#153 Jimmy Soni, Bestselling Author, Speaker, & Speechwriter: Favorite Books, Lessons Learned as an Author, Superpowers, and More

On the latest episode of 20 Minute Playbook, we interview the bestselling author and former Huffington Post Managing Editor Jimmy Soni.
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August 13, 2023
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#153 Jimmy Soni, Bestselling Author, Speaker, & Speechwriter: Favorite Books, Lessons Learned as an Author, Superpowers, and More


On the latest episode of 20 Minute Playbook, we interview the bestselling author and former Huffington Post Managing Editor Jimmy Soni. We decode what he’s mastered and learned along the way—from his biggest lessons learned as an author to his favorite books, his superpowers, the advice he’d give his younger self, and more—all in 20 minutes.


Daniel Scrivner (00:00):

Jimmy Soni, I'm so excited to have you today. Thank you so much for making time and for coming on.

Jimmy Soni (00:04):

Daniel, thank you so much for having me.

Daniel Scrivner (00:06):

So where I typically like to start, I know a lot about your background. We're going to get into some of it in this interview. But for people listening that aren't familiar with your work with what you do, what's the 62nd version of your story?

Jimmy Soni (00:19):

I'm an author and I have had the good fortune of exploring a bunch of different themes at book length that engage me. And it's been the thrill of a lifetime to explore some of these subjects. But that's the 62nd version, is I'm an author who gets to basically spend anywhere from three to six years nerfing out on topics. It's great.

Daniel Scrivner (00:44):

Three to six years is an incredibly long period of time. It's something I've got to explore when we get into our full length interview of one of your books, the Founders, in a Little Bit. You've spent your career writing about a really diverse range of topics. That was one thing that just blew me away. You've written about the origin story of PayPal and the PayPal mafia. You've profiled a historic mathematician, Claude Shannon, whose work is deeply technical and very important. And your most recent books about one woman's 25-year quest to restore the beloved carousel at Brooklyn Bridge Park, totally disconnected. How do you decide what to write about and are there themes or ideas that tie your work together?

Jimmy Soni (01:23):

Yeah, when you were saying all that, you made me think of that great Winston Churchill line. And I think he said this, there's always stuff that people say. He said that he didn't say, but I'm pretty sure he said this one, where he was given a thing of pudding and somebody was like, "What do you think of the pudding, Winston?" And he said, "The pudding has no theme." And so hopefully my work is not putting without a theme. But in more seriously, I would say there's two things. A lot of the people listening are entrepreneurs or investors, so they know the following itch. The itch is you go looking for something and you cannot find that thing and it bothers the heck out of you. And so if you were to apply that to my literary and writing life, that's essentially what I do.


You can make it sound complicated. But really, the simple truth is I see, I go on Amazon, I look for a book to buy. I don't find it, or I don't find one that I think is of sufficient quality based on just, "Yeah, I've got quick back the envelope estimations." I'm like, "Oh, this was written 50 years ago and maybe it needs an upgrade or it was out of print, or somebody clearly had an agenda here." And I look for the book I want to read. If I can't write it, I have this commitment to myself that I'll just keep pushing until I figure out that either someone's done it, in which case I can just pre-order it, or I'm going to see why. Why hasn't anybody done this? This seems obvious to me. And in each case, if you were to look back at my projects, I wrote about this ancient Roman Senator Cato the Younger and the other three books you mentioned, it was a case of just really being flummoxed, why nobody has done this.


Just some of this seems obvious to me, but it doesn't ... And I spent my life around books. And then when I find that if I'm the right person for the project and I have some special reason to do it, I've gotten it across the finish line a few times. I would say that's the operational piece of it. The more thematic piece of it is I was a reader growing up. And even as a kid, the stories that I enjoyed were stories about endurance and stories about adventure and stories about people who created things and who invented things. I'm a big fan of people who pushed the limit. I admire them hugely. And whether that is in restoring a carousel that everybody had left in the discard pile and then bringing it to Brooklyn Bridge Park and fighting to make that happen or it's in creating PayPal, which was literally called one of the five worst business ideas of 1999 when it debuted.


