September 14, 2021
Jason Feifer is the editor in chief of Entrepreneur magazine, a podcast host, book author, keynote speaker, startup advisor, and nonstop optimism machine.
Jason Feifer is the editor in chief of Entrepreneur magazine, a podcast host, book author, keynote speaker, startup advisor, and nonstop optimism machine.
Jason is the host of Build for Tomorrow, a show exploring the curious things from history that shaped us, and how we can shape the future.
He's the author of two books, Build for Tomorrow, Not Yesterday, and Mr. Nice Guy.
His goal is to help you become more resilient and adaptable in a world of constant change — so you can seize new opportunity before anyone else does!
In this episode, we talk about Jason’s pathway into print media, the direction he sees media and content heading, how he prioritizes his job with what he calls “Opportunity Set B,” and why living in a state of constant reconsideration has helped him adapt his life and business when he needed to.
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Full transcript and show notes
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Jason Feifer 0:00
Eventually, I told my wife about this problem and she gave me the foundational piece of advice for this phase of my career. And that was, if they want you to be a thought leader then be a thought leader and I realized that the only difference between a thought leader and not a thought leader is that the thought leaders willing to call themselves a thought leader, literally at the only difference.
Jay Clouse 0:20
Welcome to Creative Elements, a show where we talk to your favorite creators, and learn what it takes to make a living from your art and creativity. I'm your host, Jay Clouse. Let's start the show.
Hello, my friend, welcome to another episode of Creative Elements. I had a long, relaxing weekend and I hope that you did as well. And this weekend, this past Sunday, I wrote an article called Creative Independence Versus Financial Independence and shared it with my subscribers. Culturally, I think we're fixated on financial independence and I was too. And there are a lot of ways that you can find financial independence that don't all require working more hours to achieve, but a lot of well meaning people like me, find themselves trapped working more than ever before to build a future where they work less. And what if we just started there. And to complicate things further, what happens if you do achieve financial independence, typically, that goal is actually in service to a couple of other goals, I think, choice and expression. Choice meaning total agency around how we spend our time, who we spend it with, when we spend it, and so on. And expression is the more interesting bit to me because it's not quite obvious and not usually explicitly said. But I think we aspire to financial independence because the choices we want to make involve expressing our thoughts, ideas, beliefs, and desires. In short, we want to have the freedom to be ourselves and spend our time doing the things that we want to do to create what we want to create and share it with the people who will appreciate it, even if it's just the people close to us. That's what I call creative independence, the ability to express ourselves in the ways that we want without the need for external validation or approval, to make the things that we want to make on our own terms without compromise. While our culture is fixated on financial independence, I think what we really want is that creative independence. We want to have control over our lives and our relationship to the world around us. And I don't think you necessarily need financial independence to experience creative independence. I talked to a lot of people on this show who have created amazing projects that they're super proud of, very fulfilled by, and often even have some financial upside. And a lot of those same people did so while working a full time job and have no plans to leave that job. It's completely possible to find creative independence and not only be supported by an employer but empowered, enabled or rewarded. To be honest, I've always worried that my work would have the side effect of shaming people and feeling like they had to be a self-supported entrepreneur or business owner to be quote unquote, "successful as a creator," and that's not the case. My goal with this show and my newsletter creative companion is to help you find creative independence, that ability to express yourself and the ways that you want without the need for approval or external validation. I do that through interviews with remarkable creators here on this show, as well as weekly notes of encouragement and inspiration that you can subscribe to at jayclouse.com. I totally rebuilt my website a couple weeks ago and I'd love to hear what you think about it. This topic of creative independence brings me to today's guest, Jason Feifer. Jason Feifer is the editor in chief of Entrepreneur Magazine. Yes, that Entrepreneur Magazine.
Jason Feifer 3:49
In a manner of speaking, I technically oversee all of editorial but we have a digital editorial director who's really the day to day operator on digital.
Jay Clouse 3:59
Jason is also the host of an incredible podcast called Build For Tomorrow. He's a book author, keynote speaker, startup advisor and a nonstop optimism machine. His goal is to help you become more resilient and adaptive in a world of constant change. So you can seize new opportunity before anyone else does. And Jason is no stranger to a world of constant change. He lives in the traditional print media world, which has undergone a lot of change over the last few decades. And he's not afraid to say that he believes the past generation of media executives did not adapt to the changing world.
Jason Feifer 4:33
The job of somebody who runs a company is to understand the economics in which you operate and then make sure that you are adapting to those economics. And that is not what media did. Instead, what media did is they said, well, there's only two ways to make money, subscriptions and advertising so we'll just keep doing that. Now the world is changing. People are consuming differently. Oh, alright, well, we'll just keep doing what we're doing because it's worked for a couple 100 years and you know what, it's stopped working. And there are other models and I don't fear for the future of media at all, there's, there's always going to be a hunger for good information and good storytelling. And I don't think that that's ever going to go away.
Jay Clouse 5:12
That's Jason's nonstop optimism that you heard there at the end. He's not worried about storytelling going away, or media being in trouble in general. And while Jason is leading the editorial team on Entrepreneur, he's building his own media empire behind his own name. And he does so enthusiastically and without shame, he says these two things, his job and his creative work are not at odds, they actually fuel one another. And it's important that he finds time for both.
Jason Feifer 5:38
I climbed a very competitive industry. And I made it to the top as editor in chief of the national magazine and I am telling you, I never ever showed up to work. I don't think a day in my life and spent all of my time doing the work that the company asked me to do. I was always doing something else, always and I continue to today.
