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North Star Podcast

Author: David Perell

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A deep dive into the stories, habits, ideas, strategies and methods that drive fulfilled people and create enormous success for them. The guests are diverse, but they share profound similarities. They’re guided by purpose, live with intense joy, learn passionately, and see the world with a unique lens. Each episode lets us soak in their hard-earned wisdom and apply it to our lives. Guests include Neil deGrasse Tyson, Seth Godin, and Tyler Cowen.
79 Episodes
My guest today is Seth Godin, the author of nineteen international bestsellers that have been translated into more than 35 languages. My all-time favorite is Purple Cow, which I discovered in college and became my nickname. This is my second interview with Seth, who has published an article every day now for more than a decade. If you want to be a prolific creator, Seth is one of the best teachers you can possibly find. This interview is all about his writing practice. Seth calls himself a “professional noticer” so we talked about how he finds and validates new ideas. On the topic of shipping creative work, we spoke about the root of imposter syndrome and why Seth likes writing on airplanes, and how his book The Practice was inspired by one of his workshops. We also discussed his tactics for effective public speaking, how to improve the education system, and what we've learned by running online schools — his AltMBA and my Write of Passage. ____________________________ Show Notes 2:32 - What inspired Seth to start his now 20+ year daily writing streak. 6:00 - The root of impostor syndrome and why Seth thinks it's not only normal but just true. 8:14 - The evolution of an idea or a blog post into a full book. 10:50 - Why it is important to ship as a creative worker and what it means to ship your content. 13:50 - Why certain conditions make it easier for people to create than others. 16:59 - What Seth learned about creating inspiration from hard science fiction writer Isaac Asimov. 20:22 - How Seth developed his unique video style and the unique way he utilizes his slides. 23:25 - What the best future of education looks like to Seth and why he believes in the dream of public schooling. 29:48 - Why the standard lecture model of the current education system is missing the point of education. 33:53 - The difference between online education and online learning and why Seth sees them as almost polar opposites. 39:35 - Why there must be space for surprises in online learning. 41:31 - How capitalism has caused certain schools to flourish less through their educational prowess and more as a pipeline to various jobs.
My guest today is Dave Nemetz, the Founder of Bleacher Report, which was one of my favorite media companies as a kid. During his time there, Dave oversaw video, business development, and business operations. He helped grow the audience to more than 40 million monthly unique visitors before selling the company to Turner Broadcasting in 2012. Today, he is the Founder of Inverse and the Executive Vice President of Bustle Digital Group where he leads growth and business strategy for Inverse, Input, and Mic. The conversation topics in this episode fall into three buckets: personal principles, business principles, and the state of the world. We spoke about what it's like to lead your company through a merger, why you can think of media businesses like a supply & demand equation, and one of Dave's favorite quotes from Hunter S. Thompson: “When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.” My favorite part of the interview was hearing about a band called Phish, which Dave has seen in concert more than 200 times. That section kickstarted a whole conversation about the brand-building tradeoff between being welcoming to new fans and serving die-hard fans. ____________________________ Show Notes 2:31 - What inspired David to get started on the Bleacher Report and why he was drawn to it as a project. 6:24 - Why the desire for a different kind of sports coverage took so long to take off and why other companies didn't get into it earlier. 9:06 - Why sites like Bleacher Report find their niche, even with an abundance of content being created all of the time. 12:46 - The implicit versus the explicit side of finding your niche and exploiting it in the market. 15:14 - What David has learned about building a brand and serving your customers from his favorite band, Phish. 20:12 - How businesses can both serve their die-hard fans and not neglect their newcomers. 27:05 - The arrival fallacy and why selling Bleacher Report to Turner wasn't as exciting as it may have looked on the outside. 31:36 - Why David believes that a fervent drive and passion to achieve goals is a double-edged sword. 34:26 - What most people don't know about managing a business during a buyout or a merger and why it was so difficult for David to handle. 42:54 - How the world of advertising in the early 2000s hadn't seemed to change much from the era of "Mad Men". 52:38 - Why the "the geeks won" and why David is super happy about it. 57:13 - How David has oriented his recruitment and retention strategy in his media brands. 1:05:43 - What the "career elevator" is and why David was determined to create it for himself. 1:10:29 - Some of David's favorite quotes, and why one of his core philosophies is to "enjoy your sandwich".
