Someone said it great the other day. They said it’s like, it is a simulation, and like something happened in multiple simulations and like, we crossed over into another one. And like, we’re all like, “What happened here?” and someone behind the scenes is like, “Oh my God, we gotta fix this bug in this code, we totally screwed that simulation, like, it’s wrong!”
Hello everyone and welcome to Mojo Moments, I’m your host Thane Calder. Our guest today is Mitch Joel, who’s pretty much a one-man media empire. You may know him through his influential books like Six Pixels of Separation or Ctrl Alt Delete; or you may hear him on the radio, when you’re driving around town; or just because he’s an ever-present guru in places like Forbes magazine or on a conference stage near you. Well, not these days. But one day soon, I hope. So, here’s my conversation with Mitch Joel.
Hey Mitch, thanks for coming on our podcast, Mojo Moments.
Happy to be here, Thane. I feel like I've known you forever and I'm glad to see you finally agreeing that technologies like podcasting and blogging might be a viable way to build a business.
A good way to start by giving me some caca. Thank you.
That's what friends do!
Yes, and they remind you of all your failures and… no, no, no. Sorry. So, you know why we started this podcast?
Go ahead. I'm curious.
Okay. Well, it's to dive into the brains of inspired pioneers, like you, to get insights on where you get your mojo.
And more importantly, how you keep it. Now, look, while a big part of your career at Twist Image was doing what I still do, at CloudRaker, which is work on creativity and technology, what I love about you is, and what sets you apart is your prolific - I love using that word when I can - commitment to creating good content. Like, you know, you start out blogging way, way back. You write books, you're on stage, et cetera.
But what really blows my mind is your podcasting. Correct me if I'm wrong, you're up to 727 episodes. Am I right?
I will take your word for it. I know it's over 700, under 750. I do it weekly. And, it’s somewhat automatic for me, so I don't really follow that number all that well.
Well, let's just say it's a lot. What's interesting is leading into us getting together today, I was trying to find like your first ever. So I gave it a listen, okay?
And here's what I found. And I have some notes here. So it was May 22nd, 2006. You called it your pilot. Now just put that in perspective. That's 14 years ago. 14 years ago, my twins are 14 now, okay? So you're like, in my view, like the granddad of podcasting, in a good way, or let's call you the godfather.
There were a couple at the time. I mean, there were a few podcasts that I was listening to. I do, I publish a lot of content and I do like the word prolific as well. I was publishing at that time on the blog Six Pixels of Separation, seven days a week. Like I was just writing, I love to write and I was publishing and I wasn't getting tired of it by 2004, whenever it was, I was just like... Podcasting was starting, very early days. And I thought Sunday would be a cool day to just sort of reflect and talk about the week that was and the week that's coming, I wasn't interviewing anybody, I wasn't having any conversations. It was very stream of conscious, very sort of back to my days of college radio and doing that stuff. And I wasn't sure if I was going to stick with it, I wanted to try. And at the time there were a handful of podcasts and podcasters that were doing it. I went down to Boston for an unconference, if anybody remembers what unconferences were.
Yeah I remember that.
So it was the first one for Podcamp, called Podcamp Boston. And I met, I went actually down with a couple of Montrealers who were interested in the space, who I'm still really close friends with.
And I really sort of caught the bug there, you know... blogging and podcasting for me is really indie, and you know, my background in music journalism, I always had an appreciation for the street. And I just loved the fact, even to this day, that, you know, you can, I was just listening to Joe Rogan's episode with the comedian Bill Burr, it was like three hours. And I was like, yeah, like, you know, some people would see like three hours, like, ugh...
Yeah, well you can do whatever you want.
Yeah, and I don't like the whole, "And now we're back with Thane Calder from CloudRaker,” we were just talking about like the whole sort of stingers and bumpers and all that. And some podcasts have it, they replicate traditional radio. But what I found interesting about the format is that it was untraditional.
And the real, sort of reason for it was an audience like you, and Xavier, and Gisela and whoever else is listening. It really was like, how do I have conversations with people that I want to have the conversations with, cause I can't get that content anywhere else.
And you're not stuck in like, a format. "Now we got to throw an ad in and we got to do all this stuff."
Or I only have seven minutes or I got to edit it down to four. And again, what people don't know about this as they go, my God you've been podcasting forever. And I have. But what they don't know is that I spent 10 years interviewing thousands and thousands of people and just really catching a sort of vibe for what makes a good conversation, what makes a good conversation transcribed into an article or another piece of content. So, from day one, I sort of knew the angles and where I wanted to go with the show and how I wanted to have the conversation.
Now, when people ask me, what do you do? You know, I half-jokingly tell them I collect conversations. Because I really do think that, even being an agency owner, it's like you're having conversations to build the network, to build clients, to build relationships. And that if I think about whatever sort of modicum of success I've had in my own definition of success, I'm most proud of my network.
Like the people that I know and the people that I'm friends with and that if you call me, like, "Hey, do you know somebody there?" I'm like, “Yeah.” “Can you do the intro?” Either yes or no, but I know people there or, "Do you know Thane?" I'm like, “Yeah, we're friends.” Like, I'm, I'm very proud of having those types of relationships and conversations.
