When Patrick Vlaskovits told his dad he was writing a book called Hustle, his father was baffled: ‘Why would you want to write a book about stealing?’
And that’s part of the interesting thing about this book – it’s about giving things a name, or in this case taking back a name, giving shape and weight to things we know but perhaps haven’t articulated to ourselves. It’s full of phrases that hit home, such as ‘cycle of suck’, ‘mediocrity of meh’. Patrick argues that this is a key duty of the writer in our society:
‘The greatest impact that authors can have is to give names to phenomena that don’t have names yet. That things perhaps are felt, perhaps are sensed but haven’t been articulated…’
In this episode we also explore the pros and cons of writing as a team, with some great practical advice on how to do it well, and the power of storytelling.
Patrick doesn’t hold back, and his advice is awesome. Brace yourself.
Patrick on Twitter: https://twitter.com/Pv
Patrick’s own website: www.vlaskovits.com
Hustle website: www.hustlegeneration.com
Alison Jones: Hello and welcome to the Extraordinary Business Book Club. I’m here today with Patrick Vlaskovits, who’s a New York Times bestselling author and entrepreneur. He’s the CEO of Superpowered and he co-authored the Lean Entrepreneur with Brant Cooper. If you’re a keen listener, you’ll know that Brant was on the podcast a few weeks ago, and in fact, it was him who recommended Patrick to be our guest. Patrick’s latest book, which was published this month, is Hustle: The Power to Charge Your Life with Money, Meaning, and Momentum, which he co-wrote with Neil Patel and Jonas Koffler. Welcome to the club, Patrick.
Patrick Vlaskov: Hi, Alison. Thanks for having me. I’m happy to be here.
Alison Jones: Oh, it’s great to have you here. Now, I’m really interested in this thing about co-writing the book with two other people, I can’t imagine how that works, really, because I’ve done a few multi-author books and it’s like herding cats. So just tell us a little bit about you and how Hustle came about and just how it went, you know, the three of you writing a book together.
Patrick Vlaskov: Sure. Fundamentally, like you said, it’s three of us and it is a lot like herding cats at times. It can actually be very frustrating if I’m going to be quite honest with you and your listeners. It is quite frustrating at times. The reason it came about is … I’ve known Neil for a number of years in the tech space, in the software space. I’ve known Jonas as well and he’s in a totally different space. He’s in the publishing and book space where he had done some ghostwriting and some book production stuff.
I was the natural conduit between these two worlds because I have a foot in both. I do software projects and startup-y type stuff and I have also published books. I’m amphibious in that regard where I can be in both spaces and serve as a bridge between Neil and Jonas. We were talking about Hustle and doing a book and Jonas wanted to come out from behind the curtain. He had had this Wizard of Oz thing where he went, “You know, I’m tired of working on other big books and doing a lot of heavy lifting.” Neil was very interested in doing a book and I was interested in doing a book as well. I wanted to get a little further away from the tech space, which I still love and I still inhabit, but I wanted to do a book that takes a bigger bite out of the apple. More what they would call a cross-category type book that has a much greater appeal to a greater audience.
We started throwing around some ideas and this Hustle thing came up. I had noticed that hustle … I love words and words matter to me and I grew up without a television. My father is a very strict immigrant to the United States from Hungary and a very old school Hungarian, in fact. He’d actually thrown out our television as a child so we grew up without a TV. I grew up reading. I love words. I love reading. I read probably way too much. I spend way too much on books, but …
Alison Jones: That’s not possible. That’s perfectly fine. It’s all good.
Patrick Vlaskov: Thank you. Thank you. Anyway, I noticed where hustle changed meaning. It’s like an antenna when it comes to … I actually pay attention to words. I’m the guy … I listen to a song and I actually listen to the lyrics and try to suss out what they’re saying, right? This morning I was listening to a country song and I was sussing out these words.
Anyway, long story short, I love words and this word ‘hustle’ is changing meaning right in front of my eyes it feels like. Later on, when I told my father, “Hey, I’m writing a book about hustle,” he said, “Why would you write a book about stealing?” He was dead serious.