Jay Clouse 6:00
Jason shares some incredible insight about juggling a full time job in your own creative work in some of the best bits of this interview are actually at the very end. So you'll want to listen through to the whole thing. In this episode, we talk about Jason's pathway into print media, the direction he sees media and content heading, how he prioritizes his job with what he calls Opportunity Set B and why living in a state of constant reconsideration has helped him adapt his life and business when he needed to. I'd love to hear your thoughts on this episode. As you listen, you can find me on Twitter or Instagram @jayclouse, I'd love to hear if this idea of creative independence resonates with you. Tag me, say hello, and let me know what you think. Okay, now, let's talk to Jason.
Jason Feifer 6:48
I started what I would call some form of journalism in high school. And that was at a magazine in Florida and Georgia, I grew up in Florida called Ink 19, which still exists digitally. But back then it was also a print magazine that you could pick up at a record store. And it was basically a music and culture magazine. And what I discovered was that writing for Ink 19 meant that I got free CDs, which in a pre-streaming world is gold. And also I got to interview my favorite bands, which was also gold. And I was just thinking as a high school kid, man, journalism just opens all the doors. And then as I got deeper into it, and realize that my passion wasn't really in music writing, I somewhat of reevaluated that stance and realize that what journalism does, it's so amazing, broadly speaking, is that it gives you an excuse to talk to people you wouldn't normally talk to you about things you wouldn't normally talk about. And I I got into community news, I was a local news reporter and I other parts of it that I didn't love. But the thing that I have consistently always loved about this career path is that I just have an excuse to talk to anybody about anything. And most insanely, they will talk back to me, they'll just they'll just tell me their stories, they'll sit down with me, the most famous people in the world, they just sit down with me. Who, why? Why? The answer is journalism. It's amazing.
Jay Clouse 8:22
And this goes back to I don't I don't see that position on your LinkedIn but I can see that you were at The Gardner News as early as 2002. So you've been doing this for a couple of decades now.
Jason Feifer 8:31
The Gardner News was that first good. That was my first community newspaper job. Yep.
Jay Clouse 8:35
What has changed besides your perception on journalism? What has changed about journalism and last almost 20 years?
Jason Feifer 8:43
Oh, wow. Well, that is a subject for 17 hours of discussion. But in super short, I think that what is most changed is the economy of ideas has changed. So when I was starting out, which wasn't that long ago, I'm not that old. But my first newspaper job was 2002, fresh out of college. And at that time, the internet was just more nascent than it is now. There were the beginnings of online publications and there were the beginnings of social media. I remember cruising around Friendster while I was sitting at The Gardner news. That sentence, there is a real moment in time cruising around Friendster, The Gardner News. And now of course, there anybody can start a publication. And those publications can very quickly come to rival in terms of attention and audience size. They rival the oldest and most respected publications in the land. And that is quite different and I'm not afraid of that. I know there are a lot of people who bemoan that, I take a very, very long view on absolutely everything, including the things that I experienced my own life and just the things in the world and what I know is that the way that we thought of media, where there were a handful of networks and a handful of national newspapers and a handful of gatekeepers, and that they were as object that their, their guiding principle was objectivity. That is actually a blip in time. That is a very small moment, if you rewind to the, you know, early, mid, late 1800s and in media in America, it doesn't look like that doesn't look anything close to that. It looks like a book, you know, Philadelphia has 27 newspapers and they're all owned by the various political stakeholders and economic stakeholders in the city. And they all are warring with each other. So, look, we had one kind of media now we have, we're entering a different kind of media and I think that's just fine. We figure out what's good and bad about each.
Jay Clouse 10:55
Well, looking at your your resume here is just incredible. Senior Editor Men's Health, Senior Editor Fast Company, Deputy Editor at Maxim, now Editor in Chief at Entrepreneur.
Jason Feifer 11:05
Jay Clouse 11:05
How has your role or what you look for in stories, or even the production stories like how has that changed throughout your career with the change in the democratization of ideas?
Jason Feifer 11:17
Well, I think that over that time, there has been more of an openness to writers having their own voices and bringing their own perspectives to publications. And I think that's a great thing. It was also just an inevitable thing. I mean, when I was at Men's Health, this was, I was at Men's Health until 2011, or something like that. So but even then, right, I mean, Twitter existed, social media existed, but the media and I think I think all companies were still trying to navigate what it meant to have their individual employees have a voice that was distinct from the company's voice or the publication's voice. And it took a while for people to figure that out, I think they're still figuring that out but back then there was more concern of it. And also concern about writers going out building their own audiences and the piecing out and taking those audiences with them. And now I think people correctly understand that that's not a threat, it's an asset, it's also just the cost of doing business, and that your company, regardless of whether you're in media or not, should be very open to an embracing of that, you know. I have a, I have a friend who works at a very large, like, you know, what I what, I guess I should be sort of anonymous about this, like one of the world's largest companies, and she has been building this great internal resource, helping people with their careers inside that company. And she's been eager to take it outside the company, too, and start to serve a broader audience with it. And I've been helping her think through how to do that. But of course, the looming question was, will the powers that be at her giant company be okay with that? She didn't know the answer and there's only one one way for her to find out. And that was to go sit down with the comms team and talk it through. And, you know, I wished her the best and I gave her as much insight as I could have, and to try to convincing them to do this. And she sat down and no problem, no problem, they were happy to have her do it. They were excited for her to go out and be a good representative of that brand, even if it also builds her own audience and good. But that wasn't always the case, right? That that that right there is the result of a journey where those companies were not always ready for that and now they finally are. And I think that's wonderful, because I think that that company will will benefit from that and so will my friend. And so will everybody who listens to my friend.
Jay Clouse 13:47
Yeah, I think companies are slowly coming around to this. And for some reason, it feels almost like there's a separation between media companies and most companies, because media companies in that small blurb we were talking about seems like they put a lot of stake in the, we are unbiased, we tell things straight down the middle as they are type of world and having people with individual voices just harder to control in that way.
Jason Feifer 14:09
Jay Clouse 14:10
From a pure output standpoint, it seems from the outside, like the amount of content that organizations like these magazines, like Entrepreneur are just making more and more content all the time. I don't understand how people keep up with that. Is that a reality or is that a perceived reality?
