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Accelerating 10,000 Hours to Mastery with James Altucher

Lesson 33 from: The Chase Jarvis LIVE Show

Chase Jarvis

Accelerating 10,000 Hours to Mastery with James Altucher

Lesson 33 from: The Chase Jarvis LIVE Show

Chase Jarvis

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33. Accelerating 10,000 Hours to Mastery with James Altucher


Class Trailer

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Lesson Info

Accelerating 10,000 Hours to Mastery with James Altucher

Hey buddy, what's up? It's Chase! Welcome to another episode of the Chase Travis live show here on creativelive the shore. I sit down with amazing humans and today's amazing human is James all teacher now you probably know James because he's written somewhere on the order of 20 count of 20 books. His most recent one is called skip the line, which is a fascinating book. The subtitle of that book is the 10,000 experiments rule and other surprising advice for reaching your goals. So you can imagine a little bit of the subtext of our conversation in this, we also explore how curiosity is perhaps one of the most important vehicles for pursuing the thing that you ought to be pursuing with this one precious life. We also recap a really fascinating story where James wrote an article about how new york was forever changed by the pandemic Only to be responded to by the one and only Jerry Seinfeld in the new york times. And if that doesn't shake up your world, I don't know what will. There's so m...

any nuggets in this episode about how to pursue your dreams, how to navigate difficult times. James is talks very frankly about having a lot of failure going from depressed to bankrupt and recovering through processes like a gratitude practice. So fascinating episode. I can't wait for you to get into it now. So I'm gonna get out of the way, enjoy yours truly. Plus James. All teacher. Mhm, mm hmm Bill James out that you're welcome to the show but welcome back. Chase. I'm always so glad to be on the show. Thanks for having me here A lot has happened. We were speaking before we started, we pressed the record button about what a crazy last couple of years. And as you said, this is the conversation that everyone's having because we're sort of like talking to each other again, trying to uncork what is what has happened and where this is all going. You dropped a book somewhere in the middle, you moved to florida, you exchanged hate mail with jerry Seinfeld. There are many things for us to talk about. Well to be clear, I did not hate on him. So, you know, we didn't quite I I exchanged solutions and possible problems and I think maybe he he took it the wrong way. That's fair enough for those who do not know this is a fun and interesting way to dive into the show. Of course, James, you've been a guest on the show before, I've been a guest on yours. We have a think our relative audiences are uh are aware or respectful respective audiences are aware of the work that one another uh do. But to start, just to give anyone who's new to this new to our relationship for example, or new to you and your work. How do you describe what you do because you do so many things. Yeah, I don't know if I do describe what I do, I really like to pursue um things, things that I'm passionate about and I've been a writer for the past 30 years, I've I've been an entrepreneur, I've started several companies I've built in Seoul companies and then gone completely broke afterwards and had to always bounced back and it's it's not pleasant, but that's something that I've written about. I'm a podcast, I've had over 1000 podcasts and close to 100 million downloads. I'm an investor. Um I've been a stand up comedian for the past six years, I am currently obsessing on improving a chess and so, so I do a lot of things and I list those things with it because you shouldn't just list your career as the thing you are. No, I do, I love I love that. And the fact that your passions play a role in each of those in the career side and the personal side, ah and you know, in the work side, career, work hobby, all of that stuff is critical. So I also, now that we, those folks who are orienting, they're either looking up right now and they're going of course, I know James work, so we're in their head and it is an interesting place to jump off where and you know, two years into the pandemic now and I would like to think we're emerging, it's still in someone in question, but you, you wrote a year and change ago, that new york is forever changed. You wrote this post on your blog and you, I think linkedin you sent it around to all your different channels and it was a heartfelt earnest piece about why you went to new york or why one goes to new york because of you know, the culture and the business and you know, it's just you can always trip over. I think opportunities was something that was said in the article and you said the pandemic has changed that and will forever. And this little known comedian named jerry Seinfeld read your post and wrote back to you in the new york Times. Yeah, as far as I know, it was his first op ed ever. And he took a whole page in the new york Times two, you know, trashed me. I remember I woke up that morning, it was like a monday morning or sunday morning and I was getting all these texts from people I vaguely knew calling me a putts and I'm like why is somebody, why is everybody suddenly using this, like 19 thirties, depression era, insult to wait. I don't even know these people. And then it turned out, I realized jerry Seinfeld had written about me and written about my article and you know, as what happens a lot is that I addressed serious problems that were happening in new york. And and by the way, no one in since then no one has denied that these problems exist. The mayoral candidates, you know, some of them who I know very well called me for advice talking about these problems, but I think maybe it was the first time someone had pointed out that these problems could be more than just, you know, it might last longer than the pandemic and I think people got afraid and maybe I wasn't sensitive to that like people if you own property in new york city or if your family and, and, and, and look my family is in new york city and I'm, I've born and raised all around new york city and I lived there for, for my entire adult life and it's a scary thing to be told this. And so a lot of people didn't even read my article. I'm not even sure jerry Seinfeld read my article, but felt the need to kind of lash out. But the problems are real and you know, I'm glad the current, you know, new incoming mayor is aware of them and and he's a good friend of mine and and really the article was about don't be in denial. These problems are serious. New york city is an expensive city to run if your entire tax base is leaving. You know, maybe you don't like the people that are the tax base, but you still need the tax revenues to support teachers, police, firemen, sanitation and so on and 60,000 businesses were in danger of going out of business did end up going out of business. And so there's there's issues. Yeah, and I want to use our time here to talk less about those individual issues and more about what I think you're a master of which is cultivating conversation, asking questions, doing things differently. The fact that you can, you know very comfortably share your opinion out in the world in a very cogent, well thought out, constructive way as you pointed out. And I will attest and that that that belief in what you're doing is genuine and real and honest and and that that that creates a response in the world and where I would, you know, juxtapose that to someone else who had a sort of a half hearted conservatives don't want to offend anyone or really uncertain of if their opinions will stand up in the world or not, it's very different than James all teacher. What you did is you put your world, you put your ideas out there in the world. The fact that jerry Seinfeld did his first op ed ever, that it was in the new york times and that millions of people all of a sudden read your work to me. That's the interesting part, not what jerry said or not necessarily even what you