Tony was a key part of the teams that built the initial iterations of the iPod, iPhone, and much more. Now an investor and entrepreneur with a 30+ year history of founding companies and designing products that profoundly improve people’s lives, Tony’s primary focus is as Principal of Future Shape, which coaches over 200+ startups innovating game-changing technologies.
On a recent episode of the Chase Jarvis Live Show, we talked about building things- from building yourself and a strong foundation for a creative career to building teams, organizations and products.
Not An Overnight Success Story
Tony’s first job out of college was such a disaster that it killed all new development in consumer-oriented personal computers for a decade. The next products he built were commercial failures, then he started his own company – a year before the .com bubble burst.
“When you’re doing something the world’s never seen, most people will misunderstand it because they don’t have any model to compare it to. Sometimes you can talk about what you’re doing, but other times you can’t. And they’re just like- they can’t relate to it until they see it all in its fully formed thing.” – Tony Fadell
If anyone can speak on the topic of failure, it’s Tony. While technology evolves and opens up new opportunities, success is never guaranteed. Rather than attach to the suoptimal outcomes of his early ventures with General Magic, Tony continued pulling on the thread of curiosity. Driven by a desire to build products that improve people’s lives, Tony was unaware there was a tsunami on the horizon in the form of the smartphone revolution.
With so much noise, and in unproven landscapes, remaining steadfast in your convictions is critical if you are going to maintain longevity. Tony has filed over 300 patents in his career. Were they are major successes? Certainly not, but that didn’t matter when Tony’s attention was never focused on the failures, beyond what he could learn from them.
Start by Understanding the Issue
The best products are born out of pain. While most people spend a lifetime numbing their pain, Tony discovered how powerful of a motivator pain can be. At 25, being incredibly overweight, he decided to address the issue head on, so he took up yoga and meditation, started exercising, eating more consciously, building human connection more intentionally, and more.
So here’s the reminder: “Even if you failed at it the first time. It’s just about having all those pieces aligned, making sure that at least some people on the planet understand the problem you’re trying to solve and feel the pain and go, yes, this is what I need.” Pain is a sign you’re on the right track
The Importance of Parenting, Empowerment
At the end of our conversation Tony shared a powerful metaphor between building some of the best products in the world and parenting.
When you’re creating paradigm-shifting products, you pour your heart and soul into these things- just like you pour your heart and soul into your kids. If you’re a great parent and you’re really passionate about giving your child the best chance to thrive, you won’t stop at anything, and you wont cut corners. The analogy stands out because it’s a reminder of how important the mindset you bring to your job is.
Tony’s New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestseller, Build: An Unorthodox Guide to Making Things Worth Making is available now.
Listen to the Podcast
Tony (00:00): When you're doing something new, when you're doing something the world's never seen, most people will misunderstand it because they don't have any model to compare it to. And so either sometimes you can talk about what you're doing. Other times you can't, and they're just like, "They're doing some crazy thing," and they can't relate to it until they see it all in its fully formed thing. And you say, "This is it," and they get to interact with it.
Chase (00:21): All right, that little nugget of brilliance was from legendary Tony Fadell. Tony is the creator of many things like the iPhone, the iPod and the Nest Thermostat. One of the top product designers in the world. So I welcome him this week to the Chase Jarvis Live Show. We talk about all kinds of things, including his new book Build, which covers all sorts of building, not just products and features, but how to build yourself, others and teams if you're a leader. This show is for you. Enjoy Tony Fadell.
Chase (01:06): Tony Fadell, thank you so much for joining. Welcome to the show.
Tony (01:09): Chase, great to be here. Awesome. I'm so glad to have some time with you.
Chase (01:14): Likewise, and for some time now I've been digging into your new book called Build, but I always like to start off the show for the handful of people who might not be familiar with you and your work, orient us around how you describe yourself to others. What kind of work you're interested in and why you think you may be a guest on the show, but just generally, what are you interested in? And what are some of the descriptors that you associate with yourself, your career, your past? How ought the audience be aware of you?