Jason Feifer 14:28
Define people in that statement because there's two kinds of people to keep up with the people who create it and then the people who consume it.
Jay Clouse 14:35
I mean, the writers themselves, it seems like the output is crazy.
Jason Feifer 14:39
Yes, their output is crazy. And I think that in some cases, it has gotten to dangerous levels. And by dangerous I mean, I know two people personally, who are committed journalists who understand all the good tenants of journalism, right? You know not making things up, not stealing other people's work but who worked at companies that had insane output quotas, where they were, they were insisting that their staffers post five times a day or some crazy thing. And I will tell you what will happen if you get even the most talented people and you make them post five times a day, they will move so fast that they will make mistakes, they will make embarrassing mistakes. And in this case, these two people both ended up, you know, I mean, they were accused of plagiarism and it was a whole big thing, because what were they doing? They were moving so fast that they were grabbing work from other things, they were trying to rewrite it and bandage, you know, actual copy and pasting just slipped into their work. And I don't blame them for that, I blame the company, you can't ask somebody to do that. So I think you know, you have what that shows is a number of things. I mean, one it is, as you go up the chain at these companies, it is a disconnect with what the actual product is and why anybody should care about it, right? It's, um, we make widget and we got to make more widgets, and they don't seem to care about the production of it or that consumers don't want widgets farted out, you know, in a in a rush, right? So so that's, I think that's a misunderstanding. And then two, I think it's a real fault of the economics of media, which which I think the economics of media are awful. And I think that everybody who works in media and most media consumers should be at a boiling rage at the media executives of a generation ago, and the ones who have thus far, and I guess, I guess, who took over at the beginning of this generation. And the reason you should be at a boiling rage at them is because they didn't do their jobs. This model that we're in, which now basically relies upon, like ad impressions, that model incentives. First of all, it's just like a is just a desperate hold on an old model that made a lot more sense when there was less competition in the marketplace. But now, what does that incentivize and incentivizes fast crap, and I don't I just fast crap isn't good for anybody. It's not good for consumers, it's not good for the bands that brands are created. So I predict that we've only seen the very beginning of a media die off, and that a lot of a lot of old brands will disappear, and a lot of new brands won't survive. And again, I think that's totally fine because what will rise in its place are companies and media executives who have smart new thinking in this space and will create economics that actually makes sense, and that actually incentivize good work, and we will all be better for it.
Jay Clouse 17:38
After a quick break, Jason and I talked about how the changing media landscape affects him. And a little bit later, we talk about the most important work that you can prioritize in your own creative career. So stick around, and we'll be right back.
Welcome back to my conversation with Jason Feifer. Before the break, Jason was talking about the changing landscape of traditional media companies, these media companies are incentivized to generate more traffic and clicks for ad dollars, which means higher output per writer, and often lower quality work. So I asked him how that affects him and the team that he leads at Entrepreneur as Editor in Chief.
Jason Feifer 18:15
I have this question that I like to ask of everything and that question is, what is it for? And you should ask that of everything that you do, what is it for? And make a podcast, what is it for? Wrote a book, what is it for? The brilliant thing about that question is that the answer will change and it should change. And your job is to be aware of when that answer changes. So let's take a look at media. Like I said before the economics of media worked one way and then it stopped the economics of media were that if you asked the question, what is content for and just for the record, I hate the word content, but there's like not a better alternative so content it is. And the reason I hate it is because content sounds like widgets, you know, and I think that we should be more more thoughtful and respectful about the work that we produce. But what is content for, the answer would have been that content is for monetizing. You create content, you run ads, next to that content and then you sell subscriptions to that content, content is for monetizing. And that made sense, right up until now. Now, I think that when you ask the question, what is content for, the answer can't be monetizing. I mean, we do monetize it, right? Entrepreneur monetizes content, every other publication monetizes content, we sell ads and in fact, actually, it's been a great time to sell ads against our content. Actually, we're in growth mode, which is fantastic. But, you know, what we should be mindful of is that the advertising game has changed significantly, that most publications are actually fighting over scraps because the majority of advertising revenue is going to Facebook and Google and that this is not a long term sustainable game by itself. And then also subscriptions, I mean you know, we still sell, we sell subscriptions people subscribe to these things, but not like they did in the 80s. You know, it's like it's not that's not coming back so what do we do? Well, I think that if you ask, what is content for, you get a different answer now and the answer is, content is for relationships, people trust you because of the content. Why does Red Bull pour a bunch of money into content? It is not because they are making a ton of money off of that content. But if you are into extreme sports then you better believe that Red Bull is the place that you go for your videos and your events, and your magazine and your readings and all that stuff. And then you trust Red Bull because of that content and you will buy what they're selling, which in this case, is an energy drink. So when you build trust through relationships then you can monetize that trust through products and services that people want to buy because they trust you because of the relationship. That's how media has to think and that is how we are starting to think in Entrepreneur. I mean, look, it's slow. It's slow growth because we're a company has been around for 40 something years, it built as a media company, everybody there is basically a media person, transforming yourself into a product company doesn't happen overnight. And you know, you don't want to do it so fast that you take the eye off the ball of what is currently making you money but that's the direction we have to go in. And that's the direction I think everybody has to go in, where you're, you're decreasing your reliance upon income through content and content instead serves another purpose. So that's how we think about it. And and that's how we did we drive our team and we have team members who are who are there just to produce content, and you know, or support that content and we want them to do a great job. But we also want them to be aware and they and they are perhaps painfully so that they are not sitting in the growth seat. You know that like, my team on the print magazine knows this team ain't getting bigger. There's no reason for it to even even though the magazine is growing, even though subscription, like like readership is growing, ad revenue is growing, that honestly there's just no reason to add like team members, we do a great job as it is. The company's additional resources should be put towards product development. It's just the way it is.
