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My guest today is a true renaissance man who has lived a life of both curiosity and influence. Hank Green started making YouTube videos way back in 2007 — you might recognize him from VlogBrothers, which he hosts with his famous author brother John — and now he runs an educational media company with multiple online channels, over 10 million subscribers, and more than 2 billion total views.

Hank is also an entrepreneur who founded VidCon among other highly-successful enterprises, as well as a podcaster and a #1 New York Times Best-Selling Author. His new novel, A Beautifully Foolish Endeavor, is coming out this July, which is a sequel to his debut novel, An Absolutely Remarkable Thing.

Honestly, this was one of the most surprising and wide-ranging interviews I’ve done in a while. Hank’s brain really works on another level, and I’m so excited to share this conversation with you. If you find value in Hank’s wisdom (which I know you will!), make sure you share it as well with someone who needs to hear it!

Join me on Episode 973 to learn about creativity, curiosity, and cultivating mass influence with internet guru Hank Green.
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Hank: I really think that creativity requires a lot of fuel and peoples' fuels come from very different places, but I think it's really powerful to identify what thing is gonna drive you the most, because you need drive.


Lewis: Welcome everyone back to The School of Greatness.  I'm super excited about our guest today.  Hank Green is here, he's a famous YouTuber, podcaster, extremely successful entrepreneur, educator, number one NYT bestselling author, and he's got a new book coming out really soon, which I'm excited to talk about and the book is actually all about how we devote our attention and spend our time in the modern world in kind of a new attention economy is defined by Google and Facebook and social media applications, and I wanted to ask you to start, why is attention the most valuable thing in the word, 'cause I think this is a--what everyone wants right now is more attention, more likes, more followers, more people looking at their content, looking at their businesses.  Why is this so valuable?

H:  Well, I think there is a really objective reason and that is that it's the most finite resource.  There's, you know, ultimately, maybe there's a bunch of gold on the asteroids and we'll be able to find that and there will be way more gold and like, the price of gold will drop, but really, the thing that there is only so much of is our own human lives and how, like, how I spend my attention, whether that's on my work on whether it's on someone else's work, or like something that I'm like, loving and enjoying, like, that's really the only choice I have.  It's the only thing I do, and a lot of my attention is spent internally.  It's my brain sort of like, monitoring and conversing with itself, but a lot of it is external and we kind of let our attention, you know, allow it to be hacked in a lot of different ways by creators like ourselves, but also by platforms--

L: Right.

H: --and I'm very aware, as a person who makes content and like, my job is often to capture someone's attention and hold on it to for as long as I can, whether I'm trying to teach them something or just make them laugh, like, there's a bit of a science to it, and it's work and it's hard and it's interesting and it's a great nut to crack, but like, it is--especially if we actually head into this future that a lot of, you know, futurists kind of predict where there's a lot of abundance in terms of like, food is very cheap and housing is very cheap, and like, we sort of get there.  The thing that we will not make any more of is just, is the time in peoples' lives.  You know, we can make more of that by making more people and by making them live longer, but like, to some extent, that's a finite resource.  It's also very clear that what we care about is often not attention specifically, it is attention of the people that we sort of consider to be part of our in-group, our culture.  Like, I don't spend a lot of time thinking about the attention of people in, you know, India, despite the fact that like, my content actually reaches a lot of people in India.

L: Yeah, yeah.

H: I just don't think about it and so like, that--that, you know, it seems like it's objective and there's a really objective story to tell about it, but it also has this element of subjectivity to it.  The other reason is that you can do things with attention.  You really, it's getting harder and harder to turn money into attention.  We're watching this with a lot of people who are trying to like, launch platforms and, you know--

L: Like Quibi.  

H: Quibi.

L: Is like, spending so much money, but then--

H: Yeah, so much.

L: (?~3:54) couple million subscribers, right, and people aren't sticking and they had the best content, but it's--something's not working.

H: Yeah, they got all--they did the traditional media thing where you get the famous people and you spend money marketing it and it didn't work, so it's--

L: Why is that?

H: Oh, why is that?  

L: Well, let's not talk about that, let's talk about why is it harder and harder to monetize attention, even when you have seemingly the best things lined up to grab attention.

