Tim Ferriss and Matt Mullenweg in Antarctica: Exploring Personal Fears, Bucket Lists, Facing Grief, Crafting Life Missions, and Tim’s Best Penguin Impressions (#578)

Illustration via 99designs

“I think doing the right thing for the wrong reason is still the right thing.”

— Matt Mullenweg

Matt Mullenweg (@photomatt) is a co-founder of the open-source publishing platform WordPress, which now powers more than one-third of all sites on the web. He is the founder and CEO of Automattic, the company behind WordPress.com, WooCommerceTumblrWPVIPDay One, and Pocket Casts. Additionally, Matt runs Audrey Capital, an investment and research company. He has been recognized for his leadership by Forbes, Bloomberg Businessweek, Inc., TechCrunch, Fortune, Fast Company, WiredVanity Fair, and the University Philosophical Society. 

Matt is originally from Houston, Texas, where he attended the High School for the Performing and Visual Arts and studied jazz saxophone. In his spare time, Matt is an avid photographer. He currently splits his time between Houston and Jackson Hole.

For my first interview with Matt, way back in 2015, go to tim.blog/matt.

Please enjoy!

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The transcript of this episode can be found here. Transcripts of all episodes can be found here.

#578: Tim Ferriss and Matt Mullenweg in Antarctica: Exploring Personal Fears, Bucket Lists, Facing Grief, Crafting Life Missions, and Tim’s Best Penguin Impressions

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What was your favorite quote or lesson from this episode? Please let me know in the comments.


Want to hear another episode recorded during my time on Earth’s southernmost continent? Lend your ear to my conversation with filmmaker and photographer Sue Flood, in which we discuss her work with nature documentary icon David Attenborough, swimming with orcas, the perfection of the emperor penguin, the story of her divorce whale, common mistakes made by rookie wildlife photographers, and much more.

#567: A Rare Podcast at 30 Below Zero — Sue Flood on Antarctica, Making Your Own Luck, Chasing David Attenborough, and Reinventing Yourself
  • Connect with Matt Mullenweg:

Twitter | Instagram | Blog | Facebook | Spotify


  • In Antarctica, even your neatest scotch is served on the rocks — and you have to take it with you when you’re finished. [06:12]
  • How we’re dealing with perpetual daylight and zero access to the internet. [08:26]
  • For anyone who hasn’t caught his past appearances and mentions on this show, who is Matt Mullenweg, and what keeps him busy when he’s not camping on Antarctican sea ice? [11:12]
  • What our morning immersed in the “patient” landscape of Antarctica has been like so far. [13:56]
  • Why a total solar eclipse needs to be experienced firsthand to understand why it’s such a big deal. [17:15]
  • Antarctican skin care and rollicking penguin imitations. [20:52]
  • What’s happened in Matt’s world since the last time we talked on this podcast? How does he keep each day interesting? [24:30]
  • What Matt has found most helpful for enduring the grieving process since his father passed away. [26:36]
  • You probably have a smartphone. Here’s why you should use it to record some of the time you spend with loved ones when you have the chance, and what you might talk to them about. [32:25]
  • Podcast tech spec updates since our last conversation that make recording possible at any temperature on Earth. [34:39]
  • As Matt says, “You can’t spell ‘Tim’ without ‘TMI.’” That’s why I’m going to talk about the time I sampled my own urine. [40:04]
  • We each answer the question posed by a card from the Holstee Reflection Deck: “What is one fear you would like to conquer?” [42:13]
  • Strange comfort I derived from a recent existential revelation, and where I found it. [50:48]
  • Next card: “If a crystal ball could tell you the truth about your life, the world, or anything else, what would you want to know?” [1:00:29]
  • Another card: “If you knew that in one year you would die suddenly, what would you change about the way you’re living now? Why?” [1:08:35]
  • At the time of this conversation, what would I put on my billboard? [1:19:20]
  • New card: “What are two things still on your bucket list?” [1:19:38]
  • We need more billionaires exploring the oceans and the non-Western worlds of ritual and myth with the same exuberance as the ones currently exploring space. [1:26:39]
  • Would I clone my dog Molly? Matt shares his own experience with getting to know a cloned animal after its genetically identical predecessor passed away. [1:38:49]
  • More bucket list items. [1:43:12]
  • Why Matt doesn’t curse, and what he does when he gets really angry. [1:43:42]
  • The next card: “Do intentions matter more or less than actions?” [1:47:29]
  • The last card: “What are you grateful for right now?” [1:52:07]
  • Parting thoughts. [1:55:07]


