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Episode 12: Launching Best Sellers, Going Viral, and Avoiding Burnout with Charlie Hoehn

Finding a world class mentor even once in your career can change the direction of your life forever. Charlie Hoehn has been able to do this many times over. From interning with Seth Godin, to landing a job with Tim Ferriss right out of college and working with talented entrepreneurs like Ramit Sethi and Tucker Max, Charlie has figured out how to leverage his unique expertise as a marketer and video editor to attract some of the most successful and talented people in the world.

Since then Charlie Hoehn has published three books, countless articles on the topic of overcoming anxiety, launched his own successful podcast, and has been asked to speak to massive audiences all around the world at TEDx and more.

In this episode you’ll find out what he’s learned from some of the greatest minds in the world, from building a viral marketing engine with Tim Ferriss and launching a best selling book to tips on creating highly unique content that can spread virally.

We also discuss how Charlie overcame anxiety and burnout, and what he’s done to help millions of people around the world lead happier lives.

Episode Transcription

Vadim: in those early days, how much time do you think you need to spend on generating a product or working on the creation itself, the asset versus, um, you know, or when do you get started in the marketing and [inaudible]? What are some of the first activities that you can do when you’re getting started? If you don’t know anything

Charlie (02:07): In the early days, kind of the the balance I think that needs to be had is if you can get your product or even an early prototype of your idea in front of at least 10 people who already kind of know you are like you or trust you and they’re the the ideal type of person that you want to be catering to you if you can get in front of them and them using it and then basically either trying to pay you or finding them, passing it along to friends of theirs or calling friends of theirs or talking about it. I’m asking more questions about it with your excitement and interest. Then you’re in good shape. I think that’s an invaluable process that basically everyone’s skips because it’s way more fun to work on your thing and to enjoy the creation process rather than it is to potentially be shot down or told something’s not good enough, but you have to do that.

Vadim (3:20): What you just said. So we just released an episode today with a woman that started a soap company and she went through the same exact process that you mentioned, which is she literally just went to 16 of her friends. They bought her product, a natural organic soap. They told their friends about it and those friends told their friends about it and it had started having this kind of word of mouth effect that she did not intend and she sold more in two weeks than she planned to sell in two months. So I love that you said that because it’s almost validating the experience that she went through.

Vadim: Once you go through that initial, let’s say friends, family or let’s say you’ve already kind of identified who your target customer might be. You know, especially early stage entrepreneurs if they’re first time entrepreneurs, but especially younger people that don’t have any experience with marketing. A lot of times I feel like marketing feels like this big behemoth and this sort of abyss and you don’t know what to do or what to focus on. And of course the answer is going to change depending on what kind of product that you have, but how do you know what to do next, whether it’s educating yourself about what would make sense for your market, or maybe you can shed some light on what you think works now.

Charlie: Good question. So I want to answer that, but to add on to your example of the woman who was selling soap – a similar thing happened to a friend of mine – you guys work in the VC space, so you’ll appreciate this. He was pitching investors and he kept getting turned down for his company to raise money. And after each meeting though, he would ask, what would you guys need to see from us in order to say yes, and after each round of feedback, he would go back to it and make those changes. Pitching another round of investors. I think he ended up pitching like over 50 investors, but got feedback every single time and made small iterations until it was the perfect pitch deck and he raised a ton of money. So I think in going back to this idea of putting this in front of people, getting their feedback, seeing how they respond, I mean this, this is how a friend of mine developed over 70 apps in the APP store.

He would develop a prototype and then he would hand it to somebody and say, what do you think of this? He would give them no explanation and he would just watch their facial expression and have them talk through it and then make adjustments based on that. And so I think why I can’t overstate the importance of getting this early feedback from people and making sure that your product has sort of the marketing baked into it, right? This is kind of the foundational aspect is if your product doesn’t have the marketing baked into it, if it’s not something that people are willing to hand over their money for, that they’re motivated to hand over their money for it right then and there, or they’re motivated to tell their friends, then there is no marketing baked into it. And any marketing that you do after that is going to feel like rolling a boulder up the hill. Right? So I can’t over-emphasize the importance of that before we go on to the next point of what should they be focusing on in terms of marketing. The best marketing you can do is build something that markets itself.

