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Jim Collins and Ed Zschau

Jim Collins and Ed Zschau

Start (00:00:00)

  • Tim Ferris promotes the Eight Sleep Pod 4 Ultra, a mattress topper that can automatically adjust temperature, positions, and track sleep metrics.
  • Element, a sugar-free electrolyte drink mix, aids in electrolyte balance and alleviates hunger, cramps, headaches, tiredness, and dizziness, making it suitable for keto, low-carb, paleo diets, and endurance exercise.
  • Tim Ferris mentions his exceptional cardiovascular fitness, being able to sprint for half a mile at high altitude before experiencing hand tremors.
  • The Tim Ferris Show features interviews with world-class performers from various fields, including Jim Collins and Ed Zschau, to discuss their habits, routines, and favorite books.
  • The show aims to provide practical insights and strategies from these experts that listeners can apply and test in their own lives.

Notes about this supercombo format. (00:05:16)

  • This is a special two-for-one episode celebrating the podcast's 10th anniversary and surpassing 1 billion downloads.
  • Curated some of the best and favorite moments from over 700 episodes.
  • Aiming to introduce lesser-known individuals who have been influential and transformative.
  • Guests' bios can be found at

Enter Jim Collins. (00:06:19)

  • Jim Collins is the author of iconic business books such as "Good to Great", "How the Mighty Fall", "Great by Choice", "Built to Last", and "Beyond Entrepreneurship 2.0" (co-authored with Bill Lazier).
  • Find Jim Collins at

How Jim’s students influenced his entrepreneurial path. (00:06:44)

  • Jim Collins was teaching entrepreneurship and small business at Stanford.
  • His students challenged him to be more entrepreneurial and to practice what he preached.
  • Collins realized he liked betting on himself and decided to become a self-employed professor.
  • He and his wife, Joanne, took a big bet on the research and writing of the book "Built to Last."
  • Collins was concerned that success might lead to a decline in the quality of his work and wanted to maintain a balance between visibility and deep, quiet solitude.
  • Collins uses a stopwatch with three timers to manage his time.
  • Each timer is set for a different task or activity.
  • He uses the timers to stay focused and avoid distractions.
  • Collins has evolved his time management system over time and now uses it to manage his daily tasks and activities.

Why Jim carries a three-timer stopwatch. (00:11:01)

  • Jim Collins started tracking his time after learning that respected faculty members spend 50% of their time on creative work, 30% on teaching, and 20% on other tasks.
  • He used a triple stopwatch to track his time and later simplified it to counting the number of creative hours he gets each day.

Using a spreadsheet to optimize discipline in service of creativity. (00:12:37)

  • Jim opens a spreadsheet at the end of each day to record his activities and creative hours.
  • He notes interesting conversations or events that occurred during the day.
  • He calculates the total number of creative hours over the last 365 days, aiming for a minimum of 1,000 creative hours per year.

Ideal minimum creative hours per year. (00:13:58)

  • Jim sets a minimum goal of 1,000 creative hours per year, regardless of circumstances.
  • He tracks his progress using a three-month pace, six-month pace, and current 365-day pace.
  • By monitoring these metrics, he can adjust his behavior to ensure he stays on track and produces creative work.

Avoiding a life-distorting “funk.” (00:15:35)

  • Jim Collins created a code to track the quality of his days:
    • +2: Super positive day
    • +1: Positive day
    • 0: Neutral day
    • -1: Negative day
    • -2: Bad day
  • He records his daily score before going to bed to avoid distortions from current feelings.
  • By tracking his days, he can identify patterns and make adjustments to have more positive days and fewer negative days.

Calculating an optimal end point. (00:17:57)

  • Jim Collins uses the Simplex method, a mathematical technique, to navigate life.
  • The Simplex method involves finding the local optimum (the best next step) and then resetting to find the next best step.
  • By repeating this process, he believes he can navigate towards an optimal end point in life.

