What We Discuss with Kevin Systrom:
- How Kevin and Mike made decisions at Instagram to best avoid project-crippling bottlenecks.
- Why checking yourself is a good way to ensure that you are less likely to wreck yourself.
- The game-changing but simple purchase Kevin made when Instagram became a verifiable success.
- Has Instagram contributed to Kevin’s own feelings of FOMO?
- The strategy Kevin employs for reading books with optimal efficiency.
- And much more…
Like this show? Please leave us a review here — even one sentence helps! Consider including your Twitter handle so we can thank you personally!
When our guest Kevin Systrom co-founded Instagram back in 2010 with Mike Krieger, no one knew the photo-sharing site would become the social media outlet of choice for influencers, globetrotters, food bloggers, comedians, artists, musicians, fitness enthusiasts, poets, podcasters like me, and the fine ladies and gents like you who kindly listen to this show.
But Kevin, being a bit of a statistics maniac, might have had a few inklings that it would be a site worth making — in spite of all the naysayers telling him the market was too saturated and he and Mike were wasting their time. In this episode, we’ll talk about the decision-making process at Instagram that steered Kevin and Mike away from project-halting bottlenecks, the importance of checking oneself (to avoid wrecking oneself), Kevin’s hopes for the future of tech and innovation in the United States, and much more. Listen, learn, and enjoy! This is part two of a two-part episode. Make sure to catch part one here!
Please Scroll down for Featured Resources and Transcript!
Tom and Dave from The Motley Fool have a pretty amazing record for picking stocks that perform well beyond popular expectations, and in addition to sharing their picks with you, they’re not too proud to show beginners like us the ropes. Go to fool.com/jordan and try ’em out at $99 for one year of unlimited access, and if you’re not satisfied, just cancel within 30 days!
Podia is your all-in-one digital storefront. It’s the easiest way to sell online courses, memberships, and downloads — no technical skills required. Get 15% off for life by signing up for your free 14-day trial at podia.com/jordan now!
Fiverr has a mission to change how the world works together by connecting businesses with freelancers offering digital services in 250+ categories. Whether you’re looking for new copy and a design for your website or a voicemail message in an exotic accent from a faraway land, Fiverr can deliver at a price you can afford. Go to Fiverr.com and use code JORDAN at checkout to get 10% off!
Better Help offers affordable, online counseling at your convenience. If you’re coping with depression, stress, anxiety, addiction, or any number of issues, you’re not alone. Talk with a licensed professional therapist for 10 percent off your first month at betterhelp.com/jordan!
The James Altucher Show brings you into the lives of peak-performers: billionaires, best-selling authors, rappers, astronauts, athletes, comedians, actors, and world champions! Check it out here! (Or wherever you prefer listening to podcasts in your ear-holes!)
THANKS, KEVIN SYSTROM!
If you enjoyed this session with Kevin Systrom, let him know by clicking on the link below and sending him a quick shout out at Twitter:
And if you want us to answer your questions on one of our upcoming weekly Feedback Friday episodes, drop us a line at email@example.com.
Resources from This Episode:
- Kevin Systrom | Life Lessons from an Instagram Founder Part One, TJHS 335
- Kevin Systrom’s Website
- Kevin Systrom at Instagram
- Kevin Systrom at Twitter
- Mike Krieger at Instagram
- The Goal: A Process of Ongoing Improvement by Eliyahu M. Goldratt and Jeff Cox
- The Story of Twitter’s Fail Whale, The Atlantic
- Information Network or Social Network? The Structure of the Twitter Follow Graph, WWW ’14 Companion
- What Is a Snapchat Story? Lifewire
- The Gospel According to Andrew Carnegie, Lapham’s Quarterly
- TikTok — Yes, TikTok — Is the Latest Window Into China’s Police State, Wired
- How to Read a Book: The Classic Guide to Intelligent Reading by Mortimer J. Adler and Charles Van Doren
Transcript for Kevin Systrom | Life Lessons from an Instagram Founder Part Two (Episode 336)
Jordan Harbinger: [00:00:03] Welcome to the show. I'm Jordan Harbinger. As always, I'm here with my producer Jason DeFillippo. On The Jordan Harbinger Show, we decode the stories, secrets, and skills of the world's most brilliant people, and turn their wisdom into practical advice you can use to impact your own life and those around you. We want to help you see the Matrix when it comes to how these amazing people think and behave and help you become a better thinker. If you're new to the show, we've got episodes with spies and CEOs, athletes and authors, thinkers and performers, as well as toolboxes for skills like negotiation, body language, persuasion, and more. So if you're smart and you like to learn and improve, you'll be right at home here with us.
[00:00:40] Today, Part Two with Kevin Systrom, founder of Instagram. We'll continue our conversation from last time and share wisdom about how to hire the right people in your organization or how to be the right hire for your organization. We'll also delve into unique problem-solving strategies from the mind of a unicorn app creator or unicorn tech creator, I should say, and some wisdom on learning how to read in the most effective way possible. All of this and a lot more on today's episode of the show.
[00:01:07] If you're wondering how I managed to book all these folks, they always come through my network. I manage my relationships using systems and tiny habits in just a few minutes per day. You should do the same. Check out our Six-minute Networking course. It's free. I'm teaching you how to do that. It's at jordanharbinger.com/course. And by the way, most of the guests you hear on the show, they subscribe to the course and the newsletter, so you'll be in smart company. Now here's Part two with Kevin Systrom.
[00:01:34] I heard that you had meetings with your co-founder where you just made decisions like you had lists of decisions. Can you take us through that? That's a great idea actually.
Kevin Systrom: [00:01:42] Well, I had read this book called The Goal, and this was towards the end of Instagram, by the way. We'd figured this out many years into Instagram. This was not at the beginning. And after reading The Goal, it was basically about manufacturing, but it was -- if you want to go read it, go read it -- but the lesson is effectively, like the weakest link in any quote-unquote chain or manufacturing chain is the thing that will dictate the overall output of that chain. And I started thinking about that as it applies to work. And I was just like, "Man, people complain about X, Y, or Z, like not moving." I was like, "I think we're just like a giant decision factory." I'm definitely a decision machine, meaning like I am the thing standing in the way of things getting green lit or yellow lit or red lit.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:02:29] I think we call it the bottleneck.
Kevin Systrom: [00:02:30] Yeah, thank you, the bottleneck. Like I'm not sure that the decision making has to be the bottleneck, but I was thinking to myself if decisions don't get made quickly enough. Then all the other work in the organization pauses. So I had this idea where I was like, "I just think we just need to inventory all the outstanding decisions, all the things we just need to blow through and list them and go one by one. And if there are hard ones, let’s market and come back to it. And we would go through all the easy ones. Then we'd narrow it down, narrow it down, and then we'd get to like two or three really hard ones, and sometimes they'd be related and complex. But we'd be able to have really ended up conversations about that decision and schedule a meeting for that decision. All the right people in the room for that decision and that was really helpful. I should probably do that in my daily life now. I don't really.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:03:20] I think the bottleneck now -- or maybe it's just better to outsource most of the decisions, like for me, I try to just say, "Jen, if you need me for a decision, great but if you don't just do it." And then I can sort of like secretly get a little annoyed later, but it's never worth it. It's always just better to have it done.