Sergei (7:07): Another point that you mentioned that I want to point out to our audiences that uh, and essentially what you talking about here is actually not just a marketing skill, but a sales skill. Having the ability to come up to someone, even people you know and get feedback from them, I think takes some experience or at least take some tenacity I should say. But what’s important is that the example that you mentioned, your friend actually showed something visual or something physical. People oftentimes a, if you just ask them whether they would use something or not, they are not really going to give you an honest answer. Not that they’re trying to lie to you, but they just don’t really know unless they have something to react to. So that’s a piece of advice that we always give to entrepreneurs is create even a visual prototype if you can, if you don’t have good design skills do it in Microsoft Paint by copying and, and — uh, I don’t even know if Microsoft paint exists anymore – but copying and pasting different visuals – but have something for people to react to. Actually, a cool tool for that is proto.io that lets you create free prototypes from mobile apps.

But I love that example. You mentioned that the product should have the marketing baked in. Do you have any examples from your own personal launches that you’ve done, maybe your latest book “Play For a Living”, that actually included marketing within the product or had some sort of component in it that made it easy to market

Charlie (8:35): With “Play For a Living” I just wanted to make it a product that creatives could really get behind and own – feel like they had some ownership. So what I did was I worked with 50 artists around the world, and they would contribute art pieces that I then featured in the book. And then they got to create art of their heroes, and so they have ownership of that. And so now I have 50 people who can show that to their art friends and they can show it to their parents and say, look, mom and dad, the lifestyle I’ve been living is valid, right. That’s the message of the book is that a creative way of work, which is play, is a very valid way of approaching their career. The guy that I learned the most about this from is obviously Tim Ferriss, who’s a master at baking marketing into the product.

All the way from his titles and subtitles to the chapter headings. Tim was always very focused on giving people what they were highly motivated to get the information about, they really wanted it delivered as a recipe so that they could follow the formula and get the results as close to as he promised. So for instance, um, one of his most popular posts is about how to lose 20 pounds of fat over the course of 30 days without exercise. And he lays out some specific rules of how to eat a low carb diet and it works really well and consistently, and that has marketing baked into the product because the reader literally physically transformed over the course of a month. And so you have people asking what the hell happened? And Ah, so the marketing is basically coming to them and it’s being pulled out of them – “ I tried the slow carb diet and got me these phenomenal results.”

So he was really, really good about that. And I mean, Dropbox has become known as kind of a, one of the gold standards of doing this – you use our product and share our product with your friends. Uber was the same way – grew in much the same way. Can the person who uses your product product brag about it to their friends? Does it elevate their status? Can they slide their phone across the table and say, look what I just did. I just clicked a button and a black limousine car pulls up in three minutes. You know? So, if you have something that your audience, not only is highly motivated and looking for solutions for, but also elevates their status after they use it. That’s, that’s great marketing built in.

Vadim (11:42): That’s a great quote and funny enough, I obviously have all of Tim’s books and I’ve done the slow carb diet myself and lost 20 pounds of fat and that’s exactly what I was doing is, my friends would say “well, what did you do that was different?” And I said, honestly, I ate a good amount, but I just took out the carbs, bad carbs, and um, you know, exercised consistently as well. But, I told everybody that I could about it. So that word of mouth marketing clearly helped. And I know two of my friends bought the “4 Hour Body” because of my word of mouth marketing. So, you’re absolutely.

Charlie: That’s awesome!

Vadim: Thank you. I appreciate it. Keeping it off, of course, is the other challenge – perhaps the “cheat day”. But you know, when you’re doing something like writing a book, like “Play For a Living”, you know, there’s a lot of upfront work involved. You had to find the artists. You had to come up with the concept for the book. How do you know if you should be investing all this time or sort of what else can you do with something like this where you have to kind of come up with a product before it’s fully validated and invest a lot of time upfront. I mean, how did you know, were there any indicators early on? I guess you already had a couple of other books out as well, but were there any indicators early on that this sort of model would work for you, for the new book?