I think that I'm drawn to that whether it's creativity, innovation, endurance, all that cocktail of stuff, I think that that's what I'm compelled to write about. And so in each case, my subjects had a version of that. But there are some writers I think who have a formula or they have something. They're like, "I got to do this and then I have to do this and then I have to do this." I am much more episodic. I have to see an idea, I have to know that I'm not just copycatting someone else and that I can add something new to the shelves. And then I've just got to go whole hog into it for a few years.

Daniel Scrivner (04:50):

Yeah. And just knowing that, it's remarkable to me. I think it's incredibly impressive, just the level of ambition of all of your projects being three, five, six years. Given that amount of time, do you have some system? Maybe it's a running list on your phone of things you're thinking about writing. And what's your process of going through and making the decision to actually commit to a project, 'cause it's a massive commitment?

Jimmy Soni (05:15):

Yeah, no, it's a great question. I'm smiling because I actually have this thing. It's literally all caps and it's the most disorganized document you've ever seen in your entire life. And it's called the Book Ideas master doc. And it's a mix of emails copied and pasted over or random links to PDFs. So I'll give you an example. Let's do it live. Let show you what I added two or three days ago based on a hunch or a speculation. On Friday, I hadn't seen this movie. But there's this movie downfall that's about Adolf Hitler's last days and the fall of Germany. And the day after, I do what I often do. I'll have some thoughts in my head and I'll just go googling around and Wikipedia level research. And in the course of that, one of the things that engaged me was there's this website for the Holocaust memorial that's in Israel. It's called Yad Vashem.


And within the Yad Vashem website, there's all these stories about people who protected Jewish people and many others at great risk of their own lives. And I think there's some award that's given annually. But there's a lot of books and treatments and movies. This is everything from Schindler's List to ... And so I started looking at stories about people like that, and I found this French couple that was responsible not in the aftermath of the Holocaust. They set out on a 30 or 40 year quest to find ... For people from the Nazi high command to bring them to justice. And these stories are spy thrillers. They're unbelievable. And there have been a few books in this domain. But basically I spent all this time and I found a couple stories where I was like, "Huh, someone should really do a book about this."


And so all I did was I took the PDF of ... There was a Department of Justice memo I found about one case where the US government actually worked with one of the former Nazis. And it was a big scandal and the department did a house cleaning and wrote this all in a report. And I was like, "Someone should really ... It's so complex, it's so interesting. What moral lines did we cross? What was right, what was wrong?" And so I put, just copied pasted the link to the PDF in that document not two and a half days ago. And I don't know if I'll come back to it. I suspect I will most of the time. I come back to this document pretty regularly. And what I do is I just revisit, rethink, and I look to see if somebody else has done a book.


I'll give you an example of when it doesn't work out just so listeners have a sense of this. Before I wrote the PayPal book, the proposal that I had finished that I was actually just about to try to get Simon and Schuster to do was biography of Bruce Lee. I thought Bruce Lee was just super interesting and much more interesting ... People see him as a martial arts movie person, but he is much more than that. His life had a lot of different dimensions. He and he died very young, but left this massive imprint on Hollywood. And I had finished his proposal. And then come to find out somebody else has been working on a book for five years. And he speaks Mandarin, he's a martial artist, he is a smart person, had written books before. And so I politely abandoned that project, added that book to cart and moved along.


And sometimes I'll just put stuff in. This is funny, it's funny sharing this. This shows you how Helter Skelter or some of these things can be. Sometimes I'll just put something in. I put in a little bit ago, I was like, "Sports book." And I was not because I watch a lot of sports, but just because I think sports are this incredible domain of competitiveness and ambition and self-improvement and people overcoming what they think their limitations are. And so it was literally just Sports Book. And what that means to my brain is go back, start to think about some of the untold great sports stories. I think for example, the Olympics have a bunch of stories that are still not well told. And that that's the process, is I have this big document and I just add to it. And but then I move on for a little while until I figure out what I'm going to do next.

