There are dumb questions. There are questions that waste your time and my time and everybody else’s time.
And I’ve never had a job in my life that I was better than. I was always just lucky to have a job.
Being able to create an impulse within a consumer to do something is an art form.
If you want to be Mark Zuckerberg, the best you’re ever going to be is second place, ’cause Mark Zuckerberg will always be a better Mark Zuckerberg than you.
Ashton Kutcher’s Top 10 Rules For Success
Evan: He’s an American actor and investor.
He began his career as a model and started acting as Michael Kelso on the Fox sitcom, That ’70s Show.
In 2004, he starred in the psychological film The Butterfly Effect and gained even more attention.
He’s Ashton Kutcher, and here’s my take on his top 10 rules for success.
Rule number 10 is my personal favorite, and make sure to stick around all the way to the end for some special bonus clips.
And as always, if he says something that really resonates with you, make sure to put it in the comments and put quotes around it so other people can be inspired, as well.
- Ask extraordinary questions
- Be yourself
- Work hard
- Take risks
- Build an advice library
- Be sexy
- Understand customers
- Be generous
- Build your life
- Uncover what’s concealed
Scenes from Jobs.
Scene from That 70’s Show.
Scene from No Strings Attached.
Rule #1: Ask Extraordinary Questions
There are dumb questions. There are questions that waste your time and my time and everybody else’s time. I started thinking, “Well, what is a great question? “What constitutes an exceptional question?”.
And I was thinking about it and grinding on it and thinking about it, and what I realized is that a great question is a question that’s armed with knowledge, that’s armed with care and thought, and that pierces into the gray matter of the world and the universe that we live in and looks for problems and inconsistency and broken things.
Great questions cause us to sit for days and ponder a solution. Great questions expose problems, and problems are the seeds to solutions. Great questions expose road blocks, which are an entrepreneur’s opportunity. A great question sometimes will arrive at a no, which is the playground for a rebel spirit.
They expose it through great questions
And I have the great opportunity in my life to work with a lot of unbelievable entrepreneurs that are solving extraordinary problems, and the one thing that they all have in common is they all ask extraordinary questions. And they build their businesses from these questions. They build technology from great questions, questions that parse apart existing businesses. They tear them down.
They tear down conventions that we just assume are true. And they expose this magical thing that exists behind every great business, time, that most magical resource in the world. They find ways to save time. I think time exists on two vectors.
It exists on one vector which is longevity. It’s a vector that goes on and on and on, and we’re always in our lives seeking longer lives, better lives. It exists on another vector, which is quality. We want better lives, lives that are more filled with wonder and enjoyment and entertainment. Those are the two vectors of time, and those are the two vectors that every single business, every single great business, exposes, and they expose it through great questions.
Rule #2: Be Yourself
I think that if I could give young Hollywood a suggestion, it’s to do something that I never did, which is have the courage to stand up and say what you believe and be responsible for your actions now.
Learning from the bad things A big part of growing up in this business, which in a lot of ways I did, was you spend a lot of time just trying to be liked, and you get really worried about, “Do people like what I did?” or, “Do people appreciate my work?” because that is your paycheck. And I think that having the guts to just be yourself sometimes is harder than people think.
Rule #3: Work Hard
I believe that opportunity looks a lot like hard work. When I was 13, I had my first job with my dad, carrying shingles up to the roof, and then I got a job washing dishes at a restaurant, and then I got a job in a grocery store deli, and then I got a job in a factory, sweeping Cheerio dust off the ground.
And I’ve never had a job in my life that I was better than. I was always just lucky to have a job, and every job I had was a stepping stone to my next job, and I never quit my job until I had my next job. And so opportunities look a lot like work.
Rule #4: Take Risks
But I took this big risk and quit school. I quit the one thing that was surefire and went and became a model, and got really bored really fast, and didn’t love being a coat hanger. And then I became an actor, which was like a coat hanger that talks, and then I ultimately came full loop and came back around, and by the way, when you talk, you’re generally not even speaking your own words.
You’re speaking somebody else’s words and trying to make it sound really real. And then I came full loop around and started looking at technology again. I started getting interested in technology, and started getting interested in engineering, and started really getting interested in solving problems, solving my own problems and then solving other people’s problems and what the value of that is.
Solves other people’s problems.
And so whether it’s technology or philanthropy or, actually even performing or being an actor, I started to make it about solving problems. And I think that that’s probably the single biggest thing that as an angel investor I look for in entrepreneurs, is people who genuinely want to solve a problem, a real problem, a problem that exists not just for themselves, but sometimes just for themselves and then it turns into this wave effect that solves other people’s problems.
