Founders

Founders

Learn from founders that came before you. For every episode I read a biography [or autobiography] of an entrepreneur and pull out ideas you can use in your life.

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    Ben Horowitz (Opsware & Andreessen Horowitz)

    I share my experiences in the hope of providing clues and inspiration for others who find themselves in the struggle to build something out of nothing. —Ben Horowitz

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    Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk

    Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk use different strategies to build rocket companies.

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    Sam Zemurray (Cuyamel Fruit Company/The Banana King)

    Sam Z, Sam the Banana Man, El Amigo, the Big Russian, the Gringo –he was not an easy person, nor is his biography without controversy. To some, it's the story of a great man, a pioneer in business, a hero. To others, its the story of a pirate, a conquistador, who took without asking.

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    Ed Catmull (Pixar)

    Ed Catmull is the founder of Pixar and the current president of both Pixar and Walt Disney Animation. Trained as a computer scientist he pursued the goal of creating the first feature length computer animated film. After 20 years he achieved his goal. Having worked with both George Lucas and Steve Jobs, Ed has accumulated a lifetime of knowledge on how to build and maintain a creative environment. He share his ideas in the book Creativity Inc: Overcoming The Unseen Forces That Stand In The Way of True Inspiration.

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    Levi Strauss (Levi Strauss & Co)

    0:01 Levi was one of the men who set that firm foundation

    2:12 Leave a review on Apple Podcasts, take a screenshot, and email it to foundersreviews@gmail.com and I will reply with podcasts that I created exclusively for reviewers

    17:35 I do not have at this time a specific occupation...I will share the fate that has been assigned to me

    22:29 Enduring hardship for the ultimate goal

    29:24 A hole in the market

    42:00 Levi starts his business cold

    54:18 The dangers of shipping by sea

    1:04:42 Inventing Jeans by accident

    1:10:00 Overnight success 20 years in the making

    1:17:40 How Levi was able to serve customers who were illiterate or spoke another language

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    Jack Ma (Alibaba)

    0:01 Crazy Jack

    6:59 The internet is filling the void created by state planning

    20:35 Jack has made a career out of being underestimated: “I am a very simple guy. I am not smart. I might have a smart face but I’ve got very stupid brains.”

    24:43 Jack’s early life / Discipline and Curiosity

    40:00 Jack Magic: “ Nobody saw the opportunity in this business. We didn’t make much money at first, but Jack persevered…I respect him tremendously for he has a a great ability to motivate people and he can invest things that seem hopeless with exciting possibility. He can make those around him get excited about life.”

    47:06 Jack’s first time on the Internet

    55:45 Another lucky break: Meeting Yahoo Founder Jerry Yang

    57:02 Making money from shrimp

    1:00:43 The worst deal he ever made

    1:04:45 Masayoshi Son: Founder of Softbank

    1:10:16 Be the last man standing

    1:13:32 Ebay vs Alibaba: A case study in what not to do

    1:23:00 Yahoo’s billion dollar bet

    1:27:00 Jack’s unique reaction to the financial crisis

    1:33:12 Alipay’s ownership changes ( one of the craziest stories I’ve read)

    1:46:10 If I had another life, I would keep my company private

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    Peter Thiel (PayPal, Palantir, & Founders Fund)

    1:45 Culture Eats Strategy

    3:56 Conspiracy as a metaphor for a company.

    6:02 It is a story of poetic justice on a grand scale plotted silently for nearly a decade.

    15:25 Something in these pages planted itself deep into Thiel's mind when he first read it long ago.

    21:40 It was ruthless efficiency and hyper competence.

    34:36 You were driven to entrepreneurship because it was a safe space from consensus and from convention.

    38:52 What if I do something about this? What might happen? What might happen if I do nothing? Which is riskier, to act or to ignore?

    59:06 Sometimes these books teach us what not to do.

    1:11:10 Unknown unknowns > known knowns

    1:25:47 How you do one thing is how you do all things.

    1:30:35 He had always been aggressive. He wouldn't have gotten where he was in life if he wasn't.

    1:32:38 Companies routinely focus on silly things.

    1:37:17 The greatest sin of a leader.

