Let’s Dive In

Today we’re joined by Noah Kagan, who is the Chief Sumo at Sumo, AppSumo, and KingSumo, where he helps entrepreneurs become more successful. He was the 30th employee at Facebook, number 4 at Mint, and also worked at Intel. Noah works to help people be armed with the tools to create systems in online businesses and market themselves more effectively. In today’s episode, we talk about maximizing your unique abilities, effectively using time, why Noah values coaching, and so much more.

Show Notes

  • (3:34)- How do you create things people look forward to
  • (4:29)- Being honest with yourself
  • (7:02)- Challenges to getting started
  • (10:13)- Surround me with support
  • (14:28)- My unique abilities
  • (18:18)- Effectively using time
  • (20:59)- Coaching is an art valued beyond what we see
  • (25:10)- Accountability
  • (31:21)- Coffee Challenge
  • (32:30)- Serendipity and intentionality  in learning
  • (34:32)- How do you choose a coach
  • (36:17)- Unlimited opportunity
  • (39:58)- Money doesn’t make you a different person

Podcast Transcript

This is Noah Kagan. And you’re listening to The Mind of Airborne podcast.

Misbah:

Welcome to The Airborne Mind Show. I am your host Misbah Haque. And in these conversations, I like to explore what mental frameworks drive people to do what they do. Also, have strong feelings about talking to people who are deeply entrenched in and passionate about their work. I’ve always been drawn to ideas, art, and people that have a perspective that I can learn from. And so, along the way, we’re going to share and explore ideas that leave you with more context. You’ll pick up things that might be educational, empowering, inspirational, or simply entertaining. And because you’re listening, I have a free gift only for podcast listeners that you can grab if you head over to mizhq.com. Today’s episode is brought to you by Revive RX. Revive RX is my recovery of choice and that is because it is 100% clean.

Misbah:

There’s no BS and it tastes absolutely phenomenal. My favorite is the Strawberry Recover, what I also call ‘the pimp juice’. I take four scoops after my workouts, and occasionally I’ll do the Rebuild, which is a pure protein versus the Recover, which is a 2-to-1 carb-to-protein ratio. And if you want some educational material around supplementation and nutrition overall, I recorded some short videos with Marcus Filly that you can get exclusively at theairbornemind.com, so check that out. And if you’re in the market for supplements, head over to reviverx.com and use the code ms10 at checkout. Today, my guest is Noah Kagan. He is someone who I believe needs no introduction but in case you aren’t familiar with him or his work, he started companies like sumo.com and appsumo.com. Kingsumo, 

Misbah:

where he helps entrepreneurs and provides a lot of actionable business advice and is a genius marketer. Before that he was the 30th employee at Facebook and number four at Mint.

Misbah:

And he’s also worked at Intel. This conversation is so valuable to me because going into it, I’m not going to lie, I was nervous. And was so genuinely surprised, I shouldn’t say surprised, but I felt so at ease talking to Noah. He took such an interest in what I was doing, what I was up to the end of the first several minutes of this conversation that I didn’t even include was just totally getting to know me. And he is so easy to talk to, so fun to talk to and recover a lot of amazing information in this episode. So, I hope you enjoy this conversation as much as I did. And more importantly, I hope you do something with it. Noah, welcome to the show.

Noah:

Thanks for having me. 

Misbah:

I’m so pumped too, because I was sad because I heard you on your podcast say that you weren’t going to be releasing weekly episodes anymore, but I’m still appreciative of the fact that you’re going to be doing it once in a while, maybe once a month. And there’s an element of surprise to that that I think is going to make this exciting. So, thank you for coming on and I’m excited to explore inside your brain as we talk today. Yeah. This is like free therapy for me.

Noah:

The podcast now is once a month, give or take. And I think with any of creation, a lot of it is knowing how to create things that people are looking forward to. So, I think with more time I can have better episodes, more selective, and then people are actually looking forward to it. I think sometimes with all these podcasts, there’s so much stuff out there that you just get overwhelmed. I think with more selective stuff, it’s like, “Oh, there’s one there. Finally. Let me go look for that.”

Misbah:

Well, within that episode I appreciated how honest you were around, “These were my goals for the year. I hit some of them and I didn’t hit some of them.” It can be very easy to look at someone like you who has such a colorful portfolio and think, this guy has it all figured out and never messes up, that type of thing. And so, to have you be like, well, I also don’t hit my goals 100% of the time, that can be very cool to explore. So, I’d love to actually start with, I’ll give like a little background on what you’ve done and all of that stuff, but take me back to before you got fired from Facebook, even before that, when you were just getting started in your career. 

Misbah:

Tell me what you were interested in, what you were exploring which led you down the path that you’re on.

