1 Big Idea to Think About

  • When starting a business or learning something new, the foundational principles are identifying the very first step, having the courage to be rubbish, and continuing to have the tenacity to keep going. 

1 Way You Can Apply This

  • Think of a big dream or goal you have had for a long time
  • Ask yourself, “What is the very next step I need to move toward this dream or goal?”
  • Write it down
  • Commit to take this step today

1 Question to Ask

  •  Who am I gaining wisdom from, and is this wisdom serving me?

Key Moments From the Show 

  • What is Million Dollar Weekend about? (2:18)
  • Identifying the very first step (4:06)
  • The key to entrepreneurship is to keep swinging (7:21)
  • The courage to be rubbish (8:36)
  • Walking out on Tony Robbins (16:01)
  • A simple test to evaluate if the advice you are receiving (27:26)
  • Why you should continually question your beliefs and sources of learning (34:08)
  • The maturity continuum and learning to trust yourself (36:20)

Links and Resources You’ll Love from the Episode

Greg McKeown: 

Welcome to the Greg McKeown Podcast, where we explore the essence of essentialism and doing less but better. And today we are diving into the entrepreneurial spirit in an unusual way. We’re going to have Noah Kagan, who, of course, is the chief sumo at appsumo.com, a platform dedicated to empowering entrepreneurs to excel and, you know, kick it to the next level with their ventures. 

Noah’s journey started off as a cubicle monkey at Intel, pioneering all sorts of interesting positions at Facebook. Number 30 at Facebook. That’s a good, that’s a good thing to be able to boast about. Number four at Mint. That is the number four employee at Mint. That’s equipped him with some fascinating, unparalleled insights, I would say, into starting a business, marketing, personal improvement, and all the rest of it. He has just launched the new book Million Dollar Weekend, a guide that promises to change the way that you think about entrepreneurship and your path to success. So that’s the subject matter that we’re going to be talking about, but we’re going to do it in an unusual way. 

First of all, let me just welcome Noah Kogan to the podcast.


Noah Kagan: 

Thank you, Greg. It is awesome to see you. One of my favorite books of all time is Million Dollar Weekend. And number two is yours. No, literally, Essentialism is like, it’s one of the best ever. So I’m, you know, I’ve just excited to be able to chat with you and Taylor in the show today.


Greg McKeown: 

You just said the intro because we also have Taylor Wallace here, who I’m pretty sure is a blood relative of William Wallace of Braveheart fame. There’s something there, we think, at least connected by rumor. But this is an unusual thing that we’re about to try and do. 

Welcome, by the way, to the show.


Noah Kagan: 

Thanks for having me.


Greg McKeown: 

Okay, so as if it isn’t a challenge enough to just try to understand what is in Million Dollar Weekend, we’re going to try to approach this in a surprising way. But rather than just immediately get to that, maybe we should just start with context for what this book is and why you wrote it. Noah.


Noah Kagan: 

Yeah. 20 years ago, I was an employee at Intel, and I wished there was a book about if I had a weekend available, you know, everyone’s really busy and doesn’t have a lot of time. How do I get my own company going? How do I get out of having the day job? And there have been books in the past, maybe a thousand years, on entrepreneurship and business, but still, people haven’t figured out what’s holding them back. And so, through literally decades of working at these companies, trying so many times, failing so many times, and eventually getting there, I figured out a process that works. And it starts with helping people start helping people ask and then the recipes so that everyone can live their own dream life.


Greg McKeown: 

And then the title seems to sort of almost be the ad for the message. Right? A Million Dollar Weekend. Explain precisely what you mean by that term. What is it people are supposed to do in a weekend to be able to kick start their dream, to be able to start their own business?


Noah Kagan: 

Yeah. It’s about creating a business that can become a million dollars. And I’ve done it numerous times, and I’m seeing people do it time and time again since this book has come out. And the reality is, it’s people like yourself, most of your listeners, who are extremely good looking, are also just extremely busy. And a lot of people aren’t satisfied with their jobs. And it seems risky to have a day job. You can lose it in a heartbeat.

And so, in a weekend, how do you start planting the seeds and getting things going so that you can eventually have an entrepreneurship and your own business and live a life the way you want to live?