said, but mostly why you said it, how you said it, the the approach that you took. So, you know, I think it's an interesting um an interesting overlay to your most recent book, which is called skip the line and in many ways that was the master class and skipping the line, right? You you how do you get the attention of millions of people around your ideas? Well, you just you you did what felt natural to you, you wrote your post and a lot of people happened to see it. So if I'm making this connection incorrectly, then you tell me. But since I'm I have a little bit of conviction and I believe this is a masterclass, ironically in the book, skip the line. Why don't you articulate a little bit of, you know, is this standard for you? Because I've seen you do this over and over and I it's this is like, it's natural to you and that's what you're trying to teach us. Yeah. And for for better or for worse, it's it's standard to me because sometimes these backlashes are incredibly unpleasant and everyone says, oh, don't care what people think about you, but of course everybody cares somewhat, you know, and it depends on the people to uh but yeah, what, what's interesting to me is that first off and your, you know, Chase, we've talked about photography, you're a photographer from way back, you know, in our very first uh time together, I asked you, you know, how can one be a good photograph photographer? And you said you said it best, you know, take a photo of something that interests you, you have to be interested in in it first, what interests you and for me, if I'm thinking a lot about something, I want to be able to express it and I want people to read it. So I might be thinking about something that I'm seeing a problem in the world or I'm seeing people, what I think is are making bad decisions or maybe I want to kind of express what happened to me that you could bounce back from total bankruptcy and depression and suicidal thoughts and so on and, and, and survive and flourish. But you know, a lot of times you have to always be able to say something in a unique way and you have to say something that's unique. So whenever I write something, I don't even hit publish, unless I'm afraid of what people will think about me after they read the article because otherwise if I'm not worried about that, then I'm probably not saying something new and then why say it at all? If you're not saying something new, if I'm just agreeing with the crowd, then what's the point of being one more voice in the crowd now? That doesn't mean you try to be controversial. That would be bad writing as well. Like you, I can always tell if someone's just writing something just to be controversial. So I tend to write about things I'm afraid about, like I'm a I love New york city, I was afraid people were in denial that, you know, New york city was in trouble, but more than that there's a lot of cognitive dissonance that, you know, causes people to not want to hear that new york city is in trouble. Maybe they own property there, maybe they have a job that they can't leave. It's similar like let's say I write, uh don't send your kids to college, which is another article I've written that had a lot of backlash. Well some, some, you know, it's a huge financial decision to send your kids to college or to go to college and take on that kind of debt. So that creates cognitive dissonance. Once you do it, your brain is not going to say to you, oh, James, you did something wrong. Your brain's gonna reject the idea that college might be bad or homeownership is another one. That's another, that's one of the biggest financial decisions also you'll make in life, if someone says to you, home ownership is no good, you're gonna have a problem with that person. So, and intertwined with that. You can't just say, here's why I believe this, X, y and Z. You have to tell a story. People only listen to stories. A photograph, you know, a picture is worth 1000 words. A photograph is a story. People, you know, at the end of the day, no one wants to be lectured to, no one wants to hear a list of facts, everybody wants to be entertained even from, you know, the things that they learn from And so you have to tell stories. So I, so I write an article about, let's say why hate owning a home? And I'll tell stories about times I've owned a home and lost everything and lost my home and, and, and so on. And then people are, are drawn in, there are drawn in by the cognitive dissidence. They're drawn in by the story, they're drawn in when you're saying something in a unique way. Uh, so all of these things together creates, I hate to use the word viral. It does create an article that goes viral, but it makes people think if I just said, oh, here's Kyle Rittenhouse, blah, blah, blah. You know, it's it's nothing. I just joined this horde of people shouting in into the, in into a vacuum and, and I don't like doing that. Well this, let's let's look at it. Specifically the lens of your most recent book, which I think you have, if I'm not mistaken, 18 Total books, is that right now? It's probably more like 21, Okay. One loses count even though one tries hard after 10. But you know, choose yourself as the one that's quite popular where I, I really enjoyed that one and then this one came out again during the pandemic and there's a through the lens that we've just been talking about, this idea of doing, you know, being uniquely you doing things different, not just better. There's this undercurrent of the keys to um continuing to evolve and grow and to echo the sentiment of the title to skip the line to be able to go, this is not about a shortcut. This is how to authentically be catapulted to the front of any discipline. You, you argue it's very much around, um uncertainty. Being comfortable as you said. I don't know if if I'm not uncomfortable when I published, then I'm not doing it right. And how does this combination of curiosity and discomfort play into what you wrote about and skip the line and your philosophy on life in general? Yeah, it's, it's, it's so interesting because look, you've created this learning platform and learning has been transforming so much in the past few decades. Like when we were kids, we would learn facts. Here's the first president, here's the dates of the Civil War, Here's uh, you know, what happened in World War Two, fact, fact, fact and the reality is facts and information now are a commodity. I can google facts. I don't need to remember all of them anymore. But what real learning is is that we're getting back to discovery when you discover something new and you discover who you are in the context of what you're passionate about and this is what you've been teaching in in your platform and skip the line is sort of about this, which is, you know, it's okay to return to your passions and learn them and even monetize them. And, and the pandemic has sort of accelerated this. Everybody was told, hey, hey, everybody sit at home for a while and watch tv. Well, many people did not want to watch tv. They wanted to learn new things, go back to the passions they had when they were younger and, and maybe even monetize them as you were talking about. And, and it's, it's difficult to do because for one thing Everyone is out there saying you can't do that. You've, you've worked hard as a rising up as a marketing manager of a Fortune 500 company. You should stick to doing that and then retire and then after you retire, you could play around with, you know, Cooking or photography or whatever it is you're interested in. And I want to and then everyone else says, Oh, you can't do it. You need 10,000 hours. It's the 10,000 hour rule. You got to do something for 10,000 hours to be good at it. Which is not really what the 10,000 hour rule says. And so I wanted to say, look, if you're interested in passionate about something, it's okay to pursue it. It's not that hard To get in the top 1% of your field. Uh you don't need 10,000 hours. You just need to get into the top 1%. Not in the top 10 humans, But the top 1%. So for like, let's take photography as an example, there's probably 100 million people On the planet who love photography and who consider themselves photographers. So the top 1% means being in the