Patterns discovered using Jim’s time-tracking method. (00:19:43)

  • Jim discovered patterns in his time-tracking method.
  • One pattern is the "Solitude of really hard work," where he gets lost in research, writing, or making sense of things.
  • Another pattern is the "Simplicity of the day," where he focuses on deep, hard work and flow state.
  • Jim also values time with people he loves, which he considers "plus two days."

Three crucial components for living the life Jim wants to lead. (00:20:39)

  • Jim believes that three things are important for living the life he wants:
    • Increasing simplicity
    • Time in flow state
    • Time with people he loves
  • He describes "plus two days" as days where he is either in solitude doing hard work or deeply connected with people he has long-enduring relationships with.

The bug book and the hedgehog concept. (00:22:34)

  • The Hedgehog concept is a framework for achieving exceptional results by focusing on the intersection of passion, being the best in the world at something, and having an economic engine.
  • Jim Collins used a "bug book" to study himself objectively and identify his strengths and weaknesses.
  • Collins discovered his passion and calling when he started teaching at Stanford University, where he enjoyed making sense of difficult concepts and teaching them to others.
  • Collins' bug book entries included observations, reflections, and pattern recognition, as well as people he admired and what he resonated with in them.

Peter Drucker mic-drop lessons. (00:30:47)

  • Don't make a hundred decisions when one will do.
  • Be selective about what you do.
  • Ask yourself if it's a great teaching moment or not.
  • Make one big decision that will be replicated many times.
  • Change the question from "Will I survive?" or "Will I be successful?" to "How can I be useful?"

Enter Ed Zschau. (00:34:55)

How I convinced Dr. Zschau to let me into his Princeton engineering course. (00:35:15)

  • Tim Collins convinced Dr. Zschau to let him enroll in the high-tech entrepreneurship course by committing to clean the blackboards and erasers, making Dr. Zschau's life easier.
  • Dr. Zschau is proud of Tim's success and credits their friendship to Tim enrolling in the course.
  • Tim Collins had many reasons for wanting to take the course, including its popularity among students and its interdisciplinary nature, combining electrical engineering, operations research, and financial engineering.
  • Despite not having a background in engineering, Tim was accepted into the course due to the recent introduction of student voting on undergraduate courses at Princeton.
  • Tim Collins recalls cleaning the blackboards and erasers as part of his commitment to Dr. Zschau.
  • Dr. Zschau mentions the indirect teaching that occurs through observing interactions between professors and students.
  • Tim Collins stays in touch with many of his former students from the course, some of whom are now 40-50 years old.
  • Dr. Zschau highlights Tim Collins' background in figure skating, which was not mentioned in the biography read earlier.

Ed’s background in competitive figure skating and the lessons it taught him. (00:37:54)

  • Ed Zschau grew up in Omaha, Nebraska, where he started figure skating at the age of 7.
  • He enjoyed the challenge and improved his skills through practice and dedication.
  • Ed passed several figure skating tests and qualified for the national championships in men's singles and ice dancing.
  • Although he never won, he gained valuable life lessons from the experience, such as the power of practice, dedication, persistence, and determination.
  • These lessons taught him that creating value for the world requires a long journey and preparation, rather than a quick return.

Ed's advice on preparing to be a leader or change the world (00:37:54)

  • Ed emphasizes the importance of learning values such as practice, dedication, persistence, and determination.
  • He believes that making a difference in society and changing the world for the better requires a long journey and preparation, rather than seeking quick returns.

The origin of Ed’s meticulous attention to detail. (00:42:01)

  • Ed's meticulous preparation was evident in his early days as a teaching assistant.
  • He would arrive early to class, arrange name cards, review materials, and ensure everything was in order.
  • Ed believed in Murphy's Law and wanted to avoid surprises by being well-prepared.
  • He spent 2-3 hours preparing for each class, even though he had taught the material many times before.
  • Ed used the case method of teaching, putting students in the position of decision-makers and building their confidence.
  • He aimed to convey lessons through students' words, regardless of how the discussion evolved.