Noah:

I’m pretty much the same exact person. Hopefully, a little bit more responsible and I would say higher integrity, over the years where I don’t use my student ID for a discount anymore. I’m 36. It’s kind of weird now, like your bald, you’re not in school anymore. What I’ve always done in my life and in work and personally, is just explored things that I’m curious about and interested in. And I go pretty aggressive on them for a good 12 to 18 months. And that’s things that I’ve always been interested in. Bicycling is something, and love biking. It’s so liberating. And then I’ve always just loved technology. I grew up a few miles away from Apple. My dad was a salesman.

Noah:

My stepdad was an engineer and I’ve just loved all the gadgets. And was like, man, we can get porn on this thing. I’m like 10 years on. This is crazy. It was downloading at one kilobyte a second. Those are the things that I’ve always been curious about. Also, think I’ve always liked talking to people. Sometimes, I think when people try to start businesses or do things, they think they’re not good at anything. And I think when looked back at myself, one of the things I’ve always done is always liked promoting people and when I become the star of it or when myself become the person that they’re wanting to know about, I’m like, it’s not really about me as much. I do like attention. 

How do you create things people look forward to

Noah:

But I think what I’ve always done well is to find things that just love: people, products, services, software; and done my best to promote them. And that’s what I’ve been exploring and doing throughout my life.

Misbah:

I love that. Well, it seems like from watching and reading and listening to some of the things that you put out, it seems like the business and the marketing aspect of things comes naturally to you. What was something that was difficult as you were getting yourself going to learn and to grasp? Were there any challenges for you?

Noah:

No, I’m pretty much perfect. I mean, ask my Jewish mother, she literally says, “you are the most handsome person I’ve ever seen. The most handsome.” Also, think my natural tendency was marketing. I’m not a trained marketer. In college, I didn’t get a marketing degree or anything like that. And I don’t even really call myself a great marketer. People are like, you do marketing. Or I think it’s just more when I find something really attach with or really connect with, I’m excited to go tell people about it. So, when I was at Facebook or at mint.com, when we started AppSumo or sumo.com, all the different things we work on, one, I just want these for myself.

Noah:

At Facebook, I was like, “can meet cool people, find girls, all this stuff,” or at Mint, I love personal finance. It was cool. It was free and I can help to share it with the world. Then it was just exploring how to do that, how to get that out there, which is trial and error. I would say in terms of things I’ve struggled with in my twenties, my struggle was sticking with things. And I think that’s a common issue. We all think our problems are unique. “My family is so weird. I have the weirdest.” No, you don’t, everybody’s family is weird. And everyone thinks I give up sometimes. Yeah, you give up, you don’t still wear the same clothes from elementary school.

Noah:

Because why? You’re bigger. But we have guilt around it. So, I’d say in my twenties what I was weak at it and still suck at, is that I just didn’t want to stick with things. And I actually started feeling guilty about that. In my thirties, what I’ve realized is that there are two parts to it. One, you do stick with stuff. I still eat food. I still brush my teeth twice a day. And still have certain relationships. I still exercise and bicycle. I still follow through with a lot of things, but certain things don’t serve me. And the wisdom I hope I’ve gotten is that it’s okay to figure out what you’re strong at and go hard on it. And the things you suck at, which is maybe for me sticking with certain things, find someone else who’s actually better at that.

Being honest with yourself

Noah:

And I think in my twenties, had a lot of guilt around that and I’m like, “it’s my Achilles heel. I just need to stick with stuff no matter what.” It didn’t serve me. I said, let me find people who are happier doing things that I’m not. And I’ll do the parts that they’re not. So, like starting businesses, I don’t think I’m gifted or savant. I just asked, how do I start something without spending money or spending any time? And I always try to shortcut to get something going. Then once it’s going, the stimulation is not as interesting for me. But there are other people who, once it’s moving, they’re excited to work with it.

Misbah:

Interesting. How early on did you figure that part out where you said, okay, this is what I’m good at, and now I need to kind of surround myself with other people who can take care of these other things to help this thing grow and to move? Where in the timeline did that happen for you?

Noah:

People ask me that, sometimes I attract a lot of people to our business through videos of exercise that happen to be shirtless and get attention. It’s just a tool that’s going to allow the ecosystem of our business to grow so that we can have great coaches work with these people and we can elevate. 

Noah:

Probably when I turned 30. One of the earlier stories is when I was 23 in the Bay Area. I’m born and raised in the Bay Area. Do you know Chewy Gomez? I’m too old. It was on the radio. This thing, the radio. Yeah, with dials. Anyways. I used to run conferences because I just wanted to meet people. I’d never put on a conference before. I found things that I was interested in, and was like, man, want to learn more about social networking. I want to bring all these people together to talk about it. So, I did it and it was amazing. It’s called Community Next. And we put on maybe four or five conferences. Hundreds of people came, we made thousands of dollars.