So that's the sort of real spirit of the show and that gives me energy. That is my mojo for sure.
Well, it's interesting, you know, earlier you were saying how there's no, actually, limits. But it's interesting back on your pilot, I'm bringing you back to the pilot dude. I know you want to move away from that, but in that one, you were using Cast Blaster, I think free edition, maybe there was a 10 minute limit or something. Cause you said I have to do it under 10 minutes. So you did it 9 minutes 20. It was a one-take, a monologue of essentially blogging audio-style.
But the thing that I loved in there is, and so you were saying like, yeah, I've been talking to a few friends and listening to a few podcasts and you're like, “Enough is enough. I got to get into this stuff.” And like, you were like essentially saying, “I feel late to the party.” And this is in 2006. I'm like, what does that make me in 2020, like? And so this is the thing. When I was jumping into this, so late in the game, I was like, I feel like an imposter, you know, like a total imposter and, I want to riff on this notion of the imposter syndrome just for a sec.
Cause I know you're someone who values constant learning. And the conversations you have with interesting and smart people, but you're also a bit of a speculator, you know, a crystal ball reader.So I'm just wondering, do you ever feel like an imposter at times?
I had imposter syndrome for a very, very long time, for sure. And part of it has to do with the fact that I never graduated from college and I just always felt like I had to outrun everyone else. I had to learn more, read more, do more. And I fell down this rabbit hole with a mutual friend of ours and someone who was a guest on your show, Andy Nulman, when I worked for him at Airborne Mobile. And the first day he sort of handed me a Tom Peters book and I just thought, “I don't want to read that's part of the reason why I didn't want to continue on in college, I just don't want to read anymore.” And I read the book cause he was like, you gotta read this. And it changed my life. It was a great book. I realized that books don't have to be boring. They don't have to be stagnant. They don't have to be didactic. They don't have to be textbook-like. And that sent me down a very, very deep rabbit hole.
I started reading a lot. I then, you know, a couple friends, one of them had done an MBA and was quite successful, moved down to the States and was a big exec in pharma. And one day in the summer, while we were hanging out, he said, you know, he's like, “You've probably read more than 10 MBAs.” Cause he's constantly asking me for books as we would talk about things. That was one moment where I sort of started realizing that, yeah, I'm putting in the work for sure. And then as you know, with an agency, you kind of start this business and think like, will anybody care? And the minute you do start getting any form of accolades, be it the types of brands who want to work with or awards from the industry, or just notice, it all starts slowly chipping away at that, that thing. And I think that thing, that imposter syndrome, I think it's real. And I think it still sits in certain corners of your psyche, and that the trick for me has been at least in the past several years, when I feel that, or when I see that to recognize what type of energy that is.
So it's easy to see it as a negative energy, but actually see it as a positive energy, which means I feel like there's more to learn or more to do for me to have the confidence to speak either on that topic or to share that idea. And, it kind of drives me, right? The idea that I used to have was that somebody would walk into my office and they would basically say something along the lines of like, "Okay, you've had enough, you can go home now." Right? Like "We're done.”
"You're under arrest."
“We know you didn't go to college. You didn't study design. You didn't do any of this digital stuff. You can go home.”But that really did go away as the work started resonating in the marketplace.
Did you ever see - and the moment I kind of put my thumb on that feeling was when I watched Catch Me If You Can. Did you see that movie, Steven Spielberg?
I remember watching it going, "I really relate with this character." Now, mind you, you know, I wasn't printing fake checks or money or whatever he was doing. But it really struck me. I don't know how long ago that movie was, but it was a feeling I had. And I was like, what's interesting in that story is, you know, he was actually really good at everything he did, you know? Which is incredible.
I had that a lot. Again, going back to the music industry business, like in the late eighties, I started interviewing rock stars when I was still in my teens.
And you know, when you're interviewing rock stars who are established rock stars, it's one thing. But then as you get more in the industry, you start - I get artists who aren't signed or anything like that. And, that was when you saw the whole, like, I mean, I remember Steve Tyler from Aerosmith being interviewed on Howard Stern and he would say, you know, "you gotta fake it till you make it, baby."
Like that type of thing. And not in a negative way, like we would say it, but in the way of like, when you have the skills, you got to keep sort of building and building on them. So. I would see early days, people who weren't famous, who it was inevitable to me, just being someone, looking from the outside that they were going to be huge, whether they knew it or not.
And that also, it can give you confidence because if you can have any form of self analysis, you can look to those things and go, “What did I recognize in those people that came true, that I sort of see in myself?” Now, obviously I'm not, not musical, not in that sense, but, in my writing, you know, in my having conversations with people in my pitching skills, in my ability to get people to want to work with us and/or clients and/or team members. And so it's almost like you have an equalizer and you're just sort of like moving the knobs a little bit versus cranking it all the way to the top to get to that level of comfort.
