Adam Savage on Great Tools, Great Projects, and Great Lessons – The Tim Ferriss Show

Check out the Tim Ferriss Show Episode Page & Show Notes

Key Takeaways

  • You don’t always have to be in the top 1% of a given field
    • You can combine 3 areas where you’re in the top 10% to create something unique
  • On the “fail fast” mentality in Silicon Valley:
    • “They don’t really mean failure….real failure is getting drunk and missing your kid’s birthday party”
    • When they should be saying – “Iterate fast”
      • The creative process is MESSY and you have to chase up a lot of wrong branches in order to get to the right one
      • “A true creator knows you have to follow the thing to where it’s going, not to where you think it ought to go
  • Treat failure like a scientist
    • When you get results different than what you anticipated, take some joy in the fact that your expectations and biases have been turned on their heads and that you now have a much wider understanding of what’s going on
  • To begin to develop some maker skills of your own, Adam recommends building an architectural model of your living space using cardboard and hot glue
  • Tim’s egg-cooking tips
    • “Scallions are a very underrated topping”
    • Try topping the eggs with slivered almonds 
    • Take the eggs off the heat while they’re still a little “snotty” due to the carry-over cooking effect
    • Try adding McEvoy Ranch Olive Oil as a finisher (add it into the pan in the last 60 seconds of cooking and then stir)
  • No matter who you are, we ALL experience defeating self-talk
    • You are NOT alone
  • “Fly your freak flag and try the thing you can’t stop thinking about even if it’s weird”

Books Mentioned

Intro

  • Adam Savage (T: @donttrythis, IG: @therealadamsavage) is ….a lot
    • You probably best know him from his time hosting Mythbusters 
    • Today, Adam hosts Savage Builds (premiering on the Science Channel in June) as well as Mythbusters Jr.
    • Adam also stars in and produces content for Tested.com
  • Check out the video of this conversation

The Early Days of Adam’s Acting Career 

  • In high school, Adam thought he’d be an actor
    • “The drama club was definitely my people…it was where I found acceptance, comradery, and collaboration”
  • Adam first go at acting was for a Charmin commercial

What came next? – Why San Francisco > Manhattan 

  • From age 18-23, Adam lived in Manhattan (1985-1990), working across quite a few different jobs/careers
    • He then moved to San Francisco – “That move was a turning point for me” – Why?
      • “Manhattan is an amazing place if you know what you want out of Manhattan. It’s a place built on and for ambition, but if you don’t know what you want to do, it’s a very cold and weird place. It won’t open its doors for you and you’re not going to be able to stumble into your ambition.”
      • But San Francisco on the other hand – “I think it’s one of the greatest cities in the world for finding your ambition”
  • Early on during his time in SF, Adam discovered sculpting and has some early success
    • “SF slowly allowed me to build an ethos of what I wanted to do with my hands and life”

Onwards to Special Effects 

  • Then….Adam discovered film/commercial television special effects
    • “This was an industry in which all of my creativity, passion, and drive could be pointed in a singular direction”
    • How? – Adam was working in a handful of theaters (Eureka Theater, Berkeley Repertory Theater, and Beach Blanket Babylon) around SF and got a reputation for “solving weird problems” which got the attention of his future Mythbuster’s co-host Jamie Hyneman
      • Jamie was running a visual effects shop at Colossal Pictures and ended up hiring Adam
  • Adam’s daily schedule:
    • He was working during the day for ~8 hours at the theater, 3 hours doing a theater show in the evening, and staying up all night long to work in his sculpting studio
      • “I was never sleeping, I was a one-man building machine”
    • After starting to work for Jamie – sculpting fell to the side
      • But it didn’t bother Adam – “Jamie’s work was substituting the creative-problem solving itch that was scratched in my sculpting studio”

Important Meta-Skills

  • Tim brings up a good point and an example:
    • For Warren Buffet – the skill of public speaking was a huge-meta skill which tremendously helped him in his career
    • You don’t always have to be in the top 1% of a given field – you can combine 3 areas where you’re in the top 10% to create something unique
  • “Don’t believe your own bullshit”
    • You might also say this as – “Don’t drink your own Kool-Aid”
  • The overall skill/art form of theater
    • Why? – “Humans need narratives to help us make sense of the world”
  • Related: Adam brings up a quote from Steve Martin’s book Born Standing Up “You will eventually need everything you ever learned”
    • “It’s so true”
    • “The early exposure I had to acting made me way more fearless about being in front of people and being myself than I would have otherwise been”
      • “That ability to perform is so crucial…if you want someone to understand your scientific proof you have to explain it, and explaining it is an art form – it’s the art of getting your argument across”
    • Tim says of the book – “That is an incredible memoir…just a fantastic, fantastic story”

Public Speaking

“Failure is Always an Option” – Thoughts on Failure

  • This grew out of a joke Adam made on set during the filming of Mythbusters
    • They cut it into the show, and it became a catch phrase
  • “There’s a deep scientific truth about it”
    • The idea of success/failure is anathema to scientific exploration
  • Think like a scientist: It’s not a failure – you just screwed up your methodology/didn’t get enough data/the outcome wasn’t what you expected
    • “A real scientist who comes up with results that are the opposite of what they thought is the most thrilled human being you ever met…they’re ecstatic that they’re expectations and biases have been turned on their heads and they have a much wider understanding of what’s going on”
  • On the “fail fast” mentality in Silicon Valley:
    • “They don’t really mean failure….real failure is getting drunk and missing your kid’s birthday party”
    • When they should be saying – “Iterate fast”
      • The creative process is MESSY and you have to chase up a lot of wrong branches in order to get to the right one
      • “A true creator knows you have to follow the thing to where it’s going, not to where you think it ought to go

