Small solutions can generate mighty results. In this episode, Jason Wrobel and Whitney Lauritsen chat with Paul Jarvis, a writer, designer, and author of Company of One, a book that explores why bigger is not always better in business. Exploring Paul’s minimalistic website, they discuss the impact of being simple and doing things in the most relaxing manner without grinding ourselves into the ground. They also dive into data privacy, the ethical use of potential technologies, and adapting with change. Join Jason, Whitney, and Paul as they chat more about sports, food, the lockdown, a cookbook for rats, and everything in between.
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Data Privacy, Social Media, And Website Minimalism With Paul Jarvis
Paul, tell us about your latest endeavors in the world as an entrepreneur and coach and all-around fantastic human being. That’s how I would normally start the show. I’m like, “Paul, it’s good to meet you. Thanks for being here.”
This is the type of show I prefer to follow as well. It’s a little bit more interesting when you feel like you’re a fly on the wall.
There are enough shows or experts at each other.
You use expert as a verb. They’ve been “experting” for long.
On that note, I’m curious. Paul, we did an episode before about discussing whether or not we thought somebody could ever be an expert because there’s always more to learn. How do you feel about that word, expert?
Uncomfortable. It’s weird because there are two sides to that. The people who feel like they aren’t expert enough probably are and the people that think that they are experts probably aren’t as big of an expert as they think they are. It’s both.
Do you consider yourself an expert?
No. I don’t even know what I do.
Neither do we.
We’re not alone, thank God.
I love that because I felt like growing up and maybe it’s a lot about each of us being, I’m assuming, similar ages. I don’t like to talk about age too much because I feel like it’s irrelevant in most cases. The one time that it does seem to make a difference is the time in which you were growing up. For me, at least it felt like you grew up having this big idea about business and your path as a career. For me, the education system was always pushing you towards being well educated, getting your degree. It was a formal, going into a 9:00 to 5:00 job. Even though I studied a creative topic, which is filmmaking in school, even with that, you had to follow this formula in order to become good enough at something and worthy of a position and making enough money. I grew up with that mindset. Over the years it feels less and less and more of a gray area in terms of what I do. I start to feel anxious whenever somebody asks me what I do because I feel like I could give them a five-minute explanation trying to cover all the bases.
My answer depends on how badly I want to talk to the other person.
In this case, me as Whitney asking you, what do you do? What would your answer be to me?
I’d probably say that I do a multitude of things. I write books, host podcasts, teach courses, run software companies, this and that on the internet.
What would you give as an answer to a complete stranger if you didn’t even know what their objectives were first? Is it the same answer?
No, probably that I work in tech.
Are you somebody that would wait until they ask more questions in order to elaborate?
Yes. It’s funny because I do a lot of interviews. In real life, I don’t want to talk about myself. I don’t want to be in Jason’s interview announcer mode. Talking to people at a party or a dinner, I don’t want to be that. I’d rather talk to other people about what they do because I already know what I do. It’s not that interesting to me. If I’m listening to myself talk about that, it’s like, “I already know this stuff.”
I feel the same way.
I agree too. Especially when I don’t see a friend or a colleague for a long time and they’d be like, “What’s going on? What are you working on? What’s in the books? You got a new book coming out? You got a new show coming out?” I’m like, “I don’t want to spend ten minutes catching you up on my work life right now.” It always feels a little stilted to give people this summation or CliffsNotes on my life since I’ve seen you. Also, to back what you said, Paul, I feel much pressure. At Whitney’s behest, one of the amazing things Whitney has taught me is to be more eco-conscious. I stopped getting business cards printed. I felt this increasing amount of pressure to figure out what to put on the business card. I stopped making them. I don’t even have business cards anymore.
What did it say in the last one that you made?
I tried to be cute. I tried to be a creative culinary chameleon or something cutesy like, “Culinary Chameleon Corinthian Caricature.” What does that mean? I tried to get a little too cute and I’m like, “I know I’m trying too hard and I’m trying to create a title that is a conversation starter.” I called myself out on it, it was like, “You’re trying too hard.” You’re trying to create an effect in a conversation with a person rather than letting it be organic. I stopped making business cards altogether.
Remember when we were at the Fancy Food Show, Jason. At a certain point, you’re walking around wearing these badges and then everybody wants you to elaborate or they don’t even read your badge. You’re asked over and over by hundreds of people what you do. At a certain point, Jason didn’t want to say it anymore. He got annoyed at this one guy.
That poor guy, he was sweet. It wasn’t personal. I couldn’t do it anymore. I shut down. I was like, “I cannot explain this for the 253rd time today.”
I hear that. I’m the same most of the time. I want to think of something that won’t have any further questions so that we can move on to something that I want to talk about.
We were talking about in an episode about compliments and boomeranging things back. When someone pays you a compliment, you automatically give them one. I feel like I do that. I try to give the shortest answer about what I do as possible so I can ask them what they do and hopefully turn the conversation to them.
I feel like that’s my M.O. as well. I’m uncomfortable that you want to know something about me and then talk. How can we help us flip this around?
Part of it though, I imagine, Paul, that you’re introverted like me and Jason is extroverted. Sometimes he gets into an introverted mode. For me, it’s about energy. It feels exhausting to have to talk about myself. Part of that is because I don’t want to waste my energy sharing something if they don’t want to know that much. I love that tactic of saying something simple and if they ask, if they’re interested, I’ll elaborate. It only feels worth it if it’s going to turn into an interesting conversation as opposed to somebody trying to see what they can get from me or would qualify me to see if I’m worthy of their attention.
While they’re looking around the room to see if anybody is more important.Small is the next big thing. Click To Tweet
That’s the worst. It’s funny too. I pulled up on your website, one of the things that I like about your site. First of all, a little side note, I love how simple your website is. Your website is such a great example. It’s almost counter to the styles of websites. I think of yours often, Paul, and have used it as inspiration for my personal website. I like how there are no graphics. It’s straight to the point, simple. One of my favorite pages is the “Now” page. I went on there and you haven’t updated it. I’m glad that that’s the case because the first thing on there says that you’re saying no to interviews. I’m glad I didn’t read that before we asked you on the show because I probably wouldn’t have.
My default answer to everything is no. I have to think about it or be convinced to change my mind. I find it’s easier to be that. Everything is a no, from interviews. If you had asked, I would have said yes even if I’d updated it because I know you and you’re interested to talk to. Talking to you more sounds good. I’ve never talked to Jason. Talking to Jason for the first time seems like a good idea. Even gluten, I’m probably getting gluten. I’m saying no to gluten, but for my birthday I’m going to eat gluten.
That’s like us too. I can’t even say that I’m gluten-free because there are many times where I’m like, “I’m going to change my answer for the circumstance because I can’t resist it.”
Someone get this man a birthday croissant, please.
That would be good. I live in the woods. Nobody delivers food here. In this quarantine, I have to make everything that I want to eat, which isn’t bad. I love cooking like you guys but still, I can’t get things that I want. I can get whole ingredients that I then can then turn into things, but obviously, that’s work.
What’s the best thing that you’ve made? Maybe something you’ve never made before but you were encouraged to make because you felt it was necessary.
I’ve been going back on my usual college self of ramen noodles, but they’re gluten-free, organic ramen noodles with broccoli and tofu or Beyond Meat. With a little bit of Thai chili spice, it’s good. I do have a recipe open that I haven’t tried but I may try, it’s for noodles.
Lamian noodles. The pulled noodles as well like you get in Asian soups are delicious. What they do to relax the gluten bonds in it is they use nutritional yeast. There’s a different ingredient that they use in Asia but you can’t get that over here. A chef figured out that you could put nooch in the gluten of water and that relaxes the gluten bonds and makes them all lineup so you can pull it without it breaking.
This is blowing my mind. I’ve never heard this before.
Me neither. I’ve watched the video many times and I’ve never watched a cooking video many times and not made it. I might make that because I have nutritional yeast, flour, and water.
Isn’t that fun when you discover that you can make something and you have all the ingredients at home and you never thought to combine them in a specific way?
I can’t make donuts, even though I want a donut. I was stoked about these noodles. I’m like, “I can do that.”
You probably could find a donut recipe with what you have. It might not taste as great. That’s the only downside. I’ve been making Boba a lot. I was into Boba drinks. My big discovery during quarantine was how to make my own organic Boba and it has been so much fun. It turned into a little bit of an obsession of mine. Every day I try to outdo myself.
What’s in a Boba?
There are two versions and that was also exciting. The first is their traditional Boba, which is made from tapioca starch. That’s two ingredients, water and tapioca starch, which I had from a previous recipe. It’s simple to make and it tastes incredible. That was exciting because most Boba drinks at cafes are loaded with sugar, dyes, and various ingredients. It was nice to know how basic it could be. The more exciting discovery was how to make a low-carb Boba from agar-agar, which got sent to me from a company. It turns out you can make all sorts of cool things with agar-agar because it’s a gelatin substitute. You can make jello, you can make gummy bears, you can make anything you could imagine that you would use gelatin for and it’s also simple. Plus, you can infuse it with things. I’ve been making coffee Boba, matcha tea Boba. All these different flavors, strawberry, raspberry, and it’s been fun. It kept me preoccupied. The other thing that I was thinking of, going back to you saying no, Jason and I talked about Tim Ferriss and a blog post he put out about how he wasn’t going to read any new books in 2020. Did you see that?
Yes, I did.
