The Tim Ferriss Show: Jason Fried — How to Live Life on Your Own Terms

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Intro
Being Immune to Dogma
  • “I don’t pay attention to a lot of things”
    • “I have different points of view because I haven’t let society’s norms and the general points of view get into my head, so I have to come up with my own ideas”
    • “I’m pretty oblivious to a lot of things, intentionally, because I don’t want to be influenced that much” – this is why Jason doesn’t read industry news
    • When you’re constantly hearing what other people have on their minds, you’re much more likely to end up following and being like everyone else
    • “By not filling my mind with other people’s ideas, I have no where to go but to follow my own”
  • How does Jason do this?
    • He doesn’t follow much of a routine
    • He never has goals
      • “I just do what I feel like the right thing to do is, in any given situation”
      • Often, when we make a long term goal, we’re setting it for the person we are when we set it, not who we’ll be as a person when we finally reach it- people change
    • Jason doesn’t think long term, and just takes things at they come – this allows him to side step the way you’re “supposed to” do things
    • “Comparison is the death of joy”
goals and work
  • What does a work week look like for Jason?
    • Basecamp works on 6 weeks cycles – every 6 weeks, the company tries to deliver something great for whatever they’re building
      • The company goal – just do the best job you can
    • They don’t have key performance indicators (KPIs) at Basecamp, and they don’t have revenue targets
    • “The reason we do what we do everyday is because we enjoy doing it, and we want to make what we’re working on better”
      • “The thing we’re making for others, we’re also making for ourselves”
    • “My week is very much a day to day existence”
    • Jason doesn’t have any sort of expectations for growth
      • Often times, a company will aim to grow 23% in a year, but if they grow 21%, they’ll be upset
  • How can someone be more like Jason in regards to work and goals?
    • Pull back your expectations
    • Just try to do the best you can, as opposed to measuring up against a number you’ve made up
      • “Any target you set out to hit, is a guess”
    • “The numbers and figures are not the things pulling you forward, what’s pulling you forward is hopefully your intrinsic motivation and your desire to do a better job at what you’re doing”
The news
  • To get his news, Jason only reads the newspaper – “Once a day is the perfectly good pace for the news”
    • On checking the news multiple times a day – “Very few things happen during the middle of the day, that you absolutely need to know about, that you can’t wait for the next morning to know”
    • Just reading the newspaper prevents you from playing the “sport of information” – the game of constantly reading the news, trying to know more than everyone else
    • JOMO not FOMO – the joy of missing out – “I don’t need to know all the stuff all the time”
Book Recommendations
  • Check out Seeking Wisdom: From Darwin to Munger
    • One takeaway – “In most cases, life isn’t that complicated, we just tend to make things complicated”
    • Complexity has become a sport – many people think if they make things more complicated, they’re better at it. Jason believes the opposite.
  • Jason doesn’t read fiction
    • “The world is so interesting on its own, that I’d rather read about real stuff”
  • Jason really enjoyed A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy by William B. Irvine
    • More stoic tricks –
      • The art of negative visualization has helped Jason tremendously
        • This involves asking yourself – “What’s the worst thing that could happen?” and coming to terms with the answer
        • This is similar to fear-setting
Childhood and Entrepreneurship
  • Jason first started his entrepreneurial ventures at age 13, selling knives from a catalog to his friends for a markup
    • At age 16, he sold various electronics (like radar detectors) using the same process
  • Today – it’s just a continuation
    • “I’m buying or making the thing that I want, and finding other people that want the same thing”
  • Jason’s first bout with software involved using software he made to upload audio files online for customers, and charging them $20
    • This taught Jason:
      • People are happy to pay for things they like
      • He could make something, let it speak for itself, and not have to go through the selling process each time
      • He could make money while he was sleepingNaval Ravikant has some good thoughts on this
  • “Satisfy yourself, then find other people like you” – instead of trying to force things and dominate an industry
anger
  • Tim – “Anger is the acid that damages the vessel, not that which it is poured upon”
  • You can redirect your anger into positive avenues, like Jason…
    • “When someone says I can’t do something, I use that as motivation to prove them wrong”
How does Jason minimize time wasting?