And then it was also a question of knowing which stuff wasn't really working. And how do you either tone that down or pass that to somebody else who's great at doing that? So there was a lot of things in that sort of imposter syndrome and fake it til you make it. So, you know, one thing we did when we were at Twist Image is we brought in a fourth partner who had very successfully run an agency for many, many years and was, you know, not that much older than us, but older than us. That took away that stress of, "we don't know what we're doing." It's like, "well, now we have someone on the team who really does know what they're doing. And so they can clear the brush for us." And I’ve always been very good at sort of giving up a bit - or quite a bit - to have a clear path, I guess. Like, I, wasn't always sort of, so self obsessed with “What do I have?” It was more like, can we build something bigger by adding these pieces on? So that's how I sort of deal with the imposter syndrome. And to this day, I still probably have very similar strategies to manage it. But yeah, always had that. Always had that feeling.
You mentioned Andy Nulman, our mutual friend. So I think we found somewhere that. He says... no, you say that he fired you.
Yeah. He loves it when I say that.
And he says, "No, he quit."
No, no, no. He absolutely fired me. He says that now, because whenever I say, you know, you fired me, he's always like... no, here's exactly what happened.
Okay, let's get into that.
They had a round of financing that came in less than what they wanted to. And I think that they're trying to figure out how to best manage the company. But in fairness to the situation, I was doing a lot of nothing. You know, the technology, which he shared with you, it was, you know, mobile content at a time when there was hardly the interoperability between carriers for text messaging, there was no smartphone. There was no mobile web. I think the mobile web browser just came out.
It was this cool little pixelated screens, like on your… Ericson and Nokia.
Yeah and you had a deck. Like it was 1 was like news and 2 was like money and 3 was like your sports scores or whatever.
We got to bring that back, by the way. I loved that retro...
It was like the worst video game ever, you know? Like it's just like, so all that content was terribly boring. But we were, you know, Andy would say like, look, we were ultimately marketing the unmarketable, which is true.
And I think that, you know, probably behind closed doors, what happened was "Mitch is working hard, but to what end? What do we really need this for at this point?" And Andy being the consummate marketer, thinking, "well, as it gets bigger, we'll need this, we'll need this, but how long can you carry it for?"
And it was a huge service that he gave me. That's why we joke about it is, I don't know that I would have started - back to being an entrepreneur, cause I was an entrepreneur before, I was heading down a more corporate path.
And I think that, you know, that move and then the move I had after that, really in my brain made me realize a very important lesson, which was, I call this, the allowance factor. It's like, you know, we all had allowances kids. I'm sure Thane, your kids want allowance or they want money, and you're like, you have to do things for that. We're just not going to be tossing coin around here.
Yeah, they're painting our guest cottage. That's how they're earning...
Yeah. Mine are younger and it's like, you know, you got to make your bed and clean your room and that sort of stuff.
And I think work is like that. You know, it's like, I go to my boss and I'm like, can I have my allowance for doing the work that you asked me to do? And I had a very sort of, you know, awakening moment after Airborne and after a small stint that I did in a PR firm that I really didn't like at all, that I'm tired of asking people to pay me for my work.
I would like to be able to do that on my own. And the second part of it was I realized really quickly that I like money, that I like making money, that I like having it, that I always wanted to do things and then be paid for it, in mass amounts if I could. And, that the only way to really do that is as an entrepreneur in my brain at the time.
Like that was really the only way, like it is unlimited. It's only going to be limited to your idea and your ability to execute on it. And so, the joke with Andy is yeah, he was like one of the only people who ever fired me, it makes him laugh and snicker and blush, and I do the same, but the truth is, and he'll say this now because he knows it to be true, that it was one of the best things that ever happened to me, which is a huge life lesson.
Especially as you're talking about things like mojo. It's often, the things that in the moment seem so traumatic and sudden that really gives you these amazing insights into what you actually need to do. So that was a, it was ultimately a gift. It wasn't a gift at the time, it was a hard difficult thing to...
It's interesting you share that because another smart person I know, said that, like when you're pitching or trying to get a client, he goes, "Often the second best answer is a clear no, rather than limbo, living in limbo." And actually, in some ways being fired was a clear no for you, but it gave you clarity.
And I think that's just so golden.
It reminds me, my favorite - I never watched Mad Men. And I know that people like sort of gasp considering how many years I spent in the agency life and how much I love it and how much I love the industry, still. But I did, I watched a couple of episodes of the first season, and I just remember, I don't remember the characters' names even.
But one of them came into the room with the other one, the other one, I think, was the grayer one who owns the agency, or is one of the top guys and, he walks in and he goes, “We won the client.” And this guy who I guess his character's to be coy and sort of sly and sort of puffing his cigarette and drinking his gin, looks at him and goes "The day you win the client is the day you start losing them" and sort of just walks off.
And it was like one of those things where... It was probably the greatest truism of the industry that I spent almost 20 years in.
I want to jump on your generosity of giving time and advice to people. In a bit of research came up with, when you were 18, 19 and doing your own magazines at that point, Arena Rock and Enrage, were those the magazines?
Yeah. They were, that's some good research there.
So apparently you reached out to a bunch of magazine editors to get advice. Like you were hounding people. And some did take the time to go through that with you. And I'm just wondering, you know, do you feel that those people who did take the time with you, kind of you felt that that's your sort of your payback to give back to others in terms of advice and, and spending the time? Or was it already there?