Kevin Systrom: [00:03:37] Yeah, I struggle with this because, on the one hand, I really like being involved in things. I really like having control. And on the other hand, I like things getting done.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:03:50] Oh man.
Kevin Systrom: [00:03:51] So it's a balance. But listen, I started a company and years later, and I'm still working out. So I guess what I'm saying is. Like, I hope to meet people that are great at this and maybe start companies with them.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:04:02] Yeah, no kidding. Yeah. I don't blame you. Sometimes I think our nature just takes over. It's like, "Look, I'm never going to be that much -- " The odds of you going, "You know what? I don't need to be in control of everything." That will be. Either something that never goes away or when your daughter is a teenager, you'll just be like, "I am now powerless and I have to accept that."
Kevin Systrom: [00:04:20] It's all good. Yeah.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:04:22] Early on, you guys were struggling to scale. I know the server was down. And you had this alarm going off. You're like you have PTSD from this ringer or whatever from your phone.
Kevin Systrom: [00:04:29] Yeah, I never want to hear it again.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:04:31] I can imagine. There were other competitors at the same time that had tens of millions in funding that had all their infrastructure built out. How come they didn't crush you guys?
Kevin Systrom: [00:04:38] So a couple of things. One, those companies were failing too. Meaning I remember giant outages of Foursquare or the fail whale on Twitter. It's not like we were the only ones struggling to keep our infrastructure running. It's kind of like a science now and you can find really good people, but back then I think it was a lot harder because a lot of the stuff was just brand new. Why didn't they just kill us? I mean, one, we were doing very different things.
[00:05:07] Let's take Twitter for instance. Twitter is just a very different product than Instagram and well, there's some overlap and use case and people have limited time in the day. Sure. They're not the same. I think the more important question is like, "Okay, why didn't companies pivot into doing what we were doing if there were big? And then why didn't other small companies win better than us?" Those are the two categories. In terms of the small companies, I don't know. I mean, was it luck? Was a talent was a combination of both? I don't know those other companies. I mean, I know their names, but I don't know how they ran. I can't diagnose that. But all I can say is like, we worked hard and we tried and we had enough hot bats and we hit one grand slam. That's all you got to do in life -- one grand slam. So I have as many hot bats as possible. In terms of the big companies, I think it's classic innovators slamming over big companies.
[00:05:58] They first write you off because they think you're a gimmick. And then eventually they start seeing that, "Oh wait, like there's an actual use case there." But it's really hard for them to pivot because of something they hold dear. I'm not in the boardroom or in the product development process for these larger companies like Facebook or Twitter, but I'd imagine it's just like -- in order to do that thing that that other company is doing, we need to shift something fundamental.
[00:06:24] So take for instance, the follow graph of Instagram. Facebook ended up having it, but it didn't really work the same.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:06:31] What is this again?
Kevin Systrom: [00:06:32]The follow graph.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:06:32] What does that even mean?
Kevin Systrom: [00:06:33] Sorry, instead of you and I having to be friends to see each other's content, I can just follow you and you don't have to follow me.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:06:39] Oh follow graph. Okay.
Kevin Systrom: [00:06:41] Asymmetric follow graph.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:06:42] Yeah. Got it. I thought this was like some sort of fancy word that started with a PH.
Kevin Systrom: [00:06:46] No, no, no, no. Follow space graph. I apologize. Asymmetric following, meaning we don't have to be friends. Non-friend relationships, right?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:06:53] Like broadcasting.
Kevin Systrom: [00:06:54] Yeah. Basically, right. My point is it's very hard to pivot to that if your whole company, like not even just your ethos, but like your infrastructure is based on friends. Then you got to like design this other thing and now they both exist together and it's like, "Wait, am I friends with you or am I following you?" It's hard. This is true with Instagram too. I mean, when we decided we were going to compete in the Snapchat world and work on stories, most of our effort was not figuring out how to build stories because I don't know the product was there. You could see it. It was how does this thing fit in nicely and neatly with the existing system and not crush -- and that's really hard.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:07:33] It is hard.
Kevin Systrom: [00:07:33] But I think we pulled that off fairly well and that's why it ended up working.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:07:36] Yeah. I love that.
Kevin Systrom: [00:07:38] That's competing well as a big company, the biggest relative.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:07:42] That’s true. I guess we were really agile. I looked at the stats and it was like Twitter had like multiples of the number of employees that you guys had. What'd you have, like 11? And they had like 300, 450 or something like that. And then you look at Snapchat, had multiples of whatever you had.
Kevin Systrom: [00:07:57] This is a benefit.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:07:58] It is a benefit.
Kevin Systrom: [00:07:59] I'm working on ideas now and I'm just like, "Man, but we don't have a lot of people so like, how are we going to do it?" And often, the thing I have to remind myself is sometimes not being from an industry and sometimes being able to move really quickly is, in fact, your advantage. Not always, but often, especially if you get into a disruptive area that feels new and weird. If you're playing in existing spaces, I think it's a lot easier to just get crushed by big players. But if you're trying something new, it takes a lot of time to steer the Titanic away from an iceberg, if that makes sense.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:08:37] Yeah, it does. Yeah. I think looking back now, I just couldn't do it. I'm 39. There's a part of me that's like, "I'm too old for this." I couldn't do --
Kevin Systrom: [00:08:47] No one's ever too old for anything. That's what --
Jordan Harbinger: [00:08:49] It's true, but it's also like, it's hard to wrap your mind around starting over, although if you have to do it, you'll figure it out, most likely.
Kevin Systrom: [00:08:54] Yeah.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:08:55] When did you finally realize you guys had something? Was it like --
Kevin Systrom: [00:08:58] Day one.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:08:59] Really?
Kevin Systrom: [00:08:59] Yeah. It was really clear to me. People just started signing up. I'd never seen anything like it. I knew people would start with startups and like no one saw the volume we saw on day one. I was like, this is like an instant hit with people. And like I didn't have data that showed they were retaining. So it was definitely over confidence. Trust me, like I didn't really know. But day one I was like, this is different and something's new and something's weird, and like we've created something I'm not entirely sure at what scale, but this thing is -- it's meaningful.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:09:30] Did you have 25,000 downloads the first day?
Kevin Systrom: [00:09:32] Not downloads, signups.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:09:34] Signups I mean.
Kevin Systrom: [00:09:35] Yeah. Probably more downloads.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:09:37] Which is mind-blowing because it's like how do you even get -- if I downloaded that right now at 12:01 a.m. in the beginning of the day and I texted everyone in my phone book that they had to wake their ass up and get this app and sign up for an account, it would be hard to get that many --
Kevin Systrom: [00:09:51] I agree.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:09:52] -- in one day.
Kevin Systrom: [00:09:52] I agree.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:09:53] And you did it.
Kevin Systrom: [00:09:53] Companies struggle with that. That was a special time.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:09:58] Did you ever think, "Oh God, this is too good to be true. I'm going to wake up one day and it's like, 'Oh, it's over.'"
