David Elikwu speaks with Thomas Frank, an author, YouTuber, and Notion expert.
Thomas is best known for his blog CollegeInfoGeek, his YouTube channel with 2.9 million subscribers, and his second channel called "Thomas Frank Explains," which is the largest Notion education channel globally, with 170,000 subscribers.
They talked about:
🤔 How to pick opportunities
🔑 The biggest keys to being successful
🎯 How to focus on the right things
🌟 How to deal with success
🚀 How to create leverage in your life and work
🎙 Listen in your favourite podcast player
📹 Watch on Youtube
👤 Connect with Thomas Frank:
📄 Show notes:
2:20 | The muscle of being able to ship consistently
5:13 | Biggest keys to being successful
12:21 | Focusing on the things that mean the most
18:39 | Finding leverage
23:02 | Why stasis is dangerous
25:21 | The perfect end goal
🗣 Mentioned in the show:
Gary V | https://garyvaynerchuk.com/podcast/
René Girard | https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/René_Girard
Ryan Holiday | https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ryan_Holiday
Nassim Taleb | https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nassim_Nicholas_Taleb
Khe Hy | https://www.theknowledge.io/khehy/
Seth Godin | https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seth_Godin
Crush It | https://amzn.to/3P8zbZ1
Steve Jobs | https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steve_Jobs
Wanting | https://amzn.to/486ceyd
Luke Burgis | https://lukeburgis.com/about/
Peter Thiel | https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_Thiel
Discipline is Destiny | https://amzn.to/3USSjeJ
Feynman technique | https://fs.blog/feynman-technique/
Zig Ziglar | https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zig_Ziglar
Elon Musk | https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elon_Musk
Back to The Future | https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0088763/
Gifts from your past self | https://www.theknowledge.io/issue45/
The sunk cost effect | https://www.theknowledge.io/sunk-cost-fallacy/
👨🏾💻 About David Elikwu:
David Elikwu FRSA is a serial entrepreneur, strategist, and writer. David is the founder of The Knowledge, a platform helping people think deeper and work smarter.
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🎙️ Podcast: http://plnk.to/theknowledge
📖 EBook: https://delikwu.gumroad.com/l/manual
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Career Hyperdrive is a live, cohort-based course that helps people find their competitive advantage, gain clarity around their goals and build a future-proof set of mental frameworks so they can live an extraordinary life doing work they love.
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Thomas Frank: [00:00:00] One thing I found very helpful to do is to pause and ask myself, okay, say you were to do the things that this creator is doing to get those results. How much do you like your average day? And almost always the answer is, Oh, I don't, I don't like it. Like, I don't know. Say, say I wanted to have a podcast as big as Tim Ferris's podcast. Like, okay, what does that mean? Well, it means I'm spending a lot of my day interviewing people. And I did that for eight years. And there was a reason I quit it because that was the season of my life. And like, there are other things in here that I wanna do and like doing these things is incompatible with the result that I seek. Therefore, I either have to decide these things are worthy of sacrificing to get some sort of externally facing end result, or the end result wasn't worth pursuing in the first place because it requires that I give up these things that I actually care about doing.
David Elikwu: This week I'm sharing part of my conversation with Thomas Frank.
David Elikwu: Now, if you have any interest in productivity, you may already be one of Thomas's 3 million [00:01:00] YouTube subscribers or, if you're like me, you probably go to Thomas for anything relating to Notion. He probably has some of the best Notion content that you can find on YouTube, and he also has a lot of Notion-related courses.
David Elikwu: So, you're going to hear Thomas and I talking about how he's managed to find such great success as a creator over the past decade, we're going to talk about how he chooses his opportunities, how to find leverage as an entrepreneur and as a creator and how to focus on the most important things consistently.
David Elikwu: So you can get the full show notes, and transcript and read my newsletter at thenowledge.io and you can find Thomas on Twitter @Tomfrankly.
David Elikwu: If you love this episode, please do share it with a friend and don't forget to leave a review, especially if you're listening on Apple podcasts, because it helps us tremendously to reach other people just like you.
