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Shane Snow On Lateral Thinking And On Building Dream Teams

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“People are the most important thing, and we need to not dismiss people because of who they are.”
— Shane Snow

Click here for more details on how you can win a free ticket to attend the Genius Network annual event – valued at $10,000.

Greetings, SuperFriends!

Today's guest is an award-winning journalist, celebrated entrepreneur, and the bestselling author of a book called Smartcuts, of an upcoming book (by the time you hear it, a new book) called Dream Teams, and the co-author of The Storytelling Edge.

He is also the co-founder of the content technology company Contently, and you've probably seen his work in Fast Company, Wired, The New Yorker, and dozens more top publications. His name, for those of you who are now wondering, is Shane Snow.

In this wide-ranging conversation, we talk about lateral thinking, what it is and how you can utilize it. We also talk about teams, and how you can work better in them. We all work with other people (at least occasionally), and so we talked, Shane and I, about how you can leverage those connections to get more out of them, rather than being distracted and held back by the people you work with. That is a very important topic for everyone, and a very interesting topic for me particularly at this moment at the time of recording, as we are as always trying to grow and scale our business for you folks.

And, to top these off, we talked about productivity hacks, life-hacks and health hacks that help Shane do so much with the same 24 hours that the rest of us have.

I really enjoyed this conversation. You folks will notice that, lately, we've been doing slightly shorter conversations, and that is because I want you folks to spend less time with your digital devices, and more time in deep thought. Let me know if you enjoy that, or if you want us to go back to the slightly longer format.

-Jonathan Levi

P.S. Do you dream of starting your own business on the internet to achieve financial freedom, empower tens of thousands of people, and one day…one day… find yourself in the company of other great entrepreneurs and thought leaders like Ray Kurzweil, Peter Diamandis, Joe Polish, Dean Graziosi, Russell Brunson, and more?

Well… What if that day was today?

Learn more here!

Join Jonathan for a completely free, 1-hour training seminar, where you'll learn the top 3 strategies to accelerate your learning and improve your memory!

This episode is brought to you by Organifi. Save 20% on their highly-recommended green juice products with coupon code “superhuman.”

In this episode, we discuss:

  • Who is Shane Snow and what does he do? [6:15]
  • What are smartcuts? [7:30]
  • The power of taking ideas and inspiration from different fields [9:55] 
  • 2 important points on lateral thinking [13:15]
  • Can a team really add up to more than the sum of its parts? [14:55]
  • How do we collaborate more effectively? [18:45]
  • Staying in the ideal zone of collaboration [21:40]
  • How Shane is balancing his time between his projects [25:00]
  • The importance of consistently devoting time to exploring new things [26:20] 
  • What are some SuperHuman hacks that Shane Snow utilizes to perform at such a high level? [28:35]
  • Some products and services Shane can't live without [32:10]
  • Where to find out more about Shane Snow [36:00]
  • Shane's takeaway message [36:55] 

Resources Mentioned in This Episode:

Favorite Quotes from Shane Snow:

“The pattern that you see, when you look at anyone who has made breakthroughs, is they do so not by playing the same game that everyone else is playing and doing it better, but by changing the game.”
“All of our heroes in history, they didn't follow the traditional path.”
“Instead of looking at best practices when studying something, look for cross practices.”
“Good artists copy, great artists steal.”
“The reason that humans won on planet Earth is because we are so good at cooperating and coordinating.”
“The more of us there are, the harder it is to work.”
“Two heads are better than one only if these heads think differently from each other.”
“My main project, I try to have as 80% of my focus, but no more.”


Introduction: Welcome to the Award-winning Superhuman Academy Podcast, where we interview extraordinary people to give you the skills and strategies to overcome the impossible. And now here's your host, Jonathan Levi.

Jonathan Levi: Before we dive into today's episode, I want to let you guys know about an opportunity to learn some of the most important skills in life if not the most important skills, and those are the skills of learning and doing so rapidly, effectively and easily. You see guys, I'm putting on a completely free 60-minute webinar that you guys can check out where I will be going into my absolute best memory tips, learning tips, and speed reading tips so that you can immediately begin applying them and accelerating your learning of anything and everything. All you need to do to claim your spot in this free webinar is visit, we have showings at many different times throughout the days for every time zone, but you have to log in and claim your spot. So that's, and I really look forward to seeing what you guys achieve.