Noah:

I wasn’t even trying to make money. And the two things that I noticed were number one, I liked coming up with ideas and did like organizing, but I worked well with someone who was a behind-the-scenes type that would just make sure it gets tightly done. So, my buddy Devin and this girl named Karen helped do that. That was part one that I noticed for things that I wasn’t strong at. But in part two, you have to find someone who wants to continue things. If you look at change, there’s zero to one change. And then there’s one to two. Zero to one is my strength. And one to two is other people’s strengths. So I didn’t get someone to continue the conferences and I just let it fizzle out because didn’t even think, and don’t really want to keep doing conferences.

Noah:

I’m tired of it. But I could find someone who’s excited that these are making 50,000 each time. And they could run it and expand it. We can go global, blah, blah. Contrast that with another guy who started doing conferences, Charles Hudson. He found people that could continue it. And he ended up selling his conference business for millions of dollars. And so, I didn’t learn it then. Then, I started another business where I didn’t get people to support me and not blaming anybody else. It’s myself. And so only when I turned 30, my business partner Chad was able to be, it’s not that he likes the more boring part, because we’ve talked about this, but he is more okay that I can get something started and then can take it to that next level.

Challenges to getting started

Noah:

And that’s actually where the compliment and balance are with certain things. He wants to go to an office every day. And to me, that seems like the worst thing. But for him, it’s not that office aren’t necessarily inherently bad but likes the routine. He likes seeing people. He wants to have his drive and doesn’t want to have that separation from his office, where I, on the other hand, thrive in the chaos. The more chaotic my day is around certain focus like if the one product I’m working on is very chaotic and not defined, I love that shit. Well Chad, it’s not that he doesn’t like things to be happening. He’s just as good, if not better, on the stability part. He’s married and probably has life insurance, where I ride my motorcycle without a helmet, not encouraging that by the way.

Noah:

Maybe in my forties, I’ll change again. But I think the point is, find what you’re strong at, go fucking crazy on it, and don’t feel so damn guilty for what you suck at, but find someone that is complimentary around it. And that took me until 30 to finally figure out. I always had feared I’d fuck up my company. I always had feared. My dad did it. He grew this big company. And then unfortunately drugs and alcohol happened, which sounds so horrible. He was a good drunk, but he did a bunch of that, and it fucked up his company and lost everything. So, you have that fear that, oh, I’m going to grow this company. 

Noah:

And we started making millions and I keep thinking, I’m going to lose it all and filling out my LinkedIn resume. I think I have to get this job on LinkedIn.

Noah:

Hopefully, McDonald’s will hire me. I found people that can complement me in Chad and Ayman, Anton, Eric, these guys that are much more stable and it advanced and skilled at parts I’m not. And so, I think everyone got to reflect on what they’re good at, what their strong parts go harder on it, and not try to get stronger on their weaknesses.

My unique abilities

Misbah:

Well, what would you say? Because you said that in some areas of focus in that chaos, you can thrive in that. Right? So, what is the superpower, or what is the unique ability that you have?  Or what are some of those areas of focus? This is something I’ve thought about a lot recently and I’ve had such a tough time, reflecting and going back and forth. I think I know what it is and then maybe it’s not. And actually, earlier at 4:00 AM this morning, I had a coaching call with somebody who helped me get to the bottom of this. And it got me super pumped. We’ll dig into that in a bit. But coming back to some of those areas of focus, over time, what have you extracted from that? Like I’m good at X.

Noah:

Things I’ve done well at have a very clear goal. Let me give you an example. I did this charity thing. Bo Jackson has a thing called Bo Bikes Bama, and there was a bike ride, and I wanted to fundraise and I had a target. And think with most people in life, they don’t pick clear targets. I talked to this guy recently, he said, I’m going to grow my businesses. I asked him how much and he said, “I don’t know, I just want it to grow.” And so, I think had a very clear goal, which was to raise a certain amount of money. Then to me, next is what’s the list of everything we need to do to be able to raise $25,000.

Noah:

I wanted to raise $25,000. I started asking, well, what if we had this? And what if we have this? Then how do I get this guy involved? How do we get this person involved and this girl and this thing? Also, then how do I put the website together and how do I get my emails and record everything? I had all that stuff going on. And then once it’s over and we’ve done it, I’m totally done. I thrive on that part. And think people like feeling productive, especially in America. We like the feeling of productivity, right? We like the feeling of being busy. But I think what I’ve always wondered is if people are always so fucking busy, then why aren’t they doing impressive stuff?

