The Most Feared and Well-Liked Journalist in Silicon Valley – Kara Swisher (#218)


“Smart people like to be challenged and they like smart people challenging them.”

– Kara Swisher

Kara Swisher (@karaswisher) has been called “Silicon Valley’s most feared and well-liked journalist” by New York Magazine. Here’s just one example: you can graph the impact on Yahoo’s stock price by various posts by Kara. That’s just the tip of the iceberg.

She attended Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service prior to changing course to journalism. It turns out many of the skills that would make a good spy are those that make a good journalist: developing sources, asking good questions, scenario planning, and much more. She forged her reputation at the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal, and now she spends the majority of her time as Executive Editor of Recode and the host of the Recode Decode podcast.

Over the last 11 years and alongside Walt Mossberg, she has also co-produced D: All Things Digital, a major high-tech conference with interviewees such as Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and many other leading players in the tech and media industries.

In this podcast episode, she and I cover a lot of subjects, enjoy quite a few laughs, and dig into details you can readily apply and test yourself. Topics include:

  • The art and craft of good questions
  • Lessons learned and favorite moments from interviewing Steve Jobs
  • What separates good from great journalists
  • War stories, missed opportunities, and “optimistic pessimism”

I hope that you enjoy this episode with Kara Swisher!

#218: The Most Feared and Well-Liked Journalist in Silicon Valley - Kara Swisher

Want to hear a podcast with another influential journalist? — Listen to my conversation with Ezra Klein. In this episode, we discuss influencing the rules of the game by which this country is run (overall politics — not partisan), how Ezra lost 60 pounds, and his ascension into the ranks of the most respected media companies in the world (stream below or right-click here to download):

#208: Ezra Klein -- From College Blogger to Political Powerhouse

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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 Kara Swisher:

Twitter | Recode | Recode Decode podcast | All podcasts under the Recode umbrella | Instagram

Show Notes

  • What separates a good journalist from a great journalist? [05:46]
  • The skills someone should have if they’re striving to be a great journalist. [06:16]
  • Why didn’t Kara pursue her original ambition of being a spy? [07:37]
  • Kara is both offended and fascinated by propaganda. [08:44]
  • How does Kara discern fact from fiction and cultivate her sources? [10:10]
  • No matter who you are, Kara has no problem calling you out on what everyone else is afraid to tell you. [14:38]
  • How has Kara avoided the trap of worrying about what people think of her? [16:46]
  • On false dichotomies and not just accepting whatever’s being offered. [18:12]
  • Kara talks about epiphanies that led her to leave comfortable jobs in pursuit of something more. [19:55]
  • Can someone be taught not to care too much about what others think? [21:06]
  • Resist conformity — lessons from Cato to Philip Zimbardo to Kara Swisher to Wolverine. [23:26]
  • “Smart people like to be challenged, and they like smart people challenging them.” [27:10]
  • Who does Kara rely on to tell her when she’s wrong? [30:45]
  • A time when Kara regrets not challenging someone’s statement. [32:52]
  • Kara’s take on reality distortion fields and Steve Jobs’s “aggressive” charisma [34:27]
  • Has Kara ever regretted hitting someone too hard in print? [41:04]
  • When did Kara first believe she could make it as a journalist? [43:03]
  • Kara says she’s a terrible teacher, so she recommends these books to aspiring writers and journalists. [45:00]
  • What makes a great event? Kara relates it to her love of theater. [49:23]
  • An unsatisfying habit. [53:02]
  • How does Kara choose which projects to take on and which projects to reject? [54:57]
  • Kara says a lot of her high-functioning behavior probably stems from one tragedy in her early life. [57:45]
  • Kara talks about her stroke five years ago. [1:00:17]
  • How does Kara want to be remembered? [1:03:55]
  • The keys to good parenting. [1:07:14]
  • If Kara had to give a TED Talk about something for which she’s not well known, what would the topic be? [1:15:54]
  • Who comes to mind when Kara hears the word “successful?” [1:16:39]
  • What would Kara’s billboard say? [1:19:57]
  • Favorite failure? [1:24:05]
  • What advice would Kara give to a younger version of herself? [1:30:00]
  • In a world of chaos with cynicism seemingly on the upswing, Kara considers herself an optimistic pessimist. [1:35:12]
  • Kara talks about her patriotism and the famous speech she carries with her everywhere. [1:37:02]
  • These days, Kara enjoys baiting “sore winners.” [1:40:48]

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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95 Replies to “The Most Feared and Well-Liked Journalist in Silicon Valley – Kara Swisher (#218)”

  1. I have to admit, that this was so far the least valuable episode to me. There was not a single model to copy. Kara also have multiple times uttered phrases like “I am better than anybody”, which to me sounds emotionally immature. Also a lot of criticism of other people and almost no praise. Such a contrast to wonderfully talented and wise Arnie from the last episode

    1. We must not forget the value of contrarian attitudes or belief systems. Positive praising attitudes should be countered with what sometimes sounds negative but is often just realistic. There’s a great book called “The upside of your darkside” if you feel that you only favour positive points of view.

    2. fully agree with Andrew. I just heard Kara’s voice tone, I immediately din’t like her, for me her tone seems to tell she is arrogant and selfish. I have no wish to learn something from her.

    3. Kara is arrogant and selfish. It is heard from her voice tone after 2 seconds of listening to episode. I don’t want to learn from her.

    4. I was going to disagree but then I heard what she said to the teacher. Wow. For someone most people have never heard of she is really full of herself. A good teacher is much more successful than most people for all they impart onto our youth.

