TIP 012 | Book in a Box

Welcome to Influencers!

Today, we have with us Max. For those of you who were listening last episode, there were several hints to suggest who Max is. He grew up in Lexington, Kentucky. He would pick Lose Yourself by Eminem as a song that represents his life. And as a hint, he’s like the frat boy David Sedaris, even though he wasn’t in a fraternity.

Then, the second interview is anonymous. If you can figure out who it is before we reveal it in the following podcast, you could win a coveted invitation to the Influencer Salon.

Listen To The Podcast Here:

Book in a Box; Write A Book That’s Valuable To Your Audience with Tucker Max

 

Listeners, now it’s time for the big reveal, who was our guest Max from last time? Max, introduce yourself.

I am Tucker Max.

What do people know you for, Tucker?

They know me for my books mostly, namely, my five-year number one bestseller, I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell and then my other books, Assholes Finish First and Hilarity Ensues.

You’ve had just an incredible career in the media industry over the years which, I can only assume to what you’re doing now, when people discover all that you’ve accomplished between all these bestsellers and now your new company, it’s called Book in a Box, which helps authors really be able to tell their story in probably the most effective way I’ve ever seen produced. What is it that people most commonly ask you?

TIP 012 | Book in a Box

I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell

To be totally honest, the one question I get is, “Are your stories real?” which always makes me laugh. I’ll look at them and I’ll be like, “Do you have any crazy stories at all of getting drunk and acting foolish?” “Yeah, of course, a hundred.” I’m like, “What makes you doubt mine?” They’re like “Oh, yeah.” Then they realize what they’re really asking is, “How the hell did you have the courage to say these things in public?” If you get people talking, like you for example, could tell stories that can match or beat probably most of mine, but you probably aren’t going to tell those stories in public like a lot of people. Their next question is, “What do your parents think? How did you do that?” My answer was always, “I’m the only one living this life, no one else. If I want to share and I feel like it’s cool, it’s what I’m going to do and I do it.” They look at me like they just don’t understand.

Most of the time people ask influential people the same questions like, “How did you accomplish what you accomplished? What are your interests?” or whatever it is, but what’s the most interesting question you’ve been asked? The one that really caught you off guard and made you think and really engage with the person.

There’s a couple. A lot of them are specific to me, but I’ll give you one that anyone can use with anybody. I heard it once and I was like, “That’s amazing,” and now I use it. When I meet someone that I really want to engage with, just like you said, I’m not, “Where you’re from? What do you do?” I always ask them, “What are you excited about right now? What’s getting you fired up?” Because immediately you’re going to get at what they care about. Everyone wants to talk about themselves or what they care about and so if you start right there, then you’re going to get them excited and they’re going to immediately like you, they’re going to immediately want to talk to you because they get to talk about what they care about. If you can find any overlap with what they care about, then you’ve got an immediate connection.

What is it that you’re excited about right now?

I’m in that weird phase of life where my company and my son, who’s three years old, are almost the exact same age. They started the same month. It’s weird because I feel like they’re in the same growth stage. They’re in that stage where they’re preparing for the next leap. It’s just a lot of foundational building blocks stuff. It’s exciting to me. I haven’t done this before, both with a company that’s making a leap from a startup to a real company and then with a kid. I’ve not raised any children before. Going through this with my son and watching him develop and learn and see the world and engage with the world. It would be super boring with anyone else’s kid, but because it’s my kid I’m very engaged.

Let’s tell the listeners a little bit about your company. When I heard about this, I thought it was one of the most brilliant ideas I’ve come across in a while and it shocked me that it didn’t exist in a normal way until you started this.

Me too. I thought for sure it had to exist, but it didn’t. Basically, it’s a very simple idea. Writing a book is really hard because even if you’ve got the ideas clear in your head, the process of structuring, outlining, typing all the content, organizing, reading, it’s a huge pain in the ass. I just figured out a way that if you have the ideas clear in your head, we can interview you in a structured process and we do all of that work for you. We do the positioning, we get the outline out of you, we interview you for the content, we transcribe it, we edit it, we put it into the book. What we do for authors is we give them a book that is completely their ideas in their words and their voice. It’s not ghostwriting. We’re taking the process of writing a book from a thousand hours down to 50 to 100 on the phone.