Noah:

Have you ever met someone and they’re always busy or can’t meet or flake? They’re not even doing big things. So, the thing I think for myself, I can’t tell anyone else what to do, number one, are you working on the biggest opportunity possible? I learned this from one of my favourite books of all time, called Essentialism. I was talking to Greg, the author of it. And he was saying, “if you write a blog post, or do a podcast or do video or do mainstream TV, or do a big stage, how many people can you actually reach if that’s part of your goal?” And it was just a mindset of how big are you going?

Noah:

And then number two, I think what most people are making mistakes on is that they’re trying to be productive on the wrong things because it feels like it moves things forward. I don’t know if they’re actually taking enough time to think about whether this is really the most effective thing to do at the time. I think that’s why people are busy, but they’re not actually being productive. One of my favourite stories about that is from Gary Halpert. And I love this example, but he’s like, “you can be paddling as fast as you want. You’re the fastest paddler in your canoe. No one’s ever seen a faster paddler, but you’re paddling up the wrong river.” It’s probably just like health and fitness. 

Noah:

I have this friend, he goes to the gym all the time, but he still looks like shit. I’m like, dude, stop going to the gym. You’re fucking eating like crap and are doing the thing. You’re going through the motions, but you’re not doing the most effective things that are really going to improve you.

Effectively using time

Misbah:

I think a part of that, it seems like you almost have to experience some of it before you’re like, okay, never mind, that was not the most effective use. I’m in that boat where I need to start saying no to things more. I’m somebody who has a tough time doing that. So, I’m looking around, I am getting to be that busy person. And there are parts of what I’m doing that are super effective and are a good use of my time. And then there are other things that I’m like, should I really be doing that? I’m having that reflection process that you just mentioned.

Noah:

I think people kind of wonder, how do I know if I’m working on the right thing? Great question. The way I like to look at it is what is my goal for the year? People have different timeframes, but about a year is what I can do. So, what’s my goal for the year? And then every week I plan out my week on Sundays. I just start clean and like retarded. I don’t know shit. What are the most valuable things that will move me towards my goal? Let me look at my goal. What three things can I work on this week that’ll move me forward? And then put that shit in your calendar and it’s done. I love it. And even if you work at a company, this is the same thing I would recommend.

Noah:

What would help you and the company grow the most? And then are you working on the most important thing? Some of the best people I’ve ever worked with at Sumo, at Facebook, and so forth, are the ones who challenge what’s going on. Like Anton and David and Chad, all these guys that I’ve worked with ask, why are we doing this? Is this really the biggest thing that’ll move us towards this goal? I tell them they’re good. I should listen to my own advice sometimes. So, the other thing is if you’re not sure if working on the most effective thing, go to someone you trust and who talks shit to you and ask for feedback. So, if it’s a coach if it’s you if it’s your friend, but someone who’s not nice to you. Someone who’s a straight shooter.

Surround me with support

Noah:

I talked to my friend, Adam Gilbert, he runs mybodytutor.com. It’s similar to you. It’s a health business, focused more on executives. And I texted him about three months ago. And I said, “Hey man, this work thing, I hate this thing at work. And I hate this thing and I’m whining about all this stuff.” And he goes, you’re being powerless. I thought, that is rude. That hurts my feelings. But he’s like, you’re being powerless. What can you do about it? That’s why he’s my friend. If you’re not sure if working on the most effective things, go to someone you respect or someone who’s getting a bunch of shit done and then ask for that feedback or show them what you’re doing to get that feedback on it.

Misbah:

Well, this is where I think that the coaching aspect really comes in because, being in the fitness industry and people who are listening to this, when they think of coaching, it comes back to fitness, nutrition, lifestyle, that aspect. But sometimes I think we forget that coaching is this art that’s beyond just this community. It can be applied to comedy, dance, speaking, learning Hebrew, whatever it might be. And it seems to be something that you value a lot too. I’ve heard you mention that anytime you want to get better at something, you recommend getting a coach. In that coaching call I had this morning, this person is a straight shooter. She doesn’t beat around the bush at all. And gave me some real gems and the real truth.

Coaching is an art valued beyond what we see

Misbah:

And what was the real stuff? It was the fact that I get a lot of my energy from being alone. And she’s like, for your personality type, you need four to five hours a day of alone time to write, to think. You’re processing so many thoughts in one minute that other people can’t understand how many thoughts you’re processing. Like a baseball player, how many thoughts are going through their head is almost zero, which is why they can focus and be so in the flow and amazing. You are the opposite end of that spectrum. There are so many ideas and thoughts going on in your head, that if you don’t take that time, will literally end up in a mental ward at some point because you’ll be so overwhelmed.

