I look forward to driving nowadays. I invariably listen to 2 hour long podcasts and before I know it, the destination arrives. Tim Ferriss is turning out to be my favourite podcaster. I like how the conversation does not have a structure but has a shape to it. It almost feels like a freewheeling conversation.
For a 1 hour drive, I choose the podcast episode in which Daniel Pink is the guest. I had read a few posts about Pink's book Drive and how it found a ready audience when it was released.
This was one of those episodes which felt like both were coerced in doing it. Pink wanted to promote his new book When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing and took every opportunity to talk about the book. Tim tried to learn as much as possible from Pink's writing process. From the way, Tim sounded after hearing Pink's responses, he was disappointed. It clearly wasn't a breakthrough episode.
Pink sounds like a writer who relies more on his intuition than a methodical approach. He studied law and realised that he couldn't be in that profession as he did not like it at all. He talks about the method of surrogate where he would have preferred to speak to someone who has been a lawyer before taking up the course. He laments on the fact that he did not spend 10 minutes on making that decision. And though the decision itself led to Pink meeting his wife he still considers the decision to be a poor one.
This part of his life reminded me of my decision to take up engineering because everybody else was doing it. And my parents wanted what is best for my future. I still vividly remember the moment when it was decided that I will choose a seat in Electronics & Communication Engineering. I never thought I should talk to someone who is an engineer and understand what do engineers even do?
Pink ended up becoming a speechwriter for Vice President Al Gore. He talks about how he used to look at the audience reaction to his written words when the Vice President delivered them. He would be able to check what words resonated with the audience and what did not. And it often surprised him as to what genuinely connected with the audience. And if Al Gore decided to skip a few passages, he would try to understand why that might have happened.
Pink reads his manuscript aloud to his wife and asks her to do the same. They do this multiple times. Seems like a unique method that works for Pink.
For non-fiction books, a writer needs to make a book proposal, and that usually contains:
- Who is the intended audience? Who is it not for?
- Why hasn't anybody already written this? What has stopped them?
- Core message and outline of the argument/topic
Tim talked about the similarities between doing a book proposal and StartUps pitching to VCs for funding. Like the product-market fit, a writer needs to find out to book-reader fit.
Points from the book When
- Cognitive abilities vary across the time of the day. People who consider themselves morning person can do good analytical work in the morning.
- The afternoon is good for admin work. Emails?
- Evening time is when a person is unwinding and is usually good for brainstorming and discussions.
Pink believes the research of the book has implications in the way we set-up meetings. Today meetings are scheduled based on availability. Not based on what kind of discussions they are and when they should actually be organised.
20% of the podcast was left when my destination for the day had arrived.
The second podcast I heard today was How I built this by Guy Raz with Reddit founders; Alexis Ohanian & Steve Huffman.
I did not know Reddit's back story. It was fascinating to hear Alex and Steve talk about their humble beginnings in 2005 with an air of mischief. Turns out they had an idea of being able to order a sub while filling gas at the station. They went all the way from Virginia to hear Paul Graham talk about "How to Start a Startup" at Harvard University. After the talk, Alex and Steve convinced Paul to listen to their idea over a drink. They continued to talk to Paul and were invited to apply to Ycombinator's first batch of StartUps.
Their idea was a dud, but Paul liked their tenacity and asked them to come up with a new idea. And after doing a brainstorming session with Paul himself, they came up with the concept of Reddit. Turns out Paul came up with the phrase "The front page of the Internet". Steven sat down to code, and Alex handled everything else. They were given $12000 as funding. In three months they were ready to launch. And to get the traction they cheated and created fake profiles. However, within a few months, real users started showing up.
They never thought seriously about the business model, and it was more like an experiment for them. They sold the business to CondeNast and worked for it for the next three years. And once the contract ended, both Alex and Steve called it a day and went their separate ways.
Alex recalls how he was able to call his mother when he made the decision of selling. He wanted to tell his mom that all her support mattered. Though he feels he sold it a little early, the call to his mom is something he cherishes a lot.
In 2015 Reddit was going through a crisis where trolls were adding a lot of abuse and harmful content, leading to moderators shutting down the whole thing for a few days. Steve and Alex decided to work out their differences and came back in 2015 to fix the issues of their brainchild.
The relationship between Steve and Alex was very evident in the way they spoke about each other. There was a lot of humour while talking about their journeys which I especially enjoyed. Alex's brand of humour and earnestness came through beautifully well. His story of how he met his wife Serene Williams in Rome is the stuff of legends.
This podcast episode was a short burst of joy. Guy Raz knows how to engage and drive the conversation forward without sounding like he has an agenda.