Alison Jones: I loved that bit in the book. That made me laugh so much.
Patrick Vlaskov: It was 100% true. He really was … For his generation, hustle unequivocally is a pejorative. Unequivocally it’s a con. It’s theft. It’s a trick. Whereas, I feel like globally, the Millennials and that age group, hustle’s almost unequivocally a positive word. It’s forgotten the pejorative connotation, right? That was interesting.
I saw this other stuff going on in the world. Globalization, software in the world. Our lives are rapidly changing. My son’s in kindergarten and his kindergarten experience is very different than my kindergarten experience. In fact, his kindergarten teacher even told us that. She goes, “Look, what you guys went through is totally different so do not expect the same rhythm and cadence and expectations.”
What we agreed on, the three of us through talking through this stuff is that there’s a ‘there’ there. There’s something happening and what we think is happening is that people seek agency. They seek permanence in an age of dynamism and rapid change. That agency is what they call hustle. We wanted to do more than just a rah-rah inspirational book, although we love the inspirational stuff. We wanted to put our stamp on it, define it, and give people a guide or a playbook so they can find their way, especially for people who like me, like Jonas, like Neil aren’t what we call ‘special’, aren’t gifted, aren’t … go to Harvard, then go to Wall Street, then go to McKenzie or Stanford or whatever it is. For people who maybe a little bit lost, maybe a little bit stuck as we’ve all been.
For me, personally, the bigger thing in the book is we talk about the risk of learned blindness. That’s where you learn to become blind to your own talents. I think that’s a huge risk and if anything, I hope we can give this thing a name like we’ve done and help people see it and then help people figure out who they were meant to become, what their talents are, and then go and endeavour to close that gap between what is and what could be.
Alison Jones: That’s fascinating listening to you articulate it like that because one thing that really struck me reading the book was the way you turn a phrase and the way you create these labels, the ‘mediocrity of meh’, and the way that you put the glossary in the back as well, which I haven’t seen before. That sense that you’re almost creating a lexicon around this. You’ve got ‘hustle’ and you’re taking that and that’s happening and it’s a cultural thing, but around that, you’re putting a whole language around this sense of efficacy and agency and the way that people are reacting against the trick that life has played on them.
Patrick Vlaskov: I’m glad you noticed that, because I actually think that’s one of the … Any author, especially in this non-fiction business/personal development space, I actually think that the greatest impact that authors can have is to give names to phenomena that don’t have names yet. That things perhaps are felt, perhaps are sensed but haven’t been articulated and we work hard on this.
Jonas and I both live here in Austin, Texas. The way it is, I have a family. Jonas is married, but I have not only a wife, but I have three kids and we have a number four on the way. For me, in the morning, it’s actually madness because you have to get the kids ready for school. I would have to get up at 4:00 a.m. and meet Jonas really early, like 5:00 a.m. Poor Jonas. He doesn’t have kids so why would he have to get up, right? But I would meet him early so we could get some work done and we would literally sit there, 5:00 a.m., in our workspace and we would hammer each other on … It wasn’t like writing. Again, I mentioned in our pre-interview like writing is our fingers clacking on the keys.
It was us sitting in front of a white board and hammering each other on turn of phrases, on hooks, like ‘mediocrity of meh’. We hammered that one out. We talked about ‘cycles of suck’. We talk about … I talked about ‘learned blindness’.
Alison Jones: ‘Learned helplessness’, as well.
Patrick Vlaskov: ‘Learned helplessness’, that’s another one. That’s an archetype I see in some friends and relatives of mine, this learned helplessness. When they run into a problem that they could solve, they just throw up their hands. It just infuriates me. It’s just a terrible thing, I think. We tried to articulate these things, name these things. If we’re so lucky so as to give them good hooks, people will then spread these things by themselves and then they can … Once people get a name, I’ve seen, once people get a name for this phenomenon, they can articulate it, they can think about it. It’s no longer a foreign and almost the solution will almost present itself.
