Eric Schmidt — Lessons from a Trillion-Dollar Coach (#367)

“You can systematize innovation even if you can’t completely predict it.”

— Eric Schmidt

Eric Schmidt (@ericschmidt) is Technical Advisor and Board Member to Alphabet Inc., where he advises its leaders on technology, business and policy issues. Eric joined Google in 2001 and helped grow the company from a Silicon Valley startup to a global leader in technology. He served as Google’s Chief Executive Officer from 2001-2011, and Executive Chairman 2011-2018, alongside founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page.

Eric serves on the boards of The Mayo Clinic and The Broad Institute, among others. His philanthropic efforts through The Schmidt Family Foundation focus on climate change, including support of ocean and marine life studies at sea, as well as education, specifically cutting-edge research and technology in the natural sciences and engineering. He is the founder of Schmidt Futures, which works to improve societal outcomes through the development of emerging science and technology.

He is the co-author of The New Digital Age, How Google Works, and the new book, Trillion Dollar Coach: The Leadership Playbook of Silicon Valley’s Bill Campbell, which he co-authored with fellow Google leaders Jonathan Rosenberg (@jjrosenberg) and Alan Eagle (@aeaglejr).

Listen to the episode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, Overcast, Castbox, or on your favorite podcast platform.

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

#367: Eric Schmidt — Lessons from a Trillion-Dollar Coach

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QUESTION(S) OF THE DAY: What was your favorite quote or lesson from this episode? Please let me know in the comments.

Scroll below for links and show notes…


  • Connect with Eric Schmidt:

Website | Twitter | LinkedIn | Facebook


  • Why did Eric begin his undergrad in architecture and shift to electrical engineering? [08:17]
  • Eric talks about working at Sun Microsystems in 1983 and contrasts the world of electronics then with today. [10:06]
  • How did Eric wind up at Sun and who does he consider his mentors from those days? [12:22]
  • Has Eric always been known as a clear communicator, or is it something he developed over time? [14:28]
  • What did Eric learn about the executive arts at this point in his career, and how did they differ from the way things are done today? [15:23]
  • When you’re teaching, learning, and doing business in uncharted territory, sometimes you’ve got to write the reference material. [18:19]
  • On the seemingly everywhere venture capitalist John Doerr and how small Silicon Valley is — and was, especially in its early days — despite how vast it might appear to outsiders. [20:26]
  • Eric’s 30-second history of Silicon Valley. [24:07]
  • Does Eric believe Silicon Valley is a unique, non-recurring phenomenon? What would it take to replicate its positive characteristics for entrepreneurship elsewhere? [26:35]
  • John Doerr’s role in introducing Eric to Google. [28:36]
  • Eric sets the scene of his interview with Larry Page and Sergey Brin. [29:57]
  • How time proved all sides right in an argument between Eric, Larry, and Sergey about proxy caches. [31:07]
  • During his Google interview/argument, what clued Eric in to the fact that he was dealing with atypical founders? [32:36]
  • How did Larry and Sergey assess Eric as a potential leader, and what qualities in Eric did John Doerr see as a complement to those of the Google founders? [33:23]
  • In what ways did Eric lend his “adult supervision” to manage the brilliant chaos of early Google and spur its growth? [35:13]
  • Eric explains Sergey’s 70-20-10 model and how it’s been applied at Google. [37:24]
  • What Eric believes a company should focus on to keep growing pains from becoming an equally scalable distraction. [39:29]
  • What Eric considers his most important job as a CEO. [41:08]
  • What did Google’s weekly meeting schedule look like initially, and how has it adapted over time? Is it what Eric would consider ideal? [42:37]
  • Who was Bill Campbell, and why did Eric, together with Jonathan Rosenberg and Alan Eagle, write Trillion Dollar Coach about him? [46:13]
  • Why does coaching matter in the business world, and what made Bill such an exceptionally gifted coach? [47:34]
  • What were Bill’s opinions about starting and running meetings? [49:27]
  • The key difference between a coach and a manager. [50:44]
  • The importance of regularly articulating motivating principles over falling back on feelgood cliches. [52:00]
  • How would Bill facilitate solutions when decision makers didn’t see eye-to-eye? [53:37]
  • When Google went public in 2004, Bill recommended that Eric step aside as chairman, but made sure he would be reinstated as chairman later. What was his thinking behind this, and how did he pitch it to Eric? [54:57]
  • Though Eric was initially resistant to the idea of having a coach, here’s what happened during his first meeting with Bill to convince him otherwise. [56:33]
  • An example of how Bill moved when charged to execute a task. [58:23]
  • How does one person successfully lead 100? Ask Bill Coughran. [59:23]
  • What types of words would Bill Campbell write behind his whiteboard to prompt conversation in a meeting, and how would he structure the results? [1:01:23]
  • How did Bill Campbell walk the delicate line between simultaneously helping Google and Apple — and being so trusted by both? [1:03:10]
  • What was Bill Campbell’s secret for accurately sniffing out BS when people weren’t being honest with him, and what were the consequences of such dishonesty if discovered? [1:06:21]
  • As Bill reportedly told Chegg’s Dan Rosensweig, “I don’t take cash, I don’t take stock, and I don’t take shit.” So how was he compensated? What were his primary motivations? [1:08:01]
  • As someone who was always trying to find the right people for the right problems, how did he handle firing the wrong people when things didn’t work out? [1:10:53]
  • How Bill became part of “the fabric” at Google — and Apple — and facilitated conversations between the two in a way no one else could. [1:11:24]
  • As a coach, how did Bill course correct Eric when he saw him violating his own rules? [1:13:10]
  • What were some of Bill’s workplace and weekday rituals? [1:14:22]
  • What Eric tries to incorporate into his own life from Bill’s Saturday morning routine. [1:15:27]
  • What does a typical morning look like for Eric? [1:16:36]
  • How would Eric recommend that someone in need of a coach vet potential candidates? [1:17:50]
  • What does Eric hope to gain (or lose) by intermittent fasting? [1:18:46]
  • What book does Eric gift the most, and why? [1:21:04]
  • Does Eric have any favorite failures or challenges that set the stage for later successes? [1:24:00]
  • Eric’s co-pilot was instructed to be unhelpful during jet training as a way to prompt leadership-level decisions. When did Eric first notice something amiss, and how did he deal with it? [1:26:33]
  • Has Eric’s exposure to the arts developed his intuition in a way that’s been useful toward making hyper analytical business decisions? [1:27:48]
  • What would Bill Campbell have considered “success?” [1:30:20]
  • What would Eric’s billboard say? [1:31:34]
  • Parting thoughts. [1:34:40]


