Thriving in an AI World, Tips for Life’s Darkest Hours, & The Art of Sabbaticals | Matt Mullenweg
Tim Ferriss: Matthew. Matty. Matt Mullenweg: Yep. Tim Ferriss: Dr. Mullenweg. Matt Mullenweg: Not a doctor. At all. Tim Ferriss: In my heart of hearts, you're always a doctor. Matt Mullenweg: I think in Argentina I got an honorary degree, actually.
Tim Ferriss: Really? Matt Mullenweg: In that country. Tim Ferriss: I'm so jelly. Argentina. I haven't been back in a hundred years, but we're not here to talk about my aspirations and dreams, although, maybe. Matt Mullenweg: Yeah, I hope to hear some. Tim Ferriss: Well, we'll dive in and out.
Bob and weave. For people who don't have context on the Argentine Dr. Mullenweg, could you give people just a snapshot? Matt Mullenweg: Sure. Matt Mullenweg, domain ma.tt, which is pretty fun. Tim Ferriss: Excellent domain.
Matt Mullenweg: I got my domain at .TT sometimes. Born and raised in Houston, Texas, a few hours from here, in Austin. At the age of 19, I co-founded open source software called WordPress, which is a blogging content management system. Fast-forward 20 years, it's been 20 years now, and runs over a third of all websites in the world. A few years after that, I co-founded or founded a company called Automattic, which is kind of like the for-profit side of commercializing things around WordPress. Tim Ferriss: Auto-Matt-ic, M-A-T-T? Matt Mullenweg: Yes. It's like any egotistical founder, I snuck my name into the company
and we started with just sort of Akismet anti-spam and wordpress.com kind of easy ways to get going with WordPress, but since have expanded to e-commerce with WooCommerce, one I'll talk about with messaging, we've done a number, over 25 acquisitions, so we're trying to be a digital Berkshire Hathaway, like a buyer of first resort for amazing things on the internet. Pretty much everything we do is open source or open web. Oh, we bought Tumblr, so we're running Tumblr for the last few years, basically trying to — I would like future generations to grow up with a web that is more open, more free, gives more liberty, and so open source is really my life's work, even above WordPress and anything else. I hope to work on it the rest of my life. Tim Ferriss: You are one of the rare examples, and I'm so envious of this particular sort of mental state of focus that you have, which is this clarity on what you want to do, something you could do for the rest of your life with that degree of certainty. It's something that's always struck me as rare and maybe not as a consequence of being rare but precious in a sense. Anyway, I'm
happy for you. I don't run across that much from a professional perspective, when someone's like, "I want to do this for the rest of my life." Matt Mullenweg: I think it's because the open source freedom and liberty's somewhat abstract, so there could be lots of things under that. In fact I just mentioned probably too many things. Some people will call me very unfocused, but you have that too. We talked about it on the last podcast around teaching, learning, education, lifelong — that's the rest of your life. I think if you can find those principles,
you can keep them and then the job might change, other things might change. I'm lucky to work at the same job because I'm probably unemployable anywhere else at this point, but it's been a lot of fun. Oh, Automattic's now over 1,900 people in 97 countries. We were fully remote and distributed since 2005, so we've been kind of early on a few of those trends, open source, distributed, et cetera. Tim Ferriss: I know we've talked about this before and you've certainly talked about it in other places, but we're going to get into a lot of new territory, before we do that though, open source, just for people who may not have familiarity with that term, what does that mean? Matt Mullenweg: Normally when you sign up for software, you click through that license that no one ever reads. Ours actually has Easter eggs in it just to see if anyone will find them. Most of those licenses are about all the rights you
don't have. Sometimes you're not even allowed to look at the thing and see how it works. There's a whole right to repair movement right now where you can buy things that you're not even allowed to repair yourself. Open source is the opposite. It's all about almost like a bill of rights for you as the user. WordPress belongs just as much to Tim Ferriss as it does to me, which is kind of amazing. There's rights and freedoms you have to use it for any purpose, to modify it, to see how it works, all these sorts of things that no one can take away from you. Even myself as a co-founder, or even if all the other developers got together, and we all agreed to become evil, we couldn't take it away from you. It's that bill of rights, those inalienable rights
is the core of open source and there's lots of examples. Wikipedia is open source applied to an encyclopedia. It used to be really bad and Encarta, Encyclopedia Britannica were way better, but then over time lots of people working together made it better and better. Why did they work on it? For free, for fun, and also because it belongs to them. WordPress has many thousands, probably tens of thousands of contributors at this point. Why do they do that? Is it Tom Sawyer painting the fence or is it the other guy? Tim Ferriss: Yeah, I need more caffeine to be on my literary references. Matt Mullenweg: We should both know that. Wow,
I'm embarrassed for both of us. Tom Sawyer, and — it'll be the first thing in the comments. Tim Ferriss: Huckleberry Finn. Matt Mullenweg: Huckleberry Finn, yeah. It's because it actually belongs to people. Sometimes people come in and just fix one bug that's annoying them. Or sometimes you have the pride of knowing that code you wrote is
running on a third of all websites in the world, which is actually a real thrill as an engineer developer, and that's just a lot of fun. Tim Ferriss: It's openly collaborative in that way. Not to state the obvious, but it's a contrast to actually this news item I saw in — "news" is probably giving it a little bit too much gravitas — but I read this story which seemed credible based on the source, I'm not going to give it too much, but this engineer joins a startup and fixes one or two bugs or develops a feature that he wanted in the product and then put in notice and that was it. Matt Mullenweg: Two weeks later, yeah. I love that story because I know so many on the spectrum of engineers that would totally do that. It's a
beautiful hack, right, where, "Oh, I've just got to get this fixed." There's actually companies I would do that. One thing I have considered is secret shopping, seeing if I could get hired by my own company under a fake identity or just something like that. It would be kind of fun.