Greg McKeown: 

Yeah, it seems to me, it reminds me of a simple principle that I tried to capture in the book, Effortless. And I’m thinking about the origin story of Netflix. And you can think about, okay, reaching hundreds of millions of people now. You can think about the global footprint, you can having some vision to be able to do this extraordinary thing. But no matter how large of vision is, the real question is, what is the very first step?

We can get so exhausted on the hundredth step or so overwhelmed by all that possibility and all the things that are unknown, the ambiguity. But in the end, the Netflix story starts when the co-founders go and buy a second-hand CD, and they put it in the mail, and when it arrived on the other end 24 hours later, and it’s not scratched up, it’s not messed up, they go, “Oh, we could do this. We could begin the business.” 

It seems to me that Million Dollar Weekend is trying to answer the question, where do I start?


Noah Kagan: 

Well, there’s a few things I just want to unpack that I thought were beautifully put by you that I don’t think people recognize is that Netflix is worth $100 billion. But it started with a problem. It started with the late fees. And so for all of us, as we’re thinking about businesses, a lot of people have too many ideas, or they don’t have any. But the reality is, it’s simple. It’s what’s a problem you’re facing that you can solve for yourself and, ideally, other people.

Now, another thing I’m seeing, and I can give you more examples of, is people like, how do I make a million dollars? How do I become a millionaire? And I’m saying that’s not your problem. Your problem is becoming a “dollar-aire.” Your problem is actually just to make that first dollar. 

And so there’s so many different examples. I think Netflix is a great one. Same thing with Airbnb. $150 billion business. It started with one email that, you know, this is the whole point about starting. Most people never get started, which they can. Today they sent one email to a conference said, “Hey, does anyone want to rent out our couch?”

Just had an idea, something kind of funny. $150. 15 years later, 150 billion. Same with appsumo.com.  wanted software deals. I like good deals.


Greg McKeown: 

I want to come to Appsumo in seconds. But let’s just go back to Airbnb for just a second because I remember speaking to an investor who turned down Airbnb co-founders. You know, that sort of causes the gasp moment when you look at what’s been achieved. But she pointed out to me that when they were pitching the business, at first, it wasn’t what we now know of as Airbnb. Their first idea, or at least the idea that she was pitched, was that they wanted to go to the Republican National Convention and the Democratic National Convention and sell cereal that was themed to each of the conferences. 

Like that was their idea. And they didn’t get many takers for that. Maybe none. And so then they had to pivot to another idea, which at the time is as crazy as the one that I just mentioned; it’s just that it caught on and then was able to have the network effect. And the bigger it is, the more valuable it becomes, and so on. So anyway, I just thought that was fun to think about, how I love that the bad idea gets pivoted and so on. Go ahead.


Noah Kagan: 

Your point is really the point of entrepreneurship is that you have to keep swinging. And the best thing about business is you only need one hit. The only thing. And by the way, it doesn’t discriminate on height. I’m only five nine. I don’t even have hair. You could be anywhere in the world. You could be in Scotland. And there’s a lot of successful Scottish people. You could be worldwide and be successful.

And I think your point, which is really great for people to think about for themselves, is you have to make the effort; you have to find the thing that eventually works because it doesn’t work right away. Even Facebook, where I worked at, it used to be a file-sharing system, and then it was face called Wirehog, then it was face mash. That didn’t work. That didn’t work. Then Mark copied connect you. Huh? Facebook. This is kind of working.

And I actually think Essentialism is a great example of it, which finding something to work; you’ll eventually find it, and there’s a process you have to keep swinging. But essentialism in the point is that success happens when finding the thing that works and sticking with it for an extraordinarily long period of time. 

And with Appsumo is the same story where I got excited about the problem of helping software creators get customers. And I tried three other businesses that you’ve never heard of, and finally, Appsumo worked instantly. People desired it. And then now, 15 years later, you know, we’ll be doing, give or take, around $100 million a year promoting software deals.


