Please enjoy this transcript of my interview with Ken Block (@kblock43 on IG and TW), a co-founder of DC Shoes and a professional rally driver with the Hoonigan Racing Division. His rally career began in 2005 when he won Rookie of the Year in the Rally America Championship and has continued with an accumulated five X Games medals and global fame through his wildly successful viral series of Gymkhana videos. 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. Transcripts may contain a few typos—with some episodes lasting 2+ hours, it’s difficult to catch some minor errors. Enjoy!
DUE TO SOME HEADACHES IN THE PAST, PLEASE NOTE LEGAL CONDITIONS:
Tim Ferriss owns the copyright in and to all content in and transcripts of The Tim Ferriss Show podcast, with all rights reserved, as well as his right of publicity.
WHAT YOU’RE WELCOME TO DO:
You are welcome to share the below transcript (up to 500 words but not more) in media articles (e.g., The New York Times, LA Times, The Guardian), on your personal website, in a non-commercial article or blog post (e.g., Medium), and/or on a personal social media account for non-commercial purposes, provided that you include attribution to “The Tim Ferriss Show” and link back to the tim.blog/podcast URL. For the sake of clarity, media outlets with advertising models are permitted to use excerpts from the transcript per the above.
WHAT IS NOT ALLOWED:
No one is authorized to copy any portion of the podcast content or use Tim Ferriss’ name, image or likeness for any commercial purpose or use, including without limitation inclusion in any books, e-books, book summaries or synopses, or on a commercial website or social media site (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.) that offers or promotes your or another’s products or services. For the sake of clarity, media outlets are permitted to use photos of Tim Ferriss from the media room on tim.blog or (obviously) license photos of Tim Ferriss from Getty Images, etc.
Tim Ferriss: Ken, welcome to the show.
Ken Block: Well, thanks for having me on. I really appreciate it.
Tim Ferriss: Where are we sitting right now?
Ken Block: We are sitting in the Hoonigan Racing Headquarters in Park City, Utah.
Tim Ferriss: And we are inside of a shipping container.
Ken Block: Yes, we’re – a very expensive shipping container.
Tim Ferriss: Very expensive shipping container.
Ken Block: But, yeah, I have about 40 shipping containers that are cut up, that make up my offices and shop here in Park City.
Tim Ferriss: And you were explaining this to me a bit earlier, before we started recording, but what is the practicality of having these shipping containers that are bolted to the floor?
Ken Block: Well, in my earlier life, I was one of the founders of DC Shoes, and we grew from a very small brand to a very big brand. And over that course of growing, we moved probably five different offices, and therefore building all new drywall walls all over the place and all that, and it cost a lot of money. So when I built the race team offices here, I decided I wanted to build something that – we have a recycling message with using things like used skateboards as tile and used shipping containers for offices – that sort of thing. But also, if I have to move, you can actually pick up these entire offices and easily move them somewhere else on a shipping truck.
Tim Ferriss: So if you need to upsize, or downsize, or anything in between size, you have everything here that you can pack up.
Ken Block: Yep. Absolutely. And it actually ended up making a very cool looking office, too. We had a lot of fun being creative with this office and doing something unique and different, but also, to me, it’s something that’s on the leading edge of what I hope people do in the future with empty warehouse spaces like this and building offices.
Tim Ferriss: It’s a beautiful –
Ken Block: A lot of drywall gets wasted out there as people change buildings and change businesses.
Tim Ferriss: It’s a beautiful space, and all put up – and certainly, there’s no shortage of footage of this space online – but I’ll put up a bunch in the show notes as well. You’ve had a number of different careers, and it makes me think of Bruce Wayne in some respects. So you’ve had – you’ve lived many lives in one life. This is not going to be chronological, but first, Hoonigan. Where does that name come from?
Ken Block: Well, the word hoon is basically similar to our laws here in America of reckless driving. So if someone were to say, “Oh, you were hooning,” in Australia, that would mean you were out doing something reckless with a car. But once that term made it over to America, it became a term of endearment like, “Oh, you’re out having fun with a car. Great.” Whereas, if you are reckless driving here, it would be like, “Oh, you’re going to get a ticket.”
So a couple journalists here in America started calling me King of the Hoons because I was a racecar driver who was out having fun with my cars. Also, around that time is when I started making the Gymkhana videos. So that was really the epitome of technical driving but having fun with the car because it was a racecar that I wasn’t racing, which is just something unique and a bit different in the world of motorsports.
So that word hoon then became something that we started using more and more. And then, we started to develop the brand of Hoonigan – the idea of it – and I came up with the term Hoonigan. And it just stuck for us and ended up being great for the brand. And now, we’ve continued to grow and grow. I think we’re in our seventh or eighth year with the brand.
Tim Ferriss: And you have a track record as a very successful entrepreneur, which we’re certainly going to dig into. You also are very adept with media, and marketing, and branding. And you mentioned Gymkhana. For those people who have not seen it – we’re going to talk about that in just a minute, but the video series Gymkhana has around, or maybe more than, what, half a billion views now collectively?
Ken Block: Yeah, the main videos themselves have almost half a billion. And there’s a bunch of ancillary videos around that also, and we keep tabs on all of them. And we just totaled up the other day. It’s over 600 million views on all of that stuff all together. So quite insane. Not something I really ever expected to happen, but it’s been very cool to be a part of this visual digital revolution that is how the Internet has evolved over time.
Tim Ferriss: And then you have your competitive career, right? And then you have your competitive career. And for some people listening, they may think, “Well, much like other sports” – or, even as we were discussing before we started recording, say motocross – you must’ve started when you were, what, four, five, or six years old?
Ken Block: Started what? I started skateboarding at that age.
Tim Ferriss: The rally car racing.
Ken Block: No, unfortunately, I started rally car racing when I was 37 – very, very old in the world of motorsports. So I grew up in Long Beach, California, skateboarding and riding BMX bikes as a kid, and then moved down to North San Diego. My parents decided they wanted to own an avocado grove, so they moved me down to the countryside of North San Diego and I continued skateboarding, but then started riding dirt bikes. So I raced amateur dirt bikes when I was in my teenage years, but didn’t actually start racing cars until I was 37. Although I’d been a fan of rallies since I was very young, I was never a fan of American motorsports for some reason.
My brother had drag raced and all the – I knew all that stuff existed, but as a kid I was most interested in Formula One, but really rally, like cars that slid and jumped and raced in the snow and then through Africa. It’s just something that I related to much more than a car that just went straight or went in a circle. I – no disrespect to those sports. It just wasn’t interesting to me. And I think that’s also why I loved dirt bikes so much as a teenager, was the creativity of it – of jumping, of sliding, of racing around a track that had all these obstacles. And really, rally racing was that, but with a car. And so I just genuinely loved it from since I was quite young. But I never had an opportunity to do anything with it, or even knew it existed in the States until I was around 36 or 37.
Tim Ferriss: Now, was that – was your first exposure, in terms of training, at Team O’Neil, or was it somewhere else?
Ken Block: Yeah, my first rally car driving lesson was at Team O’Neil in New Hampshire. It all roots back to Travis Pastrana. So at the time, I was the Chief Brand Officer of DC Shoes, and Travis Pastrana was one of our moto athletes. And Travis, in 2004, did a couple rallies. And that just woke me up to the fac that rally even existed in the States, and that I could potentially go do it.
And so Travis’ agent Steve Astephen was a good friend of mine. And I called Steve and I said, “Hey, I want to go do that, what Travis is doing. How do I do that?” So Steve connected me with the team. The team said, “Yeah, come out. We’ll take you to a great rally school,” which ended up being Team O’Neil. They put me through a four-day course and I was hooked. I couldn’t have enjoyed myself more. I felt like I had a little bit of natural talent for it. I could throw the thing around exactly how I wanted and I was pretty quick. But no clue as to where that would go. I was just was like, “Hey, I really like this. This is fun. I need to do this more.”
Tim Ferriss: So I knew for the first time about your time in New Hampshire with Team O’Neil because I spent a week there for a TV show – short-lived, but still entertaining – called The Tim Ferriss Experiment. I went there to train and compete against a friend of mine. And, much like your wall on the other side of where we’re sitting, with all of the damaged and destroyed pieces of various vehicles, there is some shrapnel from some of your cars up there in New Hampshire. And I found it be such – I do not have, I don’t think, any preternatural super skill related to rally, but training with pendulum turns, and finish flicks, and all of that was so endlessly interesting. And –
Ken Block: Well, and it’s genuinely fun. It’s –
Tim Ferriss: It’s so much fun.
Ken Block: – a fun way to drive a car.
Tim Ferriss: It’s so much fun.
Ken Block: It really is.
Tim Ferriss: And the science – there’s so much science behind it. You have people who have done it from a very, very young age. I mean, there’s certainly a number of countries that seem to produce a lot of champions. How, at 36/37, did you think about tackling this seriously?
Ken Block: Well, at the beginning, it was just a hobby. The first year, I went out and funded my own racing. I was just as amateur as an amateur gets. First year out, just learning the ropes – I had a good team behind me. I had a great co-driver Alex that helped a lot. But in the beginning, it was just like, “Okay, let me figure this out. Let me throw everything into it if I’m really into this.” And I really did try and learn as much as I possibly could. And luckily for me, I was already in very good shape at 37 years old because I loved riding dirt bikes. And, with DC, we sponsored guys like Ricky Carmichael, and Jeff Emig, Ryan Hughes, Jeremy McGrath – some of the best guys in the world. So I got to go ride with them.
So I wanted to be in shape to go do that stuff. And being around guys like that – and Danny Way, and Travis Rice, and Andy Irons – these guys that were the top of the field in all their areas, I got to see how champions trained. I saw how they ate. I saw what it took to be a champion. So I knew how to train and how to mentally get myself there and do those things. So I was able to take all of that and apply it to myself, to develop my own talent to go do something that I loved to do.