Tim Ferriss: Why would you do that? Matt Mullenweg: One, to experience the hiring process, which is difficult for me to debug. It's set by secondhand accounts. Two, to see how my code still is. Tim Ferriss: Do companies provide mystery shopper-like services for hiring processes or no, because mystery shoppers, this would be the equivalent of, say, retail where there are companies you can hire, they send people into stores to experience the touch points and the flow or lack of flow and then to report back so you can improve your operations, and you have that for security, right? You can hire people to red team and try to exploit or defeat your security and then you get a report back and you can improve things. Does that exist
for something like a hiring process? Matt Mullenweg: It probably does, but I'm a big believer in, especially executives, going and doing the work themselves. Engaging with the customers, doing customer support, trying out the product, building a website, whatever it is that your thing is. I think that's so key. Tim Ferriss: I might be making this up, but something along the lines of two weeks of frontline service. Even if it's a CFO or someone who's — Matt Mullenweg: No matter the job you're hired for at Automattic, you start with two weeks of support, and then every single person rotates back in one week per year, and I'm running out of year, so I'm actually squeezing mine in at the very end here. If you go to wordpress.com support in the next two weeks, you might get me. I talked to executives at Salesforce, I was really impressed. They were saying they spend 50 percent of their time with customers. This was a top executive running an
organization of thousands of people. I was like, wow, that's inspiring to me. I'm probably 25 or 30 percent right now. So it really made me think, am I spending enough time with customers? Also, we might have some executives that are spending closer to zero percent time. How do we make this a cultural thing throughout the company? Tim Ferriss: You're an enthusiastic fellow. Part of why I like spending time with you. Good vibes, lots of smiles, lots of laughs. You also
find a lot of things that are interesting out at the edges and you're an immaculate packer of bags also. For those who do not know "What's in My Bag" every year gives the latest and greatest of Matt's tech gadgetry and assorted doodads and doohickeys that he's traveling with as a road warrior who travels, fair to say, most of the time. Your schedule, we're going to get to my first planned question in a second. I recall maybe it was five months ago, six months ago, who knows,
you sent me something along the lines of just in case we can overlap, here's where I'll be in the next year, and it was one of the most absurd, it was like a Rolling Stones tour. Are you continuing to do that in terms of travel for the next year? Matt Mullenweg: Yeah, currently. Why do I go into it? Well, it's a global community, so one, I have a global company and a global community. Our hack for Automattic, because we're apart most of the year, is the teams get together a couple times a year. If you're an individual contributor, you might travel two, three times a year. But as CEO, this means that every week there's a couple of meetups happening and I try to hit the bigger ones and sometimes the small ones too, but mostly the really big ones where there's a couple hundred people there, but that's happening at least once a month. Then for WordPress, there's three major
work camps per year that have thousands of people. There's all these different — I just did State of the Word in Madrid. You just take those, you're traveling a week out of the month already, and then you got to add in some fun. Tim Ferriss: You're not going to die of a fun deficiency, you know how to have fun. Matt Mullenweg: Yeah, it really adds up. But,
it does take more of a toll than it used to, I've got to be totally honest. There were years I did well over 400,000 miles and looking back I was like, I don't know if I still have some of the energy or I'm getting more radiation in the plane. I don't know, maybe I'm just getting older. Tim Ferriss: That does happen to people. Matt Mullenweg: 40 in a few weeks. Tim Ferriss: I know. Thank God. No more of this 30 under 30, 40 under 40 nonsense. You've accumulated 700 lifetimes worth of those. You mentioned gatherings and the first, I suppose, cone that we're going to weave around on this slalom of a conversation is things that are exciting you, things you're excited about, five or more. I enjoy this format. It's very simple. I haven't done
it much and it's a shame because I always have a good time doing it. Where would you like to start? Matt Mullenweg: Well, I mentioned messaging. If you look at Automattic's history, it was like 2005. Blogging CMS, 2016 Commerce, Blue Commerce, it's grown to over 30 billion of sales or GMV. We entered our third major area this year, which was messaging. We acquired this company called Texts.
You might remember these sorts of programs, but we all have 20 different messaging apps. Texts currently takes 10 of them. It'll take more in the future. Signal, WhatsApp, Telegram, Facebook Messenger, Instagram Messenger, Twitter DMs, all these sorts of things, some of which have terrible interfaces. It brings them into one power user app right now, desktop only because it's all
ultra secure so it doesn't break any encryption or run anything in the cloud. It's all on your device, which is I think very, very important. Engineers, you have a code of ethics. I think we need to build things extra secure now. It brings them all together. It's really nice. I often acquire apps or invest in things to make up for my own deficiencies. Like
investing in Calm in 2012 or whatever it was, I felt like I needed to meditate. I was so behind on messages. I'm like, "Okay, we've got to buy this company and make it available." Tim Ferriss: It's like a much more expensive version of the guy who gets hired and fixes the bugs and then leaves. Buying companies. Matt Mullenweg: A small team, really, really
exciting. I'd love for you to try it, actually. Tim Ferriss: My team is using it and they love it. Matt Mullenweg: That's right. [BLEEP] actually told me about this even before I had heard about it myself. Some credit there. Tim Ferriss: The team's loving it. I have used it and it is a great product. Where can people find it or learn more about it?
Matt Mullenweg: Texts.com. T-E-X-T-S dot com. Tim Ferriss: Texts.com. All right. Texts.com. Matt Mullenweg: If you go on desktop and it's a paid product right now, so 15 bucks a month, five bucks a month if you're a student or pretend to be a student, but we're also going to explore some different things. Mobile app is coming out next year in the early part and we're going to explore some different pricing as well. Maybe making it free for one or two networks paid for
more. That's some very exciting stuff there. Tim Ferriss: All right, so I want to ask you a strategy question to the extent that you can discuss it. You were kind enough to spend a lot of time with me just as a friend overall, which I really appreciate, love spending time with you, and also just because disclosures are important. I am available at your beck and call, advisor with
Automattic from the early days. I am fascinated by not just how you operate in the world, but how you think about the world because that's a prerequisite for making a lot of, not necessarily contrarian because you can be a different form of sheep as a contrarian too by just doing the opposite of what everyone else does. That's easy. But picking and choosing where you're going to be unorthodox or approach things obliquely is more challenging.