Charlie (13:11): To answer your previous question, which is what can entrepreneurs be focusing on to get better at marketing? I think the big skill for marketers is listening and empathy. Are people paying attention to what their problems are. Are they motivated enough to search for solutions and are they motivated enough to pay for those solution? Or are there few perceived options out there? So with “Play For a Living” it was a little bit different of a situation because I honestly considered it a passion project. I didn’t necessarily expect it to come to fruition because it was just kind of a, a challenge and it was, it was a book. I know this goes against everything I say, but this was a book I wanted to exist for myself. First and foremost. This is not what I advise a first time author/entrepreneur to do. I advise them to focus on what is the problem that they solved in their life that other people are trying to solve as well? What are problems that they’re trying to solve and can you deliver a solution to them as efficiently as possible? Because I like to think of products in terms of, at least with stuff like book, as obstacles to your customer’s desired end state.

The customer, if they could, would snap their fingers and eliminate the problem, but instead they have to go through your product in order to get there. So can you build a product that delivers the desired end state as efficiently, pleasantly as delightfully as possible. And that’s just generally kind of how I think of it in terms of listening to your customers. The point there is you have to pay attention to how they describe things. It’s always shocking and I’m sure you guys have experienced this as well as much as you think you know your market, who you’re serving, what, how they view the problem, how it’s affecting their life – It’s always surprising to hear them describe what they’re going through and how they’re going through it. You know, to give you an example. Several years ago I wrote a blog post called “how I cured my anxiety” and the post, to my surprise, did really well and went viral and it’s still number one on Google today if you search for anxiety cure.

And, um, so I get a lot of people coming to me and needing help with anxiety. And this is something that they’re often ashamed of, and struggling with. And I’m also paranoid about potential solutions put in front of them because that’s their safe space. They’re afraid. So in hearing this, I’ve surveyed a lot of them. I was always been surprised at what, what led to that situation, how they described it themselves. A lot of women, for instance, focused very much on the physical sensations. They hated the physical sensations and they acknowledged that it was anxiety. A lot of the men described it as, as burnout and not necessarily anxiety or they would describe panic attacks as being their worst. So listening to the customer, hearing them out, hearing how they describe it gives you a better sense of, when you are on to something – when needing to sell the product, you can describe it exactly in their terms and they feel like: “ man, this person is reading my mind”. They know exactly what I’m going through. And the sale is much easier.

Sergei (17:50): Yeah it’s so true that you have no idea how to market and how your customers will react until you talk to them. So avoiding talking to them is a huge mistake because you have to be building for people that are actually going to buy it. So that’s huge. Hundred percent agree. You mentioned that, that article that you wrote about anxiety, just because I know our audience will be curious about it. I know that some people think that perhaps that virality can be engineered. Can you tell us really quickly what you did when you posted that article? Did you just post it on your blog and send it to your newsletter and call it a day or did you do something else to try to spread the word a little bit about it?

Charlie (18:29): Truthfully, this will sound a little bit like a cop out, it was truly a surprise. It was one of the better things I’ve written and I wrote it because I couldn’t find any good online articles at the time of people describing their situation that I could really relate to in a way that was authentic and in a way that didn’t involve going through a therapist or getting pills or whatever. And it’s pretty cool now because on youtube you have a lot of people who have these sort of anxiety, confessional things. They describe their situation and they described what works for them. At the time in 2013, there weren’t a lot of great resources online. So I got lucky in that people really liked it because it was unique, it was a different perspective. To answer your broader question of how can you engineer virality – I think you have to come in with something unique.

You have to have a unique fresh voice or a different perspective. Um, I saw this recently with a different article that I wrote about the mass shootings after Vegas happened. I wrote about a different angle than what was being talked about. Everybody was talking about guns and so I talked about not the media, not guns. I talked about men, men in our culture, in the United States, in growing up often in isolation, loneliness, being deprived of play, not having healthy ways of dealing with shame, that sort of thing. I talked about the emotional health of men in the US and that really isn’t talked about a whole lot. It’s talked about mental health. People are crazy and stuff. So I came with something different that people could get behind. If you look at the topics that are going viral, the things that people are already talking a lot about, and you can come in and kind of give your own unique twist to it and obviously have something that’s high quality. You have a much greater chance of engineering that. And in both of those cases I truly just put it up and shared it with my list. And that was enough. Timing plays a big role in the second one, but that was, that was all I did.