Jay Clouse 22:10
When did you start to think about creating your own content? When did you start thinking about I want to use my voice outside of the publication with which I'm currently aligned?
Jason Feifer 22:19
I did a little of it earlier in my career. I started as a blogger, I mean, I was blogging in high school before the word blog existed. Shout out to anybody who knows what members.aol.com is because that's what I was doing. And then I continued always creating stuff on the internet. But I didn't really know what my voice was, for a long time my voice was just like, I'm gonna show you funny stuff, you know, and and then a little later, when I was in my 20s or 30s or something, I started to create a couple things that went viral. There were these Tumblr back when single topic tumblrs were a big thing. I had a couple that were like, super viral and you know people wouldn't. Sweet interviews,
Jay Clouse 22:56
What were the topics?
Jason Feifer 22:57
Jay Clouse 22:57
I got it, I got to know the topics.
Jason Feifer 22:59
So they were all they're all on a theme. So the first one was selfies at serious places, which was just a collection of selfies that I'd found that people have taken at like the Holocaust Memorial, and you know, the 911 Memorial and and then the next one, and this was the one that like blew the doors off the place was selfies at funerals. So selfies of funerals was odd thing like self, I literally I, I like hit publish on selfies at funerals. And then I and then I walked away from my computer. And when I came back businessinsider had already written about selfies of funerals and it was just to the moon from there. Like I mean, Weird Al Yankovic referencing in a song as a song. It just, it was just nothing I've ever seen. I was fielding interview requests for months, from giant publications around the world about selfies at funerals. And I, you know, like I ended up in books about about youth culture, at least obviously, funerals was a real thing. And it was he was one it was like, top 10 like Tumblr put out a top 10 of God knows what this was, 2013 Top 10 you know, tumblers of that year and stuff funerals was on it. And then and then I had a follow up, which was a little darker than I intended it to be selfies with homeless people and it's exactly what it sounds like. And so anyway, that was it. But then I became this this guy that people would call to ask about youth culture or to ask about selfies. And you know, I saw and I people people sometimes ask me, like, why aren't you writing a book? And the answer was, I don't want to be the selfie guy. You know, like that, first of all, that's really short lived, like selfies are stupid. And not not and by selfies are stupid, I don't mean taking a photo of yourself as stupid. That's fine, that's great, I do that all the time. I did it 10 minutes before we hopped on this call. The reason I say selfies is stupid is because at that time 2013 whatever it was, people were treating selfies as if it was a new thing. We have a real problem and that is and when I say we I mean royal we everybody we have a problem and that problem is that we treat old things as if they are new. We have absolutely no context for anything that we're experiencing. And so when something comes along, we're like, oh, my God, that's brand new. How could this impact everything, is this gonna have negative consequences on our world and on our jet, and as a guy's, for real, the second that people invented cameras, the second that they did that they started turning it around and taking photos of themselves, they didn't have the word selfie but they were doing the exact same thing. So the only thing new here is the word selfie. Otherwise, literally, everything else is the same. So when you treat old things as new, you cannot identify what is real. And if there is a problem associated with that, of which there sometimes is like, you know, if we're going to talk about like tech addiction and stuff like that, which is completely made up, then then it's impossible to identify a solution to a problem if you can't understand the problem in the first place, because you're treating something old is new. So I drove me crazy, actually, as people would call up. What is selfies mean for this generation, is this generation so so entitled and so self focused? That they're constantly you just can't stop taking photos of themselves? And like, you, asshole, you took photos of yourself, too. It's just that it was on camera film, and it took three weeks to see but you did the same thing. So anyway, that did that stuff drove me crazy. I didn't want to be known as the selfie guy. I didn't want to engage with that anymore. So the actual answer to your question is that it came when I was Editor in Chief of Entrepreneur Magazine like that, that was really it. That was when people started asking me for interviews and they started treating me as if I was a thought leader in a category. And I had never experienced that before. And I had no idea how to handle it. And it took me years to figure it out.
Jay Clouse 26:37
Tell me more about that. So they were coming to you because they said because of the position and the magazine itself. You're at this nexus of like, I work with entrepreneurs, but also I'm at like the peak of what it means to be running an editorial team at a media organization.
Jason Feifer 26:51
Jay Clouse 26:52
What types of things were they coming to you to learn at that time?