This episode is brought to you by Organifi. You guys, one of the only things that every nutritional expert that we've had on the show seems to actually agree on is that we all need to eat more vegetables, eat more greens, eat organic, cut out all the processed junk. Well, who has the time, right? Who has the time to go out, do the shopping, make the salads, make the juices, make the smoothies and that's what I love so much about Organifi? Their product is an all-organic green juice. It has all of the nutrients that you need. It tastes absolutely amazing and it's made by wonderful people who I consider to be personal friends and as listeners of this show, you guys can actually save 20% on your first order. All you have to do is go to That's O R G A N I F and use the coupon code superhuman at checkout.

Greeting SuperFriends and welcome to this week's episode. You guys, I think you're really going to enjoy this episode. I certainly did because today's guest is an award-winning journalist celebrated entrepreneur and the best-selling author of a book called Smart Cuts, as well as an upcoming book by the time you hear it, a new book called Dream Teams, as well as the co-author of the Storytelling Edge. He's the co-founder of the content technology company Contently and you've probably seen his work in fast company, Wired New Yorker, and dozens and dozens and dozens, more publications. His name for those of you who are now wondering is Shane Snow.

And in this wide-ranging conversation, we talk not only about lateral thinking what it is and how you can do it. We also talk about teams and how can you work better in teams, we all work with other people or work with other people occasionally. And so we talked to Shane and I about how you can leverage those connections to get more out of them rather than being distracted and held back by the people you work with.

A very important topic for everyone and a very interesting topic for me, particularly in this moment at the time of recording, because we are as always trying to grow and scale our business for you guys. And on top of that, we talked about productivity, hacks, life hacks, and health hacks that help Shane do so much with the same 24 hours a day that the rest of us have.

So I really enjoyed this conversation. You guys will notice that lately, we've been doing slightly shorter conversations. And that is because I want you guys to spend less time with the digital devices and more time in deep thought and so we're keeping the episodes a little bit shorter. Let me know in the reviews, if you guys enjoy that, or if you want us to go back to the full one-hour episodes. I would love to hear what you guys have to say now, without any further ado, let me present to you my latest super friend, Mr. Shane Snow.

Oh, wait, one more super important thing. Before we get into the episode, how would you like to hang out with me, Ray Kurzweil, Peter Diamandis, Joe Polish, Sean Stephenson, JP Sears, and about 400 of the top caliber entrepreneurs and thought leaders, including about a dozen or more past guests from the show? Well, it sounds pretty cool, right? Well, I am hosting a competition from now until the end of August 2018 to become the official brand ambassador for my new venture branding U Academy. You see the winner will not only get tons and tons of exposure and mentorship from me personally, but they'll also get a free ticket to attend the invite-only Genius Network Annual Event, and meet 400 of the world's top entrepreneurs.

Now, these tickets sell for $10,000 each and that's if you can get an invite and of course the learning and the connections that you will gain once you're in that room can easily amount to a hundred thousand dollars or more so to learn about this competition and to read the rules and regulations and find out how you can win. Simply visit JL.VI/giveaway before August 31st, 2018.

Okay now on with the episode, Mr. Shane Snow, welcome to the show my friend, how are you doing today?

Shane Snow: Hey, I'm fantastic. How are you?

Jonathan Levi: I'm really, really great. I'm super stoked. This as always is one of the last things I'm doing all week. So I'm excited to start my weekend with a bang.

Shane Snow: All right.

Jonathan Levi: So Shane, I tried to cover, you're very diverse and impressive and super human bio in the beginning, but I would love to hear in your words, kind of when people ask, what do you do? What is it that you tell them?

Shane Snow: So it depends where I'm at. If I'm at a bar, I'll usually say, ah, that's not important. What do you do? But if, uh, I met at a conference or something, I'll usually say I'm a journalist. I consider myself an Explorer, someone who goes and explores and then learns things and comes back and. teaches people. I am really passionate about learning and exploring and I use writing and journalism as an excuse to do that in lots of different ways. I've also built a couple of companies usually that's come about because I've been exploring something that I can't get off my mind and the latest company I've actually been at for almost eight years, I'm only doing it part-time now while I'm back to writing, and, uh, and the other thing that I do is I write books when once again, something that I'm digging into, I'm obsessing about so much and keep thinking about it enough that I feel like there's more than just a post or an article. There's a, an entire book that I want to kind of stand the test of time.

So those are kind of the three things that I, I do, I guess.

Jonathan Levi: Rock on. So tell me about your first book. Normally I have a whole bunch of questions that we get into, but just being the life hacker that I am, I saw the title of it, Smart Cuts. I had to know more. What are Smart Cuts? What led you to write that book and what can we stand to gain from it?

Shane Snow: So one way you could frame Smart Cuts or you could describe it is hackers in history and how they think. But not hackers in terms of computers, there's one computer programmer in the book. It's more like, Oh, you know what? So I have an Alexa who I renamed to computer and she's going crazy right now.

