David speaks with Thomas Frank, a writer and video creator passionate about helping people become more capable and productive.

Thomas is the founder of the College Info Geek, a blog to help you learn effectively, spend less time studying, and become more productive (even if you're not in college). He is also a Notion power-user, and creates tutorials and free Notion templates on the side.

We talked about his background and his story and everything that has come along with his path, about how to nurture your own creativity and how to channel it into producing a consistent body of work that has a lasting impact.

And so you're gonna hear us answering a bunch of questions like how do you find your passion? And how do you pick which projects to start? And then, how do you know when to quit? And how do you deal with success?

πŸŽ™ Listen in your favourite podcast player

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πŸ“Ή Watch on Youtube

πŸ‘€ Connect with Thomas Frank:

Twitter profile: @TomFrankly | https://twitter.com/TomFrankly

Instagram profile: tomfrankly | https://www.instagram.com/tomfrankly/

Website: thomasjfrank.com

πŸ“„ Show notes:

3:22 | About how to know when to quit something

5:27 | People pivot based on trends

6:25] | The benefit of being on the bandwagon

8:26 | The paradigm of audience capture

9:07 | How Tom picks opportunities

12:46 | His working cadence right now

18:31 | Tom’s inciting incident

22:26 | When College Info Geek took off

28:46 | The kinks in the path

33:57 | The muscle of being able to ship consistently

37:05 | Biggest keys to being successful

43:57 | Focusing on the things that mean the most

44:58 | How Tom deals with success

50:51 | Finding leverage

55:56 | Why stasis is dangerous

58:39 | The perfect end goal

1:01:47 | The past version of yourself

πŸ—£ Mentioned in the show:

College Info Geek Podcast | https://collegeinfogeek.com/

The Inforium | https://art19.com/shows/the-inforium

The Dip by Seth Godin | https://amzn.to/3TDIcJM

Ryan Holiday | https://ryanholiday.net/

Sara Deistchy | https://www.saradietschy.com/

Yahoo Geocities | https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yahoo!_GeoCities

Wanting by Luke Burgis | https://amzn.to/3AcZfeS

Discipline is Destiny by Ryan Holiday | https://amzn.to/3USSjeJ

Feynman technique | https://fs.blog/feynman-technique/

Nassim Taleb | https://twitter.com/nntaleb?ref_src=twsrc^google|twcamp^serp|twgr^author

Khe Hy | https://radreads.co/

Back to The Future | https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0088763/

Gifts from your past self | https://www.theknowledge.io/issue45/

The Sunk Cost Fallacy | https://www.theknowledge.io/sunk-cost-fallacy/

Full episode transcript below

πŸ‘¨πŸΎβ€πŸ’» 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.

πŸš€ Career Hyperdrive

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.

During this course, you will make the leap from 'going with the flow' to actively crafting your journey. And you’ll join a community of ambitious peers who will hold you accountable for betting on yourself.


🧭 The Knowledge

On The Knowledge Podcast you’ll hear from the best and brightest minds in business, entrepreneurship, and beyond. Hosted by writer and entrepreneur David Elikwu, each episode features in-depth interviews with makers, thinkers, and innovators from a variety of backgrounds.

The Knowledge is a weekly newsletter for people who want to get more out of life. It's full of insights from psychology, philosophy, productivity and business, all designed to help you think deeper and work smarter.

Website: theknowledge.io

Podcast: plnk.to/theknowledge

πŸ“œFull transcript:

Thomas Frank: [00:00:00]

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.

The pendulum swung the other way, and for the majority of the 2010s, as far as I can remember, everyone was just 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 best output of your life comes when you're obsessed with something 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, because that's what's gonna drive you to wake up [00:01:00] and get to work and actually, put all of your focus and effort and energy into it.

David Elikwu: Hey, I'm David Elikwu. And this is The Knowledge. A podcast for anyone looking to think deeper and work smarter. In every episode I speak with makers, thinkers, and innovators to help you get more out of life.

This week I'm speaking with writer and video creator, Thomas Frank. Now, if you have so much as searched for productivity, at any point in the last 10 years, you have probably come across some of Thomas's content, whether it's his notion videos, his videos on how to learn effectively, how to store information, how to take great notes, how to deal with burnout.

Tom has been one of the most consistent creators that I have seen over the past 10 years or so, and so I have been waiting for this opportunity to be able to sit down with him. And so you're gonna hear us answering a [00:02:00] bunch of questions like how do you find your passion? And how do you pick which projects to start? And then, how do you know when to quit? And how do you deal with success? We covered a real range.

So if you have it in mind to be a creator, whether that is writing, making videos, making music, anything that involves putting something out into the world, I know that you're gonna gain a ton from listening to this episode.

