The best interview Ive ever done about Founders

Summary Notes


In this insightful conversation, the host reflects on the profound lessons learned from six years of producing the Founders podcast, emphasizing the importance of relentless pursuit and the capacity to endure pain as cornerstones of entrepreneurial success. He shares his lifelong passion for reading, sparked by childhood visits to bookstores with his mother, and how this hobby became a refuge and a method for seeking answers amidst a tumultuous family background. The host also discusses the upcoming live event with Patrick, where they will delve into their experiences and learnings from years of interviewing top investors and studying history's greatest entrepreneurs. Additionally, the host touches upon the significance of authenticity and storytelling in marketing, drawing parallels between various industries and underscoring the value of revealing the process behind a product to engage customers.

Summary Notes

Introduction to David's Background and Passion for Reading

  • David's love for reading dates back to his earliest memories.
  • His mother's passing resulted in the loss of childhood memories, but she recalled David's early fascination with reading.
  • Financial constraints didn't hinder David's reading; his mother would take him to bookstores to read for free.
  • David compares his consistent passion for reading to other hobbies that came and went, highlighting his all-or-nothing approach to interests.

"Let's start there. I've been in love with reading longer than I even have a memory."

This quote emphasizes David's lifelong passion for reading, which has been a constant presence throughout his life.

David's Connection with Biographies

  • David immerses himself in biographies, treating them as extensive, immersive experiences.
  • He relates to the subjects of biographies personally, imagining their lives and challenges.
  • David recounts the life of Enzo Ferrari, drawing lessons from his hardships and motivations.
  • He emphasizes the importance of understanding a person's early life to grasp their later decisions.

"To me, great biography is like a movie for your mind, except instead of being over for two and a half hours, it's going to last like 15, 20 hours."

This quote captures the depth and engagement David finds in reading biographies, likening them to long, detailed movies that unfold in the reader's mind.

David's Personal Motivations and History

  • David reflects on his family's history of hardship and lack of role models.
  • He is the first in his family to graduate high school and college and the first male not to go to prison in three generations.
  • David believes his obsession with reading and seeking knowledge was a way to find the right answers amidst the wrong ones he observed growing up.
  • He discusses the importance of choosing the right heroes, as inspired by Warren Buffett.

"My own guess is why I was obsessed with books and stuff like that is I was looking for the right answers, because all I saw was the wrong answers."

This quote reveals David's drive to learn from books as a means to discover correct life paths, contrasting with the negative examples he witnessed in his family.

David's Heroes and Role Models

  • David has developed a series of heroes through his podcast and research.
  • He admires individuals who have reached the pinnacle of their professions but recognizes their imperfections.
  • Ed Thorpe stands out as a complete blueprint for life that David aspires to emulate.
  • David also highlights James Dyson's autobiography as a reminder of perseverance through struggle.

"The only person out of every single person that I've studied on the podcast that I consider like my blueprint for... Like, I want that. I want their life in totalities. Ed Thorpe."

David identifies Ed Thorpe as a unique role model who embodies the balance of professional success and personal fulfillment that he seeks.

Obsession as a Common Trait Among Successful Founders

  • David notes that every biography featured on his podcast includes a subject who has lived an extraordinary life marked by obsession.
  • He believes that the intensity and uniqueness of founders make for fascinating stories.
  • David uses the story of Sam Zamuri to illustrate the power of obsession in achieving success.

"I don't think there's anybody that's going to write a biography of that is not obsessed. I do think, to answer your question, that is a fundamental trait."

This quote underscores David's belief that obsession is a key characteristic among the subjects of the biographies he studies and features on his podcast.

The Role of Obsession and Curiosity in Success

  • David discusses the prevalence of obsession in his studied biographies and its potential roots in fighting a sense of inferiority.
  • He highlights the importance of work in life and the drive to excel as personal motivators.
  • David shares examples, including the stories of Francis Ford Coppola and Sam Walton, to illustrate how personal history and experiences can fuel one's drive.

"I think there's some kind of deep rooted fight against a sense of inferiority that is underneath it."

This quote suggests that a deep-seated struggle against feelings of inferiority may be a driving force behind the obsessive dedication seen in many successful individuals.

