Andrew Wilkinson on entrepreneurship

Entrepreneurial Insights | Andrew Wilkinson on The Knowledge Project with Shane Parrish

Check Out the Episode Page and Show Notes 

Key Takeaways

  • Mimetic desire: whatever the people you surround yourself with want, you end up wanting as well, i.e. being subconsciously driven to achieve external validation rather than intrinsic validation 
  • The constant desire to want to improve parts of your life or business turns your weaknesses into strengths
  • “Most successful people are just an anxiety disorder harnessed for productivity” – Andrew Wilkinson 
  • Andrew focuses on building businesses that do not compete with venture capital and whose success can be predicted with reasonable certainty 
  • Andrew applies the “80/20 rule” to learning about health; spend an hour a month reading all of the scientific summaries and then don’t think about it again
  • On raising kids with wealth: “At the end of the day, your kids just need to know that you’re there and you love them, and I hope that’s enough.” – Andrew Wilkinson
  • The Concept of Self-Binding: create an environment where you can’t do the things you don’t want to do, such as eating ice cream, by removing the stimulus from your environment completely
  • The unconscious mind is far more powerful than the conscious mind 

Intro 

  • Andrew Wilkinson (@awilkinson) is the co-founder of Tiny Capital, a holding company that owns over 40 companies across a variety of industries. He is also the co-founder and chairman of WeCommerce, a publicly-traded company that starts, buys, and invests in the leading Shopify businesses
  • In this conversation with Shane Parrish, Andrew shares the lessons he’s learned from owning and operating +40 businesses, how he’s reoriented his life following bouts of unhappiness, various habits, and self-improvement hacks to achieve success, and much more. 
  • Check out these Podcast Notes from Andrew’s appearance on My First Million
  • Host: Shane Parrish (@ShaneAParrish

Books Referenced

  • Wanting by Luke Burgis 
    • A book about mimetic desire and how humans want to believe they can think on their own, but in fact are all creatures of imitation 
  • Invention: A Life by James Dyson 
  • Pleased But Not Satisfied by David Sokol 
    • A book describing how conservative economic analysis and disciplined management practices consistently deliver high-quality business results 
  • Dopamine Nation by Anna Lembke

Andrew’s Dopamine Addiction

  • He hit a wall where he didn’t want to get out of bed and didn’t get pleasure from the things that typically brought him pleasure
  • Andrew put his phone away for a month and went to his lakehouse; no social media, email, podcasts, etc. 
  • Initially, he felt like a drug addict going through withdrawal, but after a few days he was able to more fully experience life 
  • The dopamine fast allowed him to reset his benchmark for various stimuli and reboot his brain
  • Here is Andrew’s Twitter thread explaining his dopamine addiction and detox in greater detail

On Mimetic Desire

  • Whatever the people you surround yourself with want, you end up wanting as well
    • You might not even intrinsically want the thing or want to achieve some professional milestone, but others have modeled it as a desirable thing so you subconsciously pursue it 
  • Mimetic desire at its worst is envy and people not appreciating what they have, no matter how much they have 
    • Andrew noticed that even the most successful people at the top of their fields would incessantly compare themselves to even more “successful” people; nothing was ever enough for many of them 

What Andrew Wants

  • Andrew wants safety and security, and earning money contributes to achieving it
  • Resolve the struggle between choosing to wake up and enjoy the day or to make something of the day
    • “I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.” – E.B. White 
  • Every entrepreneur has an inherent drive to achieve their goals 

Your Strengths = Your Weaknesses 

  • “I am perpetually 20% dissatisfied with everything.” – James Dyson
  • The constant desire to want to improve parts of your life or business turns your weaknesses into strengths 
    • This is the curse and the blessing of the entrepreneur 
  • “Most successful people are just an anxiety disorder harnessed for productivity” – Andrew Wilkinson 

Advantages of Being in Canada

  • The lack of access to capital forced Andrew to run his first business with discipline and to focus on profitability
    • Example of turning a weakness into a strength 
  • Canada is separated from the mimetic-desire-silos of LA, New York, etc. 