What do you think about that? To give you something else to discuss besides books, his point was that he was saying yes to so much. He was similar to you saying no to writing blurbs already. He was being inundated with book opportunities from other people that wanted him to read the books and review them or blurb them or whatever else. That boundary he set was interesting. I’m also having weird déjà vu at this moment. We’ve already had this conversation, Paul.
We might have.
Did we talk about this when we saw each other one time? This is something new. This is freaking me out. What do you think of him in particular? What’s your relationship with books right now?
I haven’t read a book for a little while. I’ve been on a podcast. I’m a voracious reader on and off. I’ll go through a year or two or I read about a book a week and then I’ll take six months to a year off. I’m taking a break period. I’ve been doing podcasts. I feel like as well because I do a lot of work on the computer, my eyes need a break. I want to learn stuff and I want to be entertained. If I can close my eyes and do it, it feels better for me at this particular moment. I like to listen to podcasts and put my headphones on and close my eyes. My wife and I will put a podcast on the speaker and lie down on the couch like we’re watching TV, but instead we lay there and listen to somebody talk.
What are some of your favorite podcasts that you like to listen to alone and together?
I don’t listen to all of Tim Ferriss’ shows. I find that when he has a guest that’s interesting, he has the best interview in the entire world. When he has a guest that I’m not that interested in, I tend to skip those. Jane Goodall, who is a gift to humanity, was on his show. That was one of the best interviews I’ve ever heard. She is such an amazing person and the things that she’s done for animals and animal rights are amazing. The breadth of her career spanning decades and decades, it boggles my mind that somebody that awesome exists on this planet. That was a good one.
I’m also a nerd, so I like Reply All on Gimlet. I’ve listened to that for years and years. The shows that I listen to with my wife are mostly either running shows because she’s big into running. We’d listen to things like Rich Roll and a couple of other shows. We’re also big into football. We listen to football podcasts. There are no sports at all anywhere at the moment. Listening to sports podcasts is all that we get to do, which is alright for now. Those are the main ones.The desire to acquire as much as we possibly can end up adding more stress in the long run. Click To Tweet
When you say football, Paul, may I clarify, do you mean American run ball that is called football or do you mean European football?
I was curious which one you meant.
I sometimes listen to Ezra Klein Show, which is good. He does some vegan episodes too, which is interesting. Usually, he’s political but that can be political, too. I also listen to The Privacy, Security & OSINT Show with Michael Bazzell.
It’s great to know you bring up because we definitely want to talk about privacy.
Those are the main ones and a bunch of vegan running shows, good as well. I don’t even think I answered your question, Whitney, about Tim not reading a book. It’s hard as a creator to constantly feel the pressure of needing to make something new for an audience, which we all feel because people want the new thing, the next thing. A week after I released my last book, I got an email asking what my next book was coming out. I was like, “That one took years. How about we pump the brakes a bit?” I have been going back and rereading articles that I like, listening to shows that I like more than once, even watching series on Netflix more than once.
I feel like we’re in such a rush sometimes to consume new things. We get caught up in that and we almost mindlessly get through it and then we’re like, “What’s the next thing? I don’t care until there’s the next episode of this thing.” It’s like, “These people probably put a ton of work into the other thing.” There are a few things where I’ve watched it the second time, I read it a second time or third time and I’ve been like, “I missed many things here.” I agree with Tim going back and looking at or rereading things could be useful. There is that pressure on people that create for a living or perform for a living, however you want to phrase it, where all the stuff that you’ve done, that’s cool. I watched it once already. Give me something new. It’s hard to keep up with that and it’s hard for that to be a pace or a weight sometimes.
That also reminds me of music. One of my favorite bands is OneRepublic. They were supposed to come out with a new album and they decided to delay it. As somebody who loves their music, I felt disappointed by that and I thought, “It’s strange because you think releasing music that makes people feel good is such a wise choice.” I read an interview with the lead singer, Ryan Tedder, who said he not only felt weird about promoting something but he also had a great point, which is that people keep saying they want something new but what they want is to feel good. They can do that by listening to music they already know. As soon as I heard that, I thought, “That’s true.” When you listen to a new album, it takes a little while to get into the music. It doesn’t resonate with you until you know some of the lyrics or you’ve heard it a few times and it sounds familiar.
This happened with me when I was listening to Fiona Apple’s new album that she came out with. Jason was telling me how much he loved it. The first time I listened to it, I was like, “It’s okay.” I then listened to it 3 or 4 times and I enjoyed it because it’s familiar to me. Listening to it becomes more pleasurable. I also found myself more interested in listening to her older albums. Like Ryan Tedder’s point, as soon as I listened to her older music that was familiar to me, I found that that was what I wanted. Her new music pointed me back to her old work. It’s fascinating how we sometimes think that we want something new but the old things that we love already might be equally, if not, more pleasurable.
I need to go listen to Tidal again. It’s been a while.
For me, the second album is where it’s at. A part of that is because of all the memories I have associated. That album was a huge album for me as a teenager. It brings me back to all of those feelings and experiences I had. It’s interesting with music or even books, your memories are attached and that’s often what makes you like something.
I agree, especially with fiction. For some fiction books, I can remember what was going on in my life when I was reading them because I was reading them to escape from those things. Some of those books I’ve read several times and I still like reading them.
This is such an interesting apex of different things in terms of where art, creativity, and entrepreneurship intermingle and bringing up this topic of some of our favorite musical artists. Fiona is an interesting example because she’s not on social media and she came out with this brand-new album and it charted. It was the number one most downloaded album for an entire week and it had all of this “commercial success.” She promoted it zero times because she’s not on social media. Other people were sharing it.
I thought she was on Twitter or something. I was trying to find her on Instagram, she’s definitely not on there.
The point is I feel that when we go back to the newness that we’ve been talking about, this pressure to constantly release new content, constantly release new consumable, monetizable content or products. I still do get caught up in my life and career with this thought, which is, “Am I creating these products, experiences, and content out of maybe a belief system that if I don’t continue to release them, I’ll lose relevance?” I won’t be top of mind in my industry for people. I will not make as much revenue and put myself in a compromised financial space. Am I creating it out of a genuine joyfulness and desire to share my art and my creativity? I’m still trying to find the balance of that where you hear about it in the music business all the time and many industries.
The head of the record label will be like, “You’ve got to release some pop songs. You got to release stuff that people are going to dance to.” The band looks at them like, “We don’t want to do that. We want to write songs about our hearts being broken and this relationship is ending in real shit.” They’re like, “That’s not going to sell.” I get caught in that space as an artist and an entrepreneur. Do I release stuff that people will buy so I can stay relevant and make money? Do I say, “I’m going to do what I want from my heart and roll the dice and see how it goes.” It’s a weird conundrum sometimes in my mind.
I feel that. Especially as you see some progress in your career, more and more people are relying on it as their job. Whether it’s a publisher or an agent or a record label executive, they make money because artists release things. The bigger you get, the more it’s like, “There’s some weight here now.” As well, to your point about staying relevant, I think about it but I try not to let it affect me. I’ll take it in and I’ll acknowledge that I feel that but to the best of my abilities, at least, I’ll try not to react to it. That’s why I’m not on most social media. That’s why I take a break from the internet for a couple of months of the year to reset, but I do feel that. What if I come back and nobody cares?
I’ve been doing that for years of November, December off and then coming back and people don’t go away. I’m sure some people do but then new people come in and it doesn’t make any measurable difference in my business or the attention that people give my work, but it’s still there. It’s still something that I feel all the time. I wrote about this before. For some reason, it’s coming to mind. What if I’ve hit the peak, Paul? What is the amount that people give a shit is only going to decrease from here on out?
It makes me wonder too. I was thinking about this. This is on the mind of any content creator, whatever it is that you’re creating. I don’t know if it’s like a cultural expectation that you should always be producing and hustling. We talk about hustle so much on this show and our different viewpoints on it where we’ve gone through different phases of feeling like we always have to be producing or marketing. It’s go all the time and rushing. I go through periods of major resistance to that. During that resistance, I simultaneously feel fearful and then I wonder, “Is it my ego that me thinking, ‘If I don’t create content, people are going to miss me or they’re going to decide they don’t like me anymore because I’m not creating enough for them?’”
I think about some of the people I admire. Fiona Apple is a great example. I’ve been a fan of her music for years. How many albums did she come out with? Not that many. It doesn’t matter how much time passes between albums, I’m still a big fan. I still can’t wait to listen. Sometimes it makes me feel more excited. It’s more meaningful. There are many content creators, whether they’re authors, podcasters, or social media influencers that are creating so much that you don’t even have a chance to miss them. I wonder about this with our own show. We release three episodes a week, is that too much? Does that mean people feel like there’s always going to be something so it doesn’t matter when they tune in? They don’t feel that desire to read every episode because there are so many of them.
It’s hard. For me, I like to try to find a cadence to releasing because then that feels like it takes decisions away. For you, if it’s three times a week, if you’re following the schedule, you’re sticking to the schedule. That’s good. For me, it’s the once a week newsletter. I don’t feel the pressure to release more than that. I call it the Sunday Dispatches. If you got an email on Wednesday, it would be weird. I feel that having a cadence with that, at least, has been helpful for me. For other things, I don’t have a cadence for writing books. I don’t even want to write another book, but that could probably change. With reading, same with writing, I’ll go through phases where I need to write a book and then I write a book and I don’t want to write a book ever again. That lasts for a little bit of time and then I come back to it and I’m like, “I remember writing books is fun sometimes.”
