Adam Savage (@donttrythis) is a special effects designer, educator, actor, former cohost of MythBusters, current host of Savage Builds (both on Discovery Channel), and author of Every Tool’s a Hammer: Life Is What You Make It.
What We Discuss with Adam Savage:
- What you have to gain by paying heed to your obsessions.
- The sublime benefits of real expertise.
- How deadlines spur action past the bottleneck of intended perfection.
- The universality of imposter syndrome.
- How an expanded vocabulary leads to unexplored solutions.
- And much more…
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Like a lot of kids in the Midwest, Jordan had three hobbies growing up: building stuff, breaking stuff, and blowing stuff up. In a stroke of genius, Adam Savage — former cohost of the celebrated Discovery Channel’s MythBusters series and author of Every Tool’s a Hammer: Life Is What You Make It — managed to turn these three things into a wildly successful career.
In this episode, Adam and Jordan discuss why you’ll be happier and probably wind up in a career you actually like if you pay heed to your obsessions rather than being bullied out of them, the value of deadlines for everything from assembling costumes to building props to interviewing people for podcasts, why regular and honest introspection is one of the most important duties a human being can take on, the power of an expanded vocabulary, the universality of imposter syndrome, and much more. Listen, learn, and enjoy!
Please Scroll Down for Featured Resources and Transcript!
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THANKS, ADAM SAVAGE!
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Resources from This Episode:
- Every Tool’s a Hammer: Life Is What You Make It by Adam Savage
- Savage Builds
- Adam Savage’s Tested
- Adam Savage at Instagram
- Adam Savage at Facebook
- Adam Savage at Twitter
- Charles Kimbrough, Wikipedia
- Adam’s Television Debut
- NYU Tisch School for the Arts
- Jamie Hyneman at Twitter
- Colossal Pictures
- Beach Blanket Babylon
- Mythbusters’ Adam Savage Remembers His Father’s Sesame Street Animations by Adam Savage, AV Club
- Adam Savage’s Knightly Comic-Con Cosplay Revealed: His Most Personal Yet by Mary Sollosi, Entertainment Weekly
- Robert Klein: Unfair & Unbalanced
- Welcome to Temple Grandin’s Official Autism Website
- Adam Interviews John Cleese, Commonwealth Club
- Chicago Screws
- Rumplestiltskin, Grimm’s Fairy Tales
- Deep Dive | How to Overcome Imposter Syndrome, TJHS 127
- The Comparing Mind, 10% Happier
- How the Scarcity Model Affects Business, Emotional Intelligence at Work
- Howard Stern, Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend #27
- Bob Vila Home Improvement, Home Repair, and Home Renovation
- The Glass Age, Part 1: Flexible, Bendable Glass, Corning Incorporated
- The Glass Age, Part 2: Strong, Durable Glass, Corning Incorporated
- The Mythbusters’ Long History of Accidents and Mishaps by Daniel Terdiman, CNET
- Iron Man
- Colorado School of Mines
- First Full Flight Test Of Real Life Iron Man Suit, Savage Builds
Transcript for Adam Savage | Every Tool’s a Hammer (Episode 219)
Jordan Harbinger: [00:00:03] Welcome to the show. I'm Jordan Harbinger. As always, I'm here with my producer Jason DeFillippo. When I was a kid I had three hobbies--building stuff, breaking stuff and blowing stuff up. Today, we're talking to a guy who in a stroke of genius managed to turn these things into a very successful career. Today on the show, Adam Savage of MythBusters fame joins us. We'll discuss how following our thrills can lead us to interesting jobs in niches that previously didn't even exist, systems for accomplishing amazing projects and staying humble while doing it. This episode really helped me wrap my head around mastery of a craft, which is something I've been working on and thinking about a lot lately and I think you'll get a lot out of this conversation.
[00:00:41] If you want to know how we managed to get all these great guests, well, I've got a huge network and it's very deliberate, my creation of that network. I'm going to teach you how to do it for free in our core Six-Minute Networking, which is at jordanharbinger.com/course. By the way, most of the guests here on the show, they actually subscribe to the course and the newsletter. So come join us. All right, here's Adam Savage.
[00:01:03] I know you originally wanted to be an actor and then you found, “Okay, my drive is not acting.” How do you know when you something you're doing is not your drive? Because I think a lot of people struggle with that.
Adam Savage: [00:01:13] None of the decisions I have made in my life were made with the clarity of this isn't the thing I want to do and that's the thing I want to do. Or very few decisions were looked at as a cost-benefit analysis or my creativity. I was in the drama club. I found my people in the drama club in junior high school and high school, and senior was really important to me and as such, my dad knew some people and a good friend of his was Charlie Kimbrough who played Jim Dial on Murphy Brown, the newscaster. Charlie became my first agent and got me an acting job and I did a few commercials here and there. I pursued acting because I liked the idea of being famous when I was 16. I was okay at acting and I went to a Tisch School for the Arts at NYU for six months. I didn't realize it at the time, but what I was witnessing was a tremendous amount of commitment from a lot of people who are interested in the craft. I wasn't intersecting with it as a craft. I mean it's a long way, by the time I was 19 and I was still doing some auditions here and there, I was like, “I'm just not that into that.” So, then I just sort of let it go.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:02:30] You want to like the results of the acting, not necessarily to be like a good performer.
Adam Savage: [00:02:35] That is a great way to put it. I thought that being clever was good enough and I did not know how to find a thing that was worth busting my ass for and I didn't at all know really had to bust my ass.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:02:48] Interesting. So you never thought like, “Okay, I've got to dive head first into this.“ In the book, you say follow your secret thrills. So it sounds like once you find this thing that really into, that's where you know, okay, I can bust my ass doing, making this go on over and over.
Adam Savage: [00:03:05] Again, I am resistant to the two describing my path as instructive to know it is instructive to me. There are many people in the world who have a clear idea. I have a niece who knows she wants to be an orthopedic surgeon for a long time.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:03:21] Yeah, that must be nice.
Adam Savage: [00:03:22] I agree. But for me, it took me a lot of bouncing around in different industries and different things before I realized that, and it was very specifically within special effects. So I had bounced around a bunch of different careers from assistant animator to graphic designer, freelance graphic designer. I moved to San Francisco in 1990 and I started working in theater. I worked in about 15 different theaters over two or three years and that got me a reputation and I was having a lot of fun in theater. I was learning a lot, I was learning stuff every week. I was becoming a much better carpenter, scenic painter, rigor, stage manager. I was finding that I liked thinking about a big picture enough that made me valuable to people that we're hiring me. That got the attention of Jamie Hyneman who is running a small TV commercial special effects shop in San Francisco at a place called the Colossal Pictures. And so I was about six months into working with Jamie on Nike commercials and other small things when I realized my after-hours life is very different. And what I noticed was when I was working in theater, even when I was working all day long at Berkeley Repertory Theater and then heading over to Beach Blanket Babylon at night to do a shift there, and even when I was doing those long days, I was still coming home and working all night and making sculpture and making things in my art studio all night long.
Adam Savage: [00:04:47] About six or eight months into working for Jamie, I realized I wasn't doing that anymore. I was and I thought about it and I realized, Oh, you know what? I'm getting all of the creative fulfillment that I get from coming home, from doing theater work. I'm getting that at the job now and it's satisfying me on this really, really important creative level. Now, the special effects industry is packed with people who will tell you who love the phrase or who say the phrase--I used to be an artist and being the child of an artist and growing up with the experience of someone who structured their whole life around being able to do this one thing that they had to do, which was painted, there was an importance to me of not saying I used to be an artist. This was utilizing the same parts of my brain. And so what I realize though that was that this is what a career could be and this was the first time that light sort of peeking through a window and I was like, “Oh, a career is something you're both really good at, but kind of obsessed with all at the same time.” And so then I thought, “Okay, great. I'm not going to say you used to be an artist. I'm just going to put all my energy into this stuff.”
