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Tim Ash is an acknowledged authority on evolutionary psychology and digital marketing. He is a sought-after international keynote speaker and the bestselling author of Unleash Your Primal Brain and Landing Page Optimization.
Tim has been mentioned by Forbes as a Top-10 Online Marketing Expert, and by Entrepreneur Magazine as an Online Marketing Influencer To Watch.
For nineteen years he was the co-founder and CEO of SiteTuners – a digital optimization agency. Tim helped to create over 1.2 billion dollars in value for companies like Google, Expedia, eHarmony, Facebook, American Express, Canon, Nestle, Symantec, Intuit, Humana, Siemens, and Cisco.
You can contact Tim at timash.com.
The Ultimate Guide to Website Traffic for Business
What you will learn
- That life is more than a paycheck
- Whether capitalism is killing the planet
- The biggest challenges to creating sales processes that work well
- The difference between big-ticket sales and low ticket sales
- The secrets behind conversion rate optimization
- The painful truth behind writing a book
- Why babies and websites have similar challenges
- The content marketing journey that works for sales
- Why you need to create content for conversion
- The importance of value-based selling
- How to create content for the customer journey
- The importance of being true to yourself
- Why you should double down on your strengths
- Why consumers are bringing a knife to a gunfight
- Why humans need to be aware of how the corporations are playing the selling game
- The 2 addictive technologies
- Whether social media is breaking down our society
- The power of myth
- The keys to optimizing life:
- Get quality sleep
- Be in your body
- Access intuition and emotions
- Avoid artificial addictions
- Don’t be a loner
- Learn from others and teach something
Jeff Bullas: Hi everyone and welcome to the Jeff Bullas Show. Today I have with me Tim Ash. Now, Tim originally came from the former Soviet Union.
Tim Ash: Yeah.
Jeff Bullas: Doesn't exist anymore. I think he looks a bit Russian really, because he's got that sort of shaved head look. But you almost look like the president of Russia, really. I think you could maybe pull that off.
Tim Ash: You mean my uncle, Vladimir?
Jeff Bullas: Oh yeah, that's the guy. So welcome to the show, Tim. Now, I'll tell you a little bit about Tim. Tim came to America as an immigrant when he was eight. He's now settled in San Diego and does all sorts of interesting stuff like I think he did fencing. Is that correct, Tim?
Tim Ash: Yes. Saber champion and athlete of the month at my university.
Jeff Bullas: Okay. So I'm glad it's not the fencing where you build fences between houses very rapidly, or got skills in that area, but it's saber rattling. Okay, so-
Tim Ash: It's more about dismembering things than putting them together.
Jeff Bullas: So Tim came to the States and started a digital agency when, well, I think hardly anyone knew what a digital agency was, about 20 odd years ago. And then, Tim's well known for speaking around the world, and as we know, that's going really well for him at the moment. Not, because for all of us, that's been put on pause. So that's fine.
Jeff Bullas: But Tim has written a great book called Unleash Your Primal Brain, which I read yesterday, so just to let everyone know that I do my research occasionally. And, great book, and some fascinating insights, and we're going to touch a little bit on that as well.
Jeff Bullas: So we want to ask Tim about his experience over the years in business, as an entrepreneur, and now as a solopreneur, and also some of his takes on life and business. So welcome to the show, Tim. It's a pleasure to have you here.
Tim Ash: Good day, Jeff.
Jeff Bullas: Yeah, that's quite good really, I'm impressed. Good day, mate.
Tim Ash: Yeah. And I know it's put a prawn on the barbie, not a shrimp, because Aussies don’t use the term shrimp, hey?
Jeff Bullas: Yeah, that's true, but that's all right. I learnt to write American when I started my blog 12 years ago. So I do realize there's different nuances of the English language that we all need to manage as writers and content creators.
Tim Ash: Well, I think it was Mark Twain put it best, that he was talking about England and the US but it applies to us as well, which is America and England are two countries divided by a common language.
Jeff Bullas: That's correct. Yeah, well, I do like the language and try to make it as less common as possible, whether that's writing or speaking. So Tim, let me ask you, what brought you to America? That's a long time ago. So why did you come to America?
Tim Ash: Well, I was, I guess you could say a passenger. I was eight years old and my younger brother was five and my parents decided to emigrate from the Soviet Union. And this was early '70s when they first cracked the door for Soviet Jews to be able to leave the country. And in fact, at the time, there were only four countries accepting Soviet refugees, I guess you could say. Australia was one, US, Canada, and of course Israel.
Tim Ash: And we were in Rome, Italy, deciding where to go and my dad happened to catch a transatlantic collect call to his uncle in New York. They rang his Madison Avenue apartment. He wasn't there of course, like all good Jews, he was wintering in Florida where it's warmer. And he got a hold of his uncle and he goes, "Hey, uncle Sol, it's Sasha and I'm in Rome. We're thinking of going to Canada." That was our plan at the time and my uncle said, "No, no, come to America, I'll take care of everything." So that five minute international collect call decided where I was going to live and why I'm not a Canadian today, hey.
Jeff Bullas: Well, there's a thing called sliding doors, sometimes an adventure is up and you go through one door instead of another. And that's what's fascinating about being human is a world of infinite possibility and you obviously ended up in the USA. So you're eight, what were some of your early memories and what excited you back then? Can you remember them, or?
Tim Ash: I don't remember the transition being very hard. In retrospect, I understand it was for my parents. They were 42 and 37 respectively and gave up their families, careers, and came to the US. We knew nothing about the US. I mean, we were bringing down comforters and cast iron frying pans, because God knows what they have in the country where we're going, right?
Jeff Bullas: Mm-hmm
Tim Ash: So they weren't prepared, but for us it was a big adventure. They stuck us in public school right away. I was held back a grade in second grade, I was supposed to be in third. Three months later, my brother and I were fluent in English, and the next year they advanced me to fourth and I've been at grade level ever since.
Jeff Bullas: Well, I'm glad that you didn't get held back, so that's great. Did you go to New York? Was that where you first were?
Tim Ash: Yeah. We ended up in Albany, New York, which is the capital of New York State. And then for work, my parents are both civil engineers, which was kind of like the equivalent of software engineers these days. So they were bringing in the US a lot of Indians and Chinese and Russians, people who had advanced scientific degrees or engineering degrees. And so, they had a good run as civil engineers in the US.
Tim Ash: So we moved around for work. We moved from Albany to Ann Arbor, Michigan, which is a big university town, and then New Jersey, near Philadelphia. And then I decided to make my first adult move all the way across the country, about 5,000 kilometers to San Diego, because I got a full ride, academic scholarship on the beach at a top university. And there was a nude beach nearby, so all positives in my column.
Jeff Bullas: Especially, when you're a teenager, that's ... So I believe you spent about seven years at university. What subjects did you end up choosing and why did you choose those subjects?