David Elikwu: Seth Godin says, you know, you make a promise, you put yourself on the hook and you ship because you said you were going to ship, not because of any other reason, he's been [00:02:00] publishing this daily blog for a long time, but one of the facts that I love is, I think it took three years for him to post more than like 300 posts in a year, which is already crazy by most people's standards. But the fact that, okay, he had this incubation period where he was learning and developing this muscle of discipline, and then from that point onwards, he's just been publishing consistently.
David Elikwu: So I'm interested to know how you found building that for yourself, this muscle of being able to ship things consistently. Is there a process that is necessary behind that, or can you just will yourself to do it just because it has to be done. It's a Tuesday, I have to post.
Thomas Frank: So I've always been a fan of augmentation of your own self discipline. And my self-discipline I think is often quite dependent on how passionate I am about a thing. So like, I'll ebb and flow through periods of my life where I'm say very interested in going to the gym. And when I'm in a period where I'm like super into it and I'm tracking my macros and like that, it is just so easy to go to the gym when I'm not there.
Thomas Frank: I lean on my coach who sends me [00:03:00] programming. It's like, get to the gym, get your thing done, cause I don't wanna do it, I don't wanna do something else. So I think for anybody struggling with say, publishing on a schedule and staying consistent, find a way to augment your self discipline. The way I did it was I had put myself on this week schedule and there was an actual tool that kept me accountable.
Thomas Frank: The one I was using was called Beeminder And it's basically like you can hook it up to any API, RSS feed like, there's all kinds of integrations. And it'll just look at how often you publish or how often you do something. I think you can hook it up to like, with things or Strava, if you wanna do like running mileage or biking or anything like that, you can do weight loss. But I did it for my YouTube's RSS feed.
Thomas Frank: So every time I'd publish, I'd get like another little line on the graph. And as every day goes by, like you have to make sure you're publishing on the schedule because eventually if you go too long, it'll literally charge you money for failure. I think like I had it at $5, so I wouldn't really lose that much money if I'd failed, but I would lose a lot of pride and there'd be a very public and real tangible record of my failure. And so that drove me, I think [00:04:00] for over three years to publish every single week without fail. And it often led to scrambling to get the video done on time, but it actually did work.
Thomas Frank: And it's kind of like, I don't know the concept the training wheels. Which I've use as a metaphor for a very long time, and only recently was somebody telling me like, there is new research that you shouldn't put training wheels on a kid's bike. Because maybe it actually screws things up for them. I'm not sure.
Thomas Frank: But I'm gonna still use the metaphor, like augmentation of your self discipline through getting a coach or setting up a habit tracker or some kind of like, accountability program that's like the training wheels that teach you to ride the bike before you can do it yourself. And then you sort of build up that self-discipline muscle and you're able to take the training wheels off and ride under your own power. If you're a creator and you're like, I need to be consistent, I can't get myself to do it, find a way to put yourself on some sort of actually, you know, accountable, actually tracked schedule where there are consequences for failure or maybe there are rewards for success that you won't get if we don't publish on time.
Thomas Frank: And then after a while maybe it doesn't matter [00:05:00] so much anymore, like I haven't published weekly in a very long time. But that's because we're doing things that take quite a lot longer than a week to do often. And if I was on a weekly publish schedule, I just wouldn't have the time to get very deep into those things and learn the things I need to learn.
David Elikwu: Aside from discipline, what else do you think is one of the biggest keys for being successful, whether it's as a creator or maybe broader in life?
Thomas Frank: So there are a lot of things. My immediate, I guess, mental answer when you started asking the question was passion.
Thomas Frank: I think passion got a bad rap for a while. There was like this early 2000, 2010s era where like Gary V had just put out Crush It, and everyone was like hyped on passion. Just find your passion. And then there was The pendulum swung the other way, and for the majority of the 2010s, as far as I can remember, everyone was like, The passion thing sucks, just work hard. And now there's like this anti hustle culture thing where it's just like, just quit everything and be yourself. But when you like query your own history and maybe keep a journal, you'll realize that like the [00:06:00] best output of your life comes when you're obsessed with something.
