Category Archives: Entrepreneurship

4 Marketing Lessons Entrepreneurs Can Learn From April the Giraffe

4 Marketing Lessons Entrepreneurs Can Learn From April the Giraffe
I’ll be honest and tell you that I had not heard of April until I saw this article. Scratching my head at the title referencing a giraffe and entrepreneurs; I just had to click the link out of pure curiosity. Sure enough, you can take some good lessons away from April’s story.

In particular, this quote really grabbed me and made me knod in appreciation. “…from the seed of an idea through execution, do what you do well. You never know just how many people will be watching.”

Most folks know I lost part of my leg in a motorcycle accident. Social media in many forms have taken me farther than I ever could have imagined. From folks following the dream I live, to folks supporting my struggles, and from making my Online Business Management and Virtual Assistant network thrive; I have been down before, but never for very long. The internet and the people behind the screens have truly inspired, supported, and sought my advice in many capacities.

4 Marketing Lessons Entrepreneurs Can Learn From April the Giraffe


The internet has recently been taken over by a very tall and overly pregnant lady.

You may have heard of her. Her name is April. April the Giraffe. This chick has taken over the internet, with pregnant human women going viral for impersonating her.

April is a powerful woman, as I assume most pregnant women are.

Almost 100,000 people are tuning in on YouTube at any given minute to see if she’s birthed her fourth calf yet. When someone or something can garner the accumulative attention of millions, it’s worth taking note.

And while April is undeniably powerful, she is not nearly as powerful as the creative team behind her at Animal Adventure Park. Here are four lessons you can borrow from Animal Adventure Park to spark your own sensation.

1. Your ordinary is someone else’s extraordinary.
You frequently forget there are things you find common and ordinary that others simply find extraordinary. This is the main basis for why Animal Adventure Park’s livestream has captivated so many, hitting headlines daily for over a week. Giraffes give birth on a regular basis. Or, at least I assume so.

Since April has been livestreaming, two other baby giraffes have been born stateside. For zookeepers, a giraffe having a calf is ordinary. Yet, for the general population, a giraffe having a calf is extraordinary. What is your ordinary that others would find extraordinary?

2. Utilize the tools you have at your fingertips.

I imagine it went something like this: April’s caretakers were talking about the upcoming birth, and someone nonchalantly mentioned, “Perhaps we could livestream it for people to see.”

The tools were already there to livestream. They just decided to use them unlike any other zoo had. Well played, Animal Adventure Park. What tools are you not taking full advantage of?

3. Start before you’re “ready.”

What I don’t think many people understand is that Animal Adventure Park isn’t even open yet. It’s bloody brilliant! There is so much press and news coverage about this business, and it hasn’t even opened its doors for day one.

That’s solid proof there is business genius in starting before you feel ready. With a well-thought out plan, anything is possible. It’s not about waiting until it’s perfect. It’s about knowing how to execute effectively. Where can you begin executing while still perfecting?

4. Don’t forget a call to action.

An imperative part of doing business is making it extremely easy for people to buy or support you. I was so impressed to find in the description on Animal Adventure Park’s live stream video that they did not forget a call to action.

Even better, they gave two! Take your pick to support the organization: Download GiraffeMoji for $1.99 from the App Store, or simply donate to the organization’s GoFundMe page. (As of this writing, it’s just shy of the $50,000 goal.)

What a failure it would have been to have that many people at your fingertips without an easy way for people to engage with the business. Yet, it’s a common business mistake.

Animal Adventure Park, well, they hit it out of the park with April. I doubt they thought it would blow up quite like it has or that there would be April the Giraffe memes, pregnant women imitating April, or people actually angry because her labor is taking “too” long. Cut the poor lady a break!

Here’s what they do know. First, pregnancy is magical, and it can captivate any mammal. Second, from the seed of an idea through execution, do what you do well. You never know just how many people will be watching.


Tags: , ,

Marketing 101: Metrics

Marketing 101: Metrics

With an Online Business Management and Virtual Assistant Network like The Write Hand, LLC; you get top quality services that produces results you can see.  We hope you enjoy this article’ it could be quite useful across most businesses.

Marketing 101: Metrics



In today’s world, nearly everything can be measured by metrics: Facebook likes, Twitter followers, YouTube views, etc. In a world of big data, metrics drive our behavior, but in sixteen years in business, “metrics” is a word I’ve come to hate. Although metrics can be great in determining ad or website performance, when it comes to overall marketing efforts, focusing on metrics alone may be what kills your marketing plan.

In fact, focusing on metrics can make you lose sight of your overall goals. Most great marketing successes, regardless of your product, are the cumulative result of multiple actions. You can’t depend on a direct measure of success from every single action, otherwise you would get stuck in your tracks early on. Planting and cultivating seeds takes time.

If it’s not working, maybe you’re doing it wrong

Something important to keep in mind is that sometimes marketing efforts don’t work because they are not being done correctly. You may need to put some time and effort into researching the meaning behind your dismal metrics. Could your blogging be ineffective because you have misidentified your potential audience? Have you run out of things to say? If that’s the case, start researching four to six successful companies with a similar audience. Whether you’re researching the kinds of questions they answer with their blog or what they’re doing in terms of their blog and social media, you may find some great information. Maybe there are social media sites that you should be on and aren’t, or vice versa. If you look at four to six companies in your market, you’ll start to see a trend of what’s working for them.

Bottom up marketing

Another problem with blindly following metrics can be saying no to opportunities that may benefit you in the long run. One of my favorite strategies is “bottom up marketing.” Mark Victor Hanson, one of the master minds behind the Chicken Soup for the Soul books, is a great example. He did every radio interview and never turned down a single opportunity; he and his co-author built an entire empire through bottom up marketing. It’s worth your while to allow exposure to build on itself and lead to success. Say yes to every opportunity that comes your way (within reason), no matter how small the blog or podcast. We all want to be on The Tonight Show, but let’s face it, everyone has to start somewhere.

Stop doing stuff that doesn’t matter

Focus on the most effective ways to spend your time and money. Often, we fall into the habit of implementing marketing efforts because they’re easy. Running ads, for example, can be easy, and may feel productive. But ads should be compelling and give the viewers something to act on. The same is true for press releases.

Be realistic with your pitching efforts. Put plenty of effort into crafting a pitch that shows you researched the outlet, and have carefully considered how your product fits. Pitching yourself to national shows when you are just starting out may not be the most efficient use of your time. Remember what I said about bottom up marketing.

Coordinate your marketing efforts

One of the quickest ways to kill a product is to not promote it; the other is to only do one thing at a time to see which one gives you the most bounce. Although testing your efforts separately to see how effective they are can be appealing, the problem with this is that it’s all metric-driven instead of building momentum. Marketing by doing one thing at a time and then waiting to see what comes of the action you took is the surest way to fail. Do a lot of things (or several, if you’re short on time) and do them consistently.

Slow and steady wins the race

Inconsistency is one of the big reasons for failure. It goes back to my “say yes to everything” advice; let your marketing efforts build, understand what your audience wants, and be consistent. If you’re short on time, find a few things that are an effective use of your time and do them well.

People like what other people like

Reviews are something you should always pursue, no matter how old your product or service. Testimonials and reviews are almost as good as a personal word-of-mouth recommendation. Why? Because people like what other people like.

Ultimately, metrics are a powerful tool, but instead of focusing on each effort’s individual metrics, it’s best to take review your metrics with some perspective. When planning your marketing efforts, I urge you to emphasize consistency. Use metrics as a tool to identify areas that can be improved, and allow some time for your marketing efforts to build on one another. Success is rarely the direct result of one action, but rather the accumulation of many efforts.