One thing I like about your website as well, I was on there trying to catch up on anything I might have missed and it isn’t that easy to find blog posts. I don’t even know how to do that. When I go on there, if you click on Words, you are directing people to the newsletter. Here are some samples of newsletter articles that I thought was smart from a marketing perspective because it makes you want to subscribe so you don’t miss anything. I love how simple it is. It encourages people because of that FOMO. They don’t want to miss anything so they better sign up for your newsletter. Even if they batch read them, which is what I tend to do with yours especially, I’ll go through phases a couple of times a year and I’ll read twenty of your newsletters in a row and catch up all at once.
A lot of people do that. It’s interesting to me that it happens to some people. I don’t care either way if people are reading it, I’m stoked. Ninety percent of what I write doesn’t show up on the internet anymore. I don’t care enough to put it on the internet. I send it to my mailing list, enough people there read it and I feel like, “Some people read that, cool.” I feel good about that.
One word I want to pluck out, Paul, that I got excited about is you used the word enough. You said, “Enough people read it.” That stood out to me with what you said because as part and parcel of this pressure conversation or this expectation to constantly be putting out content, a part of that is not enough followers, not enough comments, not enough newsletter subscribers. There’s a whole slew of certainly our collective industry of, I don’t even know what to call our collective industry, products, coaching, and things designed to get you more subscribers, get you more followers, get you more comments, get you more likes. I love that you use the word enough.There are responsible ways to do things that give data to other entities. Click To Tweet
I took a look at one of your posts on how to build wealth slowly and compound interest and all that stuff. It’s like you’ve anti-branded yourself. There’s no logo. There’s no flashy graphic design. There’s no advanced UX architecture. It’s extremely minimalist and simple. I’m curious if that was something that you intentionally created of, “I’m going to make this minimalist.” In that conversation, I feel like minimalism and almost this anti-branding that I see with you, was that a conscientious decision for you? Also, why did you choose that?
It definitely was. My previous life was branding and design UX for Fortune 500 companies.
You’re doing website design. Didn’t you do Caren Baginski’s website?
Yes, I did do her website.
She was one of our first guests on the show. I had to give a little throwback to her.
She’s great, her and her pup doing yoga. I love it. I come from that world of branding, design, and all of that. I did marketing for some big names on the internet. It’s funny too because when I was doing that for a living when that was my only job, my website still looked different. I might have had llamas on it instead of a rat. The only logo is my little pink rat in the footer. You have to look to find that you don’t even see it. There’s one typeface. There’s not even bold or italic. I tried to make it an experiment in how minimal it could go. There’s one font size. There’s one color. It was to see how far I can take this while still making it look like it does have some design to it. Obviously, that’s important to me. I push against this.
In my work, I’m not interested in the flashiness or that aspect of internet marketing. Me doing things this way is a bit of a thumb to my nose to other people who think that that is the only way to do it. There isn’t just one way to do anything pretty much. Maybe if you’re a doctor and you’re doing open-heart surgery, maybe there’s one way to do it. I don’t know. I’m not a doctor. For websites and for marketing and all of that, you can do what works for you and what works for your audience and do it in a way that is authentic to you and it can still work.
That’s a big part of your company, have one mindset. That article about Why Staying Small Is The Next Big Thing on the Smart Passive Income podcast.
That’s also the byline on the book, Why Staying Small Is the Next Big Thing for Business.
I love how you think that you’re not sure.
The woman who runs my North American publisher came up with that byline. I was like, “That’s great. Let’s use that.”
I remember that’s what drew me to reading your book, which you sent to me. I feel that pull, that desire. I know Jason does too. He often talks about wanting to live in a tiny house. There’s this desire to minimize. A lot of people in our age range are going towards that. A lot of people in their twenties and probably even their teens are thinking, “How can I live smaller? How can I go to the bare minimum? How can I travel more?” Especially after the stay-at-home orders and whenever that will be, there’ll be a huge boost in travel because people want to get out. They want to explore. They want to feel free. Even when we’re staying at home, there’s a desire to go more minimalist.
You were saying earlier, Paul, how you’re making food at home. To me, that’s more minimalist than going to the grocery store and buying all the packaged foods or going to the restaurants which takes a lot of work and more money than if you’re at home and you’re using basic ingredients to make pasta. One of my favorite things about staying at home is it reminds you that you don’t need that much to get by and feel happy and fulfilled. The same can absolutely be true with our businesses.
My favorite thing is if the sun is out. I’m like, “If that’s happening, then whatever else doesn’t matter as much because it’s sunny.” I live in a rainforest so it doesn’t happen all the time. I agree, sometimes it can be little things. We don’t need to spend all of this money or do all these extravagant things for happiness or fulfillment or any of that. It can be little things that do it for us. If we get anything from this self-isolation, quarantine stuff, hopefully, it’s a bit of mindfulness in that area.
That’s also interesting because as human beings I feel like we’re always looking for more. Coming back to Jason bringing up the enough side of it is the fact that one of the best things that you can do to increase your mental well-being is to meditate and that’s like sitting down and closing your eyes. You can even consider listening to a podcast a form of meditation because your eyes are closed and you’re focused on something. You’re tuning everything else out and yet people want to go on this ongoing quest to find more and more, “Meditation isn’t enough. I need to go to yoga. I need to do it at a fancy studio. I need to have the right yoga clothes. I need to have the best yoga mat.” You can take something as simple as yoga meditation and add all of these things on to it. The same is true with your business or how you live. It can be simple that you don’t need all of this extra fluff. Sometimes people want those things because of that not enoughness mindset and the desire to acquire as much as we possibly can, which ends up adding more stress to us in the long run.
Stress to the planet as well. It’s interesting because if we dug deep enough into that, I don’t think we would all come up with good enough answers for why we want more. A lot of the wanting more, Keeping Up with the Joneses, comes from a place of not being introspective or not thinking about what it is that we want. How will this more serve me in any way whatsoever? Is this more something that I want? Is this more something that society wants? Is this more something that will look good to my neighbors or my friends?
It’s an excuse, don’t you think? It’s a resistance. I see this all the time with content creators and entrepreneurs. They will think of every excuse not to do something because they don’t have something, “I don’t have the right microphone.” Technically, you could start a podcast by using your headset or the microphone built into your computer. It might not sound as great but that doesn’t mean you can’t start it. “I don’t have the right camera so I can’t make videos.” If you have a webcam or an iPhone or something equivalent, you can make videos with that. If I convince myself I don’t have the right tools and I can give myself an excuse not to start because I’m afraid to start.
You said it. For sure.
The other part of this that certainly sparks a lot of introspection. The introspective part of this is, I work a lot on getting myself not only out of the comparison trap when we go back to the enoughness but preventing myself from lowering myself into the well. Not once your hands into the trap, how do you get it out, but don’t stick your hand in the trap in the first place? There’s a colleague of ours, I won’t say his name, but he’s in the health and wellness industry. He’s done well for himself and he’s massively scaled his business. I’ve worked with him a little bit and talked about how the revenues are exploding and now he’s got hundreds of employees when he started with himself and an assistant. He’s got the Aston Martin, the huge house in San Diego and all this stuff.
I find myself looking at him sometimes going like, “Why don’t I have that? I’ve worked as hard as him. I’ve busted my ass. Should I have worked harder? Should I have scaled my company to have hundreds of employees so I can have an Aston Martin, a Land Rover, and a giant house in San Diego?” I found myself meditating on why I feel so transfixed with his success and comparing it to my perceived lack thereof. I thought, “Is that even what you want? Do you want to be running a company with 400 employees? Do you want to go out and get an Aston Martin, this giant SUV, have this house and all this material stuff? Why do you even need that?”
As I descended down that rabbit hole, I thought, “You’re trying to prove something. What are you trying to prove?” You’re trying to prove that you made it. What does it even mean? It’s all the hard work, schooling, blood, sweat, tears, and all the effort finally “paid off.” Why do you care about that? This is the conversation with myself, “Because you want to prove to other people that you’re successful. All the investments, money, blood, sweat and all that stuff, made it.
Essentially, I want the approval and attention of other people or for them to see me as successful, intelligent, and a good entrepreneur. When I got even a layer deeper into that it was like, “Do you care that they think that about you?” I thought, “No, I don’t. I don’t want to run a company that big and I don’t want to deal with that stress. I don’t want to work that hard to try and impress other people.” I talked myself out of a ledge with that one.
You talked yourself out of buying Aston Martin
Don’t go to the dealership. Not that they’re open now anyway. I love that introspective part you brought up because so many times we think we want something, but we never get deeper into why we want it. Perhaps if it’s approval, attention, significance, or relevance. Are there other areas or maybe less destructive ways that we can relax into those things without grinding ourselves into the ground or perhaps even playing a role in our lives that we don’t even want to play to try and get those things.We judge things before we have any direct experience of them. Click To Tweet
If you go after somebody else’s success, the best-case scenario is you’ve achieved somebody else’s goal or dream. The worst-case scenario is you failed at something that maybe you didn’t want in the first place. It feels like a lose-lose in that scenario. For me, I always bring it back to something simple. I always bring it back to, “How do I want to spend my day?” If we’re talking about your example of 100 employees. I do not want to spend my day managing 100 people. There are some people put on this planet to manage others and they excel at that and that is not me. I am awful at managing people. It’s not a skill that I want to foster so why would I ever try to achieve that other than for my own ego or for the way that it looks to other people. I don’t have a good answer for wanting something and therefore that’s not something that I want to ever go after.
