The talk was about this program where 20 people are selected for the Thiel Fellowship each year, and there were about 200 people in the room that day. They said that there are two billion people 20 years old or younger.
That two billion under 20 nugget stuck in my head for a couple of months, and for about three months after that, February of 2013, I was in the shower thinking about how that concept could apply to different industries. For some reason, I thought about a book, and thought, What if we brought together really smart, ambitious young people in order to share their stories, get more young people to act on their passions, and get more people to do cool stuff?
I pitched that idea to the Thiel Foundation’s Facebook group, and within a half hour, there were 50 likes on the thread, 60 comments, three people wanting to be my co-authors, three people who sent me stories, and a couple haters on the thread. If they’re always hating, then something is wrong, but a couple haters must mean it’s a good idea. I ended up attracting Stacey to the project, and we went from there.
Q. How did you and your Co-Author Stacey Ferreira Meet?
In November of 2012, Stacey and I were in New York for the Thiel Foundation summit. I was supposed to miss the final talk of the event. I walked out of the summit, saw that my plane was delayed, and walked right back into the summit and saw the talk.
Q. Where did you find the people for the book?
The first 20-30 of the 75 people came from that community, and we poached from the Forbes 30 Under 30 list and the Inc. list. If you were 20 and under and on those lists, you probably got an email from me. There was a ton of editing and back-and-forth trying to get a publisher and some back-and-forth with our publishers, and now it’s out.
Q.This book didn’t just happen. What’s the technique, How can someone do this themselves?
My zone of genius is bringing people together to do bigger things for society. Relationship building, and idea connecting are my things. Over the years that I’ve been an entrepreneur, I’ve been building a world-class network, not just of millennials, but also of people in the C-Suite, who are older executives, really everyone along all walks of life. Because I have that network, opportunities pop up. When you portray yourself in a positive way and you’re always sharing what’s going on, and you branding yourself properly, new opportunities arise. You just mentioned Ted at IBM, which I found out about two days ago (as we’re recording) that I was selected as a speaker for Ted at IBM in October.
Having a world-class network and building strong long-term relationships with everyone allows these opportunities to come about. Opportunity breeds opportunity because people like to hang around with winners. If you portray yourself in the right manner, have the right mindsets, are positive and hustling, things will come your way.
There’s also this concept of leverage. If we have a book coming out, we’re going to leverage that. It’s not just book comes out, a few hundred or thousand copies are sold, and you go on with your life. No. I can leverage this to launch different businesses under the 2 Billion Under 20 brand with Stacey. I can leverage it to pitch my next book, which I will be pitching to publishers very soon. I can leverage it for my personal brand and for other things.
Top three concepts:
Q. What are a couple of interesting back stories that have come from the book?
There are two nuclear scientists in the book that started dating and building a company together because they met through the community. That just blows my mind.
My friend Rob, who is not in the book but is in the 2 Billion Under 20 community, found a post in our online group from Daniel, who is one of the contributors, about a pass-and-call for an ABC Family show. Rob followed up on it and kept flirting with the show; he actually will be on this new show called Job or No Job that comes out in August. Major ABC Family show, all because of the 2 Billion Under 20 community.
Q. One story that stood out was Micaela Chapa’s story; it wasn’t your normal entrepreneurial story, tell us about it?
What’s cool about Micaela , is that she is not a young entrepreneur, she is not a scientist, and no one had ever heard of her story. I met her very spontaneously, and her story will resonate with everybody who has ever struggled with weight loss. Last year, at the beginning of 2014, I was 230 pounds. Now I’m 190-195. I’ve lost 35 pounds in the last year and a half. Her story really speaks to me in terms of how she was able to do that. There is an interesting bonus where she did work with Stanford and some experimental surgeries in order to help her with that progression. There is interesting technological ties into her story. Also the mental case with that was interesting. People would think that her surgeries were cheating, but it takes a lot of hard work to get to the point where you can have that surgery and maintain it afterward.
Q. What were the major gains you have taken from this writing experience?
I gained a lot of friends. That’s the biggest knowledge I can make. I have this continual knowledge. I can go to a lot of these people and ask for their expertise in whatever fields they are in. We have experts in all these different walks of life from all over the world. There are 20 different countries represented in the book. It’s really been fun.
Even if the book sold five copies, me, Stacey, my mom, her mom, and you bought a copy, I think it is still a success because at least for me and Stacey, we have developed these really strong ties to the community members and the contributors. You guys have all intermingled and created this mastermind of sorts where all the neural networks are connecting in this online mind. Cool things are happening.
Q. How do you stay as productive as possible?
I was thinking about this topic this morning because I knew you would ask me something about productivity. The biggest productivity hack that I have is that I am very productive at a macro level.
I don’t watch TV or movies unless I am on an international flight.
I don’t use Snapchat or Instagram.
I don’t do a lot of things that suck away a lot of time.
