“It’s not about being eight hours in an office. It’s about increasing the quality of the hours that you spend.” — David “DHH” Heinemeier Hansson
David “DHH” Heinemeier Hansson (@dhh) is the creator of Ruby on Rails, founder and CTO at Basecamp (formerly 37signals), and the best-selling co-author of Rework and Remote: Office Not Required. Oh, and he went from not having a driver’s license at 25 to winning, at 34, the 24 Hours of Le Mans race, one of the most prestigious automobile races in the world. It is often called the “Grand Prix of endurance and efficiency.”
David is one of the most outspoken technologists out there. He is not one to hide his opinions or mince words.
In this episode, we cover a lot, including…
- The power of being outspoken
- Running a profitable business without venture capital
- Stoic philosophy
- Flow space
- Parallels across disciplines
- DHH’s rules for creating excellence
- And much, much more…
If you only have 5 minutes, listen to DHH’s tips on cultivating a sustainable work/life balance.
Please enjoy my conversation with DHH!
- Listen to it on iTunes.
- Stream by clicking here.
- Download as an MP3 by right-clicking here and choosing “save as.”
Want to hear another episode with an entrepreneur balancing family life? — Listen to this interview with Shay Carl. In this episode, he shares his thoughts on the future of ad revenue, how he balances capturing the moment vs. experiencing the moment, his greatest obstacles in life, and lessons learned as a father (stream below or right-click here to download):
This podcast is brought to you by Four Sigmatic. I reached out to these Finnish entrepreneurs after a very talented acrobat introduced me to one of their products, which blew my mind (in the best way possible). It is mushroom coffee featuring chaga. It tastes like coffee, but there are only 40 milligrams of caffeine, so it has less than half of what you would find in a regular cup of coffee. I do not get any jitters, acid reflux, or any type of stomach burn. It put me on fire for an entire day, and I only had half of the packet.
People are always asking me what I use for cognitive enhancement right now, this is the answer. You can try it right now by going to foursigmatic.com/tim and using the code Tim to get 20 percent off your first order. If you are in the experimental mindset, I do not think you’ll be disappointed.
This podcast is also brought to you by Wealthfront. Wealthfront is a massively disruptive (in a good way) set-it-and-forget-it investing service led by technologists from places like Apple. It has exploded in popularity in the last two years and now has more than $2.5B under management. Why? Because you can get services previously limited to the ultra-wealthy and only pay pennies on the dollar for them, and it’s all through smarter software instead of retail locations and bloated sales teams.
Check out wealthfront.com/tim, take their risk assessment quiz, which only takes 2-5 minutes, and they’ll show you for free the exact portfolio they’d put you in. If you want to just take their advice and do it yourself, you can. Well worth a few minutes to explore: wealthfront.com/tim.
QUESTION(S) OF THE DAY: What was your favorite quote or lesson from this episode? Please let me know in the comments.
Scroll below for links and show notes…
Selected Links from the Episode
- Connect with DHH:
Website | The Distance Podcast | Twitter | Instagram | Medium | Basecamp | Ruby on Rails
- Rework by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson
- Remote: Office Not Required by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson
- The Art of Strategic Laziness by Shane Snow (guest post featuring DHH’s learning process)
- The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich by Timothy Ferriss
- 24 Hours of Le Mans
- 20 of Our Favourite Retro Racing Games by BBC Top Gear
- Levels of the Game by John McPhee
- The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine by Michael Lewis
- What is flow?
- Core Archery: Shooting With Proper Back Tension by Larry Wise
- The Daily Rush (The last of the gaming sites David made around the turn of the millennium — and it’s still around!)
- Bushnell’s Law
- Ruby — “a programmer’s best friend”
- From E-Commerce Expert to NFL Owner: How Gary Vee Is Positioning Himself to Buy the New York Jets by Chad Rubin, Skubana
- I Am Elon Musk, Ask Me Anything about Becoming a Spacefaring Civ! (Reddit AMA)
- Stoicism for Modern Stresses: 5 Lessons from Cato
- The Day I Became a Millionaire by DHH, signalvnoise.com
- 37 Signals Takes Jeff Bezos Investment by Michael Arrington, TechCrunch
- Moral Letters to Lucilius/Letter 18: On Festivals and Fasting by Seneca
- Join 125+ other companies in taking the Work Can Wait pledge
- The Age of Absurdity: Why Modern Life Makes It Hard to Be Happy by Michael Foley
- It’s Always Your Fault by DHH, Medium
- A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy by William B. Irvine
- Punished by Rewards: The Trouble with Gold Stars, Incentive Plans, A’s, Praise, and Other Bribes by Alfie Kohn
- The Myth of the Spoiled Child: Coddled Kids, Helicopter Parents, and Other Phony Crises by Alfie Kohn
- Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel H. Pink
- Turn the Ship Around!: A True Story of Turning Followers into Leaders by L. David Marquet and Stephen R. Covey
- The Origins of Political Order: From Prehuman Times to the French Revolution by Francis Fukuyama
- Political Order and Political Decay: From the Industrial Revolution to the Globalization of Democracy by Francis Fukuyama
- Maverick: The Success Story Behind the World’s Most Unusual Workplace by Ricardo Semler
- Comedian (documentary with Jerry Seinfeld)
- The Big Short (movie)
- Montage of Heck
- New Rules — Real Time with Bill Maher
- Hardcore History — Wrath of the Khans Series with Dan Carlin
- Common Sense with Dan Carlin
- Casey Neistat’s Boosted Boards
- David considers his Leica M 240 “not just a good camera, but a freaking amazing camera.”