Tags: , ,

How to Master the Art of the First Impression

How to Master the Art of the First Impression

How to Master the Art of the First Impression



Amy Cuddy, a psychologist at the Harvard Business School, has been studying first impressions for more than a decade. She and her colleagues found that we make snap judgments about other people that answer two primary questions:

  • Can I trust this person?
  • Can I respect this person’s capabilities?

According to Cuddy’s research, 80 to 90 percent of a first impression is based on these two traits. Subconsciously, you and the people you meet are asking yourselves, “Can I trust that this person has good intentions toward me?” and “Is this person capable?”

We often assume that competence is the most important factor, and people have a tendency to play this up when they meet someone; however, Cuddy’s research shows that trust is the most important factor. In order for your competence to matter, people must trust you first. If there’s no trust, people actually perceive competence as a negative. As Cuddy said, “A warm, trustworthy person who is also strong elicits admiration, but only after you’ve achieved trust does your strength become a gift rather than a threat.”

How to Master the Art of the First Impression

Since it only takes seconds for someone to decide if you’re trustworthy and competent, and research shows that first impressions are very difficult to change, the pressure that comes with meeting new people is justifiably intense.

If you try to project confidence but haven’t first established trust, your efforts will backfire. No one wants to end up respected but disliked. As Cuddy said, “If someone you’re trying to influence doesn’t trust you, you’re not going to get very far; in fact, you might even elicit suspicion, because you come across as manipulative.”

Once you recognize the importance of trustworthiness over competence, you can take control of the first impressions you make. Here are some tips to help you make that happen the next time you meet someone new:

1. Let the person you’re meeting speak first.

Let them take the lead in the conversation, and you can always ask good questions to help this along. Taking the floor right away shows dominance, and that won’t help you build trust. Trust and warmth are created when people feel understood, and they need to be doing a lot of sharing for that to happen.

2. Use positive body language.

Becoming cognizant of your gestures, expressions, and tone of voice and making certain they’re positive will draw people to you like ants to a picnic. Using an enthusiastic tone, uncrossing your arms, maintaining eye contact, and leaning towards the speaker are all forms of positive body language, which can make all the difference.

3. Put away your phone.

It’s impossible to build trust and monitor your phone at the same time. Nothing turns people off like a mid-conversation text message or even a quick glance at your phone. When you commit to a conversation, focus all your energy on the conversation. You will find that conversations are more enjoyable and effective when you immerse yourself in them.

4. Make time for small talk.

It might sound trivial, but research shows that starting meetings with just five minutes of small talk gets better results. Many trust builders, such as small talk, can seem a waste of time to people who don’t understand their purpose.

5. Practice active listening.

Active listening means concentrating on what the other person is saying, rather than planning what you’re going to say next. Asking insightful questions is a great way to illustrate that you’re really paying attention. If you’re not checking for understanding or asking a probing question, you shouldn’t be talking. Not only does thinking about what you’re going to say next take your attention away from the speaker, hijacking the conversation shows that you think you have something more important to say. This means that you shouldn’t jump in with solutions to the speaker’s problems. It’s human nature to want to help people, but what a lot of us don’t realize is that when we jump in with advice or a solution, we’re shutting the other person down and destroying trust. It’s essentially a more socially acceptable way of saying, “Okay, I’ve got it. You can stop now!” The effect is the same.

6. Do your homework.

People love it when you know things about them that they didn’t have to share. Not creepy stuff, but simple facts that you took the time to learn from their LinkedIn page or company website. While this may not work for chance encounters, it’s crucial when a first meeting is planned ahead of time, such as a job interview or a consultation with a potential client. Find out as much as you can about all the people you’re meeting, their company, their company’s primary challenges, and so on. This demonstrates competence and trustworthiness by highlighting your initiative and responsibility.

Bringing It All Together

It’s the little things that make a first impression a good one, and the importance of establishing trust cannot be overstated. Now if someone would just tell this to the politicians!

Leave a comment

Posted by on March 13, 2017 in Entrepreneurship


Tags: , ,

What the Stars of Impractical Jokers Can Teach You About Team Work and Risk

What the Stars of Impractical Jokers Can Teach You About Team Work and Risk

What the Stars of Impractical Jokers Can Teach You About Team Work and Risk



The indignities mount. First, Murr is told that he has to compete in a bodybuilding competition. And to be clear, Murr is nobody’s definition of fit. Stripped down to an American flag Speedo, he looks like a fillet of cod — a soft, slender, floppy whiteness untouched by the sun. Next, his three best friends — Joe, Sal and Q — oil him up and spread on a nice layer of bronzer. Murr seems amused. He’s done worse with these guys: He’s faced off alone against a professional dodgeball team, he’s been stuffed inside a piñata and hung from a crane and he’s even had his nipple pierced. So twitching in front of guys who could bench-press him? Sure, why not.

Murr is waiting with a bunch of meatheads when his name is called. He is led down a hallway and toward a door. As it opens, you can see him thinking through his next move. He’ll channel Schwarzenegger, make his buddies laugh and then —

Oh, God. There’s no bodybuilding competition in this room. There’s just a woman — a very beautiful, very familiar woman — sitting in a chair. Murr knows he’s being filmed, just like he knows his three best friends are watching his face drop; he can hear them through the earpiece he’s wearing, and they’re dying of laughter. What has he walked into?

This is how it goes on Impractical Jokers, the show in which four buddies compete to embarrass each other, or at least to endure their own humiliation. The show’s setup is simple: One guy goes out — into a supermarket or a crowded art gallery or wherever — wearing an earpiece, while his three buddies hang back, watching the action on a TV screen. The three feed instructions through a microphone, and the guy out in the field must do whatever they say. They’re all real friends, and they routinely weaponize their deep knowledge of each other — flaws, personal insecurities, past crushes and more. They know every time the other guy has been drunk. They have access to every soft spot, every cringe button and they use it all mercilessly. How is Impractical Jokers not just a half-hour series of these guys punching each other in the face? It’s a miracle.

It’s also a hit. The show began nearly six years ago as a modest screwball comedy but has grown into a mainstream phenomenon and the hottest thing on TruTV’s lineup. Impractical Jokers is a top-five show on cable in its time slot. In 2010, the guys filmed the pitch episode on their iPhones; this February, their sixth season debuted. They draw 1.6 million viewers a week. The show is number one on Comedy Central in the United Kingdom and India, and it’s in roughly 70 other international markets, airing both original tape and spinoffs with a local cast.

But do not dismiss them as a bunch of made-for-TV goofballs. Take a close look at the opening sequence of Impractical Jokers and you might notice a show bill in the background that reads “Featuring the Tenderloins.” This — the name of their four-man comedy troupe — is their true core, and their future. Jokers will stay around however long the television gods bless it with good ratings. But the Tenderloins are built to last. “The Tenderloins are a creative force for hire,” Murr says. That means making TV shows, movies, books and more. The way they see it, Impractical Jokers is just their first big hit. They also have a successful touring business that plays arenas around the world. Last year, they sold out three straight nights in a row at Radio City Music Hall in New York, and they just wrapped up a nine-day swing in the United Kingdom that sold 100,000 seats. The tickets always say “The Tenderloins.”

And yet, the Tenderloins are successful for the same reason the Jokers are successful. These four guys have mastered the art of working together as a team. They are consistently open, honest and vulnerable with each other — something that’s hard for anyone to do, let alone leaders of a company. It isn’t always easy for them, either. But it’s the only path forward. And it’s working.

