Leveraging Curiosity with Thomas Frank

This is grief and pizza, a podcast exploring the highs and lows at the intersection of business and emotional wellbeing. In this episode, we're having a nerdy conversation with Thomas Frank about going on creative benders, exploring different business models and following our curiosity.

Benjamin: We're already recording. So we usually just kind of jump in at some point and start talking. So

Thomas: we can rock and roll. This is exactly how I used to do my podcast.

Awesome. By the way, I was already recording. Just to make it easier.

Marie: And when you say used to, are you still running your podcast? Like what's?

Thomas: No, I started a podcast in 2013 and I think we ended it in 2021. So we got right around the eight year mark and then I also ran another podcast on personal finance for three years.

Marie: And so no podcasting at the moment,

Thomas: I've done a lot of it, nothing at the moment, but I guess I think having a YouTube channel where the mic is this close to your face is basically a podcast.

Benjamin: Yeah.

Thomas: And it's not live on YouTube yet, but I just released a video on Nebula. That's three and a half hours long.

So I think I saw the teaser for

Benjamin: that. That looks pretty amazing.

Thomas: Yeah. What's, what's that about? I sat down with my agent at Nebula and I basically just grilled him on every question I could think of related to sponsorships and brand deals for creators. That's super cool. And we ended up recording for three and a half hours.

And, uh, I was gonna cut it down into like a Netflix esque, I don't know, like high produced TV show sort of thing. And then I was like, let's just put this out there uncut because everything in there is going to be relevant to someone. Yeah, absolutely. Unapologetic about the length.

Benjamin: That's, that's definitely, you know, the style of, I think, podcasts that we're going for.

Yeah. We might as well just start there. I guess I, I'd call you at this point, I'd call you an educator and content creator, but now you're moving towards product development as well as software development. And it's been awesome and inspiring to watch your journey, especially as I've been kind of. I'm doing the reverse thing in some respects where I've been in software for a long time and then I'm trying to dip my feet into YouTube and content creation and writing and things like that.

Yeah, music as well. And I, yeah, like the other day I was just like, what's Thomas, like I was looking for one of your channels or something to see kind of your progression and video and then I found Thomas Frank music as well and I'm like, geez, this guy has so many things that he's got his feet in. So you're kind of like an everyman in a way and a.

And an autodidactic person and I feel like a lot of your, um, a lot of your journey is based on your excitement for learning and sharing with people. Um, I'm curious, like, in terms of. Moving from, you know, this content to moving to software now, what's that transition been like for you? Um, and, and how much of the, how much of the learning is involved?

And, you know, what do you, what do you optimize for when you're starting something new and you're intrigued by something like this, like a new software development

Thomas: type thing? I have always followed my curiosity. And most of what I've done, uh, both successfully and non successfully in business has been me either imitating people that I enjoy, um, watching and following, um, just like, Hey, I want to do that thing that they're doing or just getting in a weird idea and trying it out.

That's basically everything. So with the transition to software development specifically, this has been one of the most fun and also one of the most stressful periods of my life. Uh, I feel like at some point I need to make a video following up the video I published on my main channel in January. I made a video called how to get everything you want in life.

And I talked about this exercise I had sat down and gone through when I was on holiday break. One of the conclusions I came through from that exercise is I guess I have to step up and become the CEO of my company. Um, and in trying to do that, I realized that was a, I don't know if it was a horrible mistake, but it was definitely a learning experience.

Um, and truly coming to terms with the fact that I'm not that kind of person, uh, in terms of Paul Graham's maker and manager schedule, I should be on maker schedule as much as possible. And me trying to put myself on manager schedule would probably end up destroying the business if I did it for too long.

So, uh, it's, it's tough because the business is bigger now. So there was a lot of this, Oh, I guess I should, you know, eventually be the CEO and do that all day long. But in trying to do it, I realized like, not only is it torture for me, um, also I feel like the only, the only good and useful things that come out of me are, uh, developed when I'm in just a sort of bender.

Of satiating my curiosity, learning something really hard and then either producing something useful out of it or producing some useful educational material that helps other people do the same thing.

Marie: Can we talk more about those benders a little bit? Cause like, I know, you know, both Ben and I get this way too, right?

You get really kind of fixated on something. And as someone who talks about productivity a lot, I'm just curious what your relationship is with those benders and sort of like, Uh, how do you put those boundaries or constraints on yourself when you feel yourself going on one of these vendors that maybe you're staying up too late?

It's eating up into other time. Like, do you struggle with that? Or do you feel like you've got some pretty good boundaries around that? What are your, what does a Thomas Frank vendor look like?

Thomas: Um, I have some good boundaries. I am thankful for the fact that for whatever reason, I am good at keeping myself on an exercise schedule.

So even if I'm on a, like in a bender period, I will go to the gym or go for a run or something. So at least I don't fall apart. That's good. But if I'm in a bender period of my life, I don't cook. I will order takeout and spend way too much money. Uh, I don't clean my house very well. Like, I'm like the classic, uh, I don't know the artist type that just has a messy workspace because.

All I want to do is work on the thing. Um, and it does, it does kind of result in me having poor boundaries with other areas of my life. Like for example, this past weekend, what is today? Monday. Today's Tuesday. Uh, this past weekend I was like, Oh, it's the weekend. I'm allowed to have fun. Therefore, I'm allowed to program all weekend, go skiing, not go outside and do things with friends.

It's like, no, I spent the whole week working on things I was supposed to work on. Now I get to program and like some good came out of that. I ended up getting anthropic and deep ground models implemented into notion voice notes, which was fun. Uh, so I don't regret it, but it's like, yeah, there's definitely, uh, there's like a concerning element of.

I perceive all free time to be open time for creative benders, which looks suspiciously like work to an outside observer.

Benjamin: Yeah, that's interesting. Like you're, I'd say as an, as perhaps as an outside observer, it seems like you have a very high energy level and a high threshold for that. But then I wonder how much of that is you keeping yourself in this sort of.

By doing the exercise, by doing the workouts and things like that, you're actually creating sort of energy for yourself to maintain that level of intensity. Um, so, you know, when you have so many different things going on, um, some of the things like kind of fall by the wayside, I assume at some point, um, like I know that you, you really focused over the last couple of years on your, the notion side of your YouTube creation.

And I think recently you started it. Started touching the Thomas Frank explain stuff again. I'm curious what, what's kind of taken a backseat now that you're, you're focused on the software side of things. What surprised you? What's been easy, easier than you expected about software? And what's been harder than you expected about software?

Thomas: I feel like the process of now, like going from, I don't know how to do X to doing X in software is easier than I expected. I would attribute that to Number one, just getting better at understanding the logic of software development, being able to go into documentation and not be as intimidated. Um, I would also quite frankly attribute that to being pretty good with AI tools.

Uh, specifically from an educational standpoint, like I'm very good at using say Claude or chat GPT to say like, please teach me this thing. And have also found myself to be pretty good at knowing when it's giving me bad answers versus good answers. So going from, I don't know how to implement a concurrency into my application to it's done is easier than expected.

The harder thing is. Uh, you asked about the things that fall by the wayside. My brain wants nothing to fall by the wayside. And I I've like hyperanalyzed that feeling a lot. Um, I think a lot of it is just due to this, maybe you could call it like Superman complex. I feel like I should be able to do all these things.

And I feel like all these identities that I've carried throughout my life should be able to be. still be around and maintained. Um, and also there's, I don't know if it's just like the anxiety of letting things go in business, but it's like, well, I've always had videos go up on this channel that should still be a thing.

Now I have Thomas Frank explains channel. That should also be a thing. I'm not realizing that like. I've already filled the cup with new things and the cup only has so much capacity, especially when I'm not the kind of person who is really wired to build a big organization and be the CEO. So, um, something that I'm working on right now is actually transitioning a lot of that CEO work to my friend Martin, who's been working with me for like eight years now.

