, they cost $300 when they came out, so that's very expensive. But I've had them re-soled twice, they get more comfortable every day that I wear them. People notice them, it's like, it's more expensive, but they're not having to roll out a new edition every year. It was actually weird the same way in American Apparel one of the mistakes the company made was chasing fashion, the fashion seasons.
Bad fashion, yeah.
Whereas the reality is if you make something great, and you make the same thing over and over, you get better at it, it gets cheaper to make, the margins get better, and you have to do less marketing because there's word of mouth. And so when I think about my own books I go, "Are people gonna read this in 10 years? "Is it still gonna be true in 10 years?" And if not then it's probably not a great use of my time. Or, let's just make sure that if we are writing about something somewhat timely, that we're focused on the time width elements of it. I wrote a book about growth hacking and that's how start ups market each other, but it's almost five years old and it's still selling. Because I focus not on the very, very specific cutting edge tactics, but on the mindset that goes into it, because one is gonna last a little bit longer than the other.
And the examples to go one step deeper there would be like AB testing versus like how to buy this type of ad on Facebook.
Exactly, right, right. Here's a great app to get you more Twitter followers. Well what if they go out of business tomorrow?
I was thinking about, I wrote about SnapChat in the book a little bit as an example of this, because when I started the book they were called Snapchat, now they're called Snap, right? And then Instagram launches Instagram Stories and all of a sudden Snapchat's usage is cratering. So it's like, your thing isn't gonna last if it's based on things that are unlikely to last. My editor she gave me this note early on in the book. I made a joke about Groupon or coupon, or QR codes or something. And a gourmet cupcakes and she was like, "Imagine that someone is reading this book in 2040 in Thai. "Would any of this make sense?" And I'm like, no it wouldn't so I have to go deep, I have to pick some deeper analogy or deeper example that's gonna be more timeless. So in the Obstacles the Way I'm not saying, yesterday my friend Steve and I were talking about, I'm gonna tell you a story about Thomas Edison. Or Demosthenes or you know Odysseus. Because look the Odyssey has been part of our culture for 2,000 years, probably not going anywhere.
So you want to make sure that you're basing your work on really great stuff.
Let's deconstruct for a second the way that folk, or let's talk for a second how people can deconstruct their own work.
I think one of the, when I talk to folks who are early on in their career, they're just starting out, they're trying to go from zero to one, consider themselves a maker or they're launching a business or whatever. I feel like there is a there's a lack of research and a lack of sort of a thoroughness, and a lack of understanding what you're gonna say, what you're critics are gonna say. The stuff that is wildly successful by and large has a ton of research behind and it's very thoughtful. And I think what people think is that they, you know they sit down and they just blast something out in a--
The lightening strike, the creative genius lightening strike.
Yeah, so talk to me about what your philosophy is and how, you know, what amount of work goes into it? And having studied it, what are the habits?
And maybe this is the punchline, what are the habits of the people who make great work?
No that's a very great question. I would say one of the symptoms of this problem is a question I get all the time, where people go like, "What influence, or should I have someone promote "my book or movie or my start up?" It's like if you don't know those people's names, let alone you don't have, like you should have personal relationships with all of them. But if you don't know who whey are and you're asking a total stranger about this, you should hit the stop button as quickly as possible, because there's probably some fundamental flaw in your product, that doesn't address, you know what I mean?
You don't know your space well enough. And so, yeah I want you to resist that egotistical impulse of like this thing that you thought about for eight seconds, is gonna be wildly better than the people who have been in it for 10 years. And that's not to say that it's gonna take you 10 years to get caught up.
Or that someone else won't have a good idea.
Yeah, but put in the time to actually do the, check your work, you know check the math, make sure it's actually true here. So one of the best ways, so it's like with a book, I know what I'm trying to accomplish, I know who I'm trying to reach. One of the reasons you have an editor and in publishing you submit to an editor, that's a legal term, you submit the manuscript and then they accept it. And you only get paid if they accept it, like it's contractually submission and acceptance. So the S&A payment, right?
What that forces you to do, is to go an objective third party and then they're gonna give you all sorts of notes on your book. And a lot of their notes are gonna be totally wrong, but like where their notes pertain to what you were trying to accomplish, they're gonna be able to tell you if you did it or not. Harper Lee turns in To Kill A Mockingbird and her editor says, "This isn't a fully fledged novel," is what she said. Obviously Harper Lee thought it was, or she wouldn't have turned it in.
