Today we’re talking to Lift co-founder and CEO, Tony Stubblebine. With a brand messaging to “succeed at everything”, Lift helps you achieve goals by coaching you to success through guidance, encouragement and optional reminders. Tony is a start-up junkie, previously serving as the CEO of CrowdVine Event Social Networks, part of the launch teams for companies like Wesabe, and Director of Engineering at Odeo.com and O’Reilly Media. Tony wanted to tap into the knowledge of personal coaching and package it into an app to help people become superhuman with the right support.
- Learn more about Lift’s mantra of it can take years to become an overnight success.
- Philosophies behind knowledge being wasted and how to unlock it into actionable advice.
- Challenges behind the high-pressure realities of being an entrepreneur and the slippery slope of multi-tasking.
- Find out the skill Tony refines in an effort to control his focus and refine productivity.
- Insights to becoming an expert at your goal and necessary steps to get there.
- Explains key differences between habits and goals to achieve success.
- Tony’s thoughts on how Eric is using Lift, and how the app can go deeper than accountability and refining your habits.
- How Lift stumbled into 50,000 sign-ups through a wave of undeserved press.
- Hear about the undervalued, but simple, strategy of marketing that compounds itself.
- Find out which entrepreneur Tony admires for his repeatable snowball success.
- Why getting a surge of traffic from a company like Apple is a gift, but doesn’t change the fundamentals of Lift and its ability to grow on its own.
- Tricks on keeping your community engaged, and how writing long release notes actually helps Lift get user reviews.
- How Lift a pushes SEO by refining high-value landing pages and honing specialized topics.
- Talks about how a spam attack on an unprotected piece of its content management site revived Tony’s belief in SEO.
- Hear the point of entrepreneurship, and how Tony focused on the science behind meditation to establish Lift as an expert resource.
- Details on finding the appropriate place to start measuring a success rate, and the story behind working with UC Berkley to turn a study on weight loss.
- Why almost all advice is good—it’s whether or not you want to follow it.
- Thoughts on the percentage rate of success people need to follow through and commit.
- Hear about the insider knowledge and user base Lift attracts and how to market it.
- Insights on why everything Lift does is actually a win-win and testing new features like accountability features to double people’s success rates.
- How paying for features creates more accountability and commitment.
- Why budding entrepreneurs and anyone setting goals should check-out BJ Fogg and Tiny Habits.
- Insights on Tony’s productivity hacks really being decision-making hacks, and scheduling commitments on a calendar.
- Advice on developing scripted responses from people you don’t want to talk to, getting your point across, and still leave the conversation feeling good.
- Refining the polite but firm “no” that leaves no room for debate (see Peter Keller’s politely ruthlessness).
- Thoughts on getting the truth of the messy side of success stories, and how even icons like Google faced internal struggles.
“Everything has this story of really working hard, and it’s messy, it’s hard, it’s challenging and if you don’t know that that’s true, when you struggle you start to think you’re doing it wrong. No, you’re doing it right. It’s hard for everyone. All you can do is keep working and keep trying to be better.”
The Snowball – Warren Buffett and the Business of Life: An inside look at the life and entrepreneurial pursuits of Warren Buffett.
Hatching Twitter – A True Story of Money, Power, Friendship, and Betrayal: Details key players at Twitter – Ev, Jack, Biz and Noah – who collaborated on Twitter while working at Odeo and their power struggles.
Eric: Hi everyone and welcome to this week’s edition of Growth Everywhere where we interview entrepreneurs and bring you business and personal growth tips. I’m your host Eric Siu and today we have Tony Stubblebine from Lift, which is a mobile app that helps you create great habits and makes you become a super-human. So Tony, how are doing today?
Tony: Hey Eric. I’m good. Thanks for having me on.
Eric: Thanks for joining us. So, yeah, why don’t you give us a little background on yourself like eventually you came upon Lift?
Tony: You know, I’m a long time start-up worker. I probably worked for four or five start-ups at this point, two that I founded myself and really I think about my whole career as; what is the most impact I can make on the world? And so, when I was spinning out of my last company I really was looking around, like; what is the thing that no-one else is doing right now that we could really bring to the world?