Entrepreneurial Mindset

  • Entrepreneurs often prefer autonomy over higher potential earnings in established companies.
  • Many entrepreneurs share a common trait of being willing to take risks and not fitting into conventional roles.
  • They value creating and running their own businesses despite potential financial sacrifices.

"They'd rather make less money in their own business than work for somebody else."

This quote emphasizes the value entrepreneurs place on independence and control over their work, even at the cost of potentially higher earnings elsewhere.

Nature vs. Nurture in Entrepreneurship

  • The debate between the importance of a good idea (inspiration) versus the execution of the idea (perspiration) is a key topic in entrepreneurship.
  • Some argue that without a good idea, execution is futile, while others emphasize the hard work and persistence required to bring an idea to fruition.
  • The balance between these two aspects is crucial for success in business.

"If you don't have a good idea, all the perspiration in the world probably doesn't matter."

This quote suggests that the quality of the initial idea is a significant factor in the success of an entrepreneurial venture, highlighting the importance of inspiration in the process.

Importance of Market Fit

  • The market in which a business operates is a critical predictor of its success.
  • Entrepreneurs like Claude Shannon and Alfred Lee Loomis focused on their ideas without getting distracted by debates on business trends or strategies.
  • Historical figures like Henry Clay Frick succeeded due to being in the right market at the right time, such as the steel and iron industry.

"I think the largest predictor of business success is the market that you're operating in."

The quote underscores the significance of market conditions in determining the success of a business, suggesting that even the most talented individuals may not succeed in a declining market.

Podcasting as a Growing Market

  • Podcasting is viewed as a revolutionary medium, akin to the printing press for the spoken word.
  • The potential for growth in the podcasting market is immense, with new audiences continually emerging.
  • Good content has the opportunity to thrive in any medium, including podcasting.

"Podcasting is the printing press for the spoken word."

The analogy draws a parallel between the historical impact of the printing press and the transformative potential of podcasting, indicating its significance and growth potential.

Relentless Execution and Longevity

  • Successful entrepreneurs and investors often demonstrate relentless execution and commitment to their ventures over long periods.
  • Figures like Edwin Land and Estee Lauder exemplify the combination of good ideas and persistent effort over decades.
  • The ability to work on a project or business for an extended time is a trait of particular interest.

"Who the hell works on something from 19 to 70? That's incredible."

This quote highlights the extraordinary dedication and persistence of individuals like Edwin Land, who commit their lives to their work, which is a key factor in their success.

The Role of Individuals in Leadership

  • The impact of individual leaders on their organizations is significant.
  • The "great individual theory" suggests that certain individuals have a disproportionate effect on the success of businesses and innovations.
  • Leaders often draw inspiration from historical figures and their achievements.

"There's no such thing as group originality or group creativity."

This quote from Edwin Land emphasizes the belief in individual potential for greatness and originality, reinforcing the importance of singular visionaries in driving innovation and progress.

Ego in Entrepreneurship

  • A strong ego may be necessary to build a great company, but it should be used as a driving force rather than for public display.
  • Entrepreneurs often receive early support from more established figures who recognize their potential.
  • The downfall of partnerships and businesses can sometimes be attributed to ego clashes.

"Your ego should use to drive you, but you should not be on public display."

Sam Walton's advice reflects the idea that while ego can be a powerful motivator, it should be managed carefully to avoid negative impacts on business relationships and perception.

  • Entrepreneurs like Jay Gould operated in times before securities laws and antitrust acts, often bending or breaking rules to achieve their goals.
  • Some historical entrepreneurs engaged in actions that would be illegal or unethical by today's standards, including funding coups or engaging in monopolistic practices.

"In Jay Gold's case, all the time."

This blunt acknowledgment indicates that Jay Gould frequently operated in legal gray areas, highlighting the less regulated and more aggressive business environment of the past.

Constant Learning and Adaptation

  • Successful entrepreneurs and leaders, like Michael Jordan, emphasize the importance of listening, learning, and adapting.
  • Ego can hinder continuous learning if it leads to an overestimation of one's knowledge.
  • Studying the history of one's industry and remaining curious are common traits among successful entrepreneurs.

"Successful people listen, and those that don't listen don't survive."

This quote, attributed to Michael Jordan, encapsulates the idea that adaptability and willingness to learn from others are critical components of sustained success in any field.

