Brandon Stanton – The Story of Humans of New York and 25M+ Fans

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“Doing anything less than something amazing is squandering this whole reason that you’re here.” – Brandon Stanton

Brandon Stanton (@humansofny) is the photographer behind Humans of New York. He attended the University of Georgia and worked as a bond trader in Chicago before moving to New York to pursue photography. Followed by over 25 million people on social media, Humans of New York features daily glimpses into the lives of strangers on the streets of New York City. It has been turned into two #1 New York Times bestselling books: Humans of New York and Humans of New York: StoriesIn recent years, Brandon has expanded the blog to include stories from over thirty different countries, and was invited in 2015 to interview Barack Obama in the oval office. In 2017, Humans of New York was turned into a television series that is now available on Facebook Watch.

Enjoy!


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Brandon Stanton - The Story of Humans of New York and 25M+ Fans
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Want to hear another podcast with an innovative artist? — Listen to my conversation with Soman Chainani, author of The School for Good and Evil series, in which we discuss publishing stories, personal discipline, and remaining true to an artistic vision when money’s on the table. (Stream below or right-click here to download):


This podcast is brought to you by WordPress, my go-to platform for 24/7-supported, zero downtime blogging, writing online, creating websites — everything! I love it to bits, and the lead developer, Matt Mullenweg, has appeared on this podcast many times.

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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.

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The Art of Hospitality: An Interview With Entrepreneur and Hotelier Liz Lambert

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Credits: Pia Riverola

“There’s something so awesome about where elegance meets rock and roll.”
 — Liz Lambert

Liz Lambert (@thelizlambert) first purchased a seedy motel on South Congress Avenue 23 years ago, and transformed it into Hotel San José, which has become known today as the quintessential “Austin” hotel. The success of Hotel San José, which sparked a revitalization in the city’s now thriving South Congress district, led her to launch Bunkhouse Group, a hospitality company founded on the pillars of design, music, and community-driven experiences.

In the course of chronicling her experiences with the residents of Hotel San José on video camera, she ended up making the Last Days of the San Joséa documentary that casts a fascinating light on human relationships in gentrification and urban renewal. You can check out the trailer here, click here to be notified when streaming becomes available, or get a copy of the DVD here.

Enjoy!


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Want to hear another episode with someone who takes design seriously? — Listen to my interview with Debbie Millman in which we discuss catalyzing low points, a ten-year plan for a remarkable life, and much more. (Stream below or right-click here to download):


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

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How to Succeed in High-Stress Situations

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“A good person dyes events with his own color…and turns whatever happens to his own benefit.” – Seneca

From the outside looking in, the last several weeks have been disaster after disaster for me:

  • Death in the family
  • Several deals that have been worked on for 6+ months fell apart at the last minute
  • I might need to sue someone for egregious breach of contract and unexpected damages
  • On and on and on…

I’ve thought of several books over and over again during this period to cope. One of them was The Obstacle Is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph by Ryan Holiday (@ryanholiday). It has helped me to turn problems upside-down, look at them through a different lens, and even uncover unique opportunities.

The Obstacle Is The Way is a collection of stories and principles about Stoicism, which I consider to be the ultimate personal “operating system” for anyone who wants to thrive in high-stress environments and situations.

If you want to be antifragile like Thomas Jefferson, Marcus Aurelius, Bill Belichick, and many of the most dominant investors in history, Stoicism offers a real playbook. If you want to make better decisions, if you want to smile when other people cower, it offers real tools.

To quote Andy Grove, former CEO of Intel, “Bad companies are destroyed by crisis. Good companies survive them. Great companies are improved by them.” What if you could be a person who is improved by crisis? At the very least, it would give you opportunities no one else can see, let alone grasp. Much more important, it would make you a happier human being.

Here are a few sample chapters from The Obstacle Is The WayPlease enjoy!


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Want to hear another podcast featuring Ryan Holiday and Stoicism? — In this episode, we discuss the “big three” Stoics, how Stoicism applies to the modern world, and how to improve your decision-making when stakes are high (stream below or right-click here to download):


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

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One-Person Businesses That Make $1M+ Per Year

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This podcast episode of The Tim Ferriss Show is coming up on the 11th anniversary of my first book, The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich. While there are parts written by my 29-year-old self that make me cringe, I’m both honored and amazed that it continues to strike a chord with so many.

Rather than re-editing the book and risking the loss of whatever made it work in the first place, I’d like to share case studies of people who have used it as a blueprint to build successful businesses as detailed in The Million-Dollar, One-Person Business by freelance journalist Elaine Pofeldt (@ElainePofeldt).

Much like 11 years ago, I hope this episode inspires more people to make a change for the better and accomplish more than they thought possible.

Please enjoy this episode!


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Want to hear a podcast with someone who inspires others to build businesses and live lives on their own terms? — Listen to my conversation with Seth Godin in which he details the rules, principles, and obsessions that help him manage his life. (Stream below or right-click here to download):

How Seth Godin Manages His Life -- Rules, Principles, and Obsessions
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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.

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The Tim Ferriss Show Transcripts: Cal Fussman – The Master Storyteller Returns

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Please enjoy this transcript of my second interview with Cal Fussman, New York Times best-selling author and a writer-at-large for Esquire magazine. It was transcribed and therefore might contain a few typos. When interviews last 2+ hours, it’s difficult to catch some minor errors. Enjoy!

Listen to the interview here or by selecting any of the options below.

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Tim Ferriss: Hello boys and girls, lemurs and squirrels. This is Tim Ferriss and welcome to another episode of the Tim Ferris Show, where it is my job to deconstruct world-class performers, or attempt to do something lofty like that, but to drill into the specifics and that is where this podcast is different. I will ask them all of the nitty gritty details so that you can tease out the habits, routines, favorite books, etc. to apply to your own life. But this episode involves Cal Fussman, and for those of you who know Cal, well, he is a master storyteller so sometimes the best policy is just to let him go.

Cal appeared on this podcast. Pretty much no one had heard him interviewed at that point and he’s become quite the internet favorite. Cal, @calfussman, F-U-S-S-M-A-N on Twitter, is a New York Times best-selling author and was the writer at large, or is the writer at large, for Esquire magazine, where he’s best known for being the primary writer of the “What I Learned” feature.

Austin Chronicle has described Cal’s interviewing skills as peerless, and he’s really transformed oral history into an art form in many ways. He’s interviewed icons who have shaped the last 50 years of world history: Mikhail Gorbachev, Jimmy Carter, Ted Kennedy, Bezos, Branson, Jack Welch, De Niro, Clint Eastwood, Al Pacino. It just goes on: Woody Allen, Muhammad Ali, John Wooden, Serena Williams; everybody. On top of that, Cal spent ten straight years – ages ago – traveling the world, swimming over 18-foot tiger sharks, rolling around with mountain gorillas in Rwanda and searching for gold in the Amazon.

This is the second episode with Cal. It’s completely self-sufficient. You can listen to it without having heard the first one. The first one includes all sorts of stories about him trying to box Julio César Chávez, about Mikhail Gorbachev, etc. In this episode, we talk about Muhammad Ali, what he learned from Muhammad Ali, his entire experience with Muhammad and so much more.

I asked many of you via Facebook and Twitter, what should I ask Cal in this round two? And probably 70 percent of you just said: he is my favorite storyteller of all time; please just let him talk for another four hours. So that’s effectively what I did, but it’s not four hours long. So I hope you enjoy this as much as I did. I never get tired of talking to Cal. He’s so good at what he does. He’s such a nice guy and he’s such an incredible storyteller. Here you have it, Cal Fussman, @calfussman on Twitter. Enjoy.

Cal, my good friend, welcome back to the show.

Cal Fussman: Thanks so much. I’m ready to walk the tightrope with you.

Tim Ferriss: Speaking of walking the tightrope, someone who’s not ready to walk any tightropes is my poor pup Molly, who got sedated for X-rays earlier today, who’s been entertaining us and gaining our sympathy by wandering around and staring off into space. She looks as high as a kite. You mentioned to me that she should be listening to…?

Cal Fussman: Tom Waits.

Tim Ferriss: Tom Waits, a name I did not recognize, I’m embarrassed to say.

Cal Fussman: Well, if Molly was to hear Tom Waits sing, “The piano has been drinking, my necktie’s asleep.” That’s pretty well the way she’s looking right now.

Tim Ferriss: Thematically appropriate. I thought we would start, and of course we’ve been chatting over the last two days – spending time together – about Muhammad Ali. I just want to pass it over to you because I know it hit you quite tremendously hard, it would seem, and unlike most people listening, you had direct interaction with Muhammad Ali. So I’ll just pass it over to you for your thoughts.

Cal Fussman: For me, it was almost like having your childhood end when you’re in your 50s – on the day that he died. It’s very hard to describe the feeling. I hadn’t ever really felt anything like it.

In fact, at a time where everybody was sitting down in front of the television looking for reports, I just curled up in bed. I kind of knew the story. I knew everything, so there was nothing more for me to learn. I was just terrifically saddened because he was my childhood hero and there really are no longer many like him.

Tim Ferriss: What made him unique? And how did you grow to or get to know him?

Cal Fussman: I didn’t meet him until 2003. At that point, the world knew that he had Parkinson’s disease. We had seen him at the Olympics with the torch. So let me back up to when I was a kid seeing him for the first time.

It’s very hard for a lot of people to understand what the ‘60s were like if you didn’t live through them. Because every day, you woke up and something else happened that made you go what? What? What? Whether it was, sadly, the shootings of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. or Bobby Kennedy, or it could have been Woodstock, or landing on the moon. Every day seemed to bring something that you didn’t expect. Ali was in the middle of it. That’s when he came of age. He won the heavyweight championship in 1964. So he kind of embodied, for me, the spirit of asking questions. Because at the time, he had won the Olympic gold medal in 1960.

The story goes – we don’t really know if it’s true – that when he came back to Louisville with his medal, he wasn’t allowed into a restaurant and able to sit with white people. So he took his gold medal and he threw it in the Ohio River. Whether the story is true or not, it makes a point. He was, in my mind, the voice of reason amidst what, at the time, was just crazy behavior. It’s hard to imagine that there were places where black people couldn’t walk into and sit next to white people. I’m walking around now and I’m just seeing in these days of Black Lives Matter, just how integrated we are. You go to an airport and there’s no longer a thought about this.

But back then, that was the order of the day. Muhammad Ali was somebody who stood up to that and let people know: hey, this is wrong. And he did it in a way that made people laugh at times, through poetry; he was like the first rapper. You could not take your eyes off him. The other thing that’s kind of interesting about it was there were only three networks that you could really watch in those days.

Tim Ferriss: Right, we were talking about that; it was kind of like BBC 1, 2, 3, and 4, in a sense.

Cal Fussman: Right. And if you have the camera on him, one of the most charismatic figures in the world, nobody else is going to compete with that. So everybody was watching him. It’s not like now in the days of the internet and TMZ, where he would have been followed relentlessly and every detail of his life would have been on the internet.

You only knew so much, but he was everywhere. Probably the most popular or the most well-known person in the world. When the Vietnam War really started to kick in and Ali was inducted into the draft, the way he stood up to it and his famous line, “I ain’t got nothing against no Vietcong. It’s just white people sending black people to kill yellow people.” At the time, this sliced the country in half. Either you loved him for it or you hated him for it. Either you were with the kids out on the street who were protesting against the war or with the people who were beating them over the head. Very hard for somebody who’s young now to understand that time?

We talk about the conventions that we’re having this year. People should go back and look at the 1968 Democratic Convention. It was a free-for-all. There was all kinds of violence outside of it. And Ali lived amidst this, and he was always, in my mind, asking the right questions. Why are we in Vietnam? Why can’t I sit next to somebody who has white skin in a restaurant? It was very simple. And then, there were so many people who hated him for asking those questions and for changing his name from Cassius Clay to Muhammad Ali. He was really reviled by a huge number of people in this country. For him to constantly stand up and risk going to jail for what he believed in, the faith that he had.

Then it was backed up by his bravery in the ring when he fought with Joe Frazier and he fought with George Foreman. People thought he was going to get killed when he fought George Foreman, who was undefeated and had knocked out just about everybody.

Tim Ferriss: What about the Incredible Hulk? I think it was in the warm-ups leading up to – am I getting this right? It was in Zaire. I might be getting my locations mixed up. I sometimes conflate the Frazier and Foreman fights. But Ali and others didn’t want to watch Foreman warming up on the heavy bag because it was just such a spectacle of force and impact.

Cal Fussman: Yeah, you didn’t want to believe that was coming in at you. And yet, when they got into the ring to fight, Ali basically laid back on the ropes and let Foreman throw that at him, all the while saying, “That all you got, George? That all you got?” And a funny line by Foreman was after four rounds, “Yeah, that’s about it.”

And then by the eighth, Ali hit him with a few straight punches and down he went; he was just exhausted. But over again, we saw him take tremendous punishment and come back as he aged. You just had a tremendous sense of belief when you followed him. So for me, the idea that he was always asking these questions that were important to ask, that were the most important issues of the day, and then when he stood up to everything that was in front of him with full faith in himself, in my mind that was the definition of a hero. In 2003, Esquire magazine was celebrating its 70th anniversary.

It had always been my dream to do a magazine story about Muhammad Ali, from the time I was a kid. So they sent me out to write this cover story based on reportage in Dublin, Ireland, where Muhammad was in town for the Special Olympics. He was going to help inaugurate the games. So I went out there and it was one series of experiences after another that were completely surprising to me. Because do you know when you have a hero, you often don’t want to meet them because they’re your hero before you know who they really are.

Tim Ferriss: Right, and you might encounter the hero with clay feet.

Cal Fussman: Exactly.

Tim Ferriss: And suffer the disillusionment and disappointment.

Cal Fussman: Yeah, and you don’t want to walk away from your hero disappointed. So I didn’t know what was going to happen.

But keep in mind – we should cite this; this is seven years after 1996, the Atlanta Olympics – when he did something else that I thought was very brave. Because at that point, everyone knew he had Parkinson’s disease. And he stood with the Olympic torch in front of the world. The torch is in his shaking hand. He had to put it into the Olympic cauldron to get it to light. And for what seemed like an endless amount of time, he couldn’t get it in the right place, and his hand is shaking, and it was like the world was holding its collective breath.

And all of a sudden, he got it in the right place. The flame erupted, and so did everybody’s heart. And from that point on, ‘96 to 2003, we hadn’t really seen that much about him. So the editors basically said, “Tell us, how is he doing?” So I go to the Special Olympics to meet him.

He’s in a hotel, and he knows in advance that he’s my childhood hero. He comes through the double doors of his bedroom suite and he’s walking kind of slowly, and I just put out my hand to shake his hand. And he just threw out his arms and hugged me with a big embrace. After that, he’s moving on really slow, tender steps. And then he kind of slumps down in this cushy leather chair. I take the sofa on the side. And I say to him, “Champ, I came here to find out all the wisdom that you’ve accumulated in the world.” But he doesn’t seem to be paying attention. He seems to be paying attention to his right arm, which is trembling back and forth. And now both of his arms are really starting to tremble.

And I’m starting to think, what should I do? Should I call his wife? And now, not only his arms are trembling but his torso, his legs are shaking, his breaths are coming almost in gasps. And now I’m really starting to get nervous. I said, “Champ, Champ, are you okay?” And then slowly, his head rises to the point where he is at eye level with me. And he looks me in the eye and he says, “Scared ya, huh?” And it only got more confusing. It only got more confusing. So the Olympics get started, Special Olympics, and there was one moment when it really hit me. Like you asked why was he your hero?

Muhammad is going to meet with Nelson Mandela. Muhammad’s best friend and photographer, Howard Bingham, is with us, and Muhammad’s wife, and I’m coming along. We meet Mandela, and we’re walking to a hotel suite to sit down and talk. And on the way, Mandela is saying how when he was imprisoned in his younger days and he would hear news of Muhammad Ali, how much it inspired him. And I’m standing there looking at Nelson Mandela thinking: hold it; my hero is Nelson Mandela’s hero. And that’s when it really hit me what Muhammad Ali meant to the world.

We had this nice meeting. And then the Olympics get started, and Ali was there to go around the track in a golf cart and kind of wave to the crowd and just get everything started off on a really high note.

So I’m down at the base of the stadium with him, and the golf cart comes out and Muhammad slowly gets on; he gets into his seat. Howard, his best friend and photographer, gets on the back and he waves me – come on, get on, get on. So I run and I hop on the golf cart and it was an amazing experience. Because you’re driving around, and there’s 80,000 people in Croke Park. And wherever Ali went was that same chant: Ali, Ali! And it was almost like this energy is coming from the top of the stadium down on us. Then Ali would put up his hand, and then the energy would get pushed back all the way to the top.

Then it would come down again, and so back and forth and back and forth. I was always the one at the top of the stadium screaming, so it was an amazing experience to see the power that he still had. And yet, when we had to leave that day, he needed a wheelchair. So it was like a mystery to me because he had all this power, and yet he was very vulnerable and his body was breaking down. I was just trying to figure this out to write this story, to explain how is Muhammad Ali doing? It was confounding to me.

Because one day we would go out to dinner and after dinner, we’re coming out of the restaurant and a huge throng of people is coming.

It’s time to get in the car and go. We just can’t be avalanched like that. He needs to move fast, and he does. And then, the day after that, he can’t speak much above a whisper at that time but he’s doing magic tricks for people. When we got back to his home in Michigan, I remember he had just taken his medicine for Parkinson’s disease. We’re sitting on the couch. The medicine turned his tongue orange. We’re talking and just all of a sudden he falls asleep, and his left leg is jangling into mine. I’m thinking, how can I possibly make sense of this?

I can’t really describe these contradictions. There’s no question I can really ask that’s going to unlock this mystery. So I’m getting down to the last day that I’m scheduled to be with him.

And Muhammad’s wife, Lonnie, says, “You know, you don’t work out much anymore, Muhammad. Why don’t you just go with Cal to the gym and just do a little workout?” Muhammad kind of rolls his eyes: oh, okay, come on. So he takes me over to the gym on the property, and it’s not really a gym; it’s more like a museum. We walk in and the ring looks like nobody’s ever-stepped foot in it. There’s no smell of sweat. There’s exercise equipment all around the ring and it looks like it’s just out of boxes. All four walls have mirrors on them, and above the mirrors are photos, great photos, of Ali fighting his archrival Joe Frazier.

There were other photos, too, but those were the ones that really stood out to me. Because the trilogy that they fought was like the thrill of my childhood.

It’s what I lived for. I knew everything about Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier down to the childhood stories that define their styles in the ring. Like for instance, Muhammad, when he was a kid, he would have his younger brother, Rudy, pick up rocks in the street and throw the rocks at Muhammad’s head. Back then, he was Cassius. And as the rock would be approaching his head just about to hit, he would just throw his head back, lean away from it and let the rock slide by. And that was exactly the style he adopted in the ring. He would dance like no other heavyweight ever before him danced.

If you got close enough to throw a punch, he was just going to lean back, make you miss, and then he’d hit you like 20 times, faster than a shoeshine guy could buff a pair of shoes.

Joe Frazier, on the other hand, very different story. Short, stocky, and here’s where that left hook came from. When he was a kid, he grew up on a farm in Beaufort, South Carolina. His dad had only one arm. Nobody knows the real story, but apparently there had been trouble with some other woman, and some shooting, and so Joe’s dad only had one arm. And they would work this cross saw back and forth, Joe and his dad. Joe’s dad would use his right arm, and Joe would be using his left. So he’s just sawing back and forth for years with that left hand.

He had the muscles that are developing as he’s going back and forth, back and forth. The power that he developed in this left hand turned into this phenomenal left hook that came out of the side out of nowhere.

It was the only punch that a kid who could move away from rocks in the middle of the street was vulnerable to because you didn’t see it coming. All the times, except at the very end of his career that Muhammad Ali got knocked down, always with a left hook. It was his kryptonite. And here you’ve got a guy who is like 5’10”, 205 pounds of relentless kryptonite coming at him. And when Ali fought Frazier, it was like thunder versus lightning. The thing about it was, when they fought, Ali had already refused to go into the Army.

He was stripped of his heavyweight championship. The government wouldn’t let him fight. The state commissions wouldn’t let him fight for three and a half years. He lost the prime of his career.

When he was finally able to come back in 1970, he wasn’t as fast. He couldn’t dance the way he danced when he was 22 and 23. At this point, he’s 28, 29. He’d never had anybody like Joe Frazier coming at him before. So you had on March 8, 1971, thunder versus lightning, never before seen: two undefeated legitimate heavyweight champions confronting each other. Frank Sinatra, there was a photographer in the front row; everybody had to be ringside for this. The whole world was watching. It was like the sporting event of the century. So what happened, what happened in the first fight anyway is Ali started to get in trouble because Joe Frazier just would not stop.

The left hooks kept coming. Ali was able to get into the minds of a lot of his opponents. He tried to get into the mind of Joe Frazier. Frazier would be hitting him with shots and Ali would be saying to him, “You can’t beat me, I’m God!” That would have worked on some other people. Joe Frazier just looked at him and said, “Well, God’s gonna get his ass whooped tonight!” He kept throwing punches. And so when Ali would get into trouble – and Frazier got him into trouble – he had this corner man named Drew Bundini Brown, who was the guy who, when you hear the phrase “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee,” that came from both Muhammad and Bundini.

They would kind of sing it, “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee; rumble, young man, rumble!”

So when Ali got in trouble, Bundini would, in the most poetic ways, say things to help lift him up, anything. “The world needs you, Champ!” “Go to the well once more! Go to the well once more!” Almost always, Ali would reach inside of him, find whatever was deep in the well, and use it to lift him over the bar. So I’m looking at these pictures above the mirrors on the wall, and I’m almost hearing Bundini’s voice in my head: “Go to the well once more!” And I realized that’s what I’ve got to do. That is my question, here. In order to write this piece, I’ve got to find out what’s still in the well.

So I look around the gym and there is a rack of boxing gloves. And I’m saying to myself, “You think you should take the risk?”

I don’t know. Then I said, “What the hell, let me try it.” Because one of the things that I’ve learned as an interviewer is when you get to the end of an interview, that’s when you can always ask the toughest question. So I take four gloves off this rack and I put two on Muhammad’s hands and two on mine. Now, actually if people heard the first –

Tim Ferriss: Installation of our conversation.

Cal Fussman: Yeah. Then they know about the story of me fighting against Julio César Chávez.

Tim Ferriss: Which begins – just as a side note – with you sitting on the couch eating potato chips berating Julio César Chávez on TV and your wife saying something along the lines of, “Oh, yeah, okay. You’re going to fight Julio César Chávez?” And you’re like, “Damn right I’m gonna fight Julio César Chávez.” And long story short, because you should listen to the long version, you ended up traveling by hook and crook and donkey and everything else to make it happen.

Cal Fussman: Yes, we did.

Tim Ferriss: But you did a lot of serious boxing training.

Cal Fussman: And that’s the whole point, here. When I trained, I trained for six months to get in the ring for one round with Julio César Chávez. And I trained in the exact style of Joe Frazier. I could do Joe Frazier so well, I could even sound like Joe Frazier. So I’ve got these gloves on, he’s got the gloves on, but I don’t come at him. I don’t ask to go to the ring. I just start to move toward the heavy bag. Smokin’ Joe had this style where he’s like bobbing back and forth, his head moving left to right, and his left hand would be doing like a figure eight in front of his head and his right hand would be figure eighting in front of his jaw. And he’s going back and forth, back and forth, back and forth.

He’s low, and he’s in a crouch and he’s just relentlessly pursuing. Then he’d get close with the left hand saying, “Hit me ta, hit me ta.” He’d be throwing that left hook. So I’m in that crouch, I’m bobbing and weaving. I’m looking at Ali out of the corner of my eyes to see what kind of reaction I’m going to get. It was like watching his eyebrows arch. It was like watching a sleeping lion awakened by an old, familiar scent. He looks over and he says, “You good!” I hear that and now I’m starting to hit into the bag saying, “Hit me ta, hit me ta!” I’m throwing my left hooks right at it: hit me ta, hit me ta.

Ali steps up. And he’s throwing left, right, left, right, left right. I said, “You think that’s gonna keep me off?” Now I’m really in a crouch.

Hit me ta, hit me ta, hit me ta. He steps in, lefts and rights, lefts and rights, jab, jab, jab, lefts and rights. I come back, and all of a sudden he looks at me in a way that says: “Okay. So that’s your question.” Slowly, with his left hand, he waves me away from the bag, and he waits until I’m away from the bag. Then I saw something I never thought I would ever see again. Muhammad Ali started dancing. He’s dancing around the bag. He’s moving not like when he was 20, but he still had the rhythm, he still had the grace.

He’s moving around the bag, and he’s looking at himself in the mirror. As he’s looking at himself, you could see his chest come up.

Then his head came up, and he’s dancing, and he’s dancing. Then all of a sudden, he stops, pivots, and there were like 40 straight shots right into the bag, really rapid fire. I’m in disbelief. His last shot, if the bag had been a heavyweight fighter, he might have knocked him down. I’m standing there just staring, don’t know what to say. It’s hard to process what I’ve just seen.

Tim Ferriss: You’re thinking, no one is going to believe me.

Cal Fussman: Yeah. What? As he’s going away from the bag, his legs cross and he starts to go down. I’m going: no, no, this is not happening. No, please! And now he’s going down, down, down and there are mats on the ground, and he falls on the mats.

Now I’m thinking, “What did you do, Cal? Oh, you idiot! Why did you do that?” I’m paralyzed for a second but then I start to move over to help him get up. Before I can reach him, he flips over and he starts doing stomach crunches. Then he’s doing sit-ups. Then he’s on his back, legs bicycling in the air. Then he gets up and he goes over to super leg press. It’s on like 250 pounds. He grips it, pushing it back and forth. I said, “Champ, you don’t have to do this. I seen you, Champ. I seen you. Don’t worry about it. I know what’s in the well.”

And he just looked at me and he said, “Feels good.” And I thought I had pushed him as far as I could, but he had more to give. So after this, we go back to the house and he knew that I wanted his wisdom.

He tells me to sit down at a table outside the kitchen. I’m sitting down, and he comes to me with a piece of paper. On this paper, it’s just filled with wisdom. I’m going down the lines, one after the other, and he points to one in the middle. It says, “God will not place a burden on a man’s shoulder knowing that he cannot handle it.” And that kind of summed everything up. But for me, the story went a little further. Because he went into the kitchen, and he came out with two bowls in his left hand and a quart of ice cream in his right. You know how much I love ice cream, Tim.

So I got a chance to sit at a table and have ice cream with my childhood hero. That is my enduring memory. It was just sad to in one minute know that this man who had been with me all my life was not with us anymore. The thing that really pushed me, because I was called by the editor of Esquire because the magazine was shipping out on the exact day that Muhammad died. So he wanted to hold off the issue and make sure that we represented. Esquire had followed Ali’s career like just about no other magazine; maybe Sports Illustrated can make the same claim.

So I’m sitting there charged with writing this essay of what he meant to me. What really hit me was when I started to think forward. I started to think of all of the kids now. I’m wondering, what kind of heroes do they have? Do they have a Muhammad Ali? I don’t think so. The reason I don’t think so is because we don’t have a Nelson Mandela who saw Muhammad Ali as a hero. It’s just a completely different time. I wondered what this absence might mean for this next generation going forward. Who are their heroes? What are they going to get out of it?

It really has pushed me to think, and to think a lot about this millennial generation, which we were laughing about yesterday because everybody says the word “millennial.”

Tim Ferriss: I tried to look it up. I was like, we need to sort this out. We were at dinner having some wine. And the first article that pops up says, “Everyone can agree that millennials are the worst.” And the next line was something along the lines of, “But no one can seem to define what exactly a millennial is.”

Cal Fussman: Well, there you go. The amazing thing to me, for some reason – I don’t know what it is, and I think you have the same characteristic – certainly you do. I’m just starting to see little vibrations of it. Where there’s an attraction among the millennials to you. I know that because they all come over to me and say, “Oh, I heard the podcast that you did with Tim Ferris.”