Misbah:

So that led to this whole idea of your highest ability is being able to connect with people one-on-one. But then on the other end, she said, your time is too valuable to sell in that aspect of connecting with one-on-one. Think about what is it that you truly want to do that you can direct that energy towards.

Noah:

No, that’s right. I think one thing that I’ve noticed from coaching, has so many different coaches. I have a Hebrew coach and a magic coach. I have a health coach and had a fantasy football coach. I did mountain bike coaching. These people have already done what you want to do. Why wouldn’t you just short circuit it and get the things that they’ve already gone through and the wisdom? The things I’ve now learned now that I wish someone would have told me at 25. But sometimes you also have to experience it. The other thing I think about coaching, or just help in general if you want to improve anything, besides having a very clear goal, is that the key is having accountability. That’s actually the part that most people don’t realize with coaching.

Noah:

Like I have a Facebook group it’s called Healthy Sexy Motherfuckers. It’s free. We don’t sell anything. It’s not public. It’s private. There are about 30 of us. And I started it and I literally kick people out if they don’t post. And all you have to do is post your workout once a week. People post selfies and all this stuff. I’ll tell you, when I see people who worked out today, I’m going to go work out today. Here’s a good example. My friend Eric showed up last night. He’s been traveling but he just showed up last night and he looks like a fat ass, dude. He looks disgusting. I’m like, bro, you gained up.

Noah:

I didn’t say it in front of people. Because I don’t want to embarrass him. I’m like, you are disgusting. And it’s not that my body’s like David or whatever it is. But I was like, bro, you need to lose weight. And we’ve done these challenges so I said, all right, do you want to lose weight? Yeah. I don’t really like where I’m at. All right, well, what do you think you could be at in three months? He said 195. He’s 215. And he’s a good-looking dude. All right, 195. Then what would be painful? What’s your punishment if you don’t accomplish it? If it’s something not painful, he’s not going to give a shit. So, I said wanted a new refrigerator. It’s going to be top of the line dude. 

Noah:

Like I’m going to have someone live in my refrigerator. So, it’s probably going to be like a $2000-4000 refrigerator if he doesn’t follow through in three months. So, that’s the accountability. I’m going to collect on it and hopefully, he accomplishes it, or maybe I hope he doesn’t kind of accomplish it too.

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Accountability

Misbah:

I think about nutrition with this type of stuff because there’s so much information out there that tells you clearly, this is what you have to do if you want to get to X or Y. But if it was as simple as that, we would all look really good and move really well and it’s more so the fact that there needs to be that behaviour change aspect to it. That accountability ties in perfectly. What is one simple thing that you can do to improve your breakfast or all of your meals throughout the day? How can you move it from stage one to stage two? There are a hundred different tactics, but it’s coming back to some piece that people feel comfortable being accountable to that’s stretching their limits a little bit, but it’s also not so overwhelming that you’re just going to be like, fuck it.

Noah:

Yeah, man. It’s funny, when I started in health and fitness, really started in 2011, about seven years ago. I just started with breakfast. Yeah. I was like, let me just work on one thing. Because I think sometimes we get excited and we want to do all this shit and eventually, it’s overwhelming or you give up and then it’s like a weekend bender. I don’t know if you drink. And if you drink on Friday and you’re hungover Saturday, we’re like, fuck it. I already drank Friday, let me just keep going. Then Sunday, you’re still going. Well, it’s Sunday fun day. Let me hit that bloody Mary. And then Monday, I’m just not going to work. My buddy Adam says this.

Noah:

I love his message, just start. If you fuck up Sunday and you eat pizza, then just start with a good breakfast on Monday. Don’t sweat. It’s a new day. It’s a new time.

Misbah:

I love that. I want to get into what your thought process looks like when you experience fear. Do you ever get scared?

Noah:

I get scared all the time, bro. I think it’s interesting, but what is fear?  So, we’re afraid of something. If you think about what is fear, you wonder, am I physically going to get hurt, or is this an emotional fear? And I think those two are actually pretty different. Because with a physical one you think, I could die on this, but the emotional one, you’re probably not going to die.

Misbah:

I guess I’m more interested in the emotional one and your emotional responses to that. When you, or if and when you feel that what does Noah’s brain look like?

Noah:

I’m trying to think of the last time I was emotionally afraid. I’m trying to give a good story around it. I don’t know if I have a recent fear and maybe that actually says something that I need to put myself in places where I’m a little more afraid. People will be like, why would you want to be afraid? I have friends who hate scary movies, which seems baffling to me. It’s a movie. It’s not real, by the way. But they don’t want to be afraid. I think sometimes when you try things that you’re afraid of, you don’t realize how much more you can do. Like if you do public speaking, When people are afraid of public speaking, I’m like, what do you mean? You just stand up and if you have something to say, you say it.