You can get the full show notes transcript and read my newsletter@theknowledge.io. And you can find Thomas online on Twitter @TomFrankly and also on his website at thomasjfrank.com.

If you love this episode, share it with a friend, And please don't forget to leave a review wherever you listen to podcasts because it helps us tremendously to reach other listeners just like you.

Okay. So background, I subscribed to you and I think I mentioned this when we spoke before, when I was in university, which is now like almost a decade ago, a really [00:03:00] long time ago.

But you've been producing this content for that long and it is so interesting. I'll probably ask and talk about how you manage to maintain the level of consistency. But then what I've also found interesting is how that journey has ebbed and flowed and changed in lots of different ways. So just like we were talking about now, you had a podcast that you were running for something like eight years.

First it was the College Info Geek podcast and then the Inforium. And I remember listening to that. And then you decided you're gonna end it. So how did you come to that conclusion?

Thomas Frank: So we have an entire episode kind of about that. We revisited Seth Godin's book The Dip, which I think everyone should read. It's this wonderful little book. You can read it an hour about how to know when to quit something. I guess the real, like concrete reason for us is we had been doing the podcast for eight years, and when you do a podcast and you know this, your time is limited.

There's an opportunity cost and there are other things you just can't afford to do. And we're also making videos on a schedule [00:04:00] and there's like the maintenance and admin work of running a business. And I got to this point where I'm like, I'm running this podcast from trying to share life experiences and wisdom, but then like doing the podcast is preventing me from going and exploring new things and getting new life experiences and wisdom.

So, you know, I think there comes a time where you're like, I've, I've gotten through the dip and this thing that we're doing is just run its course. And when you look at the career trajectories of, you know, a lot of people that we all would admire, you often to like, they eventually quit one thing and that's what allowed them to go and the next thing. And that was just like a much bigger success. So, I don't know, I think life comes in seasons and if you stay in the same season for too long, like you're kind of just preventing yourself from getting into something that you're gonna be more fulfilled by and probably be more successful with.

David Elikwu: That makes a lot of sense. It's really interesting that you mentioned this idea of lots of people quitting things and that quitting is what unlocks the ability to do the next thing. It's something else talking about recently, [00:05:00] which is this idea, I think was Ryan Holiday that shared it where he was saying, The more success you get, the more opportunities you get, but the more opportunities you get, the more important it becomes to learn to say no to things and to actually start to constrain the opportunities that you choose. But this also leads made to something I was thinking about, which is, okay, so you stop doing your podcast. I know Sara Deistchy I think you use to have a podcast a while ago. I'm not sure if she still does that.

But I was gonna say also in general, I think alongside the spectrum of creators, you see a lot of people maybe that start things, experiment with things, stop things at different points in time, but then also simultaneously, I think there's a, a natural element of that, which is just testing things, experimenting, seeing what works, seeing what doesn't work, seeing what matches your energy, et cetera. But then I've also noticed that people will also pivot based on trends. So, for example, Roam came around. Everyone's making Roam videos. Notion comes around, everyone's making notion and I've seen some people, there was someone I was thinking of recently that I'm in the last [00:06:00] year, I've seen them pivot at least three times to become a completely different type of creator.

And I'm interested to know what you think about that and how you balance that against, you know, on one hand there is benefit in being able to experiment, but on the other hand it does mean something maybe to be known for something rather than just changing entirely and now you are this person and now you're that person.

Thomas Frank: With like pivoting and trend following and things like that. There's a sort of core ideal that I think about when it comes to positioning yourself in the market. And that's like the, the sweet spot is this area where you have something you're good at, it's a thing that you're interested in, and it's a thing where there is an eager market that wants to consume whatever you would create. If you can tick all three of those boxes, you're golden. So with respect to like trend following and everything. I do think that there is like a, a balance to be struck there if you are just constantly hopping from bandwagon to bandwagon, yes. You don't become that [00:07:00] go-to person. You don't become like the person who pops into the head of somebody who lands on notion that goes, I don't know what to do or they land on Roam and they're confused. But you know, on the other end of the spectrum, if you stay in one area for too long that's maybe dying out or losing interest, then yeah, maybe you're the go-to person in that area. But like how many people are still looking into that area? How many people still care about it and need your help? And then there, there's a personal component too. So like with productivity and personal development, self development, I haven't published a video in seven months on my channel. You know, I do intend to come back to that channel, but I don't think I intend to do like five tips to break bad habits anymore because while there's always like, there's a perpetual revolving door of people who need that kind of content, whether it's because they are just getting to their career or they're just learning study skills in college or because they have just kind of been off their game for a while and need some motivation, there's like always an audience there.