Jordan Harbinger: [00:05:58] Yeah, that makes sense. And I think you mentioned in the book that this is where your ideas come from. Where do you start getting engaged with something and passionate about something? We often dismiss that because we think we can't do anything about it. But it does segue nicely into this focused passion or this obsession that we do.
Adam Savage: [00:06:14] Well, we dismissed it. I dismissed it certainly because my school mates were cruel about my passions. I was a nerdy kid and the things I liked were nerdy and I didn't share them with my peers because kids can be cruel. I think middle school and high schools where a lot of people learn to subsume those things because our obsessions and the things we can't stop paying attention to, whether it's aliens or fan-fiction about Twilight or Dungeons and Dragons or whatever it is, those obsessions make us vulnerable because they reveal us. They're showing people our bellies.
[00:06:50] To me, yeah, a lot of people don't pay heed to those things. And this book is my permission slip that when you do pay heed to those things that tickle at your head, that you can't stop paying attention to that I call secret thrills in my experience, I've found myself in those things. It was like a secret formula for self-actualization, self-realization.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:07:13] It's important I think, cause a lot of us do overlook those things deliberately or we dismiss them. Your idea that obsession is a necessary and healthy ingredient, I think is music to a lot of people's ears because a lot of us will get obsessed with something and we just think, “Oh, I shouldn't even like this or I shouldn't focus so much on this because this is irrational. Or nothing's ever going to come out of this. I'm just wasting my time even though I can't stop thinking about it.”
Adam Savage: [00:07:38] Exactly. So many things don't get started because people think that. What is this worth? What am I, what am I going to get out of this? Or my hobby is weird, should I really do it? And the answer is, yeah, you really should, because --and this is a specific because of this-- which is that when you're obsessed with something and let's say it's cosplay and you see other people do it and you're like, I would like to try that. Not sure that I should because it seems kind of weird and kind of freaky. Sure. It might be. In my experience, when I went towards that and started to like assemble a costume, I realized, Oh, I have this very specific point of view about the kind of custom I want to wear about the character, but also about the fidelity to the original. And I want to make this really accurate. And so again, diving into something where it has to fit within the parameters that you've given it, that's in my experience, that's pursuing your excellence. I need this to fulfill a thing for me. And I'm not sure what that thing is, but I'm going to go towards it. And when you're going towards something that's important to you, i.e. the stakes are high, the things you're going to confront along the way, your own biases, your own laziness, your venality, your jealousy, the things you're insecure about—That journey of going through that is, is understanding yourself. It's seeing yourself in a different light. Sorry.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:09:08] Bless you. It must be all that whatever blue stuff that’s on your hand is causing an allergic reaction. What is that? What is on your hand.
Adam Savage: [00:09:15] That?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:09:16] Oh, that’s a tattoo but there's like blue paint on the other side.
Adam Savage: [00:09:18] Oh, uh, it's a Dykem marking fluid is what it is. It is a lacquer that you spray on a machine. I was working on some Apollo suit parts before I left the shop today.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:09:29] Why not?
Adam Savage: [00:09:30] Because why not? And when you're shaping aluminum to a specific dimension, you hit it with this blue lacquer and then you scribe in the lines where you want to cut it and it gives you this hyper-accurate cutting board. So anyway, it's called marking fluid and I always end up with it on my left thumb.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:09:48] Oh, you’re marked now accurately. Yeah. I know about the authenticity for the costumes. I read about a suit of aluminum armor. Speaking of aluminum, that was like 700 rivets and you wore it to school. Can you take us through that? Because this is like the portrait of obsessor guy.
Adam Savage: [00:10:08] And I was really lucky in this story that my parents were the heroes that they were in affording me the time and the space and the encouragement. So, in 1981, I was 14 and my dad took me to see Excalibur by John Boorman and it was really, really amazing and transformative experience for me. And it's still an amazing movie. It's super cheesy and yet it earns its emotional stripes. It has some surpassingly weird and great moments in it but the thing that I was really taken by was the armor. There are over a hundred suits of armor in the film of all different stripes. They all are part of the storytelling. They're not necessarily accurate to a specific time and place. They're more narrative devices and they were all built by a man named Terry English in Cornwall, England, who is, to my mind, one of the best armor designers in movie history. So when I saw that movie when I was 14, that Halloween, I made a suit of armor out of cardboard and wore it with a horse that attached to me with suspenders to high school. And then two years later when I was 16, my dad and I got some roofing aluminum and he taught me how to use a rivet gun and we made me an aluminum suit of articulated armor of hinges and everything, straps. We cut apart suitcases to have straps that could strap it to my body. I wore to school and I passed out in the third period of heat exhaustion from wearing the suit. That is exactly the portrait of the young obsessed man. Sadly, that suit of armor got stored in the art room where that following summer, normally like a lot of stuff you'd left there was left over the summer and some weird like bit of zeal, the principal of the high school went into the art room is threw out everything that was stored there, and so I lost that suit of armor to that summer cleaning. That's very upset.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:12:00] That makes me just kind of, you want to shake that person and be like, you don't realize how much--you've never made anything. Huh? Because you look at something like that and you go, dang, that took somebody a long, long time.
Adam Savage: [00:12:13] I totally agree with that. And that guy who did that, he threw out a whole bunch of stuff that I had stored in the art room and it was very upsetting to me. Upsetting enough that I don't think I made stuff for another year or so after that. I felt so sort of gutted by the loss of all those.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:12:31] Yeah, like a gut punch. Yeah. Like it, it just feels like, well I can't make that stuff again. So what's the point? You lose your motivation. A lot of young guys like myself also would disassemble electronics and blow stuff up all the time until now. When you do that, I think they call the FBI. Back then in the ‘90s though, they were like, “Oh kids just don't kill yourself, you know, or anyone else.” I assume you were one of those kids too, but as I got older I'm like, I'm scared to take apart certain things now. Like I got shocked by a tube in a television. I almost died. Yeah, my friend almost died. I mean it was like those tubes in those old TVs, they store a lot.
Adam Savage: [00:13:11] A huge amount of capacitance around the outer rim of the CRT screen.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:13:15] Vacuum tubes.
Adam Savage: [00:13:17] It will dump a lot of electricity into you. It's not pleasant. I've been shocked that way before.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:13:21] Yeah, it's something you remember you ever take apart like a camera with a flash too.
Adam Savage: [00:13:25] Those capacitors are very strong.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:13:27] That is a lesson that you will not forget. And I remember showing my shop teacher the flash stun gun that I made and he's like, “What happens when you get too much voltage going through that and you kill somebody?” And I was like, “That's not going to happen.” He goes, “Bring that to this doorknob over here.” And he takes the wires and he hits the doorknob with these two copper wires that I'm sticking out of this contraption and they arc weld immediately right to the doorknob. And he goes, “You know, how much voltage and heat it takes to instantly liquefy copper and stick it to this doorknob?” And I was like, “No.” And he tells me like, “This is 1800 degrees probably a lot more. Your skin can take like 120 of that and before it starts getting,” and I was like, “Got it, got it.” So they put up with that stuff, but like I got older and I was like, “Oh these, this shit can be dangerous.” That this never happened to you.
