“In life—from the simplest thing to the biggest thing—I want to be proud of what it is and stake my claim: ‘That’s mine, and that’s how I do it.’” — Ken Block
Ken Block (@kblock43 on IG and TW) is a co-founder of DC Shoes and a professional rally driver with the Hoonigan Racing Division.
His rally career began in 2005, and he won Rookie of the Year that season in the Rally America Championship. Ken has accumulated five X Games medals and achieved global fame through his wildly successful viral series of Gymkhana videos. Gymkhana videos (including all associated edits) have racked up more than 500 million views, landing the franchise in Ad Age’s top-10 viral video charts.
In January 2010, Block formed the Monster World Rally Team (later renamed to Hoonigan Racing Division) and signed with Ford to pursue his dreams of racing in the World Rally Championship and in doing so, became one of only four Americans to ever score points in the WRC.
His latest project is The Gymkhana Files, which takes viewers behind the scenes of GYMKHANA TEN: The Ultimate Tire Slaying Tour, a video that, as of this writing, just went up and already has nearly 20M views. It’s all complete insanity.
Please enjoy this interview with Ken Block!
Listen to the episode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, Overcast, Castbox, or on your favorite podcast platform. You can find the transcript of this episode here. Transcripts of all episodes can be found here.
Want to hear an interview with another entrepreneur who loves to race? Listen to this interview with David “DHH” Heinemeier Hansson in which DHH 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.):
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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 Ken Block:
Hoonigan Racing | Twitter | Instagram | Facebook | YouTube
- The Gymkhana Files
- Hoonigan Racing Headquarters
- DC Shoes
- The Meaning of Hoon
- The Gymkhana YouTube Videos
- Formula 1
- Team O’Neil Rally School
- The Tim Ferriss Experiment
- Ken Block Wins ‘2005 Rally America Rookie Of The Year’, Rally America
- MCT Oil
- Chek Institute
- RallyCross — Sports Car Club of America
- DC Shoes Startup Story: How Damon Way and Ken Block Built an Empire, Fundable
- Skate Videos, 411 Video Magazine
- Linkin Park
- Chanel Snowboard
- How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
- The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change by Stephen R. Covey
- Rob Dyrdek Droors Paint Ad, Skately
- X Games
- Nitro Circus
- Stunt Junkies
- The Daily Show
- Marine Corps Air Station El Toro
- War of the Worlds
- Eerie Before and after Images Show Urban Decay in Detroit by Edecio Martinez, The Weather Channel
- Iron Man 3
- San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge
- Treasure Island: San Francisco’s Strangest Neighborhood by Peter Lawrence Kane, SF Weekly
- Time Out Dubai
- District 9
- RED Digital Cinema
- The Robot Food Trilogy : Lame, Afterlame, and Afterbang
- DC Mountain Lab
- DC Mountain Lab 1.5
- Monster Energy
- Publishers Marketplace
- Park City Mountain
- The Long Drink
- Clase Azul
- Bulletproof Coffee
- The Clinton Affair
- Jamon Iberico
- Nobu Global
- What’s the practical side to being headquartered in a workspace made of shipping containers? [06:04]
- What the heck is a hoonigan? [08:06]
- Though he’s known as an adept marketer, 600 million views for the Gymkhana video series is beyond even Ken’s expectations. [09:51]
- Ken shares his journey from skateboarder to dirt bike racer to rally car racer. [10:50]
- What was Ken’s first exposure to Team O’Neil Rally School, and how did he tackle driving as a latecomer in competition with people who had been driving their whole lives? [12:49]
- What behaviors, beliefs, and practices did Ken observe that differentiated rally driving’s top performers from the rest of the herd, and what tricks and tips did Ken employ to catch up and win 2005 Rally America Rookie Of The Year? [17:35]
- What exercises help Ken physically and mentally prepare himself before driving? [21:52]
- Though initially a reluctant businessman, how did Ken’s entrepreneurial life begin? [24:31]
- Ken’s transition from a behind-the-scenes guy to a brand ambassador — and the lessons he learned from the missteps of others. [31:50]
- Business mistakes and failures that informed later success, and what Ken understands about the value of targeted marketing that many miss. [37:01]
- What does the “DC” in DC Shoes stand for, and why does its logo look different on shoes and snowboards? [42:11]
- For Ken, trademark enforcement does not spark joy. [43:26]
- What book does Ken credit with helping him understand basic management and people skills when he started his first business? [44:21]
- In the highly competitive and cutthroat apparel business, a miss is far more likely than a hit. How did Ken and his partner differentiate DC Shoes in order to stand out from the competition? [47:42]
- How did Ken and his partner hire the right people for the job in the early days? [54:22]
- Before DC was bought by Quiksilver, was the business self-funded or financed externally? [57:01]
- What’s the story behind Gymkhana, the “viral video series that changed automotive filmmaking forever” — and which one is Ken’s favorite so far? [57:55]