And sometimes by trying to solve your own problem, you’re solving everybody else’s problems. ‘Cause generally, if you want to affect the world, you have to change yourself first. Everybody tries to go out and change the world by changing other people and other things, but the real way to do it is by changing yourself, and sometimes making those really uncomfortable choices to go up against everyone in your life that you look up to and take that risk to go be a model.
Rule #5: Build An Advice Library
What is the most magnificent question? Well, I have a question that I like to ask to people that I admire in the world. And when I run into someone in the world that I admire, and I get to run into these people quite frequently, I like to ask this one question, and that is, “What’s the best advice that you’ve ever received “to get you to where you are?”
And I get amazing answers. And I ask this question in a very particular way. I don’t ask it when I’m in crisis. I don’t ask it when I need advice.
I ask it proactively, because I sometimes think that when you ask people that question of, “What is the best advice?” when you need advice, you’ll paint their answer into your question.
And if you ask them while you’re in crisis and you expose your crisis to them, they’ll give you an answer that is completely colored by their own experience and their own problem, which isn’t always the best thing to do.
The best thing to do is build up this reservoir, this library, of extraordinary advice that you can access anytime you’re in crisis. And that’s what I do.
When I come up against a problem or an obstacle or a road block, I then go back to my index of advice that I’ve received from extraordinary people. And I look at it. And usually, the answer is already in there.
Don’t let your ego get in the way of asking for help
So I thought last night, as I was not taking this opportunity for granted, I decided to reach out to some folks that I thought you guys might know and ask them what the best piece of advice they’ve received was so that I could share it today.
So I reached out to my fiance, Mila, and that was an easy one, right? And she said, “Don’t let your ego “get in the way of asking for help.”
To me that is great advice, and to me, I can use that advice all the time. I reached out to Taylor Swift. I figured she’s at the top of the charts right now. I wonder if she would actually even answer my email.
She did, which is amazing for the person who’s maybe the most busy person on the planet right now. She answered this email because she thought it was important that I share something with you.
And she said, “Keep your hopes high and your expectations low. “You’re not entitled to anything, “but there’s nothing that you can’t earn.” I love that one.
You’re not entitled to anything, but there’s nothing that you can’t earn. “And most importantly, “enthusiasm can protect you from absolutely anything.” Ooh, that’s good.
When I watch her do interviews, now I understand a little bit more about her, because she always has that enthused up, that bubble going. And I’m like, “You’re protecting yourself.”
One of the keys to success is the ability to listen people
I dig it. I like it. So I reached out to Bradley Cooper. He’s got one of the number one movies in America, this American Sniper movie, which I think is fantastic.
And he said, “Hey pal, thanks for asking. “You know, often I thought about “this old cartoon commercial when I was a kid “that sent a message to be yourself “and just how vital that is to growth. “And when I finally realized that notion “some 30 years after watching those commercials “in between Saturday cartoons, “I found a true difference in my daily life. “Knowing that we all have ourselves “and all we have ourselves, our uniqueness, “that is what we can use to cultivate in order to create “or do whatever it is that we want to do in this life.”
Just be yourself. Simple advice, but it’s really good advice, and I can imagine that advice coming handy in a moment of crisis. So I reached out to Chris Rock, and I love his. “Advice. “That’s a hard one. “How about, one, people that can’t listen can’t lead. “Two, one of the keys to success “is the ability to listen people “that you know that you are smarter than.”
And I read that and I was like, “Oh, man. “Oh no, the whole thesis of my entire thing,” which is there are no dumb questions, but there are dumb questions, maybe I just undermined myself with that piece of advice.
And I do think that that’s important. I do think that it’s important to listen to people that you know that you’re smarter than, ’cause you may not be. And then he signed it, “The CEO of nothing,” which I thought was pretty good.
Leads me to be a better person
And then I reached out to Eric Schmidt, who’s a friend of mine, and he said, “Always return phone calls. “Take the time. “If you put good energy out, it comes back. “Whenever possible, say yes. “Life is just who you travel with.” I thought that was pretty killer.
And this list goes on and on and on. And what I found is, most successful people always have more than one piece of advice. That’s my question.
That’s the question that I like to ask, and that’s the question that leads me to solutions and leads me to road blocks sometimes and leads me to internal quandary, which leads me to be a better person, I think.
Rule #6: Be Sexy
The sexiest thing in the entire world is being really smart. And being thoughtful, and being generous. Everything else is crap, I promise you. It’s just crap that people try to sell to you to make you feel like less, so don’t buy it. Be smart, be thoughtful, and be generous.
