Episode 0063 · August 8, 2023

The podcast about what to do next.


Rich Ziade: Hi Paul.

Paul Ford: Hey Richard, it’s summer. How are you doing?

Rich Ziade: How’s your portfolio?

Paul Ford: Oh, hey… food to see you too. Uh, my portfolio is fine. I had a close family friend, brilliant person, um, and, uh, he passed away, older guy, and, uh, he’d been a day trader for years, obsessed, and there wasn’t that much money.

Rich Ziade: Hmm.

Paul Ford: And like, a brilliant person, if he had socked that in an index fund, he would have had like 10x-

Rich Ziade: He was enjoying the sport. He was gambling, essentially.

Paul Ford: Well he, he was superior, you know, he’d bring in the information and he would read research reports and, and, uh, and he would make a decision because he was going to outsmart those, those dummies.

Rich Ziade: And, and it’s, it comes [00:01:00] down to information, right? Like, I mean, having information that you think others don’t have is the perceived advantage, right? Like I did more research than you. I know everything about quantum physics and things are coming and I’m invested and you don’t know anything, right?

Paul Ford: Look you, you gave me good advice when we were, um, or you sort of told the story and again, not investment advice, but you were like, look, the agency is doing well, you know, you got to do something with that money.

Rich Ziade: Yeah.

Paul Ford: And I was like, what’s, how do you break things down? And you went, look, all of our risk is in the business that we are running.

Rich Ziade: Yeah.

Paul Ford: Everything else should be pretty boring.

Rich Ziade: That’s right, that’s right.

Paul Ford: Uh, we have a startup. And the startup is incredibly risky just by its nature, right? Like, it doesn’t have customers yet. So, so it’s not like a, it’s not like a carpet supply firm that, you know, that’s been around for 20 years that we’re buying and looking for certain results or real estate.

Rich Ziade: Yes, correct.

Paul Ford: It’s very risky. So everything else… should [00:02:00] probably be pretty boring and then, you know, eventually you might be like, I’m really interested in nuclear fusion or, or, um, wristwatches with holograms. So I’m going to throw a couple of dollars on the table, right? But-

Rich Ziade: You know what’s funny Paul? We keep talking, it is almost like the overarching theme of this podcast, there are no shortcuts.

Paul Ford: no, no, the American economy…

Rich Ziade: Again and again, we learn that there are no shortcuts, right? Um, and it, the way through is always hard. Like, I see success on the other side of this startup, but man, if I thought it was a straight line, I’d lose my mind. I know it’s not going to be a straight line.

Paul Ford: But I am going to counter that. We say this a lot, there are no shortcuts. And I think that that is the right attitude if you are building something, don’t assume a shortcut. However, I’m going to say two things. One is, there kind of are, and you should always be looking for them. And I’m going to give you some examples. After many, many years of really hard work, um, a medication showed up that helped me rapidly lose weight, which was something I had a lot of struggle with. [00:03:00] The people who put the work in to make the meditation were not able, or the medication, were not able to find any shortcuts.

Rich Ziade: Oh, it took 20 years.

Paul Ford: But it was an immense shortcut for me. I’ve lost the weight before.

Rich Ziade: Yes, yes.

Paul Ford: Um, when we are building software, we’re trying to build shortcuts for other people.

Rich Ziade: Yes, yes, yes.

Paul Ford: So, so your actual job– yes, there are no shortcuts, but you should be looking for and creating shortcuts for others whenever you can.

Rich Ziade: Look, the, the investment advisory world, the investment, um, uh, research world, what is that? That is essentially people telling other people, if you give me a little bit of money, I can whisper in your ear and show you a shortcut.

Paul Ford: Well this is the entirety of American Finance is built on people searching for shortcuts and saying if you get to them in the next five and a half minutes, I can make you a lot of money. After that, everybody knows, right?