H: Yeah, so that's like spending money to try and get attention, and we know how it works now.  It's not a mystery anymore.  We are very aware of the ways, more and more, every person is becoming more aware of the ways in which our attention is like, being attempted to be captured and we are really wary of it, and we are, and we know when it seems fake, you know.  If like, you're paying Rachel Brosnahan to say something nice about something, I can tell the difference when she's being paid versus when she's actually excited.  

L: Right.

H: And I just picked a name out of a hat there, I haven't actually seen--

L: Is that the actress from--

H: Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, yes.

L: Yeah.  I actually loved her in House of Cards.

H: Yeah, yeah.

L: I don't know if you remember watching that from the early, early seasons.

H: Yeah, early on in that series, yeah.

L: Interesting.  So you're saying you can tell the difference between someone giving an authentic--when they just say, you know, I'm not being sponsored by this product, but I just love this so much, I wanted to share it on my Instagram story, that probably does better than someone sitting there all professionally like, check out this product that so-and-so, I'm really excited.

H: Yeah, people are super aware of it.  They like, we're really culturally sensitive to authenticity now.  That's sort of the word that we use and I'm not entirely clear on what that word actually means, but 'I'll have a kind of good idea that--but it is always, it remains fairly easy to turn attention into money, and that's actually getting easier, and so if you can ha--like, if you can build up the capturing of attention, the sort of relationship with an audience and actually provide them with value and they trust you, then there are ways to, you know, like, even if money is the goal, there are ways to turn that into money, but ultimately I think that money doesn't need to be the goal, because I think that there are lots of values to having that attention that aren't money, like--

L: What's the goal?

H: You could be shifting the world in a way that you prefer.  I mean, I think that this is ultimately why we want money, you know, it's to create a world that you prefer and--

L: An environment to create a experience that you enjoy more with things or places or--

H: Yeah, and that might be--yeah, it might be shoes, it might be charity.  

L: Yeah.

H: Like, this is a thing that people, like, we do a lot of charity projects and people are always like, Hank and John are such good folks, and I'm like, I'm just buying the world I would prefer.  It's the exact same as a new shirt.  

L: Yeah.

H: I just would prefer a world in which fewer moms die.  

L: Because that world brings you more joy, more happy moments.

H: Yeah, and I think it's a more stable world for like, the future and for my children and--child, I only have one child--not children.  Yeah, and it--that is actually, to some extent, easier to do with attention and that's why they call people who have our jobs, sometimes they call us "influencers", because what we actually do is like, we can affect things and that's what attention can do.  You know, and I think that attention along with like, the capability for good storytelling, which it's kind of hard to have our jobs if we aren't able to sort of capture, like, ideas into good stories.

L: Yeah.  What's the difference between attention and time?  

H: That's--that's a great one.  That's a great one!  Yeah.  I talk a lot about um, the--in the first book, I talk a lot about this sort of two qualities of fame.  There's the number of people who know who you are, and then there's the level of devotion that they have to you, so like--

L: So breadth versus depth?

H: Yeah, yeah, so there's the cult leader who has like, 20 people who like, think he's God, and then there's David Schwimmer, who like, everybody knows who David Schwimmer is, but there's no like, David Schwimmer fan club.  I've picked on David Schwimmer--

L: Maybe there is a (?~8:18) somewhere, but it's not--

H: Somewhere, yeah, yeah, not the biggest group of people and that's sort of, to me, a similar thing whereas, like, time doesn't matter if the attention is being divided between five different things, so that's just a math problem.  Like, if I'm playing, you know, if I'm looking at TikTok while watching a TV show, then like, neither of those things are really getting my attention and a lot of my attention is sort of being poorly spent because I'm just like, refreshing my TIkToks to see how well they're doing, isn't giving me--oh, did I just hit a nerve there?

L: Oh, no, I'm just laughing 'cause I can see myself doing this and other people doing this, yeah.

H: Yeah, yeah.  Like, that' attention isn't being spent on anything useful, but it is distracting me from something that might be a good source for my attention, so attention is actually when like, the mental activity is being devoted to something that--devoted to the thing that you are actually spending time doing.