That’s exactly why awareness is so key. Jason and I find ourselves recommending awareness or concluding our episodes with, “The answer to this is to become more aware of yourself,” because it’s true. You have to get to know yourself and it takes maybe a whole lifetime. I don’t know if we ever know ourselves as it depends on your definition. Even having that awareness of the day-to-day. I’m so glad you brought that up because I still discover new things about what I want every single day. Maybe it’s even the temporary desires of what I want now. It might be completely different than what I want tomorrow and maybe I’ll have that same want a few weeks from now.
I love that idea of tapping into yourself to figure out what’s in poured into you and not what other people seem to enjoy. That’s what’s continuously confusing about social media. We get into this mindset of comparing and looking at what seems to bring other people joy but we don’t even know for sure that that brings some joy. Maybe this person that Jason’s referencing doesn’t even want those employees. Maybe he got those employees and realized, “This is not what I want, but I’m stuck now.”
For me, it’s always, “How’s this going to impact my freedom?” If my day can turn into something totally different and take me wherever it takes me, I want to have the freedom to do that as opposed to not being able to, “I have to have to work twelve hours today because I need to pay for this, that or this loan.” Maybe it’s personal but I don’t think I could create under those circumstances. I don’t think I’m strong or resilient enough as a person to be able to have all of that weight and pressure of needing to succeed, look at other people, and have all of these employees or offices around the world. To me, that would be so much pressure and stress that honestly, I don’t think that I could make anything meaningful under those circumstances. It’s not to say other people couldn’t. I’m sure they can. For me personally, it wouldn’t work.
Another thing that seems to be a thread through for you, Paul, is this desire. It summarizes what we were talking about but segues into something else I want to touch upon, which is fathom analytics. You start off on the website saying, “It’s everything you need, and nothing you don’t.” I like that because it is about what do you need and what else is fluff? What’s unnecessary? What are you doing or using simply because everybody else is using it? This tool is about private privacy and not collecting all that personal data. I loved one of your newsletters. You were saying you weren’t tracking who was opening your newsletters and who was clicking on them. It got me thinking. In your newsletter, you were saying that you felt creepy that you can track who’s opening the emails, figure out what emails to send them if whether or not they opened it. Also, what links did they click and that’s such business as usual, but if you step back and look at the privacy side it is fascinating.
Privacy is something I’m starting to get more into. I feel like I have to convince myself to care because we’re in this time where we’re so used to being so open and public and especially as content creators. Jason and I have spent our careers being open books. We share our lives on social media and you start to think, “I don’t need to be private. I don’t have anything to hide.” I’m curious about your perspectives on privacy and why it’s important and why that’s become such a big part of your career as well.
To your point, because I exist and not I exist somewhat in public as well. We can be open and transparent about some aspects of ourselves, our lives, or whatever and still have things that we hold for ourselves, loved ones, or specific relationships. You could be an open person and not on to give me your social security number on air on a podcast. That would be silly.
Is that silly? Because I was going to hand it out to you.
I don’t know what I would do with it. I don’t know how to hack anything. There can be things that we hold as private. More and more people are starting to realize that and realize that maybe some of the tradeoffs that we’re seeing aren’t worth it. What I mean by that is there’s some software that’s free. These businesses give us the software for free and they’re businesses and they’re making a ton of money. If they’re not charging us for use of the software, they’re making money through other ways. They’re mostly making money through targeted advertising and selling data.
It’s interesting because I did a survey on my mailing list and got something 1,500 respondents. There’s this push and pull between people wanting the ease of use of some of these things like Facebook and using these things to stay connected. It’s a perfectly valid reason to use social media to stay connected to other people, especially now. All we have is that and Zoom. There’s also the other side of it. It’s like, “What are we willing to give up?” If we get the knowledge of what we’re giving up, do we want to continue to give it up?” There are so many different parts of privacy, but we have seen examples of people being docs and their personal information has been put online.
Whether it’s women game reviewers where that’s happened to or even authors of business books or somebody didn’t something somebody says and their home address and things have been published on Reddit. We can take steps to avoid that. Even all of us who use email software. You legally have to put an address at the bottom of any newsletter and email you send to people. Why put your home address in there? Get a PO Box. They’re not that expensive and little things like that. Maybe use a VPN, so your ISP can’t sell all of your data to other people and things like that. I also think that it comes from coming to terms with privacy and showcases how much freedom we have in the society that we all live in. Where there are countries that will come and arrest you if they find out that you’re homosexual or other things. It boggles my mind that that happens.
On the privacy side of things, you should be able to keep things private about your life, whether it’s from your government if you’re not doing anything wrong if it’s who you love, good for you but the government shouldn’t be able to use that against you and things like that where it’s privacy. Even things that there are erosions in privacy. You tend to see the government say, “You need to give up a bit more of your privacy for security. It’s only for now like these wartime measures or something like that.” It never rolls back to, “We’re giving you back this privacy that we previously have taken away.” As citizens we need to be aware of that with governments, however, benevolent or malevolent they are.
We need to be aware of things like that because governments are there to serve us, the citizens, and they definitely have power, but they don’t have to have all of the power. On the side of technology and companies, all these private companies don’t have our best interests in mind. They want to make money. They are businesses. They’re beholden to shareholders and investors in that and they want to increase their bottom line. They’re going to do whatever they can to do that. If our privacy stands in the way of that they’re going to bulldoze over it. We’ve seen time and time again, that happening so I can’t see that changing anytime soon.
It’s interesting too especially with social media or any of these online platforms. There’s a lot of ignorance and myself included. This is something that I’ve been wanting to learn more about. I honestly haven’t made it a priority. I’m thinking back now on how I read one of your blog posts or newsletters, where you went into depth about all the different ways that you’re being private. I was thinking, “I want to go in deep with this, but it’s going to take a lot of my attention,” so I kept putting it off. To this day, I still haven’t gone through it admittedly. Maybe I’ll be inspired. I’ve also been thinking that too.
I’ve heard people mention TikTok and there are people who are concerned about the privacy side of TikTok. That’s my favorite social media network now. I realized how I’m so ignorant about what these concerns are. Here I am giving permission to a company to do things. I don’t even know exactly what they’re doing. That ignorance can be dangerous. If you see enough people doing something, you think that it’s fine. I don’t need to worry about it because everybody else isn’t worried about it. We’re all collectively going to be okay. We see that now happening with the COVID virus. If enough people around you are doing something, you think it’s safe but if all those people are ignorant, you’re not safe. You’re all putting yourself more at risk.
That’s what happened in the beginning. All of the governments were like, “There’s nothing to worry about. It’s not going to affect us. It’s like a cold.” Maybe they were saying that to keep citizens calm, but it was also completely untrue. If you saw somebody out before all of this wearing a mask, you’d be like, “What’s going on? That’s weird,” and now if you see somebody out that isn’t wearing a mask, and everybody else is wearing a mask, there’s this weird herd mentality that isn’t necessarily bad.
If we hide behind that and it is a crutch for us not to put critical thought into things that we should be thinking about, that’s not a good thing. The whole Cambridge analytical thing happened because one person asked for their data about themselves from the company. They were making billions of dollars or whatever, and they went out of business because they wouldn’t give a single person their data. When things like that happen, this is a pretty bad situation that’s happening now.
This brings up to me the intersection of responsible use and also the intersection of ethics and technological progress. Can we have some sort of global ethical standard for how we use technological advancements with not only humanity but all sentient life on the planet? I read an article and it was fascinating in terms of the intersection of trackability and safety around COVID-19 of these implantable RFID and NFC chips that are smaller than a grain of rice now. They are infantile dimly tiny, where not only do they have information storage capability but they can scan these implanted RFID chips. The latest patent was for one that has the ability to store cryptocurrency credits. The theory and this all theory, I don’t want to get into a conspiracy too much because that’s not my game.
Should I take off my tinfoil hat?
Make sure it’s extra pointy. The interesting thing about this patent, doesn’t mean that it will happen but it’s interesting to follow the possibility of wanting to have this herd mentality of, “Do you want the economy to reopen? Do you want to make sure you’re physically safe?” I only want to get into the vaccine thing but the possibility of having this technique will verify that you have been inoculated or vaccinated. If you haven’t done that and we can’t trust that you are safe or inoculated against this, we are going to withhold your ability to have financial transactions. If we end up going toward a cashless society, and we do end up going toward perhaps a global currency, who knows?
My point in all of this conversation is, the one I’ve been meditating on is the right use and ethical use of these potential technologies. Will people be like, “We can’t take it. Please reopen the world. Please let us know that we’re safe. Implant the chip in us so we can go get food, do banking, and pay our rent.” At what point do people give up their level of physical autonomy, the agency over their own bodies and their civil liberties to, “Make sure they’re functioning members of human society?” It’s a layered conversation. I’m curious how you feel about it.
A lot of people think, “You’re a privacy nerd so you must be against all things.” Even with Google and Apple jointly creating the COVID-19 contact tracing stuff and I’m like, “As long as it’s not abused, it seems a pretty good idea.” Being able to know how the virus is spread seems like useful information to have. They said that they would destroy the ability for the app to track data after that which seems a good idea. Who knows if that’ll happen? They also said that they were doing it in a way that scrubs personal data so it tracks it to a unique identifier in the phone, which could be traced back to the person but possibly not. There are responsible ways to do things that give some data to some other entities.