  • Get better at saying no
  • Be honest about the things you really want to do, and not just do things because you feel obligated, because it’ll make someone else feel good
    • Who knows how it will make someone else feel, so why bother
  • Jason tries to do everything he can to “avoid hastles”
    • A hastle is something he has to do in the future
    • So just be honest with people who are asking for commitments far in advance
    • Say – “I know you may need a commitment this far in advance, but I just can’t give you a commitment this far in advance”
    • “I tend to regret things I say yes to far in advance” – it prevents Jason from having the opportunity to explore other things that he might be more interested in doing when the time arrives
    • Warren Buffet famously does not agree to meetings before a day in advance
  • Jason also tries to avoid traveling internationally for business at all costs
  • “People protect money, and all sorts of things, but they won’t protect their attention and their time”
Jason’s hiring process
  • A clear hire is a great writer, why?
    • Most communication is written – more so than ever before
    • It’s very costly and inefficient to have to repeat yourself, and to answer questions that should have been clear in the first place
    • “If you can’t communicate clearly, you’re communicating probably 3 or 4 times more frequently than you need to”
    • This is why Jason makes it a requirement for a cover letter, which he thoroughly reads
  • Jason, when hiring, will often have candidates do some sort of trial project based work.
    • To help him understand the candidates’s thought process behind the way they completed the trial task, he likes to ask this:
      • “Help me understand why you went this direction?”
    • Their response, says a lot..
      • Jason doesn’t care if the work is great. He wants to understand:
        • Why they did what they did (their approach)
        • Where their ideas came from
        • How the ideas come to life
        • If the candidate can defend their work and decisions, even if Jason disagrees with it 
    • He often likes to add the phrase – “I’m not sure I see why you went this direction”
      • What NOT to do here as a candidate – hunch over in a defensive posture and give in
    • “Fundamentally, I’m looking for a deep degree of introspection in the work, and an understanding of how they ended up there”
  • Jason makes every single one of his employees work as a customer service rep every 40 days or so
    • This helps employees understand the customer better, and improve writing skills (all the customer support is done via email or Twitter)
How can people become better writers and communicators?
  • Check out the book Revising Prose
  • Jason recommends reading Tom Petty lyrics
    • “He has such a wonderful efficiency in his story telling and lyrics, every word counts”
  • Tim recommends the book Simple and Direct and Draft No. 4: On the Writing Process
    • Tim has noticed that the better a writer he becomes, the clearer his thinking overall
  • “One of the biggest disservices of college, is it doesn’t teach people to write well”
    • If Jason could teach something at college, he would teach a writing class
      • A proposed assignment:
        • Pick a topic and write a 5 page article about it, then write a 1 page version of that article, a 5 paragraph version, a 5 sentence version, and finally a 1 sentence version
        • He’d have students do this over and over
Watch and Chair Design
  • “I’m into a lot of things that seem like there could only be one way to do it, but turns out, there’s lots of ways” – like watch and chair design
  • Jason’s favorite chairs? – Stuff by Jean Prouve
  • If Jason could only save three watches from his collection, which three would he pick?
Nature, life, and Prairie Restoration
  • What might Jason give a TED talk on?
    • Prairie restoration
      • Jason recently bought a farm in rural Wisconsin, but realized soon that it was full of weeds, invasive species, and not really the way it once was – modern farming had ruined it
      • “I love just getting out and walking in nature, it’s the most refreshing thing you can do”
      • So prairie restoration = bringing the land back to the way it was
      • “Embracing slowness in at least one compartment of life, seems to be a nice counterbalance to external or internal drives, to help do bigger things faster” – Tim
      • “Nature is never in a hurry, but it accomplishes everything”
        • Humanity, on the other hand, is always rushing, and always destroying
      • “If you restore a piece of land, and let it do what it does, nature is so resilient, and wants to thrive”
      • “Set the conditions for good things to happen, don’t try to force good things” – Tim
        • This is like consuming prebiotics (food for the gut) so probiotics (actual good gut bacteria) naturally take root and flourish
        • Prebiotic foods – mostly fiber and vegetables
      • “It’s not only about creating conditions for thriving, it’s about putting up barriers for certain things not to happen”
        • If you can prevent things from happening by thinking about what you don’t want, you create the conditions for other things to come in which are the things you actually want
rapid fire questions
  • What would Jason’s billboard say?
    • “The fairest rules are those to which everyone would agree if they did not know how much power they would have”
      • Rules are based on who has the power to make them, so rules are the fairest to those who make them
      • Rules would be fairest if no one knew who they applied to
    • “In the hopes of reaching the moon, men fail to see the flowers that blossom at their feet”
wrapping up

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