Thomas Frank: Because you don't need some app that's telling you to publish at Friday by 5:00 PM where you're gonna lose $5. You don't need a coach. You're just like, I care so much about this. I want to do it. So long term, if you are gonna be successful in business, I think you have to find some aspect of what you're doing that you really care about, you really give a shit about, because that's what's gonna drive you to wake up and get to work and actually, you know, put all of your focus and effort and energy into it.
Thomas Frank: So passion is important. And if you find yourself doing work over and over and over again where there just is no passion there anymore. The first thing I'd say is maybe stop lying to yourself about it, because I lied to myself about it for a very long time. And the second thing is it may be time to start exploring again. So you can find something to be passionate about.
Thomas Frank: There's this like, great idea in science of like exploration, exploitation. Whereas like, you know, most organisms just sort of like exploit the same resource that they know about. Humans have this unique thing where we'll exploit our resources, but we just have this [00:07:00] innate desire to go and explore and see what's around the next bend or over that mountain or up in the sky.
Thomas Frank: So like we have this innate drive to explore and also exploit. And it's kind of like a seasonal thing, right? I think to be successful you have to spend some time exploring. And then when you find something that's worthwhile, you take some time to exploit it and dig deep into it and actually build something. But when like the passion dries up, it may be time to start exploring again. Collecting more dots as Steve Jobs would like to say. So that's a really big thing.
Thomas Frank: And then the other thing that immediately pops to mind is just like building relationships. I think every time I've written like a what I regret or what I would've done sooner, kind of piece of content, the top thing is I wish I would've started building relationships even sooner than I did.
Thomas Frank: And it's not like, Oh, I really regret this and I'm kicking myself for it. But you know, at any turn, like there is an event I could have gone to, or there is a connection I could have made. And the connections that we make, number one, enrich our lives. But number two, like we can't do anything on our own really. We can only do things through the collective power we have.
Thomas Frank: So when you are a creator, you [00:08:00] need to spend time building real relationships and friendships, where you can build each other up, keep each other accountable, share each other's things, to support each other. and support each other.
David Elikwu: Yeah, there's a really interesting concept I've been very interested in recently, [00:09:00] which is mimesis, which I'm sure you've come across an idea from René Girard. There's a book called Wanting by Luke Burgis, which is really good. It's a great encapsulation of this idea.
David Elikwu: René Girard was an academic at Stanford, and he was an advisor to, or mentor to Peter Thiel. And he had this idea of a concept called mimesis, which is essentially that we base all of our desires on others and people around us. And all of our desires are things that we see modeled in our environment. And because when you're born, you don't, you have no idea what's good, what's worth wanting.
David Elikwu: But as you see models around you, by choosing the things that they think are desirable. That is how you learn, okay, this is the food that is worth eating. This is the things that are worth drinking, these are the opportunities that are worth chasing.
David Elikwu: And one of the questions that I wanted to ask you was taking a step back in what you were just saying now. What I find really interesting, just as you look across the spectrum of the internet in all of this time, but then also particularly right now, almost every three months, there's a whole new trend [00:10:00] where everyone's running in one direction or another. And how do you manage to, you know, you talked about this idea of passion. How do you differentiate which part of that passion is innate to you versus the things that you can easily become passionate about simply because the crowd is passionate about it and there's a sense in which it could be easy to be swept along by something, and then you wander off and then you realize actually this is not what resonates with me. This is not the thing that I care about.
David Elikwu: So how do you find separating those things so that you can spend time focusing on the things that really mean the most you?
Thomas Frank: I'm probably not always good at it. And I, I think all of us sort of like struggle with that. But a lot of times, like if I really query myself, I can find like, Oh, I'm doing this because there's this thing that I think is gonna make me happy that somebody else has demonstrated they have. And in other cases it's like, nope, I'm just super happy doing this right now, or I'm extremely excited for what this is gonna add to the world when I'm done with it.
