Astro Teller, CEO of X – How to Think 10x Bigger (#309)

“Perspective shifts will unlock more than smartness will.”

– Astro Teller

This is a very short, roughly 10-minute, episode. It explains how to 10x your thinking and your goals, or — put another way — how to escape incremental thinking and think truly BIG. I loved it so much that I now listen to it on a regular basis as a reminder. Perhaps you’ll end up doing the same.

The speaker is Dr. Astro Teller (@astroteller). Astro is currently Captain of Moonshots (CEO) of X, Alphabet’s moonshot factory for building magical, audacious ideas that, through science and technology, can be brought to reality. Astro is also co-founder and a current Director of Cerebellum Capital, a hedge fund management firm whose investments are continuously designed, executed, and improved by a software system based on techniques from statistical machine learning. Astro was also the co-founder and CEO of BodyMedia, Inc., a leading wearable body monitoring company that was sold to Jawbone in 2013.

Dr. Teller holds a Bachelor of Science in computer science from Stanford University, Master of Science in symbolic and heuristic computation, also from Stanford University, and a Ph.D. in artificial intelligence from Carnegie Mellon University, where he was a recipient of the prestigious Hertz Fellowship.

It was recorded as part of A360, a high-end membership group run by past podcast guest and Founder and Chairman of The XPRIZE Foundation, Peter Diamandis. For more on A360 and its digital version (Abundance Digital), please visit and look under “Memberships.”

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

Astro Teller, CEO of X - How to Think 10x Bigger

Want to hear another episode with another inspiring entrepreneur? — Listen to this interview with Debbie Millman, where we discuss how to recover from rejection, how to overcome personal crises of faith, class exercises from her most impactful mentors, and much more. (Stream below or right-click here to download.):

#214: How to Design a Life - Debbie Millman

This episode is brought to you by LegalZoom. I’ve used this service for many of my businesses, as have quite a few of the icons on this podcast — such as Automattic CEO Matt Mullenweg of WordPress fame.

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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 Astro Teller:

Website | Twitter | Medium | Facebook

Show Notes

  • Choice A or Choice B? [04:51]
  • Context matters. [06:41]
  • Historically, war has spurred innovation tantamount to the miraculous. [07:07]
  • What is moonshot thinking — and why should we wait for a war to spur innovation on a Choice B level? [07:47]
  • Are you creating the context for Choice B? [08:33]
  • Switching perspective with the mutilated checkerboard problem. [09:40]
  • Why going 10x bigger is more important and effective than going 10% bigger. [11:29]
  • Imagine you’re Willy Wonka. Your chocolate factory should be staffed by Peter Pans with PhDs wearing t-shirts that say “Safety Third.” [12:21]
  • It’s not just a moonshot when you choose to go big at the high level. [13:09]
  • Perspective shifts unlock more than smartness will. [13:46]
  • A business plan for embarking on weirdness is doomed from the start. Here’s a better perspective. [14:01]

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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26 Replies to “Astro Teller, CEO of X – How to Think 10x Bigger (#309)”

  1. I haven’t listened yet, but YES, I want to hear what this guy has to say. I am currently thinking about how to implement moonshot type ideas at my own company, so this is awesome.

  2. Wow! I tend to love the long format episodes. So maybe because this one is so short, and probably because it’s packed with amazingness, as well as concrete action thinking (my favorite) it BLEW MY MIND. Love and Gratitude 10X !!!

    Thank you! Gracias!! Arigato Gozaimasu🙏🙏🙏

  3. The world is at war on a macro (geo-political/ man vs. man) and micro (personal weakness of heart / self-doubt) level.

    Recently I’ve been waking up to the urgency of this, and am renewing my effort on cleaning up my own act and cultivating my own dharma (the one thing that only I can contribute to peace on earth)

    After a lot of pain and trial and error, It turns out teaching yoga and meditation plus manifesting an animal sanctuary in Jamaica is my thing. I really hope we can all find our true calling and get to work! 😀

    Astro’s statement right at the end is exactly what I need to hear.

    “Have faith. If you solve that problem, the money will come find your organization.”

    I could listen to this statement all day.

  4. I think your yurt location options in Texas could have potentially just gotten 10 X bigger 🙂

  5. Thanks a lot to Dr. Astro Teller from bottom of my heart. Also I would like to thank you Tim for sharing this. It is some thing like very precious and I got it free. A small one but I hope this will work amazingly if perfectly implemented.