So, about the woman in the chair: That’s Danica McKellar, forever known as Winnie from The Wonder Years — and, critically, Murr’s childhood celebrity crush. He has always wanted to meet her. His pals know it. And now he’s doing it in the most humiliating way. “You have to interview her!” Joe screams into a microphone, and so Murr shuffles over toward McKellar, nearly oil-slips off a stool he tries to sit on, and picks up some cue cards he’s been left. The final indignities begin.

“You’re America’s sweetheart. I’m America’s douchebag,” he reads aloud. “What would America call our baby?”

McKellar looks at him in a way she never did to Kevin Arnold, even in his most selfish, most adolescent of times. Because here instead is Murr, glistening like an Exxon-Valdez disaster.

“A mistake,” she replies. The guys backstage lose it. Q just starts swatting at the air, delirious.

Yeah, they have full names. Joseph “Joe” Gatto, James “Murr” Murray, Brian “Q” Quinn and Salvatore “Sal” Vulcano. They’re grown-ass men, too: They’re all 40. But on Impractical Jokers, and to each other, and therefore to their fans, they’re just one-syllable pals.

This show was not the foursome’s original plan. They grew up on Staten Island and met in their all-boys Catholic high school’s improv troupe, then went their separate ways for college and found real jobs. Joe became a personal shopper at a baby store called Giggle. Murr was a freelance TV producer. Q became a firefighter. Sal ran a bar. But they reassembled in their hometown as young professionals with a dream: They’d form a troupe called the Tenderloins and become successful comedians together.

The Tenderloins had a few hits on MySpace, posting sketch comedy videos. They won a few awards. In 2000, they were accepted into a showcase called PS NBC, which the network used to scout new talent. They hoped this would be their big break, and after their set, Murr asked the producer how it went. “You guys are funny, but you’re not ready,” he replied. “You don’t have a point of view, and you haven’t lost enough yet.’”

Murr spent years puzzling over that statement. You don’t have a point of view. A little while later, the guys sold a sketch comedy show to Spike TV. Finally, that big break? No. The show never made it to air. Murr returned to the producer’s critique and realized the guy was right. The Tenderloins had talent, sure, but no point of view — and talent wasn’t enough. “We didn’t know the right format for what we do,” Murr says now. “We didn’t know the best way to put our comedy forward to the world.”

By this time, Murr’s TV career had grown. He’d become the senior vice president of development for a production company called NorthSouth, and his job was to write treatments for hundreds of shows. He learned what sold and, importantly, what didn’t. And the secret wasn’t really different from selling any other kind of product: It isn’t enough to just make something good or pleasing. It must be necessary — a thing you know people will want, because you have a unique insight about what makes it work.

After five years of TV development, Murr felt he had the insight.
It was 2010. Hidden-camera shows had made a comeback, but everyone did them the same way — prank an unsuspecting civilian or celebrity. Boring. And also, kind of uncomfortable. But what if the format was flipped, and the people being pranked were always in on the joke? That way, the audience might see the whole thing differently.
And the Tenderloins were holding an ace: They were real friends. That wasn’t something they could leverage in a sketch comedy show, but it presented an opportunity now. If they put themselves at the center of a hidden-camera show — as old pals, making the antics a part of their lives — their chemistry and comedy would be organic. They’d push each other, sure, but this wouldn’t go into Jackass territory. The guys could always bail on a challenge if they wanted to. “This is not a show about what we’ll do,” Murr says. “It’s a show about what we won’t do — that we’re gentlemen, we’re regular guys putting ourselves in these crazy situations, but we have faults and weaknesses.”

For example, in one episode, Joe is sent to pose as a consultant at a wedding dress store. One of his buddies tells him to look at the bride and say, “What style was your first wedding dress?” Joe grimaces. It’s just too mean, and he can’t do it. “Now, this one’s flowy,” he says, scrambling for something else to say. And it’s good TV. In fact, it’s better TV than if Joe had actually said the line — because this way, the audience gets to laugh at the joke, then laugh at Joe for not saying the joke, and nobody is ever made to feel bad.

“It was the first time ever we strategically approached our career,” Murr says. And in doing so, the Tenderloins finally found their point of view. Theirs is old-friend comedy — familiar and natural, lovingly mocking and occasionally too personal in that way only old friends can pull off. It’s a style that reminds people of their own old friends, and invites audiences to feel like part of their crew. And now they wondered: Could this brand of comedy scale? They bet yes.

The foursome oversee all aspects of the TV and live show, as well as any extensions they build out, like an annual cruise for fans. And they’ve decided to run everything as a pure democracy. There is very intentionally no leader of the group; there are four co-CEOs, so to speak. This could be a recipe for chaos, but Sal says they’re helped out by something that, not coincidentally, is now a favored team-building exercise among the corporate set: improv. “When we used to do improv, you’d have to learn how to listen and contribute and not talk over each other and learn timing, and you fall into roles where that permeates in your regular life as well,” he says. “So when the four of us operate as a unit, you learn how to contribute and when to take your role.”

The roles tend to fall like this, according to Sal: Murr gravitates toward business; Joe, production and crew; Sal and Q, the creative side. But this isn’t to say they defer to each other on these subjects — which Sal sees as a useful thing. “For whatever topic we’re talking about, we don’t leave any stones unturned,” he says. “I’m all about dissecting everything. I like that by inherently having to make a group decision, you’re really thorough. And I have a lot more confidence with a decision going forward if I know it’s been thorough.”

The four men are unabashedly in love with each other. They always refer to each other as “best friends.” In interviews last year, they all said they’d known each other for 26 years. This January, unprompted, they said 27 years. Which is to say: They’re counting. But as anyone who has built a company with loved ones knows, work can test even the strongest of relationships. And the Tenderloins’ greatest achievement has been creating a working relationship that doesn’t overtake their friendship.

The partnership was challenged early. While filming the first two seasons, Sal was still running his bar in Staten Island and Q was a New York City fireman. Both would go stretches with very little sleep. Q would sometimes be driving the fire truck and pull up next to a bus with his face on it, prompting mockery from his colleagues. And as the show took off and consumed more of his time, Q felt conflicted. He loved being a fireman. “It’s the best job in the world,” he says. He even asked TruTV what would happen if he left the show. The answer: They’d cancel Jokers. “What am I going to do?” he says, the tension of that time still in his voice. “I can’t do that to these guys; you know what I mean?” Ultimately, he took a hiatus from the department.

And complications continue to this day. It was evident off-stage last May, when the Tenderloins played a night at the Bell House, in Brooklyn.

The venue is just a little bar with a theater in the back. Before doors open, perhaps 50 fans form a line that nearly snakes out the door. When the four guys take the stage, they open the way they always open these little shows — by explaining that it may not be funny, because they’re working out new material. The most important thing in the room is actually a camera in the back, filming what happens over the next 90 minutes. True to warning, what follows is decently funny but often flat. They do two shows a night like this, for about 20 nights, at clubs scattered around New York. During that time, they’ll watch the footage and catalog all the jokes spreadsheet-style, then workshop what’s successful and what isn’t. And this is how they build a show that will eventually be performed in arenas.

All comedy, to be a total buzzkill, is a product. And that means it needs R&D. But no matter the task, it would be impossible to expect four people to prioritize this level of meticulousness the same way. That’s a burden Sal feels on his shoulders.