So 2005 was the first year I raced, and I was able to get fourth overall in the National Championship – and actually beat Travis that year. So from there, I was like, “Holy shit, this is fun. And I’ve got some natural talent for it. I’m just going to put as much effort as I can into doing it and try and see where it goes.” I had no idea where it would go. But it ended up going a lot further than I ever expected, and it’s been a completely wild ride.
But I really give a lot of credit back to, not only the experiences that I had with DC, of trying to be successful and figuring out what it takes to be successful, but also understanding the mental and physical sides of studying and watching these friends of mine that were champions, and what it took for them to do what they needed to do.
Tim Ferriss: And we’re going to visit DC very shortly. But since we’re on topic, does anything come to mind that differentiates some of the guys you just mentioned – I mean, those are big names, very competitively successful. What did you see that made them different? Or what – any behaviors, any beliefs, any practices? Was there anything in particular that comes to mind, or anything that comes to mind?
Ken Block: Well, the funny thing about all those guys is they all have different stories. There is no magic formula. There is no perfect human that then has the perfect formula. Everyone’s different. What worked for Ricky Carmichael would not work for Andy Irons – that sort of thing. But what you do see with a lot of those guys, that you see with any top athlete, is the drive and determination. There are guys out there that aren’t the most talented, but they’re willing to outwork everyone. And that’s where I was. I was an older guy – 37/38 – and I was competing against 20-year-olds. And I was like, “Well, I’m just going to be smarter. I’m going to train smarter. I’m going to prepare smarter. I’m going to do everything – I’m going to find every trick in the book that I can to maximize the opportunity.”
And I think that’s really a lot of what it takes in the end, with a lot of athletes. There are a lot of outliers out there, the Ricky Carmichael’s of the world, that just – he’s the greatest of all time for certain reasons that no one else can match. But other than that, there are a lot of other people out there that it’s a matter of mastering the game, always being a student of the game, and finding every little moment where you can find some sort of advantage. And that means you have to live it. You have to live it day in and day out. You cannot be a champion of a sport, generally, without that study, without the living, breathing, existing in that form of sport day in and day out. So I think that’s the main thing that I’ve seen as a constant, is that dedication to the craft.
Tim Ferriss: What were some of the tricks or approaches you found worked for you? And I’m just thinking, moments before we started this, you had your breakfast/lunch – which was a cup of coffee with some protein in it – some plant protein plus MCT oil. And you commented that it makes it a lot easier to train if you’ve, say, consumed something like that rather than having a very heavy meal. So that just jumped to mind as, not necessarily an example from a long time ago, but a habit that might aid in training for any number of things. So are there any other things that you decided as a 37-year-old? You’re like, “Okay, the 20-year-olds are doing A, B, and C. If I do that, I’m not going to be able to match what they’re doing,” or any other tricks of the trade that you ended up adopting for yourself?
Ken Block: Well, I think that, with any sport, it’s about being smart about what makes you successful in it. For example, I race cars. I don’t have to be a shredded, strong individual to do that. I have power steering and a foot pedal.
Tim Ferriss: Right.
Ken Block: So it’s more about reaction time. It’s more about quickness. It’s about mental quickness. It’s about what it takes to have these moments where, “Hey, at 3:00 in the afternoon tomorrow, I need to be at the highest cognitive recognition level that I can possibly be. So what does it take to get me there?” Is it supplements? Is it training? Is it a particular exercise that I do before I get in the car? So a lot of it, to me, is the experiment. It’s working with the right people that help you with different training exercises. And a lot of it is just trial and error, and figuring out what works and what doesn’t work. And when something – when a mistake does happen, trying to figure out what caused that mistake, and then how do I correct it and make myself better for the next time.
Tim Ferriss: What were some of the things you’ve found to work? I know you’ve been a long-term – it seems like – trainee with kickboxing and have worked with some fantastic athletes. Do you have a particular – you mentioned exercise before getting into the car. Do you have a particular exercise, or any exercise, that you do?
Ken Block: Well, I grew up in North San Diego. Do you know who Paul Chek is?
Tim Ferriss: I do. Yes.
Ken Block: Yes. So Paul Chek – I’ve worked with many Paul Chek trainers. I’ve worked with Paul Chek himself. And so I grew up in my training world around people that really worked with those sorts of ball exercises and balanced exercises – all that sort of stuff – to really mimic more real-world balance needs as opposed to just grabbing a barbell and doing curls. So all that training, to me, helped a lot. But then, upping the level of that, I worked with a couple of trainers that would help me with mental skills along with those physical skills.
So with rally, you’re having to hear notes. So you drive down a road that’s, say, 10 miles road – twisty, winding, going through forests. You’re going 90 miles an hour sideways next to trees. And while you’re doing that, you’re hearing notes that’s telling you what’s coming up next. And it’s – and they’re triggers. They’re not like, “Hey, by the way, there’s a left coming up that’s really dangerous.” No. It’s, “Left five. Keep in. Caution.” And those have to be triggers in your mind that you automatically react upon and drive as quickly through every situation as possible.
So we would actually do that stuff in the gym, where I would actually be training, doing a particular exercise, and my trainer would have me looking or listening to things and then having to react to that with certain triggers that I would then react with. And it was all brain-type exercises. On top of that, even bouncing balls off a wall and having to react – with my eyes closed, open them, and react and catch a ball. It was all about being able to see peripherally, see directly in front of me, see short distance, see long distance – all that sort of thing. So it was a lot more – really, these little things that are harder to train with your brain that would potentially make you quicker.
Because with rally, we’re battling for seconds over each stage. With rallycross, you’re battling for tenths of a second each lap. And if you can do that quicker than your competition because of how you’re trained, then that’s one way to be faster.
Tim Ferriss: So you’re a student of success. And maybe we could rewind the clock a little bit and get back to DC. Now, I was doing, as I always do, homework for this conversation. And it seems like DC was certainly not your first business. And maybe you could tell us a bit about how you got into entrepreneurship. Because I’m reading – I have Eightball Clothing, Blunt Magazine, Droors Clothing. How did entrepreneurship enter your life? How did you end up in business?
Ken Block: Well, the funny thing about that is, I didn’t necessarily intend to be an entrepreneur in the beginning, but it just kind of seemed like the only avenue – not the only avenue. It seemed like the avenue that I was left with, with the things that I loved to do and my interests. So the funny thing is, I started off in high school studying architecture. I wanted to be an architect. I did all sorts of drafting through high school and then, when I got out of high school, I went straight to a computer aided drafting school and did that for a year. And then, I got into the business and I hated it. I loved it as an art, and I loved it as a study, but actually the business of it, I just didn’t like. So I –
Tim Ferriss: What didn’t you like about it?
Ken Block: I guess, because it – I enjoy the art of architecture. But the only people that get to do the art of architecture are the people at the top.
Tim Ferriss: Right.
Ken Block: And it takes either a ton of money or 30-40 years of climbing to the top. And I just saw that – once I realized, being in the business, what it took. And I just said, “Yeah, that isn’t for me.” So being a skateboarder and a snowboarder, I wanted to do that stuff more. So I actually quit working for this architecture firm and ended up moving to Breckenridge, Colorado for two years and being a snowboard bum. I was actually friends with a bunch of pro snowboarders, and I looked up to those guys and wanted to be them. But in the end, I just knew I didn’t have the talent. I just didn’t have the skillset that they had, and I saw that.
So I moved back to California and went back to college and started studying screen printing, graphic design, graphic layout – all that sort of stuff. And I just really enjoyed it, and I thought, “I could” – because of my interest in skateboarding and snowboarding, I started designing some shop t-shirts for one of the shops that I was friends with out in Colorado. And I thought, “Oh, this would be great, if I could actually be a part of this industry I love.”
And in the meantime, at the same schools, Palomar College in Vista, California, I met Damon Way, who’s the older brother of legendary skateboarder Danny Way. Damon and I hit it off and we both had interest in trying to be in the industry of skateboarding and snowboarding, and we had this real mutual interest in that. I was more of the graphics business type guy, and he was more of the clothing designer type guy. So we just merged our talents and started working together, and started very small with Eightball and Droors. And eventually, I did a magazine called Blunt as part of this whole company. And we sold a company called Type-A Snowboards, which were some friends of ours and we owned part of that.
And eventually, we started DC. We were lucky, with DC, that we got all this experience of a couple of years floundering around with these other clothing companies and a magazine. But we learned a lot, so that by the time we got to making DC – which was ’94/’95 – we were able to make this startup work very well very quickly. So we already had the infrastructure of buildings, and artists, and salespeople, and warehouse all of that, so that when DC got plugged into that it took off. But we were able to manage it and make it work. If we hadn’t had all of that other stuff and experience and all that, we wouldn’t have had all that.
Now one thing that I did forget to mention in all that, though, is business is not easy to start. And I come from a family – my dad had his own business and he was fairly successful with it. And my parents, by the time that I was a teenager, had a decent amount of money. I wouldn’t say they were overly rich, but they were – they had enough money to by 16 acres of avocados and a house in Valley Center. So as I was growing up, I wanted certain things. There were kids in my high school that drove BMWs. I’m like, “I want that,” and my dad just laughed. He’s like, “No way am I buying you that. You are going to earn everything that you get.”
So I grew up with that mentality, that whatever I did, my parents were not going to give me anything. They were going to help me, but they were going to make me work for it. So that’s something that I really, genuinely appreciate, and something I’m going to pass on to my own kids, that life isn’t easy. You’ve got to figure certain things out, and you’ve got to make it work. It takes hard work to be successful. I’ve seen a lot of people who’ve had stuff given to them and they’ve floundered with it. And I think that experience really is the best lesson.
And so when I was starting our business, I went to my parents and said, “Hey, I need some money.” And my mom said, “Well, I’m not sure that your dad will do that, but let’s try.” She said, “Write a business plan. If you want $10,000, prove to us what you’re going to do with that $10,000 and how you’re going to pay us back.” And I said, “Okay.” So I bought books and figured out how to make a business plan, wrote that business plan, and I got $10,000 out of my parents to help start the business.