The question, and I'm going to set the table with some other examples, but the question is how you choose what you're going to get into in terms of areas, products, et cetera, because there's diversification, there's lack of focus, there's synergy, these words we can throw around. I would love to know how you think about, for instance, or thought about getting into commerce, which I think is a more obvious leap in my mind than say messaging. What I've observed is say in the media landscape, well the media landscape and the social media platform landscapes have collided in such a major way in the last five to 10 years where you have Amazon Studios, you've got Netflix, you've got messaging, and then video and so on that are seemingly all being pursued on some level by a lot of these large platforms. In the forms of, say WhatsApp or whatever it might be. How do you choose what to engage in next? You said some people might say, "I'm unfocused," I don't consider you unfocused, but there are sometimes hidden or unspoken rationales or logics behind. How do you think about what you're going to do next? Matt Mullenweg: I do think about it for a long time. We've been thinking about messaging and actually making investments in this space for four or five years. I think a lot about environment and
incentives. The reason there used to be these multi-messaging apps 15 years ago and they all stopped working was the networks all blocked them. There is a political environment now which I think is more conducive to being more customer and user-centric. This is our data, this is our messages, it's all secure, it's not breaking security or anything, so why shouldn't we be able to run this. Tim Ferriss: Can you give an example of a network
blocking these multi-message tools in the past? Matt Mullenweg: Yeah, it happened last week. There was another one called Beeper that supported iMessage and Apple decided to just shut it down. They broke it all and Beeper actually charged its users. They had to refund everyone. It's also more subtle things they could do. They could just subtly degrade if they make it so your messages don't go through five percent of the time, it's not blocking you, but you're going to stop using it. Tim Ferriss: It's like throttling your hotel speed on Wi-Fi. So you upgrade to the premium, you're like, "Okay, all right."
Matt Mullenweg: They don't need to block you, which might draw attention. They can just make you a little wobbly. Tim Ferriss: More painful. Matt Mullenweg: It doesn't take a lot of friction for people to move away, especially in messaging. The regulatory framework, both with the EU doing a lot of sometimes misguided, but also sometimes really smart, they have an act coming in called the DMA that requires some interop between messaging services. We will talk about USB-C, which I'm very excited about. Thank you EU, for forcing Apple to finally drop lightning and give us USB-C.
Then in the US I think there is bipartisan, this I actually don't agree with, but it is a reality, some extra scrutiny on big tech. I think it's actually good for them. Again, what are their incentives? I think it's actually really good for them to show that they're open right now. I don't want to fight these folks. They've got more money than most countries. They could squash
us like a bug if they really, really wanted to, but we're always doing things open source, user-centric, and so it's — Tim Ferriss: It'd be a bad look for them to try to squash. Matt Mullenweg: If you have the people on your side, I feel like that's what truly matters in long-term. People are what, short-term, lobbying, et cetera, but long-term in the US, functioning democracy, politics is accountable to its people. Tim Ferriss: If we come back to what you said and the whole point of this format is scaffolding, and then we can deviate. We're deviating right now. People may have noticed. Talking about a,
let's just say next, next gen or digital Berkshire Hathaway. Berkshire Hathaway could have, well, originally textiles, but they could have insurance, then they could have something that is — Matt Mullenweg: Chocolates. Tim Ferriss: Chocolates, right? See's Candies, things that are completely unrelated on a face-value business level. They're not integrated in the way that a CMS or having a gajillion blogs and websites running on your platform would combine very easily with WooCommerce, right? Those two pair very nicely. Are you thinking about, say in the case of texts.com
that is a standalone in the same way that some of these Berkshire Hathaway might be a standalone? How do you think about building and acquiring in that way? Are they standalones? How much do they need to help each other or not? In the case of Berkshire, right, the insurance premiums and so on, as I understand it, provide a huge bolus of cash for all sorts of other purposes. The capital can be utilized across the family, in a sense. How do you think about, because there's so many different ways you could rank order the priorities when looking at potential acquisitions, is it just like customer pain point, converging trend lines in terms of regulation and public sentiment and — Matt Mullenweg: Which Berkshire navigates beautifully in highly regulated industries, including insurance, railways. How I think about it, I like to study these people. I know you love doing that too. Study high performers, that's your thing, right? Tim Ferriss: I do that sometimes. Yeah, occasionally do that. Matt Mullenweg: I mean, Charlie Munger, rest in peace, 99 years old. Warren Buffett, I don't
know exactly. I think up there as well. I try to think if Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger were hackers in their 30s or 40s today, what would they build versus what they built in their time with the opportunities in technology afforded? I like to think they do some open source because it's, obviously, the future. I like the Berkshire for atoms companies versus — atoms versus bits — and in the industries, they're in — Tim Ferriss: A-T-O-M-S. Matt Mullenweg: I think there would be a lot of coordination costs and they try to optimize for giving the companies under them as much autonomy as possible. They find great leaders and they also try to find great businesses. I think Warren Buffett said something like, "We try to find a business a monkey could run, because someday they will," something like that. What business
is so good, it would survive even bad leadership. What we do with a digital version of that is we lower coordination costs between the different products by open source. They don't need, like For WooCommerce, to build on top of WordPress. It doesn't need a meeting, doesn't need to talk, doesn't even to know the people developing WordPress. There's open APIs, open source, there's a plugin framework, et cetera. That removes a lot of the coordination costs that