Greg McKeown: 

There’s another principle that I think is at play in what you’re describing, and that is the courage to be rubbish. You know, this idealism that I think, or not even idealism, perfectionism that gets in the way of starting the thing. I was just thinking about this the other day that in the same weekend as I literally bought my first recording equipment, I was chatting with somebody else who’d done the same thing.

And fast forward a few years, and this podcast happened and has become its own success story. And the other didn’t even begin. And that’s. That, to me, is the thing. It’s not that you. Not that everything you do will be successful. That’s obviously not true. But we had to have the courage to be rubbish. I had to have the courage to be rubbish so that you can learn as rapidly as possible without. It didn’t work. Okay, move on, get rid of it. But you have to have that courage to be rubbish. Your thoughts?


Noah Kagan: 

Yeah. How many things did you write before you put out Essentialism?


Greg McKeown: 



Noah Kagan:

And, yeah, I think people are aware of this. You know, maybe you could share some light on that. Well, how many swings have you taken to get to that point where you put out a book that did exceptionally well? Because I think it’s the part that no one sees what’s happening in the kitchen.


Greg McKeown: 

Oh, my goodness. I mean, first of all, that’s so true. I mean, there’s barely a day I go by that somebody doesn’t say, “Oh, yes, I really want to write a book. You know, I would like to.” 

And, of course, they can. Because the biggest difference between authors and non authors is that writers write. So that’s the difference. And so if you can find a process of rapid failure. And so, I mean, I do this in very deliberate ways. To your point about how much did you write before you wrote Essentialism? Well, I mean, I’m constantly using social media.

We have the perfect opportunity. It’s one of the uses of social media that I most think is most valuable is to test. It’s instant publishing. You think it’s a good idea, you think you’ve expressed it in an interesting way, or if nobody else does, they’re right. So then you have to keep working on it until you find something that seems to express. Even if it’s the same thing you’re trying to say, it says it in a way that connects with somebody. And suddenly, you’re having, I won’t say, some huge viral moment, but you’re having a reaction.

And then from there, I would deliberately test ideas from that point. Okay, well, then I’ll write an article about it. Well, maybe I’ll just do a post, a LinkedIn post, a sort of mini-article. And if that clicks well enough and seems to react, that people seem to respond in a healthy, helpful way, I’ll write a Harvard Business Review article about it and so on. And so that you’re constantly working through.

There were probably ten Harvard Business Review articles that I wrote. I thought they were all as well-researched as each other. I thought they were all as technically well-written. They were as interesting to me. But one of them, which was called “The Disciplined Pursuit of Less,” outperformed the others by a country mile. And without that testing process, it’s not possible to know which thing will work disproportionately well. So, that is an example of the process that I was following that led to this.


Noah Kagan: 

Yeah, it’s exactly what I teach in Million Dollar Weekend is how are you applying things? And by swinging, eventually, you will hit. And so a few examples of that. I did some research recently on musicians we all know. Beyoncé, Drake, Taylor Swift. How many songs do they actually have out? Hundreds if not thousands of them. How many songs do we actually know? 10% or less. That’s interesting. But they’re global superstars.

And it’s the same thing with Million Dollar Weekend. I’ve put out, I don’t know, maybe 5000 different articles over 20 years. Four of them have been exceptional in terms of not exceptional. I’m proud of a lot of the work, but four… 


Greg McKeown: 

No. Exceptional in the way that the audience reacted to them. Go ahead.


Noah Kagan: 

100%. You’re exactly right. And one in 2011, 13 years ago, called “How did I start a million dollar business in a weekend?” got millions of views. And what I encourage everyone to do is everyone has courage. And I think this book taught me that I have my own courage and everyone does it. Whether you want to have a day job, whether you want to be a musician, whether you want to be a writer, you know what you can do? Write. Today. Write. And then you keep writing and keep writing and keep writing. And we’re busy. We have priorities. But you can give up one Netflix show on a weekend and change your life.


Greg McKeown: 

So that’s an interesting origin story for Million Dollar Weekend. And the way that you described that idea is, of course, I think, the succinctest summary of what this book is. Right. How I started a million-dollar business in a weekend. So it’s not, of course, how you’re going to make a million dollars in a weekend. This is the genesis. This is what you do at the beginning to get the thing going. What else do you want to share just directly from the book that people listening to this need to know?