Tim Ferriss: That was DC? Or that was –
Ken Block: That was actually for Eightball and Droors. And Damon came in with some money, and we were equal partners in the beginning. But really, it was from my parents. And my parents – however you like to say it – ethics – business/family ethics – that basically set me in motion of how to learn business, how to start a business, how to pay back a loan – all that stuff. Because I was a 19- or 20-year-old kid who was just trying to better himself, and they helped me set the path to do what I did. That’s something that I genuinely appreciate. Any time anybody asks me – from, “How do I start this business,” or, “How do I get sponsored,” the easiest lesson is, if you don’t know business, and you don’t know what marketing budgets are, and you don’t know advertising or sales – you have to understand that stuff and understand a business plan to go anywhere.
And there are so many basics of life that, if you understand how products get made and how companies profit and what it takes to spend advertising dollars – there is so much in life that you’ll understand just by knowing those basics.
Tim Ferriss: And you have such a keen eye. You’ve studied architecture. I’ve watched a lot of what you’ve done over the years, and I just want to underscore – maybe using different words – the value of someone who has artistic ability in learning the business side is not sullying your hands with some crass aspect of the world necessarily, but enabling yourself to further the art and what you want to do in the world, right? And it’s a real liability not to have that. And what’s struck me also is that you have these seemingly disparate lives that you’ve led, and success in these different realms, but they’ve also built on one another, in the sense that you sponsored athletes and now you are a sponsored athlete.
And you know how to do – you know which athletes you sponsored did a great job, versus did a mediocre job, versus did a do-not-pass job. And so you’re able to fulfill that role really, really effectively for the companies that you work with, right – like the Fords, and the Monsters – whoever it might be. And you have an operational awareness that enables you to them pursue the craft that you want to pursue. Let me ask you about – we’re going to talk about good decisions, and resources that helped you, and so on and so forth. But do any mistakes –
Ken Block: Before you go on, though, let’s talk about that real quick.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah.
Ken Block: That was one of the things that, when I trans – the transition for me from going from Chief Brand Officer at DC to racecar driver was actually a real – it was a bit difficult for me at first. And mainly because, as Chief Brand Officer at DC, I actually liked to be in the background. Damon and I didn’t really like us getting press for DC. We liked the athletes to be the people that stood out front and represented the brand. So as I became a racecar driver I was like, “Oh, crap. Now I’ve got to put my face out there and I’ve got to be the voice. And I have to show a different attitude and a different” – not necessarily different, but I had to be worried about what I said, and how I said it, and how I presented myself, which I just didn’t have to worry about before that.
So that transition was a bit tough. But once I got into it, I basically said, “Okay, I know what bothered me,” or I saw the good and bad of all these athletes that I worked with for 15 years before this. So how can I take all those experiences – what I liked and disliked about what all these different people did – and make myself the best of what I can make myself. And I’ll tell you a really stupid example. We had guys that we would send out to a shop to do an autograph signing, and there would be 1,000 kids lined up waiting for these guys to sign autographs. And some of them, instead of being engaged with these fans, they’d be looking at their phone, or turning around and smoking a cigarette around kids, and stuff like that. And it just – they didn’t have the right understanding of what they were there to do.
And to me, that’s a real simple example that, when I go to an autograph signing, we try to make the best poster. I try to be as engaged as possible, always trying to make the fan as happy as possible. They’re there for me, and I’m there representing all these different brands and maybe the shop that I’m there for – those sorts of things. So it’s understanding the whole situation because of where I came from before, which has then made me such a great ambassador for all these brands, and hopefully a very good and engaged athlete for these fans that follow me.
So it’s been a very fun process to go from that guy behind the scenes that kind of understands it all – because I wrote the contracts, I made the ads, I directed the social media, we made commercials, I made skate videos – to now being the guy on the other side and delivering what the sponsors needed. And there were certain guys that actually pissed me off over the years that I saw so much potential for, and just watched them fail because they didn’t understand – that I said, “I’m going to prove – whether these guys ever see this or not – what is potential if you just understand the process.”
And that’s actually been very fun over the years, maximizing the potential of social media, really maximizing the potential of YouTube, and delivering what the fans what. Because, at the end of the day, this is all a business. I love to race cars at the end of the day, but without the sponsors, without the series that are out there, without all the fans, there’s a whole culture here that all interacts and goes together. But if you don’t do it right, you can’t be as successful as the potential is there to be.
Tim Ferriss: And did you – even when we were walking around this building earlier, you were mentioning learning from every success, learning from every failure. You had your informal business school, so to speak, in the form of starting these businesses before DC. What were some of the mistakes that you made in some of those earlier ventures, where you’re like, “Okay. Now that we’re doing DC, we are not going to do these following things. We are not going to make these following mistakes.” It just brings to mind – one for me, for instance, is in one of the first companies I started, I became really interested in radio advertising. But I knew nothing about it. And so I bought remnant space – I thought I was so smart because there was this huge discount on space for drive time. And I was like, “Oh, my god. Drive time. Perfect. I found a needle in a haystack.”
And then, all of my ads were run at 4:45 a.m. because it was defined in the contract, drive time was 4:30-9:30. So I just lost it all, right? So I learned a lot of lessons in that one. But do any particular mistakes or failures come to mind, that have informed what you did with DC in any way?
Ken Block: Well, I think that all marketing and advertising – a lot of people don’t realize – they’re like, “Oh, we have $100,000 to spend. Sweet.” Well, you need to turn that $100,000 into, say, $1 million worth of business. So it’s about targeting and having the right message to reach the consumer that’s actually going to guy the product. And that can be very difficult, and there can be very many opinions with that. And even in a company, you can have 10 different opinions on that, even have some personal agendas thrown in. And so it can be very difficult. And a lot of it is a learning lesson, and you’ve got to look at everything else that’s out there, and what your competition’s doing, and try and do it better.
But it’s a difficult process, and it’s one that you really have to work at and think through. I’ve had so much random stuff – like your example right there. I had one of our athletes who was like, “I want a bus. I’m going to build a bus. It’s going to be $300,000. I need $300,000 out of you. And we’ll put a big logo on it. Everybody on the freeway’s going to see it.” And I’m like, “I don’t care about everybody on the freeway. Those aren’t my consumers. If we’re going to spend $300,000, we need to spend that targeted specifically on who we think is going to buy our product.”
Tim Ferriss: For DC, who was that? Who was your archetype of your customer? Who was your customer in the early days?
Ken Block: Well, DC – I mean, we were mainly selling to skate shops in the beginning. So you’re talking teenage kids, mostly boys, that were going in and buying the shoes to skateboard in. So back in those days – mid-’90s – we had all the skateboard magazines, because that’s when magazines still existed and were big. So we had at least one to two ads a month that were making to drop in all those magazines. And then, you add various video projects and there was 411 Magazine, the video magazine. And then, on top of that, you sponsored – we sponsored maybe 10-12 skateboarders that were the top guys of the industry, that fit our brand.
And so you have all sorts of different genres of types of skateboarders out there, same as basketball. There are guys that like high-top shoes, guys that like low-top shoes – there’s guys – so you have different athletes that represent different things like that. So we spent all our marketing dollars to attract those teenage kids to come into the skate shops and buy. And over time, as the brand grew, and we did more and more sales, we expanded to more mall stores. And so that kid isn’t affected as much by the pro skateboarder and the skateboard magazine.
So then we started working with artists like Mike Shinoda from Linkin Park. And we had a Mike customer signature shoe and did stuff like that. Eventually, we worked with artists like KAWS and people like that. So as we branched out into more of youth culture, as opposed to only skateboarding, we found our unique marketing angles to do that, and do it in fun and innovative ways. We grew the brand – I think at its peak, in 2007-2008 or something, was around $550 million. So it really grew to be quite a big brand and was actually on target – there was a plan at one time, with a guy that was running our company – Nick – to be a $1 billion brand. Unfortunately, it never made it there because of some problems that Quiksilver was having when they bought us in 2004. But it was incredible to take a brand from nothing to over $500 million in sales a year.
Tim Ferriss: It’s a huge accomplishment. What does DC stand for?
Ken Block: DC actually stands for Droors Clothing. Almost every word or variation of the word in the English language is trademarked in some way or another. So as we were trying to work on names for the brand, we had all sorts of names that we submitted. Everything was taken.
DC was actually – I had made DC logos for Droors, because of Droors Clothing. It’s just an abbreviation – something you could make a simple logo and put on a sleeve. And so I knew that I could make logos and art for that. So we submitted that and it came back that, yeah, that was possible to do. So the crazy thing about trademarks, though, is even when you trademark something for one category, it doesn’t mean that it’s good for another category. So eventually we made snowboards. But the logo that we have looks kind of like Chanel, and Chanel actually has that trademarked for snowboards. So that’s why you never see our logo done the way it is on shoes on a snowboard. Really random bit of side legal information there. But –
Tim Ferriss: Yeah, if –
Ken Block: – that’s the sort of thing you deal with with a company.
Tim Ferriss: Oh, for sure. And just a side note for people, because I run into this a lot with people who are starting businesses. Intellectual property is really, really nuanced. And having a trademark, or having a patent, does not protect you. It just gives you the right to sue someone who infringes, right? This is just really important.
Ken Block: Oh, yeah. The actual expense spent over years protecting our trademark around the world is millions and millions of dollars.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah.
Ken Block: And it’s just a fact of business. And it’s an ugly world. It’s not any fun. And I’ve been in various parts of the world, and shown up and found bootleg versions of our shoes. And not even good bootleg versions. They came straight from our factories, too, where they were like, “Oh, we have too many of these soles and too many of these uppers. We’ll just put them together and sell them out the back door.” It’s really unfortunate, but that is the world we live in, unfortunately.