The fact is that any article that you read and any book has an editor. You seem to really just do a phenomenal job of pairing up often entrepreneurs and thought leaders with the right editors to structure a book that works.

We’ve done 500 books in three years. I thought this was going to be really easy and it was at the beginning. Doing this at scale, we’re creating quite literally almost a manufacturing process for books, except there are all these creative black boxes in there. The freelancers that we work with, we essentially have a very structured process and eight or nine people work on the book and they’re all highly, highly talented, decades of experience. We pair them with the author and we carry them through the process. We’ve had to become absolute masters at every aspect; not just of creating books but of dealing with the psychology of authors going through the process. That’s actually been the hardest part. It’s hard, but it’s amazing though to see it start to work at scale and to see us churning out dozens of books a month.

I’ve just realized, you haven’t even told the audience what your company is called.

It’s called Book in a Box. It’s all on BookInABox.com.

Let’s change gears a little. Everybody says they want to write a book. Everybody thinks they have an idea. My general experience is that they have some idea and it’s not really formed and it’s not even presented in a way that’s relevant to most audiences. It’s something that interests you as opposed to a group of people who might want to read about it. What are the tips you give people who want to succeed in this industry?

TIP 012 | Book in a Box

Book in a Box: If you want your book to succeed at all, you need to think, who is going to care about this topic and why?

The very best of point about books is that no one cares about your book, no one. If you’re thinking about a book, it’s cool to want to do it for yourself, but if you actually want your book to succeed at all, you need to immediately shift to the audience and think who is going to care about this topic and why. If you have good answers to that, then you probably have a good book. If you don’t have good answers, if you cannot tell me who’s going to care and why they’re going to care, then even if you have a great reason to do the book, it’s not going to be a good book, it’s not going to get any attention. Unless you are a professional writer like someone I used to be, I made money selling copies of my work, the point is not to sell copies of your book. For most authors, the point is to share their ideas in a way that it establishes credibility or authority or gets them visibility and it gets them something else. It turns them into a speaker or they get clients or they get some degree of attention and thought leadership. It gets them some level of status and prestige. It elevates them in their field. The only way to elevate yourself in your field is by giving something to other people that they find valuable. That’s the key to doing a great book.

From millennia, we have passed our knowledge through oral history. If something is not worth talking about, if it’s not actually remarkable, nobody gives a damn.

Here’s the thing, most people think of that in terms of, “What do I have to say that millions of people will care about?” The reality is nothing. Very, very few people have anything to say that millions of people care about. But if you’re a serious professional, you’ve been doing your job for 10, 20, 30 years or more, you have something to say that at least a few thousand people will care a lot about, if not tens or maybe even a few hundred thousand. If you scope down to the appropriate size audience, almost anyone has a book in them that’s valuable. In fact, I’m not going to go nuts and say every single person on earth has a book in them, but more people have a book in them than none.

Let’s say you don’t really know anything professionally, no disrespect to baristas, but let’s say you just worked at Starbucks your whole life. You don’t have any relevant observations about it, you just know how to run a Starbucks. There’s already a book about that, it’s the Starbucks Employee Manual. You have nothing professional to say, but you’re a nice person and you have a family and you love your family and you’ve got a really full life outside of work. If you’re willing to be honest and really open your soul, a memoir for you could be really, really amazing even if the audience is only the 50 people in your extended family and that’s it. It could be very meaningful to your family and your children and your grandchildren, etc. You might not want to hire us to do it because we’re expensive. The point is once you scope down the size of the audience, almost everyone has a book in them. The question then becomes, “How do I make sure it’s relevant to that audience?” one. Two, “Is it worth my time and effort to do?”

What are some of the pitfalls that people should look out for?

In writing a book?

Yeah, or being in the industry as a whole. The content industry has changed dramatically over the past decade.