Well, I’ll ask a better question. What were the other three articles?


Noah Kagan: 

Yeah, the other articles that have gone viral, and I’ve been. The thing is, you only maybe have heard of some of them. Again, I’ve written so many and I enjoy it. I think that’s a part that’s an undertone is that I enjoy writing, I enjoy promoting, and marketing. So, find something that you can stick with for a decade, and I think that’s where you will ultimately have success. 

A Tim Ferriss article there, I wrote an article about how I walked out on Tony Robbins that went ultra viral about how everyone said they loved him.

I went there, and people were rubbing my back, jumping up, and he’s selling health supplements. It was strange for me, and I never heard anyone else talk about the other side of his experiences. So that went viral. How I got fired by Facebook, went viral, and then the worst night of my life, which was doing ayahuasca.


Greg McKeown: 

Okay, so that just begs questions we have to ask now. Okay. Walking out on Tony Robbins that’s interesting. I’ve never shared this before, but I did, too. So that’s interesting. And it’s not; I’m not trying to take a shot at Tony to make this observation, but you walked out. Why?


Noah Kagan: 

So, at that point in my life, I wasn’t happy with work. I wasn’t happy with my relationship. I wasn’t happy with myself. And it’s a lot, by the way, it’s a lot of pressure for me to expect Tony Robbins to cure my life. Let’s just start there. That’s a huge ask. Like, hey, I’ve got a lot of problems. Solve it all.


Greg McKeown: 

Yeah, that’s fair enough. However, that is the value proposition being sold. So you went because that is, you know, you’re saying, wow, yes, I see you on the infomercial. I can imagine this moment. Are you unhappy with your relationships? Do you want to be able to succeed fast? And so. And you’re going, check, check, check. Okay, sign me up. So it’s not like you came up with that idea from nowhere.

The promise is you’re going to go; everything’s going to be transformed in a heartbeat. Quick fix. And so you went. 


Noah Kagan: 

I did. And let me preface it as well as I researched and talked to other people who attended, and everyone said it was life-changing. Everyone was like, “It’s unbelievable. Best thing I’ve ever done.” Unleash the Giant or whatever the first one is a date with guests. I don’t know the first one, Unleash the Giant. So I spent the $2,500, and I didn’t. My intention wasn’t to write an article. I didn’t plan on writing an article. I was like, “Yo, I need some fixing.”

I get there, and I’m really excited about the whole event. And one thing I have to say, at that time, Tony Robbins was a customer of our software. So I’m not even. I’m not especially not interested in trying to bash someone who’s our customer. And I get there, and it’s okay. I get it. We’re trying to change our life. You can’t keep doing the same thing, expecting a different result. So he gets you to jump up and down. Okay, I can do that. He gets you to then massage other people around you. Strange. Okay. I don’t know why I need to rub other men and women I’m not familiar with.


Greg McKeown: 

He’s breaking down the barriers, but you’re going, “I’m not sure those are barriers I want to break down.” 


Noah Kagan: 



Greg McKeown: 

You’re like, “I have boundaries for a reason, you know? And this is okay. It’s okay that you want to break down the audience, but I’m not sure that that’s what I want to sign up for in order to be able to be successful.”


Noah Kagan: 

And he’s trying to change your mental programming. And then he brought someone on stage, and he brought on stage, he’s like, “Hey, what’s going on?”

He’s like, “I’ve had problems with my family.” And it felt a little gospely, where it’s like he kind of grabs him by the head. He’s like, “Your family, let that go.” 

And the guy’s like, “It’s gone.” 

I’m like. And I’m looking around like, am I? I’m crazy. They’re crazy. I’m crazy. They’re crazy.

And I intentionally sat alone. So I had friends there, but we sat in different areas because I didn’t want to be biased about anything around it. And I thought to myself, “Okay, there’s going to be more of this. I came here to make my own change. That’s the point.” 

And then there’s a whole day three where he sells you supplements, which doesn’t make any sense, why he’s now selling health supplements.

So at the lunch point, and I think this is the point for everyone out there, is that how do you take your own power back? And if my goal was to work on myself, and this is not serving it, it’s okay for us to take a step back and think, “Maybe there’s another way I can do it.” 

