February 21, 2023
Chris Williamson is a former club promoter turned podcaster as the host of Modern Wisdom
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Chris Williamson is a former club promoter turned podcaster with his show Modern Wisdom.
In just a few years, Modern Wisdom has generated more than 70 MILLION downloads with interviews of guests like Jocko Willink, Dr. Andrew Huberman, and Ryan Holiday.
Not only that, but Chris has more than 700,000 subscribers on YouTube too. And while Chris started podcasting in 2018, things really accelerated for him in 2020.
In this episode, you’ll learn:
Full transcript and show notes
Follow Chris on Instagram / Twitter / YouTube
00:00 - How Did Chris Williamson Blow Up?
01:33 - Modern Wisdom Podcast Beginnings
04:52 - How Chris Avoids Burnout
08:16 - How Club Promoting Helps Creators
10:18 - Role of Hype and Clickbait in Content
16:16 - Logistics of In Person Episodes
18:10 - In Person VS Remote Interviews
21:46 - Logistics of Posting 3 Episodes Per Week
23:19 - What Does Good Preparation Look Like?
27:24 - How to Build Rapport With Someone Intimidating
31:17 - Chris’s Joe Rogan Experience
35:35 - Working Solo VS With a Partner
38:22 - Why 3 Episodes Per Week?
41:07 - How To Drive New Audio Listeners
42:56 - Where Podcasters Should Focus Their Efforts
47:58 - 6 Tips For Remote Interview Podcasts
52:06 - Clips VS Shorts
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Jay Clouse 00:00
Why do some creators grow quickly while others shout into the void? More often than not that people who succeed have two things, an incredible work ethic, and a belief that they will succeed.
Chris Williamson 00:12
You don't gain self confidence by shouting affirmations in the mirror. You gain self confidence by having an undeniable stack of proof that you can do the things that you say you can do. That's the way that you do it.
Jay Clouse 00:22
That's Chris Williamson. Chris is a former club promoter turn podcaster with his show Modern Wisdom. In just a few years, Modern Wisdom has generated more than 70 million downloads with interviews of guests like Jocko Willink, Dr. Andrew Huberman and Ryan Holiday just to name a few. Not only that, but Chris has more than 700,000 subscribers on YouTube too. And while Chris started podcasting in 2018, things really accelerated for him in 2020.
Chris Williamson 00:47
Iterating more quickly, seems to be the single best way to become better at what it is that you want to do. I made a commitment in about May of 2020 to turn pro, to use Steven Pressfield language. I decided I want to stop dicking about, let's do this properly.
Jay Clouse 01:01
So in this episode, you'll learn how Chris thinks about the role of hype and clickbait, why Chris worries more about being a VIVE architect than over preparing for his interviews, the highest leverage activity he spends his time on to grow his show, and how he thinks about the role of video and podcasting. I'd love to hear your thoughts on this episode. As you listen, you can find me on Twitter or Instagram @jayclouse. Tag me, say hello, let me know that you're listening. And if you're enjoying this, give us a thumbs up here on YouTube. And now let's talk with Chris.
Chris Williamson 01:43
I was a club promoter for a long time. I did some reality TV, I was on a show called Love Island. And off the back of that some friends that already had a podcast invited me on to just talk, it was total bro talk absolute just unfiltered bro stuff we would do. Would you rathers for 30 minutes of a podcast. But I really enjoyed it. It was something, I felt competent at it, I thought it was a great way to connect with my friends. It made me feel more educated because I came up with learnings. And I figured, well, if I have my own show, I can do this as much as I want, that'd be pretty cool. Mess around, coming up with names for the back end of 2017, who's going to be called Crushing a Tuesday, which is a quote from Tim Ferriss or Mind and Matter and didn't go with either of those. Woke up one morning with Modern Wisdom in my mind and was right, that's it. And from the start of 2018 hit the ground running, did one a week for the first year, two weeks for the second year and then three years three and four toward the back end. Now, I've done three a week. So we are now on episode 560 something in four years.
Jay Clouse 02:48
Are you still doing any involvement in a club promoting business?
Chris Williamson 02:51
No, I exited that company about two or three months ago actually. It took a long time to work out of that, but loved what I did. But it was, it was time for me to go and the show has got all of my time and passion put into it now.
Jay Clouse 03:03
I asked because doing even two episodes per week while like running a business or being heavily involved in that business, it must have been a lot on you. And I'm curious how you compartmentalized or at that point managed, you know, that business plus the content creation?
Chris Williamson 03:20
It's a good question because people that try and do everything, don't do anything. You know, if you try and smear yourself so thinly across a ton of different pursuits, you're not going to be particularly good at any one of them. And I was very conscious of that, I read Essentialism by Greg McKweon about three years ago, and that really hit home that I was the sort of person that would say yes to every new potential opportunity. When it came to balancing work and podcast, it wasn't actually that difficult because I was really really gassed to speak to every person I spoke to. I always felt reticent about the fact that I never got to do a psychology or philosophy degree at uni, I went to go into business because I thought that would be useful. Learned nothing about business during my business degree, two business degrees actually including a master's. And I always regretted the fact that I hadn't done psychology or philosophy, but then realized that the podcast basically was the perfect psychology philosophy degree where I got to choose my own lectures, I got to choose my own tutoring timetable, my own schedule, everything, which was beautiful. So frankly, I didn't find much of a difficulty. I'm used to working hard, I am a very hard worker so I had a competitive advantage there. And then obviously, as soon as the beginning of 2020 came around, and COVID hits, not fantastic for nightlife. So every day and two nights until 4am per week, we're now opened up to me, and I thought, holy shit, this is an opportunity for me to really, really lean into this and I made the commitment in about May of 2020 to turn pro, to use Steven Pressfield language, read The War of Art, which every news, check out it's just been on Rogen again for maybe the second or third time but probably the most recent in maybe 5 to 10 years since he's been on that show. It's been a long time. In that he talks about turning pro, I decided I want to stop dicking about let's do this properly so made the commitment.