And it's so funny that we took this long. To start figuring out, this would be a good idea because we used to co host our podcast together and, uh, on one episode, several years ago, we both read the book good to great by Jim. I think it's Jim Collins. Uh, well, one thing he outlines in good to great is that all of these companies that went from either mediocre or good, but not amazing for a long time to eventually great hockey stick moment, typically have a CEO.

Who's not like a big brash face of the company. Who's pretty shrewd, who is, um, not like your Elon Musk or Steve Jobs type who doesn't tend to get hyper focused on these crazy big things. They just sort of plug away and make sure the ships, uh, arrive in the docks and make sure the trains arrive on time.

That's Martin to a T that's not me. So we've started like moving towards a, a setup where he's more the CEO and I'm more the just mad scientist.

Marie: It feels like a lot of guests that we've talked to too, I think kind of fit that description. Like even Mariah cause was saying she didn't realize that you're, she was building toward this shape of a business and realizing like, wait a second.

I like writing sales pages. I like making content. I like. That's great. Being in Canva and making slides. Like, why am I making a job that I no longer enjoy? So it seems like a lot of, uh, maybe solo or like small creators go through this, where they're sort of realizing that maybe they aren't the ideal CEO because they actually really do enjoy the content side of things.

Um, do you think most solopreneurs that are kind of in that situation would probably benefit from having someone that's a little bit more. I

Thomas: think so. Um, and I guess to, to state it more precisely, I think creators who reach a certain point where revenue is good and who want to continue being creative should at very least invest in operational help.

So I think, I think the term hire a CEO is very intimidating and it's still intimidating to me because what does that mean for control over the business? Like I, I know that I still have like good taste, good instincts, all that kind of stuff, but what I'm not good at is okay. I've set the system up now.

Let's make sure it's maintained. Um, let's make sure that we actually report our unemployment stuff to the Minnesota Department of Unemployment every single month, like that kind of stuff. Right? Um, I can either be really good at it and Okay. Throw my creative work away because now I'm on my manager schedule, or I can find somebody to, uh, be the ops person.

So I would say, yes, creators should probably invest in ops more, uh, or sooner than they think they should.

Benjamin: And how is that? How's that transition been? So what's you're up to last time? I heard you were up to 10 employees now. Um, And that is for kind of, is that for your entire, the entirety of your business?

Or is it, is it mostly notion stuff? Like, how are you, how are you differentiating now between all these different, uh, these facets of the Thomas Frank, um, kind of empire at this point?

Thomas: That's the entire thing. Uh, I think, so Flylighter feels quite separate, uh, and is intended to be separate. Uh, so like Eli and I are working on Flylighter fairly separately, but like there's a, I don't know, there's like a bit of overlap.

I would love for it to be all one thing. But for ownership and equity reasons, like Eli's the person who's almost entirely building fly letter. So he, he will get like significant equity in that. So we have to figure out how do you. Structure, almost like an offshoot of one creator business where the person building it is almost like a co founder.

That is a lawyer question that we need to figure out. Um, but other than that, like I would say the team is very cross functional and people work on a lot of different things, like say, um, Alex and Ben. Both in the Notion Ambassador community. I didn't, you know, both of them, they work on, um, a little bit of content, a little bit of documentation, a little bit of course building, a little bit of support, all sorts of stuff.

So yeah, I think we're, I think we're still at 10 people. Uh, once you get to 10, it's like, is it 10? Is it nine? Is it 11?

Marie: Yeah. Yeah. And like some people are maybe part time contractors, full time whatnot. You probably have a variety I know we

Thomas: have three full time. And then I think it's seven contractors.

Marie: What are some of the things you've learned along the way in terms of maybe, um, best practices with the hiring or even like realizing that hiring for these roles versus these roles, like, what are some of the things that have been challenging in that process? And maybe things that were maybe easier than you thought.

Thomas: The first thing that comes to mind is I typically have not been burned by hiring on vibes, which I'm sure like an analytical person would be like, this is the worst thing ever. You need to go through a million spreadsheets. What I mean by that is typically the people I've hired who just give me, um, A sense of like, they, they really care.

They're empathetic. Um, they aren't just looking for a paycheck. They want to build something really useful for people. When I get that vibe right away, I have not been burned by it. I would say where I've had challenges sometimes where it's like, I hire somebody because someone else told me I should hire them.

And like, I know we had like one, uh, one sort of challenging situation where we brought someone into some work where they probably should have been full time and fully invested in it. Um, but they were sort of brought into this kind of work. A few hours per week instead, and that is very tough.

Marie: In terms of tough to make progress on anything or tough to kind of

Thomas: tough to make progress, tough to know, like when they have ability to communicate versus when someone is full time, it's just like pretty much all day.

I have all day to talk. Uh, oh, and that actually brings another thing to mind. So one thing that we tried to do really. early on was be like totally async all the time. Uh, and I feel like we sort of swung the pendulum too far in that direction to the point where it's like no meetings ever. Yeah. But what I found is if you never have a meeting, you kind of never know if you're having a conversation with somebody with their full attention or if you're just sort of getting someone's like half.

Attention responses in between them doing other, like other work. So one thing that we've actually found to be very useful is being a mostly asynchronous organization, but still having like a meeting every once in a while. So for example, my content team, it's me, Tony and Martin, we meet every Monday. And it's usually just a 20 minute meeting, but that really helps to keep us all on the same page.

Marie: Yeah, that's still. Not a ton, you know, not a ton of time. I was going to ask if you had like really structured meetings and I'm sure if you have, you know, meetings with the content teams could be a different kind of meeting than meetings with other teams. But, uh, do you ever have sort of like an all hands on deck meeting where everybody gets together or even in person get togethers?

Thomas: We, we did a retreat last year. We went to Seattle, uh, and almost everyone was able to come to that. We have two people in the Philippines who had joined us. I want to say four. Four months before the retreat, but apparently it takes nine months to get a visa from the Philippines to the U. S. So they were not able to join for the, um, for the retreat, but everyone else was able to make it, which was pretty sweet.

Otherwise, I don't think we've ever had an all hands meeting ever, which it would be really hard to, because we have a guy in Poland. We've got, uh, a guy in London and we have two people in the Philippines. We've got people in multiple time zones across the U. S. So an all hands meeting would be a challenge for sure.

Marie: Yeah, but it seems to work pretty well. Like you found your cadence that, that works for you and the team. Yeah.

Thomas: Yeah. I mean, we just have Slack. We have, um, Front, which is like an email management app, so we can easily just converse with an email slip threads, uh, and then Notion and that. Pretty much make things work.

Benjamin: That's awesome. I'm really curious about, um, this transition to fly lighter. I think you mentioned kind of like trying to Superman throughout all of these properties that you have, and that you kind of want to keep a hold on all of them. I actually was looking up. Some stuff, you know, cause when I got the booking, it was from a college info geek.

com email. And I was like, what is this? Like, I don't even remember what, I don't even, I don't even think I've seen this before. So I go look at this site and there's a whole nother, a whole nother, you know, adventure of your life in there that I'm like, man, this guy has done a little bit of everything. And it's, it's like, you've gone from, you've leveraged, I feel like your superpower is actually leveraging your, your brand and your properties.

Over and over again and spilling all the learning that you've made from each one into the next. So from you've got college info geek, you've got the nebula nebula TV channels and then into notion and now into fly lighter. So I'm curious about how, what are you leveraging in the past? Bringing into Flylighter.

How are you funding it? And then like, I'm really curious about because I haven't seen too much about this yet. I'm a huge fan of Flylighter so far. Big, big on the beta. I use it every single day for capturing resources. So great. Um, and I'm ready to pay for it. And my question is like, What are you charging and like, how, what's the business model look like for something like Flylighter when you've got, I think most of your previous businesses has been around, uh, advertising and then pointing towards some kind of product?

What's, what's the, what's the billing model look like for your first SaaS?

Thomas: So we have an initial plan for pricing. I am not yet sure what to charge. So, uh, this is probably like first time Sass founder problem. None of us know what to charge. Um, but I'll kind of go through our thoughts for what we're going to charge for.