So there’s like this whole arc of millennials out there that I know are listening to you. They’re also starting to come up to me. I really feel for this generation. I feel for them because I don’t think they have a Muhammad Ali. A lot of them were behind Bernie Sanders. To me, I love seeing Bernie out there pounding on the podium. He’s in his mid-70s and he’s throwing himself into it, and it looked like what could be better than that? You’re that age and you’re throwing your entire passion into your every day. You can’t beat that. But to me, there’s a difference between having Muhammad Ali as a hero and to having Bernie Sanders as a hero. Maybe I’m wrong, maybe people will –

Tim Ferriss: Well, I think there’s a difference in stakes, right? And I think that – who was it? Cus D’Amato? I want to say it was Cus D’Amato, the famous trainer of Mike Tyson starting in the Catskill days, who said, “The hero and the coward feel the same thing. The difference is how the hero responds.” And I’m paraphrasing, of course. But the fact of the matter is if – and I’m sure some people will disagree on some level – but the stakes of engaging in the theater of politics for an election are very different from going up against the norms and laws of your country. The stakes are just different.

So you have someone who has put their livelihood where their mouth is, and reputation where their mouth, is to make sacrifices. I think that engenders a certain type of loyalty and respect that is very hard to mimic in the sort of charade of politics as we see a lot of it play out.

But I would say that if there is a problem related to heroes among younger generations right now, I don’t think it’s because there is a lack of heroes. I think it’s because there is so much noise that one needs to sift through to find the signal that is a hero they can believe in. If that makes any sense. Instead of having four channels, you have an infinite number of channels in the form of websites and feeds and apps and push notifications, and so on. So it becomes more of a sort of cognitive burden and time-consuming task to find someone that one can dedicate their admiration to. Does that make any sense?

There are a few exceptions, though. I would say that, as you said, we didn’t have all of the details when he was the greatest.

Much like all of this sort of came up at the time, for the nature of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. – the adultery. People are flawed human beings; they make mistakes. They make bad decisions. But in today’s environment, that gets showcased and put into a permanent record that comes up as a top five Google result for your name. So I think it’s more challenging to have heroes now because they are more clearly human as a result of the abundance of information available.

But I do think there are some out there. Elon Musk I think is very inspiring, has made great decisions, has all of the flaws that human beings do, of course. But I’m cautiously optimistic. I think that there are very few Muhammad Alis, period, in the world.

Cal Fussman: Well, yeah. What I realized is a lot of this is the time, as you’re saying. Because when you look at what Elon Musk is doing and the grandiosity of his vision, and then also to have failed, failed, and then put the craft in the air. So you see, yeah, this is a big timer. And yet, if you were in South Dakota at a movie theater and Elon Musk was ten people in front of you in line to get in, how many people would know who he was?

Tim Ferriss: I see where you’re going. He is sort of unassuming compared to a heavyweight champion of the world, right?

Cal Fussman: Yeah, but to my mind when you think of a hero – this is what I’m trying to grapple with, this question.

Has the hero changed now so that Elon Musk is the hero now? But to think of him in the way I think of Ali is just foolish because everything’s changed.

Tim Ferriss: It’s entirely possible. I want to actually ask a couple of questions that were sitting on my mind during your story. The first is, do you remember the flavor of ice cream that you had?

Cal Fussman: Vanilla.

Tim Ferriss: Vanilla? Just straight vanilla?

Cal Fussman: Straight vanilla.

Tim Ferriss: No decoration on the vanilla?

Cal Fussman: No, just vanilla ice cream.

Tim Ferriss: How did you end up opening and/or closing the piece that you wrote, if you remember?

Cal Fussman: It’s interesting because one of the difficulties that you have – and this always happens. You’re a writer and they say okay, you’ve got 1,500 words.

Then you start writing, and then there are 2,500 words on your page and you know that only 1,500 are going to fit in the magazine. They basically pull this thing away from the presses, and there are a certain amount of pages and so there’s no extra room for you. The editor said, “This is what I can give you.” He’s giving you an opportunity to make the most out of it. Of course you want to make it even better than that, somehow. So you go overboard and you write a thousand extra words. Then you have to look at it, have an editor look at it, and then say okay, what’s the 1,500 words that we really want here?

The interesting thing about this piece was exactly what I was just talking about. There was everything that I had seen in the past, and then there were these questions of where does this put the future?

But at the time, it really was an obituary and so it really was a look back. So the thousand words that got cut were the thousand words that were looking ahead. And it basically ended with this point that you just were never going to see this again, ever. It’s passed. We don’t know where it’s going. Maybe it is going to the Elon Musks of the world and people will just have a different definition than I did.

Tim Ferriss: It’s possible. Or if you look at just a broader time scale, right? I mean how many Genghis Khans are running around? Not that many. And if you look at it in a broader, 1,000 year increment, maybe we’re just in a lull period between heroes.

Cal Fussman: That’s an interesting point. I guess we’re accustomed to – we want heroes.

Tim Ferriss: We need heroes. I think human beings need heroes. I think we’re hardwired to search for heroes. We find them in real life, we find them in mythology, we find them in religion, or we find them somewhere else. I think we are by nature very hierarchical animals. There’s a very interesting book called Chimpanzee Politics for people who are very interested in looking at the reality of our evolutionary biology. I think we look for rulers and heroes, and it’s an important signpost for the mammals we’ve evolved to be. Do you recall any of the other pieces of wisdom on that paper?

Cal Fussman: There were a lot that ran in this “What I’ve Learned” that I really like. My favorite was “The best way to make your dreams come true is to wake up.” That was a good one. “Silence is golden when you can’t think of a good answer.” “The sun is always shining someplace.”

I remember asking him about his definition of evil. And he said, “Unfriendliness.” I thought that was a really good answer. “The more we help others, the more we help ourselves.” “What you’re thinking about you are becoming.” Oh, how about this for a kicker? “When you’re right, nobody remembers. When you’re wrong, nobody forgets.”

Tim Ferriss: Dot, dot, dot; especially with the internet.

Cal Fussman: Looking back, I think it captured the experience that I spent with him. So there were two stories. One was the cover story that came out on the 70th anniversary of Esquire in 2003. Then in January of ‘04, the “What I’ve Learned” came out. I think both stories captured the essence of what I wanted to bring out. On top of that, I should point out for me, the best part of the experience was spending a week with my childhood hero.

And at the end of it liking him even more than I did before I met him. He was even more heroic to me for that reason, once I knew him. Just seeing the kindness. There was this great obit in Time magazine written by a guy named Bob Lipsyte, who was a New York Times columnist for many years and spent 50 years with Ali. They did a book in Time magazine that was filled with Lipsyte’s story and photos. The story starts in an interesting way. He and Ali are going through an airport. They’re late for the plane and Lipsyte doesn’t think they’re going to make it.

As they’re moving through the airport, a woman appears and notices Ali and pulls out her camera to get a picture. Ali stops, goes over to the woman, and makes sure that she has the picture that she wants. Lipsyte is thinking, “Look, the plane’s going to leave.” Ali said to him, “That was the only time that woman was going to have a chance to have her picture taken with me. I wanted to make sure she got the best picture.” I don’t know that there are many people who are thinking that way. Obviously, part of it gave him internal satisfaction, but he really was thinking a lot about everyone around him.

Tim Ferriss: Who are other people, heroes or just well-known folks who have exceeded your expectations?

Cal Fussman: I have breakfast every morning with Larry King, and so I see him when we’re in town together at the same time probably 300 days a year. If you’re an interviewer, it’s very likely you’re going to really look up to him. I’ve formed a very close friendship with him and that’s something I never could have anticipated. It’s beyond what he accomplished in a career; now it’s about friendship. So it has gone way beyond that sense of a hero from afar. In fact, I helped him write a book and he inscribed it to me saying, “To Cal, my friend, my writer, my hero.” When your hero calls you – he was joking, but still he wrote it on the page.

Tim Ferriss: It’s still on the page.

Cal Fussman: It’s still on the page; it still counts. But that’s emblematic that he would write that to me. It tells you about him. It tells you about the kindness and the friendship underneath it. So that’s probably my best answer to the question.

Tim Ferriss: I have some requests from fans, or I should say listeners, who had a lot of follow up questions for you and of course we’ll have to pick and choose. But this is from Ozro Hepworth: ask him if he’ll talk about the time in Brazil he used a camera under his shirt as a fake gun to scare off some guys. Is that a real thing?

Cal Fussman: How did he know?

Tim Ferriss: He said, “I heard the story from someone who knows him pretty well. I would love to hear about it via Cal Fussman storytelling style.”

Cal Fussman: Oh, man. Wow. Let’s see.

Tim Ferriss: My fans are everywhere, man. Eyes and ears in all corners.

Cal Fussman: You know what? That’s pretty impressive. Okay. This is early, I believe, 1994, February carnival, Rio de Janeiro.

Tim Ferriss: Carnevale.

Cal Fussman: My wife is Brazilian. I met her headed to a beach near the equator eight years before this carnival.

Tim Ferriss: The bus story that we talked about in part one.

Cal Fussman: Right. And so we get a chance to go back to Carnival where we’re going to dance in the samba parade and spangles and feathers at 3:00 in the morning in front of the huge crowds. It’s like a fantasy.

Tim Ferriss: Custom thong for yourself, I’m assuming?

Cal Fussman: When you join a samba school – they call them samba schools – various neighborhoods all band together and they compete against each other. So when an outsider comes in, you go to one of the samba schools and you wear their regalia. But it’s all spangles and feathers no matter what. When it comes to the beautiful women, there’s not too many spangles and feathers to be seen; it’s just the beautiful women. This is a wonderful experience. My wife couldn’t resist. She always wanted to dance in the samba school. She was five months pregnant at the time so it was probably not the best of times for her to be flying halfway around the world and dancing at 3:00 in the morning.

Tim Ferriss: Up on some float potentially, who knows?

Cal Fussman: Yeah, we weren’t on a float. We were following the floats. We had a great time; it was a blast. The thing about the way I traveled was I always liked to live with the people. So the people that brought us into this samba school lived in a favela, which is in the mountains overlooking the city.

Tim Ferriss: Very poor, typically; cobbled together electricity, oftentimes. If you haven’t seen The City of God, Ciudad de Dios, I think it is, check it out. That will give you a pretty good glimpse.

Cal Fussman: Some of the favelas are actually decent places to live. It’s not all like you’re living on a dirt floor. People figure out how to cobble electricity.

This area wasn’t an intensely poor area, but it’s dangerous to be moving around on the streets. But look, we were in a group of people from this area. I felt completely safe because when you’re with the people, you’re with the people.

Tim Ferriss: Safety in numbers with the locals.

Cal Fussman: The locals, exactly. So we go through the dance, it’s a really great time; the music, the crowd, the sheer pageantry of the whole thing. We’re starting to walk back home; it’s like 3:00 or 4:00 in the morning. Now, right around that time we had heard of – I hope I’m pronouncing it right; it’s been awhile now. But the word was “ahasdao.” Which was – what would happen is there are a lot of bridges in Rio that people can walk over.

What young toughs and thugs would do is they would line both sides of the bridge and just be like looking over the water casually and waiting for an appropriate moment where everybody would just attack somebody or a group of people, to either steal something or you can get beat up. Stuff that wasn’t so good is going to happen to you. We’d heard about this. We knew it was kind of a dangerous time and we were staying in a place that while it was not dangerous on that street, we were still walking through dangerous places to get there. So it’s really early in the morning, and we’re walking across this bridge.

My wife is Brazilian, and she looks Brazilian. I do not look Brazilian; I’m like a gringo. It’s the middle of February and at that point, I’m back in New York. It’s winter and I’m looking really white.

Tim Ferriss: Ghostly.

Cal Fussman: I wouldn’t say ghostly. Come on, Tim, give me a break.

Tim Ferriss: Just trying to expand my adjectives; sorry.

Cal Fussman: I know that, okay, if they’re going to be looking to get somebody, they’re coming after me. So we’re all walking and now I’m seeing these lines of people on the side, and I can see that they’re looking over at us. I immediately know this is not good.

Because we’re in the middle of a fairly long bridge and we’ve got like a half a mile to get to the other side where at least you could run or do something. There’s nowhere for us to go except over the side and take a long tumble into the water.

Tim Ferriss: It’s like an Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom situation.

Cal Fussman: It was really scary. It’s interesting because when I think back on it, I have some measure of pride because there are just certain moments where you know, okay, bad shit’s gonna happen. What am I going to do? You have no time to think. So I immediately say to my wife, who really understands what’s going to happen even far better to me. I say, “You stay toward the middle but get away from me,” because I know they’re coming after me.

I don’t know what’s going to happen. I may get thrown off the side, I may get pummeled; who was to know? But I’m just thinking if I could have them all turn on me, then my wife and my kid are going to be able to get away. So I move away and she is really nervous. I just said, “Walk as fast as you can to get to the other side.” I’m going to slow it down and have their focus on me. In the meantime, one of the guys that was in our neighborhood, Toco – God bless him – he has stopped to take a piss under the bridge. This piss saved my life. Because what happened was, after he was done he came back up to the bridge and then he saw from behind what was going to happen.

And he just came running, shouted to a few people and went running, and literally as everybody was about to turn on me – and the other thing about it I should point out, this is right after I fought Julio César Chávez. So I’m also in the back of my mind saying the first guy, I can hit him. Maybe if he goes down, maybe it’ll stop things for a second. Or maybe they’re all just going to mow me down. But there were a lot of men looking, and they’re coming after me.

Tim Ferriss: No shortage of firearms in Brazil, either.

Cal Fussman: You know what? I don’t even think it was a matter of that because the setup was you didn’t need it.

All you had to do was just get 50 people to line up the side of a bridge and then wait for a moment of attack, and then attack. A gringo tourist dressed in spangles and feathers, what’s he gonna do?

Tim Ferriss: I’m sorry. Just the sheer shock of some gringo in spangles and feathers knocking out the first guy would have been quite something. But please continue.

Cal Fussman: Okay. So at this point, there’s two thoughts. The first thought is, this could be it for me, but at least my wife and my son get out of here. So now I’ve slowed it down. I’m seeing she’s moving really fast away. Okay, now I’m waiting for the onslaught. Now, in the meantime, Toco sees what’s going on, calls a few of his friends and he just sprints with his hand inside his shirt. He and his buddies, they literally surround me and they just stop the group.

He’s a guy who’s looking like he’s Al Capone, like hey, I’ve got some serious firepower here. I’m going to mow you all down if you don’t leave him alone. He’s with us. Then there’s this fear among the crowd because we don’t know what Toco’s got under there.

Tim Ferriss: Who knows?

Cal Fussman: But he’s got something. Toco says, “Just back off, let us get to the other side of the bridge, we’re not going to have any problems. Otherwise, there’s going to be a lot of problems.” And these guys, just everybody’s staring at what’s inside Toco’s shirt. And so the others just remained still while I get to the other side. I’m walking straight but Toco and the others are walking backward, making sure nobody’s – with his hand in his shirt the whole time.

We get to the other side and I said, “Man, I didn’t know you took a gun.” And he pulled out a camera.

Tim Ferriss: Man, what a bluff.

Cal Fussman: Yeah. I owe my life to him and that quick bathroom stop and the camera. How did these people hear this story?

Tim Ferriss: I have no idea. You can ask Ozro, @ozrohepworth can tell you more. You might be listening, Ozro, so let Cal know. One more and then perhaps we’ll have to be continued. It’s from a friend of mine, actually, a chef. “Ask about his acceptance speech for the JBF.”

Cal Fussman: James Beard Foundation. That was something I didn’t expect. Man, it’s amazing.

Tim Ferriss: It’s like the Oscars for food.

Cal Fussman: Yeah, it’s like the Oscars for food and it was in a beautiful setting with thousands of people in New York. The thing about the James Beard Award is there are a lot of awards given out during these ceremonies. In the beginning people are paying attention, but then you get everybody coming up and you’re warned. You’ve got three minutes. You win an award, like no more than 180 seconds up behind the mic. Everybody knows there are a lot of awards and if people talk for 20 minutes, you’re not going to get out of there until 4:00 in the morning. So you’re told: three minutes, that’s it.

As the evening is going and more and more awards, and people are going up and I don’t want to make fun of it but when you get people getting up and saying I’d really like to thank Aunt Penelope for showing me how to skin a cucumber. Like it’s over and over and over again.

Tim Ferriss: A thousand variations of Aunt Penelope.

Cal Fussman: Yeah, exactly. And so naturally, the crowd’s attention is going to start to drift away. Then once it starts to drift, it’s just not coming back. Unless Ted Allen gets an award, a well-known TV personality, people will: oh, there’s Ted Allen, and there will be a silence. But if you’re going through categories where only a few people know the person who has just won, the thing is just going on and on and on and now the whole crowd is having a good time at their table. Everybody’s talking and having a great time but nobody’s paying attention to Aunt Penelope no more.

So here it is, I’ve just written this story that took me ten years to write about being the sommelier at Windows in the World at the top of the World Trade Center just before the planes hit and the twin towers go down. It takes me ten years to be able to write this story; I was so traumatized. And I win the award for best essay. The award is called, I hear my name, and I go up to the stage to give my speech. And I look out and nobody is paying attention. There must be like three or four thousand people there in this grand setting; nobody.

Tim Ferriss: Having a thousand conversations.

Cal Fussman: That’s right. I cannot describe all of the pain that I had to go through to get this piece out of me. And here I am, you get your medal and then you’re going up to speak.

I’m looking out at this crowd and I can’t speak out into that crowd because I feel like I’ve got something important to say that goes back to 9/11, and there’s nobody out there listening that I can see. So I just get behind the podium and I don’t say anything. 15 seconds pass, 30 seconds pass. There’s a woman over on the side, the one who’s saying, “Three minutes, three minutes.” I’ve just gone like 30 seconds and I haven’t said a word. 45 seconds, a minute. Now you can start to see some people are saying what’s going on? Why isn’t he talking about his Aunt Penelope?

Then, after it must have been a minute, maybe a minute and a half, Ted Allen stands up and in the crowd, throws his arm up like no!

Like, Cal must speak! He didn’t say that but something like that. A hush comes over the crowd, and still I said I am not going to say a word until there is complete silence in this place. And I just wait, and I wait and my three minutes is all up. Now there are people all around with their arms up saying, “Let him speak! Let him speak!” Then I spoke. The beauty of the experience – because I’m only now understanding that speaking was something that I was born to do.

When I look back on those moments, like that moment tells me yeah, you were born to do this. Because afterward, a chef like Paul Bartolotta, who has a great Italian restaurant, had it at the Win for many years, has won James Beard awards for himself, came over to me and he just said, “You took back the crowd.” At the time, I didn’t understand it. But now that I’m starting to give speeches, now it makes sense. Yeah, I do have this and I have to use it. It would be terrible for me not to use it. I’m supposed to use it. But that was only like a flicker, and it was about five years after that before I started talking, but it was there.

Tim Ferriss: Some more questions when we get back from festivities?

Cal Fussman: A hundred percent. You know, we could spend all tomorrow talking if you want. I’ve got this guy who’s managing me now, Kevin the Manager. And he says, “Cal, you go on and you do these three and a half hour podcasts, like three and a half hours. Do you realize how long that is?” And then I said to him, “Kevin, it was fun. Why wouldn’t I?” So we can talk all tomorrow.

Tim Ferriss: Alright, fantastic. [Inaudible] barrel sauna use, which I’ll fill people in on, perhaps. One of my newest distractions/saviors but to be continued. This is great fun and we will continue.

All right. This is round two picking up in the a.m. We have two mugs full of yerba mate tea and I thought we would tackle some questions from listeners. One we can start with is Nick Styman: which interview in his career went worst? Discuss the aftermath.

Cal Fussman: Okay, there’s a good story to that one. I don’t know if many people remember a guy named William Buckley. He was an incredible intellect who was at the foundation of the Conservative party. But he had a TV show back in the ‘60s that was just fantastic. This guy had an amazing intellect and a vocabulary that you’d only dream of. I don’t know why but he was the only person I have ever been frightened to interview.

Just because – well, I’ll tell you why. Back in the ‘60s, he challenged Robert Kennedy to a debate on TV on his show. Robert Kennedy wouldn’t go. So Buckley comes on the next show and he spoke in this kind of effete way, and he basically says, “Well, you know, I invited Robert Kennedy to come and debate me. He has refused. This is clearly a case of the baloney rejecting the grinder.”

Tim Ferriss: What a line, wow.

Cal Fussman: He was like that all the time. He could take you apart if he wanted to just with the magnificence of his language. And I don’t know what it was but I was really scared.

Look, the guy was way older than me. He had seen much more than me.

Tim Ferriss: How old were you at the time? Just roughly.

Cal Fussman: Oh, let’s see. Probably late 30s, early 40s?

Tim Ferriss: So not totally green.

Cal Fussman: No, that’s the point. That’s the point. I had no reason to fear him. I’d already done many “What I’ve Learned” interviews. I’d already met a lot of famous people, people who had done big things. But I was just scared. So I said to myself, you’ve really got to be prepared for this interview like no other interview before. And so I did all my research. I read and read and read, and I watched what I could of him. For two days before the interview, I stopped eating.

Tim Ferriss: Was this part of your performance enhancement plan or was that just nerves?

Cal Fussman: I just wanted to be laser focused when I walked in there.

Tim Ferriss: Like a hawk.

Cal Fussman: That’s right.

Tim Ferriss: Or hunting like a peregrine falcon; they’ll starve to make their senses more acute, okay.

Cal Fussman: That’s exactly it. I wanted my senses to be laser focused when I walked in there. There was no way that this guy –

Tim Ferriss: Food was going to throw you off.

Cal Fussman: I’m outside of his apartment in New York like a half an hour early. I’m just pacing back and forth. I’m like, there’s no way he’s going to take you apart. You’re gonna stay with him, Cal. This guy is amazing but you’re going to stay with him. Finally, the appointed hour arrives. It’s like 11:00 in the morning. I go and I knock on his door. The door swings open, and he throws his arms out wide and he says, “Welcome to my home.”

And then he starts rubbing his hands together and he says, with a big smile on his face, “A little scotch?” Now I’m screwed. Now I’m screwed because when I traveled around the world, if you offered me something to eat or something to drink, I drank it or I ate it. I did some crazy stuff. I remember going to the Nile for the first time and just walking up and drinking out of it just to say, okay, I’m at one with you here. And the next three days, I couldn’t leave my hotel room; I was over the toilet. But that was my mentality. If you serve it, I have ultimate respect. I will eat it or drink it.

So now he’s saying, “Have this scotch.” I know if I put this scotch to my lips, within 20 minutes I’m going to be slurring my words or out of it because I’m just too clean for it. So I looked at him, and I said – God, I regret it. It gives me shivers just to repeat it. I said, “How about a little water?” And he looks at me and his nose goes up in the air and he says, “Oh.” And in that “oh” was, “It’s going to be that kind of interview, is it?” And the interview was done. It was just – I had not respected him. Look, my whole way of interviewing is I’m going to make you feel like you’re at home.

So here’s a guy who opened the door to his home, threw out his arms to embrace me, offered me – who knows – probably a 50-year-old single malt and I just said no. I couldn’t even make him feel at home in his home. We sit down and in fairness to myself, when I went back and listened to the interview, it wasn’t that bad. But it could have been great.

Tim Ferriss: Right, you know how much better it could have been.

Cal Fussman: Yeah. Because I just set it off on such a wrong note, and it ended way earlier than it should have ended. I walked away saying, you will never, ever do that again. That is a mistake you never should have made and I hope you learned your lesson.

So what happened in the aftermath is a good part of that question. Because okay, I’m getting ready to hand the piece in and I’m just making it work. It’s one of those, if you’re a pole-vaulter and you’re just getting over the bar.

Tim Ferriss: Just barely clearing it.

Cal Fussman: Yeah, and it’s like shaking. Like you’ve nicked it and it’s shaking. But I feel, as I’m about to hand it in, that it’s still there and I’m coming down and I’m going to have a soft landing here. So phew. And I get a phone call, and it’s bad news, Cal, bad news. It’s from the editor. What’s going on? Well, William Buckley had written a piece for Esquire like 30 or 40 years ago.

There were some problems with it and a legal agreement was made between William Buckley and Esquire that piece would never again run; it would never be republished. And Esquire had just put out a huge book of great stories.

Tim Ferriss: Oh, including his piece.

Cal Fussman: Because what happened was there had been maybe eight editors in between the time that happened.

Tim Ferriss: Too many regime changes.

Cal Fussman: Yeah, and nobody knew about this. Only Buckley and his lawyers knew and they basically said, “Hey, get that book off the racks. You can’t do this.” So they said there’s just no way we can run the interview. I got a reprieve.

Tim Ferriss: You got a reprieve and a pardon at the last minute.

Cal Fussman: That’s right. I got a last minute pardon. The lesson was the truly important thing because I will never, ever go into an interview nervous because it serves no purpose. It only hurts you.

Tim Ferriss: Were there points in the future when you felt the involuntary nerves kicking in and if so, what would you say to yourself?

Cal Fussman: No, because the experience scarred me. Remember the scotch? Now, I’ll take ice cream into interviews.

Tim Ferriss: So you skipped the peregrine falcon prep after that.

Cal Fussman: Look, do the prep.

Tim Ferriss: Not the prep, but the fasting approach.

Cal Fussman: Yeah, I mean, it’s just ridiculous. Because if you’re going intense, you’re going to transmit that tenseness into the interview, into the person, into the subject. Look, there are a lot of interviewers who do things different ways. I just did a piece with Jorge Ramos, the Univision anchor who Donald Trump pitched out of the interview in Iowa awhile back.

He has a completely different approach. He goes into the interview as if it’s a war. Because a lot of the people that he’s interviewing could have been dictators, or presidents who took power in unscrupulous ways. He knows he may only have a few minutes and he may be getting thrown out. So he’s going to come at them with the toughest questions right from the start.

Tim Ferriss: Biggest left hook, right at the bell of the first round.

Cal Fussman: That’s right. And he’s had a great career out of it. But look, his background was completely different from mine because he grew up in Mexico where basically the media was censored, so he was a reaction to that.

Everything he does is a reaction to censorship. It’s a reaction to people having power and taking advantage of those who don’t have it. He sees journalism as more than just asking a question. He sees it as defending people. I really don’t go into an interview to defend anybody. In fact, it’s kind of interesting because some people say, what happens when you get people who lie to you? I say, the way I write, it’s impossible for somebody to lie to me because I write in other people’s words.

So if they lie to me, their lie is going to be printed on the page exactly the way they told it. So basically, the truth is, they’re a liar. Because anybody who knows the truth is going to know that they lied. So very, very different styles.

Tim Ferriss: Very different styles. We were talking yesterday about some prep that I was doing for an interview where I wanted to watch a movie. We ended up watching a good part of it together. But I was nervous that I wouldn’t have the chance to see it beforehand, due to some technological issues. You mentioned that, for instance, Larry King doesn’t want to know anything about – and feel free to add to this – say, a given movie that’s coming out that a guest is a part of because he wants to, I suppose, see it with fresh eyes and ask the questions that a beginner might ask, or someone who’s unfamiliar with it. How does your style differ from, say, Larry’s? Of course, you spend a lot of time with Larry.

Cal Fussman: Yeah. Larry’s basic idea is, I am thinking like the person who’s listening.

They haven’t seen the movie. They haven’t gotten a chance to get a preview so why should I, Larry King, be in the position to tell them what happens? Better for him to put – oh, there’s Molly.

Tim Ferriss: Molly’s awake now, guys. She was sedated yesterday but she’s full of beans today. I will close that door if she continues her home defense against squirrels and butterflies. Sorry, Cal.

Cal Fussman: So Larry’s basic feeling is hey, I am going to talk to this person who made the movie, or was in the movie, or who wrote the book as if I just sat next to them on an airplane seat. Oh, you wrote that book? What’s it about? And then let the conversation go from there. That’s a great strategy because it’s very natural and it allows the person to be just as natural.

I’ve gone both ways. In fact, I don’t really follow pop culture that much and certainly when I moved out to Los Angeles in ‘08, rarely followed it before then. Once you’re in LA, it’s hard to not be part of the pop culture because it’s all around you. Esquire, as soon as I moved out there, they came up with a pretty funny idea, knowing that I didn’t know much about current movies. They hatched a plan to send me out to do a cover story but the only thing they told me was, “We just want you to go out and do a story about a guy; his name is Gerry.”

I said, “What else?” That’s it, just “His name is Gerry.” And they gave me his address.

Tim Ferriss: Such a setup.