Giving a name, I think, is one of the most powerful things an author can do. Many of my favorite authors have done this so Eric Ries and the Lean Startup. Pivots existed before Eric gave them the name pivot. When a startup changes directions violently and changed its business model, that happened throughout history way before Eric gave a name, but Eric said, “Here’s a pivot. Here’s how they work. Here’s how they look and smell and feel like. Here’s what I think about them. Now you can either follow my suggestions or come to your own conclusions about how to deal with pivots,” right?
All sorts of authors have done similar type things and if we can do that in a small bit, then I think we’ve found our way in the world and this book has real meaning and it can really help people. It can go, “You know what? Maybe I’m in mediocrity of meh. Maybe I’m not where I want to be. I’m not really winning, that’s for sure, but I’m not losing so much that I would change my behaviour. I get stuck here and then I become blind to what I was supposed to do.” If people can start, if we can crack that iceberg and get people shifting the ice, then I think we’ve done a great thing.
Alison Jones: It’s just noticing, isn’t it? When you give something a name, you make it part of your mental furniture and then suddenly you see it in a way that maybe you didn’t when it didn’t have a name. It wasn’t a thing.
Patrick Vlaskov: Absolutely. 100%. I see this all day. I love books. You love books. You’re a publisher. This is something, it’s almost like an author’s role in our cultural fabric to give things names so that we can talk about them, articulate them, and like you say, you help people notice these things and then formulate solutions to them as well.
Alison Jones: Yeah, I remember Gay Hendricks and the upper limiting belief, the upper limiting problem, which is one of those things like, “Oh my goodness, that’s a thing and I’ve never known it was a thing until you gave it a name and now it’s a thing.”
Patrick Vlaskov: Absolutely.
Alison Jones: Then you can deal with it.
Patrick Vlaskov: Yes.
Alison Jones: Fascinating. You’re sitting there with Jonas. Do you have roles or are you just grappling with this thing between you when it comes out? Do you assign roles between the three of you?
Patrick Vlaskov: We did. Neil took … Was the least of all, editorially in terms of writing, but we kept him abreast of what we were writing and made sure to test ideas. A couple time we came with ideas like, “Here’s a story we want to tell. Here’s a story.” He said, “You know what?” The people that love Neil’s work, it wouldn’t resonate so we got some good feedback right away on what stories we might be able to tell. One thing that we made sure to do, we didn’t want to tell any stories where it was a special person winning without trying. The Luke Skywalker type story or like a modern-day Steve Jobs or Elon Musk where it’s clearly the story often around those people … They’re special.
Alison Jones: It’s mysticism almost, isn’t it?
Patrick Vlaskov: Exactly. If you tell too many of those types of stories, the people that need the help, the people who are feeling the mediocrity of meh, are stuck in a cycle of suck, what they do is they go, “Oh, fuck, well, I’m not special. Well, I get it why Elon Musk is busy winning at life, but I’m not him by definition so this book isn’t for me,” right? We talked a lot about how to position these stories where we get the lessons across, but make sure they sink in too.
Then as far as Jonas and I, Jonas is wonderful at turning a phrase and it was a lot of fun working with him. We beat each other up where we’d … He also loves wordplay and he loves … We’d go, “Okay, we have this thing. We want to give it a name,” so we’d come up with 20 different names and we’d just literally bash on it, almost like smashing on a virtual anvil, if you will. We would go, “Okay, we like this. We like this.” We would then assign each other, well, Jonas, here’s the story beats. You get 1,000 words. Patrick you’re going to take the section before that that leads into that. That’s 1,000 words and we’d assign that to each other and have interplay and then we’d look over each other’s reading and edit each other as well.
I’m not going to lie, it was incredibly difficult at times because one of your ego’s involved no matter what. Even as much as you try to reign it back, you just feel like … If you’re a writer like, “Why are you editing my shit, man? Get out of my stuff.” But I think when it comes together, when we have this harmonious writing and harmonious voice, which I think is most of the book. There’s a couple spots where it’s clear that it’s my voice and a couple spots where it’s clear it’s Jonas’s voice, but I think the majority of the book, we actually are in harmony. It’s almost like a singing type harmony where we get this punchiness, I feel, we get this wordplay. We make it engaging and fun where it’s fun to read. It’s not a drag. We keep your attention. We pull you through and when you get that sort of writing? Man, that’s a lot of fun. That’s pretty satisfactory.