- Understanding Exposure, Fourth Edition: How to Shoot Great Photographs with Any Camera by Bryan Peterson
- Composed Method by Kent Beck
- Coding: It’s Just Writing by Jeff Atwood, Coding Horror
- David and I talk about how we first met. [07:29]
- How did David go from not having a driver’s license to racing cars? [09:17]
- What did David do differently compared to others when learning to drive? [15:35]
- Everything’s interesting if you dig deep enough — whether it’s a driver’s manual or writing code. [17:09]
- David describes the flow state he experiences when racing vs. the flow state he experiences while programming. [21:28]
- David’s big aha moment that changed his perspective and brought about the development of Ruby on Rails. [37:13]
- Is picking up a programming language akin to learning a new human language? [46:59]
- David talks about Ruby on Rails and why experienced programmers find it instantly familiar. [49:09]
- Is it more satisfying to be a jack of all trades than a master of one? [53:28]
- David talks about the start of his business ventures with Jason Fried and their first principles [1:03:28]
- David on keeping his business small and streamlined without being negligent. [1:09:24]
- Does David consider himself a happy person? [1:18:34]
- “Expectations — not outcomes — govern the happiness of your perceived reality.” [1:27:00]
- How David and Jason went from the stance of eschewing venture capital to accepting money from Amazon’s Jeff Bezos. [1:31:49]
- For most captains of industry, doing interesting work and taking on new challenges is far more gratifying than retiring. [1:36:06]
- How is money like alcohol? [1:38:33]
- What Seneca had to say on the subject of negative visualization. [1:39:22]
- What has Jeff Bezos gained by investing in Basecamp? [1:40:42]
- On cultivating sustainable work/life balance habits [1:43:50]
- Bad luck vs. bad planning [1:54:21]
- How is David’s “almost pathological” distaste for repeating work part of what makes him a good programmer? [2:01:03]
- Books David has been enjoying. [2:05:56]
- How does David know when he’s being a good parent — and what common mistakes does he see other parents making? [2:10:55]
- What are the habits that have helped David develop empathy — and convey it — as a parent? [2:24:10]
- Who comes to mind when David thinks of the word “successful?” [2:28:21]
- Does David have any business idols? [2:31:15]
- Does meeting your heroes ever live up to your expectations? [2:33:55]
- David’s favorite documentaries and movies. [2:38:25]
- Books David has gifted and recommended most. [2:42:17]
- David’s favorite podcasts. [2:44:25]
- David’s purchase of $100 or less that has had the most positive impact on his life in recent memory. [2:46:29]
- David’s most worthwhile investment of money, time, or energy. [2:52:08]
- Resources that have helped David improve as a photographer. [2:56:52]
- What is beautiful code? [2:59:18]
- What advice would David give his younger self? [3:14:15]
- Does David have a favorite failure? [3:17:05]
- Seth Godin
- Jason Fried
- Tom Kristensen
- John McPhee
- Arthur Ashe
- Clark Graebner
- Michael Lewis
- Martin Fowler
- Chad Fowler
- Scott Adams
- Michael Jordan
- Marc Andreessen
- Nolan Bushnell
- Yukihiro “Matz” Matsumoto
- Gary Vaynerchuk
- Elon Musk
- Jeff Bezos
- Coco Chanel
- Jerry Colonna
- Alfie Kohn
- Patton Oswalt
- Ricardo Semler
- Richard Branson
- Warren Buffett
- Steve Jobs
- Jerry Seinfeld
- Bill Maher
- Dan Carlin
- Casey Neistat
- Amelia Boone
- Steve Huff
- Tobi Lütke
- Upton Sinclair
- Jack Ma
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.
Comment Rules: Remember what Fonzie was like? Cool. That’s how we’re gonna be — cool. Critical is fine, but if you’re rude, we’ll delete your stuff. Please do not put your URL in the comment text and please use your PERSONAL name or initials and not your business name, as the latter comes off like spam. Have fun and thanks for adding to the conversation! (Thanks to Brian Oberkirch for the inspiration.)