Cal Fussman: Not only that but they told me, “Look, it’s just a short interview. Don’t sweat it. His name’s Gerry. Just go out and talk to him for a few minutes and come back and write something up.” It didn’t seem like a big trick to me. In the meantime, Gerard Butler, the actor, is waiting in his house and he’s appeared in a few movies at this point, one of which was 300. Another one was Phantom of the Opera. I hadn’t seen either of those movies and I had no idea who he was. He is sitting at home getting his first cover story for Esquire. He’s consented to a three-hour interview.

Tim Ferriss: A few minutes.

Cal Fussman: Yeah, I’m going in a few minutes for Gerry and he’s thinking: okay, cover story, Esquire. So I knock on the door and I’m like, “Hey, is Gerry here?” And then I said, “To be honest, I have no idea who you are but the magazine has sent me to interview you for a few minutes.” H e’s looking at me and his eyes are squinting, like this guy’s putting me on. This guy’s putting me on. And I said, “No, no, no. Really I have no idea who you are.” He’s caught between the squinting of the eyes and then there’s a smile on his face because he’s an actor who can go with it. So he wants to go with it but he’s wary.

Tim Ferriss: Understandably.

Cal Fussman: This is a setup, this is a setup. And he keeps looking for that little string to pull that’s going to take the garment and just unravel it and prove that I’m an imposter. But there’s nothing he can do because I have no idea who this guy is. I said to him, “The good thing about this is for ten years I’ve traveled around the world and I would just get on trains and sit next to people, and we’d just go and get a chance to meet each other. So why don’t we just approach it like that?” So he’s “Okay, okay.” I said, “Where are you from?” Just that question, like I don’t believe you, I don’t believe it, I don’t believe this.

Then he starts telling me he’s from Paisley in Scotland. I think, at first, I couldn’t tell if it was Australia, is it England, is it Scotland?

Tim Ferriss: The accent.

Cal Fussman: Yeah. Then I said, “Scotland?” And he says “Yeah, yeah, yeah.” Then he starts giving me his background and it’s only about 20 minutes into the interview where it comes out. And then I started to act. I said, “Oh, you’re an actor?” And he says, “This is just the biggest bunch of malarkey. I know you’re a film buff, this whole thing is being recorded to put me on.” I said, “No, Gerry, I have no idea who you are.” And now the rest of this interview, he’s like trying to prove to me that he is a world class actor.

Tim Ferriss: Poor guy.

Cal Fussman: The amazing thing about it was we’re talking and talking, and still it hasn’t occurred to me that this is a cover story. I still think this is –

Tim Ferriss: A little interview; a few minutes with Gerry.

Cal Fussman: Yeah. So at a certain point we take a little break, and he says, “You need to use the bathroom? Use the one off my bedroom. Here, I’ll show you.” We start walking into his bedroom and there is an Esquire on a nightstand, and it’s got Megan Fox, the actress, on the cover. He makes this offhand comment, like: “Geez, why would they want to put me on the cover of Esquire when you can have Megan Fox?” And then it hits me: oh, my God, I’ve got to write a cover story about this. Oh, no. So we sat back down and I said “Alright, Gerry.”

Tim Ferriss: Let’s shift gears here.

Cal Fussman: “What movies were you in?” He said something like, “Really?” He brings up, he says well – this was the topper. He says, “I was in 300.” And I haven’t seen it. I said, “300, you know, I remember seeing – think I saw a poster of that movie. It was these kind of gladiator guys, and I remember a beard.” And Gerry says, “That was me! That was me!” We’re talking about 300 and he says, “In this issue with Megan Fox on the cover, it also had a story, “The 75 Movies that Every Man Must See.” So he says, “I’ll show you.” And he picks up this issue and he says, “I guarantee you 300 is one of the 75 movies that every man must see. I’ll show you.”

He opens it up to the story. He goes on page one and he’s looking. “These movies are pretty good.” He gets to page two. “Yeah, that is really good.” And he’s not seeing 300. He turns the page and he says, “Fuckers!” He turns the next page. “Fuck! Fuck!” Then he gets to the last page; it’s not there. He’s like, “Fuck! How could they not put 300 in here?” And I’m saying okay, okay, what else are we in? He said, “Phantom of the Opera.” Come on, Gerry. You can’t sing like that. I saw that Broadway show. I got roped into it. I don’t like musicals but my wife does and so we went. Like you can’t sing like that. “I was the phantom!”

And so the whole interview is going on where he’s trying to prove to me that he’s an actor and belongs on the cover of Esquire. And we have a great time. True to the actual beginning of the interview where I said to him, “Look, I sit down on trains with people and they take me home.” At the end of the interview he’s saying, “Hey, you want to use my big screen? Come back anytime.” Like we’re tight. It’s been a great time. I’m getting ready to leave, and he disappears. And right before I leave, the house fills with music from Phantom of the Opera. He comes down and he starts singing, note for note, to the music. And I said, “Okay, Gerry. I know who you are.”

Tim Ferriss: Wow.

Cal Fussman: So there was a case where I had not a clue – not a clue – who I was interviewing and it works, just being natural.

Tim Ferriss: That would work for you; also not for all interviewers, right? Given your background, in the same way that perhaps if you went into a war conflict interview format where you had three minutes to hit someone with a left hook, you might not be as adaptable as the Univision interviewer, right? That format, the stranger on the train scenario, is something you’ve very well adapted to take advantage of.

Cal Fussman: You know, it’s interesting. Jorge Ramos was telling me a story. The only time that he actually got thrown out of an interview or pushed away before Donald Trump was with Fidel Castro. And it was a very tricky situation he was in, and Castro knew it. Castro knew who he was.

So they’re at a conference, and Jorge manages to get next to Castro, and he’s got his mic and he starts asking him questions. What Castro did was put his arm around Jorge.

Tim Ferriss: For photos and whatnot?

Cal Fussman: Because the camera is in on this. And so the look now is that you’re pals. Which, if you’re Jorge, you do not want to be seen as pals with –

Tim Ferriss: That’s clever, though, on the part of Fidel.

Cal Fussman: Right. So Jorge has got to come back at him and manage to wriggle away.

Tim Ferriss: To wriggle away like a toddler.

Cal Fussman: Wriggle away and then hit him with a tough question, at which point one of Castro’s bodyguards elbowed him away like, out, this is over. I never have to think like that because my feeling is if somebody’s going to feel comfortable with me, then I’ll get to the deep, eternal truths.

I don’t want to push them back or off guard, or make them nervous or make them think about what they have to say. So it’s completely different styles.

Tim Ferriss: Hence, the scotch rule.

Cal Fussman: Yeah, hence the scotch rule.

Tim Ferriss: There are, for people who are wondering, and there are many questions that popped up about questions since that’s what many people associate you with, good questions. And I feel like I should mention that there are very contrasting styles, even very different from both Larry’s approach, your approach, and Jorge Ramos’ approach, such as James Lipton, Inside the Actor’s Studio. I’ve spent time with some of his researchers who I’ve paid to look at past transcripts of my podcasts to try to help me improve. But the format is completely different. Because in the case of, say, James Lipton, I believe he knows the answer to every question he’s going to ask.

There’s a tremendous amount of in-depth research and prep that goes into it. For me personally, it really kind of depends on the guest and the circumstances. Some are really, really deeply researched, particularly if I’m nervous. Then others, I’m coming in relatively blind because I feel like it’s a complex enough subject that I want to have myself in the shoes of the majority of the people listening, if that makes sense, like physics or mathematics or something like that. Who are some interviewers that you greatly admire, alive or dead, besides Larry?

Cal Fussman: There are very few good interviewers that I don’t admire. This conversation is kind of explaining it all. They were all completely different so that when I look at them, I see what they’re doing, I see how they’re doing it.

I admire Barbara Walters and I know that she has scripted her interviews, a little different from Lipton because she doesn’t know what’s coming. But she’s got question No. 1, question No. 2, question No. 3. She has story boarded her interviews from start to finish, and meticulously.

Tim Ferriss: There’s a progression. There’s an arc.

Cal Fussman: I can see how she makes it work for her. Charlie Rose, the research that he does is absolutely fantastic. The interesting thing about Charlie Rose is when he’s interviewing somebody, you think like he’s on almost an equal level of intelligence or material as the person that he’s interviewing. That works great for him.

Matt Lauer is a master at getting people to feel comfortable. I know where this comes from because I interviewed him. When he was a kid, he worked in a men’s shop. He said, “When you’re a salesman, you have to observe the person coming in through the door, see what they’re looking at, what’s the right time to approach, when is it time to back off.” All of that translates into his interviews and you can see why he makes people feel so comfortable. It came from that clothing store.

Tim Ferriss: Same story, different background with Barbara Walters, right? You were mentioning this to me yesterday. If you’d elaborate on that for a second, also, just as another example of how the background forms the interviewer?

Cal Fussman: With Barbara Walters, her dad owned a famous nightclub in New York called the Latin Quarter. So all the famous celebrities were in this place night after night. She was sitting and talking with them as if they were friends. That allowed her, later on in life, to have that same vibe in her conversations with people while she interviewed them, because she was just accustomed to sitting next to them and casually talking to them. If you don’t have that experience, you might be put off; you might be a little nervous. And that might be something you have to overcome by repeatedly doing it.

But probably in her case, the first time she sat in on a celebrity interview, it was not much different from being at her dad’s nightclub.

Tim Ferriss: For someone who doesn’t have – I don’t want people to get the impression that you have to have this extensive childhood experience with something or another to become a good interviewer, because I don’t think that’s the case, necessarily. Maybe I’m missing something in my own background. There are a number of questions to this effect. We’ve chatted about this a little bit. But for instance, here’s a question from David Dronet, what are the top three specific questions he asks most often during interviews that he finds are the most revealing?

Now, I suspect I know what part of your answer will be to this. But the two that I would offer for people who are opening an interview and are really nervous, one was what you asked – where you from? Very simple. The other one that seems to buy a lot of time for me in my experience if I just don’t know where to go or where to start, I’ll say: tell me the story of how you became X, an actor or whatever.

You’ve immediately bought yourself probably five minutes of time to figure out what your next move is, and you’ll get something in the answer that will help you figure out your next move. But how would you answer this question, because I’m sure you get some variation of this question all the time.

Cal Fussman: The big thing that I’m noticing from the people who ask this question, because once I started to speak, this question kept coming up again and again. It’s like, what’s the Holy Grail of questions, here, so I could use them? I always say it’s not like there’s a Holy Grail of questions. Look, I come prepared. I’ve got like 200 questions in my mind when I show up for an interview because I’ve thought about them. I’ve written them down and then I’ve ripped them up. The thing is, it’s not that first question that I’m really dependent on.

That first question is just opening the door. Then the answer is going to spark my second question. And that’s going to take me down a flight of steps, like deeper into the person’s soul. And then when they answer the second question, that’s going to bring up a third question. By the sixth answer, maybe that’s where I wanted to go with my first question. So it’s a process. It’s not a use this and you will be successful, too.

Tim Ferriss: It’s not an incantation?

Cal Fussman: Yeah. It’s also filled with curiosity. Because what you’re doing is you’re just listening to see where the answers take you.

It’s the answers that are going to take you where you want to go. The questions are there just to open the doors for the answers. So relying on one question to get you to the bottom of something is something I wouldn’t do. But you know what? That’s a good question for Jorge Ramos because he’s had to think really carefully. If he knows I’ve only got five minutes with this president of a Latin American country, and he’s got to ask something that’s going to get a response that everybody talks about, he might ask a question like, how much did your house cost? Then if the person says well, I don’t know. You don’t know how much your house costs?

Tim Ferriss: Any answer is an answer, in that case. I won’t answer that tells you quite a lot. The mask tells you more than what’s underneath the mask.

Cal Fussman: That’s what he’s working in. He’s really thinking hard about what he’s going to ask, knowing that he doesn’t have much time and also knowing that he’s there for the people.

Tim Ferriss: Right. This is a point that I think about quite a lot but in the converse way. Meaning, I’ll have guests on who are known or have been known at some point for some type of scandal. If you’re in the public eye long enough, eventually something’s going to come up. You’re going to make a misstep, you’re going to say something stupid. And there are some fans – not a lot – who are like, why didn’t you ask him about this? Why didn’t you ask her about that? In my case, I do have a lot of time. I have two to three hours to uncover, in my particular format, tactics and tools and so on.

So if I ask how much did your house cost? That’s the equivalent of not accepting the scotch times a hundred. They’ll go, oh, it’s one of these, and the doors get shut. That’s effectively the end of the interview, even if it lasts another two hours. They will not give me anything they wouldn’t give a stranger who’s potentially hostile. So it’s a completely different style of interviewing.

Cal Fussman: But you know what? The way I would approach that is not with a direct question, but just by allowing the conversation to circle around that area and invite him or her to explain the scandal through that and then you can be into it.

Best example I can give you about that is when Larry King was just getting started in Miami on radio. He was sitting at a table with a friend of his at the time, Jackie Gleason, Honeymooners?

Tim Ferriss: Yeah, for sure.

Cal Fussman: So they had become friends. Jackie had asked this question around the table, what’s impossible? I guess there was a doctor at the table who said, “We’ll never have artificial blood.” And it gets to Larry, and Larry says, “What’s impossible? I have a three-hour radio show. Getting Frank Sinatra to appear on my radio show, that’s impossible.” And Jackie Gleason pointed to him and said, “You got it.” As it turned out, Frank had been doing a concert or a series of concerts and lost his voice and needed to be replaced one night.

He called Jackie, and he said, “Hey, Jackie, can you go on and do a comedy bit for me so that nobody’s upset?” Frank says, “I owe you one.” So after that conversation with Larry and the others, Jackie calls up Frank and says, “Hey, Frank. This is the one. There’s this kid, Larry King. He’s just starting out in radio, Miami Beach. He’s got a three-hour show. I need you to go on for three hours.” Frank says, “You want it? You got it.” Now, nobody can believe it. This is like a little radio station.

Tim Ferriss: At the time, I’m imagining that Sinatra is the biggest of the big.

Cal Fussman: Yeah. Not only that, but Frank, as his PR guy points out, the public relations guy is basically employed to say no to all these requests like this.

Tim Ferriss: I’m very familiar.

Cal Fussman: The people at the radio station can’t believe it because Larry says, “I got Frank Sinatra coming in Friday night,” or whatever night it was and the radio wants to do all this publicity. They say, “Are you sure he’s gonna show?” This is a little station. Larry King is not big time; this is what made Larry King big time. The radio station is calling over to where Frank is staying, asking just to get a confirmation. No response, no response, no response. The show was on at 9:00. Finally, at two minutes to 9:00, Frank comes through the door with his publicist.

And the publicist pulls Larry aside and says, “I don’t know how you got this because my job is to not let this happen. But he said he wants to do it. Okay, I’m just telling you one thing.

Do not ask about the kidnapping of his son, just don’t.” And Larry is young and so grateful – whatever you say, whatever you say. The interview starts, and Larry is dumbfounded. So he says to Frank – talk about starting an interview – he says to Frank –

Tim Ferriss: Where are you from? No, I’m just kidding.

Cal Fussman: No, even better. He says, “Why are you here?” Frank explained, and Larry didn’t even know the back-story. So Frank is having to explain to him, “Gleason substituted for me and I owed him one. Then he said: Frank, this is the one. And so I’m here.” The interview starts going, and an hour passes or whatever. And midway into the interview, Frank is feeling very comfortable. Larry says to him, “Do you feel, Frank, you’ve ever gotten a bum rap?”

Frank says, “Absolutely. In the case of my son getting kidnapped.” And then he just goes into the whole story. So Larry didn’t ask the question directly; he just made Frank feel at home. So that is more where I line up, as opposed to the style of going in there and saying we’ve got Sinatra.

Tim Ferriss: Corner the wild beast.

Cal Fussman: Yeah. The camera’s in front of him. If we ask him about it and he doesn’t want to answer, we’re still going to get his reaction. I don’t go that way.

Tim Ferriss: It’s also, from my perspective, a very mercenary way of doing things and a very transactional away. Contrasted with if you take the approach that Larry did, he’s developing friendships, not just good tape, over time.

Cal Fussman: Exactly.

Tim Ferriss: At least, I would say, a third of the guests that I’ve had on the podcast came as recommendations from other guests and introductions. That wouldn’t happen if I had a transactional “gotcha” type of approach. And just to reiterate what you said, the exact, same experience is something I’ve had on at least two dozen of my interviews. In the sense that I always ask guests beforehand, because the show is not about making people look bad; it’s about tactics and routines and habits and all the stuff that people can use.

I’ll ask, “Is there anything you really don’t want to talk about or prefer not to talk about?” And not often, but every once in a while somebody will say I really don’t want to talk about X. If I make them feel comfortable, and if I do one thing which Neil Strauss, who is a very good writer and very accomplished interviewer for Rolling Stone and New York Times, he said to me, “If you want them to be vulnerable, be vulnerable yourself. Give up some details of your life that are very vulnerable.” So I made that a habit. I’d say in about half of the cases, they end up talking about exactly the thing they said they didn’t want to talk about. They bring it up themselves.

Cal Fussman: It only makes sense because when people feel comfortable, then they’re going to speak normally. They’re going to forget they’re being interviewed. Later on in life, Frank actually wrote Larry a note that said, “You make the cameras disappear.” I think that’s what you, as an interviewer, want to do. You want to make people forget they’re being interviewed and just speak with you naturally. Now, that’s just my style. Other people, they want it to be known it’s an interview.

If you show up with a pad in front of you and cameras, then it’s an interview. The pad is going to tell the person that is across from you, there are questions written down. This is an interview. Be advised. So that’s just something I would never, never do but that’s just me; that’s just my style.

Tim Ferriss: You mentioned that you think about the questions, write down the questions, then tear them up. I’m curious about this. Do you review a list of questions and then the day before, or before you walk into someone’s house, just tear it up into little shreds and throw it in a wastebasket? What does your process look like for adding the ammo to your brain?

Cal Fussman: It’s a matter of you do your research. Then there’s a period of curiosity where you’ve taken in all this information, and now what are you curious about?

So you just start writing down questions. For me, it comes very easily. I’ll just start writing, writing, writing and then pages will be filled up. The way I look at it, it’s almost like I’m putting songs in a jukebox and the questions are my songs. I’m just going to have these songs in there. They’re in my head. I know the words to the songs. I can sing the songs. Then I rip them up. It’s more of like a ceremonial act. The questions are no longer on paper; they’re in my head. So when I go into the interview, interesting things start happening. No. 1, because all these questions are in my head, I’m never at a loss for a question.

I’ve talked to some writers who say what happens when you run out of questions? Well, I don’t because my jukebox is filled. But more than that, what will happen is I’ll ask a question, and I’ll get a response and then I’m working off the responses. But oftentimes, the response will lead to a question I’ve already thought of. So it’s like they’re hitting the jukebox and they’re playing the music. They’re getting the question that they want because that’s where they were going.

Tim Ferriss: Right, they used the proper cue, in a sense.

Cal Fussman: Right. So my mind was prepared to ask them the question that they wanted to hear to make them more comfortable.

My style – and other people can try it and see if it works for them –but there’s something relaxing about it to me. I’ve interviewed people who have shows on TV where they have to interview people, and I come in without any questions or pad. And you can see this shocked look on their faces. You don’t write down your questions? Because they might feel like, what will I do on camera if I can’t think of a question? It might look bad. Having that pad there is a safety net. But once you do it this way a few times, you’re free.

Tim Ferriss: Neil does the same thing, Neil Strauss. I don’t think he tears them up but he folds it up and puts it in his pocket and doesn’t look at it at all.

And I think if I were to underscore something that you both have in common, it’s that you’re very good at getting people to open up about things that they would be disinclined to open up about normally in an interview. I think that’s a big part of it. It’s like if you have a camera with a flashing red light, people put on their body armor. The more you can make it a conversation as opposed to an interview, like you said, if you can remove the symptoms of an interview so to speak, the pad of paper, the flashing lights, the more naturally people will engage with you and the more they will share.

Cal Fussman: Now you’re getting into Oprah territory. Imagine this. You’ve got the flashing lights, you’ve got an audience that’s reacting, and then you’ve got a subject on the couch. And she is getting them to speak about things that are very intimate in front of a crowd and the flashing lights. That’s a high, high level of jiu-jitsu.

Tim Ferriss: Yeah, she’s amazing. If you were to ask me what is impossible, my answer currently would be getting Oprah on my three-hour podcast, so we’ll see. We’ll see if that manifests something.

Cal Fussman: I wish I could say you got it.

Tim Ferriss: You got it. Oprah owes me a solid.

Cal Fussman: Oprah owes me one. Don’t worry about this.

Tim Ferriss: This may have a good amount of overlap with things we’ve already talked about, but this is from Devon Hedgepess – best strategies to get to the heart while interviewing?

Cal Fussman: Find out what they love. I mean, it’s that simple. Especially if you’re able to do the research before, just hone in on something they’re passionate about and they love talking about and just ask them about it. They’re going to be happy to talk about it.

It’s very simple. It’s the exact opposite of going in feeling like a journalist who is determined to get a question answered. I’ve got to get this. You talked about “gotcha” but there’s like a level underneath that that’s not so much gotcha, it’s a legitimate okay, we need to know this. If you go in trying to grab something from anyone, they’re going to protect it. So just make people relax by finding out what they like and then have them talk about it.

Tim Ferriss: This is really good advice. It took me a long time to figure out that, for myself at least, and I’m still very much a novice, but sometimes the best place to start is really far off of any topic they’ve covered in interviews related to their profession.

I remember interviewing Edward Norton, and I’d spent a good amount of time with Edward. But the way he interacts in interviews could be very different than the way he interacts over coffee having normal conversation. So I wanted to make him feel as relaxed as possible, so we just talked about surfing for the first five to ten minutes of the interview.

Cal Fussman: I remember that.

Tim Ferriss: We were sitting out on the Malibu Pier overlooking the water. We could see the surf line up. And I was like, okay, let’s talk about surfing.

Cal Fussman: That’s just a clear example of doing something that’s very natural and getting somebody to feel at one with you and the place. To me, making the person, the subject, feel safe and comfortable, that’s where it all starts.

Obviously there’s research before and there’s the preparation of questions. But if you can’t make a person feel safe, forget it. Although look, that’s just me. Jorge Ramos is going in there. He is not making them feel safe and he makes it work for him.

Tim Ferriss: Yeah, he’s doing the Jon Snow charging into battle approach.

Cal Fussman: Yeah. From where he comes from, that’s what’s necessary.

Tim Ferriss: Oh, you need that. He can’t go in warm and fuzzy; that won’t work, I wouldn’t think.

Cal Fussman: His audience is his audience because they know he’s going in to fight for them. A big part of this is realizing who you are. Where do you come from, how do you want to get your own message across? Just the way you were speaking, you’re helping to uplift people.

Tim Ferriss: I’m trying, yeah.

Cal Fussman: So your style is based on that. I don’t know that I ever looked at an interview as a way of uplifting somebody but it’s a very interesting way for me to look at it. Because interestingly, I don’t do it in interviews but when I give speeches or workshops, that’s what I do; I’m uplifting people.

Tim Ferriss: That’s the intention.

Cal Fussman: Yeah. We’ve been talking about this over the last couple of days and you just lit the light bulb in my head. Because I’ve been saying to myself, what’s going on? I’m kind of moving into a place where I’m like a player coach, now.

That’s not who I was, but I’m finding that I really enjoy this in a way that I didn’t get out of writing a story in a magazine. I just understood why in this conversation. Because it allows me to do what you do in an interview. It allows me to help uplift people. So if people are working in a company and the company is not hiring the right people because they’re not interviewing them in the right way, I can give them information that is going to help them hire better and have a better company, and that makes me feel great. At the end of it, they’re saying thank you and hugging me.

Generally at the end of an interview, I hug people sometimes at the end of interviews, and people say thanks. But it’s a different kind of thanks.

When somebody walks out of an interview and says thanks, it’s hey, that was a really good time. When somebody walks out of a workshop and says thank you, it’s a very different thing. There was this one woman – man, this is just hitting me as we’re talking – who, at the end of this workshop, says, “You know, I spend more time on my job than I do at home. I hire the people that are around me on my job. I didn’t know any of this about interviewing until you told us, and this is going to affect all the people I put around me going forward. Thank you.” That was an experience that I’d never had before. So this is why – I’m just understanding this now. Why I’m compelled to go in this other direction.

Tim Ferriss: Well, I’m excited to see the new direction. We also have some barbecue to eat in the not-too-distant future. So I think this has been great fun. We have so much more we could talk about: how to approach second time interviews, we were going to talk about George Clooney. Maybe that’ll be in part three. There’s so much that we could cover and so many great stories. But where can people find you online and where can they say hi?

Cal Fussman: You’ve got calfussman.com, and I just got Kevin the manager to make sure that when you send an email in, he’ll get it to me.

Tim Ferriss: Kevin the manager.

Cal Fussman: Kevin the manager. He’ll get it to me and we’ll get back to you.

Tim Ferriss: And then on Twitter, is it @calfussman?

Cal Fussman: Yeah. I’ve got to do a better job on Twitter.

Tim Ferriss: Let’s see if I can get Jocko Willink to sit you down and give you a tutorial. He’s got plenty to do, but he’s doing a great job on Twitter.

Cal Fussman: I’d love to meet Jocko. That was a great talk.

Tim Ferriss: He’s incredible. He’s an incredible human being. Tough young man, that Jocko. Well, Cal, this is always so much fun. Thank you for taking the time and I think I need to feed you more yerba mate, man. That was a hell of a tear. That was good.

Cal Fussman: You know what people don’t realize is we don’t know if the last installment was affected by the last tea. This caramel tea that I didn’t realize puts you away.

Tim Ferriss: We’ve been having tea and last night I was like, “Cal, you want some tea?” He was like, sure. There was a big collection of tea and so after we did the evening, the p.m. session interview yesterday, Cal’s like, “I really like this tea.”

He pointed to the caramel bedtime tea which literally, in the past when I’ve taken it, has made me feel like Leonardo DiCaprio at the payphone in Wolf of Wall Street.

Cal Fussman: I remember that, yeah, yeah.

Tim Ferriss: I was like, Holy God, I can’t believe you’re even standing right now. I was very impressed you powered through that. So we’ll focus on the South American stimulants, meaning yerba mate in the future, perhaps. But guys listening, we will have links to everything we can track down in the show notes. Of course, Cal’s site and social and so on. Please say hi to him. Anything else to add before we sign off?

Cal Fussman: The whole weekend has been an absolute delight. I come out of here almost a changed man. It sounds odd.

We’ve had about 36 hours of conversation and that part of you, that uplifting part of you, has taken me to places I’m just starting, light bulbs are just starting to go off in my mind. So I can’t wait to come back for the third, because I don’t know where you’re going to take me.

Tim Ferriss: It’s just a joy to hang out with you, man. If I can, in my own meandering way, offer a few things from the path that I’ve already traveled, then that makes my whole weekend. I always learn so much from you so I feel like very selfishly I’m learning a lot more than I’m giving out.

Cal Fussman: I don’t know about that.

Tim Ferriss: But I am fixing your shoulder with the sauna. We have this barrel sauna which came from Specks, developed by Laird Hamilton and then I think either duplicated or refined by Rick Ruben when we actually recorded the interview in there and burned our hands on the mics.

But so many adventures to have and we’re just getting started. So everybody listening, you can find the show notes at fourhourworkweek.com/podcast as always, for this episode and every other. Until next time, thank you for listening.

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The Tim Ferriss Show Transcripts: Stephen Dubner — The Art of Storytelling and Facing Malcolm Gladwell in a Fist Fight

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Please enjoy this transcript of my second episode featuring award-winning author, journalist, and radio and TV personality Stephen Dubner where he answers your questions. It was transcribed and therefore might contain a few typos. With some episodes lasting 2+ hours, it’s difficult to catch some minor errors. Enjoy!

Listen to the episode here or by selecting any of the options below.

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#199: Stephen Dubner -- The Art of Storytelling and Facing Malcolm Gladwell in a Fist Fight
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Tim Ferriss: Hello boys and girls, munchkins and mogwais, this is Tim Ferriss and welcome to another episode of the Tim Ferriss Show. And I just realized, I don’t know if the plural of mogwai is mogwais. Maybe a fictional linguist out there can tell me what the right answer is. The Tim Ferriss Show, as you guys know, probably, maybe, is about deconstructing world class performers. In this particular episode, we have a repeat guest. That is Steven J. Dubner, perhaps best known as the co-author of the Freakonomics book series and creator of the top ranked Freakonomics radio podcast, which I had the pleasure to be on once. It is incredibly well produced.

