Daniel Pink — How to Make Better Decisions and Be More Creative (#305)

Photo credit: Nina Subin

“Say something important rather than say important things.”

– Daniel Pink

This podcast explores how to make better decisions, ask better questions, and be more creative. The stories range from escapes to India and speechwriting for Al Gore, to writing bestselling books and using “motivational interviewing” with kids.

The guest is Daniel H. Pink (@danielpink), the author of six provocative books, including his newest, When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing. WHEN is a New York Times, Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Washington Post, and Publishers Weekly bestseller. Pink’s other books include the long-running New York Times bestseller A Whole New Mind and the #1 New York Times bestsellers Drive and To Sell is Human. His books have won multiple awards and have been translated into 37 languages. Pink lives in Washington, DC, with his family.

Daniel was the host and co-executive producer of Crowd Control, a television series about human behavior on the National Geographic Channel. For the last six years, London-based Thinkers 50 named him as one of the top-15 business thinkers in the world. Enjoy!

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

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Daniel Pink — How to Make Better Decisions and Be More Creative

Want to hear another podcast with incredible life advice?In this episode, I talk with Adam Robinson, Ramit Sethi, and Josh Waitzkin and discuss a variety of topics on business, wealth, and happiness (stream below or right-click here to download):

#210: Becoming the Best Version of You

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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 Daniel Pink:

Website | Twitter | Facebook

Show Notes

  • Daniel talks about one of his “best ideas that didn’t go anywhere.” [07:53]
  • Even though he didn’t pursue a career in law, what did Daniel gain by going to law school? [10:57]
  • The role of surrogation and intellectual humility in decision making. [15:40]
  • How did Daniel go from dropping out of law school to speechwriting for Al Gore? [17:54]
  • Why did Daniel veer away from a career in “the genus of” politics despite a lifelong fascination? [20:20]
  • How has Daniel become a better speechwriter? [24:49]
  • We share a love for John McPhee’s ability to write a gripping tale about anything. [38:43]
  • What is motivational interviewing? [41:33]
  • To what does Daniel attribute the popularity of his book A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future? [47:36]
  • Is there a common thread through Daniel’s books? [52:58]
  • What has been the most difficult book for Daniel to write — and why? [55:43]
  • What do Daniel’s book outlines look like, and how can he distinguish between a good approach and a bad approach? [58:15]
  • Why early- to mid-afternoon is a time for caution. [1:03:19]
  • Moving through the day in three stages, and what Daniel wishes he’d known about cognitive abilities earlier in life. [1:05:21]
  • When does Daniel usually wake up, and what do the first two hours of his day look like? [1:10:43]
  • When Daniel is in the process of writing a book, what does his typical week look like? [1:15:00]
  • Does Daniel take set periods of time between writing books? How does he decide on a new project? [1:15:31]
  • On pitching a bad book idea to Kevin Kelly (among others) and the arguments against it. [1:20:06]
  • How Daniel knows he has a good idea for a book. [1:22:30]
  • How does Daniel keep track of the ideas he saves for potential projects, and what gets picked after removing the “flies from the soup?” [1:25:10]
  • Don’t know what you really think about something? Sometimes you have to write to figure it out. [1:28:43]
  • How Daniel formulates his book proposals. [1:34:30]
  • An important question to ask at the proposal stage: “Who is not going to buy this book?” [1:38:15]
  • Pondering your target market isn’t always an exercise in political correctness. [1:45:13]
  • How Daniel turns memorable failures into teachable moments. [1:46:42]
  • A technique for remembering and learning from missteps: the failure resume. [1:52:19]
  • What books has Daniel gifted to others? [1:55:19]
  • Why is Daniel currently obsessed with dystopian fiction? [2:00:11]
  • “Assume positive intent” as a default setting. [2:01:14]
  • Catching up, good words to use today, and parting thoughts. [2:04:51]

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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18 Replies to “Daniel Pink — How to Make Better Decisions and Be More Creative (#305)”

  1. Tim: check out lost empire herbs for pure mushroom extracts. With all due respect, Foursigmatics mushrooms do not light one up like a Xmas tree. They make a nice product suitable for the average Joe, i.e., mild which won’t scare the beginner.