    5. Ditto. Although some of the stories were interesting, wow this woman is overwhelming. What an ego. Up there with Sophia Amoruso as the most difficult podcast to get through.

  2. Kara Swisher! I need a mentor like her for so many reasons. So many gems in this episode but two things that struck me: 1. She told her kid’s teacher that “this shit is stupid and doesn’t matter, trust me, I’m more successful than you” and 2. She carries the Gettysburg address in her purse.

    Her attitude towards her kids and how they perform in school is so refreshing. She’s absolutely right that they don’t need to be so tightly wound at a young age and that they’ll never need to know most of that stuff. I have a great kid who is a great person and I’m tired of teachers suggesting we put kids on drugs so they perform better on stupid standardized tests. If that’s not setting them up for a life of failure, I don’t know what is.

  3. I too found this disappointing. I thought they would mention all the articles coming out about how Silicon Valley is full of liars, fraudsters and rip-off artists. Basically there’s a lot of articles saying that there are lot of companies losing money, producing nothing and telling investors other that they are geniuses. And I thought for sure she would go after Peter Thiel who used HulK Hogan to destroy gawker for outing him as gay.

  4. The Andrew Lloyd Webber musical where the cast was on roller skates Ms. Swisher was referencing is called Starlight Express.

  5. “Kara’s a bit full of herself” would be an understatement. It was incredibly off-putting for me and I did not get much value out of this episode. Definitely prefer other episodes with guests who balance their talent with humility.

  6. Great podcast, Tim. I haven’t felt this encouraged or or excited in a while!

    It’s really great for me, as a contrarian, unapologetic bi woman, to hear that people like me can be honest and thrive even in the US culture of today.

    Thanks for the LGBT role model, Tim! I think I can honestly say that I’ve NEVER had one who inspired me this much.

    I’m fangirling so hard right now.

  7. Such an insecure and angry woman.

    She may be a great interviewer but is a terrible interviewee.

    Zero value from this podcast.

    Me me me me me me me….

  8. Wow… subtle, self effacing and humble – she is not. I do like her biz analysis on CNBC. But this seems more like another lesson that some people just want to unapologetically break you at all costs – if you’re in their vortex. Perhaps joining the billionaire in his yoga practice would have been a good move…

    Your work has changed my life Tim – keep up the good fight.

    1. I know both the billionaire and the actor from the event Kara mentioned. She wants to call out a poor school teacher. Kara maybe compare yourself to people above you.

      The yoga posture was tactic to get at Kara which clearly worked. They beat her at her own game.

      Before she insulted the billionaire she tried to cosy up to him. When that didn’t work then she decided to insult him. Both didn’t illicit a response.

      For Gods sake be honest. Kara.

  9. Oh my Lord. She is so full of herself. And downright boring. “I know more than everyone about everything.” Try to tell an interesting story, then.

  10. Tim, like your show, adoring all your books. But the recent episode was nothing else than a self-adulation of that female journalist from SV (I forgot her name :)) that believes to be smarter than anybody else just because she kind of insults people and dares be uncomfortable. She might be a decent reporter, but definitely should not be considered a role model in the way she’s acting. Nothing wrong with being critical and questioning things, but imagine if people like her begin to form the intellectual basis of our society….

  11. Contrary to the comment before me, I found this episode to be empowering. I like that she is concerned with the accuracy of what people say, and I think there is a lot we can learn from her perspective. She is an especially good role model for young women.

  12. Loved this interview. I really like Kara and have enjoyed the reporting and insight that she has delivered over the year. Thanks for a great interview.

  13. Amazing interview. If you listen to what she’s saying, you just might find yourself a bit freer, freer to think as you do, to express yourself as you wish, and to live your own life based on your own fascinations and curiosities.

    This interview requires thinking and listening in a way that’s different than most of the interviews where people are simply saying do this this and this, in a paradoxical manner the conversation is almost circular, circular in the sense the very thing she is speaking of for herself as her own way, her own story, is the teaching if there is a teaching to be had at all.

    Maybe I’m a bit of sycophant for ideas that I hold true as well. Ideas such as not wanting anything from anyone, so much so that it gives me unbound freedom to explore and experience whomever I wish as they actually are, as opposed to what others project upon them.

    This was a lively conversation and had a kind of intimacy and rawness in reality as it is, as opposed to what others wish for others to conceive them as.

    The very nature of what we’re listening to via these podcasts, the news, the stories we ingest, is a form of propaganda and illusion, and she spoke to that eloquently.

    Even the way she answered some questions with the opposite of what she was being asked, forces us as the listener to actually listen to what’s being said as opposed to what’s being said. That’s the very nature of what she does so well, listening for what’s not being said, and seeing from multiple perspectives simultaneously.

    “Lies will flow from my lips, but there may perhaps be some truth mixed up with them; it is for you to seek out this truth and decide whether any part of it is worth keeping.” – Virginia Woolf.

    My favorite quote of all time…

    We are all telling a lie of a kind, a story of some sort, but few of us are willing to expose ourselves to this truth, while in the telling itself.

    I knew nothing of her work or identity before this interview, but it was a pleasure to experience all the same.

    Thanks Tim,


  14. Fuck her ! Well after all she says that about everyone else so she or any of her fans shouldn’t be offended by that curse. Neither should Tim remove it.

    Arrogant lady. She’s not even that successful compared to the very people she criticizes. Nor does she add that much value to the world.

    Tim also seemed a bit intimidated by her. There are many things that are blatant against life’s basic common valued principles.