But, Harper Lee does something like two years of work on it, it comes out. Usually what that book looks like would be lost to us, but when Go Set a Watchman comes out, it's the original draft of To Kill a Mockingbird. It was really popular at first. But like, do you see anyone reading it on a plane? It's not very good, right, it's not good. Compared to the work that her editor forced her to do to create To Kill A Mockingbird, which becomes this, you know life changing epic novel work. Even Adele, Adele's last album was called 25. And each one of her albums is supposed to come out, is titled after the year she wrote it, or the year it was released, how old she was. But it came out when she was 27, because Rick Ruben made her do two more years of work. (Chase laughs) And so that's how it's goes, you know? I think it's not, don't just think like you're, it's almost impossible for you to see your own work objectively. So you need to make sure you have a really strong network of creative collaborators that you trust, who can be like, "Chase, "there's flashes of genius in here, "but they're not connected together "and you need to fix this. "Like I tried it and I just, I don't get it." And then you go, "Oh that's okay, 'cause it wasn't "made precisely for people like you." Or perhaps that person is your ideal target customer and if they're telling you like, "I don't like it." You got to listen to them.
Yeah. So what role, I talk about the thing called the other 50%.
And in, in creating, I think most people believe that it's just the product, that a great product just, you know you make a great product and then it's wildly successful. And the perks that I've taken is, no the great product is the get in the door fee.
Like then you're actually on the field.
That's the buy in.
Yeah, that's the buy in. Like I don't know why but I use professional golf randomly. The 300 golfers who are on the PGA, the men's PGA or the women's PGA, the LPGA, the difference in skills is pretty, it's nominal it's like, the amount of distance that they can hit off the tee, the amount of putts they sink out of 10. And yet how many golfer's names do you know?
There's so few. And so it's basically, what you think is 90% craft and 10% all the other stuff is sort of probably the other way around. You have to be great at your craft and I don't ever want to diminish it, but it's this whole package. And now I've been, so you zoom out a little bit, see it's not just a thing then you zoom out and you say, "Oh my god, it's the total package." And then what I do is I draw a line right there and I say, "Great, that's 50% of the thing." And the other 50% is cultivating relationships and community around the things that you're trying to make. Like you said, if you want to launch a product and you don't know who the influencers are, that's you've stopped at the other 50%. And if you don't the other 50%, you have almost, you have 50% less chance of success.
Respond to that for me.
Well you think about golf, and so you have to qualify for the PGA Tour, so you have to win something that proves that you deserve to be there and then you have to keep winning. (Chase laughs) Right? But the way I think about it is, like I say with creative projects is like making them is this marathon. And it's the hardest thing you've ever done. And then you just barely stumble
across the finish line. And then the race proctor they grab you by the hand and you think they're taking you to the rest tent, or to the medal stand they're gonna put the medal. Actually they're grabbing you and they're just directing you to the beginning of a second marathon. (Chase laughs) That you're not at all prepared for, right? But that marathon is marketing, it's positioning, it's packaging, it's relationships. It's investors, it's all the things that go into taking this idea and making it. And then getting it from your physical space to my physical space. There's a lot of overlap between the two phases, so it's not a perfect analogy, but the idea that if you build it they will come is killed so many great projects. And you have to remember given the economics of how content and stuff works today it's like, you're not just competing with the other people who started at the same time as you. Like if I make a YouTube series, I'm not competing with just the other YouTube series, I'm competing with the fact that on Netflix, I have access to some of the greatest shows that were ever made. Like think about all a year in television it's like, think of all the people who have never watched an episode of The Wire yet, or Breaking Bad, or Mad Men. You're competing with those, you're competing for those customers with those proven products that are objectively amazing. And so marketing is the tool that you use to win that fight. And so our relationships and your platform and your relationship with your fans and all these things. And yeah, so the idea of just like the world isn't, no one's like, "We really need more amazing stuff." They're like, "Why should I choose your amazing stuff "over this other amazing stuff? "And by the way this amazing stuff it's free."
And it's been around for 50 years and it's time tested and it's on billboards and all the award shows and blah, blah, blah.
Yeah, yeah. It's really, really, really hard.
I was scrolling through my phone the other day looking for a photograph and I came across a photograph of you, me, Scott Belsky and Tim Ferriss.
Oh at his party, yeah.
At a party that Tim threw. It made me think of Scott he was on the show a couple, two weeks ago, something like that. And he's like there's so many great ideas in creative's heads that aren't going to successful because they don't have their shit together.
