#1 — Justin Kan
Below the Line with James Beshara

Full episode transcript -


Hello, friends and listeners. This is the very first interview for below the line. It couldn't be more pumped for who we have on today. It's Justin Khan, who we'll get into. A little bit of his background is the episode kicks off, but he's built advised investing in companies worth several $1,000,000,000 in and combined Value is the CEO and co founder of Atrium Legal Technology Service. Is is the former partner of the famed investment accelerator y Combinator. But that's the above the line version of who Justin Is. And today I'm really excited You're going to get to hear about the real version of who is. And here's views on everything from avoiding results based thinking, his approach to improving baseline happiness in his story of his near death experience that shaped how he views the world today. This is below the line. Really excited to have a conversation with Justin Con What's up? What? I'm snaps.

Eww. What up, Snaps? I was gonna ask youto give a snap shot out. We'll talk about what? Ah, what? That is here in a little bit, but ah, little bit on Justin. He is one of most successful young founders in Silicon Valley. He's built a handful of companies. Serial entrepreneur. One of his first Cos. Was Justin TV, which Hey also helped co found the evolution of that twitch.

Just sold to Amazon for about a $1,000,000,000 in his rumored to be valued at about 20 to 25 billion. Now 20 to 25 billion. That's right. It is a it's actually you should have nowhere where the rumors from. And there's a rumor that was, That was from, I think Bloomberg. Yeah, it was from Bloomberg and 2016. So who knows? You got a hot deal? They did maybe shouldn't have sold, but maybe should have, because then you went on to be a partner y Combinator, the famed incubator here in Silicon Valley, as well as start a few projects,

one of which is Atrium, which is perhaps the fastest growing legal organization in the country. It's, if not world. It's a tech law firm that uses technology in the back end to automate and make your life easier. In many ways, through all of the legal things you need to jump through is ah, as a company, and we'll touch on atrium here in a little bit. But that's that is the the most badass away I could try to introduce. Ah, friend, mentor, former investor in and my own projects and all around. Good man. Justin con you for having me out


years. Years. We're going to do this.


All right, Justin or J Man, as I call you, let's jump into ah into my first question. What are some of your favorite things about being a founder?


Well, uh, you know, I've been a founder for a long time. Back in certain, 2015 has been 14 years of starting companies. And being an investor, I think the number one best part about it is that it forces you to grow as a founder. You are constantly put into situations where you're outside your comfort zone. I'm sure you you know, I know you experience that a lot. And for better, for worse, Whatever happens, the good things, the bad things you are gonna learn, you're gonna have to learn.

It's gonna get beaten into you. And so I think that is a tremendously amazingly valuable experience, right? It's not something that everyone gets. You know, I've raised 100 and $50 million or something like that so far. And who gets to spend $150 million on howto learn learning howto build a company and learning how to not just building companies skills but like other skills, right human skills like, How do you lead people out of you organized people? How do you market something All those things? It's like almost like a Yeah, like a nine figure business school, right? That's, Ah, that's incredible. What an incredible opportunity to be able to marshal that kind of resource is for your own education. It's like the opportunity of, ah, of a lifetime or lifetimes,


right? That's that's my favorite part. That's a good way. That's a good way of putting its different perspective than most. What are some of things you learned?


I've learned infinite that I mean, it's It's an endless list of things, but like a lot of self awareness, what are things I'm really good at a few things. There's only a couple of things I'm very bad at. There's many of them. What are you


know, what's weird things. You're good at


very good at sales. Any sort of pitching type of thing, which is a pretty critical skill as an entrepreneur, but sales, recruiting, raising money, good at those things. And I think a pretty strategic, I think, have a good strategic mind. Eso there's air to core skills And then, you know, I'm bad at a long list of things. You operating things consistently over time, giving people consistent feedback, basically the operation operationalization component of things.


Is there anything that you're you're bad at that? You 5 10 years ago, you would have thought you were good at that May be took, you know? I mean,


I think I would have thought that I was good at operating things. And then now I've come to realize No, I'm better partnering with people who are a little bit more consistent throw and better project manners than I am and helping them in a more strategic way.


Yeah, well, it's. And how many peoples is atrium now?


It's about 100 50 deal. We started made 2017 and we're about 100 50 people down.


It's awesome. Um, you might tell monitoring


measuring your company and how many people it is is like measuring your airplane and


wait Yeah, totally. Totally. But it is, uh, you're also gonna learn a lot. Yeah, that's a good part. Learned a lot


from the just howto gro company Really fast. What not to do. You know, there are a lot of alignment. Things that we work through when you grow had count really fast. Ah, lot of times you have to work on making sure that you have company alignment dialed in. I wouldn't say that. We've figured it all out, but something we've been proactively working on a lot after a lot of missteps in the beginning.


Do you mind? Do you mind for the listeners breaking down? How, like, what is what's so important about getting alignment right? And what? We'll just


have a bunch of people who never worked together before, right? And so how would they know? What do you hear? Build? What's the purpose of this company? What are you trying to do together? How did the cross functional groups work together? In a way, And how do you do gold setting in a way that aligns everybody's incentives? You know, just basic stuff like that that you take for granted at other companies.


Yeah, it's I I would say it's not not basic at all after, ah, you know, about two years it of working at Airbnb. It's super hard to master, and it's just continual evolution on the things that's about it. Things that you're good at. Um, what is what are some of the things that you've always you've always been good at? Even just five year old Justin, 12 year old Justin.


Well, I think I have that Catholic energy to get ideas moving. You know, I like I like ideas. I love new ideas, new ideas for businesses, but could be anything I have that energy that gets people excited about it and to galvanize them, too. Do you work on a project? You know?


Yeah, they're two sides. That is there a weak point of that. Every every every


strength is also a weakness. Your greatest strengths are always your greatest weakness is I believe that. And for you know, when you have a lot of energy for new ideas, focus can be a big problem. You know, you need to in order to get anything. Not just 01 but from one. Do you know 10 and 10 to 100. You're going to need focus. And sometimes you can. Many entrepreneurs are like this. I think you get you get distracted by new


ideas. Yeah, I remember in between between execs and a trim you were working on a few ideas at once. How many were you working on concurrently at that kind of the height?