“So this six months, I have literally major, major anxiety until we get that show right,” Sal says before the club performance. He’s a man of lists and overanalysis; he sweats the details. And some of his anxiety, he admits, comes from the other guys, who aren’t nearly as nervous as he is. He is often nagging them — Come on; we need to work on the show. “The people I respect the most are my peers, my fellow comedians. I want their respect. It’s my whole life. And I don’t know if the other guys feel the exact same way about that, so that’s why this weighs particularly heavy on me.”

The four guys have their blowups, sure. It’s inevitable; they’re together almost every day. But that has taught them to navigate the storms. Each one can play a role as mediator. Each one has also learned what to let go — what just isn’t worth a fight. And during the peaceful periods (which, they want to be clear, is most of the time), they’re constantly showing each other goodwill, picking up each other’s slack, saying, Take a break; I got this. It’s a reminder that everyone is equal, that everyone has each other’s back.

This gives Sal comfort, even when the other guys aren’t focused in the way he’d like them to be. “Murray’s attitude, for better or for worse, is, Eh, it’ll get done. It’s almost like he doesn’t care; that’s how it comes across,” Sal says. “But to his credit, everything has always worked out.”

Company leaders often do this rhetorical dance where they’ll insist that their business is something broader and more abstract than it appears to be. JetBlue CEO Robin Hayes says, “We’re a customer service company that happens to fly planes.” Uber founder Travis Kalanick says, “We’re a robotics company.” Google the phrase “We’re a technology company” and you’ll find it uttered by Mark Zuckerberg, yes, but also by the heads of farms and music labels and more. But this isn’t a trick. It’s a vision for a company’s future — an acknowledgment that its current product cannot last forever but that the business has something more fundamental at its core.

That’s why Murr says the Tenderloins are “a creative force for hire.” It’s how four friends can continue to work together.

Of the four, only Joe seems to fully embody the Jokers’ style of comedy itself. Some gags on the show, in fact, have come out of things he does in real life to make people laugh. There’s a bit called nosing, when Joe walks up to a stranger and rests his nose on their shoulder. He came up with that in high school. He’s fearless. “Outside the show, I’ll still do it,” he says. “I’ll hear from them at least three times a week: Joe, we’re not filming; what are you doing?”

The rest are a multitude of ambitions. Q loves darker comedy and comic books; he cohosts a popular podcast called “Tell ’Em Steve-Dave!,” which has nothing to do with his Staten Island pals. Sal does his own stand-up. Murr imagines writing thrillers and novels one day.

But “a creative force for hire” gives them a North Star, and a purpose big enough to satisfy them all. The Tenderloins are already growing beyond the Jokers. They’ve developed and sold numerous TV shows — one to Spike TV, one to A&E. Last year, they made a comedy game show pilot and shopped around a scripted comedy. “On the one hand, we want to seize the opportunities that are in our lives right now,” Murr says. “On the other hand, we need to grow beyond that as well.”

That’s the thing about a team: You bring it together, you sacrifice for it, you accept that resolving the bad times can only lead to more good times. And once you have a point of view, and you’ve lost enough to know what’s worth keeping, and you confirm that you are better together, then you move forward as one. You create a mission, so everyone feels committed. You become bound by ambition, and the sense that it’s only accomplishable together. That’s the Tenderloins’ plan. Keep the team.

In what felt like another lifetime ago, back in 2011, Impractical Jokers had just started airing, and an aw-shucks Iowan with a nasty cough named Jeff Johnson began booking them in in, of all places, America’s Corn Belt. One night, after the biggest stretch of shows in their young career, the group retired to a hotel to settle expenses. “We were about to make real money here,” Murr says. “Well, real money that’s split four ways plus taxes, so it’s not like real money. But still, it’s a big number.”

Q goes to sleep. He’s exhausted. So now the three remaining pals double- and triple-check the receipts, and Jeff starts writing their check, and he’s about to sign his name when he begins coughing again, then gives off two big hacks — “cha! cha!” — and a third that turns into a wheeze, like “ehhhhhhhhhhhh,” and then he flops face-first onto the table, motionless. “Ha ha,” Joe says. But Jeff is still. A panic sets in. Their tour manager is dead.

Q would know what to do here, but he’s gone. Instead, Murr shakes Jeff’s shoulder. Joe attempts the Heimlich, though poorly. And Sal picks up a hotel courtesy phone and screams, “nine one one!” “Everything happened so fast, so I was just screaming,” Sal says.

And then Jeff takes a gulp of air, like in a movie when someone is dragged out of a river. He sits up and continues writing the check as if nothing happened. Then he looks up to see Murr frozen next to him, Joe behind him and Sal with a phone in his hand, and he says, “What happened? Did I die again?” It turns out Jeff has a health condition that causes him to sometimes not get enough oxygen and pass out. But he’s fine, he says.

The guys are shaken. Jeff had just driven them from stop to stop, sometimes six hours at a stretch. They could have all actually died. But they finish up their work, then head up the elevator. Jeff gets off first, the doors close behind him, and the rest stand in a daze. A moment passes. “And I just wheeze — ‘eh-heeeeeeehh,’” Joe says. “And that’s it. We. Were. Done. The elevator opened to our floor and we just spilled out of it. We were punching each other, laughing, for 45 minutes in the hallway.”

They’ve retold this story for years, embellishing the details, finding new punch lines. Quick, forge the check — we earned that money! It’s a funny moment but, more important, an early sign of their point of view: They know that no matter what happens, if they can find joy in something, then so can everyone else. Everything follows from the team.

That even includes Jeff. He’s still their tour manager. “But do we let him drive us now? No — fuck, no!” Murr says. “There’s no way he’s driving us anywhere.”


Tags: , ,

The 153 Best Company Cultures in America

The 153 Best Company Cultures in America

The 153 Best Company Cultures in America


the write hand llc

For the second year, Entrepreneur partnered with CultureIQ to find the best office cultures in America. For more companies, tips and profiles, check out the rest of 2017’s Top Company Cultures package.

Work should be gratifying. We should appreciate our colleagues. Our peers should inspire us. And our happy, efficient, productive workplaces should — and will — lead us all to greater success.

“A high-performance culture leads not only to employee engagement but also to measurable business results,” says Greg Besner, founder and CEO of CultureIQ, which makes software that helps companies improve their culture.

But you don’t need to be told that. Of course all that’s true. Of course it’s what we all want. So why is it so hard to pull off?

There are a lot of small answers to that question, but here’s the big one: Company cultures fail when a company doesn’t consciously focus on making it better. Good culture doesn’t just happen — or if it does, it’s fleeting and fragile. A truly strong one is nourished and grown, like any relationship. And oftentimes, when trying to cultivate a healthy culture, it helps to look at what other companies do, understand what they get right and adopt some of their best ideas.

That’s why Entrepreneur partnered with CultureIQ to find the best office cultures in America. We measured 10 areas that are predictive of high-performing cultures — collaboration, innovation, agility, communication, support, wellness, work environment, responsibility, performance and mission alignment — to quantify the success of the culture. We wanted to know: Who is worth learning from? And what makes them so good?

After surveying thousands of companies, we narrowed the list down to 50 rankings across three different company sizes — small, medium and large — to bring you our Top Company Cultures of 2017. (Each category did have a tie, making the list 153 companies.)

