Ari is a productivity coach and in this episode he talks about how entrepreneurs can automate their life and their marketing. Doing less can actually accomplish more and Ari teaches us how.
→ What is the ethos behind it
→ How entrepreneurs can automate their life and their marketing
→ How people do less can accomplish more, and he teaches us how
→ How do they do less in general
→ How does he decide on what the 5% to put on his plate is as opposed to
→ What are the pieces does he going to optimize and automate and outsource
→ His best advice to any startup is to try to grow
→ And a whole lot more
Bronson: Welcome to another episode of Growth Hacker TV, Bronson Taylor. And today I have Ari Mizell with us. Ari, thanks for coming on the program.
Ari: Bronson Thanks for having me.
Bronson: Absolutely. Now, Ari, you are the man behind less doing Dot. So tell us what is less doing dot com, but more importantly, what’s the ethos behind it? What’s it all about?
Ari: So last doing their column is a system of productivity. But what people usually find surprising is that the motivation for creating a came out of my having a chronic illness. So seven years ago I was working in construction and real estate development and working really hard. It was it was a rough project and I was stretching myself out pretty thin and I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. So Crohn’s is a chronic inflammatory condition of the digestive tract. It’s extremely painful. It’s very difficult to stay, to maintain weight. You end up taking a lot of medicine. I was taking about 16 pills a day and it’s considered to be incurable. So basically, after some pretty horrible experiences and some really rough nights in the hospital, I decided that I needed to try to do something for myself. So I went on this long journey of self-tracking and self experimentation. And about four months after that, I was off my medicine completely. And three or four months after that, I competed in my first triathlon. Wow.
Bronson: Quite a turnaround.
Ari: Thanks. So then I ended up doing that correct bike and set my sights on Ironman France. And in 2011, I competed in and completed Ironman France, which was incredible. And where I had been was really just so weak. Going up a flight of stairs was rough for me. Yeah. So I felt like I had figured out about 80% of the problem. You know, I’d figured out the nutrition, I’d figured out the the supplements, and I’d figured out the fitness aspects. But there was still a large component of my illness and my life that was related to stress, as many autoimmune diseases are, and many people’s issues and general stressors is a really major psychological and physical factor. So I tried to figure out what can I do to systematically reduce stress in my life and other people’s lives? And the best thing I could come up with was saving them as much time as possible, with the goal of being able to reclaim their mind and do with it the things that they want to do. Because I just kept hearing from so many people and I know I was saying it myself, that I was overwhelmed. So less doing was borne out of the idea of trying to free up as much time as possible. That’s all I care about so that I can help you reclaim your own mind and do with it the things that you want to do.
Bronson: Yeah, that sounds incredible. And so let me ask you this. We’re going to get into entrepreneurship in a second, but kind of in broad brushstrokes, how do people do less? Because they really applies to any kind of person, right? Your productivity system is not just for business people. So what is how do they do less in general? Because it almost seems impossible. It seems like a fairy tale, right?
Ari: Yeah. Well, so it does apply to everybody. It applies not only to business problems, but personal issues as well as physical ailments. It really helps with that. So basically, I have this three step process that I go through when I look at any problem, any task, any issue, and that is to optimize, automate and then outsource. And it’s a very important framework to follow that I followed and in that order, so anybody can kind of outsource something to a virtual assistant or whatever they want. But outsourcing and inefficient tasks does not make the process more efficient. So first of all, we have to do is look at optimizing. So we look at what the problem is, you know, break it down to its bare bones, gather some data, really figure out what you’re dealing with. And then at that stage, you can try to lean it out as much as possible, trim the fat, get it down to its most bite size strikes. Mm hmm. At that point, we look at automation. So whether that’s software or some sort of process in place or people, but an automation that just happens, that deals with that issue and mitigates it, if there’s anything left over at that point, that’s when we look at outsourcing it to specialists or generalists. And I found that that three part process has worked really well for attacking a variety of problems from from business processes to managing a household to dealing with kids and relationship issues and even health issues.