Adam Savage: [00:14:16] "Oh no, no, no. I realize it could be dangerous. I got hurt by a lot of things I took apart. It's a natural kid's impulse to take stuff apart. And it's really important I think as a parent to foment that if your kid has some proclivity because if you take enough things apart, you start to understand how they go back together. It's not a direct lesson but eventually, the structure starts to become clear. Like you open up your tape deck because it doesn't work as I did and you look down and there's a fuse, Oh I didn't know there was a fuse in there and it's fried. There's a space in there so go to the stereo store and I bring them in. “Do you have one of these?” And he's like, “Wow, yeah I do,” and I popped it back in and I fixed my tape deck and I was 15 and I was like I feel really awesome about that. You know Robert Klein, the comedian, used to have this joke about like why do we lift the hood of our car when it breaks down because we're expecting something to say, “Fix me, fix me.” Like is there something with a light on it? And the answer is actually a non-zero portion of the time, there is something obviously wrong with something when you open it up and it's totally worth doing. And for those among us who actually fix stuff, I will tell you, tell you that one of the great secrets of fixing stuff is I'd say seven times out of 10 you can fix something by taking it apart and putting it right back together. And then somehow just takes care of the issue.
Jason DeFillippo: [00:15:34] You're listening to The Jordan Harbinger Show with our guest, Adam Savage. We'll be right back.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:15:39] This episode is sponsored in part by ZipRecruiter. Now, this is one of the biggest challenges of business that is hiring. Even if you run a small business, hiring's a pain. You run a big business, hiring is a pain. You run a medium-sized business. Guess what? Hiring is still a pain. There really was no way to get it done in any sort of efficient way unless you hired someone to hire for you. That's why businesses have recruiting departments. ziprecruiter.com/jordan is going to be your hiring department from now on. Multiple job sites, stacks of resumes, the confusing review process. All that is gone. It's all simplified. ZipRecruiter sends your job to over a hundred of the web's leading job boards and then they use matching technology to scan thousands of resumes that normally you would have to scan yourself and they find people with the right experience. They invite them to apply to your job and as the applications come in, ZipRecruiter analyzes each one spotlights the top candidates so you never miss a great match, which is nice because there's a lot of signal to noise issues when it comes to hiring. They're so effective over at ZipRecruiter that four out of five employers who posted on ZipRecruiter get a quality candidate through the site within the first day. And a few of you who have tried this have actually emailed me and said, “Wow, we did find a quality candidate through the site within the first day.” That's pretty awesome. I mean that's, that's a pretty good advertisement. No pun intended for ZipRecruiter in the quality of service. Jason.
Jason DeFillippo: [00:16:55] And right now our listeners can try ZipRecruiter for free at this exclusive web address, ziprecruiter.com/jordan. That's ziprecruiter.com/J-O-R-D-A-N, ziprecruiter.com/jordan ZipRecruiter, the smartest way to hire.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:17:09] This episode is also sponsored by Skillshare. This has been such a cool little fountain of wisdom. It's an online learning community with thousands of classes covering dozens of creative, hundreds of creative and entrepreneurial skills. There's everything from photography to creative writing to design, productivity, specific pieces of software that have been really useful. So whether you're, you want to try something new, you're going to a long-time passion project and upgrading your skills a little bit, Skillshare has classes for you. Jen has been diving into this. She keeps getting mad that I mentioned some of the creative stuff cause she's also taken accounting stuff in there. She's an accountant by the way, so it's not just, it's not just basics. There's some advanced in there. There's those also of course basic. She learned Adobe Audition, which is audio software. She learned Final Cut Pro and iMovie in there, which is obviously video editing stuff. Lifelong learning has been important to me. It's obviously important to everyone here on the team and Skillshares a nice, frankly, really easy and convenient way to get a bunch of knowledge uploaded to your brain in a really convenient way. Jason.
Jason DeFillippo: [00:18:13] Join the millions of students already learning on Skillshare today with a special offer just for our listeners. Get two months of Skillshare for free. That's right. Skillshare is offering The Jordan Harbinger Show listeners two months of unlimited access to thousands of classes for free. To sign up, go to skillshare.com/harbinger. Again, go to skillshare.com/harbinger to start your two months now. skillshare.com/harbinger.
[00:18:35] Thank you for listening and supporting the show and to learn more and get links to all the great discounts from our amazing sponsors and to help keep this show going, visit jordanharbinger.com/deals. Don't forget we have a worksheet for today's episode so you can make sure you solidify your understanding of the key takeaways from Adam Savage. That link is in the show notes at jordanharbinger.com/podcast if you'd like some tips on how to subscribe to the show, just go to jordanharbinger.com/subscribe. Subscribing to the show is absolutely free. It just means you get all of the latest episodes in your podcast player as they're released so you don't miss a single thing from the show. Now back to our show with Adam Savage.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:19:11] You're cleaning gunk off stuff as you put it back in. You're re-soldering things if you're doing stuff like that. You're tightening screws again. You know you're going, “Oh, that must have plugged in here.” But that's the thing that came unplugged when you dropped it off.
Adam Savage: [00:19:23] I imagine because of this never anything super obvious and yet you put it back together and like, “Oh, now it works.”
Jordan Harbinger: [00:19:28] Yeah. The problem is when you put it back together and you go, “Shoot, that was in there somewhere. Now, it is on the table.”
Adam Savage: [00:19:00] All those extra parts that were left out.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:19:38] Like if it's not a screw, you're probably screwed because there's something that's not going to work. You mentioned that nothing is ever finished. Does that drive you crazy? Because for me that's like I guess I'm a completionist in a way, which is why I identify with your checkbox thing. You're obsession with lists and checkboxes, but the idea that nothing's ever finished it, it makes me like get involuntary sort of chills thinking like, “Oh crap.” Something could be unfinished that you're going to work on.
Adam Savage: [00:20:07] It goes back and forth and some things are totally done. But if it's something that I'm really obsessed with, it's always an ongoing process. Like I was making Apollo suit, suit parts for a spacesuit that is effectively done and anyone looking at it would consider it complete and finish, except there are some parts that are resident and I want to be aluminum. So I'm slowly going back through it and kind of combing through and, and doing it. It does not just say I don't finish stuff and as I say in the book, I use deadlines all the time to get stuff to a place where it's a wearable or usable or demonstratable and that's vital because if I'm left to my own devices, I'll just peter away at the tiniest details forever and all that being said, yeah, there are some things when I really love them. There's just always some final little detail to add.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:20:56] You do mention the deadline thing. Do you set deadlines for yourself? Like okay, this is going until Friday after that I'm done.
Adam Savage: [00:21:03] No, my deadlines are larger than that. Comic-Con is coming up. What costumes should I wear? And if it's one that I'm in the process of completing, I'll be like, great, that'll be the custom. I finish in time and then I work backwards from there and think, okay, these are the days I'm traveling, these are days I'm in. Like, have these five days that I can put into it. I'm going to need to bring in some help and then I start to work outwards from there. Sure, there might be stuff where it's like finish it by Friday, but hopefully, I've been looking at the totality of the project and like I know that my due date is my due date and I assemble what help and resources I need.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:21:42] Okay. That makes sense because for me, everything I do always feels like, even preparing shows like this—All right. Read the book. I always read the whole book, read, watch or read or listen to five, six other interviews that the person has done. So I don't just ask them the same crap as everyone else. And also that I don't miss something awesome that it's like, “Wow, this isn't in the book.” But then I'll have like eight pages of notes. I know I'm not going to get through everything. So then I have to trim stuff and it's, for me it's like, Oh my gosh, I'm running my time. I'm reviewing this. Like there's never enough time to finish everything perfectly.