Tony (01:48): Oh, wow. Let's see. Well, I'm not young, so there's a lot of things. So let's see. First, I guess I would say I'm an engineer by training, by education. So a computer engineer and I've went on to design and engineer all kinds of different products early on in my career in the first 10 years in Silicon Valley. But I'm really a designer and inventor of the iPod, a co-inventor of the iPhone. And then I co-founded a company called Nest, which was doing thermostats and other home electronic products, connected products.
And now most recently I'm a New York Times bestselling author of Build. So lots of different things and, oh, well I forgot. And I'm also an investor. So I invest in deep tech companies, disruptive deep tech companies around the world, helping the climate, our societies, and our health and spending a lot of time on that. And the reason why the book happened was because I had all the same questions from all the companies that we mentor. And so I decided to write it all down. So I didn't have to drone on and tell the same stories hundreds and hundreds of times. So that was the impetus for the book besides honoring my mentors and all the people who helped me through that career and that transition through all of those now over 30 years of designing and building and creating companies and all those things.
Chase (03:21): Obviously, that is a resume that few people can match. So those are some of the most important and game changing products of our generation. But I actually don't want to start off with the products. I want to start off with something today in our conversation that you just mentioned, which is this idea of mentors. And I believe having started online learning companies like CreativeLive, making large use of the internet personally, prior to that, I believe that there's this idea of mentorship at scale. In part that's what this podcast has been about for more than a decade and largely books. You put your very best ideas. You put... I don't want to put words into your mouth about how many years you've been doing this... but a lifetime I'll say of information into this book, such that other people can take that information. They don't have to touch the stove to know it's hot. You can tell them and save them a lot of [inaudible 00:04:24].
So if we enter on the premise of mentorship, what have been some of your biggest takeaways from having mentors generally, but also some very specific advice, if you're willing to get into that, you've received having had the mentors that you've had?
Tony (04:48): Well mentorship, I'll tell you that is really so incredibly important. And luckily I had my grandfather as a mentor, when I was very young, starting when I was three and four, and that wasn't just having a grandfather, but my grandfather was an educator and he helped to put tools in my hands and my brother's hands. My brother's just one year younger than me. And literally we would go out and be repairing things and fixing houses and painting and doing electric stuff with electricity and gas engines and just getting hands-on right at a young age, getting that empowerment, that agency to say, "Wait a second, this is the world. And you can do stuff with it," when you're really young. And much to the chagrin of my grandmother and my mom, when we have power tools and cutting saws and stuff like that, and we're just young kids.
But to have that kind of empowerment is so valuable. And then, along the way, because I knew that really, or I felt it, I didn't know. I wasn't that conscious yet. I had probably only 10% of a brain, but it was like, I was always looking for that kind of help as I went through my career. And somehow the vibrations of that universe came together and I was able to link up with different people who wanted to help me or my ideas in some way, without financial reward, throughout my career, even in high school.
And so that's been such a... How can I say? Like I said, empowerment, but it was also brought you confidence, right? When you have somebody who has wisdom or experience to a certain level and they see something in you or your ideas and they go, "Okay, you're on the right track. Keep trying these things." And just encouragement, right? Encouragement, helping pick you up when it's really complicated. And there's so much noise of when you do things for the first time, you're like, "Could I do it this way or this way?" There are hundreds of different ways of doing something.
They can help to narrow down that wide field of things when you just really don't know, what's that perspective? And Build is all about that. It's trying to narrow down all of this noise and going, "Just focus on this. This is what matters and what really matters." And my grandfather never knew anything about technology beyond normal power tools, regular tools, not electronics. He never touched a computer in his life. It was all about human nature.
Chase (07:23): Yeah.
Tony (07:24): The best mentors I've had, they're not the smartest technical people. Sure, there are those, but these are people who really understood people, organizations, teams, and all the things that come together to create something. Because you don't usually just create in a vacuum. You're not just the sole thing. Even this book was done with a team. The ideas obviously are mine and the words are mine, but all of the other things around it. So having that mentor so you can focus on the things that really matter, the different thing that you're trying to materialize, where all the other stuff can be cut away. That's just so important to me and has been an enabler for me for my career.