The benefits of learning by doing through the case method. (00:45:47)

  • The case method allows students to actively engage in learning by analyzing real-life business scenarios.
  • It encourages critical thinking and decision-making skills by presenting dilemmas and open-ended situations.
  • Provides opportunities for students to discuss and debate different perspectives, fostering collaboration and communication.
  • Helps students develop confidence in their abilities by showcasing successful entrepreneurs who started young.
  • Teaches practical tools and techniques that can be applied in real-world entrepreneurial endeavors.

Ed’s definition of entrepreneurship. (00:49:37)

  • Entrepreneurship is not limited to starting companies but rather an approach to life.
  • It involves initiating and implementing new ideas, making things happen that haven't been done before.
  • Combines innovation with implementation, emphasizing the importance of taking action and turning ideas into reality.
  • Entrepreneurs are those who not only envision possibilities but also actively pursue and execute them.

The role of optimism in entrepreneurship and life. (00:51:06)

  • Collins emphasizes the importance of optimism in entrepreneurship and life.
  • He believes that having a vision and committing to making it real is crucial for success.
  • Collins suggests that focusing on the challenges and difficulties can hinder progress, while embracing optimism and seeing the potential for fun in hard work can lead to greater success.

Ed’s aspirations as a teenager and young adult. (00:53:46)

  • At around 20 years old, Ed Zschau had a clear aspiration to become a physicist.
  • He came to Princeton in 1957 with a plan to major in physics.
  • In his sophomore year, he discovered philosophy and decided to major in philosophy with a bridge program in physics.
  • Zschau's independent work and senior thesis combined philosophy and physics.
  • His senior thesis explored how Immanuel Kant's theory of space and time might have differed if he had known Einstein's general theory of relativity.

What drew Ed to Princeton as an aspiring physics philosopher. (00:55:48)

  • Ed was drawn to Princeton because of its storied history in physics, particularly the presence of renowned physicists like Einstein and Feynman.
  • Princeton offered him the opportunity to work as a busboy in the dining hall, which he saw as a challenge and an indication of the school's rigor.
  • Ed found Princeton extremely challenging, to the extent that it ended his figure skating career.
  • He realized that he could not balance the demands of academics and competitive figure skating.
  • The text does not provide information about when Ed Zschau entered the teaching profession.
  • Ed Zschau had planned to join the US Navy after graduating from Princeton but was unable to due to a broken leg.
  • He had also applied to Stanford Business School and decided to pursue an MBA there instead.
  • Ed believes that career planning is overrated as unexpected opportunities can change one's path significantly.
  • He got into teaching when he seized the opportunity to teach a course on electronic data processing at Stanford Graduate School of Business.

How Ed learned to become a good teacher and the influence of extemporaneous speaking. (01:03:53)

  • Ed believes that not being naturally smart helped him become a better teacher as he could better understand the difficulties of learning.
  • He took a year-long debate course in high school, which improved his public speaking skills.
  • His debate teacher also taught extemporaneous speaking, where participants are given a topic and one hour to prepare a 10-minute speech.
  • Ed practiced extemporaneous speaking daily after school with his teacher and eventually became a state champion.
  • Ed emphasizes the importance of preparation and using tools and strategies to improve teaching and public speaking skills.

Lessons from extemporaneous speaking competitions about preparation and adaptation. (01:07:09)

  • The speaker participated in extemporaneous speaking competitions where they had to prepare a 10-minute oration on a given topic within an hour.
  • The competitions helped the speaker develop skills in nurturing personal values, inspiration, and recognizing the enjoyment in doing great things.
  • The speaker believes that teaching is about building an optimistic attitude and understanding that changing the world for the better is a worthwhile goal.
  • The speaker does not specifically remember the choices they made in the competitions, but they recall a memorable moment when their debate partner accidentally presented the negative case instead of the affirmative case and smoothly transitioned to the correct position.
  • The speaker emphasizes the importance of adapting and finding ways to segue into what will work when things don't go according to plan.

