The Entrepreneurial Free Spirit Behind the Wild Success of theCHIVE.com – John Resig – #410
By: Dave Asprey
May 24, 2017
Why you should listen –
John Resig is the co-founder and CEO of Resignation Media, responsible for the wildly-popular and creative humor website called theCHIVE.com. During this lively discussion with Dave, John shares the story of how he started the family business with his brother, their entrepreneurial formula for success, what he does to foster his company’s culture, and what this super-chill guy actually stresses out about. Discover how the simple idea of storytelling and sharing funny photos — and selling Bill Murray t-shirts — ultimately created a thriving online community with a sense of humor and a heart.
Enjoy the show!
Follow Along with the Transcript!
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Voiceover: Bulletproof Radio. A state of high performance.
Dave Asprey: You’re listening to Bulletproof Radio with Dave Asprey. We didn’t have bumper music. I didn’t even think about that. All right, next time. Whenever I write my next book we will have bumper music, I promise.
Today’s cool fact of the day, it wouldn’t be an episode without a cool fact of the day, right? You’ve heard laughter is the best medicine, right? It is a proven fact and frequent, whole-hearted laughter actually helps you fight off disease because it lowers your cortisol levels. By the way this doesn’t work if your cortisol’s too low, then if you laugh you’ll actually get sick so you need to hold your laughter in. That wasn’t a cool fact of the day but it should be.
If you like today’s show you should do what I always ask you to do, which is go on to iTunes and just click “Like” and give us a good review and things like that because that’s what tells other people that Bulletproof Radio is worth listening to.
If you are in today’s live studio audience, and this is so you listening in your cars or at work know that this is a live episode of Bulletproof Radio recorded here in Austin, I would totally appreciate those positive reviews.
Now I’m coughing in case you didn’t notice. There’s two reasons I’m coughing: one is that, right before I came onstage, I used one of the most studied, most powerful smart drugs out there. It’s actually called nicotine. No, I have never smoked. Smoking’s gross. Smoking’s bad for you. It will kill you. But I did use nicotine, that’s why it was funny. Oh, look at that shocked look! Here’s the deal: microdose nicotine, I don’t sell this, I don’t make it, but I use it, this is not legal in the United States. Nothing good ever is. It’s approved in Canada and Europe and it’s one milligram of spray nicotine, so it’s about 1/20 of what’s in a cigarette and you can use that under your tongue and it actually improves a lot of cognitive functions. I can tell you every great book ever written was written on coffee, nicotine, always those two and, quite often, alcohol and/or sometimes cannabis but usually those books the author just thought they were great.
Now that I completely distracted you because I’d swallowed my nicotine ahead of time, what a faux pas. I would like to introduce today’s guest who’s sitting here laughing. The fact that he’s sitting here and laughing is actually really good for my ego because John Resig is co-founder of Resignation Media, which means that he’s responsible for the website called theCHIVE.
I think most of you have probably seen theCHIVE content because theCHIVE is the number one humor website in the United States. Holy crap. 30 million users a month and there’s a whole network of sites like The Chivery, which is a huge e-commerce business. They run a charitable division that raises awareness and funds for people with different problems who really need help. So very, very successful entrepreneur and someone who’s really hacked this, “How do we make things funny?” sort of thing. I’m still working on that. I’ve got ’em to laugh three times and that was ’cause I threatened them.
John Resig: I just want you to introduce me to my parents. I want you to walk in to Ft. Wayne, Indiana and say, “Mr. and Mrs. Resig, your son has the number one website in the world. 30 million users.” And then just go into “Pour Some Sugar on Me” by Def Leppard. Parents.
Dave Asprey: Here’s the funny thing: my in-laws still think I’m unemployed. They really do. They’re European doctors and, like, I don’t have a job.
John Resig: You’ve done so well for yourself, though.
Dave Asprey: They’re still worried that they’re going to have to pay for me with their retirement. True story. And I know they’re not listening, otherwise they’d be like, “He has a job?” All right. The world is awesome.
One of the reasons that you’re onstage is that we couldn’t find anyone better and we’re in Austin.
John Resig: Yeah. McConaughey’s hosting a thing across the street. He is like, “How did Dave get you?” I’m like, “McConaughey’s doing a thing across the street, Bullock passed, now you get me.”
Dave Asprey: The real reason you’re here is actually, has nothing to do with theCHIVE or humor, all that, it’s just ’cause I like True Blood and you were actually Deputy Kevin Ellis on True Blood.
John Resig: Wow. You did that. You did your research.
Dave Asprey: You know, Wikipedia’s so good these days.
John Resig: I did. I was on the HBO vampire show called True Blood for seven years until I got my head bitten off in the last episode.
Dave Asprey: That was a sad episode, I got to say.
John Resig: It was a sad, really sad.
Dave Asprey: What’s cool is you’re running a business out of Austin with 170 employees. You’re reaching huge numbers of people and making ’em laugh, which is something unique. I haven’t had someone with just a strong entrepreneurial and an actor background on the show and I wanted to talk with you about some of the things you do around humor and also just some of the things that have made you a really successful entrepreneur because many of the episodes are maverick scientists and people who have written books and all that, but you’re reaching more people than almost anyone else. There aren’t even a lot of TV shows that have the reach of the properties you’ve built, so I think we’ll have a really fun conversation about that.