He’s back to answer your most burning questions which I’ll get to in a minute. And he also has a new podcast that just came out that you guys should check out: Tell Me Something I Don’t Know is the name. it is a new, live event and podcast from both the New York Times and Steven Dubner.

You could think of it as equal parts game show, talk show, and brain tease. I actually had a chance to experiment with this format as a panelist alongside Malcolm Gladwell in a prototype version. It was an absolute blast. So check it out: Tell Me Something I Don’t Know. In terms of topics, he covers a lot that I’ve been asked about and he has far more experience in many of these area. There are some silly questions, like why do cats wiggle their butts before they pounce.

A lot of you submitted some pretty ridiculous but nonetheless pretty funny questions. So he covers a few of those and then jumps into podcasting and radio journalism questions about storytelling, editing, increasing the reach of your podcast, and then delves into a lot of personal and book-related questions. So the destiny, as it were, of the golf book that he was working on with his frequent collaborator Leavitt, the three books that shaped him into the person he is today, so the three books that most shaped him.

And if you want to check that out, if you only have five minutes, I would say jump to that. It’s 26 minutes roughly after the end of this intro. And does he think he can take Malcolm Gladwell in a fist fight. Then a segue to economics, so South Korea and digital currency, crypto currency; what influence does the president actually have on the economy – that’s a separate question – technologies related to or that actually are a part of VR, for instance, and how that might affect education.

And then life advice; teaching kids critical thinking, projects that you might pursue or give to your kids to get them excited about economics, etc. It is very, very rich and you can say hi to him @freakonomics on Twitter, Facebook and everywhere else. So without further ado, please enjoy this Round 2 with Stephen J. Dubner.

Stephen Dubner: Hey, everybody. This is Stephen Dubner. Thanks for sending in questions to Tim Ferriss and thanks especially to Tim for letting me take over part of the podcast today. I really appreciate it. I’m a big fan of Tim’s, as you all probably know. We’ve had him on Freakonomics Radio. We’ve had him on a podcast I did for awhile called Question of the Day, with my buddy James Altucher. Tim was also a panelist on this live version of this game show that I was developing called Tell Me Something I Don’t Know, which I’m happy to say now has been developed and it’s releasing this week as a brand-new podcast.

So I’m a big admirer of Tim’s and I really appreciate getting a chance to talk to the people like me who admire the work that Tim does. I guess there are a lot of things I like about it but the main thing is that it’s a real hybrid of empirical and inspirational, which is I think a winning blend.

The way this worked is Tim sent out a call via his Bat signals to listeners and readers of his to solicit questions for me, and I’ve got the questions. There are a lot of questions. I’ll probably only be able to answer a relatively small share of them. The questions range all over; topics from economics which I can talk about a little bit, even though I’m not an economist. My buddy Steve Leavitt is the economist part of our Freakonomics partnership but I’ve learned a little bit over the years.

A lot of questions about Freakonomics Radio, our podcast, about the Freakonomics books; all kinds of questions. So I will talk about all that and much more including, like I said, this new podcast that we’re launching right now, Tell me Something I Don’t Know. The questions range from rather substantial to less substantial. For instance, Alex Norton wanted to know:

Why do cats wiggle their butts before they pounce?

Alex, let me Google that for you.

Why do cats wiggle their butts before they pounce? It’s a way for them to get into position and brace themselves before they attack. Domestic cats hare a similar feature. Instead of grinding the ground with their hind legs, they wiggle their behind vigorously to attain balance and leverage. Kittens learn to do this from the mother cat. So Alex, by the way, do you all know the site, let me Google that for you? Because if you don’t, you should and it will save you a lot of time in the end.

Here’s a question from Marty Boyseck. This is one of several questions about podcasting, essentially, and radio journalism. I don’t know how many people really care about podcasting and radio journalism. Obviously anyone listening to this cares about it as a consumer. I don’t know about as a producer. On the other hand, there are something like between 300,000 and 350,000 podcasts being published right now. So maybe we’re at peak podcast or in podcast bubble.

I don’t know; maybe they’ll keep growing. I do know that the consumption is growing more slowly than the production. But judging from the number of questions that you guys had about podcasting, I guess that people do care so I’ll answer a few along these lines.

Marty wrote to say:

It seems like Dubner’s unique ability to tell a great story – oh, I like it; flattery – is what really adds a viral component to the deep science and typically boring economic research. How could that storification help other hard sciences or traditionally boring subjects that are really important?

Marty, here’s what I would say. First of all, thanks for the kind words; that’s nice. I agree that storytelling is incredibly important. There are many ways to argue for why that is true. I’ll give one example. One example would be what is the best-read book in the history of the world? Arguably – not even really that arguably, most people would argue that it’s the Bible.

So what is the Bible? Well, it’s a lot of things but it contains the most famous set of laws in the history of humankind, the Ten Commandments. So you would think that everybody would know those, since it’s the most famous laws in the most-read book. And yet, if you ask people, it turns out that I believe it’s about 17 percent of Americans can actually name the Ten Commandments. And a relatively large share can’t name even one of the Ten Commandments.

So lest you think that this is just a product of people having a bad memory, I should say that 17 percent can recite all Ten Commandments. A higher percent can recite either all the ingredients of a Big Mac, or all six siblings in the Brady Bunch.

So that’s pretty weird, that the most famous set of laws in the history of humankind in the most-read book of all time aren’t that well known, or at least that well remembered. So what does that indicate? I would argue, and this is just me making this argument, I would argue it indicates that we, meaning humans, really love stories and gravitate to stories.

Because what we do remember from the Bible, even people who are not religious at all, even people who have no connection to Judeo-Christian Biblical traditions at all, the stories from the Bible continue to be passed down and continue to be known and discussed and maybe not argued about; some people argue about them in either an academic or theological way, or sometimes even a political way but people know who Moses was. People know about Adam and Eve. Once you get into Christian theology, people certainly know about Jesus and the stories about Jesus despite even if they haven’t read the Bible at all.

And we could make a whole lot of other arguments about Gilgamesh and the Odyssey and on and on, and Shakespeare all the way up to maybe even including Pauley Shore, for God’s sakes. So I think that is a piece of evidence that argues that storytelling has a power that goes well beyond the sum of its parts. We actually did a podcast recently called This is Your Brain on Podcasts, a Freakonomics radio episode that looked at an amazing neuroscientist named Jack Gallant; looked at how people’s brains in an FMRI, a functional magnetic resonance imaging machine, respond when listening to stories told in a podcast, to use the Moth Radio Hour.

It turns out that the production of language happens in a relatively small part of the brain, or small area of the brain. But the consumption of language, and especially of storytelling, kind of goes all the way across the brain. And so there is a lot of argument for why storytelling is really important. So if that’s the case, what do you do about that? How do you harness that for whatever your goal is?

Marty’s question seems to be how can this help other hard sciences or traditionally boring subjects that are really important. So yeah, I think storytelling can be a big help. Whether the realm that you want to teach about or communicate about is physics, is accounting, is whatever; I think the storytelling has components that are important; factual is important; empirical is important. The thing about a lot of the academic research, so Freakonomics Radio, even though it’s sort of based or rooted in economics, the fact is we try to go way beyond economics and deal with a lot of the other social sciences; psychology, sociology and so on.

But also, especially in the last couple years, a lot of other disciplines, academic and otherwise. And I think that’s important for a lot of reasons. A) It’s fun to explore those and teach those; and B) if you think about it, a lot of the best research that’s being done in the world is being done in academic institutions. But the nature of academia being what it is, it’s kind of a little silo where the experts speak to each other, they write for each other in a language of their own for journals that only they read. And to me, that’s a shame and a drag and a waste of taxpayer and other money.

And so I’m all for taking that specialized research and knowledge and disseminating it to the public to we who want it, to we who could use it, and to we who kind of deserve it because we really do own a part of these universities.

Even private universities get a ton of taxpayer funding. So I’m all in favor of taking that big well of material and turning it into stories. Again, when I say stories, I don’t mean made-up; I mean factual, empirical, research fact-checked and so on. And that’s what we try to do pretty much every week with Freakonomics Radio. I should say this new show, Tell me Something I Don’t Know, goes even further beyond economics than Freakonomics Radio.

We’re getting ready to release the first six episodes, the first one coming out November 7, I believe, and then we’ll do one a week for six weeks. Then we’re already taping Season 2 and we’ll probably release another ten roughly March or April, something like that and we plan to do 30 a year. And what’s fun about these is even though this show doesn’t feel much like Freakonomics, it’s live. We tape it in front of a live audience.

It’s a game show where contestants from the audience get up and try to tell us some interesting fact or story about whatever, whatever the theme of the night is. Then the panelists and I discuss it. The themes we did for the first six, I’ll read them off. There’s one that’s called Strange Danger, so it’s literally about things that are dangerous that you might not think about or know about. No. 2 is called It’s Alive, so it’s about literally anything in the animal-ish kingdom.

Episode 3 is called Things That Go in Your Mouth, so food but it could be medicine, a variety of other things. Episode 4, of course, Things That Come Out of Your Mouth; language, singing, maybe vomit, you never know. Another episode called Passion Plays, about people who are passionate often beyond logic to some cause or hobby or whatever. And our sixth episode is called Fool Me Once, which is essentially about fakes and frauds of different kinds.

In each case we recruited contestants. Often, they’re academics. Honestly, a lot of them were PhDs or MDs and they tell us their stories and facts. And often, the root of their knowledge is academic; even fairly archean. But in story form, these academic or even archean stories or facts in story form, they really do enlighten you. So you kind of come away with these feeling that wow, I learned something that I never would have gone into some medical journal, or economics journal, or law review journal; I never would have gone looking for that.

But when it’s told in the right way by the right people in story form, the idea is that it makes us all a little bit smarter, yeah, smarter is good but also my argument is that the more we know, the more… I don’t know if moderate is the right word but the more that people know about the way the world really works, the less stupidity we are likely to engage in.

I’m not saying we will engage in less stupidity but we become less likely to. Now, there’s not a lot of evidence that a huge amount of exposure to knowledge and information necessarily makes the average person less stupid. In fact, there’s a lot of research that shows that the most educated people tend to hold the most extreme views on a lot of important, hot button issues. But I’m a believer in finding out as much stuff as I can and telling other people about it, because it’s exciting to share it. And that’s basically what I do as a journalist, whether in writing form or radio form or whatnot.

Here’s another question about podcasts from Stan Izlis, Islis… sorry, I’m sure I’m going to mispronounce names. By the way, he’s asking about:

Tips for editing podcasts?

One tip is in a podcast, always try to find out how to pronounce things. When you’re writing something you don’t have to know how to pronounce but often a very basic rule of podcasting is when you’re pronouncing a place or a thing or a name, you do try to go do some reporting with a primary source to figure out how you actually say it, since that’s important.

You’ll always make mistakes but it’s a good thing to try to do. So Stan wants to know top tips. Of course, I’m ignoring that advice now. I could have hunted down Stan Izlis, Islis and written to him and said how do you pronounce your name, and I didn’t. so sorry. Anyway, Stan I, we’ll call him, top tips to edit your podcast to make them shorter without losing too much valuable information. He says you cannot beat Freakonomics when it comes to quality info to length ratio.

It’s interesting you write that because I’ve been thinking a lot about whether our podcast, Freakonomics Radio especially is too long. And with the new show, Tell Me Something I Don’t Know, again we thought a lot about what’s the optimal length. And on that one, it looks like our first six episodes are all going to be in the neighborhood of 45 to 50 minutes. The problem is, we don’t have really good data on what people really want. Not that I would make that the primary driver of what we do. Because I think that when you’re creating something, you have to primarily listen to yourself and your circle of people that you think are good and smart.

If you pay too much attention to a big, sloppy feedback loop you’ll get paralyzed or you’ll try to please everybody. So first of all, I do like editing. My podcasts probably do sound the way they do in part because I’m a writer and came to this as a writer, not a talker. And as a writer, editing is hugely important. So whether it’s a book or an article or even an email, the first version is never the best. There are elements of it that are good, hopefully but editing is really important.

So my feeling on whether it’s Freakonomics Radio or Tell Me Something I Don’t Know or even Question of the Day with James Altucher or any podcast, you as the producer, even though you’re giving it to people for free, you’re not charging them anything for it; you are charging for it in that you’re asking them for their time.

There’s also advertising which they might listen to, and that’s how most podcasts make money. But if I’m asking you for 45 minutes, that’s a lot that you’re giving me. And so I feel it’s important to work as hard as I can to make the 45 minutes worthwhile. So top tips to editing to make them shorter without losing too much, it’s just like writing.

Every, single sentence, every single story, every single sound effect, whatever; you really just think is this advancing the story? Is it telling us something we don’t know yet? Is it not redundant? Does it move me? Does it interest me as a listener? There are a variety of intellectual ways to assess those questions. Then there’s also the gut check, which is when I listen to a rough cut of any episode, do I find my attention drifting? And if I do, it’s a pretty sure case, a pretty sure sign that it needs to be shorter.

So yeah, I’m pretty ruthless. I would say for every 30 minutes for Freakonomics Radio that we put out as a finished podcast, there is probably typically at least three to five hours of tape that doesn’t make the cut. So that’s the idea. One more question about podcasting. This is from Rob Moore; pretty sure I’m pronouncing that right. Rob asks what are your suggestions for growing the reach of your podcast? I think this is really simple. I think if you want to grow the reach of your podcast, you produce good and consistent content, period.

That sounds like a smart ass answer; it’s not meant to. And by good and consistent, that means a few things. Good meaning you think about it, you produce it well, you edit it well, you publish it well; all that stuff. Consistent meaning if you’re going to be a monthly, be a monthly. If you’re going to be a weekly, be a weekly. If you’re going to be a daily, be a daily. But to put one out on Tuesday and then another one out six months from now, and then four in a hurry and so on, that’s tricky.

But I really do feel that almost everything else that people talk about for growing something like a podcast, or a newsletter, or a TV show, whatever it is, I think that almost everything else that most people, especially in marketing and advertising realms talk about, almost everything else is overrated. So I think promoting your work on social media is hugely overrated. I think that marketing is hugely overrated. It’s hard to manufacture demand.

If, however, you make good and consistent content, then social media can help and marketing can help. People will be enthusaistc about finding and consuming and even promoting for you what you’re making. But it’s all about making good and consistent content. And you should try to spend 95 percent of your time doing that, and maybe 5 percent of the time worrying about growing the reach of your podcast.

That said, I asked Tim if I could come and be on his podcast to talk about this new show of mine, and to talk about whatever else because I’ve made a show, the new show, Tell Me Something I Don’t Know, not Freakonomics Radio, that we’ve worked hard on. I’ve been developing the show for five years. I care about it a lot, I like it a lot and now what I’m doing right now is not necessarily making that content any better; this is mostly about trying to expose people to it. So this is my 5 percent.

But even in doing that, I wanted to go to places that I thought were really, really good and worth it. And to me, Tim and Tim’s audience is really, really worth it because you guys have the kind of brains and ambitions and curiosities and sense of what’s interesting and what’s not, what’s worthwhile and what’s not, what’s funny and what’s not that I like. So there you go. This is part of my 5 percent.

Here’s a new section of questions that are mostly personal-ish stuff. So someone, can’t really tell what this person’s real name is; it’s got a lot of letters typed fast. So Lauren, maybe, Laurent maybe, Laurent W, maybe? He asked me:

Do I know the origin of my last name?

So yes, I do. Dubner was more typically pronounced “Doobner.” Dubners, my family, came not originally but in most recent history from a city in what’s now Ukraine called Dubno. My family is Jewish.

The Jews of Dubno and many other cities in that area were pushed out of that area when the new czar came in in I think 1881. My family and a lot of other people from Dubno ended up getting pushed up into what is now Poland, north of Warsaw in a place called Pultusk.

This also coincided with a time when not only Jews but many people were now acquiring second names because for much of history, it wasn’t like we had a first name and a last name the way we do now. And so many of the Jews who came from Dubno became Dubner. So Shepsel Dubner was my grandfather, for instance. Shepsel is a derivative of a Yiddish for if you were born on the Sabbath. So Shabbat, or Sabbath, or Shabbos, all these words that mean in different tongues, languages Sabbath, Shepsel was just kind of a tradition in that part of the world at that time.

If you were a male born on that day, that was the name. So Shepsel Dubner basically meant a guy whose family had been living in Dubno, and then this guy was born on the Sabbath. And then he was the one in my family, on my father’s side at least, that came to America. And that’s where my name comes from.

I know more than I should about this because my first book was actually an exploration of my family. My family has a strange, kind of wonderful, weird history in that both my parents, so Shepsel’s son was my father, and then my mother, both of them were kind of standard issue, Brooklyn-born Jews, first generation Americans who before they met each other, both converted from Judaism to Catholicism, which was a very strange and unusual thing. They met, they married, they had eight kids. I’m the last of eight. I grew up very, very Catholic.

But then very long story short, in my 20s I moved to New York, got curious about my parents’ Jewish roots. And I ended up returning gradually, slowly to Judaism although I’m not very religious or observant. But the traditions mean a lot to me and so that’s why I know my last name. I wrote about all of this in my first book, which was originally called Turbulent Souls and then got retitled years later as Choosing my Religion. So that’s that.

Raymond Wakawaka, which I am going to assume is not a real name – but it could be – writes to say:

What’s happening with the golf book that you guys were writing, and/or are there any new books on the horizon?

So Raymond, the golf book that Steve Leavitt and I were working on for a few years just didn’t work out the way we wanted it to. We were hoping to write a book that used essentially analytics and smart thinking to help the average golfer become quite a bit better without actually getting a little bit better.

Because here’s the problem. A lot of people love golf. Not many of them are very good. And the ones who are not very good would love to be better, but because of the nature of the game, because it’s time consuming, because it’s expensive, and because it’s difficult, most people don’t really want to spend a lot of time practicing. And if you have five hours a week to spend on golf, most people want to get out and play and not go practice chipping for two hours, putting for an hour and a half, and long game for maybe 45 minutes and then play four holes, which would probably make you a lot better over time but most people don’t want to do that.

And so we tried to do a series of experiments and analytics that would help write a kind of bible for how to make the standard golfer a lot better, like I said through strategy, through managing the game, through decision making and so on. And not going for the green in certain circumstances, putting from off the green, all kinds of specific strategic ideas. And basically, we failed. We couldn’t make people better.

So Leavitt is a pretty good golfer, really good golfer. His handicap, I don’t know what his handicap is, maybe 4, 5, 6, maybe in there. I’m much less good. Leavitt played as a kid; that’s my excuse. I took it up seriously only about five years ago. And I’ve gotten a lot better but the reason I’ve gotten a lot better is just because I practice a lot, take lessons, work on it.

And it’s not that I’ve gotten a lot better. I am about now a 12 handicap so that puts me kind of firmly in the middle of, quote, real golfers. So not very good but I love it. So yeah, that book is not going to happen at least anytime soon. We are, however, working on a new book whose completion is not guaranteed. We’re not sure if it’s going to work out at all. If it does, it will be a couple of years. And because of the nature of book writing, I’m not going to talk about it at all but we are trying to do another one.

A question from Vitoutas Allac wants to know:

What are the three books that shaped me and why?

So okay. In all honesty, I’ll say the first one was a novel called A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, which is kind of a sappy novel about Brooklyn in the Depression that happened to be hanging around the house when I was a kid. I read it over and over in part because I felt it was describing to me what my parents’ life was like when they were kids.

And as I mentioned earlier, my parent had this weird conversion story from Judaism to Catholicism that they didn’t talk about very much. And again, I was the youngest of eight so by the time I was a kid, this was ancient history. And so I would read this book kind of as a secret code to what their lives were like in Brooklyn, and what their environment was like. It was like having some kind of access to their lives that in retrospect, it wasn’t very much like what their actual lives were like. But to me, it was an incredibly formative book and so it shaped me.

Another one that shaped me a lot was a book that I remember where and when I bought it. It was on a remainder table in a Barnes & Noble that was on Broadway and 74th Street, I think; maybe 73rd Street. It’s long gone.

Anyway, it was a biography by Jonathan Yardley, the very good literary critic who was at the Washington Post for many years, of Ring Lardner. Ring Lardner was a writer I liked a lot. If you don’t know his work, you could look it up. It’s very dated now but I still think amazing. He was a sports writer. I love sports writing, I love sports, I played sports. I loved, loved, loved sports as a kid. But this biography of Ring Lardner, I’d never read a biography of an author that was so warts and all. A lot of things that he did were not so great. He wasn’t a terrible guy at all but he was, whatever; he was kind of selfish and grumpy and so on.

But also it was really about what it’s like to make a life as a writer. I had just moved to New York. Up until this point, I had been a musician. So my big things in life when I was a kid were always sports and music and writing. I would have liked to become a professional athlete but that didn’t happen. I don’t know, even if I’d been in a better circumstance I don’t know if it would have happened. I was pretty good but probably in retrospect not nearly good enough.

But music was a big thing for me, and I always played music. In college, I got involved in this band called the Right Profile and we were terrible for a long time but then we got better and better; ended up getting a record deal. After a few years, moved to New York. And I remember buying the Jonathan Yardley bio of Ring Lardner during that time. I was living in New York with the band, starting to make our first record. I ended up quitting music kind of dramatically because I realized that was not the life that I wanted; to be a rock star.

Even though it would have been fun, and it was fun at a very minor level but I wanted a somewhat more stable and more anonymous life. I’d always been a writer. I loved the idea of writing. I loved the solitude, I loved the thinking and I loved Ring Lardner. And so reading this biography of Ring Lardner was to me, again, a little bit the way A Tree Grows in Brooklyn was almost a bible for a blueprint of this is what the life looks like.

And what I loved about it was it didn’t make it out to be all amazing. And I needed that shot of reality. I knew that writing for a living was going to be very, very hard work and that if I wanted to make it happen, it was a process. There were going to be a series of steps that you had to get past or succeed at, and there would be a lot of failure. So that book was hugely formative. I don’t even remember the name of the book. I think it was called Ring. So that was book No. 2 that was incredibly influential.

Book No. 3 that shaped me, if I’m being honest, it’s Freakonomics. That was a huge deal for me. The success of it and the collaboration with Leavitt, those were big. But also it was a project that as a writer has launched what for me is… It was 2003 that I first wrote about Steve Leavitt. I wrote about him because I was in the middle of a book that was kind of about economics.

I was asked if I wanted to go write about this economist Steve Leavitt at Chicago who just won this award, and I turned down the assignment several times because I knew Leavitt’s work a little bit and I knew it had nothing to do with the book I was writing. The book was about behavioral economics, behavioral finance. It was what I called the psychology of money. Which, by the way, is how I met my friend James Altucher. He was a subject in that book that I was writing at the time. So Freakonomics, I wrote about Leavitt. I found his work so interesting.

I loved writing about that kind of stuff. And that led to this collaboration where we’d do books together, and then we’d do other things kind of on our own. Leavitt does a bunch of stuff on his own; consulting and academic research. I do the podcast. Leavitt’s on there but that’s mostly my thing. So Freakonomics has been gigantic. And the collaboration with Leavitt has been gigantic.

And the amount of learning that I’ve been able to do as a writer and as a radio guy, using Freakonomics as a platform has been huge.

Every day, basically my day is to wake up and try to read something interesting, talk to interesting people, ask questions, find out stuff, figure out how things work, measure it against an empirical standard and then tell the world about it. I love it. I’ll tell you one other thing that kind of inspired me and shaped the way that I run my life, my work life, was Tavis Smiley. I really like Tavis Smiley as a broadcaster.

He does radio, he does TV, he’s written books. I found him to be a really good human. But what I discovered when I went out to California a couple times and a couple book tours to do his shows; I think he’d do radio shows and his TV show. He had this kind of complex, and he had a production company and he had this whole production setup.

The way it was set up made me realize that man, if you want to do your best work, you should really control or set up as much of your production as you can. Because that is what gives you the latitude and the leverage to do your best work. So that’s inspired me. Tavis, I’ve never even told him this and I probably should because it was really helpful. It’s a pain in the neck to set up your own production company and to do a lot of the structural work yourself.

It’s a lot easier to just have someone, a book publisher, a newspaper, a radio station, a record label, a company of some kind; it’s a lot easier for them to say hey, we’ll give you the opportunity to do X and we’ll give you Y dollars for it and you plug yourself in there. That’s a lot easier than setting up your whole, own thing. But obviously, if you’re listening to the Tim Ferriss show, you have at least a little bit of an entrepreneurial inclination. So you know the advantages of entrepreneurialism are huge, and the headache are huge.

But watching the way Tavis operated inspired me to take on some of those headaches and set up, for instance, recently my own production company to do Tell Me Something I Don’t Know, but also my production company. We certainly contribute a lot to Freakonomics Radio and everything else. And the reason is look, I’ve worked with all the institutions I just named; record labels, newspapers, TV stations, radio stations, book publishers, on and on. I’ve worked with all of them in partnership and they all try to exploit your work and your content. That’s their job.

I don’t use exploit pejoratively; that’s their job. But I think that in order for you to do things the way you most want to do them, you have to gain or keep as much leverage as you can. That doesn’t mean you don’t share the leverage. But I think it’s hugely important to understand that if you want to do your best work, whether it’s media, whether it’s technology, whether it’s manufacturing, whatever; obviously you need partners.

I always try to be the best partner I can. I always try to make a deal and make content that makes everyone better off; everyone in the partnership. But I find that for me at least, the best way to do that is to have the center of leverage, or the center of gravity, be in my court so I can say you know, I don’t think this should be a daily show or whatever. Because I think if we try to do that, I can see why that might appeal to you the partners, more profitable ultimately but the content is going to suffer.

There’s no way that this project, whatever project we’re talking about is scalable enough for it to be good on a daily level. And in order to have the right to make those kind of decisions, you have to work hard to create the structure on your own to have the leverage on your own to have that power.

Question from Daniel Rodech:

How did you meet James Altucher; what do you think makes James a good interviewer and how does that contract with your own style?

I met James when I was writing this book that I mentioned a little while ago about the psychology of money. James was the friend of a friend. I love and admire James; I think he’s an amazing human, and very unusual. He had made a ton of money and lost all of it and then some by the time I met him. So it was very… bittersweet doesn’t start to describe it. Fortunately, he’s made a lot back and lost it and made it, so he’s pretty good at that. He’s been a good friend for many years.

I ended up putting that book in a drawer, unfortunately, to write Freakonomics. But one thing that came out of it was a friendship with James. In terms of James’ style for not only interviewing on his podcast but talking to people generally, he just follows his curiosity purely and doesn’t really think about or care at all about looking smart, or cool, or whatever.

He just really, really wants to know what he wants to know. And I find that to be an incredibly attractive trait, especially if you’re doing journalism and interviewing, Steve Leavitt, my Freakonomics coauthor is very similar in his research. It takes a certain amount of I guess courage to really not care what people think about you. And I wish I had more of that. I work on it but I think James has that in spades.

Question from Lance Miller:

Do you think you could take Malcolm Gladwell in a fist fight?

I don’t think I’ve actually ever been in a fist fight but I think I could take Malcolm. He’s wiry but I’ve got a few inches and a few pounds on him. I think I could take him on. On the other hand, I think he could just outrun me. So I’m fairly fast, like I can sprint. I can do that. I’ve played sports where you sprint and I was always relatively fast. But Malcom’s a distance guy.

He still runs semi competitively a mile and more. So I think it wouldn’t get to a fist fight. Plus, neither of us.. you know, you have to take your glasses off; there’s a lot to worry about there. But thanks for the question, Lance.

Okay, here are a few questions about economics-ish stuff. From John Nun, John writes to say:

South Korea announced that they will be developing a digital currency. What are your views on digital/crypto currency and how will this development affect the dynamic of these currencies in Asia?

I don’t know about the second half, how will they affect the dynamics of the currencies in Asia. We actually did a Freakonomics Radio episode a few weeks ago called “Why Are We Still Using Cash.” I personally believe that the data argue that the more digital we get with money, the better off more people will be.