38 Replies to “David "DHH" Heinemeier Hansson: The Power of Being Outspoken (#195)”
Probably the best 3 hours I will spend this weekend. Thanks a lot, Tim!
This is really an awesome podcast.Loved the part about quality of work vs the hours put in. Turn off distractions and have 3-4 hours to be at your creative best.
I loved this interview, Tim. Thanks for continually having world class, yet not always ultra famous guests on the show. Also a huge fan of the long form content and podcast episodes. 2.5 hrs and longer are the best.
For anyone else who liked this episode, check out the interviews with Bryan Johnson and Derek Sivers.
Agreed – I love the format.
And Derek Sivers is the man – I listened to that episode twice!
Great podcast! This is super helpful for people seeking to become a great programmer. DHH is facinating.
This is a great podcast – I have been a long time listener (and reader of your books)
As a professional software developer – I have always applied your ideas of learning and productivity to programming.
However, I would really enjoy it if you spoke to and interviewed top performing programmers and software developers.
Do you have any plans to interviewing more top performing programmers?
I think a lot of people would like to see this.
I think you’d find it interesting to experiment with learning to code and software engineering in a short period of time – there are key differences between learning to speak with a machine and learning to speak with other people that I think would provide a lot of interesting contrast for you that applies to other engineering, technical, and applied science disciplines that you have not touched on as much.
“Do you have a failure or apparent failure that set you up for future success?” I loved the line of questioning that led to this question. That was Jedi interviewing skills at work!
“being good 5 things in top 80th percentile” same here though i’d say it depends on context, some problems are more ameniable to attack ( aka being best/ notible), and they aren’t always what you think. e.g. by studying ice, figured out how to make glass like ice, gem like ice…and that lead me by accident to discovering a entirely new approach to brew coffee and tea vanilla etc, super concentrated super fast relative to the those used industry ( i make better coffee than an $20k espresso machine with only $10 in parts)
when i teach programming its easy to relate the code to practical narrative in natural language, i usually use peanut butter and jelly sandwich, nouns tend to be objects and classes, verbs methods, adjectives variables. and yes, prose, haiku even comedy, its sometimes an elegant minimal description and sometimes a surprise or punchline.
photography is also a passion of mine but primarily for documentation of projects, social media can be a huge waste of time.
honestly light is way more important than most modern gear that’s aiming for web as target. ipad/smartphone can do white balance and depth of field well enough for most peoples practical needs, and even with slow mo.
partly to prove point, 4h ww style planning on doing first pass at my first Kickstarter only using the ipad,
Just wanted to say I appreciate the show notes. This really helps those of us who may not always have the time to listen to the entire show. Thank you for your work.
Really resonated with the concept of large blocks of time, on the order of 3-4 hours, to get meaningful work done. This is a huge issue for me. I never escape for more than 30 minutes without something urgent popping up. I’d love to hear a podcast interview on the same topic with Cal Newport, author of “Deep Work”. He’d say the same things about meaningful output in a distracted world, but perhaps we could get some creative ideas around how to actually shut out the rest of the world to get those precious large blocks of time. Or perhaps get some alternative strategies for those who can only seem to block 30 minutes at a time. It’s all about training the people around you to your schedule, but sometimes the world doesn’t want to wait.
“Life is long enough and if I pay attention to it, if I do my negative visualization, I can truly make the hours count with Colt, with Dash, with the family, and then I’ll be happy when it’s over.”
One of the best episodes so far!
I love all your work Tim, and really love your generous nature, and if I could send you a private message I would do that rather than this public one, which might be misconstrued. I have read all of your books, listened to perhaps 120 of your podcasts, and I write to say in the spirit of constructiveness, that this podcast has been my least favorite. Obviously DHH is an impressive man with crazy-beautiful accomplishments. However I felt this podcast droned on and delivered few insights for the time invested. It was about three hours too long. I thought I aught to say this because it was the first of your podcasts where I felt robbed of my time, and thought that if I felt that way, maybe others did as well, and perhaps you might want to know that, for whatever it’s worth. I want to hurry and say that I find your work fantastic, your story awesome, and hope that what I have said above is not looking too closely at a gifted race horse.
Cheers, and here’s to you Tim.
I listened to it on double speed and it was just right 😉
It’s about increasing the quality of the hours you spend.
It’s always my fault.
That was sweet, sour, and empowering.
Especially loved your question of what we can work on now that can have a lasting impact in our life.
It seems like you’ve covered explorers into the mountains, surface of the ocean, but not yet into the ocean.
May I suggest you look into Fabien Cousteau?