John Resig: Yeah. You did your shit. You’re good. What do you want to know?
Dave Asprey: All right. If someone’s not heard of theCHIVE how do you describe that bizarre, octopus-tentacled thing you built?
John Resig: That’s a really good question. theCHIVE is basically three H’s: it’s humor, hotness, and humanity.
Dave Asprey: Good combination.
John Resig: Yeah. So you can make people laugh and that gets ’em in the door and then a little cleavage never hurt anyone. I think Eleanor Roosevelt said that. Eleanor Roosevelt didn’t say that.
Dave Asprey: It was Helen Keller.
John Resig: theCHIVE has a pulse, it’s got a heartbeat, it’s got a community not unlike what you have here, which a lot of people wish they had. We’re people who could show up, we have CHIVE meetups, and you’re doing your first book tour with … And it’s a risk, right?
Dave Asprey: Oh, yeah.
John Resig: You’ve done successful books before but haven’t put butts in the seats, that’s the tough thing. It’s a testament to what you’ve done, right? So the humanity … yeah.
Dave Asprey: Thanks. And thanks to all of you for coming and being a member of the audience, just showing your support. It actually means a lot.
John Resig: It does. It’s a cool thing. So if you can get a community around, you can’t get a community around cleavage and funny photos. You can get halfway there. You can get the whole way there if you form a community around a cause and the cause for us is Chive Charities helping the orphan causes of the world, or veterans, things like that where you can go to theCHIVE and you know you’re going to see some great, funny photos, you’re going to laugh, you can see some cleavage but at the end of the day you got to be a citizen and that’s why theCHIVE works.
Dave Asprey: To the Bulletproof team listening, more cleavage please.
John Resig: I didn’t know what I was getting myself into until the Bulletproof team was like, “Would you like a water, a coffee?” and I’m like, “Hmm-mm (negative),” and they’re like, “You want booze?” and I was like, “Yeah!” backstage, you’re good to go.
Dave Asprey: I didn’t tell you what was in the booze. Butter. I don’t know why it feels so good whenever I make him laugh.
John Resig: Yeah. Everybody backstage is talking about butter. Am I missing something?
Dave Asprey: Yes. Yes.
John Resig: They really are, though. Someone’s talking about feeding his baby butter, I’m like, “That’s great.”
Dave Asprey: Tell me you’ve had Bulletproof Coffee.
John Resig: Yeah, ’cause you guys are on Main Street. Or you’re on Navy Street.
Dave Asprey: Yeah, or Main Street. Yeah, in Venice, or near Venice.
John Resig: In Venice where I used-
Dave Asprey: Yeah. Santa Monica.
John Resig: But you’re on Main and Navy?
Dave Asprey: Yeah.
John Resig: On the corner.
Dave Asprey: Right.
John Resig: Yes, I go in there and I drink it.
Dave Asprey: So, that’s butter. That’s what makes it so good.
John Resig: I’m sorry. I’m just putting it all together right here in front of everyone. I really am.
Dave Asprey: This is definitely more like a humor show than a podcast.
John Resig: I’m sorry.
Dave Asprey: No, no. This is awesome. All right, back to theCHIVE. Chives and butter are good together but they’re in the allium family just so we’re really clear on that. So, if you’re a Jainist or really practicing to avoid body odor you shouldn’t go to their website.
John Resig: Thank you. Please.
Dave Asprey: All right. You started in 2008 and here we are, about nine years later. 2008 was a year when one of our audience members was born, one of our young audience members. Hello there, young man, young lady.
John Resig: Hi. What’s her name?
Dave Asprey: We took a selfie together. It was one of the best selfies of the entire tour, so thank you. I’m happy you were born in 2008. That’s the right year.
John Resig: Thank you for making us feel old.
Dave Asprey: In 2008 the country was kind of having a big financial crisis.
John Resig: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Dave Asprey: It might’ve been caused by your mom, I’m not sure. Just kidding. She didn’t do it. She’s a nice mom. You got a bunch of people who are not so happy. I remember I was, in fact I was about to get a lab testing company that my wife and I had started. We literally had investors lined up to write us a check and the fit hit the shan, so to speak, and the investors pulled out and so we’re like, “Well, I guess we’re not going to be doing that.” It was just kind of an uncomfortable time for a lot of people. What made you start something right then?
John Resig: Part happenstance but that was what allowed theCHIVE to become theCHIVE was you could trace 2008 back to the Great Depression in the late ’20s. Two things in the Depression remained the same: people still went to movies, they still bought peanuts and popcorn, and they still bought chocolate. It means they wanted to be happy. So when we started theCHIVE we built it as the happiness website. Somewhere you could go to just get away from the general malaise and the things that were not going well in the country and just have a good laugh. We were the online equivalent to going and getting a drink of Jack Daniel’s or having a chocolate bar. Those things have stood up through every economic collapse that you’ll ever have. They needed some sort of escape. So we were positioned at that time to thrive, you know. And we did. It was a hit kind of out of the gates.
Dave Asprey: Is this because you had strategic mastery and wisdom? Or you just wanted to do it?
John Resig: No, it was a happy accident. We were really broke.
Dave Asprey: You had nothing better to do.
John Resig: Yeah. We wanted to quit our day job so that’s what we did.