So when we started building Flylighter, my initial inspiration was I want to build a capture tool for an ocean that anyone can use. Which means like students, any country, any, whatever, there should be like a really powerful free tier. So what you're using today will continue to be free. Uh, we don't have plans to limit the number of flows, which are basically like forms that you can create.

We don't have plans to limit the number of captures you can create. Uh, so what we're going to do is build in a sync. Option. So you can just like sync your flow settings across all your devices and capture history as well. So you can easily like append new highlights to previous captures. Um, that'll be a paid function.

Uh, mobile app access will be a paid function and that'll come with like additional, more powerful automations. So for example, for the listeners, I made a, uh, an automation last year called notion voice notes, which lets you record your voice on your phone. And then. A few seconds later, you get a perfect transcript with a summary made by AI.

Um, you could do like lists of main points, references, all that kind of stuff. And I use the heck out of it works pretty well, but it's like a bit of a Rube Goldberg machine using pipe dream and Dropbox and weird all sorts of different apps. So we want to build that into Flylighter and improve it. So you could have multiple different destinations.

Maybe one is for like content ideas. One is just for ideas or meetings you want to summarize. Cause right now it's just. All into one. So all those extra convenience features, additional automations will be on a pro tier. And then as we continue to test with customers and users and get product market fit, my guess is that there are going to be even higher end workflows that a lot of professionals want to use.

And there may be, uh, multiple paid tiers, but I don't want to assume too much before we get more user feedback.

Benjamin: Okay. So it's kind of like a, I guess they call it a prosumer pricing where, you know, you're charging individuals that are maybe needing a little bit more functionality. Any idea on like how businesses might use something like Flylighter?

Or is that even a consideration at this point? Or is it more like for individuals?

Thomas: We've thought about it for sure. The one thing that comes to mind right now, most prominently is shared forms. So if let's say somebody like the marketing department makes a form, that's other people would want to use for like, say, capturing people to a CRM or whatever it is, um, being able to share that through accounts, which just would automatically fill those out.

Uh, maybe even bring default values in would seem to be useful as a team feature.

Benjamin: Okay. So I could create a, what, what's called a flow right now and shape and share all the configuration with somebody else on my team. Something like that. Okay.

Thomas: Cool. Yeah. So a good example, um, within Nebula, like we're a talent agency.

So say somebody in Nebula finds a creator and we're like, Oh, this would be a great person to watch for maybe reaching out in the future. Uh, we want to create an entry, a notion that has their YouTube channel, their latest video, maybe their Twitter account. Um, you could just click a button and it would just get all that stuff.

And that might be useful to then share to other people in the same marketing department of the same company.

Benjamin: Nice.

Thomas: It's also not lost on me that it could also be a forms tool.

Benjamin: Yeah. Yeah. There's a lot of different, a lot of different ways you could go with it, especially with, uh, with Notion being the, the, the backend for the tool.

And that's why I was actually going to ask next, um, like obviously, you know, it's pretty tied to Notion right now. Um, but I'm assuming that you've got some plans to maybe even make it abstracted away from Notion just because I feel like voice notes is a, is, If that's the selling feature, that's really an enticing product.

Um, what if I'm not using notion kind of thing? Like what if I'm using coda or a different platform is the idea eventually that you might connect with different storage solutions at the end of the day?

Thomas: Yes. So part of the reason it has taken us as long as it has to build this tool is it is essentially, um, it's a series of plugins.

Underneath that are extremely modular and we have categories for those plugins. So there are input plugins right now. Web is the main one, but it could be voice, could be a mobile input, could be any number of things in the future. Maybe Slack, discord, Ray cast, all kinds of stuff. Um, transformation plugins are something we're working on quite soon.

So, so you want to plug in, um, like, uh, AI API key, or you want to actually round trip from fly letter to Zapier or pipe dream through some sort of transformation and then bring data back in. Uh, that would be a transformation plugin and then destination plugins would be things like Notion could also be things like Slack, Discord.

Um, or it could be a PipeDreams app here as well. So my vision when I started building this is I want a set of tools that give me a lot of power and flexibility for quickly capturing ideas and resources I come across. To the place I want them in. Um, it's something that I don't see a lot of in the market.

It seems like a gap where most capture tools are like, Hey, we have a place where your captures go, and then there might be some export tools, but typically they're a bit of an afterthought. Um, we are seeing it more like it's, you know, it's almost like the idea behind pipe dream or the idea behind Zapier applied to capture and, um, sort of given life as a capture tool with browser extensions, mobile apps, things like that.

Benjamin: Yeah, I think that's the thing I'm like most excited about is oftentimes I come across a resource in the middle of work and I'm like Like contextually, I have to like put on this different hat to be able to think about where does this go. So if I were to just use, you know, notions capture tool, it's, I've got to actually remember what database was that called again and pick that database and then fill out all the information.

Whereas now I'm like, you know, I've been using it for capturing resources and YouTube's and all kinds of different blogs and things while I'm studying how to make music in Ableton. So now I just have this thing. It's like, Capture a music resource. And it automatically does all the tagging for me, drops it into the database I need and so on and so forth.

So it's like saving me that time of having to think about, which I think in notion is one of the fundamental questions that a lot of people ask in notion is where does this data go? Where does this belong? And we get into this like conversation about categorization, tagging and stuff like that. So helping us make those decisions without having to do it.

You know, switch contacts when I'm in the middle of something else, I just drop it right into that flow and I immediately it goes where I need it to go. So that's been really, really, uh, actually a game changer in my, in the way that I'm consuming stuff now.

Thomas: Um,

Benjamin: it's making me a lot more, uh, I, I started to the, getting to the point where I would just stop bookmarking stuff.

Cause I'm like, I'm never going to look at this and I don't want to take the time to, to organize it. So it's, it's really changed the way that I use, uh, both the internet and, um. And notion. So kudos for that.

Thomas: I'm very glad to hear that. Yeah. Uh, one of my recent vendors was learning, uh, I guess, deeper Figma and then learning Framer from scratch.

Cause I'm building a new website for FileLighter and I had to like learn not only Figma and Framer, but design systems and eight point grids and all those stuff I'd never really heard of. So similarly, like dogfooding our tool, I just now have a design slash SAS flow. I was just clicking dozens and dozens of tabs.

I had open to save all these resources because I'm like trying to basically drink from the fire hose. Um, to the point where my computer basically is like running so slow because I have a thousand tabs open. I'm like, okay, let's just save a bunch of these file letter and then close them.

Benjamin: Yeah, and there's such a cool opportunity to with A.

I. And, you know, potentially even going to the point where, um, as we're browsing around this thing might actually recognize like, hey, this is actually this is actually useful to you and maybe even like pre clipping stuff for you to the extent that, you know, in in a similar way that I think, um, browsers like arc are moving where I can search for a topic and it creates an A.

I. Generated like results page. That's like, here's the things that we think, Might be useful to you. So maybe there's also something like with a tie in there with, uh, with AI, where it's actually like almost curating your search results for you and also. Maybe even making suggestions. Like we think you should clip this based on the fact that you're currently learning Ableton, like, Hey, check this out, like as you're navigating around a page or something like that, like kind of pre setting those, those values up, there's so many interesting things that I think for learning, like, It seems like in a sense that you're making an application that works the way that your brain does when you go into that hyper like learning mode that I think you, you seem to be privy to in a way.

So it's really cool to see. I always liked seeing those kinds of applications that seem to actually work the way that their creator, the creators do in a way, in a sense. Do

Thomas: you feel like is when you're learning Ableton, is that the same sort of pattern that you follow where you're just. Sort of dipping in and out of a million resources.

Benjamin: Yeah. So Josh, Josh read asked me the other day when I posted a video of just me messing around with the APC, uh, 64. This is a chi drum programming instrument. And he was like, how are you learning this? Cause I he's a drummer. He's an incredible drummer. I don't play drums. Um, I'm just, you know, a music appreciator.