top one million of those 100 million, it's not in the top 10, it's in the top one million. And and my my conviction is that if you're in the top 1% you can monetize it in some way, whether you're a photographer, whether you blog about photography or a podcast about it, or have a newsletter about it or, or, you know, sell photography equipment or there's a million ways we're just riffing. And so I wanted to write a book how to quickly learn what you're you, how to find what you're passionate about, learn enough so that you're in the top 1% which is not easy, but it's not as difficult as people think and then how to monetize it. And, you know, for writing for instance, we were just talking about, well, how does the story get people's attention and, you know, you learn in each field what kind of the skip the line techniques are Okay, I want an idea to get attention. Well, I need to tell a story. I need to affect people's cognitive dissonance and I need to be afraid. I need to make sure what I'm saying is is unique and with my own voice, those three things I can guarantee you almost any idea is gonna go viral. again assuming you're passionate about the idea. So, you know, one thing that I did during the pandemic was I decided uh you know this, this tv show, the queen's gambit came out, it's about a chess player. I just said I'm gonna pursue, I'm gonna use the techniques in my book and pursue chess and I'm gonna stick disciplined to the techniques in my book and it's worked incredibly well, like I just came back from a tournament, I won some money there and uh you know, I did this, I'll describe some of the techniques I use, so there's one I call plus minus equal, find a coach who's better than you that could teach. You, find equals who you could play with and exchange notes with and find a minus find people you could teach because if you can't explain something simply then you don't truly understand it. So that's one technique for learning fast and you know, I could go on and on. I'm obsessed with with these different learning techniques, but keep going. But this is, this is exactly why we're here James, this is the podcast is long form, don't you stress about our time. This is for example, I just made an entire podcast yesterday, which we will, we will be released in the next couple of weeks here about exactly that point and the idea was in my brain from skip the line and was something that I personally benefited from. And so it's a re trot out what you just said and when you're learning something, there are people who are further along either in the food chain or on their journey that have more information, more value. You can watch them, you can, you know, be mentored by them, learn their moves, having a set of peers that you can exchange these ideas with, People are doing the same things that you are at the same time and those are you know, ways to learn together and people, if you can't teach it, as you said, then you don't know it well enough and what's better in this world than passing information on to others and making, you know, building a community that is factually effective. I have personally experienced it, you talked about it in your book and you just demonstrated that that fact with your chess example, give us some more, this is like endless goodness for people who are listening right now. Well, you know, another, another one that's very important is what I call micro skills. So take, take entrepreneurship as an example, people say, oh, I want to be an entrepreneur, I wanna, I wanna get better as an entrepreneur. There's really no such skill as entrepreneur or entrepreneurship or business, that's not a skill that's like a basket of skills. So so you have to learn marketing, you have to learn how to have ideas, you have to learn execution, you have to learn how to manage people, you have to learn how to sell an idea, you have to learn how to um create value in in your business and on and on and on. And you have to learn these different micro skills in order to know the kind of macro scale of business or uh you know I imagine with photography, what are the micro skills there, you have to know um what is lighting and Yeah, lighting, composition, uh communication all yeah, there's infinity skills and they're mutually exclusive. So like knowing lighting, it's not the same as knowing composition. They're completely different. You know the the the you don't have to learn every skill perfectly. But if you know this basket of micro, if you if I if you identify the micro skills and then come up with a training regimen of how you're going to learn, you know a little by little each day, you're gonna be a great photographer. If you say okay, I wanna learn, I wanna get 1% better every day this year at composition. Well 1% better compounded is 3800%. So I don't know, you know, we're talking about something qualitative with quantitative words but So I don't know what it means to be 38 times better at composition or 38 times better at chess. But understanding that if you push yourself just a tiny bit each day and you know specifically you've broken apart the micro skills, you've broken apart how to learn with this plus minus equal and you will get good, there's no question, you'll be in the top 1% of your field and you know, and then of course there's the question of how to monetize, but for me, for let's say for comedy, So for in 2015 I had set out the year, I was going to write a novel and then of course I got on a stage just for a fluke and, and, and did some stand up comedy and I fell in love with it. I like absolutely loved it. So put together my plus minus equal, I figured out what the micro skills were and I, and that's by talking to people, but you know, there's everything from, you know, writing a joke, to acting out the joke too, how do you move around on the stage to how to use the microphone? How do you do different voices? Uh what are the different types of comedy, like absurdism, storytelling one liners and you kind of start building this repertoire of micro skills that you've learned and that builds you as a comedian. But in everything also is its discovery two of who you are. So you have to answer this question, Who are you? And and that's sometimes a hard question to answer, why are you like, you know what it is? You know, when you say why are you, what are the things that are important to you? Why do you exist? And then you have to also answer why now. So, for instance, if you're if if you're photographing something, my guess is not only are you, you know, who are you is you know what you're interested in, what kind of photographs you want to do, Why are you is why are you doing photographs? And there's 100 million people doing it. Why are you doing it? Like, what is going to be special about you? And then why now you're taking a photograph right now? Would you take you? You know, there has to be an answer to the question at some point, why this photograph now is an interesting one for you. And, you know, this is another skill of like asking these questions all the time, means you're not just kind of following in the footsteps of those before you, but you're going one step further. You're bringing yourself into the history of photography and changing photography because of what you do, as opposed to just following the greats before you, which is important as well. But at some point you need to take the step where it's you. So, for instance, with me, with writing, You know, I feel that over 30 years, I can say, you know, why me is because I have my own particular perspective on, you know, building something, losing something coming back from it. I'm really afraid to lose again and again. I've done, I've, I've gone broke like five times and terrified of doing it again. And so this gives me my own particular voice if I'm honest about it in writing and, and it, it helps me to see things maybe that other people don't always see when I tell my story in this way. So all these things together help to, you know, catapult you to skip the line, so to speak to in whatever field you're interested in. The fact that that you've repeated it so often in numerous disciplines is part of what's fascinating to me this. Therefore it's