Tim Ferriss: It’s part of the ride.
Ken Block: Yeah.
Tim Ferriss: You mentioned a book when we were walking around that beautifully colored table tennis – what would you call it, platform – over there. When did that – so Dale Carnegie. Just to kick off a conversation on maybe resources and other things that have helped you in your entrepreneurial journey – so what was the book and when did it appear?
Ken Block: Well, the simple background of that is, I was a young 20-something and all of a sudden I have a business and I have to manage it. And I have no management experience. I didn’t go to work in some other company and rise up through management and learn management skills. I went straight from junior college to having my own business. And our business opportunity was growing every year. It was successful every year. And it was successful because my business part Damon and I worked very hard. But we were working on our talents. And after a while, those talents were starting to run out.
We were successful, but for us to continue to grow we needed smarter people than us around us. And that meant that we needed to hire them, we needed to manage them, and no matter what, in every company, you have ups and downs of dealing with people and success based on the people you surround yourself with. And so I needed to grow as a person in that position and I knew that management was really one of the keys. So the first actual book that I picked up to learn communication skills and management skills was How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. And I don’t know – how old is that book now?
Tim Ferriss: It’s – I would say it’s at least 40, probably 50 or 60 years old. It’s –
Ken Block: I think it’s older than that.
Tim Ferriss: It’s got to be.
Ken Block: I think it might’ve been written in the ’20s. [Ed. Note: 1936]
Tim Ferriss: Maybe even like 80! Yeah, it’s a fantastic book. Parts of it are a little dated and kind of make you chuckle or cringe depending, but –
Ken Block: Yeah.
Tim Ferriss: – great book.
Ken Block: Yeah. But I think that book – I think there are a lot of good lessons in it. And I like the attitude, even the title How to Win Friends and Influence People. And that actually fits very well with how I like to manage, how I like to work with people. And a lot of it is about working as a collective and getting people on a team to accomplish something as opposed to just being a director and barking orders. So I’ve always enjoyed the collaborative effort of working in a company that, “Hey, we’re trying to get this done. We’re trying to finish this campaign” – whatever it is. And everybody knows and understands the goals, and we’ve set a bar. We’ve set this bar high. How do we all get there?
And that book was really one of the first books that really helped me achieve my management style and what’s helped me really be successful. There are plenty of other books, like The Habits of Millionaires [Ed. Notes: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People] and all that sort of stuff – those books, too. But I think that book really was part of what shaped me as a businessperson and a director.
Tim Ferriss: If we look at the – let’s just say the apparel business. I’ve spent a good amount of time around, say, Daymond John at FUBU – which stands for “for us, by us,” by the way, for people who don’t know that – or Marc Ecko in the early days. And it’s a tough – or it can be a really tough business, right, where people are relatively undifferentiated and it’s – and they’re, in some cases, depending on the scale obviously – it’s an appealing business for a lot of people to go into.
So what were some of the key decisions, or approaches you took, that were different enough that led to this year-on-year growth? Was it innovation on how you approached the stores? Was it something very unusual about your marketing? Obviously you did a lot with product innovation also, but what were the ingredients, right? Because there were a lot of players – potentially a lot of players in that world.
Ken Block: Well, I – that’s a tough question.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah.
Ken Block: But when I look back on it, one thing that always – that Damon and I always thought about was really – the easiest thing is saying, “Set the bar very high.” And when you say that, you’re like, “Okay, well how does that apply? Does that mean you make a really nice t-shirt?” Well, no. I mean, that’s part of it. But a lot of it has to do with like – okay, if we’re going to go do marketing, how do we do it unique and different? How do we be creative? The thing about the world today is it’s easy to make a t-shirt. But how do you get someone to buy it? Why is Supreme more desirable than say something else? Just for a random example, even throwing Reebok or something else like that – the kid’s definitely going to take the Supreme shirt over the Reebok shirt.
So – but that is because of a brand essence. You’ve sold someone a story. You’ve sold someone an image. And to do that, and to do it at a very high level, is very difficult. It takes years of development, and really having that bar set so high, and judging everything against that bar so that you end up with marketing projects that are huge, and different, and really capture people’s attention. Or you have products that lead in the industry. Or that you have athletes that really stand out and stand right along with you with their huge accomplishments, and represent your brand with them at the same time.
So it’s all of those things in one that create this brand essence for everyone from big companies like Nike and Apple down to small brands, even like us with Hoonigan. So if you can capture the interest of the consumer with the right story that touches the right nerves in each of these markets, then you can really set yourself apart and then drive that consumer to buy the product. Because at the end of the day, a t-shirt – pretty easy to make.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah.
Ken Block: Even nowadays, a pair of shoes – pretty easy to make. Lots of competitors out there. So how do you grab the attention of that consumer and say, “Buy ours instead of theirs.”
Tim Ferriss: Can you think of a particular campaign or a particular athlete that was just the Willy Wonka Golden Ticket, where you guys were really going to ace the – or one that completely face-planted, where you were like, “Okay, this is the reason why this didn’t work?”
Ken Block: Well, back in the day, when we started Droors, we were a couple industry guys – me and Damon – that – we didn’t have the experience of a lot of the other companies that we were competing against had. But we just had a vision. We had an idea of what we wanted to do and we came up with some very innovative marketing concepts, not only for Droors, but in the DC. But the first thing that really started us off in Droors was just coming up with really fun and unique, kind of twisted, ideas. And Rob Dyrdek, who is now a fairly big MTV star – he was one of our skateboarders back then. One of our first ads that really stood out in the magazines was literally just – I poured blue paint over his head and he was smoking a cigarette. And we just had these really obscure photos of just his head with blue paint being poured over it.
We were selling clothing. There was no clothing in the ad. But this was the early ’90s and we were just trying to be a bit outlandish and different than what everybody else was doing in the magazine world at that time – in the skateboard world, I should say. And it was much more of sort of a fuck you fashion style attitude. And it just really worked. And we played on that idea of just being rebellious through the years. And it’s fun because skateboarders are generally like that. So it was fun really playing into that over the years.
DC, as we were growing it, got a bit more professional. The style of DC was a bit more of a slick style skateboard shoe, more performance. So we played into that over the years and had some funny taglines and made creative but slick ads. But in the end, one of the biggest things that we ever did was build a giant ramp – what’s called the mega ramp – for Danny Way to do basically giant skateboarding tricks that had never been done at this scale. And that was around 2003-2004. And that had really made us and him stand out in a way that really – we were seeing skateboarding go to a whole new level, to the point where X Games adopted that ramp and put it in the X Games. And I think the mega ramp style is still in the X Games today.
But all initiated from Danny thinking in an innovative and different way, and then us funding it and creating a video part all around this. And that was just the type of stuff that we did to set DC far apart from all of our competition.
Tim Ferriss: Was there anything with pricing or distribution? You were mentioning the contracts with the athletes – that comes to mind that, outside of product and marketing, you guys did differently? We’re going to come back to video for sure because that seems to be a very native medium for you.
Ken Block: Yeah.
Tim Ferriss: So we’ll come back to that.
Ken Block: On the business side, like I said earlier, Damon and I were smart about realizing we weren’t the smartest guys in the room, and to hire those people and then, manage the expectations of what we were trying to do and grow the business. And –
Tim Ferriss: How did you find those people?
Ken Block: How did we find them? Some of them were friends. Some of them were friends of friends. The guy that ran our business for a while was actually the father of someone I went to high school with. And then, as we grew bigger and bigger, we used headhunters to go out and steal people from Nike for sales and stuff like that. That’s just the reality of big business is, if you’re trying to go a certain place, like with sales, you need to hire the guys that do that for someone else. And we would hire – find and hire the right people and we were able to grow it quite well over the years.
But that’s the tough part about business. I was a marketing guy. I was very good at design. I had some design experience from doing architecture in high school. I ended up basically designing the first 15 models of our shoes – with some of the pro athletes, but I did the drawings. I flew to Korea. I immersed myself in the business, said, “This is what I have to do to succeed,” and did it. But that doesn’t mean I’m a good salesperson, doesn’t mean I’m a good accountant, and you just have to hire the right people and be able to manage them. If they can’t perform, the management side of you has to fire them and move on and hire someone better.
To me, that’s a big part of success, is understanding your strengths and weaknesses and hiring the people to really help make a business successful – that you can’t do everything yourself. There is no way, at least in my mind – there’s no way that you can be a brand director along with an incredible accountant and an amazing salesperson. But you just have to have the wherewithal to understand what those jobs – what it takes to succeed in those jobs and then hire the right people to do it. So that’s one thing I’ve really learned – probably in a big way – over all of this, is that it really takes a big community of smart people to make something successful, but at the top you still need to be able to set that bar and manage that bar to get something where you intend it to be.
Tim Ferriss: Did you guys – up until the acquisition by Quiksilver, did you self-fund or did you bring in financing for the business along the way?
Ken Block: No, we self-funded. We had our names on very large lines of credit, which I genuinely hated – which was one of the reasons why we eventually sold. The liability of that if there was a down year or the economy crashed or something, the business would’ve gone away quite quickly. Because we didn’t have – we were not cash heavy. We were definitely very debt heavy. But that’s what we needed to grow and how we did grow. And it made for a very successful company, but also that can make things volatile in the long run. And that’s why we saw a purchase with someone like Quiksilver as a very good route to a good end for us, and it worked out really quite well.
Tim Ferriss: So video. I promised to get back to video. Let’s talk about Gymkhana Five specifically. As someone who – because that was the first Gymkhana video I saw. I was in – I lived in San Francisco for almost 20 years before moving, and I would imagine – a way to describe it, for people who haven’t seen it – everybody should see it, by the way. Last time I checked it had – I’m sure it’ll be past 100 million by the time most people hear this, but 99 million or so views – at least one version of it on YouTube – so quite a few people have seen this.