And he's like, I've really, I was like, Oh yeah, you should totally learn because you could record your own drum samples and then build your own drum kits. And I'm like, you know, getting like really excited that somebody else wants to learn too. And he's like, how, how are you learning this? Are you just consuming resources or are you just jumping in and playing?

And my answer was that it's, it's always structured play. And so for me, like, I want to just mess around with things and see what happens and push buttons. But I also want some semblance of like. relevance to what I'm doing. So like my kind of like ideal AI future would be like the tooling kind of observing what I'm doing and making suggestions based on that rather than it being like me having to think of the thing that I want to learn about and go and navigate for those things.

So I think like something like Flylighter kind of gets my it's that's it's it's kind of ideal for that structured play thing because as I'm just like I'm just following whatever and searching for random things. Um, like the other day I was watching videos on how to make jade. I don't know if you know who jade cicada is.

He's like a dubstep producer. I really like his music. And I'm like, how would I make a bass sound like that? And so I started searching for like, you know, jade cicada tutorial and just clipping all this stuff left and right. And then like. Opening up Ableton and tweaking the knobs and doing all this weird stuff.

Um, so yeah, like I think that's exactly how I learn is just playing around with things and seeing what happens. And I think to some extent, like a lot of people that struggle with learning complex tools, like notion are, are scared to be in that mode where you don't really know how to, how to do something.

And it's a little bit chaotic and you have to be comfortable with like just Poking things and seeing what happens, um, the downsides to that is that, you know, I'm, I probably run into more notion and related software bugs and almost anybody else because I, because I'm always messing around with things.

Yeah, um, which is a blessing and a curse, but so, yeah, I think fly later has been helpful for that idea of structured play that I really enjoy when I'm trying to learn something new that it gives me enough structure that I don't really need to think about. Yep. Organizing my stuff, but it's also like, you know, playful enough that I can just, you know, grab something and move on and continue my play.

Thomas: Yeah, exactly. Something I really want to build in, uh, which I have to wait for Eli to do unless my coding chops get way better. Um, I want a feature where whenever I clip something, it'll go to wherever I've defined in my flow, but then also to a daily page. Cause I'd love to go and just be like, all right, what was the, what was the fruits of my bender today?

Everything that was clipped. And maybe we could also link to the, the true destination of it. I'm not sure. Uh, you know, the more we add, the more there's like a factorial explosion of feature overlap, but it's something that I would love to have is just almost like a journal feature in addition to sending things to the actual destinations.

Benjamin: Yeah, I'm curious to like that. There seems like there might be some really interesting overlaps with something like your over ultimate brain template and something like fly lighter. Is there a plan to develop a like more? Because I know ultimate brain is the secret sauce of that is like your recurring task formulas, these things that your team and you have developed over many months, even years of of experience so that you know, somebody wants like, you know, You know, these really complex systems in their notion, they can just buy the template and kind of get that out of the box without having to develop it.

So is there an opportunity there to develop something like that for notion and other platforms so that you, you could have like a recurring journal. Maybe there's an integration with ultimate tasks that makes it, you know, that kind of thing. Have you thought about that at all?

Thomas: Well, one thing is ultimate rain does come with a journal section.

So, um, I would have to think through the, Tech implementation a bit harder than I can on this podcast, but like a bad version, could there be a setting that's like, um, you know, also send to my journal, just like in fly letter settings. So whenever I, uh, run a flow, it's going to go to say my notes database with a particular resource or tag applied, but then it would also show up in the journal.

Uh, that could just be a feature and, you know, it would just be one extra API call. So, um, definitely something we're thinking about. And yeah, so one of my philosophies is. Uh, especially with notion. I love that I can make money selling templates and I love that I can give people shortcuts and essentially done for you solutions.

Uh, but I also basically want to give people a way to learn how to do things themselves for free if possible. So that's kind of one of the cool things about having templates and having a tool like file editor. We can build in features. It's like, Hey, it's going to be easier with ultimate brain. We could have like flow templates where it's like, Oh, do you want to just have a read later flow that just.

Send this to your notes database and, uh, easily tags things. We could just set it up and configure it automatically, but then not having the template wouldn't lock you out of using something like that. It would just be a more of a matter of like you set it up yourself.

Marie: Smart marketing. Yeah. And I'm curious, Maria, do you also learn

Thomas: like that?

Like me and Ben do just like benders?

Marie: Definitely. Yeah. Benders. I get sniped and just like, can't stop me. I'm just in the zone. I'm doing my thing for sure. I think I'm a lot, lot less structured than Ben is for sure. Um, It definitely feels pretty, pretty chaotic on this end. I think that's why

Benjamin: we, we too, you know, we do it, we buy, we do a Monday and a Friday sync.

And, uh, and it's especially important for the two of us, uh, now that we've gone down from five total people to, to back to three now, um, that we do these sinks because otherwise, like we tend to do this thing where we're like, what are you working on this week?

Thomas: And

Benjamin: it'll be like this, this, and this. And then by the time Friday rolls around.

Um, how, how's this, this and this going? And well, I made this amazing, I made this video and I made this gardening template and I did this. And it's like, usually like I, I trust Marie's brain enough to know that those things are going to be valuable to our business in some extent. But then there's also the thing of like, Oh, we have a business to run too.

So we have to kind of complete these projects. So I think those, those sinks are pretty key to just like keeping a pulse on each other to make sure. Cause you know, like. I'm like, I think about like when we visited you in Denver or whatever, and we were kind of waiting for our dinner reservation and you just like grabbed your guitar and started playing like that, that kind of like idea that like any moment of free time can just be filled with like, I want to do something.

Um, and it might not be the thing that, you know, somebody else is asking you to do. So I think like creative types like that tend to get. He easily, you know, self distracted in a way. And it's usually a beautiful thing when it happens, but it's also, if there's expectations of you, uh, other than what you want to be doing in that moment, then it can be, can be in conflict sometimes.


Thomas: I think that term sniped, I think I got it from you. Yeah. I use it all the time now. Yeah. Um, it's bad. Like I, I think actually it was the blog post you wrote recently. So I forget the name of the course that you went through. Marie, did you go through the same course, the great decisions

Marie: course?

Thomas: I think so.

Yeah. So something you mentioned that post was that there's this pause you need to take before you decide to let an outside influence, uh, push you to make a decision or not. And that hit me like a train because I get nerd sniped so easily. Um, and I've been working on it ever since I read the post, Oh, I need to take like 30 seconds at least and breathe and go, should I say yes to this?

Because, um, to, uh, to pull an example from today to illustrate my tendency, there was somebody else in Nebula who's like, Hey, is there anybody with programming experience who could make like a fake email app that we're going to need to use for a live stream? And I was like, Oh, my initial reaction was like, I could drop everything in my life and put my, my 10 person business on hold to code up a fake email app that would.

Not benefit me in the slightest because yeah, I'm motivated by interesting learning challenge and get to help somebody who is a friend of mine. That's like my exact motivations, the problem solving, right? So yeah, reading that post, I was like, okay, calm down for a second. I have things I was supposed to do today.

Benjamin: There's a. That course, so this is the, for the listeners, this is the art of accomplishments, uh, great decisions course. And that course has you developing a set of principles that you make decisions by. And the idea is that once you've developed these principles, that they kind of make decisions for you.

So you're relying on the principles instead of your own, like, you know, cognitive power. Um, the idea being that we don't really make any decisions independent of emotion, our emotional state. So if we're not like in a good emotional state, we can tend to get like distracted and do these kinds of things.

So, Yeah, that one of my principles that I ended up settling on was just a one word, which is pause. But then there's also a sub, um, a sub principle there, which is what's my problem. Um, and so it's exact same thing that you just said, where I had this tendency to somebody goes, I'm struggling with this. And I'm like, I know how to fix this.

And that like that, that moment of like, I can help this person is so tempting. Um, but in, in some cases, like you're, you end up helping. people directly. And so I have these kind of rules now, like somebody dm'd me on LinkedIn and was like, Hey, I'd love to connect with you so I can ask you notion questions.