Kevin Systrom: [00:10:03] No.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:10:04] You don't have that kind of anxiety?
Kevin Systrom: [00:10:05] No. In fact, I worried more that, "Oh God, we're screwing it up." Like, "Oh God, like we're down again. Everyone is going to leave. They're going to think we're terrible." I had more of those feelings then like were a flash in the pan and I don't know if that was just like naivete or whenever you want to call it. It might've been -- but no, it's interesting, like when working on the startup, I just never had a feeling we were going to fail, not that we were going to be successful. Like once we launched, it was like, "No, this thing's going to work. Like I'm not sure exactly at what scale, but people like it."
Jordan Harbinger: [00:10:40] Yeah.
Kevin Systrom: [00:10:41] I probably should have been a little bit more worried.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:10:44] Would that have served you at all? I don't know. It seems like – great, so you get less sleep. I mean, what's the point?
Kevin Systrom: [00:10:49] And we didn't have time to worry. That's another thing.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:10:53] What would that have done? Like, "Hey, don't get excited. All that passion that's keeping you through all these hard times, get rid of that because we want to temper your expectations." Like there's no room for that really.
Kevin Systrom: [00:11:01] I think things are either positive feedback loops or negative feedback. Just like, what's the phrase? Like you're either living or you're dying. You're either like growing and this thing's a positive feedback loop and it's spreading and people are retaining and it's good, or it's a leaky bucket, in which case, that's pretty clear pretty quickly. It's rare that it's somewhere in the middle and you can't tell. So I just like, it was growing and then the question was like, how do we not screw this thing up?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:11:28] Yeah. I mean, you stayed for six years. Even after the acquisition. I looked at other companies and how long the founders stay and it's like three months, six months, one year, two years, sometimes.
Kevin Systrom: [00:11:39] I think the PayPal founder like Peter Thiel, I think left the day after the acquisition or something.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:11:44] Geez, rich, that’s funny.
Kevin Systrom: [00:11:46] Listen, I don't know him and I don't know their reasons for staying or leaving. That's not my point actually. I think the YouTube founders were there for a while.
[00:11:54] Yeah. We were in like three standard deviations out beyond -- I think I haven't done a study. I guess I could now with all the time but not going to. People often ask why. The answer is really simple. I had the coolest job in the entire world. Like running Instagram, I still think like that period of time at Instagram was -- I don't know if you love what I love, which is social media, creating something that people use, creativity, creating an awesome brand, blah, blah, blah. That was the coolest job to have for those six years. I couldn't think of anything else in the entire world I'd rather be doing. And yeah, it's like it was an epic, epic ride. I think everything has an expiration date, like, you know, no one stays doing everything forever.
[00:12:45] And with life, I think goals changed too, which is like, you want to work on other things. I'm not going to name the person, but I want to talk to a very famous musician, who's like in a very, very famous band. Think, like not a modern band, but like the ‘70s, okay. And they were just crushing it and this person was on the top of their game and all they wanted to do was talk about their new musical projects, not that thing in the past. And I think even people at the pinnacle there, and I'm not saying we were like that band or anything, but like I realized there's just a certain amount of like you’re a person and there's new stuff out there and you want to do new things. And when priorities changed at the company internally, it shows that even more clearly.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:13:31] How was Paul McCartney in person?
Kevin Systrom: [00:13:34] I've never met Paul McCartney unfortunately.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:13:36] Decent guess though.
Kevin Systrom: [00:13:37] Yeah.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:13:37] I would just have trouble staying, knowing that I've got all these resources now and being like, my wife wants to have more kids and I can go skiing every single day. Like going and doing something for a while would start -- there's a very finite amount of patience I would have for like finding parking at the Facebook building and like waiting in Palo Alto traffic. I'd be like, okay --
Kevin Systrom: [00:13:58] I want to try to get in my building, and the security guard asked if I was there for an interview and I was like, "No, I run it."
Jordan Harbinger: [00:14:05] Your own building.
Kevin Systrom: [00:14:06] Yeah, it was a bit surreal, but we became good friends after. He was a very nice security guard.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:14:11] He was just doing his job.
Kevin Systrom: [00:14:12] He's just doing his job. But I guess I looked professional. I guess maybe I was wearing a tie that day or something. I don't know. I used to wear ties. That was a weird period of life. But no, I actually think that's one of the more dangerous things about having any amount of money at all, is just becoming intolerant of some of the harder things of life, like waiting, you know?
[00:14:38] I think it's dangerous and I think you have to live as normal life as you possibly can, no matter what your level of success. You have to face that life isn't easy. It's not handed to you. It doesn't mean you shouldn't optimize the crap out of it. You should. But it's like staying normal is half the game.
Jason DeFillippo: [00:14:59] You're listening to The Jordan Harbinger Show. We'll be right back.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:15:02] This episode is sponsored in part by Motley Fool. The market is going bonkers right now in case you haven't noticed. The Motley Fool, these guys, I have been listening to their podcast for a while. They have a stock advisor, and these guys really know the market. They know how to evaluate stocks, learn how to invest with confidence, and there's a fun community there that can help you achieve the goal. And right now if you've been thinking, I want to learn how to buy and trade stocks, now is pretty damn good time to do it. There's a lot of money going in and out of the market, and each month, Tom and Dave over from Motley Fool, they choose a stock recommendation that comes to the full analysis and a risk profile. And they've got all these recommendations from the past where they choose 10 best buys now every month. There's timely opportunities from the past recommendations and The Motley Fool stock advisor has won a bunch of awards. There's a lot of people that I've learned a ton from this. Look, I'm not saying buy this and learn how to beat the market. These guys are just really sharp. They can teach you how to invest. They're pretty darn good at it, and a lot of you are sitting at home watching your portfolio drain or trying to figure out where to throw your money into the market. And that's not something you just want to Google. So go ahead and check them out. Jason, tell them where they can find a deal on Motley Fool.
Jason DeFillippo: [00:16:10] They can check out The Motley Fool stock advisor at fool.com/jordan. That's F-O-O-L.com/jordan and try it out for just $99 that's just $1.90 a week, $99 for one year of unlimited access. If you're not satisfied, just cancel within 30 days. That's fool.com/jordan.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:16:28] This episode is also sponsored by Podia. Now's a pretty darn good time to launch an online business. If you've been toying with the idea from firsthand experience, I can tell you that one of the best ways to earn money from your expertise is of course by doing courses online, selling online courses, downloads, memberships. One of the easiest ways to do that is with Podia. Podia is an all-in-one platform that lets you sell courses, downloads, and memberships. It replaces half a dozen tools for many creators by putting your products, payments, email marketing, affiliate marketing, all that in one place, and you get 15 percent off for life by signing up for your free 14-day trial at podia.com/jordan. That's P-O-D-I-A.com/jordan.