Well, I mean, it's hard for something like that to be there. Cause you don't feel... Like who am I to give advice? Like what have I done? I'm basically like a total loser and then, yeah, I mean... It was very illuminating that, and again, I was working in a magazine store and I'd basically look through the mastheads for anybody who had a phone number. And I would just call a bunch of people and say, “Hey, could you spend time with me?” And one person in particular spent a lot of time with me. It was very, very generous and it really gave me a framework for what had to happen.
And, yeah, I do remember thinking I would love to be in a place to be that inspiring to anybody, like what a gift that is. And I don't think the person thought anything of it. Like, I really don't think, I think they were just like, this sounds like a kid who, whatever, I'll just tell him. And he'll probably won't do anything with this information.
And the answer is yes, definitely. In fact, one of the things that I've done while we've been here in confinement is I built - I like building private communities. And I do them primarily with private Facebook groups. And one that I built recently is for... I'll call them thought leaders, but people who do more than just talking and speaking, but genuinely put ideas out into the world. And somebody put a post to the question and they're like, "How do you handle the constant requests for someone who wants to pick your brain?"
And I was just watching the sort of answers come in. It's a small group, it's under a hundred people in there...
Well in my world that's a big group, but that's...
No, but I mean, in terms of like how big groups can be, it's pretty, it's being moderated. And my answer that I put in was I give them the time. Cause like you just never know. I mean, it depends how the ask is, and what they're asking, and how specific it is, and how much work they did. If they've just been carpet bombing anybody who they think has success, you can see it's like a form letter, I'm more hesitant or I'll make them jump through a couple more hoops to see if it's worth everybody's time.
But in general, I try my best to either make some time, point them in a direction if the question is very specific because they've created so much content, I can usually direct them somewhere. Like, “Hey, check this out. And if you have more questions, feel free to reach out to me.”
And it's led to some of, you know, the greatest... I mean, the story that I love to tell now is just, you know, I met a guy who was just out of university, had his law degree, was selling t-shirts online, really enjoyed my content, thought it helped him a lot with his online store... And it's Harley Finkelstein, who's the co-founder of Shopify now.
And it's amazing to watch people who... and really people say, like, you know, he'll say like, “You're a mentor,” it's like, we're friends. Like we became friends and we genuinely enjoy each other's company and spend time with each other. But when you see that happen at that scale, not that I had anything to do with it, but just watching somebody who you know, who was just at the beginning, become a company like that, it really shows you how it's super important to be there, to be present, cause you just don't know.
And if you collect conversations and if you pride yourself on your network, it's really important, and then the other lesson is people like, “Oh, you know, it's these young people who start out…” I mean, they're the future. So why not be a part of the future? So I'm always like, I want to meet as many young people as possible because I want to stay relevant. I want to know what's happening in culture. And if you can help with any information you have, what a gift, like what an amazing place to be in life, right?
So, if you haven't heard of Shopify, check it out, it's Canada’s most valuable company. Thank you, because...
It's about a hundred billion dollar public company.
A little tired of having banks, boring banks - no offense - at the top. But, totally out of curiosity, when Harley first reached out to you, what did he want to know? What advice was he seeking from you?
I think he just wanted to know specifically about digital and the space. It was so early, he felt that he saw it and I feel like it was less like older person giving advice, cause we're not - I mean, he's younger than I, but not that much younger.
I feel like if I think back on it, it was more, he needed validation. He needed to know that he was heading on the right path. He didn't want to feel like he was, you know, that he was in the wrong world. And I think just, you know, me being who I am and me being so bullish, and still am on the space, it gave him a level of comfort. Or when people were saying that, “Well, that's stupid. That won't work.” You’d call me and be like, “Hey, I was thinking this” and I'd be like, “I think that's great. You should totally go for that. Like, why wouldn't you not do that? Like, of course that's where the world is going.” Sometimes you just need that. You don't need a hand...
Yeah, you just need a pat on the back.
Or not even, as I say, sometimes you just need a nod. Someone nodding. Someone just going, “Yeah, I see what you're saying, and I” - or someone who just has the value, right? Like understands your values and what you're trying to do, or the values of the business. And you're just going, “I agree with that. I totally agree with that.”
So we're in the midst of having this conversation and the world in 2020, we're living pretty unique times, with COVID. Just question, in this sort of period right now, where we're all living unique, most unique times that we've ever had, how do you keep your mojo in this period?
It's been different. You know, you and I actually are friends and we actually physically live close to one another. And I took an office space, you know, 10 minute walk from my house, and in the neighborhood that you go to pick up your wine and bread and coffee and stuff. I haven't been there. It's myself and one of my older business partners, I haven't been there since, end of February. But we could, I just think we're being respectful of what's happening now. We've got three young kids here, two different schools that are doing homeschooling. It's been a lot of work at home. It's been a lot of paying attention to that. For me it's about, you know, a third to a half of my time, back in my life from traveling and speaking on stages, to being home. That is a massive adjustment in terms of just all of my expectations and what was happening in the world. But if I put that all aside, it's been great.
