Jason Fried — How to Live Life on Your Own Terms (#329)

“I’m pretty oblivious to a lot of things intentionally. I don’t want to be influenced that much.” — Jason Fried

Jason Fried (@jasonfried) is the co-founder and CEO at Basecamp, and the co-author of Rework, Remote: Office Not Required, and Getting Real: The Smarter, Faster, Easier Way to Build a Successful Web Application. The upcoming It Doesn’t Have to Be Crazy at Work will be out later this year.

Jason writes a regular column for Inc. magazine and is a frequent contributor to Basecamp’s popular blog Signal v. Noise, which offers “strong opinions and shared thoughts on design, business, and tech.”


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

#329: Jason Fried — How to Live Life on Your Own Terms

Want to hear an episode with Jason’s co-author and Basecamp co-founder? — Listen to this interview with David Heinemeier Hansson (DHH) in which he shares his thoughts on the power of being outspoken, running a profitable business without venture capital, Stoic philosophy, and much more (stream below or right-click here to download):

#195: David Heinemeier Hansson: The Power of Being Outspoken

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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…


  • Connect with Jason Fried:

Basecamp | Twitter


  • Is Jason really, as Jeff Bezos once said of him, “immune to dogma?” If so, how much of this is an innate versus acquired skill? [07:14]
  • How does Jason find the sweet spot of deliberate, selective ignorance he intentionally cultivates to avoid unintentional influence by others over his ideas? [10:36]
  • If Jason doesn’t live his life by setting goals, what does his decision-making process look like — personally and professionally? [13:08]
  • How might we try to be more like Jason regarding goals, KPIs, and putting off moments of possible joy — or should we try? [19:16]
  • The incentives of measuring metrics and the reasons for my approach to tracking. [24:00]
  • The genesis of Jason’s attitude toward goals and metrics tracking. [26:05]
  • JOMO and Jason’s case for reading newspapers over online journalism. [28:24]
  • What’s the real wisdom Jason takes from Charlie Munger and Warren Buffett? [32:02]
  • Why Jason doesn’t read fiction, and what he feels is the most important point of Stoicism. [34:36]
  • How negative visualization can be used to make plans and alleviate what might otherwise be constant anxiety. [36:56]
  • Jason and I share early memories of getting in trouble as wannabe entrepreneurs and ninjas. [44:06]
  • The way Jason thinks about business today is just a continuation of when he was 13 and selling knives and other contraband to his friends. [50:30]
  • How 15-year-old Jason finally learned about the consequences of his bad behavior. [51:42]
  • Why Jason didn’t really enjoy college. [56:49]
  • Jason’s first foray into selling software, what he learned from the experience, and how it differed from his earlier enterprises. [57:51]
  • How Jason has used rejection and negative feedback as fuel to excel rather than succumbing to feelings of anger and resentment. [1:02:40]
  • How does Jason minimize time wasting? [1:08:51]
  • What’s Jason’s general template for politely declining potentially regretful future obligations? [1:12:08]
  • Putting the importance of protecting personal time and attention in perspective — no matter who you are — and how to deal with people who don’t understand your boundaries. [1:15:41]
  • Why is a candidate’s ability to communicate well in the written form so important when Jason is making hiring decisions — even if it’s for a designer position? [1:18:16]
  • Jason digs a little deeper into his unique process for hiring designers that ignores portfolios of past accomplishments. [1:22:37]
  • What questions does Jason ask potential hirees about their creative process that lets him know whether or not they’re someone with whom he can work? [1:28:52]
  • What having everyone in a company work customer service on a rotating basis accomplishes. [1:32:07]
  • What Jason recommends for becoming better at written communication, and how the college class he’d teach about writing would focus strongly on revision and iteration — usually ignored by traditional education. [1:34:45]
  • Books I recommend for becoming a stronger writer and how a writing course with John McPhee made me better in all of my classes. [1:40:16]
  • What Jason takes away from the storytelling efficiency of Tom Petty lyrics. [1:43:05]
  • Jason explains his fascination with the design behind watches and chairs. [1:44:49]
  • If Jason could only save three watches from his collection, which three would he pick? [1:48:52]
  • The therapy of prairie restoration. [1:52:01]
  • What can we learn by closely observing the way nature sets conditions for good things to happen rather than trying to force good things? [1:59:56]
  • Jason ties prairie restoration to business building and gut health — “not only creating the conditions for things to thrive, but also not creating conditions for certain things to thrive.” [2:01:52]
  • What would Jason’s billboard say? [2:05:12]
  • Jason elaborates on what this John Rawls quote means to him: “The fairest rules are those to which everyone would agree if they did not know how much power they would have.” [2:06:41]
  • What Jason learned about paying attention to what’s under his feet from a wise gardener on a visit to the Philip Johnson Glass House. [2:08:11]
  • Parting thoughts. [2:12:30]


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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34 Replies to “Jason Fried — How to Live Life on Your Own Terms (#329)”

  1. These people have all kinds of ways to make money by telling people how to be a better entrepreneur. But who’s paying for their health insurance? I never hear any advice about this….