    Keep these type of people away Tim. They cheap and devalue your podcast.

    We here to learn. She needs to grow up and understand we here to make this world a better place. Grasp this Kara.

  15. She is really fucking awesome. I love how she had a copy of the Gettysburg Address in her bag.

    As a podcaster, I’m always listening to great interviewers and her process is simple, but not easy. Learned a lot, as usual. Thanks Tim & Kara!

  16. I am kinda new to these podcasts. Really like it that you both are film nerds despite your productive personalities, like you have enough time to watch some fun entertainment. I am curious of watching the gritty Wolverine movie, Logan, even though i watched few X-Men films. I just want to leave the suggestion of inviting Mark Hamill into the podcast, just to learn about the voice acting career, his rise to fame, and maybe some nerdy talk about Star Wars and Batman.

  17. A narcissistic ramble, a monotone monologue by a woman who clearly adores the sound of her own voice. For a journalist who claimes she has a conversational style when interviewing, this was a babble fest. I wonder how many minutes Tim was actually able to speak. No lessons to be learned here.

  18. Hi Tim,

    I love your show so thought I would let you know this was a terrible interview for your brand, as arrogant assholes are not usually your bag. You should have called her on it. A missing question was, “Kara, you clearly think very highly of yourself, and aren’t afraid to say so. Do you see arrogance as a key to your success? Should people who exercise humility give that up?” Also, her endless F-bombs became tiresom. She might be a great journalist, but based on this interview, I would say as a person she is a crude megalomaniac. After over a year of listening this was your first miss from my point of view!

    Keep up the great work Tim!

  19. This was definitely the worst episode I’ve ever listened to, so lacking in content. It’s memorable only because of Kara’s endlessly repeated claim that she is better than everyone else, she sounded like a real manipulator, very disappointing.

  20. Hello Tim

    I really enjoyed this one.

    Yes Kara’s self confidence borders on arrogance at times, but so what. That’s why she’s on the podcast, because she’s at the top of her game. I need more of that in my life. I get the straight talking too and don’t have a problem doing that myself, although it can get you into trouble at times.

    I liked her. A good way to judge someone is to think , would I like to have a drink with that person. So yes I would and I think you’d have a good laugh and get a bit of scandal! I think people will love or hate her. She seems like she’d be a good loyal friend, but if you fuck up you’d be getting told straight! I like that in a person.

    Another good one Tim.

    What did I get from this?

    To believe in yourself and back yourself.

  21. A new Top 10 for me. (And have listened to almost every ep…and too was surprised to see the breadth of reaction from the tribe!).

    The episode is laced with nuggets from someone who learnt truth at a very young age: so much to learn in reflecting on that. And some nice new questions and angles from Senor Tim.

    This is two great question-askers, enquirers, in the ring together.

    And many funny moments. Kara is hilarious. A very special episode. EVERYBODY should listen to the detailed description of what you experience if you are having a stroke (1:00)

    My stop-to-note moments included:

    – “What do you lie about to get through the day”?

    – Tim’s question (new?): “Do you remember the first time you thought: I think I could be really good at this”. This will help me in some career positioning thinking. AND Kara’s instinct to hear inside and act on “No, not this any more” and “sometimes you just have to drop something”.

    – Kara’s story of her son, answering briefly “I know” when they were sharing a pain.

    Oh, and the insights into Steve Jobs, and the many angles on parenting and marriage.

    Tim – thanks for the concept of “memento mori”. Off to look for a skull. See you on Tuesday night in San Francisco 🙂

    Thank you Tim and Kara – wonderful privilege to hear you guys kicking the ball of enquiry around.

  22. Seems to be a commonality in a fair number of comments. She is a little stuck on herself but there are far worse things in life. The part I found most entertaining was the Gettysburg Address.

    My father was my 5th grade teacher and he made all of his students memorize the first two paragraphs. It is a great speech by a great man.

  23. Fantastic interview. Unlike a few of the previous comments, I found Kara to be inspirational. I love that you highlight her quote, “Smart people like to be challenged and they like smart people challenging them.” It’s so true. In the age of constant posturing, she remains honest, direct, and true to herself. It is interesting how the interview elicited such a negative response from a few of the listeners. I’m curious whether more men than women view the interview negatively. Our society is used to confident men. It’s unsettling to see women in the same light.

  24. Swisher is terrific and provided a wealth of information in this interview that I’m glad to have. That’s a form of generosity that many listeners seemed to have missed. Yes, she’s sure of herself but she’s got reason to be. She’s also happy to credit others for their great works & intentions. Just an honest, intelligent, supremely observant and alive human being. I’m happy to have made her acquaintance.

  25. Swear on the Holy Cross of Sigma Chi, I fell asleep with the podcast app playing something in my list, only to wake up to hear this woman who was obviously manic as hell, either from a big fat line or perhaps, and I am sure her ex could shed light, missed taking her meds. Wow.

    Tim, that was entertaining- certainly you were like OK, thanks for the Kara scribbles in really fast circles show. Someone get her back on the meds, and perhaps to a meeting.

    I couldn’t fall asleep after receiving all the mania! Wow. Almost like Carrie on Homeland.

    1. Sorry to hear you have such difficulty keeping up with an intelligent, fast-paced conversation. Maybe there are meds for that.

  26. This was literally the only episode for which I have searched for reviews… I was much too curious to see if anyone else’s ears were bleeding by the end or if it was just me!