Jason DeFillippo: [00:17:09] Thanks for listening and supporting the show and to learn more and get links to all the great discounts you just heard from our amazing sponsors, 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. 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 that you get all of the latest episodes downloaded automatically to your podcast player so you don't miss a single thing. And now back to the show.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:17:44] How do you keep yourself in check then? Do you have a process where like, "Wait, am I really getting this pen out of shape about this? Or --
Kevin Systrom: [00:17:51] I think the second you ask yourself like, "Am I in check?" You're like one of the good ones. No one who has to ask themselves that, ask themselves that. Does that make sense?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:18:02] Yeah, totally does. It's like the Hollywood thing, like, "Am I being a dick?" "No. Because of the fact that you asked, that means you're at least like one toe is still in the ground." It's the guy who goes ballistic at the check-in clerk.
Kevin Systrom: [00:18:13] Yeah. I don't know. I think everyone has blind spots and maybe I don't see stuff, but I think it's almost good not to be at the company anymore and running it anymore because it allows you to see one, like who are your friends who were like there because they're actually your friends. And then who are other people that just have the fact that you had a title or a position or they wanted something out of you, or it's been great to realize how many people are actually there because they like you. But also to stay grounded cause you're like, yeah, like you can't get verified anymore by bugging.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:18:41] I was just going to say, and how many people have stopped bugging you for a blue checkmark?
Kevin Systrom: [00:18:45] Unfortunately not many. I still get messages every day and I'm like, "I don't work there. I’m sorry."
Jordan Harbinger: [00:18:51] I have as much power as you do now, buddy. Apply. Here's the link.
Kevin Systrom: [00:18:54] I know people, but you know, -- you don't have to be careful.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:18:57] Yeah. You don't have to let that bit of knowledge go. Is there anything that --
Kevin Systrom: [00:19:00] I feel like everyone is verified now.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:19:02] I noticed that. I look and I'm like, "Oh, what does this person do?" Wait, they're the blogger --
Kevin Systrom: [00:19:06] It says influencer or something or blogger, and I'm like, "Oh, okay."
Jordan Harbinger: [00:19:10] I mean, I'm like one standard deviation to the left of that, but yeah.
Kevin Systrom: [00:19:15] That's fine. It is what it is.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:19:18] The checkmark has lost all meaning, maybe. Is there anything that you did look at when you finally got the payout where you're like, "I'm finally going to buy this." I always wonder, like when I talked to like rock stars, I'm like, "What was the first thing you bought?"
Kevin Systrom: [00:19:30] Laundry because I was living in an apartment, didn't have a laundry machine and we had to log everything like three blocks. And by the way, San Francisco for those listening that don't live in San Francisco. Very few people realize that summer here is winter and it's just like, it's rainy. It's fun. It's character building. You go off on the weekend and my girlfriend at the time, now wife, just log all our stuff down. But the first thing was like, "We're getting 2 laundry machines." Because if one breaks down, that's like you want to be able to do darks and whites.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:20:07] At the same time.
Kevin Systrom: [00:20:08] Exactly. Cut your time in half. You think I'm joking. But that was like -- we ended up looking for a place to live in the same area we were before. I remember the real estate agent and being like, "And it has two washers and dryers," and we just like our jaws were on the floor.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:20:25] Yes. Give me that. Where do I sign?
Kevin Systrom: [00:20:27] I guess I'm a simple person in some way. I don't know. I wish it was like, I could say like, "Oh, Goldstream," but no, not even that.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:20:34] I was like, did you price islands? And then they're like, "Dang, these things are really expensive "
Kevin Systrom: [00:20:36] No, no. It was like -- man, how great would it be to have two washers and dryers? It sounds silly, like it’s amazing.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:20:45] Yeah. Well, I'm doing laundry on the west wing because I'm watching TV in here and I want to hear the buzzer. Do you have FOMO now at all? Like Instagram is sort of intimately associated with FOMO, right? I don't even know what that word, that term was before people started using it, and I'm wondering if it's affected you at all.
Kevin Systrom: [00:21:03] Yeah, but not in the way you'd expect. Like we just had a kid, so we have, I guess seven weeks of this point. I might have to go and count it. It feels like it changes too quickly, but basically, that meant that over the holidays, everyone was like doing their amazing holiday trips and everyone's ever -- and we were like inside with a screaming baby. It's raining you, we're going nowhere. So there is a little bit of FOMO. So I was like, "Okay Nicole, let's just delay the holidays. We still celebrated everything, but let's just take our holiday vacation once we can." So we went last week and we went to Hawaii and it was great. And by the way, more people should do this because like no one else went there.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:21:41] Everything's cheaper.
Kevin Systrom: [00:21:42] Everything's cheaper, everything's great. Like no one's there. You have the whole place to yourself. I can't remember what the question was, but I told an interesting story.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:21:48] It was do you still get FOMO.
Kevin Systrom: [00:21:49] Oh, do I still get FOMO? So yeah, there was that a little bit, but no, I feel like I've done -- I've been to the Oscars. I've done the -- It's all super fun and it's really interesting. But like, you do it once and you're just like, okay, like to start to really like hanging out with your family. I now think about what really interesting places on earth I want to travel. And you know, with little kids you're just a little bit more restricted. So my list is growing. Let's just put it that way.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:22:19] Are there places you feel like you can't go because you're too high profile? I know that sounds kind of ridiculous because you're like what I found in an app, you know?
Kevin Systrom: [00:22:26] No, again, I’m not running the thing. Like we'd have these moments where -- I don’t know, I'd be on the cover of some magazine and there'd be like a month where I would walk into a place and people would like -- I don’t know -- point or like you could just tell when you walk in, they get quiet and they're like talking about their friends --
Jordan Harbinger: [00:22:45] "It’s the founder of Instagram."
Kevin Systrom: [00:22:46] But now that doesn't happen anymore. I feel so nice and I'm so thankful that podcasts don't have visuals or I guess we have visuals.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:22:54] Except for all these cameras. Yeah, ignore the cameras and lighting.
Kevin Systrom: [00:22:57] No, I think one of the most amazing things is to be able to create something with a team. That’s really special in the world. But also to be able to have your personal freedom and just go out, to eat, and not be bothered. And I know that's not the case for a lot of people.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:23:12] That's true. Yeah. It's hard for a lot of people to feel bad for those people because they go, "Oh weh, weh, weh, you're rich and famous. It must be so hard." But I would imagine it's a huge pain. We were talking before my videographer, Nathanial and I. We're talking before this. He's like, "All right, I'm not a conspiracy theory guy, but if you're that rich, wouldn't you want to fake your own death just so you could live a normal life?" And like, "I don't think it works that way, but it's not like --"
Kevin Systrom: [00:23:36] That was the briefing for this briefing?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:23:37] That was the briefing for this. Like do you think Kevin will eventually fake his own death so he can live a normal life?
Kevin Systrom: [00:23:43] No. I don't know what a normal life is first. Meaning I don't think anyone does. Everyone thinks like, "I think I live a pretty normal life." But the second thing is you know you just got to be your own person. Love what you love. And I mean, do the things that bring you passion and be kind of like, don't apologize for it.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:24:02] On a serious note though, you've built some serious generational wealth, which is awesome. I wonder, has this added pressure to your life in some way? Because now you've got to -- I put got in air quotes -- it's like you have to do something very grand or it's like a waste, you know? And I don't know if this is, again, not my opinion, but there's a whole body of people like Bill Gates is saying things like, "If you die wealthy, you've failed." I don’t know. Is it Bill Gates or Warren Buffett? Somebody said, "If you die wealthy, you fail." And it's like, give away all your money at the end of the day. Start some crazy charity and make some sort of world-changing thing happen. And you see it a lot. You see a lot of people doing this. Do you feel that added stress of any kind?