- How does someone go about getting permission to use the heavily trafficked San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge — or other landmark location — for their video? [1:06:30]
- What does the budget look like for creating one of these videos? [1:11:42]
- Ken’s advice to people hoping to create attention-getting videos on a smaller budget. [1:14:20]
- How Ken and his crew brought storytelling back to extreme sports marketing in the ’90s. [1:17:27]
- How is sponsorship value fairly determined and negotiated when dealing with athletes and celebrities? Here’s where we begin to understand why agents are so well-compensated. [1:20:37]
- As a 51-year-old who hates the gym, how does Ken stay fit? What does his weekly training regimen look like? [1:30:59]
- With a fairly extensive history of injuries from leading such an active life, what kind of exercise does Ken now avoid? [1:33:37]
- Ken talks us through a tough time at DC, dealing with its accompanying self-doubt, and the adjustments he made to cope. [1:37:07]
- What’s Ken’s favorite drink? [1:41:15]
- What’s Ken’s default breakfast? [1:42:18]
- Daily wind-down and pre-bed rituals. [1:43:25]
- What would Ken’s billboard say? [1:45:23]
- Parting thoughts. [1:47:30]
- Bruce Wayne
- Travis Pastrana
- Steve Astephen
- Alex Gelsomino
- Ricky Carmichael
- Jeff Emig
- Ryan Hughes
- Jeremy McGrath
- Danny Way
- Travis Rice
- Andy Irons
- Paul Chek
- Damon Way
- Danny Way
- Mike Shinoda
- Nick Adcock
- Dale Carnegie
- Daymond John
- Marc Ecko
- Willy Wonka
- Rob Dyrdek
- George H. W. Bush
- Neill Blomkamp
- Pierre Wikberg
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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14 Replies to “Ken Block — The Art of Marketing with a DC Shoes and Gymkhana Legend (500M+ views) (#358)”
thank u for these shows, i listened to stan grof interview and registered for his certified holotropic breathwork within one day:) [Moderator: contact request removed.]
Yaaaaaaay! Thank you thank you. Great overview, I would like to do my version of Redneckhana over here in Nuevo Mejico.
If you’re looking for the best info in the entertainment world I’d reccomend studio system over imdb pro (but it’s not cheap).
Massive respect. A hard charging kind of a Dude. Watched the videos, but never knew any of the story behind it. Learned a whole lot in this podcast.
Big respect to you, it really going to help us Thank You.
안녕하세요, I am recently reading your book which called tools of titans. of course i have read all of your books already, but especially I am re-read this book every morning 4AM and it brought me to come here. Respect your books and writtings. Learned many things from it. Thanks a lot.
It took me 352 days to listen to every single episode and this is the one that I finally caught up on. Here is the link with notes for anyone interested. Thanks for being a real one, Tim!
Question for Tim – when you asked him for examples of times of self-doubt his answer kind of reminded me of Jocko’s answer to that same question. He references a hard time his business went through but doesn’t get into whether he doubted himself, thought he was on the wrong track, wasn’t good enough to do the job, or had any of the kind self-flagellation or even loathing that some go through. Do you think those feeling just don’t exist or are so minimal in people like Ken and Jocko that they can’t really relate to them or do you think in those moments they are just unwilling to break the mask of masculinity. All your guests are successful but not all relate a struggle with finding themselves and their path – Debbie Millman is one who comes to mind who does.
hey Tim, not sure you still read comments, but you should try to get David Nihill for the podcast! He does reverse engineering on public speaking (and storytelling in general) using comedy hacks.. He gave a talk at google a couple of months ago–
Hi Tim! Thanks for the awesome content you’re sharing! I’ve been a fan of the book “Tribe of Mentors” and the “4 hour workweek”. You’re opening a really great insights for people who what to develop their most productive self. It’s of course very interesting to see what successful people are doing to me more productive and how they deal with their failures and it’s a side of the coin everyone is the most driven about. But I’m curious have you every tried to speak with people that failed? Not like failed one time and then got crazy successful, but failed and stoped, took a step back. Success, that is the one thing that everyone is driven to and we read a lot of books listen to podcasts and want to get as much as we can from their habits in order to get set on the right track, but what about the dark side? I think my point is, have you ever got and interview or talked or are you planning to do something on the sole theme of “Failure”?
Ken Block is a legend.
I know an excellent business coach and thought leader who would be an interesting guest on your podcast. What would be the best way to tell you about her?
Just listening to this all made me really think about being more creative, and more fun, in work and the way I engage…Gymkhana San Francisco! Wow.
This was such a cool podcast. I have watched all the gymkhanas but never actually knew Ken Block or even heard his voice. This was quite something.