    1:41:37 How powerful and resourceful is Peter Thiel?

    1:47:29 Just keep asking why.

    1:53:37 Gentlemen: You have undertaken to cheat me. I won't sue you for the laws too slow. I'll ruin you. Yours truly, Cornelius Vanderbilt

    1:58:50 Brilliant thinking is rare but courage is even in shorter supply

    2:01:39 The business version of our contrarian question is: What valuable company is nobody building?

    2:16:11 This Twisted logic is part of human nature, but it's disastrous in business. If you can recognize competition as a destructive force instead of a sign of value, you're already more sane than most.

    2:19:53 Steve Jobs saw that you can change the world through careful planning. Not by listening to focus groups feedback or copying others success.

    2:21:05 You can have agency not just over your own life, but over a small and important part of the world. It begins by rejecting the unjust tyranny of chance.

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    Elon Musk #2 (SpaceX, Tesla, and PayPal)

    0:47 I don't want to be the person who ever has to compete with Elon

    2:45 Musk expects you to keep up

    4:41 Short of building an actual money-crushing machine, Musk could not have picked a faster way to destroy his fortune. He became a one-man, ultra-risk-taking venture capital shop

    5:22 Revisit old ideas

    7:49 It was not unusual for him to read ten hours a day

    9:32 His approach to dating mirrors his approach to work

    10:59 Humans are deeply mimetic

    14:37 Thinking from first principles

    17:40 What it is like to work with Elon Musk

    19:28 He would place this urgency that he expected the revenue in ten years to be ten million dollars a day and that every day we were slower to achieve our goals was a day of missing out on that money

    23:29 What he went through in 2008 would have broken anyone else. He didn't just survive. He kept working and stayed focused

    25:39 A tenet of Elon's companies: make as many things yourself as possible

    27:31 The power of the individual in an age of infinite leverage

    29:37 The Internet taught me nearly everything I know. It is the modern day equivalent to the library of Alexandria, except it's much harder to burn to the ground. It is indispensable for realizing human rights, combating inequality, accelerating development, and quickening the pace of human progress

    30:19 Focusing on the endpoint

    32:00 Grand Theft Life

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    David Packard (Hewlett-Packard)

    0:01 How Steve Jobs was inspired by David Packard

    1:00 Books are the original hyperlinks

    4:30 Profit is the measure of how well we work together

    9:00 HP's first product

    11:00 Podcasts before podcasts

    14:00 Many of the things I learned in this process were invaluable, and not available in business schools.

    15:00 More businesses die from indigestion than starvation.

    16:30 The importance of maintaining a narrow focus

    20:00 Growth from profit

    21:00 Lessons from the Great Depression = No long term debt

    26:30 A Maverick's persistence

    29:00 How to avoid layoffs in a recession

    30:20 Employees should outgrow you

    31:00 The perils of centralization

    35:25 Closing with optimism

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    The Wright Brothers

    2:30 Unyielding determination

    4:00 Jocko's concept of GOOD

    6:30 The ability to focus on an idea for a long time is the antidote to short bursts of dopamine we get from checking social feeds all day.

    13:00 The beginning of their side business

    16:00 The importance of heroes

    18:30 Rereading / revisiting old ideas

    22:00 Books transformed idle curiosity into the active zeal of workers

    24:30 Wilbur Wright on risk: “The man who wishes to keep at the problem long enough to really learn anything positively must not take dangerous risks. Carelessness and overconfidence are usually more dangerous than deliberately accepted risks.”

    25:00 Jeff Bezos on stress

    28:00 Discover things for yourself

    31:00 Success it most certainly was.

    33:30 Profitability of flying machines

    35:00 The distribution channel of flying machines

    38:00 Wilbur Wright on the idea of flight: "In the enthusiasm being shown around me, I see not merely an outburst intended to glorify a person, but a tribute to an idea that has always impassioned mankind. I sometimes think that the desire to fly after the fashion of birds is an ideal handed down to us by our ancestors who, in their grueling travels across trackless lands in prehistoric times, looked enviously on the birds soaring freely through space, at full speed, above all obstacles, on the infinite highway of the air."