Well, we were. We were I was incubating a couple ideas, but I was never really working on more than one at a time myself. We incubated. There's a company that kind of spun out of a couple friends of mine, working out of my house that was called alto pharmacy company. Now raise about $75 million for that company. And, um, that's about a 200% company based here in San Francisco and in Denver. That was one. And then I was incubating all these different social lapse, but kind of one at a time. As each one failed, we would build something else. We built this thing called the drop,

which was kind of a music product hunt. I read it. And have we built this? That didn't really work very well. So we build day hasn't called Whale, which was a Q and A app. Well, actually, first we build this thing, all the artists union, which is kind of a music promotional tool. Actually, it's still around a small business, but for for artists were promoted there, there's tracks. And then we built this thing called Whale,

which is a Q and A video app and, you know, mostly experimenting with different consumer social APS. Just business is pretty hard to, you know. It's a very lot of re crapshoot


type of thing. Yeah, well, I mean, I had a pretty good good hit rate. How out a cure? I see how many how many companies have spawned from Justin con, and it's always in partnership with many great people. But with you being part of the brain trust of creating harmony, if your toe count them up, I


don't Most of them were failures. I don't think accounting your number Syria launched just means you don't didn't really figure out, you know a good company is start right. So we had one really good one, which was twitch respond out of Justin tv which shut down. So, you know, is the same company you count that is different companies. And we spoke about this app called Social Cam, which is kind of like an instagram for video. I had this chemical Kiko, which was the very first company, was funded by Y. C. It was a calendar app, but also mostly a failure. We end up selling it on eBay.

And then, you know, this product company that built the artists union and Wales all one company and really and then, um, this pharmacy company in the now atrium and also create that executive company, which is kind of like an errand running company which turned into you something that was like home joy. I kind of like a cleaning service become online cleaning service that we sold toe Handy, which is not a super great outcome, but wait up selling it for stock and handy. And then handy Rack against All odds has now was just acquired by Angie's list. So


well, it's Yeah, I'd actually wrecked on the W's column. Yes, seriously. Well, I you know, there's maybe there's not much to be said for counting up the number of companies that you've you've launched, but I'd say shots on goal that's it's You have a unique a number of times in a 14 year entrepreneurial career of companies that you've you've launched. I mean, it's it definitely said something about use a founder, um as, um easily distractible and lack. Focus. Maybe, but it also says you're willing to try much more. I mean,

just trying to build a company, and I know for for many of the friends that I have back home, I'm from Texas. It can take a lifetime for them to get the Kurds should build up. You know that courage to start one thing and you started so many. It sounds like it's gotten easier over time to start them and and realize which which have legs, which don't. But I think it definitely says something. Something about you to, ah, to have put that money thing to have taken that many swings. I've got to ask about kind of emotional toll of doing those Emily swings. We could obviously just talk about kind of the the 10% of the winds. But what is emotional toll of 14 years of entrepreneurially creating things and things not working out


well, I mean, I don't think it's probably any different than what you experienced. You know, that's the thing about everybody in any situation is that you? The human mind can create anxiety and fear and pain out of situations, no matter where you're at. So whether it's one company over 14 years or 10 companies over 14 years, you know you are going to create a lot of situate. You gonna have a lot of situations, experience, a lot of situations where by default you might feel, you know, like stress and anxiety over what's gonna happen and from pain and fear. And like you've let your employees and investors down on your customers down. And that's just something that every entrepreneur will have to experience and figure out how how to overcome. And I think that it doesn't really matter what the quantity or breath or size of the company is actually like.

Even if you're a very big company that's relatively stable, you built a company that's like, very successful. You can still have those feelings, just like when you start out week one, and you realize that you quit your job and you know he took some investor money. Oh shit. What are you going to? D'oh! You know like you can. The human mind can create these negative situations and anxieties out of any situation. So I don't think it's like, really


You get the exam


particular to you To you starting a lot of companies, you know, like I have sure an example. Like, I think basically what happens is entrepreneurs will go and they start a company, and then you create a bunch of attachments to you what you think is gonna happen to that company. You know, you think it's gonna be a $1,000,000,000 startup or you're going to create, you know, change the world or you're going thio get a lot of customers were super happy. We're gonna even just solve a problem that you care a lot about because you experience in a past life. And that's what led you to start this company. Any of those things are like future outcomes that you're like, Yes, I really want that to happen because Baltimore is generally have, ah, you know,

a reasonable degree of confidence and, you know, kind of the center of their own hero's journey. They their ego is tied into that outcome happening or some set of those outcomes. So I remember when I start my very first company, Kiko were we raised almost no money, and we were like, paying ourselves, you know, $1000 a month. My other friends when became consultants and I bankers and they were making money. And I was always like, Well, at least I control my own destiny. I'm an entrepreneur. Whatever.

You know, like I wouldn't have it any other way. I'd like all this ego attachment to being a founder and then the future outcomes of what would happen. You know, even if it's just being a stable, you know, small company, right? Like just like Oh, my. These future outcomes were tied into my light interlaced my ego to the these outcomes. And that will always cause you pain because there is no future outcome. Once achieving it, you will be actually have, like, long lasting joy,

like your your emotional state and baseline happiness will never change in a lasting way from any outcome. And that doesn't just mean like economic outcome or like a company outcome. It means any external circumstance. All right, that you were looking to find in the world. Yeah, and so you can be very successful and still not realize that or you could be on day one and not realize that for me. And we had already created a $1,000,000,000 company that we'd sold before I realized that, you know, And that is that's that's that's I guess, what I


mean. Yeah, it's why I love talking with you because I think you probably think about this stuff so deeply and so often that you think everybody does. But this you know, these these terms that you're using, like attachment or outcomes and outcome based in thinking or baseline happiness, like its deeps of a all. And, by the way, for the listeners, there's no hiding fact that I really wanted Justin to be the first guest for this podcast for for a lot of these reasons. But you shared with me and one of the questions I plan on asking too two questions each each episode and then really conversationally taken it from there. But ah, one of Miss what's something you think a lot about? But you don't get some more can. Yeah, right. This kid


and recess mix is


really working. I know, I know you might be able to increase your baseline happiness of you drink this drink. Yeah, well, I was about to ask you what something you think a lot about, but you rarely get the chance toe to talk about. Yeah, so I mean, this stuff


is something that I've been thinking a lot about because it took me so long in my career before I realized Oh, my God, I'm really not. I'm optimizing for all these external things and have attached my desires to these external things. But it's actually not giving me any, like, it's not really giving me anything. And then at the same time, that serve this new company and I've been undergoing, you know, that went back into and I'm like, Oh, my God, it's just a stressful as I ever imagined. Like, why am I so stressed out now? I'm already reasonably successful.