Bronson: Yeah, it’s so interesting as you talk about a three step process because I think back to some of the guests we’ve had that have been incredibly successful at growing software products and their process in the domain of software products looks a lot like that. They may use different words to describe it. That’s essentially the outcome that they’re going after. But you’ve taken it and allowed yourself to apply it to anything and everything, which I think is really cool. Now let’s talk about how it applies entrepreneurship specifically, because I think there’s a misconception that the. Busiest entrepreneurs are the ones that have the fastest growing companies. There’s almost this. If you’re hustling, if you’re tired, if you’re giving it all you got, then success.
Ari: Is your head down, right? If your head down.
Bronson: If your head down. Absolutely.
Ari: I hate that expression so much. I can’t even tell you. You know, I always tell when I when I do coaching and I do mentoring with entrepreneurs. And I always say that like, you have to be a complete person. If you’re if if you’re just got your head buried in a computer screen, you know, unless, of course, you’re writing code. But even so, there’s a limit to how much you can bring to that situation. You need outside stimuli. You need to refresh your mind and your soul doing other things, and then you can bring that back into your work. It’s really hard actually getting entrepreneurs to do less while accomplishing more, you know, because they feel like they have to be doing everything all the time and that the entrepreneurs are sort of that extreme example that everybody has where we all feel like there are things that happen in our lives, that we’re the only ones that can do it. And I’m sorry to say that everybody, but we’re just not that unique. You know, 95% of the things that you do on a daily basis can be done by other people or other things. It’s that 5% that only you can do, that you’re the best that and that you should be able to focus on more than anything else. So there’s a couple it actually kind of swings both ways. A lot of careers, you have entrepreneurs who kind of do everything themselves and run, you know, super lean end up like killing themselves after a couple of weeks. And then you have the other ones who go the extreme opposite and then they feel like they need a team of 20 right away to, you know, do their Kickstarter campaign. And that doesn’t work out. So honestly. Like, it’s really a matter of perspective. It requires going outside yourself for a second and looking back in at the process and being like, Oh, well, you know, there’s a way to make this more efficient because that stuff doesn’t make sense there and this is redundant and somebody else can do this. Oh, and there’s an app that does this for you now and all that kind of thing.
Bronson: So yeah, how do you make the decision on what the 5% to put on your plate is as opposed to what are the pieces are that you’re going to optimize and automate and outsource? How do you make that distinction? Because obviously the people in the need to people on Kickstarter didn’t make that distinction appropriately. And the people that run super lean and kill themselves also didn’t make that distinction appropriately. So how do you make it so?
Ari: It actually runs the other way, believe it or not. So a lot of people don’t know what that 5% is that they can only do. So, for instance, I would have never seen myself as a writer and I still don’t think I’m a good writer, but I know that I can express my ideas well enough. So when I write my blog I’m doing the content. But everything else, you know, posting it, getting the images together, scheduling the posts, all that stuff is done by other systems, other people. It’s it’s not so much about discovering the 5%. It’s about getting rid of the other 95% so that you can have a clear mind to know what it is that’s left, that you’re the one that can only do it. And honestly, I am of the mindset that you can always be optimizing more. There’s always a way to make it more efficient. And again, keep in mind that my goal is to give you back your mind so you can do what you want to do with it. And it’s amazing. I have ideas every day and that there was years of my life where I wasn’t getting any ideas at all because I was just so bogged down in the minutia.
Bronson: Mm. No, that’s great. Let me ask this. You know, you said earlier that it’s about doing less, but accomplishing more. Do you actually think that you can do both, that it’s not about doing less and getting less done, but that when you actually automate these processes and take on the 5% that’s left, when it’s all said and done, that more in total actually gets done.
Ari: Oh, I mean, 100%. That’s the whole point. I don’t want people to achieve less. I want them to achieve more and produce more. But I want the the doing to take less of their time. It’s less doing, more living, honestly. And, you know, part of that is the idea of making sort of a chain reaction of things happening, you know, so you can do one thing and then ten things happen because of it. So you’re really multiplying efforts while you’re doing less.
Bronson: Yeah. And now you consult with a lot of entrepreneurs and you walk them through this sometimes through educational products, sometimes, you know, one on one in different settings. And I’m sure you get some entrepreneurs that just have a super hard time with this because our habits are ingrained. We like head down, it makes us feel safe. Even if we’re accomplishing less. It’s still a safe place for us because we’re so used to it. What do you say to them to break through them? Because I know there are some people watching this and they think, okay, yeah, that’s fine for someone like you, Ari, but for me, this is how things work. I’m sure you have go to things you say just a breakthrough, people, just hard heads.