Daniel Scrivner (09:17):

I love it. It's a fascinating process. I really hope that you write this spy thriller around Nazis and bringing some of the Nazi high command to justice because I would love just ... You saying that, my mind's already like, "Oh, that would be a fascinating book", 'cause it's a genre I'm super into. I love that process. Thank you so much for walking us through that live. I wanted to ask ... So I love that you added in the Cato book as well too, because it also just goes to show how very different the books that you've written.


So I want to focus in for a second on The Founders, which is a story of PayPal and the entrepreneurs who shaped Silicon Valley and A Mind at Play, which is all about how Claude Shannon invented the information age. And we're going to link to these in the show notes. I think these are both books that our audience would be fascinated in. So I just want to see if you could talk a little bit about both of these books and what you learned writing them. I'm curious in particular what surprised you the most or what still resonates with you the most about each of these books?

Jimmy Soni (10:15):

Yeah, why don't we go in chronological order? Because A Mind to Play, which is about Claude Shannon, it was before The Founders. So for those of you who don't know if you thought about the great forgotten geniuses of the 20th century, one of the folks who was on par with an Einstein or a Feynman, was a gentleman named Dr. Claude Shannon, invented a field called information theory. And the easiest way I can think to explain it is if you were listening to this or watching the video, the reason it doesn't take you five weeks to listen to the audio or to download the video is because of compression algorithms that Claude Shannon identified. He identified that you could take all information, no matter what it was, and create bits, the fundamental unit of information. And then he discovered that you could compress them and send them with a minimum of loss.


And there were a bunch of techniques he developed. We don't have to go into the science. But he was a hugely consequential figure in 20th century science. And nobody had written about him. I wrote the book. We could just talk about him and what I learned doing the book. But I would say there's two lessons. One is a lesson from his life, and the other is a lesson in doing the book. The lesson from his life is if you can find a way to see your work as play, you could unlock a superpower, because one of the things that Claude Shannon did is that he really had no regard for anybody's opinion of him. It was amazing actually. He was this heralded scientist, but he would reject speaking invitations. He would not go to accept awards. He had to be dragged to do certain things. But at the same time, he was building toys in his house and he was building a flame throwing trumpet, a chess playing computer. Some of the earliest gadgets that we take for granted, Claude Shannon built.


And you could look at it and say, "Well, that was silly", or that sort of thing. But actually, the same mind that created information theory, the science also made End Game, the chess playing computer, and it all came from this spirit of play. He was always playing. And I think there have been great other books written on this and this topic has been picked over a bit. But the reason that it's interesting in Shannon's life is Shannon also won the presidential medal for science, whatever the national award for ... He was elected to every academy he could be elected to. So it wasn't that he was just sitting around twiddling his thumbs or eating bonbons and playing. It was that he made massive contributions to science and was admired by people like Steve Jobs, and saw everything he did in this spirit of play.


So I really took from that. And I think that's an important thing that I think a lot of adults it's easy to lose sight of. So that's one lesson. The meta lesson I learned from the book, I don't think I've ever actually shared this before, but it was just something I realized about a month or two ago. Some of the people that I interviewed passed away during the course of my time interviewing them. And there were a couple people I had thought to reach out to that I never got to because they passed away. And I think one of the things that it taught me ... If you interact ... Here's a good example, I interacted with Claude Shannon's widow, and then she passed away before the book came out. So I had one of the last interviews with Betty Shannon, who's an enormous consequential figure in her own right.