Tim Ash: Yeah. So I wanted to do it ... Well, it was computers. Like practical emigres, right? So get a computer degree, you'll always have a job, Tim, that was the thinking. I wanted to do a visual arts minor, but then when I found out I was going to be there for five years as an undergraduate, there was no way to finish the computer engineering degree in four, I decided if I pick my electives correctly, I'd do a double major. And so, I did computer engineering and cognitive science, which was in the psychology department at the time and later became its own department.
Tim Ash: And then I stayed for another seven years. I was working on my PhD in computer science, neural networks, artificial intelligence, what would now be called machine learning or deep learning.
Jeff Bullas: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Well, that's become a little bit more relevant today, hasn't it?
Tim Ash: Yeah. Back then it was, we were working on the algorithm side, how to train the computers by example, essentially, but there weren't the data sets to train on. Well, obviously, with the advent of the Internet, large data sets are not a problem anymore, we're drowning in data.
Jeff Bullas: Yeah, we are drowning in data. It's trying to choose which data to use, which data to highlight, which to prioritize, and that is really the big challenge, isn't it? We are overwhelmed with data and information, so the choice is being made for us by the machines. We're certainly in the middle of the battle of the algorithms as AI dukes it out with humanity.
Tim Ash: Yeah, and I have some ethical concerns about that, because what we're doing is those algorithms pick up on subtle, again, issues with the data, and those subtle issues with the data come from our biases, which a lot of times are built in, our tribalism, our belief systems, our thought patterns. And so, if you let them run an open loop without human supervision, you're going to get all kinds of unethical or socially corrosive stuff happening, if we just let the machines do things.
Jeff Bullas: Yeah. And then we've got the bad actors, the ones that use that data for-
Tim Ash: Deliberately for evil.
Jeff Bullas: Yeah. Certainly in the technology space, I've been in the technology space for gee, close to nearly 40 years after starting life as a teacher for me. But the reality, I'm an eternal optimist, but I've certainly had a bit of a an increasingly I suppose negative aspect. There's a negative aspect to it as well, because technology can be used for good and for evil.
Jeff Bullas: And you only have to look at the origin of the Nobel Peace Prize, for example, where he started the Nobel Peace Prize almost because basically Nobel built dynamite that initially was used to blow up and create quarries, but then it got used to create industrial scale war. And so, every technology essentially has a dark side. So what is your take on that?
Tim Ash: Well, see, I used to be an optimist, too, as self-described as you are, but I wouldn't say I'm an optimist anymore. In fact, I don't know if it's getting older, but I'm leaning towards the pessimistic end of the continuum at this point. I don't think we have a lot of runway left, we're headed off a cliff to the sixth mass extinction event in the planet's history. And then, we're causing this one and we're just whistling past the graveyard.
Tim Ash: This is not a sustainable path we're on. I think our biggest challenge in this generation is how to soft land capitalism. Whenever I hear about growth and growth hacking and marketing and entrepreneurship, all that behind it says unsustainability to me. And it's not just we're screwing up the world for my children, which is inevitable, but we're going to feel it in our lifetimes.
Jeff Bullas: Yeah, I think there's a real challenge with humanity that we're essentially turning it into our own garbage can and we've got to make sure that we don't destroy it. I suppose I'm optimistic that we'll be able to do it, but the challenge is certainly in front of us to manage what we've got. So let's dive in and talk a little bit about what motivated you to ... So you did an undergraduate degree and then you did another seven years, and you-
Tim Ash: Yeah, and then I quit seven years into a PhD program. I never got my PhD. Should have banked my master's degree after two years and walked away. But I was stubborn, my dad had a PhD, my mom had her masters, so it was just kind of inertia, you know?
Jeff Bullas: Yeah.
Tim Ash: But along the way I worked at some large corporations and I realized what a soul killing environment that was and I said, "Yeah, so that path doesn't work for me." The educational path, I was 29 and I'm not going to start my fourth decade on this Earth still in school. So I said, "Screw it," and I took down about 200 square meters of office space, got a desk and a computer line and I started my first, I'd guess you call it an internet incubator back in 1995 to help launch a few dot coms. So right after Al Gore invented the interwebs.
Jeff Bullas: Yeah, I heard he invented that, quite amazing really. So you looked at the alternatives after leaving academia and you went, "I don't want to walk into this high rise building and lose my soul within a corporation."
Tim Ash: Yeah.
Jeff Bullas: Is that really what you've-
Tim Ash: That really happened. I worked for NCR which is a giant company, SAIC which is a big defense contractor/scientific company in the US. And yeah, no, that was not my thing. And I realized that pretty quickly, the money isn't worth it.
Jeff Bullas: Yeah. So you chose-
Tim Ash: So I just-
Jeff Bullas: Yeah?
Tim Ash: I read Gerber's book “The E-Myth” about the entrepreneurial myth and I said, "I can do this better than my bosses," and off I went and I've been riding the tiger ever since.
Jeff Bullas: So you chose uncertainty and infinite possibility over certainly and a paycheck?
Tim Ash: Yeah, my mom ... My dad had already died at this point, but when I quit the PhD program, she was trying to guilt trip me and said, "Your dad would be turning over in his grave right now. We did all this for you. We came to this country so you and your brother could have a great life and not be discriminated against."
Tim Ash: And I said, "Well, Mom, what did you want for me, ultimately? For me to be happy, right? To get meaning and satisfaction out of my life. Well, I'm happy. This is my thing, this is the opportunity you created for me. Let me go do it. I don't need a safety net."
Jeff Bullas: So why did you choose to leap into a digital incubator start up in '95? What was the inspiration behind it? I know that you were studying cognitive science and technology, so what was the inspiration to ... Was there a dream in middle of the night? Was there a-
Tim Ash: Well, it was clear to me that a new industry was being born akin to the printing press spreading literacy in the world or something like that, that the Internet ... I saw it from the very beginning what it was going to be. Actually, we don't really know what it's going to be yet, but the early days of it I could envision anyway. So we helped launch new dot coms, that's basically what we did, help them raise their first round of financing, acting CTO on their management team, that sort of thing.
Tim Ash: And I saw a vision when it was still kind of a cottage industry, where there weren't many people who knew how to do this and we were like the high priests and everyone was coming to us for advice on how to do that. It was exciting, I won't lie, but at the end of the day, I also figured out that basically by doing any professional services firm, you're hiring your boss.
Tim Ash: So I got out of the corporate world in order to not have to work for the man and now it's kind of like, "Oh, you have money, you have 25,000 a month for a retainer, great, let's get married before we even date." And then it's like dipped into your craziness and whatever corporate culture, for lack of a better word, or dysfunction you guys operate under, and now I have to deal with that.
Tim Ash: So I realized ... There's a great line from the Mad Men TV show about Madison Avenue, and Don Draper says, "The day you land a client is the day you start losing them." And I just realized that that's the name of the game in professional services and I did that for 20 years and I didn't particularly enjoy it.