Jay Clouse 05:02
I saw that quote in the recent BBC article that you did. And so I want to talk about that moment and that inflection here in a second. Curious if you're an early, early to bed early to rise type of person, do you get up early in the mornings?
Chris Williamson 05:15
You're supposed to be genetically hardwired and is supposed to be a predisposition, right? Some people are night owls, some people are early birds apparently, I have been very fluid. I am part of the, whatever the equivalent of the gender fluid crowd is, but for sleep patterns, and I used to identify as someone that was a night owl, but now I identify as someone that's an early bird. And that was because I was working like all the time, right? So my environment determined my sleep pattern. And then 2020 rolls around and for the first time in my adult life, I've got a stable sleep and wake pattern for the first time ever. I'm 32 and for the first time since I was 18, I'm going to bed and waking up at the same time every day. So since then, I'm up now usually 7am most days.
Jay Clouse 05:59
Yeah, isn't it the best? I feel like having that pattern is is absolutely the best. And I find myself more protective over my sleep pattern than just about anything else because I know even just like going to bed an hour later, now I'm like fighting back uphill to try to become a morning person again.
Chris Williamson 06:15
Jay Clouse 06:16
Part of the reason I ask is because what I see as a little bit of a trend or a pattern, folks who are in really good physical shape tend to also be disciplined because they kind of need that, to have that level of physique and like work ethic. And that bleeds over into work as well, you know, so I was trying to tie this together, because obviously, you're in really good shape, you talk about fitness, you live fitness, I imagine that there's a lot of crossover in how you approach your work versus how you approach fitness.
Chris Williamson 06:45
Via systems, I think mostly. One of the things that's changed over the last few years is I would be very much a work hard until I burn out kind of guy, then burnout, relapse, and then go back to working so hard that I want to burn out again. That understanding, the how hard to press on the accelerator is something that I've only really developed probably in the last three years or so. So there would be periods throughout my 20s where I would go, I thought I had depression, I thought I had like intermittent acute depression. So once every three months to two months, I would be bedridden for two or three days. Looking back, I think that a big part of it was just that the biological underpinnings of my life were fucked. I was going to bed at 4am or 5am or 6am, one or two nights a week that would then impact what I ate the next day I couldn't ever lock in habits because my days were never replicable. Even the podcast when I first started the podcast now I like to record at 2pm, 2pm is my optimal time to record it's when I feel sharpest mentally. In the past, I was doing it 6pm or 7pm. So that was good being in the UK to record with people in the US because that's only like whatever 9am or something pacific coast. But still, just everything was all over the place, consistency, replicability and not pushing yourself so hard that you burn out, like the goal isn't to be fit this year or to do a podcast a week this year, the goal is to still be physically kicking ass in your 60s, 70s, and 80s. And the goal is to have longevity on the show and to grow it by iterating over time. And you know, blasting stuff out super, super quickly and sacrificing longevity, for intensity is not a strategy that works.
Jay Clouse 08:26
On the surface, it would seem like the career you had in club promoting is completely unrelated to the work you're doing now with podcasting. But I'm guessing there's probably some things that you've carried from that vocation or that career over into your podcasting life. So what are those things?
Chris Williamson 08:45
Curiosity was a big driver for why we run club nights. I wanted to understand how to make an effective event, what got people to go out and human nature looking at human nature pretty closely like coordinates are people in a room getting drunk to music, that's all it's ever gonna be. Dress it up however you want. Put a pool in there, make it a foam party, give away free shots on the door. It's people getting drunk in a room to music, right? And that's all it's ever going to be. So you're playing around with the branding, you're playing around with the interpretations that people have the audience has, of what it is that you're delivering to them. So it taught me a lot about marketing, it taught me a lot about mimetic desire, taught me about status seeking, taught me about human meeting. Now, I didn't have any of the language that I do now to be able to describe it but it created this foundation I think that just made things generally interesting. And then rolling it forward into the podcast, certainly when it comes to trying to build up some anticipation or some excitement in the audience being bought into me bringing on Jordan Peterson or Jocko Willink or whatever that is exclusively shaped by nightlife because as I said, the entire product that you're selling in nightlife is basically the same as everybody else's. So the only thing you can differentiate on his branding and hype and investment from your audience. So now that the product can be very different, my show, even if I mean Rogan had Peterson on within the space of like two months of each other. And yet there is no way that someone would listen to both conversations and say it was the same conversation, right? Completely different conversations. So now that I have differentiation in terms of product, I can also use some of the tools that we did to magnify differences in this similar products to really, really magnify what I can achieve with dissimilar product.
Jay Clouse 10:28
Can we talk a little bit about hype because I often hear hype used in a negative way, because people kind of connote hype with like, bad hype or empty hype, probably. But it seems like hype is a really essential part to getting a critical mass of attention onto whatever the thing is that you're putting all this time and effort into. So I'd love to hear how you think about hype and generating hype.
Chris Williamson 10:49
Same as clickbait man, clickbait. Ali Abdaal says this clickbait is only a bad term, if you don't deliver on what was promised. He may be being a little bit facetious there, but I think the essence of what he's on about is right, that you can build up excitement around something that you're doing, as long as the excitement is remotely proportional to what you're going to deliver at the end of it. For the most part, a lot of people, especially people that look to yourself and me, and maybe some of the people that are listening that create content, they have this parasocial relationship with you, they're genuinely invested, you are a part of their life. So when they go away on holiday, they book your holiday six months in advance, and they get excited for six months in the build up to that you are a part of not only that holiday, but the six months building up to it. So why not integrate the same level of anticipation of excitement, of build up into their experience of the show. So for me, I've got to on the back end of this year, I'm about to release four of the biggest guests I've ever done. This is November 23, that we're recording. And before the end of the year, I'm going to have four of the biggest guests I've ever had on the show. So I'm going to start to do a teaser campaign now for all four of them individually, and they're all going to overlap and they'll be countdown timers, and people will be like wondering who it is. I'm flying out to this place to see, I don't know who lives in that place. Like it's just, maybe it's a bit lame, right? And some people might not be into that. But genuinely, I think creating a narrative arc and going like, and this is the same for businesses, this is the same, doesn't matter if you're not a content creator. If you are someone that works for a sales company that's got a particular promotion coming up. If you're someone that works for a local hair salon that wants to build up hype and interest around a new release of a particular type of product or treatment or whatever, you need to drag out the anticipation because people want to be invested, take them along for the journey, right? And be open door about it. I'll be like, oh God, we've had a problem with finding a venue where this has happened or that happened. And it means that people are genuinely invested. And I like doing that, that this is very much my like club promoter, whatever you want to say, like bias showing through here. But I like doing that I think that hype generated effectively magnifies your outcomes. And it is a fun way to connect with the audience and to give them something more than simply what you deliver them in terms of content.