I just can't do that content over and over and over again. I think like as creators and people, we have to be constantly [00:08:00] evolving and investing in ourselves and if we're just coming back to the same well to exploit it. And that's the only reason why like we are stagnating. And I've done a lot of videos of that type. So if I'm gonna go back to that type of content, it's gotta be some kind of evolution or I can just pivot the kind of content that I'm doing.

David Elikwu: And I guess when you say that and you encapsulate it in that way, it makes a lot of sense to me. And it makes me think of the essence being that you are trying to avoid the paradigm of audience capture. And you're not just trying to become solely what people want and only doing whatever is the most hyped thing. But you are also trying to balance that with your personal originality as a creator. What feels good to you, what you enjoy creating and I think this, you know, is a parallel of what you said with the podcast as well, is that you have to find the balance of, you know, how much you actually spend in the world experiencing things, learning things, that you can then share as a creator rather than [00:09:00] only thinking of yourself as the, the primary paradigm is that I'm a creator who makes things, and whatever people want me to make is what I end up having to make.

Thomas Frank: Yeah. And, and a lot of creators I think, sort of resign themselves to that. Like, I have to make number go up, so I'm just going to do whatever's trendy. However, I wanna say like, we're all built differently, right? So some people actually get fulfillment from being immersed in what's trending right now. Being kind of like in the conversation of like, this is, you know, I want to just follow what people are excited about. My friend Devon from League Legal, he like, he loves doing news content. He loves covering current events on his channel. I could not think of something I would rather do less than be the kind of channel that covers current events. You know, I want to sit in a dark cave and hack on a program for months and then like come out and share it every once in a while, that sort of what drives me. So I don't think it's like this, this pure dichotomy between like, just follow your heart and stick with one thing or follow [00:10:00] the trend. It's more like through experience and introspection. And I think both of those are very important. Find out what actually makes you passionate about the work you do. Is it the fact that you're right in the conversation? You know, some might people, some people might call it following trends. You might call it, I just like current events, or is it I want to go deeply in the something and stay there for while become an expert and it doesn't matter if it's like not the hottest thing.

David Elikwu: Yeah, are there any other paradigms that you use to decide the kind of opportunities that are worth pursuing? Based on, cuz I think you, you've talked about a few different levers before, so one being, one regret. I think you mentioned at one point earlier being that you didn't invest enough in things that compounded over time. And so you might look back and think, Oh, I wish I invested more in building a body of work by some of these different things that I tried at different points and I wish I invested more in some of those different things. So I guess that is one [00:11:00] thing that you might think of in terms of, okay, I could do this thing.

What's the opportunity for it to compound over time? What's the, the value over time, et cetera. But then there's some other things, like I know that you do music and you're thinking of, okay, this is something that maybe is originally just a passion is something that you love doing. How much do you weigh? Okay, just the fun, just because I love doing this thing. And then maybe the finance is another aspect of it, how much money you can make. So how do you weigh all of the different opportunities that you get?

Thomas Frank: Yeah, so I can kind of go back to the set of core desires and values I have in my own life. One of the most important ones is, I'm driven by learning. That's like my favorite thing to do in the world is just break apart a complex system and figure out how works. I also love sharing what I've learned, so that drives a lot of career decisions. I also know that like I don't necessarily want to be the kind of per person who is managing a giant.empire even if I have a lot of delegated people to help do it, I just don't want to be that guy. There's, there's no way I [00:12:00] would ever want to be like an Elon Musk level billionaire or something like that. I don't wanna live that life I wanna, you know, I wanna to have time to focus in on one thing for a very long period of time and dig into it. So that drives a lot of decision making as well. I want to have time to, you know, live a balance life with my family and my friends. And that also drives a lot of decision making. Like there are paths like a go down, maybe like doing a, you know, a VC funded app or something that I know are going to conflict very heavily with those core values I have.

So even if they seem very shiny, it's like, it's one of those great ideas that you need to say no to kind of thing.

David Elikwu: And so you are a primarily a creator, and so I'm assuming you have a lot of control over how you spend your time. One question that I'm interested in, because I know that you've brought it up in the past, is what your working cadence is like right now. And that could just be, day to day or week to week. Because I remember for example, you've mentioned in the past that you wish you took more breaks, and you don't, you probably don't take breaks as much as you should, and you [00:13:00] mostly travel for work or for other things. But I, I think maybe you've been trying to right that balance.