Alison Jones: I have to say I didn’t notice the joins when I was reading it.
Patrick Vlaskov: Oh, good. Then that’s good.
Alison Jones: Yeah, I didn’t notice the change of voice. It’s good. I can see the way you talk about it, there’s an obvious downside, that is as you say the ego, the hassle. It’s all right killing your own darlings, but having someone else kill them, that’s pretty tough. But I can see that the upside would be the energy of it, the ability to just have that creative friction, to bounce ideas off of somebody and get something that’s even better than what you first thought of.
Patrick Vlaskov: Exactly. Killing your own darlings is tough and the way that I think we solved it or I would advise anyone to do it is you … I think the film people call this a bone yard where we would write a bunch of stuff and we actually … I think right when we were ending the book, we probably had 10,000 words that we had written that I think the writing was okay … But at the time, we couldn’t figure out where it fit into the outline in the thing, so rather than deleting … We literally kept this scrap file and then …
We actually had this long, long scrap file and literally 10,000 words. I went in there and I carved it up by section. I said, “Okay, here’s where we talked about this. Here’s where we talked about this,” and I made … I don’t know how many, I think about 20 little 500-word little pieces, like little seeds, and then we actually went back to the bone yard and looked, “Hey, does this fit somewhere?” Actually quite a few times, we actually went, “Oh, shit. This actually fits right here. This is a great segue for here,” or, “This bolsters this idea here.” Sometimes we couldn’t make it fit so we just scrapped it so we actually had spat out and processed a lot of stuff and a lot of ideas and then we went back and fit it in … I think what happens, our subconscious, it was clear our subconscious had thought that there was a … That this thing had to be expressed, but the other puzzle pieces hadn’t come out yet.
It’s a good way, especially when you disagree with someone, like you say. When someone goes, “Well, you know, Patrick, I don’t really like it. It doesn’t work for me.” Your ego is like, “Fuck you, man.” But if you can go, “Okay, we’re going to put it aside, but we’re not going to trash it. We’ll come back to it.” It puts you at ease and also like you said, there’s this whole thing where Jonas and I … He would take an idea and run with it and actually flesh it out even better than I could or visa versa. That’s always neat and that’s some of the magic that I think that people seek when they write is when it takes life and you go, “Oh, good. That’s a great analogy. I got it. I got it. I got it.”
Literally, I think this happened a few times with both of us where I’m like, “Say no more. Give me a few hours and I’m going to send you an outline of what you just said to me.” When that happens, again, pure magic.
Alison Jones: Yeah, that does sound fun. Early mornings, but that does sound … I could imagine that was great fun to do. This book, Hustle, is traditionally published. I know a lot of your books now are traditionally published, but your first book … What was the title of your first book? Was it The Lean Entrepreneur? Or was there one before that?
Patrick Vlaskov: No, the first book was The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Customer Development.
Alison Jones: That’s right.
Patrick Vlaskov: A Cheat Sheet to the Four Steps to the Epiphany. Brant Cooper and I did that book in 2010 and that was actually a fascinating project. The big learning I took away from that, by the way, for anybody, any inspiring authors listening to this is the value in doing something and in finishing it and having a deadline and getting it out and shipping it. It’s not just … I meet so many people who are like, “Oh, I’d love to write a book. Someday I’ll write a book.” Someday is … Like in Spanish, mañana, mañana, mañana, mañana. Then 20 years of mañanas go by and you never wrote your book.
I’ve literally met hundreds of people like this. It’s related to what Steven Pressfield calls the resistance in the War of Art, right? You seek this excuse. Yeah, it’s a fantastic book and so with the self-published book, I was between startup stuff. I had crashed and burned a startup. I had this very hard co-founder relationship. Sour. Then I was reading … I had met Brant because I was reading a book called The Four Steps to the Epiphany which was, at the time, a subversive book put out by a guy named Steve Blank about how to think about build a startup.