I would not underestimate how important it is to start with your audience, in all content. There are really just three major questions you have to answer for all content. “What am I trying to accomplish with this piece of content? What result do I want it to create for me?” Be very explicit about that. We get a lot of people who come to us and they want to do a book. They’re very dishonest with themselves at first about what they care about. “Why do you want to write a book?” “I want to save the world.” Come on. I’m not saying you don’t want to save the world, but that’s not why you’re writing a book about sales. That’s nonsense. Let’s be honest here. First, understand the true reason you’re writing this book, the true result you’re trying to get. Then be very explicit about the audience you need to reach to get that result. If you want a keynote tech conferences, let’s say, that’s the reason you’re writing a book, then the only audience that matters are the people who attend those tech conferences and the people who book speakers for those tech conferences. That’s it. Your audience is not women or millennials, it’s a very small portion of people who go to a certain set of conferences.

The third question is, “Why are they going to care? What does it matter to them?” Again, this applies to all content, whether it’s a video or anything. What do you want to get? Who do you have to reach? Why are they going to care about your content? What that does is it forces you to get into their mind and create something exactly, like you said, that’s remarkable to them, that’s relevant to them so they will pay attention and they will hopefully create the action that will get you what you want.

What’s something completely unexpected about reaching this level of success?

TIP 012 | Book in a Box

Once you even get just a little bit, you move into a different universe and it’s impossible to understand.

It’s so lonely. I think it’s one of the reasons probably why people love your events, is because they’re hanging out with other people who have been through what they’ve been through. On the scale of fame, I’m not an A-list movie star or something. I’m definitely famous, but I’m not on the top of the power curve. Once you even get just a little bit, you move into a different universe of emotions and experiences and it’s impossible to understand. A very famous A-list actor told me this once. I met him at not one of your events, but it might as well have been, it was in LA. I asked him, “I’m tiny famous compared to you and I can barely deal with certain things. How do you deal with what you have to deal with?” He’s the type of guy who can’t go to the grocery store. He was kind of drunk. He’s like, “Let me explain celebrity to you. Celebrity is like death. You can’t understand it until you get there. Once you’re there, you can’t explain it to anyone who’s not.” I wasn’t drunk so I was like, “You’re not dead. How do you know it’s the same thing?” He looked at me like, “Asshole, it’s a metaphor. Stop being literal,” and walked off. It was funny. The quote is actually really good.

The thing that people don’t understand about notoriety or celebrity is that here’s what it is, here’s the big change, you become an object to people. You are no longer a person, you are now an object. People have deep, oftentimes meaningful relationships with you that are totally unilateral. They have nothing to do with you as a person, just with you as an object, whether you’re an actor or musician or an athlete. In my case, I represented amazing things to some group of people and evil to another group of people, I might as well have just been a comic book character or something. Who I was as a person didn’t matter to what they thought of me. When you meet people, a lot of people, what you’re dealing with is their image of you and their objectification of you and not you. If you don’t understand that early on, which I did not, and learn to deal with that, it really messes with your head. It messed with mine a lot and it made me stop wanting to go out and meet new people. It creates lot of loneliness too.

Here’s the other thing, your friends, you’re one of them and then you become famous or whatever, you succeed. You don’t have to become famous, you just succeed. You’re not one of them anymore. Some of them, the good ones, will root for you and that’s maybe if you’re lucky, a third. Half the two third, not only are they not happy for you, they don’t even root for you, they might even root against you. They’re jealous and angry at you because you did something that they secretly wanted to do but didn’t have the courage or ability or whatever, luck to do it. The people you came up with don’t want to hang out with you anymore or don’t like you or negative or shitty. The new people don’t look at you as a human, they look at you as an object. You don’t have anyone else. You don’t have a tribe anymore. I think that’s the main reason why so many famous people hang out together; not because famous people are that cool because as you well know, plenty of them are awful. But it’s because no one understands what it’s like to be that until you are one and you can’t explain it.

The number of people who can interact with celebrities and really treat them as normal people is just about zero. Anybody who ever says, “I don’t care if someone is famous,” is either blatantly lying or completely not in touch with any sense of reality. You know me, Tucker. I’m pretty good about treating everybody the same, but I absolutely end up treating celebrities differently.