How Andrew Runs His Company 

  • Companies in the venture capital space can out-spend and out-market their competition to win, sometimes even with an inferior product 
  • Andrew focuses on building businesses that do not compete with venture capital and whose success can be predicted with reasonable certainty 
    • This steers him away from areas that require massive amounts of risk and capital, such as artificial intelligence and drones, for example
  • Fish where the fish are; there are riches in niches 
    • This approach results in Andrew building what some people might think of as “boring businesses” 

Lessons Learned From Hiring Hundreds of CEOs

  • There are three profiles of CEOs: founders, scalers, and steady-states
  • Hiring the right CEO for a company depends on the stage of growth that the company is in
  • The first thing Andrew looks for in a CEO is their ethical foundation
    • Would you let this person babysit your kids?
    • Would you be okay getting stuck on a cruise ship with this person for three days?
  • Are you “nodding along” with what they have to say and their vision 

How Andrew Uses His Wealth to Live a Meaningful Life

  • Buying a plane, yacht, fancy car, etc. is not fulfilling to Andrew, but having money allows him to meet interesting people around the world and bring fascinating people to his town 
  • He wants to make a big impact in his small pond of Victoria
    • He owns a local news company, several restaurants, and is building a hotel 
  • Andrew created an entrepreneur group in his local community where founders and business owners gather to answer and discuss deep questions about life 

Health, Exercise, & Biology 

  • Many scientific discoveries made in laboratories do not proliferate into businesses, so Andrew has self-funded several biological studies and projects that are interesting to him 
  • He monitors all of his health metrics from sleep to blood glucose, for example
  • Andrew applies the “80/20 rule” to learning about health
    • Spend an hour a month reading all of the scientific summaries and then don’t think about it again 

How to Raise Kids With Wealth 

  • He’s still learning how to instill the drive and hustle into his kids 
  • “At the end of the day, your kids just need to know that you’re there and you love them, and I hope that’s enough.” – Andrew Wilkinson
  • Children that come from wealth can pursue careers that they’re actually interested in versus pursuing careers for the sole intention of making money 

Public Market Investing

  • Warren Buffett’s way of doing business inspired Andrew to start Tiny Capital and begin acquiring businesses in the private market 
  • Investing in Bill Ackman’s fund, Pershing Square Holdings (PSHZF), was the first time Andrew got into public market investing
    • He paid for a $60K charity lunch to meet Bill Ackman and essentially do due diligence on him and his fund 
  • Pershing Square Holdings is Andrew’s only public holding and he views it as a backup retirement fund 

Running a Public Company 

  • Doing something for the first time is incredibly stressful
  • Allocating capital well and finding great businesses is the foundation of the running of public company 
  • The hardest business negotiations are ones that involve nefarious, manipulative people 

Andrew’s Habits for Success & Self-Improvement Hacks

  • Have a crazy sense of pace
  • Broadcast your intentions to your friends and make it known to them that you’re starting (X) to create “public shame” if you go back on your word 
  • Hire the wrong person first and just start whatever it is you’re thinking about starting
    • Some people adopt the carpenter’s phrase of measure twice and cut once, but they just end up perpetually measuring 
  • Self-Bind: create an environment where you can’t do the things you don’t want to do, such as eating ice cream, by removing the stimulus from your environment completely
    • This strategy is influenced by Dr. Anna Lembke’s work on addiction and dopamine 
  • The unconscious mind is far more powerful than the conscious mind 

Dealing With Stress

  • Insufficient rest can cause you to turn a molehill into a mountain 
  • Physiology drive all; humans are just bags of chemicals, and you’re not going to feel well if your chemicals are wrong 

What Does Success Look Like?

  • Early in his career, he wanted the mansion, Ferrari, and his name on a billboard, but he quickly realized those things wouldn’t satisfy him in any way
  • Andrew just wants his kids to love him
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Notes By Stan Rizzo

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