L: So attention is devotion.  Time is--

H: It's like a--it's like, you know, it's like acceleration.  Like, you have to both of them, you know, you have to have the movement and the mass.

L: They're both--but I'm hearing you say they're both limited resources, right?  'Cause you said attention is kinda the main limited resource.

H: Yeah, well, time is ultimately the limited resource because we're all gonna die and we only have so much of it to spend, but we can be paying less or more attention during every moment of our lives.  Like, right now, I'm paying a ton of attention because I'm trying to seem interesting and I'm trying to really listen to you and also understand what I'm saying, and now I'm like, doing that at a meta level so I'm getting confused, and whereas a lot of my day I spend time but I don't spend a lot of attention, and--

L: Interesting.

H: And I sort of--

L: What does that mean?  You spend time but you don't spend attention?

H: Because I maybe, like, there may be a lot of inward stuff going on, or things that I'm trying to distract myself from or that I'm trying to find something interesting, and this is the sensation of--that we all know, of wanting ot be on Twitter but not enjoying being on Twitter, or whatever the equivalent of that is.  

L: Sure, sure.

H: And we're sort of like, searching for the next thing that will make me, like, have a sensation, that, like, sensation-seeking, and that attention is not being spent well.  The value of that attention is not converting to, yeah, the attention is not converting to value.

L: Right.  What do you think is the danger of monetizing attention then?

H: Um, well, I guess there's two different ways to think about that.   So as a creator, I'm--the first thought I had was monetizing that attention meaning monetizing the attention that I have been given by people.  So they've given me a certain amount of their time and their respect and I think that there's a huge danger in monetizing that in ways that are--that I don't believe in or that I don't--and I think this is a big balance with influencers, which is a word I hate, but when we're talking sort of in the marketing world, that's what we're called.

L: Sure.  

H: That you need to find the things that are actually going to help the people that are your people and not the things that are, you know, like, ulti--like, either of us could start a pyramid scheme and make a bunch of money, right?  And like, we might eventually go to prison, but probably we just would lose all our credibility.

L: Yes.

H: That would most likely--but like, we'd--along the path of losing our credibility, we'd probably make a bunch of money.

L: Right.

H: And, but like, you don't want to do that because, well, one, money isn't the thing anymore and I think people are more and more aware of that.  Two, there are actually ways to help people and make money at the same time, and for me, you know, and I think, like I know that you're the same way, some of that is like, there's this product.  People should know about this product.  This is why advertising actually exists, it's to tell people about a thing that exists that they don't know about that might help them.  They're gonna buy it if it helps, they're not going to buy it if they don't want it.

L: Right.

H: There's also like, making your own thing, and this is the thing that I love the most, like, I have opportunities to create a business or a product that, you know, I have this asset that no one else has access to, this like, amazing group of people who trust me, whose trust I've earned, and who I take them very seriously and like, they understand, like, we have these shared values, and I can imagine a thing that might help them and then have it become real, 'cause that's becoming more and more easy these days, whether it's a physical product or, you know, an experience or something, and then, you know,  can like, make that for them and it can deepen their experience of, you know, the community that they're a part of, but it can also be a big, helpful, like, add to their lives.  

L: Yeah.  As, I mean, as someone who is, I mean, it seems like you've achieved a lot in many different areas of business and life.  How do you manage time and attention on all the different companies, YouTube channels, podcasts, businesses that you're flipping events, how do you manage time and attention to accelerate the value and monetize them at the same time?

H: Yeah, I don't do a good job of this.  I'm not--I'm not, and I am, sometimes I think that the people I hear who say that they're good at this are just lying, 'cause I can't imagine.  I can't imagine actually being careful or like, serious about time management.  My time management strategies are, what is the thing that I'm most excited about and what is the thing that I'm most worried about, and sometimes those two things are weirdly enough the same thing, like, I love solving hard problems and so sometimes the thing that I'm really worried about is also something I'm really excited about.   Oftentimes, because we are, you know, we are working, the thing that I'm most worried about is something that I would much rather not do, but I, but I, you know, I find ways to do it and I think that, to some extent, that's driven by anxiety and to some extent it's driven by obligation.  Like, I care about the people I work with.  I care about my audience, and I have an obligation to them.  I have set it up so that like, they rely on me to some extent and that, a lot of what drives me is fulfilling obligations that I have to people who people who I respect.