So I'm interested to know how you've evolved in that journey of being able to find the balance between, because I think, you know, of like Colin and Samir for example, they talk a lot about this trap that a lot of YouTubers fall into where they are push to create, and I think this isn't just YouTubers, this is actually creators in general, anything that has a dashboard that shows you metrics, that shows, you know, any charts that could go up into the right, you end, up you end up feeling like you're on a treadmill where there are analytics, you put out one piece of content, you see it go up and that makes you want to do it more. And you put out something and it doesn't feel good if it doesn't do as well as the last thing did. And so there's this feeling that you always have to keep putting out stuff versus thinking about, maybe going back to what you were saying before, I'm just a, I'm a person that creates things, not just a creator of things and having that independence to be able to say, this is when I wanna work, this is how I wanna work, et [00:14:00] cetera.

Thomas Frank: Well, there's, there's an idea that I was tweeting about recently, maybe last week, on how I used to feel so horrible about myself if I had a video that was like a 10 outta 10. And, and for people in the audience who are non creators, there's a little ranking dashboard and it'll show you your video's position of the last 10. So a 10 outta 10 is basically just like your video sucked. And, you know, it's, it's not that your videos suck, it's just that your video has the fewest views out of the last 10 that you uploaded as of this point in time since it was uploaded. So like within four days of upload or something, You know, and I, I struggled to deal with that because when you'd get a 10 outta 10 or nine outta 10, you'd feel like, well, I'm washed up. You know, I've had a bunch of one outta tens, I've had all these great videos and, but this one's just not doing well. And I talk to so many YouTubers who echo the same exact sentiment. It makes me feel like I'm washed up, like I'm all done. The system has tuned me up and spit me out.

But now I don't [00:15:00] feel like that. And a big difference, like a huge difference maker is, the project I'm working on right now is bigger than one video. It's bigger than a month's work. It's bigger than a year's work. Like, as nerdy as some people will call me for wanting to do this, I want to create the world's best educational resource for people who wanna learn notion. Why did I pick that particular software? I just really enjoy using it. And it does check those three boxes. There's an eager market for it. I'm passionate about it. I'm good at it. And there's a lot of stuff that I still have yet to cover. I've barely touched the api. I still haven't made videos about my formula guide. Like there's so many pieces of it. And then there's like specific use cases, vertical integration into specific niches. And that's not gonna be done for at least a year. So when I upload a video like I did last week, and it's 10 outta 10, and it's like half the views of the nine net of 10, I don't care so much because I realize, like I understand this video as more niche It's a much more advanced section [00:16:00] of the project that I'm building, but there are people out there who need this content and they really want it. And the next one we're working on is probably gonna do even worse in terms of views because it's going even further. Like we're teaching the API with No-Code Tools. Next video, we're teaching the API with JavaScript. Most people who are using Notion don't want to break out JavaScript, but there's still that core contingent of people who want to build stuff with the API and they need that introductory resource. And what that means is this giant, beautiful pattern that I'm building needs that piece. If that piece isn't there, then it's missing. And it doesn't matter how many people watched that piece in the first 30 days or whatever. It just needs to be there.

And there's this, there's like this great little exchange in the movie Knives Out, that Rian Johnson made where Marta's playing go with Harlan. And he's like, I don't know why you always beat me at this game. And she's like, I'm not trying to beat you. I'm trying to build a beautiful pattern. So that's how I think of creation now, I'm building this beautiful pattern [00:17:00] and every individual move doesn't need to be judged on its own merit. It needs to be judged on how does it complete the pattern and how, you know, how well was it executed, not how well did it perform in the moment.

That's a big thing for me is just trying to think a little bit bigger and I noticed that with, with my main channel, with my blog content, like 2020, 2021. I was getting to the point where I've been doing it for so long and it wasn't really contributing to some sort of defined project. It was just make the next video. And I think a lot of creators get sort of stuck in that cycle, where it's just like, I just gotta make the next video. I've got sponsors lined up, I've got bills to pay, I've got staff at this point. What's the next video? You know, and some people are again, natural born creators, they want to cover whatever it is that's interesting at the time, they wanna make the next video. But a lot of creators I've talked to feel the same thing, where it's like, I got into it because this, this, and this were interesting and all of a sudden I have this machine I've built [00:18:00] and I have to keep feeding it content. So what's the next piece of content that we're gonna wanna do? You know, if you can find something that's bigger than one piece of content, at least in my experience, it's much more fulfilling and exciting and also cuts down on those giant ebbs and flows of emotional response when, you have really good performance, really bad performance.

David Elikwu: That makes sense. One thing I'm gonna ask you maybe in a bit is how you feel about this portfolio of interest that you've built and engaged with over time. But I think maybe taking a step back, I'd love to know what was the earliest memory that you have of something that maybe was like an inciting incident that set you on this path. So maybe even going before college, before all of the, the typical things that there's a direct connection between. What was maybe the earliest memory that you have that led to you going in this direction?