And I said, I don't, I was like, I'm happy to, I charge money for one on one support and for help. Here's where you can buy a coaching session with me. I am absolutely thrilled to help you in public. Like I will always help somebody in public. Cause I'd like to address things at like scale. Cause I think if you end up doing this thing where you're like, You're specifically solving one individual's problem.

You can, you could just that you could fill your days with that. Um, and it feels really good for a time, but then it starts to be like, um, I'm like, I'm really not creating things that I, I would like to be exploring and, and the, the challenges that I would like to solve for myself. And so that was my secondary slot for my My, uh, principles was, what's my problem?

Like, if there's something that, like, solving that person's problem actually solves my problem as well, then maybe I'd be more, um, interested in pursuing it. But I'm trying to take a step back from that, like, getting sniped, um, and, uh, and, you know, getting obsessed with things that aren't really solving, you know, these, these more interesting things that I'm Thinking about checking out as well.

Thomas: Yeah, I think that's a really powerful principle. Yeah

Marie: I was curious how you think about this Thomas because you wrote that article And I remember you said money ruins everything and sort of like you'd rather write a 3, 000 word blog post or make a video that solves Somebody's problem instead of charging someone money for that.

So I'm curious how maybe you think about do You know, are your DMS full of people asking you individual questions or wanting support about things that how do you think about that relationship of helping and wanting to do that creative problem solving and then charging money for your services and products and whatnot?

How do you think about that?

Thomas: Yeah, so I guess the first thing I'll say is, um, I feel the exact same way as Ben does when it comes to private versus public help. Uh, I don't know if this is an ego thing, like sometimes I feel guilty about it, but many times when someone DMs me a question, especially if I don't know them, I feel annoyance about it.

Whereas if they tweet me a question, this could be the same question. I'm like, Ooh, I want to answer that. And I think there's this drive to like, I want to leave behind something with this effort I'm putting in that other people can use in the future. And if it's in a DM, it's like. Well, no one else can use that ever.

Um, so that's, I think that's one thing, but yeah, so to reference the blog post that I was talking about, um, I wrote this blog post about something I call the soul crush score and it's basically like, okay, uh, it's a heuristic for figuring out what you should do for money that you like doing versus what you should never let money touch.

Um, so what I defined the soul crush score as is like it's score for how much the introduction of getting paid. To a thing you already like doing now crushes your soul when you do that thing. And, uh, it's basically based on this actual observed effect called the overjustification effect, where when an extrinsic motivator like money comes into the picture for something people already liked doing intrinsically, it can tend to kill that intrinsic motivation.

A lot of creatives. Experience this. It's like, it's like the, the curse of creative work, right? You, Oh, I'm finally getting paid to do design now. I hate design. Um, so I try to think about it a little bit more holistically. Cause I realized there are a lot of different things I like to do for free. I like coding.

I like making videos. I sometimes even like giving people feedback on stuff, but then the moment. Someone's like, Hey, can I pay you to do X, Y, Z? My reactions really differ if it's, Hey, could I pay you? Like sponsor you to make a video? Like, Oh yeah, that's fine. I'm still going to feel a little bit weird because I just sort of naturally want to make everything free.

But when someone's like, Hey, could I pay you to give me coaching one on one and like, give me feedback on this video I made or something. I'm like, I don't want to do that. At all. Absolutely. Don't want to do that. And I did a little experiment when I first launched creator's companion. I had a executive edition and people could pay me, I think it was like 500 bucks for two hours of coaching, which I now realize is really cheap.

Um, but whenever I had to show up for a coaching session, I was like, I do not want to do this today. Whereas if someone just is like, I got friend of mine's like, Hey, can you hop on and give me some feedback about whatever, like, yeah, let's do it. You know, and I'll just, I'll wrap with somebody for three hours.

So I definitely try to think about the specific activities where getting paid makes me hate doing them and then avoid doing those for money as much as possible.

Marie: Yeah, I'm also kind of curious how your relationship with money is maybe changed over the years. Um, because I think maybe in the beginning when people don't have that steady revenue, it might feel like it's more difficult to be generous.

And so, um, yeah, I'm just kind of curious. Maybe if if you're. Relationship with money has evolved quite a bit over the years, your comfort level with it, accepting money in exchange for things. Is it all contextual? Like you said, no problem with sponsorships, but difficulty maybe charging individuals. How has, how has your relationship with money evolved over the years?

Thomas: I would say my comfort level with accepting money for the work I do has definitely risen. And I think that's just an exposure therapy thing. Um, for example, when I wrote my free book, 10 Steps to Earning Awesome Grades, back in the college and book geek days. That was intended to be like a free newsletter signup bonus.

And it turned into a 27, 000 word, a hundred page book, uh, still made it free. And then people started asking for a print version and make a print version. And I'm like, what the heck might as well do a Kindle version too. Turns out you can only make a Kindle version, a dollar. You can't make it any less than that permanently.

And back then I had such anxiety that someone was going to buy the book for a dollar and then later learn it was free and get super mad at me. Um, and it was learning that not only did no one ever, ever reach out about that, but teachers started like emailing me to ask to bulk buy the book for their classes.

I was like, Oh, people actually want to give me money. It's like first little baby steps. Going from, I'm afraid that if I ever ask for a single dollar, people are going to skewer me online to realizing that there's like valuable things I can offer the world and people are willing to pay for them. Um, I mean, literally Ben on this episode is like, I want to pay you money for a fly letter.

So I think, uh, the, the relationship to money has changed in that dimension just by getting positive feedback and sort of. realizing as many creatives do that you are allowed to charge what you're worth. I don't think my relationship to money on like a generosity scale has really changed. Like back when I wasn't making much, I was still really generous with my time and I still am because at the end of the day, to me, money is pretty much optionality.

Um, money is like, The way I communicated it before on the, on the personal finance podcast is it's a way that you can deal with either a punch or an opportunity. Uh, and I think about it in the same way as like having a little bit of excess muscle, especially as like you age, if you take a fall or something and you've kept yourself really healthy, like you're going to recover from that really well.

Cause you have extra capacity. Uh, whereas if you don't, it's like something bad could happen. Same thing with money. If I. I am basically running on empty with my bank account and say, I get a flat tire or something. That's a problem. If I have money in the word chest, that's not a problem. I've got, I've got resources available to take a punch.

Um, and that's kind of how I've always thought about money. So. As long as there is optionality there, as long as there's war chest, then I don't think about it too much. I think that it's probably maybe a business weakness because people who are like actual sharks are like, let's maximize profit in all ways as possible.

Um, I have this tendency to where if there is a good amount of access coming in, I go, Oh, cool. Now I can go make a free thing. And I feel like a good business person would be like, well, that's a flywheel. Let's keep accelerating the flywheel. And I'm like, the flywheel is going. That means I can go over here and do something else.

I'm more fun over here. Yeah. Yet more evidence that I shouldn't be the CEO.

Marie: Would you be willing to share maybe what a day in the life or a week in the life looks like? Because it seems like you do have quite a bit of optionality. You have a lot of different interests, a lot of different areas of your, you know, aspects of your business. So like, how do you spend your time? What is a, what does your week look like?

Thomas: So I, I've divided my company up into three different sort of sub departments. Uh, we have education team and that is entirely focused on notion templates, courses around those templates and support, uh, content team is our public facing content on Thomas Frank channel, Thomas Frank explains, and then eventually we'll have file that our content as well.

And then we have dev and dev is mostly fly letter work. Sometimes there's also some like web dev work on our other websites. So it kind of depends which of the departments need my attention right now. It is primarily, uh, dev and content. So for example, this week I have three different videos to film. I also need to go over the article that a freelance writer we're working with right now, uh, has a draft done for us.

So I need to go through that and kind of do an edit. Um, and I need to finish the fly letter website, which I'm building in Framer. So quite a lot of different hats I still have to wear. Uh, and then in terms of like day in the life, it's just figuring out how do I batch that work? When am I going to do it?

Um, when am I going to the gym? And when am I going to stop working for the day? And eat

Marie: some dinner, spend time with your partner.

