The Tim Ferriss Show, Episode 22: Ed Catmull, President of Pixar, on Steve Jobs, Stories, and Lessons Learned

Ed Catmull, President and Co-Founder of Pixar.

Ed Catmull, President and Co-Founder of Pixar.

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This podcast is brought to you by The Tim Ferriss Book Club, which features a handful of books that have changed my life. Here’s the list.  You can also find all 20+ episodes of this podcast here. Some are sober and some are drunk,  so you can roll the dice.

Now, on to our guest…

Ed Catmull is co-founder of Pixar Animation Studios (along with Steve Jobs and John Lasseter) and president of Pixar Animation and Disney Animation. Ed has received five Academy Awards, and — as a computer scientist — he has contributed to many important developments in computer graphics.  He is the author of  Creativity, Inc., which Forbes has said “just might be the best business book ever written.” (!)

This episode touches on a lot, including lessons learned from George Lucas and Steve Jobs, the origins of Pixar, personal challenges, routines, and much more.

Show notes and links are below.  Enjoy!

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Show Notes and Select Links from the Episode

  • Why Ed felt a sense of loss, despite a streak of successes after Toy Story in 1995
  • The misleading question most people ask themselves when they become “successful”
  • Why, after wanting to be an artist for most of his childhood, he switched his focus from animation to physics
  • The congruence of art, storytelling, and science
  • Why experiencing crises on each project is essential for building a strong, creative team
  • How Ed connected to the ancient tradition of oral storytelling due to his inability to read poetry
  • The importance of having “breadth” of knowledge while deep-diving into specialization
  • Stories of George Lucas’ innovative decisions
  • The arc in the mythology of Steve Jobs, and what everybody missed
  • Why Steve Jobs decided to take Pixar public one week after Toy Story’s opening
  • Which Pixar movies caused major challenges and had to be re-worked
  • Why all Pixar movies suck at the very early stages
  • Pixar’s secret to creating stories and movies
  • The one film Pixar abandoned and the reasons
  • The book Ed gifts most often
  • Ed’s daily meditation practice
  • Why he would not give his twenty-year-old self advice, even if he could


Books Mentioned in the Episode

Posted on: August 12, 2014.

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71 comments on “The Tim Ferriss Show, Episode 22: Ed Catmull, President of Pixar, on Steve Jobs, Stories, and Lessons Learned

  1. Fucking loved this great episode, Tim. You’ve created an amazing podcast, I love it.

    Now, using your awesome interviewing style, when are you booking Walter Isaacson to extract new or unpublished stories from his biography works? :)




  2. Really interesting chat.

    I really liked the part about the desire for clarity when life is somewhat messy. I think many people with a somewhat technical orientation find this such a frustrating thing in life…you always want to understand things fully. But the serious complexity of life means that at some point you just have to accept that it’s complex and you waste to much mental energy trying to figure out every little detail of your life.


  3. Hey Tim,

    Can you please clarify what the note at the top of this post means? I’m signed up to your email list but don’t have anything related to this email…is it still to come?



    • Hi Ken,

      If you signed up for RSS, you might have emails from “The Blog of Tim Ferriss,” but you need to find email from “Tim Ferriss.” If you haven’t signed up, you can sign up with the form near the top of the blog.

      If you signed up, please check your Spam and other folders!

      Hope that helps,



      • Tim- I’ve signed up for you’re email, but still get a pop-up asking to join your list on every page I click on. How do I make it stop? I’m already in.


  4. Loving all things TF. Wife & I heading to Berlin next month with one carry on pack for a too weaker. Hostel & no hard plans. Rookie vagabond trial run. JG


  5. Hey Tim,

    Loved this podcast. So glad I signed up for the ‘VIP’ email list. After finishing consuming this particular post I had a thought.

    I believe that if your methodologies and systems were mainstream you could change the world.

    Therefore, I think you should have a TV show. Here is how I would imagine it:

    -Weekly on some channel like discovery or vice.