Rich Ziade: Absolutely, exactly. I mean, there are laws, by the way, if you have… actual insider information. Like if a [00:04:00] pharmaceutical company has a breakthrough, um, and you go and, you hear about it, because you work for the pharma, pharma, pharmaceutical company, and then you go out, and you log on to your e-trade account, and buy a bunch of stock, you’ll go to jail. That’s insider trading. Uh, effectively, you’re cheating.

Paul Ford: Well, it’s a shortcut. The market can’t be fair.

Rich Ziade: The market– yeah, yeah exactly.

Paul Ford: You know, and we have, we have to have something that at least approaches a fair market in order, or otherwise, someone just grabs all the money.

Rich Ziade: That’s right, and and so what you have is this industry that effectively tries to gather circumstantial evidence and it calls it research. It’s like we see a trend in Idaho, moms and dads seem to be buying more expensive strollers and the trend is upward. So we recommend, we think they don’t even recommend, they say, we see this becoming a 3 billion dollar stroller store by 2029, get in there.

Paul Ford: And up [00:05:00] comes the chart.

Rich Ziade: Up comes the chart. And you know, you their organizations, that’s all they do. Like Forrester and Gartner. They always talking about trends.

Paul Ford: Love a quadrant.

Rich Ziade: Like industry trends, and every single sector has its research groups around energy, around medicine, etc.

Paul Ford: So, let’s get to the advice portion of this because I think this is-

Rich Ziade: Let’s talk to the normal person. Let me, I mean, that person’s doing well. They, they have a good, they’re professional, they live in Philly. Uh, they, they, they have a good 401k.

Paul Ford: I have a principle.

Rich Ziade: That person is not going to buy those research reports. What should that person do?

Paul Ford: I have a principle to share because I spent a lot of my career kind of looking at stuff like that and going, I wonder what’s in there. Should I have a Bloomberg terminal? Oh my goodness.

Rich Ziade: Oh, you become a cartoon character when you think about, uh, investment.

Paul Ford: That’s what I often do [laughter]. Okay so, this is a principle that has held me really well as I have actually interacted with really powerful institutions and had access to more and more of that data [00:06:00] and worked as a journalist and all that stuff. There’s no secret information. You actually don’t know much less than Jeff Bezos does.

Rich Ziade: That’s right.

Paul Ford: Like you could, you could extrapolate about 80 or 90% of what Jeff Bezos knows just by like going to the Amazon web page. Now that last 20% is real time and it’s about networks and it’s about who’s going to do what.

Rich Ziade: It’s about no shortcuts. I mean, that is a, that is a leader who would be like, oh, oh, there’s the fire. I guess we’ll have to walk through it to see what, see if we can get through.

Paul Ford: And he has 20, 000 people who fan out directly from him, who he can basically tell any five of them, go do something. And the other, you know, many thousands will line up and do it. So it, it’s power plus knowledge that matters. And there is some secret knowledge, but not a lot.

Rich Ziade: Not a lot. I think, look, uh, I think what you have with certain people, I mean, I think this is consistent with most [00:07:00] very, very like moonshot successful people is they’re absolutely brutal in the room. When you come to them and say, I have a product idea for Amazon. It is just the hardest 40 minutes of your life because they own, you are working out of a state of failure, right? And, and Jobs was Steve Jobs was known for this. Bezos was known for this. It is just a rough, rough room. Why? because they’re actually incredibly pessimistic about it all. And you have to show them that one glimmer of hope that makes them want to bet on it, right? Amazon had many failures, it’s worth noting. They do bet a lot and they’re known for that. There’s like a dog with an iPad scotch tape to its head. Have you ever seen that thing?

Paul Ford: Oh yeah.

Rich Ziade: They, I don’t think that it ever-

Paul Ford: There’s a lot of products- yeah, no, the Amazon look, I will say like one-

Rich Ziade: Had a phone at one point.