Got what I set out to get in the beginning. You know, I started 14 years ago. Why am I still so stressed? And I realized you can create a stress out of anything at any situation. And so I started looking for ways to increase my own baseline happiness. And I started working on those things, you know? And they're a bunch of stuff. Talked about a little bit in the past and talk about pretty openly on Twitter. And I try to talk about this stuff because I think it's important to model the fact that you can be successful and still have ways to, you know, you have work to do. And so you know this thing. There's a lot of things that I think are really important practices that have adopted to you try to improve my baseline


happiness. Yeah, you shared with me and an article recently. I wanted to go through a few things from the article and get gets your take for someone if they haven't read it. You mentioned a few things. I'll go down the list. First thing. It's a five minute journal to increase your baseline happiness. First thing you started within and in which he robs a five minute colonel. What is that?


Yeah, So there's ah, this concept of Gratitude journal, which is effectively a prompt to think about the things that you're grateful for every day. And you know, I'm not I'm not a psychologist. I don't know what the bro signs of gratitude is. But I do know that a friend of mine eight months ago was like, you should try this app. And I tried it and just ask you the same question every day, which is one of three things you're grateful for. And then second question is worth three things you're going to do to make today great. And just answering that question every morning for a week. I was like, Okay, I'll give it a week. I felt noticeably happier at the end of


that within a week. Wow. Yeah. And


so it just re contextualize sorcery, contextualized, all of the things that are going on in your day or your life, Right? Because as an entrepreneur, but really in any job, right, you will undergo micro stresses throughout the day. Right? If you're working at a shop, someone might be customer might be rude to you. Someone might cut you off in traffic. If you're founder, you might lose a sale or an employee that you wanted to hire might go and join a competitive er and all those things. In the moment, you will be like, Oh,

my God, that's the end of the world. Are I'm so upset or whatever. But if you really think about them and take a stop to re contextualize him in the greater context of your life, they might seem much smaller right today. I was grateful. For what? I'm sick right now. You know, I have had the flu last week, but I've amazing wife who was taking care of me, making sure, you know, even going to Walgreens and getting coffee. I mean small things and big things and just making sure I'm OK. And then,

you know, that was one of things My gratitude journal, or was also grateful for the fact that there's this global supply chain to you. Bring me coffee from the like, other side of the world, right? That's amazing. 1000 years ago, you wouldn't have access to that. Even these like luxuries that we take for granted on not just coffee, obviously like, let's say, uh, day quill. That was a little more relevant for me today, and so you know,

when you think about someone cut me off in traffic compared to these other things you're really grateful for, like I have this amazing life. You're like, Oh, well, I guess being cut off in traffic actually doesn't mean she had, anyways. So, like, by comparison, and so just hopes re contextualize at those things that you know, there's micro stresses. And and then you realize that everything you're stressed out about today, a year from now, you probably won't even remember it. And if you do remember, you probably look back on and say, I'm glad I had that experience. I will learn something.


Yeah, totally. I, uh you're actually, like, two feet away from my gratitude journal. And so it was so cool to see you. You had written that is literally Joyce that I'm grateful for. And I started doing that when I was in a funk about about two years ago and and I It was so interesting how that simple act in the morning, I think I wrote down, like, maybe three or four, but then you just keep going, because you I just found myself just writing 1/5 and 1/6 because it was so easy to keep thinking about things that you're grateful for. And, uh, and I and I swear I don't know if It was in a week,

but probably And three weeks it started. Reorient my mind. Um, it was really, really powerful. I loved reading that you posted a second thing that you listen that I wanna ask about Just really interesting is, um negative visualization. What is what? What is that? Yes, I was doing this gratitude journal, and


then I started doing other forms of, you know, which is effectively visualization of the things you're grateful for. And then I started doing other other things, and I started, you know, I read about negative visualization on something I think Friend of mine told me about it. That's when you visualize the neck like bad things that could happen to you. And you really try toe. Imagine her life if something bad happens. So what if my company failed? Right? What? Avi Trim failed. What if I got cancer? Family member passed away, right?

Like all these things and then kind of visualize what that experience would be like And then for me, you know what happens is I go into this our number one. You realize you will adapt to that situation and that the human mind is very adaptable and has adapted to you much worse than probably I will ever experience in my life. Probably you you as well. And then you also realize you wake up in your real life and you're very grateful for for what's actually happening, which is not


that right? Right. What is what is on that note? Jeff Jordan, one of best investors in the world, and lucky toe calma. Ah, friend, mentor. He told me one of his greatest strength says he can. He can adapt to anything within 24 hours and like and running when he's running, pay a dollar or open table. He said, Hey, he just said it so hilariously off the cuff is like, Well, one of my greatest strength is I can adapt to anything within 24 hours,

and I thought about that for months and months. You know, afterwards I was like, Holy shit, that is a phenomenally powerful strength Tonto. Anything and 24 hours, my wife and I, we chat about like we feel like we can adapt most things. It's like three days and you know something in life changes. We thought we were gonna have a boy and just I was so dumb is such a small thing that we just thought we had this in intuition. It was like, No, I think it's gonna be a boy. Had a gender reveal is like a year in Africa had a gender reveal that it was a ah, we're gonna have a daughter. And it was it was so strange for you're just to feel like you're intuitions way off.

In the end, you gotta build this story in here in your mind about, you know, having a boy and a son and what that would be like. Even though you don't know, it's still uncertain until you have kind of that that gender revealed in and then it was a girl and it was like, OK, this takes some readjusting within 23 days Re imagine life with the daughter and was like, this is gonna be amazing. And now, ah, 15 month old cannot imagine being a boy, and I remember feeling like I was like, within 33 days, I'd re written this story that we had said out loud, maybe for three months and could not even imagine that previous,

you know, fictional version I gotta ask something that that listeners might have asked themselves. So what if atrium filled? Walk me through that. That imaginative? Yeah, sure, It's easy.