you normally get in a multi division company. Tim Ferriss: Now when you say coordination costs, are you talking about people internally, say, full-time employees? Or are you talking about the communities that surround some of these things? Matt Mullenweg: In proprietary software, if you want to integrate with something, like if I wanted to add a new feature to Mac OS or something like that, I can't do that. Now, they have APIs, they have operating systems. Smart companies like Slack or Shopify will create marketplaces that you can extend them. However, you're subject
to their terms so they can change their mind. Remember Twitter used to have all those clients, or Facebook did too. They were like, "Oh, we don't want this anymore. You're all kicked off." Tim Ferriss: Rough Tuesday. Matt Mullenweg: Don't build on proprietary platforms. They can pull the rug and will pull the rug at any point. In open source, one, the rug can't be pulled. Two, typically they're ultra pluggable. You can really change every line of WordPress. Tim Ferriss: Not to interrupt, but would you
mind giving a real world example of what this lowered integration cost looks like in practice? Matt Mullenweg: Yeah. Let's talk about a company like Salesforce, which has done a ton of acquisitions. One criticism of a Salesforce or Cisco or even Google: sometimes their own products don't integrate with each other as well. Sometimes even external things do. So even with
the best acquisitions, and most acquisitions fail by the way, even when you do a really good one, maybe say YouTube, sometimes the integrations aren't as strong. Remember when YouTube tried to do the Google+ thing? Tim Ferriss: I do. Matt Mullenweg: Every single division in Google was incentivized by how much adoption Google+ got. They really tried to push it into everything. A lot of coordination costs, maybe not as responsive to users. That was ultimately an unsuccessful push. Google's
another example. All the messaging platforms they have, you need text just to work with the five messaging platforms at Google. There's examples like that where you get duplication, you get different incentives of executives, maybe they're more rewarded for launching new things versus integrating things. Those are coordination costs. This comes up in economics terms where
why shouldn't everyone just be a freelancer? Well, there's some coordination costs there. It's nice to have people employed full-time by a company. Then you don't need to rehire them every time. They're not going to be poached by someone else. Maybe you have a gap in the gig and they just take another gig, that sort of thing. I feel like for us, the common platform of open source, particularly WordPress, allows us to plug things in and do acquisitions in a way that is more set up for success. We have a set of products that run directly on WordPress or get distribution
from WordPress and Tumblr. That's, I would say, our core area. There are some which are, I would call, philosophically adjacent. It's the same philosophy. Day One is a great example. Day One doesn't share any technology with Tumblr or WordPress,
but it's a fully encrypted local journaling app. Journaling is another word for blogging. You can use it like I do as a local blog. I posted every day for the past 200 or 300 days. Tim Ferriss: What does "local blog" mean? To the untrained ear, they'd be like, "Wait, so I have a blog that I'm publishing on my own computer? How do people see it?" Matt Mullenweg: Well, this is why people usually call it a journal. But when you think about it, like a "notes" app, like the Notes app, I don't know, typically things are undated, right? The metadata associated with them is somewhat loose. Often the list is ordered by most recently modified. That's kind of a UI. In a blog, it's reverse chronological. We have a lot of metadata associated. Day One attaches a date, location, we can store the weather when you post
it. All these different things that kind of make it a bit richer. When it's local, we usually call it a journal, just because that's the concept. Apple just launched a built-in journaling app. I call it a blog because fundamentally if you kind of look at those principles, it's got all the same ingredients as you post a blog reverse chronological. Now why do I really like it? I prefer dated entries because I'm usually taking notes each day. Kind of like Benjamin Franklin. He
would log everything he does every day. I do that as well. I love the search, I love tagging, I love all those metadata things. Help me find stuff. You can also interlink the notes, which is actually pretty cool. Not unlike a Roam Research or some of these other — Obsidian. You can interlink things. Tim Ferriss: Okay, so we took a little side alley if we come back to things that you're excited about. Matt Mullenweg: I didn't actually answer your question on messaging. Tim Ferriss: You did not, yes.
Matt Mullenweg: So why messaging? It is not built on top of WordPress and it's not part of our publishing kind of thing, but I do believe it is fundamental human right to have private and hopefully in the future, open source messaging. Again, I only want to work on things I feel like I can work on potentially the rest of my life. So publishing commerce and messaging, that covers a lot of human activity. Tim Ferriss: It does. Matt Mullenweg: And if you have those things truly free, I think you have a free society. And that's also exciting to me because how do we help bend the long arc towards more freedom, more liberty across the world? And technology does that better than, I think, any sort of diplomacy or anything else that at least I could work on. Tim Ferriss: Are there any other people or
companies that stand out as being aligned or philosophically adjacent with the ethos you're describing? Matt Mullenweg: Oh, yeah. Well, one, there's a lot more open source companies now. GitLab is a really great one led by Sid. They're actually even more open than we are. They publish like everything and they're a public company now, like nine or $10 billion. So that's pretty cool to have those examples. I think Element,
which is built on the Matrix ecosystem, so open source messaging, actually the competitor to text Beeper, really awesome company, I think philosophically very aligned. So what's cool is more and more of this is happening. Also, there's a fun trend where sometimes people who did proprietary companies and then made a ton of money off them, what they do next is often open source. So Jack Dorsey made him a ton of money off Twitter, Square. One, he's taken Square to more of a crypto direction. He wants to enable that. And two, what's he funding? Something called Nostr and Bluesky, which are two competing open source Twitters, which is really cool. Brian Acton, co-founder of WhatsApp. What's he doing today? He's running Signal,