And it was obvious that there’s so much knowledge out there about personal coaching that like, if you could package that up and put that in a mobile phone, like you said, anyone can be a super-human. All you have to do is have the right support. And that’s the secret of success. Anytime you actually look into someone who is killing it, it’s not some innate talent, they worked it, and one of my investors, Biz Stone, who’s also one of the Twitter founders, uses this phrase; it took him 10 years to become an overnight success. That’s the mantra for Lift.
Eric: Got it. Okay. Cool. So, I mean, you know; what is the overall, the long term goal of Lift? What do you see it doing for people?
Tony: It’s funny for you to say habits because it’s really…like in the first version we were really trying to nail behavior design, like; what is the support that you can automate and put into an app form. What the Lift [Two Datto], is about is creating a coach-like platform, it’s a market place that has two sides, and that other side is; the experts of the world who are either working at your gym coaching you, or writing books. Like, all of that…all of their knowledge is locked up for no good reason. It’s really locked up because they don’t know how to get it out to you.
So, long term it’s that; to be an actual personal coach that could cover any goal, like big stuff from weight loss to a marathon, to being more productive, to being more emotionally steady. Like I think about my job as an entrepreneur and lately I’ve been really pimping meditation as like of the fundamental skills for entrepreneurship. Yeah, I got a thumbs up from you. It’s kind of amazing how hard this job is just from just a psychological standpoint. I don’t mean it’s like you’re a head-case and you’re really un-happy, or depressed or manic depressive. It’s like your jumping from one high pressure situation to another and you’re not born with that skill.
We’re told over and over again in productivity that multi-tasking just ruins you right? But we’ve all specifically taken jobs that are defined by multi-tasking. So, like right before this podcast I was doing something completely different. Then after just completely re-orient myself in order to talk to you about human potential and training yourself to be better. And like the skill that I turn to over and over is meditation which is really practicing the control of your own focus.
Then there’s this question of how do you meditate. It turns out one of the best ways to learn how to meditate is by having a guide; to sit down with someone and have them talk you through it like step by step. And a lot of times people get tripped up by their own doubts about whether or not they’re meditating correctly because your mind is wandering and a part of you is always hoping your mind won’t wander, so that’s the point of the coach to say, “Oh, you’re mind probably wandered right now, just then, why don’t we bring it back to your path.” And so Lift has put together a collection of guided meditations because we know people that have…that are great teachers. So, just put that into that, and we’re doing Yoga and some high intensity interval training after that, just a lot of that extra oomph that gets you from kind of practicing or kind of working on something to actually nailing it and becoming excellent.
Eric: Got it. Okay. Cool. So, in terms…and I might be using Lift completely wrong, like I’ve been using it since it came out, but I’m still using it to mark down what I’ve done. Am I completely missing something? Maybe you can tell the audience.
Tony: I think we’re going to be able to take the original community all the way into the [Two Datto]world. The difference between a habit and a goal, really, from a behavior design standpoint is that people that are working on habits already know what to do. They’re just not doing it. People that have a goal, like a lot of times they don’t know how to do it yet. So, if you work out a meditation out of habit what you’re saying is, “I already know how to meditate, I’m just not doing enough of it.” So, you’re using Lift for all of the same things you already need to do, you already know how to do, and you’re just using Lift as this coach that is helping you with accountability. You check in, see your progress, that’s the simplest form of coaching that we can do. All we’re really doing is deepening that. In the future, when you’ve got some goal that you don’t know how to do, we want to make sure we hit that as well.
Eric: Okay. That makes perfect sense. Cool. So, I always like to ask the question to the knowledgeable person I’m interviewing, how did Lift get the first hundred users and how’d you get the next thousand?
Tony: I think we’re a weird use case there because we launched with a fair amount of undeserved press just because of our investors. One of our board members and investors, and really the person who co-design the first version with me is Evan Williams, who is the CEO of Twitter, and Lift is actually the first project that he worked on after leaving Twitter. And so there’s this incredible…As soon as word got out that we were doing something, we put up a beta sign up and fifty-thousand people signed up.
Tony: So, the question is how do you put yourself in a position where fifty-thousand people are going to sign up on day one? A lot of twenty-year olds are trying to say, “Okay. I need to figure this out today.” And I just think that’s crazy. The way I put myself in that position is that ten years prior I quit some boring corporate job and started doing the most interesting start-up work I could find and then made friends with everyone that I could, and then over the course of the ten year start-up career I had my own reputation and I had people with also high reputations that wanted to work with me. I think that’s kind of the undervalued strategy of marketing is just to recognize the value of time.
