Starting from Zero: Transactions Are Built on Trust

(Listen on YouTube/Spotify)

People will never give you their time, or their money, or recommend you to a friend, unless they trust you.

Trust is a currency. Trust is something you can gain and lose. You earn trust by being reputable. You earn trust by holding yourself accountable. You declare what you are going to do, and then you do it. You intend to get results, and then you get results. People see that you get results and so they trust you. Over and over and over again. Results are the fuel that power the engine of trust. “You can’t make money unless you have money,” they say. Yes. That’s right. You can’t make money unless you have the currency of trust. Nobody is going to give you a hundred dollar bill unless they shake your hand.

How to build trust from zero?

Start with what you have.

“But I don’t have anything.”

Nonsense. You have sight. Vision. A dream. A goal. You have perspectives and assertions and opinions. You have what no one else can take from you: the choice of intent.

“But I don’t have any experience.”

Exactly. What you don’t have is what you have. You have the experience of being a noob. The world is full of noobs. I’m a noob. Find the noobs. Talk to the noobs. Make a podcast about being a noob, noob.

You build trust by starting with what you have. Start writing blog posts. Start recording podcasts. Talk to people. Ask questions. Build something. Build something and then blow it up so that you can build something better.

You know you have trust when people give to you their most sacred asset: time. If someone asks you for your time, they trust you. They might be asking only because of your reputation, or your fame, but regardless, they trust you. Why else would they spend half an hour of their time talking to you?

You have trust when you’re busy. A full calendar means that people trust you. A calendar full not of busywork, but of paid gigs and projects and assignments given to you by people who know you’re capable of getting results.

You can’t make a name for yourself unless you start putting out good work under your name. Your name means nothing without a steel foundation of good work. There is no such thing as the ‘big break.’ The overnight success is as mythical as the tooth fairy. Don’t trust the lucky. Don’t trust the salesman trying to pitch at you an easy way to the dream life. Trust the diligent. Trust the persistent. Trust the ‘man in the arena.’

There are two sources of capital you need to build before you earn your first nickel on the Internet.

  • Trust
  • Taste

Trust covers all the ethical stuff. Taste covers all the stuff in between. Like yin and yang, you can’t have one without the other. People will trust you because you act responsibly. And they’ll trust you because you make responsibility look cool (that’s the taste part.)

Here’s how to cultivate taste.

Has anyone ever asked you for a book recommendation?

That’s taste.

Taste solves matters of art. Taste is subjective, so personal problems can’t be solved with taste. Just because you have good taste doesn’t mean you have a license to practice therapy. Taste doesn’t have the power to solve problems directly. Taste solves problems indirectly. Taste shows us where a solution might be. Taste is the feeling in your gut that tells you which book you should read next, which person you should consult with on your next project, which project to to start, which career choice to make. If there is such a thing as an ‘inner eye,’ it’s really just called taste.

How to build taste from square one?

Let me repeat myself. Get experience. You can do this even if you’re starting from zero. How? Go on the Internet and start writing. Talk to people. Record your conversations with people and turn them into a podcast. Find people more experienced than you are. Ask them questions. Start working on a project. Any project. Just remember to put your name on it.

Once you have peoples trust, once they know you have good taste, only then will they give you what you’re after.

First we trust, next we taste, and then, we trade.

“I might be creative.”


“I could be creative.”

Getting warmer.

“I was creative before, but…”


“I am creative.”

Yes! Bingo! You’re on fire.

Yes, you’re creative. Of course you’re creative.

I’m always amazed to see creators put forth their work, and yet they believe that their impact isn’t enough. Daily drawings of animals and nightly blog posts about sound design are considered smalltime compared to trailblazers and household names in the creator community.

Truth us, even something as small as a 60 word blog post can change somebody’s life. My buddy Chris Jordan wrote a short article that inspired me to do something I’ve never done before: launch an online course. His article was only one word shy of the 350 word mark. 349 words – that’s it! That’s all it took for me to see, sit, and persist.




And give.

This is what our creativity is for.

OF COURSE YOU’RE CREATIVE launched yesterday on Gumroad. Within the first 14 hours, 46 generous creators signed up to learn how to see ideas everywhere and make an impact everyday. There’s videos and illustrations to go along with the ~15,800 word ‘book’ that this course ended up becoming. I’ve never launched anything like this before so I’ll be reiterating and improving it as I go. Consider this the alpha release!

Note: If money’s hard for you right now, DM me on Twitter and I’ll see what I can do for you. Wherever you are, whatever you’re starting with, I know you have it in you to make something magical with all that makes you, you.


Lifting? Simple.

Writing? Simple.

Reading? Simple.

Eating? Simple.

Running? Simple.

There are countless organic mechanisms in your body, interacting in a complex system, just so that you can bite, chew, and swallow a cream cheese bagel. Life is simple on the surface, but complicated down below.

I went for a run on the beach this morning. I cannot overstate how good I feel after a run. I’f you’ve never gone on a run before, here’s a quick tutorial: To run, just walk faster than you normally walk. Tutorial over. The lasting effect that running has on my mood is something I’d pay for. Wish I had started this habit earlier in my life. Go run! Highly recommended.

Where have you been all your life?