Thomas Frank: Probably, I wanna say I was 11 years old when I built my first website. This is [00:19:00] such like a stupid story, but this is how I got into web development and web design.

I was raised by a pretty strict Christian family who would not let me buy any CDs that were not from the Christian Music Store. So I find this one CD that's like heavy metal, but Christian, and I loved it. And I found like the band had their own website and they had a forum. So I started hanging on the forum. I was like this 11 year old kid, which I, I was like, I guess I was, I think back to it, I probably checked that box saying I'm 13 or older and lied. But I'm on this forum and there was, I don't know, there was like one user of the forum who was cool and had a lot of reputation points and had posted many times. And in his bio or like the little thing, the signature, they put beneath their posts on every post. He had this other band that he always like posted their logo and I had never heard their music and I didn't have any way to hear their music cuz this was like before Spotify or anything like that. But, I'm 11, I'm an impressional kid and I'm like, I want to be [00:20:00] cool so I'm gonna make a website for this band, cuz they didn't really have a good one.

So I'd stumble across Yahoo geocities and just like scrape the internet looking high and low for all the lyrics to their songs and end up creating like, I think what was the most comprehensive fan website for this band called Zao Z, A, O at the time. And I had like all the lyrics, I had as many pictures I could find from concerts, like all the information. And then I finally. Like a year later, found one of their CDs in the Christian Music store, popped it into the little player to preview it, and I'm like, Oh, I don't like this. So yeah, I just made this website to look cool to strangers on the internet who were probably like 20 years older than me, and then found out I didn't even love the music.

But that was my first website built on Yahoo Geo Cities, and then I built a few more, and then there was like some limitations. So I'm like, Well, how do I, how do I do more than they give me as the tool set here? And that's what led me to learning html. So that's probably the earliest one where I [00:21:00] was just like, I'm building stuff for the web, creating my own thing. And then I, I remember like having this, this sort of like crisis of faith in high school because I had gotten into, it was like an entrepreneurship club or whatever, and was vaguely exposed to the concept that as an entrepreneur you have to deal with your own taxes and finances, but wasn't either willing to look into it hard enough or wasn't like taught about it enough. So I basically just assumed like, Oh, if you screw up one time with your taxes, the IRS is gonna throw you in jail. So I better not go down that path. I'm just gonna like go get a job and be a network admin or something. So I went to college thinking I'm gonna be a network or a system as admin or DV admin or something like that. Got my first internship after my second year of college, realized, nope, don't wanna do this. And had been blogging at the same time. So that's what sort of like pushed me back down the path of let's try things on the entrepreneurial side and I just hope that I'll be able to figure out the taxes and finances.

Turns out they're not as [00:22:00] hard as people make them out to be. And also the IRS is not as draconian . They will send you a letter first

David Elikwu: So one thing I wanted to ask. Okay, so you do that first internship, you realize that you really hate this stuff. You don't find great affinity with this whole full-time working lifestyle, being a cubicle monkey, all of those aspects of the role that you were doing, and then you wanted to take a deeper dive into entrepreneurship. What does that actually looking like in terms of, you have this blog, I think maybe at this point it's starting to kick off. How do you react to that at that time?

Thomas Frank: So for me it was like, it was very much a, I don't know, frog and boiling water kind of thing, like, or like when you're, I don't know, getting into a pool and you just take little, little tiptoes instead of jumping all the way in. I never had like the, Let's jump in and just dive into the cold water moment, because I had done the internship, that was the summer after my second year of college, and I was just like, I can't do this. And I don't know if it was at the [00:23:00] time, it wasn't like I can't do employed work, it was, I can't sit in a cubicle at a giant Fortune 500 and maintain things. That was a big thing. I didn't think at the time that like self talk was, Oh, I must work for myself. But the job I had been given at that internship was I basically like had to write firewall rules to block Facebook.

That was literally my job, and you had like write up a spec on what you were gonna do, get it approved by three different bosses, and then you finally do it. And I realized like my job is literally just maintaining stuff that people have already set up and I want to create. And I think, rather than it being like, Oh, I must be a blogger, I must be whatever, it was more like I had been blogging and I happened to have started getting traction around that time.