To see who made the cut, check out our lists below:

Small-Sized Companies
Medium-Sized Companies
Large-Sized Companies

Our methodology was straightforward. We spent five months in the middle of 2016 inviting all companies to apply. Once they did, their U.S. employees completed a survey of multiple-choice questions. The answers were used to assess a company’s strength across 10 core qualities of culture: collaboration, innovation, agility, communication, support, wellness, mission and value alignment, work environment, responsibility and performance focus. We combined scores with the employee Net Promoter Score to create a cumulative CultureIQ Score (CIQ), which is what determined the ranking. The companies with the highest scores made our lists. (To be considered for the ranking, a company must have at least 25 employees, have been founded before January 1, 2015, be headquartered in the U.S. and have enough employees respond to be considered a representative sample. For franchises, only the corporate employees were surveyed.)


Tags: , ,

You Have to Know When to Stop

You Have to Know When to Stop

I love for listened to Tim Ferriss by podcast for years. I am ever striving for that 4-hour work week. Someday The Write Hand, LLC will be at that place but for now I continue to strive forward. In 4-Hour Work Week, I always get warm fuzzy feelings when I hear Tim talk about his Virtual Assistant(s) and how using one can make your life so much easier and reduce business related stress. Well, in this article Entrepreneur Magazine features Tim as he talks about being happy with what you have and knowing when to stop.


You Have to Know When to Stop


Tim Ferriss: If You’re Not Happy With What You Have, You Might Never Be Happy

Tim Ferriss has plenty of sound advice for someone undertaking the grueling physical and psychological endurance test that is the miracle of modern air travel.

To avoid jet lag, book your flight on a Dreamliner if at all possible. Newer aircraft have improved pressure systems, which means the altitude takes less of a toll. Use TSA Precheck and Global Entry to evade the sock-footed Forced March of Doom, but arrive ludicrously early anyway and spend a few hours working in the airport lounge to avoid unnecessary stress. Hydrate. Use a zinc spray to bolster your immune system. Squirt saline into your nostrils. Pop one gram of vitamin C every hour and lysine every few hours for the duration of your trip. If you must check baggage containing expensive equipment, consider packing a starter pistol as well and register it at check-in so the airline authorities are extra attentive to your stuff and won’t misplace it. Hydrate some more. And at your soonest opportunity after arriving on terra firma, hop on a stationary bike for 10 minutes of vigorous pedaling.

I have followed approximately zero percent of this program when I arrive bleary-eyed and a few minutes late at a Santa Monica steakhouse for an audience with the superman of self-improvement. Fortunately, as he rises to greet me — clad in a reddish V-neck T-shirt and blue sweatpants by Rhone (a sponsor of his podcast) and a pair of flip-flops by Havaianas (not a sponsor) — it’s clear he’s in good enough shape for both of us. Ferriss, 39, is the picture of vitality, a walking, talking, admirably cut advertisement for the outer limits of human potential. The wildly successful author, podcaster, blogger, tango master and angel investor offers me a firm handshake and a ready smile. Having just come from a photo shoot, he’s lugging a giant gym bag and a backpack, which he admits make him feel a little like Bruce Banner — better known as the Incredible Hulk, one of his preschool idols.

Ferriss, who lives in San Francisco, is in Los Angeles for the week to tape a new TV series, Fear(less) with Tim Ferriss, essentially a televised version of his popular podcast. It will premiere on DirecTV sometime in 2017. This will be Ferriss’ second run at television. His first, The Tim Ferriss Experiment, featured the host striving to master a new field every week (parkour, tactical shooting, rally car driving, speaking Tagalog, drumming, etc.). Turner Broadcasting shot 13 episodes only to shelve the series before it aired following a back-office shakeup. Ferriss eventually got the digital rights and put the show on iTunes, where it topped the nonfiction series charts for weeks.

Meanwhile, he has also begun the laborious process of promoting a book, Tools of Titans, a 704-page bid to extend the streak of best-sellers that began with The 4-Hour Workweek, the 2007 publishing supernova that collected 26 rejections before finally finding its way to bookshelves. He followed it up with The 4-Hour Body and The 4-Hour Chef. This new book is “a toolkit for changing your life.” It’s a compendium of actionable wisdom — “field-tested beliefs and habits” — most of them gleaned from more than 200 interviews he conducted for the podcast, featuring everyone from Gen. Stanley McChrystal to actor-musician Jamie Foxx.

The book is, frankly, a firehose of advice. So much advice that no one person could possibly find it all manageable, let alone useful. But Ferriss doesn’t expect it to be used as a bible, with every word followed. That’s not the way self-improvement works, he says. And he should know: He has achieved guru status not by adopting every idea that comes his way but by leading a life of trial and error, and being willing to try new things and embrace only what suits his particular circumstances and ambitions. The critical element isn’t the improvement — it’s the openness to improvement, and the self-awareness to know what’s working.

“My goal is for each reader to like 50 percent, love 25 percent, and never forget 10 percent,” he writes. As for the rest of the massive volume? Maybe use it as a kettlebell. Seriously. This is a big book.

Ferriss grew up in East Hampton, N.Y., the fabulously wealthy oceanside enclave on the southern fork of Long Island, famous for its graceful shingled cottages nestled behind towering hedgerows and its Veuve-soaked summertime social scene. That wasn’t the Ferrisses’ world; they were “townies.” Tim’s father was a real estate agent; his mother, a physical therapist. Nonetheless, Ferriss recalls, “I was a very happy kid. I didn’t get new bikes very often. We ate a lot of chicken legs for dinner. But I never felt in want of anything. I wasn’t cognizant until much later of the discrepancy between what we had and what other people had.”

Besides, there were more pressing concerns. “I was a runt,” he says, “really small. I had horrible allergies, sinusitis. I got my ass kicked constantly. When kids went out to recess, that was not a safe zone for me.” He recalled one incident that occurred on the last day of fifth grade, when a pair of bullies decided to wish him well by slapping him on his sunburned back as hard as they could, taunting, “Have a good summer, Ferriss!”

“I held it together as best as I could,” he recalls, “and then as soon as they were gone, I just burst into tears.” He still remembers his teacher, Mrs. Talmage, who witnessed the whole thing, telling him, “Don’t you worry, Timmy; you’ll show them. You’ll show them, Timmy!” (Allene Talmage passed away in November, at age 93, but her daughter Shirley remembered the retired teacher poring over Ferriss’ books with pride, even as she began showing signs of dementia.)

Within a few months, Mrs. Talmage’s prediction for Ferriss came true. While spending the summer at sleepaway camp, the longtime Incredible Hulk fan had a button-popping growth spurt of his own. “I grew five inches and gained 60 pounds of muscle,” he says. “I came back and I was just enormous, but they could not compute that I was no longer the runt. “They were like, ‘This is the guy we always beat up.’ No, this is the guy that throws you over a desk and smashes your head into the floor.” Ferriss sips his iced tea, clearly relishing the memory. “It was very Revenge of the Nerds meets Fight Club. I’d like to say I regret it. That’s horseshit. It was glorious.

“It’s going to sound bad,” he adds, “but I’m glad I went through that, getting my ass kicked and learning to navigate danger and power dynamics.”

It was around that time that Ferriss took up wrestling, and as much as anything, the sport seems to have shaped the approach to life and work for which he would later become famous. Perhaps the purest and most ancient sport there is, amateur wrestling calls for an almost elemental combination of strength and strategy, courage and cunning, along with deep reserves of grit.

“I was never the most technical wrestler,” he admits. “But my coaches definitely instilled in me the belief that if you can push yourself and practice smarter than the other guy, you can beat him. ‘The more you sweat in training, the less you bleed in battle.’ I learned to associate discomfort with getting better. And that transcended wrestling and applied to a lot of other things in life.”