Ari: So first of all, it’s important to realize that I have had a website design company. I have had a online services come. I have had a home theater installation and low voltage installation, and I’ve been a real estate developer. I’ve invented building materials. I’ve worked for Mac Cosmetics. I basically have and I’m an EMT, I’m a pilot. Like, I’ve kind of done a lot of different things.
Bronson: Good answer.
Ari: Yeah. And that’s not tooting my own horn. It’s just saying I’ve experienced these things. And and another thing that’s important is when I worked in construction, I worked in construction. The one my first project that I built the deal was that anybody that worked on the job had to teach me their trade. So I spent three years plumbing, removing asbestos, digging ditches, welding, breaking bones, all that stuff. So I’ve I’ve gone up and down through every vertical possible and have seen the different inefficiencies and the ways to do this. The problem is that we get so busy, we just we don’t see it. So it’s not so much that I have to convince someone to try this stuff. It’s really that I have to kind of give them a smack and get them out of their selves for just a minute and be like, Look, there is another way to do this. If you don’t want to do it, fine. But I’m going to show you how you can do it really easily.
Bronson: Yeah. How do you get them out of themselves? Is it just through a conversation like this or is it through, hey, for one day you have to go and be alone and just stop. I mean, is there is a kind of like experiencing something that helps them? Is it learning something that helps them? Is it both?
Ari: It’s usually one conversation is what it takes. Because I can say to someone, well, there are a couple of ways it works, but I can say to somebody, you know, tell me a process that you go through on a daily basis. And usually people can answer that right away. But I love when someone’s like, I don’t know what you know, I’m not sure. I’m like, Really? There’s not something you do every single day. Because my criteria for starting to look at automating and outsourcing something is if I do it twice.
Bronson: At a pretty low barrier.
Ari: Yeah, well, and regardless of whether I may never do it again, but it’s a skill set that I’m developing in terms of how to better and effectively outsource and and automate things. So I say, you know, tell me your pain point. Tell me what you’re spending the most time on, tell me your biggest challenge. And then I usually have a pretty easy way to show them that you can do this this other way. And it’s just it’s like then then it’s this far down the rabbit hole as they want to go.
Bronson: Gotcha. So the ideology can be applied. It’s simple to understand. Hard to execute, maybe, but simple to understand.
Ari: Another important one with entrepreneur is to point out also and business owner is is that sometimes I’ll attack it from a completely different side of it, which is their health. And I’ll say, okay, look, let’s you want to do this this way and that’s fine, but I’m not going to touch your business promises. I’m not going to tell you to spend less than 20 hours that coding. What I will show you is how you can use the 4 hours of sleep that you have to get the maximum and benefits from it. How you can meditate in 5 minutes and reduce your stress levels and increase cognitive performance and you know all these things to support that lifestyle that you want to have. One of the distinctions that I try to make, because people always ask me how how I compare to Tim Ferriss and I’ve, I’ve I’ve met Tim at several different events and I think what Tim does is amazing and really inspiring. But what’s very different is that I don’t want to inspire people necessarily to quit their jobs, create a passive income business and travel the world for 15 months. I have a family, I have three kids. I just want to make everything in my life easier. So I want to make everything and everyone else’s life easier too.
Bronson: Yeah. As a father myself, your story rings a little more at home to me than the Tim Ferriss story, even though I’m also inspired by a lot of what he says. You’re absolutely right. Life is very busy when you have a family and people don’t realize that a lot of entrepreneurship is not done by 20 somethings, but 30 somethings. And there are people that just have responsibilities that don’t go away ever. And so they need to be more efficient, automate things. Now this program is all about growing the user base, retaining users for your product. That’s really what we talk about most of the time on here. Do you think this mindset can be applied to growing a user base because you actually you have your own products, you have your own website, you have your own membership sites. Do you automate the growth of those things and if so, how?
