Matt Mullenweg on Polyphasic Sleep, Tequila, and Building Billion-Dollar Companies (#61)


Matt Mullenweg has been named one of PC World’s Top 50 People on the Web,’s 30 under 30, and Business Week’s 25 Most Influential People on the Web.

In this episode, I attempt to get him drunk on tequila and make him curse.

Matt is most associated with a tool that powers more than 22% of the entire web: WordPress. Even if you aren’t into tech, there are many pages of “holy shit!” tips and resources in this episode.

Matt is a phenom of hyper-productivity and does A LOT with very little. But how? This conversation shares his best tools and tricks. From polyphasic sleep to Dvorak and looping music for flow, there’s something for everyone.

Last but not least, Matt is also the CEO of Automattic, which is valued at $1-billion+ and has a fully distributed team of 300+ employees around the world. I’m honored to be an advisor, and I’ve seen how they use incredibly unorthodox methods for jaw-dropping results.

But… he started off as a BBQ-chomping Texas boy with no aspirations of empire building. How on earth did get here? Just listen and find out. It’s one hell of a story.

You can find the transcript of this episode here. Transcripts of all episodes can be found here.

Ep 61: The Benevolent Dictator of the Internet, Matt Mullenweg


This episode is sponsored by OnnitI have used Onnit products for years. If you look in my kitchen or in my garage you will find Alpha BRAIN, chewable melatonin (for resetting my clock while traveling), kettlebells, maces, battle ropes, and steel clubs. It sounds like a torture chamber, and it basically is. A torture chamber for self-improvement! Ah, the lovely pain. To see a list of my favorite pills, potions, and heavy tools, click here.

This podcast is also brought to you by 99Designs, the world’s largest marketplace of graphic designers. Did you know I used 99Designs to rapid prototype the cover for The 4-Hour Body? Here are some of the impressive results.  Click this link and get a free $99 upgrade.  Give it a test run..

QUESTION(S) OF THE DAY: What’s the best productivity tip or tool you’ve implemented in the last year? Please let me know in the comments.

Scroll below for links and show notes…


Selected Links from the Episode

Show Notes

  • How WordPress started | The origin story
  • Defining “open source”
  • How WordPress beat their competition and how to beat the complicate-to-profit business model
  • The long term outlook and core product characteristics that has empowered the growth of WordPress
  • Describing Automattic, and how it was founded with a purpose to kill spam
  • Experiments in polyphasic sleep, girlfriend complexities, and Dvorak typing
  • How is Automattic differs from the average tech startup, and challenges of a distributed workforce
  • Thoughts on where to draw the transparency line when running an open-source company
  • Delving into the secret benefits of tequila
  • Matt Mullenweg’s useful laptop and smartphone apps
  • Turning it around on Tim: Intermittent fasting and distilled water fasting?
  • Overworking vices, creating “de-loading” phases and saying “no” to meetings
  • Why we don’t care about the color of the bike shed
  • Musical skills that support coding and other leadership skills
  • Why Matt listens to familiar songs on loop when working
  • Hiring tips: Auditions at Automattic, why use them, and how they work
  • Matt’s view on top-grading
  • Most gifted books
  • Learning to love running
  • Answering Twitter questions: Bootstrapping vs. seed money if starting in 2015, picking a badass suit and last great purchase for less than $100
  • Packing tips
  • The story of losing an investor’s check (nearly a $400,000 mistake)
  • The story behind eating 104 Chicken McNuggets
  • First person to come to mind when you think “successful”?
  • Suggested investing books
  • The role WordPress will play in online content outside the browser (mobile apps, API, etc.) in the near future
  • Books and resources for the 20-year old entrepreneur looking to start a company
  • Stranded on a desert island? Albums and what else?
  • Advice for your 20-year old self?

People Mentioned

The Tim Ferriss Show is one of the most popular podcasts in the world with more than 900 million downloads. It has been selected for "Best of Apple Podcasts" three times, it is often the #1 interview podcast across all of Apple Podcasts, and it's been ranked #1 out of 400,000+ podcasts on many occasions. To listen to any of the past episodes for free, check out this page.

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141 Replies to “Matt Mullenweg on Polyphasic Sleep, Tequila, and Building Billion-Dollar Companies (#61)”

  1. Hi Tim,

    I’ve been reading the four hour work week and it really resonates with me. I have always felt that life should be more than working 9-5 and then retiring / dying. I have the ability to work like a madman for a couple months on something that seems promising / inspiring and then usually need to quit. Despite all of the positive things I feel when applying the ideas in your book, one question still remains. HOW THE @#^%!@^ DO I MAKE MONEY? Any concrete and specific help would be appreciated. Love ya! Thanks.