Anyway, so hopefully she'll be okay. So I talk about in Smart Cuts, musicians and surfers, and YouTube stars and rocketeers and presidents of the United States in the 1800's and whole lot of different categories of people who managed to do incredible things beyond expectation and the pattern that you see when you look at anyone that's kind of made breakthroughs in their life or in history is they do so not by playing the same game that everyone else is playing. I'm doing it better, but by changing the game, which is kind of, you know, what life hacking is, it's kind of what hackers do, you know, they don't follow the assumptions or the rules of whatever thing they're working on. So it was a book about that explorers, lateral thinking, which in my opinion is the only way that we make breakthrough progress instead of incremental progress.

And of course that's such a kind of an expansive topic that I could only cover so much. So a lot of it, kind of is geared toward individuals and entrepreneurs, but there's sort of a hint in there. That's led to my most recent book that, you know, this sort of thing usually doesn't happen alone. It often, lateral thinking is the product of different people, combining different perspectives or one person seeking things from outside of their field and using that to make breakthroughs in their field. So it's a topic that I think just has enormous legs and, uh, you know, for someone like you and, you know, it'd be familiar with your work. I think it's incredibly empowering to know that, you know, not only can we say we don't have to do things the same way we can do things different. We can be superhuman, but actually all of our heroes in history, they did that to beyond expectations. They didn't follow the traditional path and I think that's super cool.

Jonathan Levi: Tell me about some of these Smart Cuts. I mean, tell me about some of the ones that stood out for you when you were writing the book.

Shane Snow: So the main premise is this idea of lateral thinking, which is kind of, if you take that, literally it's think sideways. So think outside of your, your lane, but kind of the first application of that is basically instead of going and looking at best practices, when you're studying something, look at cross practices is what I call them.

So, example from when I was 20 years old, I was working at an advertising company. I was an intern. I was supposed to write ads for this, uh, business software and so I'd go and I'd look at everyone else's ass and I'd try and make a little better ads and you know, they're doing fine. And then one day I decided to steal ideas from online dating ads and so I went and I just ripped off these, all my dating ads, but I changed them to our particular industry and software. And those ads did so much better than the other ads and soon within a couple of weeks, everyone was caught being my ads. So it's kind of a pattern that happens you see it all the time, but you know, for me, when I was at a loss for inspiration, Instead of looking at best practices.

I looked somewhere else and there's amazing stories in history of my favorite one is this hospital that had this terrible problem where kids were dying in the recovery room after successful surgeries, because of the complications that occur when they're getting the kid from the ER to the ICU, and you got to like train equipment, a bunch of times you gotta run around the hall. Different people are doing a lot of things at once and they study best practices and other hospitals to kind of reduce these errors. We made a little progress, but it wasn't until a couple of surgeons went down to Italy to study how Ferrari pit crews change out the tires of cars in three seconds on a racetrack that they were able to make the breakthrough that actually started saving tons of kids' lives.

So you think about it, you know, running around a car and refilling it and changing the tires. That's so different than running around a gurney and changing out ventilators and IVs, you know, and all that to get a kid out of surgery and into recovery room. But no one had looked at that and they made this breakthrough and now other hospitals have copied them and that's how it happened.

So I think that idea, a lot of people think, you know, I'm not creative or I'm stuck look outside of your industry for tangential, but somewhat similar problems and copy their best practices and see what happens.

Jonathan Levi: I really, really liked that idea, Shane, because some of my greatest heroes throughout history have done exactly that.

And, you know, I hate to belabor the Steve jobs point, but bringing calligraphy and typography into computers, bringing stunning architectural design into retail experiences, all of these things were new and a lot of these ideas were taking things another over belabored example, but taking the types of welding techniques and aluminum alloys that you use in designing a reusable rocket ship, and then using them to design a car or building software updates in the car industry.

The way that you would update an iPhone or another piece of high-tech equipment, you know, Elon Musk and Tesla. So.

Shane Snow: Yes.

Jonathan Levi: Really, really interesting idea of just, you know, taking, we all know the quote good artists steal, great artists copy. Um.

Shane Snow: It's the other way round, right? Good artists copy grenade or steel.

Jonathan Levi: There it is. There it is. There it is and just taking that to the next level, which is stealing from people who aren't even artists, right? Steal from shining shoes and, and you'll get somewhere in terms of lateral thinking. I really love that point.

Shane Snow: I think there's two things in there that are really important.

I think just for society, it gives us a reason to care about people who aren't like us, which I think is a good moral choice and ed it's also important, I think to just us not blowing ourselves up with nuclear weapons or having horrible fights in congress, that we can learn things from people who we least expect it.