    1. Individual health insurance plans are still available, though at a certain income level it is probably better to pay out-of-pocket. If you are thinking of being self-employed, take your current monthly healthcare cost and triple it. That is roughly how much you might need, to purchase a similar plan without an employer subsidy. I’m mentioning this based on my own experience of contracting for several years and also being self-employed.

  2. Have you considered acknowledging the audio production challenges up front? I loved this episode yet it required relistening due to distraction caused by the plastic/ceramic clicking from Tim’s mic. The reason I ask is because knowing what was causing the sounds in advance would help me focus on content. Otherwise vocal quality was great!

    Thank you.

  3. I think Jason is being disingenuous when he says he does not set goals. It feels more like he wants to be counterculture when it comes to having a certain structure to setting goals. But that does not mean he does not actually set them.

    Tim called him on this when he asked how he decides what is a good decision vs a bad one, but then left it alone after that. Which is understandable, Jason is his guest on his show and the show is meant to be a friendly conversation not a debate.

    I think it’s bad to tell people that they don’t need to set goals at all, if you take that literally then you would wander through life aimlessly. It’s better to say everybody has a different structure to their goals, and that you need to find what works for you.

    1. I truly don’t set or have goals. Not being disengenuous. I don’t strive for anything other than doing my best at whatever I’m doing. No financial goals, no life goals, no bucket list, etc. I just do.

  4. Hey, please, would you mind sharing the Chairs and Clocks links? I would love to see them!!

    I really like to listen from an extremely successful guy who doesn’t abide by the “you must have a goal” norm. It seems to work well for him AND his company.

    I would like to know more of this, how he plans what he needs to do, how far is he comfortable looking ahead and so on. Awesome interview, as always!!

    1. We look ahead about 6 weeks at a time. We have some general ideas at the beginning of the year about what we may want to do that year, but they are simply suggestions. Other than that, we make it up as we go along.

  5. I get the email every time one of these is pumped out. But frankly, I have idea how anyone would have enough time to listen to a nearly 2 & 1/2 hour podcast. I can’t. I would love it if you did a 20 minute “meat and guts” segment. Then I could listen to it. But other than that I just delete the email and podcast link every week.

    1. You could always save up the ones that look good in your podcast manager, and on your next roadtrip you’ll be golden.

  6. Hello Tim.

    Its been really nice and awesome to read your book -4 hours work week.

    And I have also taken this step to email you as one your own strategies that is presented in the book.

    Yes, I became fond of that technique. Being comfortable in getting uncomfortable.

    And doing less things is the NEW RICH. It also hit me hard, as I am always running behind productivity to learn, gain more. Trying to be more, but after reading the book, I think I am gaining insight. Being effective, without being busy. Yes, you are completely right if we do tremendous mindless, ineffective work continuously how can we have the willpower to be effective for our desired work. So, damn cool message.

    At last I wanna ask,

    How can students like me, benefit from 4 hours work week? Only 4 hours a week study is obviously not sufficient. Please drop Your insight. 😊

    Regards (from Asia)


  7. I began listening to this podcast last Winter after reading the Obstacle is the Way. I learn something new every episode, and I’m even subjecting the kids to it for short periods of time (muwahahaha). I think Jason is spot-on about not having goals. As they say, life is what happens while we’re making other plans. I have several close friends who don’t set goals anymore. I didn’t understand it at first; but the more time I lose chasing moving targets, the more it begins to make sense.

  8. I don’t think Tim reads these comments, but I will try some constructive criticism. It never seems like you are having a conversation with your guests. Rather, you have a large list of questions and move from one to the next. There is so much opportunity for you to respond and have a great back and forth but your typical reply after their statement is a nervous laugh and a “yeah totally.” You have great guests but it often feels forced. I would encourage you to put the questions away and just talk to them.

  9. Hi Tim, I just found out from your last 5-Bullet Friday email that you’re planning to visit Ukraine, Lviv in particular – this makes me super happy ’cause that’s my hometown and it’s really beautiful. I highly recommend enjoying a cup of coffee at Svit Kavy’s terrace next to the Latin Cathedral, that’s a very local thing to do. Another tip – one of the best city views opens up from the top of Ratusha Tower (rather than the High Castle as many guides say). I can give you more tips if you want 🙂 Appreciate your work!

  10. The quote in your five bullet Friday by Emerson… “To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment” … It was just on my mind this morning. Lots of synchronicities going on recently it’s getting really interestingly freaky. I found Emerson in University thanks to Dr. John Scheckter and the message of individualism pushed me to always, always pursue a life in line with who I am, regardless of what people thought. Thank you for sharing.

