The Tim Ferriss Show with Jim Collins (#361)

The Tim Ferriss Show | Podcast on Spotify

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  • Tim was taught by John McPhee at Princeton. Was the most influential class of his life. All grades in other classes improved after taking this class
  • Further Reading: Draft No. 4 by John McPhee
  • Jim told his research team, he didn’t want to discuss leadership in Good To Great because if you were to build something truly great, it has to transcend leadership roles. Leadership argument can also lead to circular reasoning
    • However research team came to him and told him —> leaders actually mattered.
  • Ask what’s really different between companies?
  • “I’m not really a business author, I just happened to have used as companies as method to study human systems because there’s great data.”
  • Jim would tell students, “You don’t need to work for IBM to have a business. Why are you putting your creativity and energy for the company?” Students asked Jim, “What are you doing?“
  • Bet everything on Built To Last —> was down to less than $10,000 — they were really scared
  • “I did not want to have a half-life of quality in the work”
  • How does Jim Collins spend his time?
    • 50% —> In new and creative work
    • 30% —> In teaching
    • 20% —> Other stuff that just has to get done
  • So Jim Collins started counting his hours with 3 different stopwatches
  • What he really came to realize was that the first bucket was the one that really mattered (the creative work)
  • Every single 365 day cycle — the total number of creative hours must exceed 1,000. No. Matter. What. He takes 3 month pace, 6 month pace.
  • Jim Collins ranks his days from answering the question of “How was your day?”
    • +2 = great day
    • +1 = good day
    • 0 = eh
    • -1 = bad day
    • -2 = really bad day
  • Over the last 5 years, Jim asks what’s going on in the -2 days?
  • Patterns Jim has found: 
    • “+2 days” mean (1) Solitude of really hard work (favorite day = gets up, never leaves the house, loses himself in the research or writing or making sense of things), and/or (2) time with people he loves
  • 3 things Jim values: (1) Increasing simplicity (2) Increasing time in flow state (3) Time with people he loves
  • What counts towards the hours marked creative for Jim? 
    • Any activity that has a reasonably direct link to the creation of something that is new or potentially replicable or durable
    • He links it to artistic pursuits… “is an artist getting the paint brushes ready to paint a creative activity? He would say yes”
    • Sometimes things can be creative that you don’t expect, like a conversation
  • “Genius with 1,000 helpers”
  • Be a hard counter “to stay on the march”
  • Before a conversation with a friend, Jim writes down 3 things you’d love to talk about.
  • For his 1,000 creative hours, it is “the constraint in which I can have a ton of freedom” 
    • “I’m not overly regimented, I’m just disciplined, there’s a difference” (discipline = freedom!!) 
  • Big takeaway about sleep: it’s not about the number of hours you get in a day. Jim cares more about the number of hours you get over a 10-day cycle
  • Jim’s personal takeaways on sleep
    • (1) If you wake up in the middle of night and can’t go back to bed for 20 minutes, get up do work
    • (2) Naps are his saving grace. Genetic gift of being able to nap at any time (3 favorite times of napping -> airplanes, afternoons, (go to bed at 11pm —> get up at 3… then you go back to sleep from 7-11am)
  • “We struggle in our 20s about how to get clarity to deploy ourselves to the world.” Everything before then is structured for us.
  • The Hedgehog Concept: When companies focused on one or a few things things, those decisions would accumulate and lead to some real results. For companies it is (1) doing what you’re deeply passionate about, (2) what you can be the best in the world at – and if you can’t, leave it to others (3) have an economic engine and know how it works
  • Jim wrote in his Bug Book: “The bug Jim really loves to make sense of something difficult, breaking it down into understandable pieces, and teaching it to others.”
  • Describes ages 60-90 as when the real magic happens
  • If someone is going to give you mentorship time, you owe it to them and to you to go prepared (Jim put three days into preparing to meet with Peter Drucker)
  • Jim: Which of your 26 books are you most proud of? Drucker (86 years old): “The next one!” He wrote 10 more.
  • Drucker’s big question of life: “How do you make society more productive and more humane?”
  • Biggest lessons from Drucker:
    • Don’t make 100 decisions, when 1 will do. For example: Jim asked himself about speaking engagements — “Is this a great teaching moment?” If not, doesn’t do it 
    • Jim asked how he could pay Peter back for his time? Peter said he already paid him back because he had learned. Peter made some observations about Jim. Peter said “it seems you spend too much time worrying about if you’ll survive. Or if you’ll be successful. That’s the wrong question. The question is: how to be useful.“
  • Flywheel Effect — The Flywheel effect is a concept developed in the book Good to Great. No matter how dramatic the end result, good-to-great transformations never happen in one fell swoop. In building a great company or social sector enterprise, there is no single defining action, no grand program, no one killer innovation, no solitary lucky break, no miracle moment. Rather, the process resembles relentlessly pushing a giant, heavy flywheel, turn upon turn, building momentum until a point of breakthrough, and beyond.
    • As much about great individuals as it is great companies
    • Amazon took the Flywheel Principle and asked themselves… “What is our Flywheel?”-
  • Flywheel is an underlying, compelling logic of momentum. It is not a list of steps drawn in a circle. There’s an inevitability drawn in.
  • Built over a long period of time, the flywheel creates a compelling future
  • What is Jim’s Flywheel?
    • His Flywheel starts at: “Curiosity fed big questions”
    • If Jim is really curious abut something, he can’t help but learn about it and do research on it. If he does the research right, he can’t help but have ideas and insights and concepts that come out of that research, and he has those, then he can’t help but want to write them and teach them and share them
  • Are there only positive flywheels or are there also negative flywheels?
  • Relationships are “We will not fail at this marriage. No. Matter. What.”
  • Many of the most important things transcend the capability of language (ludwig wittgenstein)
  • Sometimes, you have to burn the boats. Jim was thinking about having the option to come back to Stanford to teach after leaving… but having the option to come back would have changed his behavior. Lesson: No Plan B.
  • “Life is people.“
  • There are three addictions: heroin, alcohol, and a monthly salary. (Add social media to that list.)

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