Jay Clouse 13:07
With putting three episodes out per week, it's difficult to try to effectively build hype for every one of those episodes, I imagine. So how do you determine which, what moments that you really want to hype up or do you have ways of hyping something up that's coming out, you know, two days from now?
Chris Williamson 13:27
So I do a weekly newsletter, people can go and get a free list of all of the books that I recommend. So 100 books that you should read before you die, and they can get that at chriswillx.com/books. If people sign up to that, there's a newsletter that I do that goes up to about 50,000 people a week. And that has in it a preview of all of the different episodes that are coming up for the forthcoming week. So there's a little bit of like anticipation coming from that. But you are right that if I was to do three episodes a week, I can't have this big, elaborate fanfare of a build up campaign for each different person. So I have the normal episodes that I'm doing. And then I'll have these flagship ones, right? You know, Jocko Willink, Andrew Huberman, Jordan Peterson. And on those, those will be the ones that I will pick out to try and apply a good bit of pressure to. I'll try and post some more stuff on social media, there'll be a teaser campaign in advance, so on and so forth. And then we'll spend more money on the shoot and it'll look better. So that's my solution to it is to pick out, you know, once every month to two months or so, to try and pick out a big winner that, you know, is probably going to perform already, and then just inject a little bit more excitement into it.
Jay Clouse 14:27
After a quick break, Chris and I talked about how he pulls together in person interviews with some of his bigger guests. And later we talked about how he's able to publish so many episodes so quickly. So stick around,we'll be right back.
Jay Clouse 14:40
Welcome back to my conversation with Chris Williamson. I'm blown away by the production value behind some of Chris' interviews. You'll see that in his interviews with bigger guests like Andrew Huberman or Jocko Willink, Chris actually meets them in person. And those interviews are in Chris' studio or even at the guests workplace. They find a perfect location for that guest so I asked Chris to talk me through that process,
Chris Williamson 15:02
Got to book the person first because if you booked the space and start to line up a shoot, and then the person says no, they're not available on that date, you are left with your dick in your hand. So for me get connected with whoever it is, line up a shoot, line up a day. I have a producer, video guy, Dean, that's my editor that does all of my normal stuff comes out for these, but he's not the producer for these. I have a producer, Colton, who does the big production stuff. This is what we're doing, mate. Find this location, find this team. We want to film it on Blackmagic 6k, we need to have a monopod for both tight angles, we need to have a. And this is only because he's told me about this stuff. It's not me that's dictating any of this. He'll find local grips and gaffers and whites and we've got a DP actually, Bennett, director of photography, he'll come out and do this stuff as well, he'll come in two days before the shoot, I'll come in one day before. They'll set it up, they'll dress the room, they'll make sure everything's nice. I spend the morning prepping, then I rock up at one o'clock in the afternoon, they'll make sure everything's ready, the guest arrives at two and then we just record. And we've done this three times now so far this year, and by the end of the year, it'll have been five times and I really love the process of going through it, spend a good bit of money, but make something that's super, super special. I think it's genuinely a step up in quality above what pretty much anybody has done in terms of podcasting to film in these purpose built, purpose chosen spaces on 6k cinema cameras with you know, gorgeous lighting and set design. I think is something that I'm really proud of. It's one of the few things that I felt have moved the needle outside of the conversations like creatively, it feels like a no, it feels cool.
Jay Clouse 16:31
Yeah, totally. And I noticed that yeah, these sets are different. So I didn't actually know from the outside like, were these intentional choices based on the guest? Was this, what was available just around the guest? Because most shows are either strictly remote shot or on location, usually in a studio that person controls. And what's interesting about your show, and why I'm really interested to dig into this even more is you're kind of in between. And I don't know if it's a transition that you're hoping to make at some point or if you think that doing the in between route is an optimal path.
Chris Williamson 17:06
The reason I do the in persons is that I wanted to make something visually that looked stunning. And doing that online, even if I'd sent a full production crew out to the person's house, like it would have been way better for me to have just flown myself out there, right, it would have had much bigger impact so that makes the most sense. When it comes to the straddling between virtual video and in person video at the moment, I'm in a position that many creators are probably going to get into which is pretty big, you know, we do 10 million plays a month. And it's a large business, and it has big investment from the audience in terms of how much they care about it. But I'm not Joe Rogan, right? I'm not Ben Shapiro, I'm not even, you know, like a Drinkin' Bros level in terms of the ability to plug cash into buying a barn in the middle of Lockhart, Texas or something. So I need to be able to deliver episodes to the audience that they're going to be happy with and that they're not going to hate the quality of. But I also need to be realistic about the practical constraints that I've got in terms of time, money, investment. And the timeline is a big one for this, right? So I'm doing three a week, what am I going to do? Am I going to fly myself around the country? All I would do, I would just be a permanent road trip.