Thomas: Yes. Um, which I find that, uh, I definitely have an easier time setting boundaries when there are actual plans. So like yesterday we went to dune too. So it's like, cool. I can't work in the evening.

Marie: Yeah. Do you, I guess, do you ever make plans as a way to kind of force those, those boundaries and definitely, yeah,

Thomas: obviously with the gym. Yeah. I've talked about this on the, on the Thomas Frank main channel. I think I made a video a long time ago called you need to have high density fun. Um, and I made that video because I, I realized there were friends of mine, like several friends of mine who were saying, I don't feel like I'm allowed To like, say, go to this movie that I want to go to, or I'm not allowed to play this new video game that's coming out that I want to play.

Um, because I have so much work to do, but then I would see them on Twitter or on Facebook and I'm like. You're wasting time on something that you know, isn't actually fun. And, and it's creating this like guilt loop where now you don't have time to do that big thing because it feels like too much of an investment because you feel like you have to work, but when you're supposed to be working, you're on Twitter.

So my solution there is, okay, if you have the pressure that is created by a schedule thing, you must go to like, I bought the movie tickets already, or I bought the game and I like guarantee myself on to play it. Now you create pressure during the work hours. And ideally that means you don't go do the low density fun.

That sucks.

Marie: I love, it's almost like a deep work, right? Like you're actually planning your high density fun. Like I really like that framing of it. Deep fun. Yeah. Deep fun. Let's do this.

Thomas: All right. That's the next New York times bestselling book.

Marie: A co collaboration. Oh, that's awesome.

Thomas: I feel like it doesn't roll off the tongue quite as well, but it probably would still be a good book title, Deep Fun.

Marie: High density fun is pretty great. I think I saw recently on your Twitter that you were talking about maybe removing social media from your phone as being one of the best decisions that you've ever made.

And so I'd love to hear a little bit about maybe your thoughts on that. Um, approach to social media and sort of the feeling of needing to be on or needing to produce content. How much of it is batched? Um, what are some of your social media habits and maybe tell me a little bit about that change that you made of Is it removing the apps from your phone and then having some dedicated time on your desktop?

What does it look like for you?

Thomas: Yeah, that's exactly what it is. So I took all social media off my phone. Um, I still have YouTube on my phone cause I don't consider that social media and I also don't have a problem with it. Uh, primarily I have a problem with Twitter. Like I don't really go on Instagram or tech talk, but when I decided to delete social media off my phone, I deleted all of it because I was worried that getting rid of Twitter would kind of lead to Instagram or something else filling the void.

So I'm like, let's just get ahead of that. Totally get rid of it. Um, and the reason I decided to get rid of it is. I genuinely love Twitter because I do like, I do like giving back, like nerding out with people. And there's just always questions in the mentions tab. And there's always, you know, there's always a opportunity to pull up the phone in the checkout lane or in bed when I'm supposed to be getting up in the morning.

Um, And answer questions and talk with people. And I just kind of realized like I'm fragmenting my day and I'm not actually engaging fully with stuff I'm supposed to be doing, but I still value Twitter. So I don't want to like delete my account or something. Why not just be intentional? Go on, went on my desktop, then be done and not have it as an option on my phone.

Um, And so I did that for those reasons. And then, uh, literally tomorrow I'm publishing a video about it because I was at lunch with another entrepreneur, a friend of mine, who's very successful in his own right million and a half subscribers on, uh, YouTube. And when we were at lunch, he's like, he's, I have the same problem.

I wake up. I don't have a full time job. There's not a time I have to be at work. So I'm just on my freaking phone, scrolling Twitter in bed, trying to get myself up and it's been 45 minutes. And I'm like, yeah, the answer, dude, just get it off your phone, delete it off your phone or, you know, have your phone in a different room.

But personally, at least getting it off my phone meant it's not an issue when I'm waking up in the morning. It's also not an issue. If I'm between sets in the gym, it's not an issue at any other time because it's just not a problem. On the phone. And as like a productivity person, there's always been this pressure to have sort of superhuman self discipline and display that on the internet.

The fact of the matter is. I don't have perfect self discipline in all areas of life. I have really good self discipline for exercise. I have good self discipline for executing on work in certain areas. I don't have good self discipline when social media is on my phone and I want to check it. So you have kind of two options there.

Continually beat yourself up for years and listen to, um, the people with Seneca and Marcus Aurelius pictures and their Twitter profiles being like, if you don't have self discipline, you're just worthless and, and for some reason care about their opinions, um, and then fail or change your environment. To cut the problem off at the root.

So I'm like, let's just do that. And, uh, that's been incredibly helpful.

Marie: Awesome. So you think that that one's going to stick hopefully this year?

Thomas: Yeah, it's totally off the phone. I remember I made a video a couple of years ago that I now realize like was a half measure. It was like, oh, well, I want to keep it on the phone.

I'm just going to log out. Every time I'm done using it that way, 22nd rule, right? If it takes me 20 seconds to get my two FAA code and everything, it'll be too inconvenient to log back in. Problem is like, it actually wasn't convenient to log in, kind of worked. But the problem is every time I'd log back in, I'm like, well, I don't want to log out such a pain in the butt.

Marie: Just

Thomas: works better to just not have it there, just not have it on the phone. And I think there's a big difference there. I think there's a, there's a difference between it is not. a thing I can access on the rectangle that unfortunately follows me around everywhere I go versus I can still access it. It's just kind of a pain.

I think there's a bigger difference there than we would want to admit.

Marie: I, I mean, I've,

Benjamin: I smoked, I smoked cigarettes from when I was 15 to 25. And the way that I think, the way that my brain is, is operating when I am using Twitter is it almost is the exact same feeling it's, it feels like addiction to me.

Um, and where, to the extent where you can be telling yourself, I'm. I don't need to be using this right now. And you're just still typing. I can quit any time. And you're signing in. It's, it's absolutely addiction. Yeah. I'm curious. Cause like I'm, I've removed social media and I haven't had a Facebook account for decades, you know, or so now and never, and I, but I never had a problem with quitting Facebook, but Twitter is a different story because it's like, it feels like my people more than just like the people that I know.

Exactly. That's my point. That's why I can't quit Twitter. The thing that's hard for me is like I can remove all the apps, but I can still go to it through the browser. I did this one thing at one point where I actually blocked, um, I took the, I, the, the Mac addresses of my phones and I went to my router and I made it so that I actually couldn't go to Reddit and stuff like that.

And I've considered doing that for Twitter too, because even removing it from my phone, I can still use Chrome or whatever to, to log in. Yep. Like, how did you, how did you get around that? Like the, you know, the fact that you could always like get around the, the, the fact that the, the app doesn't exist.

Thomas: I don't know why it's not an issue.

In fact, you saying that I could go into the browser and use it there. Like it never dawned on me. Why did you tell him Ben? So it's not, it's not like you've ruined it for me. Like this is going to sound weird. It's a habit. I have gone to Twitter in the browser. Yeah. Like, because like, say, um, in a Slack, somebody posted a Twitter link and I want to read that one tweet.

I have gone to Twitter, read the one tweet for whatever reason that has never once dawned on me that, Oh, I could log in. In the browser. So like, don't, don't, don't worry that like, I don't think you've ruined this for me. I just, for whatever reason, my brain's like, no, the browser is not an acceptable way to browse Twitter.

Marie: Well, it sounds like you already put some intention behind, you had decided, I don't want to do this on my phone. So it sounded like. You approach that might be part of the tension. Yeah. I

Thomas: mean, yeah, that may be like, maybe for me, just the act of like deleting the app and, and just sort of drawing that line in the sand helps with the behavior.

But yeah, I haven't found that I've needed to go do the Mac address blocking thing. I've done that in the past, just like, cause I, I saw an article about it and I was like, Oh, let me try it for, uh, other things. But.

Benjamin: I would love to figure that out because that's my, that's my thing too is I, not the bed so much anymore, but the getting my coffee in the kitchen and scrolling and, and not kind of like, and I, to the, to the extent that sometimes like, um, you know, I, I really want to, I love working out first thing in the morning.