Ari: Yes. So I mean, it’s kind of it’s kind of a big subject, honestly. But yes, I do. So social media, for one thing, it’s something that I’m like a complete idiot at, but I have completely automated. I at one point I hired a social media consultant and she was really awesome. One of the many outsourcing things that I’ve done that I’ve been really happy with. And she was great. And I actually I watched sort of what she did and I learned a lot of things from her. And I think she got me from, you know, like a couple hundred Twitter followers to 2000 or something like that. And then I figured out how to completely automate what she was doing for me. So the most part, and the thing with the way that I looked at it was. Then again at 95%. So maybe I could automate 95% of it and maybe that 5% that I was paying her to do it was definitely worth it. But I was happy with the 95% level. You know, maybe I’d get, you know, a few less followers a week, but it would still work. So I completely automated that strategy. And I, you know, I have 9000 followers on Twitter or something now without me writing anything on Twitter. Mm hmm. And without me really knowing what to do. And I’m a big proponent of if you can automate something and not have to deal with it and not worry about it, then why not do it? So I wouldn’t be able to justify me spending time on social media. But because I’m automated and this happens, it all happen easily and for free. I’ve gotten clients, I’ve gotten opportunities for speaking. I’ve gotten some interesting things because of Twitter. So it it all comes back as far as growing the user base on the website. Most of the posts that are done on my blog are done by virtual assistants. I curate the content. Mm hmm. But the actual posting, the timing, the design, everything is done with my direction and the beginning. But it’s done by virtual assistants, so I don’t spend the time. That’s why I’m able to produce an enormous amount of content for just one person. Mm hmm. And then even my newsletter, I, I every week on my newsletter, I put out on Wednesdays, I put two studies, one on wellness and one on productivity. And the research is done by the virtual assistants. I make my commentary and then that’s what goes out based on. So I have very little touch on a lot of this stuff. And it’s just kind of building on the side.
Bronson: Yeah. So let me tell me if I’m wrong here. So it seems like some of the lower level things, like a blog post, a newsletter, getting Twitter followers that you’re outsourcing, a lot of that kind of stuff. But then the really high touch stuff, the Udemy courses, the consulting, the one on one coaching, you jump in hands on and tackle those 100% because that’s where you’re actually making your money and where you’re providing the real value. Is that fair?
Ari: Yeah, that’s definitely fair. And it is. And it’s true. That’s where I’m making the more of the money, but it’s also where I’m learning the most. You know, when I get to coach with somebody, which I’m pretty selective about the coaching work that I do now, I learn a lot from the people I work with and I learn what the problems are and what people are dealing with. And it’s really fascinating. The the Udemy course is an interesting one. So I was teaching through Skillshare originally in New York, and the class was really popular. It was doing great and I loved it. I really loved teaching and I never would have saw myself as a teacher. But of course it required, you know, two and a half hours, 3 hours of my time each time I did it. And the numbers were good, but it was still, you know, 3 hours at the end of the night, you know, when you’ve got young kids is like it’s not an ideal thing. And there’s also a scalability issue there. So that’s when I kind of turned over to Udemy and created the course, and now the course marketing is automated for the most part. Creating new content is all I have to do, and that’s what I love doing, is sort of getting these ideas out there. So the Udemy stuff is a really kind of amazing passive income stream in some ways, and it has led to some coaching clients from that. But other than that, yes, and so I do the one on one coaching. I also do a lot of corporate seminars for people to help make their teams more efficient. And that’s the stuff that I really enjoy and really get to see the impact.
Bronson: Mm hmm. And you said the Udemy is kind of automated at this point. Do you just mean through the channels we’ve already talked about? They’re finding out about you through the newsletter or the blog, Twitter. Or is it automated in some other sense? Because we’ve had both the founders or one of the founders of Udemy on and their growth engineer on. I have classes on Udemy, so Udemy has come up a few times on this program. And so if you have any secrets about automating sales there, we’d love to hear.
Ari: So first of all, I have to say that I am so pleased with working with you. To me, I think that they’ve had such a great platform and they really take care of their professors or their teacher professors, their teachers. They, you know, they do an enormous amount of marketing in their app. They do all these discount stuff and they have an affiliate program like they I think they’ve I think they’ve really done it right. So on one hand, I would say that they’re almost automating it for you. You know, once you get to a certain critical mass, you know, which I think for them, they say there’s 100 students and then you can start to sort of take off. It’s true. It really does build on itself. But, you know, I do a lot of stuff with discount codes and, you know, with my podcast giving out discount codes and offering prizes that way. And then I build it into my newsletter. And so there are other automations as well. It does seem that the key with Udemy, it’s how you work with the discount codes.