Chase (08:13): Well, I'm deeply intrigued. First of all, again, congratulations on the book. It's incredible. New York Times best seller. Also, congratulations there. Obviously you've built many of the most important products of our lives. This idea that music, a thousand songs in your pocket, collaborating with one of the all time great entrepreneurs of our time and the iPhone obviously transformative in popular culture.
Tony (08:39): It's 15 years old today.
Chase (08:41): Today?
Tony (08:41): Today was the first shipment of an iPhone Can you remember 15 years ago? And all the people around the world, at least in the US, lined up to get them?
Chase (08:51): Oh yeah.
Tony (08:51): 15 years today.
Chase (08:53): Today. This is a good day then. All right. That just made this even a little richer already. Congratulations to you. But the concept of building these products as you articulated in sort of the answer to that first question you articulated that there's a relationship between mentors and there's team and all of these things are building. That's the undercurrent for all of this stuff is Build, the title of the book.
In my world, I use the word create. These are all creative acts. You're creating a team of mentors, a peer group. But I was fascinated with the fact that you started the book around building yourself. That's the chapter or the first part of the book, which has got four chapters, I think, is building yourself. And I'm wondering if you can talk to us, maybe even preach for a moment.
Tony (09:50): Okay. Preach.
Chase (09:51): Yeah. The role that you feel like you took in building yourself. And if you were going to provide some advice just in the very sort of the fabric, the understanding what it means to actually be a work in progress, to be constantly building and revising. There's things like adult, you talk about adulthood and having heroes and don't look down. There are a handful of topics within that, but just talk to me about the process of building oneself as perhaps the most valuable creative exercise that we will ever endeavor.
Tony (10:25): Yeah, no, I look back and writing the book and everything. You kind of look and you go, "Whoa, wait a second. All this stuff happened." And so building yourself is really, you're always a work in progress until you pass, until you're off this planet or under the planet, whatever you are in the planet. You're always building yourself, right? From when you come out of the womb and you're always learning. And if you stop, if you decide, "Oh," after school or whatever it is, "Okay, I got this thing," and you're just kind of going through the motions, that isn't living to me. For me, I should say, it's the curiosity of life that happens every day, whether you're 20, 12 or 120.
These things are like, to me, it's oxygen for my brain. And when you look back, when I look back at my life, I really have 10 year chunks. And I have like version 1.0 of myself, version 2.0, version 3.0. And so for me where it really all came together in building myself was... And I think it was right around when we all have more or less fully formed brains at age 24, 25, 26. That's when it really happened. You could say it's version two or maybe version three of myself, really happened where you become aware, really not just about your passions, but you become rational. And you start thinking about your passions and go, "Wait a second. Maybe some of those passions aren't so smart," because you didn't have a full brain to go off and think about it, or your relationships with other people, your relationships with yourself. All of those things.
And I had two big things that happened at the same time. One was me having a fully formed brain. And then two was the absolute spectacular disaster that was General Magic. So General Magic was a company trying to make the iPhone 15 years too early, without all the right technology. But it had the right ideas, big concepts, but the society wasn't ready to take it. The technology wasn't ready. We wouldn't even know what we were really trying to accomplish. We were just making something cool that we thought was cool, but it wasn't really solving any problems at that point.
And so having that spectacular failure, plus my brain and me saying, "I got to press the reset button," because I was so far off of being balanced as an individual. I was socially unhealthy, mentally unhealthy, physically unhealthy that I was like, I had to... And my brain was there and said, "Okay." And then I had to reboot my whole system. I had to get... It wasn't just an upgraded operating system. It was a whole new operating system. Going from the Apple 2 to the Mac or something like that. And that was really where the big work was, where you learned about not just the thing you're passionate about, but the human nature and how they come together, your human nature. Building yourself and then how you relate to the world. Right?