I think that the only way you can do that and manage it is you’ve got to either be a little bit famous yourself or have been around that for so long that you’re used to it. That’s the only way you can do it. When I was a nobody, if I met someone famous, I’d do the same thing like everyone else. I played the whole I-don’t-care-that-they’re-famous game, but of course I did. Once I lived through all this and I came out the other side, first of all I stopped pretending I didn’t care, but what I realized was these people are just like me. They either got lucky or they were skillful, whatever, but they went through the same thing I did. We’ve had the same experience so I would deal with them as someone who has fought the same battle, so to speak. Then you can do it and it’s easier. As humans, we’re programmed that the people who get the most attention tend to be, on a biological sense, those are the most important, those have the highest status. You’re around someone who’s famous, you’ve seen your whole life on TV or whatever, biologically you cannot help but react to them a certain way.

We’re used to a pecking order.

They’re the alpha. It doesn’t matter who or what they are. They can be Woody Allen, who’s the least alpha person on earth, but you’ve seen him so much that your body reacts as if he is the alpha.

Let’s shift gears a little. I’m really fascinated by the things that have influenced you. Were there certain books that influenced you the most?

It depends what phase of my life you’re talking about. If I think about books that I’ve come back to again and again, one of them is called Neon Bible by John Kennedy Toole. He also wrote the super famous book, Confederacy of Dunces, which I love. Neon Bible is the book that probably taught me how to write. Read all my books and then go read Neon Bible and go read Fight Club and you’ll be like, “Oh my God, this guy just ripped Chuck Palahniuk and John Kennedy Toole off.” It’s almost shameful. Obviously, the content is totally different, but my style is so similar to those two. Fight Club, the book not the movie. The movie was great, but the book has a certain style that just fit me perfectly. Everything that everyone says about Catcher in the Rye, which I read and was totally let down by, I could not understand why people thought that was a good book. I felt like Neon Bible is what people say that Catcher in the Rye is. It’s so deeply emotional, but so simple and so direct. It just hits you in the gut. Those would be the two books I think, if we’re talking about writing, that have really hit me the most.

Who’s your hero?

I’ve got to be honest. I’m going to give you the name that pops in my head. This is not the politically correct name and a lot of people are going to be shocked, but Genghis Khan, I think. No seriously, Genghis Khan.

I believe you.

TIP 012 | Book in a Box

Genghis Khan and the Making of the Western World

Here’s the thing, most people don’t really know Genghis Khan’s real story. You’re just like, “He’s a murderer and rapist and terrible person.” Not really true. The history of the Mongols is really amazing. There’s a book called Genghis Khan and the Making of the Western World that I would highly recommend. It’s really readable. It’s not like boring history. It’s really interesting. Genghis Khan basically was this dude who grew up in this terrible aristocratic oppressive society and created one of the free-est, most inclusive societies on earth. The Mongols were the first people to ever recognize freedom of religion. They were the first people to ever recognize the rights of women enshrined in law. They were the first people to recognize the rights of minorities. They were the first people to, I don’t want to say to trade freely, but they’ve basically invented free trade. They pretty much invented the Silk Road, as we understand it in history.

They were responsible indirectly for the renaissance because they killed off most of the aristocracy in Europe. There were no people to hold the peasants and serfs and merchants down so the renaissance flowered. They might be indirectly responsible for the world that we live in today and I mean it in a positive way. He was an incredible leader. He was not so good to non-Mongols. If you were not a Mongol, he wouldn’t be the dude you like. He was the guy who took a terrible oppressive society and turned it into one that respected everyone based on merit and based on contribution. Just an amazing man.

It sounds like an amazing book. Listeners, I would highly encourage you to check it out. I can also see the comparison between the impression that people have of you versus who you are and your contributions and the impression that people have of Genghis Khan.

Thank you. You’re like a psychoanalyst now. You’re right, it is. It’s not an accident that I like someone who’s amazing but deeply misunderstood.