Meanwhile, Ferriss took a series of service industry jobs that put the Metallica fan in direct contact with the town’s moneyed elite. He worked cleanup at an ice cream parlor, and later bused tables at an iconic seafood shack, the Lobster Roll (featured in the series The Affair), and at the stately Maidstone Arms hotel, where his uniform consisted of a clip-on bow tie and a pink shirt, which he had to pay for. “It was probably the only collared shirt I owned,” he says.

Rubbing shoulders with East End aristocracy afforded him certain benefits, like the times he served Billy Joel a cup of coffee and earned a $20 tip. But not every customer was so beneficent. “There were people who would verbally berate you and treat you like you were at the bottom of the caste system,” he says. “Think of Bradley Cooper in Wedding Crashers, with the sweater tied around the shoulders and the pastels, and multiply that by a million—that’s what you’re dealing with. So, yeah, I definitely grew up with a lot of venom and distaste for city people.”

There was very little fraternizing with the rich kids. But once in a while, the summer heat, bare skin, and adolescent hormones might combine to inspire a brief “Romeo and Juliet–type romance,” he says. “That was like a snow leopard—if you could manage to get a kiss from an attractive girl who was forbidden, that was really a prize.” (Ferriss is currently dating an elite athlete, though he prefers not to identify her.)

Meanwhile, he is quick to point out the irony: These days, having graduated from Princeton and become a best-selling author, an unofficial lifestyle guru to tech billionaires, and a wealthy investor in his own right, Ferris now has more in common with those one-percenters he once despised than the salt-of-the-earth types he grew up with. (“When I go back,” he says, “I don’t know which world I belong to.”) He recently returned to the old Maidstone Arms—in fact, Tools of Titans was partly written there—and he was careful to leave an extremely generous tip.

Ferriss thinks growing up in the Hamptons, with his face pressed against the glass, may have led him to overvalue money for a time, fueling his intense drive for success. Now that he’s a millionaire many times over, he’s noticed that wealth rarely correlates with happiness. “Of course, that’s easy for me to say, because I’ve had a lucky streak for a number of years,” he admits. “But I know people who have hundreds of millions of dollars who are completely fucking miserable. All they do is bitch and moan about how someone who is maybe like a frenemy now has a bigger jet than they do. It really eats away at them. And I’m like, Wow; what a gnarly conundrum to be in.”

Eventually, this intensity and focus brought him to Princeton University, where he began working on a degree in neuroscience, a field he remains obsessed with despite switching majors to East Asian studies. During his senior year, in 1999, things started to go south. His thesis wasn’t coming together. He failed to get a second interview at McKinsey & Company, the management consulting powerhouse. A longtime girlfriend broke up with him. Reeling, Ferriss decided to take a year off, but he soon found that being disconnected from school made things worse. As his feelings of anxiety and depression grew, he began to seriously contemplate suicide—a period in his life he spoke about publicly for the first time in a 2015 Reddit Ask Me Anything. “It was really just a matter of luck that I didn’t wind up erasing myself,” he says now. In typical style, he approached the idea with voluminous research, carefully considering the various methods and weighing the pros and cons of each. One of the many books on suicide he requested from the Princeton library was unavailable, so he placed a hold on it, forgetting that he had requested that mail be sent to his parents’ address during his leave. When the library sent a notice informing him of the book’s availability, his mother opened it and called him in a panic.

“Hearing my mom’s voice waver and kind of break snapped me out of my self-absorbed delusion,” he says. “I still battle my demons and have ups and downs. But I’ve become better at managing them. I think, This is just the changing of the seasons. You’ve been richly rewarded for your up periods when you have these floods of ideas and endurance and you can get five weeks’ worth of stuff done in five days. This is the tax you pay.”

He also found a lifeline in extreme physical activity: He and a friend from his wrestling days resolved to win a Chinese kickboxing national competition. He began training every day. “I went to a very rough boxing gym in Trenton where I was the only person not on work release,” he says. “I got my head pounded for a bit and eventually got accepted.” He also made a careful study of the sport’s rulebook, applying the analytical mindset that had served him so well in other areas. For example, fights took place on an elevated mat, and a participant who was pushed or knocked off more than three times automatically forfeited the match. Ferriss built his strategy around this rule, honing a unique ability to shove his opponent off the platform by practicing push kicks instead of the more common roundhouse kicks. He also made use of his wrestler’s skill at cutting weight—using radical weight-loss techniques to drop as much as 20 pounds before a weigh-in and gaining it, plus almost 10 more pounds, back by the time of the fight. “I thought, If I can focus on my strengths and cover my weaknesses enough to not get knocked out, maybe I could actually do something,” he says.

He was right: He won the national title. And perhaps more important, he regained his confidence and learned how to use a physical goal to keep the rest of his life on track. “It helps structure my days and weeks,” he explains. “The frequency of training acts as a scaffolding around which I can hang everything else. And it gave me a feeling of agency where I could control something.”

Participating in combat sports carried an additional benefit that only became clear in time. “It helped condition me to tolerate high stakes,” he says. “Kickboxing is a sport in which physical injury is an inevitable consequence of participating. The entire purpose is to punch other people in the head. “You learn to manage fear,” he says. “And that doesn’t mean getting rid of it. It means you are learning to take action despite fear, and that is a very useful inoculation for everything you do later.”

After graduating, Ferriss moved to Silicon Valley and wound up in a dead-end sales job with a data storage company. He resolved to start a business of his own. “First, I asked myself: What do I know really well?” he recalls. He realized that he was already something of an expert in the supplements industry, having put his neuroscience knowledge to use in college, making home-brew smart drugs in his dorm bathroom. He found, for instance, that after a few hits of a diuretic nasal spray typically prescribed for adolescent bedwetting, he could cram for his Chinese-character quizzes “and flip the pages like Rain Man.”

He asked himself another question: Where am I absurdly price-insensitive? Looking at his credit card statements, the answer was obvious. “At the time, I was spending probably $500 a month on sports supplements, and back then I made probably $40,000 pretax in the Bay Area.”

Then, a final question: What do I think I can market effectively?

Ferriss had been a student of marketing since he was a kid. He often stayed up well past bedtime, immersed in late-night infomercials. “I was curious to find out how the mind works and how we navigate our decisions,” he says. He’d study the scripts, taking notes. On occasion, he’d place an order just to see what arrived, then return it for a refund. He even kept a binder filled with ads that had worked on him. He combined all this insight into a supplements company, BrainQuicken, which launched in 2000. Sales were sluggish, but he noticed users raving about the physical results they derived from the product—even though it was designed to enhance their minds. “I was hearing from high-level NCAA athletes: ‘I’m jumping higher!’ ‘My time off the blocks is faster!’” The problem wasn’t the product, he realized, but the positioning. “I thought people wanted to be smarter,” he says, “and they do. They just won’t spend $50 on it.” He kept the formula the same but changed the name to BodyQuick and targeted athletes. Soon he had a hit.

Ferriss’ efforts to run the company without letting it consume his life are at the heart of The 4-Hour Workweek. The book’s breakaway success (there are two million in print in the U.S. alone) eventually led him to cash out and plunge into investing. His large fan base in the tech world meant he had tons of relationships, which gave him a huge leg up. He learned to focus on consumer-oriented companies, where his promotional mojo could be put to good effect. “I say yes only to deals where I can materially affect the outcome,” he says. And he stuck mostly to angel investing, because he preferred long-term commitment over the unending stress of the stock market.