which is an open source nonprofit messaging app, which is amazing. Signal, very philosophically aligned. So Wikipedia, Mozilla, there's a lot out there both for-profit and nonprofit. Tim Ferriss: Based on the very little I know, and you track this type of thing much more than I do, but in terms of number of users per full-time employee pre acquisition, how would you place WhatsApp? I mean, it's — Matt Mullenweg: The messaging apps are tops. Tim Ferriss: Yeah. Matt Mullenweg: I think Instagram
was a pretty good size with 13 or 14 when they sold. Telegram's actually pretty amazing today. Signal is pretty small team. I'm not sure the size of the WhatsApp team now, but they were very, very small when they were acquired. It's actually pretty incredible because messaging — there's not really any user support. It's all self-serve. And so those businesses can scale quite a bit with very few people and it also attracts really amazing engineer. The Texts team is incredible. And so their aspiration is to remain a sub-20, sub-30 team, even as they grow to tens
of millions or hundreds of millions of users. Tim Ferriss: So how do you, as the buyer first resort, hopefully the aspiring buyer, first resort, Berkshire Hathaway, known as Automattic, how do you find these various companies or threads to pull on or how do those people find you? Matt Mullenweg: Oh, people do reach out sometimes, which is always nice. But yeah, I guess fundamentally it's usually just driven by me as a user. I'm always trying out new products,
friends recommend it. My colleagues actually, of the people we employ, they tend to be very early adopters and very digitally savvy. So I mean, that's why we launched Bitcoin in 2012 when it was $12. I wish I could say that that was me being brilliant. No, it was one of my colleagues who was like, "Oh, this thing's so cool, we can add support." And I think he hacked it over a weekend, and so, all right, cool. Tim Ferriss: Amazing. I'll tell you just a quick anecdote that I haven't mentioned really. I don't know, I haven't mentioned it anywhere because why
would I? But you mentioned Charlie Munger, rest in peace. I was, if I'm remembering correctly, I mean I was definitely tentatively scheduled, I think it was to interview him the next Tuesday. Matt Mullenweg: Oh, my goodness. Tim Ferriss: Yeah. Matt Mullenweg: He had just started doing podcasts for the first time. Tim Ferriss: Yep. Matt Mullenweg: He did the one with the Collisons, right? John Patrick — or Invest Like the Best, I think. Tim Ferriss: He did, I think it was Acquired. I can't recall exactly. Matt Mullenweg: But we'll link
it up. It was a really great episode. Tim Ferriss: Yeah. So for people who didn't get a chance, we'll link to that in the show notes. Matt Mullenweg: I appreciated that when he passed, for someone who I've been so obsessed with for many years, when he passed, I actually had a feeling of wow, what a life well lived and so appreciative how much he's published over the years. So even though he hadn't done a lot of these podcasts or modern stuff, he has been doing the meetings and speeches and other things for decades now. So you don't always have to meet your mentors. I think you talk about that as well. Sometimes it's really great to just
have the book or the speech or something like that and it can really live with you. You can grow up with it, you can reread it over the years, like rereading Siddhartha. I know you have some things that you read. Is it Zorba the Greek? Tim Ferriss: Zorba the Greek is spectacular.
I think we might've been together. Matt Mullenweg: When you found that book. Tim Ferriss: Yeah, in Greece, when I found that book of all places, in Greece, in Santorini. And absolutely loved that book, yes. So that is one I go back to revisit. There are a lot of books I go back to revisit, Awareness by Anthony de Mello would be another one, very short, very fast. I'm increasingly a fan of rereading, that includes some fiction too, as you mentioned,
Zorba the Greek. Any books you reread? Matt Mullenweg: Siddhartha. Tim Ferriss: Why? Great cover. Matt Mullenweg: Yeah, just an interesting story of enlightenment and journey and it's actually my Twitter bio is, "I can think, I can wait, I can fast." Tim Ferriss: That's a
great line. Something like that, yeah. Matt Mullenweg: I probably have it out of order, but I do them out of order too, so it works. What else do I like to reread? Essays for sure, Paul Graham. Tim Ferriss: Which essays? Matt Mullenweg: "Acceleration of Addictiveness" is a really good one. Tim Ferriss: I haven't read that one. Matt Mullenweg: He has one on speed. He just published what I consider his magnum opus, apparently worked on it for a year. I think it's
called "How to Do Great Work" or something like that. Man, that one's really good. That could be a book. Yeah, it's interesting that there is authors now blogging essentially, publishing these essays like Slate Star Codex, Scott Alexander, Shane Parrish, Knowledge Project. There's these writers now that really drive a lot of folks. I mean, your WordPress blog started that genre in a lot of ways, like the longer form, like super essays. Tim Ferriss: Yeah, yeah, a thousand plus blog posts, a lot of blog posts. And it's sometimes easy for me to forget that that was essential
for the entire, I don't know if I would call it trajectory, meandering, developing "career" that I've had. Without the blog, it doesn't happen. I mean the blog was started before the first book. It continued — I mean it still continues, But I have a question for you related to blogging actually. And then ultimately led to the podcast, but without the blog, very hard to drive people to the podcast and show notes. Matt Mullenweg: Yeah.
Tim Ferriss: So the blog was both jet fuel and bridge and connective tissue and still continues to be. I have thought a lot about next chapters for myself recently. I love doing the podcast. I plan on continuing doing the podcast. The 10th anniversary is coming up next April. Matt Mullenweg: Wow. Tim Ferriss: 10 years of, on average, 1.4 episodes per week every week. It's been going for a long time. Matt Mullenweg: Wow. Tim Ferriss: And I wasn't the
first podcaster, nor will I be the last, but 10 years is a good stretch and it's an opportunity to pause and reflect, think about things. And when I was doing that recently, it's the end of the year, I noticed that often I enter a game that is new. I'm not the first participant, so I'm not at the absolute cutting edge, but I'm on the sharp edge. Matt Mullenweg: Yeah, yeah. Pretty early.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah, pretty early. And then I stick around for a while and I focus on it with incredible enthusiasm and OCD. Matt Mullenweg: Ridiculous intensity. Tim Ferriss: Yeah, intensity. And then it often gets a bit crowded or saturated, and then I do something else. Matt Mullenweg: Yeah. Yeah.