L: Yeah.

H: And, you know, I think that I'm pretty good at working efficiently.  I definitely get hyperfocused and can drive for, you know, four hours without noticing that I've been hungry the whole time or whatever--

L: Is that--you hold your bladder?  I can hold my bladder for literally 14 hours without moving on a plane if I need to.  Because I've done it so many times and I'm always like, is that going to help me when I'm like 60?

H: That's not--that's not healthy.  Yeah.  Yeah, you just get those muscles real strong, that's how it works.  Flexing them, you got, it's great.  Yeah, and so for me, it's kind of the, the intensity of the internal passion and the intensity of the fire that I need to put out, you know, like either compounding or competing.

L: Right.

H: So, what I really, I really do try to set my life up so that I have a lot of free time to screw around and--

L: I think this is one of the most important things you just said, because I don't think enough creators give themselves what I call 'strategic messing around'.

H: Yeah.

L: Where you're just, you're just throwing a frisbee, you're walking around the park, you're playing with a friend, you know, I just got a scooter a few weeks ago and I literally scoot around my studio in a circle and make a game out of it of like, how many times can I go around without touching the ground, and stupid time wasting exercises that unlock a potential, how important is that strategic messing around or whatever you call it, for you?

H: It's so important, and like, for me, it's not usually a scooter.  Like, I am obsessed with media and so downloading TikTok and being like, okay, how do I get my first 50,000 followers on TikTok, like, to me, that's a fascinating question, like how--and also, like, not just how I woud do it, because of course my strategy is gonna rely on the last 10 years of audience building and like, people having some vague idea of who I am sometimes, but also watching how other people have done it, how they're doing it, what's taking off, what's working, what's interesting, and also, you know, the different areas, like the different cultures that exist on a single platform.  I love to go into parts of Twitter that I don't usually spend time in and be like, the culture is different here.  The people are different here.  They care about different things, they talk in different ways, and it's open, like, it's open for me to explore and learn about.  For me, like, that curiosity about how humans connect to each other is a real driver for me, so I can, I almost--

L: So spending four hours on TikTok is  not a waste of your time.  It's a use of creative strategic time.

H: It can be a waste of my time for sure, but sometimes it is not.  

L: Yeah, yeah, yeah.  In the research phase of like, the first couple weeks of figuring out a platform, it's a good use of your time.  Once you're on the platform, you've got content, you're just scrolling to scroll every day, that's not a good use is what I'm hearing you say.

H: Yeah, I mean, TikTok is so weird because it really is very silo'd and the people on the app talk about how the, sort of the different parts of TikTok and the part of TikTok that I sort of naturally was placed into constantly derides what they call 'straight TikTok' and it's not like--

L: What is that?

H: It's not particularlyabout--

L: What's your TikTok handle?  I'm on there as well, so I'm curious.

H: I'm @hankgreen1 because I didn't get @hankgreen, I was too late, I guess.

L: Okay, I'm following you right now.  Okay.  

H: The--and I think that straight TikTok is, to some extent, about sexual orientation, but it is more about, it is more about like, just sort of like, normal TikTok.  This is where all the, like, this is where people get, you know, tens of millions of views, whereas on our side of TikTok, you know, beans TikTok, it's only getting like hundreds of thousands of views and sort of there's a pride around like, ooh, I made it to beans TikTok.  TikTok served me bean content and so I must be weird enough for TikTok to think I need beans on my timeline.  It's really weird.  It feels like walking into, to some extent, like walking into another country.  Like, I open the app and I'm like, I have arrived (?~19:28) and a whole new place that I've never experienced before.

L: I know, and learning how to create in a different platform based--

H: It's really fun.  It's really fun.

L: --you know, based on audio platform, based on Twitter, everything is--you gotta create specific for a platform if you really want to take off.  

H: Uh-huh.  Oh yeah.

L: Which is hard because you have to create ten different types of video.

H: Mhmm!

L: One for platform and recreate it.

H: Yeah, for me, like, I almost never actually do it, and like, what I'm doing on TikTok right now is probably like a month of TikTok and then I will stop forever, but I'll be like, I get it now and that's what's important to me.