Jeff Bullas: Yeah. I totally get it because when I started the blog and then we started to be known as a social media expert back then, I realized that I was trading time for money and it was really hard to ... Clients want quick results, typically.
Tim Ash: Yeah!
Jeff Bullas: But as we know, you need to educate them first so they understand what that roadmap looks like, because a lot of them just, especially in the digital world, have no idea. So I totally get it and I chose not to get down that road of consulting as well.
Jeff Bullas: And also, I have never worked for a big corporation, I've worked for small to medium companies, but the idea ... I walk into the city sometimes and I'll see people, like rats, going into the high rise buildings, and I'm just going, "All right, it's for some people and it's not for others." And that's what's fantastic about being human, you can make choices whether you want to play that game or not, and-
Tim Ash: Yeah. And I would say that it also ties back into what we were talking about, about marketing and sustainability. So you said what led me down the path? Well, I guess you could say I studied at University of California, San Diego, for a career that didn't exist. I mean, internet marketing is this perfect quantitative-qualitative mixture, right? You have to understand human psychology, it's infinitely measurable so you can see the effect of things you're trying, so it was really ...
Tim Ash: The subject matter was fun, but ultimately when you look at it, there's nothing particularly noble about running a marketing agency. I'm just figuring out how to extract money more effectively from consumer's pockets and put it in the hands of this one company. I mean, we work with the Facebooks, Googles and Nestles of the world on down and documented 1.2 billion dollars in incremental revenue. So it works, but it's not curing cancer. So it was ultimately just moving money around.
Jeff Bullas: Right. So that took you 20 years to work out? Was that what it was?
Tim Ash: Yeah. I'm a little more stubborn than most. It's the same reason I stayed in the PhD program for seven years before quitting.
Jeff Bullas: So even though you were the high priest, obviously people were coming to you, what were some of your big challenges? So you've had the call, in you go, you started the business, what were some of the biggest challenges you found over your life as an entrepreneur?
Tim Ash: I'd say the most consistent one was how to generate sales for a professional services firm. I went through so many sales people, senior, junior, salaried, full-commission. I tried every permeation and that to me is the hardest thing, somebody who knows how to sell high end professional services consistently. And even if they know how to do that as an individual, then you need them to procedurize that knowledge. What if they punch out, or get a better offer? So I'd say the ups and downs of hunting for business was probably the biggest. I always had an operational bent, I tried to procedurize how we delivered the work, but I could never figure out how to create processes for getting the new work.
Jeff Bullas: Right. Do you see that as a little bit different today in terms of because we have inbound marketing, content marketing, lead generation?
Tim Ash: Different names for the same thing. I mean, ultimately, how do you get someone to crack their wallet open for large sums of money without meeting them face to face? That's a real tough nut to crack. Somebody once told me about the death zone and I've taken this to heart.
Tim Ash: If you have products that are under $500, they can be sold self-service. If you have something over $10,000, it's worth getting a sales person involved who has a salary and a commission who could explain more complicated things.
Tim Ash: But if you have something that's in that $500 to $10,000, it's the death zone, because you can't effectively service it with people and it's too complicated to buy self-service. And a lot of our services, in retrospect, fell into that price point. So that's definitely a very painful lesson I learned over time.
Jeff Bullas: Yeah. And you're also the author of a couple of books built around your experience in this space, which essentially you wrote a book on landing page optimization, which-
Tim Ash: Yes.
Jeff Bullas: Yeah.
Tim Ash: Well, which do you want? The first edition in Chinese, or do you want the second edition in English? I wrote this back in 2008 and 2012 and I'd say, again, without bragging, it's kind of the bible for conversion rate optimization from my specialty in digital marketing, that's how to make websites more effective. And it's everything I knew when I wrote it about the topic.
Tim Ash: And everyone of those books has taken a couple years of my life. I always joke that writing books is like the closest a man will come to having children, because it's a really painful, long, drawn out process. You're a bloody mess by the end, and then the work really begins, which is publicizing the books.
Jeff Bullas: That's right. There's the content creation, then there's the marketing. That's it.
Tim Ash: Yeah, that's right. Yeah, so that's the raising children part. So you give birth to them, now what? You still have to raise them.
Jeff Bullas: Now, I believe you have a keynote speech based around people's websites and I think it's got a pretty cool name. What's the name of that keynote based upon websites? Is it something like your website sucks or something?
Tim Ash: Yeah, pretty close. I have a chapter in the book called Your Baby is Ugly, it always gets everyone's attention. But just like our own babies, we think they're beautiful even though they're burping, farting, drooling machines. It's just kind of like someone gives you their baby, you go, "Oh, he's so alert." You have to say something nice, but obviously they're ugly babies because that's where ugly adults come from, there're plenty of those.
Tim Ash: But nobody will admit their baby is ugly, that their website has problems, because they love it, they've nurtured it, they've put tens of thousands of hours building it and staring at it so it'd make sense to them. But, if you just take that dispassionate somebody's coming to your site for the first time and doesn't give a crap view, then they're ugly, very ugly.
Jeff Bullas: I do love the title of the keynote, frankly, I think it's really, really cool. Yeah, that's true, everything that we create ourselves thinks it's great. Well, most the time we do, sometimes we go, "No, it's not." But this dispassionate observation of a website or observation of a creation where somewhere walks and goes, "This needs some optimization so it converts better and you get more traffic, you get more leads, and you get more customers."
Tim Ash: Yeah. And so, the biggest mind shift that has kind of underlaid all of our work at SiteTuners which is my agency. Again, I sold it off about a year and a half ago to business partners and it's thriving, again, because it's not me at the helm and I didn't want to do it.
Tim Ash: But the mindset we adopted was you have to think from the viewpoint of the customers or the prospects and it's an outside in. It's not an inside out where you're broadcasting your brand bullshit to the world. It's about people, they have problems, they have pains, they don't know how to solve them, they may bring misconceptions to it, they don't have a lot of time, all of that reality, that's who you should be building for.
Tim Ash: And a lot of times within companies or even marketing departments, the customer is not at the table, it's all the insider view. It's how our campaigns are doing and what are our key performance indicators. Where's the customer in all that? So we always advocated for the customer and that's how we made our clients money.
Jeff Bullas: Right. And how much did content ... Because content marketing became a buzz word about 10 odd years ago, was and still is, inbound marketing. How did the rise of content and social media impact the business?
Tim Ash: By the way, content marketing, inbound marketing, they're the same.
Jeff Bullas: Oh yeah.
Tim Ash: I sat down and I was talking to my buddy Brian Halligan, who runs HubSpot, and they're the ones that coined that whole inbound marketing term. And they were deciding which one to go with and they wanted to go with inbound and brand it, and they did get a lot of traction over the years with it, so good for them.