Adam Savage: [00:22:17] Okay, finishing everything perfectly is totally not the goal for me of a deadline. And it's actually an interesting thing to talk about here because one of those reasons I love deadlines is because it hacks things off your decision tree and it takes things out of your belt. In order to get X done by Friday, as you get closer and closer to Friday, you start having to leave behind things you thought you were going to get done. Let's say I was making an alien suit for Cain. Okay? One, this kind of communication. And you know what? I'm not going to get that done by Friday. I'm going to have to go with another style of communication. Even though I had this grand plan about how I was going to talk to my crew or walking the floor at Comic-Con. What a deadline does for me is, as I said, it lops branches off my decision tree. It makes me look at each thing I am looking to complete an ask myself. Is this of the essence of the completion or is it ancillary to the essence?
[00:23:14] I do a lot of interviewing other people and I always find it terrifying. I sit there while they're talking, terrified, petrified. I've got not have a follow-up question or I'm somehow going to miss some area I wanted to talk about. I do something similar when I'm interviewing people as I do with any other project, which is I read enough reference material until I sense that I have a point of view about the person that I'm interviewing. And the moment I have a point of view, then there are all these questions that are general questions that I'm suddenly no longer interested in. Sometimes it doesn't even matter to the interviewee. I interviewed Temple Grandin on stage a few times. She's an amazing human being. You know, I joke that Jamie Hyneman and I are the patron saints of autism spectrum disorder. And my opening for Temple was that if we're the patron saints, she's by all means, the pope. And I realized reading her book and looking at her material and reading stuff and actually speaking to her that she's really dedicated her whole life to alleviating suffering wherever she can find it. And that gave me this great lens with which to frame questions. In the end, I said that to her in the interview on stage and her response was “Sure.” And then she moved right onto the next answer. So it wasn't even like that uncovered some deep truth about Temple, but it helped me frame why I was there interviewing her. It's true I'm never going to assemble all the questions I want to ask and frankly, some of the best interviews I've ever done were ones in which I never—I wrote up 65 questions for John Cleese and I never looked at a single one because he came so present and so ready to play that we went somewhere totally different. That to me gets really thrilling. I really enjoy that.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:25:04] Yeah, I like that process as well. And so these notes, people always go, what are you doing? And I'm like crossing off things we're naturally getting to anyway. We’re not using this, but it helps me navigate and make sure that I'm not like, “Oh shoot, I can't believe I forgot to ask about this amazing like tip that was the one topic,” because there'll be something in there that I think about for a week and then go, “Shit, I didn’t ask.”
Adam Savage: [00:25:24] The number of times I've concocted super elaborate questions for someone whose response was, “Oh, they never thought of it like that.” And then we're on to the next thing and I'm like, I thought that we were going to get a real meaty discussion of comedy out of this and that person has no interest in discussing it.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:25:41] Yeah, you got to prepare more than you're going to use because nothing's worse than being like crap, I figured that was a 14-minute block and we are at 32 seconds.
Adam Savage: [00:25:48] I've had people I've interviewed on stage where I made—I usually do a question per minute. This is sort of rough outline where I had 70 questions for a 60-minute interview and I used all 70 questions. The interviewee was so not interested in introspection. They made me work really hard.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:26:07] Yikes, that's brutal. That's everyone on the audience is just like, Ooh.
Adam Savage: [00:26:12] There are people who might've been at that interview who know who I'm talking about. That's totally fine.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:26:15] Yeah. They're still like nursing the beer that they had after that interview, I think.
Adam Savage: [00:26:20] No, they had a great time. It was just a lot of heavy lifting.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:26:24] Yeah. Yeah. That's when you go home when you go, all right, I'm, I'm good enough that that didn't totally explode in my face. You are very self-aware. The book shows this, but in a lot of your interviews, it's really clear that you think a lot about how you think. Where does that come from?
Adam Savage: [00:26:42] I view that as one of our jobs as human beings, to watch ourselves, to watch the watcher and see and learn from the way we're doing things because we do so many things wrong. I mean, we come to these conclusions about how the world works as we're growing up and we're five, six, seven, 11, 12, 13 we're making decisions about the chaos we see around us and how to navigate it. And they might make good decisions in the moment, but they're terrible for navigating the rest of life. And yet, as far as I've found, I'm still operating on assumptions that I made when I was between seven and 16 years old. That introspection comes from a family value. My mom is a psychotherapist. My father was in therapy for his whole life and read deeply about the philosophy and thinking that, talked about that. My wife is a therapist. I've been in therapy for most of my life and I'm a believer that that talking in that introspection makes us better. It makes me a better person, a better citizen, a better father, a better husband, a better person. So there's a point in the book where I talk about having taken on a job that was too big for me, not realizing until way too late, not asking for help, ruining somebody's senior thesis film, and losing a friend in the process. When I called my dad in the midst of the darkest feeling of that and he listened to me crying on the phone and feeling like crap and we know I can't fix this, I can make this better. There's nothing I can do. And he said, “You can't fix this. You can't make it better. That's, that's true. And you have to accept that. You can only take this in and learn what it is about you that brought this about to the degree that you're responsible, which is an important thing to rigorously examine and try not to do it again.” In my family and among the people that I love, that is a value that is a really important value to see what you've done, how it didn't work and did work and try and operate from a place of love and compassion for yourself, which gives you lots of love and compassion for other people.
[00:28:50] There’s that quote at the beginning of Rounders where he says, “If you're at a poker table and you can't spot the sucker, you're the sucker.” I've taken that on in life where if you're driving around and everyone's an asshole, it's you. That when you're in a bad mood, everyone seems like a jerk, and when you are unhappy with yourself or you're down on yourself, you're much more likely to get down on other people. So to me that the love and compassion that I'm able to have for other people comes directly from how much I am able to generate for myself.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:29:25] That point really hits home. I went through a difficult sort of last year business thing and I remember being like, “I don't remember dealing with all these, all this bull crap all the time. Why is everyone?” I was like, “Oh, okay. What would I say to somebody else? What's the common denominator in all these equations? Me. Oh, crap! But it's like having that realization early on is super helpful because then you don't wonder why quote-unquote life is unfair. You just go, okay, what part of my playing in this and how do I fix it?
Adam Savage: [00:29:52] Well, and then thing that you just said, getting to understand that early on it's something that I keep trying to get over because as far as I can tell, life is an endless series of me waking up and going, “Oh my god, I had no idea that was going on.” And it's, it's again, it's like, it's like combing. I'm at a professional place in my life now where if someone brings me a new project, even if it's in a genre or an in a medium I don't know if I'm interested in diving in, the process starts out as one of what I call smoothing down the high spots. It's like looking at the totality of the thing until I have a point of view. The same thing I was talking about deadlines and when I have a point of view, I can start to look and go, okay, there's a problem area because that one sticks out to me as slightly not fitting with the other stuff. So I send that down and then I look for another high spot. Okay, send that. Now, I'm bringing this thing into some—I'm being very abstract here. I recognize,
Jordan Harbinger: [00:30:50] I think a lot of people understand what you mean though I well, or where I understand some totally different point that you're not making. It's also possible.