The problem with that book was, everybody loved it, but it was very, very, very dense and hard to get through. The people who loved that book the most would try to evangelize that book, but no one would actually … I literally bought two copies of that book for some of my friends and no one would read it because it was hard to get through. It hadn’t been edited. It was self-published. There’s a lot of wisdom, but you had to fight for that wisdom. One of our friends, Heaton Shaw, who was also a fan of the book said, “Someone should write the cheat sheet.” He said, “Someone should write the Cliff Notes to that book.”
I literally remember, we were in a coffee shop. In Pete’s Coffee Shop in Emeryville, California, across the bay from San Francisco. He even said like, “Someone should write the Cliff Notes,” and then Brant and I just looked at each other like, “Why don’t we do this?” To be honest, there’s actually quite a few reasons why we wouldn’t have been the good people to write the book. I don’t think we had necessarily the credibility or the experience, but what I’ve learned is, it doesn’t matter. It’s not necessarily the winners who write history. It’s the people who write history are the people who write history.
Alison Jones: This is what really appealed to me about that whole story is like you’re living it. You did the hustle. You went out there and did it. You had the agency. You went out there and you did it. Then, bam! It all comes from there.
Patrick Vlaskov: Absolutely. Absolutely. We did that book and then we also did some pretty cool things with that book where we, for example, we self-published it as a PDF. We didn’t put any DRM on it and this sounds trivial, but we designed so it looks nice. It’s a beautiful book, but it’s also designed to … It’s oriented landscape, horizontally.
Alison Jones: Yeah, it’s really unusual.
Patrick Vlaskov: It’s unusual, but it’s funny. It shouldn’t be unusual because most people, when they buy books like that, they read it on their laptop, right? We designed it so that it be read on a laptop. Still to this day, I’ll download a PDF ebook and it’s oriented vertically and it makes it hard to read. Anyway, that book did well and we, at the time when we launched it, I think we would’ve been happy to make back our investment into in terms of design and all that. It was a few thousands dollars. We thought, “Oh, if we make a few thousands dollars, that would be pretty cool.” Then from other people, like, “Hey, it’s great you guys made this book. Yeah, don’t expect to make more than, I don’t know, maybe $10,000.” Yeah, we’re like, “Yeah, that sounds all right.”
Actually if you trace back the revenue that we generated from that book, not only from book sales, but from speaking and workshops, it’s probably the hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars, because that book, first off, helped a lot of people. People loved that book. Now it’s a bit dated six years later. It’s a bit dated. Now the techniques and the stuff we talk about is now the orthodoxy where before it was actually a bit subversive and a bit rebellious. That book is a quick book for people to get up to speed on a lot of the Lean Startup customer development stuff. At the time, in 2010, it was like the only way to do it actually, because it predated Eric Ries’s Lean Startup book.
The lesson learned, I tell anyone, if you’re going to write a book, just go write the fucking book and don’t worry about the agent stuff. Don’t worry about finding an agent and this and that and this and that. These are all illusions. These aren’t real handicaps or problems you have. Your biggest problem is actually publishing anything, and by that I mean self-publishing anything, and by that I mean, you are yourself your biggest obstacle, right?
Alison Jones: Yes, absolutely. I love it. I’m not sure I can quote you on that in social media everywhere, but it’s a resonate phrase. The Lean thing is fascinating. I’m a huge Lean advocate. When I was in corporate, we were doing agile projects and it was a revelation to me that this way of approaching. It’s a mindset thing. Agile is, obviously, a software methodology, but Lean is a state of mind. It’s a philosophy.
How does the Lean business thinking infect or inform your writing, do you think?
Patrick Vlaskov: Good question. I agree. It is definitely a mindset thing. For me, what was interesting that I think that Eric Ries didn’t really touch upon or Steve Blank didn’t either but I think it’s fundamentally core to this Lean software, Lean business. It helps you retrain your instincts actually. It helps.
The bad side … Actually, let me cover the bad side. The bad side, sometimes for people who don’t want to do stuff or don’t want to put themselves out there, it serves as an excuse to not do something. I’ve seen lots of times where would-be entrepreneurs would go, “Well, I would launch by startup but I’m waiting for the perfect data to show that’s exactly … I have everything right.” You never get that data.