If it helps in that way, maybe that makes sense. Should advertising follow us around the internet? I don’t know, probably not. As far as finding a way to be able to stop the virus from spreading as rapidly as it tends to do if left unchecked, I don’t know. Maybe that’s why it isn’t black and white is what I’m trying to say. Everything in privacy is so nuanced and has so many layers that it’s worth thinking about for sure. We shouldn’t be taking people at their word a lot of the time because even if it’s a government, we don’t know their motives for saying or doing that. Critical thought in all areas of life, especially that seems not the worst idea.
It also reminds me of how we have a lot of these smart home devices like Alexa or Siri. You wonder sometimes are they always listening to us and how much data are they collecting on when we’re not even addressing them. Sometimes you say something and an ad pops up and you’re like, “That came off of a conversation that I had. That’s a little creepy.” We brushed it off as being a joke but there’s always this little voice in me that’s like, “What if it’s not a joke? What if this was a huge invasion of our privacy and a way that we’re being manipulated?” Yet the convenience of having those devices outweighs that fear.Being rich and famous is not always the answer to satisfying your needs and desires. Click To Tweet
I think about this too with my smartwatch. I have an Apple Watch and I love it. I love being able to track my steps and being reminded to stand up, take deep breaths, and all the different tracking for my personal usage. I often wonder if this data is being shared and how is it being shared? That ignorance keeps coming up to play, but it feels such an exhausting process to try to figure it out because I feel a lot of the answers are buried or maybe their conspiracy theories too.
Maybe they’re unknowable. Some companies are never going to tell us what they collect and what they do with it. That’s the way that it goes. Finding that having a medium of being able to question these things, but not letting it rule our life. It’s like having Apple devices. I wonder what they’re learning about me or knowing about me, but I also have a little piece of painter’s tape stuck over the cameras on my computers. I’m like, “I probably can’t be hacked.” Nobody’s sitting in Apple watching that but just in case, I’m going to cover it.
I still use the device. For me, I like to think about how this company is making money. What’s their business model? For Apple, it’s selling software, primarily and now they make content and some of their TV shows pretty good but for the most part, it is selling hardware. Whereas a company like Google or Facebook, their primary methods of generating profit and revenue is through targeted advertising and data. A company like that I’m probably not going to trust as much. It’s like my company. We don’t need to sell anybody’s data. One, we don’t collect it and two, it’s not our business model.
It would fundamentally hurt us as a company if we started to do nefarious things with people’s data because we built a business on being a privacy-focused company. It would only bite us in the ass if we did anything that was not in line with that. That’s why I don’t have an email with Gmail. I’m the guy who doesn’t have a Gmail account because they’re free and that means, “If something’s free and if I’m not paying for the product, I’m probably the product.” I probably don’t feel comfortable with that, so what else is there that’s out there?
This also brings up the point that it’s hard sometimes to focus on privacy and it becomes a two-class system where if you want privacy, you have to pay for it. That to me is also a little uneasy feeling that privacy and digital privacy should be a common or should be a fundamental human right. That, in the end, is why we have a free version of our software because we think that it shouldn’t be for people who can afford privacy. It should be for everybody and that’s also in layered and nuanced conversation as well.
It’s not about the financial side of it. It’s also about knowledge. I certainly find myself leaning towards free products and the more that you speak about this, the more I want to question it which is important and brings us back to awareness. It’s also about knowledge. Education and being educated is something that not everybody has access to. You have to have the skills to even research these things and being able to decipher them and understand the legal use, or whatever it’s called. Not everybody knows how to understand an article, especially if it has terms that you’re not familiar with.
That takes education and access. You might not have a lot of access to the internet. We take that for granted, but not everybody has that. If I am somebody that loves to research, I am overwhelmed by privacy. The more people that I meet, the more I realized a lot of people don’t enjoy researching or reading things. If that’s not a common desire, how many people are thinking, “I’m not even going to bother to learn because it’s too hard to understand all of this?”
Even companies know that so they make long privacy policies or lace it with technical jargon that they know most people are not going to understand. There are companies that actively are aware of all the things that you’re saying and are using it against us, which is a shame.
That’s so interesting, because on the subject of data collection and using it against us or for their financial gain, I’m not sure, Whitney, if you and I talked about this. On April 10th, 2020 on Medium, there was a fantastic article that was written by Julio Vincent Gambuto, and it’s called Prepare for the Ultimate Gaslighting. Has either of you seen this?
Yes, I do. I remember that title.
It was interesting. I’m not going to get into the whole thing because it’s a long article. The quote, “Great American Return to Normal is coming.” Governments, corporations and master marketers are going to try and basically make us feel normal again. All of the horrific discomfort, fear and uncertainty, he’s predicting that they’re going to have this all-out marketing blitz, to make sure we “feel normal” again. Surely, all of the time we’re spending on all of these platforms now and all that data makes me wonder that once we start up again. It’s going to be interesting to observe the advertising campaigns, the ads popping up on all of our feeds and the general narrative around nationalism, freedom, rights and normalcy. This whole conversation got me thinking like, “What the hell are we all in for on the other side of this?”
Every single TV commercial and there are YouTube videos of this showing videos of the Fortune 500 companies all have the same commercials now. We’re all in this together, there’s some light piano music in the background, and there’s a kid looking out the window. We’re like, “You don’t give a shit.” It bothers me. Those commercials are doing, at least for myself and some other people doing the exact opposite of their intended effect. It’s disingenuous that people can totally see through it.
Hopefully, Jason, to your point where we’re going to be marketed to shit after this because we got to get the economy back. The way we do that is by buying everything we want and every single thing that we wish we could have got when we were in quarantine, but we couldn’t get. Let’s open our wallets and start spending. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with spending money in the economy, especially locally but if we get back to mindless hamsters in their wheels doing those sorts of things, then we won’t have learned anything from all this.
It’s funny because I find myself meditating on missing certain things. I’m a big basketball fan and it’s like, “There are no NBA games on. We were supposed to be in the playoffs now. Where are my NBA Playoffs?” I had this intention of perhaps buying a new car and that’s probably not going to happen for a multitude of reasons. To your point, it’s in this minimalism and self-reliance of quarantine baking, making food at home, nourishing ourselves, and spending more time for some people, hopefully with their families, staying safe in their home space.
I was having a conversation with Whitney and our mutual friend, Adam Yasmin, who we had a phenomenal interview with on a previous episode. I’m a little bit terrified to have Los Angeles go back. We don’t know what’s waiting on the other side of this but it’s so quiet here now and peaceful. I don’t remember ever in the years I’ve lived here seen so many stars in the sky when going outside at night and looking up. One night I was like, “Holy shit. I’ve never seen these many stars in Central LA.” I’m a bit terrified at the possibility of LA “going back to normal” because I like the quiet, peaceful, clean air and stars in the sky version of LA. I don’t want to go back to regular LA.
Hopefully, there’s some happy medium between things moving and the stillness that you’re describing.
It’s a minimalist experience of LA.
I can’t even picture that as somebody who only comes and visits LA. I can’t picture LA the way that it is now.
It certainly is fascinating and I’m enjoying it as well. The environment seems to be benefiting from it and maybe our mental health will benefit too. It’s hard to say, too, because there’s a lot of mental health drawbacks to what’s going on now. It’s all a matter of perception and resources that we might have as individuals. It’s showing us that we don’t have to always be in our cars, which is a huge part of LA culture. You could work from home. You don’t have to go to the bar or restaurants all the time. You can make food at home as we’ve been talking about. I’m so curious about what it’s going to be like and to Jason’s point also nervous. From a selfish standpoint, I can’t imagine how much worse traffic is going to feel after all of this and being used to driving somewhere and a half or a third of the time.
I was looking at this, and this was probably the beginning of March 2020. I thought Apple Maps was broken. I was supposed to be somewhere else then and that trip got canceled. I was looking at the roads and the traffic part of it is broken because there isn’t any traffic and I was like, “It’s not. This is accurate. This seems amazing and also surreal.” Jason, The Last Dance is airing, which I’ve been enjoying. It’s such a good show.
What is that?
It’s a story of the ‘90s Chicago Bulls, Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman and all of this stuff that happened around that time. I’m not even a basketball fan. I know zero about basketball but it’s done in such a way that it’s a compelling story. The way that they made the documentary is compelling, so I’ve been enjoying it as well even though I know next to nothing about basketball.
Here’s an interesting question though, Paul, because you’ve worked with NBA players like Steve Nash and Shaq. The interesting thing as a fanboy and as a former basketball player myself who’s psychotic about the sport, in that instance, as not being a fan of NBA basketball, approaches those particular projects. It’s like, “I’m going to work with two of the most famous basketball players, two MVPs.” Without having a background of basketball knowledge, how did you approach those projects not necessarily being a fan of the sport?
At the time, I wasn’t a fan of any sports. It started because the agency that I was the creative director of, the guy who ran the company had relationships with a bunch of agents and the agencies represented a lot of players. As a sports fan. It is part of my job. These are clients that I work with like Joe Blow who I’m doing a website for. It’s another person. It was cool that they would sometimes have parties. This was in the ‘90s, it’s a long time ago but they would have parties to launch their websites and I get to go to those and that was neat. Otherwise, it’s like, “This is my 9:00 to 5:00. This is what I’m doing for work.”Adapting with change is an important skill. Click To Tweet
I remember getting hassled because I did a bunch of work with NFL players too before I even liked football. This was probably years before I liked football. I was going to the Super Bowl in Tampa and I was at the border crossing at the airport. The border crossing person didn’t believe that I worked for the NFL. They’re giving me a super hard time. I was some dumb twenty-year-old. I was like, “Yes, I work for them. I’m going to the Super Bowl. It’s work.” They’re like, “No you don’t.” I don’t know how to answer this. I ended up selling my tickets because somebody offered us a bunch of money for them. I was like, “I don’t care. I don’t even like sports.” I sold it so I didn’t even go. I went to Tampa but I didn’t go to the game and now I’m such a big football fan. I can’t believe I didn’t go to the Super Bowl when I got free tickets. It boggles my mind that it happened.