So halfway through, I went to the first day, I went to the stand, and this is what I teach in the book is I asked, I said, “Can I get a refund because I’m not enjoying this?” And they said, sure, I left. And then I planned my own two-day seminar with, like, what are areas I want to work on?

So me and my friend Jordan Harbinger, we just, like, went to his house, we went for hikes, we went for walks. We journaled. I wouldn’t say it was a transformation, but it was empowering for me to do that. And here’s the irony, Greg. I went to these people. I didn’t even decide to write the article, but I went to these people who told me before, I was like, “Why’d you guys tell me this is so great? I went there. It felt very surface-level and not really substantive.”

They’re like, “Yeah, it wasn’t great, but it was okay.” 

I was like, “Why didn’t you tell me that?”

And that inspired the article because I felt that no one was sharing a holistic. And my article is, if you go to noahkagan.com, it’s not me bashing him. It’s saying, I like Tony. I like some of his stuff. I think it’s something that’s good, but this is my experience, okay?


Greg McKeown: 

There’s so many things that are interesting in that experience, and the most interesting to me is that last point you made about people saying it was great and life-changing until you actually asked them about it again. And suddenly it was like, it reminds me of in England, we call it candy floss, but cotton candy where it’s like, melts on contact. It’s like, “This is so great.” 

And then you ask them about, “Well, it wasn’t that great.”

It’s like, which was it? Was it great, or was it not great? Why did you say it was great if it wasn’t great? But it’s like something surface great. They were hyped up enough to be able to give the first affirmation, not fed enough to be able to give any real explanation for it below that. It’s almost like they were primed to give you that answer. That’s exactly what happened. That’s what happened.


Noah Kagan: 

They were self-preserving. They’re self-preserving because they want to justify to themselves. And it is hard, though, because you might like a restaurant that I don’t like the dish, or maybe the service is off that night, but I thought that people weren’t given a holistic picture. And, yeah, it was interesting. A lot of the. It is funny because a lot of things that have become the most viral or popular I didn’t necessarily put a lot of effort into, but it was just because I was in the practice of swinging and, aka, writing and putting things out there that I found something. I was like, oh, this is interesting.


Greg McKeown: 

See, with all of this, just like you’re feeling, one wants to be careful because you don’t want to. You don’t want to try to assassinate an individual in any circumstance, you know, and. And just because somebody’s famous doesn’t make them not a person. And that’s, I think, an error we make in our modern world, that if someone’s famous, well, it’s fine; we can say anything about them as if they’re just not human. And if they’re wealthy and famous, then they’re so set for life, as if that really is what makes a meaningful, fulfilling life. So, we get it wrong on so many levels. 

I went. It wasn’t to. I didn’t go to an event in the way that you did, but I was. But I was speaking at an event where he was also doing one of the keynotes. And so I went to that section, and I’d never seen him live. But, you know, back when I was maybe a teenager, I was first introduced to some of his writing and some of his thinking. And so I was really curious to see what the experience would be.

And I had brought my family with me, as I do on some of my keynotes. Maybe 80% of the time, I’ll bring at least one of my children with me. Okay. So I was making a trade-off to go to this instead of being with them. So that was always in my mind the whole time I’m going, “Okay, well, basically it has to be great. Otherwise, I already have a great option; I already have something to do.” 

But the feeling I had, I don’t even know how I feel about putting this out there precisely, but I just had this thought.

Maybe even 15, 20 minutes in, I thought this, I’ll just say it, and then I’ll make a decision later. But this is not a wisdom source. That’s what I felt. I thought he is sincerely trying to make a difference. He is all in. He grew up in an industry that is itself so problematic, an industry, for example. I don’t think of myself at all as being a part of it. It’s just there’s a certain kind of seediness that exists in what I would call, like the more edgy. Yeah. A certain kind of snake oil type culture. It’s not an individual-based thing. It’s the whole organization of it. I once worked with people who used to sell hard-pressure sales, credit card sales, and get-rich-quick programs. You’re going to be mentored by this person who’s going to help you make money, you know, fast, and they might spend $10,000 on a credit card they couldn’t afford.