And if I grab Twitter and start scrolling, I won't work out. It's, it's the, it's that anti waterfall habit. So like, if I go and work out first, then there's no Twitter. It just doesn't happen because like, I've got this, like, I've like satiated my early morning desire to like, do something right first thing.

Marie: Get that serotonin going.

Benjamin: Yeah. So I got to like figure out how to just

Thomas: like no phone in the morning.

Benjamin: Yeah, that's, I think that's the answer. It's just the, the absolute, the absolute, you know, just have to be ruthless with absolutely no touching the device. Cause I'm, it's just too much of a habit at this point that I will, I will open up that browser first thing, as soon as I touch my phone.

Yeah. I mean, it's like, it's

Thomas: crazy to think about this, but we've only had smartphone, not even 20 years. I haven't had a smartphone for. Even 15. Cause I think I made the first one like 2012 or 2013. So it's like, I lived a lot of my life without these. Uh, why do I feel the need to check it the moment I wake up?

So maybe that's something that would work for you. I'm not sure. Um, yeah, it's certainly easier than setting up weird Mac address things. Yeah, yeah,

Benjamin: I think it's too, it's a matter of, of you become the thing that you're, that you're focused on. And I noticed that I've noticed that over the last couple of weeks, because I've been spending.

each evening messing around with Ableton and making sounds and weird synthesizer stuff. And I started waking up thinking about music and Ableton recently instead of Notion. So it's like the thing that I'm like finishing my day with and being like obsessed with is what I wake up with. So I'm finding myself like in the kitchen.

Sometimes I'm actually watching YouTube more frequently now with my coffee. Cause I'm like, Oh, this guy that does awesome, like Ableton tutorials is, is posting a new one. Um, yeah. My current obsession is this channel called underbelly. He's, he's just really good. Yeah, he's really funny. And, and I love

Thomas: his little catchphrase.

Benjamin: Yeah. So check it.

Thomas: Okay. So check it.

Benjamin: Yeah. And so like that, like I'm, I'm finding like, as I'm, Diving more into the music production thing. Like I'm, I'm more obsessing over consuming that content now. So I'll throw one of those videos on instead of scrolling Twitter, which is great because now I'm feeling like, Oh, this is, this is actually productive because this is what I want to be doing.

Not just mindlessly scrolling. So yeah, like I love that, that. change of, uh, of, you know, I guess that's like, you know, power of habit, the Charles Duhigg thing. There's, you know, this trigger that happens, then there's the action that you take, and then there's the, the result that you get. And what I've done there is I've changed the trigger has now been, you know, like my, the action that I'm taking is, is looking at, at, uh, learning videos rather than just consuming.

So I guess that's how I could. Theoretically change it. So yeah, my new rule, no, no Twitter in the morning, but I can, you know, mess around on, on YouTube perhaps.

Thomas: I think that's a net positive rule.

Benjamin: Yeah.

Thomas: And yeah, you get to, you get to obsess with Ableton, which is dope because music production is dope.

Ableton mastery win.

Benjamin: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah, it might happen. I don't know, like, at least, like, the things that, you know, the things that I'm creating and capturing right now is immediately, that's, like, the, the thing, the beautiful thing about Notion now is that capturing can be very quickly transitioned to a, A distributive, you know, like you can share what you're learning really easily with notion.

And so, you know, like I told Josh when he was asking about how, how I'm learning, I was like, Oh, well, I'll just turn the, I'll just turn all of the stuff that I've been capturing and, and documenting into a resource and I'll give it to you. And, you know, you can have this, like follow along the journey that I took and it might be a, might be a weird one because of the way that I learned, but it's, it's a great way to immediately distribute, like how you learn something.

That might be unique to you. That's why I really love Notion at times.

Thomas: That's why I wish I could share a slice of a database. Yeah, exactly. Like how cool would that be? Oh, let me just share my Ableton resource, which is like notes database, but alas, I would have to share the entire thing.

Benjamin: Yeah. Um, I have one last question for you.

I don't, have you made the move to Minnesota yet? Or is that still in your future?

Thomas: That's in my future that is likely May.

Benjamin: Okay.

Thomas: I was,

Benjamin: I'm really curious about what, what prompted that, you know, you're, I've, you know, you've been in Denver for quite a long time and that seemed to be a big part of your lifestyle.

And I'm, I'm curious as to what prompted the, prompted the move.

Thomas: So what prompted it is, uh, we got a dog. And she's an adorable little mutt. German Shepherd, Chihuahua, Australian Cattle Dog, Mexico Special. You met her. Uh, she's very cute and very anxious. She's a dog who wants to run. I unfortunately live fairly near downtown and have A yard, the size of a bedroom.

So she doesn't get to run there. Um, she's also from a fairly abusive background. She came from like a dog fighting ring and she's little, so she wasn't meant to be a fighting dog. Uh, I like to think that the cops burst in, save all the dogs. They're under the arm and I'm like, the place blows up behind them, big explosions, sunglasses on.

And then I get the dog. So we're taking her to Iowa for holiday trip. Last year, uh, at the end of last year. And we stop at a gas station that has like a little dog fenced area. And it was a gas station in the middle of nowhere. So there's no one around. She can't be anxious. And I just see this dog blossom and she's just so happy running around.

I'm like, yeah, we need to get her a yard. Now I could move to the suburbs of Denver to get a yard, but I'm from the Midwest and that's where all the family is. So it was just this confluence of like, we know we need to get out of this house. Otherwise, like I've just got no room for the dog. She's unhappy.

I'm stressed because I'm very empathetic for my dog. Um, I don't need to live downtown anymore anyway. I mostly just like work at home program, go to the gym. Like I don't, I don't need that. Uh, but the other thing, um, I don't know, this is going to sound weird, but a Netflix documentary sort of tipped me over the edge.

There was this documentary called secrets of the blue zones, which is about these places around the world where people live to over a hundred. Yeah, we heard about a little bit when we were in Japan because I believe Okinawa, Okinawa is one of them is one of them in Greece. There's a place in Italy.

There's a place in weirdly suburban L. A. And then the other one I want to say was in Ecuador or somewhere in Central America. Um, no Costa Rica. So this guy, Dan Buettner goes around the world, interviews people from the blue zones for like 20 years, um, makes it his whole career. And he's just been collecting like all these common factors between these cultures.

One of them is people in the blue zones tend to keep close to their relatives. And as parents age and things like they're nearby. So there's that community factor. Uh, and we are very far away from our family. I'm like, do we want to spend the rest of our lives far away from family? Do we want to, you know, kind of understand that we can probably count on two hands, how many more times we'll see certain people in our immediate family, because we're so far and we only go back once a year.

Um, or we want to see more often, you know, uh, and, and what would we give up if we went back to be there more often? Well, I don't go skiing that much. If I want to, I can just fly out. I, I, I'm not a huge hiker. So like being specifically in Denver is not something I need to do. Um, there's certainly parts of it I'll miss, but I think like being your family is important.

So that was sort of like the, the driving decision. Where I would say the dog was like the trigger to start thinking about it very seriously.

Benjamin: Yeah. I noticed you've been, um, running a lot lately as well. Do you run with the dog? And is that, is that part, was that a inspiration with the, I haven't

Thomas: started running with the dog yet.

Benjamin: Yeah.

Thomas: Um, I guess I could. So where I live, it's like at least a mile of running through kind of chaotic city streets to get into a trail and my dog just hates, she hates it. So when I take her for walks, I actually drive her out to like a place with a path and I guess I could try running with her. I haven't tried yet.

She probably would like it. Um, no, I just started running at the beginning of the year and I was like, I'm going to, I'm going to make myself like running or, or try at least. Cause I always hated running.

Marie: Yeah.

Thomas: Yeah. And I kind of like it now. Turns out I just needed like a month of dedicated running to get to the point where like a good pace didn't make my heart want to explode.

Yeah. And now that I've gotten there, it's like, oh, I actually kind of enjoy, it's,

Marie: I wonder if I'll ever get to that point.