So within that, you have to say there are some people who are going to be frustrated that cash is used less. There are people who worry about privacy. There are people who worry about government intrusion. There are people who worry about the flexibility and liquidity of cash. There are people who worry about the technology of having digital money and what happens if there’s the biggest blackout in the world. These are all legitimate concerns that need to be addressed and are being addressed by places that are converting to cashless or less cash society.

But I think the advantages to having much less cash, especially big bills, is huge. One thing we discussed in the episode of Freakonomics Radio was that I believe it’s 80 percent of U.S. currency now in circulation is in $100 bills. Very few people use $100 bills in the normal course of transaction. In fact, it’s not very easy. If you give a taxi driver a $100, if you go into a grocery store and give $100, people don’t even really want them. So where all these hundreds are used?

By people who are buying and selling drugs, involved in other illicit activities, often corruption and bribery of different kinds. So it turns out that eliminating and maybe on a gradual basis rolling down the ladder the big bills probably would do a lot more good than bad. Another thing is in the U.S., people have a weird relationship with the government, we just do. And I get it. I get both sides or all sides. But I think that some of the arguments, when you hold them up to the light, are kind of silly.

A lot of the people who complain about taxation I feel are complaining about the wrong side of taxation. If you’re honest, you want good enforcement and good payment. Because the larger the tax gap is – the tax gap is the difference between what’s owed and what’s paid. The larger it is, the more the honest people are penalized. So to me, it would seem a no-brainer for everybody that’s honest, which is most people, to close the tax gap.

And one way to close the tax gap is to make it a lot harder to cheat. And one of the easiest ways to cheat is do business in cash. It’s just the way it is. So that’s another reason for going to less cash.

Peter Connolly wants to know:

What actual influence does the president have on the economy?

So Peter, I love this question. I love it. Well, narcissistically I love it because I’ve been asking this question a lot for several years. It is a subject of great debate. I dealt with this at some length in an episode of Freakonomics Radio called How Much Does the President Really Matter?

And the argument there, from talking to economists and some legal and constitutional scholars and some political scientists was not very much, especially when it comes to the economy. Because if you think about, the economy is this big, complex, dynamic system with all these inputs.

It’s influenced by all these factors, many of which are psychological, not even just purely financial. And a lot of them would seem to be largely immune to any president’s wishes. On the other hand, and we recently did another Freakonomics Radio episode called Has the U.S. Presidency Become a Dictatorship? And in some ways, this episode was a rebuttal to my own argument in that earlier episode.

And in this episode I talked to the legal scholar Eric Posner, who I find to be really brilliant, and really insightful, and a great communicator. You should read his stuff. This was based on an essay he had written for Dataless. If you Google Eric Posner, he also happens to be the son of Richard Posner who is a prolific and very well regarded intellect; a judge but also writes a lot about economics and other things. So the Posner family is worth your time reading.

So the legal scholar Eric Posner argues that due to a long an interesting history of the U.S. presidency and how its evolved a lot over time, and how it’s veered a lot away from what was conceived as the original Madisonian system of checks and balances, the presidency has attained much more unilateral power. And therefore, especially through executive decisions and legislation, that the president does now often make policy. Not necessarily unilaterally but often close to it that has a reach over huge swaths of the economy.

So to take just two specifics, healthcare and financial services, healthcare is moving towards 20 percent of GDP, I think; financial services I don’t know the number but obviously it’s huge. If you look at just those two, you could say that the president him or herself can’t really do so, so much to shape the economy in those realms.

But through legislation necessarily, or at least we like to think that that power has been constrained, if you look at the reality you see that just during the Obama administration – and this is really what the episode of Freakonomics Radio with Eric Posner deals with a lot, using executive order to make decisions and to push them. So either Obamacare nor the financial regulations and financial legislation that came out of the recession were achieved primarily through executive order. But they’ve been furthered and advanced and kind of enforced in that way

And so any way you look at it, the president has the ability to exert a lot more leverage than the founders certainly intended, partly because the Constitution is vague on this. But the point that Posner makes that’s really interesting to me is the president gets this power, has gotten this power over the years, and we like to think that the presidency is constrained by Congress and the Constitution.

But Posner’s argument is that Congress and the Constitution don’t constrain the president very much at all. The Constitution almost none, and Congress, for all that a Democratic president will complain about Republican Congress being recalcitrant in not letting them get anywhere and vice versa, it turns out that Obama did a lot that a Republican Congress did not want him to do.

And Posner’s argument is that the main constraints on a president is that he or she represents three different constituencies; the public, the country generally; the party and the executive branch. So the president is the putative leader of those three things. He’s the leader of the country, he or she is the leader of the political party, his or her political party, and he or she is the leader of the executive branch.

And here’s the way Posner puts it: trying to be the leader of these three different groups with different interests and values turns out to be an extremely difficult task. So that is what creates the larger constraints over the president. That said, I’ve been making this argument for awhile that we put way too much care and anxiety into thinking about the choice of president is so essential to everything that influences our daily lives.

And I still think that’s true. I think that the actual presidency doesn’t affect us individually very, very much. But I have come around to the idea that the president, in ways that are kind of non obvious, exerts a lot of influence over huge pieces of the economy that certainly does trickle down.

Max McFarland wants to know:

How will technologies such as VR impact education, and will students being taught through online and digital medium, how might their intelligence be affected by teaching more through online and digital media?

I like that question a lot. My thoughts on education are I guess voluminous for no good reason other than it interests me a lot. We say we care about education a lot. I don’t think we do. And when I say me, I mean kind of the body politic. We care about our own kids a lot but I don’t think we really care about education a lot. I think if we did, we’d do a lot of things in the education system that are really, really different. We’d have it be more accountable, we’d have it be more experimental, we’d have it be more empirical. Let me go back to experimental.

In answer to Max’s question about VR – virtual reality – specifically, I have no idea. I don’t predict the future because I’m as bad at it as everybody else. But I do think there are things going on in education, in education theory and in technology particularly, that are really interesting.

There’s a startup, it’s now called New Classrooms. It started out called School of One and it was a pilot project within the New York City Department of Education run by a guy named Joel Rose. And Joel Rose then took it private – I guess private – and now it’s called New Classrooms. This is just one, small example that I’m impressed with.

Their model is to go into, let’s say, a fifth-grade math classroom. What’s the standard model of education? A teacher and 20 or 30 kids in a room and some kind of chalkboard, whether it’s digital or otherwise. It’s often been said that if you went to sleep about 120, 150 years ago and woe up today, you would recognize very little about America or the rest of the world. Transportation is different, communication is different, on and on. But you’d recognize the school classroom. It’s basically the same as it was then. A bunch of kids, a teacher running things.

There’s been some innovation, some use of technology and best practices but honestly, compared to other industries – and I know it makes people nervous talking about education as an industry but boy, if you look at the funding, it certainly is. And it’s an important one because the ROI is massive. If you look at it as an industry, you see that the amount of innovation has been really, really low. So School of One, for instance, would say we’re going to take this classroom full of 30 kids.

And instead of assuming that the best way to teach all 30 is to have all of them listen, at the exact same time to the same teacher telling them the same thing; maybe that’s not optimal? What would happen if instead, we created several different modes for each of those kids to learn and engage in? Yeah, maybe the teacher is leading a group. Maybe it’s a small group lesson for kids who happen to learn well that way. Maybe some kids are learning one-on-one with a virtual tutor. Maybe some kids are in a peer-led group. Maybe some kids are using virtual reality.

Maybe some kids are doing drills on their own. School of One, now called New Classrooms, basically takes this model and every day you experiment with every kid learning the same material through different modes to see which mode that kid happens to learn best in. And then you have a test at the end of the day; that’s how you know what mode works for each kid.

And then the next day, your algorithm spits out a playlist for the following day to give each kid their own customized way of learning. It’s very dependent on technology, in a good way, I would argue. It would make the role of the teacher, I would argue, even more important although I think a lot of teachers fear that it would make them less important. And it does what to me, almost every other facet of life has done which is try to customize things to work better for you.

None of us want to walk into a store, whether it’s virtual or brick and mortar, and have a choice of one thing. Here’s a clothing store; here’s the coat we have today. Here’s the shirt we have today. Here’s the book for sale today. Here’s the podcast to listen to. We all want choice. And it’s not just about preference; it’s about how we learn and people are really different. And so I think that the more we can use technology and also just logic and data to customize to some degree the educational process, the better off we’ll be.

I think I’ve been talking for a really long time. I’m going to try to find one more question here that would be a good one to end on. We’ve been talking a little bit about education. Alright. I’ll combine a couple Here’s Christine Nesheeva and Jill Bevencraddic have questions.

Christina asks:

I’d love to know how to best teach kids to have critical thinking and ask unusual questions?

I love that question, Christina. And Jill wants to know:

What’s a great project for seventh graders to get excited about economics?

So combining these two, first off I wills tart by saying I have no idea what’s a great project for seventh graders to get excited about economics. And I would kind of go back to my previous answer, which is that customization is really important.

And so to that end, I’m a really big believer in letting people, whether it’s adults, whether it’s in your work career, whether it’s people obviously in their consumer choices but even in education, I’m a big believer in letting people find the topics that they’re fascinated by, almost addicted do and then urge them to channel that fascination into learning a lot of different things using that topic, or using that fascination.

One thing that strikes me as weird about school and the way we still do school is we require every kid to be involved for many years in every subject: art, phys ed, math, English, history. And obviously, you want to have everybody have a certain core base. But almost nobody is good at all of these things. And the result of being almost inevitably really bad at one or two is just to make you kind of hate the process or make many people hate the process, especially boys.

Boys don’t do very well in primary education often because there’s just too much funneling and channeling your interest and your attention into things that are not interesting or don’t hold your attention. And then of course we blame them, which I think is crazy. So I do think it’s great if you can, like I said, lead people to find a topic or a curiosity that is legit, that’s organic for them and then use that to learn a lot about the rest of the world.

If you’re a good teacher, if you’re a good parent, or just a good adult, a thoughtful person, you can find a way to learn about so many different elements, so many different disciplines within one thing. I’ll give an example. My son who’s now 16, he doesn’t like school very much. He does pretty well in some subjects and not so well in others. It’s just not a great fit. I don’t think he’s ever going to be a great school student. On some dimensions, he’s really, really smart and on some dimensions he’s really, really interested. And so I do try to encourage him.

His big obsession for the past five, six years has been football – soccer; what we in America call soccer, which he calls football because he’s kind of a snob that way. He reads a lot. Most of the books he reads for fun are about football. Most of the journalism he read… he keeps up with politics and stuff I think pretty well for a 16-year-old kid. He does it a lot through comedy, by the way; Jimmy Fallon, Jimmy Kimmel, Colbert.

That’s the way he gets a lot of his news, which I think is not a terrible way to get your news. Because I don’t know if comedy about the news is actually any funnier than a lot of the real coverage about the news, personally. So I’m personally pretty good with that. But then with football or soccer, also he and I do – it’s gotten more occasionally lately; it was more regular for awhile – a podcast about him basically teaching me what he called footie for two.

The amount you can learn about the world through something like football about economics, and politics, and language, and society generally, and how the media operates; if you follow football closely as he does, you can learn all of this. And it’s about as global as it gets. So that’s what I would say to Christina and Jill and anyone who’s looking for ways to – quote – teach kids to have critical thinking, ask unusual questions, or what’s a great project to get seventh graders excited about something.

Try to find an organic excitement and then develop that, and let it go as deep and wide as you can. For me as a kid, the channels, the topics that I learned about the world through were sports, which led to just you learn lot about a different things; personality stuff, political stuff, on and on. Music, I love but back then especially, there was less real good information about. But to me, the hobby that I did, which was super nerdy or whatever but I loved was stamp collecting.

When I was a kid collecting stamps, I didn’t do it as a learning exercise, I did it for whatever reason; I thought it was really fun to collect different pieces of colored paper from around the world. I just thought it was fun. I liked the organizing principle. I liked hunting them down. But I learned way more about the world through stamp collecting than I ever learned through geography or even world history.

I learned about economics, I learned about royalty, I learned about political upheaval, I learned about art; all this stuff through this thing that I happened to love. So look, the fact that you are listening to the Tim Ferriss show indicates to me that you are a person who is deeply passionate about something beyond having fun and getting pleasure out of life. Don’t get me wrong, I think having fun and getting pleasure out of life are hugely important, and they’re really what drive us at the end of the day.

But I think the fact that you’re listening to this also indicates that you have a real burning passion for something either vocational, or career-wise, or creative, or artistic.

And I think the more honest you can be about doing what you love because you love it, and then try to harness and leverage that love. It’s really hard to work hard on something you don’t love and that you’re not passionate about. I think a lot of us, especially early in our careers, we try to fake it, try to persuade ourselves: oh yeah, I really want to go into investment banking because I think it’s really interesting to get in there and learn about how companies work.

Then you see a lot of people in fields like that where they go into them early and you find that really what they wanted was they wanted to make a lot of money, which is fine; money is hugely important. But you find that the passion doesn’t match your energy. And so I think if you can align your passion and energy, you will work so hard and do so well that you’ll become successful without even really noticing you’re becoming successful because you’re just doing it; you’re just doing your thing.

So Tim, thanks for having me. Tim Ferriss Show listeners, thanks for having me. I do hope you’ll keep up with the work I do.

You can follow Freakonomics stuff at Freakonomics Twitter and Facebook. The new show that I’m really excited about, if you couldn’t tell, is called Tell Me Something I Don’t Know. I’m hoping to get Tim back on it as a panelist soon. I guess that’s all I have to say. It’s been a real pleasure and a privilege, and I loved the questions and I very much appreciate the opportunity to come talk to all of you. Cheers.

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The Tim Ferriss Show Transcripts: Dave Camarillo

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Please enjoy this transcript of my interview with my long-time Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) coach, Dave Camarillo. It was transcribed and therefore might contain a few typos. With some episodes lasting 2+ hours, it’s difficult to catch some minor errors. Enjoy!

Listen to the interview here or by selecting any of the options below.

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Tim Ferriss: Hello, boys and girls, menasama. This is Tim Ferriss and welcome to another episode of the Tim Ferriss show, where it is my job to deconstruct world-class performers. What the hell does that mean? That means I talk to people who are really good at what they do and try to tease out the routines, habits, philosophies, belief systems, etc. that you can apply to your own life and test yourself.

This episode we do not have an entertainer, we do not have… Well, we do have an athlete. I was going to say we don’t have an athlete but we have a hell of an athlete who has now turned into one hell of a coach, Dave Camarillo, C-A-M-A-R-I-L-L-O. Dave Camarillo was, for a long time, my Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu coach and he is a machine. In fact, there was a phrase, “Dave against the machine,” that was used for awhile. And onthemat.com once said about him, for instance, “It’s funny that everybody in judo is scared of David’s ne waza – that’s his ground game – and everyone in Jiu-Jitsu is scared of his stand up.”

We guess people in general are just scared of him. He is a very technical coach, was a very technical fighter and there are many people who took note of this. He dominated the lightweight and open weight classes, for instance, at the 1998 Hickson Gracie American Jiu-Jitsu Association tournament and the legendary Hickson Gracie himself bestowed the honor of Most Technical American Jiu-Jitsu Fighter upon David.

He is an elite level judo competitor. He is an elite level Jiu-Jitsu competitor and has worked not only with people in the ground game but many recognizable MMA figures as a coach and a corner man, and we will talk about both of those. We’ll delve into his background, we’ll delve into his teaching and learning style, and I think he is really unparalleled in many respects as an instructor.

And we also have a fair amount of ball busting and sharing of old stories that many people – most people, perhaps all of you, or none of you – have heard. And you can find Dave, and I highly recommend you check him out, at guerillajiujitsu.com. That’s guerilla like sniping from the trees, not gorilla like silverback, and you can Google Dave Camarillo BJJ to find the site very easily.

You can find him on Instagram, on Twitter @DaveCamarillo and on Facebook, I believe it’s just Facebook.com/dave.camarillo. But this is a fun one. We get into tactical training, military training, everything from fights in ice hockey and how to think about those, to using a flashlight in a hallway to how his mom is the best sniping shot in the entire family. So without further ado, please enjoy my conversation with my old friend, Dave Camarillo.

Dave, welcome to the show.

Dave Camarillo: Thanks, man.

Tim Ferriss: That was a dramatic inhale.

Dave Camarillo: I’m just tripping out at your place. I feel like a little kid, like what’s that, what’s that; where does that come from?

Tim Ferriss: A lot of walnut. There’s a lot of foliage on the wall.

Dave Camarillo: It’s a museum.

Tim Ferriss: We do have a deficiency of wine but it’s a little early for that.

Dave Camarillo: No… but go ahead.

Tim Ferriss: We have quite the history, and the history of wine, but we’ve known each other for probably 12 years? It’s gotta be. It would have to be.

Dave Camarillo: The earliest memory is us running away from mass hysteria at an MMA show.

Tim Ferriss: God, the Maranga, or whatever it was?

Dave Camarillo: There was a stabbing and then SWAT police, and then me going – like trying to protect your booth that you had, or whatever it was. Do you remember?

Tim Ferriss: It was complete chaos. I remember this. This was at a casino, God knows where, somewhere in California.

Dave Camarillo: I don’t remember, yeah.

Tim Ferriss: But I recall driving there in my Mom’s shitty, hand-me-down minivan, which I needed so thanks, Mom. But it was not impressing the ladies or anybody else.

Dave Camarillo: We were not impressed.

Tim Ferriss: Dave was not impressed. No romance ensued. So I parked that outside and I remember this booth. It was basically against the wall, and there was a fighter there who was a member of a biker gang.

And all of his homeys sat in one of the back rows – no, they at in the front row.

Dave Camarillo: One of the front rows.

Tim Ferriss: And some other drunk idiot got upset and threw like a double gulp or something towards the ring, hit one of these bikers in the back of the head. And the guy was like: oh, yeah? Turned around, pulled out a knife and stabbed this guy in the chest. And then all hell broke lose. I remember this.

Dave Camarillo: That was the craziest MMA event. I have not been to a lot and that was nuts.

Tim Ferriss: Yeah, it was completely pandemonium. I remember crawling up and basically rock climbing, like bouldering up the side of the wall to get off of the floor because people were just trampling the table. And then you came by and saved my ass and grabbed me and pulled me back into I guess one of the warm-up rooms or something. And at the end of that, I remember I went outside to go to my car a few hours later after everything had cooled off and there was blood smeared on the side of my minivan, and I was like, okay.

Dave Camarillo: On your minivan?

Tim Ferriss: Yeah, on the side like somebody had been bludgeoned or shot or stabbed. There was blood just –

Dave Camarillo: I’m sure people got trampled and all kinds of stuff.

Tim Ferriss: – smeared across the side of the van because there was an additional round two, round three fight outside.

Dave Camarillo: Oh, that’s nice.

Tim Ferriss: Yeah, that’s always nice. So yeah, so we know each other from that. Let’s see, some other color for those people who would like some context, I have told a story many times that you’re a part of but I’ve never mentioned you by name. Don’t worry; it’s not too incriminating. When I mention the story of me outsourcing my dating, and the booking of dates, this was in Willow Glen when we were living together. And we had a lot of wine one night and we were having a debate about what could be outsourced or not.

Dave Camarillo: That’s right.

Tim Ferriss: The bet was I think a case of wine from your mom, I think it was.

Dave Camarillo: Yeah, she worked for Gallo.

Tim Ferriss: Yeah, exactly. So for those people who are wondering, the outsourcing your dating story that I’ve told a few times, Dave was the inspiration for that.

Dave Camarillo: Yeah, that pops up. I got word from Gallo because they search for those keywords and all that, and they told my mom and my mom told me, like do you know a Tim Ferriss? Yeah, he’s a pretty cool dude. I know him. Anyway.

Tim Ferriss: At the time, you were living at my place and I’ll give just another Dave story that comes to mind. When people are asking me about – I remember being asked at one point because I went to Iowa and got to watch the Olympic trials with Dan Gable, which was a dream come true; hope to have him on the podcast at some point. And someone was debating someone else about head gear.

Now, I’m not saying you should or should not wear head gear but I remember one night at my house, you had an ear infection. And you couldn’t get the Q-tip into one ear. And I was like man, I’ve got a lot of problems; I don’t need to add to that list. I should be able to –

Dave Camarillo: That’ll screw up your modeling, too; you know what I mean? The modeling that…

Tim Ferriss: Your earring modeling career is out.

Dave Camarillo: I can’t wear those – what you’re wearing right now. I can’t wear…

Tim Ferriss: Oh, the ear buds.

Dave Camarillo: Because I have it on the inside of the ear. Like normally it’s really cool and you can see it from afar on the outside. But when you get it on the inside, it messes up the whole thing, only on one side, too.

Tim Ferriss: That’s my dog. That’s my self defense system. We’ll be talking a lot about self defense. So for those people that are wondering what this is that we’re referring to, it is what is known as or referred to as cauliflower ear, in Japanese, takwa. And you can check that out using the Google machine. So Dave, what are you keeping busy with these days?

Dave Camarillo: I travel a lot. I’m doing a lot of traveling.

Tim Ferriss: For what?

Dave Camarillo: What I’m trying to do is – what I’ve always tried to do is answer every question instead of just answer one question, and it’s been good and bad in my life.

And right now I’m using martial arts as a kind of framework to problem solve in many different areas. Right now I’m working with my academies. We have girl Jiu-Jitsu academies in Pleasanton and San Jose, so that’s kind of the base of what I’m doing right now. And when I’m traveling, I’m traveling to train military law enforcement and other affiliates and just people who are Jiu-Jitsu enthusiasts, self defense enthusiasts, MMA enthusiasts. And at the same time, I’m still cornering fighters and just getting them prepared for battling.

There are so many different contexts there; Jiu-Jitsu, judo, wrestling, MMA, self defense and I have to quickly transition and problem solve depending on who’s in front of me and what they want.

Tim Ferriss: So we’re going to jump into an example of problem solving that we chatted about a little bit earlier when we were eating omelets and drinking coffee. But MMA fighters, who are some MMA fighters people might recognize that you’ve cornered?

Dave Camarillo: I think the most famous would be Cain Velasquez, but anyone from that AK group in that time; Cain Velasquez, Jon Fitch, Josh Koscheck, Mike Swik, Daniel Cormier, all of which – who exceeded outside of MMA in other areas of fighting like kickboxing and things like that, wrestling. That really added to my understanding of not just G grappling; that’s what I started with, judo and Jiu-Jitsu. But understanding how to increase pain thresholds by being punched in the face. Understanding the motivation for movement, which is being punched in the face, in the context of fighting. Fighting in self defense but also mainly for MMA competition.

Tim Ferriss: One of the things that has always impressed me about, for instance, your teaching – I haven’t been cornered by you because I’m not qualified remotely and I need to keep the brain cells that I have but when I visited at the time AKA, where you were then and took your class, what stunned me was how the baseline for your students seemed to be higher than at other places.

And what I mean by that is I’ve been to many different schools, and good performers – meaning good competitors – aren’t necessarily automatically good teachers, although they might think that they are, and frequently the teaching method is kind of a technique du jour. The instructor is like: well, what should I do today? And they sort of roll a 20-sided die if they’re Dungeons and Dragons [inaudible] which they probably aren’t but they come up with something and they teach, and there isn’t really a cohesive framework or a progression or a foundation that they build very well.

And when I went to the first class and then repeated that and came back, I noticed that everybody was kind of uniformly difficult to deal with. And that was because you’d used a logical progression to build a foundation that made them difficult to deal with, like attacking at angles; just a handful of kind of first principles that made them very formidable.

You’ve also taught – am I making this up? I might be; sometimes I do. But did you teach –

Dave Camarillo: If it’s good, just keep going, man.

Tim Ferriss: Just use it? Did you teach chess at a period of time?

Dave Camarillo: I did.

Tim Ferriss: You did. Now, have your approaches to both of those been similar in any way? Or has one informed the other?

Dave Camarillo: Chess and fighting? I think the overall – like developing a framework is where you start. Like I need a framework to understand how to achieve a set goal. And then you just switch between different situations; what’s the context, if it’s MMA or Jiu-Jitsu or whatever it is. In chess, it was pretty simple. I’m like, how do I make this as simple as possible, when I’m teaching kids who have never done chess in their lives. What I do is you know, I’ve got to get my pieces out so I understand that. Then I would talk to people, is that… yeah, you want to get your pieces out, right? You want to control the center, okay. I call it the bridge; control the center.

And then you want to start formulating an attack. Very simple. Do those three things, understand what each piece does, and go. So the technique is understanding what each piece does. To me, that’s the simple part. To me, technique is one of the most simple aspects of getting good. It’s your framework, it’s your understanding how to develop, how to desensitize, how to develop a strategy to implement what you know and channel it for green lights and avoid red lights.

So like in fights, for example MMA, green lights are very quick. Meaning you punch and it lands on the guy’s head. A red light is if I punch, he moves and he counters and punches me. And so we’re constantly finding these green lights. But if I’m trying to find these green lights in a situation where somebody’s really, really good and especially like Jiu-Jitsu, because it’s so convoluted; there’s so many variables.

And I don’t have a strategy behind that, I don’t have tactics; then I’m kind of reactionary. When you do something, maybe I’ll do it and that’s a skill in and of itself. It’s a very good skill to possess to develop. But it can’t be everything. Your initial is what are the main principles to start controlling the mid ground? Control that mid ground; neutralize and control my opponent. Take them out of their game. Provide these principles, execute these principles and neutralize. I think that’s the key word is neutralize my opponent before they start gaining confidence and gaining ground on me.

Tim Ferriss: What are some of the differences in your – let’s just say how you teach a novice in Jiu-Jitsu, compared to perhaps other schools? What are some of the things that you focus on or don’t focus on in the beginning?

Dave Camarillo: First, a lot of people talk about Jiu-Jitsu and they talk about I have this type of Jiu-Jitsu game. And a lot of them I think need to start at a fundamental framework for a game.

What does a game mean? A game is essentially how you play the game, and everyone may be slightly different. But you quickly identify I would say the most utilized positions for top and bottom. It’s like MMA on the ground; you have a top and you have a bottom. And Jiu-Jitsu is very simple. You have the attacking positions for top or side control mount and back. For bottom, those would be defending those advantageous positions. And then there’s guard, which is where most of the positional struggle comes from.

It’s hard to attack from top; trying to open the guard in this case. And on bottom, you can defend attacks so on bottom you’re trying to attack. But the idea is to see now how many guard systems are there. There are three main ones: closed guard, open guard, and half guard. So that’s six positions, multiplied by top and bottom; that’s 12. So if I find go-to moves out of 12 positions, I have a game.

Because I’m set for no matter what happens. Even if I get swept, well, where are you getting swept to? What position are you ending up? It’s one of those six. And then you immediately kind of just jumpstart your game by understanding I have two moves from that position. That’s how a beginner should take it. They should – you talk about it all the time – simplify. Keep it really simple but get good at being simple.

Tim Ferriss: So in the case of, say, guard, what are some principles that you underscore and I’m associating, too with you and I want you to tell me if these are right or wrong. But one would be walking your shoulders in and getting sort of flush with your hips to the extent possible. And the second is positioning your torso at an angle. I don’t know why I associate that really on training with you. But there are a handful of things like that that similar to the three things you mentioned for chess, I have found if I weren’t rolling for, s ay, six to 12 months but I just kept those things in mind, the rest would come back.

Dave Camarillo: Right. It’s control grips, stay busy with angle, and destroy your opponent’s posture. And if you’re doing those things, they’re constantly having to adjust to what you’re doing. We have a saying in self defense, like you’re either behind the curve or you’re ahead of the curve. And in this case, when you do things like that – disrupt base, and constantly grip fight, and get good at that and are constantly attacking because angles are an attack; then you’re chasing your opponent down the alley. He’s not chasing you. He’s gonna eventually stumble and you’ve got him.

Tim Ferriss: So for people who aren’t familiar, I’ll give a little bit of context and obviously, Dave, feel free to jump in at any time. But for those who don’t have martial arts background, you have judo, let’s just say, and contrasted with Jiu-Jitsu. So judo one could think of as primarily a standing game, although there is ground game but they get stood up very quickly so a lot of throws, very dynamic; it’s an Olympic sport.