    As a woman, I love to hear strong women take a stand and unapologetically assert their opinion. Strong women, yes. Witty women, yes. Women who say what they want? Fuck yes. But somehow I feel that being *that* self-assured leaves little room for growth or feedback.

    I don’t want to be a time-wasting internet troll, and I don’t think I’ve written an internet comment since like 2007 – but this was really astounding, in a laughably terrible way.

    Timothy Ferris, kudos for being such a tranquil interviewer in this episode. 🙂 The bright side – and there is always a bright side – is that I have been exposed to a different version of human mind-mechanics, and whether I liked it or not, it has opened my eyes.

    It also goes to show how substantial material “success” arouses a grandiose sense of entitlement – ironically, the very same thing Kara alluded to in regards to *other* successful people. She says (both blatantly and covertly, throughout the interview): “I am more successful than you therefore I know more [and can say/do as I please]”.

    It all felt like one, long, strenuous workout for my eyes and my jaw as both were wide open pretty much the entire time, in utter shock at the hypocrisy of it all.

    Onwards with the typical awesome, non-cringeworthy episodes!

  27. Having listened to all episodes so far, I see this one as a test you’ve passed Tim. You were able to take the high road, and make smart questions, not being rude with someone who, for most people’s opinion, deserved it.

    You, as Josh Waitzkin says to his son, went around. You didn’t confront her, and it was the smart move, it would have spoiled the mood and there were still several useful things being said. She taught us, even if by showing how not to be.

    Tim, you proved yourself an amazing interviewer, ever kind and generous, truly trying your best and making her look better than she otherwise would (the fact she did so poorly is only her fault, to my opinion, had someone else interviewed her, it would’ve been disastrous).

    As always, keep up the amazing work, you add so much value to mine (and so many people’s) live!

    Tip for podcast guest: Shayne Koykzan (watch his ted talk); Cal Newport and Ricardo Semler

    1. As Jobs would say, and one more thing.

      I remember watching her interview with Steve Jobs on youtube a few years ago (both of them), not knowing who she was, and finding her particularly bad, forcing question in a bad and unuseful manner. In the comments I found my opinion was one of the best. It’s truth that you can have a cute puppy video and scroll down on the comments and find nazi allusions and what not. In this case, people were fairly consistent, just like in the comments here in Tim’s blog. They just thought she did a bad job. There were so many comments on her poor performance.. now i believe the link I saw has comments disabled.

      This is just to add another fact. How she managed to keep doing what she does, well, a journalist can get away with a lot as long as they eventually deliver something of value. And in this industry, pushing people until they say something new or polemic once in a while is more than enough, along other strategies she surely employs, as she says herself.

      My conclusion is that she is neither feared nor well-liked. She can mistake being avoided for fear, but is boredom + being full of herself.

  28. Why is it so confrontational for people to hear a woman say “I’m really good at X”? It is so refreshing to hear a woman who is confident in her abilities and achievements. Yes, she is brash and scary, and not super likeable, but she is not trying to be likeable. She is true to herself and she knows her strengths (and weaknesses, without a doubt), and that is incredibly inspiring. Also all of you who are saying this episode was useless, that you hate her because she is arrogant and selfish… I genuinely think you wouldn’t say that so quickly if she were a man. If you don’t find anything of value in this episode, then you’ve never struggled with self-doubt and crippling fear of what others will think of you. Congratulations.

    1. Since my critical comment was the first one in the thread I will take liberty to reply to the following accusation:

      “Also all of you who are saying this episode was useless, that you hate her because she is arrogant and selfish… I genuinely think you wouldn’t say that so quickly if she were a man.”

      If you read your own phrase carefully, you might see that you are committing two very common biases:

      1. “mind reading” (thinking you somehow know what people think, feel and how would they act in certain situation, although you really don’t have any sufficient data to assert that)

      2. “generalization” (you took a lot of very different people of different genders, with different life history and background and lumped them in one group just because they share an opinion on one topic and tried to predict their behaviour as if they were one person, which would not be possible even if it was one person, see above)

      As for her being inspirational, would you really want somebody who says they’re “better than anybody” vs. “i am really good at x”, “better than anybody” is not “confidence”, it’s narcissism, pure and simple, also it cannot be true by default, as you don’t have enough data, to say you’re better than ANYBODY, it will take a whole lifetime to study the works of all journalists and analyse it and even then the data would be too incomplete to make assertions like that.

      1. Hi Andrew, as to the first half of your comment, I was making an observation of a lot of men saying one thing and a lot of women saying otherwise (and thanks for defining generalization for me ;)). As to the second half, “it’s narcissism, pure and simple” is also a generalization on your part. I’m not sure if you’ve ever interviewed job candidates, but I’ve heard plenty of men tell me they are excellent at something or other and yes, occasionally even ‘the best’.

        Additionally, I wish you could experience for one day how ridiculously difficult it is to appreciate your own strengths as a woman in a professional environment, especially one that is dominated by men.

  29. Easily the worst interview so far on an overall awesome podcast.

    Swisher gets upset at someone for doing yoga in front of her, but curses people who want to see her eyes in a conversation.

    My disappointment for her interview evolved to pity for this woman.

  30. OMG! Her voice is particularly annoying that I cant handle it. I had to stop mid way, sorry Tim. Off to The Grey Ave Podcast and hear what Dr. Farley had to say.

  31. People who truly don’t care what others think do not incessantly repeat “I don’t care what other people think!” to anyone who will listen. Her over-the-top tough guy routine made her seem incredibly insecure… which is a valuable lesson in itself.