Newsweek Magazine once called Rabbi Wolpe the most influential rabbi in America. He is the Senior Rabbi at Sinai Temple in Los Angeles and he's the author of eight books including one about King David and another gem called Why Be Jewish? I don't remember the last time I enjoyed preparing for an interview so much. I'm named after King David, but until this interview, I hadn't explored the history of my name in more than a decade. This interview touches on various parts of Judaism including how rabbis should interpret the Bible, what we can learn from King David, and how Judaism anchors us when a loved one dies. There were two parts that I'll always remember. The first was a discussion about the concept of aloneness in Judaism. On one hand, the book of Deuteronomy says: “It is not because you are the most numerous of peoples that I have set my heart upon you and treasured you—indeed, you are the fewest.” On the other, community is everywhere in Jewish life and the first thing God called not good in the Bible is loneliness — “It is not good for the man to be alone (Gen 2:18).” Secondly, I enjoyed our conversation about repentance in the Jewish faith and how you must repent after a loved one dies but also have to stop after 11 months. If this conversation interests you, I recommend his sermons on YouTube and the book I mentioned before called: Why Be Jewish? ____________________________ Show Notes 3:15 - How Jews have uniquely struggled with their identity and the way they present themselves. 5:56 - How the heroes of the Jewish culture have changed over time and what makes them heroic. 8:26 - What makes Judaism different from Christianity. 11:39 - The interpretation of the Bible and how Judaism reconciles its eternal nature with the changing interpretations over time. 14:43 - The most meaningful traditions in Jewish people's lives and why Rabbi Wolpe sees the Jewish mourning rituals as some of the most powerful. 19:24 - Why many Jewish people converted to Buddhism in the Modern era. 22:11 - Why the decline of religious people throughout the world may indicate a decline in art being created. 25:52 - The power of a culture of togetherness and why Rabbi Wolpe believes that Judaism was unique in being welcomed to America with open arms. 29:02 - Yom Kippur and why Judaism uniquely holds a ritual of confession not only for each person's sin but also from the sins of the Jewish people. 31:01 - One of the biggest differences between classical Christianity and Judaism. 34:35 - What separated Maimonides from other prominent Jewish philosophers. 36:39 - What Heschel meant in that the collapsing of space is seen as the collapsing of time. 38:45 - Why we should always take care of our "big rocks" first before anything else. 44:56 - Why modern life and technology can cause people to lose touch with the transcendent and the world around us. 49:09 - Why Rabbi Wolpe feels that introducing children to religion at an early age is important to their understanding of it. 54:20 - The origin of the Jewish style of dry humor. 1:00:05 - What about King David drew Rabbi Wolpe to study him so deeply. 1:04:34 - Why it's impossible to change the age of a boy's transition into a man through a bar mitzvah. 1:07:01 - What it means to Rabbi Wolpe to be a Rabbi.
My guest today is Joseph Henrich, a professor at Harvard and an expert on the evolution of human cooperation and culture. I am a big fan of his book, "The Secret of Our Success" and he just published a new one called the Weirdest People in the World about people who fall under the acronym WEIRD: Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, and Democratic. Through his research, he explains culture's role in evolution. He shows how evolutionary theory can help us learn, innovate, and share knowledge. We begin this episode by talking about the role big Gods play in cultural evolution. Then we talk about the time Joe spent living with small-scale societies in rural Peru and Fiji. He talks about how he learns the language, plans the trips, and assimilates into societies so he can study them. Towards the end of the podcast, we talk about what economists can learn from anthropologists and the evolution of attraction. My favorite part of the conversation was learning about the tradeoffs between having an open or closed society, and how those factors contribute to innovation. Please enjoy my conversation with Joseph Henrich. ____________________________ Show Notes 2:06 - How the role of God has evolved over time and why bigger and bigger Gods have become the norm. 4:50 - Why acting as a third party for people made Gods culturally and socially so much more important. 8:36 - Marriage across cultures and religions and why they diverge sometimes wildly from what Western culture considers "normal". 13:44 - Why many religious restrictions that created the Western norm of a nuclear family also set up the stage for heightened individualism. 16:58 - How and why social safety nets transitioned from kin-based institutions to the states and governments. 18:46 - What surprising similarities and differences Joe saw between Americans and the Machiguenga of the Peruvian Amazon. 22:22 - The role of humor in enforcing social norms, why Joe thinks it is absolutely universal, and the other universal ways trust is built-in communities. 28:35 - How narcotics and psychedelics are utilized in different cultures and the way their roles differ. 31:20 - Why cultural imitation does not always yield positive outcomes. 33:11 - How the introduction of agriculture changed family relationships and culture. 39:36 - The biggest takeaways Joe got from Guns, Germs, and Steel. 43:28 - Why Joe believes that religion is innate in human beings. 50:31 - The possible implications of losing rituals that for millennia have brought families and clans closer together. 52:24 - What the clock and a universal time have done to human psychology. 1:01:16 - What the collective brain is and why it is so prevalent throughout creative booms in history. 1:04:55 - How the proliferation of information helps and hurts creativity, and why the internet hasn't had the impact people thought it would. 1:08:26 - How information is affected by biases and manipulation and why humans are so susceptible to them. 1:11:39 - How the technology, institutions, and tools we use affect the way that we think. 1:15:12 - Why learning disabilities should not be looked at as purely negative and the benefits that cognitive diversity brings to humanity. 1:19:00 - The way gossip in a society helps define the collective philosophy of its people. 1:21:07 - How imitative education is currently at its peak and what doors it opens for people around the world. 1:24:36 - Why rituals and multiple gods were so common in the past and are so uncommon now. 1:28:40 - How Jon would alter the current research practices in the social sciences on "WEIRD" people and why. 1:31:39 - Why certain assumptions about humans are actually specific to a region or population, and why they don't represent humanity as a whole. 1:35:10 - Why the top-down lecture model is not serving education as well as it should, and why it shouldn't be replaced completely by Youtube. 1:39:20 - The selective physical and cultural evolution of certain populations and why it happens the way it does. 1:42:12 - What Jon finds to be the most interesting elements of culture to study and why. 1:45:33 - Why Jon's aerospace engineering degree is so valuable in his anthropology career. 1:47:41 - The problem with focusing solely on models in research and studies. 1:53:20 - Why humanity seems to be stagnating in intelligence but rocketing upward in cultural development.