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    Paul English (Kayak)

    7:00 Kayak sells for $1.8 billion

    12:00 I'm paying attention. I want meetings of three people, not ten.

    15:00 Someday this boy's going to get hit by a truck full of money, and I'm going to be standing beside him.

    22:30 A description of Paul's bi polar disorder

    31:00 The economics of games

    36:30 Learning how to negotiate from his Dad

    43:00 The Internet has massively broadened the possible space of careers. Most people haven't figured this out yet.

    50:00 Leaving a $1,000,000 behind.

    55:00 Applying the lessons he learned from watching his Dad negotiate

    58:30 The entrepreneur of ice.

    1:01:00 Consistency doesn't matter. Only invention matters.

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    Henry Ford #2 (The Ford Motor Company)

    :01 A theory of business

    7:30 If an old idea works then the weight of the evidence is all in its favor. (the Lindy effect)

    11:00 All people are not equal

    15:00 "That is why I never employ an expert in full bloom"

    19:30 "I quit my job on August 15th, 1899 and went into the automobile business"

    25:00 Henry Ford's philosophy on constant change

    26:00 Henry Ford's 3 conclusions about business

    29:45 Traits of a prosperous business

    34:00 I cannot discover that any one knows enough about anything on this earth definitely to say what is and what is not possible. . .We get some of our best results from letting fools rush in where angels fear to tread.

    40:00 Fix the problem. Do not think money will be the solution.

    44:00 Over come fear. Be free.

    52:30 Fuck your feelings

    56:00 Henry Ford's 4 principles of business

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    James Dyson (The Dyson Company)

    :01 I am a creator of products, a builder of things

    13:30 The best kind of business is one where you can sell a product at a high price with a good margin, and in enormous volumes.

    16:00 One sentence summary of this book: Difference, and retention of total control

    20:00 Misfits are not born or made; they make themselves

    24:30 The parallels of running and building companies

    30:00 People who inspired him

    34:00 I am only celebrating my stubbornness. I am claiming nothing but the virtues of a mule

    43:00 When selling something new, do not mix your messages. Consumers can not understand multiple new ideas

    47:00 Entrenched professionals are always going to resist more than private consumers

    55:00 Don't make your products too wide. Narrow it down

    1:02:01 The "Edisonian Principle of Development"

    1:15:00 Total control is what this whole thing had been about

    1:18:00 James' Design Philosophy

    1:31:00 If you make something, sell it yourself

    1:33:00 James' Business Philosophy

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    Danny Lewin (Akamai Technologies)

    3:00 When Danny was excited about something, you couldn't help but get excited too

    6:00 Steve Jobs had one speed: GO!

    10:00 Danny joins Israel's special forces

    19:00 "Life is too short to be bored. Only boring people are bored."

    22:00 The idea for Akamai

    28:00 "If he didn't know something, he'd go learn it."

    31:00 Building a company the right way

    35:00 Finding a business model

    38:30 Passion is worth $500,000

    42:00 The first product

    44:00 "My goal was to express it in layman's terms so that your grandmother could understand it."

    45:00 Finding the right price/model

    48:10 The best salesperson

    54:00 "Hi, this is Steve Jobs, and I want to buy your company."

    57:00 "I have this company of one hundred ten people, headed by one of the biggest businessmen around with lots of money in the bank, and I'm just a graduate student."

    58:30 "In less than one year, a tiny startup out of MIT had grown to a company with a market valuation than that of General Motors"

    1:00:00 The last day of Danny's life

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    Jim Clark (Netscape, Silicon Graphics, & WebMD)

    0:01 He grew up poor, dropped out of high school, and made himself 3 or 4 billion dollars

    8:00 New Growth Theory

    11:15 "Growth is just another word for change."

    15:00 "The notion of what constituted useful work had broadened."

    18:00 "If everyone was patient there'd be no new companies."

    21:00 Turning his life around at 38

    30:00 Jim's idea to avoid the Innovator's Dilemma

    33:00 The beginning of Netscape

    38:00 The fast eat the slow

    40:00 The people you don't want

    43:00 The difference between a pig and a chicken ("They had wanted to be chickens; Clark forced them to be pigs")

    48:00 All chips on 00 / Diversification is for idiots

    56:00 Moving the goalposts / "Mama, I'm going to show Plainview."