Noah:

And then when you practice the fear or you go into the fear, holy shit, this isn’t bad. And then you’re like, oh my God, I can actually do so much more than I ever realized. I’m thinking of one of my favourite physical stories. I mountain bike. And there was this mountain bike log. And it, honestly, if you saw it, you’d call me a bitch. I’ve never seen these. This is like a little baby log. I tried three times, I went back to this park to do it three separate times and I was so scared. Then I finally did it and then now I look at it and think, that’s so embarrassing. But it was more interesting of a lesson that some things that we face once we do and we’re like, that was fun.

Coffee Challenge

Noah:

And now there’s actually more I can do in life. It’s expanded my scope of things that are available to me. So, I think with fear, my recommendation for myself is number one, if you’re not feeling fear, maybe go do the things that you feel a little scared about. And then secondly, I like practicing fear as a muscle. So, you’re talking about health and fitness, how do you think about fear as a muscle that you can actually work out? And so, I’ve always encouraged these challenges, if you’ve heard of a coffee challenge.

Misbah:

I think you’re the one who prescribed that originally, right? You ask for free coffee or a discount. 

Noah:

Exactly. So, the idea there is that with fear, a lot of people, especially with businesses or even going to the gym. I remember the time I went to the Venice beach Gold’s gym, like the Mecca. I was scared to go inside. I thought everyone was going to look at me. Everyone’s going to hate me. Maybe not hate me, but they’re going to think I’m doing this stuff wrong. And they think I’m so weak. Then I went inside and no one gave a shit. 

Noah:

And so, I think with the coffee challenge, the whole point of it is you go to Starbucks or wherever and you ask for 10% off your coffee. And I highly recommend it. Have you ever done it? No, I haven’t. I should. Okay. I’m committing. It doesn’t have to be coffee. It could be lunch or when’s the next time you’re buying something?

Let’s see probably this weekend sometime.

Noah:

So, when you do, text, message or email me, and the idea is it’s not about getting a discount. It’s about getting rejected. And then you find out that fear is not that bad. Rejection is not that bad. Then you start realizing that you can ask for things in life. This is more for business, but it’s for everything too. When I try this stuff and I get rejected, it’s actually not that bad. Or even with dating. I saw this guy. I don’t want to say his name because he doesn’t want it public, but we were out at a bar and if he saw a girl that he was interested in, he just walked up to her. He just went up to her. And I was nervous.

Noah:

I was like, dude, really? You just do it. He said, “I just have a rule. If I see someone that I’m interested in, I just go talk to them.” And now it’s not scary for him because he just goes up and talks. I think he got rejected all night. He actually didn’t go home with anyone or get any numbers or anything. But it was interesting that his mindset made him not afraid of it. And so maybe creating rules, like he did, kind of liberates people. If I see something like that, I go do it.

Misbah:

Yeah. I love that. And for anybody listening, if they want to try the coffee challenge, the rule behind it is you ask for the 10% discount, but you can’t say anything after that, to justify it or anything, just have to stay silent.

Noah:

Yeah. You have to be awkward. The whole point is not about getting the discount. It’s about getting rejected and realizing that you’re still alive. Life goes on and then you start thinking, I could ask for discounts or sales. I can ask for a girl’s number. I can do a lot more than even thought was possible.

Misbah:

Okay. All right. I’m definitely going to try this and I’ll keep you posted.

Noah:

Do it and then email me. Let me know what the result was because you’ll actually learn a lot about yourself. It’s funny to everyone who hears this, it sounds so stupid. I could do that so easily. And then they do it and think, that was a little scarier than I thought. Then, they get actually a little bit addicted to wanting to do that.

Misbah:

Okay. It makes me nervous thinking about it, but that means I should try it.

Noah:

That’s probably the things to go into. It’ll expand your scope of ability, for sure. 

Serendipity and intentionality  in learning

Misbah:

Now, you have probably learned from so many people and so many sources, and at this stage, how do you choose from everything that’s out there? How do you decide, “I need to improve X and Y and this is who I’m going to learn from. This is who I’m going to seek out”? What does that process look like?

Noah:

Do you ever notice in life, sometimes it’s serendipitous? Like you read a book and you can’t believe this book is here when you needed it, or this person came in my life and I’m like, how did they come in? And so, I think in terms of learning or growth, there’s serendipity that just happens. You’re just talking to someone. When you’re sad, you’re talking to someone and you don’t know how this person knew to be there. That’s probably the universe or something happening to lead towards that. And then with the other part of it is more of intentionality. So, what am I trying to learn right now? 

Noah:

I think for me, what I’ve noticed is that when I’m more curious and learning new things, my life is just better. One thing that I did a long time ago, and it’s still very helpful today, is to make a list of everything that makes your day awesome.