Jay Clouse 17:06
Chris Williamson 17:09
I just be going from Seattle to Miami to Oklahoma to Nashville to New Orleans to wherever the fuck, right? Like I can't do that. So high frequency on an on a show like mine, I think necessitates at least where I'm at at the moment. And necessitates me doing it virtually. One of the great things that COVID did was all of the audience acclimatized to virtual interviews. And I do think that there is a way that you can record and edit episodes that make them sufficiently visually impactful and enjoyable. It's not going to be as good as in person in terms of plays engagement or enjoyment. However, it's not going to be a million miles off, right? Like, I don't think that I get 10 times the benefit from going in person. And yeah, I think that we've got a really nice edit style. My video Guy, Dean, does a really, really great job with keeping the edit, like quickly paced. We don't cut anything from the episodes, but in terms of the way that the camera angles change and stuff like that. Longer term, maybe I may look to do an in person thing, but I can't really imagine what that world would be like because I'm not going to fly around to go and do it. I don't want to drop a three week, which means that I would need to have three people a week coming to Austin, Texas to come and see me like that seems like a big ask. I mean, you know that just the scheduling logistics of it would be like mammoth, absolutely gargantuan. And then you also have to think when I do an episode virtually, you know, 10 minutes before we started, I was eating burrito and 10 minutes after we finish I can be on with emails or whatever. Now, I'm not saying that my job is to like maximize the efficiency of every second of my life. I'm terrible at doing that. But when you scale that up the half an hour or an hour before you know chat and then oh should we finish? Should we go for a coffee? Should we do whatever? That doubles or triples the length of time it takes for you to record an episode. And when you scale that across three episodes a week, across 52 weeks of the year, it's going to squeeze your time and a lot of different places. So I'm really sort of reveling in this position that I have at the moment where I don't think the audience quite yet expects me to have some Roganesque style show with, you know, beautiful in person shots, and a producer sat there all times. But we're big enough to be able to facilitate these big shoots. So I'm kind of really, really enjoying the way that the show runs at the moment actually.
Jay Clouse 20:32
To publish three episodes per week, you have to be recording at least three episodes per week to not be burning through you know, your stock of material. What does that look like for you? How many interviews are you doing each week?
Chris Williamson 20:44
This week will be five, next week will be five, the week after will be full reason being that I can predict out ahead. I know that I don't want to record over Christmas. I want to have a little bit of time to myself over Christmas, but I don't want to let the production drop, right? I guess I want to I still want to release so yeah, you're right. You need to eat shit with regards to how hard you have to work sometimes. Now, the advantages that I get to choose again, as a podcast, you get to choose the people you're speaking to. Every morning I get to wake up gas to learn about, I just spent an hour and a half learning about incest avoidance, the evolutionary psychology of incest avoidance, not a topic that you probably thought I was going to bring up but fucking beyond fascinating, beyond fascinating. Yesterday, I had Max Lugaveere on who's this like genius foods guy who is really at the forefront of dietary advice. Last week, I had a guy that was one of the foremost researchers in psychopaths psychology. So every day is different, it is fun, but it can get tough, like, you know, for all that it's a dream job and there are people out there that have significantly worse jobs than LARPing around speaking to whoever it is you want on the internet for an hour a day. The practice hard and rigorous and then it's taxing like it's you know, anybody that's had to give a presentation for half an hour or an hour knows that it's difficult to be on that much. So I couldn't do full is the bottom line. And I'm limit with regards to what I can do.
Jay Clouse 22:04
I'd love to hear more about the prep process because for folks who haven't gone into this level of depth yet, even just publishing one interview per week, I could spend all week just going through your back catalogue and preparing for this episode, not to mention all the engagement they do with your email and your fans and all these things like this. So how do you time bound or what does good prep look like to you?
Chris Williamson 22:27
Yeah, good question. There's a danger of over preparing for sure. When I first started podcasting, I thought that the goal was to ruthlessly index information out of the guests brain into their microphone, as succinctly and orderly as possible. That was what I thought the goal was. Since then, I've realized that it is much more about creating a vibe, just a vibe architect, right. That's what you're here for. You're here to just create this experience that people go through stories, narratives, funny little anecdotes, those are the things that really hit if you look at the best performing podcasters on the planet, they're not the ones that necessarily even your Tim Ferriss and your humans of the world. They're using anecdote and story in order to illustrate points that are actually pretty dry, almost nobody is a great podcaster off the back of being superbly dry, doesn't work over preparation is one of the ways that you can put your level of understanding at odds with the audience's level of understanding, because you already know the answer to the question that you're going to ask. So first off, you're not genuinely invested, there's no reaction, I learned something from this lady. earlier on today about the evolutionary psychology stuff, I hang on, hang on, hang on, I cannot fucking believe that that is a wildest shit I've ever heard. I'm not good enough actor to be able to pretend doing that. So over preparation is something you need to be concerned about. Under preparation is obviously terrible. After a while, especially after 500 episodes, I've got so much similar information that I've been exposed to, that I can usually go through the book, skimming through the book, looking at whatever I think of the chapters that are most useful to me. I don't speak about an entire book, right? It's not it's not it's not the audio book summarized, right. It's and I'm not Blinkist that's not my job. The job is to pick out what I think is the most useful, salient points of discussion about them. One of the coolest stories, one of the best ways that we can do this, what was the process going through it like or to researcher? Okay, so what are the things that she talks about? He talks about, let's dig into those as well. So, preparation for me looks a lot like listening to the guests to get a sense of their cadence. That's something that I think a lot of podcasters probably overlook. They'll probably listen to them, but there'll be noting down what it is that they're talking about. One of the most important things that you need to do is what's their cadence like? Are they the sort of person Peterson is a good example. He's a good friend, and I love his work. But the guy is really hard to podcast with because he used his beat and a half breaks before then talking again and he got up and then you end up speaking over each other because you don't know when he's finished. But if you listen to him For an hour before at one time speed, right, not it two and a half times speed in order to index the information at one time speed. You get into a sense of okay, this is kind of the way that he speaks. And you could imagine yourself being the, the interviewer or the podcast host Jocko willing is another good example. He had this episode that he did with Lex. And it was a bit like awkward, it was a little bit off. He seemed like he was being a little bit sort of standoffish, and he did one with Mikayla as well, which was kind of the same, both great episodes. But there was a, it wasn't as warm necessarily, as some of the ones that he'd done previously. And I was like, oh, okay, so I could potentially rock up. And on this day, Jaco might be, you know, having a little bit more of an off day. And sure enough, it took a while to get him warmed up on our episode, but I was prepared for that. I knew this is one of the situations that you might get into. So when he gave a couple of one word answers to questions, I just had a little giggle to myself and I was I, that's why I do the preparation.