And so we should live our lives as if that's true. The other thing I would say is this is the reason why I think another good excuse to have hobbies that have nothing to do with your work. No. I like urban exploring. I like climbing bridges and going and exploring tunnels. I like costume parties. You know, things that have nothing to do with my line of work or business or anything.

You'll be surprised. The lessons, the analogies, you can draw from exploring those kinds of things. And it gives you an excuse to have fun, which I think is also important for us. Not, you know, eventually blowing each other up.

Jonathan Levi: Yeah, absolutely. So after you wrote smart cuts, I understand you are now working in the direction of another book called dream teams.

And the reason I want to ask about this is that you know, we all want to be productive. We talk about productivity. Every other week on this show, but the reality is, is that a huge part of our productivity? And I'm realizing this because I've been obsessing about the idea of deep work. Recently, the reality is, is that our productivity is so much influenced by our environment and also the people around us, particularly the people that we work with.

So tell me about the idea with dream teams. You said something very interesting before we hit record just around this idea that we are promised. That one plus one is going to equal two. And in fact, it doesn't elaborate on that.

Shane Snow: Yeah. So it's a, given that anything big and important is probably going to take more than one person to do.

It's also a given that the reason that humans kind of won on planet earth is because we're so good at cooperating and coordinating, but we have this kind of talking point. That he brings people together and they can be more than the sum of their parts. And it turns out that when you look at history, you look at data, you look at numerous studies and you think back to even your own experience, especially like in high school groups of people, when they get together are slower and less creative and less effective per capita than individuals are.

It's just the more of us, there are the harder it is to work.

Jonathan Levi: Right. It's the burden of communication or the mythical man-hour if you will.

Shane Snow: Sure. It's communication. It's coordination. It's social loafing in some cases. Yeah. Sometimes it's subconscious. There's these crazy studies where if you're in a group of six people and they ask you to shout as loud as you can, you do it.

And then they put you in a room by yourself and they ask you to shout as loud as you can you shout louder by yourself? Even if you think you're shouting your loudest, there's something about human psychology that our subconscious minds play this awful trick on us. There's also kind of in a group, you know, brainstorming is really interesting ones, group brainstorming exercises.

It turns out that you put the same people in a room together to come up with ideas. And you say any idea is a good idea to come up with a bunch of ideas. But if you put those same people in their own houses and have them come up with ideas and then come together, it turns out you'll have more ideas.

And you'll have better ideas, which sucks. So that's the one thing also when humans come together, we fight, right? We get in each other's way and we have different priorities and yet there are these cases that, you know, a lot of us have been part of you sort of felt, or we've seen in history where groups of people do add up to more than the sum of their parts.

So where the ragtag group of misfits beats, the giant army, you know, where we feel infinite, where, you know, anyone that's that has a family, right? Anyone's that's had a kid realizes there are times in life when one plus one equals three. And so that's the question that I had. Is a, you know, as, uh, in working, you know, in my company and working with other people, realizing that my increasing ambitions required me to work with other people and not just getting inspiration from other people, but to actually work with them, to delegate or, you know, to combine our brains.

As I realized that this was more and more important, I looked back at smart cuts. I look back at the lateral thinking research and realize, Oh my God, It's always happening as a combination of different people. It's always happening in groups or it's always inspired by other people and the biggest breakthroughs, you know, social movements, big, enormous change, uh, developing nuclear energy, anything like that, developing any kind of technology.

It's not one person. Even if one person is kind of the last one that comes out, aha. I have the patent, you know, it's 50 people that added up to that work and you know, their husband that encouraged them and gave them the idea of the kitchen table. You know, it's all of these things, right. So dream team is an exploration of that paradox.

And what makes the difference between teams that do make breakthroughs together? And why do so many of us, despite how hard we try, despite how hard we follow kind of the business guidelines and what we're taught in school? How come the bigger we get? The more we do tend to slow down. The more frustrated we are.

And the more we get in our own way, even with groups of people who really care, who really united, who are really smart. Why does that so often not add up to what we want it to.

Jonathan Levi: I'm so glad that we're talking today, Shane because as I said, I've recently become just obsessed with this topic. I'm in the other tab, before you called, I was watching a presentation from Clayton mask on how to get from 10 million to a hundred million.

How you scale teams up. I just signed up today for a, an amazing workshop with Amy Hyman Pratt who built the coffee bean on that same topic of how to get your team to. Work on rapid growth and how to get everyone communicating. So give me a sneak preview of all these things that I'm going to learn. I mean, how do we collaborate more effectively to make it not that one plus one is 1.5 at best, but actually make it one plus one equals three. What are the things that your research has kind of pulled out for you?