Jason Feifer 26:56
Well, what it started as was people having me on their podcast, or having the on stage or whatever. And they would always introduce me some version of this, they would say, we're so excited, we got Jason Feifer here, a thought leader in Entrepreneurship and he's going to tell us everything that's going on in the world of Entrepreneurship. And I would say, hold on a second, I am not a thought leader in Entrepreneurship. I actually just a journalist, who now has this job, where I run an Entrepreneur Magazine and I don't even have a business background. Actually, I you know, it was like, I was just I didn't know what I was doing but I was very concerned about this phrasing and this positioning. And it was like, falling downstairs, right? It was just it was awful. It was I didn't know what I was ruining the reason they were having me on the show. And I didn't really know why I was doing it and I was just deeply uncomfortable. And, and then they would always reel it back in. They said, well, we think of you as a thought leader because and I eventually I told my wife about this problem. And she gave me the foundational piece of advice for this phase in my career and that was if they want you to be a thought leader then be a thought leader. And I realized that the only difference between a thought leader and not a thought leader is that the thought leaders willing to call themselves a thought leader literally at the only difference and so I needed to create a vocabulary. If I wanted to, I didn't need to, right? This is this is actually I say that as if it's a foregone conclusion, but it's not. I was at a moment of reconsidering, which I've done throughout my career, I've always, I've always kind of gotten somewhere and then thought, okay, well, now what's the opportunity? Because the opportunity is not what you just tried to get the opportunity, it's like the next thing. And so here I am, I'd always wanted to be Editor in Chief of a magazine, I didn't know that I was actually going to get there but I always wanted and I got it. And now, here I am realizing, wait a second, I think there's a bigger opportunity here, which is not to say that I'm ready to piece out of Entrepreneur, Entrepreneur's great, it's great role. But what else is available to me right now that I'm not aware of it seems to be somehow behind this door, where people want me to walk into you, but I have literally no idea how to do it and so I had a choice. I could just I could just be an editor, which a lot of my peers are I mean, I I have, you know, I've been in this industry long enough. I have friends now who are also editor who are like AI sees other magazines, or at least very senior, no number twos. And most of them are just editors, you know, they do the job. They shop, they make good product, they work with writers, they're very satisfied but it's not how I'm built. I'm built to figure out what, what's next? And I've always really liked being front and center, but I didn't really know why I would be front and center or why is anybody to listen to me except for selfies and I don't want to talk about that. And so I went through a years long process of testing, putting ideas out there, being uncomfortable, getting on stage. testing out keynotes, figuring out how to give a keynote first of all, and then testing things out, listening to the likes of Gary Vee and Tim Ferriss, and with an analytical eye towards, like, what are they doing? Why are they doing it? Why is their audience responding the way they respond. And then, of course, I have the added benefit of because I'm Editor in Chief Entrepreneur Magazine, like, I also get to know Gary and Tim, right, which I have. And so I got to ask them and what I eventually came to was a understanding of what I could be to people, and also what I wanted to be to people and like, what what is the intersection of that? To me, you know, I mean, it took a long time to figure out, and I would never say that I have figured it out in full. But I've gotten to a place I'm pretty comfortable with and excited about, and where I found a lot of new opportunities. And it's validating that if you push yourself into the darkness, there is light.
Jay Clouse 30:55
I would assume that when you first took this job and you're just starting to get these opportunities.
Jason Feifer 31:00
Jay Clouse 31:00
This would have been also similar to what the previous editor in chief was probably experiencing. Did you have any anticipation that you will start to get these opportunities by virtue of the position?
Jason Feifer 31:10
No, no, the previous Editor in Chief did and I've never, I've never asked her about this. Her name is Amy. Amy did a ton of international speaking. She was constantly flying to Europe, to speak at these conferences in Norway or whatever. And I never really understood why she was doing that. And I had asked her at the time, why she was doing that. And she said it was because there's such an entrepreneurial energy out there. And the brand wants to expand in that direction. And you know, later I found out that there hasn't there wasn't really discovered. So, so I think I mean, honestly, I think that the answer was that she just wanted a bunch of European vacations and that's cool because that's you can do that. I mean, I was literally I was literally just this past weekend, I got together with my old boss at Men's Health, who he was the editor of men's health. And we were talking about this a little bit and he he said he was like, you know, back in back in his day, when the money when the money was just rolling, he like the benefit to him of being editor was that he could just assign himself whatever stories he wanted so he would assign himself these crazy stories where he would go travel. And I think for a lot of people, that's just that's really exciting, right? You just have you have a passport to the world. And by for one reason or another, whether you're writing about it or you speaking, you can go do it. But neither that guy, his name is Peter, or Amy did the thing that I'm doing, which is the personal brand thing. So no, nobody told me about it and I had no model for it, I've never seen it. And every other magazine that I worked out, the editor in chief did not do that. And so I just, it was like an onion. I mean, I just sort of kept peeling it back until I figured out what was what was there. So nobody no, no, no, nobody could nobody explained it to me at all. Maybe that's why it took years to figure it out.
Jay Clouse 32:57
Well, the reason I ask is I think a lot of people listening the show can probably relate to, well, I'm in a job. And that job is aligned with where I want to go personally. And I might have some new opportunities coming my way because of the virtue of being in this job. And there's there's a natural tension that comes up whether it's necessary or not, or people are like, should I take this and to what degree, you know, because on some hands like this actually benefits the company.
Jason Feifer 33:25
Jay Clouse 33:26
Me going to in the same, benefits the company.
Jason Feifer 33:28
Jay Clouse 33:28
But it's hard to know where that threshold is sometimes and I'm curious how you wrestle with that.
Jason Feifer 33:34
I'll make it I'll make it super simple for you. I have a philosophy, it's called Work Your Next Job and it goes like this. In front of you, in front of me, in front of everybody listening, right now, you have two sets of opportunities, opportunity set A, opportunity set B. Opportunities set A is everything that's asked of you, you go to a job, you have KPIs, key performance indicators, you got you got tasks that your boss is going to evaluate you on oppotunities set A, do a good job. And then there's opportunity set B and that's everything that's available to you that nobody's asking you to do. And that could be at your job, where there are products or programs or departments or whatever that you could work on that nobody's asking you to do but you could do it or it could be outside of your job. Like when I borrowed a cheap microphone and taught myself how to podcast, nobody was asking me to do that I did it on my own at home. I am going to tell you this, to make it very simple. Opportunity set B is more important. It just is, just straight up, it's more important, always more important.
Jay Clouse 34:33
To you, the company, the world?