Then Jiu-Jitsu you have a primary focus on the ground, and that could be of course positional advantage but then you have submission, so chokes or joint locks and then there’s point scoring systems and so on, much like judo. Just so everyone’s up to speed on vocab, also, you mentioned a gi. For those people who don’t know those terms, that means a uniform. You could think of it as not the cobra kai type uniform from Karate Kid because it –

Dave Camarillo: Those are really cool, though.

Tim Ferriss: Which are cool but they don’t have sleeves. So you need sleeves. And you use the uniform. When we’re talking about grip, that can apply to the use of the fabric itself. Or without that, no gi practice, then grabbing the wrists or the head and using sort of clinching position similar to wrestling. The last piece for those nerds out there who want to know what gi is in Japanese, it’s actually the same character as ki kimono. So there you have it for the Japanofiles out there who want to nerd out.

Because Dave, you’re well known for coming from judo and competing at a high level, and then developing a very high level Jiu-Jitsu game and combining those elements. So guys would be like all right, I don’t want to get triangle so I’m going to stay standing, and then uh-oh, flying arm bar later – something you became pretty well known for – then they would say all right, I don’t want to get flying arm bar and I’m going to go to the ground and then they get triangled. Are there elements of judo that you still apply in your Jiu-Jitsu or teach in your Jiu-Jitsu?

Dave Camarillo: The sense of urgency that you have in judo that does not exist on that level in Jiu-Jitsu. It exists in MMA because you’re getting hit in the head. But the idea is I need to move; I’m very obligated, very motivated to move because I don’t have a lot of time. Especially when you go on the ground.

As you talked about, judo has tachi-waza and na-waza. Tachi-waza is the standing technique where we throw each other. Na-waza is the groundwork. We’re vying for position, we’re looking for osaekomi which is the incapacitation of your opponent on the ground. When I hit the ground, I grew up in a culture of I don’t have a lot of time; I really gotta get something going because if you don’t progress your position, the referee will just halt the match using matay; restart the match. You’ve lost your opportunity on the ground. So rules dictate behavior.

So you see a lot of judoka who don’t focus on the ground because there’s not a necessity to do that. Things are changing now. But Travis Stevens did an amazing job in the Olympics on the ground because he cross-trains. And I think I was maybe one of the first persons to start cross-training. And the reason why I cross-trained is it’s something new. Like how many uchikomi can you do in judo? Uchikomi is repetition of half-throws.

We’re doing this over and over. And when I talk about the difference between judo and Jiu-Jitsu, like I’ve drilled a Seoi Nage, for example, which is a judo throw or an O Goshi, which is a hip throw where you’re controlling the hip and you’re throwing your opponent on his back. I don’t know, 100,000, 200,000 times.

Tim Ferriss: Because you can rack up 1,000 of those in a workout.

Dave Camarillo: Oh, yeah. And five a week times two, sometimes twice a day so that whole 10,000 hours idea. But how many of those did I get in competition? Not even a fraction; it’s like less than 1 percent. But the idea is my mind is ready to commit, and commit at the right time and not at the wrong times; find those green lights. But the second you hit the ground, if you’re going to take advantage of another opportunity, you need to educate yourself. And back then, I just don’t think judo had a structure that Jiu-Jitsu possesses on the ground.

And so part of it was my ego saying you Jiu-Jitsu guys are not doing anything I don’t know., The other part was: well, maybe they are, and I have to figure this out and find out. And I remember the first time I went to help Gracie’s Jiu-Jitsu Academy in Pleasant Hill California, and he was submitting me with his hands behind his back; hands behind his head, actually. And I was trying to pass his legs, which is his guard and he’s on bottom, I’m on top. And I have all of this angst. And 19 years old, I was like a world level competitor and I was really, really fast and young and dumb; you know how it is. I couldn’t pass his legs.

Tim Ferriss: I’m still dumb; I’m just not fast anymore.

Dave Camarillo: And we’re not young anymore. But I couldn’t pass his legs. Next thing you know, he’s doing Sankaku Jime triangle choke position off his back. And I’m like tapping out, and he’s not using his arms. And I’m like, isn’t failure awesome? Like that was a point in my life where I was just like man, it’s failure over and over again.

And I’m glad at that point that I had the ego to keep rebooting and driving forward, and do the same, stupid thing over and over again.

Tim Ferriss: Because then you knew it wasn’t a fluke, right?

Dave Camarillo: Like if I put my hand in fire, you’re probably not going to put your hand back in fire but I’m glad I kept putting my hand back in this fire and getting burnt and burnt and burnt. And it really elevated me to like, there’s something here that I don’t understand and I need to do for the rest of my life. And I’ve had that in many aspects of my life. And every time I come to a new corner, it’s the same; I do this mistake. Like when I started getting into combatives, I remember the shock knife training. Have you ever done this? Do you remember this?

Tim Ferriss: I don’t remember this.

Dave Camarillo: You might not have done it.

Tim Ferriss: I’ve never used a shock knife.

Dave Camarillo: It has scarred me both physically and emotionally so I’ll never…

Tim Ferriss: You explain what it is.

Dave Camarillo: We’re kind of jumping all over the place.

Shock knife training is essentially adding the motivation of pain to a supposed real-life situation, so like a scenario.

Tim Ferriss: Simulated knife attack.

Dave Camarillo: A simulated role-played knife situation. And we would have our hands – and I would teach this in MACP, Modern Army Combatives Program. I’m level four certified, which is the highest. But anyway. Through that training I put my hands on the wall.

Tim Ferriss: MACP is pretty good rap; stage name, also.

Dave Camarillo: We’re not there yet but it’s coming.

Tim Ferriss: Don’t worry guys; we’re going to get to Dave’s freestyle. Continue.

Dave Camarillo: My hands are on this wall, and the instructor is like face forward. And there are six guys, and we’re all side by side, hands on the wall like a police line or whatever, I don’t know. And then he would throw this shock knife. And essentially what a shock knife is, you can grab it. It’s got a blade part, a handle part, and it’s got this really cool button on it. And when you press the button – and it’s cranked all the way up, by the way, because there’s a level; you can throttle this thing up.

You press the button and you see the sparks on the blade. You hear it, which is probably worse than seeing it, and then feeling it which is even worse than that. And essentially, it’s not going to scar you physically so much as it is mentally. I’ve had best friends that I hated because we’re doing this drill. So they would throw this shock knife.

Tim Ferriss: Now by throw, you mean just touch you with it.

Dave Camarillo: No, they would throw it on the ground and we all had to fight for it.

Tim Ferriss: And it’s turned on.

Dave Camarillo: It’s ready to go. You’d have to press the button and stab people.

Tim Ferriss: Wow, this is like some sci-fi Lord of the Rings shit.

Dave Camarillo: Before the drill starts, everyone gets shocked so that –

Tim Ferriss: You know what’s coming.

Dave Camarillo: We mean business. So we’re clawing, fighting, cursing to try to get this stupid – and I still have it, this shock knife and stab each other with it.

Tim Ferriss: It’s basically like a taser in the shape of a knife? Effectively it’s sort of an electrified…

Dave Camarillo: But it doesn’t incapacitate you.

Tim Ferriss: Got it.

Dave Camarillo: Which is worse because then you can be held down, which I was, and essentially shocked over and over again by Jon Fitch, who’s my stupid partner. Hey, I got it. Let’s partner you up – because normally you do it with just normal people.

Tim Ferriss: You should explain who Jon Fitch is for folks.

Dave Camarillo: Jon Fitch is one of the best fighters at welterweight in history. So he was ranked No. 2 for five years when I was training him.

Tim Ferriss: Pretty good wrestler.

Dave Camarillo: He fought GSP and UFC. He’s now the current world – the event he fights in; I’m sorry, I don’t know the exact… he just won a big world champion title.

Tim Ferriss: He was also – was it wrestling captain at Perdue?

Dave Camarillo: At Perdue. Captain a the American Kickboxing Academy for the Mixed Martial Arts Program, which is probably the best in the world, in the entire world. And he was a guerilla Jiu-Jitsu black belt. Is there anything else we could – and he outweighed me by 20 pounds.

Tim Ferriss: I’ve sparred with Jon. Sweetheart of a guy.

Dave Camarillo: Super nice guy.

Tim Ferriss: But you put him in a shock knife drill… yeah, you have a real task no your hands.

Dave Camarillo: You could be blood brothers and then ruined relationships, like just throw a shock knife in training. Then the idea is like the second somebody got it, and it’s kind of a double edged sword; he becomes the enemy and you have to collectively work to take that shock knife away from him. There were variations of the drill.

Tim Ferriss: Right, scenarios.

Dave Camarillo: I have video of me using very colorful language, being held down sweating and my partner on top is Jon Fitch. Where he could do that just punching me, but hey, let’s give him a knife.

Tim Ferriss: Let’s talk about problem solving because I’ve always admired how methodically you can think through, for instance as you mentioned earlier, the 12 conceivable positions.

So if you have your go-to and your backup, I’m just thinking about half cart is a particularly – a weak position for me that comes to mind. Where having a go-to and a backup, and just having those two. It’s like no, you’re not going to accumulate 27; work on getting really good at those two. And that saved my ass in situations where I was caught in a relative position of weakness. I was able to act quickly, also, having those two defaults.

So the point being, problem solving; you’re good at it. And thinking through the different permutations of positions; talk about or share what you were explaining to me earlier. We only got partway through it. So flashlight, hockey.

Dave Camarillo: Go.

Tim Ferriss: Go.

Dave Camarillo: So I tend to get random texts, I would say problem solving texts. And they could be Jiu-Jitsu related, judo related from different students.

My buddy who is a retired Marin sent me a text: do you have a curriculum fighting with a flashlight? I’m like no, but give me five minutes. And I say that with confidence, essentially because I’ve done so many different types of training with different people under different rule sets, or no rules, or whatever the situation in different environments. And everything I say right now is just running down the stairs of variations and variables.

Tim Ferriss: And just to underscore something that people may be wondering, you also are no stranger to weaponry. You know how to use firearms. You know how to use these various tools and have a lot of experience. It’s to like you’re combative-naïve going into it, thinking about doing some type of gi choke as the only approach in some self defense situations.

Dave Camarillo: Right. So yeah, you’re somewhat creative understanding that you’re increasing your spectrum of toolsets.

I grew up with parents who hunt, and I grew up killing my own meat and shooting. Then when I started training in the military, I did a lot of firearms training with pistols and M4s and stuff like that.

Tim Ferriss: Who’s the best shot in your family?

Dave Camarillo: My mom is – hopefully my dad isn’t listening to this but my mom is the best shot in the family. She’s a different kind of shooter than my father. My father can do it under stress very quickly.

Tim Ferriss: Like instinctive shooting.

Dave Camarillo: Instinctive shooter. He’s shot a – I think it was a deer, running 50 yards, in the head. The bullet happened to hit the dear in the head. But like I said, he can quickly bring that gun up and pull the trigger and get things going, apply those incremental, fundamental nuances quickly. Where my mom, if you give her a rest, she’s like a sniper. Like rest, just hang out, 400, 500 yard shots no problem.

Tim Ferriss: Which, coincidentally, is not that uncommon. There are historically a lot of uber successful female snipers.

Dave Camarillo: Every time we go shooting, if I take a student or something, I can see the difference between men and women very, very quickly. It seems that there’s so much more patience, willing to accept failure; go down the list. So my mom has been an amazing, I would say, influence on accepting failure to a crazy type A personality that I’ve developed, probably since the womb.

Tim Ferriss: So you have this familiarity with weaponry which I just wanted to make clear to folks; we’re not dealing with someone who’s speculating. Did he give you any parameters on the flashlight?

Dave Camarillo: I said I want a little bit more of the story, like what’s the situation? Well, home invasion, hallway, you’re surprised. Because I would think if that’s the case, then you should maybe have a gun or something.

In this case okay, I’m restricted to the flashlight. I’m like, okay. So put that aside for a second. And I remember recently putting together a fight camp for a hockey player, plays in the NHL, one of the top teams. He came down for a four-day fight camp. And I’m starting to good at developing these fight camps that specifically cater to individuals that fight but under different rules. It could be judo, it could be Jiu-Jitsu, in this case hockey.

Tim Ferriss: NHL.

Dave Camarillo: NHL. So I talked to this guy – I forgot his name. I think it’s Scott McIntyre. Excuse me if I’m wrong but he’s full-on, like Canadian accent. And I was doing research. So I’m talking to this guy. I’m like, you were a bruiser. So give me some feedback…

Tim Ferriss: He was an enforcer?

Dave Camarillo: He’s an enforcer and he’s retired. My buddy gave me his number. So I’m trying to do research and I need to talk to somebody who’s been in the field, been in the hockey field, been in fights.

But why not talk to someone who’s a bruiser, who’s really good at it, right? Man, I want to put him – you should have him on the podcast. You would do this. You go: explain hockey fights, and then put the mike in front of him and he would just go.

Tim Ferriss: Sounds like a great episode. I’ve met one enforcer, and I have to say if the rest of them are like him, they are terrifying.

Dave Camarillo: Yeah, it’s the same. It’s the same. And like he goes back and forth between: yeah, you could get brain damage but man, I like the way things used to be, you know? We would just fight, and it was just about – you know, the guy, especially when I had kids, he was just trying to take food off my kids’ plate and all that. And I’m just like: go, just keep going.

So he finally got to the technique part, and I’m laughing, I’m already laughing and I’m like, I’m having a great time. But I’m also learning; it’s an education. Because under those specific circumstances, the rules change and there’s technique. Like these guys know how to fight.

Tim Ferriss: So how do you fight in a hockey match?

Dave Camarillo: Okay so since you have a jersey, which is very much like a gi; we have that friction of grabbing.

The best place to grab is inside the shoulder.

Tim Ferriss: Inside the right shoulder.

Dave Camarillo: Yeah so if he moved forward on you, there’s a backstop with your grip. There’s a backstop with your grip if he moves into you.

Tim Ferriss: Okay so if you grab, for instance, around sort of where the pec meets the deltoid on their right side, you’re basically blocking their dominant arm.

Dave Camarillo: If you’re right-handed, you’re going to use your left…

Tim Ferriss: Got it.

Dave Camarillo: … to control a few things. Control his movements; you can move him up, down, left, right. You can off balance him like the kuzushi we talked about.

Tim Ferriss: So kuzushi, just so people understand, because we mentioned the uchikomi but not kuzushi. Kuzushi is breaking of the balance in judo where you initiate the breaking of the balance of your opponent and then… what is it? Is it kakay? No, I think kakay is when you place your body then in the throwing position and then na-gay is when you’re throwing. So yeah, kuzushi is throwing off balance.

Dave Camarillo: Right. So you’re able to control movement but you’re also able to defend against his right hand. So if I’m using my left hand, I’m defending against your right hand. Hopefully you’re right handed.

Tim Ferriss: I am.

Dave Camarillo: They’ll make adjustments. But when the gloves go down, I would assume you’d have to know that player, played against that team before. You can nerd out on this and go: I think he’s a right-handed player. But then you see his stance. Then you’re like making these quick adjustments. You get your grip, and you’re also kind of shielding yourself with that grip. So you’ll raise your elbow as his right hand comes across to try to connect with your head. You can use your helmet also like a shield.

So we’re nerding out on all these little details. That’s the left side. Right hand, which is I’m right-handed, I’m punching you in the face or in the body. I’m clearing your grip because you’re trying to do the same thing to me, essentially. And I’m parroting and blocking and trying to make you go down before I go down. He’ll explain all this, this guy, McIntyre guy.

He’ll explain all this and then he goes: but really, you just gotta be tougher than the other guy and just keep punching him really violently until he goes down. He would go back and forth between here’s the technique, but then in the end just get out there and just beat the guy up, you know what I mean? It just became like detailed to totally like a bonfire of just recklessness and crazy. You know what I mean?

Tim Ferriss: Violence. You know what’s so funny about that, it makes me think about at one point when I first started doing muay thai and I haven’t trained in any of this stuff in ages so I mean a Pomeranian could kick my ass right now. It’s true. When I first started training in muay thai, I hadn’t done any thai kickboxing that was legitimate up to that point. I had done kind of like mal ninja kickboxing, which was like 1980s flashy shit. And I remember going in. I’m hyper analytical and I’m taking a class with this incredible world champion thai fighter.

He’s trying to talk to me about teaching sort of mid kicks, like body kicks. And I’m like well, should have come up – and his English is not fantastic. I’m like should I come up at this angle, come straight in, come down? Do you want to hit the ribs? Do you want to go for right under the armpit?

Dave Camarillo: You’re saying this?

Tim Ferriss: Yeah, I’m asking all these questions. And he understands the question. He looks at me and he goes: don’t matter; just kick harder. Hung-hung, hop-hop, pung-pung. And he had all these sound effects he used to try to illustrate. And he’s just like: what are you talking about? Just fucking kick him really hard. That’s ally you have to do. It’s like oh, okay. He’s like: yeah, it doesn’t matter where you hit him; it’ll hurt. Just kick him really hard. I was like oh, okay.

Dave Camarillo: That’s awesome. That’s exactly how it was. It’s like in the end, you’ve just got to be tough.

Tim Ferriss: So you’re studying – you’re thinking back to the hockey parallels…

Dave Camarillo: Yes.

Tim Ferriss: … to the flashlight assignment.

Dave Camarillo: So if I develop a curriculum where I’m using elements of the hockey fight, I would say range.

Like you can call it hockey pocket. Because we call it the pocket in boxing. You’re right there where he can hit you and you can hit him. Instead of full – if it’s a home invasion, I don’t know who they’re with and you get surprised, like around the corner. That’s the kind of situation that we’re dealing with. And then you have a flashlight. So that’s the kind of like parameters I’m working with. The first thing I would do is get a grip to control the threat. You’re controlling the person in front of you.

And then utilize the flashlight. And remember, it’s gonna sound violent for people but you’re in your home and you’re protecting your family, kind of situation. So I even started nerding out on the grip on the flashlight. So I know MMA has hammer fists. We can punch straight – a hammer fist is just like I have a hammer in my hand. So I’m bringing the blade of my writs down on the body or the head, not the back of the head because I don’t want to break my hand but traditionally in what we call the triangle of the head.

Tim Ferriss: So the triangle of the head is kind of like third eye?

Dave Camarillo: Yeah, all the way into the jaw line to where you can essentially either blind them by creating fluid in the eye because I can poke you in the eye and the fight can be over. Really, because you can’t see me…

Tim Ferriss: Happens all the time.

Dave Camarillo: Happens all the time.

Tim Ferriss: And just for people who are having trouble visualizing a hammer fist, imagine Andrea the Giant in Princess Bride, how he punches.

Dave Camarillo: Such a good movie.

Tim Ferriss: Sort of smack big guy on the top of the head. Or if you prefer Blood Sport, the redneck, his first fight – I’m dating myself, here. But yeah, you make a fist and instead of hitting with the front of the fist, you’re hitting with the bottom of the fist, effectively.

Dave Camarillo: But if you haven’t seen those movies, come on.

Tim Ferriss: You have to. Yeah, to be culturally relevant and respected I think in the United States, you need to watch both of those. But continue.

Dave Camarillo: So I’m forced to face this threat. Usually we’d have tactics to kind of get offline. We do this in Jiu-Jitsu, we do this in everything we do. So if I’m offline, I’m outside of your radar. Meaning if you’re facing forward and I’m – we’ll just keep it easy; I’m behind you, you’re not punching me. But if you’re coming up the stairway, or turning the corner and it’s a narrow –

Tim Ferriss: Or if you’re against the boards in hockey.

Dave Camarillo: I can’t create angles. Or I’m against the board in hockey.

Tim Ferriss: You mentioned something earlier, creating the T position or going to T?

Dave Camarillo: Fighting to a T. Like the letter T.

Tim Ferriss: No, understood. You’re basically trying to get your shoulders – well, you want to be standing at the side of your opponent because you can hit them but they can’t hit you.

Dave Camarillo: Yeah. That’s good boxing. So I get an angle, punch you. And as you correct, I’m getting the angle because now we’re both moving in the same direction so I pop out on the other side. I can’t do any of those. So I have to develop worst case scenario, in the pocket, a savage situation where I have to quickly kind of escalate things. So yeah, you grab the flashlight. You blind them. You grab them.

And you proceed to use the flashlight as a tool, I’ll say.

Tim Ferriss: On their triangle of pain, preferably.

Dave Camarillo: Right. The idea is you can develop these –

Tim Ferriss: Do you have a favorite flashlight for such situations? Sure Fire?

Dave Camarillo: Yeah, it’s like a 511. I carry it everywhere. It’s in my backpack right now. But you can break windows and stuff. But you know how they market things, like you can break windows! Well, I don’t want to break windows. I would never break a window. But if I had to use it…

Tim Ferriss: But the kits. I guess maybe there are legal things. Like no, you can’t say it will rip the eye orbit out of any assailant so just say it’ll break windows.

Dave Camarillo: Well, that’s the idea, though. But if it’s like me or you, like I could use my surroundings. That’s the idea behind self defense. It’s not just my empty hand capabilities, not just all these principles we talk about like getting angles and things like that. But it’s like I strip you of all that, then what have you got? Well, I’ve got a pillow.

I can use it as a distraction. I can do all kinds of things like that. But we’re surrounded by tools. That’s one of the things that I’ve learned over the years is use your surroundings like MacGyver but in a self defense context.

Tim Ferriss: A question for you, then, about – and then I want to talk a little bit about cornering fighters. Self defense; what are the biggest misconceptions about self defense or unhelpful or dangerous things that are commonly taught for self defense.

Dave Camarillo: I think let’s start with what’s I think the most important for somebody who doesn’t have a lot of time to train; I think that’s a better start. So I think understanding, I would say… a conceptual understanding of how do I avoid certain circumstances, certain situations. So for example, law enforcement will have a board of different cities and then put tacks on there, on different crimes, like violent crime that tend to accumulate in certain areas.

This is just the way I explain it. Well, don’t go to those areas. So avoid these conflicts. Like it’s very simple. You taught me one time, if you love chocolate but you know it’s bad for you, don’t have it in your house. You know what I’m saying? Like I learned that from you. So I don’t have any chocolate in my house. But avoid, like literally avoid being caught off guard, for example.

Tim Ferriss: Don’t sit at the table right next to the entrance in the coffee shop with your $4,000 laptop.

Dave Camarillo: Exactly. But don’t allow yourself to be distracted. Don’t allow yourself to look like a victim. I teach people to own their walk. The way you walk, the way you carry yourself because the bad guys will just say, right… They’re very much like animal predators. They look for weakness. They don’t want an entanglement.

They don’t want a struggle. Like a shark, even. It’s assessing fat content versus how much struggle will it be to end that life to consume it. I don’t want to injure myself. And so the idea, like I don’t know if you see like really strong, confident looking people walking around not looking at their cell phone getting attacked. I’m sure it can happen but you’re lowering the ratio to which you can become a victim. And I think that’s the first part of avoidance. It’s not what technique can I use right now.

Tim Ferriss: It’s not putting yourself in a situation where the likelihood of something bad happening is increased.

Dave Camarillo: It’s lowering the likelihood.

Tim Ferriss: The same reason that I’ve stopped in my advancing years staying out really late. It’s just like past 1 a.m., the likelihood of something awesome happening is 1 in 20.

Dave Camarillo: The freaks come out at night, bro. It does.

Tim Ferriss: Something bad happening but also like otherwise normal people turn into complete idiots or savages when they have had three too many drinks.

Dave Camarillo: Oh, yeah.

Tim Ferriss: So understood the situational awareness. From a technical standpoint, let’s just say someone’s had a scary encounter. They almost got mugged or they did get mugged. They’re like you know what, I need to develop some repertoire. I live in a bad neighborhood, I can’t move right now. I just need to have the ability to defend myself without – maybe without weapons. What would your advice to them be?

Dave Camarillo: You’re walking out without weapons but you potentially could face someone with a weapon. That’s the thing. The question arises how far are you willing to go to actually defend yourself? That’s the first question. So what’s your threshold? What’s your mental capacity to dig deep and make it happen, make your family safe, make yourself get out of that situation? Sometimes it’s assessing the situation for what it is.

Then there’s another part, desensitizing yourself to many things. It’s what Jiu-Jitsu does; getting grabbed, getting choked, getting punched, you know what I mean? If I get punched – we’ll talk about that for a second. If I get punched and it rattles me, then I get punched again, it rattles me again and it just continues. It spirals. An MMA fighter gets punched and they either smile or they move their head before you punch them. Or if you punch them, they’re like: okay cool, I’m gonna fight, cool.

Because they’ve been there so many times. Like getting lost, or I’d say traveling – I use this analogy. If you travel and have never been to a certain city, and you tell me all about the city but I’m going to get lost. I’ve been there ten times. The next time I go there, I’m like okay, I know where I’m at no matter what; I’m barely paying attention to driving. It’s just like I’ve got it, no problem. It’s the sense of comfort that you develop under stress.

So immediately when something happens and you know something’s going down, what’s your mind doing? If it’s freaking out, then it doesn’t matter what technique I teach you because the will to execute is going to be stagnant.

Tim Ferriss: This makes me think of a conversation I had with a woman named Whitney Cummings on this podcast, and she’s a fantastic standup comic. And I asked her if you had to prep someone to go do an open mike in – I think I gave her four weeks; how would you train them? And she said night one, and every night thereafter, I’d have them get up on stage for ten minutes.

Because being comfortable on stage is 80 or 90 percent of it and material is at most 10 percent, so you’ve got to get comfortable on stage. Does that mean that if you’re raining someone in Jiu-Jitsu, for instance, or combatives that you have them spar very quickly, how do you simulate that, if you do? Just getting them comfortable with discomfort.

Dave Camarillo: Incrementally. And I look at the client. Like I look at you and I’m like, what is this guy used to? So let’s say he’s military but has never sparred before.

We can start kind of in the middle. We’ll do specific drills where we face each other and we punch each other but you’re blocking. But it’s light punching and as a good coach, you control the intensity level so that there’s no – it’s not getting out of control; there’s no emotions. Because during this training – and I’ve seen it all at different levels but it gets emotional.

Like you punch me and like hey, that’s too hard; what are you doing? I don’t verbally do that, though. I come back at you. Then it’s like that cartoon where one little knife, and then a gun, and it just keeps escalating until you see the little world and they’re big – you know what I’m talking about?

Tim Ferriss: Yeah, like Spy versus Spy stuff.

Dave Camarillo: It just spirals out of control and emotions and people forget that we’re human beings and that we should be civilized and all that. And that goes out the window. A good coach has to control the intensity level to which these drills are experienced. But if I have somebody who’s never done anything, it’s incremental. And you work on their pace. But everyone has the, I would say, ability to push their envelopes, escalate.

Like I would say move upwards from where they’re at. Just like you said, you learn by doing, like Whitney Cummings. She said get out there.

Tim Ferriss: Yeah, get on stage.

Dave Camarillo: Get out there and anticipate failure because you’re going to fail right away.

Tim Ferriss: So let’s just say we’re not talking about military. We’re talking about civilian, non military who maybe lives in a scary neighborhood. We’re in San Francisco right now; there are some gnarly neighborhoods where people have been shot, where people get robbed. There are certainly more than a handful of spots. And because it costs $4,000 a month to live in a broom closet here, maybe they’re in one of those neighborhoods. And let’s just say they are a 35-year-old female, former high school athlete so a little athletics, non college. So it’s like a competitive – I’m making this up – soccer player.

And has maintained a decent semblance of shape but is non competitive. And she’s talking to her friends, going online. She’s like: well, I don’t think I’m going to do any esoteric Chinese kung fu or anything like that but I’ve narrowed it down to thai kickboxing, judo, Jiu-Jitsu, Krav Maga and boxing; what should I do?

Dave Camarillo: I’ve seen at least all of those. I’ve seen Krav Maga. I haven’t trained it but I’ve definitely studied it as a student. Not as a student but like observing it because I’m interested in it.

Tim Ferriss: As a researcher.

Dave Camarillo: I think Krav Maga is excellent. The only thing is that there’s a spectrum for everything so low intensity to high intensity, right? It’s very high intensity. A self defense encounter also has a spectrum.

The No. 1 goal of a self defense encounter is to deescalate the situation; to make things safe and calm. You can throttle up and throttle down to make that happen. If you’re only used to throttling up, you’re cutting out 80 percent or whatever. You’re cutting out the lower end of that spectrum. I’ll give you a perfect example. Muay thai, too, muay thai is like dangerous stuff, man. But I was in my house and I had a friend who got intoxicated. He was so intoxicated, and everyone handles their alcohol differently but he started becoming obnoxious and touchy and pushy.