not just a skill set that's nuanced to one particular thing like writing. I think you've done it with, you know, with Cryptocurrency, I think you've done it with uh comedy for example and that these skills or this concept of lens that you put on this is extensible to numerous different um, areas of passion. If I'm a listener right now, I think that's, there's many reasons to care, but that's a big important one. Why skip the line makes a ton of sense. So you've, you've go ahead, sorry, James, I just want to mention, there's, there's one important thing to which is um, this idea of experimenting, which I think is not familiar to the classroom we, we grew up in. So when the classrooms we grew up in, we get a book, we have to read it, we got it tested on it, we get lectured on it and then we go home and we pass the grade, But very important for learning and this is just as important in photography, as business, as comedy, as chess. We're writing is you have to be able to do lots of experiments. And what's an experiment. Experiment is you have a theory about something that either you don't know or the world doesn't know and you have a cheap way, has to be very cheap of testing that theory. And The upside is enormous. And the downside is you learn something. So like Thomas Edison, it took him 10,000 different wires before he figured out how to light a light bulb. And someone asked him, you know, how does it feel to fail 10,000 times? And he said, Sir, I didn't fail 10,000 times. I learned 10,000 ways how not to make a light bulb. And I'm sure with photography, you know, you can take a photograph of something, let's say, I want to take a photograph of fruit. Well, okay, now let's do a little experiment. How about I look at the fruit through a microscope and take a photograph of like, you know, um, a fruit that's so enlarged through the microscope that no one can tell what it is. But I'm seeing the, the innards of this fruit that might be an experiment that's been done a million times. But I wanted to experiment just to see what happens and see what it looks like to me. Is it beautiful to me and you know, on and on. I'm sure while you were building up your photography, it's all about experiments, because that's how you find your unique voice in writing. Okay, what if I'm going to write an article about? I'll tell you one experiment I did. That was really great for me. I don't know if you remember, like it was like three or four years ago trump tweeted, I want to buy Greenland and I think it was the Prime Minister of Denmark tweeted back, it's not for sale and I'm like, yeah, a I didn't know you could negotiate and by like an entire country and do it on twitter and be why was Denmark involved in this? I didn't know Denmark had anything to do with Greenland. So I did a little research and it was fascinating. Like I could figure it out why someone would want to buy Greenland. And Denmark actually did own Greenland. So I could have just written an article about what I learned, but instead I wanted to, I wanted to try a different format than just like here's what, here's what happened and here's why this is important. So I started a Kickstarter where I wanted to raise $100 million so I could buy Greenland and you know, I have never used Kickstarter before. So you have to put together these, I guess prizes if someone donates $1000 they could become a duke in Greenland or if someone contributes $10,000 maybe I'd give them 100 acres million dollars. They could get a holiday named after them. So so I was you know it was an experiment for me and then you write the summary of why you want to buy Greenland and why this is important. So this becomes a writing experiment. Oh I'm gonna use instead of writing this in the third person or the first person, I'm gonna write this in the Kickstarter person. And so I learned more about writing, I learned about Kickstarter, I learned about Greenland and Kickstarter shut down my project because they knew it was, I was just, I was raising money. I had raised like already a couple of $1000 and they shut it down and returned everything and and they reasonably did so because they take they eat the cost on the credit card fees when they returned the money, but I learned like a huge amount and then I got another story about it, which is telling that story. So you know whether so for writing you always want to experiment, like should you write this in the second person, the third person maybe write this in the form of two people sending letters back and forth to each other. But here was I had never seen someone write a story and like a Kickstarter format. So my downside was I learned a huge amount and my upside could have been on going to buy Greenland, but that's an example experiment that made me an incrementally better writer and now I know Kickstarter and you brought a lot of joy to it clearly personally, and I remember I was laughing in the background as you were in introducing this because I remember reading that and saw that you had done that after the hilarious and buffoonery, uh that kicked it all off. Yeah, here's another one. When I was first starting stand up, I had two problems like every comedian might, what do you do when the audience is a hostile audience and it's hard to make people laugh when the lights are shining on you and the gun is to your head and saying make people laugh. So I, I you can't, you can't get enough stage time when you're just starting. So I went on a new york city subway and I figure you can't find a more hostile audience than a new york city subway during rush hour and you have to make people laugh quickly or they'll totally hate you. So I had to work on my one liners. So I basically went on the subway and every stop, I got off the train and went on to another car and did stand up at in front of the subway honest, it was scary, I didn't think I would do it even got on the subway and I thought to myself, this is a waste of time. But I had someone there to videotape it so I could study the video afterwards and I did it. I don't think I did that great, but it was an experiment that put me in a high stress situation. I definitely learned about comedy. I definitely learned what I was capable of doing in a in a subway just on the fly. And it was interesting and it provides a back, a back story for, as you've already said a couple of times now for telling the story like the story about yeah, I got anxiety purse, a little micro twinge of anxiety, just thinking about walking into a subway cold and like starting to drop your, your act, that's very, very bold. It was, I I got on there and I said to the video person, I'm sorry, I wasted your time, this is I'm not gonna do this. And and then I said, you know what, just turn on the video Anyway, and as soon as my friend did that, I went off on a on a roll and I got some people to laugh so it wasn't, it wasn't all bad. This idea of experimenting. You know, you've talked about your personal failures very, you know, mentioned it several times in this conversation and others just, you know, building it all up and you talked about going bankrupt, for example, are these not just experiments that get bigger and as you've done it a couple of times, the first time you lost everything. Um, and you came back like, okay, that wasn't that bad. It was painful. I've learned some things and I know what I don't want to do next time. Is that in some way related to your passion for running these micro experiments is the subway experiment that you just gave in some ways analogous to the, you know, your first bankruptcy say, yeah, I get, you know, that's a really good point and I haven't made that connection before, but you know, part of this part of experimenting is also a way of practicing failure in a very safe way. So, you know, like take that subway example, failure would be everybody yelling at me and saying get off the subway, we don't want to hear you, you're awful and, and that's it, and that's kind of, that's the worst case, like no one's gonna kill me, no one's gonna take my money or family away. I mean, when you, when you go broke or fail in in business, I mean, I've lost my home, I have lost, you know, my family, there's all sorts of bad things that, that