The results have been impressive. His portfolio has included such juggernauts as Facebook, Uber, Alibaba, Wealthfront, and Duolingo. “I’ve had multiple investments at $25,000 that have become worth more than a million dollars,” he reports, reaching for a forkful of spinach.

With many of his startups, Ferriss’ role goes well beyond writing a check and later cashing a bigger one. He can now offer the sum of his parts—the personal knowledge, tested and retested through his own life, of how to learn from adversity and find untapped strength.

After lunch, Ferriss drops by the nearby office of one of his portfolio companies, Tradesy, a peer-to-peer digital consignment shop for women’s fashion, where users buy and sell their stylish castoffs.

Tracy DiNunzio, the company’s thirtysomething founder and CEO, who launched the business in 2014, had no shortage of eager investors when she went out to do her Series B fund-raising round. She passed on several extremely well-regarded Silicon Valley figures in favor of Ferriss. “He was our most value-added investor,” she tells me, sitting in a small conference room just off the spacious main workspace. “I knew he had already built a great brand for himself and that he had an uncanny knack for communications, but he delivered far more than he promised. We started with a brainstorming warmup conversation, and he had more ideas than we’d heard in a year. He also knew a lot more about tech investing than I expected. I don’t know how he learned it so quickly.”

“Buy lots of booze for people who like to talk,” Ferriss says with a smile.

Like just about everyone who is lucky enough to get an audience with Ferriss, DiNunzio starts with a few health concerns. Running a startup takes a toll. The company she started in her kitchen now employs 110 people. And DiNunzio recently embarked on a challenging shift in emphasis: Rather than exclusively chasing growth, the company’s north star for years, she is now aiming for profitable growth. “The operating gymnastics have become more intense,” she says. “The days are longer.”

“You signed up for the majors,” Ferriss sympathizes.

“And we’re in a late quarter!” DiNunzio replies. “How do I get my energy up so I can keep doing these 16-hour days, six days a week?”

Ferriss offers a flood of fixes: Go on a ketogenic diet, or try synthetic ketones. Meditate more. Get comprehensive blood work.

“I don’t want to know what’s in there,” DiNunzio jokes. “It’s all coffee.”

“You may discover a micronutrient deficiency,” Ferriss cautions, mentioning a friend who discovered he was low on selenium. He started eating Brazil nuts, and soon he felt like he was on cocaine. “You have ‘key man risk,’” he points out. “Of all the machines, you’re the one that can’t break.”

Ferriss asks about personnel. “You hired for growth. Has it been hard to adapt all the team members to the new focus?”

It has. “We’ve said goodbye to a lot of people who were instrumental in getting us here,” DiNunzio says. That has been the biggest challenge, especially given the personal connection he feels for her team. “It’s not the pace so much but the tax of shepherding 100-plus people through this change.”

Then the conversation turns to another new challenge. Tradesy is seeing increasing competition from other websites that are essentially copying its central concept. Some of DiNunzio’s core marketing messages are being lifted verbatim by rivals. “Nothing we’ve said in the past is still unique to us,” she says. They need a new approach.”

“Imitation,” Ferriss says with a grin. “The sincerest form of driving your cost per acquisition through the roof.” He asks if the company’s slogans—for instance, “Cash in your closet”—are legally defensible. No, DiNunzio replies. They didn’t get all of them trademarked.

Ferriss suggests a different focus. “Ask yourself: What’s quantifiable that other people can’t duplicate? Number of years in business, number of customers, units shipped? Come up with something that’s empirically difficult for someone else to mimic.” Another thought: customer testimonials. “It’s something I ask myself and a lot of startups,” he says. “How do you utilize your customers? How can you get them to do the marketing for you?”

All the ideas make good sense to DiNunzio. Then, a bolt of lightning. DiNunzio mentions that Tradesy’s big advantage is its dominance in what’s called organic search. Due to a lot of back-end effort early on, postings on the site rank high in Google’s search algorithm. In fact, 70 percent of the site’s traffic comes in through that route, so Tradesy has been able to pull back on pricey Facebook ads—which is great because such users who arrive via search come in at no cost and often wind up making a purchase. Meanwhile, the other primary method for attracting e-commerce customers, through Facebook ads, usually captures people who may be valuable over time but often don’t buy anything right away.

This gives Ferriss an idea. “How could you take away this crutch that your competitors are using—given that they are far more dependent on that paid media?” he asks. He suggests a plan that many businesses would consider unthinkable: Take Tradesy’s well-developed playbook for paid acquisition and share it with the world. Just hand some of the company’s most hard-won trade secrets, free of charge, to the many deep-pocketed retailers, the Nordstroms of the world, who are relatively new to the social marketing game. Given Tradesy’s advantage in organic search, Ferriss explains, “this sacrifice is actually going to hurt your competitors more than it’s going to hurt you.” That’s because the resulting increase in competition for Facebook ads would force Tradesy’s rival consignment websites to pay more to find their customers.

“So maybe guest-author a post in an industry journal?” he suggests.

DiNunzio has a better idea. “I just got invited to speak at a major e-commerce conference,” she says, eyes twinkling. She turns to me. “I mean, what’s up with him, right?” she asks incredulously of Ferriss. “This is a more in-depth conversation about digital paid-marketing strategy than I can usually have with other e-commerce CEOs who do this for a living. And then layer on top of it the fucking Jedi strategy of making retailers crush the margins of our competitors.”

Ferriss smiles.

“Now you get why he’s so good,” she says.

Ferriss wasn’t planning on writing another book, not yet anyway. Tools of Titans began as a private project, an attempt, after creating hundreds of hours’ worth of podcasts, to simply catalog the wisdom his guests had imparted and mine it for takeaways he might apply to his own life. At the time, he was living in Paris, where he’d gone to take a class in fiction writing—a plan that soon found its way to the back burner when he realized what gold he was turning up in those mp3s.

“When I started the book, I thought it would be a cakewalk,” he admits. It wasn’t. He began, as he always does, by studying the market—purchasing “six to 12” successful books in the genre he is entering. “As it turns out,” he says bluntly, “most books of interviews are fucking terrible. They’re not actionable.” Determined to publish something authentically results-driven, he read through his transcripts, filled in gaps by conducting additional interviews, and wrote a number of original chapters himself. (Despite his faith in outsourcing, Ferriss shuns ghostwriters because they’re not able to capture his voice.)

Navigating some 700 pages of actionable advice poses several challenges for the reader, foremost among them: How do we decide whose advice to take? For instance, the chapter featuring Seth Rogen and his producing partner, Evan Goldberg, includes the oft-repeated writers’ workshop admonition to “write what you know,” a platitude Freakonomics author Steven J. Dubner categorically denounces some 50 pages later. Of course, Rogen and Goldberg make Hollywood blockbusters, while Dubner comes out of journalism. And that’s partly the point: Meaningful nitty-gritty advice tends to be situational. What works wonders for one person might be disastrous for another.

Ferriss urges readers to subject ideas to rigorous testing. “It’s only good advice if it lends itself to a good experiment,” he says. “And a good experiment is measurable and replicable.” He offers an example. We are commonly told to “Do some exercise in the morning.” To Ferriss, this is bad advice—even if it’s a good idea. “It’s super-nebulous,” he explains, and therefore someone attempting to follow this prescription will almost definitely fail. “It’s almost like taking a step in a worse direction.”

