Ep. 248 - Noah Kagan: Stop Fighting What You Are Good At

Noah Kagan was fired from Facebook. He was employee #30. “I think they made the right decision to fire me," he said. "One of the big realizations I’ve had in the past few years is that people need to stop fighting their natural skill. My sweet spot is getting things going. My sweet spot is promoting products I love. That was the lesson learned. What I was strong at was not what Facebook needed anymore.” He wrote about it in his free ebook “How I Lost 170 Million Dollars: My Time as #30 at Facebook”. I asked him "how does the average person know what their strong at?" That's what we talk about in this interview. Today, Noah is the CEO of sumo.com, appsumo.com and kingsumo.com. I use these sites to grow and market my business. He also hosts a great podcast, “Noah Kagan Presents” and writes for his blog, okdork.com. 3 min - Noah first came on my podcast 2 years ago. He gave me a challenge: go to a coffee shop and ask for 10% off. The cashier was confused. “You want what?” “10% off,” I said. And I didn't give a reason either. My face was emotionless. She asked her Dad. “We don't do that,” he said. I could feel myself about to throw up. I was going against the normal social protocol. And endangering my life. Any time you step out of your comfort zone and risk being thrown out of the tribe, it signals a reaction in your brain: fear. But now it's much easier. I do challengers almost everyday. Noah does too. And he shared them on his podcast “Noah Kagan Presents.” We talk about more challenges you can do in this interview. 6 min - “I've been experimenting with habits and figuring out how to focus on the essentials,” Noah said. “That's where I'm really starting to explore.” He gave me an example. “Look at your phone right now. What apps have you not used in the last 6 months? Delete them.” He does this with relationships, business, everything. “It helps me realize what really matters,” he said. And appreciate more of the people and places and things he interacts with. I did a similar thing about a year ago, but in a much more macro level. I got rid of everything I owned. Except 15 items. Noah asked me what I miss. “Nothing,” I said. I lied (by accident). A few special things came to mind. But, more importantly, it’s been a year and I haven't replaced it rebought anything I threw away.   9 min - After I got rid of 40 years worth of stuff, I had nowhere to live, so I started another experiment. I threw myself at the mercy of my friends… 10 min - Noah says he doesn't want to hate his week so he did a week of nothing. “I had no meetings, I had no one to be around and I was alone for a week.” He started at point zero. And added back the essentials. “What things really matter in my life? What places? What people?” 11 min - I told Noah what I learned from getting rid of all my belongings… 13 min - “People think of dieting only in health, but can you have a diet in friendships? Look at all the things that are weighing on you,” Noah said, “and start having a diet.” 16 min - Noah was the 30th employee at Facebook. “Why were you fired?” I asked. He told me about the guy who fired him. “He's rich,” he said. “But I think they made the right decision to fire me. One of the big realizations I’ve had in the past few years is people need to stop fighting their natural skill. I call it their sweet spot and my sweet spot is starting out.” Facebook didn't need that skill anymore. So they got rid of him. I wanted to know how the average person finds out what their sweet spot is... 19 min - Noah recommends trying these two strategies to find what you’re really good at. 24 min - I tell Noah one of my signature jokes from my stand up comedy… 27 min - Noah told me about his mentor, Jonathan Coon. He founded 1-800-Contacts and funded the movie Napoleon Dynamite. He has a strategy to “reduce friction in his life.” He goes to the same restaurants and overtips the waiters. They know to seat him at the same table and give him the same meal every time. 29 min - We talk about tipping. Noah said that if he’s ever feeling down, he just tips someone well. It makes him feel good. I take it one step further… 30 min - Noah’s mentor got an Uber. “I want your house,” the Uber driver said. “I’ll tell you exactly how you can get a house like this,” Jonathan said. He was even willing to give the driver the money to start a business that day. Here’s what happened… 35 min - We talked about podcasting. When Noah first started his show, “Noah Kagan Presents” he was recording on his iPhone. Then he asked for feedback and found out his audio quality sucked. “I think anyone can do a podcast,” he said. “But number one: can they do it for 4 years? Probably not. Number two: can they get feedback? Candid, honest feedback from the right people. You can get the wrong feedback from the wrong people, which is not helpful. And then three: can you actually improve it?” He said the key is to always ask for feedback. 37 min - Why EVERYONE should start a podcast. 42 min - Noah put himself out there. “Everyone should get their prostate checked,” he said. “Are you okay?” I asked. He’s fine. We kept talking about health. And how you can A/B test to see what’s really working for you. 47 min - Noah said he tried the 5am challenge. Now he gets up at 6 or 7am. But the challenge is what got him to move the day up earlier. Don’t set goals. Set challenges. 50 min - Noah told me about his no apologies, “choose yourself” challenge. He said, “Don't apologize for who you are.” 52 min - How to say, “no.” 53 min - I started wondering how people can get back on track, because again, a lot of people veer away from what they really want in life. And they recognize this. They veered away early. But want to be happy again. It’s hard because they feel this obligation as part of their day. I know it. I used to feel it too. Sometimes, I still do. But it’s rare. And I think the key to choosing yourself is closing the gap between what you want to do and have to do. Little by little. Day by day. So I asked Noah, “How do you get back on track?”   58 min - We discuss “the elements of a good day.” 1 hour - Noah talks about how he built his business. "If someone told me how long it took to get successful, I may not have ever started,” he said. But that’s why it’s good to be ignorant sometimes. And to just focus on what’s in front of you. "I like to work on problems I have in my life and create things I want to see exist in the world,” Noah said. We unpack this and how it relates to other areas of our lives. 1 hour 2 min - Noah’s tried to learn a bunch of new skills: chess, Hebrew, podcasting. He hired a coach or found a mentor for each one. So I asked him what he’s learned about learning... 1 hour 5 min - We talked about “beginner’s mind.” The feeling you get when something’s new. Or when you’re starting over. Noah moved to Israel after we did this podcast. “Changing relationships or jobs or locations, generally improves life,” Noah said. “For me, what I’ve noticed is that when I live in foreign countries or different cities and do work there, my curiosity is elevated.” 1 hour 7 min - We talk about uncertainty. Noah said that if you’re uncertain about what you should be working on, look to your past. And remember what made you happy. 1 hour 8 min - Noah and I discuss the benefits to hiring a coach or teacher when you’re learning something new. 1 hour 11 min - I explain how I personally use Noah’s business, KingSumo, and how it’s helped my businesses grow exponentially. 1 hour 15 min - Before I ended the podcast I needed new challenges from Noah. He gave me three he’s working on right now and he explains how I can incorporate each into my life.

The James Altucher Show

James Altucher is a successful entrepreneur, investor, board member, and the writer of 11 books including the recent WSJ Bestseller, "Choose Yourself!" (foreword by Dick Costolo, CEO of Twitter).


He has started and sold several companies for eight figure exits. He's on the board of a billion revenue company, has written for The Financial Times, The New York Observer, and over a dozen popular websites for the past 15 years. He's run several hedge funds, venture capital funds, and is a successful angel investor in technology, energy, and biotech.



He has also lost all his money, made it back, lost it, made it back several times and openly discusses how he did it in his columns and books.

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