And it just made me very cognizant of, I would say, not losing stories or not taking for granted that the people, whether in your life, your professional life, or if you're a storyteller, if you want to write a book, don't assume that the person, the subject, the friend, the parent, is going to be around forever. I learned this very powerfully. There were people that I interviewed and then the next year they were gone. And that left a pretty deep impression on me. I don't think I ever actually really thought about it until the last couple months. But I remember thinking about back on that process and being like, "Wow, there were people that we just can't talk to now." Shifting gears, the Founders is a book ... The subjects of that book are better known to your audience. In fact, frankly to the world at this point. Elon Musk is a household name everywhere. And the group of people who created the company are people like Peter Thiel, Reid Hoffman, the founders of YouTube, the founders of LinkedIn, Tesla Space, et cetera.


They're a generally pretty well known group. But no one had really gone back and looked at these first years of their life. Then they didn't know what they were doing. They were very young. They didn't have a lot of money, You couldn't walk into a room, say the name Elon Musk and have people rec ... He was just another person, another entrepreneur in the world. And I think you asked the question, "What did I take away from doing that book?" And the thing that I would say has one of the most powerful imprints on me ... Let's do two. Let's do one that's a consequence of the book itself and then the other is the process of doing the book. The learning from the book itself is that talent can come from the most unexpected people. So there's a bunch of economics around this, but there's actually a couple ... Danny Kahneman has done some work around this. But it's very hard to suspend our judgments about people.


And so you have an impression in your mind of someone who does a certain thing. But the story of PayPal is partly Peter Thiel and his others in the leadership team suspending that judgment and hiring a bunch of people who may not have had any business doing a payments company and then managing to make it successful. And I think to some degree, that is true of almost all startups because you have to be a bit of an outsider to an industry to decide that everything that the industry is doing is wrong. That's hard to do if you're cut from central casting. But it's on overdrive at PayPal. They hired a former journalist to do customer service at the beginning. You had people who had no experience in the industry who were launching a payments platform, Max Levchin and Peter Thiel famously didn't know what chargebacks were.


Chargebacks are a fundamental principle within the credit card industry, and they're building this payment processor and they had flatly admit, like, "What are chargebacks?", in one meeting with somebody from the industry. I take that and the positive lesson from it is you really don't know. You really should never judge from a first impression or a first interview someone's capacity for something or their capacity to be great at something, because a lot of the people who are super talented at PayPal, they would've been real square pegs in other round holes. But they fit right in there and they managed to make the company successful. The lesson from doing the book is people... And I don't want this to sound too Pollyanna, and there are other lessons and we can get into them. There's a ton of them. But one of the things that I realized was people want to share their stories.


I had this experience of I interviewed around 300 people for this book. And time and again, what would happen is people would start and schedule maybe a half hour with me because they thought, "Okay, this is just some person, he needs a something." And then we would end up having these epic long two, three hour conversations. And these are some of the busiest people in the world. And I remember thinking, "What's the reason?" And then I realized actually most of us aren't listened to most of the time. Actually, we have a listening deficit to a degree. And we can go into the ways I structured this, but the whole book process taught me to be a much more careful listener. I don't do it perfectly. And when you have a seven-year-old, there's some frustrations to come in with listening too much. But it's taught me to be a much better listener. That was a longer answer than you wanted maybe, but I think it's worth it.

Daniel Scrivner (17:45):

No, that was amazing. No, that was incredible. I teed up a simple question. You slam-dunked it with a couple of amazing answers. I want to ask a little bit of a different question. From the outside looking in, the projects you've taken on seem to me intimidating in very ambitious projects. Just even looking at the founders being like, "I'm not in Silicon Valley." We talked about this and you had some fascinating perspectives on it. We were talking about what we would cover today. But being like, "Here's some of the most influential people in the world, I'm going to go try to interview them and piece together this story back in time." I think a lot of people would probably say, "Whoa, that seemed ... I'm way out of my depth." And so the question I wanted to ask is: How do you get past the fear of covering such ambitious topics? And maybe part of that is your fear tolerance is just lower. And then the second one is: Do you grapple at all with imposter syndrome and how have you worked around that or gotten over that?