There’s something like that, which is extremely opportunistic. And so I think if you, if you grow up too much in that culture, even if that’s not your intent, you’re breathing in that way of thinking and being. And so then eventually that’s what you’re going to breathe out, you know, just like software design, you know, if you’re putting rubbish code in, you’re going to get rubbish results out. And I think that’s something of what I observe and observed. And so I just thought, well, I just have a better option. And maybe it sounds trite to say it, but, like, my wife is a wisdom source. And so, I mean, I can just leave and have a conversation with someone who’s so well read and so richly thoughtful and genuinely so wise and seeks wisdom. I found a lot more wisdom in that evening spent in the way that I ended up using it than I think if I had stayed. There was lots of rah-rah. There’s lots of. I think there is sincerity, but that was my experience.


Noah Kagan: 

I think that sometimes with people who are motivational speakers, I think we want to externalize our responsibility to them, and we want them to save us. And the reality is we can all save ourselves. And we do need advice like we do need to read books. We do need support and coaching. And I think, yeah, he’s trying to do a positive thing, but different things work for different people. A lot of people seem to like him.

I look for different types of people. Me personally, I look to people who’ve done the thing I want to do as the people that I want my wisdom from.


Greg McKeown: 

That’s got to be close to the primary test. You can express that biblically, right? Where you say a test for knowing whether you have a false prophet. And I don’t mean in anything like a strictly religious sense, I just mean like the test is by the fruits, you will know them. And that is an extremely tangible psychological test, a practical test that you can utilize all the way through your life to work out, “Well. Am I talking to somebody in inverted commas of the ‘false prophet’, somebody who is expressing one thing well?”

I think it. Well, by virtue of the test that goes with it, the false prophet is someone who is expressing do x, and you’ll get y. Whereas in if you actually do x, you won’t get y. Right. That, to me, seems like a pretty great test. So it’s easy to sell something to people who are in a like that will stabilize their immature view of the world, right? So if you say, okay, well, I want to, I want to have an incredible relationship and get rich quick and, you know, all these things all at once. And I’m going to go to this event, you’re being sold exactly what you’re wanting to be there, which is there’s an easy answer, and it’s immediately going to come together, and this person out there will have the answer. It’s just a really immature way to think about life.

And. And so when people are selling it to you, it’s like, yes, I’ll keep buying that because that helps me to feel secure in my immaturity instead of growing up, which is more vulnerable and more challenging but gets you to actually become something that you weren’t before. 

So I think that that’s one of the reasons these things continue to work, is because people would rather spend the money sometimes and not change, than maybe even not spend the money and actually change. You know what I mean?


Noah Kagan: 

Yeah. I think about it through myself, where it was easy for me to blame other people blame the government for where I’m at. It’s easy for me to blame that, oh, this other person’s family is better. So that’s why I’m not, I’m worse off. It’s easy for me to blame Tony versus looking at myself. And I think a lot of what I’ve noticed in my own story is that most of us, including myself, know the things we should, we want to actually do.

It’s just hard and easy at the same time. Meaning specifically like, let’s say you want to have a relationship; you want to be in a healthy relationship. Well, do you have a good relationship with yourself? And I would say for many years, I was not. I was really rude to myself, and sometimes I still am, but it’s something I’m still working on. And if you want to be in a healthy relationship, am I doing the behavior that’s going to attract a healthy relationship? And I wasn’t for many, many years that was hard.


Greg McKeown: 

There’s an additional thing here, which I think is like we’ve talked about, like the false prophet idea from a who are you learning from? Who are you gaining your systems from your thinking from who’s influencing you? And I think one has to at least close the loop on that by saying, okay, well, what does the true prophet, again in inverted commas, look like? And I think that that has got to, and you already said it’s like, do they have what I’m looking for? Have they done it? Have somebody said it this way to me? Would I trade places with them? Which was an interesting way of thinking about it; I can’t think of anybody truly, I mean that sincerely I would trade places with. But it’s more of a thought experiment. Like they created what it is that I’m trying to create.