My guest today is Grant Sanderson, the man behind one of the world's largest math-focused YouTube channels: 3blue1brown. He has more than 3 million subscribers and his videos have been watched more than 150 million times. Before making videos he studied math and computer science at Stanford before working at Kahn academy. On YouTube, he brings a visuals-first approach to math. Every video starts with a narrative or storyline. Then it revolves around imagery that illuminates the beauty of mathematics. Topics for his videos include linear algebra, neural networks, calculus, the math of Bitcoin, and quantum mechanics. This episode begins with a conversation about the culture of mathematics. We talk about ideas like prime numbers, the Twin Primes conjecture, and pop culture's role in advancing mathematics. Later in the episode, we talk about mathematical constants and the rate of progress in mathematics. Then, we close by talking about Grant's process for writing scripts, note-taking, and researching ideas for each episode. ____________________________ Show Notes 2:14 - Why everybody loves prime numbers so much and what makes them so special. 4:56 - What was initially so interesting about math for Grant and why he didn't end up going into a more formal researching role. 8:23 - Why Grant is getting increasingly more fed up with math that doesn't even try to be associated to reality. 11:36 - The usefulness of "useless" knowledge and why spending an afternoon solving a math puzzle is so satisfying. 18:42 - What is driving the accelerating progress of the entire field of math. 22:19 - How Gödel's famous theorem attacked the fundamental structure of math and changed the way mathematicians think about it. 27:31 - The unappreciated universality of math and why knowledge and interest in math by the public is higher than ever before. 31:49 - Why Grant believes that attention spans aren't getting shorter and why the evidence is so strong. 35:43 - The importance of the principles of symmetry and creating meaningful names in math. 40:58 - Why Grant believes that distraction is key to creative work. 44:33 - Brand-building and why Grant believes it is important for anybody looking to build trust in their products. 47:40 - What videos are the hardest for Grant to produce and why. 49:31 - Building the intuition of teaching through a non-interactive medium. 54:42 - What was most unexpected to Grant about working in the field of mathematics. 1:00:19 - Where Grant gets his video ideas and how his script-writing differs from video to video. 1:05:31 - How an idea evolves from sketches and drawings into a logical coherent video. 1:07:35 - How college education in math can be improved and why it can be unnecessarily hard for students in that program. 1:11:42 - The possible implications of the collision of mathematics and computing in pure math research. 1:14:32 - The story behind some of David's favorite quotes in Grant's videos.
My guest today is Eric Jorgenson, a Product Strategist at Zaarly and the author of the Almanack of Naval Ravikant: a guide to wealth and happiness. The book collects and curates Naval's wisdom from Twitter, podcasts, and essays over the past decade. Naval is the founder of Angel List, an angel investor who has invested in companies like Twitter and Uber, and the man behind one of the most popular Twitter accounts in the world. He's known for his thoughts on startups, investing, crypto, wealth, and happiness. This is a conversation about that book. We began the conversation talking about Multiply by Zero Effects, which comes from a short e-book Eric wrote called Career Advice for Uniquely Ambitious People. Then, we moved onto the Almanac. We talked about the differences between Charlie Munger and Naval Ravikant, building specific knowledge, and how operating companies influenced Naval's philosophy of life. At the end, we also jammed on what Naval would say to the owners of Joe's Bar-B-Que, Eric's favorite restaurant in Kansas City. ____________________________ Show Notes 2:28 - Why Eric wrote his new book, and what he regrets not putting in it. 6:15 - What Eric thinks Charlie Munger and Naval Ravikant would disagree on most. 9:34 - Why people like Naval and Munger often give advice as the "Iron Prescription" to solve a problem or learn in a field. 12:13 - Why so many Silicon Valley entrepreneurs were on track to be an academic but then split off. 13:20 - What entrepreneurs can learn from how comedians develop their voice and leverage their following. 15:57 - What knowledge Naval has that is unique only to him in his field. 19:36 - How to maximize leverage and value as an entrepreneur and in your career. 23:26 - What defines a startup, and what Eric has learned from Nivi through his writings on VentureHacks. 25:37 - How Naval uses Twitter as a repository for his ideas and findings and as a forge to test them out. 31:22 - Naval's view of hard work and how it has changed over time. 34:40 - Why it took multiple rereadings of his book and years of observation and experience for Eric to start fully understanding Naval's idea of "productize yourself". 36:11 - What about Eric's own book did he start to resent by the end of creating it. 40:01 - How the message of the book changed as Eric was compressing and cutting the source material down. 43:10 - Why Eric could not have done this book without loving Naval's work as much as he does. 46:19 - What advice Naval would give to Eric's favorite restaurant, Joe's Barbecue. 48:45 - Why David has never forgotten Eric's comment on how "owning a home is a never-ending battle against water" and what he means when he says that. 50:20 - How writing this book gave Eric "more clarity, confidence, and peace through all aspects of life."