Did you scalp these like the old school way of, “I’ve got two tickets, everyone. Who wants Super Bowl tickets?” Did you do an old school scalp or put them on Craigslist? How did you scalp the tickets?
I know the agent that gave me the tickets was like, “Do you want to go, or do you want $2,000 so I could sell it?” I was like, “I want $2,000.” I don’t even know how he sold them but it was his friend who gave him money. That’s probably cheap now for Super Bowl tickets. I don’t even think you could get Super Bowl tickets for a couple of grand. That was such a funny time. I cared so little about sports. It was like a work trip. I had to go to some function and that function was the Super Bowl and I didn’t go. It’s so weird. It feels like so many lifetimes ago.
Speaking of lifetimes ago, another thing I want to make sure we touch upon are rats. You mentioned it briefly as a little icon for your website. What’s it called when the URL browser shows your icon?
The rats there too. I don’t know if you remember that but it’s so cute when you pull up your website and you see the little pink rat. I always associate you with rats. I know you don’t have any now but you’re one of few people I know that’s had them as a companion animal. It’s so sweet how you associate certain people with their relationship dynamics and in some cases, it’s animals. I remember you sharing about your rats and when we met up in LA in 2019, I was learning so much I didn’t realize they only lived for a few years. Is that right?
Yes, they don’t live for long and it was too hard on my heart to deal with that. We haven’t had rats for long. It was 2018 or January 2019 when the last one passed away. I have a friend of mine who’s one of the most talented watercolor painters in the entire world painted a picture of him. I’ve got it hanging above my desk in my office.
That is so sweet. It is heartbreaking because when you talk about rats and you shared about them, it made me want to have one in my life but then when I learned that they don’t live that long, I thought, “I don’t know if I could or would want to put myself through that.” It reminds me of adopting older animals and it’s the same thing. You see all these animals that need homes, but if they only have maybe a few years of life left, it makes it challenging. It’s such an interesting mental thing because it depends on where these animals are coming from.
Jason helped rescue a cat and I had a similar deliberation with myself, which was I wanted to foster it. I thought if I foster this cat, I’m going to end up keeping the cat. I don’t know if I’m feeling mentally prepared or set up. There are all these other factors. It’s such an interesting thing with animals. Sometimes it’s as simple as a decision or sometimes it feels complex and you have to weigh out all the pros and cons emotionally.
We’ve never given back a foster.
It’s almost a given. We know how this is going to end up, but we’re going to play the game of “fostering.” I also think the cool thing about rats is probably in my first serious relationship when I was between 18 and 21. This young lady that I dated, her sister and her husband had pet rats and it was my first exposure to companion animals that were rats. It was a shattering of the probably the commonly held cultural narrative that there are dirty, diseased, and creepy creatures. I got to know these rats.
This was also right around the same time that I was making the transition into a vegan lifestyle. I remember starting to extrapolate this newfound mentality around these rats to other beings. I realized I had an invalid narrative around farm animals, pigs, cows, and things like that. Not that I had this, but I realized it was a societal narrative around black cats and how black cats and black colored animals are the highest euthanization rate in shelters. There’s this narrative that their pets have witches and witchcraft, and they’re evil. Black cats and black animals are evil. To me, it’s wonderful that you’ve had this beautiful connection with this species. It shatters this myth and this deeply held narrative that we judge things before we have any direct experience of them. Once, we as you humans, have a direct experience quite often sometimes, maybe not in all cases, but those cultural narratives can be changed and dramatically changed.
That was the only reason why I was on Instagram and I quit Instagram after I had rats to show people like, “They’re not just vermin or for laboratory testing. They are smart like dogs and cats. They’re affectionate and cuddly. They get to know their human family.” I’ve worked from home for many years and most of the time, when we had rats, they would crawl up my leg and sleep on my lap because they want to be part of their social creature. They want to be part of that. Even friends coming over who would feel like they should be repulsed by them and then seeing one fall asleep on her back in my hands, I’ll be like, “How can you feel repulsed by a little creature that is cute?” Part of why I love rats so much is because they’re misunderstood, little underdogs. It’s tough. As much as I would love to continue to adopt them, and yes, rats are adoptable the local shelter typically has adopted 2 or 3 rats. I can’t even go in there because I know we’ll make decisions to go in, take them, and never bring them back. There’s such a misunderstanding and the people have such a visceral reaction to them without having ever spent time in their presence or without ever questioning or examining why they feel that way because they saw one in a movie and it did something wrong or something like that.
We’re in New York City. If they see a rat, everyone’s screaming. You see the great images in New York City of rats eating pizza and carrying it down the Subway, and you think, “That’s cute and smart.”
All of our rats love pizza too.
If you go to PJRVS.com/rats, I love that site and I remember reading this probably through one of your newsletters, Paul. It’s about finding your rat people. You start off by saying, “When most people think about rats, they shudder in revulsion. Rats are often associated with thoughts like dirty, skin crawly, Halloween decorations, unwanted house guests, or even laboratory subjects.” You start to translate into 1%. The other 1% is the people that love rats and even have them as pets. You translate into finding your rat people and I thought that was such a cool subject matter that you might want to touch upon here.
It’s funny that I wrote that several years ago and it’s still the piece of writing that I wrote that resonated with most people for the longest amount of time. When I wrote it, I just wanted to explain about rats and how they relate to creativity but it’s something that stuck with the people who read my stuff. What I was going for with that was we are never going to make everybody happy and our audiences creative. The majority of people in the world who are never going to see how wonderful rats are as a species or as animal companions. There are certain people who love rats and who share recipes for rats. I would make their own organic vegan kibble. One of the reasons why we started to get rats, was we found that they do well on a vegan diet, live longer, and are less prone to cancer because rats either die of lung infections or cancer at about two years. If they are on a whole foods vegan diet, then they live a decent amount of time longer.
That’s probably true with many animals, as long as they’re omnivores.
Yes, like humans. Part of what I related in that article was that you don’t have to find everybody to appreciate what you do. You just have to find that 1% of people, the rat people. It’s funny, too, because people in my audience still call themselves rat people, which I never named them but this article has been making the rounds forever. It speaks well to what we were talking about enough and you don’t have to have the biggest audience or the biggest number of people who appreciate, love, and support your art or creativity or whatever it is that you do. You just have the right people do that and that can be enough.
I love this because the idea popped in my head, Paul, of the nichiest product ever, which is like, “The Organic Whole Food Vegan Rat Food Cookbook.” It’s specific, Paul
It exists. I own a copy of it. It’s a PDF. I don’t know if it’s still on the internet. This was probably years ago, but there is a whole foods vegan cookbook for rats. There are some fruit and vegetables they cannot eat, so it went into that. It’s like, “How to have the best diet for your rat companions?”
When I looked it up, one of the first hits I came across was a website called The Rat Guru.
Maybe that’s what it is.
This is a great little website. There’s a website called Rat Chat and the video is called Can Rats Be Vegan? This is interesting when you get into this. I love that it came full circle because it is about that enoughness. I don’t know how many people feel this way but I know amongst entrepreneurs, small business owners, content creators, and influencers, there’s this idea that you always have to have more people. There’s also that great article or book about finding your 1,000 True Fans and how true that is. Especially on social media or podcasting and anything that you do online. There’s this pressure that we feel to have more people but having more people doesn’t always translate into sales, engagement or whatever it is that you’re after.
It’s important to keep coming back to finding the right people, and it’s like friends. Do you need to have 5,000 friends on Facebook? No. Are those people even your real friends? Is it even possible to have 5,000 true friends? One thing that I’ve learned a lot about myself during quarantine is the people that I feel most excited to text, to call, or to have Zoom chats with, there aren’t that many. It’s like, “Who do I think of during this time? Who do I want to check in on? Who’s meaningful in my life?” Those are my rat people. Those are the people that I want to be connected with that are important to me.
I’ve seen the same thing with my work online and with our work with Wellevatr and this show. You don’t need a massive following, but it’s tough because there’s a lot of societal or cultural pressure to have big numbers online. That’s probably one big benefit that you have, Paul, with not being much on social media. Your business isn’t even built around having a massive following. You’re more focused on your newsletter and you’ve built a great community of people on there. Those connections are valuable. More and more, that’s what I find myself wanting, to get away from this pressure to have the numbers and the vanity metrics.
I would even be scared to be famous. The biggest nightmare would be if somebody recognized me at yoga when people could do yoga together and like, “Isn’t that Paul Jarvis? Look at the way he’s doing down dog.” That to me would be bad. I’ve watched a couple of TMZ episodes, which is interesting because they’re doing it on Zoom. They’re talking about how the quarantine life isn’t that much different for these big celebrities because they’re famous. They have been quarantined since they rose to fame because they can’t go out. They can’t do things outside of being mobbed by people and some of them aren’t as affected as the rest of us because this is what their life was like previously. It’s slightly different now, but I would never want to be in public. I don’t know why people want to be famous. It seems like the worst thing that could happen to a person.