And I think you have to then go back to this idea, seeds, and fruit, by doing the things they’re saying. Is it getting you to where you want to be? And where I think the true prophet can help the most is where somebody can help you to discover the meaning frames that have you trapped. 

And actually, that’s a nice way of going back to just Tony for one second because I think he does have a superpower. I think he has something that is really pretty extraordinary. And I don’t know about everything beyond what I’m about to say, but I’m confident in this. He is an extreme listener. Like, he’s a body listener. And so he will watch the micro-adjustments within somebody, and he’s reading that all the rest of it, all of the words, all the verbosity, all of the bombacity is to just try to get the body to reveal what’s really going on. The second language, so to speak.

And there’s significant bodies of research in psychotherapy of people that have become highly skilled at that to be able to read people beyond what they’re saying. And I think that is his. The thing I am less sure about with him is once he identifies something that’s going on, do the solutions, does he have the solutions equal to his ability to find the pain and to sort of figure out the part of the body? But I’m using that in adverted commas as well, but, like, ‘part of the body’ that needs to be adjusted. It’s like a chiropractor who can find precisely what’s going on. Yeah, but then, are the solutions equal to that ability? And that’s where I have more questions myself, and I’m more skeptical. But his ability to do the first is impressive and unusual and rare to touch on that.


Noah Kagan: 

Just two poses around it. Number one, a lot of times, and I think it is growing up Jewish. We’re a little bit cynical at times. I think about what’s their incentive.


Greg McKeown: 



Noah Kagan: 

What’s their incentive as they’re communicating with us? How do they make their money, right? And what is it that’s going on with them? And the other side of that as well, and I think you’ll have interesting points about it, is also specialists. So I go to a business coach. I go to a CEO coach; I go to a therapist. I also go to, when I was single, I went and hired a relationship coach. And so I think when you have 14,000 people in a stadium and this kind of goes back to Essentialism, it’s very hard to solve 14,000 different problems now. 

It’s much easier. I read Gay Hendrick’s The Big Leap about how do you not, you know, how do you go to your next phase? And I did a workshop with his wife, Gail Hendricks, and it crushes because she’s very focused on, like, how do you go from the next place you want to go in your life, specifically within your career and your relationship? And I went, there were 30 people. It was excellent. And so I think those are kind of maybe two other things for thought around who we’re listening to.


Greg McKeown: 

Yeah. And I think people can do a sort of assessment of their life around this idea. Like, where have I learned what I know? Where did I get it from? Like, what percentage of what I think I know has been learned through the pores of one’s skin, so to speak? Okay, family of origin, culture that you grow up in, the people you go to school with, like, what percentage of it is just absorbed that is not consciously learned and maybe not even consciously questioned, because the most, the more unconscious we are in the learning, the less aware we are, the less filtered we are in going, well, do I agree with that? Do I believe that? Has that been true for me? Is that what my life experience has taught me?

And, of course, I’m not saying that the only way you can learn is from your own experience. Of course, that’s not true. But it is also true that if you don’t question where you’re learning, the things you’re learning from, then you are a function of other people’s ideas for you. Like, this idea that we don’t have. Jung used to say this, we don’t have ideas. Ideas have us. And so we have to learn how to really filter through all this stuff that’s in our heads and the way that we work.

You could use, I think, the metaphor of The Matrix, right? Like, if you’re not aware of the matrix in your mind, then you’re the most influenced by it. If I say, “Well, I’m not influenced by anything that anyone’s ever said to me, and growing up, nothing ever impacted me. It’s all me.” 

It’s like, yeah, I’m the most influenced by it. I’m the least aware I’m being pummeled into the corner in a boxing ring by an opponent I don’t even know is there.

And so it’s to wake up to that and then to sort of do this evaluation like, okay, where do I want to be learning from? Who are the wisdom sources? And one of them needs to be yourself. And that doesn’t mean that each of us are wise, but we have to learn. Like, what do I really, in my core, believe is true? 

I think I can tie all of this up with something I’ve been thinking a lot about over the last couple of months, which is that there’s like a continuum of moral development. And at the early stages, it’s very rules-based. Everything is very clearly right or wrong. We get our security from doing the things that are right and not doing the things that are wrong. And everyone has to go through this maturity continuum, you can’t skip from one to three. 