Tim Ferriss: So that was true a bit with the blog, but it wasn't so much that blogging got crowded, but other opportunities surfaced. And then there was the startup investing and then that was a focus from, say, 2008 to 2015. Then I took a hiatus for a while. I took a startup vacation, took a complete break from that. That was in tandem with books, took a break from the books after The 4-Hour Chef, that's when the podcast was started, 2014. Have done that for a while. And now I'm looking at various trends, various types of collective and individual behavior. I'm like, "Okay, there's a lot more zero-sum behavior. Things are getting very saturated,
things are much more algorithmically driven now." So you can effectively have an attention rug pull where you're pursuing format X and all of a sudden format X becomes invisible. That could be long-form audio. Then you get pushed to video and then you get pushed to short video, then you get pushed to clips and now you're in reels, but you're not appearing where you used to appear, etc, etc. And I've been thinking about what to do next and have posed the question to some folks, I'd be curious to get your two cents, maybe we'll talk about it over dinner tonight is what you would find interesting for me to do next. And part of what's baked into that is as was true with these early chapters in each of these new arenas, where do I have a particular differentiator, an ability or access or combination in some weird Venn diagram that gives me an advantage? That was true with the startups because I had the blog actually. I
had the platform and the visibility through the first book, which allowed me to become an advisor with various companies and that was what enabled that as well as geographically being located in — Matt Mullenweg: Bay Area. Tim Ferriss: Bay Area. Matt Mullenweg: Although some cool companies like Shopify or us, which were not really Bay Area companies. Tim Ferriss: That's true, that's true. And actually a lot of my greatest hits are from, they are from outside of the Bay Area. Being in the Bay Area created a certain high level of resonance with discussion in those communities, which then extended to places like Ottawa. What I've been also thinking,
this is getting a little long, but I really respect your opinion on all this stuff and I know you pay close attention is that the new thing isn't always a new thing. So for instance, I was chatting, I'm not going to name him because he probably doesn't want to be named, but I was chatting with a friend of mine and he came back to writing. He was like, "You can write." And he's like, "Everyone has a TV show now, effectively." If you want to have a podcast, you are building out a studio. And the truth of the
matter is people are really good, really good. I mean there are some spectacularly well-produced, well-organized, well-researched, well-executed shows out there and it's going to get more crowded. I mean you can use, for instance right now, you can go to ChatGPT and say, "Provide me with 10 questions in the flavor of Andrew Huberman, Tim Ferriss, Rich Roll, pick your favorite podcaster, if he or she were interviewing so-and-so," and it will spit out questions.
And they are quite good. They're not bad. Matt Mullenweg: That's hilarious actually. Tim Ferriss: Yeah, right. So if you have notes in front of you and you're presentable on camera or via audio, now you're a formidable competitor. The hurdles used to be a little higher, it used to be a little harder. So I've thought about going back to writing, it is very high labor. There's a reason there's so many podcasters in the sense when COVID hit, people could have all become writers. When the writer's strike happened, people could have all become writers. Writing
is really, really difficult, I think, so — Matt Mullenweg: I'll interject here if I can. Tim Ferriss: Interject. Matt Mullenweg: Also, I felt like your writing process had a lot of solitary. Tim Ferriss: Yes. Matt Mullenweg: And what I observed as you got more into podcasting, other things is you really loved the — Tim Ferriss: The social piece. Matt Mullenweg: — social piece of it, yeah. Tim Ferriss: The interpersonal, like the direct you and I sitting across from a table in a personal piece.
Matt Mullenweg: It's more of a team doing it. Also, there's this with the guest and — Tim Ferriss: 100 percent. Matt Mullenweg: — that's actually a pretty cool element of the format. Tim Ferriss: Absolutely. That's a huge piece. You're totally right. And I think there's part of me that has recognized how nourishing that
is for me. And I'm hesitant to go back into monk mode in the cave staring at a blank page. I don't know, do you have any thoughts that percolate? We can certainly continue this, I'm just wondering. I mean, at the very least this is just like a confessional, which is nice. Matt Mullenweg: No, I love that. I love psychoanalyzing Tim. It's one of my pastimes.
That is a good question. And I think how you laid out how the market changes and becomes crowded is very, very true. So the thoughts that come to mind is first, also just as your friend, I would love to see you focus on things where it's not just outcome based. Because as you talked about this, you're like, "What about the traffic?" Those are my outcomes. So where are there things? And I think actually podcasting is true for this, where the journey itself is very rewarding for you.
Tim Ferriss: Totally. Matt Mullenweg: If no one listened to this, this was still a fun afternoon. Tim Ferriss: Absolutely. Matt Mullenweg: And we're just recording what we might do anyway, which is neat. Tim Ferriss: Best job ever. Matt Mullenweg: So I think that's nice. So I would say, I think actually I find writing, although it can be unfun at the time,
so rewarding afterwards. Tim Ferriss: Type two fun. Matt Mullenweg: Yeah, type two fun. And so I wonder as well if that's — I'm not sure how much you're writing right now. I know you did some fiction stuff and some comic stuff and so that's interesting. Tim Ferriss: Yeah.
Matt Mullenweg: Those questions of creativity. Tim Ferriss: And those also, when I bleed out of nonfiction is when it gets easier for me to collaborate, which maybe is the way I go, not necessarily fiction per se, but just different formats. That would be an ability to experiment. I mean the other thing is, and I'm not going to have the right attribution, maybe it's Neil Strauss, maybe it's Seth Godin, but anyone who's really been consistently productive in the sense of words on pages, the vast majority, at some point I've heard say, "There's no such thing as writer's block. It's when your standards are too high. You just need to lower your standards until you can get out of rough draft." And I'm of course grossly generalizing, but it's along those lines.