Imagine one day you get an email in your inbox from a complete stranger. It’s not me, it’s a total stranger. They’re asking for a few minutes of your time to meet them for coffee. What do they say in that message that actually has you make the time?

Here’s the paradox, going after an influencer, everyone’s trying to get their attention. It goes back to what I said before, everyone’s treating them like an object. Everyone is basically having their hand out, approaching them, trying to work their own personal angle. What you want to do is do the opposite. Offer them something. Here’s the key, it can’t be some bullshit like, “I’ll buy you a cup of coffee.” It’s like, “Motherfucker, I have $3.” I don’t need someone to pay for my coffee. That’s annoying. There’s a lot of things I would want or value. You need to do research into who I am and what I am and what I care about and offer that.

For example right now, there are a lot of problems I’m trying to solve in business. If you know how to solve some of those or you think you can help me with ideas, the best way to get a meeting with me is say, “Hey, Tucker.” I’ll just give you examples of a dude that did this two months ago and it worked. He said, “I’ve noticed that one of the marketing funnels on your site, one of your landing pages has some problems with it. It could be improved here and there. I did this mock-up to show you how to make it better. If you want to sit down with me, I’m happy to walk you through three or four principles that I think you can apply to all your landing pages that will make them all better for these four reasons.” It was actually really smart. It wasn’t some nonsense. He’s like, “In return, all I want is to spend 30 minutes with you talking about whatever the issue you want to talk about.” He got his meeting and it lasted two and a half hours. I’ve got the dude doing paid work for us. I’ve helped him immensely. I could see him potentially working for us someday, hopefully. At this point, I’m trying to recruit the kid because I think he’s really smart. That’s how you get attention. You give them something that they value instead of asking them for something, at least upfront.

The final section of these interviews is always about a more human touch. I’m curious, is there a certain organization or nonprofit that you really like to support or a cause that you care about?

I won’t take a half hour soliloquy about why I don’t support nonprofits. Basically there’s deep philosophical issues why I oppose giving money because I think it’s almost all social and status. Not all, but almost all. For me, charity starts at home and it starts with people I know. I want to help people who I can help directly. The cause that I care the most about right now is, in Austin, there’s a group called Austin Pets Alive. It’s a no-kill shelter. I endowed their behavior program. Most dogs are killed because they have usually low level behavior issues and so they just need a couple weeks and a good dog trainer. I basically help them find and pay for the salary of a world class dog trainer. This guy’s really good. He comes in and he trains dogs and takes them from maybe not vicious killers, but dogs that were going to be put down. Then three weeks later, they’re sweet and wonderful dogs. They just needed a chance. They just needed someone to care about them and give them some training and some time and attention. Now, they’re amazing dogs. If we’re talking about things that aren’t directly business or family related that I care about, that’s a big one.

What’s a very human secret you would feel comfortable with sharing on the podcast? To give you an example, some people have shared that they have anxiety or they’re really shy, some people said they never finished college. What’s something you’d feel comfortable sharing?

My book shared a lot of those things. I’ll tell you, for me, it’s really hard for me now. I’ve done a lot of work on myself over the years; psychotherapy, meditation, whatever. It’s been great and it’s really helped me, but being a father has really hit me hard because kids are just the most honest mirrors you’re ever going to see. It’s so easy to tell yourself stories about what you’re doing or what you’re feeling or the impact of your actions on others, even with your wife. I love my wife and she’s great. I’ll tell you a few weeks ago, my son spilled some milk or something. If you would ask me objectively, “No, of course I didn’t yell at him. I would never yell at him.” But I could see his face and the look on his face. It was so clear. Regardless of what I think I did, I hurt that kid in his soul, the way I reprimanded him. The deep hard to admit secret is I worry that I am too hard on my son and I worry that in some ways I’m repeating the mistakes of my parents. I know I’m doing much better than them in most ways, but I’m just very conscious about the emotional life of my son. On one hand, I don’t want to create an entitled spoiled monster and give him everything he wants, that’s a different form of child abuse. On the other hand, I don’t want to be so hard on this kid that he has all kinds of issues growing up. I worry about that a lot. I think about that a lot.