Kevin Systrom: [00:24:41] Well, first off, so I don't want to jinx myself. I'm 36 so I still think I have some time--
Jordan Harbinger: [00:24:45] Tons of times.
Kevin Systrom: [00:24:46] Yeah. Like the people you're quoting are not 36 so I think they're thinking about other things. The thing I think mostly about is -- the big pressure -- is what do I want to do with the other 36 years or 60 years. Maybe that's way harder than like. Signing a paper that says, "When I die, all this goes to some foundation." Like that's an easy --
Jordan Harbinger: [00:25:07] That’s an easy way out.
Kevin Systrom: [00:25:09] Yeah. Like that's easy. So I think having an impact in the world while you're still living is the hardest thing to figure out, especially when you've had something like Instagram was chapter one, right?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:25:18] That's my question.
Kevin Systrom: [00:25:20] I don’t know, there's this hot dog stand I've always been dreaming about, and it's got like a really good recipe. I think that's way harder and it's way harder to be a beginner again at stuff. When I left Instagram, I decided that I didn't want to work on tech, but I wanted to learn something and I wanted to work my brain hard, so I learned to fly. It was like a dream of mine. It was on the list. I looked at the list and I was like, "Yeah, that's the thing because that's going to be hard." And what I learned was, man, like everything's hard, whether super impactful or not. Like learning to fly was just as hard as learning to program. But like learning the program for me like allowed me to create things for other people that then hopefully improve their lives in some way. And learning to fly was really fun because I don’t know, it's a cool hobby, but like. I can't create an Instagram out of learning to fly. If that makes sense.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:26:05] It’s not very scalable.
Kevin Systrom: [00:26:06] There are some cool companies working in the flying space right now. You mean like personal transports and stuff with like electric vertical takeoff and landing. It's super cool.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:26:14] That stuff is cool,
Kevin Systrom: [00:26:15] But you actually don't need to be a pilot to start that company. Anyway, backing up, I'll say figuring out what to do with your time to make a meaningful impact on the world, that's super interesting and tough. But the one thing that I think people forget is we all live life day-to-day, and it feels like every second is a minute. Like you got to figure out what to do for this podcast and you've got to figure out this other thing, and then you've got to get home and your kids got to go see, and it feels like a giant day, and that is a fraction of a fraction of your life. And that like maybe great ideas take a year, or maybe they take five years, or maybe they take 10 years to germinate. You'd never really know. And you have to kind of be patient. And I think that's what I'm learning through these processes that I want to spend my time doing really fun stuff that I love. That's hard. So it's going to have some not so fun stuff involved, but it's got to be an area I cared deeply about and hopefully it impacts more than just me. It impacts a lot of people. But Instagram was a good one, and if that's the only one I ever have, then so be it.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:27:18] Yeah. You can always like be like the troop leader for your --
Kevin Systrom: [00:27:21] It's fine. Troop leaders, they're like, yeah, it's --
Jordan Harbinger: [00:27:23] It’s super important. People don't really realize that.
Kevin Systrom: [00:27:25] I'm definitely going to coach soccer at some point for sure.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:27:28] There's some bad soccer dads -- to get to keep it together.
Kevin Systrom: [00:27:29] Okay. Yeah. I'll read a book first.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:27:32] I know that's your thing. After the show, I'll go over your book reading strategy. I didn't want to ask you about it because it's kind of out there already.
Kevin Systrom: [00:27:39] Okay it’s fair.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:27:40] I will go over it because you're the only person I know who reads books about how to read books.
Kevin Systrom: [00:27:45] Well, there's only one book that's about how to read books from what I know. But yes, it was Metta.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:27:50] Yeah, very much so. Was there a part of you that maybe left a little bit of your identity in Instagram? I know leaving a company sometimes it's like, "Crap, who am I without being this person? Like the CEO, you're still the founder, nobody can take that away from you, but if you're not doing that day-to-day today, it's like, "Well, crap, I have like this little identity crisis, like get up in the morning and I'm not sure if am I the same person." I had that when I started a new company and it was kind of this weird, surreal experience that I didn't expect.
Kevin Systrom: [00:28:18] Yeah, the answer is yes and no, but like, let me explain. I think -- I may be wrong here -- but I think 95 percent of it is being the co-founder of Instagram. That will remain true for the rest of my life. We had a great run. We created something really special. We grew it to a massive size. People were very, I think, happy with it where we left it and like 5 percent of it was just like temporary. You happen to have this title. You happen to like be able to hire people. That is far less important than thinking back on the memory of the time that we spent building it into what it is today. And you know, at least that's how I, that's my mental framework for it. It is freeing to say, "Okay, but now I can do anything."
[00:29:10] Like you could start a different company in social media, or you could decide social media has never for me and I'm going to go work in, I don't know, philanthropy or politics or something. Like, I'm just going to do something completely different. And that's really interesting. When you realize that you're one of a few people who get to have a chapter two. A lot of people don't. You feel really super grateful for that.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:29:32] I would imagine it's hard for somebody as competitive as you to slow down. Do you find that?
[00:29:36] Kevin Systrom: [00:29:36] Yeah. Like, yeah, my wife pokes fun at me. I don't go at things in cruise control. It's definitely there in full throttle or nothing at all.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:29:45] Yeah, I mean you, we were just talking about reading a book to learn how to read books better so you don't seem like the kind of guy who’s like, "I'm just going to wing this one."
Kevin Systrom: [00:29:52] But I'm not like -- see there's a difference between being competitive and being challenge-oriented. I don't think I'm super competitive, meaning like I don't wake up in the morning and try to crush other people. Like that's not my -- but I do wake up in the mornings thinking like, "Okay, if my fastest mile time was X, how can I get in down 30 seconds?" We're all the crazy ways to get there and that's really fun for me.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:30:15] That's healthier though because that's you versus yourself. Whereas I think your previous example was kind of you versus the world, which might be a little bit unhealthy.
Kevin Systrom: [00:30:24] Yeah. But it can be challenging at times because sometimes you wake up and like -- I was like really hard on myself about the flying thing because I was like, "Oh, I got to be good at this." I got my license in like three months. And that's like a really short amount of time.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:30:38] Yes it sounds scary.
Kevin Systrom: [00:30:39] Well, no, it's like I had more hours than you usually have. In fact, it's fine. But I was frustrated. It took so long and someone was like, "Dude, most people take like a year. Chill out." And sometimes you forget that in the process. You forget to give me like maybe cut yourself a little slack. But I think it's important to -- sometimes we would be really -- I'll give you an example as it relates to Instagram. We were really hard on ourselves about things going wrong at the company or just like how we were running it or the mistakes we had made. But then we'd go meet with other companies who will remain nameless and they'd ask for advice and we will be like, "Well, this, this and this." And you'd realize really quickly, actually, like as broken as some things were at the company, you were still operating like maybe a good head and shoulders above some other people. Not everyone. There were some really great companies out there, but I think that when your yardstick is your own, you can forget that the yardstick is really big.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:31:38] That's true. You kind of losing sight of, "Hey, we're in the 99th percentile."