Dave Asprey: How long did it take you to quit your day job?
John Resig: My brother took about two years ’cause he’s like the left-brain kid that doesn’t believe anything good’s ever going to happen.
Dave Asprey: Right.
John Resig: For me I was just guns blazing, like, “We just made $10,000!” You know?
Dave Asprey: Nice.
John Resig: “We’re going to be rich forever!” So yeah, I quit my day job right away but that’s what everyone wants to do. I have a picture, though, my favorite picture is the moment I got my brother to buy in to quitting his day job and he’s drinking a Red Stripe and he sent me a picture of him like, “I’m out.” That’s a real moment. That’s still my favorite moment. My favorite moment’s my brother quitting his job. That’s kind of sad.
Dave Asprey: How is it running a sizable company with a family member?
John Resig: Dang, you did your homework. This is wild. I think it’ll be one of the great honors of my life to run a company with your siblings. You can’t choose your siblings and you don’t always get along and I didn’t always get along with my brother ’cause he’s totally different, but if you think about theCHIVE what it is is that my brother builds the stadiums and I get to go out and play ball. So we have completely complementary skill sets, which is nice.
Dave Asprey: All right. So, I’m going to ask you all the hard questions that I don’t really hear people ask. You guys have made some money, a little bit more than $10,000 at this point, right? Did you have all the stuff set up ahead of time with contracts and payments and all that stuff so that that didn’t become an issue? ‘Cause I’ve seen that tear families apart.
John Resig: Oh! My brother and I have never, I don’t think we’ve ever fought over money.
Dave Asprey: Nice. So you guys just have that kind of relationship.
John Resig: Yeah. That was never a thing. That’s the coolest part, man. I heard a stat the other day, I’m not kidding, that people who die, if you’re a rich, old dude and you die and you have four kids two of the kids will spend all of the money you will them within 18 months. The exception to that rule is only 1%.
Dave Asprey: Wow.
John Resig: Which means a lot of people place money above all things and no one in my family did. I never had a fight over money with my brother in my life.
Dave Asprey: Now you’re an actor before you became an entrepreneur?
John Resig: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Dave Asprey: Why do so many actors suck as entrepreneurs? They suck less than doctors, by the way.
John Resig: Some of ’em don’t. I mean, yeah, a lot of ’em blow pretty hard.
Dave Asprey: Some of ’em are great, I have no doubt, but it seems like the exception but they’re crazy successful. But there’s a lot of them who are like, “I’m going to do a business,” and you’re like, “No, you’re not.”
John Resig: Well you got to work it. I think I was a bad businessman at first.
Dave Asprey: You were okay.
John Resig: I was reading Internet for Dummies like everybody else but I read it.
Dave Asprey: I was writing it.
John Resig: I mean what were you doing before you became you?
Dave Asprey: I was a tech entrepreneur.
John Resig: Oh, that’s right.
Dave Asprey: First guy to sell anything over the internet. I invented e-commerce, dude. I didn’t. I’m not Al Gore.
John Resig: I read your wiki. You were born successful.
Dave Asprey: No. I was born angry.
John Resig: Yeah. You’re all right. I don’t know. Yeah.
Dave Asprey: All right, so it just kind of came naturally you sort of seem like you’re letting things happen. I want to know, there’s a class of entrepreneur who succeeds ‘because they planned everything and they push really hard and they’re, like, that’s what they do. You can do this sort of running away from failure sort of thing. You don’t strike me as that type. You’re like, “I just wanted to do this. It seemed like it would be fun. It’d be uplifting.” Am I reading this right?
John Resig: You got to see the playing board for what it is and that means you have to be a pretty farsighted guy. To answer your question I remember that November 9th of 2009, 9/9/9, we had our first million visitor day and I knew that was the day that we would have one million people on theCHIVE.
Dave Asprey: Wow.
John Resig: And I knew that I could afford to live in a condo and I could buy a car then and that I would just be okay. I don’t think, after that day, that I’ve ever checked in on how many people have come to theCHIVE. I couldn’t tell you. I’ve heard six or seven million a day come and we have monthly KPIs that I completely ignore. It’s like I don’t want to know. I want to be able to make decisions not based on those numbers.
Dave Asprey: But your brother’s the numbers guy?
John Resig: Yeah. He loves ’em. But he’s a good guy. He doesn’t get that in the way of the creative process. Creativity is what drives theCHIVE.
Dave Asprey: I find that the numbers guys usually listen to elevator music, beige cubicles, stuff like that. Is he a little bit more like that than you?
John Resig: No. I’m the one that listens to Kenny G. a lot. He’s more Rage Against the Machine guy.
Dave Asprey: I think I like him already.
John Resig: What do you listen to?
Dave Asprey: Rage Against the Machine.
John Resig: I like slow jazz. So it’s okay.
Dave Asprey: All right. Now that you’re at this point where there’s a lot of people who want to talk to you. When you’re a successful entrepreneur this happens in general. They all want to pitch their deals to you and there’s literally thousands of things vying for your time and attention.
John Resig: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Dave Asprey: How do you manage that?
John Resig: It’s really easy. I look for persistence no matter what level of success that you are.
Dave Asprey: So you want people to pester you?