I liken it to … It’s like swimming off a beach to a distant island. Sometimes you’re in the middle of the water, in the middle right between the island and the beach. It’s equidistant to go back to the beach and go out to the island and sometimes get stuck there and they just go, “Well, I’m just going to tread water here before I actually do anything, before I try to swim out to the island to determine whether I should swim out to the island.” It’s like, no, no, no you should just go forward. You should keep swimming even though it’s scary and uncertain.
You’re not going to ever prove out something by testing 100%. In terms of book things, we did a lot of in-person testing on … Especially Jonas. He would go in a bookstore and talk to strangers. He’s a very personable guy. We would throw, in conversation, mediocrity of meh, cycle of suck, and those things. This is very informal. It’s certainly not statistically significant type testing, but we would watch for, if people would repeat those words back to us or if it would resonate. If it landed, exactly right.
We have another, perils of perfect, madness of mastery… can I tickle you verbally and get you to respond? We did a lot of that and we killed … Trust me, there’s a lot of stuff that didn’t make it into the book that we killed that we thought was pretty great. People were… just a blank stare. I’m sure that even the stuff that made it into the book, not all these things are going to land, but I hope a few of them do.
Alison Jones: Brilliant. That’s really interesting. Actually, you were trying out the stuff that you were coming up with the target audience, with people and just seeing how it worked.
Patrick Vlaskov: Professional stand-up comedians, like Chris Rock, Seinfeld, Louis C.K., this is part and parcel of their craft and their art, right? When you go see Louis C.K. do an HBO special and he’s literally making you laugh every seven seconds because he’s winnowed down 10,000 jokes over the space of a year by going to small clubs, right? Running through his spiel. Literally, he’s got an assistant in the back who’s like, “Okay, that worked. That didn’t work.” When he gets on stage to do HBO, all of those jokes that he is hitting you with have been field tested. They all land and that’s why it’s an uproariously good time because they’ve already been battle tested and the runts of the litter have already been killed off.
Alison Jones: I think that’s a really good lesson because I still find authors who are precious and protective about their … They don’t want to let it out into the world until it’s polished and perfect. I’m like, “No, just put it out.” Put it out in a small way and just … It gains a resilience and a life and it’s better when you test it out with people and you feel better about putting it out at the end of the day. But to go from nothing to publication? That’s really huge, but if you inoculate yourself by talking about it and speaking at small gigs and putting out blog posts, then it becomes easier to ship the thing when it’s finished rather than holding back and polishing and perfecting it for 50 years.
Patrick Vlaskov: Absolutely. Even with Lean Entrepreneur, my previous book with Brant, Brant came up with this idea of the innovation spectrum and we did a very crude slide around it. We were presenting … I remember I think the first time we presented the innovation spectrum was at a entrepreneurial meet up in Irvine, California and we put it up there. Immediately, and it was literally a very crude version. I think it was like version.1 that Brant had thought about. Immediately everyone perked up and started asking questions about it and basically hijacked our presentation to talk about this.
I found that concept, when I do my work, my consulting, around innovation and growth hacking and Lean, I find that people really, the same thing happened. That thing proved itself. People really get it. They really understand it. They really want to talk about the things that it speaks to. After that day when Brant and I finished that presentation, Brant’s like, “I think we got something here.” I’m like, “I think so too.” Right? The same thing.
Alison Jones: Brilliant. That’s so great. What would be, if you had to just give one piece of advice to somebody who’s writing their first business book, maybe they’re struggling with it at the moment, they’re in the saggy middle as Joanna Penn calls it. What bit of advice would you give them?
Patrick Vlaskov: It all depends. What do they say? All advice is autobiography or something like that.
Alison Jones: Yeah, what did you learn?
Patrick Vlaskov: Yeah, exactly. I would tell … I think the biggest thing for me was learning the basic tenets of storytelling. Right now, it’s funny because storytelling is super hot right now and everybody is really into it. If you look up the Twittersphere and the blogosphere and everybody wants to do storytelling. I came to it very sceptically where I would do these presentations and I would say, “Here’s the facts. Here’s what I’m going to tell you. Then I’m going to tell you and then here’s what I told you.”