And so that was one version. And then the next version after that, that was lots of failure then. And then the next version was being really a leader, a true leader in that sense. And then after that it continues on. Then there was being a father and all the other stuff. But I think you have to continue to keep learning and there will always be versions of yourself. And if you're not, then probably you're not trying. You're not trying to find a new version of yourself because you can always improve.
You can always find new things and there's new ways of being and new things of learning because not everything your parents and the environment you grew up taught you was all the right things. And I'm learning today as I live in France or I live in Indonesia and I find new social systems and that stuff, it's as I said, it's oxygen for my brain. And it helps how I design and how I think every day by continuing to build yourself.
Chase (14:35): Well, I love this idea of being perpetually in development. And one of the things that I find striking that I think is very relevant to this conversation and I'm dying to get your take on. This is sort of my headline question here is really around... You've invented some amazing things, let alone yourself. We're going to put a pin in that because we realize that everyone... You Tony have invented yourself or created yourself or build to use the word, the title of your book and the chapters that are related to that.
You built yourself, but in building, whether it's yourself or products, talk to me about the role. Talk to us, the listeners here about the role of being wildly misunderstood, because you wanted to make the Pocket Crystal, right? At Big Magic. You wanted to have this idea. And the idea that you had for that product was so ahead of its time, even things like the iPod, a thousand songs in your pocket, or the iPhone and yourself.
There's some role that being willing to be misunderstood in order to pursue either the product that you're trying to create, whether that product is an iPhone or Tony Fadell 3.0. Talk to me about the role that plays and how you managed it in this process. I'm fascinated as the builder of some of the greatest products, what role that played for you. And I think it might be insightful for our audience.
Tony (16:02): Wow. Okay. That's a great question. So when you're doing something new, when you're doing something the world's never seen, most people will misunderstand it because they don't have any model to compare it to. And so either, sometimes you can talk about what you're doing and other times you can't. And they're just like, "They're doing some crazy thing." And they can't relate to it until they see it all in its fully formed thing. And you say, "This is it." And they get to interact with it.
By just talking about it, unless you're talking to another geek who really understands that kind of nuance or whatever, people are just like, "Huh?" Everyone's always looking at me like, "You're nuts. You're crazy," whatever. And it's having that gut reaction, having that... You can envision what that thing looks like even though you might not be able to articulate it yet, because you're still working on it. You go, "Oh," and it's that productive struggle of like, "Er, I got to get it out there and try to talk about it, put some words around it."
But when you see it, for me at least, when I see it and I see that vision of what it could be, that's what drives you. And then what you're trying to say is, "I believe it's going to revolutionary. I just don't have the right words to describe it yet." And what I've learned is the sooner you can be understood while you're in development, not at the end, but while, or maybe even close at the beginning, you might not all know all the details, but the more you can be understood at the beginning to the right people, not a wide range, just a set of smart people who are not just geeks, but want to think about customers and think about themselves possibly as the customer, they're really smart.
And you can explain it to them in enough simple terms, not geeky terms. And if they get it, you're probably on the right path and you're doing something that's so new and because you've worked so much on it, you can have a better kind of Occam's razor of when you're making decisions along the route to get it out to market, whatever that is. And at General Magic, we knew we were doing something cool, but we didn't really spend enough time thinking about who it was for or why, the pain we were trying to solve, the super powers we were trying to bring, all those things. So we were just kind of all in it.
And we thought we all understood. We understood the technology to a certain extent, but we didn't understand what we were building. It was just this, "Ooh, this is cool." Right? And that's the reason why it failed was because we just kept pleasing ourselves in a way, but without articulating what it was. So we were misunderstanding each other, even on the team. We didn't all know what we were doing because there was no real good articulation of what it was.
And so what I've learned through all this is the earlier you can do that and spend more time in that piece, the faster the thing can come out. And the more, I wouldn't say confident you are, but the more decisive you can be to get it to whatever state it wants to be, that you've envisioned because you've really thought through the customer journey and how you're going to describe it to people.