Kevin Systrom: [00:31:41] I'm waiting for that to become a t-shirt.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:31:43] What’s that?
Kevin Systrom: [00:31:44] When your yardstick is your -- that doesn't make any sense. Sorry, everyone.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:31:48] It’s a good bumper sticker or the worst bumper sticker.
Jason DeFillippo: [00:31:51] You're listening to The Jordan Harbinger Show. We'll be right back after this.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:31:57] This episode is sponsored in part by Fiverr. I've been using this website for ages now. It's great for finding freelance talent for your business or for your project, so sometimes you need to scale quickly, or maybe you have this weird obstacle like, how do I set up an outlook server that supports, Y, Z, or how do I get this graphic design for this specific format? Fiverr has a ton of that, and the prices are all upfront, so you don't have to negotiate for different things. You can find the right freelancer without spending a ton of time. On Fiverr, you can search by service deadline, price, reviews, and more. 24/7 customer service, and you can quickly find the talent that you're counting on and definitely check those ratings. Make sure you're getting what you want. Jace.
Jason DeFillippo: [00:32:38] Check out fiverr.com today and receive 10 percent off your first order by using our code JORDAN. It's so easy. Find all the digital services you need in one place at F-I-V-E-R-R.com and use code JORDAN. Again, that's fiverr.com, use code JORDAN.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:32:53] This episode is also sponsored by Better Help. Do you know what doesn't help anxiety? Trying to find a freaking therapist. The last thing you need during a mental breakdown is having to go through an insane list of Yelp reviews to find someone who will listen to you. Lucy gave this therapist five stars, but Pam gave her one, which is it? I just want to talk about my corona-induced breakup, dammit. Then you finally do find one. You've got to drive and traffic to a sterile -- well, hopefully sterile -- office building. Pray that you don't have to make forced eye contact with a stranger who has more diplomas on their wall than ideas on how to fix your freaking problems. And now you can't even leave the house. So you're kind of stuck. Pam was right. There's an easier way, Better Help online counseling. They have licensed professional counselors. There's 3000-plus all over the world and plenty in every state. They can help me with depression, stress, anxiety, relationships, family conflict, all of which I think a lot of us are going through right now. Connect with your professional counselor in a safe and private online environment. Everything's obviously confidential. Get help at your own time, your own pace, video or phone sessions, chat or text. If you're not happy with your counselor, you can request a new one at any time. Jason.
Jason DeFillippo: [00:33:58] Our listeners get 10 percent off the first month with a discount code JORDAN. Go to betterhelp.com/jordan and fill out a short questionnaire to help them find the right counselor for you and get started today. That's betterhelp.com/jordan.
[00:34:11] Thank you for listening and supporting the show. Your support of our advertisers keeps us on the air to learn more and get links to all the great discounts you just heard, so you can check out those amazing sponsors, visit jordanharbinger.com/deals. And 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 back to the show.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:34:39] You have kids now, as we've talked about before, how do you feel about their use of social media? I mean, look, I think your kid's seven weeks old.
Kevin Systrom: [00:34:46] I love this question because I'm like, it's easy. They're really young and you don't use social media. And by the time they're old enough to use social media, it's going to be a completely different thing.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:34:55] Totally.
Kevin Systrom: [00:34:56] Well, I’ll answer this artfully.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:34:59] Yeah. This is great. I expected you to do this.
Kevin Systrom: [00:35:02] Thank you. Let's talk about their use of technology. It starts simple, right? Like my daughter loves to color, she loves to color, but the markers get everywhere and it's all over a rug. So I figured out that there are these digital tablets where literally you just color all you want and then press a button that clears the page and she loves it. I'm like, isn't this such a better solution than markers all over the rug? And then I'm just thinking, my experience with technology as a kid was that it was a good thing. It was a fun way to explore what you could build. And I think treating technology as this soul-sucking, windowless world -- like that's really sad. That's a really pessimistic view of technology. I think it's all in what are the experiences we give our kids when they're using technology. So are we letting them watch vapid cartoons or are we allowing them to -- you know, my daughter loves hippos. I don't know why. She's obsessed with them.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:35:58] I mean, kids love hippos, right?
Kevin Systrom: [00:36:00] But l she's especially excited about hippos. We were watching videos of hippos at different zoos and we spent a bunch of time and she was asking questions. That's such an important experience. My point is technology can enable important experiences like that, I guess if watching hippos is important.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:36:18] Yeah, I totally understand that.
Kevin Systrom: [00:36:20] It's not a black or white issue. I think it's like, it's in your control how these things get used.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:36:25] What do you think about like TikTok and the fact that that's owned by the Chinese Communist Party and all that stuff? Would you let your kids use something like that if they were old enough? It's kind of a sticky wicket.
Kevin Systrom: [00:36:35] Yeah, that's a really good question. I honestly -- I don't know enough to answer that question. It's not really relevant because I'm not sure -- listen, I'm sure TikTok is great and I'm sure all these apps -- Instagram, Facebook, et cetera. I will be happy if Instagram is still around and kicking when my daughter is of the age to use it. That would be a good thing. And I think it’s unprecedented in terms of social media. Yeah, I think you're probably right.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:37:00] Oh, also off the record, it looks like you stopped using Instagram and then I Googled it and it's like, oh, he deleted all his posts. Like what? Is that a thing you can talk about or is it just like you just stop using it?
Kevin Systrom: [00:37:10] Okay. There’s a couple of things? One, this is still on the record. We're rolling.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:37:13] Okay. Yeah, we're rolling. I just would cut it out. Okay. Did you delete your Instagram?
Kevin Systrom: [00:37:17] No. No. Two is I use Instagram more than any app. I browse Instagram a lot. That doesn't mean I post. I went back to my profile and I just decided I wanted my profile to represent me and my family and what I did in life. So I just got a button or got rid of a bunch of like the more, "Hey, I'm the CEO and I'm doing a PSA on this thing" posts because I just, I felt like it wasn't representative of what I was doing now. But it wasn't like, yeah, I don't know. People like to watch things and read into things. I'm not posting on Instagram right now, mostly just because like I think when you're not in it, you just want to take a step back and be able to do whatever you want, not feel like you got to post about it with the hashtag that's clever. I love that people love using Instagram and posting to it. It's great. But I'm just in more of maybe a private period where that's not as much for me, but I'm happy to share it.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:38:12] Okay. That's good. Yeah. Then I'll leave it in because people were wondering. I thought maybe you deleted the one with your plane because it's like, "Well if they have that number they can see where I'm at." And that's kind of weird. because they can track your plane.
Kevin Systrom: [00:38:24] Well, two things, one, that's not my plane. It was a rental and two, you can block those numbers.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:38:30] Oh I didn't know that. That's cool.