Vadim (21:16): Yeah, I agree 100%. I just want to touch on really quickly what you just said, which is have a unique voice – that’s incredibly important. Funny enough, so I was on Reddit a couple days ago and uh, and I found this thread called “how on how not to give a fuck”. And everybody there was talking about how they’re nervous approaching people in public, whether it’s women at a bar or at a networking event or whatever. And I realized what had helped me in the past is just doing it without thinking and overthinking it too much. So I wrote a quick little post on reddit about the “three second rule of not giving a fuck”. Second one, make eye contact. Second two, come over to somebody and second three, just say hi. Don’t overthink it because if you let your brain think too much, you’ll over hype yourself and you’ll come up with excuses not to do it. And next thing I know the post has several hundred up votes in thousands of views and I had no idea, I just kind of posted it up there in the public domain, but because it was unique and because the message was delivered to that particular thread in a different way than they were used to seeing it spread. And so you’re, you’re a hundred percent right.

Charlie (22:20): I love that. I can I add a couple more things that can, that can really add some juice to making things go viral.

Vadim: I’d love that, yeah.

Charlie: Yeah. So in addition to having kind of a unique perspective, I think there are a few other things. So one is storytelling. Stories are how humans pass along information. It’s not enough just to come in with statistics and numbers. You have to tell stories. People retain information better when you come in with a story. So storytelling is important. You have to get people to feel something. If you really want to go viral, you have to evoke a strong emotion. It can’t be just neutral. Whether you’re making them very sad, you’re making them laugh, you’re making furious, which actually fury and anger has the highest rate of going viral. Which is sad, but it’s true. The New York Times published a study about that a few years ago. But the other thing is, and this goes to the unique perspective and having a unique voice. I think if you can challenge an assumption, right, if you can, uh, go against the grain in some way, that’s another way of thinking about it. So I think of all the things that I just kind of listed off going through there, and I think probably the most important one is making people feel something, making them feel something strong.

Sergei (24:11): Charlie, I’m curious, going back specifically to product or business launches and the early days, a lot of entrepreneurs, especially those that don’t have much experience with marketing, they find themselves doing a whole lot of things and potentially spending a whole lot of money but not necessarily seeing a particular results that they want. Or not knowing where they should focus their time and how they can stay consistent with marketing because consistency is so important. Do you have any tips or techniques for how you’ve sort of figured out what marketing activities to focus on and how you kept yourself accountable and consistent to actually focusing on those things day in and day out?

Charlie (25:03): You know, I try to think in terms of what is the objective here? If your objective is to sell 10,000 units of a product, maybe there’s a way of doing that that’s a lot more efficient than going through traditional marketing channels or doing content marketing or any of this stuff. Maybe the fastest path is to find a partner, a company that wants to buy 10,000 units or 10 companies that want to buy a thousand units. So I kind of try and start there – what is the one thing we’re trying to accomplish and do we even need to be focusing on all the things that marketers tell us to do.

Then the next step would basically be – who is my audience? Where is this motivated audience of customers or potential clients that I’m trying to serve? Where are they most receptive to being marketed to in wanting to hear the solution? So, have you guys ever heard the phrase “content is king, but context is God”? So it’s a great thing and I try and keep it in mind as often as possible. And basically it means that you can have viral content, and you can get word of mouth around the content, but if the timing is not right for the audience you’re trying to target, if they’re not receptive to your message at that point, if they’re not actively looking for a solution right then and there, you’re marketing is going to fall flat. So this is why certain marketing tends to work better on Google than it does on Facebook. Both platforms have their merits, of course, but one is actively searching for a solution that is the context of which you used google. While the other is sort of a passive entertainment realm. So any advertising, any marketing you do has to match the context of the audience that you’re trying to reach. Does that make sense?