So that's where my passion naturally was directing me. Like, let's just keep seeing how far this can go. Not let's, you know, ditch the IT admin stuff and maybe try to pivot to development. But I do remember like getting near graduation, my senior year of college, before I met my wife, [00:24:00] I was like, I don't know what I'm gonna do after college. Maybe I'll go just try to become like a web developer , at a smaller company. So that was like my, I guess, main plan. And when the blog started making money, it was like, Oh, well now let's try entrepreneurship. But what sort of, I guess started getting the ball rolling was I finished the internship, I started going hard on the blog, and then my junior year was the year I started going, maybe I could dial back on some of these other things I'm doing in college that I'm kind of doing purely for the resume value. Like I was part of the honors, program, I guess they call it, and you had to go to certain events and do these like projects and classes and the only thing you'd really get of it other than, I don't know, enrichment would be a chord that you get to wear around your neck when you walk across the stage for graduation. And then you could put on your resume like, Oh, I was an honors student. So that's like the only benefit really that you're getting in terms of material rewards. So I actually dropped out of the honors program because I wanted more time to work on [00:25:00] my website. In hindsight, I think I could've negotiated with the honors people to like, let me make the website my project, but hindsight is 2020. I also had a lot of on campus jobs, ended up quitting most of those, trying to just basically carve out as much time as possible to work on my project because I realized like I don't want to be the college blogger who dropped out of college. That would just, I don't know, it would be kind of hilarious. But I also think that staying for full four years is gonna give me perspective and experience that I can put into my content. So I'm gonna stay, I'm not gonna drop out even though I don't really see the value personally in getting the degree. But I cut as much as possible in terms of like clubs, jobs, whatever, because I wanted to carve out time to work on the website and then it started making decent money about. I wanna say three, no six months before graduation. So that was the point where I'm like, Okay, let me see if I can pay up my student loans and then let me see [00:26:00] if like, this actually holds long enough for me to try to run this full time. I did have the benefit of being in IOWA, which if you are not an American listener, it's a very cheap place to live and living with three other people. So full-time income for me was like a thousand dollars a month. That's all I really needed to survive, and pay my web hosting bill as well.

So that's kind of where I got to. I had met my wife at the same time and she was still a sophomore, so we had two more years before she'd be done, and I'm like, Cool, I'm just gonna stay here in IOWA. I guess I won't move to a big city and try to get a programming job, and I'm just gonna write and build this blog and see how far it can go.

David Elikwu: How did she feel about that at the knowing that, I guess, you know you are.

Thomas Frank: Oh, she thought it was cool. Yeah, I mean I met her when I was, so I was a senior and I think I met her like November of my senior year. It was actually October 27th, my senior year, four days ago. So at the time, I wanna say like the blog [00:27:00] was starting to pick up momentum in terms of earnings and already had a pretty decent audience. So by the time I meet her, like it was already a thing and she's also a very creative person who is an artist and she loves to do her own thing as well. So I don't think she's the kind of person who would've ever been like, skeptical or said like, go get a real job. Though I do remember my, my previous girlfriend who I had earlier on in college, when College info Geek was very small. She was overall supportive. But I remember I dropped out of a class once because I wanted to have more time for the blog and I think until then I like, I think I had a C in the class because I just wasn't doing the readings cuz I was blogging and she's like, you need to put more effort into this class. And I'm like, No, I don't. I need to put more effort into my project and she's like, No, the grades are more important. So that was like a little bit of tension. And you know, like looking back, like she's gone on to be very successful in her career field, which was quite dependent on good grades and grad school and things like that, so [00:28:00] everyone has a different perspective, but I knew like this world, I am deeply embedded into it. I know many successful people in it. Their grades don't matter. So that's not where my focus should be. My focus should be what's the next article? How do I make my website faster? How do I improve the design?

Like, make everything on this project as good as it can be.

David Elikwu: And what I find interesting is that, so you started finding a lot of that success even before YouTube, and that, I guess, poured a lot of fuel on the fire in terms of accelerating the business, every, every aspect of what you did. I, I'm interested in, I guess, two questions. One, how did you, okay, first of all, like getting onto YouTube, how was that and how was it getting that off the ground, even though I'm assuming it wasn't just, it didn't just skyrocket immediately.

But then also what were the, some of the other inflection points along the journey where things didn't work out as smoothly as you might plan or.

Thomas Frank: Good question On the second point. I, I know there's like a lot of inflection points that you could call [00:29:00] failures in a lot of cases I just like don't remember them . I should probably write them down. And I think in many cases it's like, I would say I'm like a patient and calculating person, so I don't often just like throw something huge out there and then watch it crash and burn.

It's more like I'm, I'm the person who is much more likely. To try a dink around with something and make it perfect and then never launch it as a result. So there's a lot of like domains I've bought that just never saw the light at day. Oh yeah. I remember one, I was gonna make a website like for creators and it was gonna be like the developer documentation for creators.