  32. The best conversation in the series so far….love it or hate it, we should all appreciate when someone speaks so candidly and from the heart…

  33. I have learned a ton from your podcasts and books over the years. You have literally changed my life for the better.

    Unfortunately, this episode was a miss. She’s quite frankly self-absorbed, self-righteous, profane, and obnoxious. Of all your past guests she is by far the last one I would want to be stranded on an island with.

  34. Where do I begin. Wow. Horrrrrrrible.

    She is so insecure and pathetic.

    She speaks about herself as the best, best kids, all knowing…

    I thought it was a joke but it continued ad nauseum.

    For a writer, she sure can’t speak. Constant use of “It’s like, you know, you know what I mean, ummm. All the while talking about how brilliant she is.

    The hate and intolerance of those different than her, is astounding. Her hate for her white male son is scary. Holds him to a different standard because he’s a white male. Judgemental ignoramus.

    Never heard of her before but can imagine she rose through the journalistic ranks because she’s an unapologetic bull in a china shop. Says rude things to people and acts, acts, surprised when they slap her.

    I could go on, but that would require committing more energy to a negative person. A true energy drainer.

    Please do not do a round two with this one.

    Love your interviews, this one is a class A stinker. I could hear in your voice and tone you were feeling the same way.

  35. My favourite quote from this episode was when Kara was talking about letting her son cry, letting him really feel that pain, because she knew how it would ultimately serve him;

    “I was so proud of him for crying… I didn’t want him to be comforted. I wanted him to feel that feeling of being so disappointed about what’s happened politically- and it was good for him.”

    So many people try to simply avoid pain, but this is often where our major growth and insights come from.

    Just one of the many interesting perspectives and insights gained from this episode.

    Thank you Tim, as always.


  36. Did anyone catch the first book she recommended? I’ve gone back and I can not locate “drunken white sail in style as always” haha I’m sure that’s way off but I can not make it out sounds like she’s breathing out her nose as she’s speaking.

    1. My notes say she recommended Strunk & White’s “Elements of Style” (an excellent guide for writers) and 2 books by Joan Didion: “Slouching Toward Bethlehem” and “The White Album.”

  37. Yuck, she was so full of herself. She wanted to come off as if she has the world all figured out. I certainly don’t care to pattern anything in my life after her. The story about how disrespectful she was to her son’s teacher was just gross. To be such a “great” parent, she displayed a very poor example of behavior that will not benefit in the future.

    One extremely annoying thing is that she said she is so concerned with language and the way people use words, but she said LIKE about 1,000 times!

    I LOVE this podcast and have listened about so many interesting topics and to so many interesting people. Kara is not one of them.

  38. I have mixed feelings about this episode. There were some interesting moments about doing what you believe in and nor caring much. However, I was put off by her arrigant attitude. Especially from the moment she said : ‘….I know. And I am more successful than you’ … Of course she has her own definition of success.

    I guess some members of the audience will find her inspiring but I for me success in whatever form has to be balance with humility.

    Final veredict: not a good episode.

  39. Tim, please do not have the likes of her on your podcast again. There was zero take away. She tone and being condescending of anyone she didn’t this to be as good as her left a sour taste. When she told her son’s teacher that an assignment was stupid and she knows because she is “more successful than him”, I wanted to vomit. I love your podcasts Tim, but I am not a fan of Kara Swisher. Admittingly, I didn’t know who she was before you had her on. Needless to say, I won’t be following her for any life hacks.

  40. I read the comments on the podcast and was so intrigued that quite a few openly hated that woman and or thought she was full of herself. Kara doesn’t really give a f * what people think of her. She is her unapologetic self, not trying to hide her impulses, opinions or ideas. She wastes minimal energy wearing masks and that can make some people feel uncomfortable and even repulsed but she puts that energy in her work.

    When I sit in an airplane, I want to ask the pilot how good he is and I want him or her to tell me “I’m the best pilot in the world.” I don’t want a pilot that says, “I’m okay, I’m not the best but I manage you know.”

    Leaders must be the best in the world. It’s not a matter of being full of oneself.

    Constructing criticism is easy, building deeper understanding is hard.

    Thank you Tim and Kara for this podcast. This world needs people that vigorously refuse to be sheep. Otherwise things get incredibly boring. Passionate honesty that shocks holds more life than modest average loved by all.

  41. Would she be able to break so many stories if it weren’t for her tenacity and willingness to call people on their BS? I can’t help but admire the relationships she’s cultivated by her signature stick & carrot approach:

    Swisher took a leave of absence to write a book about AOL, whose executives all seemed to be on her AIM Buddy List. “She would sit on instant messenger all day and harass the shit out of people,” Andreessen says. “She had the most extreme form of the thing where you play one source off the other. She’d say, ‘Well, X says this,’ and she’d word it in such a way that you’d get a sinking feeling, ‘I’m fucked,’ and rise to the occasion and tell her everything.” (NY Mag article from podcast)

    I thought I was witnessing an actual therapy session when toward the end of the interview Swisher dumped the bravado and mused about her failed relationships, but now I’m wondering if this was yet another tactic to lure people into feeling close to her. Either way, I couldn’t stop listening. She’s a master, even if she’s a terrible teacher.

  42. Hi Tim,

    Would you be interested in telling your story and answering questions with my sports psychology class one day this semester? The class is M/W/F 10-10:50 am EST. I teach at Springfield College.