Ed’s thoughts on focusing for extended periods versus opening himself to opportunities. (01:11:20)

  • The speaker has spent time in various worlds and is skilled at seizing opportunities.
  • They have also focused on certain things for extended periods, such as running companies and being involved in politics.
  • The speaker believes that commitment is the key to differentiating between opportunities to be seized and temptations to be resisted.
  • They explain that when they were an entrepreneur and CEO, they felt a commitment to stay until they were no longer necessary.
  • The speaker gives an example of taking their first company public and staying for 10 years, despite facing challenges, until they found a successor and ensured sufficient capital.

Ed’s decision to run for Congress. (01:13:22)

  • Ed Zschau decided to run for Congress because he believed he could make a positive impact.
  • He was on the board of directors of the American Electronics Association in 1977 and saw the need for more risk capital investment in electronics companies.
  • He assembled a group of entrepreneurs and investors and concluded that the high capital gains tax rate was the main inhibitor to risk capital investment.
  • He worked with Congressman Bill Stieger to introduce a bill to lower the capital gains tax, which was passed in November 1978.
  • The tax cut led to a significant increase in risk capital investment, which helped create jobs and grow the economy.
  • Stieger's example inspired Zschau to enter public service.

Advantages of committing to a maximum of three terms in the House of Representatives. (01:18:13)

  • Ed Zschau had a personal principle to serve a maximum of three terms in the House of Representatives.
  • This gave him a sense of urgency to make a difference quickly.
  • It also gave him the freedom to do what he thought was right without worrying about reelection.

Ed’s experience and self-reflection after losing his Senate race. (01:21:45)

  • After losing the Senate race, Ed Zschau was disappointed but realized that he may have made a greater contribution through leading companies and changing lives.
  • He had the opportunity to join the Venture Capital firm that was the lead investor in his first company.
  • He found that he was not very good at being a venture capital investor as he was too much of an optimist.
  • He viewed being an investor as like a football coach who never puts any points on the board.
  • He wanted to be the jockey on the horse, not the better in the stands, so he took the opportunity to become CEO of a company Brentwood had helped to start.

Ed’s decision process when transitioning from investor to CEO. (01:23:56)

  • Ed Zschau became the CEO of a startup in the portfolio of his venture capital firm after his partners asked him to help out and eventually run it.
  • He didn't set a specific time limit for his commitment but aimed for success rather than longevity.
  • Zschau is motivated by finding meaningful work that he can contribute to and helping others, rather than personal gain.

Differentiating between high-impact commitments and peer pressure. (01:26:21)

  • Zschau prioritizes decisions that will have the greatest impact for others rather than feeling pressured to commit to something.
  • He believes that people-pleasing and committing to things that help the most people are two different things.
  • Zschau usually makes decisions about how to spend his time and life on his own, rather than responding to requests.

Comparing Ed’s parenting style to his teaching style. (01:29:57)

  • Ed believes in encouragement rather than direction in both teaching and parenting.
  • He coached 13 soccer teams and was a Cub Scout and Boy Scout leader.
  • He believes in exposing children to many things and fostering what they gravitate towards naturally.

Ed’s belief in encouragement over direction and his own upbringing. (01:31:33)

  • Ed's parents were always supportive and proud of him, regardless of his performance.
  • They never criticized or pressured him, even when he didn't do well in competitions.
  • Ed's parents wanted to be the best parents they could be, despite not having parents of their own.
  • They provided Ed and his sister with opportunities to pursue their interests, such as ballet lessons, piano lessons, and figure skating lessons.
  • Ed and his sister both studied hard, went to college, and wanted to make their parents proud.

The origin of Ed’s goal to live a life that matters. (01:35:01)

  • Ed's goal to live a life that matters came from watching his father's example and diligence.
  • He wanted to make a lasting positive difference in the world and leave footprints.
  • Ed always wanted to be different and not follow the crowd.
  • This desire to be different enabled him to venture where others may not and be satisfied doing something unique.
  • Ed's overarching goal from a young age was to live a life that matters and make a lasting positive difference in the world.
  • He refers to this as leaving footprints.
  • Ed doesn't recall any times when he felt like he wandered or was pushed away from this goal, as he has always marched to his own drum.