So it would basically look like, I don't know, like the Stripe docs or those kind of websites, but for the, the craft of being a YouTuber. And I bought all the domains and got all the social media handles and they never did it. So there's a lot of projects that just have never seen the last day . But as for like, you know, growing the YouTube channel and everything, the blog had decent traction and then it wasn't straight to YouTube, it was actually straight to podcasting first.[00:30:00]

And that had come because I was listening to Pat Flynn's Smart Passive Income podcast and was an absolute huge fan of it. Absolutely loved it. And I remember him saying something at a conference where he'd say like, People will come up to me and every time they say, I love your podcast. Or I found you from the podcast and it's like, become this thing.

And I'm like, Well, that's cool. I actually kind of feel that like I, I found the blog, but I listened to the podcast much more often and I almost feel like I know this guy because I listened to him every single week. So lemme show the podcast. And that was like a great stepping stone to YouTube because I was actually quite nervous in front of like crowds.

If I was speaking, I'd done it, but I was still quite nervous. And I remember for the first podcast episode, I had to wait until all my roommates had left to go do something else, and then I'm just like, scurrying off to my room and to record this 45 minute episode while they're gone. I have my chance.

And that was like my introduction to getting comfortable with actually putting myself on camera. And even, [00:31:00] even in the beginning, like putting myself on camera was tough and I would rerecord lines over and over and over again. But over time it got more and more, I guess, easy to do. So. It's like, again, this like gradual just tiptoeing in process and then with the YouTube channel.

Yeah, I, I think I remember believing that because I had the blog audience, the channel was going to get more traction initially than it really did. But it also like wasn't disappointing, and this is gonna sound very weird to people who are not as old as me, but I actually didn't know if I should put my videos on YouTube or if I should self host them.

So like, again, I come from the blogging world and now was like, What? You YouTube and TikTok obviously, why would you put your videos anywhere else? But back then I didn't really know about the YouTube algorithm. I feel oh, YouTubers are people like Nika Higa and, the Smosh and like all those ones, right?

Like, you know, the entertainers, like, I'm doing college videos, There's, there's nothing on YouTube about this. So I actually didn't know if I should put stuff on YouTube or if I should use this hosting [00:32:00] platform called wisia that actually had like better tracking and you could like have a email sign a bar on the player itself.

They had all these cool features and they cost like, I don't 200 bucks a month or something . So I, I went with YouTube mostly due to the Cheekness factor, but also starting to think like, well maybe in the future I could collab with other creators and if I'm on YouTube it's gonna be easier. So I get on YouTube, I did like seven videos and none of them really did that.

Great. And then the eighth video kind of popped off, went viral on Reddit. And the funny thing is that video, I think I made it in like two hours. I was on like a strict, like I'm gonna publish a video every single week's schedule. And I'd

gotten to week a. And I think it was like Wednesday, I realized my script is way too long.

This is an overblown project. There's no way I can get this out by Friday, but I have to do something. So I made this video about like how if, if you don't feel like doing something that you can still do it, like not feeling like it isn't like preventing you from doing the thing.

It's just making you not feel like do anything and if you can sort of acknowledge the fact that [00:33:00] you can push through or embrace the suck, you can get more done. And it was just sort of me talking to myself like, I don't feel like getting my video out on Friday, but I have to, this is my schedule. And I guess it just sort of resonated with some people. And that's what sort of put the channel on the map.

David Elikwu: But what you just said right at the end I think is a key that so many people take a really long time to get to. This idea that you make a commitment, 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 this daily blog for a long time, but one of the facts that I love is, I think first three years he, I think it took three years for him to post more than like 300 posts in a year, which is 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.

So I'm interested to know how you found building that [00:34:00] 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, 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.

I lean on my coach who sends me programming. It's like, get to the gym, get your thing done, cuz 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.

The one I was using was called Beeminder And [00:35:00] it's basically like you can hook it up to any API RSS fee. 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, 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. 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. And I, 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 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. 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 [00:36:00] 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. 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. So 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 and then after a while maybe it doesn't matter 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, [00:37:00] I just wouldn't have the time to get very deep into those things and learn the things I learn.

David Elikwu: Yeah. 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. 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.

The pendulum swung the other way, and for the majority of the 2010s, as far as I can remember, everyone was just 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 best output of your life comes when you're obsessed with something [00:38:00] 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.

So passion is important. And if you find yourself. You know, 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.

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 [00:39:00] just have this innate desire to go and explore and see what's around the next bend or over that mountain or up in the sky.

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. 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.

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 [00:40:00] own really.

We can only do things, through the collective power we have. So when you are a creator, you 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, which is mimesis, which I'm sure you've come across. An idea from RenΓ© Girard . There's a book called Wanting by Luke Burgis, which is really good. It's a great encapsulation of this idea.