It's easy of a trim fails. First of all, you know. And this is not to say that I'm not trying my damnedest to make sure it's successful, but you have to realize that you don't control as a founder. You don't control the outcome entirely right? There are lots of externalities that can happen. They are completely out of your control. Well, it'll numerator them all here, but there's lots of things that could happen. The economy could totally tank right when you were relying on infusion of capital, right, things like that. So toe, hang it all on your own shoulders is a recipe for just anxiety. When really you should just be saying well,

within the constraints and resource I have, I should just be trying my hardest, you know. But I don't control the outcome. And so I'm not gonna attach my ego to the outcome. And if it fails, you know, the first thing you might say is like, Well, I let all my employees down, but you have to realize that, you know, we live in the Bay Area where there's 2% unemployment today, and e I will be able to help them find another job somewhere. And then you might say, Why let all my investors down?

Well, for your investors, you're one of a portfolio of many companies and they have planned failure. There's a plan failure, rain. Yes, they are relying on you know, you two try your best, but they are not gonna go be broke and not be able to raise another fund because of your one failure, you know? And then you might say, Well, I'm letting my clients and customers down, but you know, you would be. I can imagine how I would be able to help place those clients at at other other great firms.

Right? And so, you know, life will go on and you know, myself personally, and this is probably different from most founders out there, but I'll be economically. I'm fine, right? I don't have to be doing this, but even if I did have to be doing this and if I was a founder of ah company that had not had seen an exit before, you would be able to find another job, and it would be a great job, probably in the Bay Area, at a tech company where, you know,

my biggest complaint, maybe what I'm having for lunch or whether I have to deal with corporate politics in a giant company, which is, you know, not the end of the world. And so that scenario of plate has played out is like not the end of the world. I would survive that, right? So will you, until with any entrepreneur out there. But you build up so much fear and anxiety around it because you have so much attachment to the outcome that it's actually much bigger of a problem in your mind than it actually is. In


reality, right? You shine a light on it, and it's actually pretty small if you're willing to. If you're willing to go there,


you have. You really think


about it right? But it I totally remember experiences where is just like you don't even entertain that thought, because for some twisted reason, you feel like, No, that is not an option when I think you're so right in saying and articulating that is the founder. You might not have all the control. You think you d'oh certainly don't have the control. At least before you start a company, you think that it all comes down to the founder or it comes down to the founding team or it comes down to, ah, strategic decision or two. And that's interesting to hear you articulate that it's far less control than then. You think if you were to put a percentage on it, actually, no. If you're two per percentage on the amount that you thought it came down the Founders 10 years ago vs Now,

how has it changed? And I imagine I can, uh, you know, it's gone in a certain direction, but is


there? I don't know if it's something I mean, I don't know if it's changed. I think you know, maybe I have between 10 and 40% control over the outcome based on the strategic decisions I make. And they have a company culture I build, but it's not 100%. You know that,


right? The majority of it is out of your control. Yeah, I'm that, at least from that in


America three point and then from the negative visualization standpoint. You know, I think about other scenarios. What if I wanted? I got cancer. I just think about what it would be like to go into chemo and like to be sick all the time and like, lose your health. And then I'm like, Well, the company failings Not that bad, though, you know, it's all about perspective, I think not to trivialize like having these traumatic experiences. But not to say it's not horrible, right? Like visualizing it is can be scary.

But I think that it's about, um, realizing that you will adapt and then waking up in your real life and being like, Wow, I'm really grateful for what I have right now,


right? I heard someone say recently that it's not the we don't fear the unknown as much as we fear losing the known that


I think there is a lot of aversion to change and a loss, right? Human beings are wired tohave loss aversion, but I think that, you know, that's kind of a fools fool's errand on its own because of you really think about it. You will lose everything that you have in your life. You know I'm been successful. Gun Cem, respected founder had outcomes that are that are good. Made some great investments. People ask me to be on podcasts, you know? So that's great. But one day I'm not gonna be famous, but we're gonna forget about me. You know,

who are the people who founded last generations of companies in the seventies and eighties was the founder of Digital right? People can't even name most of the president's United States. Where then I'm gonna remember me. Fame is gonna be the first to go. We'll lose my health. At 11 point, All my relations and family members are gonna die or they're gonna watch me die. And eventually I'm gonna lose my life. And that's okay. Changes the thing that's constant in the world. And you will have thio. You can fight it, And you can, like, I have anxiety about it and fear about it, Or you can accept it. And the sooner you accept it, the better off you'll be.


Yeah, You mentioned in there? Yeah, removing attachment. And, um, that was part of the articles. Well, can you walk me through? How? How does one remove attachment?


Well, I think it's much easier said than done super hard want for me. I don't and I would not say I'm the master in any way. I'm relatively neophyte at all of this. You know, I've been learning as I as I go on not trying to do a work for me and reinforce what works for me. For me. I just try to remind myself, even if I achieve whatever happens, I'm making me any happier or less happy or it's not gonna change my baseline Happy? Yes, I think I want all these things. But when If they happen, nothing will happen internally. And I have experienced enough that I have seen that already a play out. So it's just a process of reminding myself that kind of over and over every day and then reminding myself, even on a day level,

no day is different from any other day. You know, my best day in my worst day of the same thing. It's just a set of experiences, you know, string of perceptions that you have, and if you I have too much attachment. Thio you know either chasing or maximizing pleasure and minimizing pain. That's its own attachment on its own, you know, And you're gonna you're gonna feel, you know, that's not gonna It's not gonna lead you to long term happiness. So just trying to remind myself of those things every day. Yeah, he's a big part


of it. That the Yeah. I mean, life is just a string of of experiences and experience is made up of, you know, the outside world, the world around you and in your perception of of what's happening. And you can't really change the world around you. But you can turn an experience into a more positive one by changing on you own perceptions. Anguish. Er, um what? It. Okay, so you also listen, Lee listed. Ah, Meditation. Yes.


I've been experimenting with meditation. Tryingto meditate, Maura. I started doing learning Transcendental meditation or T m. Recently. So meditating. About 40 minutes a day for And what's trends and metal meditation. It's like a mantra. Meditation is old tm organization that will teach you how d'oh do it. But I like it because compliance is easy. It's easy to d'oh, It's you know, I'm like, almost, I think 40 days straight or something like that so far, so I don't know. I'm new.

Tell us it's working good for me, though, for the last 40 days. But before that, I was just using headspace.