Thomas Frank: And when the answers [00:11:00] are more in that realm, I know like that's me following what I actually care about, versus what the crowd just has deemed to be worthwhile. Any time that I like try to convince myself to start posting more on, say, Instagram or something like, it always comes back to oh wait, I didn't actually care about that. What is it getting me on a day to day basis? Nothing I really care about. I'm just doing it because it seems desirable to get to the spot that I see other people at. If only I had a hundred K followers, like that kind of thing, right? So I don't know.
Thomas Frank: One thing that I often think about is like, we have all these metrics, but many of them are hidden. Like the time you spend with your family, kind of a hidden metric. how good you feel about yourself on an average day is a hidden metric. And then we have like how much money you make, how many subscribers you have, if you're a creator, and how, you know, all these different like things you can easily see and model on a dashboard in your computer.
Thomas Frank: Those are so easy to fixate on. We have like a tangible visual metric, it can be like very easy to just define your day and your time on trying to make those things go up. [00:12:00] So it's very important to me to almost constantly remind myself of the metrics that actually matter. And in almost all cases, those are the ones that are not easy to track. I don't track them. There's no like visual indicator or graph. It's just make sure that I focus on them is like, it's like something I have to remind myself to do.
David Elikwu: Okay. That makes sense. I love what you were saying about this idea of the hidden metrics and being able to focus on, I guess, the things that mean the most or matter the most and not obsessing over just hitting things for the sake of hitting things.
David Elikwu: But then I guess on the flip side, then you've also talked about this idea that you know, you have a frequency of posting and at some points, maybe not right now, but at some points you said, Okay, I need to post every week. I need to do things in such a way. And I'm sure maybe for, from the business perspective, you've had targets of maybe a certain revenue goal or a certain number of videos, or a certain number of views, subscribers, et cetera.
David Elikwu: How do you deal with actually the success of it? Cause I think very often the question that people ask is, Oh, when it doesn't go well, how do you deal with [00:13:00] that? How do you deal with failure? How do you deal with these other parts? But how do you deal with the success? Cause I think that's the other thing that can also send people off in the wrong direction, where in a sense they become too successful that they then similarly lose the view of what's important.
Thomas Frank: Yeah. There's this, this common, I guess, thing that a lot of successful people echo where as you get more successful, I think you even said this, you get more opportunities. There's like, people who want to interview you, there's people who wanna work with you. They want to in have you invest in their business. They wanna invest in you. And in many cases, people who are successful end up sabotaging the trajectory that they were on by saying yes to too many things. So that can be, a pitfall to potentially avoid if you are successful. The big metric that, I guess maybe there's two, but one of the big metrics that I think about is what does my average day look like after I attain X?
Thomas Frank: So, you know, just to be very transparent, like I have found myself being, unnecessarily like jealous [00:14:00] of certain other creators in the past. Like, Oh, why does this creator have a hundred thousand more followers than I do? Or, you know, Why is their video so much better than I do? Why, why are they getting more engagement? You know, these are dumb questions. There's, there's like a little seed of usefulness in them, but it's mostly wrapped up in just like unhealthy jealousy. And one thing I found very helpful to do is to pause and ask myself, okay, say you were to do the things that this creator is doing to get those results. How much do you like your average day? And almost always the answer is, Oh, I don't, I don't like it. Like, I don't know. Say, say I wanted to have a podcast as big as Tim Ferris's podcast. Like, okay, what does that mean? Well, it means I'm spending a lot of my day interviewing people. And I did that for eight years. And there was a reason I quit it because that was the season of my life. And like, there are other things in here that I wanna do and like doing these things is incompatible with the result that I seek. Therefore, I either have to decide these things are worthy of sacrificing to get some sort of externally facing end result, or [00:15:00] the end result wasn't worth pursuing in the first place because it requires that I give up these things that I actually care about doing.
Thomas Frank: So that's like the, I don't know, the like personal, selfish in the moment angle where you're pushing time through yourself and in each moment in time it's like, am I happy with this moment in time?