Noah:

And I’m talking about the specifics, so when I’m flirting with my girlfriend, if I’m doing some productive work, if I’m doing some writing, I’m doing some exercising, if I’m doing some outdoor activity, make a list of the things that help you have an amazing day and then make sure those happen every day. And so for me, curiosity or attempting to learn something new, is really helpful. I know it makes my day, so for someone else, think about what you’re curious about. So, then how do I find things to be curious about and go after stuff you’re interested in. For me it’s magic. I found a magic coach. I’m trying to think, mountain biking. I watch a lot of YouTube videos for mountain biking and then I actually go mountain biking or road biking, the same thing. 

Noah:

I follow that stuff on Instagram. I follow very specific topics for learning more about how people are doing it or seeing how other people are doing it. Coaches, books, kind of the standard. I don’t think there’s anything super unique. I just think it’s going after it. And if you don’t have money for a coach, that’s fine. There’s an unlimited amount of free things on YouTube.

Misbah:

For sure. I mean, it sounds like a lot of it is serendipitous, but at the same time, let’s say a magic coach, right? When you Google that or think about that, you probably have a hundred options right? How do you choose within that? Who do you want to kind of go with?

Noah:

Oh man, that’s so interesting. Because I think about these charlatans who are coaches. I saw this guy coaching at the gym this morning. I did a boxing class. And was like, man, you are fat. You’re disgusting, dude. So, I think there are two types of coaches. There’s a coach who’s been a player. In fitness, it would be a good body, but they might not be a good coach. Because it’s a separate thing. Then there are people who have disgusting bodies but are amazing coaches. So, there’s a bunch of NFL coaches or basketball coaches or baseball coaches who have never played once to professional leagues, but they win the championship.

Noah:

So, how do you find out? What I’d recommend, and I can talk about my Hebrew lessons, is you have to go experiment with it and just try a bunch of different coaches out. I think what happens is we kind of just assume the first coach we get is the best coach. And with Hebrew, only by accident, I tested out multiple teachers to find the one that was actually effective with me. That was because my one teacher was on holiday and I wanted to keep learning and it’s my responsibility to learn, not theirs. I tried different Hebrew teachers and then finally I found the one that was really great. So, go experiment and see which one has actually been effective for you getting results.

Misbah:

Okay, sweet. Now tell me this. Let’s say that you had $500 and a laptop, and everything that you had accomplished was wiped and had to start over, but with only those two things, $500 and a laptop. Let’s give you a phone too. You also have an iPhone. What would you do with those things?

Noah:

Yeah, I talked about this with a friend yesterday, so you can keep the $500. I don’t even need that. I would go drive for Uber. I would take $500 and then probably buy a piece of shit car, go rent a car on Turo or go on Craigslist and be like, “Hey, I’ll pay $10 a day. Let me borrow your car.” Or $20 a day, whatever it is. I would just go drive 24 hours a day and you can’t complain. And people say there’s no opportunity. In the age we live in, there are unlimited amounts of money. So, I would do Uber or now in like certain areas, there’s Bird, which is a scooter thing. You could pick up Birds and charge them and you get paid $5 a scooter.

Noah:

I would go do that. Number three, there are literally unlimited amounts of things to sell online. Physical shit that people have around their house. So, I would call up every one of my friends and be like, “yo, I’m coming over with a box. Give me everything you don’t want and I’ll sell it for you on Facebook Marketplace or eBay or Amazon. I’ll split it 50/50 with you. You don’t have to do shit. I’ll come over and pick up your stuff.” Love it. There’s so much money out there. People are just lazy. And the fact that it just doesn’t come to their door. So the $500, I probably wouldn’t do shit with that. I would need it.

Misbah:

And is that something you would stick with or would that lead into something else? Like getting back to where you are now, for example? 

Noah:

I would get back to where I am now. Probably in about two years. I think what happens with business is two things. Number one, people don’t realize it takes a year to two years to actually make anything significant, minimum. Number two is that I think success is whatever you define it as. But if you want to get your own success, there are only two things you need: persistence and iteration. That is it. You have to stick with it for some period of time or find people who will stick with it. As we talked about earlier, and number two, you have to iterate. So, if I was doing this Uber shit or Facebook Marketplace, getting people’s stuff, whatever it is, or another idea, you have to iterate, meaning if I’m driving this Uber thing, but I can only make up to $400 a day.

Noah:

Well, what if I got someone else to drive for me? And I would start hiring people or maybe could find cars and I would lease out cars to other people. That’s the iteration part. Interesting. Or maybe I found that there’s another new service that’s out there. Maybe I just go out and help Uber recruit drivers because maybe that pays me $500 a driver instead of driving myself. If you look at every single business, every single one, every single major business, two things have happened. One, they started very narrow, very specific. And two, none of them are doing the same thing that they did when they started. Name any business out there. You’re like Amazon, books. They still sell books, but how much do they do now? A ton. Google. They started out doing research papers. 