Adam Savage: [00:30:57] It's just about the ways in which the things I understand about myself were a mystery. Like there are half a dozen things I know about myself now that were mysteries to me five years ago and they're saying I have things I understood then that were mysteries to me five years before it is, I cannot believe what an idiot I was 15 years ago. Like it’s just appalling
Jordan Harbinger: [00:31:18] I think you're supposed to feel that way at every age of your life. Right?
Adam Savage: [00:31:23] It's really important that we recognize that. That at any given moment, whatever we think the world is we're stupid about it and we're going to learn more and then we're still going to feel stupid from the vantage point of the future, of that future moment. Just because that's, I mean, to me it's just, it's an endless set of stairs in the best way. I mean, you know, there's something really that mission to open my eyes wider and to be more present with the people that are important to me. That's one of the hardest jobs and being a person and it's the most important one.
Jason DeFillippo: [00:32:01] You're listening to The Jordan Harbinger Show with our guest Adam Savage. We'll be right back after this.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:32:06] This episode is sponsored in part by Blue Diamond Almonds.
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[00:34:24] Thank you for listening and supporting the show. Your support of our advertisers is what keeps us on the air. To learn more and get links to all the great discounts you just heard so you can check out our amazing sponsors, visit jordanharbinger.com/deals. Don't forget the worksheet for today's episode. That link is in the show notes at jordanharbinger.com/podcast. If you're listening to us on the overcast player, please click that little star next to the episode. We really appreciate it. And now for the conclusion of our episode with Adam Savage.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:34:51] When you build things, you say you build them in your head and the rest is like cutting the chunks. Sort of walk me through this a little bit because are you, are you going, okay, I'm going to make this, I'm going to need this tool. This is the material. I assume you're doing at least that. But how detailed is the visualization? Like can you, are you thinking like, ”All right, well what I'm doing that and I'm tightening that. Ooh, you know what? That's probably going to break because I'm going to have to tighten it enough, where that's not going to do. I need to—"
Adam Savage: [00:35:15] There is a lot of that. There's a lot of that. I'll give you an example. So you do a podcast. How many podcasts do you do a year?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:35:21] Like a 160.
Adam Savage: [00:35:22] Okay. So when you think back to the first time you were making a list to make a podcast, you had almost zero institutional knowledge of your own. You’re relying on a whole bunch of other peoples. But after 50 or 60 then after a couple of hundreds, you build this body of institutional knowledge that understands on a much deeper level than you could have possibly imagined at the beginning. About what are the important aspects of this that you really have to button down? You probably in the first few podcasts, wasted time taking care of stuff that really doesn't map and you've learned. "Yeah, that one doesn't matter. That one does. This one matters if we have time, but no one's going to notice that it's not there.” And knowing which questions to ask is everything about expertise. And so there becomes a point at which that knowledge becomes almost like a body memory. Like you, you now have this thing where the podcast, instead of a set of separate actions that are overwhelming, it now has this arc to it. Like, “Okay, I know in the beginning, there'll be this, then there'll be this, then there'll be this. Then there's the interview and then there's this stuff after the interview.” Like all of a sudden, it becomes sort of coalesced like a thing you can almost see in your head.
[00:36:37] I had a roommate who was a serious chess player and I played a few hundred games of chess with him thinking I was going to get better at chess and I bought chest tricks and tips and traps and techniques and I bought books on chess. I bought a chess computer and played chess and reading about chess and playing a few hundred games taught me I was never going to be a great chess player because no matter how much I tried, the board was still a set of separate actions to be analyzed in and of themselves. And I realized that a real chess player starts to see the board as a gesture so that they see that gesture and they can actually separate it into the available moves to them or they can look at it as this thing. And so I submit that in anything one can become an expert in that expertise carries with it a kind of a physical understanding of the thing. So I think that it's a phase, amount of phase, or it's almost like a plateau you reach with an expertise where you can do a lot of the work internally before you lift a tool or a pen or start to actually do research stuff. I'm sure if somebody said you've got to interview Barack Obama and you've got two hours, or you've got to interview Barack Obama and you've got two months, those are going to be two very different lengths of time with which to do, but you'd be a lot less afraid of that from the vantage point of 200 podcasts than the advantage point of two.
[00:38:08] So all that is an extremely long way of saying a lot of my mental building, a lot of my building happens mentally. A lot of the problem solving happens mentally so that I can get to a point where I can get enough materials in front of me to start to build it for real. And I encounter plenty of problems on the bench that I didn't think of in my head. It especially happens when I hit a snag and I can't figure out how to solve a problem. I will let it be and then I'll go and I'll think about it for a while and sometimes I'll think about it for weeks and then the answer will be like, there it is. And I'll be like, “Oh my god, what a dummy. Of course, that was the answer all along and it's totally simple.”
Jordan Harbinger: [00:38:45] And thinking about things like that and then running into these little snags reminds me when I was an exchange student in Germany in the ‘90s I would start to dream eventually in German and I would wake up in the middle of the night and go, “Oh, oh I woke up, oh because somebody was talking and then used the word but I don't know the word.” So I would have to keep a dictionary near the bed because I would run to like what you have like a problem. And I'd go, I don't have anything mapped to that. He was going to say I need to run into the phone booth. And I'm like how the hell do you say phone booth? Then I'd have to look up the word. I'd go back to bed and my dream would sort of start right around there and continue. So your brain is constantly running into these things when you simulate.
Adam Savage: [00:39:26] I actually think that the language announced is a really good one. I think that materials are languages. Building is a language and the specific materials are words that people don't know, the vocabulary. I tweeted recently about Chicago screws as a way to hold stuff together and all these people tweeted back to me, I didn't know what a Chicago screw was. Thank you for that because they looked it up and there it is on Amazon and if you know the name, it's also called the paper rivet. They're also called blind rivets sometimes even though that's not the technical term for a blind rivet. And for me, when you know those secret words, you know all of these other solutions. I love trading those little things as again, their vocabulary words for making.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:40:10] This is fascinating.
Adam Savage: [00:40:13] I came up with calling it Rumpelstiltskin because I was replicating a prop and I was trying to find this tiny little bottle and it's made of glass and it's about an inch long. And if you want to search for bottles on Google, that's noise to signal ratio is one. Little bottles so I thought dram bottles, no; perfume bottles, no; perfume samples, no; apothecary, no; homeopathy. Every last term I could think of about people who used small bottles. I searched for weeks and weeks and weeks. And then I bought some bottles. I bought lots of old bottles so I could look at them and see if anyone, and then I started doing research on bottles themselves. This is where I should have actually started this whole process because I discovered that bottles are classified by the type of lip.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:41:00] Get out. Seriously?
Adam Savage: [00:41:02] So if you want to find a specific type of bottle, you need to first identify the lip-type and then the rest falls into place. And so I looked at the bottle I was trying to find and it had a specific kind of square lip. It's called a patent lip and so then I was like, okay, I'd already determined that the bottle held one dram. I made the math of the cylindrical interior. So I searched one dram patent lip hundreds of results of precisely the bottle I've been looking for months and once I understood its name like Rumpelstiltskin, I cracked its spell and it had no power over me.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:41:39] So satisfying to do that.
Adam Savage: [00:41:40] Oh, my god, one of the best things that ever happened.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:41:42] And you're like, Ooh, eventually AI is going to know what I want even if I don't know what I want, which will be really useful and scary.