Jason Feifer 34:36
Well it's certainly more more important to you the person building a career. If you're the person building a career, you the person listening to me right now in front of you is opportunity set A and opportunities at B and you're trying to figure out what to spend your time with. I am telling you opportunities set B is more important. I would put my life savings on it, it's more important. And the reason for that is because doing a good job at opportunity set A only makes you qualified to do that thing you're already doing. But opportunity set B is where growth is. And if you want to figure out what's next, even if you have no idea what's next, then you focus on opportunity set B. What is it going to be for you? I don't know, figure it out, try some things, experiment, not everything is going to work. I have taught myself how to do things that are completely useless. And I've taught myself things that seemed like hobbies for a little bit and then suddenly turned into something else. And you know, this is again, go back to the question, what is it for? Ask yourself that all the time, what is it for, what is it for? It's for different things as it goes, I mean, this is not to say that I'm not suggesting that you say, screw work opportunities set B dead I'm going to show up for work, I'm not going to do anything. Obviously, you need to satisfy opportunities set A so that you maintain your job or whatever it is that you need to do so that you can work on opportunities set B but you know, you don't need to spend all your time on opportunity set A, I never have. And that's not to say, you know, you made this point that that it can benefit your company, and it can. And that's and that's why this is so great. I mean, look at the amount of time that I spend making podcasts and speaking on stage and you know, like, speak on stage is a great example, people hire me and pay me a really nice amount of money to go travel to their event and stand on stage stage for 45 minutes, and say a thing that I've already said before and then leave, I just, it's crazy, it's ridiculous. And you could say, well, that just benefits Jason because that money goes in my pocket but that is not true. That benefits Entrepreneur as well. Why? Well, because I'm a great representative of the brand and so when I show up, people feel really good about the brand, also, because the brand can send me out to, so the brand can get paid and then by the brand's partners, and then send me out and all those speak at their events and I'm really good at it. Why am I really good at it? Because I spent all this time doing it and getting paid myself, that's why. So the more that you develop these skills, the more that it can be valuable for your employee to employ your two and that's great. But do not trap yourself into just doing the things that are asked of you. Spend less time on those things and shift some of that time and attention. I guarantee that you can do it. Shift that time and attention to something something else, you ever heard of Parkinson's Law, you know Parkinson's law is?
Jay Clouse 37:17
Jason Feifer 37:18
Well, you want to say what it is?
Jay Clouse 37:20
You gonna test me?
Jason Feifer 37:21
Jay Clouse 37:21
It is that things expand to fill the amount of space that you give it.
Jason Feifer 37:24
There it is, that's right, that's right work expands to fit the allotted time. So this is to say that if you give yourself a month to do something, it'll take a month, if you give yourself two days to do it, it'll take two days, it just will. So give yourself less time, give yourself less time, show up at work and say I'm gonna spend 75% of my time on the tasks required and you're gonna get it done just telling you are and then take that 25% do something else with it.
Jay Clouse 37:45
I'm so glad I had that memorized and I didn't just make a fool of myself.
Jason Feifer 37:48
That was very good.
Jay Clouse 37:50
When we come back, Jason and I talked about how he prioritizes his time and personal creative projects while working full time as Editor in Chief, right after this.
Hey, welcome back. When I first met Jason, I met him under the context of Entrepreneur Magazine. But the more I learned about Jason, I started to find his podcasts, his books, his social media, saw that he did public speaking so it was such a demanding full time role. I had to know how he manages to juggle all of his own creative projects.
Jason Feifer 38:21
So I do not do a perfect job at it. Lesson number one is that's okay. It's just okay, it's not perfect. Lesson number two is I think that you need to start by reevaluating not just the time that you think you have free but all of your time. Sometimes when people take on a new project, they say, oh well, let's see I mean, I'm at work from nine to five and then I get the kids and then there's a bachelor that I really like. And it's like, you're like, well, I guess I have half an hour. What do I do with half an hour? Doesn't work like that. Evaluate all the time that you have. How can you rearrange all the time you have, by by doing things differently? By discovering that some of the things that you're doing, you're doing too slow or it's not all that necessary. By starting to carve out time that's valuable for you and then holding firm to that, I'll give you an example. I discovered that I think fastest in the morning, 9AM to like 11AM that is my fastest time. I write the fastest, I think the fastest. If I have a problem and I can't figure out how to solve it at 5PM I guarantee you I can solve it at 9AM the next morning. And so how do I knowing that about myself maximize my time? Well, here's the answer. I have a lot of things that I got to write. I have a book that I'm towards the very end of writing right now. I got all these podcast scripts that I got to write. I got, you know, these other projects that I got into television development, some other crazy things and so how do I do this? And the answer is, I need that time to write for me, like 9:00 to 10:30, 10:30, 11:00, if I can get it, that's my writing time. And that's because I'm going to use my, my fastest brain on my on the products that I need to move fastest on. And at first, I was nervous about that, because I was like, okay, well, that's my writing time but then what happens when somebody internally asks me if they if I can meet at that time? And then I realized the shocking but simple answer. And the answer is, I say, no, I cannot meet at that time. And you know what, you know what they do? They say, okay, well, can you meet at this other time? Yes, that time I can, 1PM no problem, just can't do it from 9 to 11, can't do it. And that's how I do it. So you know, you understand yourself, set boundaries, reclaim some time for yourself, understand that it's not going to be perfect it's going to be sloppy. I miss things, it's a mess. There are some nights where I'm just like catching up on email till 11PM but it's worth it. And I'll give you one more thing, which is that I started to see time I started to evaluate time in terms of outcome. So ask yourself this question next time you have an hour free. What would I like to say I did with this hour a month from now because here's some things, I could say, I watched that basketball game, I'm a big basketball fan. I could say I read those tweets, I like reading tweets sometimes. Or I could say, listen to the next episode of my podcast and to me listen to the next, the next episode of my podcast far more compelling. So this means that I got to make some hard decisions, I got to stop spending as much time on Twitter and I got to stop watching basketball, or at least stop watching as much basketball as I used to and that's okay. And that doesn't mean by the way that you have to work nonstop because there are other outcomes that are valuable because sometimes it's I had a wonderful time with my friends and it created strong bonds that that are meaningful to me. I went out to dinner with my wife and it was great, and we feel and re-energized. I spent time with my kids and that was, right? Outcome doesn't have to just be work but if you think of time in terms of outcome, you start to really think about how you spend your time.
Jay Clouse 42:05
Did you just offhand say that you got into developing a TV show?