Then people are like, “No, no, you should do storytelling.” I’m like, “Ah, storytelling, that’s for kids,” or I never got … I thought it was cheating. I thought it was trite. I didn’t see any of the real power in it. Then I was finally convinced and I finally boned up on storytelling and I went completely the other way. Now I go, which by the way may say more about me than storytelling, I have extreme positions on things, but I would think that if you look at the great business writers, whether it’s Michael Lewis or Malcolm Gladwell, at heart they are world-class storytellers. Fundamentally. That’s what they do.
That’s how Michael Lewis sells you on whatever idea he wants to sell you, right? The Big Short, that’s why that was made into a pretty good movie. All of Malcolm Gladwell’s work, which is funny, because I actually disagree with some of the conclusions he comes to, but as a storyteller, as a business storyteller, he is the mark to shoot for. If you can tell stories 5% as good as Malcolm Gladwell, you have a beautiful career ahead of you. Storytelling stuff is hard. It’s not easy.
We talk a little bit about it in the Hustle book, actually. My friend, Nick Morgan’s work, we basically point folks to it about the five fundamental stories, but once you see the storytelling archetypes, the storytelling beats, you see ’em everywhere. You see them when you read a New York Times op ed. You see them when you watch a commercial. You see them certainly when you watch your children’s cartoons with them, right? Anybody who’s doing business, figure out how these stories are being told, whether it’s a Harvard case study, whether it’s Malcolm Gladwell, whether it’s Hustle or the Lean Entrepreneur, figure out the stories, figure out what works and then double down on that stuff.
Alison Jones: I got to say that really does work as well. I was telling a friend of mine last night actually about the book and trying to sum it up for her and what the main points of what you were saying. The thing that I came back to and that she got immediately was the story about your son with the crayfish. You go fishing. You look down. You go, “Ah, I’m sorry, Shane. There’s no crayfish today.” He just jumps down, gets into the water, stirs it up with his feet, and bam! There’s the crayfish.
Patrick Vlaskov: The beauty of that story, it’s 100% true. I swear to you it’s not just something I thought of. We actually did that exactly how I described it. I was like, “Eh, no crayfish.” He jumps in and bang, bang, bang, crayfish everywhere, right? It was a magical moment between father and son. That story really does resonate and we even use it when we were pitching the book. I said, “Look, we talked about Hustle luck and I told that story and people loved that story.” Again, it has a benefit of actually being true, but it’s a good story. It’s true and I’m lucky to have a great kid like Shane, but you telling that story to your friend to describe Hustle means I’m doing something right at least.
Alison Jones: Right. I thought you’d like to know that.
Patrick Vlaskov: Thank you. Thank you so much.
Alison Jones: It’s great. I love it as well. It tells you as writer, the stuff that happens in the world around you all the time, there’s stories in there. There’s just those moments when you’re like, “Oh, that shows me a point and it’s going to convey it so much better than any presentation I could get or any facts that is could tell people.”
Patrick Vlaskov: Absolutely. In fact, it’s almost like a good way of cheating because if you’re a father … I’m certainly not the first father to have been one-upped by his son, right? If you’re a father, you’ve gone through this experience, right? Then also I need the details. I’m certainly not the first father who’s gone crayfishing with his son either, right? Those little details, like you say, noticing the true stories, the thing that really do happen, they automatically make for better storytelling. I actually try to look for as many of those as possible. Rather than invent some cute story, I try to plumb my life and my friends’ lives and other stories … Like we actually talk about … I don’t know if you remember Bibiana in the book.
Alison Jones: Yes, yeah.
Patrick Vlaskov: She’s a real person and I know her well and it’s a tragic thing where she actually has quite a bit of talent as an artist where she refuses … She runs the exact opposite way. We talk about pulling punches. In her whole life, she’s been pulling punches when she should be getting in the ring and just knocking out opponents. It’s a fundamentally true … She doesn’t even know she’s in the book, funnily enough because …
Alison Jones: Oh, really? Is that her real name?
