If you’ve been anywhere near a bookstore the past few years, chances are you’ve encountered two of Tucker Max’s bestselling books – I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell and Assholes Finish First. They chronicle his wild exploits during his twenties and have sold a staggering 2 million copies combined.
A writer by trade, Tucker is now playing the startup game. His company, Book in a Box, turns ideas into books and is based on a streamlined book creation process that avoids the traditional, painful process of writing and publishing. He started Book in a Box in 2014, and took the role of CEO, just like most founders do. Business was booming, but the company was failing to scale, and Tucker realized he should let someone else lead, and fired himself as CEO.
Tucker is an inspirational figure for his successes, sure – but he’s also failed a lot. We learn more about what’s he learned from career missteps and totally transforming his life in the interview ahead.
What does the first 90 minutes of your day look like?
I wake up usually around 6am with the kids.Then, I make tea, prepare their breakfast, and just talk to them or be with them. We spend time together until about 7:30 am, when they go to school. I then meditate for 10 minutes, and then journal for 10 minutes, and plan my day for 10 minutes. I start working around 8am. That’s about two hours I guess.
What’s your number one productivity/time-saving tip?
I schedule EVERYTHING. If it’s not on my calendar, I don’t do it or think about it. This forces me to clearly define everything I need to get done, and then actually find the time to do it.
Any favorite tools?
Slack for my company. Google Docs. Kindle. I am pretty simple.
Do you have a pre-bed/nightly routine?
My nightly routine is pretty simple. We put the kids to bed at about 7pm, then my wife and I spend two hours just being together. Sometimes we just talk, sometimes work, but mostly we play Mario Kart against each other (I know right). Then we get ready for bed (brush our teeth, etc), and sometimes spend an hour or so reading before bed. Always fiction.
How often do you check your inbox?
Three times a day usually. I am not strict on this.
#1 Email tip?
I don’t respond to most email, honestly. Probably not the best strategy, but it works well for me. The people I need to talk to can call or text me.
What’s the biggest hindrance to your productivity? How do you combat it?
Not following my schedule. If I follow it, stuff gets done. If I don’t, I get distracted and waste time.
When you lose focus, what do you do to regain it?
This is definitely a problem for me. When I lose focus, I stop what I’m doing and relax. I forgive myself for losing focus, so I don’t spend any more time beating myself up. Then I ask myself, “How does this activity help me achieve my objectives?” If I can’t answer why, I stop and readjust, and then go do what I should be doing.
If I lose focus several times in a row, then I readjust and ask myself, “What underlying issue is causing this procrastination?” I examine my plan and my activity to see if there is something off. If I’m losing focus 3-5 times in a row, it means there is a deeper issue I have to address. A problem with my plan, usually.
What have you learned from your failures?
Oh man, I have failed so much, and that is pretty much the only way I learn (sadly). Probably the biggest failure, the most life-changing, was when the movie made about my life didn’t do well. It cracked my grandiosity and helped me re-adjust my entire worldview. Made me humble and much more grounded.
Tucker Max speaking at HustleCon about how he built his book publishing startup
What bad advice do you hear often?
I think almost all productivity advice is about how to do more, when what I see is that most people don’t ever examine why they are doing what they are doing. Without clearly, directly and deeply understanding what matters, getting better at just doing anything doesn’t help.
What book has changed your life and why?
So many books have so greatly impacted my life. If I have to name one, I’ll say The Neon Bible.
The most worthwhile investment in time, money, or energy that you’ve made?
There are three:
- Learning. I have thousands of books and spend tons of time reading and learning. Everything I have is because I have invested a lot of time learning as much as I can.
- Therapy: I have invested a lot of time and money into understanding my emotions and connecting to them. That has profoundly changed my life
- This is going to sound weird, but finding a wife. My wife is amazing and we have a great relationship and that has had a profound impact on my life, but if you think amazing people get come into life by chance, you’re either very lucky or a fool. I had to spend a lot of time and effort to find her, but once I did, man, that has been great.
What’s your definition of productivity?
To me, productivity is not doing more things, productivity is only doing the things that actually matter. In short, productivity is focusing on the right things only. Everything about my productivity system is designed to strip away everything that is not about my family or my company or my self-care, and then relentlessly focus on getting those things done.
In the last 5 years, what new belief, behavior, or habit has most improved your life?
I have totally reframed and focused on what matters to me. There are now only three things that matter to me: my family, my self-care and the mission of my company. Everything I do now is defined by the impact on those three things. It helps me focus, and be intentional about only doing the things that matter to me.
What have you become better at saying no to?
All investing in outside projects. All work that is not about my company. No side projects, no “other” things. There’s a great hack I use to do this: I frame every new opportunity as “Is this worth stealing time from my family or my tribe?” Then the answer is easy.
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