  43. Wow Kara! How about a piece of humble pie? Numerous mentions of how wealthy you are, how your kids are ahhhhh-mazing, your partner is perfect (which come to find out towards the end of the podcast you are actually not even with anymore!!). You call yourself out as being “famous” multiple times. Ug. Really?? So disappointed. I eye rolled through the entire episode. Oh AND… have a filthy mouth. Love ya Tim!

  44. Tim – this was an awesome episode and I am pretty sure that I have listed to all your episodes. Kara was refreshing (yes, arrogant, but real). Sure, she didn’t need to tell off the teacher. But she does point to a truth that we are constantly ranking and being ranked – so why the pretense. The last part about her relationships was a bit much – but overall, lots of nuggets to think through. First time I’ve been motivated to comment on your blog. Bring Kara on for Round2.

    The comments are as fascinating as the interview. Most of the guys hated it, and the gals loved it(mostly). And what’s with – “I hated her voice”. Come on – find a better reason than that. Typical criticism of strong women – there are plenty of guys with irritating voices. How come that is never a reason to dismiss all that they say?

  45. You could benefit from having a woman journalist on your podcast. (Perhaps not Kara, but I know another who might be interested…)

    Why you should hire Tatiana S. Tomich as your Wing-Woman Podcast Assistant in five bullets:

    1. Journalism degree and 4+ years in the industry (broadcast, print, digital), 2+ years writing for a renowned translational bioscience institute, The BIO5 Institute at the University of Arizona.

    2. Having a good-looking, well-spoken, post-grad, millennial yoga-teaching woman on your podcast will (no doubt) 10x your podcast listeners.

    3. I am up for any adventure. (Almost any adventure. I have a boyfriend so don’t get any ideas.)

    4. I can relocate immediately.

    5. I teach yoga, acroyoga, SUP yoga, and can provide guidance through a variety of meditations. I care deeply about the core teachings in the Rig Veda, the oldest yogic text to date. (Overall, I’m confident about my extraordinary wing-woman capacities, and would not offer my time to just anyone.)

    I have references.


    tatiana.s.tomich @

    if interested.

    Tatiana Tomich

  46. In a word, toxic. I turned off the podcast at the teacher comment. “I’m right, you’re wrong because I’m more successful.” Sounds to me like a certain politician she so villifies. Tim, I appreciate the effort to diversify the podcast, but this person is just plain hateful and offers nothing that I would wish to emulate. Please no follow-up on this one.

  47. And I thought Ezra Klein came across as hostile and self-important! This is the first episode I wished the search forward feature moved in increments greater than 15 seconds. I’m searching for the lesson. I love candor, but she takes it a step beyond and makes it seem that simple everyday interactions should be more like a knife fight. Contrast this with the humility, attention to detail and life lessons of a person who has really accomplished something like Jocko Willink and you quickly realize there is no comparison.

    Small Requests:

    1) Have you done any further research on Cissus Quadrangulus?

    2) Can you adopt Hell’s Kitchen rules for the podcast i.e. no religion, or politics. You have mentioned your allergy to these topics, but there’s a trend developing.

  48. I had a great time listening to this and even laughed out loud a couple times. Kara is a unapologetic about her success – it’s unusual, esp for a woman, and refreshing. I can see how she can rub people the wrong way but it didn’t bother me bc I sense she’s coming a good place. I’m inspired by her no bs attitude and confidence. And she’s hilarious – would love to have a drink with her!

  49. Tim,

    We always appreciate you’re amazing guests. I can’t wait for when she plays God in the Morgan Freeman biography.

  50. What fascinating responses from listeners after hearing Kara’s interview. Personally, I was enlivened by Kara’s refreshing, straight-talking perspective…but it seems that her flavor isn’t for everyone, looking over comments. As a long-time people pleaser that has had to grow out of the habit to stifle what’s authentic in order to keep things light (and not have to be vulnerable), I found Kara’s interview motivating. Thanks, Tim!

  51. I think I will re-listen to this podcast probably once per week, so powerful in some points it was for me. About her directness, openness, acceptance, freedom of expression. A truly fascinating woman!

  52. Like 80% of the comments here I have to agree that KS is about as arrogant as they come. Delusional in believing she is the best and smartest at everything. Hard to listen to. It’s all me, me, me. She interviews lucky nerds for a living, but you’d think she was curing cancer. The world revolves around her. What a blow hard! Tim, have you run out of interesting people to interview?

  53. I really enjoyed the episode and it had me dying laughing at some of her ways of being. But, could someone or you possibly compile the books she said she reads every year into one list?

    1. I mentioned above that she recommended Strunk & White’s “Elements of Style” (an excellent guide for writers) and 2 books by Joan Didion: “Slouching Toward Bethlehem” and “The White Album.” Hope that’s helpful.

  54. it’s so rare that women are guests here and I notice there are three women in fairly recent podcasts, all of whom appear to demonstrate very strong masculine characteristics. I find it very unattractive – not their power, but the question of what they may have had to sacrifice. i am aware the masculine/feminine dichotomy is limiting however it does mean something and it’s all we’ve got – so I will express my sadness that, for women, being succesful often means having to embrace masculine or male paradigms.

    The female designer a few weeks back is illustrated with a photo of her wearing knee boots in essence the same as nazi officers wear in old movies, with her feet on the desk. Nothing wrong with women putting their feet on the desk! But it’s just a bit of a ‘tell’ , it has a sub text. If women can retain their femininity with integrity and go out and be powerful without apology AND without being ruthless and stomping on people hearts and minds on the way to the top – stand back men and watch them roar. Anything less is a tragedy.