It's been great. I mean, what an amazing thing to have the whole world see what it's like when you work primarily with the matter between your ears. I mean, that's basically what I've always done, even though I've had large infrastructures, large teams and large meetings, the work that I do is quite solitary. So, I don't really need much to “keep my mojo.” It's kind of the same thing. I enjoy long walks in the morning. I enjoy being able to take lots of notes. I enjoy being able to spend a lot of time reading and parsing and choosing what goes where and how to save it, thinking about what I want to post in my private groups, thinking about what I want to post publicly, having conversations like this... you know, since this started, since March, I've done over 30 interviews or conversations for both of my podcasts that I'm running...
I don't find it hard to sort of keep a way to get my mojo. I actually just find it hard to find the hours in the day where I can do it, like really focus, only because there's just this constant stream of things that need to be printed up or talked about or explained or done, which I love doing. And I find that to be a great gift, it's just forcing my brain to think differently. But mojo hasn't been a problem for the only thing that has been very, very detrimental is, and I don't know why, I cannot read a book.
I haven't read a - I mean, I used to read 70, 80 books a year. I haven't read anything since February. I read a lot, but just like a book, I just can't, I don't know why there's something with the books. It's just that I'm having a mental block.
I've become a big audio book fan.
Yeah. I was for a while too.
I go on long walks. I'm like, this is brilliant. I'm walking and I'm listening to great storytelling.
It's the greatest yeah. Podcasts do that for me too, it's so great.
I have a book. I haven't, I cracked it and haven't been able to read it. That'd be interesting to study, like I wonder if it's generalized or just...
It's generalized, yeah. In fact, I shared an article the other day, I think it was Business Insider, it was something like, "If you haven't been able to read a book you're not alone, and here's why."
And why? Just let me...
There is something in there about focus and like sort of the long period of time and mind wandering.
And I do a morning radio show hit here on two radio stations. And the morning man on one of the stations was talking about how he has these COVID-19 dreams. They're not weird. I mean, all dreams are weird, but they're just like... And I've been having them too where it's like, I feel like I go to bed and I'm leading a completely other life in a whole other world where it's very mundane things that I normally do, but it's in different places that have familiarity with people that I know that are just geographically in another... And it's bizarre. I wake up and I tell my wife, I feel like I have, like another level of consciousness since COVID-19, and from what I'm hearing, other people are having that too, because it is otherworldly.
You know, I go down to my local cafe, which is across the street from my office and I'll go down early, cause I'm somewhat advising and just talking to them about where they're at and it's bizarre. It's bizarre to see like the counter pushed up against the door and they're just serving with gloves and masks. But when you're not in the store, everything seems normal. It's such a weird thing. It's like, everything seems normal when I look outside and I walk outside and I drive, but then when you zoom in, it's all not normal. There's like a line and there's masks and gloves, and plexiglass. And it's bizarre. It's bizarre.
I'll wake up some mornings and like, okay. Now where? And then like, oh no, no, we're still doing this thing.
Yeah. We're still... It's like you're trapped, but someone said it great the other day, they said it's like, it is a simulation and like something happened in multiple simulations and like we crossed over into another one. And like, we're all like what happened here? And it's like, “Oh!” and someone behind the scenes is like, “Oh my God, we've got to fix this bug and this code. And we totally screwed up that simulation. Like, it's wrong. Like they all think they're supposed to stay inside. I don't know what happened, you know.”
Crazy times. So we're going to end on a couple of questions.
It's called our... Well, I don't know if we've given it a name yet.
The rapid fire round.
Rapid fire… But normally we do these as a warmup, but we knew with you today, there was no need for a warmup. We could just jump right in, but why not, you know, end this this way? Quick question on... you ready?
Sure. Let's try.
You're like, "Are you ready? Because I’m ready."
I'm usually slow in rapid fire. So let's see what happens.
So, No Treble is your podcast, all about the bass?
It's called Groove. Yeah. It's called Groove, the No Treble podcast. Cause it's at notreble.com, which isn't my site. I just post the podcast there.
Oh, okay. Thank you. But if you're one to pick up and say, this is my favorite bass player in the world, who would that be?
He's no longer alive, but it would have to be Jaco Pastorious, which is a cliche to say. But he definitely did things with this electric instrument that fundamentally changed our perceptions of it, our perceptions of music. And to this day, you could listen to him playing, and if you don't know it's Jaco, you don't know the bass. And that's a very strange thing to say, because bass is fundamentally an instrument of in-between. It sits in between the drums and the guitar. And a lot of people may not even be able to sort of pull it out, but Jaco really changed the world and he died, very tragically and very suddenly at a very young age. And it speaks volumes to what he did for the instrument that if you speak to any bass player of any genre over any decade, and you say like, who, who would that person be? It's usually Jaco. And again, it's a bit of a cliche, but I would say Jaco.
So my 14 year old son's really into bass and learning. I don't know who Jaco is. So was he in a band I should know, or?
So Jaco started off - I mean, again, very young. He died very young. He started off like his big thing was he was in a band for a very brief time called Weather Report, which is like, sort of a fusion jazz thing.
But he did a solo album, which is really - set him on this course. He had done some recording with Joni Mitchell and a couple of other artists, which is also beautiful to hear. There's not much from him, but he was the first guy to take an electric bass and remove the frets and make the fretless bass.