I was wondering if you can react to that. Like what does it mean for the folks at home who are like, I want to have my shit together. So what is having one's shit together? Is it this other stuff?
I think about it like, because I think about book a lot, because I work with lots of authors and I have to think about it with myself, but like don't judge a book by a cover. That's why books have covers. (Chase laughs) You know what I mean? Like that's the whole point of the cover, is because that's what people do.
Right. And so like, I'll see products and, here's a good example. Wellfront, huge start up, billions of dollars under management, I use it, I think it's wonderful. It's first name was Kachingle. Would you put your retirement money in a company called Kachingle? (both laugh) I wouldn't.
No, 'cause I could never find it in the app store, how do you spell Kachingle?
Ridiculous. It's ridiculous.
Right, it's totally ridiculous.
A company isn't gonna urge their employees to put their 401K in Kachingle, but they will put it in Wellfront. Or, did you see the, the Tom Cruise movie, the Edge of Tomorrow?
Okay, it's a great fucking movie.
But the Edge of Tomorrow is not what the movie's about and it's a terrible title. And so when it came out on DVD, they couldn't change the title, but they just rejittered the poster so it had the tag, the tagline was Live, Die, Repeat. Which the movie is he's stuck in this continuum, so like every day he dies at the end of the day, until he get to this thing.
I did see that show.
I saw this film, okay.
Right, terrible title right? Live, Die, Repeat is an amazing title for that movie. So these things, title, cover, logo, copy, the people who are involved with the product. These things have an incredible, we wish that they didn't, but they have an incredible impact on whether people are gonna try them or not. In the same way that you would judge someone coming into an interview wearing shorts and sandals and you know their hair all disheveled. We judge work that way. And so, especially now that lots of people are self publishing, you already have a knock against you. So you have to be like
That much better.
twice as good to get over those reservations. And so these things can't be ignored, they can't be phoned in. They're as much as part of the creative expression as the work itself.
Yeah. You have a concept of hacking, is the word, the vernacular. I think words matter and it came out of you know computer software. And then the term growth hacking to make a reference to something you said earlier. I'm wary of the concept of hacks, because the people who hack things and if it's not repeatable,
then it's really, then it doesn't, like to me that's part of what distinguishes something or someone who's able to be successful. And you look at the most, you know the most successful people and they repeat their successes over and over.
Sure, sure, sure.
Do you, for the folks out there who are looking for quick fixes, like do you throw them in the trash and never talk about them or think about them? You've written a book called Perennial Sellers is that antithetical to hacking, and or there's some, would you take hacking out of hacking category and put it into like, these are best practices, help me reconcile this.
As long as you're not using hack as in terms of shortcut if you're using a hack as a shortcut then it's a dangerous word. If you're using hack as creative, you know creative way of doing something, a way of combining this thing and that thing to create something new, then I think it's very positive. There's just something in our culture where people go like, they want this, they want like step one, two, three, four, five. As if that would work. And if it would work, how quickly it would be exploited and used by everyone. So I think, what I try to do in my books is not create a formula, but to create sort of a set of principles that are always gonna be true. And that you can think about in lots of different situations. And so I think, go to the principles that undergird like an industry or a space or a career path that you're on, don't look for shortcuts. Because it's like if you're already looking for the shortcuts and you haven't even started, what does that say about when the shit gets really hard? You're gonna be like, done, you're not gonna have what it takes.
For sure you're certainly not attracted to the verb.
Yes, yeah. You have to actually like that it's hard. And so yeah, I think people want this like tried and tested formula and it's never, not only is that never possible, but you wouldn't want it to be possible if it was.
And, by definition if it was that easy or that possible or just a series of steps that anyone could do,
it would be wildly exploited and there would be no, no real upside for you, it would be like driving.
Yeah, yeah exactly.
You gonna learn how to drive how exciting.
Yeah, nice job.
Chase Jarvis, he's been a photographer for all these years he's built this company, also has his driver's license. (Chase laughs)
Not on the list of shit to do.
Yeah, right, it doesn't go in the file.
Got it. Let's get tactical again.
I think part of the stoic philosophy is like what are you actually gonna do?
Like what's the action, that second step?
And is there? There are some helpful frameworks in the book. Give us a couple of frameworks for people to chew on. And again this is a book that's dense enough you're gonna want to get it.
This is not the, this is not the solution, this interview is not the solution to Perennial Seller.