Shane Snow: So there's a couple of underlying principles. And I tried to make the book more of an adventure. So you're learning about buddy cops and pirate gangs and things so that this stuff is fun.

But underneath the fun and underneath the amazing stories that inspire us, there's sort of this almost mathematical pattern of teams that do have that kind of synergy. And what it starts with is that two heads are only better than one. If those heads think differently, from each other and there's two dimensions, one dimension is perspective, the way that you kind of catalog the world, the way that you see problems on the other is heuristics, which is the way that you approach the world, the way that you instinctually or through your education tackle problems.

And so a lot of teams, and a lot of times we know when we're trying to scale a team, say, for example, in business, you have something that works and you want to scale it. So you say let's get more people like that and put them in those slots. No, it turns out the more people, the slower it gets, the way that you accelerate, the way that you expand is instead of getting the same kinds of people, you get people who have different angles on those problems, people with different perspectives, different life experiences, and different heuristics, and as much as possible, you know, the further away people's perspectives as possible, the more potential energy there is. The problem is, and this is the second kind of underlying principle that in that potential energy, it's dormant if those different people and those different perspectives and heuristics don't crash into each other. So if you recruit a group of people and you say, all right, we recruited you because you're all different and your ways, and this is amazing and you know, together, we're going to be smarter than the smartest, one of you and then you say, Oh, and by the way, here's the list of things that you have to do to fit in here. Suddenly you start to squash the different approaches, the different ways of thinking that people have, they might have them, but they're not going to bring them as much, sometimes subconsciously sometimes very overtly.

When you start to confine people to a certain way of doing things, then you get what's called organizational silence, which is sort of a fancy term for people holding back and the other end of this spectrum is you bring people in with their, you know, their different opinions and everything, and you'll immediately start to get fighting.

So from there, you know, how do you keep the relationship of your team inside this ideal zone of cognitive friction, where you have people who are dissenting, you have people who are provoking, you have people who are sort of pulling things back into this area where it's not personal as a very hard thing to do, but if you can pull that off, then that's the jumping-off point to becoming incredible together.

So. It's tricky, but it's also very worth it if you can manage to do this. So it's that combination of differences and which is actually, when you kind of boil it down, you pull it back. And you say, Oh, well, that's kind of intuitive, like we all knew that and in fact, you know, there's kind of the diversity conversation in corporate America right now and kind of around the world too, to some degree of a this is the right thing to do. Cool. But it turns out that just putting people together isn't enough, it's that the magic is that friction process and getting people to actually bring their full self and the thing that. I think if I could, in one phrase, say what you, your philosophy needs to be in order to manage that as a leader is to give people freedom to be and to operate however they want in exchange for the accountability for pushing the whole team forward. So as soon as you say, you need to believe these things, your personal values of mine are these top-down values, there's some things that are just like good in general, like honesty or whatever. The things that go without saying are kind of the foundation. But as soon as you say, I care about this the most that's when you start to get in a little bit of a dangerous area, and as soon as you say, this is the way things are done here, even if that's a great way, that's when you start to dig into that dangerous spots, give people the freedom to operate, how they want and in exchange for the results and the results, not being their results, but the team's results and I think that's sort of the philosophy that that is the best starting place.

And then all the questions become well, how do I get this group to be united, even though they're different, how do I get this group to stop fighting? Those things become the kind of practical things and I explore a lot of that in the book, through the lens of people having conflict on the Prairie's or trying to win rights for certain groups and that sort of thing.

Jonathan Levi: Wow, this is absolutely fascinating and it really gets my head going, you know, and I, I just realized that this book has really, she was already some pretty tremendous praise and endorsements, Sheryl Sandberg, and Adam Grant wrote year afterward. So congratulations on that.

Shane Snow: Thank you.

Jonathan Levi: That is really, really incredible. So I'm looking forward to reading this book. It comes out June 2018, correct?

Shane Snow: June 5th. Yep.

Jonathan Levi: June 5th. Okay so by the time people hear this, it is already at your local bookstore. So go ahead guys, and check that out. Now, I want to ask you another question Shane, which is in research for this podcast, I realized that you also are a co-founder of a company called Contently. I want to ask you about that potentially offline when we have a second. How do you manage all this stuff? I mean, you've got like newsletters, you do a ton of public speaking, you've got the snow report, you've written a series of books now, which have all been well-received and you are a co-founder of a software startup, which by itself should take up your entire day.

I mean, is this a plug for Smart Cuts or do you have any strategies or techniques for balancing your time and being so productive?