“How are we ever going to understand aliens if we can’t understand dogs?”
— Matt Mullenweg

“I think doing the right thing for the wrong reason is still the right thing.”
— Matt Mullenweg

“Where I’m not Zen at all is I get upset on behalf of others.”
— Matt Mullenweg

“I think it’d be kind of cool if our brains are antennas to some deeper consciousness and we reconnected with it, sort of went back to that non-dual nature of enlightenment.”
— Matt Mullenweg

“We’re hoping to do for e-commerce what we did for websites.”
— Matt Mullenweg


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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17 Replies to “Tim Ferriss and Matt Mullenweg in Antarctica: Exploring Personal Fears, Bucket Lists, Facing Grief, Crafting Life Missions, and Tim’s Best Penguin Impressions (#578)”

  1. Hi Tim, Just wondering of you would be interested in attending a retreat. We are people working through trauma – your name comes up in discussions. We were encouraged to invite a friend – so I am inviting YOU!

  2. Hey Tim, The Four Hour Parent would help a lot of kids. Just sayin. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ I know that sounds ridiculous but 4 hours of good parenting a week would actually be a big step up for a lot of parents. You’ve had positive feedback from your books right? You’ve seen transformations when people got 4 hour body. Well, you can probably transform a dad too, maybe even level up some moms. The results are harder to see but they might mean a lot more. So. Go for it man have those kids if ya want em

  3. hey tim,

    i appreciate the openness concerning the “never-changing baseline of negativity” thing. i’ve also struggled with this. one interesting experiment that i frequently thought might be valueable in this conext: first, poll people that you trust based on a question somewhat like this: “if you’ve suffered from clinical depression/anxiety/pessimism etc. in the past, do you feel that you have truly overcome this affliction?” then, engage with the ones who answered affirmatively and try to focus in on just this one question – how did you do it? the results would surely be of interest to a lot of people. might also be a study worth funding…

    cheers from germany


  4. Mr. Ferris,
    Ever-appreciative of your insight and have a soft-tosser for you: Traveling, for my first time, to Austin at the end of the month and would love a BBQ referral. Realize they’re ubiquitous, but, if you have a favorites, would appreciate the insight.

    Kind Regards,

  5. Hey Tim, just though you’d be interested in knowing about ZOE: Science & Nutrition- it’s an awesome podcast- tag line:
    The world’s top scientists explain the latest health, nutrition, and gut health research and translate it into practical advice to improve your health.

    Seems like your bag- enjoy!

    Ohh it’s also hosted by the CEO of ZOE, who run the world’s largest Covid study

  6. Hi Tim,

    I felt compelled to share a personal experience and some learnings, in hope of helping you find the longevity of happiness and keeping your dial at 0 and above.

    I used to uncannily identify with your philosophy and perspectives on life. I rigorously wanted to find the meaning of life, to the extend that the pursuit in itself became the meaning. Everything was about formula and principle. I deeply trusted the power of my mind and believed fundamentally I could achieve anything I put my mind to. I was unmistakenly stoic and logical; there were often many conditional parentheses in my thinking and writing. I was always unsatisfied and felt there was forever going to be a lack.

    In September last year, I went to Maui and had what I could only describe as an awakening experience. Before then, I was casually atheist and lazily agnostic and I would’ve put the word awakening in the bucket of words I sniffed at. Without going into it too much, what followed was that I’ve been going through the biggest (societally seen as negative) life changes and decisions, while feeling a fundamental sense of peace and joy, that I trust – and know as in having a knowing of – will last forever as long as I stay true, which I’ll elaborate more on.

    While this experience was bestowed upon me, some learnings are applicable to anyone. One of the biggest lessons for me and people with similar characteristics, is to surrender to the heart. It may sound corny, but there’s fundamental truth behind “listen to your heart”. That truth is simply unshakeable and leaves no room for lack, and brings peace and joy. Any control / grasping beyond that takes us out of alignment, and that misalignment is space for anxiety and depression. One practical technique to listen to the heart is to bow your head to the heart in meditation, and direct energy and attention to the heart. That loosens the control of the mind. “When the meditator disappears, the meditation begins”.