Thomas Frank: The other thing is, what are you building? What are you putting out into the world? Because, when I was coming up, when I was like building up to my first million subscribers, I was like, I know what I'm building. I'm building like the ultimate channel for college students. And yes, I'm very motivated by hitting a million subscribers or hitting whatever metric that's like, I don't know, just like another piece of this beautiful pattern I'm building. And then it got to a point where it's like, okay, well should I care about pushing to 10 million subscribers? Should I care about being the best in some arbitrarily defined category? I can't make myself care about those things. So therein lies one trapping of success where you get, you kind of like climb the mountain, you get to the peak and you can't see the next peak. And I don't know, maybe some people are totally satisfied with that.
Thomas Frank: But like I said earlier, one of my core driving motivations is constantly learning. And I guess the way [00:16:00] that I deal with that is asking myself, Okay, what's a new thing that I can go be a beginner in? Like, I'm not a beginner in being a YouTuber anymore, but I'm certainly a beginner in programming. And I see that there is a potential link there where I can use my platform and skill as a YouTuber to create some content that people actually want. That also allows me to get into programming and be a beginner again, and, and learn again. And that just seems to keep things fresh.
David Elikwu: I love that. I think what you said reminded me of, I think it's a Haitian proverb where it says something like, Behind every mountain is more mountains. And so there's this idea that there's always something new that you can climb, and maybe the balance is on one hand, deciding when is enough. So I was thinking about this the other day after listening to Ryan Holiday, was having a conversation with someone, and he has a book that just came out called Discipline is Destiny, which sounds really good. I haven't read it yet, but one of the ideas that he was talking about is deciding what's enough is, and what enough looks like. And well, not so much what enough looks like, but the idea [00:17:00] of discipline, not just being, there's a traditional paradigm when we think of discipline, which is, you know, growing the hardest, being the strongest you know, you mentioned this the Gary V of the 2010's being very much about grinding and pushing yourself to the edge, waking up all kinds of hours, going to bed really late, doing all of that. But actually discipline isn't just about pushing yourself beyond, but discipline is also about the consistency with which you can do something.
David Elikwu: And you know, it can equally be about constraining yourself and choosing not to do certain things and managing your energy and deciding when enough is. And so one of the ideas that I was thinking about is that, you know, it's almost like the, the earth is round and you can only measure well that, that's contextual for some people. Some people might disagree, but I would say that the earth is round and
Thomas Frank: I thought we all knew it banana shaped
David Elikwu: Exactly, who knows? But I think the point is you can only measure how far you've come by actually setting some kind of destination. And sometimes when you never set a destination that [00:18:00] you're trying to reach, you can go all the way around and come back to where you started. And you see this in maybe sports, in a lot of industries, in music. I mean, Kanye is probably a really good example right now where you kind of keep going and on the way up you achieve all of these things. And then if you never decide, okay, this is actually the sticking point, you end up kind destroying your own legacy and, bringing everything back down again.
David Elikwu: I mean, that's a, a strange pivot then. But the other question that I wanted to ask you was, over the years you've given loads of tips to millions of people about you know, how to study better using the Feynman technique, how to learn more, how to wake up, how to have more energy, all of these things.
David Elikwu: What are the, the few maybe that you think have been the highest leverage for you in your life as well?
Thomas Frank: The high, so the highest leverage in terms of just like, pushing me forward towards my goals?
David Elikwu: Or just like things that have help you to be more productive or improve your life in some way. Helped you to find better balance.
Thomas Frank: I'll throw a curve ball and say that in my personal [00:19:00] experience, what helps me to push things forward and be productive is actually imbalance or rather accepting the model in my head that's like the swinging pendulum. So like when I was building Ultimate Brain, which is my notion template that I sell, that was like 10, 12 hours a day just in this office. Definitely skipped more workouts than I should have. Like my life was a bit imbalanced then, but it was only maybe a two month process of that. And then things swung way back over to personal because I was, it came to June, I was getting married, I went to honeymoon. So that was basically just like no work almost for a little while. And then came back from that and swung back.