I'd like the book to leave people some questions to ask when they're starting. Like I tried to create something you could re-read every time you're starting on a creative project. So the first question that I think entrepreneurs and creatives forget all the time is like, who is this for? 'Cause they're making it for themselves and that's not a big enough audience. Or they haven't thought, like I'll ask who this thing's for and they'll go, "Everyone, "smart people." (Chase laughs) You know Malcolm Gladwell fans or whatever, right? So who is this for? Do you actually know what your product is for? Or are you, a solution in search of a problem? Which is a very dangerous place to be.
So who is this for I think is a very important question that I would tack, like not just oh yeah, I know, but actually who are they, where do they live, what do they do for a living? And then what does your thing do? My editor said to me once she's like, "It's not what a book is, it's what a book does." Right, what does this, what does my project do for people? So Creative Live is like a full toolkit for anyone trying to do basically any creative profession. That's very clear and obvious. And then because it does that, there's the chance that you have word of mouth if you can bring those customers in. I think that's very important. On the marketing side, I want you to think about how crazy it is that anyone buys anything? Right, like so it's like if you think about all the stuff that's free out there, like take a book. So this book is, where's the price, is it on there?
I think it's on the inside front cover.
On the front? All right, so $26 US. I'm asking people to give me $ and a week of their time, for something, they don't know what's in these pages. Right?
So one of the reasons I do interviews, I give tons of content away, I make videos, I excerpt it widely, is because I know how crazy it is, like what I'm asking, do you know what I mean?
Yeah, the ask.
I just spoke at a conference that was full of writers yesterday. And I had the publisher give away 250 copies because that's the exact community that I'm trying to reach. And so it's like, chances are your product is the best possible advertisement for your product. And so, I want you to give it away for free as much as possible. I'm not saying work for free, and that is a dangerous den and people get taken advantage of. But, you are the people that need to read this, or that need to experience it? Or are gonna talk about it? And make sure that you've brought them through your system. That's all marketing is, right? So people are like, "Oh I figured out how "to hack Facebook ads to get a real," it's like, "Have you ever bought this thing? "Have you ever bought something from a Facebook ad?" Meanwhile somebody gives you a book for your birthday and the next thing you know you bought it for all your employees, right? Understand what you're asking people when you're buying and just how expensive it is. And make sure you're marketing and your creative efforts are designed to make it as accessible as possible. Then the last big lesson I would give is like your platform, right? Like everyone wants a platform but they don't want to put the work into it, and they want it now. And the best time to have made it was 10 years ago. You know what I mean, or five years ago, or yesterday.
You know what's that thing about a tree? It's like the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago, second best time is right now. Don't be thinking just how to market this thing you have in front of you. What are you gonna need to market over the course of your career? If you want to end up with 1,000 true fans, how are you getting number 640 and 642? How are you doing that? And so from a marketing perspective I'm thinking about building a body of work, I'm thinking about building a reciprocal relationship with fans, thinking about owning that permission based connection. And if you're not doing that, you're at the mercy of newspapers and social media and television and if they decide, "Sorry,
We changed platforms.
"We've already talked enough "about online courses, we're not interested in promoting "another thing," you're like, "Okay I guess I'm done." Right and you don't want to be in that position.
Yeah. I've noticed that you're doing a lot of speaking.
And certainly it's a great way to sell books, but it's also to be able to experience your rendition of the book and the ideas therein, it's very compelling. A lot of the folks that hire you to speak are companies.
And given the way that you've thought about it and given that like, between a third and half people are watching here are inside of companies.
You know some are leaders, some are not, doesn't matter. But talk to me about some of the like, qualities of let's maybe just go through a couple, like team building or leadership. Let's talk about leadership. When you go to speak at these big companies, what are some things that are in your purview that are really applicable to modern leadership?
One of the things that I think about as a speaker is like 'cause I watch lots of talks, and people are just like here's a bunch of facts and figures, here's my pitch deck, let me run through it. I think we just learn by stories, right, stories are basically it. So I want to leave people with just a handful of stories or quotes that change how they think about what they do. So if I was thinking about leadership you know something like that Eisenhower story we were talking about earlier where it's like, guy faces this incredible situation, overwhelming. He stops the chaos and the retreat and the despair and he says, "What positive can we find in this?" And then he goes out and goes, "Oh actually not only is there kind of a positive here, "this is how we win." And so I like to leave audiences with stories like that. And that's how, because that's how I learn personally. And this goes to all-
We're hard wired for narrative, too.
Of course, and that goes to all the things we're talking about here which is like, is what you're doing delivering value to people? And I think stories are that. It's not, I don't want to tell stories about me, because you might not like me, right?