Kevin Systrom: [00:38:32] It's all good.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:38:32] What do you think are the responsibilities of a platform in terms of free speech and moderating comments and content? Because you guys were great at knocking out bullies. How many people have used Instagram and they're like, "I had an awful experience there." Maybe younger people, but as adults you can go on Twitter now, guaranteed one out of a hundred experiences, you're going to have some craziness. Instagram, I can't even remember the last time somebody did something where I wasn't just like a crazy person, block and done.
Kevin Systrom: [00:39:00] Yeah. I mean, it's a delicate question because one, I'm no longer in a seat in which I'm able to affect it. I can still have opinions and I can probably, you know, sway things here or there. But let me put it this way, it's delicate. And I think the reason that's delicate is because you have to decide who is to blame. Is it the maker, the hoster or the doer? And I think at the end of the day, the doer, it's like, absolutely. Are you also going to hold Apple accountable for what people do on their computers?
[00:39:32] Okay, like some people might say, "Absolutely." And some people might say, "That sounds crazy," but there's like a line. What about the chipset manufacturers? Like are they liable? Like is it just the services? Is it certain teams at the services? Is it the executive? And I think that people should be responsible for their own behavior first and foremost. I think there should be laws governing that. I think we should probably be more strict about it. That gets complicated because these services are multinational, so your rules in Brazil are different than your rules in the US or different than your rules in Europe and you have to figure out all these rule sets. And so my point is, it's complicated to run, but holding services accountable for the content is where it gets tricky because that content was created by people, not the service. And those services are now running at a scale where it's not like you can go through every Instagram posts before it gets posted and say -- and by the way, they do in certain services, there are certain services in China where when people post, and it has to go through a vetting process and it gets reviewed by human reviewers. But like so far as a society, at least in the United States, we have made the decision that that is not the balance we want.
[00:40:46] So my more political answer would just be, I think we have to decide as a society where we want that line between freedom of expression and that fluidity of posting. The beautiful things that happen because of these services, do we want that to exist in its current form? Or do we believe the costs associated with people saying or doing whatever they want online are too great, so we should put more onus on the companies that host them? It's really difficult at scale. I mean, if you have to a point --
Jordan Harbinger: [00:41:18] I can imagine that.
Kevin Systrom: [00:41:18] -- whatever billion people posting every single day, and I'm not making excuses, I'm just saying --
Jordan Harbinger: [00:41:22] No, I don't take it that way at all. I don't know how the heck --
Kevin Systrom: [00:41:24] But for everyone listening, it's not about making excuses, it's just I think we as a society have to decide where do you want that line? Because there is a trade-off. And we can decide we want everything to be reviewed and we want everything seen before it goes out. On the scale of free creativity, meaning free expression and creativity, towards total censorship, I think generally the United States has fallen more on free expression and creativity and freedom of speech. But of course, this gets very complicated in certain instances and I'm not in the seat to make that decision right now.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:41:57] Of course, you're probably glad that you're not in the seat to make that decision. I don't know if I could handle that kind of responsibility.
Kevin Systrom: [00:42:03] I don’t know. I think it's super important for the world and I think anyone who makes those types of decisions have to take it super seriously and I hope they make the right ones.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:42:11] What do you think about the candidates that are like, "We got to break up big tech"? I mean, well this is tough because you're a shareholder of a big tech company. But aside from that, let me go first, it still seems like a weird, bad idea that doesn't have to happen, but I'm curious what you think.
Kevin Systrom: [00:42:26] I believe that people don't quite understand the problem that they're trying to solve. I think that in general, tech has been villainized for being big, and I think that's problematic because I think one of the things about this society here in the US is that we can create companies that scale to billions of people and that's rewarded. Isn't that exciting that that's happening here? Not overseas, not anywhere else, like here. And it's people that go to college and you know, a year later, they're creating massive value in the world that changes all of our lives. It's not like people hate these services. I mean, they use them every day, right? So being big doesn't feel like a crime itself, and that's what strikes me as hard to just say, "Break them all up."
[00:43:14] That doesn't feel right. Because it's like, okay, if you could point out what you're solving by doing that. Is it creating more competition and advertising? Is it creating more freedom for consumers to choose? What is it that you're trying to do? I think I'd be more excited to entertain those ideas, but when it feels like just an indictment of all tech, that just shows me that the critical thinking hasn't happened and then it worries me more that we're playing with political agenda than we are solving real problems, which is what I think we want our representatives to do. But you know, like everything, people say, build the wall and then it's not clear the wall gets built. So we'll see how much of this becomes a reality. And at the end of the day, all I hope is that it reflects the wants and the desires and the will of the people that elect these folks. If that's true, then we're in a good space.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:44:05] That's a really good answer. Did you wing that or have you answered this before?
Kevin Systrom: [00:44:08] I don't do many questions about this.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:44:11] That was a great answer. I don't think I really -- I am impressed by that answer. That really happens. So you want a --
Kevin Systrom: [00:44:16] It's true though.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:44:17] Yeah, I agree with --
Kevin Systrom: [00:44:18] People forget that you elect people to carry out the will of the people, and if everyone in the United States is like, "We want to break up tech because it's the right thing," then maybe it's the right thing to do. But I don't think that's what most people think.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:44:31] No, I think to me it seems like it's a good sort of way to say, "Hey look, we're going to punch that big tall guy in the face." That's what people want to do. "Yeah. You screw big tech." They're not like, "Hey, if we break these up. Then they won't sell our data in these harmful ways." "No, we're just going to have 30 smaller companies that sell our data in whatever way they want." It'd be harder to regulate if anything else.
Kevin Systrom: [00:44:51] Well, I'll tell you, maybe a closing thought on this is that I think, wealth disparity has a fair amount to do with this. And if you know, there are people who've done studies is on populism throughout time -- and I've read these things -- and it's pretty striking the themes that come about that when wealth disparity increases and populism increases, you tend to get these radical views of making big changes, and sometimes that leads to productive outcomes. I just really hope in the current situation that we can find a way to keep the amazing value that's been created by some of these companies. Think about like all the value Amazon brings to people's lives, Google. I want to make sure that America remains the center of that type of innovation and that's rewarded and that we have all the right checks and balances to make sure that with great power comes great responsibility. But to squander, that would just be like a sad day in history for the United States, right?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:45:48] I think so. I know you don't know what you're going to do next, but are we thinking more along the lines of new technology, new app, or are we thinking more along the lines of like full Tony Stark?
Kevin Systrom: [00:45:59] And with that I will decline to answer. It was so much fun.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:46:02] This is fun.
Kevin Systrom: [00:46:03] Yeah. Thanks.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:46:06] Thanks to Kevin for coming out and thanks to Kevin Rapp and Nathaniel Gertus, and Kevin Rose for helping make this one happen.
[00:46:12] During the show we mentioned a book called The Goal by Goldratt. We'll link to that in the show notes. Essentially the thesis of that is that any system is most constrained by the slowest process. The assembly line can only move as fast as the slowest process. The slowest person in an organization limits the progress of the whole, and this applies to decision making as well. If everything routes through you as the CEO or as the founder of a startup or the boss in your company or your unit, this is the equivalent of inventory stacking up in front of a machine on an assembly line. Do not be the limiting factor in your business. You can find out more by getting The Goal by Goldratt.