That’s really profound. Thank you. You know I’m a geek, you know that I grew up reading lots of comic books. If you could be any comic book hero, who would you be?

I played this game as a kid too. The answer for me was always Magneto not because I thought he was that cool, but if you can control the magnetic forces of the planet, you own everything. No one can mess with you. I always was so confused. I’m like, “Why is Magneto doing all this nonsense? Why doesn’t he just get into industrial mining? He can be a trillionaire.” I always got so confused about that. He’s not the coolest at all. Coolest is someone like the Punisher, someone like that. If I was going to be somebody, clearly I would be Magneto. How can you have another answer? Just pull all the gold out of the crust of the earth and then you’re good. Let’s do it. Maybe I’m too practical.

Tucker, thank you so much for coming on the show. I know that the insights that you shared are invaluable to our listeners and frankly to me too as somebody who’s striving for your levels of success as a writer. For people who want to find out more about what you do and they follow you on social or check out your website, where can they do that?

Just BookInABox.com. On Twitter, I’m @TuckerMax and Facebook, Tucker Max. It’s pretty easy.

Listeners, check out Book in a Box if you have any ideas for writing a book. I figure Tucker’s company could help you get there. I know that a lot of very successful New York Times Bestsellers were produced in this way and I figure it could work for you too. Stay tuned because the next part, we’re going to have another anonymous guest.

About Tucker Max

TIP 012 | Book in a BoxTucker Max is the co­founder and Chairman of Book In A Box, a company that’s created a new way to turn ideas into books. He has written three #1 New York Times Best Sellers, which have sold over 3 million copies worldwide. He’s credited with being the originator of the literary genre, “fratire,” and is only the third writer (after Malcolm Gladwell and Michael Lewis) to ever have three books on the New York Times Nonfiction Best Seller List at one time.

  • Website: www.bookinabox.com
  • Facebook: www.Facebook.com/beerinhell
  • Instagram: www.Instagram.com/realtuckermax
  • Twitter: @tuckermax

Anonymous Guest Interview

Listeners, now my favorite part of every episode, the anonymous interview. I have the incredible pleasure of hosting somebody that I’ve admired for years, which is already a hint of what he does. Let’s welcome Barry to the podcast. Barry, thanks so much for coming today.

Hi. Great to be with you, Jon.

Let’s get some background on you. Barry, where did you grow up?

I grew up in New York City. I was born and raised in the Bronx. I moved to Yonkers as a young adolescent where I spent my high school years. I went to college in New York and graduate school in Philadelphia.

Was there an incident or a teacher or something that inspired you to go down your career?

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From that point on, I was committed to studying Psychology.

When I was a kid, my plan was to be the center fielder for the New York Yankees and replace Mickey Mantle. I don’t know if any of your listeners are old enough to even know who Mickey Mantle was, but that didn’t work out. I was going to be a sports writer. In my first year of college, two things happened. One is they had this required freshman composition course that was supposed to teach you how to write. The first thing I turned in, I got a D. That taught me incorrectly that I could never be a writer. I took an Introductory Psychology class with a guy named Phil Zimbardo, who became quite famous. He left soon after for Stanford but he was at NYU when I was a student there. He completely inspired me. I didn’t know what Psychology was. I just took it because it fit in to my schedule. From that point on, I was committed to studying Psychology. I had the good fortune of having a horrendous English teacher and an inspiring Psychology teacher in my first semester of college.

One of the things that I associate you with is actually denim. You’re very famous for having bought a pair of jeans that were the best fitting jeans you have ever had but you were completely, what?