Tim Ash: But content marketing isn't new, but I think 95% of companies do it wrong. So what passes for content marketing is activity based. It's pumping out crap, let's Tweet it, let's go viral, let's blog post this and two minute video. And so, all about just pushing stuff out to the world.
Tim Ash: My view of content marketing is you have to map it to your audience, you have to map it to the complete customer journey and you have to fill in the gaps for them to self-service slide down the sales funnel by using content marketing, because most things are self-service until you get to that last 10%, 20%.
Tim Ash: They don't even want to talk to you, they don't want to be a lead, they don't want to fill out your form, they don't want you to call them. So they want to do it all self-service and that's where the content marketing comes in.
Tim Ash: So content marketing to me is durable, high quality, maps to the whole customer journey, including the early parts where you can't make money off of them yet, but you still should be useful to people. And so, it's a very different flavor, it's not activity based or anything like that, it's about being of service to your customers.
Jeff Bullas: So let's dive into that a little bit deeper and let's look at what are the steps in a content marketing journey for your customers. Where does it start and where does it finish and what are the steps in between for content marketing that works, rather than just creating activity?
Tim Ash: Yeah. Well, we actually, as an agency, still have what we call the content for conversion audit. So the goal is conversion, it's not just content for content sake. The goal is to support people eventually raising their hand and acting.
Tim Ash: So the first thing you have to do is identify your customer segments. Some people call it personas, but that's more of a, pardon me, bullshit advertising term for media buying. But understand tribes and affinities and market segments.
Tim Ash: The next thing you have to understand is the values of those peoples, and that's critical because the cultural values say a lot. For example, if you buy Patagonia outdoor gear, you can pretty much be sure they're against global warming, that they're for sustainability, and that the people that care about that stuff are in their tribe. Knowing nothing else, you know about the values of the people that would buy from them. And if I say to you it's sustainable and you're a Patagonia client, you care. If I say that to somebody that doesn't care about that stuff, the message just isn't going to land. So before you come up with messaging, you have to understand the cultural values of those tribes or segments, then you can come up with messaging.
Tim Ash: And then again, one of the things you have to do is we did an audit of the whole customer journey, so just take the sales funnel and put it on its side if you will, awareness, interest, desire, action, the traditional sales funnel. What do you have right now that supports each of those steps? You do an inventory, is it written content? Is it downloadable? Is it on your website? Is it your YouTube channel? Is it your Instagram stuff you're posting there?
Tim Ash: And then you say, "Is it the right thing? Is it the right editorial tone? Is there a clear tone of voice and a positioning that's going to hit that cultural tribe? What are the calls to action to do that little micro conversion and slide them down the funnel, have them consume the next piece of content? What format do you want to have it in?" I know your show we're doing a podcast, but it's going to be a video, it's going to have outtakes. Some people prefer that kind of stuff as opposed to listening to the whole podcast, right? So give it to them in the format they want.
Tim Ash: And then, map out all of that and create the missing stuff. And also, figure out the gating strategy, which is, should you ask for an email, should you ask for a long form fill? Well, in some cases the answer is yes or no, depending on the stage in the funnel and what your goals are. So all of that to me is content marketing.
Jeff Bullas: I really like it. I especially like the values part, so what are the values? The Patagonia audience example you used I think is great. And content market can be used for blunt force trauma, just activity based and it will work, it just won't be as efficient and optimized as you say in your book.
Tim Ash: Well, I can say content marketing the way you just call it blunt force trauma, content marketing as an awareness raising tool or as a driving traffic, as an acquisition tool is one thing. What I'm talking about is a conversion tool, it wants to engage with you, how do you support the customer journey, that's a very different animal.
Jeff Bullas: Yeah. Well, that's why I'm describing it as blunt force trauma content marketing, which is activity based, that's really ... And when I started, it very much was blunt force trauma content marketing, because I got up at 4:30 and just created content, because I loved the content and I didn't really give a crap about converting anything because I had a day job. For me, it was just a passion project, right?
Tim Ash: Right.
Jeff Bullas: It got a little bit more serious over time, so we've had to move from blunt force trauma to being a little bit smarter and more the ballet dancer, the engineer, the auditor, the-
Tim Ash: Yeah, the impeccable warrior, the Tai Chi master. Yeah.
Jeff Bullas: That's right. Yeah, whatever. I did that really badly by the way, you can see that I don't do any Tai Chi, so I think maybe I'll-
Tim Ash: I won't hold it against you. I studied it with a master from Hong Kong, here in San Diego, for five years. I'm actually one of only a couple of people in the US that he's certified to teach part of the art. But yeah, that's always been a passion of mine.
Jeff Bullas: Yeah. So you sell the business and it's got its challenges. You decide that you want to pivot and sell it. What made you want to exit stage left and become a solopreneur? Was there a moment that showed up?
Tim Ash: Well, okay, so I think the longer I live, the more I realize the importance of being true to your nature. I mean, it sounds kind of obvious, right? But don't put yourself in environments where you're going to fail or be frustrated or get your soul sucked out of you, or some combination of those. And so, over the years, I've taken a bunch of personality typing tests. On Myers-Briggs, I'm an ENFP, an Enneagram Type 7. On DISC, I'm a dominant influencer. On the OCEAN model, I'm not very neurotic and extremely extroverted, and so on. You have all of these, they basically all describe me from different angles, but they're saying the same thing.
Tim Ash: And I think that you have two choices in life, you can try to shore up your weaknesses, or you can just double down on your strengths. And I had to do a reset for a pretty significant life chapter and I decided I'm just going to double down on my strengths and outsource or just dismiss my weaknesses. So managing people, empire building, whether it's customers or employees, not a lot of fun for me, not for my personality.
Tim Ash: So I was like, "What can I do alone?" And so, it's that subset of consulting services that I like to deliver by myself, where I add a lot of value, where I can get paid well, and then also, in and out engagements for the most part. I only have one long term service, it's an executive marketing advisory, and I carefully handpick those to make sure I've a good relationship with the senior marketer I'm working with.
Tim Ash: But everything else, I like to be in and out. I'm the guy that's going to tell you your baby is ugly, or what your internet strategy should be, or come in and train your marketing department, or do a rip-down review of your website, no holds barred, and then I ride off into the sunset. That's my value add. I don't care whether you implement the changes I give you, that and your problems with your IT department, that's you and your organizational crap. So I do not enjoy that, and so, I've just gotten rid of all of it.
Tim Ash: So I'm focusing on my keynote speaking, thought leadership, the new book on evolutionary psychology. So basically just aligning with my passions and my purpose.
Jeff Bullas: So let's dive into Unleash Your Primal Brain, because I read it yesterday and I took some notes, so if I look like I'm reading, I am. So I think you may have already answered this, so what motivated you to write this book as opposed to the brain numbing, eye-tearing, wrist-slashing optimization topic? Because, I spoke at a conference last year about optimization and I'm not a detail guy you see, so that's why I ... So for me, I hate optimization in the sense that I love what it does-
Tim Ash: And the ROI.