    While this is an incredibly surface description of a topic one could write books on (The Deep Heart by John J. Prendergast for example), I hope it moves you positively in some way.


  7. Hi, I’ve just seen the Ukraine book royalty donation offer in the most recent 5-bullet Friday email.

    Please let us know the best route of purchase to ensure the maximum contribution is made from a purchase. There are a couple of your books I’ve not yet got around to buying and will happily purchase immediately to help maximise this campaign. I don’t want to dumbly click through Amazon if it’s not the best route to ensure the sale proceeds are maximised (I’m UK based).

    Thanks, Tim

  8. Tim,
    My brother, Dave and I have been enjoying your work since we first read 4-hour work week in 2008 while starting Holstee. And now to hear you mention the Holstee Reflection Cards on the podcast with Matt Mullenweg was absolutely surreal (glad i wasn’t biking or driving)!!! I feel like I could high five the moon right now!! Just thank you, thank you, thank you.

    Your fans,
    Mike (and Dave)

  9. Hi Tim – Thank you for opening up about your fears of unhappiness, depression and a lack of energy. As Matt expected, those were not what this listener expected to be fears of yours. For me, it was weird to hear you have the same primary fears that I do, especially because I turn to your podcast very regularly to help pull me out of funks and give me motivation and energy. It seems your podcast is one of your best strategies to overcome those fears. It certainly has been one of the most effective and enjoyable interventions for myself. Thank you for the show and appreciate what you provide to the world.

  10. Hey Tim, I think you’re a great guy and someone who spreads consciousness and intelligence everywhere he goes. I respect the work you’re doing and the knowledge you’re spreading. What do you think about focusing on Sustainability Problem Solving? I’m young (early 20s) and I get anxious about the future of Earth. I see a lot of Podcasters talking about mundane topics rather than getting diving in to the dense forest of Sustainability problems. Hope you see this comment.

  11. Hey Tim,

    I felt a sense of “relief” when I found out now of my own personal heroes struggled with a “never-changing baseline of negativity”. I always felt like I was programmed wrong, and can sense others are just more positive. I don’t know how to get out of this, in spite of how many resources there are in this current age. Would you be open to have a podcast episode dedicated solely to this topic? Maybe something that covers the beginning, what has worked and hasn’t, and perhaps future tools you wish to try. This would mean a lot. Thank you for everything, stay gold.

  12. Hey Tim – long time student/fan – first time commenter because I don’t have Twitter and that always seems to be where I’m being pointed : ). Anyway, thanks for all you do. Upon listening to this most recent Matt Mullenweg interview, I thought you might be interested in checking out a book called “Killing the White Man’s Indian” by Fergus M. Bordewich. You mentioned being interested in spending time with indigenous tribes, and you referenced certain philosophies about how people think about indigenous tribes and ways of life. This book put to rest so many misconceptions and shed light on the true complexity and depth of the experience of American Indians, as well as others’ perception of American Indians. Thanks again for teaching me and the world so much. I really appreciate you.

  13. “How are we ever going to understand aliens if we can’t understand dogs?”

    Hahaha…that is as funny as it gets! But ever so true.

  14. Hey Tim!

    New listener here making my way through your library of podcasts. In this one you talk about feeling a sense of hopeless apathy towards humanity and the relief that Oliver Burkeman’s cosmic insignificance therapy provided. I’ve felt that same hands-in-the-air dread myself quite a bit, and wanted to share what I found most helpful.

    Toby Ord addresses this tangentially at the end of The Precipice by similarly expanding our perspective to cosmic timescales and the inevitable demise of Earth and its inhabitants. Only he argues that by ensuring humanity’s survival up to that point, we will be able to intervene to preserve life on Earth, through whatever hyper-advanced and unfathomable tools we have developed over the eons. And so our struggle to ensure that we don’t spiral the world into the ground is more than just self preservation, it’s us fighting for the little guys, potentially giving all less-sentient life on Earth billions of extra years.

    Food for thought, and at the very least a good book recommendation for you!