Jimmy Soni (18:38):

Yeah, oh boy. I hope we have time because this is the good one.

Daniel Scrivner (18:43):

We've got time.

Jimmy Soni (18:45):

So here's what I would say. I laughed when you played it back to me because if someone had played back to me the reality of what you just said, like, "Oh, so there's some of the most input", I probably would've been freaked out at the beginning and I know I was. Here's what I would say. I'm going to answer your second question first with just a declarative, which is absolutely 100%. I basically bathed in imposter syndrome for six years while writing this book. It was not pleasant. And I think that if you're doing a project like this and you don't have a little bit of imposter syndrome, you're probably not approaching it the right way. Maybe there's two people in the world. Maybe Kara Swisher and one other person don't have imposter syndrome when they're doing these interviews. But you would be foolish if you're walking into Elon Musk's living room and you're about to talk to him about this period in his life and you don't have a little bit of imposter syndrome.


Now, mine was on overdrive just because that's how I'm wired. What I would say is I had different strategies and techniques to get over that and it's not unique to my circumstances. Meaning somebody listening might not ever write a book that's interview based. But you are probably or maybe going to be pitching a venture capital firm for funding, or you're going to be presenting your idea somewhere, or you're going to have to recruit or you're trying to get recruited by a company. And I answered my imposter syndrome, a few different techniques. And I'll go through them quickly so that there's some meat on the bones of what I said. The first is over time, I accepted that I wasn't going to be as smart as Elon Musk at creating SpaceX. That was just never going to happen.


But where I knew I could be great was in the writing of narrative nonfiction books, which he has not done. Now he might be better than me. Oddly, he's actually a pretty widely read person. He's a gifted writer. I think he could do it if he wanted to. But I accepted that in this particular domain, I was a few steps ahead of him, which gave me just enough confidence when you're in the room so you don't start breaking out hives. My second answer to the imposter syndrome was just maniacal, insane, absolutely crazy overkill preparation. And this is just again partly how I'm wired, but partly how I think these projects should be approached. The person I look up to most in the writing world, one of them is Robert Caro. You talk about spending six years on my books. He spends 10 years and he moves to the places his subjects live to really go whole hog.


And if there's a comparable figure, he's it. He's the guy in my field. I always talk to myself, like, "What would Robert Caro do?" It's like, "Well, he would just watch everything, listen to everything." There was a period of time, Daniel, where the only podcast I listened to were of my interview subjects. The only videos I watched at night when I needed to wind down were of my interview subjects. I went into a cave, and what I did was I assumed that if I read, watched or listen to everything they said, then I was at least coming in with the ability to not make big mistakes. I wasn't going to say anything that I had seen in an interview that offended them or that I heard that they didn't want to respond to. But I just went way overboard with the preparation, and that helped to a degree.


The other thing that helped is I built structures so that some of the anxiety would go away. I'll give you one example, this is a small minor one. But it's actually important. I'd always make sure to show to interviews super early. And when we had talked about this before, I told you I always built in the Uber gets a flat tire time, which is an excessive amount. It's an hour extra. And I'd be waiting in the parking lot of whatever building I had to go into so that I knew that there was going to be no interruption. So I wouldn't dial up my angst or my nerves about it. I always made sure to find a FedEx location next to the place that I was going to do the interview. And if I couldn't have a printer, 'cause I was on the road, I would print out the interview questions at the FedEx near where I was going to do the interview, and then go over to the interview so that the interview questions weren't on a digital device.


They were always available to me and there was nothing ... I was short of somebody taking them out of my hand, nothing bad was going to happen. I did this and this is the final one. Then we can move on. I built if then statements into my questions. So this is, engineers will be familiar with this. But at the bottom of all my interview questions I would have, "If going well", and I have 15 other questions. And then in particular circumstances, I'd write to myself, "If going badly, pivot to this." And so I had all these fail-safes built in to deal with it, because the truth is what you said was right. I was an outsider Silicon Valley, never created a company, never raised a dollar of VC funding. I've gotten money from publishers, which is a little bit of a different, but there's some echoes. But I was coming in not really knowing the Silicon Valley ecosystem, not reporting on technology for 10 years. So I was coming in behind the eight-ball. And my answer to it was a few of the things I just talked about.