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    Evan Spiegel (Snapchat)

    0:01 I'm not going to work for someone else

    7:45 Early design decisions of Snapchat

    10:00 Steve Jobs and Edwin Land

    13:00 How Snapchat convinced people to download the app

    16:00 How Facebook created the environment for Snapchat to grow

    21:00 The problem of standard

    23:00 Evan on conforming

    27:00 Mark Zuckerberg's first move on Snapchat

    34:30 A great quote from Jeff Bezos

    36:30 Digital Dualism

    39:00 Snapchat Stories

    44:45 Evan's framework for Snapchat and the Internet Everywhere

    50:00 Learning from messaging apps in Asia

    55:00 Brands are not social. People are.

    59:00 Evan's philosophy on the distinction between privacy and secrecy

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    John Carmack & John Romero (ID Software/DOOM)

    :01 The business model of podcasts

    19:00 Intro to Masters of Doom: How Two Guys Created an Empire and Transformed Pop Culture

    30:00 "We’d like to be painters, we’d like to be poets. We’d like to be writers, but as everybody knows—we can’t earn any money that way. What do you want to do? When we finally got down to something which the individual says he really wants to do, I will say to him you do that—and um—forget the money. If you say that getting the money is the most important thing, you will spend your life completely wasting your time...You’ll be doing things you don’t like doing in order to go on living, that is to go on doing things you don’t like doing, which is stupid! It is absolutely stupid! Better to have a short life that is full of what you like doing than a long life spent in a miserable way. And after all, if you do really like what you’re doing, it doesn’t matter what it is—somebody is interested in everything—anything you can be interested in, you will find others who are..." —Alan Watts

    36:00 John Carmack's personality and early life

    44:00 If you want to understand the entrepreneur, study the juvenile delinquent

    51:00 How ID Software was born

    57:00 How the two Johns process time

    1:00:00 The shareware business model

    1:06:00 All of science and technology and culture and learning and academics is built upon using the work that others have done before

    1:15:00 ID Software financials

    1:21:00 Keep things simple: Just focus on making great games

    1:25:30 The business model of Doom

    1:37:00 The beginning of the end of the partnership between John Carmack and John Romero

    1:44:00 Different philosophies on how to run a business / what happens when you abandon frugality

    2:00:00 In the information age, the barriers just aren't there

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    Danny Meyer (Shake Shack & Union Square Hospitality Group)

    :30 This is not a typical business book

    4:00 Why don't you just do what you've been thinking about doing your whole life?

    8:00 How Danny learned from other founders on what to do and what to avoid

    18:00 The smartest business decision I ever made

    20:00 Optionality as a nonnegotiable

    23:30 Inadequate focus on core product

    27:00 The founding of Shake Shack is an example of this great quote from Jeff Bezos: "We know from our past experiences that big things start small. The biggest oak starts from an acorn. If you want to do anything new you’ve got to be willing to let that acorn grow into a little sapling and finally into a small tree and maybe one day it will be a big business on its own."

    38:00 Advice from Stanley Marcus (Neiman Marcus): "The road to success is paved with mistakes well handled."

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    Steve Jobs #2 (Apple, Pixar & NeXT)

    0:30 Learning from great company-builders

    5:00 Steve Jobs verbal mastery

    10:00 The failed negotiations between NeXT and IBM

    18:00 "But how can he be a turnaround expert when he eats his lunch alone in his office, with food served to him on china that looks like it came from Versailles?"

    22:00 "You can't go to the library and find a book titled The Business Model for Animation. The reason you can't is because there's only one company [Disney] that's ever done it well, and they were not interested in telling the world how lucrative it was."

    29:00 Bill Gates on Steve's simplicity

    33:00 Steve Jobs on being an artist

    34:00 Apple pays half billion dollars to rehire Steve Jobs

    38:00 "The company is one of the most amazing inventions of humans, this abstract construct that is incredibly powerful."

    42:00 Unlocking secrets

    45:00 Who gives a fuck about the channel?

    52:00 "It's not about how fast you do something, it's about doing your level best."