Morgan Housel is a partner at The Collaborative Fund and a former columnist at The Motley Fool and The Wall Street Journal. He's the author of The Psychology of Money, where he shares 19 stories about the strange ways people think about money and teaches you how to manage it. I revere Morgan's writing, and this episode was my chance to finally ask him about how he writes so well. We talk about why listening to loud music helps Morgan think, lessons from his favorite non-fiction writer, and why you should start stories at the moment when you're being eaten by a bear. We also talk about the rise of intangible assets in the economy, why the American economy shifted in the 1970s, and how investment strategies have changed over time. ____________________________ Show Notes 2:00 - How the economy is changing, and why the edge in technology is going up while the edge in finance is going down. 6:38 - How the rise of intangible assets is distorting our view of the economy. 9:58 - The benefit of being slightly underemployed and why perceived "leisure" is so important in Morgan's career. 14:12 - What differed between what Morgan thought he would do as a parent and what he actually does. 15:35 - How the 1970s and 1980s fundamentally shifted the economy and culture of America. 20:22 - The three most important factors in really understanding the economy and whether truth or coherence is more important for social stability. 24:35 - How Morgan gets away with almost no collection or organization in creating his work. 29:58 - Why writing for yourself as a way to better understand your gut feelings will always pay off. 31:46 - How and why Morgan searches for the obvious things nobody pays attention to. 34:00 - Why some colleges are here to stay and others are not going to last according to Morgan. 40:11 - The most important things about writing that Morgan has learned from former and current workplaces. 42:24 - The two articles that Morgan is most proud of writing. 45:46 - What it means that people spend more money on the lottery than movies, music, video games, sporting events, and books combined. 49:06 - Why there aren't enough good books about how to write well. 52:15 - A writer that Morgan wishes more people would read their work. 54:32 - How the Ben Affleck speech in Boiler Room inspired Morgan to work in finance. 56:10 - The most difficult part about writing his most recent book.
My guest today is Claire Lehmann, the founder and editor-in-chief of Quillette, a for-profit online magazine that publishes essays on topics like politics, science, and academia. We started our conversation talking about Quilette's business model and the niche it occupies on the Internet. Then, we moved on to societal topics like the longevity of bureaucracies, the pros and cons of standardized tests, and what Claire would change about childhood education. ____________________________ Show Notes 1:31 - Why Claire believes being a for-profit instead of a non-profit gives her and her company more freedom. 5:32 - What Quillette has learned through publishing so many submitted articles over the years. 10:15 - The relationship between free speech and innovation. 13:12 - What we can learn from how Russia handled scientific experimentation and their lack of freedom to critique it. 15:08 - Why one of the biggest flaws Claire sees with higher education is that it seems necessary for people to go. 20:17 - How higher education is only creating academics and not lifelong students. 23:32 - Why organizations may have a lifecycle and how it plays into the problems that come with their extended growth. 29:45 - Why Claire believes literacy in subjects like psychology and statistics is massively underrated. 34:55 - What Enlightenment-era values are justly held in high regard, and which we may need to reconsider in the modern age. 40:54 - The historical reasons why intellectualism is not a strong value in Australia. 43:46 - What Claire has learned about childhood education through her time at Quillette, and why she believes younger children need to spend most of their time learning facts. 51:04 - Why standardized testing is beneficial for children from underprivileged families. 55:37 - What Claire believes to be her strengths in both her personal and business life. 58:12 - What about the book "The Custom And The Country" makes Claire love it so much. 1:01:42 - What it may mean for our brains as we possibly move into a "post-literate" society. 1:05:03 - Claire's favorite articles she's ever hosted on Quillette.
My guest today is Balaji Srinivasan, an angel investor and entrepreneur. When it comes to the future, he's the single most creative person I know because he's so technical, innovative, and polymathic. Talking to him is an experience unlike talking to anybody else, which I tried to replicate in this conversation. A little bit about Balaji. He's worked as the Chief Technology Officer at Coinbase and a General Partner at Andreessen Horowitz. In the world of academia, he holds a BS/MS/PhD in Electrical Engineering and an MS in Chemical Engineering, all from Stanford University. He's also taught at Stanford, where his online course has reached 250,000 students worldwide. This episode is a whirlwind through Balaji's interests. We started by talking about his production function. We talked about what holding all those degrees from Stanford taught him about learning, how he identifies talent, and what building and selling two companies for more than $100 million taught him about management. We also talked about his interests in genomics, how to reverse aging, and why living forever is the ultimate goal of technology. At the end, we built off the ideas I talk about in my online writing school called Write of Passage to talk about his plan to fund online writers with a project called MediaFund. ____________________________ Show Notes 2:42 - What Balaji learned about how to learn from his extended time in academia and why he doesn't read the instructions until he has to. 4:21 - Why knowing philosophy and history is so integral to starting a successful company. 6:54 - Why Balaji thinks we are severely underutilizing the collaborative potential of the internet. 12:45 - How remembering references to knowledge instead of the knowledge itself gives Balaji a better way to argue his points. 13:47 - Why searching for people who are "hungry and can teach us something" serves everybody who is involved very well. 19:39 - The "tour of duty" and how to create a great strategy for developing and managing yourself and your team. 24:25 - The movement from a centralized century to a decentralized century and why Balaji feels the future is moving more towards his lifestyle. 31:19 - How technology hyper-deflates the market of everything it touches. 38:23 - How the past is wrapping back around to the future and how the evolution of education is leading the way. 44:49 - Why abstraction means progress as a culture up to a certain point and can become harmful beyond that. 48:57 - How to optimize your information diet to make you smarter, more effective, and more honest about where you spend your energy. 54:07 - The future of online education and why it doesn't end with Wikipedia. 59:32 - New ways to look at incentive structures for writing and how it inspires technological and social growth. 1:04:27 - How to bridge the gap between Hollywood, big data, and education. 1:12:43 - The future of the internet and why the pseudonymous economy seems likely to Balaji. 1:15:04 - How we can use a "crypto oracle" to create an unfalsifiable history of our digital information. 1:21:31 - Why a worldwide ledger of record is the future we need in an information-driven world. 1:26:59 - Why Balaji believes that the pinnacle and goal of technology is to help humans live forever. 1:32:50 - How to build a digital country through writing. 1:39:34 - Why genomics needs more attention from the general population and technology. 1:44:42 - Why writers will be the future of millionaires and billionaires.