John Resig: Yes. I like people who bother me. That’s how I know that you’re on the up-and-come, or if you already established it and you still want more. Like you can still email me at email@example.com. All my community knows this. I’ll put that out there like, “You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’ve got an idea, you want to send me your résumé, I’ll see everything.” What I want to see is if you’re going to come back to the well twice. The metrics on that are only about 1% of people will come back twice to say, “Following up.” The metrics on that for the third time, which is going to get you called in-
Dave Asprey: You just told everyone.
John Resig: … that’s got to change after…
Dave Asprey: Six times.
John Resig: Now it’s going to go … After that it’s like 50% of that 1% will come back for the third time. Once you hit me the third time I’m like, “Someone wants it.” I don’t know who they are or sometimes I do but they want to do business, ‘because we don’t have to do business with anyone at this point if we don’t want to. Now I just want to know who’s persistent enough to bother me enough to want to get in the door.
Dave Asprey: As a tech guy, I got to tell you there’s automated software that every inside salesperson uses that is scripted to send, “Hey!” Then they have timing that’s measured to see when you’re going to open the email based on when you opened the last one to send you this similar message, “Following up, hey did you get my last message?” It’s all automated.
John Resig: Why are you, I think you might be right.
Dave Asprey: I am right. We don’t use that at Bulletproof, by the way. That stuff is horrible.
John Resig: No but it’s been used against me and people are gaming the system?
Dave Asprey: If it’s a salesperson and you get emails like that you should just delete all that crap.
John Resig: Ah.
Dave Asprey: If it’s someone wanting a job you should probably answer it ’cause few job seekers use that software.
John Resig: That’s fair. What other dreams are you here to ruin, Dave?
Dave Asprey: Can we talk about butter again?
John Resig: No. Why is everyone talking about butter?
Dave Asprey: All right. So basically you give your attention to automated software-
John Resig: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Dave Asprey: … is your productivity hack of the day. No shame in that.
John Resig: I did not.
Dave Asprey: That said you also have lots of people who want to meet you. Do you work with an assistant or do you read all your own emails?
John Resig: My assistant’s here, yeah. My assistant Annie, Annie the Nanny was here and she’s out there somewhere. She knows, my whole company knows more about you than I do ’cause Annie was like, “You know we’re going to meditate. Are you going to miss the meditation?”
Dave Asprey: Nice.
John Resig: Or she’s like, “Are you going to be in the brown room?” and I’m like, “It’s called the green room, Annie.” It’s brown. But yeah, she’s here.
Dave Asprey: This is the first venue where we were required to have a riot fence in front of the stage because Austin’s so cool. I saw that I’m like, “What the …? Where are we?”
John Resig: It’s the kid.
Dave Asprey: All right. So you have an EA and you didn’t say whether you actually read all your own emails. You do?
John Resig: I do, yeah.
Dave Asprey: How many emails a day do you get?
John Resig: 200.
Dave Asprey: That’s it?
John Resig: Yeah.
Dave Asprey: And you give your email address out like this?
John Resig: Everyone.
Dave Asprey: Wow. I think I get more than that. You notice I said, “I think,” because I have people help me filter them so I see the right ones.
John Resig: But you’ve got good people. Everyone backstage is really nice.
Dave Asprey: Aw, I think so.
John Resig: No, they are. Everyone that works here was really sweet.
Dave Asprey: In fact, this is a great time, there are 10 members of the Bulletproof team who have flown to seven cities over the last 16 days supporting the book tour and making all this happen and a bunch more back at the office or back working from home who arranged for you guys to hear about this and all that so give ’em a round of applause. I’m kind of blown away by that.
John Resig: They were telling me they all got on a plane in Denver last night and they had to wake up at five in the morning and they were all still so chipper. If my employees woke up at five in the morning in Denver and flew here they’d want to find the nearest living thing and kill it. But you’ve got good people that work for you and apparently love butter, whatever that is.
Dave Asprey: It’s the Bulletproof Coffee.
John Resig: Yeah, I get it now. I know.
Dave Asprey: I’m hearing that from the audience. I still feel like I haven’t gotten to the root of this. You seem a little too happy-go-lucky for one of the top two executives, even at a humor website, and a bunch of other things. Really most entrepreneurs have more stress than you’re sending out here so where’s your stress?
John Resig: I think that’s a good question. What are you, Oprah? What keeps me up at night? I don’t know. We have a couple hundred employees, they got families, they got kids, you know?
Dave Asprey: That’s a common thing.
John Resig: Yeah, it’s a number one thing, it’s no different for me, like if someone in my office gets pregnant you got to, “What’s their, Blue Cross Blue Shield-”
Dave Asprey: Is it mine?
John Resig: It’s definitely yours. You got to find out what plan they have, that’s the most important thing is a culture starts from the inside out, not the outside in, so you got to make sure they’re taken care of. I don’t think any CEO would tell you different.
Dave Asprey: All right. Now when you want to be extra productive on a day what do you do?
John Resig: I will be honest with you ’cause I didn’t know about some of your stuff, I’ll take brain fuel. I will. I’ll take a supplement.
Dave Asprey: I’ll give you a stack of stuff…we’ll hook you up after the show. But I mean generally it sounds like you don’t wake up and meditate stoically on an ice cube. Drink some green tea, self-flagellate … Nothing like that?
