ML124: Josh Kaufman on Mastering Complex Projects, Fighting Hydras and Using Stories to Change Your Behaviour

Discover the principles of mastering complex projects, the differences between fiction and non-fiction for promoting behaviour change and the importance of dealing with practical concerns when pursuing your dreams.

ML124: Josh Kaufman on Mastering Complex Projects, Fighting Hydras and Using Stories to Change Your Behaviour

Josh Kaufman is an entrepreneur and the author of three bestselling books – The Personal MBA, the First 20 Hours and How to Fight a Hydra.

I first came across Josh’s work when I was getting interested in learning and skill acquisition a few years ago and his book The First 20 Hours is still one of the resources I recommend most to people looking to pick up a new skill.

In a previous life Josh worked in brand management for Procter & Gamble where he led multi-million dollar projects but he left that role to focus full time on research and writing.

Since doing that he’s produced bestseller after bestseller – starting with The Personal MBA, which teaches the key mental models needed for business success and following up with The First 20 Hours, a manual on rapid skill acquisition.  

His most recent work, How To Fight a Hydra, is a fictional story documenting a hero’s journey to fight a monster that explores the uncertainty inherent in any ambitious challenge, from starting a new business to completing a work of art.

In this episode we discuss:

- The differences between fiction and non- fiction for promoting behaviour change
- The importance of dealing with practical concerns when pursuing your dreams
- The skills that Josh stuck with after writing The First 20 Hours

This was a wide-ranging and multi-disciplinary conversation with lots of great insights on a range of topics, whether you want to start your own business or learn a new skill.

Show Notes

  • Introducing Josh [00:34]
  • What was school like for Josh? What was his experience with cooperative education? [02:40]
  • What was Josh’s perspective of education when he entered university? [05:11]
  • How did Josh’s interest in philosophy develop during his years in university? [05:54]
  • What lessons about business and philosophy did Josh take away from his business ethics class? [07:12]
  • Where did the idea of fighting a Hydra as a productivity metaphor come from? [09:48]
  • How does fact-based nonfiction differ from story-based fiction in promoting behavior change in people? [13:11]
  • What has been the most challenging Hydra that Josh has faced over the course of his career? How did he overcome this Hydra? [15:53]
  • How can one think about the trade-off between practicality and idealism when it comes to careers and life-changing decisions? [20:41]
  • Which metaphors in George Lakoff and Mark Johnson’s book Metaphors We Live By has Josh found powerful to reinterpret and apply in his own life? [23:37]
  • How valuable are education materials like books and courses when there is no single solution to learning? [28:44]
  • Which of the learning experiments in The Personal MBA does Josh still do and develop until current? [33:18]
  • What are the advantages of self-publishing versus working with a big publisher? [35:52]
  • What is a question that people ask Josh too often? [39:13]
  • What is one belief that Josh will not question no matter what? [40:21]
  • What is one thing that Josh has changed his mind about recently? [40:45]
  • In ten years’ time, what does Josh think he’ll wish he’d done more or less of? [42:26]
  • Closing remarks [44:29]