He’s done a great work under the sea, including living 31 days under the water, showing how Earth is changing (and writing more than 10 publications from the data gathered during this time)
You can see him in action at TED here:
Met with him at OTEC symposium in Amsterdam, past week, and would love to introduce you two to each other!
Tim, Before DHH mentioned Alfie Kohn in the interview you had mentioned the importance of competition. Kohn has an older book out you may find interesting, it presents the other side of that argument – No Contest: The Case Against Competition –
I have been a devoted listener for a little over a year now… I’ve lost count of how many of these Guests I sit here listening to thinking… “It’s like they are in my own head!”
This one in particular I would like to try and give you a thought on. I believe many of your guests have this same mentality, but it really stood out with DHH.
One maxim I live my life by is…
“When you know how something works, you can make it do what you want.”
Obviously, this is not all encompassing. You can’t break the Laws of Physics currently. But on the other hand, it’s awful difficult to drive a stick shift, if you don’t know how a clutch works. I think this is a very succinct statement for much of what your guests talk about, and I think your listeners would benefit from this too, if you put it out there.
I was most impressed by DHH’s courage to talk about children being absolutely deserving of respect and empathy for the compromised positions they are in. In my words, involuntarily “trapped” with people they didn’t choose. Therefore as parents one must work hard to show children through reason and evidence, and positive example, why doing certain things makes sense. DHH subtly pointed out the contradiction in adults telling children they can’t use technological devices “too much”, while the adults don’t follow their own advice. The way to a better world is raising children peacefully. I love that he has researched good parenting and seems to understand the value of being available…now, don’t send them to government schools!
Truly truly truly Tim, you really are producing some of the best content on the web in my opinion. It so damn nourishing and stimulating. This has to be one of my favourite shows of everyhting you’ve produced and that’s saying something. there are other great interviews out there (check our Andrew Denton’s old TV show from Australia) but where you really take the cake is the value-add after the show – the show notes, the breadcrumbs to other interesting people, books, sources. And so on….
Is there any supplement that you know of the helps to utilize oxygen
I thought the Matt Mullenwegg podcast couldn’t be outdone – you proved me wrong! Many incredibly insightful topics in this one. I particularly liked – keep pulling the thread, making code / writing beautiful. The attitude of being a programmer vs making things with programming. David has a great attitude.
Great interview and big parenting take aways.Thank you. The one thing that rarely gets addressed in these interviews is finances. ex. DHH said he took a job for $15 an hour when he first started. For most of us, we could not afford to do that. I want to know how he did this. Did he live on ramen or was he a trust fund kid? I would love to hear the “how” when guest talk about seemingly “hard times”. Love your podcast and thanks for all that you do.
Amazing conversation. Great to hear DHH’s advice on maintaining work life balance and having a broad range of interests. Thanks Tim
This honestly is one of my favorite podcasts yet.
I have driven to Prague and back from Brno, Czech republic and at home I am thinking: it went so fast. I did not even finish the podcast. And then I looked why and saw this conversation had 3 hours and 24 seconds. Love that. Even it it was twice as long. You are doing an amazing job Tim giving us the opportunity to get to know these people. Amazing. Thank you.
Awesome, especially to hear how David first started programming. One of my top five favorite episodes.
I knew little about DHH before this podcast.
Programming is the kind of thing that bores me to tears yet he made it sound fascinating!
To my surprise, this has been one of the most informative and interesting podcasts I’ve ever listened to and it’s three and a half hours long!!
Thank you Tim for the hard work and persistence.
Thank you DHH for the wisdom and generosity.
Listening to the section on audiobooks and narrators making or breaking them reminded me of one that I listened to recently where the narrator really made it come alive. It was “The Music Lesson” written by and also narrated by Victor Wooten. With background music also played by Victor.
Does anyone know the Twitter account that David described as “terrorists from the past”? The one that described the media/public’s reaction to books, comic books, Dungeons and Dragons, iPads, etc. as being terrible and dangerous things for our minds. Or does anyone know of a good source to find examples of that from history? Thanks!
Really enjoyed that. Especially the idea that company values should be something that reasonable people can disagree on. Such a simple yet challenging concept!
Thanks Guys, I can’t say why, but I had a difficult time with this one. There is definitely some gems in there though. Probably just me….Lol
Thanks Tim. Great interview!
David is one of the rare voices in the SaaS industry. I’m glad he and you explain the benefits of bootstrapping a business and taking venture capital is not suitable for everyone especially for people who don’t want to manage a bunch of people.
Thanks for interviewing David!
Thanks for the beautiful pictures with Dayd
It was a good article
Glad to be familiar with your site
Just wanted to say I appreciate the show notes. This really helps those of us who may not always have the time to listen to the entire show. Thank you for your work.
Thanks for this great article
Agreed on the podcast – it’s incredibly informative. Additional DHH content here: [Moderator: link removed.]