You don’t have to necessarily have to have your overnight success today. What you want to be looking for are things that have long-term value and that compound, and for me one of those things has just been in relationships. One of the things that does have long-term value in Silicon Valley is your reputation. Do you act with integrity? Do you work well with people? And, I have the same answer for when people ask me how we raise money, “Well I raise money by having coffee with Ev.” But how is it that I got to have coffee with Ev? I mean you can’t just discount that work.
Eric: Got it. I like the whole compounding analogy. I always tell the audience to think of it like compounding stock. But that’s exactly what it is.
Tony: Who’s your favorite entrepreneur of all time?
Eric: You know, it’s got to be Elon Musk because of all the things he’s done.
Tony: Because he’s so ballsy. I like Elon Musk, like, I’m a fan, but I wouldn’t ever call him my favorite entrepreneur because I just don’t see how what he does as repeatable. Like, he doesn’t empower me. So, for me, I always answer that question by saying like, Warren Buffet is my favorite entrepreneur of all times and not because he’s rich, but because he explains what he does in a way that makes you feel like you could do it as well.
Eric: That’s where I got it from. You’re exactly right, that’s where I got it from.
Tony: Yeah, right because it’s [cross talk 0:09:57.0] The compounding interest is really like that…His biography is called “Snowball” and it’s just a metaphor of like: get up and go to the top of a really steep mountain, pack yourself a snowball and just roll it downhill, like it gets bigger and pick up momentum as it goes down.
A lot of people don’t do that. They do a lot of trek marketing. I tell my team if we [wrote] an article in GQ then followed that up with an article in Cosmo it would have done shit. Am I allowed to swear on this podcast?
Tony: Yeah, we would not have done shit. That’s exactly how I explain it to the team. Then we would have two little blips that wouldn’t mean anything and I think we have the option of taking these gifts, like I’m not going to say no, and just like…but it gets harder when Apple wants to feature you. When Apple features us its crazy traffic, but we just think of that as a gift because it doesn’t change the fundamentals of the company. Either Lift is able to grow on its own or its not and one or two featuring’s from Apple, it means we have more users, but it doesn’t actually change whether or not we know how to grow our company.
And so, we’re pretty good about understanding that. What is a fundamental driver of growth? It’s like audience building or SEO. Those things have compounding long-term impacts whereas…I feel like press is not only matters if they’re linked because they’re linking to you. It’s that traffic that it drives is nice, but it’s not actually that killer except to bootstrap you.
Eric: Yeah, those bytes aren’t that sustainable. You’re completely right.
Tony: Sustainable is the right word.
Eric: Cool. Great. So, kind of going off our little growth talk right now, how…what are you guys doing to grow today? What are some things that are noteworthy?
Tony: I think we spent such a long period in just figuring out the right product that…and still we’re probably like a month or two from this Lift [Two Datto] thing that we’re talking about, like really having all the pieces lined up, so one of my tricks is just simply; how do you keep you keep your community engaged that long. One of the things that we’re known for is writing really extensive release notes, which I think is super counterintuitive tactic, because if you’re a growth hacker and you know how to run the metrics on that, it’s like, they’re terrible. What number of people do you think…What percentage of people do you think read the release notes? Like two? One?
Eric: I was going to give the benefit of the doubt and say five, but two’s a lot better.
Tony: You know, I finally found a way to sort of test it, which…We do continuous deployment where we release almost all the time, so I’m writing a lot of release notes and also we’re releasing a new version of app every two weeks and one of the effects of that is that our reviews get wiped out every time. That ends up making us look like we’re really weird in the app store. But, I hate begging for reviews over, and over, and over again. And so it finally just dawned on me we could just ask for reviews in the release notes. And so, did that for the first time and we got thirty-five five star reviews in that first day.
So, that’s my metric, thirty-five people read our release notes. But, it’s got to be the number one thing that I hear over, and over, and over again, and I think the reason I hear about it from people is that it’s differentiated. That it’s a thing that we do that no one else does so actually I like…I would not recommend that anyone that’s listening copy us and write extensive release notes because it just wouldn’t stand out anymore. It’s also a lot of work and also there’s not that many readers, but it was an opportunity that we saw continue to look special even though we were really changing a lot.