My guest today is Nadia Eghbal, an independent researcher and the author of Working in Public: The Making and Maintenance of Open Source Software. She currently works on the writer experience team at Substack. She did a lot of her research at Protocol Labs where she studied the production and economics of open source. Before that, she worked on the open source team at GitHub. One of the core theses of her work is that open-source software projects don't have zero marginal cost. Maintenance can be expensive, even if the code itself is free to distribute. In this episode, we spoke about how sharing ideas on different platforms helps you express different sides of your personality, why GitHub is the center of the open source community, and what she learned running a grant program. Please enjoy my conversation with Nadia Eghbal. ____________________________ Shownotes 2:07 - Why the personal projects of a coder can unexpectedly turn into a massive public responsibility. 4:36 - The temporal nature of creating code aside from any other art form. 8:24 - How creators can become enslaved by their own systems. 12:37 - How Github differs from social media platforms, and why it might be that way on purpose. 14:54 - The similarities and differences of open source code and organized religion. 20:48 - How to efficiently externalize information to make more open source type projects possible. 24:29 - Why Nadia feels compelled to write everything down, even though to her it sometimes feels like a problem. 31:00 - How the bystander effect comes into play in the world of open source software development. 35:17 - Why Nadia believes that the way open source was started made it "set up to fail." 38:46 - The importance of granularity and modularity in maintenance, throughout people's personal and professional lives. 43:54 - What the consequences are to accepting code that causes problems downstream. 46:22 - Why Nadia chose to write and publish this book instead of going through the process of getting a PhD. 49:05 - What microgrants are, and how their different aspects play into research and development. 54:06 - How creative people can share their knowledge with each other better through story sharing. 57:28 - How Nadia focuses the scope of her projects from being too overly broad. 1:00:40 - The danger of thinking you ever know enough about any field that's not your own.
My guest today is Matthew Kobach, the Director of Content Marketing at Fast and the former Manager of Digital and Social Media at the New York Stock Exchange. Matthew and I met on Twitter, where he shares actionable strategies for building brands on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, and YouTube. He does it with a level of humor and honesty I’ve never seen in the social media industry. This episode is a deep dive into Matt’s philosophy of social media. We started by talking about his all-time favorite television commercials and how they inform his social media strategy today. Then we spoke about how paid and organic social media should influence each other and why Cash App’s cash giveaways are such a smart social media strategy. Please enjoy my conversation with Matthew Kobach. ____________________________ Show Notes 1:39 - Who has surprised Matthew the most with the success of their social media strategy. 4:22 - Why social media is undervalued by the majority of marketing agencies. 8:32 - Why marketing to the "wrong" audience is still effective advertising. 13:08 - Matthew's favorite TV commercial of all time and why remembering the product may not be super important. 19:39 - How good advertising realizes things about yourself you haven't yet discovered. 24:03 - What social media post has been most successful for Matthew. 29:37 - How Matthew leveraged social media to land his current marketing job. 35:49 - Why focusing on organic long-term social media marketing instead of short-term paid became Matthew's niche. 39:07 - The convergence of organic and paid advertising and why Matthew thinks it's so effective. 45:10 - How having a long time horizon on your marketing strategy can help increase organic growth. 49:40 - Why giveaways have been and will always be successful. 54:49 - The greatest marketing lesson Matthew learned from his dad. 56:53 - Matthew's greatest takeaways from Peter Thiel's "From Zero To One." 59:09 - Why a fundamental change of social media seems completely unlikely without one particular element. 1:02:34 - How writing has become Matthew's "one weird trick" as a social media marketer. 1:06:20 - Why Matthew believes that at the opposite of a good idea is another good idea and why the inverse is also true.