[00:46:49] When you buy books, by the way, through our show notes, you do support the show. We get in a little bit of a change. It's not much, but every little bit counts and sometimes we donate the whole stinking lot to charity. So if you do decide to buy the books you hear on the show, please do so through the show notes, which are at jordanharbinger.com.
[00:47:05] Another thing I promised you that I'm going to put in detail in the worksheets, Kevin's reading, how to read or learning how to read. We'll throw that process in the worksheets for today's episode, so make sure you go grab those as well. There was so much that I didn't get a chance to ask Kevin. Maybe another time.
[00:47:21] Of course, I think it's a lot of luck, not just that he succeeded based on luck, but luck that his co-founder and him saw eye-to-eye. They didn't have a ton of fights and had meltdowns, not just the market, not just the phone progress, the camera progressed on the phone. It's not just that they had stumbled upon lightning in a bottle but actually, they didn't implode based on their own self-sabotage. Co-founders and having co-founders, it's like a business marriage. Most people don't realize they're in a business marriage until there are a few months or a few years into the relationship.
[00:47:52] I also got some hiring and management advice from Kevin. "You want to hire people that are much better than you, regardless of their background or experience." I thought that was fascinating. You'd have to ask yourself, could you see yourself working for them in the future? Not just, well, I can get him to work for me. Could you work for them? That's going to be important because they're going to be managing other people in the organization most likely, and you're going to have to work with them. You want the feedback and the direction to go both ways. Other advice to entrepreneurs is to solve a problem. Ideas are not companies. They are not products you need to solve a problem. Does your product, does your service, does your idea -- do people feel relieved that what you have created now exists? That's the question that you need to answer.
[00:48:36] Other advice that he gave regarding simplicity. "The best products are usually built on personal experiences from your past." That's a quote from him here. This experience he had in Florence, Italy directly impacted how he went on to design Instagram. That experience we talked about with his professor, giving him a cheap camera and telling him, keep it simple. Just the basics. And filters, those are his wife's ideas. She said, "Well, I liked the idea of a photo app, but I'm not good at taking photos. Your friends, so-and-so, his photos are great." And Kevin said, "Well, he uses filters. So that's why his photos looked so good." And she said, "Well, then you should put filters in the app." Ta-dah Instagram. Unbelievable. This did for the app at scale what, of course, filters were doing for individuals who were spending hours doing it, and that was what Kevin was talking about when he said, "We took what you can do in Photoshop through hours. You can now do in a half a second or a few milliseconds, just absolutely a brilliant simple play."
[00:49:30] And one main lesson that we didn't harp on too much, but I thought was worth repeating. Actually, do the thing. Start it. Do something. Nothing can substitute for real experience. If you want to be a founder, especially a tech founder, you have to start a startup. You can't learn about investing without investing. Real experience is better than books. However, of course, Kevin does love books, and again, we'll have his system for reading in the worksheets. We'll outline that very specifically. Last, but not least. I thought of a little funny little story to end with, which we've run out of time. He's met the Pope. He showed the Pope Instagram and got the Pope on Instagram, and it just kind of reinforces my idea of where my question of what the heck do you do when you retire at 30 whatever, 33 or 34 at that time. And you've got one point something billion dollars. You've already met the Pope. What the heck do you do? A lot of pressure there. Kevin, thank you for your time today. This was absolutely amazing.
[00:50:24] Remember you all there's a video of this interview on our YouTube channel at jordanharbinger.com/youtube. And also in the show notes, there are worksheets for every episode, including this one, so you can review what you learned here today from Kevin Systrom. We also now have transcripts for each episode and those can be found in the show notes as well.
[00:50:41] I'm teaching you how to connect with great people and manage relationships using systems and tiny habits over in our Six-Minute Networking course. That's completely free over at jordanharbinger.com/course. Now, I know you want to do it later. I know you want to kick that can down the road, but you cannot make up for the lost time when it comes to relationships and networking. The number one mistake I see people make is postponing this and not digging the well before they get thirsty. Once you need relationships, you might be too late to make them. Procrastination leads to stagnation. You know it's true cause it rhymes. So make sure you get on this. These drills take just a few minutes per day. If I'd known this 20 years ago, well I'd be broadcasting right now from my freaking yacht. It's not fluff. It's crucial. And you can find it for free at jordanharbinger.com/course.
[00:51:27] By the way, most of the guests on the show, they actually subscribe to the course and the newsletter. So come join us. You'll be in smart company. Speaking of building relationships, you can always reach out and/or follow me on social at @JordanHarbinger on both Twitter and of course, Instagram.
[00:51:41] This show is created in association with PodcastOne. This episode is produced by Jen Harbinger and Jason DeFillippo, engineered by Jase Sanderson, show notes and worksheets by Robert Fogarty, music by Evan Viola. I'm your host @JordanHarbinger. Our advice and opinions, and those of our guests are their own. And yeah, I'm a lawyer, but I'm not your lawyer. I'm sure as heck, not a doctor or a therapist, not that you should need one after this conversation, but do your own research before implementing anything you hear on the show. And remember, we rise by lifting others. The fee for the show is that you share it with friends when you find something useful or interesting. And of course, this episode, whether it's somebody who left, a successful company or a not so successful company is going through a little bit of a shift or is maybe starting a startup. I would love it if you shared this episode with them. Share the show with those you love and share the show with those you don't. In the meantime, do your best to apply what you hear on the show, so you can live what you listen, and we'll see you next time.
[00:52:35] A lot of people ask me what shows I listened to, which other podcasts I listened to. I listened to The James Altucher Show pretty frequently and I've got James here today.
James Altucher: [00:52:43] Jordan, thanks so much for having me on.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:52:44] There's a show you did recently about how to find your passion, which I feel like is a question I get in some form every single week, possibly every single day. So I'd love to hear what you had to say in your episode about this.
James Altucher: [00:52:55] Yeah, I do a lot of episodes that revolve around the questions I'm also frequently asked and how to find your passion is a big one. And first off, I tell people, you don't have just one passion. Like I've changed passions over a dozen times in my career and I use all of them. All of the things I've been passionate about. It's how you combine them that really generates success. But you know, in that episode, I give a bunch of ways in which I've sort of found my passion, but the best way is to experiment with things. So if you're curious, "Oh, am I passionate about, I don't know, computer programming? Well, do an experiment where you write some software and, and you've spent very little money and you spend very little time, but there's an enormous upside to your career and to finding your passion and so on." So I discuss how to set up these experiments, how I've done it over the past 30 years. And found passions in writing, in computers and investing, and even in podcasting and experiments I'm currently working on now. So it was a fun episode.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:53:55] You can find that episode on the James Altucher Show anywhere you find your podcast. Thanks, James.
James Altucher: [00:54:00] Thanks.
Sign up to receive email updates
Enter your name and email address below and I'll send you periodic updates about the podcast.