    I’m a male, by the way

  55. I like the fact that there are such opposing views about this interview. Kara seems to be a hard pill to swallow, but I found this interview both entertaining (Kara is such a character) and also valuable. Kara epitomizes “to thine own self be true”, which to me is the basis of happiness. Knowing yourself, not hiding behind any bullshit, and not caring what people think of you is paramount. I also agree with her perspective on education and what a dismal system it (usually) is. I can see where all opinions about Kara are coming from, and I think the truth is somewhere in the middle. Kara isn’t a Disney character, but she is highly successful and interesting, and definitely worth hearing in this interview. Thanks Tim!

  56. This was so bad. Being a yahoo (ex) employee I’ve always been a fan of Kara’s work but I had no idea how full of herself she was! Also so boring. Really no meat, no substance here, just a lot of useless talking.

    About 20 mins in the podcast, You can tell she’s as shallow as the people she talks about from the Silicon Valley.

  57. The podcast was great even if she came on a bit arrogant. But does she have something to show for herself? You betcha!! It is sad that the vast majority of the guys made a negative comment about this podcast. If you listen to Arnie’s 2nd podcast in a woman’s voice, how does it sound? What if you think of this podcast in Arnie’s voice? It would sound empowering…because it is. When is a 2nd round with Kara coming?

  58. Looking through the comments, I think it’s interesting that almost all the people who found Kara to be full of herself or arrogant were men, and the people who found the interview helpful and interesting were generally women. Kara is great at what she does and works her ass off; I don’t think admitting that means she’s a bitch or arrogant. God forbid a woman takes credit for her accomplishments.

    Glad to know us Caras are kicking ass in the world 🙂

  59. I appreciated this drastic contrast to the emotional fortitude of your typical guest. The makeup of Kara absolutely fascinated me. Her incessant need to stay in her head attempting to rationalize through her emotions instead of simply feel them left me without words. A few times during your interview she dropped into her heart and then quickly got the hell outta there, rationalizing through any hint of an emotion. Through all of her repeated “I’m more successful than you” I heard a little girl who’s incredibly insecure. I hope she realizes that allowing herself to drop into her heart and actually feel her feelings instead of staying in her head attempting to rationalize and think through everything is where the real magic to life lies. I sincerely wish her well.

  60. Gah she dissed starlight express!!!!! Can’t believe it! Was my first Broadway show ever. I loved it we sat right in the middle of the track! 🙂

  61. Think I have listened to 80 or 90% of Tim’s podcasts and have never commented despite them deserving much praise.

    But this time… I could not believe Tim was keeping his cool with this level of empty arrogance being thrown around from a self-serving egomaniac from the first minute (“I’m a better manipulator than you”). I had to stop and read the comments to see if I was just me or was this individual actually so out of touch with reality that she could dismiss so-called successful people as morally or intellectually inferior to her and who needed to be schooled in the “right way” to be.

    So I read, and breathed when I saw i wasn’t alone. But so many other people talked about interesting ideas being said I decided to tune out my personal feelings and keep listening. And boy had I been wrong.

    As you get through the first wall of grating direct language, which may seem disrespectful, you start gleaming the actual (I know it sounds corny) candor, honesty, and vulnerability behind it all. The passion with which she tries to break down our social constructions and never lose sight of what is important, in herself more than in others. And that same arrogance turns to true humility, asking Tim about what he knows, doubting her own self when remembering or trying to decide on her own opinion about something. And slowly you start to feel what at first she actually said straight from the start a lot of people say about her, but which thrown out so bluntly your instinct is to protect yourself from and reject: the soothing freshness of someone not using facades, trying to cut through the BS and just observing and evaluating. No unnecessary self-deprecation, or political correctness, or please-all personality. Just human self and observation and conclusions, flawed or not. Just a brave and high energy person. Bravo. To both.

    1. I have been going back through some podcasts I missed and this was one of them. I did exactly the same as you. I couldn’t believe that Tim was interviewing someone so arrogant so I stopped the podcast and read the reviews to see if I was missing something. It seemed I wasn’t, but I continued to listen anyway. I’m glad I did. I wanted to write a review, but was unable to word it in a way that summed up my perception of this interview, fortunately for me you have verbalised my feelings perfectly in your last paragraph. Thank you. The initial 10 minutes are grating to listen to, but if you continue to listen, really listen, Kara does show appreciation and gratitude towards many people and things.

  62. I tried to listen to whole interview, but couldn’t. As others have said, she is so full of herself, and quite frankly like every other journalist out there. Gee, a progressive calling out Peter Thiel and Donald Trump in typical Silicon Valley fashion. How unique. If we’re going to analyze Trump, the only one I’ve heard get it right is Scott Adams during your Podcast. Now he was a brilliant guest.

  63. I’ve never left a comment about a podcast – but this one really left me conflicted. One of the great things about the VAST majority of people Tim interviews is that they’re humble about their success.

    In the beginning I found Kara to be refreshingly forthright and outspoken, but she ended up being outright obnoxious. The bit about telling the teacher “you’re wrong, I’m more successful than you” was ridiculous – just WAY out of line. That in addition to hearing her assert multiple times that she doesn’t care what other people think while ALSO repeating time & again that she was “the best” at so many things, it became abundantly clear that she’s actually quite insecure. She really sounded like Trump with his “best / classiest / most wonderful” comments. I was going to turn it off but the irony became too entertaining. I don’t think that’s what she was going for…. I don’t care if you’re a man or woman- being a rude asshole to teachers and parents who are “not as successful” as you is just plain wrong.