David Brittain is the CEO of Concepts, my favorite iPad app. It's marketed as a "flexible sketching" app and geared towards people in the early stages of the thinking process. I use it to visualize my ideas, many of which I share on Twitter and in long-form essays. People use the app for mind-maps, mood boards, sketch plans, designs, and illustrations. I particularly enjoy the screenshots of architects using the app to design buildings. On this episode, David and I talked about the business, marketing, and engineering aspects of designing an app. David talked about Concepts' position in the design world, and how it compares to ProCreate and Figma. He spoke about how changes to the App Store have influenced Concept's download numbers and finally, he talked about why trust is particularly important in remote work as compared to in-person collaboration. I'm a fan-boy of the Internet because of how it enables apps like this to thrive. Concepts has been profitable for years. Whenever I pick up the app, I feel like I have a professional-grade design app for the cost of a latte every month. Please enjoy my conversation with David Britton. ____________________________ Show Notes 2:20 - How the landscape of designing apps has and hasn't changed drastically over the years 4:19 - What and who David thinks about in his design process 7:32 - How remote work management is different from in-person 11:52 - The key to a well-functioning and efficient remote engineering team 13:26 - How David spends his days at work as a CEO 16:36 - What vector design is and their pros and cons in comparison to raster design 21:20 - David's view of the market, the design world, and his competition 24:34 - How Formula 1 driver Lewis Hamilton has inspired David and what he could learn from Lewis about marketing 27:37 - Why paid marketing is not something that David and his team have spent much time nor effort on 32:08 - What David sees as the biggest pain-points from a user perspective of his app and the solutions they've tried 35:46 - What makes a good beta tester or user to get feedback from, and David finds them 37:47 - Why David doesn't consider himself the right person for his position and why that has been an advantage for his company 40:05 - The death of the computer mouse and why sketching and drawing isn't going anywhere 44:48 - How the Concepts team approached the development of their app on different platforms 46:43 - The future of apps and why certain apps have taken off while others lag behind 53:13 - How a feature moves from an idea into development and into the hands of the end-user 56:54 - Why architects flocked to using Concepts when it came out and what makes it still popular today
  Tyler Cowen is an economics professor at George Mason University. He runs the Mercatus Center, which bridges the gap between academic ideas and real-world problems. He’s published a new post every day for the past 17 years on his blog called Marginal Revolution, where he writes about economics, arts, culture, food, and globalization. Beyond that, he also writes for Bloomberg and hosts his own podcast called Conversations with Tyler. Tyler ends every episode of his podcast asking about other people’s production function. How do you get so much done? What’s the secret sauce of all that you’ve accomplished? This episode is entirely devoted to that question. But this time, I’m asking Tyler. We started by talking about why there aren’t more Tyler Cowens in the world. Then, we moved to Tyler’s process for writing, such as choosing article topics and editing his work. Later in the podcast, we discussed Tyler’s process for choosing friends, why he would travel across the world to visit a new country for just ten hours, and what he’s learned from high-powered people like Peter Thiel and Patrick Collison.   ____________________________ Show Notes 2:40 - What Tyler considers his compounding advantage and where he got it from 5:56 - Why being born as an intelligent person is not as important as developing knowledge 8:23 - How Tyler maximizes the value of his consumption and minimizes the drawbacks 9:19 - What draws Tyler to the people he likes spending time with, and what he likes best about their friendship 12:33 - Why Tyler feels that the way he has lived his life has meant has not given anything up 15:35 - How the fundamentals of productivity came intuitively to Tyler 17:41 - Why Tyler writes in his particular style not by choice, but by necessity 22:19 - Why the things in Tyler's life that bind his output aren't what you think 24:06 - How to develop new ideas while staying focused on the subject and not getting tangled 27:36 - Why Tyler sees art as one of the most important and beneficial things you can spend your time and money on 32:41 - What writers can learn about inspiration and consistency from musicians and visual artists 37:16 - Why Peter Thiel has impacted Tyler so deeply and why Tyler believes he's one of the greatest thinkers of our time 40:30 - How Tyler is able to extract more from his reading than other people do 45:44 - How understanding most other people's intelligence is higher than his in most fields gave Tyler an edge over other thinkers 49:00 - Why Tyler sees a new visibility of talent in people and how he is using this visibility 55:24 - How Tyler constructs his interviews to maximize the freedom of his guests to speak freely on what they love 1:00:03 - How to develop skills as a teacher and where Tyler believes the strengths of a good teacher lie 1:03:34 - Why the novelty and beauty of visiting other cultures excites Tyler so much 1:07:18 - How Tyler makes the most out of his travels 1:13:32 - Why sitting in a suboptimal seat at a concert may give you worse sound but a better understanding of the music 1:16:55 - Why knowledge workers are often not motivated to improve their skills 1:20:48 - Why Tyler still responds to every email and loves it
My guest today is marketer and software engineer Patrick McKenzie, who writes mostly about software-as-a-service businesses. He currently works for Stripe as a writer and an overall software business expert. I remember when I signed up for Stripe's Atlas program to incorporate my LLC, almost all of the documentation that wasn't legal documentation was written by Patrick. Patrick has also started multiple software businesses such as a bingo card creator for teachers, an automated appointment system that sent automated reminders to clients, a gaming company for teaching programming called Starfighter, and a software consultancy called Kalezumeus Software. I have devoured Patrick's work. He is one of my favorite online writers. Before we begin, here's my attempt to summarize what I've learned from him in three sentences. First, charge more for your services and products. Second, the economy is much bigger than you thing. Three, create for unique people, not average ones. ____________________________ Show Notes 3:07- What surprised Patrick about writing online. Why writing online takes you from someone who is illegible to someone who is legible. Why blogging has a lower value for business people. 13:40- The benefits of owned platforms vs self-published. What people are missing about writing long-form. How to make the illegible structures legible in your online audience. 24:18- Where all the great bloggers went. Patrick's writing process. Why you should grow an email list. 36:43- How to identify which ideas are worth publishing. How care for the craft has influenced Stripe's culture. 46:55- What writing regularly does for a company. Why write the book before the software. 1:00:01 How "Patio11's law" explains the amount and wealth of niche software companies. How to develop a love for your craft. 1:12:36 How to increase your optimism and ambition. Why self-promotion is like cooking.