  2. I really enjoyed this one. Matt seems like a super intelligent all around awesome guy… But you gotta love tech people. Matt quickly states how he “doesn’t need much” referring to money… Then goes on to talk about getting fitted for Tom Ford… Riiiiight! We all have our own standard I guess.

  3. What do you think of the combination of the Geek to Freak and the Ubermen program(or polyphasic sleep in general) in terms of muscle reparation etc?

  4. Tim, thank you SO MUCH for this awesome interview with Matt! I’ve been a follower of his since like ’06 since I started working very intricately with WordPress.

    The insights and tips about Polyphasic Sleeping were HUGELY useful for me – I’ve heard about it for years, studied it a bit… but as I’ve recently had a son (about a year now) who often likes to wake us about 3-5 times throughout the night – I thought I would take another look at Everyman and Uberman and try experimenting with it… so I pulled out the old 4HB again and looked at what you had shared there…

    I used that great site to plan my nap schedules, and I’m able to squeeze a lot more frequent DEEP sleep cycles in between my son’s crazy awake-schedule!

    It’s been incredible!! I’ve felt about 1000% more rested, gotten more work done, and actually have MORE time in the day since I’m only sleeping about 4 hours in total for now.

    I was a big practitioner of the “power nap” for years when I was still a working stiff in the 9-to-5 life – so I incorporated some of the old 20-minute binaural music I used to use to get a fast, deep nap, and the Sleep Time app which I can set a time and it will wake me according to my cycles with a light birdsong 🙂

    So, thank you again for another great productivity gain!

  5. Fasting: You’ll want to check out “Prana” fasting called, “Nirahara Samayama.” You can start it once per month w guru Sri Nithyananda for free at Nithyananda dot tv.

    Have done it three times. Once I started with really lousy blood work I’d had taken. And, forgotten I had to do another blood sampling halfway through the fast (about ten days). I groaned thinking it would be the ultimate swan dive into the Grand Canyon. My blood was perfect. Physician, nurse, and myself were all floored. Check it out 🙂

  6. typo on link above – ‘Learn more about GLP’ should be ‘Learn more about GPL’ Open Source folks care a little about this 🙂 Keep up the great stuff Tim.

  7. Walkup app. Forces you to get up when your alarm goes off by making you walk a set number of steps before the alarm will go off. Ensures that I get an hour of ‘me time’ to meditate, read, exercise and plan the day.

  8. Excellent episode Tim. and outstanding set of links to drown in later; all awesome tools. Keep up the great content coming!

  9. Polyphasic sleep seems like a good idea in theory but I’m yet to meet someone that has been able to maintain it. Maybe, Steve Pavlina? But modern life just seems to not allow for an Uberman sleep cycle.

  10. Matt Mullenweg = Good Angel | Duncan Trussell = Bad Angel.

    Uncanny how similar their voices are. It is amazing. I love this guy!

    Great discussion!

  11. I did literally laugh out loud when Matt said something like ‘Most corporate software looks like it’s been created by really unhappy people’

  12. Matt Mullenweg became a mere mortal to me when I read about what he did to Thesis, which was out of proportion to what Thesis’ developer “did” to him.

  13. Well Matt may be a smart guy but he took the risk of commenting on a subject he is clearly not familiar with. He said Telegram uses really good encryption. This is so, so, so blatantly wrong.

    Anyone who knows anything about encyption, and secure messenging, knows that Telegram has a multitude of problems and is as wide open as a sink hole. The internet abounds with papers and articles by world leading security professionals in the field of encryption and secure comms, all blasting Telegram for ”rolling their own crypto” (instead of using an open source, peer reviewed standard – the ONLY way for an algorithm to be potentially secure) as well as a host of other defects. Encryption is not even the default. All your information is saved to their servers. it’s shit.

    The authors don’t even have any credentials in encryption and security – they just say ”oh we’ve got Maths Phd’s’

    Signal is widely praised as the most secure encrypted messenging and voice app. Edward Snowden uses it. The Electronic Frontier Foundation, The Guardian Project, The Intercept, Matthew Greene, Bruce Schneier – they all swear by Signal. WhatsApp has recently come up a few grades – its new encryption is based on Signal and was implemented by the same person. However owing to the Facebook connection many people still say WhatsApp is dubious. Of course a reasonable assertion

  14. This podcast was brilliant. What I loved was that it brought me closer to the founder of WordPress as a person. WordPress is software I have used for blogging and built many sites in as a programmer. I knew of Matt, but it really lights up the imagination to know that such an inspiring guy is behind the software and living an experimental approach to lifestyle.

  15. Thank you Tim for the great interviews and the actionable advice! You introduced me to polyphasic sleep and it’s been a blessing ever since. I use it to have improved creativity and more time at my disposal on a daily basis. This inspired me to write a short how-to guide for beginners. [Moderator: link removed.]