adam grant tim ferriss

The Man Who Does Everything – Adam Grant on The Tim Ferriss Show

Check out The Tim Ferriss Show Episode Page & Show Notes

Key Takeaways

  • “You plant the seeds of greatness in the daily grind”Adam Grant
  • Cultivate what Adam terms a “challenge network,” a cohort of people you can rely on to give you unvarnished feedback
    • If you want to reach your full potential, you’ll need to have your logic torn apart to discover holes, allowing you to improve your reasoning, so you make better decisions 
  • Instead of focusing so hard on time management, focus on the substance of the projects you choose (AKA attention management)
    • “When you feel like you’re not productive, it’s not necessarily because you’re lazy or because you have bad habits, it’s because you’re not working on the right projects and you haven’t found the ones that are intrinsically motivating and meaningful to you.” – Adam Grant
  • “If you are habitually not responding to legitimate emails from people you have a professional relationship with, it’s sending a signal that you’re disorganized or don’t care about their priorities” Adam Grant
  • Choose projects where you win even if the project fails
    • How? – Pick projects to work on that allow you to develop both meaningful skills and relationships
  • Just as many people are blind to their weaknesses, many are also blind to their strengths 

Books Mentioned

Intro

  • Adam Grant (@AdamMGrant) is an organizational psychologist at Wharton, where he’s been the top-rated professor for seven straight year
    • Adam hosts the TED podcast WorkLife
    • His TED talks have been viewed more than 20 million times.
  • Host – Tim Ferriss (@tferriss)

Teaching | Going from Nervous to Proficient in Front of a Classroom

  • Early in his teaching career, Adam recalls receiving a feedback form that stated: “You’re so nervous; you’re causing us to physically shake in our seats”
    • (And this wasn’t the only piece of feedback of this nature)
  • “I started to wonder whether I should quit. Then, I started to realize that the reason I got into this in the first place wasn’t about me… It was because I loved ideas and wanted to share them. I wanted to be helpful.” – Adam Grant
    • So what did Adam do?
      • He got to it: “It sounds boring, but you plant the seeds of greatness in the daily grind… For me, that meant going and getting in front of as many audiences as I could.”
        • Adam started volunteering to give guest lectures for other classes, forcing himself to get on stage EVERY day
      • Eventually, with enough reps, Adam began to get more comfortable in front of an audience
  • A brief note on feedback:
    • Be structured with the feedback requests you make – start with broad questions, and then go more targeted
      • For example, when asking for feedback from students, Adam has just two questions:
        • “What did I do well that I should do more of?”
        • “What could be improved upon?”

Challenge Networks

  • Adam has a “challenge network” he frequently reaches out to: A cohort of people he relies on to give him unvarnished feedback
    • The idea primarily originates from the culture Ray Dalio has created at Bridgewater Capital, as described in his book, Principles – a culture where people are not only comfortable with criticism but actually seem to enjoy getting it
    • If you want to reach your full potential, you’ll need to have your logic torn apart to discover holes, allowing you to improve your reasoning, so you make better decisions
  • When writing a book or working on a podcast season, Adam will hold a meeting with his challenge network of students every two weeks
    • To make sure he’s getting the feedback he needs, he’ll tell one of his senior students (someone who’s worked under him for a while): “I want you to come in there guns blazing with the toughest criticism you could ever give, even if you don’t believe it. I want you to model the kind of challenge I want.”
  • Every time Adam gives a public talk, with whoever he’s chatting with afterward, he’ll ask for one thing that he could have done better

Does Tim have a challenge network?

  • “I certainly have people I rely on to call my babies, or decisions or whatever facet of my life might be under scrutiny, ugly when necessary” – Tim Ferriss
    • Tim’s goal when reaching out to his challenge network: To reality check his thinking to discover blind spots/ omissions
  • With his writing, Tim will often ask members of his challenge network for feedback with questions like:
    • “If you had to remove 20% of this chapter, which 20% would you cut?”
    • “If you could only save 10-20% of this chapter, what would you absolutely keep in?”