Shane Snow: There's a couple of things. One is that I try to, you know, my main project, I try to have as 80% of my focus, but no more than that, so that I'm always doing other things and I've used the through-line of writing and exploring in journalism as something that's kept me sane while I've seen had been building my company but also, like I said before, as an excuse to make things better and to learn things outside of my field. So that's part of it. So part of it is, you know, there's this illusion of like, ah, doing 20 things, but you're looking at, you know, the last 10 years of work that are kind of all coming out. Now, I hired a replacement for myself at Contently a year and a half ago and spent the better part of a year, winding down my role and winding up her role and so that has freed me up so that I'm spending about 20% of my time now on that, helping out with the business and 80% of my time working on my writing, which you know, is the newsletter and the snow report and, and this new book.

So part of it is, is maintaining that balance. I think it's important to me to not be 100% focused on things, but to not be, you know, 25% focused on four things if that makes sense.

Jonathan Levi: That makes perfect sense. I really, really like your answer because I think, you know, some people will have read into the, well that's the last 10 years of work, but actually read into the other part, which is I immediately pick up the 80 20, right. Is like you're doing 20% of your time in other things, which is to come full circle on our talk, right? Being involved in a software startup, obviously, I'm going to make some assumptions about you and your writing, but obviously gave you some insights into how teams work. So that 20% was giving you the ability to have this lateral thinking and a lot of times I think we beat on this message of the Jim Collins' good to great, you know, good companies and good CEOs focused on one thing and do it well and I think that we're missing out because I, first off, I think it's very important and worth mentioning that it's 80, 20, it's not 85 15 because you know, that's the golden parades principle, but also just the 20% is a day a week.

You know, that's an easy dividable amount of time right? Whereas if it were, I'm going to spend the first half of Fridays at this office and the second half, you know, so I think it's worth pointing that out.

Shane Snow: Yeah, I agree and I think if you subscribe to, you know, pick one thing and do it really well. If you're going to level in that one thing if you're not spending 20% of your time exploring other things, you're only gonna, I mean, it's the same thing we've been talking about.

You're only going to be within the same paradigm that everyone else that's focusing on that thing is to you inject what you're learning from the other things you're doing and exploring into the one thing that you care about and that's the way that you're going to break above the rest. I really believe that.

Jonathan Levi: So smart, and that is exactly what we kind of preach. You know, obviously, this podcast comes out of the super learner courses where we talk about brute force learning and this idea of being a multidisciplinary learner and just picking up exactly, as you said, and kind of, I don't use the term lateral thinking, but picking up, you know, if I'm out there and I'm doing acro yoga, how is that informing my understanding of, say collaborative music because it's informing the way that I'm seeing how people collaborate. Completely random example there. But I love everything about that and I love that you are a living breathing example of how well that was works.

Shane Snow: Well. Thanks.

Jonathan Levi: Any other performance hacks? Are you, you obsessive about diet as people such as you and I typically are what's your exercise regimen. I mean, what are the things that you do to keep your body and mind performing at the level that your teams obviously perform at?

Shane Snow: Yeah, I think in the notes that you sent before, the show you asked, what's your biggest challenge right now? And this actually is my biggest challenge. I tend to go through bouts of obsessions like I'll use diets or different kinds of sports or exercise, you know, I'll use the excuse of, Oh, I want to experience this and find out about it as an excuse to kind of do it. My normal regimen is I try to eat low carb and I try to work out with my trainer three times a week. Lately, my problem is I've stacked up so many things in my work and personal life right now that I've decided that kind of the trade-off has been like, Oh, well, I won't go meet with the trainer this time. I'll just do two times this week, or I'll just do one time this week and instead of eating, I'll just drink coffee and take an extra meeting, an extra interview, or something.

So that's been my problem lately. It's only been the last couple of months and my excuse is, Oh, when I launched my book, it'll be fine and then I'll go back to my normal habits. I suspect that that is not how habits work and, uh, there'll be harder to just go back and there's always kind of you know, the grass is greener, the field is empty or there's more time to meditate later than now.

So that is my challenge right now. I do think the times in my life when I have consistently meditated every day, I have been a lot more effective and productive. I'm sure everyone that you've had on the show has said something to that effect.

I think exercise is super important for keeping my mind healthy. I explored a few crazy diets. That I think are kind of fun. I was, uh, the first person to live off of only Soylent, which is like, you know, that goop out of Silicon Valley.

Jonathan Levi: Uh, wait a minute. Was this year's article that I read where the protein powder was getting stuck and you got sick.

Shane Snow: Yup. Yup.

Jonathan Levi: Oh man. So I've actually read your work. I didn't even realize it.

Shane Snow: I wrote about it on Tim Ferriss's blog years ago.

