Last week I attended an incredible event here in Los Angeles: mega-popular best-selling author, blogger, and podcaster Tim Ferriss hosted a live podcast recording event at the famous Troubadour night club in Hollywood – his first live show ever. I was really lucky to grab one of the 25 VIP tickets and be among the hundreds of fans who attended this sold-out 4-hour podcast show (4-hour podcast, get it? get it?).
I got a lot out of the event, including a photo with Tim (I’m such a fangirl) and lots of Q&A time. The guests on the show were Grammy-nominated DJ Kaskade, Olympian snowboarder/ skateboarder Shaun White, Poetry Slam Champion Sekou Andrews, and DJ Nu-mark of Jurassic 5. Yes, there was even dancing!
Here is a review of my top ten key insights, reminders, and takeaways for me that can also help you along your journey. I’ve divided them into three categories: General insights, Guest insights, and Q&A insights.
1. Jump in on opportunities that are unique, compelling, and time-limited. We get bombarded by opportunities all the time. Some of them are relevant to our goals and some are a distraction. Often, you have time to think about them and make a good decision. Sometimes, however, you have to act fast – there’s a real scarcity element and there’s not a lot of time to make pro/con charts in Excel. You could use a trick I learned from Tim’s interview of his friend Derek Sivers: “It’s either a HECK YEAH or it’s a NO.” There should be nothing in between.
So when the email came in from Tim announcing that in one-week’s time he’ll be here in L.A. for this unique event, I had to think and act fast. And I pounced on it with a big ol’ HECK YEAH! Which I do not regret.
2. Start before you’re ready. As I’ve said before, you will never feel 100% ready for anything. You have to be willing to boldly move toward your big, scary goals even before you feel ready. Tim modeled this well here. In an earlier podcast episode of the Tim Ferriss Show, he mentioned that one of his goals for 2016 was to try doing live podcast shows. He wasn’t sure where, how, what, etc., but he went for it and took action pretty quickly (holding his first one in early February, kicking off the year with action toward his big goal). On stage, Tim described how nervous he was and unsure of all the details when he jumped in with both feet. But he did it, and I’m sure glad he did because it created an amazing evening for me and a couple of hundred other lucky audience members.
3. Think outside the box. Tim demonstrated his willingness to think outside the box by creating a live event for a podcast and even including performances, in addition to the traditional podcast. But I think it’s very consistent with his maverick brand to do things other people don’t do or to find workarounds and shortcuts to create really impressive results. What are opportunities for you to do something really differently from what’s traditionally been done before that can generate impressive results?
4. Surprise and delight your audience, customers, or constituents. As an audience member, I had no idea whom Tim would be interviewing for the podcast. (When you have such a loyal fan-base, I guess you can sell-out an event without even disclosing the program!) Even during the event itself, we didn’t know the program or what would come next. Each guest was a new surprise and a delight. Sometimes when everything is predictable, we can become complacent. Even something that seems excellent and great can become the ordinary and expected over time. So we all need to keep our constituents on their toes and surprise and delight them. It creates greater excitement, loyalty, and engagement.
5. Go above and beyond. We hear this so often that it sounds cliché, but do we actually experience it often? Not really. Tim went above and beyond by jam-packing the evening with content and action. He had two different interview guests and two different entertainers, plus two different Q&A opportunities (and all this was for the regular show, plus more for the VIP later). This principle was also echoed in the content shared by one of the performers, poet Sekou Andrews. He reminded us of how excited we become when we order a smoothie and they have more than fits in the cup, so they give us that extra little cup with the rest of the smoothie contents from the blender. Part of his message was to spread that ‘little extra cup of awesome’ to everyone you meet. Maximize!
6. Do the impossible. The impossible is possible if you don’t listen to the naysayers or follow conventional wisdom. Tim said that the common denominator he used to select his guests for this event was that they made a successful career of something that is usually discouraged and most people would say is not something that one could ‘make a comfortable full-time living’ with. A professional snowboarder/skateboarder, a professional poet, and two professional DJs shared their stories and work with us about how they did it anyway. (More on the ‘how’ is covered in the next tips below.)