    -Each episode is about a specific skill/topic/goal

    -Each episode features you and your experience with the subject, some professionals that helped you with the subject, and one or more ‘real’ people who try the approach you developed with the professionals to achieve something.

    I think audiences would really relate to a show like this and that it would have the potential to be an earthshaking success and bring your ideas truly mainstream.

    Let me know what you think, or just keep being awesome,

    Taylor Mendelsohn


    • Tim, let me first mention that I really like what you do. Keep it going.
      As to Taylors comments, I thought exactly the same thing – a regular video (or even TV) show in that format could propel your ideas a lot further. Plus it could boast notoriety & help people grow. Quite Franky, I believe you potentially could become the first ‘democratically elected’ interviewer. Get my idea?

      Is that right you have a readers-list of 300k subscribers? Multiply that by x if the show was done with the same professionalism, in good quality & available over the net + mainstream TV. Heck, this could even grow bigger & have an influence on politics in general. Just had another idea – think of the potential to further link ‘smart minds & money’ & create some real/sustainable alternatives !

      We do need smart answers to dig us out of this political & environmental mess we ve gotten ourselves into…


  6. Anyone thinking it would be cool to get transcripts for those? Beside the ability to skim through the interview (which might not be what Tim expects us to do), it’s always nice when you wanna find something back.


  7. Hi Tim I know you don’t read emails so I will comment on here instead I love the new email format but I thought I would be honest. Dark grey background with black text, it makes it difficult to view. I thought you might like to know. Keep up the good work and loving the new post with content in my inbox. Best Regards.


  8. Hey Tim – love the podcasts. Just one comment.

    When you’re listening to the guest speaker, can you not say “mmhhmm” after every sentence they say in reply to a question you ask? I found it pretty distracting as a listener. You are probably doing it unconsciously, which is fine, but maybe edit them out before you post the final podcast?

    Please disregard this comment if I am the only one who feels this way.

    Thanks Tim.


    • I am a huge fan of “Tim Tim Talk Talk”. Your questions are unlike anyone else in podcasting. But Tim, I do have to agree with Dylan here. The interjected “mmhmm’s” are really annoying. As I started to pay attention to them more, it almost seems like they are inserted into the clip in post. Is that correct? Love the show!


      • Timbo!

        Excellent interview!

        Dylan and Roger missed the wayne’s world 2 joke you were referencing:

        Thank god, I can appreciated your refined humor.

        Also, I’m pumped to see you speak on 9/26.



  9. Tim,

    Can I make one small suggestion when you are recording these podcast interviews? Whenever your guest is speaking, resist the urge to fill the empty space between their words with expressions like “mhmm”, “mmm” and “right”. Instead just let the guest speak and then when they’re finished, continue on with your comment or next question. For me, this is one of the most annoying habits of podcasters. It’s the equivalent of speaking and filling the empty space between words with “uhhh” or “you know?”.


  10. Hey Tim.
    So how does this new mailing/newsletter system work? And why have you been talking in the last mails about finally using e-mails again when I’ve been receiving notifications about new blog posts for the last 2 or 3 years? And why are you sending mails now from and from

    Anyways, because you mentioned that bonus stuff for everyone who subscribed I signed up again with the same e-mail adress, since you said to subscribe even though to receive the mail I had to be subscribed already. And now I’m receiving mails from 4hw and 4hb, which link to the same articles on 4hw anyway. I’ve also received the same mail twice today.

    I guess I should just unsubscribe and resubscribe to fix this?


  11. Hi Tim – Awesome Information. Quick Logistics Issue – Your Emails sent to subscribers has “DARK” background. very Difficult to read the email contents and Links! Please ask your web-team to change it to Lighter (whiter) background! :) – Thanks Shravan


  12. Tim, I love the show, especially the episode with Josh W and perhaps also Ryan holiday. I don’t know if others notice it, but I’m finding when the subject is answering questions you have the occasional mhmm, which can be off-putting, especially with headphones.

    Look forward to more of the great content,