My guest today is Will Mannon, the student manager for my online writing school called Write of Passage. Will oversees all aspects of the student experience with the exception of curriculum design. He’s at the frontier of thinking about live online learning, from how assignments should be delivered to how live sessions should be structured. This conversation is a deep-dive into our work together. We start by talking about the difference between Type 1 and Type 2 online courses. Then, we move towards psychological topics like how to hold students accountable to helping them navigate the fear of publishing online. Please enjoy this window into Write of Passage and the future of online learning.    _____________________________________ Show Notes 1:50- David and Will’s focus on customer happiness. Type one and type two online courses. What online educators can learn from the Navy Seals. 13:45- How fear is a part of transformational experiences. What held Will back from starting writing. What music can teach us about great writing. 19:27- Why we fear achieving our vision. Write of Passage guilt. How Write of Passage prioritizes helping people make friends.  27:23- Striking the balance between creating community and letting it grow naturally. How interest groups allow students to create their own communities. The structure of Will’s job as course manager. 35:58- Forte Lab’s yearly planning process. The three phases of Will’s course management. How Will and David are thinking about data collection. 49:14- How Will and David met. How Will’s course feedback led to working with David. Why classical education theory doesn’t really apply to online education. 59:11- Why Will and David create “type 2” courses. Why David learns from his students. How Write of Passages integrates feedback. 1:07:20- What feedback David listens to. The future of Write of Passage. Why David tries to solve very specific problems using software. 1:12:10- How the Internet makes attention a commodity. Why WOP can thrive with zero cold traffic marketing. How the Internet will help make creators money in the future.
My guest today is Sara Dietschy, a YouTuber with more than 620,000 YouTube subscribers. This is the fourth interview I’ve recorded with her. It’s her second appearance on the North Star Podcast, and I’ve been interviewed twice on her podcast called That Creative Life.  Sara makes a couple of videos every week focused on creativity, technology, and entrepreneurship. Most of her revenue comes from paid partnerships, and she’s teamed up with brands like Intel, AT&T, Visa, Squarespace, and BestBuy, and Adobe.  This episode begins with a discussion of what it means to be a YouTuber, so Sara shares lessons about hiring and monetizing a channel. Then, she talks about her creative process with ideas like her “one for them, one for me” model of creating content. We also talk about the future of influencer culture, homeschooling, the Despacito music video, and what we’ve learned about delegation. ___________________________________________ Links to Sara: Sara’s Youtube Channel Sara’s Website   Other Links: Linus Tech Tips Paul Graham’s Maker Schedule, Manager Schedule David’s Obsession Tweet Eric Weinstein- What Should We Be Worried About Epidemic Sound ___________________________________________ SHOW NOTES: 2:02- This isolation of creative hiring. What it means to be a YouTuber. How Sara learns about new technologies. 12:36- What Sara is most opinionated about. How quantification affects Sara’s creative process. 19:30- How Sara creates her content using the “one for me, one for them” model. David and Sara’s creative process. Sara’s relationship to Twitter and YouTube. The future of influencer culture.   31:01- What is good and bad about obsessive personalities. The future of public school and the positives and negatives of homeschooling. The difference between excellence and genius and how school only trains for excellence.  48:02 The gift of truly hating something. The art of video editing and what makes it difficult to delegate. How YouTube has changed over the past ten years. 1:00:55- What Epidemic Sound is doing well. Why Despacito was so popular on YouTube.  1:06:17- Who has done well with delegation. What is so difficult about hiring for creative roles. Why Sara hired a meme creator. 1:18:42- Why differentiation is free marketing on the Internet. Love languages for hiring. David and Sara’s brand dissection podcast plan.  
I have two guests this week: Austin Rief and Alex Lieberman, the founders of Morning Brew. Their business-focused daily email newsletter now has more than 2 million readers. These two gentlemen started the company in college while studying at the University of Michigan. It began as a simple idea — to make business news more interesting for young people. While helping his college classmates prepare for job interviews, Alex noticed they failed to connect with traditional business news. They wanted something better to keep them informed, so he created a daily newsletter that later became Morning Brew.  I will never forget the first time we met. We were introduced by a mutual friend and agreed to coffee at the Beekman Hotel in New York City. We spoke for two-hours about the future of media, then raced to Morning Brew headquarters where we immediately wrote an article called The Pivot to Owned Commerce. One year later, Austin and I recorded a podcast about the secrets of email marketing and the story of Morning Brew.  In this episode, we spoke about the benefits of showing how you run your company, what a Cross-Fit-for-Writing community could look like, and Morning Brew’s secret sauce for hiring writers. Please enjoy my conversation with Austin Rief and Alex Lieberman.  Links: Morning Brew Business Casual Podcast Austin's Twitter Alex's Linkedin
My guest today is Tiago Forte. He runs an online course called Building a Second Brain, which I took in August of 2017. I went from being overwhelmed by information to being in control of it. My writer’s block disappeared and my productivity skyrocketed. Tiago changed the way I thought about work and my relationship with information. Fast forward to today, and Tiago and I are business partners. He helped me create my online writing course, Write of Passage and together, we’re building the infrastructure required to scale an online education business. Tiago is one of my closest friends and the person who shaped my career more than anybody else. In what’s becoming a tradition, Tiago and I used this podcast to reflect on our work together. First, we talked about what we’ve learned about email marketing. Then, we moved onto ideas like leadership, working in small packets, and personal growth. Please enjoy this window into our work and friendship. __________________________________ Links: ConvertKit MindValley  Great Assistant No code  Things  The Decadent Society  David Allen- Getting Things Done  Venkatesh Rao  Teachable  Tyler Cowen- Emergent Ventures  ________________________________________ SHOWNOTES 1:54 Being a Citizen of the Internet. The role that ConvertKit provides for Tiago’s team. How thinking systematically changes how we work for the better. 14:05 The difference between training and teaching through SOP’s. Why David and Tiago hired expensive personal assistants. Why David and Tiago have the goal of only doing something once before finding an automation solution.  27:07 What David and Tiago have learned about running online courses. How online teaching has changed since Tiago and David began their school. What role entertainment and community have in the structure of their courses. 35:05 The dangers of only formulating for ease. The psychology of pricing. The benefits of small, self-motivated teams when you work remotely. 45:05 How “reusable packets” are the backbone of David and Tiago’s work. The “lego block” technique of creating content. How Tiago orients using objects, not humans as linchpins in his business. How David writes first and researches second.  56:33 How the “beginner’s mind” aids David and Tiago write well. How David takes 5 observations a day to create deep and insightful content.  1:04:00 Why books are a mark of legitimacy. The illogicality of fashion. Why publishers want a sure bet. 01:11:40 The next chapter of online education. How scarcity can make time important again. Tiago’s theory about how you to be your full self online now. How instinct works online. 1:23:40 The hero’s journey of sharing your authentic self online. How Tyler Cowen’s mentorship changed David’s life. How Venkatesh Rao changed Tiago’s life. 1:33:22 The shift from interchangeable courses to interesting and specific courses. Why Forte labs is creator-focused, not curriculum-focused. Why building a business is an act of discovery at Forte Labs. 1:42:16 Why David and Tiago are looking for people who have vision combined with passion. Why innovation is directly related to intuition. How to learn faster. 1:53:43 How growth is paying attention to what you are not capable of doing. The skill of knowing the difference between a challenging situation and a fundamentally incompatible one. How the internet can help people create their own definition of success.