Jeff Bullas: I love the ROI. What I don't like is the detail. And I love what you said, "Hire people that do what you hate doing." I hire people to do that. So I'm not the attention to detail guy, but I do love creating a beautiful baby, that takes time. So you're really the plastic surgeon for businesses to make more money, but to do it in a beautiful way. So I'm sorry, it looked like I offended you on the optimization side, but it's-
Tim Ash: No, not at all. You have me confused with someone who gives a shit.
Jeff Bullas: Yeah, so you get into an area that you are much more passionate about and essentially, this almost sounds like a beautiful midlife crisis, where you're going, "I'm actually going to do what I love doing."
Tim Ash: Well, that was certainly a part of it and there are a lot of people in my immediate orbit that were agency heads and just did it for 10 to 20 years, they're really good at it and they don't need the hassle and their reputation speaks for itself. So there's enough inbound stuff so that you don't have to really worry about the kid's college fund, right? But the reason I wrote this book is actually a little more nuanced, and I would like to go into it for a minute.
Tim Ash: When we did our work at SiteTuners, we learned in the trenches what works and what doesn't. It's that zero moment of truth, does someone act or not on your website. You can't bullshit your way through that. So we learned the hard way and again, we worked with hundreds of companies around the world and created a lot of value for them.
Tim Ash: The thing is our customers use that ethically, I guess for the most part you'd say, to create better user experiences, align better with messaging and their target audience, that sort of thing, remove friction and so on. That's legitimate, I guess you'd call white hat marketing.
Tim Ash: The problem is, is that a lot of companies don't do it that way and you alluded to that earlier, that there's some pretty sketchy companies and organizations and governments that use that for evil. So having grown up in the Soviet Union, I've seen the effects of that, when you actually manipulate people and their psychology for evil.
Tim Ash: And so, when I came to this country I guess, to the US, I was a little bit of an odd duck because I always had that parallax view and I was on the lookout for being manipulated, mass group thing, propaganda, all of that was in the back of my mind. And unfortunately, I saw it everywhere. Just because we're in a free society doesn't mean that we're not being manipulated.
Tim Ash: And it's not a fair playing field. These giant companies like we were talking about they have data scientists, economists, neural marketing guys, medical imaging people, and they're all there to get those little hits of dopamine, get you addicted to their product, get you to keep on with the subscription, and they're strip mining us for money, for political divisions, and I think ultimately for more conflict and destruction in this world.
Tim Ash: And we're kind of, as consumers, bringing the proverbial knife to the gun fight. So this book was my attempt to level the playing field and say, "Hey, this is how your brain really operates from an evolutionary perspective. In order to understand what all eight billion of us on the planet have in common, you have to retrace that evolutionary arc, from the earliest life and what we inherited from them, to the bizarre, distinctly human things that make us very different." And so, it's an attempt to take beyond the marketing world, kind of give it as a gift to all of us saying this is like being human 101. So understand it and take yourself into better account.
Tim Ash: So it applies to business, leadership, marketing, persuasion, but also culture, tribes, gender differences, personal relationships, that's all in there. And, personal development, sleep, managing your expectations, what is happiness. All of those things come from an evolutionary psychology perspective, and so, my red thread was to condense all of that in a non-scientific, very readable way and explain “you to you”.
Jeff Bullas: I love the phrase that you include in the book, the book is about "the why" behind our behavior.
Tim Ash: Yeah.
Jeff Bullas: And I love the idea of what you're trying to do with the concept, which is, you're trying to create awareness of how the game's being played and how we live our lives. And I think we sometimes just walk through life not being aware, rather than stepping back. And you've had the lens of living in two different countries and you turned up with a bullshit detector when you turned up to America because of your experience in the country of your birth.
Tim Ash: That's right.
Jeff Bullas: So you didn't turn up with rose colored glasses, you turned up with a bullshit detector.
Tim Ash: Yeah, and I wasn't dipped into the cultural matrix of America, so I can step back from it and question it. And it's not just America, these kinds of psychological manipulations are being used by corporations and governments worldwide.
Jeff Bullas: And platforms are built with neuroscientists that are designing it for addiction.
Tim Ash: Yeah. My buddy Nir Eyal wrote a fantastic book on that subject which is called Hooked: How to Create Habit-Forming Products. Now, he's trying to create the antidote to that in his latest book which is called “Indistractable”, which I love. Again, trying to rebalance the scales a little bit in our favor, as individuals.
Jeff Bullas: Yeah. I've read both of those books and they're great. The time which we live is fascinating in the sense that we had two obsessive addictive technologies that have shown up pretty well at the same time. Number one, social media, even though maybe it wasn't designed to be addictive from step one, it certainly is designed now to be as addictive as possible to keep you on their platforms as much as possible. That's led me to turn off every alert for any of my social media platforms. I can distract myself without them distracting me.
Jeff Bullas: The other obsessive technology was the democratization of the smart phone where Steve Jobs brought out the iPhone and gave it to the masses. Before, it was the BlackBerry, which was the smart phone for the elite. So the democratization of the smart phone at a price point and usability that made it available to everyone, and then you got rise of the Android and Samsung phones and so on. So these two obsessive technologies showed up at the same-
Tim Ash: The phone I have is a Samsung, by the way. I've gone over to the dark side. Sorry, Apple people.
Jeff Bullas: So these two addictive technologies showed up pretty well at the same time. This is where the intersection of technologies became incredibly powerful and addictive and that was one of the reasons I started the blog was because of my observation of both those platforms, and I was just curious about how this is going to play out, and I still am today. But, with that addictive technology for both those, there is a price to pay.
Tim Ash: Oh yeah, a high one.
Jeff Bullas: And it's a big price. I'm a little concerned for the children of that generation in that I think they're going to be missing some core skills that make us human and that's our ability to communicate effectively. I think also some areas such as I think there's a lot of non-awareness of what it means to be human because they've lost themselves in the machine. So I'd be interested in your take on that.
Tim Ash: Yeah. So I think that there's ... God, there's so much to unpack there, I'm just going to do some quick reacts to the things that came up when you were talking. I agree with you about mobile phones are a huge problem. I've taken a concerted effort. I went through an initiation retreat through this wonderful international organization I know you guys have in Australia too, called the ManKind Project. And I sit in this weekly men's group and one of the goals I did was actually this past week was to keep this fricken thing out of my bedroom when I go to bed at night.
Tim Ash: And it really changed my going to bed routine. I'm much more conscious when I write in my gratitude journal. I wake up, I open a book in bed. I do some personal development and reading, and that's how I start my day. Not by checking my notifications on social media or reading the New York Times on my phone. And I've got to tell you, it's been a definite big plus.