Influential books and recommendations for aspiring entrepreneurs. (01:37:21)

  • Jim Collins recommends reading biographies of influential figures such as Thomas Edison, Abraham Lincoln, Benjamin Franklin, and the Wright brothers.
  • He suggests reading biographies written for children as they are more engaging and relatable.
  • Collins emphasizes the importance of stories in biographies as they inspire and teach valuable lessons.
  • He recommends Derek Lidow's book "Built on Bedrock" which tells the story of Walmart and Sam Walton.
  • Collins believes that stories are the glue that helps humans remember lessons and experiences.
  • Jim Collins and Ed Zschau discuss influential books and recommendations for aspiring entrepreneurs.

Ed’s current excitement and efforts to make higher education affordable through technology. (01:42:21)

  • Ed Zschau is focusing on education and making higher education more affordable.
  • He is the interim president of Sierra Nevada College, a small college with a focus on entrepreneurship, environmental science, business, and fine arts.
  • He believes that technology can be used to reduce the cost of education and is interested in income-sharing agreements as an alternative to student loans.
  • Income-sharing agreements involve students repaying their education based on their income above a certain level.
  • This model incentivizes educators to focus on practical skills and effective teaching methods.

The mantra by which Ed lives his life and his childhood nickname. (01:48:53)

  • Ed lives his life by the mantra: "Do what you enjoy doing, do it the best you know how, and good things will happen."
  • Ed's childhood nickname is "Buzzy".

Ed's mother's reaction to his career changes. (01:48:53)

  • Ed's mother was initially skeptical of his decisions to start a company and run for Congress, as she felt he was just getting good at his previous roles.
  • Despite her initial skepticism, Ed's mother was proud of his accomplishments and lived long enough to see him sworn into the US House of Representatives.

How Ed brings the sound of music to his endeavors. (01:51:13)

  • Ed Zschau has a tradition of using singing and music in his teaching and endeavors.
  • He started writing poems in grade school and later composed music using existing songs.
  • At the Stanford Graduate School of Business, he became the writer for faculty skits and wrote songs for various courses.
  • One of his most famous songs was about the linear programming algorithm, which he turned into a dance called the "LP."
  • He also wrote a song called "My Way" for his last class at Harvard Business School, conveying the message of "just do it your way."

Ed’s influence on others to continue his work of changing the world. (01:57:50)

  • Ed's former student, Tim, expresses gratitude for Ed's impact on his life and career.
  • Tim mentions a mutual friend, also a former student of Ed's, who attributes his business success to Ed's teachings.
  • Ed has had a profound impact on students from around the world, who often express similar sentiments of gratitude.
  • Tim considers meeting Ed and taking his class a great stroke of luck that significantly influenced his life's trajectory.
  • Ed's influence motivates Tim to pursue his goal of leaving footprints and making a difference in the world.
  • Ed is proud of Tim and the accomplishments of his former students.
  • Ed acknowledges that his students have had various experiences and taken other courses, but they still go on to achieve great things.
  • Ed expresses contentment with losing the Senate race, as it allowed him to pursue his passion for teaching and making a positive impact.

Pa (02:00:56)

  • Ed Zschau encourages individuals to pursue their passions and make changes if they are dissatisfied with their current path.
  • Tim Ferriss's "Five Bullet Friday" newsletter provides a weekly summary of interesting articles, books, gadgets, and discoveries.
  • Element, a sugar-free electrolyte drink mix, is recommended for low-carb diets, endurance exercise, and relieving hunger, cramps, headaches, tiredness, and dizziness.
  • Element hydration products are used by professional organizations such as Chief Marine units, FBI sniper teams, NFL teams, and Team USA weightlifting.
  • Eight Sleep's Pod 4 Ultra is a mattress cover that automatically cools or warms each side of the bed, features an adjustable base, snore detection, and automatic head elevation.
  • The Pod 4 Ultra integrates sleep tracking metrics such as sleep time, sleep phases, HRV, and highly accurate heart rate tracking.
  • Eight Sleep offers a $350 discount on the Pod 4 Ultra with the code "Tim" and currently ships to the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Europe, and Australia.

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