And it is really mind boggling to watch this video. Maybe you can describe it for people, but also, I hope, in describing it for people, explain how it seems – at least, from the editing – that you basically shut down San Francisco to do this. Because you don’t see a soul on the streets. So what is Gymkhana Five? Maybe that’s a way of explaining what Gymkhana is. And everybody should absolutely go check this and all of the other Gymkhana videos out. But almost 100 million views. What is Gymkhana?
Ken Block: I love how you just jumped past four very viral videos to the fifth one.
Tim Ferriss: Oh. Well, I jumped to number five because all of the tech nerds, who are my friends, live in San Francisco and they were just like, “What in the fuck is this?”
Ken Block: Yeah, well the funny thing about that is, Gymkhana Five is my favorite video. We started making these videos – the first one, it took us two days to produce, so it was a very small team. And it was the first time that we really had a video. Because we’d made several recap videos of me and Travis racing. I’d done some stuff with Nitro Circus. I’d done a 170-foot jump on a dirt bike track with my rally car for a program called Stunt Junkies that got 10 million views.
But Gymkhana – the first Gymkhana video that we did, it’s called Gymkhana Testing and Practice. It was the first real viral video. It got 10 million views in a couple of weeks and then just kept going. It was actually – this was before YouTube was really popular. So I had a video player on my Ken Block website and it got 10 million views there alone. And finally, I was paying for this –
Tim Ferriss: I was going to say that –
Ken Block: I was paying for this website to host this and it was costing a lot of money. I’m like, “Shit, we’ve got to put this on YouTube. This is just costing me too much money.” So that’s how long ago this was. It was over 10 years ago that we started doing this. And it’s weird to me that – you think about this today, that YouTube wasn’t the video standard that it is now. People were still putting videos all over the place. Because YouTube today is just the standard. Everyone puts stuff there, from The Daily Show to the YouTube community that – some of them have subscribers in the millions.
So anyway, we created this video and it was really fashioned after skateboarding. So a skateboarding video part – a guy will go out and say – he’ll skateboard and try and capture certain tricks on film for a year. And he’ll go to a certain handrail and he’ll try 30 times, and slam 29 times, roll away on the 30th time, and they make sure they get all the best angles of it. And they’ll take 20 of these tricks and put them together to make a video part. And it’s just the best of what this person can do. And this is done a lot in skateboarding, snowboarding, surfing, motocross – they make these videos that are then sold to the consumers.
So basically I created that same thing, but with a car. So I went and did a certain number of tricks and slides and around different obstacles at an airport called El Toro in Irvine. And that’s what the first Gymkhana video was. And I thought it was really cool. It wasn’t about trying to do something in one try. It was about trying something 10 times to get the perfect shots to make it look really good and tell the story of driving around this airport – and put it all together as a course.
And when we first put it out, I was like, “Oh, I really like this video. It showcases what I want to watch – what me and my friends want to watch.” And when we put that out, it turned out that a lot of other people like to watch it too. And that video really took off. And so my sponsor said, “Hey, when are you going to do that again? We really liked that exposure.” And so DC paid for me to do the second one, and the third one, and the fourth one, and then the fifth one being San Francisco.
Now the second, third, and fourth ones all are a very similar filming concept, but we just found different locations. The second one was on some piers in Long Beach. The third one was a really unique old race course in France that has these banked walls that go up to 51 degrees. Gymkhana Four was on one of the studio lots up in Hollywood. So you’ve got Jaws, and you’ve got The War of the Worlds, and all of these different sets that I was driving through that made it a really unique thing.
But these were all closed sets – private airfield, and private racetrack, and that sort of thing. And for Gymkhana Three, we’d actually gone to San Francisco – not San Francisco. Detroit – and scouted Detroit. And then when we went to go get the permits to film there, the city was like, “We don’t like certain locations you’ve picked.” And we were like, “Well, why?” To us, everybody knows Detroit as a part of the Rust Belt. It’s an industrial city that isn’t so industrial anymore and has a lot of urban decay. And we liked the urban decay. We had some new stuff in there too, but a lot of Detroit, to us, was very cool urban decay. And I wanted to drive in and through a lot of that.
And they just didn’t like that. They wanted to veto – even on set, they could say, “No, we don’t like what you’re filming,” and veto us. So there was no way we could put up all this money to go film at a location where they’re going to randomly veto us in the middle of shooting. So we never ended up doing Detroit. We just thought, “Oh, that’s going to be too difficult.”
So anyway, getting to Gymkhana Five, we went and scouted an area outside of San Francisco that’s an old military base where they use to build a lot of bombs and warships and that sort of thing – right on the water. And it cool but it didn’t have enough creative driving situations to make a whole video. So we went and looked at it and were disappointed, and we’re driving back into town to go to the airport. And the scout that was with us had just scouted San Francisco for, I think, Iron Man 3. So he’s a very high-level scout that does Hollywood type stuff. And he’s like, “Hey, do you want to go check out these spots in San Francisco?” We just laughed like, “San Francisco’s never going to let us do this in their city.”
It had nothing to do against San Francisco, it was more of the idea of – we’re hooning with cars. We’re having fun with cars. I’m doing giant slides and donuts with a car. There’s no way a city’s going to let us do that. But also, we just didn’t understand the movie world as well back then. And so the scout was like, “No, no. We can do whatever we want. We get a permit, we have that street to do whatever we want.” And so he took us to a couple of locations and we were blown away. We were like, “Really? We can use these locations?”
And so he had some good stuff. But we said, “Hey, we need a jump,” we need this and that. “We need a real twisty street. We need something down by the water.” And so he came back to us a month later and said, “Hey, I have all that stuff. You ready to go look again?” So we went back to San Francisco and looked at everything he brought us. And we said, “Wow, we have enough here to make an amazing video. We still need a few little things, but we have enough here.” And then, in that process too, the city came back and said, “Hey, do you want the bridge?” They offered us –
Tim Ferriss: That’s absolutely nuts.
Ken Block: – the Bay Bridge.
Tim Ferriss: How do you get the Bay Bridge? How do you clear the Bay Bridge?
Ken Block: I would’ve never even thought that would be possible. But that’s the thing that’s interesting about all this. As we went through this process, you learn, “Oh, a city like San Francisco, where a lot of TV shows are shot, a lot of movies are shot, a lot of commercials are shot – there’s a very good film department there.” The police force are very adept to understanding what the needs are for these movies and things. And they understand what you need to do to do this. So they offered us the bridge and we were like, “I would’ve never thought we’re going to shut down the Bay Bridge and use the Bay Bridge.”
But they were like, “Oh, yeah. We do that Sunday morning. We block them over by – between Oakland – they start – they get on the bridge over by Oakland. And then, as they get towards the island” – I don’t remember –
Tim Ferriss: Treasure Island?
Ken Block: Yeah, I think it’s Treasure Island.
Ken Block: And they start slowing everybody down. And when they have everybody start to slow down, the traffic then empties out ahead of them, and then we get on at Treasure Island, or whatever that’s called, and then go out and do what we need to do – where the traffic’s still stopped before the island. We have 10-15 minutes to do what we need to do and then we move on and the cops just let the traffic go. So really, they’re only stopped for 10-15 minutes. And we did that, I think, four times? So it messes up some traffic, but for a short amount of time on a Sunday morning, which is the least amount of traffic on that bridge.
So it’s all about just really smart usage of public streets. And I would’ve never understood all that unless we’d actually done that project. Now we’ve shut down the busiest road in Dubai – the main strip through Dubai – that had only been shut down once before for George W. Bush, Sr. So he was the only one that they had ever shut it down for before that. So it’s been wild to go on this ride of, “Oh, they’ll never let us do that,” to shutting down some of the biggest cities in the world to do some of this stuff.
Tim Ferriss: It’s really astonishing. I mean, I never would’ve thought it possible.
Ken Block: Yeah.
Tim Ferriss: And is it a function of, let’s say, the scouting ace that you had, or someone else putting together a pitch for the city like, “This is what we’re planning. This is why it’s going to bring a lot of tourism?” Or is really just the infrastructure’s set up, we are going to film, this is how much – what is the retail price point for this? What’s the rate card for shutting down these streets?
Ken Block: Well, I think that the exposure is a good thing. They do look at that. San Francisco looked at it and said, “Okay, yeah. That’s good. This is a viral series that could potentially give San Francisco more exposure.” But at the end of the day, I just think it’s money.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah.
Ken Block: You’re paying the film commission, the city, the government to go do this. And the city’s getting paid, the police department’s getting paid. It’s a commerce system. And so – and there are a lot of jobs around that that are being produced, too – everything from our crew, to the guys that – there are certain streets that they don’t want marks on. So we’re having to pay local guys to come in to clean up marks.
Tim Ferriss: Right.
Ken Block: So it really is a wild process.
Tim Ferriss: No shortage of marks –
Ken Block: Yeah.
Tim Ferriss: – in that video.
Ken Block: Yeah. And if you look back at that video, it’s – San Francisco, to me, is one of the most unique driving cities in the world. And not only does it have some amazing driving situations, like Russian Hill, some of the twisty streets, all the elevation changes, and all of that – but it’s also been immortalized by movies like Bullitt.
Tim Ferriss: You – for sure.
Ken Block: Bullitt wasn’t filmed in Akron, Ohio. It was San Francisco – jumping down those crazy streets and the bridges and everything. And that’s what makes it so legendary in its essence as San Francisco, as a unique place for cars. So when I – we got the permission to do that, oh man. It was really quite an honor and very cool, to me, that we were going to San Francisco to make this video. And I’ll tell you that I’m very lucky. I have an incredibly great crew around me of smart, very innovative and creative guys. And that’s what helps me make these things, too. When you watch that video, there are a ton of things in there that I do with the car, but I can’t do that without the great race team behind me and the great creative team behind me, too. It’s a very big collaborative effort for us to do these things.