Tim Ash: I'm also thinking of how these platforms contribute to the breakdown of society, and even though I have a huge investment in Facebook and LinkedIn and huge audiences there, and on Twitter, I'm definitely thinking about pulling the plug on some of that stuff, which is a high price to pay if you're a public figure. But it's getting that bad. I really see them as so corrosive, Facebook especially, to the existence of common identity or democracies that I see it as a force for evil driven by money.
Tim Ash: Because ultimately, when we talk about social media, what we're talking about is understanding you so well on 500 factors that we can create the perfect customized Jeff experience for you. Your feed is only showing you what Jeff likes, right? There's no common frame of reference. Even to go back to pre-cable days in the US, we had four major channels, ABC, CBS, NBC, and public television. Maybe a couple on the UHF part of the TV dial, right? But everybody watched the same shows, everyone watched the same newscasters and when you came in on Monday morning, you were talking about Saturday Night Live, because everybody watched that on Saturday night.
Tim Ash: And now, there's no common transmission of cultural values, everybody gets their custom tailored, reinforced, grievance driven, most negative, activating you with fear and cortisol stuff. So if there's no common reality, I mean, literally there is no truth, there is no science, yes means no, it's just like being in 1984 or something. And there's no way liberal democracies can hold together.
Tim Ash: So you're seeing strains like this in Hungary, in Poland, in Turkey, in Germany. They just had to disband an elite commando battalion in Germany because it was infiltrated by the far right, and it's throughout the German armed forces as well. And I mean, I hate to say it, but I could see a civil war happening in the US. I mean, we've had a good 240 year run, but empires don't last forever and we're going to have our comeuppance especially if Trump wins a reelection here, which is still a distinct possibility. And all of that is Mark Zuckerberg. I lay a lot of it at his feet, because he controls Facebook, prioritizing the making of money through this psychological manipulation.
Jeff Bullas: Yeah, I totally agree with you. I'm watching from afar what's happening in the USA. I have conversations with many people like yourself, including Alexandra Watkins, and there's a lot of people that are quite afraid of what the future may hold.
Jeff Bullas: Yeah, we're walking into the future with rose colored glasses maybe 10, 20 years ago going, "Isn't this great? We've got a computer we can use." And for me, the social media was great because I could watch America wake up on Twitter and I used to have fun conversations and it was very innocent before it became industrialized. And now, it's becoming a little scarier and let's hope that we can navigate this because I sure hope we can as a human nature.
Jeff Bullas: Now, the other thing, moving on to another topic, is you mentioned two areas about being human. One is the primal brain, which is the subconscious is another term for it. I think you can use that, and then you've got the conscious brain. These are the two big categories. You say we think the conscious is making these decisions, but in fact, the primal brain is making these decisions. So I'd be interested in your thoughts on those two key areas that you cover in your book.
Tim Ash: Yeah, so I start the book, chapter one is The Lie of Rationality. The big lie that we've been told, especially in the West since the days of Socrates is that we're qualitatively different because of our reasoning ability and being able to plan and think and be logical, Mr Spock like if you will, and that our base animal nature is something to be corralled and harnessed, like riding a wild horse or something like that, but what makes us distinctly human is this rational side.
Tim Ash: And that in fact is not true. What we have is a revolutionary set of band aids, something worked, something else was built on top of it and modified, and then another layer was built on top of it, and that's how evolution goes. And that modern part of the brain is not in charge, in fact, it's kept in the dark and asleep most of the time. Most of our stuff happens automatically, some of it based on reactions that never get modified, some of it based on our personal history and strongly emotional positive and negative memories we have of certain events and their impact on our survival chances.
Tim Ash: And then the distinctly human part is not there to do two plus two is four, or to put people on the moon, or build microwave ovens, it's actually there to model the complexity of the social dynamics in our immediate tribe. So it's kind of like okay ... Jeff, you mentioned my good friend Alexandra who lives about four blocks from me here in San Diego. Oh Jeff knows Alexandra, so if I bad mouth Jeff's buddy, will it get back to him through her? And then how will that impact my chances and my standing in the tribe. It's the real time modeling of all of that.
Tim Ash: We're the most social of mammals by far and we have a close group of about 100 to 200 people that we can model those intimate relationships with, and that's what the modern brain is for. So it's literally when we stop doing two plus two is four, within a split second, we go back to modeling our social world. That's what we spend all of our spare cycles doing.
Jeff Bullas: I think you just covered some really interesting areas there that we think we're in control and we're not. You only have to stand back and watch the chatter of your own mind if you're willing to step back and watch that. There's a great book by Michael Singer called Untethered Soul.
Tim Ash: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Jeff Bullas: I don't know if you've read it-
Tim Ash: Yeah.
Jeff Bullas: ... but it's one of the best books I've read in 10 years, apart from yours of course.
Tim Ash: Nice recovery.
Jeff Bullas: So I think for us, as humans, to be aware as possible of why our behavior is what it is. And we ask the question who are you and people say, "Well, I'm a mum." "I'm a dad." "I'm a corporate executive." "I'm a CEO." Well, no you're not, that's just the outcome of ... So you are the watcher of the doer.
Tim Ash: All of those other things, yeah.
Jeff Bullas: Yeah.
Tim Ash: All of those other roles you take on and cultural packages you've had handed down to you. Absolutely.
Jeff Bullas: And I think the thing I loved about his book was being able to step back and go, "What am I chatting about? What's my mind saying right now?" And then there's this other stuff that's unspoken and not even felt, which is the unconscious side which you talked about in the primal brain side, which is really running the show.
Tim Ash: Yeah, in fact, if you can put something into words, it's too late. Robert Heinlein, said in the '50s, man is not a rational animal, man is a rationalizing animal. So anything you're likely to say verbally is an after the fact bullshit made up explanation. The decision was made emotionally, i fact, it can only be made emotionally. The rational mind provides us with options, but based on our affinities and aversions, the emotional brain narrows that down to something actionable and makes the decision. You literally can not make a decision without emotion.
Jeff Bullas: Yeah. And one of the quotes you used in your book too, which resonates with me was I think therefore I am.
Tim Ash: Mm-hmm (affirmative). That's the lie of rationality. Descartes screwed us back in the 1700s by telling us that.
Jeff Bullas: Yeah. It's not something I believe in by the way, even though it resonated with me decades ago. But I realized that thinking is not what makes me understand “I am not my thinking”. If that was the case, I'd be an absolute bloody mad man.
Tim Ash: Well, the jury's still out on that one, Jeff.
Jeff Bullas: Oh absolutely. So I've got no monopoly on truth, much as we all like as humans to think that we do. So another quote I love too is the brain is not separate from the body and you talked about things like routine and what are some of your daily practices. So talk a little bit about what's your routine that you try and that uses part of your daily rituals. Can you go into that a little bit?