Sergei (27:27): You really have to be able to have that context with you. You have no choice but to deeply understand exactly who your target customer is, down to us as granular as you can possibly get. It goes back to the fact that you have to talk to them, not just in the early days, but all the time, even if your company is one, two, or five years old, because the customer may change as well as your product.

Charlie, I want a little bit of your story to come out here as well. And so I’m curious because you’ve done so many cool things. I mean, you’ve published at least three books that I know of. You have been a keynote speaker, you’ve worked alongside best selling authors. You have your own podcast, very busy guy. Do you have something or can you tell us about the one thing perhaps what professional accomplishment of yours that you’re most proud of? It could’ve been during your time working with Tim Ferriss. It could have been your own personal projects that you work on, but what would you say is the professional accomplishment that you’re most proud of?

Charlie (28:33): I don’t think I’ve ever been asked this before! Um, let me list two. So first I’ll say the articles that I mentioned I’m actually really proud of because the anxiety article has helped more people than I ever thought it would. And that’s really meaningful to me. I’ve heard from people who said it prevented them from committing suicide. I’ve heard from people who said they’d been on high dose anxiety meds for 20 years and were able to get off. I’ve heard from veterans who suffered from PTSD that said that methodology was the one thing that worked that got him through it. I’ve heard from addicts, I mean, you run the gamut, right? And I’ve heard from a lot of different people from all different walks of life all over the world who that said it made a positive impact on their life. And for that, I’m so grateful that I shared that.

At the time when it went viral, it was a very stressful thing, because I was like, oh gosh, this is such a sensitive topic, but I’m so glad I wrote the article on the biggest shootings, because it introduced a perspective that I thought deserved some discussion. And I heard from people who were in the Columbine shootings who’s friends and even their parents had been shot and murdered, who thanked me for the article because it was something that they believed in as well that didn’t get very much attention in mainstream media. So I was happy to introduce that. The second one that I’m most proud of is actually related to speaking. I took Improv for a few years, not only because it’s super fun and it was helpful, helpful to my mental state and emotional state, but also it made me a better public speaker.

It kind of killed my fear of dying on stage or making a mistake. And I hit a point where I felt really good and confident on stage 90 percent of the time. And I had a scene where I was in a show that was on for six weeks. We were going to – this will sound silly, but it’s true. We were doing improvised gothic horror, which is a very dramatic but very funny type of genre. And I had this scene where I was playing two people at the same time and I heard it was the first thing I ever had that just killed. And I got applause after the scene. It was just really funny. And I heard from a parent after the show that their four year old daughter had cried laughing, watching that scene. And I think that was the proudest I’ve felt maybe ever, you know, to make a little kid cry laughing is like – I teared up because it’s such a nice thing to have done. And you can’t out-market kids. I mean, maybe toy companies would disagree with me, but that was, that was like pure, pure joy for me.

Sergei (32:16): Wow, that’s such a cool story. Thank you so much for sharing that. I want to point out that your examples actually show that it’s not the product itself of your work that made you proud. It was the result of how it impacted people’s lives, even if it was that one girl who was crying laughing, or all of those people asking you about how to deal with anxiety and that’s, that’s huge. A few months ago I spoke to a group of eighth graders and they were just interested to hear about tech and start ups. They don’t really know what any of it means, but the one thing I told them is, you don’t have to worry about becoming a millionaire right now. Just start thinking about how can I be a creator? How can I create anything? Whether that’s writing a play, writing a blog post, an article, a poem, a song, building some sort of a toy that you yourself want to play with, out of parts. How can you start creating something because not only once you create something do people view you differently now because you can actually make something out of nothing which is an asset. Not everyone can do that. But then the personal satisfaction that comes from that is better than any money that you can get. So this totally resonates.

Charlie (33:31): I completely agree with that advice. I love that you give that advice and it’s so, so important I think to nurture that. I think we’ve lost sight of what a successful career actually means, especially in the entrepreneurial realm where, you know, we have Steve Jobs who’s like the Silicon Valley Jesus, and we have all these crazy success stories that we glamorize – Zuckerberg, he coded Facebook in a week in his dorm and blah, blah blah. And now he’s one of the wealthiest people in the world. I think wealth is, it’s a nice indicator, but it’s not an indicator of success. It’s not the sole indicator of success. Back in the day, people that were creators – all they wanted to do was just make a living, right? If they could get by with a couple meals a day and be able to pay rent in a crappy apartment, they’ve made it.