L: So you just care about getting it.  You don't care about growing attention on one platform.

H: I think that is--

L: 'Cause I took a quick scroll and like, a week ago, you had 5 million views on a video, so it seems like you're getting it in a big way.

H: Yeah, I'm doing ok on TikTok.

L: Yeah.  

H: Yeah, I--what--the question though, so, I mean, this is like, I don't want this to be a whole conversation just about TikTok, but--

L: Of course.

H: As an example of how imagine media, I think it's really important to note that when I get five million views on a TikTok, that's a deeply different thing than getting five million views on a YouTube video, and there are a couple of reasons for that.

L: Yes.

H: One is just the monetization.  Like, you can't monetize on TikTok effectively at all and like, this is a thing that I think probably may eventually become a problem for them and they need to figure it out, but more importantly than that, when I watch a TikTok, it is a very low impact experience for me, and so I know that that's the same for those people who watched my--those five million people who saw that TikTok, like, that was--did not have a big impression on them.  It's very hard--I do educational content, it's very hard to imagine doing, you know, educational content that sort of ties together from video to video that actually sort of tells a coherent story where you learn something kind of deep on that platform.  I can see, I can totally see doing some, like, informational bits, and that's being done really well on the platform, I love to do some of it myself, but the--it's almost as if the--well, it's not just as if, they have designed the platform for the content to be a low impact experience so you don't feel bad about going to the next video and you don't feel bad about skipping something, you don't feel bad about not liking something, and you're always sort of like, thinking, well, maybe the next one will be better, because sometimes it is!

L: Right.

H: And it feels really fun!  That was great!

L: You can keep going.

H: And that's how you spend four hours scrolling on TikTok and so like, TikTok has very intelligently and very explicitly sacrificed creator benefits for user experience, so as a person who makes content on the platform, the only benefits I get are sort of the dopamine of having somebody see my content or my channel growing or whatever, but as a user, like, it is really is, it's so much easier than YouTube where you've got all this content all on the side, the user experience just isn't that great, like, compared with this like, seamless flowing experience, but that really does, it really, I think it does sort of hurt the sort of long term ability--

L: The creator.

H: --of creators to sort of like, build something lasting on the platform.

L: Yeah.  I hear you there.  I'm gonna be diving more into TikTok myself, but it sounds like you're creating for a month and you're done for a life and (?~22:46) ten million views.

H: We'll see what happens.  If they give me some monetization tools, I might stick around.

L: Right, exactly.  Well, I guess the way you monetize is driving attention, gaining attention, driving attention, to the next place and then either selling ads there or selling products, services, (?~23:00)

H: Yeah, and I've already been doing a little book promo there, and that's a lot of why I'm on TikTok right now is like, well, I need to find--

L: Right, you've got a book.

H: --another place to tell people about my book.

L: Exactly.  Now, as a early creator who has created multiple channels, lots of success, and just a creator in general, I look at it as a creator is more than just content, but businesses, creator of ideas, books, all these different things, who knows you're going to die and is an atheist, how do you figure out what your purpose is if you don't know why you're here or who the creator is, I guess, or maybe you do know why you're here and what the creator is.

H: I don't.  Yeah, I-basically have never been a believer and my parents who are sort of peripherally Christian, I don't know if they would appreciate me saying that, more culturally Christian than sort of like, believers.  

L: You grew up in Birmingham, right?

H: I was born in Birmingham and then I grew up in Orlando, Florida.  

L: Okay, cool.

H: Um, and my brother, who I do almost all of my creative projects with, he's religious, he goes to church, he was a, you know, he was in divinity school for a little while.

L: Wow.

H: And so like, he--but at the same time, like, we are to like, not, there's no tension in our relationship about this, because ultimately our values are not different and our values actually probably come more down to a kind of humanist belief than to this, to like, belief or not belief, so for me, you know--

L: What are your core values together?

H: That suffering should decrease, that community is important, that connection is important, that people need to be appreciated and they need to appreciate, so both sides of that equation.

L: Gratitude, yeah.

H: Yeah, are super important and we are like, losing touch with them in society, and that like, you know, kind and like, thoughtfulness, like, imagining that other people are as complex as we are, 'cause obviously they are but it's easy to forget that, and trying to be thoughtful and careful with your actions.