    55:00 Deep Restlessness

    59:00 "Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven't found it yet, keep looking. Don't settle."

    1:08:00 Bill Gates on the negotiations between Pixar and Disney

    1:12:00 Buy Becoming Steve Jobs: The Evolution of a Reckless Upstart into a Visionary Leader

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    Yvon Chouinard (Patagonia)

    1:00 If you want to understand the entrepreneur study the juvenile delinquent

    4:00 Being an 80 percenter

    12:30 Why are you in business?

    24:00 How you do one thing is how you do all things

    27:30 Innovation vs Invention

    32:00 Ideas should come from as close to the source as possible

    34:00 Nonfiction marketing

    37:30 Quality as a financial strategy/ no exit strategy / natural growth

    44:00 Management by absence / decentralization / evolution as opportunity

    57:00 The way toward mastery of any endeavor is to work toward simplicity

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    Jeff Bezos (Amazon & Blue Origin)

    :02 The Philosopher CEO

    9:00 Jeff Bezos in his 20s and the idea for Amazon

    21:00 Jeff Bezos’ regret minimization framework

    32:10 Customers not competitors

    40:00 Bezos on work life harmony

    43:00 There will be no John Sculley at Amazon

    46:30 Focus on the customer and frugality

    51:30 The founder of Costco gives Jeff Bezos advice

    59:05 “If you’re not good, Jeff will chew you up and spit you out. And if you’re good, he will jump on your back and ride you into the ground.”

    1:02:30 Jeff’s counterintuitive point on communication: “Communication is a sign of dysfunction.”

    1:08:15 A different approach to meetings/ working backwards from the press release

    1:13:00 No room for gatekeepers in the digital age

    1:15:01 An email from the first CFO of Amazon

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    John D. Rockefeller (Standard Oil)

    0:51 He preferred outspoken colleagues to weak-kneed sycophants.

    4:21 Able to ship by water or land Rockefeller gained the critical leverage he needed to secure preferential rates on transportation.

    8:11 Often times the most difficult competition comes not from the strong, the intelligent, the conservative competitor. But from the man who is holding on by the eyelids and is ignorant of his costs.

    9:14 As someone who tended towards optimism, seeing the opportunity in every disaster, he studied the situation exhaustively instead of bemoaning his bad luck.

    15:47...as did Rockefeller's decision that the leading men would receive no salary but would profit solely from the appreciation of their shares and rising dividends. Which Rockefeller thought a more potent stimulus to work.

    21:04 He had a fanatical desire to control expenses...rooting out any inefficiencies. As a result his business was much more more profitable than other refiners.

    29:12 An instrument of competetive cruelty unparalleled in industry.

    37:58 Rockefeller engineered his most important coup. The swift, relentless consolidation of Cleveland's refineries...Rockefeller swallowed up 22 of his 26 competitors. [The Cleveland Massacre]

    47:56 It looks like they are selling to Camden so they can get together and fight Standard Oil. But they are selling to Standard Oil. They just didn't know they were selling to Standard Oil.

    49:26 It's very hard to compete with someone you don't even know exists.

    55:38 By the end of the 1870s Standard Oil was refining over 90% of the oil in the United States.

    58:29 He constantly expounds on this idea that you shouldn't waste time nor money. That they were very much interrelated. He didn't waste his time talking to people...what people call networking now. He just worked. He came up with his ideas and then worked everyday to enact those ideas.

    59:27 He wasn't one to persist in a flawed situation.

    1:00:55 Success comes from keeping the ears open and the mouth closed.

    1:02:13 Do not many of us who fail to achieve big things fail because we lack concentration. The art of concentrating the mind on the thing to be done at the proper time and to the exclusion of everything else.

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    Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook)

    1:25 Microsoft had offered Mark between $1 million and $2 million to go work for them. Amazingly, Mark had turned them down

    8:01 Maybe he knew he was about to cross a line. But he had never been very good at staying in the lines. From Mark's history it was obvious that he didn't like the sandbox. He seemed the type of kid that wanted to kick out all the sand.

    11:23 He didn't care what time it was. To guys like Mark time was another weapon of the establishment. The great engineers and hackers didn't function under the same time constraints as everyone else.