They were getting to do their own thing. Right? And so I think it’s unfortunate that there are a lot of entrepreneurs still who are thinking in terms of, well, how can I make an exit, how can I get acquired when they’re starting out, when really it should be more like how can I find the process that I want to be married to for life that I can get to go through ups and downs with, to get to enjoy the struggle, you know? So for instance, for myself personally, I have written books. I don’t consider myself an author. I don’t love the process, I love the process of video, I really enjoy it. And I love the struggle. I love the problem solving that comes with it. I’ve been doing that for over a decade. People don’t know me for that as much as my other work and that’s OK. But that’s the thing that I really love and that’s the thing that I care about making a living with – the book stuff is just like you said, it’s a way to create, it’s another way to deliver value to people.

Vadim (35:52): I say the same thing to my students that are just starting off with entrepreneurship or their creative journey – part of what I teach them is ideation and figuring out what you want to work on, but whatever it is that you land on, it has to be something that will keep you motivated because yeah, you might have some really cool moments that’ll come out of it. And you might get lucky and have runaway success. I mean, that does happen, but if you don’t truly believe in what you’re doing, if you don’t truly enjoy the day to day then you will not be able to make it through the difficulties of trying to get your creation, whether it’s entrepreneurship or anything else you’re trying to do, to the world. Because there’s a lot of noise out there now.

Even if you write the best book in the world, it’s still going to be difficult. Which is why you have to go back to what you said earlier in our conversation. Find people with whom your story is going to really, really resonate with and are going to think that you’re incredibly unique. So that’s super important. The last question that I’m going to ask you is something that we ask all of our guests and it’s along the lines of the fact that, you know, it doesn’t matter how successful you are, whether it’s your second or third company or if you’re just starting out and it’s your first sort of entrepreneurial thing. Everybody that you talk to has one big problem that they’re facing that’s top of mind. So you’re a creator, I’m sure you constantly have things that are going on, but for you personally, what would you say is the number one problem that you’re trying to solve? And the reason I’m asking this is because this podcast is called The Mentors. And so we like to have a discussion with every entrepreneur and creator that we talk to, about what are their problems? How can we help you solve them? So, what’s the biggest problem that’s top of mind for you right now?

Charlie (37:43): Right now, a problem that I’m giving a lot of is – I have a podcast, as you guys mentioned, called Author Hour. With Author Hour it took me several months to get to the point where I’d really streamlined the workflow and automated a lot of it, so I have all these things that happen automatically as soon as I’ve finished recording and uploaded it to Dropbox – it gets sent off to a company that handles the editing and the show notes and the transcription, and then it gets handed off to another editor who reviews it and adds images, and then that once it goes live, it triggers automatically sending an email to the guests and giving them assets to promote. And it does it all automatically. So the machine runs itself really well. Now I’m thinking in terms of how can I apply that to video, how can I automate this process as much as possible so I’m not the bottleneck?

Basically, how can I build a system where I drag a file into a folder along with some instructions and it automatically gets handed off to the right editor who gets it done by the right date or sends me the first cut by the right date. So I am thinking in terms of systems. How can I set up the systems so I only have to do this part once or somebody else could come in and figure out my system. Even if I got, in the words of the sharks in Shark tank, hit by a bus. So one of the books that I love on this topic is the E-myth Revisited. Some people don’t like that book because they think you’re dumbing things down to the point where you can just plug any old thing into the machine.

And to some extent I agree, but to another, you kind of have to do that. If you want to be a successful entrepreneur, you have to streamline your workflows on the things that are time consuming to you or that you don’t need to be a part of. Zapier is one tool that allows you to do that. It’s just phenomenal. I’ve used that coupled with, getmagic.com. These are 24/7 virtual assistants who work for I think fifty nine cents a minute, which comes out to roughly like $35 an hour and they work pretty efficiently. They’re native English speakers. So if you can couple those two things together, you can get a lot accomplished. So that’s, that’s kind of what I’m focused on now.