And so I've also thought, I think part of the reason that writing is so intimidating to me is I look at some of my blog posts and they're not quite Tim Urban, God bless his soul, they're not 50,000-word posts, but they're long. I mean these are significant investments of time and energy. And maybe the answer is, "You know what? Just you can't write more than four paragraphs. That's it." Matt Mullenweg: Some constraints. Tim Ferriss: Closer to, say, some of Seth's shorter pieces. Even shorter, much shorter than Paul Graham. I'll give a nod to Paul also. I have,
I think, it's "The Top Idea in Your Mind" that is one of his essays that I have bookmarked so it's visible in my browser. There are others of course, I mean the "Maker's Schedule, Manager's Schedule," or "Manager's Schedule, Maker's Schedule," which I think is a perennial reminder worth paying attention to. So I've thought about the constraints, maybe making it shorter, but I do think to underscore what you said, the social piece is a big one. Matt Mullenweg: How do you make it social? So if I were to brainstorm about your blog, some things I'd recommend trying are like what would a really amazing comment section look like? If that were really jazzed up, maybe more like forums, maybe more like building community. You've experimented with events before and I think that's actually pretty exciting. I found a lot of value because I've been blogging now for 20 years, and some gardening, so meaning returning to some older pieces, some of which still get traffic. And
do the links work? What's the update to it? At the top, do I link to a new thing? Does this inspire me to write a new version of this? Tim Ferriss: That's interesting. Matt Mullenweg: Really lovely, actually. It feels like you're creating a corpus, you're creating a body of work that even the old stuff reflects some of your best today thinking and being able to return to the old Tim or when I return to the old Matt, it's often sometimes surprising. I'm like, "Wow, I said this?" Sometimes I'm pleasantly surprised.
Sometimes I'm like, "Ah, I was young." But then maybe that's a cool grist for something new. Tim Ferriss: Yeah. Matt Mullenweg: Like, "Hey, I said this 15 years ago." I'm like, "Wow, I've learned so much since then," and maybe you're at my 15 ago version. And here's what changed my mind. Tim Ferriss: Yeah.
Matt Mullenweg: I guess we have a list of things to change your mind on, community and also I think multimodal formats. It's like you're going to take this podcast and slice it up for TikTok, Shorts, Reels, whatever you're putting it on. I think people don't do that enough into blog posts. Tim Ferriss: Tell me more. What does that mean? You mean converting things
into blog posts or taking blog posts and turning them into other derivative – Matt Mullenweg: No, I think every podcast you do has 10 to 15 blog posts worth of stuff in it. Tim Ferriss: Oh, I agree. Matt Mullenweg: Easily. Tim Ferriss: Easily. Matt Mullenweg: And so —
Tim Ferriss: I just don't want to — I mean, you've known me for a long time, so I'm going to start with my fears. Not all the amazing ways this could go, let me talk about all the terrible things that could happen. I guess what I want to be very cautious of is the siren song of high volume content farming. Matt Mullenweg: Yeah. Tim Ferriss: Because I have seen people who are very good, they're very smart, but they're really video first, just churning out just an assembly line of hot dogs of content in every form, including text. So how would you
think about quality assurance on that? Matt Mullenweg: We've actually talked about this. We brainstormed a bit on your site around if you imagined Tim.blog, almost like a Wikipedia where each guest was like a topic and that could be referred to in many episodes. And so I think that might be the antidote to this, to where the content, the transcripts, everything. How this works on blogs, it's kind of clunky right now. I think you have a post for the show and then a post for the — Tim Ferriss: Transcript. Matt Mullenweg: — notes script or transcript. And that should honestly be one URL, like it should be — Tim Ferriss: It's clunky. It's clunky in
part because it's a lot of stuff. The show notes are very extensive. Matt Mullenweg: They're long. Tim Ferriss: And then the transcripts are very extensive. So it turns into an enormous — it's basically a book. It turns into a book length. Matt Mullenweg: I would love if the transcript tied to a player, video and/or audio, so you can click on it and listen. You could listen and read at the same time, sort of like a karaoke scrolling through. Tim Ferriss: I mean, I use YouTube that way with transcripts. Matt Mullenweg: Yeah,
they have some cool features there. Yeah. Tim Ferriss: Surprisingly good, surprisingly good. Matt Mullenweg: I would love for everything to be linked, auto linked. So any time a book is mentioned, anytime an essay is mentioned, that goes to a page which pivots. I want to see every time Paul Graham's been mentioned across all of your — how many episodes now? Tim Ferriss: It's close to 700. Matt Mullenweg: Yeah. That's interesting. Tim Ferriss: I've been invoking Paul Graham like Candyman, Candyman, Candyman for years now. But as of yet, we have not had a podcast conversation. Maybe someday.
Matt Mullenweg: I don't think he does that many. Tim Ferriss: He does very few. He had a conversation with Tyler Cowen. Matt Mullenweg: I love that one, it was hilarious. Tim Ferriss: Which was hilarious. Which was hilarious. And I have the utmost respect for both of those guys. Tyler is also a one of a kind. He has stylistically produced a very novel and helpful show. There is no one like Tyler, he has an inimitable style.
Matt Mullenweg: The rapid-fire question. Tim Ferriss: The rapid fire, no follow-ups. Matt Mullenweg: Of different things, yeah, I'm kind of terrified about going on a show. He's the reason I started blogging. He was a big influence. Tim Ferriss: Okay, tell me, I'm not sure I knew this, tell me more. Matt Mullenweg: Because he's been doing Marginal Revolutions for, I think, over 20 years. Tim Ferriss: Yeah. Matt Mullenweg: And when I was in high school, one of the super cool things I did, you did wrestling, I did this economics competition run by the Federal Reserve Bank.