Chase (19:15): To invoke sort of the last point that we were swapping ideas around this idea of building yourself. What role does this idea play of articulating what it is you're building? For products, you have very clear examples there. How about with respect to yourself? Do you feel like your ability to help other people in your life, your parents, your spouses, teachers, mentors... How important is it to frame this vision for yourself? You talked about being shaped very early with your grandfather. How important was that shaping and then your future articulation of wanting to be involved in designing products and whatnot? What role did that play in becoming the successful creator that you are?
Tony (20:06): Well again, the first 10, 15 years was not very much success. So you had to learn through doing, but I think that this might be the wrong kind of analogy, but you think about it and when you go to AA, Alcoholics Anonymous, not that I was there, but the first thing is admitting that you have an issue so that you can... Right? So I think it's really understanding that there's a problem. And you're trying to solve that problem. Whether that's for yourself or it's in a product or whatever. You're saying, "Something's not right here. I need to go and take..." You look in the mirror and go figure out what's not right.
And so you can start to say, "Here's what doesn't feel right." Because it usually starts with emotion. And then you can start to put logic around it, but you got to say, "Oh, something doesn't feel right. It's not working. Why is it not working?" And you got to use the rational part of your brain to kind of use it as a mirror to look back and then you can grasp those feelings and start to put some structure around it to help you. "Oh, I need to do this now. I need to do that now."
A lot of times there's these simple tests, like do you have the right set of friends, or are you doing the right thing for your health? And you kind of do these assessments to find out where you're at. And so you can start to ascertain what you need to do to kind of look into yourself and then do that work to help grow yourself into that new way you want. You don't know what it is, but you know that you're going to go into this unknown, but you know what your problem is you're trying to solve, right? Just like you do with a product or a service or whatever you're trying to create.
And so I think it's really acknowledging some feeling that's not right. And so that's where it all starts. And I always say that the best products are born out of pain, and you get a painkiller. The same thing happens with you. You go through pain as an individual and then you go and try to figure out what it is to get rid of that pain. Not numb it. Most people numb their pain. They don't go and address it head on and go, "Okay, I'm going to go and tackle this."
For me at 25, I was incredibly overweight, all this other, okay. Yoga and meditation and thinking about how I'm exercising, thinking about how I'm eating and what I'm eating, thinking about who I'm hanging out with and making sure I make time for that stuff. It was all of that stuff. And really just rebooting everything and actually asking myself questions about fundamental values and morals that I had that I was raised with and going questioning all of that again and going, "Is that how I want to live? Do I really believe that now? What do I need to learn to make sure I believe that?" Instead of blind faith, let's make sure, adopt it as it's your own. You weren't just given it, but you've re-adopted it because you really believe in that. If that's making any sense to you.
Chase (23:04): So thanks for that, Tony. That's brilliant. I want to tweak our approach just a little bit here because we've been thinking about very sort of broad concepts like mentorship and knowing thyself and building ourself, building things generally. I want to get very specific. And a small analogy, I had dinner with Elon Musk. Everyone was asking him about space time and crazy shit like that. And I was like, "I'll tell you what I want to know. I want to know the difference between your Tesla and my Tesla," as an example.
So I want to shift gears similarly and say, Tony, you built the iPhone, right? This thing has largely transformed popular culture. I looked at it almost primarily, I'll say secondary, but almost primarily as a camera being a photographer. It certainly has transformed photography. What was it like? And talk to me about this early vision of the Pocket Crystal, and then joining Apple and inventing something, co-inventing one of the most popular devices to ever grace the planet. That, I want to understand. Because we can understand a lot through the specific example. And if we shift from these general concepts to something that's very specific. So I'm hoping to understand early, the intersection of these things, your vision of the Pocket Crystal sort of, I guess, melding with Apple wanting to build a product... Having a sense that the world would go mobile. Can you take us behind the scenes and what that was like?
Tony (24:49): Sure. So in 1989, 1990, Marc Porat, Andy Hertzfeld, Bill Atkinson, all got together around this concept of a Pocket Crystal. And if you look at the drawings, they're in the book, online. It looks very, very similar to the iPhone or smartphones we have in our pockets today. All one sheet of glass with icons. It's really crazy to think how right on, at least the form, the morphology is, of the device. So in that early 1990s, when we were working on it, it took four or five years to actually bring it to market for the first time.
