Into the flywheel boys! Jim Collins & Tim Ferriss Podcast #361

Ok, finished my dog walk and speed walking hike while listening to an amazing podcast of Tim Ferriss and Jim Collins.   Jim Collins is the author who wrote “Built to Last” and “Good to Great”. Coincidentally, I had recently purchased the “Built To Last” book at the Last Bookstore (in Los Angeles).  I had heard of the book before and it was on sale (used of course), so I thought why not. So when this podcast air’d, I had yet to dig into this book. My thoughts is by listening to the author it was going to help me see what I was getting into.  I am happy to announce, I am more excited to read this book now more than ever.

Also I am a data-driven mover.  I try my best to quantify all the collection of data before I move in a direction and make the best decision.  My recent “research” was reading reviews to find the best cordless headphones. Yeah, I know.. not that cool, but I’m a buy once-good quality-take care of it kinda guy.  PS: I ended up purchasing the new Jabra 65t active from Best Buy (on sale of course).

Jim Collins seems to have the same method, except he’s on crack and he’s not buying headphones. His decades of research and insight with Fortune 500 companies and how they’re built, is fascinating to me.

In this new Tim Ferriss Podcast, with Jim Collins, he goes into details about a great many things. Here are a couple of notable things and data that I pulled from this podcast.


Levelling up.  The Level 5 Leadership

The Jim Collins team had come up with this concept of Level 5 Leadership.  All the previous levels are what you’d expect,

“Level one would be individual capabilities. That would be at the base of the pyramid, and then you go from individual capabilities to level two, which is you get really good at playing well with others. Good team skills. Level three, you would learn how to manage, then above level three becomes level four. You go from managing to learning to lead. Then there was a higher level. That higher level was the Level 5. The Level 5, well you could be a leader as a level four. To be a Level 5 leader you had to go to the next level of the hierarchy and add in this ambition for some things bigger than yourself with humility and with will.”

This is fascinating to me and oddly extremely logical. Where level 5 is one step past an already traditionally great leader because the leader conveys a purpose bigger than him/her self.   Something we all strive for.

“An Ambition for some things bigger than themselves with humility and with will. “

I loved the book “Ego is the Enemy” by Ryan Holiday, and this fits in perfectly.  Once you realize this company is not about you (on a conceptual sense), then you can truly do something great.  

To the group of readers, most of you are individual creative artists so naturally by default, it is about you.  But I think we can both see that the general concept rings true.

The genius with 1000 helpers.

There is a concept of being a genius with 1000 helpers.  Some companies are built just like this. As long as those 1000 helpers are willing to help, and the genius continues to be a genius.  Can this sustain? Are you a genius with 1000 helpers? Can your business withstand something that removes you and still can run?

Instant Napping

Napping.  It kinda goes on a tangent here, but a great tangent.  Basically stats about how napping can change your day. You might think, I need to be the machine that never stops.  *I still feel that way, and have a hard time slowing down. But how the best leaders take naps, it helps you become a better leader, mother, father or friend.

Thinking about it, I am getting this confused with the podcast I listened to yesterday. “Timing is Everything” by Daniel Pink on the Tony Robbins podcast: (  – Luckily for you, they are both good listens, so I don’t mind co-mingling some info.

The Flywheel Effect

Lastly, the flywheel.  I thought this is such a great concept.  If you don’t know what I flywheel is (I didn’t, so I googled it). Imagine the spinning wheel like a stationary cycle. (*they have them in cars, and tons of other machines).  One kick on the on the petal makes the wheel spin. This first kick is always the toughest, you have to put all your effort into it. Its basically the hardest kick you’ll do. Once its moving, the second push makes the wheel spin faster and spin longer because you’re adding to momentum you’ve already started and so on.   But lets back this up, let’s say you spend all this time for the first kick and crack the first rotation, but then you stop. Guess what, when the wheel stops and it will take almost as much effort to move it again.

But the concept is if you can create a business like a flywheel, your business will grow cyclically and use the momentum.   Jim Collins provides an example from Amazon.

“ If you lower prices on more offerings, then you almost can’t help but go down to the next step in the flywheel.  Picture a circle going around to increase customer visits. (So if you lower prices) you increase customer visits, then you almost can’t help but get more third-party sellers. And if you get more third-party sellers, well, then you almost can’t help but expand the store and expand distribution. And if you do that, you can’t help but grow revenues for fixed costs. If you do that, you can’t help but be able to lower prices on more offerings, which is going to attract more customer visits, which is going to attract third-party sellers, which is going to expand the store and extend distribution, and you can eventually buy Whole Foods and all the other stuff. You’re going to grow revenues for fixed costs and then, boom, lower prices on more stuff, etc., etc.”

And here was the secret sauce behind the concept.

“What I came to see is that people didn’t necessarily really have a flywheel, because they didn’t understand something deeply important about what a flywheel really is. A flywheel is an underlying, compelling logic of momentum. It’s not a list of steps. Drawn as a circle, called the flywheel. Rather, there’s an inevitability built in. If you do A, you almost can’t help but do B. And if you do B, you almost can’t help but do C. And if you do C, you almost can’t help but do D. And around and around. And it’s driven around because there’s an underlying connection. There’s a logical sequence that builds dynamic momentum because A drives B drives C drives D and around back to the top of the loop.”

I love this.  This is everything in life, especially in habit-forming.  Things will eventually happen by default. Where it DRIVES the next step.  Like you can’t control it. It WILL happen, so be prepared.

An example is a basic concept for the readers and of course a bit of my TMW bias.

  1. If you sell pins, you will gain more notoriety and money.
  2. If you earn notoriety and/or make money from pins will means it might help you work (day job) less.  *(This won’t work exact, but you know what I mean.)
  3. If you work less, you will have time to create more.
  4. Creating more can mean more notoriety and/or pins.

“Making more pins can mean more money, more money means less time working, which means more creativity, and so on.”

( I know, I know.. shameless self-promotion.)

Obviously, it’s a super primitive form of the flywheel, but the concept is still relevant.

Ok, so finished my last sip, which means I realize I’m rambling. I just finished my hike, right as I finished the podcast, so I’m jumbling all my ideas and concepts I obtained on a breakfast computer tippy-tap.  If you have some time (about 2h 30m) or can break it up 1h 15 mins. And you like all this kinda stuff. Data-driven knowledge, the why behind it, I recommend it. Now back to my waffles, thank you!