Bronson: Yeah, that’s actually what their own growth engineer said. He said he sends out an email with a time limit and a discount and those two things together are almost magical. And you can tell whenever they sell on those emails because you’re probably seeing a two year sales go up every time they send out one of those things. So they definitely work.
Ari: Well, the brilliant thing about it. Not brilliant. It’s so basic, but you can sign up for a Udemy course and then take it a year from now. But as long as you get it now you’re locked in. Which is, which is really the appeal, I think.
Bronson: Yeah. It really reverses the risk. One of the. Exactly. Selling tactics. Don’t put the risk on me. You take it. And that way I can have the course any time. Now, you also have a monthly subscription to your blog where they get premium content. I think it’s $10 a month. I think it’s also maybe a couple hundred a year or something like that. Or actually, what is it, a year?
Ari: You know, it’s just ten bucks a month. So it’s 100 bucks for the or $99 for the year.
Bronson: Yeah. There it is. $9 for the year. What have you found about getting people to convert to the premium membership? Because there’s a lot of people watching that are in that situation. They have a free offering and then they have a premium offering. I mean, that’s what Growth Hacker TV is. There’s a free and a premium offering. Anything there you’ve learned as you grow the user base?
Ari: So that’s been a really interesting experiment for me, basically. Laura The idea for that was that I really wanted to do. I was starting to get more into podcasting and then I decided I really wanted to do some video content and I, I found I use screencast maker on the Mac now, which I think is just a really easy and good program for making a screencast. So it was easy and fun to do it. So there was content that I wanted to share and it wasn’t stuff that I wanted to share with the general public, not because it’s private per se, but like there’s one where I go through my actual inbox site on scene and I go through and I show how I process my email. And it’s not like there’s going to be something really super private in there necessarily, but it’s also the kind of thing that I just don’t want everybody to be able to see. So it was more about putting a little bit of a barrier there and just to see what happen. And it’s done really well. People have signed up and I haven’t pushed that specifically. All that happens is that every couple of weeks I put up a pro post and if someone goes to it, it’s going to pop up with that curtain wall and say or the paywall and say, you have to sign up if you want to see this.
Bronson: Yeah, that’s cool. Well, this has been a great interview. Couple last questions here. One, you know, I look at all that you’ve done just even recently with all the products, with all the informational things you put out. Walk me through how the timeline, because people when they look at an empire, it’s hard to see how it was built. When you look at Rome, you can’t imagine the first brick. Right. So what was kind of the anchor was the first step? I mean, obviously it started with you and your passion, but in terms of actually putting something out in the world, was it the Udemy course first was to put up a blog first? Was it a one on one consulting gig that kind of got your head around this stuff and figured out your teaching style? Like, walk me through the timeline a little bit.
Ari: Sure. So it’s really easy. So I started the blog and shortly thereafter I thought, Hey, I could write a book. And of course, and I was like, Well, I really need to see how people responded to that. So it just so happened that Skillshare was sort of starting up at that point. So I thought, I’ll teach a Skillshare class just so that I can see what people like and what they don’t, so they can write my book. So the first course had ten people and I think it was $15 online. And I just went through a bunch of websites that I thought were really cool and and people loved it and it was really good. And it enabled me to then create a couple more fundamentals and started teaching the class more and the class start getting more popular. And, you know, eventually it had 40 people in every class and the book idea sort of went out of my head because I was like, You know what? I really need to develop this more and more. So it was through that interaction that I was able to really hone the content and bring that back to the blog. And then that ended up, you know, transferring over to become a Udemy course. And now I do have a book deal from Penguin for my book to come out next spring. Nice.
Bronson: Yeah. So it’s kind of poor. So from blog to unsellable teaching with Skillshare to scalable teaching with Udemy, and then you end up with a book with the books as an afterthought, because what you were doing was probably just as exciting now.
Ari: Right now. And the coaching sort of came up in the middle of the Skillshare classes. I taught the classes, I guess, for almost a year and a half. So somewhere in the middle someone came up to me and after and said, Hey, do you do any coaching? And I was like, Yeah, absolutely. And this is how much it costs. And I totally made it up on the spot and they said, Great. So I started doing that. And then I, you know, then every class after that, I was like, and by the way, I do, you know, coaching. And then one of my clients asked if I could come do the course for his company, and that’s when I started doing corporate stuff.