Tim Ash: Yeah, absolutely. I think that it's important to understand that the brain is just an organ. I mean, I'm not talking about the mind versus the brain versus awareness and consciousness. I'm not talking about philosophical concepts. I'm just saying within your body, the brain is a variant energy intensive system, like digestion or voluntary movement of your muscles, things like that, that you just have to balance. But the brain literally extends from your head to every joint in your body and to the very tips of your digits, the central nervous system is really a more accurate representation.
Tim Ash: And what we're learning recently, I didn't write too much or at all about this in the book is that there are other intelligences in the body. Your solar plexus is a big nerve cluster, the gut biome, like the bacteria inside of your digestive system, there's a constant communication between the body and the brain. Sometimes the brain then signals the different organs, sometimes they secrete stuff and send signals back to the brain. So it all has to sustain a home-stasis and balance and the brain isn't some distinct thing.
Tim Ash: So if you're going to have a good life and you're going to have a healthy brain, you need to exercise and eat well. Most people know that, but sleep is also a critical part of it. In fact, it's not exercise and diet and sleep, it's sleep, then everything else, because every form of life on Earth sleeps and it's not optional and you can't cheat it. And especially for human beings who have shorter but more intense sleep, we absolutely need our seven to nine hours a day. So if you're getting less than that, fix that if you want to fix your life.
Jeff Bullas: Yeah. The area you touched on regarding the importance of the body, certainly the digestive tract has got some of them. I think it's got some of the greatest quantity of nerves in the human body and it's been given the nickname as the second brain.
Tim Ash: Yeah.
Jeff Bullas: We're only just tapping into this, like you said, the biome-
Tim Ash: Intelligence.
Jeff Bullas: Yeah, intelligence. And I certainly have been trialing things such as intermittent fasting to rest the body.
Tim Ash: Yeah, I do the fast diet as well.
Jeff Bullas: Yeah. I don't call it a diet, I just call it a way of eating.
Tim Ash: Yeah. That's what it was originally called. I agree, it's a lifestyle, it's not with the goal-
Jeff Bullas: It's not a diet.
Tim Ash: ... of dropping weight or something.
Jeff Bullas: No. Yeah. So I do the 16-8 intermittent fasting, so I stop eating around about 8:00 at night and I don't eat till about midday the next day.
Tim Ash: I do 5:00 to 9:00 in the morning, same thing, 16 hours.
Jeff Bullas: There you go. I certainly did lose a little bit of weight, not that I was overweight or anything, but it certainly, for some people it seems to work well, others it doesn't. Some people have trouble doing it because they get hangry.
Tim Ash: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Guilty. Yeah-
Jeff Bullas: That's right. That's right. Now, the other part which some other parts of the book that I really like, and one of them was social, you talked about story telling, its power, its importance. Tell me a little bit about your perspective on story telling.
Tim Ash: Absolutely. Well, again, this is everything in my book and you can reduce it down to just our bodies and evolution, but that's the thread through my book, the red thread if you will, that ties everything together. And from a survival aspect, evolutionary aspect, story telling has two main purposes. The first is to basically simulate things.
Tim Ash: So if you've seen the movie Sophie's Choice where she's in the concentration camp and she literally has to decide which of her two children are going to die. I mean, I hope that you never have to make that Sophie's Choice, but we can go in to that theater, watch that tragedy, watch that decision, learn something from it, simulate it without being harmed ourselves.
Tim Ash: So when someone tells us a story, the story teller's and the listener's mind literally syncs up at the level of meaning. Not just words or sounds, but at the level of meaning and we're just in sync, it's a mind meld. It bypasses all of your logical defenses. If I say, "Well, I think we should logically do this," that's one thing. If I say, "Let me tell you a story," it's a completely different mechanism and you can't resist it. And that's why story telling has been there from the very beginning. So it's a form of simulation and that's important.
Tim Ash: The other things it is, it's a form of cultural transmission, it's to reinforce the values and beliefs and knowledge within our tribe and to keep tribal cohesion. And so, we're built for culture spread and one of the key things about it is that we tell stories in order to reinforce our values. So stories don't actually mean the same thing to everybody.
Tim Ash: Let me tell you an objective event, or a story if you will, from my book that I use as an example. Let's say you're watching a bull fight and the bullfighter deftly steps away with his cape, and as the bull charges mere centimeters from him, stabs down between its shoulder blades with the sword and kills the wild beat.
Tim Ash: Well, if you're in Spain, you probably think of that as honor and glory and the impeccable warrior tradition of the matador, and man versus raw powerful nature, and the nobility of that. Whereas, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals think of that as barbaric animal torture subsidized by those people sitting in the stands and paying money. Same objective story and set of facts looked at very differently based on the cultural beliefs of your tribe.
Jeff Bullas: Yep. About seven or eight years ago I decided that my presentations were all about facts and figures and that's the fastest way to put people to sleep.
Tim Ash: Death by PowerPoint I call it.
Jeff Bullas: Yeah. Images so complex and small that your eyes bleed trying to read them. And I had some great coaching and I discovered the power of storytelling, and I'm sure you use that a lot in your keynotes as well. And it's because you can get to touch people's souls, you can expose your own soul, it's the power of vulnerability. So if you're willing to bare your soul on stage or even in an interview, on a podcast, whatever, a seminar, I think people go, "Hey, this person's real. They bleed. They hurt."
Tim Ash: You know it's funny because I went through the same transition as a speaker. I've done a couple of hundred keynotes across four continents. I've been to your beautiful country six or seven times to keynote at events and I guess I had the same transition. First, I started with data and information. Now, I'm going to fire hose you and it's just bullet point, bullet point, here, here, here, drink from the fire hose. Then, I started having more visual images as backgrounds and then I'd speak to them.
Tim Ash: By the way, there's a great book called Presentation Zen by Garr, that's great, about how to make compelling visuals with your slides. But then, the next level stuff is not just the presentation but like you say the hooks, and storytelling are, how would you say, compelling, unavoidable hooks, you can't not but follow along with a story.
Jeff Bullas: Yeah, Joseph Campbell is one of my heroes.
Tim Ash: Oh, same here.
Jeff Bullas: Yeah. A Hero's Journey.
Tim Ash: Yes.
Jeff Bullas: The Heroes story arc that's led to literally hundreds of top selling movies. I don't know whether you've watched any of an interview series done back in the late '80s shortly before he died, he went to George Lucas' ranch and was interviewed by one of America's top-
Tim Ash: Star Wars, they ripped it off.
Jeff Bullas: Yeah.
Tim Ash: Right?
Jeff Bullas: Yeah. Look, Joseph Campbell's ... And if you watch this, this is six one hour interviews done by one of America's top news ... Not newsreader, interviewer-
Tim Ash: Bill Moyes.