Can I share something that is the complete flip side of this coin fall? It’s funny you brought up whole foods. I wanted to be famous for so long and once I realized why I wanted to be famous, I started to let that desire dissolve itself. The grocery store thing and being recognized in yoga class, I remember saying to myself that if I get famous enough to be recognized at the grocery store, I’ll be satisfied. When I had the TV series on the Cooking Channel and people would recognize me in the grocery store, I was like, “I’ve made it now.” It didn’t change my life though. Once I’m “this famous,” somehow I’ll have a better life and I’ll feel better about myself. None of that ever happened. It was cool when I was younger to say that weird thing of, “If people recognize me in the grocery store,” but then when it happened, life was no different on the other side of it.
I realized that chasing fame or that desire to be famous was just a subverted desire to get the approval and acknowledgment I never got from my father growing up. That’s all it was. I also started to think about how many emotionally damaged or traumatized people come to Hollywood to “get famous” just to try and get the approval, attention, and love they didn’t get from their parents or their family members. That was the case for me. Once I identified that, I was like, “I don’t need to be famous anymore,” because I see that the core of it is just trying to get something I didn’t get from one of my parents. I should probably go to therapy instead.
You wanted all of this thing because of one person. This is completely a person with an important relationship in your life. To bring it back to Tim Ferriss, he wrote a blog post about fame and he talked about a suicide note that was addressed to him. The weight of that, I don’t think there’s enough therapy in the world for me to be able to deal with something like that if that happened to myself. I don’t know how I would be able to process something like that. That’s why I said I don’t wish fame on anybody that I like because it seems like it’s a double-edged sword. Jason, to your point, that when we’re chasing these external things and this validation from external sources, and for not figuring out how to validate ourselves internally, then there’s always going to be a bigger hill over the hill we’ve summited, whether it’s fame, money, or something else. There’s always going to be something next unless we figure out like, “What do I need for myself?”
We talk about this a lot, too. When you see celebrities that have chosen to end their lives and you think like, “Why did they do that? They had it all. They have the best life. They had money, fame, romantic relationships, children, and all these other things.” We don’t know how they’re suffering inside. Jason, I’ve mentioned this in multiple episodes, but it’s always worth mentioning that Jim Carrey quote, which I’ll let Jason share because I know he likes to share it.
He said, “I wish that everyone could be rich and famous beyond their wildest dreams so they could see that’s not the answer.” The biggest one for me on this topic, Whitney, as you brought it up about celebrity suicides, was when Robin Williams took his own life. That was a sledgehammer to me because there are certain artists that have passed their art and their creative work as artists have impacted and changed my life in myriad ways. Robin Williams was one of those people that you have a perception of him as being one of the funniest, joy bringing humans that ever walked the Earth, pure joy, electricity, fun and playfulness. He kept that childlike spirit of joy alive in him. He’s a man with beautiful homes, millions of dollars, and fame beyond fame. He’s one of the most famous comedians in our history. If he did that, what’s going on under the surface with all this? What are we missing as a culture that promotes that once you attain that level of notoriety, fame, money, and influence, then suddenly you will have reached Nirvana? That is the script. I remember when Robin took his life, I was like, “This is not the script I want to be living out.”
Jason, to bring up something that you and I experienced on a smaller, lighter level. I remember years ago when we went to yoga and there was this well-known actor who was in our class. It was distracting to be in a class with somebody like that, but I also felt bad for this person. How could he focus on enjoying his yoga class when everybody in the room was paying attention to his every move? After class, they went up to him wanting to get pictures or autographs and all of that. I remember the energy you could feel him and how uncomfortable he was to be in that position. He wanted to be a normal person going into a yoga class and focusing on that experience. He didn’t want to be that famous guy in class.
This is my perception, but I imagine that with that pressure and living in Los Angeles, we experience these things a lot. I’ve been in a number of yoga classes with people I recognize and they’re trying to do their thing but it’s a challenge. You wonder how isolated they must feel. Some people might think, “I’m not even going to bother going to yoga class,” and they miss out on these things. To your point, Paul, they are in quarantine. I sit here thinking, “Sure, I could do yoga at home, but I want to go to yoga and experience in person with a group of people.” I haven’t thought about how awkward it would be if everybody was watching me, what I was wearing, and what I look like. Was I doing the moves right? How I would also feel bad that it was taking them out of the present moment because they were fixated on me.
After a yoga practice, I can barely form words and sentences. That would be a bad time. I’ve split my yoga shorts down the back seam in yoga, and if I were famous, that would have been on TMZ in five seconds because it’s the funniest thing ever. In a small town and a small yoga studio, I knew everybody anyway, so it’s like, “That just happened.” The teacher is like, “Do you want to keep going?” I was like, “Yes, whatever.”
Lucky you, there’s no Google Search, “Paul Jarvis butt crack exposed.”
What if I pulled it up and somebody did do that? You’re like, “I’m famous, and this is not the way that I want it to find out.”
I do have a page on my site because people search for it all the time. It’s the most ridiculous thing but people look for, “Paul Jarvis net worth.” I made a page on my website, that’s me in a tune of a rap song in sweatpants fanning out a couple of Canadian dollars in front of a 1989 Suzuki Esteem that isn’t even mine. It’s the dumbest thing that people are searching for my net worth so I made a video making a joke about it.
Paul, where, in the name of God, did you find an ‘89 Suzuki Esteem?
It’s an amazing car. It was a loaner car. Somebody hit one of our vehicles so we had to take it into the shop. The shop was like, “I’m sorry. All of our loaner cars, except for one, are with customers. This is what you got.” I was like, “I’m a big car guy anyways. I don’t like just nice cars. I also like older cars.” I’m pleased with this vehicle.
That is a rare one. That’s why I freaked out. I’m like, “He had a Suzuki Esteem.”
I pulled up the page on your website and the music is perfect. Everybody needs to see this. It seems like something Jason would do, too. The two of you, I feel like I’m glad I made this connection because we’ve got vegan food, animal lovers, sports fans, and semi car enthusiasts. What car do you have, Paul? When I saw you, you’re debating about what to get and if you’re going to keep what you had.
You’re gracious enough to give us a ride in your amazing car and we ended up getting the same thing.
How do you feel about it?
It is amazing. I didn’t want to like it as much as I do because I feel like everybody is like, “This is such a fun car. This is such a cool car.” I was like, “They’ve all drank the Kool-Aid.” I got one and I drove it and I was like, “This is such a cool car. This is so amazing.”
You geek out about it. When you guys geek out about sports, it’s like, “I love my car so much. Sometimes, I feel materialistic, but it brings me joy.” Whatever brings you joy, it’s that’s your own thing. It doesn’t matter if it brings other people joy or they think that they have all these different notions of you. Cars are interesting in that sense, but I can completely relate and I can geek out about it all the time. I remember Jason when I was thinking of getting the car and he’s like, “Everybody’s going to have that car because of the price range, how cool it is, and what you can get for the money.” He was concerned for me and that stopped him from getting the same car or gave him some pause but I don’t feel that way at all. In fact, when I see that car on the road, I feel equally as excited for that other person. I feel like when I pull up to the other people that have the same car, I want to look over at them and give them a high five and a thumbs up.
It’s probably different because you all live in a big city, but we wave to other Tesla drivers and they wave back. We live in the middle of nowhere on an island, there are not that many Tesla drivers, but we all wave at each other here.
That happened to us. Jason and I did a road trip to Colorado, and we took the car and had to start going to all these different charging stations. Remember Jason, we ran into the same people in a different town because they were on the same road that we’re on, so we would keep seeing them over and over again. They pulled over at one point just to say hi to us again. It was a neat experience.
It is interesting how similar passions catalyze people and bring them together. This is one of the beautiful things about our wiring to be social as human beings. “That thing lights you up? Cool. That lights me up, too. Let’s hang out.” It’s such a sweet simple thing. One of the things that are keeping people perhaps sane in the quarantine period is how people can still use technology to share their passions about basketball, food, cars, and human connection. I feel like it’s intrinsic to our mental and emotional health as human beings to have those shared connections and those shared passions.
I thought that the NFL draft was going to be weird because they did it virtually. It was a Zoom call with everybody, but it ended up being probably better than the previous years because you got to see all the coaches and the GMs in their houses with their families. A lot of them were surrounded by their kids while they were making draft picks and you got to see the players in their houses. It was an endearing look into the more human side of that, which I thought was nice.
Because of all of our shared interests, we could probably talk for hours. That’s one of the joys of doing a remote show. As much as we love having guests in person and hopefully, we can do another one with you, Paul, next time you come out here, whenever that will be. It had been a long time since you had been to Los Angeles. Isn’t that right?
Yes, but that was because we had been caring for rats for long. There’s not kennels or places that you can bring rats to board. There are not that many rat sitters that we know. One of the reasons that we’re taking a break from adopting is that we can do things like travel. When the border opens back up then we will be able to do things like that with somewhat more frequency.
I hope you come back to Southern California. You know a lot of people here. Have you done a road trip in your car yet?
No. We can’t do much. I still go for drives every now and then but I don’t want to be out if we don’t have to be, so we haven’t been doing a whole lot.