  2. Listening to Daniel Pink’s Ted Talk on motivation 8 years ago was a moment that changed and focussed my core beliefs. Thank you! I have recommend those 18 minutes to many people. Autonomy Mastery Purpose. When I saw his name pop up as the next podcast, I thought, wow, where has he been all these years. To my surprise, I missed a bunch of books, a TV show, and many other opportunities to learn. Part of this could be that I did not really learn how to read until 4 years ago (that’s an odd story). Taking a step back, I think I blocked Daniels subsequent projects from my awareness out of fear. Fear that my 18 minute guru would let me down in some way and tarnish the learnings I valued. Well it looks like Dan has done very well in his role as a condenser of knowledge. I now have some catching up to do.

  3. Hi Tim, I’m after a book that you recommended on one of your 5-bullet Fridays over the last 1-2 months. It was fiction and you described it as funny. Do you remember which one I’m referring to?

  4. Hey Tim,

    I loved the way you guys talked clearly and creatively about ingredients of a book proposal.

    I am about to write one.

    Thanks for enriching,


  5. TF is a HORRIBLE interviewer. Not sure why he didn’t ‘hack’ the best practices of the best interviewers in the world to learn how to do it right. The Daniel Pink interview was such a wasted opportunity. TF loves to ask about writing best practices because he is a writer, but 1% of his audience is writers! No one cares! TF, put yourself in your listeners’ shoes. I would have loved to have learned more about Pink’s book. Instead I heard them talk about where TF grew up and way too much about uninteresting, random topics. So tired of ridiculous questions like what the interviewer would put on a billboard or most gifted books. We want actionable items! I’m done with this podcast.

  6. Hi Tim – Daniel mentioned working for Al Gore. I think it would be fascinating to get him on your show! Not sure if you have tried? I’m interested in hearing more about his push to educate people about global warming. It would also be great to have someone on your show who is pushing an agenda to increase awareness about sustainability, conscious consumerism and waste reduction. Not sure if you have heard about well.org? The founders of Thrive Market seem to be heading in this direction, so I think it would be fantastic to hear from them on your show as well. Thanks!

  7. Really engaging interview! I found it interesting to note that your Fear Setting exercise involves some self- directed Motivational Interviewing when defining the fear on a scale of 1-10.

  8. Good interview as always. I do find Daniel’s books enriching. I was taken aback, however, to hear him say there is a dearth of well educated, well read people who are also religious. That is simply untrue, as amply evidenced by history and is quite a narrow odd viewpoint for him.

    I am not religious myself, but am grateful to the many thoughtful intellectuals who are and were self described as men and women of god, and have advanced the most important conversations about who and what we are.

  9. What was the title of the book mentioned in this podcast that sounded like Berg by Berg, by Lamont? It was a book that that both Tim and Daniel recommended, when they were discussing books to give as gifts.

  10. Your podcast with writers, journalists, (and stand-up comedians!) are my favorites. I return to them again and again for notes on how to refine your work, develop and decide between ideas, accept criticism, etc. This one with Daniel Pink is so rich and so fun. “Your essay sucks because you don’t know what you think.”

  11. Tim, I just wanted to say I admire your work and I am currently reading the 4-Hour hour work week 🙂 I’m currently a life coach and in the middle of writing a book myself. I’m wondering if there’s a way I can get in touch with you. [Moderator: contact information removed.]

  12. Your thoughtful interview w/ D Pink reminded me of a particular one from Veritas Forum at veritas.org. Here is the intro on it by Veritas Forum:

    “Social psychologist and atheist public intellectual Jonathan Haidt and author and pastor Tim Keller are leading voices in their respective fields. Last week, they sat down with Tamarie Macon at NYU for a discussion on religion, morality and pluralism. Watch curated highlights from the dialogue below:”


    Either or both of these gentlemen would be excellent guests on your podcast. They are very civil in their conversation & offer excellent ways to find common ground (overlap). Given the political tensions of today, perhaps we can learn something from them. Haidt’s book “The Righteous Mind” is excellent. And, Keller seems to be the real deal.

  13. Tim Ferriss is a boss. Dan Pink is a boss. A win-win. I hugely enjoyed A Whole New mind, which led me to When (which I need to dissect again). This is an incredible interview. I honestly can’t think of a better interviewer than Tim Ferriss. He’s honed his skills from his own two interview-based MONSTER books (Tools of Titans and Tribe of Mentors). I’m reading through both as we speak. Thank you, Tim (and Dan)!