Thomas Frank: And when things are a little bit imbalanced, it usually means like I'm super obsessed with something and I'm gonna be pushing the envelope really far in that direction. And then there are some things that get sort of sacrificed. So I guess for me, like maintaining this smooth movement of the pendulum where it doesn't stay imbalanced in one direction for too long. Kind of is [00:20:00] like, I don't know, it sort of like speaks to the value of focus.
Thomas Frank: Every time that I've tried to live like of 100% balanced day, it's like, not a lot gets done.
Thomas Frank: And I remember going way too far with this in college. We had, like my friend Martin and I got this book you can buy, actually you can't buy it anymore, but you could buy it. It was like called Pick Four and Zig Ziglar wrote it and it was like, all right, for six weeks you're gonna focus on four goals, and every day you have to write what you did in that. Well, I was way too ambitious, so one of my goals was build an iPhone app, the next goal was learn Japanese, the next goal was write a blog post. And so I'm like trying to make myself do these three very disparate, very tough to do things. And what ends up happening is like, well, I've also got school, I've also got gym, I've also got friends. So I studied like 10 Conge today, and I read the intro to like one chapter of this iPhone book and didn't read or write any code. And, and maybe I got some blogging work done, but nothing really got pushed forward because I wasn't able to sink into one thing.
Thomas Frank: Another metaphor, I, [00:21:00] next level kinds of metaphors today that I, I often think about is like if you're a miner like, not a person under 18, but like a person who digs into the earth to find things like the precious metals that you need to get are far in the ground and you're gonna have to move a lot of dirt before you get to anything worthwhile.
Thomas Frank: And I often think of work like that, if I sit down to work, my first 20 minutes are often just like warmup and the actual output usually is not that great. But you kind of have to move that mental dirt to get yourself into a spot where you can really output your best work. If you're trying to do literally everything to live this perfectly balanced life on a day-to-day basis, you never get yourself in like, deep enough into the minds to do anything worthwhile.
Thomas Frank: So I guess like, you know, instead of to try to give people like a smorgasboard of tips on being productive, which they can find all over the place on my website, I would lead them with this idea, like, embrace the idea of temporary imbalance because temporary imbalance is just the other side of the [00:22:00] coin that is 100% focused on something so you can do your best work in it. And as long as you're not, you know, too often that area for too long, you always have the ability to sort of recover and build back, and you don't lose a lot of what you've let lie for, you know, maybe a few days or a few weeks or whatever is.
David Elikwu: Yeah, I love both of those ideas that you just shared, and the way I'm framing them in my mind is that one idea it's smoothing the pendulum. So it's not the fact that you swing, it's about how you swing. Because there's one extent to which
David Elikwu: Nassim Taleb talks about this idea of being antifragile, and it's this idea that there are some systems that fragility is bad for them.
David Elikwu: If there is too much fluctuation in the stock market, that's not a good thing for the stock market. It's negative. But humans as a system benefit and we grow from not being stagnant. If you were to stay in one room the whole day with air conditioning at the same level, you get sick. If you sit in a chair all day and you never stand up, you never move around, you get [00:23:00] sick, your back hurts, all kinds of stuff happens to you. And so it's this idea that, you know, Stasis in any form and doing something just for the sake of doing it all the time can lead to negative things. And so actually what I love about what you're sharing is, on one hand the key isn't stasis and the two, it's not wild fluctuations. Cause then that's also negative. If you are high one day and low the next, you can never find a balance, you can never build a consistent body of work. But if you can find a balance where you can control the way in which you fluctuate between different stasis then that is one way to be incredibly successful.
David Elikwu: And then the other thing was, the way I think about it is like running the first 10 yards of I'm thinking of like a 40 on dash, and it's the same with a hundred meter sprint where the issue that most people have. So I used to play American football, which is where this is coming from. And when you are running the 40, the issue that most people have, the mistake most people make is they come all the way up too early. And so they are trying to run as though they were running at full speed too early in the race. And so actually, if you wanna run the fastest, the first 10 yards, [00:24:00] you're actually trying to stay at 45 degrees where you're somewhere in between falling flat on your face and being all the way upright, and that's how you get the most momentum. So that after that first 10 yards, that's when you're able to come up and you're at full speed. And that's what helps you to get through the end of the race.