And this was a product that had communications, mobile communications, but there was no internet. There was no mobile data network like we know it today. There was hardly any cell phones. It had downloadable apps and games you could, could is in quotes, purchase travel on it, right? And even buy things. It had animated emojis, ani-mojis, whatever you call them now, in 1992, 1993. It had a whole like how to hook things up to it. A whole bus that I got to work on, with keyboards and mice and all kinds of other stuff.
This was before the internet, before wifi, before just anybody even knew what online shopping was, all that stuff, even knew what email was. Most people didn't have an email in 1991, '92. And it was all built around content, commerce and communications and community. So it was all of those things coming together in one device that was pocketable, hardly pocketable, but it had a touch screen. It didn't have a real physical keyboard. That was something you could attach just like you could attach a keyboard to an iPad today. Right?
And so we had all of these concepts and nobody had the problems we were solving, which was mobile entertainment, mobile communications, mobile browsing, and commerce, like we had, and communities. So we had all of this stuff, but nobody knew what it was. We didn't even know what it was. We were just working on it. Because we said, this was going to be the new way of the future, again, before the internet.
So you fast forward to 15 years later. And then all of a sudden, boom, there's the iPhone. And so obviously the technology got much, much better. We had screens. Like that one only had a gray scale screen, a really slow processor, da, da, da, da, da. But it was built all from the ground up. And to think that most, if not all, most of those concepts were on the thing. We didn't have a camera on it. We didn't have GPS yet. There was no wifi because there was no wifi, but it had most of those things.
And we were then solving the problems because people knew what mobile, what browsing was. Right? They knew what email was. They knew what buying things online were. And from the iPod, they knew about entertainment on the go, all of your entertainment you wanted. So it took not just the technology to get better, but for society to understand it needed it. And at least the early adopters feeling the pain of having to carry a laptop, an iPod and a cell phone. And those things merging together as one. And then coming together with the same similar kind of interface, in terms of what was drawn in the Pocket Crystal thing, was just astounding.
And when we were working on it, I just remember, oh my God, this is General Magic all over again. Like it just pop, pop, pop, pop, pop. And it was just like, "This is amazing." Especially given the disaster that was General Magic. It was over a half a billion dollars was just lost. It was supposed to be this biggest thing that was going to take down Microsoft. It was the craziest thing. There's a great movie about it that people should watch called The General Magic Movie. And it goes into all those details and you see where all those people went and me and other people from there. Now people are working on the Apple Watch and running the teams that do the Apple Watch and eBay came out of there. So many things came out of there.
And so it's just amazing how that if you even have the right idea, it can still flourish years later, even if you failed at it the first time. It's just about having all those pieces aligned, making sure that at least some people on the planet understand the problem you're trying to solve and feel the pain and go, "Yes, this is what I need."
Chase (29:43): What was the thing that turned that painful failure of your original attempt, if you will, do you attribute anything to actually making it a success? Was there a stick-with-it-ness or was it you actually looking to be on a product development team that had this level of ambition or awareness? Is there anything you can attribute to that? Your personal skills or was it someone else seeing a vision in you, someone else seeing the thing, your failed attempt? And I use that in quotes because it could hardly be considered a failure if that helped Steve see what was possible with you to be able to recruit you to build these products. What do you attribute to turning your first flaming failure into a, not soon thereafter, but eventually a success?
Tony (30:36): Well, sticktoitiveness, you brought it up, stick-with-it. And so when I left General Magic, I said, "Here's the things that I thought were right about General Magic." And this is when the failure was happening in General Magic. And I was like, "Oh, wait a second. I'm going to reboot this device. I'm going to come up with my own concept for what I think the device should be." So I was like, "It's got to have a keyboard. It's got to be built for mobile professionals, not consumers. It's got to be much more of a productivity device," blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.
