Tim Urban On Elon Musk, Learning, Procrastination, and Changing The Blogging Paradigm

  • Or listen in:
Tags: , , , , , ,

“You have at least one big struggle going on, […] and you have to realize everyone has a few of those. Working on managing whichever ones you have is the core human struggle that every person is going through.”
— Tim Urban

Greetings, SuperFriends!

Today we are joined by one of my personal heroes, someone whose work I've admired for years, and someone who has really shaped my thinking on a lot of different topics, ranging from A.I., Elon Musk, and electric cars, to the history of the universe and space travel.

You are probably wondering who that guy is, that writes about so many different things. Well, his name is Tim Urban, and he is the creator and writer/illustrator of Wait But Why, where he writes very in-depth posts on a wide range of topics from procrastination to A.I. It's really an incredible blog.

You probably know Tim because of some of his mega-viral posts, like his post on why Generation Y is unhappy, or his Ted Talk on procrastination. But, you might have recently learned about him because he actually got the opportunity to hang out with one of his most famous readers, Elon Musk.

Tim spent time following Elon around, just learning about everything that he could through him, and then creating posts out of it. So, he had more access to Elon Musk than most people. You'll see in the interview the amazing insights that he has about what makes Elon Musk successful, and, of course, how you can emulate that success.

By the way, his blog started in 2013, and now it has almost 600.000 email subscribers with over 1 million people visiting the site every single month. Incredible.

I was really excited to interview Tim, and an incredible episode came out of it. He has so many unique insights about writing, about procrastination, and, of course, about Elon Musk. I know you guys will enjoy this episode, and if you do, please make sure to share it.

-Jonathan Levi

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:

  • How did Tim Urban get to create Wait But Why? [5:30]
  • The beginning of Wait But Why, and an illustration of some early decisions and struggles [9:00]
  • Important things in setting up before publishing [11:25]
  • Why does Tim Urban try to talk to readers in a fun way, instead of trying to be a good writer? [12:10]
  • How (and why) writing is an exponential skill, along with all the process surrounding it [14:00]
  • How does Tim Urban tackle the enormous learning challenged he puts upon himself [15:45]
  • The secret to Tim Urban's writing: Transferring knowledge to readers the same way he would explain it to himself if he could turn back time [17:30]
  • How does Tim keep track of the immense amount of material he consumes [19:00]
  • Gathering all thoughts and insights together to form his understanding (and a blog post) [20:40]
  • How does having a simple process make Tim's work more efficient? [22:40]
  • Tim also uses simple processes in other parts of his life and structure [24:00]
  • How does Tim Urban experience procrastination in himself [25:40]
  • External pressure is what makes Tim (and most procrastinators) function [27:30]
  • A few ways in which procrastination can be a good trait to have [29:00]
  • You should identify your problem and then outsmart yourself [31:50]
  • Sometimes weaknesses can be your strengths [33:10]
  • How Tim Urban ended up following Elon Musk around [35:10]
  • What is it like having (amazing) conversations with Elon Musk? [36:00]
  • Starting working on a project with Elon Musk [37:10]
  • Tim's secret goal was to puzzle out what makes Elon Musk extraordinary [38:50]
  • What exactly makes Elon Musk who he is [39:45]
  • How Elon Musk stuck to what he knows and believes, and, despite conventional wisdom, started SpaceX [41:00]
  • How Elon Musk did the same with Tesla [45:20]
  • Elon Musk is so successful because he ‘predicts' the future, and then builds it against conventional wisdom [46:00]
  • The skill Tim Urban is mostly working on improving [47:10]
  • Tools that Tim Urban uses in his daily life[48:30]
  • What are some of Tim's posts that he himself considers important? [49:50]
  • What is the takeaway message Tim wants to leave you with? [52:10]

Resources Mentioned in This Episode:

Favorite Quotes from Tim Urban:

“Being able to talk like a human as a writer, in a fun way, was a skill that people care about.”
“The first step [in learning] is always ‘I need to learn this thing'.”
“I've tried using modern tools, and, to me, it is just noise.”
“You just have to figure out how to outsmart your problem, how to get by it, and how to get better at tackling it a little every year.”
“In what makes you addicted to the thing that's causing you a lot of problems, there also is a quality that is probably serving you in other ways.”
“When smart people independently reason and then when, inevitably their conclusions conflict with what conventional wisdom says, they are able to have enough confidence in their reasoning process to actually act, then these people become tremendously successful and disruptive.”
“We can work at our own psychology.”



  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?

  6. at — Reply

    Thanks in favor of sharing such a nice idea, post is good, thats why i have read it completely

  7. at — Reply

    Asking questions are genuinely good thing if you are not understanding something completely,
    except this piece of writing offers good understanding even.

  8. Excellent, insightful, efficient

  9. This post is truly a fastidious one it assists new net
    viewers, who are wishing in favor of blogging.

  10. Thank you very much for this post. I think more people have to see it, to be very honest with you.

  11. Nice post. Ilearn something totally new and challenging oon sites I stumbleupon on a daily basis.

    It will always be helpful to read thhrough article
    ffrom other authors and usee a littlke something from their web sites.

  12. I like the helpful info you provide in our articles.
    I wil bookmark your weblog andd check again herre regularly.
    I’m quite certain I’ll learn plenty of new stuff right here!

    Best of lluck for the next!

  13. at — Reply

    I wanted to thank you for this good read!! I definitely loved every little bit of it.
    I have got you bookmarked to look at new things you post…

  14. This is my first time pay a quick visit at here and i
    am actually happy to read all at single place.

  15. Hola! I’ve been following your web site for a while
    now and finally got the bravery to go ahead and give you a shout out from Porter Tx!

    Just wanted to tell you keep up the good work!

  16. Keep this going please, great job!

  17. This site was… how do I say it? Relevant!!
    Finally I have found something that helped me. Kudos!

  18. Thank you for the auspicious writeup. It in fact was a enjoyment account
    it. Glance complicated to far delivered agreeable from you!
    However, how can we keep in touch?

  19. Hey There. I found your blog the usage of msn.
    This is a really neatly written article. I’ll
    make sure to bookmark it and come back to read more
    of your helpful info. Thanks for the post. I’ll definitely comeback.

  20. Appreciate this post. Will try it out.

Leave a review

Your email address will not be published.


The Basics of Total Personal Transformation W/ Stephan Spencer