Noah:

Now they have cars. Facebook. And started as such social sharing of movies and stuff. Now, they have Instagram and WhatsApp and Facebook Marketplace, all this other shit. Microsoft? They were developer tools. IBM. They sold calculators. So, all targeted narrow audiences. And then none of them knew what they’re doing. So, the point is to persist and iterate.

Misbah:

I love that. How are we doing on time?

Noah:

I got two minutes. I’ve got my magic class.

How do you choose a coach

Misbah:

Okay. So, let’s say that you had a couple of billion dollars, right? And had a staff of 40 people. So, money, time, energy, none of that is an obstacle or an issue. What would you do with that?

Noah:

With a billion? A couple billion? Probably not much more than I’m doing now, to be real. I think people imagine a few things. When you have money, it’s easier. So, getting enough makes it easier for everyone out there. Number two, I think people think their lives are going to change when they get a lot of money, or they get some money. You’re still a dick or you’re still going to be unhappy. It just makes it easier that you’re unhappy. So, it doesn’t really make you a different person, but it makes certain things easier. In terms of money, I think we all have to define it. People want to be rich or want this. Just figure out exactly what you want to buy and then calculate those amounts and then pick that number.

Unlimited opportunity

Noah:

And I think people just think, I want to make more money. How much more money? I want to retire at this amount. How much money do you need to retire? And if you pick those targets, it makes it so much easier to accomplish them. In the second part, if I had $2 billion, the only thing would probably be doing differently is would get a private jet. That’s the only thing I would do differently. I’ve had nicer cars. That shit makes me nervous. Because I’ve thought about this. I’d still be annoyed if someone dented my car or like door-dinged, like, because I had a nicer car and someone door-dinged me and I flipped out.

Noah:

I have a 2004 Miata. Could I afford a Ferrari or something really nice? Yeah. I don’t want that shit. That doesn’t do anything for me. I’m trying to think of what I would even upgrade. Maybe I’d get a better stereo in my Miata, but I don’t even want to get that right now. The point is, just think of how much money you want, and then for most people, just make the life you want to live now. I think people don’t realize, it’s probably a lot more affordable than you think. I know you wanted some crazy answer. I’d spend the billions. 

Misbah:

That was a great answer. And I guess I want to conclude with, what do you want to take from this episode? And what do you want listeners to take from this episode?

(39:58)- Money doesn’t make you a different person

Noah:

I think with starting business stuff, people like when I talk about that, and I kind of resist wanting to share that because I’m tired of helping people start. Most of them want this idea of life when probably their lives are pretty good. They’re just not willing to change certain things. What I want every listener to do is do one thing for themself today. Maybe one thing that’s been on their to-do list. Maybe it’s the coffee challenge. Maybe it’s texting someone you haven’t texted in a while but do something for yourself. I hate shows and videos where people just sit on their ass, they digest it and poop it out and they don’t do anything. My thing is action, go do something for yourself. Make a commitment, write that shit down. What are you going to do today?

Misbah:

What am I going to do today? For myself, I’m going to sit down and write for 30 minutes uninterrupted.

Noah:

Perfect. Yeah. I texted someone earlier about the one thing I did for myself. I’ve been thinking about him and wanted to help him more. So, I just texted him and like, “Yo.” That’s how I was doing my texts. Yo. 

Misbah:

I love it. Where can we point people to? How can we support? How can we follow what you’re up to? Let us know where to find you.

Noah:

Noah Kagan, if you want to find me, you could find me. Maybe you’re like, I hate this guy. Then don’t bother. If you’d be like to, you’ll put in a little bit of effort, check out the companies I get. I’m a part of which is sumo.com, which is email marketing for e-commerce businesses. Appsumo.com, which is a daily deal for geeks and small business owners. And then my latest stuff that I’m focused on is kingsumo.com. So, if you want to grow your YouTube or podcast or email list, go to kingsumo.com. It’s totally free to grow your email list.

Misbah:

I love that. Noah, thank you so much for your time. I appreciate you coming here and letting me explore inside your mind. Yeah. Cool man. Thank you for having me and for listening. I appreciate you lending me your ears. Before you head out, I wanted to share a free gift with you. It’s only available for podcast listeners at mizhq.com. So, go ahead and grab that. If you want to support the show, the best compliment that you can give is by leaving a review with your thoughts. You have no idea how much that helps. And I always love hearing from you guys. So, once again, thank you for tuning in. Until next time.

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