Well, they said what it's like 21 days and to create a habit. So 40. It's impressive. Yeah, it's


been pretty good. It's, you know, I realized that you make time for the things you care about. You know, people are always like, Oh, I don't have time to you meditate. I don't have time to you exercise. I don't, you know? Well, if you really care about something, you're gonna make time. So I've really found it. It isn't that hard to make time to meditate because I have seen how much of a payoff it has in terms of my, uh, kind of constant Beasley and


happiness. Yeah, well, it's also put in there on that baseline improvement. Your phone. What have you done with, uh


oh, I was Ah, yeah. When I was talking, talking to Ryan Hoover a couple months ago, I was on. He does a podcast, and I was telling him my trying to give up my phone and replace it with an apple watch. Well, that failed because I like I wanted to use lift and pay by phone, parking app and a bunch of utility app. So I I brought my phone back and I deleted all the apse from it and locked it so you can't install new abs and even deleted the browser. So I delete all the entertainment acts like Twitch and YouTube and Instagram Twitter and I even removed email and slack from it. And then I locked it, and I turned it black and white, which I think makes it less addictive. And so now I just read it. You know, it's only good for note taking and kindle in. That's about it. You burn Google


maps? Um, yeah, that's I have tried just using my apple watch as well and truly know screen Saturdays and ah, yeah, it is tough. There's a few APS that come up throughout the day. Your mechanic shed. Okay, I need my phone fit, but that's that's much better approach than then trying to get with a phone or hurt the watch or leave your phone at home. All right. Exercise and diet was next on on. Yeah, I've been, uh,


I've been exercising. I think it's, You know, that's a common one that people


talk about. But is there any or told him any regiment to it And this try to


make it easy. And you know, a lot of these things. I actually have a very low willpower.


Yeah, I was actually gonna bring that up around exercise and your phone. You mentioned that a few other really interesting things and what he wrote. You mentioned low willpower, which is so surprising from the outside looking in and what you've done in life, you you would imagine from going to Yale to what you've accomplished in your professional career. Starting so many companies, building company of the 150 employees and raising 150 million. And then you slipped this a little line in tow. This thing that you wrote and sent me a little willpower. Why? Why do you feel like you have the willpower


and how you don't feel like it? I know it. I know it because, you know, if you look at screen time, I was looking at my screen time, which convinced me I need to change my phone habits, but it's like five and half hours a day. Some of it was on e mail and stuff like that, but like, that's a lot of time. You know, it's almost like working of, ah, full time job on your phone. And I know a lot of it was watching YouTube video music videos on YouTube and watching twitch and looking and instagram stuff like that. I say I have little power because,

I mean, it's not just the phone usage, but many other things in my life, you know, even just eating the entire box of cookies, right? Like when you're when you're just open up domino package of cookies or something. And so I think I have low impulse control, actually. So in order to counter Act that I need to do things that are like meta level willpower, so basically remove the decision making from an active decision into, like just a rule. So you know my rule on exercise. I just try to do something every day. Like even if it's five minutes right. It's kind of like a don't break the chain thing.

It's the same thing as the meditating. The reason I've been able to do the 40 days, 40 minutes and 40 minutes a day, times 40 days pretty consistently is I just I have, like, insight timer on my phone, and there's like a It shows you how many days you've done in Rome and I just don't want to break that chain. Same thing with diets. Like, if I am trying to just eat more healthy and I have to make a decision that every meal, then I'm just gonna oftentimes picked the unhealthy meal. But if I say I'm gonna eat Kato and I'm gonna eat no carbs, you know, then it's a simple rule. It's not hard to fall the rule for me, it's it's about removing choice.

And that's, you know, so you don't have to make the decision, cause if I have to make decisions, I make that the weak, weak willed decision. Oftentimes, that's fascinating. I think it's true. Most people you know,


I think it's ah, it's a really smart approach of Just remove the choice all together. I'd say I don't have a lot of willpower and so many things in life, but I can't just switch something off, all right, I'm going vegetarian. Yeah,


I think you have more willpower than may have quit drinking for Yeah, I don't really drink.


Yeah, um, vegetarian, vegetarian, gluten free. But it But it actually, I don't have much willpower. I I have wanted to go to the gym consistent, and I do like aerobic cycling for, like, 30 minutes three times a week. But that took a long time. We got a pallet on, so made it super easy to where there's no commute. And and I have told myself because I met one skinny dude I've told myself I wanted to put on some muscle for five years, six years and haven't been able to build a regiment around that. But if I just just make a hard rule and cut something out again like,

quit it so easily, just make a heart rule and take it out of the choice or the selection box. But yet, no, I don't I don't think I have much willpower, but I will kind of dig in their task. I feed strength and have a weakness. Is their strength to to your weakness of low willpower. Has it led to potential positives in life?


That's a good one. Is my low willpower secretly a strength I don't know about that one. It's interesting. I usually I do think that people's greatest strengths and weaknesses are basically the same flip sides of the same coin. But in terms of low willpower, I don't know that I would know


about that one. Like I know for for me being really impatient, it was the reason I was like, All right, I'm gonna start a company because they're no cool jobs in Dallas that I was really excited about it that, you know, in my early twenties, I was like, Oh, Cam is gonna create it or at least know, cool jobs I could get. So I'm just gonna create one. And it was total impatience, vice leading


to it. Yeah. I don't know. Maybe if it's forced me to create these rules that I've actually, you know, made me better over time. I don't


know. Yeah, well, you're certainly aware of the low willpower, which is, uh, I'd say your baseline is higher than most, but but maybe the unique things, you're aware of it, and you try to work around it. Okay? You talk about ah, few more things, and then we can move on. But you talk about therapy?


Well, yeah. I mean, I think that's super important. You know, I feel like, uh, going thio therapy was something that I started doing after a long time because, well, my parents, my mom, actually was super into therapy for the longest time. And she was telling me, Hey, you should, uh you should see their visits helped me a lot, and I was always very skeptical.