can happen when you lose in a really big way and, and it's really sad and horrible, but so when you experiment, it's like you're giving her a chance to, to practice, um, you know, challenging yourself in ways that could be disappointing. But you get comfortable with it and I'll give you an example because this is six years after the subway thing. two days ago, I was in an airport and my plane was delayed Not for like a half hour or an hour. My plane was delayed for 11 hours. And so I was with a group of people just, we weren't, We were told don't leave the gate because we might take off at any minute. So every minute for 11 hours we're thinking we could take off in another minute. And then, and then finally they make this announcement. Um, we found a crew except for, we're looking for a second flight attendant and everyone's like yelling out and they're all upset. Like everyone's yelling out, well, we don't need a second flight attendant. Well we'll just go, just put us on the plane. And so I stood up and I said, I am not leaving this airport unless there is a second flight attendant and she is handing me peanuts. That's why I, that's why I pay to go on this plane and people didn't know how to react. But then suddenly everyone starts laughing. So I'm able to use this offbeat skill and and stand up in front of an audience, which is something that I was scared to death to do years ago. Uh, and make a tense situation a little calmer, not only for myself but for everyone and I enjoy doing that. but this is a skills translate into other skills. If you're good at chess, you might be good at analyzing business situations or handling, you know, the discipline to, you know, learn something, you know, because chess requires a lot of discipline and uh, you know, all these, all these skills, you know, for instance, like when we were talking about photography and I said, what if you do an experiment where you take the classic example of photographing fruit, but then do it as if you're photographing it through a microscope. Well, combining knowledge of two fields is a good way to experiment. So let's say I use a microscope a lot. If I'm a biologist, what are some techniques from being a biologist that I could bring into photography or I've gone broke a lot. What if I take those experiences and bring it into comedy and you know, so combining your passions and skills and interest is another way to kind of bring your own uniqueness through, find ways to experiment and discover like this unique intersection of skills that you have that make you the best in the world for those intersections. And I think that's important as well. That is absolutely brilliant insight. Absolutely. And I can personally attest to that on a number of levels will use photography. I came from a world. My my passion was the ski, snowboard skate surf world because that's what I was doing all my friends did that, that I was living in steamboat Colorado was skiing, you know, 150 days a year. I was incredibly passionate about that. And in that community there were people who were sponsored, you were sponsored by, You know, some ski manufacturer sponsored by K Skis and they gave you money to travel. They gave you all the equipment that you could use because you as a leader in that particular genre of skiing were someone that people looked up to and that seems very obvious and perhaps in sports, this idea of being sponsored or, you know, endorsing something was normal. I was like, okay, cool, I'm taking pictures of those people, why don't I try and do that in photography And they thought I was crazy. I would see a picture on the back of a magazine of some photographer holding a, you know, a Canon camera, I would speak to the, you know, the person that can and say, how much did this person get paid and they're like, oh, that person didn't get paid at all that, you know, they were lucky enough to get on the back of that, you know, that magazine and I'm like, wait a minute, bullshit. And so I set out to build a large audience and when I had a large an audience that was large enough, I said, you know, hey camera manufacturer in order for me to use your camera, you have to pay me. And that concept was so foreign in that industry and guess what everybody's doing it now. Now I'm not saying me alone can take credit for something like that, but that is a perfect example that mirrors what you just said of. I was experiencing something in one industry, I thought I would experiment with it another and I ended up making millions of dollars doing that, right? And think about all the skills you brought together for that. So first was your passion for skating and surfing and and you know, maybe there was a not that many photographers because they weren't getting paid. So you know, there was nobody doing like artistic photography in that area. So you're able to bring that pac man the passion for photography, your understanding of business and, and social media and so on combining those three things of course they're going to pay you like you're the best in the world now at the combination of photography, skate surfing and business slash social media. That's, that's when people think of that intersection that became you and stuff like that is really important. So even when I, you know, again I'm doing, I do the plus minus equal, I give chess lessons as I'm learning more chess and I give chess lessons from a very entrepreneurship perspective, like I've been an entrepreneur of many businesses, I'm able to give lessons to entrepreneurs and and kind of make all the analogies. So they're like ah yeah, now I see why you do this in chess. And now I see why I do this as an entrepreneur because they're all, all these things are connected. So that's my unique aspect as a, I'm not like a professional player. So it's, I can't really teach in that sense, but I teach from the sense of being, hey, I'm an entrepreneur chess player. This gives me a good platform to teach on and so on. I think it's, you know, my point in sharing my experience with that is if you're listening right now and you have the areas of interest of photography and you're a biologist. Let's go back to your photographing something of fruit. And if I bet if you actually looked through a microscope and were able to capture an image and you shot images of oranges and apples and watermelons and you could make some beautiful ship. There's probably at some level whether it's, you know what the eye can see or deeper at the cellular level that there's beauty. And if you, I could see an art show right now, this is like watermelon and orange and apple and it would certainly be extraordinary. That is a great example of right now whoever's listening watching like what are areas and you know, this harkens to the point that you are a master at James being uniquely you leaning into that there you have a set of experiences, every person listening has a set of experiences that are unique. And if you can combine those in interesting and unexpected ways that is part of the expression of you, I couldn't help but take that away from from skip the line James. It was so the point was so well made. Yeah, thanks. And it's it's it's really important to me that concept because you know, let's say again, It's very difficult. Like I'm 53 years old, it would be very difficult for me to be the best photographer in the world. You know, maybe maybe I could be good, maybe I can't, but I know being in the top 1% if I worked at it and I studied it and I did it, it would take me a while, but I could do it. But the only way to really do something new is if I'm bringing my own perspective, if I discover something new and so what do I have in me? Well, I can I can focus on people who have been broke and or entrepreneurs or photographing comedians or chess players like these are all like intense type of activities that that take a lot of blood, sweat and tears. I imagine photography in those areas might be interesting or I don't know, there there's there's so many ways to kind of combine who you are with those passions so that whether or not you're good, no one can tell if someone's 20% better photographer than someone else, I would not be able to tell. But I can tell if