Jeff Bullas: Yeah, Bill Moyes, isn't it? Yeah. But Bill Moyes interviewed Joseph Campbell and I've watched it three or four times and-
Tim Ash: Yeah, absolutely. That whole miniseries, The Power of Myth is just so powerful. Yeah, beautiful stuff.
Jeff Bullas: Now, maybe you might be able to help me. It used to be on Netflix, now it's not. I think it's been removed. It used to be readily available. I think someone's maybe bought the rights to it or something. So I don't know where it's hidden, I've really struggled to find it. But if anyone, so to all our listeners ... And we'll just talk about storytelling. And we're both big Joseph Campbell fan boys, but incredible series if you can watch it, The Power of Myth by Joseph Campbell and Bill Moyers.
Tim Ash: Or, read the book. There's a beautiful illustrated book. I have two copies because I was always handing them out to people and I figured I better have one in reserve.
Jeff Bullas: So which book was that?
Tim Ash: The Power of Myth. It's an illustrated book based on that miniseries.
Jeff Bullas: Right. All right. I'll go and get that, order that as soon as we're finished here. So just wrapping up, I came to the end of your book and you made some major points. So I'm going to list these major points. So the summation of Unleash Your Primal Brain by Tim Ash.
Jeff Bullas: Number one you've already mentioned is sleep. Number two, be in your body. Number three, access intuition and emotions. Number four, avoid artificial addictions. Number five, don't be a loner. Number six, learn from others and teach.
Jeff Bullas: So let's just maybe have a quick summation of each of these areas and maybe a sentence or two on each one would be enough I think.
Tim Ash: Okay, well if you prompt me through them again. So sleep-
Jeff Bullas: Yeah, so we'll go through them.
Tim Ash: ... don't cheat yourself. Seven to nine hours on a regular basis or else you're miscalibrating your emotions, becoming an aggressive, paranoid asshole.
Jeff Bullas: I love that summation. Number two, be in your body.
Tim Ash: A lot of things are body scale and I found the power of just small rituals throughout the day and connecting with your physicality is critical. So heartbeat, rhythms are tied to music and cadences and things like that. Everything is body scale, so start experiencing your body, where you hold emotions, where you hold tension, and exercise is definitely a part of that. And I think mindfulness practices like meditation and Tai Chi and things like that, or yoga, are critical as well to have as daily habits.
Jeff Bullas: I think that's a great tip and I've been meditating since the late 1980s. I didn't do it for quite some time, but I'm certainly back into it the last-
Tim Ash: Never too late.
Jeff Bullas: ... couple of years. I've done a lot over the years and it's where I go when times get tough, especially. That's when you've got to double down on these routines.
Tim Ash: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Self care is critical.
Jeff Bullas: Yep. Number three, access intuition and emotions.
Tim Ash: Yeah, again, it's turning the whole thing on its head and saying rationality is not the thing to strive for and being logical and detached and clinical is not how we should operate. To be fully embodied, to pay attention to our emotions, that's where we should be operating and relishing that instead of shoving it down and trying to suppress it.
Jeff Bullas: Yeah, I think listening to your body, listening to your mind, in other words, being aware and let the unlimited possibility of the horizon show up. That's when I think the universe talks to you and humanity talks to us because we're very much social and tribal. The other one (number 4), avoid artificial addictions. We know where this is going to go, so over to you on this one.
Tim Ash: Well, it's important to understand that what passes for happiness chemicals in our brains, oxytocin, opioids, and the cannabinoids, dopamine, they all exist in our brain. In fact, they're manufactured either in our brain or elsewhere in our body. They're necessary and they have survival reasons for evolving. I mean, we share dopamine with fruit flies, it goes back a few hundred million years. So it's kind of useful. It's not the love drug or anything like that or the reward drug, it's there for a number of reasons.
Tim Ash: So basically, these things exist at certain levels and they're released in pursuit of survival goals. If you take in those same drugs in much stronger quantities from outside, you basically beat your brain with a big hammer and it's not able to function like it's supposed to anymore. You're permanently rewiring your brain, it leads to addictions and there's nothing good down that road.
Jeff Bullas: Number five, we've touched on this already, but don't be a loner.
Tim Ash: We're the most social creatures on the planet. As mammals, we're social, but we're ... The last part of my book, the last few chapters are called Hyper Social. Human beings need social stuff. There's a longitudinal study out of Harvard or MIT, where they've tracked people for 80 years, people that went to Harvard and the Southie boys of Boston that were uneducated and poor.
Tim Ash: The thing that predicts life happiness and quality of life, the quality of your social relationships. If that's not good, it's the medical equivalent of having a two pack a day cigarette habit, so you have to maintain social ties and be bound up into life.
Jeff Bullas: I totally agree with that happiness. Once we've got the core needs taken care of, shelter, water, food, more money doesn't make you happy, it's the people that you surround yourself with that do and that's something I've certainly doubled down with it, and I'm very careful about who I socialize with. I guard that very, very heavily. The last one is (number 6), and I love this, learn from others and teach something.
Tim Ash: So I'd say for me personally, the two most eye opening chapters in the book had to do with culture and how culture and genes co-evolved, that's what makes us unique. We're not better as individuals, we're here to download the cultural package of the tribe around us. For that chain to continue, we have to be able to learn, figure out who to learn from, devote the time to learning.
Tim Ash: But there's got to be some motivation from the other side, which I call prestige, the pay off of mentoring, of paying it forward if you will. And so, that chain only exists if you learn something and then you turn around and you teach it. And we have intrinsic motivation. In Jewish terms you'd call it [foreign language 01:05:38] or satisfaction from teaching others. So whatever it is, whatever your domain or expertise or excellence is in, learn it and then turn around and teach it.
Jeff Bullas: I think that's a great way to wrap it up. And I'll sum it up in terms of you're encouraging people to create something from what they've learned in their life and then to share it with other people and that's the teaching part. I think when you share your gift with the world, which is what you were saying in number six, I think that's where the magic really happens.
Tim Ash: Absolutely. That's what gives meaning to life.
Jeff Bullas: It does. And it only took me 50 years to work that out.
Tim Ash: Well, you're ahead of me. I'm 55, I'm still figuring it out.
Jeff Bullas: Oh well, I don't have the perfect answer to anything yet, but I think there's certain insights you gain, especially when you get a little older and reflect and life happens. Tim, it's been an absolute pleasure to have a chat with you and share your gift with the world. And I'm sure there is more gift giving from you, both from stage and from books, in the future. Thank you very much for your time.
Tim Ash: Yeah, my pleasure. So if people want to reach out to me, they can contact me at timash.com. Or, information about the book is at primalbrain.com. I have to mention, I have an Australia edition put out by Booktopia, my good buddy Tony Nash. So that's available to you guys in Australia and New Zealand, in all formats, including the audiobook narrated by me.
Jeff Bullas: Fantastic. Thank you for your time, it's been an absolute pleasure, Tim.
Tim Ash: No, Jeff, it's been my honor.
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