And he had a tone and speed that when you hear a lot of baselines now and think, “Wow, that's a real booming baseline,” that would not have existed before Jaco. Before Jaco it was the sort of walking baselines and/or sort of solitary notes to support the sound between the drums and the guitar. He was basically one of the first people to say, let's bring the bass to be more of a lead instrument or to lead the song. So he still is the one that really sort of sits there for me. And then I have many other cliches from Getty Lee from Rush to Paul McCartney from the Beatles.
Well, that could be a whole 50 hour show, I'm feeling.
I could talk about that thing - I mean, I played it, I played the bass for awhile. I played in some bands. I actually did study it at CEGEP level and was considering doing a postsecondary, but then decided I wanted to be in the business more than be on the entertainment side of it. But I always have loved the instrument, and these players are incredible people like you don't know their stories. In fact, it's amazing for me to do these interviews and like, Google them and see how little of their stories that have being told. I'm about to sit down with Gord Sinclair. Who's the bass player from the Tragically Hip. And we all know the Tragically Hip and Gord Downie, especially in Canada. But if you Google him, there's not much like it's like, what is his story? When did he start playing this instrument? What inspires him? I love that.
What's interesting is, and I'm again, far from being knowledgeable in this whole territory, but is, all these other musicians, you know, the guitarists, the lead singer, drummers, they're known, but the bassists are usually the quiet ones, but they're like the glue of the band, you know?
Yeah, there's very few that sort of reached the Getty Lee from Rush, the Paul McCartney, Beatles-level. And even then, I wonder if they're known as being bass players versus front people in bands. But then there's just great - like Graham Maby is a great story. He has been playing with Joe Jackson since high school. It's like 50 years with Joe Jackson. And when Joe Jackson originally signed in the late seventies to A&M records, he was walking down the street with Graham. And he said to Graham, this music is going to be about you. It's going to be about baselines. It's not going to be about guitars or this, it's going to be about you.
And if you think about Joe Jackson, Is She Really Going Out With Him or Stepping Out or any of his massive hits? They're all bass-driven. And it's an amazing thing to like, realize that this guy's story has never really been told. And so I just love stories like that.
One of my - and now we're going on a total rabbit hole.
Yeah, this is less rapid fire off.
This is no longer rapid fire. This is called the rabbit hole question...
Rabbit hole fire, yeah.
... is an indie band. I don't know if you remember them, Canadian, called the Inbreds.
Sure, of course I do, yeah.
It was bass player and drum. That's it. And it was brilliant stuff.
Yeah. There's, there's quite a bit of that. Like even the White Stripes, right? Like Jack White, he was a guitar player, but there's a lot of bass-drums combos. It became a thing for sure. Absolutely.
So we're changing this from a rapid fire to rabbit fire questions.
Rabbit hole fire. Yeah.
Second question, we're getting down the fast questions here. I asked you to put on your camera so I could see what you're wearing. You're on brand. You're wearing your black outfits.
Can you tell me a little more, what inspired your shift into the efficient outfits?
Laziness, one. I always struggled with fashion and like what looks good and what doesn't look good. I'm a metal guy, so black is the color. And I just, I do, I remember like the band, like Metallica going to the Grammy's and it's like, they would just put a dress jacket on top of their tee shirt and black jeans. And I was like, that looks good. Good enough. You know, that works. It's very utilitarian. Again, you know, back when planes were a thing, I travel a lot and I just would love just going in and just being like, I just need three of those, three of those, three of those, and just easy and off you go. And it's just a choice I don't really think I have to make. And it does, it works whether I'm sitting in casually hanging out or if I need to dress it up, it's, it's pretty easy to do so there's no real logic other than it's easy. I like it.
Okay. Number three. In, I think one of your first blog posts, at least on Six Pixels. So this is pre-podcast. I don't know when - early two thousands.
2003 or 2002.
In fact, you did three postings on that day, so I'm not sure which was literally your first. You had one that was, "I Pitch Like Maddox Writes" And it was “When I was younger, so much younger than today” - this is like 20 years ago, by the way - “my brother and I had our own thrash metal band. It was called Bitter. The songs were evil. That being said, this guy makes us all look like nuns. He claims to be the best page in the universe”. And then you, like, “I especially like his critiques of children's art.”
I don't know if that's the first one, or in the same day you published “Reading.” “These are some books that are must-reads. Anyone thinking about marketing and starting a business should take a look at these gems.”
And you have there: Starting Your Career as a Freelance Illustrator, the Graphic Designer's Guide to Clients, the Brand New 50, the Project 50, the Professional Services Firm 50, Survival's Not Enough, Purple Cow.
So the question... drum roll. If you had to, of all the books you've read, go on an island, and you can only have one book. Which one would it be?
Yeah, it's a tough one because the amount of books that I read. Um... I think it would be Tom Peters' Re-Imagine, which is very hard to find now. I have a bunch of copies of it in hardcover. And the reason I say that is only because there's a lot in it. It's very sort of blog-like in how it was written, but it's highly visual and graphic too. And, I like the rawness of it. And I don't know if it stands the test of time, cause I haven't read it in forever.