Daniel Scrivner (24:20):

No, it's an incredible answer. And I love, obviously what shines through is ... We're going to get into Founders, but obviously a clear parallel with a lot of the people that you're covering is they're obsessive about what they're doing. You're equally obsessive about what you're doing and you pour so much time and energy and effort and care into it. It really shines through in the books. I want to ask about your favorite books. You brought up Robert Caro there. The question that I have for you is, and this is super wide open, can be favorite books in any category, what books have had an impact on you personally or what books or authors similar to Robert Caro, do you admire their work or what they've done?

Jimmy Soni (24:56):

I would say ... I'll throw out a few titles, but this list is very long, so I'll keep my comments relatively brief. Among the people who do the work that I enjoy, who do it the best, Michael Lewis is definitely at the as close to the top list as you can get. His books are engaging, they're beautifully written and they're exceptionally well researched and he makes it look easy. And that's the worst part of the whole thing, is that you don't get the sense that this is particularly taxing for him. Although I know good writing is hard for anybody, but his books are just world-class. And I would say Moneyball and The Blind Side are particularly striking. So he's one and I love those books, and I would really recommend him to anybody. The cool thing about his books is that you can experience both the book, and the movie and the writing is really easy to get through. He's a master of the craft. There's just nobody as good.


In that same spirit, more historical, is an author named Candace Millard. So Candace Millard wrote this book. She's writing a bunch of books, but she wrote a book called Destiny of the Republic. It's about James Garfield, who's a president that is not on the tip of anybody's tongue but it's a really good book. She wrote about Teddy Roosevelt. She wrote about Winston Churchill. So what she does that's so cool is she takes a figure like Winston Churchill, where everybody's written ... You'd think everything that's ever needed to be said, there's so many books about him. And she manages to find his first wartime experience and this untold story about this first experience more when he's in Africa and she tells it incredibly well. And so that's the thing that I take away from that, more practically because I think part of what you do well is you're trying to offer your audience practical value.


So I would say both those books have some practical value and both those authors rather in their collections. But I would say it's a little self-helpy and I know he gets panned for different things. But Wayne Dyer is somebody ... And I'll explain this so there's a caveat here. The caveat is I came to this book because I learned about Sarah Blakely who was the founder of Spanx, the youngest female billionaire in the United States. I was always try to study outliers. I'm like, "Oh, that's interesting. Youngest female, billionaire. It's a very small club to begin with and then to be the youngest, wow." The book she said most influenced her was this book called How to Be A No-limit Person by Wayne Dyer. It's an old book and I just listened to the audiobook all the time because that is what Sarah Blakely said she did when she was the age of 16, 17, and 18.


And that it's for the right moment in your life, that kind of thing can be very helpful. And I know people have their strong opinions about it, but it's been inordinately helpful to me. Creative work or entrepreneurial work is by definition a high-wire act. You are dealing not just with the difficulty of doing the thing, you are dealing with your own enormous self-doubt that the thing can be done at all, and that you're the person to do it. And you're just wracked with the difficulty and the anxiety and what if it fails and what if this and what if that? And I find that Wayne Dyer book really does help get through that.


And in that same spirit, and I know he's much more popular and he's alive, David Goggins, his first book Can't Hurt Me, left a real impression on me. It isn't just the story of a Navy SEAL and super athlete. What I like are the early chapters where he describes what his life was because you would not think that anybody who comes from that could achieve what he's achieved. And it's a testament to the human spirit. I remember going through difficult moments during the writing of PayPal, where I was seven days a week every single day waking up, and this thing was just crushing me. And I didn't know if it would work. And I just remember listening to a lot of David Goggins on that audiobook and really getting into it. And it can sound trite maybe to some people, but stuff works.