L: Yeah.

H: You know, like, that's not always going to happen.

L: Sure, sure.

H: But trying--I made a TikTok today that was mean and then I didn't post it.  

L: Really?

H: For example.  

L: 'Cause you weren't thoughtful.  

H: Yeah, well, I--I mean it was really funny, but I--

L: Send it to me.  Text it to me separately and I'll be the judge.  So how do you figure out what your purpose is when you know you're gonna die and you don't believe in God?

H: Yeah, I think it's, you know, you look up and you sort of realize how big the universe is, like, you just look up into space and be like, wow, we are this one little thing, and it becomes clear that the thing that matters, and this isn't--like, this is both, I think objectively true and subjectively true, like, we all know this, the thing that matters is other people and like, how they imagine us, how we imagine them, how we help them, and how they help us, like, where we fit into that equation, and I, like, it doesn't seem at all subjective to me, like that, you know, to some people maybe like, you have like, sort of a supervillain idea that it's just like, well, nothing matters.  I--like, that does not read to me.  It does not feel at all true and maybe this is just about feelings, but to me, you know, like helping other people, leaving the world better than you found it, you know, trying to solve more problems than you create, like, that kind of stuff is--

L: Why does that matter, and I'm not for or against you, but why is that--why do humans matter if there's no creator or God or source of creation?

H: We decide?  And maybe that's--maybe some people think that's too much responsibility to put on our shoulders, but we have collectively decided that, you know?  We just, we as a society, believe that there is a lot of value in a human life, and to some extent, infinite value in a human life, and you know, we do all kinds of things to help people and to help each other and especially when it's people that we know personally, like, it's--it doesn't seem subjective when I think, like, I want my wife to be healthy and happy.  I want my child to be happy and healthy.  Like, that doesn't--like, yeah, that's sort of an internal thing.  It's just in me, but it's a decision that I, that I would never question and have no interest in questioning.  

L: Right, right.  I'm always fascinated at these topics of just creation and, you know, I've studied in India, meditation, and I have a lot of spiritual leaders on, and I know you listen to a lot of different people as well and you follow content that ranges on perspectives to continue to learn and deepen.  I think that's important for all of us to do while we're creators and putting out content is to constantly learn and question our beliefs, you know--

H: Yeah, I've been really frustrated to some extent by a lot of sort of atheist perspective and content in the world, that there's this kind of idea that this is the way forward, and that's not a thing that I feel.  Like, it's a--to me, this is like a, if you find your way to believing that people matter and that we need to protect them and decrease suffering and like, create stable society and you know, pursue justice, I don't really care how you got there.  

L: Yeah.

H: And there's this kind of idea in the atheist movement, and I don't wanna get like, piled on for this, but that religion is like a source of a lot of the bad in the world, and I can definitely see atheism being a source of a lot of bad in the world.  Like, if you know, like, that any doctrine can be.  Anything can be used to sort of create in-groups and outgroups and say that the other, the outgroup is bad and that is almost always a long-term path toward more suffering and less justice.

L: Yeah.  I think the groups that believe in acceptance, believe in inclusion, believe in you know, okay, you can have your opinion and we can still be friendly and not make people right or wrong.  Obviously, certain things are right or wrong based on the laws, and you know, hurting human beings in that way.

H: Sure.  Sure.

L: But in terms of just like, a belief, if it's not hurting me, then--

H: Yeah.

L: The group, whether it's a religious group, a non-religious group that supports inclusion, that supports love being a solution, helping in suffering, I'm all for that.  

H: Yeah, absolutely.

L: And, you know, I think atheists could get a bad rap, people who have religion could get a bad rap, because they might say, well, they were so judgmental or they were sexual abusers or this or that and preaching something--

H: Yeah, and I think that, yeah, people can definitely be hurt by the structures that sort of they're forced into or that they sort of never know that there's an alternative to that, and I don't want to take away from that, for sure, but like, people who find joy and meaning, like, it can be astrology, like, there's a lot of like, so I make like, a lot of science YouTube and there's a lot of like, ragging on astrology, which is like, to me, like, well, yeah, but like, if it's interesting to you, if it's like a way to talk about yourself and discover and connect with other people in your lives--

L: And it brings you meaning and joy.