The Tim Ferriss Show is one of the most popular podcasts in the world with more than 900 million downloads. It has been selected for "Best of Apple Podcasts" three times, it is often the #1 interview podcast across all of Apple Podcasts, and it's been ranked #1 out of 400,000+ podcasts on many occasions. To listen to any of the past episodes for free, check out this page.

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16 Replies to “Eric Schmidt — Lessons from a Trillion-Dollar Coach (#367)”

  1. Hi Tim, I really enjoy your books and your PODCASTS but it would be nice if you can do a 5 Bullet audio blurbs from these long interviews of about a minute or 2 (like your Friday five) for the super key messages and comments made by your interviewee. The 1.5 hrs is too much to take in sometimes and the big takeaways in a quick 5 bullet recap would be amazing for all. Thx for what you do!

  2. Can’t wait for this conversation. Especially around the ocean conservation and climate change.

    Thank you again Tim!

  3. Another outstanding podcast. Thanks Tim Ferriss for constantly bringing the most brilliant minds to your table to talk. Now I have to add Eric Schmidt to my people I admire “list.”

  4. I liked the instances of insight/view into a transformational time for the tech industry and its evolution. I know the interview was full of Bill Campbell, who was arguably a massive influence on the current industry. But there was that moment at the end where Eric Schmidt is summing up how we can now design the systems to have the world we want and I wondered how many times Eric’s touch moved, directed, focused the energy to develop those systems or parts of those systems, perceiving how they might be used in the future. “You can systematize innovation even if you can’t completely predict it.” is a quote I’ll ponder for a while.

  5. Difficult to articulate exactly why but after reading The Power of One and Tandia by Bryce Courtenay I feel you would enjoy and/or resonate with them perhaps even more than I did. Set in pre-WWII South Africa following a young English boy named Peekay growing up in a world that despises the English and is enveloped in apartheid. I’m really interested on your thoughts on the two novels; even if I can’t get a response I’d simply enjoy knowing someone else shared my enjoyment of reading them.

    Would also love to hear a podcast with Nick Mitchell, good friend of Charles Poliquin and founder/CEO of Ultimate Performance – the only international Personal Training company and one that produces staggering results constantly.

  6. Tim you’re a great interviewer, but I was so disappointed that you didn’t explore Eric’s relationship with Steve Jobs! You said at some point you’ll get to Steve, but never did…. would’ve loved to hear Eric’s indie stories around Steve. Was otherwise a great podcast, thank you.

  7. Great podcast, Tim! Just wanted to take a moment to thank you for all that you’ve done. From your books to your podcast, to the 5-bullet Friday email…they have all had an incredible impact on me. In fact, the 4 hour work week was the catalyst that changed my entire life. I think an event or retreat with you that focused on some of your core principals over a weekend would be a killer idea. Just a thought…thanks again!

  8. Hey Tim, love the show. Wanted to comment on your 5 Bullet Friday mention of Protien but it linked me here. I hope thats ok. Since Myoplex has been taken off the shelves I have been pretty lost in what to drink in the mornings. Any suggestions? I really only do trust your awesome brain/body when it comes to this kind of stuff. Thanks.

  9. I love the 70/20/10 rule- good split for focusing your energies and still leaving some out there for the wild cards! Thanks for an excellent episode Mr Ferris!

    Oh and in reply to your recent 5 Bullet Friday- my fave method for sweet potatoes is to dcube or slice (like potato wedges), toss in melted butter or oil, season with salt or more elaborate mixes (creole seasoning is excellent!), and bake at 375 for 45mins to 1 hour. Dreamy…

  10. Thoroughly enjoyed this podcast, Eric’s eloquent responses were filled with wisdom and Cambell’s story is inspiring and I’ll definitely sought out more insights about him and his life. Thanks again for a strong interview.

  11. Thank you Eric and Tim. I’ve shared this with several friends! And jotted notes around the comments on allocating time to the core (what makes you money today), the new (adjacent or nearby, extending franchise), the experimental (wild bets, crucially important for things you’ll be doing) in 70:20:10 ratio…to keep the urgent in check from overwhelming the important…and how Eric took this approach to systematize innovation.

  12. Hello Tim your Podcasts is too awesome am a biggest Fan of You. Really Appreciate your work actually wanna ask you something about the conversation that is already scripted or not ?