John Resig: No. That’s kind of the cool part about being here is I’m just, everyone else in the audience I’m just like you. I’m in the batter’s box for self-help, too, man. What do I do at night? Chardonnay.
Dave Asprey: Nice.
John Resig: You know?
Dave Asprey: You could put butter in that.
John Resig: I like a buttery Chardonnay so it’s good. But that’d be a question for you, like no one needs a little help more than I do. I’m on crutches, I got to feed this thing, you know?
Dave Asprey: That looks like a pretty good surgery.
John Resig: It is. I broke it in 10 places. You tell me, if I could just mitigate my morning plan, which is right now drink a real shitty cup of coffee ’cause Austin’s coffee scene, as you guys know, isn’t that great.
Dave Asprey: I think I might be able to fix that.
John Resig: You go to Austin Java and you’re like, “Shouldn’t this be good?” and it’s not.
Dave Asprey: That’s mean.
John Resig: I don’t care. I don’t care.
Dave Asprey: Coffee people are good people.
John Resig: I’ll only throw Austin Java under the bus ’cause it’s terrible.
Dave Asprey: Oh, god.
John Resig: What would you do?
Dave Asprey: I wouldn’t be mean to other coffee people. They’re trying. Come on, that was worth a laugh for god’s sake. Are those called a neg? I learned that from one of the pick-up artist guys. It’s not working, you guys saw the sign that said “Laugh” up behind me. It’s not working.
Now that we’ve done our coffee shaming, you pretty much just chill a lot of the time. I’m getting that. How many hours a day do you work?
John Resig: A lot but, you know, we invented the whole “Keep Calm” thing so I think I go home and I check out sufficiently.
Dave Asprey: You guys didn’t invent that. That was the British subway.
John Resig: That’s actually true. I was relying on you not to know. What’s next, Dave?
Dave Asprey: I do like the shirts, though, I’ll give you that. All right. You work a lot and what keeps you up at night is keeping responsibility and just serving your employee base.
John Resig: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Dave Asprey: You’re the softer side of the business in terms of you’re not the quant guy. I’m still feeling like I haven’t got down to what you really do.
John Resig: I guess I’m the Head Editor of theCHIVE and I do all of the marketing so I’m the consumer-facing messaging of theCHIVE, so If you see something on theCHIVE that pulls your heartstrings that’s probably something that I’m good at, you know?
Dave Asprey: All right.
John Resig: Something exists in the ether of what I do that is being a storyteller and that’s knowing everything from a seven act structure to a three act structure to being able to tell a story to people in three photos so that’s what I do. The world will, if you read something like “Story” by Robert McKee he’ll tell you that in the future good storytellers and a good story well told will be more important than oil so I can clock a story really well. That’s all I got.
Dave Asprey: That’s kind of your superpower is telling a good story.
John Resig: Mm-hmm (affirmative). That’s the only thing I got. I mean, really. Outside of that I’m a pretty bad lay. I’m not great.
Dave Asprey: You can’t even walk, I mean …
John Resig: Yeah. I can’t walk. Cripple. That’s it. Really sad. Thanks for peeling the onion layers away, Dave.
Dave Asprey: I think we’ve reached his core now.
John Resig: I feel like we’ve both grown.
Dave Asprey: All right. I got to ask you this: what made you start a partnership with Bill Murray from Caddyshack to make a line of golf clothing when you run a humor website? What the hell were you thinking? That is the most non-linear business move I’ve ever heard of. That’d be like me opening a tofu bar.
John Resig: Okay, good, yeah. I believe you.
Dave Asprey: That was a joke. It’s okay to laugh.
John Resig: We started selling all the Bill Murray t-shirts that you see out in the streets. Once upon a time what saved our company was that … theCHIVE was kind of successful out of the gate but we had these huge hosting bills and we didn’t know what to do so we started e-com website and started selling these pictures with Bill Murray on it and we thought that would make, we printed up like 400 t-shirts with Bill Murray on it and we thought, “That’ll sell over the next two years,” and it sold in 10 seconds.
Dave Asprey: Nice.
John Resig: So, before you knew it we were printing 30,000 of them and making a million dollars in a minute on Bill Murray t-shirts. The moral of that story is we owed Bill Murray a lot of money. But we’re from Indiana and we’re not going to stop, like that is way too good right now, but you’re trying to get a hold of Bill Murray and all of the urban legends are true. He has an 800 number that you can call and he listens to it maybe once a month. So, we’re calling Bill Murray like, “Bill, if you see some shirts on the street you might want to give us a call. We owe you a lot of money.” He’s got a producer and we called him and his brothers and we called them.
The moral of the story is we knew he knew that we were trying to get a hold of him, that we were being good boys and girls.
Dave Asprey: Right.
John Resig: Meanwhile we’re ferreting away millions of dollars to give to Bill because we owed, that wasn’t our money, and we were using his image and likeness. Then one day Bill calls and that’s funny because your secretary has that look on her face like, “Bill Murray’s on the phone.”
Dave Asprey: Did you say, “Put him on hold”?