Adam’s Favorite Authors and Philosophers

  • Noam Chomsky
  • Harlan Ellison
  • Kurt Vonnegut – “He showed me you could have rigor, deep affection, and love all at the same time’
  • Richard Feynman – “It is generally possible for there to be brilliant polymaths in the world who can explore many disciplines and be at the top of their field at any of them”

Watching the Watcher

  • Adam has a particular level of self-awareness only seen among the most mindful of us
  • Where did it come from?

How to Get Started as a Maker

  • “I have this closet dream of being a maker” – Tim (like a maker with his hands)
    • “At my current state I’d consider myself a manual illiterate, I’ve never really built anything”
  • Are there any projects Adam would suggest people start with to gain some maker skills?
    • “I define making as any time you’re creating something from nothing”
    • To build an architectural model of your living space using cardboard and hot glue
      • How does Adam start?
        • Figure out your scale – if you’re using a 1 foot to 1 inch scale, 9 foot ceilings would equate to 9 inches in the model
        • Next, Adam cuts out a bunch of strips of cardboard equal to the model ceiling height (those serve as his walls)
        • Then he takes a piece of cardboard that serves as the base and draws out the floor plan, in scale (using a right angle ruler and pencil)
        • Next, he measures/cuts the walls to the correct width
        • Lastly, he measures where the windows/doors go
        • What you might need – an X-ACTO blade, a few Amazon boxes, a pencil, and a hot glue gun
      • Related to this, check out the documentary –  David Hockney: The Art of Seeing
    • Another idea – find something you have to have (like a specific cup, chair, etc.)…”When you find something like that, that you can’t stop thinking about, that’s the thing to maybe try and make”

How to Cook the Best Eggs

  • In his research for this interview, Tim read that Adam is really good at making eggs
    • “Eggs, like chicken, have a wide range of being edible but a short range of being delicious”
    • Many cooks and chefs say eggs are one of the hardest things to get right
  • Check out this video – Gordon Ramsay’s Scrambled Eggs – about making slow-cooked scrambled eggs
    • This is Adam’s preferred egg-cooking method
      • It’s all about cracking the eggs in hole and stirring them constantly over medium heat with lots of butter (as soon as they start to congeal, you pull them off the heat and keep stirring)
      • When he’s done, Adam always adds salt (and sometimes scallions, cheese, or pepper)
  • Tim’s egg-cooking tips:
    • “Scallions are a very underrated topping”
    • Try topping the eggs with slivered almonds 
    • Take the eggs off the heat while they’re still a little “snotty” due to the carry-over cooking effect
    • Try adding McEvoy Ranch Olive Oil as a finisher (add it into the pan in the last 60 seconds of cooking and then stir)
  • Both Tim and Adam are fans of the cookbook – Julia and Jacques Cooking at Home by Julia Child and Jacques Pepin
  • Tim covers quite a bit of egg recipes in The 4-Hour Chef

We All Experience Defeating Self-Talk

  • Just know – “Nobody escapes from suffering, it’s the universal condition
  • The lesson – you just have to push past these feelings, there’s no secret
    • “We ALL feel uncertain ALL the time…we’re ALL flawed”
    • Remember – “Nothing will ever go smoothly, no plan ever survives first contact with implementation, and we’re all going to screw up and feel unworthy at a very constant pace in our lives. It’s called being human. The trick is just to be honest about it.”
  • Very often, while making/sculpting something Adam will find himself saying , “You have almost no business making stuff”
    • “That judge in me, comes up with almost everything I build”
  • “Immersed in an online world where very often what you see is the highlight reel, it’s easy to feel uniquely flawed or alone…but you are NOT alone and NOT uniquely flawed. It’s all part of the journey we call life.” – Tim

A Piece of Advice to His Younger Self

  • Adam has a chapter in his new book titled – “Use more cooling fluid”
    • What’s the meaning?
      • When you’re cutting metal with metal, you need cooling fluid to keep things from getting too hot
      • It’s a metaphor for life – take the extra time, when necessary, in order to do something right
        • “Taking the time to do it right saves a lot of time on the back end”

“Take No Cure for Your Dignity”

  • This is a phrase Adam heard in an interview given by * Mary Karr when she was writing The Liars’ Club: A Memoir by Mary Karr
  • The meaning – don’t sugarcoat things when you share the “not so great” parts of yourself (like your sadness, fear, jealousy etc.)
    • Why? – That’s how we connect best with other people

Parting Advice

  • “Fly your freak flag and try the thing you can’t stop thinking about even if it’s weird”
    • You don’t have to solve the world’s problems – just feed your own curiosities/obsessions first, and who knows what the result will be?

Random

  • Spirited Away is one of Tim and Adam’s favorite films of all time
    • “I encourage everyone to try and see this film” – Tim

These notes were edited by RoRoPa Editing Services

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