The Tim Ferriss Show, Episode 7: Stephen Dubner, Co-Author of Freakonomics

43 Comments

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Stephen J. Dubner (@Freakonomics) is an award-winning author, journalist, and radio and TV personality.

He is best-known for writing, along with the economist Steven D. Levitt, Freakonomics (2005), SuperFreakonomics (2009), and Think Like a Freak (2014), which have sold more than 5 million copies in 35 languages.

In this podcast, we discuss dozens of topics, including: his writing process, religion, parenting, favorite documentaries, and much, much more.

I recommend checking out his new book, Think Like a Freak. If you liked the assumption-busting, myth-testing stories of Freakonomics or any of my books, you’ll enjoy it.

Click here to subscribe/listen to the show on iTunes.
Click here to subscribe to the show via RSS (non-iTunes feed).

If you have a second, please leave me an honest rating and review on iTunes by clicking here. It will help the show tremendously, including my ability to bring on more incredible guests. Thanks!

Please let Stephen (@Freakonomics) know what you enjoyed most.

Show notes are below, courtesy of reader Kasperi — thanks for posting in the comments!

Selected Show Notes and Links

Questions:

-How do you collaborate with your co-author getting the material together for a narrative?
-How do you make a good story? How does Stephen start brainstorming a story?
-How Stephen ended up choosing his own religion
-From the book, which two principles would Stephen most like to teach to his children?
-Discussion about Stephen’s children & Tim’s thoughts about family and kids
-As a mentor, how would Stephen improve his student’s thinking?
-Stephen talks about how it’s sometimes easier to learn from bad examples than great examples
-The surprising origin of the word ‘sophisticated’
-How to overcome “mental masturbation”– wasting mental energy on meaningless nonsense
-In the book, which were the principles that didn’t make it in, but could have made it in alternate universe?

Rapid fire questions:

-What are Stephen’s favorite movies/documentaries?
-What does the first hour of Stephen’s day look like?
-Does the clothing you wear affect your mood or attitude?
-What are Stephen’s favorite sources of reading material?
-If Stephen could provide his younger self one or two pieces of advice, what would those be?

Movies mentioned in episode:

Seven Up!
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0058578/

Websites mentioned:

New York Times
http://www.nytimes.com/

Wall Street Journal
http://online.wsj.com/

Marginal Revolution
http://marginalrevolution.com/

Freakonomics (Find Stephen here)
http://freakonomics.com/

Books mentioned:

Think Like A Freak

Levels of The Game

Companies/organizations mentioned:

Uber
http://www.uber.com

Quantified Self
http://quantifiedself.com/

Posted on: May 19, 2014.

Watch The Tim Ferriss Experiment, the new #1-rated TV show with "the world's best human guinea pig" (Newsweek), Tim Ferriss. It's Mythbusters meets Jackass. Shot and edited by the Emmy-award winning team behind Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations and Parts Unknown. Here's the trailer.

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43 comments on “The Tim Ferriss Show, Episode 7: Stephen Dubner, Co-Author of Freakonomics

  1. Stephen is a great writer, researcher and story teller; however, he is also a fantastic marketer. Freakonomics has become a brand in itself (these guys are consultants, speakers, academics . . . ) and Stephen’s relentless pushing will ensure its continued growth.

    If you have a slight edge on a relatively interesting topic, the Freakonomics model is a good one to emulate!

    Like

  2. Great episode, Tim!

    Show notes:

    -How do you collaborate with your co-author getting the material together for a narrative?
    -How do you make a good story? How does Stephen start brainstorming a story?
    -How Stephen ended up choosing his own religion (Judaism)
    -From the book, which two principles would Stephen most like to teach to his children?
    -Discussion about Stephen’s children & Tim’s thoughts about family and kids
    -As a mentor, how would Stephen improve his student’s thinking?
    -Stephen talks about how it’s sometimes easier to learn from bad examples than great examples
    -The surprising origin of the word ‘sophisticated’
    -How to overcome “mental masturbation”, wasting mental energy on meaningless nonsense
    -In the book, which were the principles that didn’t make it in, but could have made it in alternate universe?