someone's bringing something unique to the table and people value unique more than better. You know I'll give you I'll give you an example that applies to not only my own experience but one of my daughters so she was having trouble getting into college and I actually am against kids going to college and she's aware of that but whatever and she was having trouble getting it and I said look why don't you take a year off and everybody who's applying to these colleges they all have like a 4.0 average. They've all done charity work. They all played in a sport in their school and they were in a lot of clubs. You're there's nothing unique about that and if you have a 4.2 G. P. A. This doesn't make a difference to a 3.9 G. P. A. Take a year off. Figure out what you like doing and let's do it. So I suggested a bunch of different things and one that she chose is I I sent her to um race car driving school. There's very few female race car drivers I could think of Danica Patrick and that's it. And so she went to a race car driving school. Uh She got a professional race car driving license. She participated in a couple of races and now and then when she applied to college this year later, she's a professional race car driver. How many girls applying to your school are professional race car drivers. She got in every single place that she applied. So that type of thing to when you, when you take, when you look for what's unique and you experiment and you try things and you try to what you're, what you're passionate about that makes you unique. Don't try to be better. Just try to be unique and say things with your own voice, be the person who wakes people up when, when they see who you are and what you do. There's a phrase that has been a part of this show for the 11.5 years it's been running and that's don't just be better, be different. It's so important, literally it's like that has been a pattern, a phrase that has been uttered every, you know, half a dozen shows for 11.5 years here, better or sorry, different is the better you've been looking for. And you've just given us a very specific example, that example of your daughter by the way extraordinary that that I'm going to use that. And I'll tell it authentically as you have here because this is I'm making notes like to myself as you're saying this because it's the perfect lens like that. That approach to life to me is so affirming because what do we all have? What does every single person who's listening watching have they have if not lots of other things they at least have their own experience and when you start to understand that that's what people and culture and that is interesting That it's not again a 4.11 or a 4.12 G. P. A. That is not interesting. We are told that that's what's interesting because we are raised in an achievement culture where you know that is uh Where it's something that's plausible on a chart. So it's easy to talk about being a 4.11 is better than a 4.1 and yet you know the example that you've just given that is how the world actually operates. We tell people to go to college. The most celebrated many, most of the most celebrated people in our culture dropped out of college. Yeah. Bill Gates steve jobs. These are people who started college and said I'm not being funny and I'm not saying that college is not for some people, it will be great for some people. But it's ironic that the the most well trod path says that that's what you do. And then you look at the people in our culture Jon bon Jovi uh steve jobs. Uh Damon john like I don't care, you know, background, socioeconomic status. I don't like be uniquely you be interesting, be different. There is there is there is always room for that. Yeah. And that's why it's so important to pursue, to let to let your passion be somewhat of a guide as to what you should do next in life and by the way you don't have to just do one thing, you could you could work as a marketing manager and pursue your passions but maybe you're passionate about marketing, I don't know, I shouldn't make assumptions but I also sometimes I look back and I say well okay I just spent the past five years doing this, whatever this is, maybe I should have been in Silicon Valley and you know hanging out with everybody and I could have gotten in that round of Uber or whatever but you can't look at it that way, I really you know I have enjoyed every single thing I pursued and by the way when you pursue something that is interesting to you it's it's not that it makes you happy because let's say let's say your passion is tennis, you're not gonna be happy most of the time while you learn tennis you're gonna lose most of the games you play, it's hard to to learn something to get out there and and study and learn and fail and fail and fail but it'll give you well being like one of the components of of well being is is mastery when you, when you start to master something you get an enormous dopamine hit from it and it just feels good and then when you bring that mastery into other disciplines, well a you learn, you have learned the language of mastery, this is how I master something new and be it just, it gives you kind of this buffer that you you know who you are. Well I I know I can get good at things, I know I'm good at you know business or comedy or chess or writing, like nobody could take that away from me because that's something internal and so you don't necessarily do something to be happy, but you do something to to you do something because you love it no matter what and and chances are it's going to be so challenging, you're not going to be happy most of the time. So that's a big misconception about uh doing what makes you happy. It's more like there's a subtle difference but it's more like doing what you what you love and in that subtlety there's some profundity to that is I think you hit it spot on James, I didn't know that these are philosophies that you're sharing on this show that are just like hand and glove with things that I've believed my whole life and I mean I've read most of your work and it's interesting to me that I'm really just hit me like a ton of bricks here. There's so many of the things that you've articulated in this conversation are like things that I will go to the grave with that I have, that have been a part of my psychology, um ever since I started trying to leave that path that other people, you know, have tried to lay for us and these are people who care a lot about us, right, your parents, your, your teachers, your career counselors, these are people who try and steer you the right way. Let me ask the question. So how does one in the face of all this pressure? Because let's face it, not many people's parents are saying, you know what, you should go be a rock star, you should go try and be a professional gamer, you should go be a stand up comedian. So what's the advice that you have for people who are listening to and maybe it's one spouse, you shouldn't go try and be a professional youtuber at age 53 because our family needs you to pay the bills for example. So how does one, how does one, you know, make the decisions that you're encouraging people to make now in the face of, you know, real consequences or people who are not attuned to this universe of which you speak. Yeah, it's a great question, particularly like, you know, if your spouse is saying, listen, we need to pay the bills, we can't just, you know, downsize. So you could um, pursue comedy because very few people make money. You know, there's not that many people filling out stadiums in comedy or or even being a writer or being a photographer or any of these things, anything that's like attractive to the population is hard to monetize. So again, I think the key is experimenting and start off small. So okay, I want to learn chess, I'm gonna play, I'm gonna play online, I'll play online for I'll take a lesson at once a week, I'll play online maybe in a couple of hours a week and you know what, when I play online, I'm gonna turn on twitch and I'm gonna stream it and I'm gonna try to build up my skill as a streamer, which is a hard skill to like, I have to be able to talk while I'm playing and be entertaining while I'm doing something that I have to do two things with my