Or you might go, "Okay that's great but what about x?" So I want to present sort of incontrovertible, undenial, inspiring things that are gonna stay with people.
You know the book, Tell to Win?
Is that Peter Gruber?
You know I think Peter is a studio executive, you know wildly successful, billionaire dude.
Owns the Warriors.
Yeah he's partners with the Chimoth and the Warriors. The concept of Telling to Win or telling stories as a leader like I felt, I learned a lot about leadership now, I'm running a company of 120 people or something. Is that a thing that you see people wildly deficient in?
Yeah they're not good at capturing stories, they're not good at telling them and they're not looking for them. Having got to know a lot of professional and really great NCAA sports teams it's like you realize that the coaches all basically know the same amount about basketball or baseball. But it's what do they do in the difficult, what are they teaching, what are they teaching mindset wise? What are they teaching approach wise? And most of the time they just get up in these meetings and tell stories. And so these coaches read incredible amounts of books, they study history. I was at a conference a couple of days ago and Bill Walton spoke before me. And after we were talking he was telling me that John Wooden, in the course of four years, when he played for him at UCLA, talked about the other team twice. And they lost both games, he said. So his job was to tell them about the game, and about what it is to be a man, or to be a team mate or to be a good person. And that's where stories, I think come in. As a leader you should be collecting those. I think one of the reasons politically what upsets me so much right now is that so many of the issues that we're upset about are really nonpartisan. Would really be solved by sort of finding the connective tissue between people instead of fighting about this or that. And what I think we're missing with Obama on and off is again politics aside is that he, he followed for the most part the actual role of the president. Which is to be the president of all people and to communicate to us what needed to be communicated in important or tragic, or stressful or scary moments.
Yeah and that's the leader's job. You know you're...
Regardless of political affiliation right? It's like a leader is there to communicate and to facilitate communication--
So you think you're someone thinks their job as the CEO is to solve these problems. And actually your job, you hire the people to solve the problems. Your job as a leader is to keep everyone in the boat, going in the same direction. A lot of that is story telling and creating culture and things like that.
What about creativity and innovation inside of these places? I see the very clear role of storytelling in leadership. What are some to the you know as you've asked to speak inside of these Fortune 100 companies. What about creativity and innovation? Is there any insight there you can offer?
Well that's one of the things I was thinking a lot about Perennial Seller it's like, no one gets that excited about making something that we're gonna sell to some other company, because we know it's garbage, you know what I mean? They get excited about being able to push themselves, and do something like, I imagine what it would be like to be an engineer at Apple, it must be pretty, I'm sure it's incredibly stressful and sometimes you want nothing more than to quit. But just the standards that you're forced to uphold and the opportunities that you have, that's what keeps people going. More than the stock options. You know Peter Drecker would say, culture eats strategy. So it's like what standards are you putting in place, what story is at the heart of your company? I think that transcends all these things.
Yeah especially like you need to be inspired to do your best work. There's the worker that can come in sit down and so their stuff. But the role, I think this is wildly misunderstood. It touches on storytelling and some many things that have been a part of our conversation. But like the ability to motivate Tony Robbins it's energy. If you don't have energy to bring to something, you have basically no chance for success, because everything requires energy.
You know talk to me a little bit about the role that inspiration plays. You can bring it again the story aspect. When you have spoken and when you wrote Perennial Seller, what role did inspiration play?
Well it's like on the one hand inspiration is wildly overrated, because people think it's like, I just need to be inspired, I need this epiphany to happen. On the other hand it's very underrated in the sense like again if what you're trying to do is very uninspiring, who's gonna give their best to make that thing. Yeah what are your goals, what are you trying to accomplish as an organization? What are the standards that you hold yourself to? I mean when I think about my own books I'm thinking I'm not trying to make a book to get more speaking gigs, that's a very uninspired. Nobody makes another--
Sorry about this.
No that's true, right, a lot of people do it for that reason. Nobody made, if you're interested in football is that you think it will make you famous, you're not gonna get through two day practices in the summer right you know. You're not gonna rush to overcome a torn ACL. If you're interested in photography is that you saw other people making a lot of money on Instagram. There's gonna be nothing to what you're making, right? There's not gonna, all the subtle things that you can't really see, but you can feel are not gonna be there. And so, you've got to go into this with the right reasons and I think one of the company's job, the job of the leaders of a company is to insist on and to sort of be the caretaker of those values. I built a site recently based on the stoic, the site's called Daily Stoic. And we made this one product and it was doing really well. And so it's like we can do this and this, you can see how easily it could become a cash grab.