That’s stage one. Stage two is where you start to learn to fit in. It’s more about social belonging and so on. Like, you’re reading the room, and you’re sensing what people are doing, and you’re fitting in, and you have to go through that.

But then there’s another stage eventually, which is a sort of co-creation stage or self authorship stage, where you’re trusting your own integrity, you’re making your own choices, you get your security from. Yeah, that seemed right. That seemed good. That seemed helpful. That seemed to move me towards what it is I want to do. And it’s more like living truthfully and not worrying about what other people are saying and not worrying about the strict black-and-white views in your earliest development.

And some people don’t make it to stage three. Some people get stuck in stage two or even in stage one. And so this, to me, seems like a helpful thing to end on so that people, who are listening to this right now can evaluate their own and start to move towards a model where they’re getting themselves wiser and more truthful and more successful within themselves. Give us the final word of this part one of this interview.


Noah Kagan:

I thought we were talking about making money and starting businesses. And, you know, I think, for myself. Yeah, I think for myself. You know, as I put a book together, I felt like an imposter. Who am I with wisdom? And I think that’s true for a lot of us. Even though I helped start Facebook helped start mint.com, I’ve launched a ton of businesses. I’m literally today still running CEO of a company where we’re going to talk to appsumo.com. We’re going to talk to Taylor, who works at the company. I have a million-plus YouTube channel. I’ve been doing it for 20 years, so I feel confident. And I’m also insecure in my confidence in sharing these experiences about it because I feel very confident in this arena. You know, the stuff around health and relationships, don’t come to me. 


Greg McKeown: 

You know what your core competence is. But even with that, you still feel a bit naked putting out so much of yourself in this book.


Noah Kagan: 100%.


Greg McKeown: 

You know, now people can evaluate your thoughts in a way they can’t if you haven’t written it. Yeah, I get that.


Noah Kagan: 

And I loved your question, Greg, where it’s like, where have you learned things from? I think the other thing I would have people just think about is like, how do you best learn, and how do you best learn about yourself. So, like, I had a Spanish class 2 hours ago, and the program I use has multiple different teachers, and it’s a great thing to just think about, like, for yourself. Like, where are you? Where have you been learning? Who are you learning from? And what best way can you take ownership of your learning?

And I’ve just noticed with Spanish, I like it when they write the words out for me. So I say, por favor escribe las palabras, you know, like, I need a little help. And I think that’s important as we’re thinking about how we’re getting influenced by Greg or Noah or by whomever out there in the future. And then I love your ending of really coming into your own form of how do I have internal validation?

Or I’m not necessarily; I can be influenced, but I make the finer, filtered decision.


Greg McKeown: 

Right, right. That’s what it is. That’s what it is. And, of course, this is scarier. It’s more vulnerable. I mean, you just said it. You feel vulnerable in being the author of the book. I relate. I get it. Every author knows that if they have if an author has done their job, part of themselves and part of their life lives in that book now. And so it means that has to be vulnerable. Otherwise, I think you didn’t write something worth writing. And so in a very literal way, you’re in an authoring stage, at least in this area of your life, like you are saying. Well, now, from all that I’ve learned and what I’ve experienced, here’s what I really believe is wisdom. What I really believe works, what I really believe will help you. And, of course, inherently, that’s more vulnerable. It’s way easier to just abide by other people’s simple rules, you know, and just sort of in a perfectionist way, just keep to that. Exactly.

But there’s no growth there. That only gets you to a certain point. And so if you want to grow, you’re going to be vulnerable, and you’re going to have to start authoring yourself and learning by doing and trusting the experiences that you actually have. That’s when learning and all these themes we’ve talked about, courage to be rubbish and everything, start to come into their own in a bigger way. Okay, well, that was an interesting part one. I love it.


Noah Kagan: 

A shower of thought.


Greg McKeown: 

A shower of thought is a lovely description for everybody listening. What is one thing that stood out to you in today’s conversation? What is one thing that you can do differently because of it? And who is somebody that you can share it with so that this conversation continues now that the official conversation has come to a close?