David Elikwu: And I think that lines up very much with what you were sharing that, you know, there's an extent to which there's a beginning part that you have to get through before you can get through to the end. If you try and jump some levels and just jump straight into a full work mode, it's, you know, that's where maybe you get things like writer's block. That's where things become difficult because you're expecting them to be easy.
David Elikwu: But sometimes if you can get through the hard part, then you know, things naturally unravel in the way that they should.
Thomas Frank: Yeah, I think there's just, there's movement in basically everything. And like the principle of acceleration and deceleration can be applied to many things that aren't just, physical atoms moving.
David Elikwu: So one last question that I wanted to ask you. I'm stealing this from Khe Hy who I know that you know, we were having a conversation the other day. I actually joined, one of the courses that he did. [00:25:00] And he was the guest before you on this podcast. So I took his course and he asked so many incredibly deep questions.
David Elikwu: I, I was made to think so deeply about. He took, he calls them 10 K questions, like thinking really deeply about different areas of your life. Why do you wanna do the thing that you're doing? And all of this is, you know, with the ultimate aim of being more productive, but it's not productive for the sake of being productive. But it's actually about figuring out what are the right things to be doing.
David Elikwu: So the question that I wanted to ask you is how you would define a life well lived, knowing that you've had a spectrum of different experiences, you've tried loads of different things, you've had lots of room to experiment, you've gone through the whole pendulum of working, not working, taking breaks, working, you know, multiple straight days. What is the, you know, what does the, the perfect end goal look like if such a thing exists?
Thomas Frank: I'm not, I'm not sure there's a perfect end goal. I've gotten questions, you growing up, people ask you the question, where do you see yourself in 10 years? And I only know the broad strokes of that answer.
Thomas Frank: I, I couldn't tell you, Oh, I'm [00:26:00] founded this company and we're doing this. I have no idea. Maybe certain people are able to do that, you know, you look at somebody like Elon Musk, he could be like, yep, I want people on Mars, and 30 years or less, and that's my life goal, or whatever it is. I don't necessarily have something like that. . So I don't know if I could like mentally fast forward to the day I'm 90 or however old I am and go like, Yes, I did it.
Thomas Frank: But the broad strokes are there. 10 years from now, I want to still be healthy, I still want to be with my wife, I want us to have a good life together, and I want to have put out more helpful things into the world that allow people to improve their own capabilities. I want to keep learning, I want to keep sharing what I know, like I know what I love to do.
Thomas Frank: So I guess when I mentally fast forward, I want to make sure that that picture is still intact, still helping people, still learning new things every day, digging into the technical stuff. I love doing that and making sure that I've kept myself healthy as best I can. And, you know, that's, it's just, it's just sort of like a broad strokes picture. It's tough [00:27:00] to like be like, Yeah, there's exactly this picture that I know I want and by the time I'm 80, it better be that way, it's failure.
Thomas Frank: And I guess one other idea is like you know, there's one of other, like, there's certain things where you're like, should I do this? And the way to answer it is to mentally fast forward yourself to being like 80 and ask yourself like, how badly do I regret not having done that?
Thomas Frank: So I remember, I always wanted to take vocal lessons and I signed up for my first one. I think it was like 2017 at this point. And I'm standing outside of the, like the building where the lesson's gonna take place. And I'm about to text the guy, like hey, I'm here and I'm so scared cause I've never sang in front of anyone before. And I'm like, maybe I should just not do this, maybe I should just walk away and be like, I can't do it.
Thomas Frank: And I ask myself like, okay, I'm 80 years old, how badly do I regret not learning to sing. Pretty damn bad. So I'm gonna go in there and I'm gonna sound horrible to this teacher who is professional and paid to listen to me sound horrible, so it's not gonna be that bad. And I'm very glad that I did that.