My guest today is Michael Mayer, the co-founder and CEO of Bottomless. This episode explores business from a variety of angles. Michael talks about how he thinks about marketing at bottomless, and the accumulating advantages that drive the company. He also talks about what he learned at YCombinator, why startups that move fast have such an advantage, and how to think about execution in a fast-growing company. Five years ago, Michael was a dish washer. Then he worked at Nike before receiving funding from YCombinator and starting Bottomless. Please enjoy my conversation with Michael Mayer. _____________________________________ Links Bottomless Lateral Thinking with Withered Technology Y Combinator Paul Graham Satoshi Nakamoto’s Bitcoin Whitepaper Sam Altman- Wyden and Kennedy David Ogilvy _____________________________________ Show Notes 2:05 The inspiration behind Bottomless. How Michael reformulated coffee supply and demand as an information problem.  How advances in computing and the internet are really advances in legibility. 08:18 The original vision Michael brought to Y Combinator. Bottomless’ marketing plan. Why to buy fresh coffee and grind yourself. 15:50- How Michael’s tech and coffee journey are connected. How to find luxury in inexpensive packages. How many luxuries are just resource intensive. 22:23- What surprised Michael about working with Y Combinator. How the thinking needed in a company gets baked in with the first vector, but extreme execution is what makes success. 26:57- How execution informs Michael’s strategy. Why Bottomless and David strategize on Sunday and execute the rest of the week. How making more decisions more quickly is better than making perfect decisions slowly. 30:30 Michael’s 10-minute interview to get into Y Combinator. When to think, and when to act in your business. Why mistakes are penalized in school, but some of the best things that can happen in life. 37:09 Why to write pseudonymously. What Michael has learned from Paul Graham. Why Bottomless has outsourced a lot of marketing recently. Michael’s experience watching product development while working at Nike. 46:35 Why Michael believes the best people to be doing product development are also doing the operations and customer support. Why status and hierarchy get in the way of running a good business. Why market research should be satisfied by your customer service.  
My guest today is Matt Cooper, the CEO of Skillshare — a subscription-based online learning platform where people can take classes on-demand. The main categories are creative arts, design, entrepreneurship, lifestyle, and technology. Before joining Skillshare, Matt was the CEO of Visually, an online marketing place for creative work. And before that, he was the VP of Operations for oDesk, the world’s largest marketplace for online work now known as UpWork.  Matt and I spoke about the future of education, online and offline. We discussed different business models for online creators, such as Skillshare’s subscription model and the a-la-carte model that I use with Write of Passage. We also talk about what it takes to be successful running an online course, from creating a curriculum to entertaining your students to building an online audience. Please enjoy my conversation with Matt Cooper. ———— 1:55- Skillshare’s model of education. The accessibility of a subscription model. How Skillshare uses behavior to build their algorithms. 11:11- Skillshare's success and failures moving into business education. The benefits of using Skillshare for teachers. Skillshare's revenue model and why they are leaning towards shorter lessons. 15:08-How teachers should tailor their courses for online learning. The production style and schedule of a Skillshare Original class. Why the best teachers are not always the best experts.  22:17 How teachers should consider personality when creating their online materials. Matt's career creating businesses that help freelancers- from unemployment to Skillshare. Why the human element drives Matt's business sense. 30:04- What Matt loves about the open marketplace model. Supply and demand in open market learning. International pricing as an opportunity to build markets. How bundling may be the future of growing certain international markets. 40:28- Matt's experience with education and why there are so many companies based in Plano, TX. Why Skillshare is the new community college. What Matt would do if he was the president of an Ivy League School. Matt's vision for a more efficient model of higher education.  51:30- The value and the cost of a liberal arts education. 59:46- How remote work can both change the quality of life of employees and give companies access to talent they aren't competing with locals for. Why David and Matt bike in New York. Tik tok and the future of production.  1:07:40- Why completion rate is not the most important metric for Skillshare. The challenge of determining user intent. Who is doing the best on search and browse. How Skillshare manages feedback and the social aspects of learning.
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William Krut

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May 11th
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