  11. Ukraine – Tim, you gotta go see Andrei Lappa of [Moderator: website removed]. And thanks for all you do 🙂

  12. Hi Tim, I have a question…

    When you were in the rich roll podcast, after saying about pausing and being calm and about the tree full of birds in Washington, you said about driven, aggressive 20-somethings, “…what I’m talking about is not mutually exclusive from like the aggression and the winning in the competition like you can actually have both…”

    here: https://youtu.be/S9qeJ5oKfbo?t=8757

    Would you please explain this? How can anybody get these two states right?

  13. Regarding Tim’s Comment on Patience

    Audio marks: [2:01:13 through 2:01:52]

    Life is attempting to beat this lesson into me:

    Environment is key, and dogmatic application is blindness.


    “S&P 500 is a solid investment”. But under what conditions should I invest in the S&P 500? Certainly not if I lack food.

  14. Hi Tim,

    first of all: I love your podcast and blog so keep up the good work. I would like to make a suggestion though: you reach millions of people through your blog and podcast and I feel like you are missing very important topics about wildlife protection, about plastic pollution in the ocean etc. You could make a huge impact by interviewing wildlife activists or giving people advice on how to live a more sustainable life. IMHO, protecting our forrests, wildlife, oceans etc. is THE MOST IMPORTANT THING to do for this generation so please do not focus too much on money and business but also be an advocate for our mother nature.

    Thank you!



  15. Hey Tim,

    I’m a big fan, with a giant notebook filled with notes from your podcasts and books. I’m writing in regards to the Ukraine trip from the Friday email. Yes, you should definitely visit! It’s a different world out there, different mindset. I am from Ukraine, but I lived in Silicon Valley for about 7 years and now I’m on the beautiful island of Kauai. You should probably have a guide or a helper who understands both mindsets and speaks both languages (I’m sure you’d be just fine without one, but it wouldn’t hurt:) I would be honored to be that guide! Don’t think I’ll write all my credentials etc on the open web here, you probably won’t even read this. But if you do, please consider!

  16. Hey Tim, I’ve chimed in occasionally and you replied to a come t I wrote a couple years ago (you won’t remember)..Anyway, I would like to invite you to my adopted country, Viet Nam. I don’t recall you ever mentioning you have been here and i know you would love it. Take it from a transplanted American with 5+ years of happy living here…

    Anyway, should you wish to accept my offer, I know you’ll find a way to reach me…if not, no hard feeling..Cheers!


  17. Seeing your cheekbones makes me smile 🙂

    Thanks for spending your time solving OPP, Other Peoples Problems!

  18. hello, i recently checked out your 4-hour work week book at the library, based on the title alone…and i’m only a little into the book, so i apologize if this question is premature. and here it is: as i’m reading, i’m getting the impression that you were financially very well off before quitting your job. what about the person that isn’t? what about the person that just hates their soul sucking job for a variety of reasons? do you still have the same advice for them?



  19. I am chuckling because it looks like my previous comment [Moderator: additional text removed] got deleted. Personally, I thought the reference to [Moderator: additional text removed] was pretty clever; but I guess I triggered the moderator’s threshold. Regardless, I do want to express my sincere appreciation for this episode. The mindset of Jason and DHH really resonate with me, especially the disregard for conventional corporate protocol and their focus on what really matters. Thank you both for a wonderful episode! 🙂

  20. First time listening to Tim Ferris podcast-recommended to me by a guy I met while running a 1/2 marathon.

    Chairs–I recently went on a getaway to SW Germany. My hosts told me about the Vitra Design Museum that lies on the border with Switzerland (Weil am Rhein). I enjoyed this museum more than any other, including Schlumpf’s Bugatti museum in Mulhouse, Bartholdi Museum in Colmar and the city of Strasbourg. I also went to a number of towns associated with Albert Schweitzer. My favorite site was Kayserburg. If you are looking for a getaway, I’d highly recommend a similar trip.


  21. Some words of wisdom that worked for me from @jasonfried on the @tferriss podcast:

    1. Just say No…be gracious in explaining why it doesn’t work for you but be honest.

    2. Use a real life test for interviewing purposes. Write out your process. Explain the path that you take to land on an idea.

  22. …and on a personal note, these points jumped out from Jason:

    1. jomo joy of missing out

    2. negative visualization

    3. prairie restoration

    4. walk slower and look down


  23. Hi Tim thanks for another amazing episode! Your talk with Jason covered a lot of ground and I really appreciated your question about what obsession he might he give a TED talk about.

    I’m an ecological designer and do sustainable land-planning so his answer about prairie restoration was a fantastic surprise. I really appreciated how you both tied the process of ecosystem restoration to using pre-biotics and to running a business. Your thoughts on cultivating more/less patience vs discernment around when to accelerate was also super insightful.

    Thanks again!