John Resig: So I got to the phone real fast and instead of Bill Murray saying, and the Bill I know now kind of shuts everything down, he’s fine with saying, “Don’t do this, don’t do this,” but we got on the phone and he said, “Look, I kind of like the shirt.” Or like Bill, “You know, John, I kind of like the shirt.” Then we met in St. Augustine, Florida, he said, “Come sponsor my charity golf tournament.” So he was like us, we do a lot of charity. Bill does more. We got to St. Augustine, he was like, you know, what did Bill say? “You know you… I guess you got a little red on your ledger. Give it all to charity.”
Dave Asprey: Wow.
John Resig: He didn’t know, I was like, “Bill, it’s a significant amount of money.” I told him and he said, “I didn’t expect it to be that much but give it to charity.” Then that led to a relationship that we kind of found out he’s from Chicago, we’re from Ft. Wayne, Indiana, we’re very like-minded. The Murray circle’s very small. It’s very hard to get into that circle but it’s all about trust and whether he likes you or not. It’s a handshake agreement. That is the Reader’s Digest story of Bill Murray is that we owed him a lot of money and he said, “Go ahead and give it to a charity.” Millions of dollars.
Dave Asprey: Yeah. If you’re listening to this and you think that, when people make a lot of money it’s ’cause they’re jerks or they’re bad people or ’cause they think they’re better than you, over the last few years I’ve had a chance to meet multiple, multiple billionaires and some of just incredibly successful people and there are a few jerks in there but not usually. Most of them are upstanding people who are going, “How do I use this to help?” Like they actually care. I’ve seen that in Hollywood, I’ve seen it everywhere. It’s actually reaffirms my belief that people are basically good, which is kind of cool.
John Resig: Yeah. I have nothing to add to that. Very well put, Dave. Thanks for not ganging up on me about the coffee and the butter and everything.
Dave Asprey: I’m saving that for later. It sounds like the real way you got started on that was ask forgiveness, not permission.
John Resig: That is true, yeah.
Dave Asprey: So how could aspiring, young entrepreneurs, by the way I got my start, the very first product ever sold over the internet was a caffeine t-shirt that I made. So the first e-commerce ever, truly, it said, “Caffeine: My Drug of Choice.” I sold t-shirts to 14 countries the first month before the web browser was created. I didn’t make millions of dollars but I did pay some of my tuition that way. It was kind of cool, we hadn’t invented the word “e-commerce” so it just, like, wasn’t quite at your level there but I’m like, “Damn, my timing was really off.”
John Resig: No, it wasn’t, it was perfect. I totally agree with you like ask permission later-
Dave Asprey: That is a good quote.
John Resig: … is what we did.
Dave Asprey: If someone listening, I’m sure that this episode is going to attract a lot of young entrepreneurs who are looking to get started and actually t-shirts are probably the easiest way to get started that there is except for, the second you make it, someone’s going to copy it without permission even if you registered the crap out of your trademark in 5,000 countries or whatever. There’s this blatant copying of things but it’s still a good way to do it. What advice would you offer to a young entrepreneur who’s like, “Look, I want to do what you did?”
John Resig: You’ve got to be willing to fail. How many times did you fail before you knocked it out of the park?
Dave Asprey: I don’t fail. I don’t believe in that. Every night before I tuck my kids in I ask ’em three things that they’re grateful for and one thing they failed at. If they don’t have something they failed at I’m like, “Aw. It wasn’t a very good day. You didn’t do anything to learn. Tomorrow do you think you might have a fail?” I seriously do that.
John Resig: I love that you say it ’cause that’s what it’s all about. The first hire, every employee that we hire comes into my office for five minutes and I just let ’em know, “Look, you got to be willing to fail here. And not Etch-A-Sketch end of the world failure but get out and let me see a failure.” What’s a good example? If you’re facing Justin Verlander and you’re a rookie, right? You’re going to strike out. There’s nothing that’s going to stop you from striking out. You’re going against one of the best pitchers that ever lived. You’re stepping in the batter’s box and you’re a rookie and you’re going down. All the coach is looking for is if you’re swinging the bat. Did you go down swinging? That’s all that matters to me. I just want my employees to go in and fail.
Dave Asprey: Tell me about the first time you fired someone.
John Resig: Oh. I’ll tell you my favorite time.
Dave Asprey: There you go. That’s good.
John Resig: We give lunches to everybody at the office. If you go to theCHIVE at noon lunches come out, you get catered lunches, and I learned that from Hollywood from being an actor. Food is important in Hollywood.
Dave Asprey: You’re a little better than crafty, though?
John Resig: A lot better than crafty.
Dave Asprey: Okay.
John Resig: Sometimes we roll in a food truck. It was really nice and one of the kids, who will remain unnamed, lodged a complaint because he left at 12:00 to go do something else and he came back at 12:30 and no one had saved a plate for him. Here’s this commodity that he was not entitled to in any way that he went to our HR and complained about. I remember thinking, “Oh my god. I’m going to throw him out of this place like a bouncer.” And I totally did. His last thing was, “Do I get to keep my computer?” “I bought that computer! No! Get out of here, you little spoiled shit!”
Dave Asprey: The HR laws in Texas are lax.
John Resig: They are. Right-to-work state.
Dave Asprey: That might have been an easy fire. Tell me about a hard fire.
John Resig: Oh, man. Someone who’s really good at certain things but not good at their job makes me sad. Like someone who’s really talented. We have our whole e-commerce division, we’ve got people that … One person was very good at design, one of the most brilliant creative minds I’ve ever seen but she had to also be in charge of product and ordering and be the numbers person at the same time. Letting someone go that was truly great and just didn’t belong in her position is really sad. I don’t like seeing that.