    Rapid fire questions:

    -What are Stephen’s favorite movies/documentaries?
    -What does the first hour of Stephen’s day look like?
    -Does the clothing you wear affect your mood or attitude?
    -What are Stephen’s favorite sources of reading material?
    -If Stephen could provide his younger self one or two pieces of advice, what would those be?

    Movies mentioned in episode:

    Seven Up!
    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0058578/

    Websites mentioned:

    New York Times
    http://www.nytimes.com/

    Wall Street Journal
    http://online.wsj.com/

    Marginal Revolution
    http://marginalrevolution.com/

    Freakonomics (Find Stephen here)
    http://freakonomics.com/

    Books mentioned:

    Think Like A Freak

    Levels of The Game

    Companies/organizations mentioned:

    Uber
    http://www.uber.com

    Quantified Self
    http://quantifiedself.com/

    Like

      • You asked, we delivered (not on time, but with time)…
        Show notes copied above from Kasperi Apell; times are only approximate

        – [3:25] How do you collaborate with your co-author getting the material together for a narrative?
        – [7:30] How do you make a good story? How does Stephen start brainstorming a story?
        – [16:50] How Stephen ended up choosing his own religion (Judaism)
        – [28:40]From the book, which two principles would Stephen most like to teach to his children?
        – [33:50] Discussion about Stephen’s children & Tim’s thoughts about family and kids
        – [37:00] As a mentor, how would Stephen improve his student’s thinking?
        – [38:20] Stephen talks about how it’s sometimes easier to learn from bad examples than great examples
        – [42:30] The surprising origin of the word ‘sophisticated’
        – [43:35] How to overcome “mental masturbation”, wasting mental energy on meaningless nonsense
        – [49:45] In the book, which were the principles that didn’t make it in, but could have made it in alternate universe?

        Rapid fire questions:

        – [56:30] What are Stephen’s favorite movies/documentaries?
        – [57:40] What does the first hour of Stephen’s day look like?
        – [1:00:35] Does the clothing you wear affect your mood or attitude?
        – [1:03:15] What are Stephen’s favorite sources of reading material?
        – [1:05:50] If Stephen could provide his younger self one or two pieces of advice, what would those be?

        Like

  3. Crazy just finished the book and was going to recommend you get him on the podcast. Also keep doing as many of the small essay podcasts as you can do.

    Like

  4. The way he starts the day contradicts many suggestions from other people, that is, not to check email first thing in the morning.

    How can he wake up at 5 AM?

    Like

  5. I loved this one! #timtimtalktalk #4thewin

    My selfish and hopeful future podcast guests:
    Nate Silver
    Malcolm Gladwell
    Chris Anderson (TED)
    Dana White
    Dr. John Berardi (Precision Nutrition)
    John Borthwick (Betaworks)
    Peter Thiel
    Reid Hoffman
    Sean Parker
    Greg Glassman (CrossFit)
    Bill Maris
    MG Siegler
    Kevin Rose (again, but laser focused on the startup process, VC, Google ventures)
    Eric Friedman & James Park (Fitbit)

    Just to name a few…

    Like

    • Joe, I second your great list and would add:

      Robert Greene
      Chase Jarvis
      Walter Isaacson
      Gary Vaynerchuk

      Hopefully we can hear some of these great thinkers and doers in future episodes of #timtimtalktalk

      Like

  6. Parenting! You’ve just moved to the top of my to listen list, though I keep going back to the idea of being a more Stoic parent, so you’ve taught me something new about parenting without intending to!

    Like

  7. I would like to comment on the advice to the younger self: “do not be afraid” because my younger self had not understood the complexity of this little sentence.
    It is something people say often and these words are so misleading in my opinion. It does not seem that we are in control of this feeling, more that we are reacting to this feeling. My advice to my younger self would be: if you feel fear, watch it, notice it and try to find the source. In this fear might be something you desire most. Step up to it and do things you feel afraid of and not only things you feel comfortable with!
    Instead of doing nothing the result might be: – you fail, – you love it, – you like it, – you do not like it, – you change your mind, … but this will always take you further.

    Greetings from Germany!
    Heike

    Like

  8. Hi. I would like to read another book from Tim Ferriss with the title “The 4 Hour Investor”. Are there any plans in the pipe ? Would be another megaseller !