brain at the same time that are both difficult. And these are little experiments by the way, all those things I listed cost zero and take a modest amount of time. So do that for a few weeks months, whatever, see what the results are, that's an experiment. And and it doesn't, nobody will deny you that experience. Now. You could also say, well, screw all the people who say, I can't do something. You know, I'm gonna show them, but that won't necessarily make you better at something. So, you know, you could you could list taking all the input, but you can still design experiments that are worth doing that will change you as a person and there's really no downside and there's enormous upside, so for me to try stand up comedy, who was gonna, everyone can tell me you can't do this, but no one can stop me from just going up on a stage and trying to tell jokes for a while. No one can stop me from bringing comedians on my podcast as a way of getting them to mentor me without realizing, because I would just, I would bring a comedian on and I would just ask what if this situation happens to you and I would, I would just be talking about what happened to me the night before, like what if what if there's a drunk woman who's heckling you and I would learn valuable things like, well you can't be careful with a drunk woman because the audience might be on her side, they don't want to see you uh making fun of of someone like that, so and on and on, you learn little tips and these are all just experiments even with chess. Okay, I did my plus minus equals, I did my micro skills, but I hadn't, and I played online, but I hadn't played in a tournament in 25 years, years ago, was the last time I played in a tournament, so what does it hurt to play in all, I'll find a local place, a friday night, I'll play in a small tournament season, see what happens, okay, I'm gonna did, well I'm gonna now play for a weekend in some place and, and on and on. You just try experimenting and that's kind of a way to ease into something. What about entrepreneurship? Well, don't, Don't just have an idea and raise $ million dollars for it. Is there a way to experiment with it? Is there a way you could do the service that you were going to automate? Can you do it manually for awhile and get one of your friends to be your customer and see what they liked and what they didn't like. And would they be willing to pay? That might be an experiment to do? Like, you know, you could have done for chase Jarvis online. You could have called some of your friends and said, let's do some videos. Well, we'll just put it up on Youtube, we'll call it chase Jarvis online and see if there's interest in and more. See if people are, if the feedback is good before we raise $10 million and and try to make this a full business without really knowing if it's gonna be good or not. All businesses should start as an experiment by the way, because before you start a business, you have no way of knowing if there's going to be demand or not. Unless you're like, unless you buy a laundromat which has kind of a built in demand. There's no other way other than through experimenting whether you're going to know if you're gonna have demand. Uh I'm going to ask the reverse psychology here. Um, is there anything, again, let's go back to skip the line because I really encourage people to pick up a copy of that. And if the premise of skip the line is running these experiments and living your life or planning through this lens, you've been sharing, what are the downsides? What are what are the unexpected pain points that one might encounter in following your advice? Well, there's a lot and and some are unfortunate, like for instance, if you're a writer and you know, you're someone a writer like me where I tend to write kind of things that I think that might I don't try to be controversial, but again, I don't want to say something if everyone else is saying it, I'm going to write about things I'm passionate about and tell stories around it. But it might be some things that bother some people like this new york city article and you end up losing, you're gonna gain some friends and you're gonna lose some friends, you're gonna gain some family and you're gonna lose some family, all of these things that happened to me and sometimes it's really painful. Like you can't believe I thought this person was my family or my friend and you have to be able to accept that if you're going to be different in the world. Some people are not going to like that, some people are not, are going to be threatened to if you, if you want to be a photographer and previously you were a lawyer, other lawyers might be threatened if you suddenly become a successful photographer, they might hate you for it and then they might not say that they hate you for it, but they'll find some other reason to hate you. So, so there there is that downside. The other downside is of course to do. It's like what we said earlier, if to do anything challenging, you're going to be miserable. Some, or even much of the time, if you're going to try comedy, you're going to bomb on stage and if you truly care about it, you're going to hate yourself afterwards and you're not gonna be able to sleep that night or if you play in some competitive area or if you're, if you want to be a professional investor, there's going to be days, weeks, months, you lose money and it's not going to be, and you're going to think to yourself, I thought I could be good at this and, but just stuff happens and sometimes you figure out like, well, you know, some strategies don't work or sometimes you're going to lose money or sometimes you're gonna fail a tennis or chess or whatever and it's very disappointing. It's very, very hard to pursue something that's difficult and there's a psychology to it and you and ultimately you have to be able to convince yourself that every time you fail, these are the only times you learn you and and people say, oh I I failed at a business. That must mean I learned something. No, you have to do a full autopsy on why you failed. Otherwise you won't learn anything. But it's very important. The flip side if you, let's say you tell all your friends, oh, I have this business idea and they all say, oh man, that's a great idea. You have just learned nothing. People tell yes to you for lots of reasons. People will tell no to you for only one reason is that they legitimately think that's a bad idea. But they'll say yes to you because they just want to get you away. Like, oh, he'll go away if I say yes, that's a great idea or I don't have to insult him. If I say, if I just say yes, there's a lot of reasons why people say yes to things. Yes gives you know yes or success, give you know, actual information when I play a game of chess. If I win, I have no information about my skill or ability. If I lose, I could look at that game and figure out what was going on in my head when I made that bad move that caused me to lose. Now I have real information that I could work on when I, you know, did comedy, I would take a video, I watched the video afterwards and I would say, oh I could see why people didn't laugh at this point because I, I said, uh or I or I stuttered a little bit or I moved just in a little weird way that I could tell didn't connect with the, the audience if I, if everybody's just laughing all the time, I learned nothing. So you know, while at the same time failure or lack of success is very painful. It's a, You know, my my first chess tournament that I played in in 25 years. It was I I was, I was a great chess player 25 years ago, but you lose skill if you don't play for for a long time. So I played in this tournament and I had five losses and three draws, it was eight games, I didn't win a single game. And I'm like, I have never, since, I was like, I have never had an experience. I was horrified like what this, this is horrible. I had never had a tournament like this before in any area of life, but I realized, okay, this is a treasure trove of Information now about why I lose. Um there's only upside, it's been down so long. It looks like up to me is a famous 1960s novel. This, there's only upside from here. And I've written, I've studied now a month later, I've studied