A Resume of Failures

  • Adam keeps one – here’s why:
    • “It’s a clever way to be comfortable sharing all the things I’ve stumbled in” – Adam Grant
      • People entering a new field can get discouraged when looking at a role model’s stunning resume, which fails to mention the jobs that denied them, the creative projects that failed, etc.
    • Also: “It’s been a reminder to me that I’ve rarely ever done anything that didn’t radically fail before I achieved some success” – Adam Grant
      • By remembering your past failures, it’s easier to cope with today’s failures

How the hell is Adam so good at getting things done?

  • His college roommates used to tell him he “had a productive form of mild OCD”
  • “I hate leaving something unfinished. This is both a blessing and a curse.” – Adam Grant
    • “I’m constantly late because I have a chronic inability to disengage from the current thing on my agenda to go and move on to the next thing”
  • “I’m bad at time management, but I’ve gotten good at attention management” – Adam grant
    • One part of this: Stop multitasking
    • The second part: Instead of focusing so hard on time management, focus on the substance of the projects you choose
      • “If I’m choosing people and projects that matter to me, it doesn’t matter how long they take”

The Art of Renegotiating

  • How does Tim manage to “renegotiate” missed meetings, appointments, conference appearances, etc.?
    • He might say:
      • “When I made the commitment, I wholeheartedly felt like I would be able to do X. It has become clear, based on new information, that if I make an attempt to do this, I think, at best, I’ll do a mediocre job because of the limited bandwidth I’m going to have. That would be a disservice to project Y or everything both of us were hoping for. Let me find a replacement.”
    • In general, always try to make it up to who you’re going to be disappointing
  • If Adam opts to skip a meeting/phone call because he’s just too focused or locked into the flow state, he might say:
    • “I’m really sorry. I know you’re counting on me to be able to be there, but I’m not going to be able to make it. But what you can count on me for is to always deliver results. You may not always get the face time I promised… but I will NEVER miss a deadline or fail to deliver something I promised to you.”
      • Let the person know you’re dependable for the outcome, even though you weren’t dependable for the meeting/conversation/etc.
  • Also: “It’s much better to give a hard no than a maybe that in your heart of hearts is actually a no” Tim Ferriss
  • You can’t be afraid of burning bridges when saying “no” (or renegotiating a commitment) – you will disappoint people
    • And as Dr. Seuss says: “Those who matter mind don’t mind and those who mind don’t matter”
    • Remember: You have no control over how someone else responds

Stop Ignoring Email

  • Tim references this article by Adam in The New York Times: No, You Can’t Ignore Email. It’s Rude.
  • Think about it: “If someone said hi to you in the hallway, would you ignore them? If someone called you, would you never return their voicemail? What makes digital snobbery okay?” – Adam Grant
  • After doing some research, Adam discovered that of all the personality traits that matter for job performance, the single most important one is conscientiousness (being hard-working, organized, disciplined, and dependable)
    • “If you are habitually not responding to legitimate emails from people you have a professional relationship with, it’s sending a signal that you’re disorganized or don’t care about their priorities” Adam Grant

How does Adam manage email?

  • First, one helpful resource: Give Yesterbox by Tony Hsieh a read
  • He does a lot of email batching
  • On his writing days, Adam starts the day by answering a few emails
    • Why? – He wants to get into a writing rhythm 
  • Adam uses Microsoft Outlook, despite multiple people telling him to switch to Superhuman
    • Tim, as well, like’s Outlook’s functionality (although he does a lot of his batch emailing using Gmail offline on a split-pane view)

What are Adam’s email rules?

  • He never takes meeting with strangers
  • Secondly, he’ll NEVER say he doesn’t have time for something or that he’s too busy
    • If it’s essential, you can make time for it
    • Being “too busy” for something just means it’s not a priority
    • Instead, Adam might say: “Based on the commitments I have on my plate, this isn’t something I can add”
  • Adam uses an email autoresponder that basically says:
    • “I get more emails in a day that I have time to respond to. Here are some resources that might be helpful…”
  • Adam has a “triage team” that he forwards certain emails to, specifically those relating to topics or areas where he might be helpful, but doesn’t have time to respond
    • That triage team might then respond to the email themselves with advice or suggested reading, or perhaps suggest a phone call with Adam
    • Who does Adam’s triage team consist of?
      • In the past, it’s been a combination of masters/Ph.D. students and colleagues looking for part-time work