Jason Feifer 42:08
A couple of them, yeah, I mean, you know, that doesn't mean that the TV shows will actually make it to air. It's like, television is like a lottery ticket, you know, you get yourself attached to a television show and then 95,000 times out of 95,001 times it's not going to make it to air. But if it does, it's great. So yes, I have been I'm attached as an executive producer on a couple shows and we were talking about a couple more.
Jay Clouse 42:32
Of that, okay, so this is a very clear, like, opportunity set B right?
Jason Feifer 42:35
Jay Clouse 42:36
As you look at the direction you're rowing, what's the next aspiration? Because I think for people who were building their own brand, often it's kind of like, to what end? Do you have any type of like end?
Jason Feifer 42:48
Yeah, I mean, I do and I don't. So I, I'm a big believer in having a plan and having a plan to abandon the plan. And so I have an idea but I don't know, that idea could change. But what am I thinking about right now, what I'm thinking about right now, is that true many people still think of me as the Editor in Chief of Entrepreneur Magazine. And what I would like is for them to think of me and then for Editor in Chief of Entrepreneur Magazine to be one of the things that I do. So you know, that's the goal, right? Like, I'm putting things out in the world, I'm putting them out under a brand name, which is built for tomorrow, that's a podcast, that's a newsletter, that's going to be a book. And goal number one is to is to kind of create that awareness of myself as an independent entity, which is not to say that I'm like, trying to get out the door at Entrepreneur, I love being at Entrepreneur. But I think that anybody smart in my role would also be thinking the same thing. Like you look, you could either be defined by something you own or be defined by something you don't own. And why would you be defined by something you don't own? So I want to do a great, great, great, great job for Entrepreneur but I you know, I want to make sure that that's not the only way that people know me. And then you know, I have a production company. I mean, it's called Heyfeifer Productions and right now Heyfeifer Productions produces books, podcasts, TV production and and a newsletter. And the goal is ultimately to continue to grow media products. Oh, and I do some startup advising that also goes in and then you know, see where that takes me.
Jay Clouse 44:19
Build for Tomorrow used to be called the Pessimist's Archive.
Jason Feifer 44:22
Jay Clouse 44:23
The podcast, when did you make that rebrand?
Jason Feifer 44:25
Ah, January of 2021, I think? Pretty recent.
Jay Clouse 44:30
Okay, pretty recently and the first episode was in 2016.
Jason Feifer 44:34
Jay Clouse 44:34
So what the show is incredible
Jason Feifer 44:36
Jay Clouse 44:36
From a production standpoint, everything. And something that is interesting to me is that you publish once a month right now and in the past you have done once every two months at a couple times it looks like.
Jason Feifer 44:46
Yeah, sometimes even once every three months.
Jay Clouse 44:48
And yet the show has almost 505 star ratings on Apple podcasts, which is just incredible ratio for a show with 42 episodes. So I would love to, we've done you know a little bit of podcasting streak here on on the channel. And I would love to hear, you know, an argument for more considered high production less frequent episodes. And you know how you think people should consider that if they're getting into podcasting?
Jason Feifer 45:14
Sure. So it's a wonderful question. It starts with the question that I have raised a couple times. What is it for? What is Build for Tomorrow, the podcast for? Well, I'll tell you what it's not for, what it's not for is making money off of advertising. Because to make money off of advertising, you got to have big, big numbers. And we have we have good numbers, like, I'm actually very proud of the audience. And then you have to be releasing very regularly, right? Because if you have, if you have 50,000 listeners of a podcast well, in a month, if you release one episode, you got 50,000 ad impressions. But if you release four times, you just quadruple that and that's a lot more ads. And this is the reason why people are putting out weekly shows or sometimes daily shows. So so I have made a conscious decision. This show is not for making money off of advertising. And why is it not for making money off of advertising? Well, the reason is because I want to make a really unique show. I mean, for people who haven't heard it, it's a little hard to explain, I've actually struggled over the years to figure out how to explain it. But most recently, I've been calling it a show about the things that shape us and how we can shape the future.
This is Built for Tomorrow, a podcast about the unexpected things that shape us and how we can shape the future. I'm Jason Feifer and in each episode, I take something that seems concerning or confusing today and figure out where it came from, what important things were missing and how to move forward.