Jonathan Levi: Right.

Shane Snow: So I did that. I've done, you know, various like ketogenic diets. I was vegetarian for 10 years. A couple of years ago. I ate only halo, top ice cream for 10 days.

Jonathan Levi: Wow.

Shane Snow: As an experiment because I did the math and you look at those pints halo top was not very well known at the time. Now they're the number one or number two brand of ice cream in America which is crazy, but they grew really quickly and a couple of years ago before they grew up quick, I noticed the health facts said that you know, it's high in protein, high in fiber, low in sugar and low in calories and I realized you could eat six pints of this a day and lose weight and work out. So I did for 10 days and I wrote about it and I also got sick. It turns out that there's no vitamin C and halo top ice cream. So I got canker sores and a, and I was really vitamin deficient, but, you know, 10 days is enough to start being vitamin deficient, but I lost 9.9 pounds in 10 days, four of which was water right? But it didn't matter the headline was insane. And, uh, nothing I ever write in my journalism career will be as popular as that ice cream, the guy who ate only ice cream and lost 10 pounds. So that's a fun one. If you Google ice cream diet or shamed, snow ice cream or GQ ice cream, it'll be the top result and then the next 10 results will be people saying nutritionists saying do not do this.

Jonathan Levi: Yeah, of course. I love that. Okay. Let me ask you another rapid-fire question because you know, we're both tech people in life hackers, what is one product or service that you absolutely cannot live without?

Shane Snow: Cannot live without? I had an answer prepared for this. Oh, you know, it's Lyft. Lyft is the one that I actually couldn't live without. I traveled so much and I'll show up to the airport, having no idea where I'm going or how to get there and I always use Lyft. The other one for my kind of writing and research career is rev, That automatic transcription. That thing is a lifesaver.

Jonathan Levi: And what do you use it for out of curiosity?

Shane Snow: I have a whole workflow. So I use an automatic call recorder on my Android phone. So I can record calls when I'm doing interviews, interview someone to say, Hey, can I record the call? It just does it in the background.

And then I saved that to Evernote and I have Evernote send that to rev and rev send the transcription back to Evernote. So I, I kind of do the call and then the next day I have the word document of the call.

Jonathan Levi: Wow. Okay. You're on some next level. Shit. We got emailed about this. First of all, what do you use the recording of the call for you're publishing a transcript of calls or something?

Shane Snow: If I'm doing interviews.

So either, you know, interviews, I'm writing about some topic and I'd rather not type notes while I talk to them, I'd rather just talk freely and then see the notes later. See the transcript. Or, and it's also a better way to get accurate quotes. I mean, so many people, you know, when you get interviewed by a journalist and they're scribbling notes, and then you see the quote in the newspaper and you're like that, wasn't quite what I said.

So I like to be accurate. And then the other thing is sometimes I, you know, I just have calls with awesome people and I want to remember it for posterity. And so, you know, I'll, I'll record those and get it transcribed and.

Jonathan Levi: I like it. Okay. Critical question. Now we're going to geek out you and me, Shane, are you anIFTTT man, or are you a Zapier man?

Shane Snow: Oh, you know what I've been converted to a Zapier is such a great user experience, but it's not quite as powerful for the kinds of things I ended up doing. I just made actually a, uh, and is that one of the things that I did a bunch of original research for, for this latest book is open-mindedness, which turns out is one of these fields that for as much as we celebrate it, scientists, at least psychologists have not really pinned down how to measure it and they just barely came out with a measurement scale for it. And so I took that to some other research. I made an open-mindedness quiz in what dimensions are you open-minded to this? How can you improve? And I put that on my website and I use Zapier to connect Survey Monkey to email, well, a Survey Monkey to Google sheets, where it makes a calculation for your scores and then that connects to another sheet in Google sheets that generates the advice and the kind of the custom message on you scored this. So here's what you should do and then that uses Zapier to go to Gmail, send an email from my personal email, with your report saying, here's how you did on the open-mindedness thing. Here's some ways that you can improve it. Here's some resources.

And so I, I basically, I, I built that with Zapier probably took longer than it would have if I'd paid some service to do, it was a lot of fun and you get an email from me rather than, you know, from Survey Monkey or something like that. Yep.

Jonathan Levi: Wow. All right. We share this Zapier Ninja-ness. I often tell people we've saved about two or three full-time employees because Zapier does like everything in our business, we've had entire products that were delivered, like created, as you said, created by Zapier, which does the like matching algorithm find someone, a partner does like all of this crazy shit and I just I'll spend hours and hours just tinkering and playing and I use it for so many things that I don't even want to say on this podcast because so many interactions in my life are thanks to Zapier.