Paul Ford: know, the secret superpower to anyone I’ve seen this, it’s, it’s, and I, I really struggle with this. You struggle with it less. The most successful people seem to have, not, not [00:08:00] necessarily the super genius zillionaires, but the ones who sort of function in the world and get everything.

They seem to have no ability to metabolize shame. Like, like, it’ll be like, hey, hey Rich, that’s the dumbest idea ever, I ever heard. And you would, not you, but like you in that room, if you were the one of these people, go like, cool boss.

Rich Ziade: yeah, yeah, yeah, they just keep going,

Paul Ford: They’re just, whereas things that would absolutely send me under my desk trembling in shame, even at my advanced age, they’ll be like,

Rich Ziade: That’s a great framing, that’s another characteristic. Some are just, they’re real smart and they’re thinking on their feet, and the diligence is real time. It’s literally like you’re going through what would be three months of due diligence in like 40 minutes, and it’s a brutal, brutal experience.

Paul Ford: you want to know my value? And you have very, you have much less sense of shame than I do. You more, you hustle harder. That’s real, but here is my superpower and why our relationship works. I have a very powerful sense of shame. I need the product to be right. [00:09:00] The essay has to be perfect. There can be no errors.

I’m compulsive about it. And it’s people see me as kind of casual, but I’m very obsessive. But once I no longer feel shame and actually feel excited and motivated about it by the

Rich Ziade: Once you believe in the thing.

Paul Ford: I am one of the more glorious storytellers in a room.

Rich Ziade: Absolutely.

Paul Ford: And that’s just like,

Rich Ziade: But it takes time to get you there.

Paul Ford: and notice I’m good. I just told you, I, I just complimented myself at a level that is absolutely untoward because I really do believe it.

I know that about

Rich Ziade: real. Your process is different than mine. Mine is like, I will put a summer dress on a dog and tell you this is one of the most beautiful, rare species of dog you’ve ever seen. And the dog will be wearing a hat.

Paul Ford: no, that’s right. That is

Rich Ziade: I will do that.

Paul Ford: I, I, but once I believe, so what’s funny with

Rich Ziade: You take more time.

Paul Ford: I gotta believe.

Rich Ziade: You gotta

Paul Ford: I gotta believe. And then once I believe, I’m all in. And you know what, that’s an artifact. I’m a very, very loyal person. I’m very trusting. And it has burned the living crap out of me over the [00:10:00] course of my life.

And so I’m very aware of this aspect of myself. And so I’m careful about where I go in.

Rich Ziade: I, yes. Exactly. And I think, I do think it’s why we work well together. I also think…

Paul Ford: a lot of trust. I trust you. And you know that if I, if I, if I won’t budge, you, you stop pushing.

Rich Ziade: I do. I do. I can see it. I can, I can

Paul Ford: You’re, you’re not,

Rich Ziade: your observation about shame… As a key ingredient to success is profound.

Paul Ford: you have less shame, you will succeed unbelievably. And you can be an incredibly ethical person. You, in fact, you sometimes they are.

Rich Ziade: you know who’s one of the most shameless Business people and extremely successful elon musk. He’s he has absolutely

Paul Ford: God, he is absolutely, Donald Trump had no shame.

Rich Ziade: Yes. I think, look, I think what you’re saying when you say no shame, you’re also saying like they have an almost fantastical belief in the thing. They don’t even know how they’re going to get there, but they believe in it down to their soul,


Rich Ziade: People who do well, put differently, it’s not that they have no shame, because when you say they have no shame, what you mean is they really care about how others perceive them and, and, and they don’t want to look bad in front of others. People who do well, who like chase the thing, don’t see other people.

They just don’t see it. I was reading, uh, uh, recently about Musk and like how his psychology works. And the way his psychology works is he doesn’t see, he doesn’t see embarrassment. He doesn’t see it. He actually doesn’t see it. He actually is like, oh my god, look at this. These numbers are lining up and something fascinating is gonna happen three months from now because of that,

Paul Ford: And because the other 99. 95% of the world perceives shame pretty fundamentally, they look at Musk and they go, how can you survive another minute being who you are? And he’s like, you mean being the greatest guy in the world?