7. Believe in yourself even when others doubt you. This theme was recurring in the three guests who spoke their story. Kaskade told about how he and his wife decided to move from Chicago to San Francisco. He kept working at being a professional DJ and his wife supported him, financially and spiritually, along the way and before his financial success came. He got lots of advice to pursue other, more secure careers, but he believed it was possible and kept pursuing a DJing career, and it worked out.
Sekou Andrews shared how he was often laughed at when he shared that he was trying to make it as a professional poet, but he pursued this career, competed in and won a championship, and is now indeed a full-time, financially-successful poet making a positive impact on thousands.
Shaun White is obviously in an unusual career track as a pro skateboarder and snowboarder and an Olympian. I enjoyed several examples he shared of the kind of thinking that helped him achieve this status. First, many of the tricks he’s famous for were tricks he invented. He kept trying new things and being creative, and created tricks that became part of his unique brand and propelled his success. At 15 years old, he was part of a competition/exhibition event with several much older and more successful skaters whom he admired and saw as role models. They decided they didn’t feel like competing and tried to convince him to just exhibit and not compete. They told him he wouldn’t win anyway, why bother. But Shaun described how he believed in himself and his ability, and had a burning drive to compete and win. So he didn’t follow their advice, and he beat them – he won the competition even as the underdog!
8. Set high goals, work hard, and pursue mastery and excellence. All of the guests described how they had to put in the effort and sweat equity. Success doesn’t come overnight. They achieved great things first because they pursued them – they didn’t set easy or readily-achievable goals, they set hard, big goals for themselves. Then, they worked diligently in pursuit of those goals, willingly putting in the time to practice, perfect their craft, and incrementally gain the mastery required to achieve them. It’s doing things over and over and over, even when it’s boring or tedious, to become better and get an edge over all the competitors who stop practicing earlier and sooner than you.
A funny insight that I got from Shaun White was that each year, he sets two goals – one serious, big one, but another one that he calls ‘fun’. For example, one year he had a goal to win the Olympics with snowboarding, but his ‘fun’ goal was to design a pair of Van-Halen-esque U.S. flag pants and wear them on the cover of the Rolling Stones magazine. He achieved both!
9. Assess if you’re on track. Tim was asked how he measures whether he’s on track or not. He shared that he doesn’t really have specific goal metrics but that there are two key questions that Tim asks himself to assess whether he’s doing what he should be doing:
- Am I excited about it? Tim suggested that you will be much more successful if you’re working on something that excites you. So if you feel your excitement waning, it could be a sign from your gut that you’re on the wrong track or pursuing the wrong goal.
- Am I sleeping well? Tim described that when he sleeps peacefully, it’s a sign that he’s on the right track. But when he sleeps fitfully, tossing and turning or waking frequently, it’s usually a sign that there’s something wrong or that he should reconsider his direction.
Do you have a metric that helps you assess if you’re going off track or working on things that are out-of-alignment with your values or goals?
10. Emulate the habits of high performers. Tim was asked what commonalities he found among his successful, high-performing podcast guests. Tim listed several: most have a meditation practice, a structured consistent morning routine, and pursue multiple curiosities, for example. I found it especially interesting that all of them push themselves into the discomfort zone regularly. Tim said that he noticed that all of his diverse and unique guests regularly do things that make them uncomfortable and go into uncharted territory to develop new knowledge and skills that give them an edge in their work. I certainly experience this both in my own life and suggest it to leaders with whom I work. I wrote about it in my book, blogs, and articles, and have spoken about it in my podcast. What are you doing to regularly push yourself outside your comfort zone?
- Jump in on opportunities
- Start before you’re ready
- Think outside the box
- Surprise and delight
- Go above and beyond
- Do the impossible
- Believe in yourself
- Set high goals, work hard, and pursue mastery and excellence
- Assess whether you’re on track
- Emulate the habits of high performers
So – which of these lessons resonates with you the most? Which one do you think you can take on as a challenge and begin creating an action plan to bring more of it to your life? Write it in the comments, I’d love to get a conversation going!
[Edit: Since this was published, Tim has released the recordings of the live podcasts from this event! Here is the interview with Shaun White, and here's a combo of the interview with Kaskade plus Sekou Andrews' performance. Enjoy!]
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