Michael Jordan's Drive and Practice Ethic

  • Michael Jordan is highlighted as a paragon of dedication and practice.
  • He was known for his eagerness to improve and would actively seek feedback from coaches.
  • Jordan's commitment to practice was so intense that he valued it over playing in games.
  • He observed the practice habits of other top players and recognized self-deception in their approach to the game.
  • Jordan's relentless work ethic and willingness to listen contributed to his unparalleled success in basketball.

"Michael had a giant ego and giant drive, but he would run up to the coach and tell me what I need to get better at."

This quote emphasizes Michael Jordan's humility and drive to improve by actively seeking coaching despite his success.

"I would rather miss a game than miss practice. That's insane."

This quote illustrates Jordan's prioritization of practice over actual games, underlining the importance he placed on continuous improvement.

"They're deceiving themselves about what the game requires."

Jordan observed that even among the best players, there was a lack of understanding or acceptance of the full demands of basketball, which he did not fall prey to.

The Influence of Biographies on Work Ethic

  • Biographies of successful individuals, like Michael Jordan and Edwin Land, serve as inspiration for cultivating a strong work ethic.
  • The narratives of these individuals underscore the significance of hard work, learning, and the pursuit of excellence.
  • The stories of historical entrepreneurs provide a blueprint for success through their relentless pursuit of knowledge and improvement.

"Successful people listen. Those who don't listen don't survive long."

This quote encapsulates the idea that the willingness to learn from others is a key trait among successful individuals.

"He went to the New York public Library and read every single book on lighting they had."

Edwin Land's dedication to understanding lighting for his work in instant photography is shown through his exhaustive research, highlighting the importance of comprehensive knowledge acquisition.

The Role of Excessiveness and Hard Work

  • The concept of excessiveness in the pursuit of goals is discussed, challenging the idea of moderation.
  • Hard work and the willingness to go to extremes are seen as common traits among those who achieve extraordinary outcomes.
  • The discussion explores the balance between an all-consuming work ethic and maintaining personal well-being.

"If anything's worth doing, it's worth doing to excess."

This maxim from Edwin Land suggests that when something is important, it should be pursued with utmost dedication and effort.

"By endurance, we conquer."

This family motto of Ernest Shackleton, used as an example by the speaker, exemplifies the virtue of perseverance as a key to success.

"I'm not a fan of moderation. I'm attracted to extremes."

The speaker expresses a personal preference for pushing boundaries and striving for exceptionalism, contrasting with a life of moderation.

The Soul of a Business and the Role of the Founder

  • The founder's personality and vision are seen as integral to the identity and direction of a business.
  • The founder is perceived as the guardian of the company's soul, ensuring the integrity and authenticity of the business's mission.
  • The discussion touches on the importance of maintaining a balance between personal life and work, drawing on the experiences of various entrepreneurs.

"The role of the founder is the guardian of the company's soul."

This quote by Sidney Harmon expresses the idea that founders have a responsibility to maintain the core values and purpose of their companies.

"Apple is Steve Jobs with 10,000 lives."

This quote illustrates the profound impact a founder can have on a company, shaping its culture, products, and ethos in a way that reflects their own values and vision.

Marketing and Storytelling in Entrepreneurship

  • The conversation shifts to the importance of marketing and storytelling in the success of a company.
  • It is suggested that the ability to effectively market and distribute a product is as crucial as the product itself.
  • The discussion explores how founders have used their unique approaches to marketing to build their brands and cultivate customer loyalty.

"What do you call a person that's gifted at customer acquisition or distribution? A founder."

This quote underscores the idea that a key aspect of a founder's role is to excel in marketing and getting their product known to the public.

"A Ferrari has to be desired."

Enzo Ferrari's strategic approach to marketing by creating exclusivity and desirability for his cars is highlighted as an example of effective brand positioning.

Walt Disney's Pride and Legacy

  • Walt Disney's first company went bankrupt, which is not widely known.
  • Disney was proudest of starting his company and maintaining control, having lost control of his first venture.
  • On his deathbed, Disney was planning Epcot with his brother Roy, showing dedication to his work until the end.
  • Disney reinvented the concept of amusement parks, which were considered low-class and dirty at the time, by creating Disneyland, a clean and reputable park.
  • He innovated financing by partnering with ABC for a weekly show, which also served as marketing for Disneyland.
  • Disney's approach to Disneyland was to create a "physical movie," emphasizing the best product and marketing.