Jay Clouse 25:58
This is this is so good. And I hope people listening to this have experienced even just conversationally, some of these things that we're talking about, because this is the challenge I find, especially now that we've moved to video is the show is much more engaging. If the guests and I have a report, even if we haven't met before to have some sort of report where I feel comfortable jumping in and saying Hold on, let's let's talk about that more or, or having a little joke. But it's difficult. Sometimes when someone comes in you haven't met them before they are somebody with some esteem and you know, in some degrees is is like them doing a favor to you. How do you approach creating rapport with somebody that you've never met before? That you might be a little intimidated for? Maybe you don't maybe you don't get intimidated at all?
Chris Williamson 26:41
No, I definitely do, man. I mean, I sat opposite a guy Jocko, who has absolutely killed people. Like Like, the man was a professional killer for a while to sit in front of him with his huge hands and his huge head and not think this is a terrifying individual you would need to be you need to be psychotic. So yeah, I do. I definitely do get intimidated. And I care. Like I care about my show I care about producing something cool and good and interesting. It's a body of work I want to be proud of. So yeah, there is there is pressure on the flip side of that. Each repetition that you do should reinforce you that you are the person you say you are like you don't gain self confidence by shouting affirmations in the mirror. You gain self confidence by having an undeniable stack of proof that you can do the things that you say you can do. That's the way that you do it. Right. 560 episodes of modern wisdom, my podcast, right? If I'm not ready now, to go on Joe Rogan? Or to sit down with Jordan Peterson. When the fuck am I ready to sit down with them? You know. So a part of it is basically that you accumulate a ton of experience. Here's an here's a story. So I was on a big podcast. And partway through my mind started to go blank. I hadn't eaten that day. That's my preferred way of recording in order to be like, sharp, I like to fast. But I pushed it too far. And I felt myself going hypo blood sugar was just falling off a cliff. And all I could hear in my own mind was you're not supposed to be here. You're never supposed to be here. This isn't the job that you were supposed to do. You fluke, this opportunity. Everybody's laughing at you. No one thinks that you're interesting. And I was like, whoa, whoa, whoa, where are you coming from? Like, who's that voice? I thought I'd got rid of that, like 500 meditation sessions ago. And it turns out that under pressure, certain sort of poor inner monologues and inner voices can come back up as I'm having this thought. So the front of my brain is captured with me sort of wallowing in self doubt and pity. But my mouth is still speaking. So there was like a part of me that had programming, you know, like how you can have an argument with your bird whilst you're driving down the street? Yeah. Like you're not thinking about driving, but you're driving. So there's some part of you that's doing that. And I think that after however many iterations of doing something, there is an autopilot that comes in and takes over, when you can have a conversation. Now, it would not be optimal to constantly run on autopilot, you want to be involved because you're not going to you're going to be performing at whatever like 60% if you're just running on autopilot, but my point being that you can raise the floor of your performance to one where even subconscious talking is better than acceptable in order to carry you through, which means that on the days, when you're underprepared under slept, overstressed under eaten, going, hypo, whatever it might be, during those episodes, you can still perform, that's where you want to be. Right? That's where you want to be. So for me, yes, get stressed. In order to get around that. Ice bath, sauna, train really hard. Don't eat. Those things seem to get rid of the emotional, physical kind of jitters that I have. And then the not eating just keeps the adrenaline the little level of adrenaline nice to keep me moving throughout. And then if I need to pick myself up partway through because I'm starting to flag then just a little bit of caffeine and that'll end that'll keep me going. But yeah, those are those are the performance tools, I guess.
Jay Clouse 30:03
I'm interested to hear as a producer of your show, was there anything in the process of being a guest on Rogen that you picked up from his team's preparation of you, that you brought into your process?
Chris Williamson 30:16
It seems like there's two ways of when you get booked on your show, one is like the, the full process where they send out I only know this through friends, but they send out like an itinerary and a cold time and stuff like that. I got a DM on Instagram, and then a time and a date and an address. And then I just arrived. So I do know that there are kind of varying levels of preparedness or whatever. But I respect Joe massively because he handles his own schedule, and he handles his own guest booking he doesn't have an assistant. And I think that there is that's exactly the same way that I work. I have a PA that handles a bunch of other stuff, doesn't touch my schedule, doesn't touch get touch guests booking no one does guest booking but me, no one does scheduling but me, I really, really respect that enjoy. And it's a great. One of the best antidotes to a world that's become very seduced by leverage at the moment, outsource everything, as soon as you can afford to pay someone that is cheaper than your hourly rate to do the thing. Just give it to them and step off. There are certain things I don't think you should outsource the experience of going and Rogan's great, but yeah, there's the source that comes from Him comes from the conversation, you know, he's not using insane lenses is not having a studio is very nice. But it's not like a Netflix set or something. It's not, it's not about that. And I think that there's the lesson that you can take from that is you want the production quality, to facilitate the conversation as best as possible. And no more, as soon as production begins to detract from the conversation and step into it. And you're observing the production rather than the conversation, I think you've made an error. And I think that we probably are going to start to push that with a couple of the locations that are maybe going to try and do next year for some big ones, I want to do one in this place that basically looks like a final bosses lair from Final Fantasy. And it's definitely going to be distracting to people. So there is a part of me that thinks, well, maybe we need to dress this in a different way or light it in a different way. So that is less distracting. The point of the production is just to facilitate the conversation and normal, that's how I say.