    14:36 Mark wondered: If people want to go online and check out their friends couldn't they build a website that did just that?

    21:19 Mark. Founder. Master and Commander. Enemy of the State.

    24:20 Instead of attacking Baylor head on they made a list of schools within 100 miles of it and dropped Facebook in those schools first. Within days the kids at Baylor begged for Facebook on their campus.

    32:38 Mark Zuckerberg had found his place in the world

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    Elon Musk Part 3: How and Why SpaceX Will Colonize Mars

    4:38 In the most recent 1% of our species short existence we have become the first life on earth to know about the situation

    8:41 The total market for satellite manufacturing, the launches that carry them to space, and related equipment and services has ballooned from $60 billion in 2004 to over $200 billion in 2015

    9:13 Here is what SpaceX does: it takes things to space for people for money. Here is what SpaceX really does: it is an innovation machine trying to solve one big problem. The astronomical cost of space travel

    20:35 For 1% we can buy life insurance

    23:26 Up until 25 years ago there had never been such a thing as a global brain of god like information access and connectivity on this planet

    31:21 Musk has said he doesn't care that much about your degree. Just raw talent, personality, and passion for the SpaceX mission

    40:14 For domestic launches the ULA charges the government and the US taxpayer $380 million per launch. For a similar launch the US government pays SpaceX $133 million

    45:55 Life has to be about more than just solving problems. There has to be things that inspire you

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    Elon Musk Part 2: How Tesla Will Change The World

    7:02 At the time he was already running SpaceX and trying to colonize Mars, so launching a startup car company wasn't something he could really fit into his calendar.

    10:43 The overarching mission wasn't to build the biggest car company in the world.

    15:06 "If a little company in California can do this, why can't we?" —Bob Lutz, Chairman of GM

    21:05 The moment the person leading a company thinks numbers have value in themselves, the company is done. The moment the CFO becomes the CEO it is done. Game over.

    31:28 A study of Tesla isn't about a car or a car company. It is about how change happens. And about why it often doesn't happen.

    37:41 Change doesn't happen on a familiar landscape. Change has to construct the landscape itself.

    40:41 That's how to spread the brainwaves of a single person throughout a huge industry and the global public. By the time it's done everyone will think a lot about electric cars.

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    The Cook & The Chef: Elon Musk's Secret Sauce

    (3:55) Which leaves only two options: create or copy.

    (6:04) Conventional wisdom: If something is both a good idea and possible, it's already been done.

    (14:10) I'm fascinated by those rare people in history who manage to dramatically change the world during their short time here, and I've always liked to study those people and read their biographies. Those people know something the rest of us don't and we can learn something valuable from them.

    (20:28) Musk calls this reasoning from first principles. One of the most important parts of this podcast.

    (27:08) Conventional wisdom screamed at the top of its lungs for him to stop.

    (31:42) Your entire life runs on the software in your head. Why wouldn't you obsess over optimizing it?

    (36:17) We mistake the chef's originality for brilliant ingenuity.

    (41:16) The reason these outrageously smart people are so humble about what they know is that they are aware that unjustified certainty is the bane of understanding and the death of effective reasoning.

    (45:41) Conventional wisdom worships the status quo and always assumes that everything is the way it is for a good reason. And history is one long record of status quo dogma being proven wrong again and again, every time some chef comes around and changes things.

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    Thomas Edison

    (11:00) Edison starts his first business at 12 years old

    (20:00) Edison's discipline

    (38:00) Edison's rivalry with Alexander Graham Bell

    (1:00:00) Edison's friendship with Henry Ford

    (1:15:00) Edison's stoic nature

    (1:21:00) The death of Thomas Edison

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    Walt Disney (The Walt Disney Company)

    The life and times of Walt Disney based on the book Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination. Betrayal, triumph, family, tragedy, Disneyland, and death.

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    Elon Musk (SpaceX, Tesla, PayPal, & Zip2)

    (0:01) The case for reading more biographies

    (8:00) How to spend $180 million

    (23:00) Mice in space

    (45:00) Pain, suffering, and survival

    (1:10:00) Conclusion

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