And not only that, even my experience and connections in the industry. We have Travis Pastrana in there doing a wheelie that’s part of one of the elements of the movie. And that’s a part of the system and everything that’s built into what we do with – my agent is Travis’ agent and Travis is a long-time friend of mine. So it’s such a great mix of friendships, creativity, and hardworking people that make this happen.
Tim Ferriss: If you’re comfortable talking about it – because, certainly, it’s a burning question in my mind, putting aside the – separating out the production cost – put the production cost on one side, meaning all the cameras and all the crew for the actual filming, what does it – we don’t have to make it specific to San Francisco. But to shut down areas like that in San Francisco, what is the range in cost to doing something like that? Do you have any idea?
Ken Block: Well, the funny answer to that question is I ignore budgets. I get to focus on the creative stuff. And that is the honest truth. I only deal with budgets when there seem to be overages – and most of those times are caused by me. I’m like, “Yes, I’d – we can use the Hollywood sign but it’s going to cost another day? Yeah, let’s really do that.” But luckily, for what I’ve been doing, there’s been a lot of success with this. And DC funded the first five videos, and I didn’t have to deal with any of the budgets for that. There’s always a marketing director that figured that into his budget and we did five years’ worth of those videos with them.
And since then, my agent and Hoonigan have dealt with working with companies like Forza, and Ford, and Toyota to fund all these projects. There’s a cost to doing it. And the more creative you are, and the more extravagant you are, the more the cost is. But luckily, we’ve had a great set of sponsors that really understand and see the value in this and have really let us go wild and get these things done. The sky is not the limit. There are some very distinct budget restrictions. But these have been big budget things. There are movies that have sold in Hollywood that have smaller budgets than what we work with.
But it’s very cool to do this process. And the creativity that goes into it all through the process of production and everything, it is on some of the highest level there is that – with people that we work with in Hollywood. And it’s really cool to be able to do that and have directors like Neill Blomkamp email me and be like, “Dude, I want to direct one of your videos.” And I’m like, “I loved District 9. Yes, how can we get you involved?” But it’s just been a really fun, wild ride and a really fun extension of, not only my creativity as a marketing person, but also the creativity I’d love to do with the racecar itself.
Tim Ferriss: And at the same time, when we were having – well, I guess, meandering around the kitchen earlier, you have somewhere between 4.5-5 million followers on Instagram. And you were mentioning how – we were discussing the affordability of the gear that I’m recording this podcast on right now. You were saying that some of the most popular pics and so on that you’ve put up have, in some cases, just been from an iPhone, right? Or something like that. What, in your mind, for people who may not have a high budget and have seen footage that seems to also do well – for instance, where even recently, in British Columbia, where you were snowboarding and had Roman candles as you were going down through powder – what advice would you give to people who are hoping to create videos that get attention?
Ken Block: That’s a tough question. But it –
Tim Ferriss: I love tough questions.
Ken Block: Well, it’s a tough question, I feel like, in general – in marketing, in society, in whatever. Because today, like we were saying – t-shirts. Yeah, it’s easy to purchase a t-shirt. But how do you build a brand essence? It’s the same with a lot of equipment nowadays. It used to be so hard for – to get a really good photograph. Well, nowadays, I can get a really good photograph with my phone. So it’s not about, necessarily, the equipment nowadays. It’s about the content. And I think that’s really what made us successful back in the day, was hiring the right photographers, artists, videographers, and all that stuff, to produce the right content for all of our marketing – especially for DC. It’s a –
Tim Ferriss: And you were some of the first guys to take high quality black-and-white shots of athletes – and not just black-and-white, of course. But it seems like – is that accurate, that you guys were – at least, that’s what I’d read, that you were some of the first people to really place and emphasis on that.
Ken Block: Yeah, I mean, there were all sorts of different campaigns that we did – various different things in black-and-white. But, for us, a lot of it was connecting with the consumer in a different way, and in a way that they wanted information. And when I say that, I mean – even when you watch a simple video, you can capture something on an iPhone that, as long as you capture the right essence of something that connects, that’s way more important than hiring a guy that can hold a RED camera; that may make it prettier, but it just costs you $10,000 instead of pulling out – something out of your pocket.
So for me, it’s always about the storytelling. It’s always about connecting the content with what the consumer wants to see. And I think we’re lucky on my side that the guys behind me enjoy – we all enjoy the same stuff. So we want to produce the content that we want to watch, if that makes sense.
Tim Ferriss: It makes total sense, yeah.
Ken Block: And I think that that’s why you see our stuff so passionately done, because we genuinely love this stuff. But back to that storytelling thing, it was funny when we started – just a random example that pops into my head. We started making ads and doing a lot of marketing with motocross guys back in the late ’90s with DC. We sponsored Jeff Emig, and Ryan Hughes, and Ricky Carmichael. And when we went into the magazines, we looked at everything and the motocross photographers shot really tight because the dirt bike sponsors wanted them – they wanted to show their logos on the bike. And the bike manufacturers, they wanted the consumer to see their bike up close.
So you just have all these photos of a guy in the air and no reference to the ground and that sort of thing. Well, we did the opposite. We hired skateboard photographers to go shoot these dirt bike guys, and they would shoot long lens and really show how big these guys were jumping. And then, we’d buy a spread ad and run it in black-and-white. And Ricky’d be way up in the sky, and you’d see the real distance – 100 feet – that he’s jumping. And it would look dramatically different than everything else in the magazine. But that’s how we stood out. And the consumers love it, because they’re like, “Hey, you’re showing the sport that we love in a more dramatic and beautiful way.”
And so we really had a huge success from those campaigns – like in motocross – because we were just standing out and doing it different, but once again delivering to the consumer what they wanted to see, and doing it in a fun and unique way. So – and we carried that everywhere, including – random example – the director of photography that I use, for like Gymkhana Ten – he’s a snowboarder. He doesn’t know anything about cars. But he has a certain eye. His name’s Pierre Wikberg. I’ve known him, I don’t know, almost 20 years. He used to have a company called Robot Food. And they made snowboard films.
And we hired him to make two films – Mountain Lab and Mountain Lab 1.5 – about our research and development facility that was my home here in Park City. But they were some of the most fun and creative movies because Pierre has such an eye for not only filming and making things look fun, but then editing together with the right music, and the right story, and the right feel. So it’s guys like him that help make our stuff look and feel a certain way, and that’s what continues to make our stuff successful, because we keep attracting and bringing in these guys and managing all of the content – and the look, the right way – that we know is going to hopefully be successful. And according to three weeks of Gymkhana Ten being out there and 11 million views so far, apparently it’s still successful. So we’re pretty stoked about that.
Tim Ferriss: So many different directions we could go – so many different questions I want to ask. But let me ask you about something – it might seem mundane, but I think it’ll apply to a lot of people who are listening in some capacity. And not just because they’d be involved with athletes, but I’d love to talk about the right way – or the smart way – to sponsor athletes. Because you have agreements with athletes, and hopefully there will be lessons people can pull from this related to not just the specifics of sponsoring an athlete, but just thinking about deals and contracts, right?
We were chatting about negotiation a little bit earlier, but we won’t get into that. We’ll save that for another time. What did you learn – or what were some of the key takeaways that, if you were – let’s say one of your kids starts a company and they’re going to be sponsoring athletes, what would you – are there any particular red flags or warnings that you’d say, “We tried this in the early days. It was a complete disaster. Make sure you do not do this. Make sure you have this kind of clause.” Is there anything – the macro or the micro – that comes to mind about — given your experience, which is vast – how to do it the right way? Sponsoring athletes.
Ken Block: That is a very vague and difficult question. It all depends on what your ultimate goal is. Is it just a logo exposure? Is it trying to move a particular product? Is it using the athlete for an advertising campaign? Because all of those situations equal different types of contracts, different types of pay levels – everything.
Tim Ferriss: So just to – maybe I’ll try to clarify. So the reason I ask is I’ve seen companies do really well sponsoring athletes. I’ve also seen companies now – I’ll – what does sponsoring mean. In this case, it could be a supplement. It could be an apparel brand. They want someone to wear their stuff, be featured in advertisements, be willing to be quoted as a testimonial – a lot of people starting out don’t even know what the options are, right? They just want someone famous or well respected to wear their stuff, eat their stuff – whatever it might be. I’ve seen people also go under because they’ve overpaid or not thought through the contracts. So I’m trying to wade into this as someone who actually does not know a lot about it. But it seems to be an integral piece of launching a lot of different businesses.
Ken Block: Yeah. Like I said, it’s – there are so many scenarios and so many options there, that it really all depends. If you’re just trying to get someone to wear a pair of shoes to go do something, from skateboarding to basketball, well there’s a certain value there. If you’re trying to put a logo on a video that’s going to get a million views, well that’s a whole different value. And in my case, there are companies like Monster that, all they want is a big logo on the side of the car. They see the amount of exposure that I can get, and they put a certain value on that.
So it’s a really difficult one. I’m amazed at the expertise and the understanding of value that, say, someone like my agent has. Because he has so many companies come to him – from Ford to CBMD – that say, “Hey, we want this.” And he’s able to say, “Oh, well, the basic running value of that, industry standard, is this.” And so that’s where I see agents as a real important value to this process of making sure that the company’s getting their value and that the athlete’s getting their value out of it also.
So it really is a difficult process. I actually don’t deal with any of the companies that I work with really anymore on the negotiating side. My agent does all of it because I don’t understand what Nike is paying a similar person as me somewhere else. He would understand that and understand the value of and then how they’re using them. That’s something that – it’s a crazy world out there. But that is marketing and advertising, though. And there are very particular values that people pay, and certain athletes are quite different.
And even as you change countries – my agent represents a basketball player that actually does a lot of marketing in China. And there’s a whole different set of values as to how he does that, and how much time that takes, and what that value and commitment is. And – yeah. So the question you’re asking is –
Tim Ferriss: It’s a tough –
Ken Block: – not a simple –
Tim Ferriss: No, it’s not simple.