Jay Clouse 32:18
Have you seen the channel Cercle on YouTube? Cercle, they do these like high production concerts at major historical venues? No, not saying them? Well, then we will go down that path but highly recommend because it's almost the antithesis of what you're, you're saying here were like, Yeah, that's it's like a world renowned DJ, and they're playing a set, but they're like literally playing in front of the pyramids of Egypt, you know, so it's like wild larger than life spectacle with like drone shots and things pulling away. And I put that up on a second monitor because, like one is my focus music. But two, as you're saying earlier, like the vibe, just immaculate. It's incredible production. And I almost wonder like what that would look like in a conversational world, because you want to be dialed into what the speakers are saying. But there is something atmospheric about it.
Chris Williamson 33:11
That's true. Remember that with music, I think it's a lot more experiential, it's cognitive, right? It's much more vibey. You know, for all that I can talk about don't index information, aim to be a vibe architect. You're way much more of a vibe architect as a DJ than you are as a podcaster. And I think that that gives you more degrees of freedom to be like over the top of the production.
Jay Clouse 33:31
When we come back, Chris and I talk about the benefits of having a business partner and how he manages to publish three episodes every week. So don't go anywhere. We'll be right back.
Jay Clouse 33:42
Hey, welcome back. When Chris was a club promoter, he had a business partner. So I asked him if he misses having a partner now that he's operating solo.
Chris Williamson 33:51
Yes. In short, I work much better when I have someone to bounce my ideas off. And I'm definitely kind of wallowing in indecision a lot more. Because most of the time when you've got a business partner, it seems like it's somebody to whom you can say, Me, am I being Am I being a dickhead here? Or is this actually a good idea? And he'll go Yeah, of course, you've been addicted. Like that's, that's, that's terrible. And you go Yeah, I knew or sorry. Thank you. Yay. Or the exact same question and you go, is this actually going to go Yeah, of course. You go. Yeah, I knew it was and it was Thank you. A lot of the time it's someone that you can verbalize your inner machinations to and not having that for the show is difficult. Now have Dean who's my video guy, he's been with me since day one. And he understands a lot of what we do he is very much that external brain that whatever you want to call it, stress test quality check, but he has his domains of competence. And there are some that that some questions that I've got the probably fall outside of those. I am looking forward to hopefully getting something like a manager or brand manager or producer or something within the next couple of years, who is basically just that external brain, they're going to come in and pick grit out of the system, they're going to mean that I don't have to do quite so much of the organizing of things that I need to at the moment, they're going to deal with some ops. And they're going to be very well versed in what's going on in the in the space, for instance, right? Let's say that somebody is releasing a book, but this particular person is of questionable social merit at the moment because of whatever it is that they've been talking about online. Right? Or perhaps they're in declining stock. Or perhaps I've heard rumors that the books shit, or perhaps it's just a bad time to be aligned with this person or whatever, right? Like asking someone Hey, man, should I bring on AIX requires them to do this real, huge, broad net of different inputs and variables, and then weighed them against how important it is not only for perception, but for the show overall, what does this mean for modern wisdom as a brand? Who have we had on recently? How does this play into a narrative, you know, like, you can get away with having some really, really spicy conversations once a month. But if you do the entire year's supply in that one month, and you do like 20 episodes, or something, every 12 episodes in a month of that space, people are gonna go, what the fuck am I watching here? Like, why have we why? Why have we got such it's such a really, really intense programming situation here. So that is something that I've very much enjoyed playing with the challenge of but would be nice to have someone that I could be externally accountable and have assistance from now.
Jay Clouse 36:38
I'm still reeling over the idea of doing three episodes per week. So I want to I want to dig in just a little bit more on how you approach this initially, like, did you do that from a place of I want to get more reps? Did you do that from a place of I want to get more downloads or more revenue? Like what were the decision factors to do three per week?
Chris Williamson 36:55
Oh, all of that all of the above the iterating more quickly, seems to be the single best way to become better at what it is that you want to do. COVID happened, I had nothing else to do. I felt like I had spare capacity to do it. So it made sense. I had more people that I wanted to talk to them time to talk to them, I wanted to improve my speaking skills as much as possible. And the best way that I could do that would be to get more reps when I no longer had the income from nightlife. So maximizing, you know, I 150 percentage of the income that was making right I added another 50% on simply by doing one more episode a week growth would be iterated more quickly. If you say that, it's going to take you X many 100 episodes to reach x many 1000 downloads. But if you just do those episodes more quickly, then you reach the downloads more quickly. Right. So all of it. That's why. And finally, a final element is I'm of the opinion that audiences are subscribed to a tight pool of podcasts, you need to be able to facilitate as much as the audience's curiosity demands. Or they're going to find a show that will if you're the sort of show that is going to put out an episode a week or an episode a fortnight, right, maybe these episodes are great. But let's say that there have a similar standard to the stuff that I put out. And I put out three a week. Why is anyone going to pay attention to your show, they're much more inclined to go for the one that they're more familiar with that they have more of a sense of belonging to that they understand the narrative of what's going on. Like you're just getting eaten alive by people that are out working you now there is a way that you can overshoot this there's a bunch of problems with with publishing too much one of them being that you have more likelihood of saying something that's going to get you cancelled, there is a nonzero risk that you say something stupid and career ending every time that you step in front of the microphone, the more times you step in front of a microphone, the more chance there is of you saying something stupid in Korea. And that means that you pay a price in terms of risk every time that you decide to do it. There are also issues around the fact that you can kind of overload the audience, sometimes with episodes, if they're not able to keep up, they sometimes might just decide to bow out. I'm not convinced that that's the case, because as long as the episodes are sufficiently diverse, not every episode is going to be for everyone. But I would like to think that I get two out of three lessons a week, you know, maybe people aren't so bothered in the evolutionary psychology, but I've got this great episode about psychopaths and I've got this other one about food. Right Okay, so listen to the psychopaths and foodstuff. Yeah, that's that's what I think about it.