And at a certain point, when I was working on exact the cleaning start up, it was just so stress was and I was getting up in the morning and dreading going to work, really heating it. And I had thio. I thought, I really need to make a change. And so I found a therapist and started seeing somebody and really help me even introduce me to some of these concepts about, um, especially about creating some space between your emotions And, uh, you're yourself, right? Not, uh, identifying with all the emotions that I was experiencing through what I perceived of as a failure,

especially around, you know, the guilt around it and just really, you know, learning some techniques around. Hey, I feeling this way But I'm just gonna observe that, and that creates itself. That observation creates a little distance between, you know, your self identification of it. And that emotion


is that is something that, Yeah, that would be hard to do without. Could you Could you have gone that without therapy?


I mean, maybe, but I probably wouldn't have Yeah, so, yeah, I think it's really important to de stigmatize therapy.


Absolutely. That is a, um The stats are something that around only about 21% of America's dealing with currently or will deal with depression in their life. And of that of that, only half of that of the number 40. It's like 46% will actually seek help, and I hope that's going up. But it is. It's something that it is. It's already very isolating to go through depression, but it is way more so if you feel like you can't talk about it, at least with a professional that is literally trained to help you


talk about Yeah, I think it's super cathartic to be able to talk to someone about your problems.


It's kind of like your negative visual ization of shine a light on on what you are potentially mentally fearful of going into Yeah, and of the problem shrinks. Um, can tree. All right, you said ah, last thing was being authentic. Yeah,


I think that one thing that I've been working around for myself is I think I've always connected really well around ideas around. I'm very excited about ideas. I love learning about new businesses and technology and all sorts of new ideas. But I've always struggled with connecting with other people. Uh, probably doesn't. I think a lot of people are surprised to hear you say that, but ah, I've always felt it to be the case, actually. And so one thing I'm working on for myself is just trying to authentically connect with people around me, Maura, and just genuinely express how I feel about them. And so, you know, as long as it's done in an authentic way, I think in Society Day we don't really tell each other how we really feel about each other.

What we appreciate about each other, it just feels awkward or people kind of scared to express it. And so I've been trying to make an effort to tell people about, you know, talk to when I talk to people that tell them what I appreciate about them, whether it's that worker in


my life, Yeah. Do you feel like in achieving a certain level of success, it's allowed you? It's emboldened you to be more authentic or more vulnerable? Or do you feel like it might be the other way around where, by being authentic, it is what emboldens you, too? To rally people around you towards towards ah, common goal. I think


I'm I don't know if it's made any difference, I guess. Yeah. No, I don't know. I think I think it's kind of like an orthogonal access.


Well, you mentioned at the end of it. You said, ah to sign off on Literally said I was gonna bring up the willpower thing. And then he also signed off by saying, I love


you. Yeah, absolutely. I think that I have such a been so blessed in my life. So I wrote this like it was not really an article. It's like a Google doc, right? And I wrote it because I was talking to all my friends, not all of them, but many of them. This is something I subject I'd like to talk about because it's had a high love, a degree of impact for me and the very recently in the last six months. And so I wrote them these things out because a couple of people were asking me like, What are you doing? You feel like, really you seem really positive, like high energy happy.

And I wrote all of these things down and I signed off. I love you in this article because they're not article, but this, like list I called Program right. This is like my happiness program, which is not really my program. It's just a bunch of things I've learned from other teachers and people and with the past 66 to 12 months, and I feel a lot of love and a deep well of love for the people around me who have supported me through the various things that experiences I've had but also also just were in my life. I'm very blessed, you know, I think about this all the time. I think I actually wrote it down in this in this doc, but there's been 100 billion people who have ever been on this planet and I think in terms of any access, any measurement I've gotta be in with its security or opportunity or access to resources or education or relationships. I've got to be in the top 10 million, at least you know,

which is point No. 1% which is pretty incredible. If you think about it, what a blessing. It's amazing. And so I feel a lot of a deep well of gratitude, even for that opportunity and for the people around me. So


well is it is very cool, and I just the language. You just don't hear that very often or you don't read that very often. At least maybe it's Ah, maybe it is something out here. Or maybe it's just the professional setting in which we to work one you don't hear just the the thematic points of how to increase your baseline happiness. Everything is like it's assumed. It's like do this, this, this in your career and it will have this impact of increasing your baseline happens. But at the end of the day, a lot of us are pursuing that. How do we become more joyful and you kind of hit on it and there's there's almost nothing in there. And it's too, too. What you articulate explicitly. There's nothing in there that's results oriented. Um, yeah, because it also


it's don't actually make you happier. And this is not to say, Don't pursue results. You know, you have to live in society. You're gonna you need a job to live. You probably want to do well in that job and have some pride around it, whether that jobs being CEO or being dishwasher right and so that's that's important. And that's good. But it's not gonna make you happy.


Well, from the thematic point to the tactical inning with I Love You that word. I mean, at the end of the day, we're ultimately what we're ATT least what? I believe we're pursuing this connection and love, and if we're pursuing that and it's that's just underneath everything else that we talk about and it's maybe not just sonny's. Maybe it's miles underneath. So much of what we talked about were ultimately pursuing connection. It is such a powerful phrase to mention to people is that you love him, so it's Ah, hey, I love you, James. No, seriously, I really do.

And I'm not just saying that because it would be strange for me not to say after talking about how how powerful phrase it is, but ah, but one of things that I do love about you in toe underscore what I was saying a few minutes ago. Just do you think about this stuff so deeply and you share it often or just think to write it down, to share with friends? And it's a very seriously rare quality of any of our friends out here. It is to write that type of stuff down. It's it is rare. And I know we all we all appreciate it.


Thanks. I appreciate you saying that. You know, you got a model that you have to model the behavior you want to see


in the world. Yeah, well, it is. It makes it easy when you see someone that is where you are. Ah, in your career makes it easier for us to model that a cz well, in that In that vein, you get asked a lot of questions on social media. People are always asking you questions on every platform. What is one of the more interesting questions that kind of took you back or cause you rethink some things in in the last few weeks, months or what is, uh,


I feel like I was talking about this today on Twitter. The just such a like a technocrat thing to say. But you know, people's. It's interesting that your interactions on social media are blend of people like insightful conversation and good questions and random spam, and then just people trying to stun on all over you, you know, their truck trying to like, say, someone line or on top of your whatever tweet or media you posted. That's like, This is why this guy's wrong. So I don't know. I don't really pay that much attention. Actually, too social meat like I use it mostly as a broadcast platform. I don't think I'm having like super deep revelations from what people are tweeting at me.