Sergei (40:35): I’ll give you a company that I’m aware of that they’re not paying us to promote this all. We usually don’t mention too many products on the show, but this is a company actually founded by a few Venture for America fellows out of Seattle. It’s called GoSlope. I’m sure you haven’t come across it because they’re fairly young, but they’re starting to close some pretty big deals and it essentially helps with project management specifically with content creation and they started off doing video because before that they had a video company and they faced a lot of pain with collaborating with people on video and automating some of those tasks. So maybe that, that tool could help you. I was curious, you mentioned that there’s a big cultural problem that play is not encouraged and there’s probably structural issues at play, no pun intended, that cause it. But have you come across perhaps other cultures, other countries that are better at playing? And do you have any hints as to why they might be better at a play more in their lives?

Charlie (41:34): That’s a great question. So Finland is kind of known for this. One of the highest benchmarks for education in the world. They are ranked as the top in education, and yet they don’t give kids homework until they’re like 14 years old. They have two hours of recess every day, all the way through high school. I believe they paid their teachers as well as, relatively speaking almost as well as doctors, you know, they don’t give them the United States Doctor Salary, but the wages that they pay teachers means they attract some of the best talent and they expect some of the best service. So they have a different culture. But Scandinavia tends to do things really well in these terms. They also have a lot of things that are different.

Obviously culturally it’s a lot more homogenized than ours, so the income gap isn’t super wide. Everyone’s relatively speaking much more equal. In the United States we had some things I think kind of go wrong in the past. No child left behind, or was it no student left behind, ended up being something that hurt us. We also had – what was that marketing campaign in the 80s? “It’s 10:00pm. Do you know where your children are?” We have a culture of parents who effectively shame each other for not over-parenting. And that’s a real problem because you’ve raised a really anxious generation of kids who their parents are so enmeshed in their child’s lives that the children grow up to be dependent adults. They’re not actually leaders of themselves. They don’t grab autonomy for their lives and the parents don’t think they’re doing a disservice.

They feel guilt and shame if they’re not all up in their kids business and controlling their lives. How old are you guys? 32? Yeah. So, I mean, if you haven’t dealt with it yourself, I’m sure you can think of people that who have dealt with it. In watching how their parents interacted with them. In a way, this is a fault of our schooling as well. I think if you raise kids in a way where they have to prove themselves to get love from the parent, if they have to perform well in school in order to get love from their parents, it develops an anxious attachment and they no longer view the world as a playground – they view it in the words of my friend Glen Gordon as a “proving ground” where they constantly have to prove themselves.

And a lot of people go through their entire lives constantly proving themselves to parents, right? Even if the parents are no longer there, it just becomes this script that runs in the background. So, it’s frustrating, but I think it’s something that over time will erode and start to correct itself. But it’s a huge problem. I think it’s one of those things that limits us in ways that we don’t actually see. If you have a bunch of kids turning into adults that aren’t really independent, happy, playful adults, but instead are constantly trying to level up to get the love that they think they’re going to get – this is super common in marriage for entrepreneurs as well, driving force to their success. And then it just hinders us in ways that are just not super healthy.

Vadim (46:20): You’re absolutely right. And by the way, sounds like you’re a great father. But I think you’re helping a lot with the content that you’ve put out, so thanks a lot for the books that you write, the articles that you write and looking forward to seeing more of that in the future as well. We really appreciate your time. Thank you for sharing your insight with us and our audience, of course. And actually, Sergei is coming over my apartment in about half hour and we’re gonna play instruments – we’re musicians as well. So he’s going to pick up the guitar, I got a piano and it’s going to be a good way to unwind and then do some more brainstorming for our podcasts, so we totally agree with your concept of playing!

Charlie (47:00): Well, thank you so much for the kind words, and it was an honor being a guest on the show. You guys keep doing the work you’re doing. It’s really meaningful and impactful. So thanks for doing what you do as well.

Vadim: I really appreciate it, Charlie – thanks for joining!

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