Rule #7: Understand Customers
I like to sit down with founders and I like to work on removing friction from process, whatever it might be, and creating products that are intuitive.
And one of the things that I get from working in the creative space and being an actor is really understanding feeling and touch and art, and it’s an art. Being able to create in impulse within a consumer to do something is an art form.
I can probably give you 10 or 20 examples of companies that have really just taken software that was archaic software that was untouchable by consumers and actually brought it down to a consumer level. That is becoming the process to building a great software company these days.
You can look at a company like Zenefits. There’s always been HR software that’s been out there in some way, shape or form. Or you can look at Robinhood, and there’s always been ways that you can interface and do stock exchanges.
But making it something that the average consumer can intuitively understand and touch and play with and use and have it be beneficial in their life is about understanding the intuition and the feeling of the consumer.
Rule #8: Be Generous
Generosity has to be at the core of anything and everything we do. Some of the best advice I ever received is somebody once told me that the difference between good and bad is very simple.
Is it good for you, is it good for me, and is it good for the greater good? If it doesn’t fall into those three categories, it is bad. Is it good for you, is it good for me, and is it good for the greater good?
And if our actions are oriented by actions of generosity that are good for me and good for you and good for the greater good, we’ll always be moving the boat forward, the boat that we’re all in. I think generosity is paramount.
Rule #9: Build Your Life
Steve Jobs said when you grow up, you tend to get told that the world is the way that it is, and that your life is to live your life inside the world and try not to get in too much trouble, and maybe get an education and get a job and make some money and have a family.
But life can be a lot broader than that when you realize one simple thing, and that is that everything around us that we call life was made up by people that are no smarter than you. And you can build your own things. You can build your own life that other people can live in. So build a life. Don’t live one, build one.
Rule #10: Uncover What’s Concealed
I see a lot of entrepreneurs that come in, and they have a really great idea to solve something. And I start to talk to them. I start to find out who they are and what they’re about. And they sort of jump from the problem that they’re solving to who they’re going to be or what they’re going to get. It’s like I have this red flag in my pocket that goes up, and I’m like, “Wow. “That guy wants to be Mark Zuckerberg. “That guy wants to be Pinkus.
That guy wants to be Steve Jobs.” Or that guy just has got this idea, and he’s like, “Yeah, and the market cap is this and it’s this, “and we’re going to make this much money “and it’s going to be a billion dollar company.” And then I have this switch in my head that just starts to shut off really slowly when I hear this, because they’re jumping to the effect.
And if you want to be a real entrepreneur, you have to be the cause. You have to be the creator of somebody else’s new reality, which eliminates time, space, motion, pain, friction. That’s what engineering is. It was the first thing that I learned as an engineering student, was scientists look at problems and they find out about problems, and engineers solve them.
If your chase is for a billion dollar company, you may not make a dollar.
And it’s the one thing that really, really stuck with me. And those guys that want to be Mark Zuckerberg, or girls that want to be the next big entrepreneur, not the next big, but the one that already exists, if you want to be Mark Zuckerberg, the best you’re ever going to be is second place, ’cause Mark Zuckerberg will always be a better Mark Zuckerberg than you.
And if your chase is for a billion dollar company, you may not make a dollar. So I wanted to tell this story about a guy named Carl Fisher. How many people here know who Carl Fisher is? A couple people. It’s interesting only a couple people know who this guy is, and after you hear this story, you’re going to wonder, “Wow, how do I not know who this guy is?”
And when I heard this story… Carl Fisher was one of the greatest marketers in American history. As a young kid, Carl Fisher couldn’t see very well. His eyesight was pretty poor, and he would go to school and he would sit in the front of the class trying to see, but he was still a poor student. He didn’t do well, and the teacher moved him to the back of the class. So when he was a young kid, he quit school because there was nothing really there for him. He couldn’t even see the damn blackboard.
Phenomenal marketing tactic
So he was like, “Fuck it, I’m out of here.” He bails. So then Carl gets this idea, and he’s going to sell candy on the train. There was this candy boys, and they walked down the aisle with these boxes, and they’d sell candy. And so Carl gets this idea.
But Carl is no ordinary Carl. Carl is an amazing marketer. And so what he does is he gets a t-shirt, and on the t-shirt he pins this print of a naked lady. And this shmock, smock, whatever you call a Jewish smock. It’s shmock in Jewish.
It’s Shabbat, so I can say shmock. He has a shmock. And he walks down the aisle with his candy box, and as he passes these businessmen, he goes like this, and keeps walking. And they’re like, “Hey, kid, get back here.”