  64. Some great stuff in there! I would love to be confident enough to call people on their bullshit more freely, as Swisher does. But damn, for someone who gets offended by someone commenting on her sunglasses to then tell a perfect stranger not to order a muffin because she “didn’t want him to eat it” … And goddamn! The teacher thing! Something tells me she’s not really as confident as she would projects. I really believe you can be tough without being an asshole. Maybe she’ll figure that out one day.

  65. I had mixed feelings on this one.

    As a society, we are often blind to the lies we tell ourselves, lies that hinder our own success and happiness. Kids are told they are special and go on to become entitled adults…a woman tells herself that a bran muffin is the ‘good’ choice, and doesn’t understand why she is overweight…Kara’s friends tell themselves they are happy enough so they stay in relationships that they know in their hearts are not what they want…

    Kara’s blunt honesty and lack of pretense helps expose these harmful lies, and I admire that. That said, one can be both honest and humble, as many of your other guests have demonstrated.

  66. Great interview. Kara is clearly very talented and successful. She is also insecure – which is totally understandable, given her life story – and she overcompensates with bravado and confidence. She also shares very personal stories from her life, without fear, and that’s admirable. For all these heterosexual white men who criticise her based on the tone of her voice (haven’t we heard this before?) – take a look in the mirror for once and realise all the invisible privilege you’ve been taking for granted all your life.

    1. Aleskei, race and sexual orientation is an extremely bigoted reason to judge someone (and you did judge all these people based on the fact they are male, white and heterosexual). Kara Swisher has come across as arrogant and didn’t provide much value in the podcast according to most comments in this podcast – pure and simple. We done, what Martin Luther King dreamed of – judged her by her character. What you’re doing is the opposite of that message: invalidating your opponents opinions based on their race and sexual orientation.

      1. Andrew, you did not read my comment carefully. I said that the white heterosexual men who criticise her based on the tone of her voice are unaware of the privileges that they enjoy. You ignored the key part of what I said and claimed that I judged people based on their race and sexual orientation. That’s a logical error.

        It is also quite peculiar that you claim that the perceptions of majority of commenters are the objective reality. Clearly facts are not determined by majority voting, especially of internet commenters. It is also interesting to note that most people who came in support of Kara are female, whereas those who tend to criticise her are male.

        I commend Tim for inviting on the podcast someone who would put a lot of his listeners (by and large white heterosexual males) out of their comfort zone.

      2. Aleksei, I am afraid that you haven’t read my comment carefully either. Nowhere have I mentioned the judgement of people in the comment section to be a general statement about her character: “Kara Swisher has come across as arrogant and didn’t provide much value in the podcast according to most comments in this podcast”. I was opposing your statement, that somehow the sex, sexual orientation of people expressing the opinion matters. I repeat, that I find this approach racist and antithetical to message of Martin Luther King. My comment is the first in the whole thread. I have not criticised her for tone of voice, but what she says and how she says it:

        “I have to admit, that this was so far the least valuable episode to me. There was not a single model to copy. Kara also have multiple times uttered phrases like “I am better than anybody”, which to me sounds emotionally immature. Also a lot of criticism of other people and almost no praise. Such a contrast to wonderfully talented and wise Arnie from the last episode”

        She sound like a bully, especially talking about a school teacher she brought to tears. And neither sexual orientation, race or gender excuse that behaviour. If it makes you feel better, Ezra Klein is a white male, but he came across in similar arrogant and immature manner on the podcast. I do hope one day you will put aside your racist and sexist perspective on people and see them as individuals, rather than member of “privileged” and “non privileged” groups. Such low-resolution oversimplification saddens me and I see it in a lot of people, who one could genuinely call liberal just a few years ago. I don’t know exactly how this radicalisation happened, but it did and I am sad to see you go the same way.

      3. Andrew, I specifically responded to the comment from Marius that read “fully agree with Andrew. I just heard Kara’s voice tone, I immediately din’t like her, for me her tone seems to tell she is arrogant and selfish. I have no wish to learn something from her.” All your long-winded analysis of my response to your initial comment is completely off base, because I didn’t respond directly to you in the first place.

        Further in your comment you ascribe to me statements I didn’t make and you try to drag me into a more general narrative about how people oversimplify and how I’m an example of a radicalisation that’s taken place. I’ve no desire to unpack here all that is wrong with these statements. I’ve made my point and I see no need to prove anything further to you. Have fun.

  67. About four months ago, I started listening to every episode of Tim Ferriss’ podcast show. I really enjoy them more than I can say, and I’ve learned a great deal about so much. I keep a running book list from his guests’ suggestions. However, I really didn’t like this guest’s personality or attitude from the beginning of the show. But rather than just skip to a new episode, which I am not doing because I really want to listen to every full interview, I continued to listen to Ms. Swisher all the way through the interview. I just found her off-putting is the best way for me to describe it. She seemed not to care what anyone thought to the point of very likely offending a lot of people in her life. I don’t think that is why we are here on this earth. I think we need to be honest with one-another, but there is always a way of being productive and motivating to others, rather than likely tearing them down or making the other person feel like they are just valueless. One of the last things she said in this interview, literally in the last thirty second or so, was, “Most Trumpsters are stupid.” What a myopic view she has for someone who has herself interviewed and supposedly gotten to know a lot of people in her occupation. Anyways, I won’t belabor the point, but there was very little I found redeeming in this episode. Not Tim’s fault. He’s stellar and patient, always.