The other thing that we do is like…Lift covers a lot of topics and as we put out and really hone a topic, like we have our own SEO strategy around each of those topics, and that was again, only really possible in the last couple weeks I would say, that we had a topic that we felt like we owned well enough that we should be the go to spot and that we had content around it, that we could really drive that. Like going back to meditation, we just put out this great collection, we released it along with our own guide, and that guide was backed up by original science and research that we’d done ourselves, so it was like a high authority landing page for a starting meditation. And we just started our…In a way, sometimes, once you know what’s going on it gets kind of boring right, like “Please when you post this… I might give you a link to our meditation collections, since I’ve talked about meditation like five times already in this podcast, and when you post this podcast I’d love it if you’d include this link.”
Eric: Meditation. There you go. I got you.
Tony: Right? And we just put that out on LifeHacker and all the other podcasts that I’ve talked about meditation on we went back to them and said, “Hey. You know we finally have a resource for what I’d been talking about for meditation.” I forget…you know…Google’s weird, it could turn itself around in a couple of days or turn itself around in a month and for us it’s kind of a no-brainer that, you know, when you look at meditation, you know, how to meditate or start meditating, Lift is going to be one of those top options.
Eric: Got it. And I think you guys are…I hate…I don’t like to use the word content marketing that much, but it sounds like you guys are getting a little more aggressive with that because I know one of your people reached out and said, “Hey, you want to do an interview on meditation, right?” So, I think that’s a great thing to share that you guys are being really aggressive with that and SEO in general.
Tony: Yeah. You know it’s actually for a long time I thought SEO might actually be dead because I’m an engineer and I’m sort of like guessing at things. But then we left open a piece of the site, basically a content management piece of the site with no real Spam protections and no barrier to someone coming in, and these guys came in and over a three day period put in ten-thousand pieces of content and on day three Google was sending us a hundred-fifty thousand hits a day. And I was like, “Oh wow. We have to shut the spammers down.” But I was also amazed by how effective it was. They totally actually turned me back on to SEO. I thought, if they can do that in three days, then imagine what we can do in a circuit, with actual…like we get real high quality links because we’re actually pushing something that works and is high quality itself.
Eric: I’m glad…well again, snowballing, compounding interest rate. I’m glad that…A lot of engineers are turned off to, I found in the past because I used to work with them in-house, but it’s really rare to find and engineer that says, “Hey, this stuff actually works. Go out and try it.” That’s a win for SEO.
Tony: There’s still reasons to be turned off. You know, the thing that I hear from my board and also from the team, and also what I believe, the point of entrepreneurship is to make a positive impact in the world otherwise, why are you bothering with this. It’s not enough to hire a team of ten interns to write low quality content. That doesn’t…We pre-filter those options out because it just doesn’t make any positive impact in the world.
We did our own actual science research on how to succeed at meditation, and that’s not what we’re leading with, but it’s working for us because it gives us that authority and confidence to say, “We should be…Like if I were to manually write the results for how to meditate, I would put Lift at the top because I really honestly don’t know a better resource than that. And so, given that we’re starting from our own moral high ground, it makes it a lot easier to be like, “Okay. What do you have to do in order to make that happen?” And, yeah, we’re doing it.
Eric: Nice. Cool. I guess we can talk about some of the data, whatever you’re willing to share is great. What kind of fascinating trends are you seeing with the app right now?
Tony: Just in terms of success rates?
Eric: We can look at success rates or maybe we can compare it to like how OkCupid had their OkTrends blogged and shared interesting data.
Tony: You know, I’m curious. We could have a little bit of a debate around some diet data that we just put out.
So, one of the hardest things for me to talk about is success rates for this really simple reason of, I’m not sure where the appropriate starting point is. Like, if you told me today that you would love to run a marathon one day, I don’t know, maybe you’ve already run a marathon.
Eric: I do want to run a marathon just FYI I’ve never run one.
Tony: Right. Like what are the odds that you’re going to run one within the next three months. Like close to zero, not zero, but close to zero, right? But then, what are the odds if you signed up for a marathon training plan. Then they’re like…Actually on day one probably fifteen percent. But then there’s like on week two, then you’re at forty percent. When you tell someone what’s the success rate it’s really hard to know where it is to start measuring. So, we just did this diet research project where we took ten different diets and actually worked with UC Berkley to turn into a real academic study with control groups and randomized assignment. If you finish the study there was a seventy-five percent chance you would have lost weight, and average weight loss is two percent of your average body weight, which would be like three or four pounds over a month. That’s an average. Of course people a lot of people lost more than that.