Carl says, “Okay.” They would be like, “What’s on that? “What do you got underneath there?” And he’s like, “I’ll show you what’s underneath there. “Just buy some candy.”
Phenomenal marketing tactic, right? Like I’m going to show you a little bit of the juice, and then I’m going to shut it off, and then once you buy this thing, I’m going to give you the full product.
And so Carl makes a lot of money, ’cause these guys really want to see naked pictures. We all know that you want women on your platform early, hot ones first, and then everybody comes.
First automotive dealership in the world
Carl knew this way back in the day. So he makes a lot of money, and then he gets this idea he wants to sell bicycles. So Carl Fisher, he sees all these bicycles.
This is back in late 1800s. He sees all these bicycles in Europe, and he’s thinking, “This is going to explode in the United States.” And so he opens up a bicycle shop. And nobody comes. Nobody is buying bicycles.
And so he goes and he gets this guy. He puts a wire from one building to the next building, and he gets a guy that knows how to tightrope on the bicycle.
And people come and they’re like, “Wow, this is amazing.” And he finds some guy that can do a trick on a bicycle, and people start coming and buying bicycles. And so he starts to sell these bicycles and sell these bicycles.
And then the automobile starts to boom. And he’s like, “Wow, this is the future.” Now you got to remember, Carl can’t see so well, but he gets a car with all his money, and he loves it.
And he’s driving this car, blind as a bat, and he loves the speed of this thing, and the agility and the control that he has. And so he opens up a car shop, and he opened up basically the first automotive dealership in the world.
I have to make them happen
And so he starts selling these cars and selling these cars and making a lot of money and a lot of money, and sells his bike shop, obviously, in order to do the down payment.
Takes this bigger risk with cars, and of course, people start buying cars, and it’s the first automobile dealership in the United States. And then he starts thinking to himself. He’s seen all these people driving cars, and he thinks, “Someday, these people “are going to want to drive these cars at night.”
And so he invents the headlight. And he sells the headlight, and he makes a lot of money. And so now he’s a millionaire back at the turn of the century, and he’s got all this money, and he’s doing extremely well for himself.
And he goes to, I think he was in Minneapolis, and he’s trying to sell cars and sell this headlight. So he hooks this car up to a hot air balloon and he’s flying over the city in Minneapolis and trying to sell these cars and promote his brand, promote what he has.
And he sees this girl down in the crowd below, young girl, beautiful girl. And he says, “Land the balloon. “I have to go meet this girl.” So he meets the girl, they fall in love. And she’s like, “You’ve worked so hard. “You have all this money. “Why do you keep working? “What are you trying to do?” And Carl is like, “I just see things.” He was blind, blind as a bat, but he had vision. And he was like, “I just see these things, “and I have to make them happen.”
Even though he failed, he knew that he could change it
And she’s like, “Well, you should “just really settle down and have a family.” And he’s like, “Yeah, but this is what I want to do.”
And he’s like, “Well, I’m just going to do one more thing, “and then I’ll stop.” And so he goes to Indianapolis, and he has this idea that these people love cars. obsessed with cars.
He’s like, “I think people will want to race these cars. “They’re already racing them.” So he’s going to make this track, and people are going to race these cars.
So he invents the Indy 500. He builds the Brickyard, and people are like, “Carl, you’re crazy. “Nobody is going to watch cars go around in a circle. “This is insane.” And he says, “Not only will they come and watch, “they’ll pay a dollar.”
And so he starts to charge people, and he invents the Indy 500. He invents the Brickyard. And the first race, like six people die, because people, Really funny. That guy just died, guys. Slow it down. Too soon.
That’s too soon? Okay. So anyway, like six people die in the first race ’cause it’s the brick and people are flying off. And so it was a huge disaster. But then he stays at it and he stays at it, ’cause even though he failed, he knew that he could change it.
Trying to build the largest bridge in the world.
And he changed the surface, and people start to come, and it actually starts to grow, and it builds into the Indy 500 as it is. His wife is like, “Okay, Carl. this is a debacle. “Let’s just stop doing these things. “Let’s go on vacation.” So he takes ’em on vacation.
This is around like 1910. They go down to Florida, which at the time was like this, there was a couple little resorty areas, but it was kind of a mosquito infested environment.
But they’re there and they’re on vacation, and he sees this bridge going out into the distance, and he’s like, “What the hell is that?” And the wife is like, “Carl, don’t. “Don’t go. “Just relax.”