Well, he pushed somebody I care very much about and it’s like red flag, and I started getting in between them and he was just thinking it was a joke. I remember the moment to which I had to go hands on him, like okay, I’m going hands on. And I’m kicking this guy out of my house. He has to go. I’m not mad at him.

Tim Ferriss: It just has to be resolved.

Dave Camarillo: It has to be resolved. Let’s say I only did muay thai. I like muay thai. Am I going to enclench him and knee him and high kick him in the head? I’m not saying that’s what you’d do but…

Tim Ferriss: The palette with which you can paint is limited to things that are going to inflict serious damage.

Dave Camarillo: And what you’re used to doing, yeah. And so I used Jiu-Jitsu in a standing position. He was standing, and I’m not throwing him on the ground; I’m just going to use Jiu-Jitsu. I wrapped his arms up because I noticed he was also – remember, this is my friend, and he’s still my friend. I don’t care. Just that’s the way –

Tim Ferriss: Just no more tequila shots.

Dave Camarillo: Yeah, exactly. So I wrapped up his arms because I noticed he had a knife on him. And I’m not saying that he’s going to use that knife but a few things going on, just my perspective. I decided to go hands on, which means I’m not turning back. Once I’ve decided, I can’t turn back because that invites him to continue the behavior which I don’t want.

It’s gotten out of hand. And I’m desensitized enough to be composed to not throttle up, and to see how the threat can spiral and get worse. So if my angle is to deescalate the situation, I don’t want to give him an opportunity to escalate it any further.

Tim Ferriss: Right. If you give him some kind of push kick in muay thai, and then he whips out [inaudible] –

[Crosstalk]

Dave Camarillo: Because I don’t know what’s going on in his head. Maybe now it’s like survival. So if he grabs the knife, maybe he’s out of his head. And I don’t want to hurt my friend. So I wrapped his arms up and patent him against my door, and he couldn’t even move. So I neutralized his ability to escalate by getting a knife or whatever it is, or even hitting me, and I was able to look at him face to face while wrapping him up and saying: hey man, you need to calm down right now.

And then that tone comes in to totally tell him. Physically he knows he’s under control. Now it’s verbal. Hey, I’m giving you an out right now. You need to calm down right now or it’s going to get much worse. Like I’m not yelling and screaming but I’m very firm and like this is your only way out, essentially, is through my door so that we don’t have to do this anymore.

Tim Ferriss: What happened?

Dave Camarillo: I got him out. He slowly calmed down and realized. And literally you could see a switch go off, like okay wow. First off, he didn’t realize that it had gotten out of control. Then he realized how much control I had of him, which I think helps him come to that first conclusion. And that’s how you deescalate a situation. Not all self defense confrontations are life threatening. They could spiral, like we talked about, but he’s my buddy. I don’t want to hurt my buddy. It’s just one of those things.

So when your system that you choose, in my opinion, ,and this is what we nerd out on and focus on, is understanding and giving you the tools that you need to be composed, and also throttle it up if you need to and throttle it down. That starts with mental composure but we have the technique to do that as well, and control the elements that would give you the opportunity to kind of spiral things out of control. Same thing with law enforcement. That’s what they…

Tim Ferriss: Even more so with law enforcement, in a lot of respects.

Dave Camarillo: And it’s very tricky with law enforcement because they’re dealing with life and death situations. I don’t think I was but I’m prepared for it. But I don’t think I was.

Tim Ferriss: Would you therefore recommend Jiu-Jitsu as step one for the 35-year-old former soccer player female living in the Tenderloin in San Francisco?

Dave Camarillo: 100 percent. This has no relation to that being my business.

Tim Ferriss: Never ask a barber if you need a haircut; lesson No. 1.

Dave Camarillo: Like that surgeon. When I asked him do I need surgery, he’s like yes.

Tim Ferriss: You’re like oh, wait, that’s what you get paid for.

Dave Camarillo: I had a torn bicep and I’m glad I did not get the surgery, let’s just say. Okay so I had this conversation on my podcast. I’m like, what is the greatest martial art? What is it? And I’m always reluctant to say Jiu-Jitsu is the greatest martial art because I’m very big on – I need to get to a point where I can say that with extreme confidence. I see a lot of people that you’ll have a Jiu-Jitsu black belt who only did Jiu-Jitsu say Jiu-Jitsu is the greatest martial art in the world.

I’m like, I agree with you but why? Why do you think it is? I’ve sampled so many different – I’ve been so uncomfortable training shock knifed on the bottom, Cain Velasquez is punching me in the face.

Tim Ferriss: Doing shooting drills and big, strong unit. For those people who don’t know who he is, you should look him up. Getting grounded and pounded by Cain.

Dave Camarillo: Probably one of the best heavyweights in the history of UFC.

You know, that all the way to using very simple, controlled techniques and movements to corral someone out of my house. That’s the spectrum that I deal with. But that’s Jiu-Jitsu. We offer it with our system. And I see like in a lot of other arts, it’s not necessarily that capable. Without saying we’re better than you; I’m not saying that. I’m saying there’s something for everybody. But if you’re telling me 34-year-old schoolteacher who’s never done anything in their lives, you have to check out Jiu-Jitsu. Because a lot of the situations, especially women, that potentially could find themselves on the ground…

Tim Ferriss: Right, because the motivations are often different. It’s not someone trying to kill you; it’s someone trying to rape you.

Dave Camarillo: Right. If you’re 20 years old, or 15 years old or whatever it is and you just want to do MMA, and you want to fight professionally, then go do MMA. That’s great. But you better have good Jiu-Jitsu anyway. That’s such a component.

It’s what I call a universal usage. It has universal usage. You can compete, you can nerd out on the self defense aspect. You can apply it to MMA context. You can use it in self defense. Guys can use it going to war. You can do it forever. It’s the one sparring, I would say art, that you can do forever. Hey, Tim right now, I’m going to ask you a question. Are you ready?

Tim Ferriss: I’m ready.

Dave Camarillo: Do you want to do randori, like judo randori?

Tim Ferriss: No.

Dave Camarillo: Right now, hard, 100 percent?

Tim Ferriss: No, I do not.

Dave Camarillo: What’s randori?

Tim Ferriss: Randori is free sparring. And yeah, you’re going to catch some hard corners no matter what.

Dave Camarillo: So just imagine, for those people who don’t understand, we have that gi on and we’re grabbing each other, and we’re trying to lift each other off the ground with technique. Off balance you, lift you off the ground, apply your technique. And then once you’re off the ground, essentially I have total control of you. So I will slam you on the ground as hard as I can. And the harder and the more on your back you land, the mo re pure it is and the more chance the match is over.

Tim Ferriss: The more points you’re going to receive.

Dave Camarillo: And that’s essentially the goal. When you’re 40 years old, you don’t want to do randori. But we can still, me and you, get our gis on or no gi, it doesn’t matter, and actually grapple in Jiu-Jitsu and do it pretty much for the rest of our lives, like we talked about, with a good partner. So the longevity aspect of it, it’s outmatched in the sparring arts. You can spar. We can go back and forth, and have resistance, and have a set goal of you choking me, me choking you.

Tim Ferriss: A couple of just random – they’re not really random; they’re related to this but I’m so curious. Because I don’t know if I’ve ever actually asked you this. What is your go-to technique – this is called tokowiyaza in judo – and it’s your specialty for throws? What is your tokowiyaza?

Dave Camarillo: Tomoe Nage.

Tim Ferriss: Tomoe Nage. It’s a beautiful throw.

So for those people who are wondering what the hell this is, it’s kind of like the Captain Kirk throw. He did this in Star Trek once, where he pulled the guy, put your foot on his stomach and then kick him over the top. But there are a million and one variations to that. Just one recommendation for people, if you want to see a guy who uses it at a super high level, hard name to spell: Kashiwazaki. It’s this guy named…

Dave Camarillo: Kashiwazaki.

Tim Ferriss: Yeah. Kashiwazaki was not only – exactly – not only a tumoinogy specialist but a ground specialist

Dave Camarillo: He was one of the greatest of all time.

Tim Ferriss: Oh, one of the greatest. And he would use Tomoe Nage to throw people into a mounted – he would be in the mounted position. So he is one of – I don’t know if you knew this. He was one of the very first Japanese, high level judo competitors cross trained in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

Dave Camarillo: He cross trained?

Tim Ferriss: Oh, yeah.

Dave Camarillo: I did not know that.

Tim Ferriss: Yeah, I picked up a Japanese magazine maybe ten years ago and it was Kashiwazaki and some Brazilian guys he’d been training with for ages.

Dave Camarillo: So not during his competition.

Tim Ferriss: I don’t know.

Dave Camarillo: Or during the early years?

Tim Ferriss: All I saw was it was the headline in an article in the magazine that I used to love. I was in Japan from 15 to 16 called Katogi zushi. Katogi is martial arts, basically. So I used to always buy that magazine. And then I’d skip all the professional wrestling bullshit and go straight to the MMA stuff, which at the time was called – I guess it was [inaudible], something like that back in the Pancras days and all that, before USC. And when Ken Shamrock was known as Wayne Shamrock in Japan for some reason; I have no idea why. And he had long hair. This was way, way, back.

Dave Camarillo: Oh, I remember, man. Wow.

Tim Ferriss: Yeah, way back in the day. So Kashiwazaki, if K-A-S-H-I-W-A-Z-A-K-I, it’s worth looking up. So Tomoe Nage was your go-to –

Dave Camarillo: Another guy, Flavio Canto.

Tim Ferriss: Flavio Canto. Where’s he from?

Dave Camarillo: Brazil.

Tim Ferriss: How do you spell his last name?

Dave Camarillo: C-A-N-T-O. Flavio Canto, a friend of mine. He had good ne-waza well and it’s pretty simple, like I like the ground, I like the tachi-waza, what’s your favorite throw? A throw that I can kind of do both.

Tim Ferriss: That gets me into a great –

Dave Camarillo: It puts me in a position.

[Crosstalk]

Tim Ferriss: So Tomoe Nage, that’s a great one. Kashiwazaki could do this amazing thing.

Dave Camarillo: But it’s not a universal throw.

Tim Ferriss: What do you mean by that?

Dave Camarillo: It’s not a good self defense throw. And I make that point because a lot of people go down these rabbit holes, and they do things that have nothing – very little relation to a universal sense. So I can do it judo, I can do it in Jiu-Jitsu I can do it no gi, so no uniform. I can do it in MMA, I can do it in self defense.

Tim Ferriss: What are your favorite – so my favorite standing techniques in judo I would have to say are foot sweeps, because they’re just so beautiful when they’re done properly.

Do you have any favorite foot sweeps?

Dave Camarillo: Oh, yeah, sasae.

Tim Ferriss: Sasae tsuri komi ouchi.

Dave Camarillo: Yes.

Tim Ferriss: That’s the long one. S-A-S-A-E. I encourage people to look this one up. It’s a beautiful throw. It’s so beautiful. And wrestlers can do this, also, from an under hook position.

Dave Camarillo: Yes, it’s universal.

Tim Ferriss: Exactly. You see this at the high NCAA levels. You see people – I don’t know what they call it in English in wrestling. But from under hooks you’ll see people do this. Beautiful throw.

Dave Camarillo: A foot sweep is essentially taking somebody, sweeping their foot out, like I said [inaudible] like you can have their feet go above their head, their head go down, and then land on their back. I think it’s the quickest way to embarrass somebody.

Tim Ferriss: It looks like a magic trick when it’s done properly. Because you’ll see these – people are masters in this. They’ll get the person and you see this type of practice a lot in judo.

They’ll entrance the person, almost, into walking and shuffling the way they want them to walk and shuffle, and they’ll time the steps with unweighting of one foot. And in that millisecond, like that nano second, kind of like the instant that all the feet of a horse are off the ground when they’re racing; tiny little motion with the foot and this person just levitates. They go completely horizontal.

Dave Camarillo: Moves like that and understanding how you elevate yourself as a martial artist, like mixed martial arts and being young, being physically able, and fast and athletic, I’ve realized that all of the movies that we’ve seen that have martial arts and fighting people, they’re more accurate now than in the beginning – I’m going to try to make sense of this – but in the beginning of the MMA revolution.

Tim Ferriss: What do you mean by that?

Dave Camarillo: Because the beginning of the MMA revolution was essentially seeing two people actually fight. That hasn’t been done before the revolution on a large scale.

Rorian Gracie made this thing called the UFC and then put these styles against each other. The people started realizing so all that we’ve been lied to, and you can hear a lot of in the beginning, you can’t do any of these other – those are flashy… I’m not going to mention systems but like that’s not going to work, the movies lied to us. And the reality is that now that we’ve seen it progress and move on, you can do anything. You can make it work.

And the foot sweep is one of those techniques that you’re like: no, this is impossible, to someone who doesn’t understand it. It’s in movies alone but I can do it, and I’ve done it many times on untrained people who go: hey Dave, you do martial arts, right? I go yeah. I used to do this on my cousins when I was younger, but anyway. And I would throw them all over the place. Their minds couldn’t wrap around it.

Like you said, it’s like magic. Like how do you get the timing down, how do you do this? Well, you do it over and over again; you can accomplish anything. Rocket science is not rocket science if you’re a rocket scientist, if you’ve done it over and over again. You know that Street Fighter 2 spin move where the guy lowers his level and then spins and kicks?

Tim Ferriss: Sure, yeah.

Dave Camarillo: I’ve seen guys do that in sparring and knock each other down, and then go over and punch them in the head.

Tim Ferriss: In high level MMA?

Dave Camarillo: In high level MMA.

Tim Ferriss: You see that in the early, early – we’re talking ’92, ’93? No, it would have been after that. It would have been…

Dave Camarillo: ’92 I think.

Tim Ferriss: It was around that time. For a few years, if you got mounted you just tapped.

Dave Camarillo: Over.

Tim Ferriss: Oh, no it’s over; checkmate. I’m done.

Dave Camarillo: Over.

Tim Ferriss: That doesn’t exist anymore. Your manager would kill you if you were just like [inaudible] head tap. That doesn’t happen now.

And then you have people doing – I’m blanking on his name. Anthony Pettis, was it? No, I don’t know if it was Pettis who did the matrix kick off the side of the octagon.

Dave Camarillo: It might have been Jose Aldo, I don’t know.

Tim Ferriss: Was it taekwondo?

Dave Camarillo: It might have been Pettis, yeah.

Tim Ferriss: Yeah, Pettis who did the matrix kick.

Dave Camarillo: You can do anything you want. You can run up the wall, jump off of it and punch someone in the head and knock them out, and it’s happened. That’s what’s amazing about fighting. Even if you’re not a fan, like what can the human body do if you give them this set of rules and inspiration to be a champion and then go?

Tim Ferriss: Incentive, too, right? You see a direct correlation in any sport with the amount of money that comes in and the amount of talent that comes out. Because you have people now who have, since they were five years old in the United States been training in Jiu-Jitsu and then shortly thereafter…

We were chatting about Jocko Willink, former Navy Seal commander who’s been on this podcast. And he was showing me at one point a video of his son sparring in Jiu-Jitsu. Jocko himself is a black belt and trains MMA competitors in his spare time. And I said oh, that’s amazing; how old is your son? 12. How long has he been doing Jiu-Jitsu? 12 years.

Dave Camarillo: And he’s 12.

Tim Ferriss: I was like, wow. Throw that fetus on the mats! So the level and the incentives are there to fuel rapid evolution in this sport. What is your job in a corner, when you’re cornering a professional fighter in a fight?

Dave Camarillo: It’s to be simple. You can have three corners but generally the fighter is going to hear one guy, and it depends on the guy. They are very accustomed to one; they have that channel.

So even though there’s three people, one guy generally will talk during the fight. That’s during the fight. So they make that connection, that verbal connection. They tune into it.

Tim Ferriss: Does that tend to be the person who has spoken to them during sparring, also?

Dave Camarillo: Yes, and there’s other variables. Like sometimes it’s just their voice. Their voice is easy to pick up because you have all the noise.

Tim Ferriss: Such chaos.

Dave Camarillo: Like Bob Cook. You know Bob Cook?

Tim Ferriss: Sure.

Dave Camarillo: Crazy Bob Cook. He’s one of my biggest mentors in the MMA field. Probably one of the best corners in the world. You can hear him no matter what. He’s got a distinct voice where you’re going to hear it. If it’s like a rougher voice, it’s like white noise.

Tim Ferriss: It just gets lost.

Dave Camarillo: So that’s one variable. The other variable is who are they comfortable with. You can build this comradery with somebody who’s maybe not even there in training camp very often but you have this trust, and you want them in your corner kind of thing.

Tim Ferriss: What do you think contributes to that?

Dave Camarillo: I think it could have been past training sessions. It could have been they just connected naturally through their relationship. It could be their brother, like Nick Diez, Nate Diez, like they have that kind of connection.

Tim Ferriss: Side note, just to further encourage YouTube shenanigans, what is the best video that people could find of you sparring with your brother?

Dave Camarillo: There’s a video, I don’t remember the name of it but it’s Camarillo Brothers Sparring Demo or something. You can find it. This was way back.

Tim Ferriss: But your brother… just add some context. Good martial artist.

Dave Camarillo: You’ve got to understand my background. I was forced into martial arts. I was pretty much programmed to be who I am today. My parents I think were brilliant in that they put us in martial arts and it became like brushing our teeth.

Like you’re not going to get out of brushing your teeth. You’re not going to get out of going to school as a kid. You’re not going to get out of doing judo. There’s just no…

Tim Ferriss: Is your brother older or younger?

Dave Camarillo: He’s older. And so we grew up with that. We were each other’s best training partners. Four years apart, which is totally unfair because the physical advantages are just too far away for me to match, which is how mean the younger brother tends to be, which is just how it is. But he’s a phenomenal judoka, does Jiu-Jitsu, black belt. He does those foot sweeps, throws people; just destroys people. He’s a vigilante. He went after a fugitive that crashed in front of his academy. Did you hear about this? It was all over national news.

Tim Ferriss: I saw a photo of it on your Instagram but I didn’t get the story.

Dave Camarillo: It’s absolutely ridiculous. There’s another photo where he’s posing like he’s a super hero in his gi, just joking but it’s like he just finished…

Tim Ferriss: What happened?

Dave Camarillo: He has an academy in downtown Bakersfield. He just finished his class, and he walks outside just to get a breath of fresh air.

And boom, this car at the light runs into this other car. The guy jumps out, who initiated the accident, starts running down the street. The lady in the other car yells and screams: he’s getting away! There’s a helicopter there with a spotlight down. So in his head, he’s like okay, this is a fugitive.

Tim Ferriss: This is a crime scene.

Dave Camarillo: I’ve got to go after this guy. He even talked about like I assessed does he have a weapon? Because that’s dangerous when you go on hands on situations like that. Runs after the guy, turns the corner, throws him on the ground, wraps him up. Cops come in and take care of the rest. He’s all over the news talking about I do Jiu-Jitsu and judo because you never know when you’re going to need it. In his gi, like how ridiculous is that?

Tim Ferriss: Not to point out the obvious but to those would-be vigilantes out there, this is not without its risks.

Dave Camarillo: Huge risks.

Tim Ferriss: Just to provide a concrete example, we mentioned muay thai. So the first gym where I got my lecture on “it doesn’t matter; just kick harder” was Fairtex. This was on Clementina at the time in San Francisco. Coincidentally, when I flew to San Francisco to have my first job interview after college, I couldn’t afford a hotel so I paid for a fly-in camp at Fairtex which was cheaper, and I slept upstairs above the gym in a really bad neighborhood.

At the time, Clementina, which is in a nasty – it’s basically between Folsom and Harold between 5th and 6th – really bad neighborhood. I slept on a bunk bed with some of the other Thai guys and washed my clothing in the sink. So I have a long history with Fairtex. But the point being not a great area. And Alex Gong – I don’t know if you remember this – who owned the school at the time, a car crashed into his car or another car in front of his gym.

They guy takes off without stopping. Alex chases him to a stoplight and he smashes the window out of the car because he’s pissed at this guy. Alex had a temper. And the guy pulled a gun and shot him in the chest and killed him on the street.

Dave Camarillo: I remember the day it happened.

Tim Ferriss: As do I.

Dave Camarillo: He was a good guy. He was amazing, too.

Tim Ferriss: He was an amazing fighter and an amazing guy; very hot temper, though. If you want to talk about the spectrum that we discussed, he was on. Like if there’s an altercation, it was going to be deaf con 9 or whatever.

Dave Camarillo: That’s part of what I was talking about. You have to assess the situation for what it is and what it could be. And that escalated outside of his control. He brought a fist to a gunfight. That’s essentially what happened.

Tim Ferriss: That’s exactly what happened.

Dave Camarillo: You’re just out gunned.

Tim Ferriss: I took us totally off the rails.

Dave Camarillo: I don’t even know where we’re at now.

Tim Ferriss: I don’t, either. this is the state of my podcast. It’s like watching Memento but with 15 different script writers. I think we were talking about… What the hell were we talking about? We were talking about cornering and simple.

Dave Camarillo: Yes, what do I do in the corner.

Tim Ferriss: And somehow your brother came up. Oh, and comradery. I think this is how we got onto it. When you’re in a corner, what would an example of simple be? Because these guys have massive technical experience. They’ve put in a ton of training time. What are the types of things that you’ve seen prove very useful?

Dave Camarillo: Just an example of getting in boxing range. This is kind of technical but if the fighter, our opponent, is using a lot of kicks, you don’t want to be in kicking range which is essentially a little bit further away from boxing range. Because your legs are longer than your arms, generally. So get in boxing range.

And sometimes you have to remind them to get in that range because that’s where you’re most effective. Because we’re seeing who’s effective, who’s not, why. And so everything we say is very simple. Boxing range! Get in boxing range! And they’ll make those adjustments or they don’t. Sometimes, depending on the fighter, some are I would say quicker to adjust than others, we’ll just say. Not that they’re big headed; I think it just comes more naturally. Keep your hands up! Keep your hands up! They’re tending to fall.

Just keeping it real simple. Just reminding them of kind of what’s going on; the story and how to react to it. I say this a lot, also. If I like how things are going: stay on it! It’s working! Stay on it! Because you’re getting hit no matter what. First round, second round, if you do MMA, you’re getting hit. And sometimes when you get hit, you don’t realize how much you’re hitting them.

Tim Ferriss: Right. You change your tactic even though percentage-wise, you’re beating the living hell out of them.

Dave Camarillo: Right. In the back of your head, it’s a four ounce glove so in the back of your head, anyone can knock anyone out. You can take the greatest striker in the world and a guy who struggles with striking, and if he’s first; simple math. And you get hit good and you can go down. So we just kind of asses the situation for what it is and just throw tidbits out of: here’s my advice. Hopefully you take it, maybe you don’t. And then if things go bad, we adjust. When the round ends and we get into the corner and start talking, it depends on how the round went.

If it was close, we say: hey, you lost that round. So even if we think we won the round but it was really, really close, we tell them it’s close or you lost. So you need to go in the second round going: okay, I’m down one round already. And it’s generally a three-round fight. If they show tendencies – and everyone has a breaking point; every fighter has a breaking point. Some can handle more than others.

Maybe it’s genetic, I don’t know. But if they start nearing their breaking point, you call them down. You tell them how great that last round was. You’re doing good. You weathered the storm.

Tim Ferriss: By breaking point, is this physical breaking point or just psychological breaking point?

Dave Camarillo: They go hand in hand.

Tim Ferriss: Sure.

Dave Camarillo: Physical could be I’m getting tired, or I didn’t get a good warm-up on the first round, or I’m starting to get to the third round and now I’m exhausted. Or it’s like man, that shin kick really hurt, or that liver punch really, really hurt. And it’s poker face constantly because it’s like blood in the water to a shark. If you show that you’ve been hurt, you’re showing your hand.

Tim Ferriss: It reminds me of I remember I was watching the World Cup soccer and I was getting just infuriated by all these slow motion replays of fake injuries. And this rugby player from New Zealand piped up on Twitter and he said: “Rugby is 90 minutes of pretending you’re not hurt, and soccer is 90 minutes pretending you are hurt.”

Dave Camarillo: I like your side note because it’s hard for my to justify it sometimes because I used to be a soccer fan. I’m like man, they play the rules so much, they fall so much it’s hard for me to justify it. But I’m traveling to New Zealand and meeting a legend from the All Blacks. And I’m like, what do I say, I’m a soccer fan? They’re like oh, that’s cool, that’s cute. It’s the only ream sport where you can have cauliflower ear; rugby.

Tim Ferriss: That’s true. So if they’re nearing their breaking point, you have to calm them down.

Dave Camarillo: You have to calm them down, man. You have to distract them like a baby.

Tim Ferriss: How do you do that?

Dave Camarillo: So how does a baby learn pain? By how their parents react when they fall down. So your parents go over there and go you’re all right, get up, let’s go, come on you’re good.

It’s kind of like that. You’re distracting them or you’re just: hey man, you’re good, man. Now, here’s what I want.

Tim Ferriss: Right.

Dave Camarillo: Your transitioning to you’re okay and here’s what I want out of this next round. Because you have to remind them they’re invincible, and that’s whether they are or not. And everyone’s different. You can have world champions in MMA and they’re not very tough, relatively, on the big scale of all of the fighters that exist. There’s the laziest… think of the high, elite military guys.

There’s a spectrum for everything. There’s the Jocko Willink and then there’s someone who may not be that on it, whatever that means. And so you have to know that going in and understand his strengths and weaknesses, and understand how he’ll react to the way you talk to him. And then you’ve got to hit that note.

And you’re stressed out. Because it’s a weird thing. Like I go to this guy’s wedding, and I play with his kids, and then I’ve got to go see him get almost knocked out in front of thousands of people. It’s not war but it’s in your face and it’s not table tennis, either, you know what I mean?

Tim Ferriss: Yeah, it would be a particularly vicious form of table tennis. I’m not sure what that would look like. How have all of these experiences impacted your thoughts on parenting, if at all? And maybe the answer is not much.

Dave Camarillo: When you say all of these experiences, I grew up, like I said, with no choice; do martial arts. And I see the extreme value in it. Obviously, I’m biased; I’m a car salesman and you come in with a dented fender. You need a new car.

I call it like this. When we talk about kids who go through training, hardcore training like I have, physically on a physical realm and many times on a mental realm they are so beyond their peers. Try to bully one of my students. It’s not going to happen. You’re not going to be able to. So when we talk about parenting, it’s like I’m trying to find the balance between the pressure that I experienced as a child and as a child of my parents, and as a child of my parents who wanted me to compete and my dad wanted me to be an Olympian with the variables that exist today that didn’t then.

Tim Ferriss: What do you mean by that?

Dave Camarillo: Do you think the crop of individuals trying to get a job today are different than they were 40 years ago?

With different thresholds and different tendencies…

Tim Ferriss: I would have to imagine yes, but I don’t know.

Dave Camarillo: It’s hard to know anything like that. But all I know is I know the difference between someone who has trained through an extended period of time, and where they were when they walked in my door. And so I know that training is going to be a part of my son’s life, for example. I don’t think that should be an option.

Tim Ferriss: You mean it shouldn’t be an option to opt out of that?

Dave Camarillo: Right. Like it’s not an option for me for a child to go to school; it’s the same with training, in my household. Because we understand the importance of it. And so I think the single most experience, though, that has helped me… I’m a new father, what do I know/ I’m a white belt right now. But it’s teaching kids and seeing the differences, and seeing multiple kids come in starting from zero, and even seeing that line of zero being totally different and scaling.

And them having different strengths and weaknesses at the start. And it started reminding me this isn’t just nature or nurture; it’s a combination of the two. I sincerely believe all kids are different genetically. And if they’re different genetically, then they’re different physically, as well. I mean emotionally and physically. They have to be. So I look at these little kids that just start and some of them are animals. Super fast, very prone to do things that are athletic. And then I see other kids that are all on the other side of the spectrum. There is a spectrum. And so with my son and me being a parent, I don’t know what I’ve got to work with, yet.

Tim Ferriss: Right, the materials. How old is your son?

Dave Camarillo: He’s eight months. Like I said, my first stripe is coming pretty soon; white belt first stripe.

Tim Ferriss: When we were chatting earlier having coffee, you were talking about how there’s always another level.