Ken Block: – if you ask me how much that logo is worth on my car sitting over there, I can give you a rough idea. But what a skateboard company pays to put a logo on someone’s t-shirt nowadays, it really is something that is quite a difficult answer to answer without an agent.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah. Yeah. This particular – which is why I bring it up. Because there’s a lot of information out there, but it can be somewhat opaque and confusing at first. So if you want to figure out what books are selling for, there’s a site called Publishers Marketplace and you can buy a subscription. And you can see the rough range of advances that are being paid for different books. So it’s a great source of information, even though most people aren’t familiar with it. Or IMDbPro – although, that’s not necessarily going to get into all the dollar figures, but it gives you a level of granularity, right?
The agent piece is tricky because – I mean, I have agents. But it’s – for someone who’s just getting on their feet and trying to learn, they may not have access to an agent. But I suppose they might have access to a lawyer, if they’re not hiring them for a specific contract, just to walk them through the specific deal templates. Because I know that, when I’ve done deals, you may – you don’t get what you deserve. You get what you negotiate, which is why it’s so helpful to have an agent do it on your behalf. But you might – that sponsor might want category exclusivity, right? And you may certainly not want category exclusivity.
And then, you have duration, right? You might have – if they want social support, you’re going to want it to be really well defined and capped. They might not want it to be well defined, because then it allows them to ask for more. So it’s one of those black boxes. Is your agent from one of the big, three-letter acronym – like WME or ECA? One of those guys? Or UTA?
Ken Block: Yes, WMG.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah. It’s interesting to me precisely because it is so difficult, right, if you’re just getting started, to try to figure it out.
Ken Block: Yeah, but I would say, if you’re a very small startup without much budget and you’re – you don’t really know where you’re going, that can be very difficult. But if you are a bigger company that has money, that understands the business and what they’re trying to do, it makes a lot more sense. An agency like WMG, that represents me, they also help companies with marketing, with actually making videos, commercials, social media posts, all that stuff. So they’re actually a full-service agency.
Because, back in the day, you would have your ad agency over here on the left and you’d have your agents over here on the right. And nowadays, that stuff’s getting much more all-in-one. Because an agency like WMG, and my agent Steve – somebody can call and say, “This is what we want to accomplish. These are the people we want to connect with.” And not only can the agent determine what athlete is right for what they’re trying to achieve, they can then help them write the campaign and actually get the connections directly with those consumers – not only with the company’s social media, but with the athlete’s social media. Because we’re able to target things through Facebook and Instagram, and obviously make the right messaging with the videos, photos, or whatever to really reach what someone’s trying to market towards.
So it – that’s why I say it’s a very difficult question. It is genuinely different when you talk about a really small company – someone with – very inexperienced and very little money, compared to if a bigger company says, “Hey, we want to grow into this category. How can we do that? How can we hire the right athlete?” That’s where an agency like WMG can really help maximize that in a much bigger way nowadays. And most all of them are doing that. A lot of these agencies have really realized, “Hey, we need to be full service.” This is a big world now and social media has made things much more dynamic than in the past.
Because when I started DC, it was like, “Oh, we need to make one skateboard ad a month. We need one message.” Shit, nowadays you need eight mini messages just for Instagram. So the world has gotten so much more direct, so much more – I would say, complicated. And complicated in a way that your brand messaging and your voice needs to be very thought through, very well put together, and done multiple times a day, which is much more difficult than when I started.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah, for sure. And just to put a button in this topic, I would just say for folks, also, if you can’t get an agent, don’t want to get an agent because you don’t necessarily want to get married and then figure out the specifics – for something like this, with, say, endorsement contracts and so on, you can find entertainment attorneys, and they’ll be more than happy to take your money for – to give you a 101 education. It will not be cheap. It’ll cost you a few thousand dollars, and you’ll get a pretty good baseline on – ask for a template agreement. If you just pay them for a template agreement, given whatever your basic parameters are, you can actually learn a lot from that.
Now you are 50-51 at the moment?
Ken Block: 51.
Tim Ferriss: You are still very physically active. Are there any – what does your training look like on a weekly basis, or on a daily basis? What does that look like?
Ken Block: I hate the gym, but I realize it’s a tool that I have to use. So I’m in the gym three or four times a week doing stuff like – I did an hour of kickboxing today with a very good trainer. I also have a regular physical strength trainer. I have some tears in my left shoulder, so I’m actually using a very good trainer right now that specializes in shoulder rehabilitation. So he’s actually been able to take me from not being able to do a push-up for two years to actually functioning, really, quite normally.
So I spend probably about four hours a week in the gym doing everything from high output intervals to basic weight training. And, on top of that, I try and get out and do as much physical outside activity as I possibly can – from snowboarding with my kids to downhill mountain biking. I hike a lot with my dogs in the winter. I basically live right next to the Park City Mountain, so I hike up into the mountains and snowboard back down. I just love the cardio of it, and it’s a great way to get my dogs out and get them exercised. And I take my snowboard, because it’s extra weight on me – and then, instead of walking back down in the snow, which is just not fun at all to me, and there’s no physical benefit to walking down, I can snowboard back down and be at my house in five minutes.
So it’s stuff like that that I really enjoy getting outdoors and doing. But the one thing that I really enjoy about the outdoor stuff is keeping me sharp mentally. Downhill mountain biking, the quickness and reaction that you need on that stuff – and the potential risk through injury and/or death – really keeps you sharp. So I enjoy getting out and doing that stuff as much as possible. But at the end of the day, for what I need, the reaction stuff, kickboxing – really being physical in that sort of way is what I think helps benefit me the most when I get in the racecar and go race. So I really enjoy those things that really keep me mentally sharp and hopefully keep me young.
Tim Ferriss: You’ve definitely had no shortage of injuries, right? I mean, you’ve had your fair share. Was – oh, I was going to ask you about the jump and the vertebrae. We’ll table that for now. Is there anything you’ve stopped doing, where – certain types of exercise or certain types of driving – where you’ve taken it off the table for yourself as you’ve gotten older?
Ken Block: Two things – I don’t ride dirt bikes anymore. It’s so easy to get hurt on a dirt bike. I love dirt bike riding, and it’s just – unfortunately, it’s called hurt bike for a reason. Or the other thing is, with age comes the cage.
Tim Ferriss: Oh, god.
Ken Block: But I absolutely love it, but the risk – I used to ride a lot of tracks. I love track riding and big jumps and that sort of thing, but I’ve also been injured many times from it. So I’ve quit doing that just because of the risk. If I can’t show up to one of the events that I’m paid to go race or go do demos at or whatever because I hurt myself on the dirt bike, well that’s just dumb. So I don’t do that anymore.
And the other thing is, because of the physical side of it, is – I used to do – I used to go out and run with my dogs. I used to play racquetball. But my right ankle has gotten so damaged from skateboarding and snowboarding over the years – there’s a lot of calcium buildup. They actually call it arthritis, but that just sounds like a very old-person term to me. But it’s actually from just all of the impacts of skateboarding and snowboarding, and then actually rolling my ankle from skateboarding – that there’s just a bunch of calcium built up around the joint itself.
So I went to a doctor in San Diego that’s worked on a bunch of different skateboarders and snowboarders. He’s a very good doctor. And he’s like, “Ah, I could fix that for you. It’ll be six months of pain and rehabilitation.” He’s like, “Do you make money playing racquetball?” And I’m like, “Nope.” He’s like, “Then just quit doing that.” So I had to quit playing racquetball. And not – I like racquetball, but I liked the mental and physical challenge of it, because you’re having to predict where the ball’s going. You’ve having to turn and rotate, move, react – I really loved that training to make me quick, to be in the car. And I just had to give it up.
Tim Ferriss: Have you had to modify how you do your kickboxing training because of the ankle or other injuries?
Ken Block: No, because the – just doing pad work and little bit of sparring, it isn’t that bad. Even I was – I did a bunch of kicks this morning, and it hurts the top of my foot. But that’s only because I didn’t place my foot where I should’ve on the pad. That’s my own mistake. But other than that, it doesn’t really bother me whatsoever. And even – because I do need some wrist strength and forearm strength, I actually work with a lighter glove. It’s not a real MMA glove. It has padded fingers and all of that, but it’s a very – it’s a much lighter glove. And I don’t actually wrap my wrists. So it actually keeps my wrists and my forearms actually very strong. So I don’t have a – I’ve broken both my wrists before. But my wrists are –
Tim Ferriss: But not kickboxing.
Ken Block: Not kick – no, dirt bike. Dirt bike and snowboarding. But they seem very strong now and just this process of not wrapping and doing this pad work keeps them even stronger.
Tim Ferriss: We’re going to wrap up in just a little bit, but – so to speak – but I wanted to ask you – and I ask a lot of my guests this because it’s – there are people who listen to these podcasts or see your accomplishments and feel very intimidated and think that it’s always been home runs, one after the other. To humanize things a bit, is – could you talk about maybe a tough time that you’ve experienced, or a time of self-doubt – whether it’s with DC or otherwise – just a specific situation or period of time that you could tell us about?
Ken Block: I would say, one part of time with DC growing was – when you reach a certain level and things start to flatten out. And there was a point in time with DC that the guy running the business side of the company was doing things – what we eventually found out wasn’t exactly the most approved way by the IRS. And then, he wasn’t treating the IRS officials very well. And at the same time, we’re struggling as a company. It really was a hard lesson for us to learn of what it really takes to run a company through the tough times.
And those are the times that you learn the most from. The easy times, when things are all up and up, and you can’t do anything wrong, you actually don’t learn that much from those times. It’s when you have your failures, that certain products just aren’t working, or maybe the market you’re in turns left and you’re still going right, or the business practices that you have going on behind the scenes that you think are all on the up-and-up – maybe people aren’t doing things exactly what – to the directives that you think they are. And those are the times that you make the adjustments, that you really dig down and learn what you need to learn to direct the company the way that you need to.