"Walt Disney. Everybody's like, oh, one of the best founders ever. How could he not be right? [...] He's most proud of two things. One, starting his company and keeping control of it because he lost control of his first company. And two, Disneyland."

This quote highlights Disney's pride in maintaining control over his company and the creation of Disneyland, which he valued more than his achievements in animation.

Marketing as Storytelling

  • David Ogilvy, an advertising legend, was inspired by predecessors and believed in using historical ideas since human nature does not change.
  • Ogilvy emphasized that no business is boring; it's the advertising that can be boring. He advocated for sharing the process behind the product to engage customers.
  • Ogilvy's approach to advertising was to tell the story behind the product, such as the quietness of a Rolls-Royce car, which became a successful tagline.
  • Sharing the process and effort behind a product or service can be a powerful marketing tool, as demonstrated by Walt Disney and others.

"David Ogrevy is a genius. [...] He did exactly what every single other entrepreneurs did. Figured out what was the best shit that happened before I was live."

This quote reflects on the practice of learning from past entrepreneurs and innovators to apply successful strategies and concepts to current businesses, particularly in marketing.

Endurance and Obsession in Entrepreneurship

  • Entrepreneurs like Walt Disney and Steve Jobs worked tirelessly until their death, with no intention of retiring.
  • The founder of Kinko's stated that his exit strategy was death, which reflects a common theme among passionate entrepreneurs who see their work as a lifelong pursuit rather than a means to an end.
  • The dedication to one's life work and the willingness to endure hardship are seen as critical components of successful entrepreneurship.

"One of the lines that stands out from listening to all your stuff, I think, is the kinkos founder who said his exits, and you've adopted it, that his exit strategy is death."

This quote encapsulates the idea that for some entrepreneurs, their business is not just a career but a lifelong commitment that they are willing to pursue until the end of their lives.

Podcasting as a Permissionless Platform

  • Podcasting offers a unique opportunity for content creators because it is permissionless, meaning anyone can start a podcast without the need for approval from gatekeepers.
  • The speaker values the ability to share knowledge and insights through podcasting, which allows for authentic expression and connection with the audience.
  • The podcast format offers an intimate way to communicate and educate, as demonstrated by the speaker's meticulous preparation process for each episode.

"What I like about podcasting is it's completely permissionless."

This quote highlights the freedom and accessibility of podcasting as a medium, which allows individuals to create and distribute content without traditional barriers to entry.

Learning from the Greats in Podcasting

  • The speaker admires Dan Carlin of Hardcore History for his thorough research and storytelling in podcasting.
  • Podcasters like Bill Burr are praised for their authenticity and consistent engagement with their audience.
  • The speaker emphasizes the importance of authenticity and passion in podcasting, which resonates with listeners and creates a genuine connection.

"I feel the best podcaster to ever live is Dan Carl in a parkour history."

This quote expresses admiration for Dan Carlin's podcasting work, highlighting the impact of his thorough research and engaging storytelling on the speaker's own approach to podcasting.

The Essence of Entrepreneurship: Passion and Pain

  • The founder of Four Seasons stated that "excellence is the capacity to take pain," which underscores the inevitable hardships in the pursuit of greatness.
  • Entrepreneurs often experience emotional highs and lows, and the ability to persist through challenges is seen as a hallmark of success.
  • The speaker emphasizes that the entrepreneurial journey is meant to be difficult, and it is the struggle and resilience that often lead to meaningful achievements.

"Excellence is the capacity to take pain."

This quote encapsulates the idea that achieving excellence in any field requires the ability to endure and overcome hardship, a concept that is central to the entrepreneurial mindset.

Generational Impact and Gratitude

  • The speaker expresses deep gratitude for his grandfather's decision to flee Cuba for America, which provided better opportunities for future generations.
  • The recognition of how past decisions affect not only the present but also future generations is a poignant reminder of the long-term impact of our choices.
  • The speaker reflects on the importance of considering the legacy of one's actions and how they will influence those who have yet to be born.

"The kindest thing anybody's ever done for me happened a few decades before I was born."

This quote conveys a sense of gratitude for the sacrifices made by previous generations that have shaped the speaker's life opportunities, emphasizing the far-reaching consequences of individual decisions.

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