H: It's a framework, yeah.

L: Yeah, exactly.

H: I feel, yeah, I feel like it's sort of--

L: So you're saying the moment you were born, that day doesn't dictate your entire life and who you are and all your personality types?

H: Yeah, I--

L: You'd be shunned here in LA if you said that.  I'm curious about, you know, we have a very similar, I guess, ability, and that is our challenge of reading and learning growing up.

H: Yeah.

L: And when I went to 8th grade, I went to a private boarding school in 8th grade by choice.  Most kids get sent away 'cause they're bad, I actually grew up in a small town, Delaware, Ohio, and I begged my parents to send me away to this private boarding school in St. Louis, Missouri because I could see that I wasn't connecting well with the kids in my town and school, I was starting to do things that I wasn't proud of, and I just knew that I wasn't going down the right path, and I wanted to get out of this kind of small town energy vibe.  My parents weren't happy and I could sense it at the time, they were gonna get divorced and I was just like, get me out of here.  My older siblings were off to college, I was (?~32:01) alone, and so I begged them for a whole summer to send me away to this school that I learned about, and they wouldn't let me go until you convince someone enough, I guess, you get enough of their time and attention, and you can persuade them, they finally allowed me to go to this school, and when I went there, they tested me for my reading and math and everything, I had a second grade reading level in 8th grade, and for the rest of my schooling there, I always had tutors trying to get me caught up so that I could finish high school and actually get into a college, and I almost flunked out of English my senior year of high school, not having the ability to go to college, barely passed, luckily, to get past the minimum requirements for college, but you struggle as well with reading and learning, isn't that right?

H: Yeah, yeah.  I was diagnosed with a learning disability when I was--earlier than that, when I was in elementary school, and you know, sort of went off for special tutoring, special classes.  I still do not read fast.  Thank God for audiobooks, thank God for audio stuff.  I love to read, but it is, and it is not frustrating until I compare myself to someone else, so for me, if I just--if I just read at my own pace and it's like, this book's gonna take me two months to finish, like, I like it the whole time, but then if I look over at my wife and she's gotten through like ten books in the same period of time, I get kind of down on myself, and my brother is also, obviously, like a ravenous reader and consumes a ton, just a ton of books, and there's also, in our own community that we've built online, because a lot of it was sort of early on built on John's career as an author, there's a lot of readers in our community, and so there's a lot of talk about like, you know, I'm gonna read 100 books this year, like, the 50 book challenge, and it's just like, does not compute to my brain.

L: If I can read three books in a year, it's a huge celebration.

H:: Yeah, yeah, and so it's funny, because I'm like the leader of this community, but I kinda have my feelings kinda hurt by it. 

L: Right.

H: When they're talking about--but, of course, that's like, it's just different abilities and I recognize that I shouldn't feel this way, but I still do sometimes.  

L: What do you think is a superpower you gained from not having the reading ability or dyslexia, which I have, still today, when I read, like, even out of my own book, if I'm reading something aloud for a video, I still sometimes have to pause, sometimes say the wrong word that I'm looking at, and then just have to accept myself every moment and not be worried about the judgment of other people.

H: Yeah, I mean, it's funny because I have to--I read off the teleprompter for a living, one of my jobs.

L: So hard!

H: And, that took me--

L: So hard.

H: It was a--so it's, there's this period of time when you're not good at something where it just like--

L: Hurts.

H: Yeah, and it's so easy to be motivated when you're succeeding and I like, that early time, and I went home, you know, I started doing this and I knew that it was going to be really hard to do this job.  It was my own job, so I could have like, done it a different way, but I knew it was going to be really hard if I couldn't get this down, and I went home and I would just read poems out loud and I would read, I would just like, find stuff and I would read it out loud.  I'd read it out loud, weird sentences, the weirdest stuff I could find that didn't make sense, and I concentrated on how my eyebrows would move, because like, when your're reading, sometimes your face stops moving all the ways it should move, and I, like, and it was, I wouldn't have done it honestly if I didn't have all these employees who were gonna be sitting in the room with me while I was recording this stuff.  