  6. Tim – THIS is sooo well-timed and speaking directly to the likes of me.

    People look at the way I do my work and either think I’m nuts and distance themselves, or tell me to stay with it because my approach is just crazy (and sound) enough to actually work… and occasionally someone will even send me a check to cheer me on my way!

    My office DOES look more like the chocolate factory (hey, I even eat chocolate every day for breakfast:) than an incubator, I am definitely weird, and I have such an audacious, ridiculous vision that I’ve only spoken it aloud to about three people, lest anyone shoot it down.

    I work solo, so I need to #1: tend my bottom line, focus and unbridled joy, and #2. divide my time between sensible, logical daily tending of things, and moonshots/long shots (like when I met Deepak Chopra last week:) (or saw Darryl Inaba again the week before)… mixing in those moonshots with the daily chopping of wood and carrying of water.

    I’m just so thankful to hear someone with Astro’s obvious brilliance AND history of accomplishment saying what my gut has been telling me all along: don’t go back behind the desk(s) or into other people’s job descriptions (where I was for 22 years!). Stay weird, stay the course, and remember: Safety Third!



  7. Tim, David Kuckherman in Asheville is awesome as we all play in a drum circle every friday at 5pm in the main town square. If you haven’t been to asheville you really need to visit.

  8. We are conditioned to believe incremental behavior will harness exponential gains.

    Time to shift perspectives.

    Hell of a way to wake up.

    Thanks Tim!

  9. I am looking for an episode. I can’t remember the name.

    Tim was not interviewing anyone, but he was talking about how he interviews people.

    He talked about what questions he asked people and interviewing style. Dose anyone know the episode I’m talking about?

    1. I found it. Just in case you are wondering the episode name is (How to Build Popular Podcasts and Blogs)

  10. 5 Bullet Friday mentioned Dealt the documentary. I agree it is an amazing documentary and Richard is an amazing person. I help to organise the a Magic Convention and we had Richard there this year and needless to say he was the star of the show. I think he would make a great Podcast guest or even just an inspirational blog. Happy to connect you if you like.

  11. Ferriss, I can find anywhere to write this but the reomcnehation to watch Dealt was one fo the best things I have got form you, and I have hundreds.

    Ii just felt the need to write it somewhere. What a beautiful story and it made me so content. I literally have no words but am so glad I know about this gem that I can share with anyone.

    People watch DEALT about Richard Turner.

    Legend Tim, legend…

  12. Hi Tim,

    Felt like this episode was a bit oversold at the beginning. The value is definitely there but if it could be summarized and it would be possible, it would look like this:

    1. Think of x10 rather than 10%.

    2. Train your mind to think big.

    Someone could write a book about this and the conclusion would probably be the same, but the good part is that it was rather a short episode. Starting to think of it, I think Grant Cardone actually wrote a book with a similar title.

    Looking forward to other short and valuable episodes since it might be a good idea from time to time, only if you make sure it is really that important that it shouldn’t have much fluff around it.


  13. Hi! I wanted to ask, why do you say your voice used to be an insecurity of yours?

    I found about you from the Bigger Pockets’ podcast a couple of months ago and besides the great content, your good look (you being an improved version of Wentworth Miller/Jamie Dornan), your voice is the other reason I love to hear your podcasts now, so it surprised me to hear that it used to be an insecurity of yours. All this just to ask why and to say that your voice is beautiful. Thank you!

    1. Ya, I always liked his voice too. Although, I started by reading his books… So it’s not exactly what I expected.

  14. I think Astro is a great salesman. Thanks Captain Obvious about the point of changing perspective is one technique to solve problems that are often breakthroughs. Two ironic points. 1. He says that Departments of Innovation almost never innovate anything worthwhile, yet he runs an entire company predicated on that notion. 2. What breakthrough products have come from X in 8 years of trying?

    There isn’t a formula for innovation. Sometimes it comes from hard work and tweaking something incrementally 100s or 1000s of times and other times it comes from a new approach. Much of this innovation occurs in the normal product development cycle by mainstream teams (that aren’t composed of Phds).

  15. Wow, really applying what he spoke about here to my life and business. Thanks for posting this Tim!