To my mind, that’s a great success rate. But if you were merely to have said, “I want to do this study.” There’s only a twelve percent chance that you would have lost weight four weeks later, that we know of, because a lot of people say, “I want to do this diet.” and then don’t actually…then we lose them in the flow or they don’t actually do the step of, “I am doing this diet day one.” In the study if someone did the diet for one day then there was a twenty-four percent chance that we could verifiably prove weight-loss. Their chance actually doubled. When you hear twenty-four percent success rate is that motivating or de-motivating. And I find that’s a really challenging question. The diet advice, if you follow it, is great, it has a really high success rate, but you may just choose not to follow it. What do you think?
Eric: So, you’re saying going from twelve percent to twenty-four percent, your saying is that what the increase is?
Tony: Yeah, but then eventually to seventy-five percent. It’s really about consistency and you just…Almost all advice is good it’s just really a question of do you want to follow it.
Eric: I think that’s more of a marketing type of thing. If we change the headline, it’s like “Okay. You can double your success rate.” Fuck yeah, let’s do it. When you’re saying twenty-four percent I’m just “Ehhh”. I mean that’s just how we’re conditioned I think right now.
Tony: Yeah, people are bad at math. It’s actually better not to have any math in the headlines at all. But for us that’s kind of the fun of the data is we can tell people what…Like, “I just signed up for this thing, you double your success rate if you come back tomorrow.” One of the graphs we really like is, what is the percent…Based on what step you are on, like if this is the first time you meditated, the second, the third, or the fourth, what’s the percentage chance you’re going to come back and do the next one.
I think it starts at forty percent and there’s somewhere around day ten, eleven, or twelve, it’s different depending on how hard the goal is. That’s when there’s a ninety percent chance you’re going to come back the next day. So, that’s one of the things that I really like, because for us, that’s the measure of commitment. Like, if you’re not committed enough to get yourself into the second week, you are going to struggle, you know, we shouldn’t count on you succeeding. But if we can get you into the second week, I think that Lift does a lot to try to help you get there, but if we can get you into the second week then you’ve got yourself a habit and you’ve got yourself a routine.
Eric: Got it. Okay. Cool. Obviously you guys are going to continue to get more users to collect all this data. We talked about …Is there any plan to have a blog that’s going to show all these cool trends or info-graphics, graphs, whatever?
Tony: I mean, this is a great marketing lesson for us. We’ve put out the data and it’s kind of interesting and certainly there’s a quantified self-crowd that likes it. But people don’t like that merely as much as they like the success stories and the logical part of me, and the part of me that fricking loved the OkTrends, the curious part of me, just says, “Of course they’re going to be putting out data because we can’t help ourselves” I want to know what works so I really can’t help myself but to put out that data. But what is the audience for it?
More and more we find the audience for it actually insiders. Like, one of the other things that happened when we did this diet research is that a bunch of other diets wanted in because we validated that each of the diets work. It actually has a benefit to them, and so now there’s twenty other diets that have never been scientifically proven to work and they’re like, “Wait you’re, just like, for free, proving, like giving scientific weight to stuff?” And when I say that this is going to be an actual academic paper, so do we put out a press release about this data and get a hundred thousand people to read the post? I’m not sure that many people want to, but the people that it actually triggered really are the authors of other diets. That’s the part of the marketing that we didn’t really talk about. But as Lift moves in more and more into coaching and being a two-sided marketplace anything that we can do that incents the coaches to market on our behalf is good.
Eric: Totally. Okay, so you guys are going to continue to grow, all of this. I’m sure you’re asked this question all the time, how does Lift plan to make money in the future?
Tony: Well, the good news is we don’t think there’s ever any reason to do some B.S. like advertising or selling data behind the scenes. I think that Lift is this very coherent company where everything that we do kind of ends up being a win-win. There’s all of these ways to make money that will make the user more successful and bring them a future that they wouldn’t have otherwise.