Jay Clouse 39:23
How do you drive new audio listeners? Like YouTube has an algorithm you can get in front of people with with good clips with good gas. Yeah, yeah, had a trend. Do you see that the video show is driving new audio listeners or are you finding some other path?
Chris Williamson 39:37
It's just hard, man. I mean, you know this from looking at your back end, which just looks like this sort of very slowly creeping line. There are many growth hacks left for audio. I'm afraid having big guests having big names that want that people will go out of their way to find is great. I found that getting shares from big name guests as well is is great for driving new listeners getting shares from the more standard reach guest basically has no discernible difference in terms of plays. There's no magic to it, man. When I look at the graph of plays, it's essentially what if I have it for the all of time, right from the start of 2018 till the end of 2022. It's essentially flat up until the start of this year. And two years ago, I thought I was smashing it. And one year ago, I thought I was smashing it. And six months ago, I thought I was smashing it. Every time that you look back at your past level of plays, it makes that previous you feel like an idiot. And that's going to continue happening, right? In six months time, I'm going to look at how many plays I'm doing now and think, but I can't believe that I thought that was an acceptable amount of reach to have, or revenue or whatever, right? The bottom line is, it's reps to me. And it is a very, very, very long slog, there's a famous graph from Jack butcher at visualize value called just keep going. It's the point in this parabolic line graph that shows where most people stop and they stop just at the point where it stops being flat. I don't know how it streets. But I didn't stop and the line has started to go parabolic.
Jay Clouse 41:07
Your motivating, your motivating graphic. Yeah, just keep going. With the benefit of hindsight, when you look back on some of those inflection points in in your download or play graphs, is there any insight that you can pass along to somebody else doing a podcast of hey, this is where maybe I would focus and 80/20 of your effort to see things start trending in the positive direction.
Chris Williamson 41:29
Networking, you need to get these big name guests on your show, especially for audio, you know, you're not driving, you're not driving ship from anywhere else on the internet. Unless you happen to have like a freak Instagram or a free email list. My friend James Smith got a half million person email list. He released his show in the UK and then was above Joe Rogan for the first like two or three weeks. And it was out for precisely that reason, also, that the charts seem to disproportionately show new shows because it's kind of this relative thing rather than absolute number of numbers. However, you're not driving it from anywhere, the people that will drive it will be a bigger name guests. And it has this whole host of downstream benefits things like it lends more equity and perception to you you as a person to the show. Overall, when it comes to you getting new guests on in future you can use the name of the people that you've had on, like when I sent my old pitch email to try and bring people on even relative nobodies was his big long waffling thing. And it would take like a minute and a half to read and it would just be flooded out with loads of stuff. And now it is two sentences, two sentences of stuff. 500 Plus episodes 100 Plus New York Times bestselling authors Jordan Peterson Mark Manson, Jocko willing Andrew Cuban Dr. David Sinclair, Robert Greene, Ryan Holliday, and many more are you available on this day at this time, like that's the email, right read it in fucking 15 seconds. So you have a lot of downstream benefits of having big names on the problem you have is getting in contact with them. When it comes to networking. I've tried to deconstruct what it is that I do in order to get myself in front of these people. And I wish that I had a way I do need to do some more work so that I can give people a more satisfying answer. The best I can say at the moment is reach out to people like a DM costs nothing the number of people that will be happy, especially if it's a short complimentary DM that well, meaning the number of people that will respond are pretty high. Like people, people, you know, it's fucking flattering to be asked to be on a podcast. This person cares about you, they care about what you think they're gonna give you that platform to bring you on. It's a good thing. So shots at goal is a big part of it. But I mean, the best piece of advice I would have if people want to become better networkers would be be a club promoter for a decade. Like that's the ultimate piece of advice because it bakes it into your DNA, short of that. Reach out to people use references from other people. So you know, you speak to somebody that's good. You speak to Ryan Holiday, you mostly get Ryan on the show. And you say, Dude, I'm a massive fan of Robert Greene, do you think you'd be able to put a good word in with me, for me with with Robert Greene, that shows that you understand that have an existing relationship you've already brought Ryan on? Hopefully, it was a great episode. Obviously, if the episodes a car crash, probably not a good idea to do that. So you might message him and warn him and say, don't speak to this guy. The upper echelons of sort of the podcasting world are pretty well interlinked. Everybody knows everybody, because they're all shared between each other shows. And yeah, building up goodwill, treating everybody really nicely and continually taking over those networks as well. So let's say that you bring somebody on and then six months later, they put an announcement out on the internet that they've just added the second kid, just a little email. Hey, man, congratulations on the kid hope everything's well, really loving, whatever, whatever that you've done recently, like that. Let's just say first off, it's a nice human thing to do. Secondly, it's just going to keep you in their mind. and it's going to be an effective tool to keep that network ticking over. And then when it does come to their next book release, you're not going to be at the bottom of the pile behind all of these randoms, you're going to be the guy that wished them Congratulations on the birth of the new kid.
Jay Clouse 45:13
I'm so glad you brought that up. Because this has been on my mind as a big priority for next year. Because I feel like I've really dropped the ball on follow up with guests that have on the show, not for lack of interest or lack of awareness. But there's the insecure part of you that feels like you're just being a bother and you're a bother to have them on the show in the first place. And following up would be a bother. And that's a voice that I'm actively trying to squash. So I can, I can do better in following my instincts have I should follow up with this person just to check in and let him know I'm thinking about him. So it's good to hear that you have like an intentional practice of that.
Chris Williamson 45:43
If you keep it short. Like if you end up sending this huge, big long waffle, that people feel like God, like effort for me to reply to just a man, congratulations on this good work. Do brilliant, brilliant. Also social media, you know, Instagram DM, Twitter, DM, Twitter follows as well, from the people that you've worked with are really great, because we can be even more casual than email there. You know, someone can just double tap on the message. And that's a like, and that's enough. But it's just keeping that name going and keeping it ticking over. I think that's a big part of it.