You know, I remember when we were getting dinner a few years ago. Um, you had sold Twitch and it was maybe five or six months after selling Twitch and you know, the headline grabbed everyone's attention of selling a company for a $1,000,000,000 is so outrageous it is so outrageous, like even with the Silicon Valley lens in which you know people live without here is so outrageous. But you told me during dinner that it hadn't changed that much for you. We touched on on it in in the result results conversation. But you actually said that there was a time that you hadn't gotten out of bed in, like, four days. And do you mind telling me a little bit more about we didn't talk too much about it. Was it like, uh, was that after acquisition? Yeah, after acquisition. And I think it would have been It was certainly surprising for me to hear. And and And do you mind just talking to me about about that? Whatever you're going through or that time in life where it just was so not what you'd expect for someone that it's sold a company for a $1,000,000,000?


Yeah, well, it's once again, it's, you know, your outcome. You think it's gonna make you happy, but it doesn't. It doesn't make you unhappy. It just doesn't do anything right. Like you might be happy for a second a minute on hour, a day, or even a week. If you like. look at your bank account, but, um,

that doesn't affect it. Doesn't change your relationships with other people. Doesn't change your access to you doing things that you like to do. They give you joy, right? So it doesn't really change those baselines. And, um, you know, at the time of we exited and did not continue, you know, I wasn't bringing Amazon or anything between things to do. I was spending a lot of time just by myself, you know, not doing anything. And so you know,

those days I was just like sitting there looking at Netflix and twitch on my iPhone, right? And that's like, I remember this one time when I actually this has happened to, like, quite a few friends of mine. That's before we had any exit. There was, ah, friend of one of my roommates who had sold his company for you know, you had a nice exit. Didn't ever have to work again as a young guy, but he just spent all day sitting at home playing video games what you could do with no money, right? And so it's It was just like a You know, it's kind of sad because here you are with all these resource is.

But at the same time, you, like your life is just is what you make out of it is depressing or not depressing as your ability to make your life less depressing and more joyful is completely, you know, after a certain point of re sources of wealth or whatever, which is pretty low, actually, you know, it's entirely up to you, like this is the point. And so, you know, that's really the experience in that's experience. I was going through it, just like, Oh my God,

what am I gonna do? What should I do with my time? Kind of independent of, like having money or not having you know, it's what What do I want to spend my time doing,


right? Yeah, I I shot about this with a friend the other day that it's we both said that we felt like we had more direction when we're 22 like we had more like, this is what we needed. And it was it was more less hoisted upon us of of, like, a corridor in a career, or like build a startup or or, you know, go to grad school, and it's it's really helpful to have, ah, in some ways to have this this court. Strange constraint. But it's obviously not helpful if it's the wrong constrain, or if it's something that just is, is put upon you by someone else for their benefit.

You know, it's their system, but it certainly checks that box of like, Okay, this I'm getting this feedback loop that this direction is is correct. We had after. Ah, you know, the other side of an acquisition like that. Um, it really makes you think through. Okay, what is the right path without any constraints? That's kind of, you know, the


most interesting thing. I don't know, right? They don't know. They don't have a plan for what to do when they don't have to do anything right.


No constraint, sir. Concerns could be good. Can be good. You can be good. All right. So I also want to ask three stories that that have shaped your life and any types of stories


you want to share. But well, I mean, the 1st 1 was really, you know, definitely getting into Why, Combinator. I think that was a turning point for us. Emmett and I at my co founder of our very first company and then later on Justin TV. And then, you know, became then pivoted Twitch. That was Emmett's idea. And then he began the sea off twitch, and it's still there today at the time we work on this calendar start up. It's kind of like Google Calendar. But before Google Calendar come out and we didn't know we were seniors in college at Yale and we didn't know what we're gonna do when we graduated and my friend actually sent us a nap occassion to y Combinator like the night before.

Why C was the applications would do this for the very first program in 2005 and that was pretty life changing because we were, you know, it was like, Do you have a start up? We want to fund it like, Oh my God, we have a start up, we need funding And we had no plan on how to continue working on it after graduation or anything like that. So we ended up applying that night. I stayed up all night in the computer lab filling out this application, and then we applied and we were invited to you. Ah, you know, go do an interview and we end up going up to Boston and interviewing with Paul Graham and Jessica Livingston and Robert Morris and Trevor Blackwell for 40 minutes. Actually, the interviews were 40 minutes back down,

and then they fund our company and really, that set us on this trajectory Thio start startups. And if it wasn't for that, you know, I would probably would've been a consultant


after, Would you have not? You wouldn't have started


it now what? We started already, But we put enough continue afterwards. You know, we had jobs lined up, and so it was pretty incredible. That was one. And then it was probably one inflection point. I often think, you know, as part of his graduate exercise of dental, they like lucky breaks ever gotten. That was That was one major one.


Remember when, uh hard gave us a call to let us in? We got in a Y Combinator. Yeah, it's amazing what, exactly where we were pulled over on the side of the road. I had never been to, like Polito the Bay Area for that interview, and then they call you that night. Ah, within and let you know if you got in and I was pulled over. And I remember just being like there was, like, horses and and and I have no idea where we were just driving around waiting for this call to be It's gonna be around like, nine PM or something. And and remember that place so vivid late? No idea where we actually were,

but, ah, remember it so vividly when he called on and I was like, Just be cool. Be cool. Got it? But it was Yeah, pretty amazing. What's a changing experience? Absolutely. Absolutely. It is. Uh, it really was. It was kind of this healthy quote unquote corridor, some structure,

but obviously in a very different direction. Then you grad school or young or investment banking. Um, okay, what's the what is another story that's helped shape you like,


um, another another Good one was, you know, when we we end up selling twitch to Amazon. By that time, I was on the border just on the border directors, and it was running the company, and we had, you know, we have been negotiating this sales process for a while and entered into. We're gonna, you know, clothes on this day. Uh, that was during Burning Man is like the most Silicon Valley story ever. And I was like, I'm going to bring that I actually built on our car that year.

