Mixergy Megatip: Tim Ferriss on being an outlier

If you have heard about the book The 4-Hour Workweek then you probably know who Tim Ferriss is. You might also know about his other books: The 4-Hour Chef and The 4-Hour Body. Entrepreneurship, cooking, and physical health are three very different topics. From the outside, some folks might look at Tim’s books — at least the latter two — and assume they are gimmicks. After listening to a relatively recent Mixergy interview of Tim, I no longer have any doubt: Tim is brilliant. And he is legit.

Tim’s interview is one of the best Mixergy interviews I’ve listened to. Since it was supposed to be about his new book, and my wife Varsha and I often think of ourselves as amateur chefs, I had lined it up for a road trip together to Charleston. Although the interview barely covered the book itself, Varsha and I were in stunned silence soaking it in. There were a number of huge take-aways from the interview, but there is one that has stuck in my mind more than any other; it’s the secret of how Tim is, time and time again, able to master anything.

We’re not all born superstars

The most obvious and intuitive approach to becoming better at something is to imitate the best. To most of us, this means copying the superstars. For example, if you want to become a better golfer, you might try to mimic Tiger Woods. If you want to be an Olympic swimmer, why look any further than Michael Phelps? Tim implies that this is a mistake. Tiger Woods, Michael Phelps, and most other superstars were born with natural talent and ability that very few of us possess. There is a reason why so many professional athletes grew up dominating multiple sports in their youth.

Tim’s advice? Find the outlier. Look for the person that probably shouldn’t have made it, but did. Keeping the sports analogy going, you might want to learn from John Stockton — not LeBron James. The person who succeeded despite a lack of natural advantages. The one who had to take an unconventional approach, figure out some tricks, and take some shortcuts. The one who had to find some way to do what nobody thought they could do. It’s likely that you will benefit more from studying his or her approach, than by copying a natural-born superstar.

The Mixergy interview with Tim is full of several other awesome take aways, like how your should really apply the 80-20 rule, and why systematizing everything actually creates more freedom in your life. If you are still doubting that Tim could actually become an expert at so many different things, then all the more reason to listen to him. He might be the outlier you need to imitate. Listen to the interview here.

Mixergy Mega Tip: PR without pitching yourself

I absolutely crave hearing the back story of how an entrepreneur built his or her company. For this reason, I am a huge fan of Andrew Warner’s Mixergy. Now that I have a daily 20+ minute commute to our office in Durham, I’ve been trying to catch up on the archive of Mixergy episodes. Not only do I find each founder’s story fascinating, but there is often an “aha moment” or two that really stick out. I thought I would start recording those here as a catalog I can refer to in the future.

I’ve spent a bit of time these past few months reaching out to journalists (mostly cold) and trying to drum up some “free” exposure for the company. I’ve had a couple of hits — including a nice article in InformationWeek, as well as exposure in a few key industry publications — but, by in large, it has been a time consuming and draining effort. That’s why I was really excited to recently listen to Grasshopper’s David Hauser talk about his approach to PR in a Mixergy interview from about 18 months ago.

To me, one of the hardest things about “organic” PR is the concept of building a relationship with a journalist. It sounds simple but how exactly do you do that well? The most obvious thing to do is comment on their articles and try ┬áto engage them on Twitter. But doesn’t everybody do that? And how do you avoid coming off like you are just trying to pitch yourself? In his interview, David mentioned three examples that I thought were instructive.

The Thank You card

In the interview, David talks about how he sent a physical thank you card via snail mail to a journalist they wanted to engage. The thank you card was in response to an article that the journalist wrote, but here’s the kicker: the journalist’s article wasn’t about David or his company. Instead, it was just an article that David genuinely enjoyed reading. Furthermore, in the thank you card, David did not pitch his business or make any sort of ask. He just said thanks, and included a business card.

Pitching the company

Another example he gave was how they would pitch journalists about the culture at Grasshopper. That’s right. Not the product, or even the core mission of the company (at least directly). Instead, they would pitch something like a charity effort that Grasshopper was involved in. Or perhaps how they FedEx’d 5,000 chocolate covered grasshoppers to influential people across America.

Pitching someone else

This was a very subtle point in the interview, but it’s something that really stood out to me. If a journalist is not ready to write about you and your company, you can still help them write about what they are actually interested in. In David’s case, he could connect journalists with other entrepreneurs (i.e. Grasshopper’s customers) to help them fill out their stories. In essence, he made himself a resource to them until they were eventually ready to write about Grasshopper (or perhaps even felt slightly obligated to!).

Although not completely earth shattering, it’s helpful to step back and think of PR in this way. All too often we are eager to pitch ourselves and get exposure as fast as possible. That seems to be the wrong approach. PR is a long game, and it takes patience.┬áThank-You-card-sent-via snail-mail-kind-of-patience.