Letting someone who just doesn’t do their job is fine with me. We don’t fire too many people but letting someone with talent go is sad.
Dave Asprey: That’s one of the hardest things as an entrepreneur just ’cause it’s just unpleasant and that’s an area where a lot of young entrepreneurs fail. Like I just can’t do it, so then the person who isn’t doing the job and is crying about lunch stays around and keeps crying about lunch.
John Resig: You’re right. He didn’t stay around, though.
Dave Asprey: ‘Cause you made the tough call. In that case it wasn’t so tough but with the other one it was tough.
John Resig: You’ve got to have one. Now it’s your turn, Dave.
Dave Asprey: Hey, I’m the interviewer here, man. I’m just kidding.
John Resig: You got to have one.
Dave Asprey: I’ve had a long career in Silicon Valley and one of the things that happens as companies grow, I was a co-founder of a business unit that grew to 1,500 people from three people in three years.
John Resig: Oh, hyper growth.
Dave Asprey: Yeah. That’s was just the craziest thing because … Check this out, I have a flying cricket on my crotch.
John Resig: That’s funny. I totally just looked at your crotch and I’ve been just looking for an excuse.
Dave Asprey: That’s an auspicious (cross talk)…right there. …was doing his work and I’m resonating with power and I unfortunately got the insect attractive genes.
All right. You were asking me about some kind of good question.
John Resig: Yeah, I want to hear. If you go through hyper growth what happens?
Dave Asprey: Here’s what happens: you bring people in and you can only hire so well, you can only hire so fast. So, you bring people in and you’re like, “You have these 25 job functions.” Then two weeks later, “Actually you can only have 12 of those because we got to hire someone else to do the other 12 ’cause they’re growing too fast and you can’t do it. By the way, tomorrow you only have six of those. And tomorrow you only have three of those.”
One of the things that happens is you get people who are like, “But I wanted all 25 ’cause I have the ring of power.”
John Resig: The conch shell.
Dave Asprey: Yeah. So those are people who feel a lot of emotional angst and end up usually either quitting or getting locked out over that because they have the opposite attitude of the real pros who scaled, they’re like, “Thank god. I couldn’t do a great job at all these things. Please get this crap off my plate. I don’t need the power. I want to do what I do really, really well.” So they’re willing to take one for the team and do 10 things because it’s a hyper growth environment but they’re also willing to concentrate and they’re not empire-building, they’re doing what’s right for the company that allows ’em to focus so they can actually relax because we feel good when we do good work and we feel crappy when we do crappy work ’cause we’re spread too thin.
So it’s that division between, “Am I doing quality work that I like?” and, “Am I just doing everything?” So I found that, during that stage of hyper growth, it was the people who had to do everything, you can’t do everything when you’re growing really, really fast. It’s all about becoming more specialized over time. It may be different in a slower growth company, I don’t know.
John Resig: That’s really, you’re like the adult version of the person I want to read me a bedtime story ’cause I was just transfixed on you for a second.
Dave Asprey: Wow. Was it the cricket that did that?
John Resig: No. You’re right, by the way, but it’s like Morgan Freeman first and then you to read me a bedtime story.
Dave Asprey: Wow.
John Resig: That’s really.
Dave Asprey: I think that’s my new podcast: Bedtime Stories for theCHIVE.
John Resig: Listen to his cadence and his tenor, it’s really good. It’s almost like iambic pentameter in which you work.
Dave Asprey: I’ve been working on my street rapping skills and it’s coming through. No. I have no skills there whatsoever. No, not at all.
John Resig: All right.
Dave Asprey: I answered your question there but it’s one of the things that I don’t get to interview entrepreneurs about, like what goes through their head and really what they feel when they’re going through the really tough decisions but you’ve gone through some pretty rapid growth, not like that hyper growth dot com crazy time but still, in terms of traffic and revenue and all that, and I know you’re kind of painting a picture because of your role as a chief storyteller. It might be different if I was to talk to Leo about it but I do know that there’s some tough choices that you make in there and what I’m looking for is what do you do for yourself when you’re facing the hard choices, the tough choices. What gives you the power to do that? What gives you the resilience to do that?
John Resig: I know what we’re bad at at theCHIVE. We’re not very good at hiring managers and the number one reason that you quit, anyone quits their job is that they can’t stand the person that they work for. We’ve gotten a lot better at it over the years but if you get someone, like we were young and we’re young so if you get someone who’s in there who’s like, you know, 45 or 50 you’re naturally like, “Oh, you know things. You get what’s going on.” But you need good mangers, that’s what my brother would say. I know that’s his answer is that you have to get really good managers who care about putting their employees on a growth plan. Giving them a runway to succeed. Giving them as much ceiling as possible.
That’s what I deal with every day is like every employee in my company wants to be here and here and here. That requires growth and growth and growth. That’ll keep you up at night. “What’s my next move?” I don’t know. But you want to empower your employees and it starts at the managerial level.
Dave Asprey: Have you done a lot of managerial training?
John Resig: None.
Dave Asprey: Okay.
John Resig: I just take ’em out and I get ’em drunk and I just kind of eyeball it.