And he’s like, “I just want to find out “what’s going on with this thing.” So he goes and he hunts down the guy, and he finds out this guy is trying to build the largest bridge in the world.
And Carl is like, “Well, what’s on the other side?” And the guy is like, “Well, nothing. “It’s just a swamp area. “It’s nothing.” And so Carl says, “Well, take me over there.”
So they go over, and he starts looking around, and he’s surveying the land, and he’s looking. He’s like, “Wait a second.” And he sort of gets down on his hands and knees, and he’s looking and drawing a little thing.
This is a nightmare
And the guy is like, “What are you doing?” He’s like, “I think we could backfill all this “and turn it into a giant resort place.” And the guy is like, “Well, if you want to do it, you can do it. “I’m not getting involved.”
And he’s like, “Well, yeah, “but you want people to come for your bridge, right?” Because the guy couldn’t get money, he’s like, “I’ll help you finish the bridge. “I want the land on the other side.”
And the guy is like, “Okay.” So he starts backfilling, backfilling, backfilling, builds it up, builds up these giant casinos, does this whole thing. It’s Miami Beach. He’s building Miami Beach. Carl is otherwise known as Mr. Miami because of this.
And he fills it in and he builds all these casinos and this huge area and this whole thing. And nobody comes. And he’s got this giant infrastructure now, casinos and stores and houses, and nobody comes. And he’s like, “Oh man, I got to do something.”
So he gets an elephant. People in America hadn’t seen an elephant. But if there’s an elephant, people will come to see the elephant. And he starts to tell people.
He goes to Congress and petitions for a highway from the north coming south, and they build the Dixie Lane. He had enough money at the time where he could convince them to build the Dixie Lane Highway from all the way up north all the way down to Miami. And nobody comes. And he’s like, “This is a nightmare.”
The stock market crashes.
He’s dumped everything he had, all the money from the headlight, into this thing, and nobody comes. And so he kidnaps the president of the United States, and he takes the president of the United States out into this place and gets photographs of him there.
He’s friends with him, so he sort of kidnapped him. It’s a better story if he actually kidnapped him, but I made that part up.
So he takes the president of the United States and he takes pictures of him out in this island, and people start to come, one by one by one, and it’s the biggest land boom in American history.
And there are people who are literally setting up card tables in their front lawn, selling land, and it’s going, and it’s going. It’s like the Internet right now.
It’s just happening, and everybody is coming, and they’re coming and they’re coming, and they’re selling, and the prices are going up, and Carl is making millions.
He makes $100 million before 1920. And then he gets a brilliant idea. Montauk, Miami of the north. And he dumps it all into Montauk.
Everything he’s got goes into Montauk. And he’s building it up. His wife is furious. By the way, she adopted a baby he didn’t even know about. That’s a whole nightmare story. Carl starts drinking a lot. Builds up Montauk. The stock market crashes.
It wasn’t about the billion dollars.
He loses everything. Completely wiped out. Carl Fisher died in a trailer home outside of Miami, and about a week before he died, somebody took him up in a blimp and they took him over Miami, and he was able to see what he had built. But that’s all he had. He didn’t have a dime.
He didn’t have a penny. Hardly anyone would remember his name. But he gave that to all of those people. And he knew that no one could ever take that away from him.
He could never lose that. He might not have been able to see, but he had the vision to know that it wasn’t about his name or somebody remembering him. It wasn’t about the billion dollars.
It was about uncovering that which was concealed, the swampland, the corners of the room, the way people can exchange, the way people can connect with each other, the way that a database can be built.
It’s about uncovering. It’s about Airbnb changing the hotel industry. It’s about disrupting markets boldly in a way that you can leave that behind for everybody else to have and share.
How you can uncover that which one day was just a big swampland.
And Carl Fisher knew that. So you might not remember his name, but you use his product every day. You might’ve visited his town. And the only thing I can impart upon young entrepreneurs is it’s not about being like somebody else. It’s not about the billion dollars.
It’s about how you can affect other people’s lives, enrich them, improve them, how you can eliminate the space between people, how you can eliminate pain and friction, and how you can uncover that which one day was just a big swampland.
Thank you guys so much for watching. I made this video because Kevin Lopez asked me to. So if there’s a famous entrepreneur that you want me to profile next, leave it down in the comments below and I’ll see what I can do.
I’d also love to know, what did Ashton say that really resonated with you? What was the most important take home point that you took from this video? Leave it in the comments. I’m going to join in the discussion.
Thank you again for watching. I believe in you. I hope you believe in yourself and whatever your one word is. I’ll see you soon.
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