Rich Ziade: Yeah, exactly. Who wants to fail at… In front of their family, in front of their [00:12:00] partner, in front of their community, in front of their colleagues. Nobody does. That’s why people are very hesitant and very careful, right?

Paul Ford: fear of getting caught.

Rich Ziade: I, that’s right. And the ones that really skyrocket are the ones that actually, when the doubters show up.

And the people who, like, whether grounded in envy or just resentment or hatred or whatever it is, it fuels them. They’re very motivated. When people see, there are certain, there’s a certain strain of person, of personality, that is, that it feeds them when other people seem to want them to

Paul Ford: You know who else had no shame and who did this very subtly? Obama. Obama was not, he was like, I’m the smartest guy in the room. Smartest guy.

Rich Ziade: Oh yeah, he, he, yeah, I mean. It was true. It

Paul Ford: but still like he was just like, yeah, that’s really interesting. Okay. Thank you. Good feedback. See you later.

Rich Ziade: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, look, success is measured a lot of different ways. It through one particular lens. Trump was incredibly successful. He became president. He passed a bunch of [00:13:00] laws.

Paul Ford: He’s a billionaire.

Rich Ziade: a billionaire. He put Supreme Court justices in the white house. So he got to where he wanted. Now you could say, well, that guy’s shameless.

I mean, he’s shameless. It’s true. He

Paul Ford: Well, the thing with him is he also just shows signs of living in a delusional nightmare world.

Rich Ziade: He’s not

Paul Ford: Yeah, whereas, like, someone like Obama is pretty shameless, but also, like, capable of human relationships, love, and interacting with the world as if other people do exist.

Rich Ziade: it is. It is a hard thing to be. It is a hard thing to be. You’re, you’re going to do better in business if you have less shame. You will, you will fire the problem employee more quickly if you have less shame. You will make decisions more decisively, right? That’s a ridiculous

Paul Ford: but, but, but I’m going to tell you, like, here we are, we’re about to, you know, we’re not far from launching our startup in the world and people are already as they’re coming in, they’re having opinions, we’re getting emails and people are going to tell us we suck or it’s irrelevant or all that stuff, right?

I, but what happens to me, the, the way for me to [00:14:00] succeed as the storyteller and, you know, I have a lot of, I have a lot of this product is coming out of my head and your head and like, I’m very connected to it. The way for me to succeed once this thing goes live. I’m just gonna love it. Just gonna love it.

And, and people are gonna be like, well, blah, blah, blah, and I’m gonna go like, okay, maybe not for you, but I love it. I’m already starting to tell that story. People are sending us like, hey, and you can see it. You can see in the emails I’m sending. I don’t get there easily and I don’t get there lightly because once I’m there.

It’s really painful

Rich Ziade: a relationship. Yeah, you’re taking the leap.

Paul Ford: and I’m going to have no shame about saying I think we’ve built something really good and special that other people should use.

Rich Ziade: let’s close it with some advice. Not everything works out. Having no, being a little brash, believing in the thing you’re doing. Going forward and then it not work sometimes things don’t work out. I’ve had things I’ve had success I’ve also had failures. I’ve pissed away a lot of money on ideas early in my career We had no business doing it.

Like I didn’t have a house yet and I had no [00:15:00] business

Paul Ford: and when you do this, people on the other side will say, Well, you didn’t dot your I’s and cross your T’s. And I think these are the problems you’ve caused. And you know what? I just don’t like you anyway.

Rich Ziade: Oh, the advice shows up real fast on the other side of failure

Paul Ford: Like people are gonna, I know what happens when I go out in the world and start talking about how much I love this thing.

People are gonna go, you sell out, asshole.