Dave Asprey: That is, by the way, a very common entrepreneurial strategy. That wasn’t a bad answer at all.
John Resig: It’s an honest answer.
Dave Asprey: We just give ’em coffee but it’s similar.
John Resig: It’s got butter in it, everybody. I only went to that place on Navy Street. It is on Navy Street, isn’t it?
Dave Asprey: Yeah. It’s right on the corner there, yeah.
John Resig: I didn’t know what the secret ingredient was. I’m very passive.
Dave Asprey: All right. That’s actually cool. So these are things that you probably never heard on Bulletproof Radio. In fact just tell me by kind of raising your hand, is knowing what goes on in the mind of a crazy successful entrepreneur of interest to you? It’s okay if you don’t raise your hand. All right, cool, so most people. Yeah. I’m hoping if you’re listening at home or in your car that this is also kind of stuff that’s interesting because this is, despite present appearances, a really successful human being. I enjoy getting to ask these kind of questions. It’s satisfying for me.
I’ve got one more question for you now that I’ve insulted you and probably some of your family, your fashion designers, things like that. If someone came to you tomorrow and they said, “I want to perform better at everything that I do.” Given your entire life, like all the things that you know, what are the three most important pieces of advice you have for me? What would you offer them?
John Resig: The three advices?
Dave Asprey: Three most important things just to tell me, like I want to be better at everything I do.
John Resig: Don’t be overwhelmed by the gravity of the moment. Start at the beginning. Stair step it out would be the first thing I would do easily, because you can be everything that you want to be in life is right in front of you, there’s a huge nebulous of it but it’s got to start with tying your shoes in the morning and taking one step towards your goal and eventually you’ll reach it.
Then you have to be completely passionate about it. I was blessed, I think, in knowing what I wanted to do in life. Did you know what you wanted to do? By the time you were 30 did you know?
Dave Asprey: I just wanted to break stuff that was dumb. We broke the telecoms, that was the first one.
John Resig: And you certainly did that. You got to be real passionate about it ’cause you’re not going to want to take the steps forward towards your goal if you lose that inertia trying to get there. There’s not a single time that went by when I was trying to get theCHIVE off the ground that I had even 1% in the back of my mind, “What’s my Plan B?” Some people do and I don’t spite ’em for that. I probably should have a Plan B, but I didn’t.
The next is just always treat people like you’d want to be treated.
Dave Asprey: The golden rule.
John Resig: It’s an altruism and I saw it backstage with the people that you hire. Every single one of ’em gets along. They all care. Everyone asked me if I wanted something else, like three people if I asked, like if I wanted Pellegrino. By the third one I was like, “I’m fine! I got my own Pellegrino.” You know? Sorry. But how cool is that, right?
Those are the three. Those are the rudiments of success and then once you get through that you’re going to be fine. You’re going to make a lot of mistakes but as long as you’re aware that you’re not better than anyone else that works for you then you’ll be fine. I saw that backstage with you and that’s why there’s people here and it’s very cool.
Dave Asprey: Thanks a lot for being on Bulletproof Radio. Would you guys give it up for John Resig from theCHIVE? You might be the only guest I’ve ever had out of maybe 400 where I don’t really have to say, “Tell people where they can find you,” ’cause 30 million people a month already know, but you’re at thechive.com.
John Resig: Do it. www.thechive.com.
Dave Asprey: All right, John, and thanks for your charitable work as well and for the other things you’re doing that make the world a better place beyond just making people laugh. I appreciate it.
John Resig: Thanks for having me on. I really appreciate it. Enjoy what you do.
Does somebody have my crutches? Because I can’t leave.
Dave Asprey: I could carry you off.
John Resig: Could you?
Dave Asprey: Yeah, but …
John Resig: Would you? Come on.
Dave Asprey: All right. There we go.
John Resig: Thanks.
- 00:00 – Health IQ Special Offer – how science and healthy lifestyle data can get you lower rates on life insurance
- 02:00 – Cool Fact of the Day: laughter can actually help fight disease!
- 03:18 – Why is Dave coughing, and how is nicotine involved?
- 04:48 – Dave intros John Resig, Co-Founder and CEO of Resignation Media and theCHIVE
- 07:08 – John is also an actor, he was on HBO’s “True Blood”
- 07:50 – John talks about theCHIVE, and what’s special and unique about his community
- 10:38 – Why is everybody backstage talking about BUTTER? Dave explains…
- 11:48 – John discusses the inception and history of theCHIVE
- 14:03 – John discusses running a family business with his brother, and why their ying & yang works
- 16:36 – Why do so many actors make poor entrepreneurs?
- 17:44 – John discusses the type of entrepreneur he is vs. his brother
- 19:40 – Why John values persistence as a core quality, and why he gives out his email address
- 24:27 – John talks about what stresses him out, what makes him productive, and what he really does every day
- 30:05 – John talks about his partnership with actor Bill Murray, how selling t-shirts saved theCHIVE, and why philanthropy is key
- 36:02 – John’s advice for young entrepreneurs and professionals
- 40:20 – How hyper-growth of a business impacts employees, and how it can hold a company back
- 44:05 – John discusses his style as a CEO, his business’s shortcomings, and why good managers are key
- 46:33 – John’s three most important pieces of advice