Adam Savage: [00:41:47] I'm sure AI is ever going to get that smart.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:41:49] It would be great though sometimes, but then also terrifying because you're like, how did you know I was on a toilet paper? You are really capable guy. You have a ton of skills. And one thing that this shows done for me is to put me around people like you and others on a regular basis. And of course, the problem then with this is that if you're listening to this show or watching this show, it can really seem like as a listener or viewer, you're the only person in the world that isn't knocking it out of the park. Like, “Oh, Jordan's got all these young great shows and then Adam Savage, man that guy is a—I am a turd. All I'm doing is I'm becoming a pharmacist. I'm never going to make anything. My life is so ordinary.” And it's imposter syndrome.
Adam Savage: [00:42:24] It's an imposter syndrome. It's also what the Buddhist called comparing mind.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:42:28] And I live there sometimes and it's such a fucking recipe for disaster.
Adam Savage: [00:42:35] It is a recipe for disaster, but it's also totally human. So, you know, my shop, while it is a Wonderland that I've spent years putting together. I took it apart earlier this year to use all the things in it for the show I just made for the science channel. And as such, I put it back together over the last couple of months, but it's still not fully flowing. It's still not quite there. So today I was in my shop and I was messing around and it was not going very well. And that happens no matter where you are in your career, no matter who you are, how much success you've had. I think there's this other aspect to it which is deeply American, which is the scarcity model, which is that all everything I'm giving would come at a cost to somebody else or everything someone else has is a cost to me. But that impostor syndrome, it is so vital to me to talk about it openly and to share stories about it because nobody escapes it. Every single human you have ever met experiences that all the time. And you know, on a day-to-day basis, my life does not feel like a productive juggernaut of endless glee. It is another life like anybody else's living. I have wonderful people in my life who I love and I have difficult people in my life, and I have trials and tribulations like anybody else.
[00:43:58] My tale about imposter syndrome, I was having lunch a few years ago with someone my age and I mentioned imposter syndrome and they said, “Wait a minute. What is that thing you just said?” And I said, “The feeling that you don't belong where you are, even if you're successful and that someone's about to come out and tap you on the shoulder and tell you it's time to go home.” And he just turned sheet white and he said, “I thought it was about me.” It made me so sad that he'd spent 45 years of his life thinking that he was the only one that suffered this. And somehow everyone else was escaping it. And nobody else escapes it. It's just so universal and so important that we talk about that because I've met people that don't think that they're an imposter and they're interminable to be with.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:44:44] Yeah, it's a running theme on the show, the imposter syndrome thing because of the high-performance element of the show. But yeah, if you want to meet somebody who doesn't have imposter syndrome, go talk to a high school freshman or sophomore or senior because they know everything and their life is going to be amazing. It's actually the mark of a high performer. I was in law school and I remember somebody came in and spoke and all these other people that talk about imposter syndrome, but they go to like Harvard, Yale medical, whatever, and they're like, “Who here feels like they're the ones that slip through the cracks and it's only a matter of time?” And all the hands go up. But if you ask it, in a room full of people who are, are not doing much of anything or are really young, there'll be like, “What are you talking about?” It happens when you are around all of these people who are killing it because you are probably supposed to be there killing it to because it does in a way—
Adam Savage: [00:45:32] Because we also live in this, we live in a culture where we really love the end of the story being happily ever after. We just assume that. That is a very cultural thing--the happily ever after. “Oh, you on TV once. You should be fine and rich forever.” And the answer is no. It doesn't work like that.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:45:50] And Conan O'Brien, actually was talking with Howard Stern about this like last week or about, and it was awesome to hear both of them go, “Yeah. I pretty much always get mad at myself after a show where I pretty much always think I should have done this again or I should've done this a different way.”
Adam Savage: [00:46:05] You feel like you leave money on the table. It's never done. It's never complete. And frankly, every single time I have experienced the emotion, “Oh man, I've got this wired,” life was rearing up with a big fat open hand to smack me across the face with humility and disaster. Every last time and it's uncanny.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:46:30] I know that your father did some Sesame Street puppeteer, muppeteer.
Adam Savage: [00:46:32] He’s not doing muppeteer. This is a thing I cannot—
Jordan Harbinger: [00:46:34] It’s freaking on Wikipedia.
Adam Savage: [00:46:35] I can’t get it off my Wikipedia. I’ve asked people to remove it. I've pulled it. I've flagged it. My dad was not a muppeteer. My dad was an animator and when Sesame Street started in the late ‘60s, early s’70s, their axiom was one-third puppets, one-third live-action. and one-third animation. This was groundbreaking for a kid's show as it was, and still continues to be, and my dad was one of the very first animators they hired. So he raised us doing animated interstitials on Sesame Street. He did about two or three years through all of the ‘70s.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:47:10] And how did he encourage you to be creative? And by the way, it's going to be off the Wikipedia after this because I think you saying, “Hey, that's wrong,” and they'll—
Adam Savage: [00:47:16] We’ll see. We'll see. I mentioned it before.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:47:18] Yeah, I suppose that's true. How did he encourage you to be creative?
Adam Savage: [00:47:21] Watching him paint everyday imbued me with the understanding that this thing had a value and it really abiding and life-affirming value to him. And I mean, he was by no means uncomplicated and it was a very chaotic childhood that I had, but that example of someone painting every single day, the vow, the someone who put that much value onto this weird thing. And I submit that almost all of the things that everything that we do is everything we do as a hobby. Everything that we have to do is a weird hobby. I mean, fishing is weird when you think about it.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:47:57] Oh, I agree with it.
Adam Savage: [00:47:58] They don't have to be utilitarian. And so every time I explored making something, my parents were encouraging about it. They liked it. They did not. Again, it's encouragement. Telling your kid when you starting to sing that he's singing off-key is a really, really shitty thing to do to a kid. You've got to let people have an open space with which to try and iterate and what they might think of as failing in order to find whether or not they're going to love that thing. And my parents definitely gave me that.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:48:32] You have twin sons. How are you encouraging them to create without putting unhealthy pressure on them? And I worry because I've got my new baby coming soon and I put unhealthy pressure on myself. So that's going to be really hard not to put it on other people who I love.
Adam Savage: [00:48:47] I resolved very early to put the things they were interested in front of them and make the materials and things that they were curious about available to them. I bought a lot of drum sets and guitars and things that didn't get used, but I also bought a lot that did that. My kids are both very accomplished musicians. They're kind people, but there's no, it's not like I did—I honestly, I mean, I don't know if it's—the frame of this question, which tends to carry the assumption that I may have done something right. It's still not something I am convinced of. Raising children is a lifelong exercise and even though my boys are 20 I'm still smacked in the middle of it. I tried to speak to them openly. I try to, in my whole family, work hard to understand the family dynamics. There are dynamics between me and my kids. There are dynamics between each of us and our families, both our parents and our partners and our kids that we can even know about and I might not be able to change. But just knowing about them so that you can talk about them and you could normalize these experiences is really, really important.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:50:01] I was talking with a Penn Jillette on the show before and I thought, “Oh well you work with this other guy, Teller, for a long time you guys must be really close. And he was like, “No, we are not friends.” And I actually heard that similar to them, you and Jamie were not or are not friends. I'm surprised but I'd get it also because I've been through that similarly. I guess we just assume if we see people together all the time they have to be getting along.
Adam Savage: [00:50:26] Yeah, and I think Penn and Teller are both good friends and they would say the same thing that Jamie and I would say, which is there's a real strength to a partnership that doesn't have an emotional component. We're not afraid to hurt each other's feelings, which means we're not afraid to go to the carpet on the, you know, go to map on the things that we think about each other when we think someone's being full of shit and we'll say it. And consequently that relationships, one of them were S one of the most satisfying relationships I have had with Jamie. We fought about the small stuff constantly, but we never fought about the big stuff. We never thought that thought about turning down large sums of money to bust myths about somebody's product or other. The lack of the emotional component, it was a real strength because of the fact that we could concentrate on what's in front of us better.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:51:23] This makes sense.