Rich Ziade: all of it all of it all sorts of flavors, right if it doesn’t work and it may not work And we may fail and you may fail and others others fail all the time like 70% of restaurants close in New York City within like nine months or some ridiculous

Paul Ford: 90% should close. But go ahead,

Rich Ziade: The healthiest thing you can do is tell one more story on the other side of that and then just keep going. That’s it.

Paul Ford: That’s it. Well protect yourself. Don’t, don’t, don’t mortgage your house, you

Rich Ziade: Protect yourself. I’ve had. Friends and colleagues who really took it hard when something didn’t come through. Took it too hard. Just too

Paul Ford: No, but I am taking my best swing here. [00:16:00] And if it doesn’t connect, that’s life.

Rich Ziade: And you’ll tell a story then. And you’ll tell a story then about what you learned. And what maybe you could have done better. Anyone, like the haters are gonna

Paul Ford: I’ll tell you what to man. Nobody ever punishes you for believing too hard in your thing.

Rich Ziade: No.

Paul Ford: Everybody, people get it. So that’s, that’s, I’m telling you Rich, this went in a slightly different direction, but, you know, this is real. You want to succeed? Turn the shame off, get going. Um, and when you’re out there being shameless about your thing, then shut the F up and listen for a minute too.

Like, don’t just, that’s where you, that’s where the shameless ruin themselves.

Rich Ziade: Yeah. Listen. Listen. I mean, it’s good to, to buy into the religion, but you have to listen.

Paul Ford: Well, people want to see you believe.

Rich Ziade: Yeah. They do. That’s

Paul Ford: And then they want to tell you what they need.

Rich Ziade: By the way, what startup are you talking

Paul Ford: Oh, I’m so glad you asked. It’s called a board. It’s a board. com. And it is under rapid development and about to get out into the world. It is getting to a very stable, safe place. I’m going to tell you two things.

I’m going to [00:17:00] tell you what we say it’s for, and then I’m going to tell you how I think of it. It is a place to collect, organize, and, uh, and information and collaborate on that information. It’s, it’s, it’s great that way. It turns data and ideas and links into cards and you can move around. It’s very visual, like it’s, it’s any place you might use a Google spreadsheet to organize a little data.

We can make that into something that just feels like a wonderful software at almost with the snap of a finger. So it’s one of those

Rich Ziade: very cool. Okay.

Paul Ford: quite like it. For me, it is a way to express ideas in software more rapidly than coding it is. And I don’t want to say it’s low cut. I’m just

Rich Ziade: software.

Paul Ford: if I have an idea about how I want to see the world.

Using software. I can get there in a board in like five seconds, and it feels really good. Sometimes it’s about editorial. Sometimes it’s about organizing a process. Sometimes it’s more like an application, and we’re just kind of it’s the most powerful platform I’ve ever been involved in.

Rich Ziade: I hope you’re going to be sharing examples in the future.

Paul Ford: We’re going to share so many examples.

We’re going to be making videos. I [00:18:00] am getting, we are getting the screen, the good screen recording software, unless you have an eye, it turns the cursor into a little dancing ice cream cone. It’s so great, man.

Rich Ziade: Dripping ice

Paul Ford: I am going to be, look, if you’re going to live something, you got to believe it and love it. And I’m going to make good content and I’m going to tell a lot of good stories.

Rich Ziade: That sounds amazing.

Paul Ford: wait to get out there, my

Rich Ziade: Put your shame aside.

Paul Ford: that’s what I’m doing.

Rich Ziade: Uh, it’s at aboard. com. Sign up and we’re going to be waving everybody in real soon. Uh,

Paul Ford: check us out at Ziotiford on Twitter or X or whatever the hell it’s called this week. We love you. Check out Ziotiford. com. Give us five stars. Give us, just be honest. Tell us what you think, and we’ll talk to you soon.

Rich Ziade: Have a good week.

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