And so we you know, my signature packet was in escrow or whatever, and I'm like, are doing I need anything else for me and Emmett, you know? And so I went to Burning Man. I was supposed to, you know, I was there early and the Monday of Burning Man or whatever was when the Ask Rose was released. And I remember going up there and the night before we were like, sleeping in this installation hut your heart like a europe made of like insulation foam, and it's gonna tape together. And that night it rained, actually, and it rain and then the you're flooded. So I woke up in a pool of water and and kind of go outside and like,

the whole burning man was flooded. And I spent the entire time walking around well, first drying off all my stuff and then walking around trying to figure out, like an internet connection or something so I could figure out if this sale had gone through. And ah, we finally I actually don't think I found anything any phone or anything like that, with someone came in from the outside who had had Internet and was like, Oh, congratulations. So I'm, like, new was on, But it was funny because I had woken up that day in this pool of water, you know? Then we sold the company for nine or $70 million. That was a pretty incredible contrast,

right? It was good. You know, you got to stay grounded. I had a lot of ground, and it is to go to burning Man. But


anyways, it was amazing thing on the ground, literally, literally grounded. Yeah, Yeah, Alright. As obviously, um could be like changing, although, I mean tying it back to what were previously talking about. It was like Jim Carey said something Something to the effect of. I wish everybody could be rich and famous. They could realize


that it doesn't do anything


for you. Yeah, that's not where it's at. Yeah, and it does at least give you that the ability to say OK, this is potentially life changing. But potentially life changing because it pulls the veil back from something many people are curious. Everyone may be curious about, but yeah, it's not. Have them.


That's, you know, it is interesting. Like I look at my gratitude journal entries, right for doing it for consistently almost every every day, basically, for the last since July of last year has been eight months or something like that on and most of the entrance there like I cooked something really good, right? Or I I, you know, spent time quality time with this friend or my wife or something like that. Those things are it's like never It's very rarely I should say material thing. I think I've mentioned my G wagon only once.


Well, it wouldn't be gratitude if you didn't also, yeah, have gratitude for ah G wagon. But But I know I totally hear you. Yeah, mine mine. It's it's so interesting are patterns of thought or or like anything, and you create these patterns and pathways that you really can break by saying Okay, I want to create another pattern or another. No neurological beltway of off noting these these small things. And like I said, it's just then you list off, at least for me and my little handwritten journal. So surprised it to hear that you mentioned that that the gratitude journal? Because it really helped me and and I just would list, you know,

like I said, 1/4 thing, 1/5 thing, a six thing, a seven thing And, you know, each morning. And it started to really, ah said this kind of pathway or the pattern each day to start noticing those things. Okay, what's the third? Third story? That third story of your life


s a better year and 1/2 ago I almost drowned in the Pacific Ocean. What? So my wife and I started trying to go spear fishing and diving out in the Pacific in Sonoma County and we went into the water this one time We were trying to go abalone diving with water, and it was pretty choppy, like not a good time to go in and eat. And, you know, the ingress point was, uh, kind of a rock. It was more of a scramble, Not like a beach. And so done. The water is pretty choppy. I'm not actually a very good swimmer, which is, um,

you know, it sounds more badass to go like diving in the Pacific, but it's like I'm not actually that strong of a swimmer. My wife is, but I'm becoming new. And so we start. We were like, we made a mistake. We should not have gotten in here and we start trying to get out and that at the moment a set of waves started coming in and there's a rope ascent right on descent, and I'm trying to climb with rope in the waves, Just come in and they're like knocking us off and it went from This is annoying, too. It is a problem. Thio yelling for help to getting tired, though, and then to being like This is how I die.

Holy shit! And luckily, my wife had a little more sense than I did. And, you know, after a couple minutes and we're like, I'm like, really losing strength here. She's like, Let's you know, you got a You gotta kick off your fins and wait until there's like a lull in the set of waves and then climb up and kind of called it out and talk me through it. I'm like super panicking right at that point. So you're talking through it? I got up and then I was like, Oh, my God,

I need to figure out, get her up. And then she, uh she was able to call him up as well. And so you know, that point of Mike hyperventilating. And And I was because I had thought I was like, I thought this was it. I'm dead. That is really interesting, because at that time, I was very scared of, But it was the first time that I've been confronted with a situation like that. Like where? I really thought it was like game over. And so I was.

At the moment, I was very frightened. And what I've realized is like since then, through some of this work I've been doing for myself on, you know, kind of removing my trying to remove my attachments and negative visualization thing about all like that. I'm gonna actually eventually lose everything, and I can't trying to be okay with that change. I think I've kind of come around to being much more okay with my eventual demise. Of course, is easy for me to say that here saying in this comfortable chair in this podcast with you. We'll see what happens when it really comes. Uh, really comes time, but I think that it's interesting that that was a really life inflection point moment for me because it really opened my eyes to like, you will die one day. I never really thought about it actively before.


That is pretty pretty crazy. I haven't heard that. Yeah, the story. Well, I'm glad it didn't happen that day, and I couldn't think of ah, better way to Ah, in this podcast set of below the line with that story and gratitude that you, ah, are currently above the waterline. Um, today. So


every day, you know, you're lucky living on borrowed time


It's is so true and that that's something that it's easy to have the perspective and gratitude for those major things when you start listing and taking off the small things like what you cooked. So, J man, thank you so much for stopping by hope. Maybe we'll add kin to that list of increasing baseline happiness. Uh, and, uh and I really would rather paying you for this. No, there. It's just free freakin um and I really dig the company, um, and and the team behind it. But I just realized


this thing says that there's 12 servings per container, and I think


we drink like, 3/4 of that. I think we drink the, uh, hope there's no adverse health setbacks. Do it. Hold the whole thing. Yes, I Well, we'll email the founders. Um, tell him to send me son. I will. I will. Thank you so much for stopping by. And, uh,

and for kicking off this podcast with one Held the first episode. No. Right. Thanks, buddy. See you. Friends and listeners, thank you all for tuning in. If you enjoyed this episode, or you enjoy below the line in general, go ahead and subscribe in the iTunes podcast app or leave a quick review. We love those basically, because we just we love hearing from people that find value from these kinds of conversations. And leaving a review, good or bad, is a great way to encourage more of this dialogue and lets us know that people are enjoying it.

So we appreciate those. You can also follow us on Twitter at at below the line. Podcast tweet us questions anytime or you can email us at ask below the line at gmail dot com. That's below the line podcast on Twitter and ask below the line at Gmail. No idea why those are different, but anyhow, I'm your host, James Bashar, and this has been another episode of below the line until next time. Below the line with James Becerra is brought to you by straight up podcasts.

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