    Like

  9. Tim- Great podcast again! I’m downloading the Freakonomics books now. Really enjoying listening to these while I workout. Keep em coming!

    How’s the month of no alcohol going?

    Like

  10. Hi Tim,

    I am really enjoying your podcast so far. Keep up the great work. I also really enjoyed the short format show. On the short format episodes, it would be nice to see a breakdown of links like you have for your long episodes.

    Thanks and keep up the great work.

    Brad

    Like

  11. Only 20 comments on such a unique podcast surprises me.
    Tim is a “Maker” and that’s why these podcasts are exceptionnal.
    He doesn’t ask questions all interviewers ask again and again on the result.
    But dig into the “How” genius step by step make results.
    I loved at 7mn42sec Tim asks how Stephen brainstorms with the co-author…
    That’s a dream… finally a maker asks questions, and BTW Stephen Dubner clearly connected to Tim more and more during the interview.
    Real conversation… at a point Tim asks 55mn42sec for a part two and the voice of Stephen clearly shows he’s very enthusiastic to.
    These podcasts are unbelievable by their contents of course but even by teaching this art of communicating with great people.
    I always knew Tim’s perhaps biggest talent is learning from great people.
    Finally these podcasts are occasions to hear how he structures and articulates questions…
    I just want these podcasts to never end…
    And Tim is also tactful and alternates not easy questions like at 23mn53sec on the “influence of social environment… at New York that opens lot of conversations otherwise you wouldn’t have…” (at what Stephen starts by saying very good question) and lighter questions. Knows when stay silent for 5-6 minutes and when give his own opinion on the question.
    Every element to create real conversation and answers we would never have elsewhere.

    Tim, I hate compliment you so much like a groupie, but these podcasts are FANTASTIC and I mean it ;-)

    For your guests I hope iTunes gives you number of ALL your subscribers in all countries iTunes accounts and no underestimate how many listen to your podcasts.
    For example a quick tour of some iTunes countries on number of 5 stars comments on your “The Tim Ferriss Show” gives:
    474 comments USA
    67 Canada
    43 UK
    12 Germany
    6 France
    2 Ireland
    etc…
    After only 1 month start.

    Elon Musk is my dream guest, he’s a maker, so Tim asking his 80/20 questions to Elon Musk… If that episode happens, after I can die with a smile ;-)

    Like

  12. Any interviews with people looking to improve education would be amazing. I know for a few years you have mentioned really wanting to get into the process of improving the educational system.

    Like

  13. There’s no non-rude way to say this but is it possible to remove or at least shorten the theme song? It seems that every podcast good or bad has a really bad theme song: marc maron, the sound of young america, bret easton ellis. radiolab’s theme song is 4 seconds and they are a professional radio show that specializes in sound production, and their podcast song is still bad! This may be a sub-freakonomics topic but I bet there is some weird unseen evolutionary advantage to having a terrible theme song for the podcast, but I can’t see it. If others could politely chime in whether the theme song also bothers them or not, I think that would make the case more convincing. Thanks!

    Like

    • Hearing Arnold’s voice right before the show always cracks me up, so if this is a vote, I’ll opt for “keep the theme song”, or at the very least: “keep the Terminator quote”…

      “I’m a cybernetic organism – living tissue over a metal endoskeleton.”

      Priceless. :)

      While we’re at it, I love the theme song from the 4-Hour Chef Audiobook (which is free, by the way)

      Finally -and then I gotta get back to chasing other distractions-, check out The 4-Hour Chef Soundtrack

      So long, farewell, Auf Wiedersehen, goodbye!
      Hasta la vista, baby!

      Like

      • Arnold soundboard drops are hilarious, agreed, but coupled with the Bourne clip it makes it sound like a scientologist morning zoo. I will say that I’ve never heard of anyone refusing to hear a podcast because the theme song was bad, so that means there is likely no real incentive to remove them, just like no one has ever refused to work a fast food job just because of having to wear a funny hat, and so funny fast food hats and bad theme songs proliferate. (In TV, bad theme songs take up valuable commercial time and so largely have been eliminated.)

        Like