Daniel Scrivner (28:58):

No, I completely agree. Listening ... I'm blanking on it now, but I recently listened to an interview with someone. And one of the things that they said is anytime they're working on a particularly challenging project, they always have some self-help book that they're reading and reflecting every single night, just to make sure they're getting some of that energy, 'cause I think to your point, yes. When you're just the act of creation alone, especially if you do that with ambition as a high-wire act. But it's also I think one of the biggest influences negatively can be you limiting yourself. You talking about Wayne Dyers, how to be a No-limit person, which I'm definitely going to download it and listen to because I'm a fan of that. But it reminds me of a book that another guest brought up that I've been listening to recently called The Big Leap, which sounds very similar. And that's a book that I personally wouldn't recommend. It's just filled with so much fluff.


But the big idea really in the book is don't limit yourself and try to recognize when you're upper limiting yourself in a given instance. I think that stuff's incredibly helpful. Amazing, amazing, amazing books. Thank you so much for that. I'm going to ask one final closing question, which is if you could go back in time to your childhood, the start of your career, is there anything you tell your younger self? And this can be a reminder or this could be words of advice. Any wisdom? Is there anything you would tell your younger self?

Jimmy Soni (30:15):

Depends on how much time I have. I'm pretty young, or at least I see myself as pretty young. And so I've got miles to go. So I'm not sure I'm in the advice giving business yet. But yeah, I'm cribbing this from a book that Tyler Cowen wrote about talent. But I think one of the things that you do when you're writing a book is that every day, at least from my process, you are required to level up in some small way. You're getting incrementally better because you're writing. And he has this idea of what is your equivalent of practicing scales? What a pianist would do when they're practicing scales. And I don't think that ... Books have been self-enforcing scales for me, and they've forced my habits toward writing and toward the improvement of it and getting better at it and learning more techniques and more methods so that I can do it faster and cleaner and crisper. And I would tell my younger self, "Get to a place where that practice is happening."


When I'm in book mode, I work seven days a week and I just keep going and I keep going and I keep going. And it's not hours and hours necessarily every day, but I don't stop and I have that unbroken chain of work. And to me, that's practicing skills. I think the younger self of a younger version of me would've been better served if I had figured out earlier that actually that's great. That fits my personality. It is the obsessiveness I like. And figuring out that my skills were just get writing done every day and you'll just level up so much faster and it gets so much easier over time, because a good example is I'm starting to think about what my next project is going to be. Now I was talking to a friend of mine about it. We might co-write something. And I was saying, I said, "Look after the Founders, whatever comes next is going to not be as difficult. This was grueling."


And so I think the idea of ... But to my mind that the image in my head of that practicing scales thing has helped me get through what can sometimes be a monotonous exercise. And everyone has this. A business owner probably has this. Maybe it's making sales calls, maybe it's writing pitch emails. Whatever that thing is, you can find a way to treat it as practicing scales and you're like, "Okay, this is going to get better over time."

Daniel Scrivner (32:38):

I love that advice. And it also reminds me of ... Or another similar thought is not just figure out what is your equivalent of practicing scales, but figure out how to make that a joyful thing because you're going to be doing this forever. You need to have this be a joyful exercise as you're in the middle of doing it. And just setting that expectation earlier on that may feel like work to you when you're younger, but you need to find a way to fall in love with that and get into the flow state. It's a perfect note to end on. Thank you so much for coming on, Jimmy. I really appreciate it.

Jimmy Soni (33:06):

Thank you.

On Outlier Academy, Daniel Scrivner explores the tactics, routines, and habits of world-class performers working at the edge—in business, investing, entertainment, and more. In each episode, he decodes what they've mastered and what they've learned along the way. Start learning from the world’s best today. 

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