And those times are some of the most uncomfortable that I’ve ever had – sitting in a room full of attorneys and suits, and I’m sitting there in a pair of DC skate shoes and a t-shirt and having to make these decisions that are way – to me, would’ve been way beyond my experience level. But I dug down and we researched, we read, we worked hard to find the knowledge that we needed to succeed. And those were the times that we learned ourselves the most from. And I know – I’m sorry those aren’t very specific, but I – for a company like they – what we had, there were plenty of times that we hired athletes and they didn’t work out, or we made a particular shoe and the consumer just didn’t want that.
But at those times, too, you’re not relying on one. You have 50 products. One may fail. Okay, we still have these others succeeding. Or we have 15 athletes – we hire a new one. Oh, he didn’t work out. Damn it, we tried. We really liked this guy but he just didn’t perform. We’ve got to move on. And that’s just the way it is. But those are little lessons. The bigger lessons really are the larger business things that – for me, as a marketing guy, we really did try to hire much smarter people than us in those areas. But when it came down to it, we still had to make the decisions. We still had to say, “No, this is the right way to go. We’ve got to let this guy go. He doesn’t get what we’re trying to do.”
Or there were other people that just didn’t have the same integrity that we did, and weren’t acting in the same light that we were, and didn’t represent us the right way. Okay. You’ve got to go, too. And those are hard decisions. And when – I mean, shit, I’ve made a lot of those decisions when I was in my late 20s and early 30s. That’s when I still drank a lot. It’s just a different mentality than I have today. But it was a great learning experience and I came out better at the other end.
Tim Ferriss: So you no longer drink?
Ken Block: No, I still drink. Just not at that same level. I don’t quite have the same – how would you say – stamina to wake up the next morning and do things at the same level every day. It just affects me more nowadays.
Tim Ferriss: So I’ll ask some – a couple of light questions. Favorite drink. So what is your favorite drink?
Ken Block: Wow. Favorite alcoholic drink?
Tim Ferriss: Favorite alcoholic drink.
Ken Block: My favorite alcoholic drink – I have two of them right now. In the summer, it’s called The Long Drink. It’s the official drink of Finland.
Tim Ferriss: Okay.
Ken Block: It’s just something that they made for when they held the Olympics in Finland a long time ago. They were like, “We need an official drink.” It’s gin and grapefruit juice and it comes in a can. It’s amazing. It’s an amazing summer drink.
Tim Ferriss: Sounds great.
Ken Block: But then, year around, I actually really like a good sipping tequila, like Clase Azul or something like that – just over some ice. Just amazing.
Tim Ferriss: Do you have a default breakfast these days, or a favorite breakfast?
Ken Block: I find that I actually work the best, and work out the best, in the morning. But I hate spending the time to make breakfast and/or digest that breakfast. I want caffeine in me as fast as possible, and I want to be able to work as much as possible in the morning, and work out. So I found that just drinking coffee and eating a light breakfast worked really well. But nowadays, I drink, basically, a Bulletproof Coffee – coffee with butter and MCT oil in it. But Onnit makes a very good mix that goes into it, with flax seed, chia seed – that sort of thing – called –
Tim Ferriss: Yeah, hemp protein.
Ken Block: Yeah, called Vitality Mix. And so I drink that ever morning and that lasts me until 11:00-12:00 every day. And I get a great workout in, and I get a lot of work done. And that, to me, is one of those little life hacks that people have come up with that – it’s not – it’s an unusual thing. But, man, if you can get on it, it really works.
Tim Ferriss: Do you have any wind down or pre-bed rituals, anything you do to start shutting down before you go to sleep?
Ken Block: Oh, wow. That’s a tough one. Try not to look at social media for about a half hour before. As I get older – the messed-up thing about getting older is it seems like sleep gets harder – it just really – my mom’s 85 and it’s really hard for her to sleep. So I feel like the actual best sleep ritual is actually working out really hard during the day in some form or another.
Tim Ferriss: Definitely.
Ken Block: Your body actually physically feeling tired going to sleep, and then getting a good recovery by a very good deep sleep, is really key to me. But as far as really winding down, I mean, I have three semi-young kids. My oldest is 12, so we spend every night doing something with the kids and then putting them to bed. And then, my wife and I hang out doing whatever – drink a glass of wine, hopefully not too late, and have a mellow evening and go to bed. So it’s not anything specific besides try not to look at electronics too late at night.
Tim Ferriss: And get the exercise. That’s a huge component.
Ken Block: Yeah, it amazes me how many people don’t realize that, if you’re going to be a successful, functioning human that you’ve got to eat well, you’ve got to take care of yourself, you’ve got to be in good physical condition. Your mental abilities actually coincide with your physical abilities.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah.
Ken Block: And if you put crap into yourself, you’re going to get a crap output. And so I’m a firm believer in good exercise. There’s a – you’ve got to take care of yourself really well physically to really expect a high output mentally.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah. You’ve got to protect the asset. Last one or two questions here – if you could put a message, or a quote, or a word – noncommercial – on – this is a metaphorical question – on a billboard that millions or billions of people would see, is there anything that comes to mind? Any type of message – question –
Ken Block: Don’t be an asshole.
Tim Ferriss: That’s acceptable. That’s perfectly acceptable.
Ken Block: Well, the funny thing is, I say that because I feel like social media is just – and the Internet’s made it so that you’re not talking to people anymore. It’s so easy to be rude. And that’s one thing I really impart in my kids. You’ve got to look at people in their face and make a statement. You greet someone, you look them in the eye. You cheers them, you don’t look away when your glass is hitting the other glass. You look them in the eye. And I just feel like the human nature of us as beings on this earth, we’ve got to treat everybody in a good and fair way. And that – if we all did that, I think the planet would be a lot better.
So that’s a very basic thing. But on top of that, though, I think we’re here – we’re not here for a long time, but let’s have a good time. Let’s be innovative. Let’s be creative. Let’s have fun. There’s a lot of shit out there in the world that we’ve got to deal with, but let’s do things in a better way. Let’s do things in a fun and creative way. Why not? Why be stuck with the mundane and be set with the bullshit. I want to be creative. I want to be fun. I want to do things the best way I possibly can, and I want to be proud of whatever I do.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah.
Ken Block: Everything in life – if it comes to – 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.”
Tim Ferriss: Hear, hear.
Ken Block: Did that –
Tim Ferriss: That answers it.
Ken Block: Shit, that was a long billboard.
Tim Ferriss: No, that’s – you could have a sequence. You could have a sequence of billboards. But don’t be an asshole, I think, gets us – checks a lot of boxes. Well, Ken, I really appreciate you taking the time today. This was really fun. It was also fun to be in your backyard and playing in the snow for a few days before getting a chance to sit down together. Is there anything in particular you’d like people to check out? Certainly, they can say hello on Instagram, @kblock43; also @kblock43 on Twitter; Facebook, Ken Block Racing; hooniganracing.com. Are there any particular things that you’re creating, working on, or have created that you’d like people to take a look at?
Ken Block: Well, Gymkhana Ten – the tenth installment of this video series, just came out recently. It’s on YouTube. And The Gymkhana Files, which is the documentary series that Amazon had us create around what I do with making these Gymkhana videos and racing and all that stuff. That’s on Amazon Prime right now. Both of them are very good. We’ve made a documentary about me and what I do, but I think it’s very cool. The documentary genre out there has become very popular. It’s something I really enjoy. So for us to make one was really cool and fun. And it’s a bit different than what else you see out there because we’re showing people what we do, how we do it – to make these viral videos that have become a big part of everybody’s life nowadays.
And we’ve really pulled back the curtain to show what it takes to do this stuff. And that was a lot of fun to do. But different than a lot of other documentary series. At the end, you actually get a prize. You actually get to see the end result of what we did. Unlike The Clinton Affair documentary, you know what the end result is. It’s a cool way that they actually told that documentary and I really enjoyed it. But at the end, yeah he gets impeached – but then he doesn’t get impeached. He did a bunch of bad stuff. We all know about it. It was a cool story. But our documentary series actually was a cool twist on all of that. At the end, you actually get to see what we spent two years making, which I think was really cool and innovative on Amazon’s part, to hire us to do all this.
And it was fun for us to take this experience of making these viral videos and then tell that whole story and show how it all comes to life. So yeah. If – whoever’s listening to this, go check Gymkhana Ten and The Gymkhana Files and all of that’s produced by our small company called Hoonigan that you can find easily online. And, if you’re into cars, they make all sorts of crazy and different content that covers various car builds around the world, and doing funny stuff with cars, and doing very serious things with cars. So it’s a great and fun brand that we have, and it’s been growing a lot because we’ve been able to do very creative and fun projects.
Tim Ferriss: Well, we could talk – I’m sure we could talk for many more hours. We didn’t get a chance to talk about jamon iberico, or Nobu, or the UFC, Jim in Vegas – but we can do that another time. So folks, I will also link to everything we’ve talked about, including the videos that Ken just mentioned in the show notes, as per usual. So you can find all those links at tim.blog/podcast. Just search Ken’s name and it’ll pop right up. Ken, thanks again for taking the time.
Ken Block: Yeah, thank you. I really enjoyed actually talking about this stuff, and especially in a format where hopefully people will listen and actually take some of the lessons and knowledge that I have, and hopefully apply it to their own experiences, and hopefully better themselves.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah. Well, I’ve been very impressed over the years watching your longevity, and also how you folded one project into the next, and how the relationships and skills you’ve built from one thing have transferred then into other projects in seemingly distinct worlds. It’s been really fun and instructive, just to watch from afar. So it’s nice to actually be sitting in here having a conversation.
Ken Block: Well, thank you very much for having me.
Tim Ferriss: All right, guys. Until next time, thanks for listening.
The Tim Ferriss Show is one of the most popular podcasts in the world with more than 600 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.