You like road trips because you drove down here last time. Doing a road trip in that car is one of the most amazing things. It’s probably the best road trip car I’ve ever been in. Jason said the same thing. I look for any excuse to take it on long drives. It’s comfortable. The one thing is though that the windows need a tint because Jason and I took a road trip one summer and it was hot because the windows are clear. Jason was rigging up towels or blankets along the windows to shade out the sun. Other than that, it was great. It’d be great to connect with you in person and it’s been wonderful to have this chat with you. I hope the readers enjoyed all the different directions we went on here. Jason, is there anything else that you wanted to touch upon?
There’s one big curiosity, Paul, that I have as we wrap this up, but it’s something that feels compelling enough to ask you. Going back to Tim Ferriss, I saw an interesting video that he posted of a conversation he had with Ryan Holiday. It’s on Tim’s YouTube channel. He was talking about living in Austin, Texas in a smaller city versus the New York, San Francisco, LA conversation. As an artist, creative, or entrepreneur, the advantages and disadvantages between being in a smaller locale or smaller city, what probably most people think of if they want to go big is the New York, SF, LA thing. You’re living remotely where you do in Canada. What has that been like? What was the decision process to do that versus a prototypical choice for a lot of artists, creatives, entrepreneurs, and small business owners, which is to go to one of the big cities to “make it?” Why did you choose that? What have you noticed living there versus the big city lifestyle?
I grew up in the Toronto area and I lived in Downtown Vancouver for probably a bit over a decade. I have lived in a big Canadian city, at least, but part of it was that it was always on and there was always stimulus. That can feel good sometimes but it can also feel draining or tiring sometimes. I wanted to see what it was like to remove that constant energy and noise from my life and see what would happen if that was the case. Part of what made it easier, like part of what makes quarantine a bit easier, is that I had already established friendships and connections with people in my industry and outside my industry where we could still stay in touch or we could still do things together every now and then. I definitely remember, as almost visceral, the feeling of there is no stimulus other than my thoughts and I’m alone with my thoughts and they’re scary.
That was the biggest thing right at the beginning of going from a city of millions of people and living on the main street in Vancouver to a town of probably about 1,000 people in the middle of nowhere. I have my own thoughts unless I figure out how to deal with going internal, “This is not going to go well for my mental health.” Having to deal with that initially was difficult, but then I’m better for not figuring it out. I don’t think you can figure out everything there. Being able to be present enough to deal with things that come up internally was good. It’s interesting because we live on an island that when we’re on the mainland, it feels like as soon as we get on the boat, we can breathe a bit better and then once we get off the boat back onto the island, it’s like, “I can take a full breath.”
It’s interesting to be in big cities even though that’s what I’m used to. That’s what my partners used to for probably twenty odd years but the path becomes addicted to the pace of there not being a pace. A friend of mine from Southern California was here and he was like, “When I look at your windows, nothing’s ever happening.” I was like, “I know. Isn’t that great?” He’s like, “No.” I’m like, “There is a lot happening. You just have to sit with it for a little while. You can watch the seasons change. We have a myriad of animals who show up on our lawn all the time.” They know that we’re vegan and they’re safe here so they’re always around.
Rabbits, squirrels, raccoons, all sorts of birds, and some kind of burrowing rodent that I should know what they are. A vole, maybe. I’m not sure what kind of burrowing rodent they are. Also, lizards and snakes. We have deer and bear, but we have a fence because I had a big garden so you don’t have deer and bear inside our acreage. That’s too bad. I wish I just fenced off the garden so sometimes, I could look out the window and there would be a bear or something sitting on the lawn. I don’t know if that happened but in my mind, if we hadn’t fenced the whole property in, then maybe it would. It’s a different pace and maybe it isn’t right for everybody. I have no idea, but it suits me well. It’s something that took a while to get used to but now that I’m used to it, I don’t think I could go back to the pace, noise, and intensity of a city, but I do like it sometimes. Even when I’m in Los Angeles, Seattle or Vancouver, I do like being in those places, especially that there are more vegan restaurants that I could possibly eat at. That to me is the most amazing thing in the world because there isn’t a ton here and all the ones that are here, we’ve been to many times. They’re good, but we’re used to them.
We have the same thing though. You might be used to whatever you have.
The grass isn’t always greener.
Maybe it is because just you describing how you live sounds amazing. For the most part, I feel happy in Los Angeles, but it’s also might be happy because I’m used to it. Maybe I would feel happier living like you do and your perspective that I can walk to some of the best vegan restaurants in the country, but I don’t go to them that much. They’re old news. It’s more fun in a way when you go to a city that you don’t get to visit much and you get to try it. It reminds me of Jason and I would look forward to going to New York once a year when we were traveling for business and there was this one cafe. Bringing it back full circle, it’s a boba cafe called Boba Guys. Every trip, he was like, “You’ve got to go to Boba Guys. They have the best boba in the country.” They opened up a couple of locations in Los Angeles and it’s not exciting anymore. You’re like, “We can go there anytime we want. It’s not a once a year treat.” The same thing happened with a number of restaurants that were in different cities and came to Los Angeles. Now, they’re too convenient. You might have the perfect scenario there. I also remember you hadn’t even tried the Beyond Burger or something.
No. It’s Impossible. Because they don’t have Impossible in Canada yet. I tweet them every couple of weeks.
Can you get it shipped out there or no?
I don’t know.
I could ship them. How about that? I’ll send you a little Impossible beer package.
I appreciate that, but I want to keep it where it’s something exciting when we are in America that it’s such a treat because we can’t get it here. It’s like the Cinnaholic. I don’t know if they have them anywhere other than Seattle, but in Seattle the first place that I go to is Cinnaholic.
Jason, don’t they have one still in LA?
There’s one in Echo Park that came here years ago and it was the same effect because anytime we would go to the Bay, especially to the OG location in Berkeley, it was like, “This is crazy.” Now that there is one, ten minutes from my house.
It’s still great.
I don’t want to get meh about Cinnaholic. I need it to be just once a year treat that I get.
These are good lessons to remind ourselves and that’s one thing that’ll be nice about the stay at home orders being lifted. The things that we appreciate that we haven’t had a chance to experience in a while and the things that we used to take for granted. Going to a restaurant is going to seem exciting or going to a concert whenever we can do that again, or the movie theaters and seeing how much things shift, and also be sad coming back to yoga. I don’t know if my yoga classes will ever be the same. They may never have as many people in them and some of my teachers will not be teaching classes at the studio. I might not go to that studio anymore. There’s a lot of things that are going to shift. Even if they seem like they might be unpleasant shifts, we’ll get used to them again, and new things will happen.
Coming back to the normal thing that we were talking about, things are always changing. We like to think that we have security but change is happening every single moment and sometimes, it’s subtle and we don’t even realize it. Being able to adapt and be okay with those changes is such an important skill that we’re all learning and I’m grateful for that for sure. As much as we’ve enjoyed speaking with you, Paul, this is the time that it comes to an end. Thank you. This has been so wonderful to reconnect and to share you with our audience. Do you think that you shared some things that you don’t normally talk about? That’s always my hope.
There’s definitely some stuff in there that I don’t usually talk about.
Although maybe you’re an open book like we are. You’ve done many podcasts and many articles. There’s so much of your life that’s been touched upon. This has been a little mishmash of Paul here.
I contain multitudes.
I’m excited to dive more in and I am certainly wanting to check out Fathom and finish your book, too. This whole conversation has inspired me. I’m going to go back through the archives of your newsletters and do my annual or semi-annual review of all of your newsletters I have not yet read. I look forward to seeing what goes on and what’s next for you. I can’t wait for your vegan rat recipe cookbook.
We’re happy to promote that, Paul. We’re happy to promote all your stuff, but in particular, the nichiest of the niche. We’ll get it all over the place.
Thank you, Whitney, and thank you, Jason. I appreciate it. This is such a fun conversation to have, so I appreciate you, guys!
Thanks for being here. You will find our free resources and eBooks like You Are Enough, From Chaos to Calm and things for you to keep yourself well on a physical, mental and emotional level at Wellevatr.com. We will be back with another fantastic episode for you to digest like tiny little vegan whole food rat kibble.
- Paul Jarvis
- Company of One
- Fancy Food Show
- Beyond Meat
- Blog post – Tim Ferriss’
- Tim Ferriss
- Reply All
- Rich Roll
- Ezra Klein Show
- The Privacy, Security & OSINT Show
- Fetch The Bolt Cutters – Fiona Apple
- Caren Baginski.com
- Caren Baginski – Previous Episode
- Why Staying Small Is The Next Big Thing – Pat Flynn article
- Why Staying Small Is the Next Big Thing for Business
- Prepare For the Ultimate Gaslighting
- Adam Yasmin – Previous Episode
- The Rat Guru
- Can Rats Be Vegan?
- 1000 True Fans
- Blog post – 11 Reasons Not to Become Famous
- Paul Jarvis net worth
- Video – Tim Ferriss’ YouTube interview with Ryan Holiday
- Boba Guys
- You Are Enough
- From Chaos to Calm
About Paul Jarvis
Paul Jarvis is a writer and designer, not always in that order. Paul Jarvis is a writer and designer who’s had his own company of one for the last two decades. His latest book, Company of One, explores why bigger isn’t always better in business.
He’s worked with professional athletes like Steve Nash and Shaquille O’Neal, corporate giants like Microsoft and Mercedes-Benz, and entrepreneurs with online empires like Danielle LaPorte and Marie Forleo.
Currently, he teaches popular online courses, hosts several podcasts and develops small but mighty software solutions.
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