Shane Snow: Hilarious. I love it.

Jonathan Levi: Awesome. We got to compare screenshots of our Zapier council one day and we'll geek out on it.

Shane Snow: Yeah, let's do it.

Jonathan Levi: So, Shane, I want to be respectful of your time. I know you're very busy. You got a lot of different things on your plate, where can people reach out and learn more about you and your books?

Shane Snow: It's got everything. If you go to that stands for intellectual humility, then you can take that test that I was just talking about, which is fun but yeah, that's the only thing that's not linked to from my main site. Everything else, books, social media, contact me, whatever. It's just there.

Jonathan Levi: Brilliant. Great. We will put a link as well to this book. I plan on checking it out because as I said, our team is growing knock on wood crazy fast right now and we want to obviously do that in a smart way and create a dream team around us.

Shane. I want to thank you but first I want to ask you one more question, which is what would you say about having great conversations and wanting to remember them and cherish them and value them? What would you hope would be the number one biggest takeaway that you hope people remember from this episode?

Shane Snow: From this episode. I mean, I think I could summarize it by saying that people are the most important thing and we need to not dismiss people because of, cause we don't think that there'll be useful or because of who they are. If I could share a personal story,

Jonathan Levi: Please.

Shane Snow: Along those lines, my dad is a really smart guy and my mom is a really terrible driver and a really amazing mom and an amazing person and, uh, and she was such a terrible driver that she's always wrecking the car and I remember every time that she got in an accident or she ran over something or whatever, instead of my dad freaking out, he would always use this as a lesson that he, it happened a lot.

He'd always say, all right, kids. Mom just backed the car into the gas pump. What do we say? And we would always say, cause he taught us Is mom okay? People are more important than cars. And I love that lesson. Just remembering stuff goes wrong, stuff, costs money, stuff breaks. We freak out about things but at the end of the day, people are more important than stuff and they're more important than things and they're more important than money.

And I think that's also, you know, my parents are an amazing team. The fact that my dad treated my mom like that allowed her to be able to focus on the things that made our family good and made our family amazing rather than having some conflict over wrecked cars and money. I think that's super important.

Jonathan Levi: That is a beautiful story. And I want to add, you know, not that I could top that possibly because it's lovely, but I was just yesterday reading about Tesla and some of the challenges that they're going through and, you know, Elon Musk being a leader and everything and, uh, apparently the biggest issue going on with them right now is that they over automated apropos cars, they over automated the production line of the model three and Elon came on Twitter and said, you know, it was a mistake and more importantly, it was my mistake. I underestimated the value of humans. Humans are kind of the best, you know.

Shane Snow: That's awesome.

Jonathan Levi: Yeah. It's really funny coming from a guy who built the world's most automated auto factory-like underestimated the value of humans. So definitely not a mistake to be made.

Again, Shane, I want to thank you so much. I really hope we stay in touch. Next time. I'm in New York, I will hit you up and if you are in Tel Aviv, please. Come hang out.

Shane Snow: Let's do it.

Jonathan Levi: All right. My friend, you take care.

All right. SuperFriends. That is all we have for you today, but I hope you guys really enjoyed the show and I hope you learned a ton of actionable information tips, advice that will help you go out there and overcome the impossible.

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That's all for today, guys. Thanks for tuning in.

Closing: Thanks for tuning into the award-winning Superhuman Academy Podcast for more great skills and strategies, or for links to any of the resources mentioned in this episode, visit while you're at it please take a moment to share this episode with a friend and leave us a review on iTunes. We'll see you next week.



  1. Luiz
    at — Reply

    Thanks, I learned a lot of interesting things in past episodes.

  2. Shivaditya Purohit
    at — Reply

    loved th heart and the depth of the conversation. The way that Dr. Metivier shared from his enormous experience and insights was just amazing. Thank you Jonathan for doing this podcast!! 🙂

  3. Rob
    at — Reply

    Great interview with Dr. Greg Wells! He mentioned a doctor from Colorado around the 42:30 point of the podcast, discussing turmeric and black pepper. I couldn’t make out the doctor’s name. Can you provide me with his full name and maybe his website or contact info. Interested in his products.



  4. Muhammed Sani Ibrahim
    at — Reply

    I am new here, and learning really fast.
    Thank you.

  5. Leonia
    at — Reply

    Maybe oarts of the things he has to share are right, maybe not. If I look at him which impact his nurturing and living style has on himself I see a very old looking man! He is year 1973!! That is not old and he looks definitly much older!! If I would not know his birthyear I would guess that he is in his mid-60ies!! A bit concering for someone who claims his lifestyle is suitable for a long life, isn’t it?

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