And so I went and pitched that to Philips Electronics and Philips said, "Yes, that sounds great. Now you build it." I had never run a team. I had my own little startups in college and stuff and in high school, but I never had built a team in a real product. I was like I was part of a team and now it was like, "Your idea. Now you go build it." I was like, "Oh my God." And I was 25. And I was like, "Okay." And so this was that it started on that journey. Whereas everyone was going off to do internet startups. I was just doing this other thing. People said, "You're crazy." And I'm like, "No, this has to exist."
So I wanted it to materialize in the world and take those ideas and start to build on them. And so I did that part of Philips. And then I went to do my own startup, which was the precursor to the iPod and then continue to do the device that became the iPod. And then it morphed into the iPhone. So this was just one long trajectory of something that I believed so much because I saw what it could be. It was just the timing wasn't right. And the technology wasn't right. So I just stuck with it.
And then the stuff at Philips was a critical success, not a commercial success for Philips because of Philips, but it was just going and going. It's going to get there. And so that is to me really heartwarming that we had the right ideas. They had the right ideas. They turned me onto those ideas and I was able to then take them in and make them my own and just keep pushing and then the right place, right time and everything. And it all came together.
And so, yeah, it was sticktoitiveness. You didn't fail. You only fail if you choose not to learn and go on to continue. If you fail and you give up and say, "I'm done," okay, yeah, that was a failure. But if you use that failure as kind of spinning the flywheel to say, "Okay, what did we learn from it? How can we go? Because I really believe this is going to [inaudible 00:32:55]." Then that's just the learning process. And failure's just a piece of it. That's okay.
Chase (32:59): Well, one of the things I love... Thank you for that. We can all galvanize around that. I think this idea of quitting or quitting as a failure stepping stone to success is a very clear metaphor. Also, there's another, the metaphor, of Build, right? We talked about it earlier on, building yourself and the various different parts of the book with numerous chapters in there. I'm a big structure guy. I love the structure of the book. You're building all these different things, building yourself, building teams, building... But that's a very powerful metaphor not dissimilar to sort of failure and whatnot. This idea of building growing.
An interesting thing that I did not expect in the book is you talk about parenting. And I'm wondering if... You connect this idea of building some of the best products in the world to your experience being a parent. Because I'm imagining our audience. There are a lot of people who are, they identify... Our audience largely identify as creators, entrepreneurs, freelancers, people who would be largely very inspired by your book. So it's a great audience fit, but there's this universality of a lot of people don't connect building these products with parenting. I'm wondering if you can make that connection for us.
Tony (34:27): Okay. Well, when you're creating... You don't create kids, but you have kids, but you have to pour your heart and soul into these things and you pour your heart and your soul into your kids. If you're a great parent and everybody does it, sometimes it's misguided, but you try. You're like, "Oh I'm really passionate because I'm on a mission to create, help this thing become something." Right? Because it's not just me. This is a team of people, right?
Chase (35:04): Yep.
Tony (35:04): The iPod, the iPhone, and all this stuff is a team of people. And so you have to look at it as you have an idea, and then you give it to the team and that team manifests that idea. And you try to steer it and what have you, and you get it to that point. Now, obviously there are certain times when you're going to set down the rules and it's like, "No, it's going to be this way." And then there's other things that they inject their own personalities into it. And then it adds another dimension to it. But there's certain things, there are rules that you don't do.
And if you think about kids, there are certain rules. They can't... "No, you're going to do that. No, you're not," whatever it is. And you're trying to put your morals and values in and put that in there and trying to get them to a certain point. But it still has to come from them, the team, not just you and top down, but it has to come from them. It's top down and bottom up. And so when you're building a team, that's building a product, you have that kind of relationship.
And that you're also trying to build the people on the team because a lot of people we're doing stuff that the world's never seen before, just like the kids have never seen the world. And you don't know what they're going to be in the world. So you have to have this relationship and go, "Okay, I'm going to mentor you sometimes. I'm going to parent you sometimes and sometimes I'm going to be the police." And you got to do all of that and do it with empathy for the team, but also for the customer, the thing that's going to be on the other side. And to me, for a kid that's who they're going to become, right? Who are they going to become?