Adam Savage: [00:51:25] It also was based on a deep amount of respect. So what Penn and Teller aren't necessarily to two people who would go out to dinner together, although, you know, you end up sharing a lot of meals with your business partner. And the same thing is true for me and Jamie. We've never had dinner alone together in the 30 years—
Jordan Harbinger: [00:51:41] This is so crazy when I heard that I was like how can that be?
Adam Savage: [00:51:45] But the respect that I have knowing that Jamie would have been able to get this build done by the end of the day, no matter what I think of the technique he's about to dive into, that respect is really paramount. So the difficulties we had were never based on a lack of respect for each other and we never lashed out and we're insulting with each other and we fought and bitterly about stuff, but it never got personal. And that's really important because also when you're business partners with someone like it or not, you're going to be intimate in their lives in a way that's abiding and deep, even if they're not your friend. Jamie and I know things about each other's lives that few other people in our lives know because we've shared that over those decades.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:52:30] I can imagine companies coming at you, speaking of turning down large sums of money, like, “All right, we're going to bust the myth that Brawny isn't until this paper towel.” And you're like, “No, I, I'm going to not sleep at night about that.”
Adam Savage: [00:52:41] Well, early on when we would get these and we realized, wow, so basic cable is that you don't get residuals. So I got paid, we got paid for making MythBusters and we never make another penny from the Enterprise which is fine. That's the rules. That's how those contracts go, but it also means that the only thing --Jamie and I realized this early-- the only thing we would have when we finished was our integrity. And that was a coin not to be spent unwisely because you know, you could just become Bob Vila. You could become what I consider kind of a joke about making stuff because you know, there was a period of time when it seemed like there was not a product he wouldn't stump for. So I have no idea what to believe. He just seems like a product endorser. Again, I haven't deeply researched Bob Vila. He's probably a lovely man and I don't mean to insult him. I’m merely talking about the fictional Bob Vila. That is a cultural symbol in my head. I don't mean to insult the actual human being. But yeah, you know, we realized that we were going to do that if it mattered to us and if we believed in what we were doing, then we would take the money and we would do a thing about somebody's product.
[00:53:52] Actually, we did a lovely one for Corning wanted to do this set of videos called The Day of Glass. It was one of the most delightful things because Corning is such a fantastic company and everything you could think of to do with glass, they kind of invented it and starting back in the 19th century, it was at this unfettered easy decision to make because it's like, well there's no problem with this company at all. There are no hidden skeletons. They didn't build Nazi warships or something like that and this is awesome.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:54:20] Or they just did a really awesome cover-up no one's ever going to crack because you can find any. The show I was looking for like interesting tidbits about the show and there's stuff in there like a woman's saved her own life and that of her infant because she was had fallen into a ditch.
Adam Savage: [00:54:34] Underwater car.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:54:35] Yeah, the underwater car. And then I found some way that you guys had accidentally found a really easy way to make an explosive out of a very common chemical and ended up like censoring that and then telling DARPA, the defense department essentially.
Adam Savage: [00:54:48] Yep. And they were like, yeah, we know about that. Thank you for not telling anybody.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:54:50] Yeah, thanks for not putting in our really popular cable show. But the one that really stuck out was the cannonball accident. Can you tell him about the cannonball accident? That's the one where I bet your whole, every sphincter in your body was clenched at max while you waiting for the outcome of that.
Adam Savage: [00:55:05] It was awful. So it happened out at the Alameda County Sheriff's Bombing Range where cannon was being fired to test the speed of the cannonball and there were a bunch of safety procedures put in place. Jamie and I have fired cannons into the same hill before. And we've used this basically, 200-foot tall mountain, this tiny hill, as a backstop for cannon shots before. However, when this cannon was being shot, it was in the middle of the six-year drought that Northern California had. And so this hill far from receiving the cannonball was hard as a rock. The cannonball bounced off the hill, flew a mile into Dublin, California and bounced off a sidewalk, went up through the lintel of this man's house, passed through the bedroom of his sleeping wife and child.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:55:59] Oh, I didn't know that.
Adam Savage: [00:56:00] Flew another thousand feet, landed on the roof of somebody else's house, broke some tiles off of it, and bounced into the passenger seat of an SUV that had been parked there five minutes before and nobody was hurt. Now we started to get calls immediately. I got a call within an hour from Australia. The first lesson I learned from this is that no reporter you've ever done an interview with has ever thrown out your number. They're ready to call you if they have that access. Number two is that the story that's going to have the most traction is the one people are secretly expecting. And the story from MythBusters of the idea of an experiment gone wrong and someone getting hurt. It was like these, this perfect dovetail of people's secret desire for MythBusters cause it seems kind of dangerous. So should something dangerous happened at some point with the like, oh my god, that totally happened. So then we, the very first thing Jamie and I wanted to do was head out there and talk to the people whose property and their safety felt compromised by this accident. And we wanted to apologize to them. So we did, and we apologize to all the people this happened to. We made good on, uh, restoring their home and their homes and their property to better than, as good or better than it was before. Each of the people we talked to requested that whatever safety procedures we had in place, we make them more robust and that is an absolutely reasonable request and we promise them that. In fact, those safety procedures are still ones that I follow today in production. Luckily we learned that without anyone having to get hurt.
[00:57:44] Then we walked out of the house of one of the people whose house was hurt by the cannonball to a press conference. I have never experienced this before 20 microphones sitting there in a big holder and the bank of reporters with their trucks all ready with questions and that my brain did this really funny thing, I'm walking out towards this and I'm thinking, “Oh look at that holder for all those microphones.” It's this big chunk of aluminum, about half-inch thick with radius to edges and important for all these different microphones. That is a machine shop built that thing. They built it for that purpose. It can't be a big market. It can't be a huge market. It's got to be this limited thing. It's probably going to cost like 1200 bucks. So it'd be news. I started wondering literally all the way walking, I'm thinking this, does every news truck have one? Whose do they use for any even press conference? Is it the first guy to show up the first person? So I'm just like sort of one of my ways of relaxing is looking at things and imagining how they got built. Imagining the first meeting, the design meeting, the iterations, the process, the manufacturing, et cetera. This was no different. So then, I stand up at the mic, Jamie and I stand and the reporters are asking at first it's this very cacophonous blah blah blah. Was it okay and what's your question? How did that guy guys feel about it? Okay. And we started to answer questions and we were answering them. Honestly, there was nothing to hide here. We had nothing to obfuscate. This mistake was made on our watch. We were responsible and we were taking that responsibility and within like six questions, the whole energy became like diffuse to the point of like becoming a real quiet press conference and people asked like three or four more questions. Then everyone was like shrugged when like, all right, I think we got what we need. And it was another lovely lesson that to make a story, not like we didn't—both Jamie and I, actually, all five of us, Kari, Grant, Tory, Jamie, I, our production team, our producers, our production company, all of us were mortified by this. This is for us the darkest day of MythBusters.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:59:50] Yeah. I mean you could have killed a woman and a child with a cannonball.
Adam Savage: [00:59:52] Absolutely, it was awful, absolutely awful. If I am talking to a large audience and someone says cannonball and people laugh, I tell the story as a way of saying there's nothing funny about that. I get the humor and I get how that humor dovetails with your vision of MythBusters. But the fact is nothing was funny about it and we weren't treating it as something we were trying to hide, obfuscate or divest responsibility of. The reporters were like, “All right. I guess that's about it.”