maybe four or five of those games, Almost 100 pages of notes on these games from, from studying them. If I had one, I would have zero pages of notes. So info parts have upside but you have to, it takes a psychology to to learn that because it's gonna feel bad while at the same time you have to tell yourself this is a good thing. This has been an extraordinary conversation. And I want to, the last topic I'd like to explore is very related to what you just said. I was asking, alright, my notes, we're here to explore this as a final topic but it couldn't have come together more eloquently because what you just said reminds us that your mindset in these moments, this sort of willingness to experiment to review your experiments to learn to be made fun of for either failing or for being so obsessed that you want, you're taking 100 pages of notes about your chess tournament. Both of those things are weird, right? But this idea of being of willing to be weird or different or unnatural or obsessed or any, you know, there's a whole host of, of um ways we could describe, it has so much to do. So much reliance on mindset. It seems like. So I'm curious if you could talk a little bit about mindset, is there anything that you do too program your mind other than um, you know, just what you've talked about here, it seems like there has to be some layer because to be able to withstand those funny criticisms and to be willing to be laughed at on the subway when you're trying to produce stand up comedy in the moment? Like are there things that you do to fortify yourself or to strengthen your mindset or to re engage the belief that you have in yourself, or is it just part of the process to have all those darts thrown at you and you get good at being tolerant and move on. It's it's it's a little bit of both because no matter how long you've been doing something, you're going to be negatively affected and have negative thoughts some of the time, like, you know, when I wrote this new york city um article and jerry Seinfeld responded to be honest, I, so many people were then saying go jerry, you know, like Andrew cuomo sent out an email to 10 million people about jerry Seinfeld's article and trashing me and and de Blasio did the mayor of new york, did a press conference about it and so many people were unfriending me on facebook and I didn't know why I had good intentions and and you know, I was in comedy Seinfeld was like a hero of mine and a lot of comedians, you know, worship Seinfeld's comedians that I respect and so I was starting to get negative feedback from, you know, this subculture I had been a part of so I, like, I broke down and cried at one point, like I didn't understand what was, what was happening and you know, so, so you do need, you're going to have those bad moments, but you always need to to step back and say listen, um it's the, who are you, why are you, why now? Like you're doing something for a reason and it could even be a bigger reason, like am I playing chess because I wanna be in a chess magazine and and oh, this guy got a certain title or whatever or do I, am I playing it because I just love it and I want to get better. Uh a lot of times we convince ourselves okay, I want to be a photographer because I want all my skating friends to look up to me as a photographer and, and then I want to make money at it and be famous for being the first, you know, so that's kind of like an external motivation, but ultimately you have to step back to your internal motivations. Like I love this, I want to get better, it doesn't matter where I rank in in the world of this, but that's my first motivation and, and then you have to say, and this is important for me, I'm telling me this more, but and this is a cliche, but you have to be grateful that you have the opportunity to do this, however it is, you don't have to be rich or poor, but you have, you've carved out an opportunity to do something you love, that's something to be grateful for. And then all of the um, grateful, I have a support system around me. I'm grateful. You know, my friends who stuck with me, I'm grateful. You know, all the cliche things and mindset is incredibly important. If I go into a game of chess thinking I suck, I'm gonna lose this game, I'm tired, I'm not feeling well or if you go in and you know, I try this actually, I tried this, this last tournament, it worked really well. Uh, between every move I would look around and I would look away from the board and I would, I would think of the things I was grateful for because then when I look back at the board, it gives me a whole new perspective. I'm not sucked into whatever mindset I was in before, even whether it was good or bad and that was incredibly useful because you mind said, you know, you're never like at this on a, let's say photography skills rank from 1 to 10 or 1 to 100 you say, well on at least an 85 well you're, you're not in 85 all the time. You're always arrange your from 65 to 90 maybe. And, and on a good day, you're but on a bad day you're 65. So mindset is a big part of where you're going to end up on that spectrum that day? And what really helped me the first time I went broke, what really helped me was, I started writing down After two years of depression, I started writing down 10 ideas a day on a waiter's pad and I don't know what happened. But after like two or three weeks of that, I started like seeing possibilities in my life. Like the ideas I was writing down, well, here's 10 books I could, right? Here's 10 businesses. I could start, here's 10 ideas for Chase for his, for his show. Uh, here's 10 ideas for google. And suddenly I felt like more creative because I was exercising that creativity muscle and it just allowed me to see possibility. And as long as you can still see possibility, you're going to have a positive mindset and I think I think that is really important for, for performance so that you're at the upper end of your range. And, and you know, the spectrum of your ability, the idea of seeing possibility and finding new and, and confidence that you'll always find new possibility and what you're doing brilliant again, we've talked about a lot your book that we were originally going to talk about this more than a year ago came out last february. Congratulations on the success skipped in line, the 10,000 experiments rule and other surprising advice for reaching your goals? We're aside from the book, where would you steer people who are intrigued? Have been intrigued by our conversation and want more. Where do you want to send them? Ah, I don't know. I mean, I like you mentioned there's the book, skip the line. I wrote another book, choose yourself, which was very popular and it has similar themes and talks more about when I was going broke and stuff. And then I don't know lately, I haven't just taken a break from social media and all that kind of stuff. So I got a little burnt out I think on social media, but understandable, just google me. You'll find, you'll find me on the Chase jarvik podcast. Listen to our earlier episodes. We've got some great ones in there. For sure. I want to say thanks again, James, it's always a treat to speak with you. So this is a particular like light bulb for me, all of the ways uh in which our thoughts are similar. Thanks for showing up and uh continuing to inspire, inspire and be so vulnerable. It's really, really uh, impacted me and I think the show is going to be a doozy. So let James know when you watch this show that you appreciated it and him. Uh we're always out there listening and James is not because he's taking a break on social media, but I'll be paying attention. And in the meantime, thanks again, James and signing off to everybody out there on the Internet land. I bid you ado right.

Ratings and Reviews

Dream Focus Studio

By far the best classes on Creative Live!! Thanks Chase Jarvis for bringing so much greatness to the table for discussion! Just LOVE it!

René Vidal

@ChaseJarvis - love chat with Gabby about hope and the "relentless optimism" you share at the end of Creative Calling. Many thanks. -- René Vidal McKendree Tennis


Excellent interview with thoughtful questions. Thanks!!

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