One of the ones we’ve been testing is accountability coaching, where you actually have someone watching over you, a real person, and has the effect of doubling people’s success rate in their goal. But, like, going back to why I love that as a coherent strategy is; it’s not some artificial premium. I literally can’t bring a real person to watch over you unless we bring some money to bear and the money is actually a commitment to buy into every part of it and ends up being good. And it ends up being good for coaches who don’t have a lot of…like have a lot of gaps in their day and I think we can do a lot for them too, to really solidify their business.
Eric: Got it. And I’ll tell you what, I would pay for that too. I’ll be one of the first testers.
Tony: It works. You should pay for it.
Eric: I agree. I like the way you frame it too. It’s more…if you pay, it’s more of a commitment thing. I totally agree with that.
Eric: Cool. So in terms of…You know, you wrote a blog post on the Medium, “The Signs of Lift”. Can you tell the audience a little bit about that, some key takeaways from that post?
Tony: It’s really a lot of the Lift research on the behavior design. Okay, you say we’re coaching you, but what we mean is; you have a goal and we want apply everything that we know about psychology towards helping you be more successful and a lot of that comes from a researcher at Stanford, BJ Fogg, and it’s this model he calls the B Mat Model. And I did seminar with him and he teaches everyone in the seminar how to teach B Mat Model in two minutes or less which ends up being this really like hot trick.
Like, I raise money…the second time I raised money I was in a partner meeting with seven VCs and they asked me about the science and I was like, “Well, let me teach you this science and it’s going to take two minutes.” But the gist of it is, when it comes to applied psychology there’s so much at your fingertips. What you really need is a framework for thinking about it and B Mat says, “Break it down into three areas: can you motivate the person, can you affect their ability, basically can you make it easier, and the T is, can you trigger the pay barrier?” which Lift does with reminders.
If you think about the Lift kind of coaching stack, you come in either for instruction from a coach, which is an ability end goal, or just to track your progress, which is really is a motivational end goal and gives some accountability to what you’re doing, and sometimes a lot of people are prompted to come in because they’ve set up reminders and which would be a trigger, and then there’s a whole support and reinforcement and celebration end goal that’s coming from the community or coming from us, and that’s also hitting the motivational centers. A lot of people have probably heard this stuff. It’s offering conditioning, it’s how you would, you know, apply positive reinforcement for almost any kind of training.
Eric: I think, so first of all, the audience needs to get Lift. Second of all if the audience can google Tiny Habits, by BJ Fogg, I think that would help add a lot of insight as well. I think that’s super easy to understand, you start small first, you start to nudge yourself to do these thing.
Tony: For sure.
Eric: Cool. Two more questions from my end right here. What’s one productivity hack you can share with our audience?
Tony: Wait, what productivity tip?
Eric: Hack. Yup, hack, tip, whatever you want to call it.
Tony: That’s a good one. There are so many. The one that I focus on actually is to block out my calendar. Like when I show up for the day, and people do this a bunch of different ways, but essentially naïve productivity hacks are around volume, like how many to-do lists, to-do items to check off, like everyone who is good at productivity actually focuses on; how focused are you during your day. And so when I come in, the first thing I try to do when I sit down at my desk is figure out what my actual priorities are for the day and then block it out on the calendar, and one of the really essentially decision making hack for myself, because if I just write it down in a list I always write down too much. But if I write it down on a calendar at some point I just run out of time. So, I put my top priorities into the calendar, make time for everything that I want to make time for and then just go.
Even though that’s an important productivity tip, it’s so boring. Basically what I’m saying is; be a good boy. Be a good boy and work on what matters. I have this other one that I really enjoy. What it is is; I have a scripted response to people that I don’t want to talk to. I don’t know if you have this where people are always getting…like you’re getting calls and emails, I used to get calls all the time because my phone number is associated with the business. So, if you just hang up it puts me in a bad mood. I’m having a happy day and now I’m angry at someone and even though I technically hung up on them I’m still angry. So, my scripted responses are super polite, but they actually involve hanging up. So, if I get a call, “Oh, thank you for your call, but we’re actually not interested in that type of service. Have a good day”—pause—“Good Bye” Click. And then if they call back I actually say that “pause” out loud and then they start to get that it’s really a script.