Bronson: Isn’t it true that so much of progress in business really is oblique? I just read a book called Obliquity, I think, but then there’s not usually a straight route. I’m going from A to B. You think you are. You think you’re going from A and B is writing a book. But then you go all over the place and you end up maybe there maybe not. But is that in your experience? That is just really hard to know what’s right around the corner, but that it’s still good.
Ari: Absolutely. And you know, one of the things that I like to I mean, I always tell people is, you know, obviously there’s versions of companies where it’s really just all about the hustle, you know, whether or not actually I don’t know if you know. But like Nick Loper has this this podcast called The Side Hustle, which I love and it’s all about. People who have like their side business that they turn us online. And a lot of them are, you know, it’s like having niche websites or having online content or something, and those are all great. But generally speaking, the general advice that I tell people is if you want to succeed, you just have to know your stuff better than anybody else, you know, and that should come through in some way as long as you can get rid of all the other obfuscating noise. So getting rid of that 95%, so you can focus on what you know, making what you know better than what everybody else knows and then sharing that in some way.
Bronson: Yeah. So it’s not so much focusing on should I start a blog, should I teach a class? It’s know your stuff and it doesn’t really matter what the outlet is. It’s going to make money, you’re going to have fun doing it. You’re going to be seen as a thought leader. It’s going to snowball into something else. It’s not about the medium as much as the message. Right.
Ari: Is that I mean, I could have that better. Yeah, exactly.
Bronson: Yeah. Well, this has been an eye opening interview for me. It’s really exciting just to think about these things. I love simplicity, automation. I love doing less as an, you know, a way of life. And I got a lot further. I can go on that journey still. Let me ask you one last question here. Kind of a high level question. You can take it anywhere you want. What’s the best advice that you have for any startup is trying to grow? They’re watching this. They’re trying to grow. What do you say to them.
Ari: To to a startup or to the founder.
Bronson: Or to the founder? Let’s make it personal.
Ari: Okay. So I would tell them that whatever you’re doing, you need to find something, whether it’s a class or a some sort of offering or some sort of educational thing that you can do and learn that you believe has absolutely nothing to do with your business whatsoever.
Bronson: Now, why is that your advice?
Ari: So part of. Well, it’s a big part in getting yourself out of yourself. So that’s that’s part of it. You need to do something that your brain is not used to doing. In my case, less doing happened while I was taking a welding class.
Bronson: Just the idea for.
Ari: It I sculpture really. I took I mean I sculptural I took a sculptural welding class in Brooklyn and where we learned how to well and it was like an eight week class and it was one of the most fun things I’ve ever done. I hadn’t been I hadn’t worked with my hands in a while since I’ve been doing the construction, since I’ve done the construction project, that first one. And it was completely different for what I was doing on a day to day basis. And in that moment you sort of lose yourself and you start to think about a lot of things and your mind starts to wander and then you start to get ideas. And those ideas are what lead to true success, in my opinion.
Bronson: Yeah, no, that’s great advice. Just about a week and a half or two weeks ago I went stand up paddleboarding on a Saturday morning because I’d never done it and always wanted to. And when I was out there, when I got done, I realized my mind is clear and it’s the first time it’s been clear in a long time. And I forced myself to make it clear the activity made it clear because I didn’t know how to force myself to stop thinking. But out there I stopped thinking about all the noise and life was simple for again. And I want to start doing things like that. I think what you just said is amazing advice because I recently experienced it, and so I know that there’s really something to that.
Ari: Well well, you know, they actually say that, and I think they’ve proven this. But if you want to increase your IQ, there’s two very simple things you can do. And one of them is brush your teeth with your non-dominant hand and and take a shower with your eyes closed because it just it’s weird. And your brain has to sort of figure out what’s going on.
Bronson: Yeah, it’s like picking a new path on your drive home. Just something that makes you think again. Because being on autopilot in the wrong sense, not in the way we’ve been talking about, you know, you don’t want your mind just to stop working. It’s a muscle and you got to exercise it.
Bronson: Yeah. Well, all right. This has been a great interview. Thank you so much for coming on Growth.
Ari: A.V. Thanks for having me.
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