Picking and Assessing Projects

  • How does Adam judge a book project’s success?
    • “For me, impact is seeing the ideas getting embedded in people’s language and actions” – Adam Grant
    • Also, it comes down to reader feedback – you know whether your work has made an impact
  • How does Tim choose his projects?
    • He tries to choose projects where he wins even if the project fails
      • He focuses on picking projects that: 1) Allow him to develop new skills and 2) Allow him to develop meaningful relationships
        • “If you continue to acquire skills and deep relationships with people you care for who are also incredibly good at what they do, success cannot be kept from you indefinitely”Tim Ferriss

What books has Adam gifted most?

A Human User Manuel

  • Isn’t it odd how new cars come with owner’s manuals, but when we work with a new person, who’s way more complicated than a car, we don’t receive any resources?
    • Adam recalls meeting a manager at Bain Consulting who decided to do something a bit different – he sat down and wrote up a one-pager about how to best work with him effectively (it included his strengths, weaknesses, triggers that bring out the best in him, etc.)
    • Adam took it a step further – In his own one-pager, he made sure to incorporate feedback from past colleagues
      • To obtain that feedback, he asked them:
        • What are my blind spots?
        • What do you know now about working with me that you wish you knew earlier?
        • What are my strengths and weaknesses, and what brings each of those out?

Find Your Bright Spots

  • Just as many people are blind to their weaknesses, many are also are blind their strengths (think of them as “bright spots”) – there are things you’re good at that you don’t even know you’re good at
    • “It’s equally important to look for those bright spots, not just the blind spots”- Tim Ferriss
  • To help discover your strengths, try the Reflected Best Self Exercise, Center for Positive Organizations
    • Reach out to 15-20 people who know you well and ask them to tell a story about a time when you were at your best
      • Then, analyze the stories and find the common themes – find what triggers you to bring out your best self

Adam’s Routine

  • Adam has days where he only focuses on his creative work, and other days where he makes sure he’s responsive/available to others (such as students)
  • “I’ve become a little less routine-driven in the last few years” – Adam Grant
    • “One of the routines I’ve been working on is just being comfortable shifting my routine”
  • Adam used to do all of his creative work in the morning
    • But that’s since changed: Digging into the research, Adam learned that people do their best creative work when they’re a little fuzzier
      • Why? – That’s when your thinking is more nonlinear, and you’re more likely to make an unexpected leap
      • For this reason, Adam will now spend some time before bed brainstorming down a few ideas he wants to tackle during his morning writing sessions
  • Adam tries to take all his phone calls after workouts
    • Why? – It serves as a nice transition for getting back into work-mode
  • For a nightcap, Adam goes to sleep while listening to podcasts

What does Adam’s workout routine look like?

  • He lifts weights 2x a week
  • 3x a week, he does some form of cardio (either by playing ultimate Frisbee, tennis, or using the elliptical)
  • Adam recently got back into pool diving

What would Adam put on a billboard?

  • “The most meaningful way to succeed is to help other people succeed”Adam Grant

One Last Thought on Productivity

  • “When you feel like you’re not productive, it’s not necessarily because you’re lazy or because you have bad habits, it’s because you’re not working on the right projects and you haven’t found the ones that are intrinsically motivating and meaningful to you.” – Adam Grant
  • “If productivity is your goal, maybe you’ve got the wrong goal” – Adam Grant

What’s next for Tim?

  • Funding more psychedelic studies
  • He also wants to “disappear for a while,” perhaps into the wilderness 
    • This isn’t something new – Tim has done it for weeks at a time in the past

Who are Tim’s next dream podcasts guests?

Additional Notes

  • Tim only schedules his podcast interviews for Mondays and Fridays
  • “Just because you’re highly motivated and driven and have clarity about your goals today, doesn’t mean you won’t wake up in two years and wish you’d considered other goals. You might want to broaden your peripheral vision.” – Adam Grant
  • The Paradox of Choice
  • Tim says The 4-Hour Chef was the hardest book he’s ever put together 
    • The writing and book launch was severely exhausting, leading to Tim launching the podcast after searching for a fun project to serve as a bit of a break
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Notes By MMiller

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