I wear jeans all the time. I buy my jeans at the Gap. I wear them until they disintegrate or until my wife tells me she won’t be seen in public with me wearing jeans that are that horrible. I hate to buy new ones. I went in to the Gap, it had been a while. I asked them for jeans in my size. The clerk said, “Do you want slim fit, easy fit, relaxed fit, zipper fly, button fly, boot cut, tapered, acid washed, stone washed?” on and on it went. I said, “I want the kind that used to be the only kind.” The clerk, age twelve or so, had no idea what that was. What ended up happening is I tried on all the kinds they had and I walked out with the best fitting jeans I had ever bought. I did better, in other words, with all that variety and I felt worse. The reason I felt worse, it took me a while to figure this out, is that when jeans only come in one or two styles, only an idiot expects them to fit perfectly. When they come in many styles, your expectations go up. When your expectations go up, the question is not how good are they but rather how good are they compared to how good I expect them to be. Since I expected perfection and what I got wasn’t perfect, I felt like I had failed. This taught me a lesson about buying jeans and pretty much anything else that I subsequently wrote a whole book about.

That’s one of my absolutely favorite concepts in contemporary psychology because I see it everywhere and we don’t seem to learn our lessons. Was there a moment or an experience that made you feel like you had arrived to some degree?

Yes. I wrote a book and I had written other books meant for popular audiences that nobody bought except my blood relatives. I wrote this book and a lot of people bought it. It made some very counter normative claims about the virtues and drawbacks of all this freedom of choice that we have. It was not the standard way people think about the marketing of goods and services at all. It got a lot of attention. Six months later, there was an editorial in the New York Times about some government program. I don’t remember now what it was. In the editorial, they had this sentence, “And as everyone knows, there can be too much choice.” In the space of six months, an idea that I had articulated that was foreign to the way everybody thought, had become the received wisdom, “as everybody knows.” At first I was a little pissed because The Times said this and it didn’t give me any credit. Then I was incredibly gratified because it had simply become the new way of understanding what happens when you give people this freedom of choice. That’s when I felt like I made it. For my students’ point of view, I made it when I appeared on the Stephen Colbert show. It was totally awesome.

If I saw my professor up there, I’d be like, “I have the coolest professor in the world.”

They were so nice too. I was teaching a seminar that semester and I got them to give me tickets so that I could bring my entire seminar with me to watch. They were really nice. My wife came, my whole seminar came. They were all wearing t-shirts for the school that I teach at. It was a surreal experience. He’s the sweetest guy. He came to the dressing room beforehand, preparing me that he might get rough with me but it was all in the spirit of humor. Afterwards, he came in to make sure that everything had gone well and I didn’t feel like I’d been disrespected or anything like that. He was a very, very sweet man. As far as my students are concerned, nothing else I ever did in my career lived up to the two minutes thirty second or whatever it was that I was interviewed by Stephen Colbert.

I have to say, on a personal note, when you came to The Influencers dinner, I considered it a real privilege. We had a celebrity-studded dinner, if memory serves. Who was there? We had a famous television host, right?

Right. That was the one that most impressed me. I actually knew who he was, I recognized him, but I didn’t let the cat out of the bag.

We had somebody who had won the Kennedy Honors, the MacArthur Genius award, the last person that did that was Fred Astaire as a dancer. I remember just being so excited that you were coming and happy that you came.

I think that’s a sign of your bad taste in judgment, that my presence would excite you.

You want to know what it is, Barry? It’s the same reason that you were surprised by The New York Times, that when you can create an idea that is so profound that it shifts cultural thinking and it becomes so consistent with our culture that people have forgotten where it came from, you know you’ve created impact. It becomes intrinsic.

TIP 012 | Book in a Box

I really am deeply appreciative when people seem to take what I have to say seriously.

It took me a while to appreciate that. I will say that one of my positive attributes is that I don’t take things like this for granted. I really am deeply appreciative when people seem to take what I have to say seriously. It really was a sign to me that unlike other things I’d done, this was impactful. I’m really just totally grateful that I had the opportunity to do it. Also I should mention, the New Yorker, they do book reviews. There was a four or five-page review of the book; a very serious review that also suggested that these were ideas that should be taken seriously. That had a huge impact on the book’s reception.

Listeners, you have a ton of information ranging from the kind of clothes Barry likes to wear, the fact that he had students, to the fact that he is an accomplished author, was on Stephen Colbert. I’ll even give you the hint that before I ever met him, I saw his TED Talk. Barry, the listeners are going to try to guess who you are. If they can figure it out before the next episode, they can get an invitation to The Salon that we host.