And so if it doesn't stand the test of time, I would probably go with the War of Art by Steven Pressfield, which is a book that I read and reread multiple times a year, that is all about how you break through what he would call writer's block as being the resistance. But I think it's anything that stops us from doing the work that we were meant to do. Those two, you know, very different, diametrically opposed. So, so Pressfield for sure for the content, but if I was sort of like, didn't want to be bored, I would probably go with the Tom Peters book, Re-imagine.
The War of Art, it's funny. I just picked that up in January.
Oh, it's a killer.
Again. I'm late to the party.
Great book. Great, great book, that will not let you down.
I've read it three times.
Yeah, it’s unbelievable.
It's a teeny little book, but it's brilliant.
Question four of our rapid fire period here. You've done, we think 727 podcasts and counting, okay? Which one stands out as the one that you felt had the most mojo? I know that's tough. You don't want to hurt any feelings and all that stuff, but...
Yeah, it's not about feelings. It's just more like, I just, I'm wondering if I would put something out that I didn't like.
Yeah. But I want the one, come on.
I mean, I, as a guest, it's not a one, it's just like a guest, I would go with Seth Godin. And I think it's just because of the relationship I've developed over the years with him and the sense of familiarity and my constant sense of - he seems very mysterious to me. And I just want to always break - chip a little bit more way at that and understand it more.
And watching him resist that, or listen to him resist that, and then maybe sliding in something. I find that after every conversation that I have with him, and he's been on the show multiple times, I just feel very... I have more work to do. And so I'm not answering your question directly, by saying it's usually guests who make me realize how much more work I have to do.And he would definitely be one of the top ones at that.
You know, another person who does that for me is Ann Handley. Just the way she handles her writing and her thinking and her positivity. It's very inspiring to me. So it's hard because a lot of these people have become friends. And having the chance to record conversations with them is very inspiring.
Well, it's interesting because when we were in our kind of green room before, we were just starting getting things set up here… Seth Godin, your podcast that you did, I don't know how many months ago, but recently, it was a really good listen. Your podcast on podcasting, and you guys were just riffing and it gave me a good kick in the butt just to jump into this game and...
It does the same for me. That was episode 700. And I remember it well because I wasn't...
Oh it was 700! Okay, yeah.
I wasn't going to do anything for like, an anniversary type thing. And somebody sent me a note and said, you have to, like... And then I really grappled with what, and then I thought, well, that would be the most meta thing in the world. Take someone like Seth, who's got an amazing podcast called the Kimbo and also teaches, he's got a course on how to podcast. And I though that'd be good, because he's someone who we really align with, like writing and blogging, who like believes in podcasting as the new blogging and stuff like that. So I thought it'd be good to deep dive on that topic with him. So that was a, that was a definite highlight.
Clearly you've had many conversations with him, but for me it gave me a lot of mojo, to do the mojo podcast. So...
Me too, and I'm glad you're doing this. It's great.
Thank you. So, the last question - I like doing this mainly cause I have a, my eldest son is 16 and I guess next year it'll have to be 17, but anyway, I like ending off with this question cause I'm trying to find advice to give him, he's sort of leading the pack with the kids of trying to get on the right path.
And so if you could meet you, your 16 year old you, Mitch, what's the one piece of advice that you would tell yourself?
So it'll be two things. One is, I would definitely tell myself to be braver. Like, ask that person out. Don't stay in your head. Be braver, because this path that you seem very unsure about when you look at others is an excellent path. Keep at it, you know? So be braver in your own self awareness. That would be one thing.
And I think the breakdown of it is something that I tell my kids every day. And if you pull them in here, even my youngest who's in kindergarten will say, before you go to school, what does dad say? And I always say to them to go in with a positive attitude, to ask great questions and to pay attention.
And I think that if I could go back and I couldn't talk about just stay the path, cause you don't want to break the whole time-space continuum thing by telling me that I'll do it, it's like a Back to the Future moment.
Only you would worry about that. But anyway, go ahead.
I would probably just say, you know, positive attitude, ask great questions and pay attention. I mean, that's the secret of life.
I'm writing it down.
I say it to myself every day, right? Cause it's really easy to not go in with a positive attitude. And when I say ask great questions, I didn't say ask questions. Cause "ask great questions" forces you to think like, is this a great question? And paying attention is like, we talked about listening, using your eyes, body, letting people talk, letting them finishing their sentence, hearing things... Like, I mean, would you be where you were, would I be where I am, if we weren't paying a lot of attention? I don't think so.
So the Mitch three-step program here is this yours, or did this come from some other inspired person?
No, I don't know. I just know that I say to my kids, it's the point where I'll say to them "guys, remember..." they go, “go in with a positive attitude, ask great questions, pay attention." And I go, I don't care if that's all they remember from me, that’s fine.
You know, there's going to be a period where they're going to do the exact opposite of that.
Oh it's starting.
But they'll be like, you know what, I'm going in with the negative attitude. I'm not going to ask questions and I'm just going to be spaced out here just, to you know, piss off dad.
They're going hardcore at that right now, actually.
Well, I can understand, man. It's... unique times. Hey Mitch, super, super appreciative. This has been awesome. So thank you. And I wish you a continued great, great mojo.
I appreciate you. I appreciate our friendship. I love that you're doing this and it was a real honor and great time. Thanks Thane.