L: Oh God.  Yeah.

H: If I was gonna be doing it by myself, I'd be able to just, like, take all of the time that it took, but instead, I just like, pushed through it and now I'm very good at it.

L: Isn't that interesting that the more, you know, for me, I was terrified because of my learning disability, of public speaking, because in school, when the teacher would ask us to read aloud, like a paragraph or whatever, in class, I don't know if they ever did this with you, we would read aloud in front of the class and I would just tremble and stutter and--

H: Yeah.  You're like, I'm literally having like, flashbacks, yeah.

L: Just, (?~36:23) pee my pants, yeah, just miserable, anticipating my turn on how I could get up and go to the bathroom and how I could say 'pass' without them making fun of me or whatever.

H: Right, right.  

L: And when I learned to public speak--

H: And we know that you can hold your pee for 14 hours!  

L: Exactly!

H: So it can't be bad.

L: Exactly, and I, I remember after I graduated college, I was playing actually arena football in Huntsville, Alabama, near where you grew up, and I got injured and as I was trying to figure out what I'm going to do with the rest of my life now that my one dream, my one skill and talent is over, what am I gonna do, because I have no other talents.  I met someone who was a public speaker who said, the greatest skill you can give yourself is learning public speaking, and there's the ability to be able to communicate your ideas, your thoughts, your words, in some type of format that makes sense, peacefully and whether you have a job, you're a business owner, you're gonna need to be able to communicate ideas.

H: Yeah.

L: And that was the greatest gift I gave myself, which was going to Toastmasters every week for a year, humiliating myself, and continually showing up until I could speak confidently enough to make sense.  How, you know, I feel like these, the fears we have are the things we need to lean in to.  

H: Yeah.

L: The disabilities we have or the things that when we go all in on them, and master it, now you're really good at this thing, right?  

H: Yeah, and I, I mean, I don't have--I am not dyslexic, I have what was then called a 'sensory integration dysfunction', I don't even know what they call it now.

L: Right.

H: And so like, there are just pieces of, pieces of information that take extra long to sort of like, get from my senses to my brain.

L: Right.

H: And not all information is that way, but, and some information is like, magnified and this was extra the case when I was a child where I had to sort of like, was like, physical touch could be really hard for me and like, that's not a thing for me anymore, but also, like, would definitely have been diagnosed ADHD if I was growing up these days, and I like, I have a--you know, obviously, there's a lot of people with ADHD who are really effective and like, it, you know, I think that there is, there's like a misnomer that just because like, you might not be perfectly suited for the environment in which you are supposed to learn in the society, that you are not like, capable of doing like all kinds of other things, but I, so I do feel like I have some, I don't know what these like, what my abilities to like, synthesize information for other people really effectively, like, I feel like that comes from me having a hard time getting the information into my head and also being like, like, mindful as that process is happening and understanding how my own information synthesis works, how my own knowledge building works, and like, I don't know why I'm really mindful of that stuff.  Maybe it's because I've just been trying to teach people for the last 15 years on the internet.

L: Yeah.

H: But I'm super mindful of how I learn and I think that that helps, and maybe it's because I had a learning disability and like, I was sort of like, by tutors, told, like, like, as I was learning stuff, we were sort of like, looking at the ways I was learning it, that I, you know, I can sort of like, rewind my own process of knowledge-building and then like, do it again for other people but explicitly instead of just like, you know, trying to have them build it themselves.  

L: Yeah, that's what I really admire about you and I think we're similar in a sense that, you know, with your YouTube channel Crash Course, which is like these two minute or three minute clips that just simplify something complex.  That's what I think is really interesting and you make it visual and you make it fun and you make it interesting, where it's like, oh, I can break this down whereas, when I look at a big textbook that's 500 pages that it says Psychology 101, it makes me want to fall asleep in the sense of--

H: Yeah.

L: --I'm not gonna be able to get through this so because it's packaged in a challenging format, this must be challenging to understand and why even try when I can't even read the words on the first page and I have to read it over and over for 20 minutes to just remember the first page, I guess I don't understand psychology.  I guess I don't understand sociology.  I guess I don't understand history, whatever the topic is.

H: Yeah.

L: So when you synthesize the information and put it into (?~41:01)