Ep. 221 - Tucker Max: The Difference Between People Who Succeed and People Who Don't
March 28, 2017•104 min
“You and I both know what happened to you 18 months ago," he said. "If you don’t write about it, you will die as an artist.” Tucker's sold over 3 million copies of his books. I know I'm going to have to listen to him. Maybe later. ----- I’ve known Tucker many years. I can safely, say, I’ve been in the trenches with Tucker. We’ve both started businesses since then, published books, invested together, and cried (well, I did) together since we’ve met. In one of the worst personal disasters of my life, Tucker was there. He was there for the beginning, middle, and end. I always ask myself ‘who is in my scene’? What’s a Scene? I consider it: - the people I learn from - the people who I can count on - the people who challenge me to work harder and rise to my potential (and I can do the same for) - the people I can call when I am confused or troubled, and the people who are there for me no matter what. Ask yourself: Who is in your scene? --- Without a scene, it is much harder to succeed. Ask Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, Jack Kerouac, Andy Warhol, Sara Blakely and many many others who have risen to the top of their fields throughout history. Tucker and a few others have been in my scene for years. So I visited him. Talked reinvention, writing, and his current business success. Here’s the top five things I learned: A) THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN PEOPLE WHO SUCCEED AND PEOPLE WHO DON’T “No one has ever replicated anything I did because they looked at the surface. They didn’t actually understand the underlying input.” “What do you mean by input?” I asked. “People look at my writing and they say, ‘I get drunk, I fall down, I yell curses… I’m going to write really arrogant things. Then I’ll get the same attention Tucker Max gets.’ But that never works.” “I was opening my soul,” he said. “I was being honest. Anybody trying to mimic me forgot the honesty part.” That’s the work. That’s the input. “If you want to boil it down, people who succeed are worried about input. People who don’t succeed are worried about output.” ---- B ) DIFFERENT > BETTER Spaces are getting crowded. Anyone can blog. Anyone can make a youtube video. Self-publishing is growing. And they’re handing out podcasts at all the major international airports. More and more people are getting creative. More creativity = more competition. So how do you stand out? Micro-tribes. “I’m talking about being different, which is not the same thing as being better,” Tucker said. “When I started writing, I wrote emails for my friends and my only measurement for whether the emails were good or not was whether those nine guys thought it was funny. There was no arguing. If they did, it was good. If it didn’t, it was bad.” This reminded me of how Craig from Craigslist built his company. Started out with an email, with the sole intention of providing pleasure for his friends. Provide benefit for the few, and then you can scale to provide benefit for the many. Tucker found his micro-tribe. And it grew. Because his did this... --- C) TELL THE TRUTH People send me articles all the time, "Can you read this?". I read one the other day. “How to survive a breakup” But the author left out his story. Advice is autobiography. Don’t give me advice from the mountaintop. Tell me the story of the struggle. Of how you were the very reluctant hero, who was called into action for better or worse, who climbed the mountaintop, who now has the knowledge. Your story is the only test: Are you original? “I’ll give you a super simple trick to being original,” Tucker said. “Tell the truth. The hard truth that everybody thinks and nobody says.” --- D) ASK YOUR QUESTION Last week I did seven podcasts. I probably asked 1000 questions. So I asked Tucker, “What’s the skill? How does one become a good writer?” He had one answer: Self-evaluate. Tucker asks himself three questions: Am I what I think I am? Am I who I want to be? Am I good at this or not? It gave me food for thought. Sometimes the more I work hard at something, I realize the worse I am. I want to improve. --- E) WAS HE WRONG TO REJECT JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE? Tucker destroyed his own movie. "You will die as an artist," I said, laughing, "if you don't fully write this story." “I’ll never forget,” he said. “It was the night of my birthday… the night I knew the movie was a failure.” “Why’d you turn down Justin Timberlake for your movie?” “It’s embarrassing,” he said. I said, “Don’t worry. I won’t tell anyone. I'll never write about it. I promise." “I was convinced the Tucker Max character was going to be huge and I wanted it to be about me, not the actor.” He was sorry. But, listen, if only 30% of our decisions are correct, we will have very successful lives. At least, that’s how it seems to me. And it's how you take a bad decision and later convert it into wisdom that is the true test of future success. “The same thing that screwed up my movie, happened in my company. This time I recognized it early enough to see what I was doing.” He decided to step down from CEO of his company, Book in a Box. He still works there. Just not as CEO. “It was a really hard decision,” he said, “but I knew it was right because as soon as I made it, I felt a thousand pounds lighter.” ---- Since hiring his replacement as CEO, his business has grown 400% in the past year. “Book in a Box” takes non-writers and helps them get their first book out the door. It’s a great idea for a business. I wish I had invested. After the podcast I had the chance to meet the newest baby in his family. And after that I started to think about how I could avoid dying as an artist. I need to step up my game.