Benjamin: Marie likes Marie. Marie has to have something with a ball to it. Gotta be a ball. Yeah. You'll run a lot if, if there's a ball ball, dodge ball, softball,

Marie: soccer's gotta be a ball . I feel that,

Thomas: yeah.

I mean, my, my favorite kind of cardio is DDR. So when I move, I'll eventually set my dance pads back up and I'll be able to use that. Um, but I've actually kind of, I like running. I think the biggest thing is I like music, so I can just plug in my headphones and I'm like, Oh, I'm excited to playlist, and I can just go run.

Benjamin: What's the, uh, is there going to be a transition? Cause I know you have a, I believe you have a studio space in Denver. Um, what's the, are you going to develop something new at, at the new house or like a little like studio in your yard or what, what's there, what's your plan for traditioning transitioning to being able to produce in a new location that you're, you know, are you going to rent something new or create something?

Well, what do you think of

Thomas: this studio right here?

Benjamin: Yeah.

Thomas: Like, I mean, you can see on video, right? Yeah, because I'm not in the studio right now. Okay, good enough. This is, uh, this is a very tiny bedroom. It's seven and a half feet by 11 feet. So I'm just going to do this. Honestly, I was like, Oh, I put in the two months for the studio.

I have to be out in two months. I need an interim space. So let's just challenge myself to build something. Um, when I bought this house, I realized like the bedrooms are very small and I kind of assumed I could just, I wouldn't be able to make a good looking studio. Well, I had necessities and mother intervention.

Now that I have to be out of that big studio space, I was like, let's just drag a few pieces of gear in here and see what I can do. And I think this looks really good. And it's in a very tiny space. And I teach notion. Um, I've kind of let go of my ambitions to make super cinematic content or crazy B roll.

I just want to teach people stuff. I can do that from a desk with a computer. So I've made this pretty optimized setup and I think I'm just going to do that for a while. Um, and I also shot a whole video on it, so that'll be up on my channel pretty soon. Right on.

Marie: Cool.

Thomas: Yeah, I mean, y'all are just filming stuff and, and basically bedrooms are, are you in a bedroom, Marie?

Or are you in the living room?

Marie: Yeah, we've both converted, uh, each, each have a bedroom that we converted into our offices.

Benjamin: So do you have a

Thomas: three bedroom house

Marie: or something?

Benjamin: We have a, we have a three bedroom rancher and we kind of live in a provincial, uh, Park almost. Um, so we have quite a big plot of land and we've been talking about maybe moving our moving out to building a little studio in the yard.

That way we could have guests and things like that again. But yeah, during COVID we went from three bedrooms to a bedroom and two offices. So it's worked out pretty well for us. Right. Yeah.

Thomas: Yeah. It works well. I think for me there was like this, um, very gradual scaling up. Because my first studio was in my bedroom in my apartment.

And then the second one was in a bedroom. Third one was a bedroom, bedroom, bedroom. And when I rented my first house in Denver, I've also put it in a bedroom and I got to the point where I was like, I want to set up something more ambitious. And I realized the basement had this big 20 by 18 huge room, like uncommonly big for a basement and also nine foot ceilings in the basement.

So I was like, why are we using that for our TV? Let's move our TV somewhere else. And I'm going to use that as a stereo. Yeah. It was actually cozier. Um, so yeah. I need to respond to that. Um, and I just started acquiring more gear. And then when I moved here, I was like, well, I can't go smaller. I have to get a big studio, big studio.

Uh, which was, you know, it was fun, like setting all that kind of stuff up, but realizing. I can do what I need to do in a small space and I've learned enough about set design and I've learned enough about light positioning and everything that I don't even need a ton of space to make it look good. Uh, maybe it's not going to look like I'm in a cavernous space.

Maybe I can't do a ton of different camera angles, but for a straight angle like this, you could almost do it in the closet.

Marie: Yeah, yeah. Yeah.

Thomas: But if you build a studio on your property, document it. Cause I want to, I want to watch them. Ooh,

Marie: that'd be fun. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Big, big DIY project.

Thomas: I just set up my phone on a tripod and just, I just moved it around, kind of filmed it very casually.

I didn't

Marie: worry

Thomas: about making. The footage really cinematic. And I think people are going to like it. I'm sure they will. Looking

Marie: forward to some of these longer videos coming out.

Thomas: Yeah. We'll see how many people watch the three and a half hour long video. It's going to be such whiplash. Here's another example of creator anxiety.

The video I'm publishing tomorrow is six minutes long. And then the very next one is three and a half hours long. And there's this part of my brain that's like, wait, you have to get people ready. No, I don't. I know how the algorithm works. It's going to be two different audiences. That's totally fine.

Marie: Yeah.

I was just thinking that it's probably very different types of people. There will be some overlap. And I know this because the six minute video was made for my

Thomas: YouTuber friend who couldn't stop scrolling his phone in bed. Uh, he also works at brands, so like, I think he would find both videos helpful. So there will be some overlap there.

Um, yeah, I'm just going to publish them both and see what happens. Amazing.

Benjamin: Well, thanks for hanging out with us. Yeah. It's, I'm, I'm really excited to see, like, you know, I've only known, we've only known you for maybe three, four years now, but, uh, yeah, you always have something new for everyone at almost every year.

So excited to see what, what the thing after Flylighter is now, because I know that there's probably something.

Thomas: There probably will be. It's interesting how long it's actually been that I've known you too. Like it feels like I've only been doing notion stuff for like a year, but it's like, no, it's been like three or four years, three or four years.

I remember when like you helped me fix that react component. Of a WordPress plugin, like two years ago, I had no idea what was going on. And you're just like, Oh yeah, it's like 8 PM, but I'm happy to help you. Let's hop on and pair a program. So yeah, definitely appreciate both of you.

Marie: Oh yeah. Likewise. Like you're so generous with your content.

Thomas: Thank you for having me in the show. Uh, I was promised pizza and also grief. Where's the grief?

Marie: What's your, what's your favorite, uh, pizza, Thomas?

Thomas: I'm super simple. I just like pepperoni and sausage. I'm so simple. Although I do like putting ranch on it. So, okay.

Marie: Yep. I can get behind it. It's good. I'm from the

Thomas: Midwest.

Got a ranch on my pizza. And then recently I found that if you put ranch and chili crunch on the pizza, it's actually so good. It should be illegal. Chili crunch. That's where it's at. I

Benjamin: like Lao Gan

Thomas: Ma, but um, there's a local place called Hella Herbivore. And they make a garlic crunch that is delicious. Um, there's another Japanese brand.

I, I have not figured out the name of it. We have it in the fridge. And I can't read Hiragana anymore. You have to

Marie: snap a pic or use your Google Lens.

Thomas: I need to do that, yeah. Because I went to H Mart and I got what I thought was the same thing and it was not. So, when I know that, I will put it somewhere online because it's worth getting.

Yeah, next time you're in Denver, get some Hello Herbivore Garlic Crunch. Will do. Just buy the store out of it.

Benjamin: You want to do any, uh, shout out for where people can find you online and what, what you want people to check out if they're going to sure. Yeah.

Thomas: Um, if you want to learn about productivity and creator advice, Thomas Frank on YouTube, if you want to learn that notion, Thomas Frank explains on YouTube, and if you want to capture resources and web clips to notion using the best tool ever for that purpose, flylighter.

com we launching very soon. We have a wait list on that page. Uh, and otherwise you can connect with me on Twitter at Tom, frankly, When I'm at my desktop computer intentionally using Twitter, awesome. Yeah. Thanks so much, Thomas. Thank you.

Creators and Guests

Benjamin Borowski
Benjamin Borowski
Notion warlock at NotionMastery.com, Systems at WeAreOkiDoki.com, volunteer firefighter, hacker, DJ
Marie Poulin
Marie Poulin
Taming work/life chaos with Notion • Leading NotionMastery.com • Online Courses • ADHD • Permaculture
Leveraging Curiosity with Thomas Frank
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