Let's throw up some T shirts and it's like, no. The reason this product is doing well is because it does something for people and they really like it, and it took a long time to make. We didn't cut any corners on it. So it's like my job as a leader is not to kill their bad ideas, but to go here are the boundaries of what the acceptable ideas are. And here are the principles that I'm insisting that be true for us to proceed. And once that's constrained now everyone's really focused not on necessarily what's gonna make the most money, but what's gonna be best. And then that's gonna be most likely to last over the long term. And then again make the most money. But what are your principles? If you don't know, you're in a bad spot.
I want to touch on the Daily Stoic before we hang it up. The Daily Stoic, incredible book you and Steve out together Steve Hanselman. I admit that I don't stay with it everyday. But there isn't a day that when I touch the book I don't get crazy value from it.
Did you get the email?
So I write an email everyday that's like unrelated, that's like another one. 'Cause not everyone carries a book around with them. But it's my favorite thing to do. It's like I get to one big thought of the ancient philosophy every day in a really practical form. And then I built, it sort of blew me away, it built, it's a 100,000 person community at this point, book sells like crazy. And I hear from all these like senators and athletes and celebrities and stuff, hey I do this every morning. It's just been this really incredible experience. But then yeah again to go to what I was saying about the product. So we made this coin it's like a coin you carry in your pocket, I have one actually.
I have on in my wallet I carry it every single day.
See so it's this memento.
I'm not sitting on it right now because it'll make noises and it sits in the same pocket as my microphone pack. But it's in my wallet it goes everywhere with me everyday.
I sent you one.
Okay, good, good.
It would be much easier to make a T shirt or to make a course or a,
there are many cheaper things that would potentially have better margins. But then you have, it was like no, I feel a responsibility to this space that's been very good to me, that's changed my life. I don't want to be the one that's poisoning the well, do you know what I mean?
I don't want to be the one that's turning into something sleazy or scammy and that's very important to me. So my job as the leader is to inspire the people that are part of that thing that I've made, to adhere to those standards. And if I fall down on the job, it would be potentially lucrative in the short term, but very destructive in the long term. And so that's what I think about.
Can you get the coin first?
That's the point of the coin too which is like, there's a quote from Marcus--
Hold it up for the camera so they can see that.
There's a quote from Marcus Aurelius on the back and he's basically saying, you can leave life right now, let that determine what you do and say and think. And so I think as a leader that's a great way to think too, it's like, this could be the last time you talk to your people, this could be the last email that you write. This could be the last trip that you go on. This could be your last time pulling into the driveway after a hard day at work. So are you gonna do it right? What's gonna motivate you? Are you gonna actually live in and experience that moment? And if you're not, is that not very entitled? Like are you not getting that you'll have 1,000 more of these mornings or whatever? And that's, I just don't want to take that chance.
Yeah, remember you will die. It's not the most inspiring thought at first, but actually I think it becomes profoundly inspiring if you think about it the other way.
I think about how often I go into my wallet either to put a receipt away or take out a credit card. And that it's always there, you can see it's worn it my leather. Not only does it inspire me, but if I'm ever at a counter and I'm having a conversation with the person who's across from me or I'm with a friend and I have it, I just hand it to them. And it always starts a fascinating conversation that leaves I feel like either if you're on the other side of the counter, and I'm like remember you're gonna die.
Then they'll like that will stick with them if it's on a friend or something, there's always an inspiring conversation that comes out of it.
And look that's obviously very cool for me creativity and philosophically. But then just if we were talking about something that wasn't so meaningful at the same time, that's all the hallmarks of what you want when you're making something which is that it becomes part of a discussion, it becomes part of people's lives. It becomes something that they talk about to other people that they recommend to other people, not only is that what you want because it's fulfilling, but that's what you want as a business. It's not like I privately took this Creative Live class and I'm really embarrassed about it, I don't want anyone to know. It's like this thing changed me, and it I need it to change you.
Put your hand up. Thank you so much, congratulations on the most recent book. Perennial Seller by Ryan Holiday, he's got five others, too. So it's an amazing, I don't know body of work you talked about building a body of work, I think you're well on your way. You've published more books than everybody I know basically besides maybe Seth Godin. Congratulations, thank you so much for being on the show, keep inspiring us. What's the best place for people to stay in touch? It would be @ryanholiday most places. Yeah and then just Ryanholiday.net.
See you again next time, bye guys. (upbeat digital music)