Patrick Vlaskov: It’s not. It’s not, but it’s … When authors talk about telling true stories, this is why they do it because they fundamentally work and they fundamentally transmit that lesson that you want to be transmitted.
Alison Jones: Awesome advice. I really love that. Of course, this is one of the reasons we have kids, isn’t it? To furnish up with this never-ending store of stories and wisdom.
Patrick Vlaskov: Without a doubt. I learn something from my children every day and in fact, this morning I had to get my three-year old daughter and my two-year old daughter ready for preschool and I took some clothes off the shelf for my two-year old and my three-year old admonished me, telling me that those were too small for the two-year old and she 100% right. She knows my two-year olds wardrobe better than I do. I just asked her to pick out the appropriate clothing. This afternoon, my wife picked up our daughters from preschool. My wife’s like, “Oh, you did a great job dressing Viola.” That’s my youngest. I said, “Well, I didn’t really dress her. Milla picked out her clothes for her.” There you go. Another instance of children knowing best.
Alison Jones: Yeah. Children trumping parents. It happens in this house all the time. That’s brilliant, Patrick. Thank you so much. Now, I’m not going to let you go before you get me a recommendation for somebody else that you think would be a great guest for this show. Someone who has something interesting to say about the business of business books from any perspective. Who do you think would be good?
Patrick Vlaskov: I can think of a number of people. One person … I suspect you may have already spoken to him, but Tucker Max. Have you spoken to Tucker Max?
Alison Jones: You know, I haven’t and he’s been on my must-invite list so that’s a really, really good one, yeah.
Patrick Vlaskov: Tucker, he’s also an Austinite. He’s doing a business called Book In A Box. I actually think it’s very interesting.
Alison Jones: It’s such an interesting model, that, yeah.
Patrick Vlaskov: Yeah, and I think he’s going to do quite well with it because I suspect that … He’s going to do quite well because I think he’s figured out a very good model.
Alison Jones: Yeah, I think he’s already doing pretty well with it to be honest.
Patrick Vlaskov: Exactly, no, no, exactly. I think that the non-fiction space is exploding and people are doing books for all sorts of interesting reasons, whether it’s executives for PR or marketing or whether it’s even older retired successful folks who want to leave something for their kids. I think it’s actually fascinating, very fascinating play. Tucker’s a perfect, perfect guy for this.
Alison Jones: Now I can approach him and not just say, “Hello, I’m Alison and will you come on the show?” I can say, “Patrick told me to come and set you on the show.”
Patrick Vlaskov: Please do. No, please do. Please do. Please do.
Alison Jones: That’s fantastic. Wonderful. Thank you so much. If people want to find more about you, but also more about Hustle, where do they go?
Patrick Vlaskov: Sure. I’ll go the easiest way to find me. I’m on Twitter as @PV, Patrick Vlaskovits. The letter ‘p’ as in powerful and the letter ‘v’ as in victory. That’s PV and then you can go to my website as well. That’s www.vlaskovits.com. We also have a website set up for the book that I think needs a bit of editing, but it’s www.hustlegeneration.com. Then Hustle should be available … It’s a traditionally published book so one of the reasons we went with traditional publishing was their ability to get books into sales channels that are sometimes harder for self-published folks to get into, so theoretically it should be available at any retailer, any online retailer in the UK and around the world so it shouldn’t be hard to get. Just Google Hustle and my name or Hustle and Neil Patel or Jonas Koffler. Should be pretty easy book to get.
Alison Jones: I do recommend it. It’s a really good read and full of brilliant metaphors and brilliant stories, which is something I look for in books so yeah, I really enjoyed.
Patrick Vlaskov: Oh, you’re much too kind.
Alison Jones: We could talk all night. This is fantastic, but thank you so much, Patrick. We better end it there. I always try and keep my podcasts to a slowish 5k run or a three-mile run. That’s my run of thumb. I’m sorry if you had to go around the lot one last time, people, on this one, but I’m sure you’ll agree it was worth it.
Patrick Vlaskov: Great. Thanks for having me, Alison.
Alison Jones: It has been an absolute pleasure. Thank you so much, Patrick. Good bye.
Patrick Vlaskov: Good bye.
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