And the idea is to investigate our concerns, or experiences about change, and what might hold us back from embracing new opportunities, and then dig into them to understand where things come from, what are the history of some things that we think of as new but are actually quite old? And what can that teach us about the things that we're worried about today? And that sounds super lofty, but it's not. It means that I do an episode for example, about participation trophies, where you know, the argument oh, the kids today, they all get participation trophies at youth sports. And that teaches them that they don't have to work hard. And that turns out that if you actually look at the history of participation trophies, which I did, what you find is that participation trophies have been around for 100 years, they have been around since the 1920s. And so everybody who is like, oh, those kids today, they also got participation trophies, and they just don't remember it because of course, it wasn't that important. And this is important to understand, not because it's just ridiculous, although it is ridiculous, but also because it shows us and this is this is often a lesson that comes out of the show is like it shows us how we tend to simplify our own narrative and a really not constructive way. And I think that it's better to understand where things are actually coming from I referenced earlier, technology addiction, which is a thing that you'll hear lots of people say like Josh, Senator Josh Hawley will talk about technology addiction, over and over and over again. But the truth of it if you actually talk to and people feel it's true, feels it's true. I'm addicted to my phone and if you actually talk to addiction researchers, which I do, instead of just talking to tech critics who talked to addiction researchers, they will tell you no, like the the research that's out there that claims that people are addicted 46% of kids college students are addicted to the internet, that the methodology of those studies is just absolute garbage, like the most ridiculous nonsense garbage, basically the taking questions to evaluate substance abuse, and then they just swapped out the word alcohol for the word like email. It doesn't work, doesn't make sense, too many variables. So anyway, no, we're not addicted to our, to our to our phones, we might overuse them but overuse and addiction are two completely different things and overuse is something that you have control over. I wanted to make a show that felt like the absolute summary of my abilities, like what would happen if I gave myself a ton of time, dug into a subject threw everything I had at it in both terms of recording, like reporting, and also writing ability and presentation ability and just made a thing that I don't think anybody else could make. What would that look like? Well, the answer is it would look like a show that takes one month to make an episode. And, and like I know it, you know, it could take less if I didn't have other things to do, right? If if if if Entrepreneur lays me off tomorrow, then I guess I have more time to work on that podcast, but but right now, that's what I have. And I decided that what was more important was making a damn good show and that it would find its audience and it would grow slower. But the people that it would find would would get it and really love it. And that they would probably include a lot of high profile people, which is the case I mean, I have major names in tech M and policy and academia who are listening to the show and emailing me about it. And now what is it for? What's the answer to what is the what is it for? Well, the answer is it's an IP factory, that's what it is. It's an IP factory, it enables me to dive deep into subjects that nobody else is doing, which gives me amazing fodder when people interview me, it makes for great material when I'm speaking on stage. And I and the book that I'm working on was inspired by the podcast and all of that stuff is great. So if the podcast never makes me more than, you know, a couple peanuts and I do I sell advertising into it, and you know, it's fine to make some money off of it. But I actually just take all that money, I spend it on advertising the show and then I've done my job so that's what that's what it's for. And, and, you know, again, you asked me about time management, I want one of the things that's really important to me is being okay with the limitations that I have. Not fighting is so I'm not saying something's not worth doing because of the limitations just being okay with the limitations that I have. And in this case, limitation is I can't make the show faster than once a month. I could make a different show faster. I could I could make a less complicated show. But why would I want to do that, when the goal of this show, the reason that I'm doing it is to be an IP factory and to attract high profile people and to make something that is just a centerpiece of my abilities. So you know what, it comes out once a month and that's that.
Jay Clouse 51:15
Man, that is so good. I haven't heard that articulation as an argument for like, why to spend extra time on the quality of something so well, like it's attracting really interesting high profile people. It's giving you a ton of IP that you can repurpose and these different different formats. Damn, you are making me rethink everything, my friend. Well, something else you just mentioned, you know, the other fear that I think people have if they were starting a podcast and they wanted to make something that was so good and might take a month is what if I then I'm shouting into the void. Yeah, like, how did you how did you start to get an audience? And how do you think about marketing that show today?
Jason Feifer 51:50
Well, the way that I started and this is why it was called pessimists archive. When I started is that I launched a podcast, in association with a popular Twitter feed which is called pessimists archive. I didn't create pessimists archive, the Twitter feed, but I found it, I loved it, it was exactly in line with things that I was interested in, which is understanding why people feared things that today we think of as common place, like, why were people saying that bicycles were gonna make us insane? And why are they saying that novels are gonna make women infertile, which I sell that stuff and more. And so I reached out to the creator whose name is Louie and I said, hey, love what you're doing. I, I have written on similar subjects maybe there's some way to collaborate, we ultimately decided to do a podcast, which I've been thinking about doing a podcast about the subject anyway. So now we have built an audience, right? I mean, like, that's how Marc Andreessen of Andreessen Horowitz was like one of our earliest listeners to the show because he followed the Twitter feed. So it had some kind of built in audience and I was able to reach them. And then you know, over time, my interest in the show evolved and and Louie's interest in this in the Twitter feed of all that. And, you know, at some point, I just sort of stopped making sense for these two things to share the same name and so we we parted ways, very amicably. But that gave me a starting point, what I would suggest for for anybody who's starting out is to follow a similar model but it doesn't have to be that at all, which is to say, identify a community, right? Identify a community, in that case, it was a community that was actually built by this Twitter feed and it was this following, but it doesn't have to be that Who are you able to serve in a way that nobody else is serving? And what community is going to be excited for you? How can you reach them? And will they tell other people about it? Yeah, I was recently talking with this bestselling author about how to write books that are going to sell well. And he said, one of the most important things are what a two two the most important things about writing books, which I think is true for making any kind of media is number one, you have to answer a question people are already asking. And then number two, you have to establish yourself as an unimpeachable expert to answer this question. That is the reason to go identify a community, right? If you find a community, then you're finding a community of people who are kind of asking a question and if you have the answer to that question, well, then they are going to like you. And if you are an unimpeachable expert, and where you can frame yourself as such, you can be trustworthy, then they're gonna keep coming back.
Jay Clouse 54:22
Talk about a busy guy, writing multiple books, creating a great independent podcast in all while working full time in a highly competitive leadership position. Jason's output is simply incredible. And Jason shared two ideas in this episode that I think are really really great pieces of advice to highlight. The first was opportunity set A versus opportunities set B. He was adamant that if you want to get ahead in your career, you need to carve out enough time to focus on opportunity set B and I couldn't agree more. I do it each and every week with this show. The second idea that I can't get out of my head was his reference to Build for Tomorrow as an IP factory, this is such a compelling answer to Jason's question of what is it for, he puts extra time and attention into each and every episode, not because the show is going to make him wealthy from advertisements but because the process forces him to create great content that can be repurposed and leveraged in different ways all across his creative platform. It's an incredible way to think about a process that is time and thought intensive but doesn't pay immediate or direct financial dividends. If you will learn more about Jason, you can visit his website jasonfeifer.com or on social media @heyfiefer and if you want to listen to Build for Tomorrow, which I recommend, you can find that show right here in your favorite podcast player. Links to all are in the show notes. Thanks to Jason for being on the show. 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 like this episode, you can tweet @jayclouse and let me know if you really want to say thank you, please leave a review on Apple podcasts. Thanks for listening and I'll talk to you next week.
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