Who is the most impressive person, or who has impressed you the most in Jiu-Jitsu when you’ve sparred with them?

Dave Camarillo: Well the goat; it’s Marcella Garcia. And all of my experiences, I can say that with confidence because I train with Rafael Mendez, as well, who tied me in knots.

Tim Ferriss: Who is Rafael Mendez?

Dave Camarillo: Rafael Mendez is 13, 14 time world champion, I don’t know. He’s I think a six-tim gi, which is the uniform IBJJF – International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation World Champion, which is the biggest stage in Jiu-Jitsu. They don’t have an Olympics. If there was an Olympics, he would be a six-time gold medalist in the Olympics or whatever it is. But then again, that’s every four years so he’d be like 42 right now. They both tied me in knots but I just think Marcella because he can do what he does almost regardless of how much you weigh and your size.

Whereas Rafael tends to stick to his sizes, Marcelo Garcia is like – and this is why I admire him so much. I don’t care who’s on the other side, I don’t care who’s walking in. I don’t care if the lights are on in the arena. I got to my spot and then here comes – thud, thud, like Jurassic Park, he’s so big. Doors open and here’s this behemoth with horns and drooling. He’s going to go in there: okay, cool; I’m going to take his back and choke him out. And then he goes and does that.

Tim Ferriss: I’ve spent some time with Marcelo because he co-owns his school with a very close friend of mine, Josh Waitzkin.

Dave Camarillo: Waitzkin. I’ve listened to your talks with him. Brilliant guy.

Tim Ferriss: Yeah, he’s amazing. Really good dad, too.

Dave Camarillo: I can help him with chess if you guys ever need anything.

Tim Ferriss: So for those who don’t know Josh, he’s been on the podcast twice. He was the inspiration for Searching for Bobby Fischer, both the book and the movie. Considered a chess prodigy but very skilled Jiu-Jitsu dedicated.

Dave Camarillo: Black belt.

Tim Ferriss: Yeah, black belt under Marcella and world champion in thai chi push hands, as well, among many other skills. But Marcella, just to your point, I remember chatting with him at some point. Nicest guy ever.

Dave Camarillo: Super nice guy.

Tim Ferriss: No attitude whatsoever, no ego; just the friendliest guy you’ll ever meet. He was saying – or maybe Josh was telling me – that Marcelo never practices anything that won’t work on a 300-pound black belt. That’s it. If it’s something he’s going to practice, and put time into on the mat, it has to work against someone who’s twice his size and extremely technical.

Dave Camarillo: That’s that universal mentality. That’s outstanding.

Tim Ferriss: Exactly. So what does it feel like to spar? Because I have no… Him sparring with me is like a polar bear versus a shiatsu. I mean it just doesn’t make any sense.

Dave Camarillo: Many black belts will say the same thing.

Tim Ferriss: Many black belts will say the same thing about…?

Dave Camarillo: Marcelo Garcia; training with Marcelo. They might as well be a white belt.

Tim Ferriss: Wow.

Dave Camarillo: I think one of your guests I was listening to talked about people that just jump on the mat and are super talented and they’re made for it; BJ Penn, Marcelo Garcia, Raphael Mendez. And so it gets difficult to track, like when you’re a new student who should you listen to because it’s growing so much. Because your idols are these freaks of nature. I know firsthand. But how is it rolling with him? I am genetically, I would say, prone to speed. I’m pretty fast. In judo I got very fast. I remember one of the first times we engaged, I was in a good position. And my mind’s like: wow, you’re doing pretty good. And then he’s on my back.

And so it’s that split second where you’re like I’m doing good, everything is going great. And then I’m like, am I going to attack now or am I going to fight this stupid grip that he has on my neck? And then he taps me. So it’s one of those things where you have to be aggressive but not aggressive. Because it doesn’t seem like you can get a foothold on what mode and tempo is going to work for this individual in front of you.

We had some good battles. We had a lot of fun. The nogia had a lot of fun rolling with him. And I was younger. I was like 31 at the time. I was getting ready for my last match in competition so I was in good shape. It was important for me to be in good shape to train with him on that level. But yeah, it’s amazing. It’s amazing to be able to… that’s one of the things about Jiu-Jitsu. If you’re into soccer or football or basketball, you can’t meet Michael Jordan just because you want to.

Tim Ferriss: Right.

Dave Camarillo: You can’t just call him on the phone, or go take a seminar, or go face to face with him; that’s not going to happen. But you can go take a lesson from this guy.

Tim Ferriss: Yeah, it’s incredible.

Dave Camarillo: He’s the GOAT; the greatest of all time.

Tim Ferriss: I was wondering what the hell you meant by that.

Dave Camarillo: Yeah, greatest of all time. I had to look that up, too.

Tim Ferriss: People consider him like the Wayne Gretsky, Michael Jordan, Mike Tyson, fill in the blank icon of any sport combined. I heard a funny story about Marcelo that you’ll appreciate, given the freak of nature comment. He went to a rock climbing gym, and he’s not a rock climber but he went to a rock climbing gym with a friend. They had what’s called the dynamometer there. It measures grip strength. These guys were like straining, faces red. These are beasts. These guys are incredibly strong. And the get to Marcelo and he’s like: pop and just breaks it. And they were like, uh, that’s not supposed to happen. Never touched one before in his life.

And they’re like: whoa, okay, this guy’s different.

Dave Camarillo: Yeah, it’s ridiculous. That will translate to other things.

Tim Ferriss: One thing that really impressed me about Marcelo, and I haven’t spent a ton of time with him but just watching him teach and watching him move, one of his nicknames is the Master of the Scramble. But he thinks about the in between spaces as much as he thinks about the positions, which is really interesting. He thinks of the transition between two positions as a position and thinks a lot about how to exploit that space. It’s a trip.

Dave Camarillo: That’s what we talked about with being a step ahead, planning. But that stuff’s not thought; it’s reaction. That’s locked and loaded for him. There’s no real delay.

Tim Ferriss: No, no delay whatsoever.

Let me ask a couple of rapid fire questions. They’re going to seem like [inaudible]. The answers don’t need to be short; they can be as long as they need to. But are there any particular books that you’ve gifted the most to other people besides your own?

Dave Camarillo: Besides the three that you put me on, The Magic of Thinking Big, The 80/20 Principle, The E Myth? The E Myth was huge.

Tim Ferriss: Particularly for your type of business.

Dave Camarillo: Yeah, because I was starting my business at the time and you’re like hey, Dave, read this book. And even after reading the book, essentially E is the entrepreneur who’s trying to do everything and then sales fall because you’re…

Tim Ferriss: The bottleneck.

Dave Camarillo: Yes, the bottleneck. You’re having difficulties doing everything with efficiency. Type A personality, it’s hard to let go. It’s hard to relinquish control. But now I’m much better at it; like I don’t want to do anything. It’s weird sometimes.

Tim Ferriss: You noted The Magic of Thinking Big, which is sitting on my shelf here in my living room face out.

And then you asked about Tribe, which is also faced out, by Sebastian Junger. I made the comment that I’ve organized, and I think it’s functional OCD – maybe it’s not technically OCD but all of my books are very particularly ordered on my bookshelf and they’re facing out. The books that are facing outermost are intended to illicit certain thoughts or remind me of certain things. So for those people curious, I have Tribe, Sebastian Junger, Gratitude by Oliver Sachs, Less Is More which is a mythology of stoic quotes and thoughts on minimalism.

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott, a Japanese book about sumishogay, which is a long story; Japanese chess book. The Magic of Thinking Big, Dune by Frank Herbert, and then Zorba the Greek.

You mentioned The Magic of Thinking Big, you mentioned The E Myth, and then 80/20,which I also have up there.

Dave Camarillo: Which can be applied to anything. But I would say The Art of War is another one I have to mention.

Tim Ferriss: I have one of your books here, by the way. It’s a book by Clausewitz on the Art of Warfare. I’ve had it since you were at my house in Willow Glen. You left it there and I’ve traveled with it now through 12 years. Good book.

Dave Camarillo: I try to find something… like if I’ve got to work out, I listen to Slayer.

Tim Ferriss: Which album?

Dave Camarillo: The newest, the latest one, Endless.

Tim Ferriss: Oh, I haven’t heard that.

Dave Camarillo: You can always count on them; them and Tool.

Tim Ferriss: But Slayer’s got some longevity.

Dave Camarillo: The thing is it’s a mood creator. It creates a mood. Like if I’ve got to lift heavy things up and down again, which seems ridiculous and redundant, I get strong and all that but I’ve got to go in with an attitude of like I need to smash this. That’s one of the things I use day-to-day.

I try to use a mode-altering something. If I need to smash something, it’s Slayer. If I need to relax and calm down, I’ll listen to ‘80s pop, something like that.

Tim Ferriss: Are we talking MJ? What are we talking about? Prince? What’s your go-to?

Dave Camarillo: Prince is great. I just go random.

Tim Ferriss: Do you listen to Pandora?

Dave Camarillo: Pandora. But Slayer, I listen to the album.

Tim Ferriss: What’s your station?

Dave Camarillo: I’m sorry?

Tim Ferriss: So it’s ‘80s pop? That’s the station?

Dave Camarillo: ‘80s pop. That’s what it is, yeah. Every morning. I try every morning.

Tim Ferriss: It’s hard to be upset when you’re listening to Prince. When I first started meditating, and this isn’t that long ago, three years ago let’s say; the way I started is a friend recommend I listen to one song in the morning and just lean against the wall and focus on my breathing for the length of the song. So I listened to It’s Time to Party Like it’s 1999. It’s hard to be upset with the world or depressed if you’re listening to that song.

Dave Camarillo: It’s impossible. That whole Batman soundtrack was Prince.

Tim Ferriss: Oh, that’s true. That was the best thing about the movie.

Dave Camarillo: I liked the movie, too.

Tim Ferriss: Do you have any favorite – oh, you know what? I should thank you. You mentioned a couple of books that I introduced you to. I’ll thank you for two movies that you introduced me to. One, I’ve mentioned before; still one of my favorites, Shawn of the Dead.

Dave Camarillo: Great movie.

Tim Ferriss: Must have. And then there was another one that I saw at – I want to ay it was a birthday party for you. Is it Just Friends? Is that what it is?

Dave Camarillo: Great movie.

Tim Ferriss: Oh, my God. It’s so good.

Dave Camarillo: Great Christmas, family wholesome movie. Ryan Reynolds.

Tim Ferriss: I’m busy too, you dick. Sorry, you need to see the movie.

Dave Camarillo: Hot Fuzz. We went to the premiere.

Tim Ferriss: Oh, that’s right. We went to the premiere of Hot Fuzz after Shawn of the Dead had already embedded itself in my brain. Do you have any other favorite movies or documentaries?

Dave Camarillo: John Carpenter’s The Thing, without even skipping a beat or hesitating.

Tim Ferriss: Never seen it.

Dave Camarillo: Really?

Tim Ferriss: Yeah.

Dave Camarillo: I think ’84. Kurt Russell.

Tim Ferriss: That’s a movie that if my memory serves me right took awhile to become sort of a cult classic, right? I don’t think it was a hit off the bat.

Dave Camarillo: To me, it’s probably top three in the world of all genres. It’s the sense of paranoia; you don’t really know what’s going on. And you can nerd out. There are some people that really nerd out on step by step what’s happening, different clothing moved and just… you know, when the nerds get ahold of something, oh, it’s just amazing. That movie is amazing. You shouldn’t see it when you’re 8 years old which is when I saw it, but I think I turned out fine. And then the other John Carpenter movie, Big Trouble in Little China.

Tim Ferriss: That’s a great movie. I love that movie.

Dave Camarillo: That’s why my wife is Chinese. It has nothing to do with it.

Tim Ferriss: So from Taiwan, and…

Dave Camarillo: Yes.

Tim Ferriss: Or Taiwanese, I should say. And you enjoy spending time in Taiwan. One of my favorite places.

Dave Camarillo: Taipei specifically but yeah, I love Taiwan. I love being out of the country just to be out of the country. But Taipei is like Japan but the Chinese version of Shinjuku, maybe.

Tim Ferriss: It’s so much fun. I haven’t been back in probably ten years and I’m dying to go back. For those people who haven’t been, a lot of the culture that was in mainland China prior to the cultural revolution was effectively shuttled down to Taiwan. And then you had the Japanese influence, of course, so you have this very unique combination of rich cultural heritage, incredible food, tropical climate and etiquette. It’s just a politeness. It’s such a wonderful combination. And maybe this is common in other parts of China although I haven’t experienced it myself, it’s like Argentina in the sense that people go late there.

They have the night markets, and I remember going into restaurants at 11, 12, 1:00 and families would just roll up with their strollers and I’m like wow, alright, these people know how to party.

Dave Camarillo: You can live and die in a single block area because it has everything you need. Doctor, optometrist, you can give birth, grocery store, everything in one little block.

Tim Ferriss: Good old Taipei.

Dave Camarillo: Taipei.

Tim Ferriss: Do you have any quotes or mantras that you think of often or live your life by, or favorite quotes?

Dave Camarillo: Yes, from a friend of mine. I was training just a bunch of military guys in a room and I was kind of new to this so I was a little nervous. But I was teaching my class, doing my thing and they were doing a guard pass drill so they were all actively fighting each other, one on top and one on bottom.

It’s my job to reinforce excitement in people and let them know they’re doing well when they’re doing well, and be positively critical when I need them to adjust a behavior. So I’m walking around doing my thing, and I get to a group and we’ll call him Johnny, and I go, “Johnny, that was the best guard passing I’ve seen all day! That was awesome! Let’s keep it going!” And I start walking and he stops the fight, stands up, turns to me and says, “I don’t need any fucking positive reinforcement.”

Turns back and jumps in and fights the guy again, without missing a beat. And I remember being stunned, and I’m normally not stunned; you can say anything when I teach a class. I stopped and my mind is like, keep walking. I remember dwelling on it and the first thing that came to my head is where the hell am I right now?

I’ve never heard that in my life: I don’t need positive reinforcement. What are you, an alien? And that has just stuck with me. And I don’t mean to curse but you can’t say it without cursing. You can’t.

Tim Ferriss: This is not Disney programming. You can curse.

Dave Camarillo: That’s how it was said, and that’s the power and that’s how I remember it, and that’s how it influences me. Literally, I get charged just thinking about it.

Tim Ferriss: How does it influence you?

Dave Camarillo: Because it reminds me I’m not as good as I need to be.

Tim Ferriss: You mean just mentally?

Dave Camarillo: Mentally, everything. I really think that I shouldn’t need positive reinforcement. I should do a task because I like the task. It’s creative for me so it’s intellectually stimulating, and it’s my job and I’m moving forward and I’m helping people. Once I complete that task, I need to move on to another task, and not sit there and wait around for the treat. It’s not Halloween every day.

But when I heard that, I’m like I don’t have the experiences this guy has and that’s fine; I understand that. But I’m going to draw upon that and in my times of weakness I’m going to say it as long as I can and remind myself how great you can be as a human being.

Tim Ferriss: I like that. That’s a good one.

Dave Camarillo: I’ve got to make a shirt.

Tim Ferriss: Give it to your students. I remember at one point, I was talking to my first direct report. My first direct report I really developed a relationship, first job out of college, the VP of Sales. I was trying to sell mass data storage to companies like DreamWorks and American Airlines; these storage area networks as they were called at the time, fiber channel.

He was known as a ball buster and he had just been hired, brought into the company and people were kind of walking on egg shells because they’re like yeah, this guy has a temper. He’s really good at what he does; he’s been through three IPOs. He’s incredible but we don’t know what to make of him. And I’m like oh, fuck. I spent all this time preparing because I had a handful of accounts to report to him. I came out of Princeton so I’m really wordy and verbose and over complicating everything.

So I bring in this massive stack of stuff that I’m basically intending to read to him. I’m extremely on edge, and I sit down and I’m being weirdly formal and then I start reading this crap. I get about two minutes into it and he goes, “Tim, Tim.” I’m like, “Yeah, yes sir.” He goes, “I don’t need the story; I just need the next steps.” Another thing he would say is “I don’t need the good news. The good news takes care of itself. What’s gone wrong?”

Dave Camarillo: So awesome.

These are similar stories, like the idea where you’re wasting my time with compliments and the weather is good. Maybe it’s my personality or your personality; let’s get to the point. And the other thing is whatever I say, you’re not going to be butter. Like I’ve been in environments where I was called down in front of a bunch of people and I’m like, okay cool.

Tim Ferriss: I want to hear about this.

Dave Camarillo: In this environment, we don’t get butter.

Tim Ferriss: Either way, that’s an expression that a lot of engineers here have started using.

Dave Camarillo: Is that just engineers? I don’t know. It’s the kids.

Tim Ferriss: No, it’s not just engineers but for whatever reason, it’s but for whatever reason, it’s become really popular. One of my buddies runs this huge company, and he’s like, “Look, I’m not really a politically correct guy but if you walk in to give a presentation to 50 people who are not part of your little cave clan of five hardcore engineers, you can’t say butter to everybody, guys.”

Dave Camarillo: Is that bad? Seriously. What does that mean? Like someone kicked you in the butt or something?

Tim Ferriss: No. I’m making hand signals. This is the light bulb going off. You said you were dressed down in front of him?

Dave Camarillo: [Inaudible].

Tim Ferriss: You’re good.

Dave Camarillo: It’s just an environment when you train…

Tim Ferriss: No, what happened? Can you talk about it? You were called out or dressed down or something.

Dave Camarillo: Yeah. I was advising on a specific path of training.

Tim Ferriss: This was in the military context?

Dave Camarillo: Military context; let’s do some training with this. Let’s do it in this situation, and let’s do it with this gear on. And he’s like: no, we don’t do that. That’s bad; you’ll get hurt. It was the same guy, by the way. And then just moving on, I’m like all right, and then I just went to the next thing.

I And may not have been there if I hadn’t been surrounded in that environment. It has really changed me.

Tim Ferriss: You became the average of the five people you associate with most.

Dave Camarillo: I was listening to your drunk dialing last night and that’s exactly what you said. The first guy is like, how do I raise my kids? And you’re like okay, make sure they’re surrounding themselves with people… and sometimes you have to check yourself. But that’s so true. You become who you’re surrounded by. These experiences h have just motivated me. I was telling you this morning I’m happier now than I’ve ever been. Why? The stars are becoming aligned for the first time.

I’m learning that yes, I do have control over this, this, and this and I need to make this change and adopt this, and carry that residue of awesomeness to avoid the earlier comment sensitivity that I think could cloud your judgment. Did I do a good job on that?

Tim Ferriss: That was good. That was a good recovery. Nice recovery.

I have a book for you, by the way. I’m going to give you a copy. I have a stack of these copies, About Face.

Dave Camarillo: I will take it.

Tim Ferriss: It is David Hackworth. That is Jocko’s favorite book.

Dave Camarillo: Beautiful.

Tim Ferriss: Okay. If you had a billboard and you could put anything on it, gigantic billboard, so in other words if you had a short message you want to get out to the world, what would you put on it? Aside from you do not need positive reinforcement.

Dave Camarillo: Man, that’s gotta be the best.

Tim Ferriss: It could be that.

Dave Camarillo: I think it would just be I can’t wait for Christmas.

Tim Ferriss: You do love Christmas.

Dave Camarillo: It’s my favorite time of year. Right now, the trifecta. Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas.

Tim Ferriss: Rapid fire.

Dave Camarillo: It spikes in smiles from it coming my way.

Tim Ferriss: This is an important question. Do you only listen to Christmas carols very close to Christmas? What’s your policy?

Dave Camarillo: It depends. I think I start mid-November, which is early but it’s not stupid early.

Tim Ferriss: I still rock the same way.

Dave Camarillo: I picked up finally, because I have a Christmas cup for coffee and I used it today. I’m like, is it too early? I like reserving things.

Tim Ferriss: So you retire that cup for the rest of the year?

Dave Camarillo: 100 percent. Oh, yeah.

Tim Ferriss: What does the Christmas cup look like?

Dave Camarillo: It’s just got like reindeer and a Christmas tree on it and it’s beautiful. It’s my favorite coffee cup. So when we talk about those bio hacks that really elevate your mood and all that, when I have that and you can smell the cold; do you know what I’m talking about?

Tim Ferriss: Sure, I get it.

Dave Camarillo: The new cold coming in, the change of weather and you know family is around and now I have my son and my family and it’s just like the greatest thing in the world.

Tim Ferriss: Wins all around.

Dave Camarillo: Yeah. I want to hug everybody, and then choke them.

Tim Ferriss: Hug them and then choke them; it’s a fine line. You can go[from hugging to choking really quickly with Dave.

Dave Camarillo: A hug from my mom growing up was like trying to throw her on the ground. She was so tough. There was no real hugs. It was hug to gain proper hand position.

Tim Ferriss: Was your mom a judoka as well?

Dave Camarillo: No, she was just super tough.

Tim Ferriss: She was just a sniper who would kill you for [inaudible] –

[Crosstalk]

Dave Camarillo: … and that was dinner.

Tim Ferriss: Can’t wait for Christmas; that’s a good one. I can’t wait for Christmas; that’s true.

Dave Camarillo: What are you doing for Christmas? What do you do normally?

Tim Ferriss: My parents are getting older, and I took a hard look. I read a book, and it’s one of those books where you learn kind of 50 percent of what you need to know from the title but it’s still powerful. And I want to say it was something like – this is not it but it’s Happier Spending. It was written by I think two social scientists, or two sociologists. Not very hard science but looking at how you can spend money more effectively to improve the quality of your life.

Dave Camarillo: Investing.

Tim Ferriss: The types of experiences and purchases that, based on studies however flimsy, based on the data that are available, what type of purchases are going to improve your quality of life. I read a piece by Tim Urban, I think is his name; pretty sure, on a site called “Wait but Why,” which is brilliant. I want to say it was called “The Tail End.” It had a huge impact on me. It was recommended to me by another person who has been on the podcast, Matt Mullenweg, really impressive guy. It effectively said, and I’m paraphrasing here, by the time you’re 18, you have already passed something like 90 percent of the total hours you will ever spend with your parents before they die. It was something like that.

It shows you in both graphics, prose and math how little time you have left with your parents on the planet in terms of total hours. So for the last few years, I’ve taken my parents on trips for Christmas to places that they otherwise wouldn’t visit or couldn’t visit. So we took a trip to Eleuthera in the Bahamas, where my parents used to spend a lot of time a long, long time ago when my grandparents were still around but hadn’t been back in 20, 30 years. We spent another Christmas in Iceland.

My mom had always wanted to see the Northern Lights for her entire life. I just looked at my expenditures and I was like even if I had to dial back in other areas, yes it’s going to be expensive, manageably so but not inexpensive; but so what? What am I saving for? I don’t spend a whole lot of money. I don’t have an exorbitant lifestyle. I don’t own a car. I don’t have extremely expensive habits.

So for the last two years we’ve done that. But I’m really eager to have a Christmas at home, meaning at my parents’ place so we’re going to stay home this year. So that’s what I’m doing for Christmas this year. How old are you now?

Dave Camarillo: 40.

Tim Ferriss: What advice would you give to your 30-year-old self, if anything, and what are you doing at 30?

Dave Camarillo: What was I doing at 30?

Tim Ferriss: Yeah. Where were you, what were you up to?

Dave Camarillo: I think I was listening to some really close people’s good advice to create my own small empire, essentially. My guerilla Jiu-Jitsu, create academies and just really: you’re no longer a competitor; be the best instructor you can be kind of thing.

I think the best advice I would give myself is when I say enjoy yourself more, not have fun more but enjoy yourself more. And I think there’s a difference. I’ve had so much fun in my life. Fun to me are like quick spikes of parties or whatever it is; celebrating this or whatever. But enjoying it I would say is more sustainable. I’ve had issues of just focusing too much on what I’m not in control of, what I’m not doing, what I should be doing instead of – and I learned this through the years but instead of just dialing in what will make me sustainability happy.

So to get there quicker, I think that’s the best way I would say it is enjoy yourself. You have a lot going on. Not that whole thing of oh, things could be worse. No, you have a lot of greatness going on, a lot of good stuff surrounding you; a lot of good people, an amazing family.

You talk about being more mindful of the goodness in your life. I think enjoying life… enjoy life, man.

Tim Ferriss: Appreciating it.

Dave Camarillo: Appreciating it. And I think I’ve learned that now. I wish I had learned it when I was 30 or maybe 20. But that’s No. 1. That’s gotta be it.

Tim Ferriss: You’ve got to savor it when you can. And it’s particularly hard for Type A personalities like you or like me to do that because we’re so target-focused, objective-focused; next, next, next. I think it’s something you have to train like anything else.

Dave Camarillo: Like anything else.

Tim Ferriss: Dave, we could go for hours and hours and I think we might do a Round 2 at some point.

Dave Camarillo: Yes. That was fun, man. It’s good seeing you, though.

Tim Ferriss: It’s great seeing you, too.

Dave Camarillo: It’s been so long. I miss you, bro.

Tim Ferriss: Miss you too, man. Before we cut out, favorite – this is not a good question but I’m going to ask it anyway; both gi and no gi, favorite guard pass.

Dave Camarillo: Favorite guard pass, just random Jiu-Jitsu stuff. Gi or no gi. Gi, stack pass.

Tim Ferriss: Stack pass.

Dave Camarillo: That’s where you stack the lower part of their body on top of the upper part of their body and you drive it down towards their spine which is not healthy for your spine. I call it the pass that makes your opponent hate Jiu-Jitsu. The no gi pass is flying kimora.

Tim Ferriss: Flying kimora?

Dave Camarillo: Yeah, no gi tends to get really slippery, or MMA. I said in my book, create chaos.

Tim Ferriss: Which book is this, for people who don’t know?

Dave Camarillo: It’s the one you were in. I think it’s the one you were in.

Tim Ferriss: What’s the title?

Dave Camarillo: Submit Everyone. Everyone have a plan.

Tim Ferriss: If you want to see photos of me getting arm barred and choked in various positions, and doing some weird shit with my legs, one of my fans pointed out. I don’t know why I’m trying to figure – you’ll see; it doesn’t make any sense what I’m doing. But I’m getting my ass kicked anyway. So Submit Everyone.

Dave Camarillo: Yeah, it’s the flying submission. So traditionally, you control the legs to get to the side control to score points. That’s what you’re talking about referring to passing. Instead of passing because that’s what they think I’m going to do, I’m going to jump either to a guillotine or a kimora. Kimora is my favorite. My buddy Jared invented this flying kimora from guard. I’m like flying what? What? Yeah, I gotta do it.

I like jumping and then submitting people. So I think if things are headed in a certain direction and people are like this is what’s going to happen; you do something totally off the wall, ridiculous and they’re not going to expect it.

Tim Ferriss: Flying kimora. What’s Jared’s last name?

Dave Camarillo: Fierbent. He’s a guerilla Jiu-Jitsu black belt.

Tim Ferriss: Fierbent.

Dave Camarillo: He’s a beast. He’s a really good dude in Minnesota.

He’s got a great academy, Black Arrow Martial Arts, named after one of the Hobbit movies or something.

Tim Ferriss: What is it with all the nerds converging on Jiu-Jitsu?

Dave Camarillo: I only hang out with brilliant people; let me just say that. He’s one of the guys I love to nerd out with.

Tim Ferriss: Where can people find you online or elsewhere? Where can they get more from you?

Dave Camarillo: Social media, you can go Twitter and Instagram @davecamarillo. The dot com is guerillajiujitsu.com. G-U-E-R-R-I-L-L-A.

Tim Ferriss: Jiu-Jitsu.

Dave Camarillo: Jiu-Jitsu.

Tim Ferriss: J-I-U…

Dave Camarillo: J-I-T-S-U. The guerilla is more like an unorthodox, crazy method of doing something.

Tim Ferriss: Right, less hairy back more gilly suit.

Dave Camarillo: Right. Very cool, man. Thanks, dude. This is awesome.

Tim Ferriss: Yeah, buddy. Thanks so much. And to everybody listening, you can find links to everything we’ve talked about, Dave’s books, Instagram, social, probably videos of he and his brother beating the living shit out of each other and much more in the show notes, which you can find at fourhourworkweek.com/podcast. So spell it out, fourhourworkweek.com/podcast. As always and until next time, thank you everybody for listening to the Tim Ferriss Show.

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