RenΓ© Girard was an academic at Stanford, and he was an advisor to, or mentor to Peter Teal. 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 worth wanting, but as you see models around you, model desire by choosing the things that they think are desirable. [00:41:00] 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. 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 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 wander off and then you realize actually this is not what resonates with me.

This is not the thing that I care about. 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. [00:42:00] 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.

And when the answers 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. And, 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, [00:43:00] right? So I don't know. 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.

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, and to make those things go up. 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. How do you, So I think I, I love what you were saying about this idea [00:44:00] 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.

But then I guess on the flip side, then you've also talked about this idea that you, you know, you have a frequency of posting and at, 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.

How do you deal with actually the, the success of it? Cause I think very often the question that people ask is, Oh, when it doesn't well, how do you deal with 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: Yes. Yeah. There's this, this common, [00:45:00] I guess, thing that a lot of successful people 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?

So, you know, just to be very transparent, like I have found myself being, unnecessarily like jealous 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, there's, there's like a little seed of [00:46:00] 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 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. [00:47:00] 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? The other thing is, what are you building? What are you putting out into the world? Because, when I was, 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.

David Elikwu: Yeah.

Thomas Frank: And I don't know, maybe some people are totally satisfied with that. But like I said earlier, one of my core driving, motivations is constantly learning. [00:48:00] And I guess the way 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, [00:49:00] and what enough looks like. And, well, not so much what enough looks like, but the idea 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 2010s 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.

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, you know, contextual for some people. Some people might disagree, but I would say that the earth is round. And there's this.

Thomas Frank: I thought we all knew it banana shaped

David Elikwu: Exactly, who knows? But I think [00:50:00] 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 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, the sticking point, you end up kind destroying your own and, and, and bringing everything back down again. 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.

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 [00:51:00] 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: Gotcha. I'll throw a curve ball and say that in my personal 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. Like, so that was basically just like no work almost for a little while, and then came back from that and [00:52:00] swung back and yeah, like when, 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. I balanced in one direction for too long, kind of is like, I don't know, it sort of like speaks to the, the value of focus. Every time that I've tried to live like a 100% balanced day, it's like not a lot gets done.

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. [00:53:00] The next goal was, write a blog post. And some 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.

Another metaphor, I, 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.

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 [00:54:00] 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. So if you're trying to do literally everything to, to live this perfectly balanced life on a day-to-day basis, you never get yourself in, in like, deep enough into the minds to do anything worthwhile. 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 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 it

David Elikwu: Yeah, I love both of those [00:55:00] 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 Nassim Taleb talks about this idea of being antifragile, and it's this idea that there are some systems that fragility is bad for 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. And 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 sick, your back cuts, 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 that the key [00:56:00] is not on, 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 states, then that is one way to be incredibly successful.

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, 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, 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 [00:57:00] 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. 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, 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.

But sometimes if you can get through the hard part, then you know, things naturally unravel in the way that they should.

Thomas Frank: Yep. 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, you know, physical atoms moving.

David Elikwu: So one last question that I wanted to ask you. Β 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 and he was the guest before you on this podcast. So that's coming out this week.

So I took his course and he asked so many [00:58:00] incredibly deep questions.

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. 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: Hmm. I'm not sure there's a perfect end goal. I've gotten questions, you know, 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. I, I couldn't tell you, Oh, I'm founded this company and we're doing this. [00:59:00] 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.

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.

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, and making sure that I've kept myself healthy as best I can. [01:00:00] And, you know, that's, it's just, it's just sort of like a broad strokes picture, it's tough 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, a failure. 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?

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 cuz 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.

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 [01:01:00] 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 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 in 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. 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 [01:02:00] 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 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? But there was this, there is a concept that a Twitter friend of mine tweeted about yesterday about like the, the folly of trying to rely on like archived inspiration.

I, 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 you put it on your to be read list. I don't know if you could hear that. I think somebody just went by it like a million miles an hour on a motorcycle.

But like, you put a book on your to be read list [01:03:00] and then six months later you're like, well, I should read that. Well, that's like archived inspiration. It's the, I'm trying to resurrect the inspiration that I had six months to go to read this book, and I'm hoping that will push me through it. But it doesn't exist in the moment.

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 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 [01:04:00] gifts from your past self. Seth Goodin talks about this actually, and he talks about the sunk cost effect and the fact that, you know, if your, the example he gives is, you went out and bought a pair of shoes yesterday and you realized today that they don't fit.

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 the dreams or the decisions of our past selves. And we can, you we can accept it as 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. 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, the things that you decide to invest in based on your passion, [01:05:00] 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 the podcast and follow me on Twitter feel free to shoot me any thoughts. See you next time

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