Okay, man. I'll see you later. Take good care.
Mojo Moments Takeaways
That was such an awesome conversation with Mitch. Clearly a pro knows his way around podcasting, very generous with his thoughts and time. So, to discuss our Mojo Takeaways, I’m joined today by Mark and Gisela. I'm just wondering for you guys, what popped out for you?
Well, I love that he questions our idea of education and what education is. I mean, I've had that conversation before with friends and I loved hearing that from him.
Yeah. I mean, he's - he walked the talk on that. So he didn't go the normal path.
And it's interesting, that permission of sorts from the parents. You know, I don't want to get into, you know, Freudian understanding all that, but that's kind of interesting a little, like push out of the nest and do your thing.
Yeah. He still needed approval from someone, right? And he mentioned this idea of approval and...
Validation. Yeah, that's the word I was looking for.
And maybe we all need that. You know, I remember hearing, um, Brenée Brown... So Brenée Brown, if you don't know, she is - just go on Ted and listened to her talk.
Anyway, I saw her at South by Southwest years ago, and it was by far the highlight of my conference there. And she's talking about, essentially listening to critiques. Cause she did her first Ted talk and she had people like saying, “Look at her ugly dress or, you know, she sucks.”
And she got really upset about that. And then she, at a certain point realized that, choosing who you get your validation from matters most. So those who are just sitting in the stands, throwing, you know, stuff at you? They're not useful validations. It's other people who get in the arena of life, who are willing to put themselves out there, those are the people you want to check in with. Whether it's getting critique or validation. And I find Mitch is just one of those guys, like I, I find he's jumping in the arena very early and just does it, like, you know, we were laughing about how we're starting a podcast today. And he was jumping in feeling late to the party in 2006, like...
Yeah. He's really about like education and experience is something that you take. It's not something that you wait to receive. It's something that you actively seek.
Yeah. What about you Mark?
I mean, there was a lot of stuff in there that I thought was pretty interesting.
You sort of touched on validation already, but there's kind of like the flip side as well. When he was talking about… all the people we talk to always have this idea of failure, and rejection, kind of stirring them onto something else. So for him, when Andy fires them, he goes to that story. There's almost a little bit of a rejection there. And then later when he was talking about, you know, Shopify and how they just needed, like the nod, that little piece of validation, and there's kind of that need for validation, a little bit when you have that imposter syndrome.
So it sort of ties all the way through, like you're going through... I feel like the imposter syndrome there is that element of you fear the failure, at times, so you work extra hard to try not to fail. And then you sort of get those little pieces of validation as you keep going. Like, okay, I did that, that worked. I'm going to keep going and you keep pushing and keep pushing and you get those little pieces of validation to keep the imposter syndrome at bay. Like, I feel that all the time sort of, you know, being, you know, on the creative team, we never want to do sort of like the same thing twice. We don't want to do something that's already been out there. We don't want to regurgitate something. So you're always pushing, you're on that edge. And when you're always on the edge, there's that fear of failure. You might get it wrong.
You're a great example that you are an anthropologist by training.
Oh yeah, the squiggly trajectory? Absolutely. 100%.
It's like you came in for your first interview. I don't know how long ago. And it was like, “So, tell me about yourself.” “Well, I'd like to be a copywriter and creative.” “Okay. Yeah, sure.” “Yeah, I studied anthropology. I actually got in the field. I was dusting off bones” or whatever you were doing.
That's awesome, man. And I'm like, "Yeah, I studied psychobiology" and you're like, "What is that?"
But we spent the entire interview talking about university and how neither of that applied to what we were actually there for, which was kind of special. But this squiggly trajectory, it's true. And he was sort of saying, you guys talked about those moments where people say those things sort of offhandedly, but they stick in your head.
You know, sometimes it's rejection. Sometimes it's just opportunities, because I remember at one point someone, a friend of mine I was working, I was being a tour guide at the time. And he was like, “Hey, you're kind of funny. Do you want to write for the Beaverton? And like do some articles?” And I was like, “Sure, that'd be great. I'll try that.” So I started that and then a couple years later, a friend of mine is like, “Hey, so you do this kind of funny writing. Have you ever thought of being a copywriter?” I was like, “Oh, I don't know what that is.” And so he's like, okay, can go read these books and see if you can do it. And then, you know, here I am talking with you about rejection and validation, and feeling like an imposter at all times. So...
I am! Totally, 100%!
Just, don't tell anyone. Hey, so any other last thoughts?
I liked your quote, Thane, that "No gives you clarity."
Yeah. It's not my quote. It's a total rip from this guy, Blair Enns and I'm sure maybe he ripped it somewhere. But he wrote an awesome book, Win Without Pitching, which is every agency's dream. It was just, you know, get a client without the often futile exercise of doing a pitch on stuff that never actually gets to see the light of day. I've had, you know, a handful of conversations with him over the years. And he said that, you know, no is often... well he calls it the second best answer, but a gift.
So that's a wrap on our conversation with Mitch. I want to thank, Gisela and Mark, Xavier, the rest of the team at CloudRaker. And,by the way, if you haven't been checking out Chris Velan, you have to. But Chris Velan is playing us out. He's awesome.
Be safe everybody, take care.