David Elikwu: I love that framing of fast forwarding to when you're 80, but I think [00:28:00] another idea that I love, and I would ask you this as well, is flipping it the other way around and thinking about when you were eight, but maybe not eight for you. The part that I'm interested is there anything that the you from maybe 10 years ago knew that you might now have forgotten? And I'm thinking of, I don't, I'm not sure if you've watched Back to The Future. It's one of my favorite film series and I just love this idea of, you know, going into the future and seeing what your life ended up being like and making the judgements, right.
David Elikwu: And if you, from 10 years ago was to come to where you are now, I'm sure first of all you'd be extremely proud and excited and happy that you've done. But is there anything that previous version of yourself might say or urge you not to forget going forward.
Thomas Frank: That's a good question. There were definitely things that my 10 years old or 10 years ago self wanted to do that I've sort of cooled on or realized like that's maybe not super important. You know, going back 10 years, I remember I it was 2012, so I was still blogging and wasn't doing [00:29:00] podcasts yet. That was a period in my life where I was very fascinated by people who were like traveling the world, living totally nomadically. So, you know, my 2012 self might come back and be like, How come you're not doing that? How come you haven't learned Japanese and you're not fluent yet? Like, what's going on, dude?
Thomas Frank: But there was this, there is a concept that a Twitter friend of mine tweeted about yesterday about the folly of trying to rely on like archived inspiration. I don't think he called it archived inspiration, but it's just like, you know, when you get, you see a book at the bookstore, like, I really wanna read that. But like, you put a book on your to be read list and then six months later you're like, well, I should read that. Well, that's like archived inspiration. I'm trying to resurrect the inspiration that I had six months to go to read this book. And I'm, I'm hoping that will push me through it. But it doesn't exist in the moment.
Thomas Frank: And Martin and I talked about this a lot in the podcast. He in particular struggled with, like, he had these things when he was, I don't know, maybe 2019. He was like, I wanna do this, this, and this. I wanna be fluent in six languages and I wanna travel the world and be a [00:30:00] polyglot. And then you know, things happen, we graduate, get jobs, There's all this stuff that happens and for a while he is like, I feel like I'm supposed to keep doing these things that I set out for myself when I was 19. But I don't really identify with all of them anymore. And we talked about it a lot on our podcast and in private, like, you don't have to be beholden to your past self if you no longer resonate with those specific values.
David Elikwu: I love that. I think that is probably the perfect place to end, and I couldn't agree more with that. I think I wrote not long ago about this idea of Gifts from your past self. Seth Godin talks about this actually, and he talks about the sunk cost effect. The example he gives is, you went out and bought a pair of shoes yesterday and you realized today that they don't fit.
David Elikwu: And a lot of people would still keep the shoes and they would keep, Oh, maybe I'll wear them. Maybe you'll still work out. And you keep wearing those shoes and you keep trying to force yourself into the decisions of your past self. And I think what you're saying is essentially there's an extent to which we can let go of them. We don't have to be beholden to dreams or the decisions of our past selves. And we can, we can accept it as [00:31:00] a gift and say, actually, I don't want this. I don't want this decision you made for me. You decided to invest in this thing several years ago. And now I can look with fresh eyes and say, I don't want to continue investing in that thing. There's something else that I want to do.
David Elikwu: And I think this bring us back full circle to what we were talking about at the beginning, which is this idea that you can change what you want to do, you can change the things that you decide to invest in based on your passion, based on lots of other decisions and frameworks that you have.
Thomas Frank: Yeah. I mean, there's just so much more information we get every day. New relationships. Like the values you defined 10 years ago. They did not have the benefit of all of the inputs that have come since. So to consider them 100% sacred is to basically invalidate everything that you've learned and experienced since, and I just don't think that's the way to do it.
David Elikwu: I love that. Thanks so much for coming, Thomas. I really appreciate it
Thomas Frank: Absolutely. Thank you for having me on the show.
David Elikwu: Thank you so much for tuning in. Please do stay tuned for more. Don't forget to rate, review and subscribe. It really helps [00:32:00] the podcast and follow me on Twitter feel free to shoot me any thoughts. See you next time