Jay Clouse 46:15
When it comes to remote recorded interviews on YouTube, what's your best advice for somebody doing remote recordings for keeping retention or actually growing that show?
Chris Williamson 46:28
I would say audio matters much more than video to start with. And then lighting matters much more than your cameras. After that the priority list is get your sound sorted. You know a Blue Yeti is $100 100 pounds investment position dried and pre programmed. Right, you can get gorgeous warm sound out of that next up a couple of LED panels from near worth 100 quid for a set of two, I'm still using them. This one's got a piece of paper towel, sellotape to the front of it, we've done like, so good. 40 million plays through this light with a piece of paper towel. And it's a paper towel that I got free in the Airbnb that I was staying in when I first moved to Austin. And then after that, you can upgrade your kit, we're on a Sony a 6400 with a sigma 16 F 1.4 lens on it. It's got nothing to do with that. It's mostly to do with what's being sorted with the lighting that we've got going on here. In terms of the edit on the back end, you'd kind of need to speak to Dean about this for what he does. I guess you could go and watch one of the episodes on modern wisdom or Chris Williamson YouTube channel and see what you think about the edit. Suddenly, the first 15 to 20 seconds are important, you need to drive some value straightaway, you need to have a nice looking thumbnail, you need to have a title that's compelling and opens a loop and makes people want to watch. There is a course called 30 Days to a Better YouTube Channel by Video Creators. That's fantastic. If you really really want to turn pro when it comes to YouTube. Ali Abdullah is part time YouTuber Academy course is not built for podcasters. But it will teach you a lot of the nuts and bolts when it comes to production, the kind of physics of the platform that aren't necessarily picked up by the 30 days course. And consistency, man like YouTube rewards consistency, we publish six videos a week, three episodes, three clips and a shorter day on the YouTube. That is what we do to keep it ticking over. We've increased that over time. You don't need to start off with that at all. But you need to be publishing at least one to two videos a week, I would say and if let's say most people most of the time, we're going to do one episode a week. Okay, well, can you get a couple of clips out of that one episode, even get a couple of clips out of it. That's three videos a week. So now maybe you released the episode on a Tuesday. And then you've got clip Thursday, Saturday, like you're basically not going any more than three days without ever having a video go up. That's pretty good cadence. You know, like even big time YouTubers struggle to hit three a week. So okay, well, there we go. We're moving along a little bit there. I'm a big advocate of not splitting off clips channel from the main channel. I haven't done that. I think that when people try and create or recreate what Lex and like Andrew Schultz and people like that have done, they are taking the strategies of the people that have already won and using it to reverse engineer how they won. They didn't win because they got separate clips and main channel, they already were winning. And this is the strategy they adopted, I'm at whatever 600k Now, I don't have a clips channel, right? Like everything still goes out off the main channel. Once we hit a mill, maybe I'll consider splitting off something else. But it seems like YouTube for podcasting is going to become a lot more sophisticated soon as well. They've already started splitting off shorts from your normal videos. When you look at your channel back end, shorts are appearing on a different feed. They're not even being delivered in notifications in the same way. Normal videos get delivered immediately as notifications to Bell icons, but shorts just get bundled together at the end of the day and delivered to people. So there's a whole bunch of ways I think that YouTube is realizing long form and short form need to coexist on the platform and they need to give creators the tools in order to be able to make that easy and it wouldn't surprise me if within the next two to three years there is a way to be able to have a parent brand that has multiple sub channels coming off it so Lex Friedman I'd cast Lex Friedman clips and Lex Friedman shorts or whatever, right? We'll all be able to sit bundled, somehow collaborative collaborative within it all, maybe notifications get wrapped up together or something like that. It wouldn't surprise me if that happens. So single channel publish frequently focused on audio, then lights, then video in that order don't get to do clips into good stuff.
Jay Clouse 50:23
If you were told that you could only do clips or shorts, but not both, which will you choose?
Chris Williamson 50:27
Clips, that is a bias that I have. Because I don't watch shorts very much you are not going to see as much subs generation from clips from shorts as you are from clips, you know, you can do a a short very easily that does 2 million plays and generates like 1000 subs. If you do a clip that does 2 million plays, you've just got 20,000 subs, I would say it's between a 10 and 20x increase in the number of subs that you get from normal video clips to shorts. So for me, the shorts thing is just even now it's just a well, why not? It's just like everybody else they did supposed to be the biggest algorithmic way to manipulate the platform and maximize growth and whatever. And I'm like, Alright, cool. Well, we'll, we'll do we've done that with his company that looks after the shorts for us, which is great. But money for me comes from the clips. And also, what he's going to teach you as a guest holster. Is that how can I listen back to an episode and work out exactly what it is that the audience wanted from this? What are the segments that are most salient, most interesting, most clickable, most watchable, most enjoyable, most interesting, by doing that you will teach yourself to find the most interesting parts of episodes, which causes you to create episodes that have more of the segments in down the line like you're permanently on the lookout for that was good. That was good. That was good. And then after a while you string enough of those that was good together and you go fuck, that was like an episode that was just buying her off to bang. That's just that's just 60 minutes of clips that so? Yeah.
Jay Clouse 52:09
It feels exhausting to put out as many episodes as Chris does, but I completely agree with his logic. More reps means you get better faster. And if you take your work more seriously, others will too. If you want to learn more about Chris, you can find him online at chriswillx.com or ChrisWillX on YouTube. Links to all that of course are in the show notes. Thanks to Chris for being on the show. Thank you to Connor Conzboy for editing the video for this episode. Thank you to Emily Clouse for making the artwork for this episode. Thanks to Nathan Todhunter for mixing the show and Brian Skeel for creating our music. If you'd like this episode, tweet at me @jayclouse, let me know. If you really want to say thank you, please leave a review on Apple podcasts or Spotify. Thanks for listening. I'll talk to you next week.
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