Most American adults watch 27 hours of TV a week or something silly like that. More than a day of their week is watching TV. By not doing that, I gain 27 hours. Same with any social media platforms that I’m sure people spend 3-4 hours a week or a day on.
By being productive at a macro level, I am able to get a lot more done. That also applies to relationships for sure.
- Having really good mentors in your life saves you a lot of time and money.
- I have a lot of mentors who not only advise me on what to do, but also on what not to do. Some of those what not to do scenarios will save me decades and millions of dollars.
- Working on the right projects, you can sink your head into a start-up for three years, and if it’s not the right thing, you wasted three years.
Be productive at a macro level. Yes, you can be productive at a micro level, those are all really good things, but at a macro level, you are saving yourself a lot of time.
Passion Is the Motive:
Q. We always say, “Go out and follow your passion. Just do it.” Is it that easy? How do you do it?
That’s a good question. It depends on what you’re passionate about and where your skill sets lie. One of my mentors taught me this idea; what he had me do was look at what I was passionate about. It is a very simplistic exercise.
Take a sheet of paper: on one side, put what you’re passionate about, and on the other side, put what you’re good at. You can start seeing where there might be similarities.
To give you a real world example, I am passionate about basketball, and really good at stats, but I am not good at dribbling and shooting; I am not athletic. How can you still act on your passion of basketball and implement your skill sets? You can be a statistician, you can work in the front office, you can be a GM, or you can be a lawyer. There are all these different ways you can still act on your passion and utilize your skill sets.
The third overlap, if you think about this in a Venn diagram, is market opportunities.
- What are you going to get paid for?
- How can you feed yourself?
For most people, money doesn’t have to be the main metric of success. There are other metrics of success in my life. For some people, it is, and at the bare minimum, you need to support yourself. Think about, Okay, I’m passionate about this stuff, I’m really good at this, and there is a market opportunity here. Where is the intersection of all of that? That will be your zone of genius.
Dropping some Knowledge:
Q. How cam we figure out the opportunity cost for an idea?
Another thing I like to do in my life is I think about how I can cover my nut in the smallest amount of time. I can spend most of my time working on things that may not pay me today, but will pay big time in the future. 2 Billion Under 20 isn’t paying me yet in a big way; I have leverage over speaking and for other things, but you don’t make money off the book. You make money off of everything that comes after the book: the company that will build, future book deals, bigger fees for speaking.
I have been running a marketing and consulting firm, and I have been helping authors, Olympians, start-ups, Fortune 500s with various marketing needs pertaining to millennials and their own thought leadership platforms, so that’s been covering my nut and how I’ve been able to support myself financially. I spend maybe 20% of my time working on that consulting brand. Yeah, I could focus more time on it and build it into a bigger business potentially, but I choose to spend 80% of my time working on 2 Billion Under 20 and other things that I think will pay off longer term. That’s another thing that’s really important: make sure your bases are covered. You can’t just act on your passion and realize that you can’t be a professional dancer because you don’t have the funds for it.
Relationship Advice from Jared K:
Ladies listening to this, if a guy ever tells you that you are one in a million, there are 7,000 other people in the world. Don’t take that from them. You need to be at least one in a billion, which means there are seven people in the world. But 50/50 guys and girls, so there are three other girls in the world?
Lost in Translation:
Q. Can you tell us a good story along your journey?
People have come up to Stacey and me and have asked us either separately or together, “Have you guys made two billion dollars?” Nobody has ever made billions before 20. We were both on a panel a year and a half together working with other Thiel fellows, and we were speaking to some Japanese high schoolers. We had no professional translators, just student translators. Actually it was one of the best panels I have ever been on. It was an authentic experience.
I started talking about 2 Billion Under 20, and everyone’s jaws dropped. Ten seconds later, when I was done talking about the book and how there are two billion people in the world under 20, they got it, and they realized they weren’t listening to a billionaire, just listening to someone who knows there are two billion people in the world under 20.
Looking into The Future:
Q. What’s the future look like for you, and the Community?
I think part of our post-book-launch focuses are going to be how we can provide value to our community members and contributors, how we can connect them better and serve them better. I don’t think we have done the world’s best job. I think there are other communities that are doing it better whatever the case may be. The potential is there for so much.
Stacey and I are working on a few things. I don’t know if I can mention them yet.
It quickly became apparent that it wasn’t just about a book. People who think it is just about a book are misunderstanding the ambition that we each have and that the community has. We have a world-class talent pool that we have assembled, so what can you do with that? The possibilities are endless, and we both want to start larger companies out of the book. There might be future books, spin-offs, which would be pretty interesting. I think we’re really into building larger companies that will better millennials to find and act on their passions and unite them in solving our world’s largest problems. That’s the future. In the very near future, we will be announcing stuff. Just know that a book is not the end goal. The book is only the beginning. It starts with 2 Billion Under 20. That is a hint to the future, if you know what I mean.