But the thing is, everything that I said was polite and I wasn’t really listening to anything they were saying. No one is ever, “Oh, you didn’t want to hear from me? Okay, sorry.” Like no one ever apologizes. They’re trying to interrupt you. But I just stick to the script and it’s like…And then I always feel good about myself for sticking to that script. And so, there’s a couple of variations of that. I have a contact in my address book called Do Not Answer, so anytime I get a phone call that I don’t want to get again, I just add them to that contact. So that’s like now, a couple times a week, I’ll look at my phone, it’s ringing, and it’ll say “Do not answer.” And I’ll be just like “Awesome.” Productivity hack is successful.
I actually learned that from one of the founders of General Assembly. His phone rang and it said “Do not answer” and I just started cracking up. You know, we’re like sort of successful, but our investors are like…So many people are trying to reach out and get a piece of their time and that’s something I learned from Ev. He’s really good at figuring out where does he want to put his time and where doesn’t he, and I think that, the polite but firm no that doesn’t invite any sort of debate just ends up coming up over, and over again, because you want to be in control of where you put your energy.
Eric: No, I love it. And thanks for letting me through the filter.
Tony: Cool. I love doing interviews. Mainly I feel like you learn so much, like I learn stuff from you. I really appreciate the time.
Eric: Yeah, totally. Love having you on the show. Final question from my end. So, what’s one must read book for entrepreneurs besides “Snowball” which is a good book?
Tony: It is. I really enjoyed reading “Hatching Twitter” this year.
Eric: Dude. Thumbs up.
Tony: So, why did you like it?
Eric: I think to be able to…there’s just a lot of drama involved. Reading it was like, wow, this is the shit that actually goes on when you quote unquote start to make it, you’ve got to like watch your back and the lesson that I got from it. So, that’s what I got out of it. I’d love to hear from you.
Tony: You know, it’s interesting because I actually know a lot of inside information because I was… The first start-up I worked at as the head of engineering was [Odo], which is what Twitter spun out of, and Ev was my boss I was Jack’s boss. I actually gave Jack a raise and I don’t think that money ended up mattering to him in the long run, but…So, I got to see a lot of that stuff from the early standpoint and I…You know, one of the things I always take away from that book is; drama is not the same as scandal. Hurt feelings does not equal scandal, and for the most part they were reacting to a really hard time.
I love that part of the success story because every time you dig into some success story and actually hear the truth it’s messy. And for those of us who are trying to succeed it’s actually a disservice to hear success stories that are smooth and quick. You know, like maybe…It’s funny actually when you hear about lottery winners, a lot of times they play the lottery all the time. So, even for someone that’s like an overnight success story, like you can’t get more luck than the lottery, they still tell you they’ve been playing the lottery for ten years. Everything has this story of really working hard, and it’s messy, it’s hard, it’s challenging and if you don’t know that that’s true, when you struggle you start to think you’re doing it wrong. No, you’re doing it right. It’s hard for everyone. All you can do is keep working and keep trying to be better.
Here, “Hatching Twitter” are like just because you have a lot of camps in that Twitter history, an author was able to come in and expose a lot of the tensions there. But you know what? That tension happened everywhere. I feel like, actually, because of “Hatching Twitter” other companies feel more comfortable sharing their own tensions. I just read this great article about Larry Page and how he hated bringing in Eric Schmidt, and how…I had no idea because they’ve never told the story that way before. Like, surprise, Google had a lot of tension too at the beginning.
And I think this article was about how Larry tried to fire all the product managers that actually weren’t…Totally called an all hands meeting and told them they were fired and then the board stepped in and various other managers were like, “No, no, no, you not fired, you’re going to work in this other organization for a little while.” And then Eric moved from chairman to CEO and basically Larry was super frustrated, otherwise he wouldn’t have been trying to fire that many people and he didn’t know how to solve the problem and no one on the senior leadership team agreed with how he wanted to solve the problem and there lies the really messy episode. I bet you there’re tons of messy episodes like that in every single company.
Eric: Totally. So “Hatching Google”. Where’s that article by the way? I need a…just so I can find it and link to it in this post.
Tony: I’ll look it up for you. I think I just read this…
Eric: I’ll find it. Anyway, I think you talk about the struggle…I don’t know if you read Ben Horowitz book, “The Hard Things…
Eric: I think “Hatching Twitter” ties directly into the struggle right now and you’re totally right, it happens in every company. Tony, thanks so much for joining us. There’s a lot of insights here. Definitely hope to have you on the show sometime soon.
Tony: Alright. Take care. Thank you so much, have a great day.
Eric: Alright. Thank you.
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