Tim Ferriss: Sexy. Matt Mullenweg: I know. Let me tell you. Tim Ferriss: You must have been beating the girls off with a stick. Matt Mullenweg: Somewhat. My macroeconomic insights were not quite driving the interest I hoped for since beginning the computers and jazz and stuff. So — Tim Ferriss: Yeah. Matt Mullenweg: But we did this
economics competition and it provided, it really opened a lot of opportunities for me. I got to go to Washington DC, meet Alan Greenspan. Tim Ferriss: What does it mean to have an economics competition? I mean is this econometrics mathematics competition? What are we talking about? Matt Mullenweg: Yeah, it was an interesting format. So have you heard of the FOMC, the Federal Open Market Committee? Tim Ferriss: No. Matt Mullenweg: So that is the committee of bank presidents and Federal Reserve leaders that come together to determine what's called the Fed Funds Rate, which basically trickles down to be the interest rates. Tim Ferriss: Man, I bet a lot of people would like to be in that room, wouldn't they? Yeah.
Matt Mullenweg: It's a pretty cool meeting. Tim Ferriss: It must be. Matt Mullenweg: And they're basically — Tim Ferriss: That's like the Illuminati. Matt Mullenweg: And they've been doing an amazing job too. Think of all the recessions we've avoided and all the problems they don't have. So it was, I think Volker who said their job is to take the punch bowl away as the party starts going and by turning up the interest rates slows down the economy. So they have a lot of levers and some new ones as well. So the first
15 minutes is we would do a mock meeting. So you would be Greenspan, I'd be Ben Bernanke, like we pretend role play the different presidents and we'd read their essays and speeches and things to try to have their style or their point of view and based on data up to when the competition started. So if new economic data was released that morning, we might incorporate it into the presentation. So do 15 minutes of that. And then the second 15 minutes is they can ask you any question about economics they want. Tim Ferriss: And do you have to still be in character or is this — Matt Mullenweg: No, this is more that they’re quizzing you as like the five high school students. And that part was really fun because it's a little more improvisational. I love Q and A. And Houston just weirdly ended
up being one of the most competitive districts in the country. So the first year we just got creamed. By the way, I went to arts high school. So we had never won an academic competition, ever. Like, Beyoncé went there, Robert Glasper. We weren't known for academics.
But had this awesome teacher, Scott Roman, who was an economics teacher. He was like, "Hey, let's do this." So first year we got creamed. Second year we won Houston, won the region. Tim Ferriss: Hold on. Matt Mullenweg: And then — Tim Ferriss: So second year they're just like, "All right, we're giving you guys all the roids. We're giving you
guys all the specialist top secret Chinese training programs." How did you just go from getting creamed to winning in the second year? Matt Mullenweg: Yeah, I credit the teacher a lot. Tim Ferriss: Yeah. Matt Mullenweg: It was first period, so it was the same class every morning. We all picked different newspapers like Financial Times, Wall Street Journal. We'd read them every morning. We discussed things. Tim Ferriss: How old were you then at the time? Matt Mullenweg: It was high school, so it's — Tim Ferriss: Okay, 15, 16, 17. Matt Mullenweg: — 17, 18 probably.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah. Matt Mullenweg: Or 16, 17. He had us teach each other a lot of things and you really learn something when you have to teach it. So he'd be like, "Scott or Iram, teach about some macroeconomics concept," and we'd rotate through that. And then a lot of practicing. We'd get together on weekends. Over the summer we went
to DC as a summer program. Tim Ferriss: Yeah. Matt Mullenweg: But anyway, got to meet Alan Greenspan, which is pretty cool. Tim Ferriss: Yeah. Matt Mullenweg: The follow-up to that is the year after there was a conference hosted by the Dallas Federal Reserve Bank honoring Milton Friedman. And because one of my teammates had gone to intern for the Federal Reserve — and actually maybe Mr. Roman
might've started consulting for them or something like that. I got an invite as a kid. At this point I haven't done WordPress, I'm just going to University of Houston, barely passing my political science major. So I got to go to this and Tyler Cowen was there, and his blog actually was one of the big — I mentioned the newspapers, I probably learned more from Marginal Revolutions than I did from Financial Times textbooks, etc. And he has textbooks and stuff. So he was there, and this is actually, I blogged about this and so it's on my blog, a post about meeting him. And I asked him for advice and he said, "Write every day." And I've basically been doing that ever since. Tim Ferriss: That seems to have worked out. Matt Mullenweg: And it's kind of cool also
now that I can look up this history. Tim Ferriss: Okay. I'm going to do a bit of follow up on this. Matt Mullenweg: I have 14 more things I'm excited about. Tim Ferriss: Oh, I know. I know, I know. We're going to get to — Matt Mullenweg: This format — Tim Ferriss: We're going to get to the other things. Maybe I have an idea for how we're going to do that. But with the economics competitions, you said barely passing in
political science. And I know you credited the teacher and said he was an excellent teacher. But what was it about the economics, the competition, the teacher or the combination that made you give so much to that versus other classes? Matt Mullenweg: Well, at one point I got kicked off the team, which — Tim Ferriss: You got kicked off? Matt Mullenweg: Which was, it really worked. I get it now, the psychology of it. So I think by a lot of ways you would rank things or look at strengths I definitely should have been on this five-person team. However, as actually you experienced today, I'm not always the most timely person. This was the first class of the day. Tim Ferriss: Yeah. Matt Mullenweg: So I was late a lot to school. And at one point this teacher kicked me off the team and I was like, "This is ridiculous. What do you mean? We've got to win. What's
happening?" And then he made the challenge to me. So his other thing, which was actually true, I didn't really appreciate this until my 20s, but he was like, "You have no physical tone," or, "You don't..." I just thought I was a brain in a vat. It didn't work out. And by the way, the school had no gym, we had no sports. So he was like, "To get back on the team, you need to run two miles with me," because he was a jogger. And I think he got me a book called Body
for Life or something, one of these really — Tim Ferriss: Oh. Yeah, Bill Phillips, I think, back in the day. Matt Mullenweg: And so that was what I had to do to get back on the team. I had two months to run these two miles or whatever and I had to show up on time. So I started showing up on time. And then we did the run. By the way, I really had not trained, but I just made it through sheer force of will because