Jordan Harbinger: [01:00:25] All right. So you tell me about this Iron Man suit. I know this is coming up, but this thing is the next level.
Adam Savage: [01:00:31] It's totally insane. So this is for this new show I have called Savage Builds to starts airing on June 12th on the Science Channel after BattleBots. We were in production on this show from January through April of this year and the very first episode, yeah, we built a working suit of Iron Man armor out of 3D printed titanium. Kevin Feige, the head of the Marvel group gave me personal permission to get the original computer files of the Iron Man Mark II from Shane Mahan, at Legacy Effects, the guys that have built all the Iron Man suits and made tons of incredible armor costumes for the Marvel and countless other films. We worked with the Colorado School of Mines, which is in mines with an N-E-S. It's an incredible engineering school and the best part about it was it just grew out of me having done an appearance at the School of Mines and them saying, “Hey, we've got this whole new additive manufacturing department.” They literally built an entire building to teach kids about additive manufacturing, 3D printing. And they said, “We just got this new titanium printer. Got anything you want to make with it.” We were in preproduction on the show is like maybe we should make some Iron Man armor and I called them up and EOS, the makers of that machine donated all the 3D printing, which is good because it was well over $250,000 worth of printing. But the end result is if Tony Stark became non-fictional if you could wave a magic wand and Iron Man needed to make a suit, this is the process by which he would start. I consider a working prototype of an Iron Man armor suit. It is bulletproof. There is some flying.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:02:17] Did you talk to that?
Adam Savage: [01:02:18] It was completely so much fun and such a wonderful thing to dive all into this fantasy. It turns out that plate titanium has a certain kind of strength but if you 3D print it, you're actually laser sintering layers of powder titanium onto previous layers and this means that you can use the lasers to attenuate the internal crystalline grain structure of the titanium and make it much stronger than normal titanium. I didn't know that when we started, but by the end of the episode we were like, this is not a fantasy armor. This is a working prototype of the fantasy armor made of real.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:02:56] How do you know it's Bulletproof?
Adam Savage: [01:02:58] You'll have to watch the episode to find that out.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:02:59] Okay. And I assume, how do you know it flies?
Adam Savage: [01:03:03] I've got to leave something for people to tune into and watch.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:03:07] I’m in. Thank you very much.
Adam Savage: [01:03:08] My absolute pleasure. It was delightful.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:03:12] So Jason, the MythBusters guy, I remember talking about getting Adam Savage on like four or five years ago or something like that. I don't know. Finally got around to doing it.
Jason DeFillippo: [01:03:20] Yeah, I used to see Adam all the time when I lived in San Francisco and I was always like, “Man, I want to go up and say hi,” but he's with his kids and I'm like, “Okay, don't do that thing. Don't be that guy.” But I would always like kind of like give him a like a little salute and a wink. And he would always do it back. He knew the deal. So a very smart guy.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:03:39] That is cool. I often wonder how I'll be with the kids because when the kids are little, yeah, you don't really want to be disturbed, but when they're like 10 to 20 or older again, yeah, you kind of want them to think you're cool. So it'd be awesome if someone comes up and it's like, “Hey Jordan, oh my god, I'm a huge fan.” Because when you're with your kid and you're like, “Hey, some people actually think your dad's pretty cool.” And then after that you, after they get older, then you don't want to be bothered again. So I'm interested to see what the phases of being a parent and having essentially strangers come up and say hi to you is going to be like for me.
Jason DeFillippo: [01:04:12] The kid’s not even born yet and you're already thinking about getting your dad cred. Come on, man.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:04:16] You got to. I just remember how lame I thought my dad was for a really long time and it was like embarrassing to be with my parents, but when I was little I thought he was really cool. Now that I'm older, I think he's pretty cool. But in the meantime, yeah, anybody who tried to tell me my dad was cool. It was just in one ear and out the other, and it's probably going to be the same thing. Like I bet you there's got to be a point at which even like Jaden Smith is like, “Ugh, I don't want my dad to go.” It's like, “Dude, your dad is Will Smith. You're good.”
Jason DeFillippo: [01:04:44] Yeah. He's like, “Yeah, I know my dad is Will Smith. I grew up with him. I'm tired of it.”
Jordan Harbinger: [01:04:48] That's the problem. I don't want to hear the dad jokes, the corny BS. I mean, you know, it's got to be just a universal thing.
Jason DeFillippo: [01:04:53] Yeah, I'm sure it is.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:04:54] Yeah. Great big thank you to Adam Savage. The book title is Every Tool is a Hammer. We’ll link to his stuff. Of course, it will be in the show notes. And if you want to know how we book these great people and create all these great connections, it's all about the network. It's all about that warm introduction. It's all about that good word. And we're teaching you how to create networks for personal or professional reasons and Six-Minute Networking. That's our course. It's free. It's at jordanharbinger.com/course. Don't wait, don't kick the can down the road. You've got to dig the well before you get thirsty. I get so many letters in my inbox that are like, “Hey, didn't take the well, now you need a job. What do I do?” And I don't want to be callous, but my response is often you did, you dug this grave, you lay in it kind of thing. But I know that that doesn't help somebody who's unemployed and goes, I knew I should have done this, but don't be that person who's in my inbox going, I wish I'd done this 10 years ago and now I'm broke. That's not good. And it happens more often than I think any of us would like to admit. And by the way, most of the guests on the show actually subscribe to the course and the newsletter, which you get when you sign up for the course. And I don't mail out every day or anything. It's like every other week at best. You can find it all at jordanharbinger.com/course. Speaking to building relationships. Tell me your number one takeaway here from Adam Savage. I'm at @JordanHarbinger on both Twitter and Instagram. There's a video of this interview on our YouTube channel at jordanharbinger.com/youtube.
[01:06:17] This show is produced in association with PodcastOne and this episode is co-produced by Jason “Myth busted” DeFillippo and Jen Harbinger. Show notes and worksheets by Robert Fogarty. I'm your host Jordan Harbinger. Remember, we rise by lifting others. The fee for the show is that you share it with friends when you find something useful, which should be in every single episode. So please share the show with those you love and even those you don't. In the meantime, do your best to apply what you hear on the show, so you can live with you listen, and we'll see you next time.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:06:45] A lot of you out there to like to build your network. There's actually a show called Build Your Network with my friend Travis Chappell. It's dedicated to helping people level up their inner circle, build meaningful connections the right way, and ultimately become a better version of themselves. And Travis, who hosted the show, he walks the walk, man. I mean, he's a great guy, kind of a new-ish friend of mine last couple of years and he's always thinking about how to help other people get in touch with people. I mean, he's really putting some brainpower towards this stuff and he's, he's gunning for the guests. He's got highly valuable and practical advice from some of the best leaders in the world, including Shark Tank panelist and FBI hostage negotiator. I'll give you a hint who that might be. Several New York Times bestselling authors, billionaires, investors, and more. Like I said, he's going for it, man. You started less than two years ago and now he's got over 275 episodes featuring some of the world's top leaders. And remember, you're the average of the five people you spend the most time with. I've said that on the show a bunch. You've heard it elsewhere. So search for, Build Your Network on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you listen to podcasts and start leveling up your inner circle today. The show and its guests have a lot of value and I think you'll enjoy it. You can also find him at travischappell.com/show and we'll link to that in the show notes.
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