But according to Ferriss, this type of vague advice is what fills most business-oriented books. “It’s like, ‘active integrity…’” he says. “What does that mean? It’s like a cheesy motivational poster. Ninety percent of the business-book content out there consists of meaningless platitudes like that. But once you define ‘good advice’ as something you can test, it takes care of itself.” And he adds, readers who achieve genuine results become the best evangelists. “If I win over 1,000 true fans, I don’t need a marketing budget,” he says—an idea popularized by Wired cofounding editor Kevin Kelly, and, naturally, featured in Tools of Titans.

At this point, clearly, he’s got many more than 1,000 devotees. For instance, his podcast, The Tim Ferriss Show, has been downloaded more than 100 million times. In part, that’s because Ferriss is a good host. But there’s more to it than that. As with everything else, Ferriss’ approach to the genre has been extraordinarily methodical, data-driven, and results-oriented. He decided to start with just six episodes, the amount, he reasoned, that would “maximize lessons learned: getting better at conducting interviews, getting rid of verbal tics, learning to secure guests”—even if he decided to bail. “That is a constant question in my mind for almost every single decision I make,” he says. “Even if this fails, what other benefits can I derive from it?”

The podcasting industry, Ferriss goes on, “is rife with assumptions.” For instance, “where in the Ten Commandments is it written that you have to charge $10 to $12 CPM?” (the price for 1,000 impressions). Instead, he worked backward, asking, What financial proposition would make this exciting for me? He settled on an astronomical $60 CPM and then set about creating a product that would be worth the money. “That means that when a sponsor signs with me, I want to ensure they win.” He does it by enlisting a team of people to make sure a sponsor’s e-commerce game is optimized to convert traffic into paying customers. Meanwhile, although many episodes of his show generate more than a million downloads, he sets prices around a guarantee of just 450,000. “It’s massive underselling,” he says. “Why? Because I want my sponsors to fucking love me.” Although he puts minimal effort into sales and typically insists on payment up front, the show’s ad space is booked up several quarters in advance.

“If I had followed the playbook that other successful podcasters are using, I would have quit,” he says. “It would not have been worth my time. It would be stressful. And I would not have the space to focus on the creative aspects, which are what I enjoy.”

By this point, the 4-hour man is on track to give me a 9-hour interview. In fact, he seems so relaxed that I’m convinced (haters to the contrary) he really has organized his life to give himself all the free time he can handle. But we’re on a roll. “I’m sure any one of these places would be more than happy to sell us some alcohol,” he says cheerfully as we stroll through downtown Santa Monica.

Is Tim Ferriss perfect? He’s certainly working on it. But after close examination, I can confirm that he is, in fact, still a human A few years ago, for instance, he came down with Lyme disease and spent nine months all but incapacitated. (The ketogenic diet is what helped him get over the illness.)

And despite years of focused self-improvement, he still has a few vices. Ginger cookies are one. Wine is another, which becomes apparent as we settle into a cavernous gastropub and Ferriss pores over the list. “If I have a waiter whom I ask about an expensive glass of wine—meaning, like, $5 more than a cheap one—and he’s like, ‘Nah, go with that bottle,’ like, you just got an extra tip,” Ferriss says. “Have an opinion. Do not just tell me everything’s good.”

He orders a Malbec.

“It’s important to know where you have the ability to moderate and where you don’t,” Ferriss says. “In the case of alcohol, I don’t do moderation very well. If I have one glass, I’m like, ‘I’m not properly buzzed. I might as well have two or three.’” That’s why two to four times a year, he turns teetotaler for a month.

But his biggest vice, Ferriss says, once again channeling Bruce Banner, is anger. “I have worked very hard on it,” he says. He’s used journaling and meditation to help him learn to notice his thoughts and moods as they’re occurring. “It lets you step outside the washing machine,” he explains, “so you can watch things spin, rather than tumbling around inside of it.” But the most effective therapy, he says, has been “very deliberate, supervised use of psychedelics, specifically psilocybin and ayahuasca.” He has what he calls a “dosing schedule”: very low microdoses of ibogaine hydrochloride and moderate doses of psilocybin, or magic mushrooms, every two months, and a “much deeper exploration of the other side” with ayahuasca approximately twice a year. “I have friends and relatives who would say this is the most important work I have done on myself. I feel like I have debugged a lot of my code.” That said, he adds, using psychedelics like ayahuasca “can be a really harrowing experience. It’s like a complete cleaning of your ego. I’ve felt like I’ve been torn apart and dying an infinite number of times for hours. It’s not a great place to sit, let me tell you.”

I ask if he is microdosing now. “No, because I ran out, and the legal risks are extremely high,” he says. “So boys and girls, talk to your lawyer and your doctor before doing anything I say.” The former neuroscience major has also helped to fund scientific research—more than $100,000 this year he says—on the use of such drugs for the treatment of end-of-life anxiety, PTSD, and depression.

Soon our waiter arrives to take our food order, and Ferriss puts him to the test. “If you had to name your first and second choice,” Ferriss asks him, “among the hangar steak, the burger—”

“The burger, definitely,” the waiter puts in quickly.

“Good man!” Ferriss exclaims, ordering the burger, no bun, with avocado and bacon piled on top, brussels sprouts instead of fries, and oysters to start.

Back on the subject of his imperfection, he readily admits to more than a touch of OCD-like behavior. “I’ll have books or stacks of things on a desk, and if the spaces between them are not parallel, it drives me crazy,” he says. “I’m very obsessed with symmetry and clean lines. But frankly, I don’t know anyone who’s really good at what they do who doesn’t have a bit of that. You have to give a shit to a level that is a bit pathological.”

Given his intensity, I can’t help wondering if he might have one more vice: an addiction to continuous self-improvement. Will you ever experiment with the idea of just chilling out? I ask him. Maybe write a book about, say, kicking back on the sofa, eating ginger cookies, and becoming a slob? “Some experiments are not very interesting to me,” he replies with a laugh. “It’s a matter of incentives. Why would you do it?” That said, he has taken months off and totally unplugged. “I went to Bali—no phone, no calendar,” he says. Of course, he spent most of his time studying Bahasa, “the standardized Indonesian language.”

I press him. Isn’t it possible, I ask, to basically optimize yourself so compulsively you forget to actually live your life? “Sure, and I’ve been there,” he says. “Because the study and pursuit of achievement are necessarily very future-tense. If you can’t be happy with what you have in the present, then you can never be happy. A sole focus on productivity, calibrated and measured based on some future outcome? Oh, you’re fucked, pal. You’re going to psychological hell in a handbasket if you don’t have some kind of counterbalancing practice.”

That helps explain why despite his success as an investor, Ferriss hasn’t made an investment in a startup in a year and a half. The research required too much mental energy. “Lots of tech investors participate in popular deals out of FOMO or social obligation,” he says. “I manage my own money, so if I take a break for a few years, who gives a shit?”

Instead, he is applying his freed-up cognitive capacity to new challenges: He’s tooling around with a screenplay based on The 4-Hour Workweek, a project he thinks of as “Dodgeball meets Fight Club.” Meanwhile, in order to learn the movie business, he’s planning on directing a series of short films—a project he admits may be a “take my money and set it on fire in the middle of the street” sort of venture.

So why do it? “Because I want to, and I think it will be fun.”

The last glass of Malbec is almost gone. Ferriss leans back from the table. “Mostly, I just really want to insert more absurdity into my life,” he says. “I think this is a very therapeutic and joy-inducing thing—to have, along with the productivity, a very large dose of absurdity. It’s a really good and healthy thing for me to do.”


Tags: , , , ,