So it's all human nature. It's all human nature. You just don't imagine something and you down there go do it. It's about this interplay between all of that. And then between the people. That includes families or their friends, on kids, and their siblings, or what have you. It's all of that. And building a family unit is like, in some ways, building a team.
Chase (37:02):I can't help, but take away from the book, the undercurrent of the ability to communicate, the ability to communicate to your customers or to your child in this case. The ability to communicate the vision that you have, the narrative around a product and the narrative that we all ought to have for this one precious life. So I want to take a moment and personally acknowledge, say thank you for the book. Again, what we've been discussing largely here, some big ideas, but also Tony's new book called Build: An Unorthodox Guide to Making Things Worth Making.
I also appreciated... I've read a lot of business books in my day. And so many of these books, they talk about, "Start with perfect thing X and then perfect thing Y will come along and then perfect thing Z. And then in the end you got this great thing." And my experience isn't like any of that. It's like when shit breaks, and this doesn't go right. And then this is a big failure. And I genuinely appreciate that about the book.
Specifically advice for CEOs and entrepreneurs about how to leave a company or how to sell a company. I'm looking at my list here. The importance of mentorship, the role of failures, the importance of guiding customers through journeys, the advice for leaders and parents. So it really is an expansive concept of Build and from someone who's built many of the greatest things in the world.
Tony (38:25): Thank you.
Chase (38:25): So grateful to you for your time. And for anyone out there in the world again-
Tony (38:31): It's a real labor of love. It was just, get it out there. And like, I was like, "I'm just not going to pull punches. I'm going to say it the way it is and how my mentors taught me." And just like, "Here it is, all raw, unvarnished." And yeah, I'm a human too. I remember at General Magic, I worked with my heroes and then they turned out to be humans as well, especially when you're doing something the world's never seen. Nobody's an expert, even your heroes. Right? And it's just how it is, and we just have to accept that and that's okay.
Chase (39:02): It's a fascinating read. It transcends the concept of a business book and goes into what I would consider personal development and narrative. And it's exquisite. So folks out there listening, I highly recommend it. Tony, I promised, I know given this thing's a New York Times bestseller, your time is in demand. I wanted to say thanks again. And is there any place you would steer our audience aside from buying the book that you would want them to pay attention? Because we're good at supporting authors and creators in their journey. Anywhere you'd steer us besides this?
Tony (39:35): Oh, to other books?
Chase (39:36): Yeah, or just any other projects you're working on, you want us to pay attention to [inaudible 00:39:41] social feeds?
Tony (39:42): Yeah, I think that I try to not be a personality in terms of on the socials, so to speak. So I only put out information and not noise. So if you want to go to TFadell on Twitter or on LinkedIn, I'm there. Those are the two places I really engage with. And then the other one is at futureshape.com where we have all kinds of places for creators to actually submit their plans for... Because we invest, right? We have over 200 and some odd companies we invest in. So if they want to go there and submit a deck or what have you and have us take a look, we're always looking for great companies, really changing, trying to help the planet or societies, what have you.
And so looking for those great entrepreneurs, because at the end of the day, we're just Mentors With Money and we can't be retired. We just love creating and we want to help others, like I was helped. I only got here because I got help. Now it's all about giving back. Whether that's the book or with Future Shape, to try to help these important missions really affect the planet in a positive way.
Chase (40:55): Well, that is the rationale behind this show existing. So thank you for being a guest. Congratulations on the book. We'll go check out your mentorship program and the Mentors With Money is a really good way to think about this, to get Tony's eyes on this, you know where to go folks. Thanks again, Tony, for being on this show. Look forward to our next time. You're always welcome as a guest on the show. Just keep putting out these incredible products, whether they're books or iPhones and you're always welcome here. Thank you very much for your time.
Tony (41:21): Thank you so much. I love the questions, and I love that we're going we're going really deep into the human nature and the creator element. So thank you.
Chase (41:29): Really appreciate it. And signing off for everybody out there in the world, pay attention to Tony's new stuff, especially his new book, Build. Until next time, from Tony and I, we bid you adieu.
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