The alarm buzzes and my phone vibrates. But I’m not vibrating. I’m still sleepy. I hit the snooze button. I close my eyes, but I stay awake. I open my eyes. 5:30 A.M. Half an hour passed since the alarm went off. I’m a morning person, not a waking up person. For Christmas I got a new blanket. It’s ridiculously comfortable. It should be illegal to sell blankets this comfortable. Freeing myself from the shackles of this blanket is the hardest part of my morning. I break free. Next, I get up to use the restroom. Then, I stuff my laptop into my backpack, put on a hoodie, grab my dumbbell, and head to the living room. I set my phone timer for 20 minutes, and rotate between 10 pushups and 10 curls in each hand. After that, I go for a run. Feels good. Definition of exhilaration: Being outside before the all the birds and people wake up. I can see the morning stars. I think I see Jupiter. No, that’s no Jupiter. Mars? No idea. Whatever it is, it’s bright, and my eyes are the only eyes that see it. Still running. Still good. And then it starts to suck. My legs hurt. Maybe it’s my shoes. I should get new shoes. I should stop running so that I can get new shoes so that I don’t hurt my legs. What if my legs snap in half while I’m running? Why am I even thinking about that? This is just one of the few dozen petty distractions that buzz through my head as I run. I get near the end: just a short uphill climb. Nothing to brag about, really. I make it to the top. I’m done. Woo. Though the uphill is short, it affords me a miniature moment of beauty as I look at the morning sky, backgrounded by mountains some 60 miles away.

I’ve only had this routine for the last 3 days. So far, I love it. I want to take this routine out to dinner and ask it, “where have you been all my life?”

Dear Morning Routine,

Where have you been all my life?


Dear Paul,

Where have you been all your life?

How to Make a Podcast Better Than the One You Have Now

Podcasters often ask me to give feedback on their podcast. I can’t give specific feedback for each podcast because it’s such a personal medium that it’s like trying to review someone on yelp. But what I can do is share the most important principles of podcasting.

In my never-ending quest to share everything I know, here’s what I’ve learned from hosting 37 conversations on The Penguin Latte Podcast.

I learned all of this the hard way: by making a podcast.


  1. Treat the words ‘guest’ and ‘host’ seriously. You are hosting a podcast. Treat your guest as if they’re staying at your place for a few days. Make a cup of tea for them. Ask them what kind of wine they prefer. Make them feel at home. Your guest should enjoy being on your podcast so much that they tell all their friends and family about it.
  2. Conversations, not interviews. Interviews get us jobs. Conversations get us insight.
  3. Big Name Guests are overrated. You can host an incredible podcast without having Big Name Guests on your show. There are lots of wise, generous, brilliant folks out there who have a tiny online footprint. Seek them out. Besides, all the Big Name Guests have been on thousands of podcasts before. It’s very difficult to come up with a question that a Big Name Guest hasn’t heard before. Host the owner of the mom & pop coffee shop down the road. Get your mother on the podcast. Talk to people with sub 1,000 followers on Twitter.
  4. Couldn’t get a guest on the show? Talk to yourself. Not every episode needs to be a talk show. Record a solo episode once in awhile to mix things up. A solo episode is your chance to get up close and personal with your audience. Narrate one of your best performing blog posts. Share a story. Go off the cuff. Share with us what you’re learning, building, and thinking about. Talk to us! Who’s the woman behind the mic? What’s she up to? Why did she decide to start a podcast? Host a Q&A session with your audience on Twitter. Record yourself answering their questions. The possibilities of podcasting are endless. This is just a small handful of examples of alternative formats to the traditional conversational style. There are no gatekeepers. You can do whatever the hell you want.
  5. Don’t start a podcast. Start a movement. “I’m launching a podcast!” is boring. “I’m launching a podcast to better understand the culture of South Africa!” is better. I started The Penguin Latte Podcast to better understand the life of digital creators.
  6. Ignore everyone dming you on LinkedIn about their Podcasters Network. Putting “podcaster” in your bio attracts total strangers into your inbox, asking you to join their Podcasters Network. Ignore all of it. This happens mostly on LinkedIn and Instagram. Twitter is still somewhat safe. Oh, and if you’re asking podcasters to join your Podcasting Network, stop.
  7. Editing depends on what style of podcast you’re going for. Going for a Joe Rogan style show? Edit nothing. Leave in all the uhms and ahs. Your podcast will feel much more like a conversation between two people than two Deepfakes going at it. Going for something more polished, like an episode of NPR? Warm up that trimming tool. You’re going to be doing a lot of editing. Either do it yourself (it’s simple but time consuming), or hire an editor. I prefer to keep all the uhms and stutters because it feels more human that way.
  8. There aren’t enough podcasts with your name on them. A bazillion podcasts are made every week. Most end after the third episode. Why? Because we expect to make a lot of money or to become the next thought leader just by having a podcast. Or because it’s just too much work. Yes, it’s a lot of work. Yes, you can make money doing it, but that’s never the point. If you enjoy hosting your podcast, don’t stop. If you don’t enjoy it, stop.
  9. Only invite people onto your show that you’re actually interested in talking to. Otherwise, you won’t have a whole lot to talk about. The conversation will fall flat as a pancake. Invite people onto your show that you could talk to for 6 hours straight. It’s tempting to go after The Big Name Guests. Don’t. Sure, get out of your comfort zone and cold email a few hot shots. Just remember that there are many, many unheard voices out there, waiting to reach an audience. Being a podcast host is like being a beacon for those unheard voices. After hosting your show for awhile, people will invite themselves onto your show. This is humbling. Sometimes they’re people you’d actually want to talk to. Sometimes they’re not. Be prepared to politely say ‘no’ every once in awhile.
  10. Do your homework. “So, uh, what made you want to start a business?” If you ask that, I am going to revoke your Podcasting Privileges. If you’re talking to someone who started a business, it’s likely they’ve shared their origin story on their blog. If you don’t have time to read their book, read their blog. If you don’t have time to read their blog, don’t host a podcast. In short, be like Nardwuar.
  11. Ask better questions. Ask questions that show your guest you care. Don’t shy away from the unusual question, either. I love ending my show by asking my guests, “If, tomorrow, you were going to be onto a medieval guillotine, what would your final message to the world be?” I came up with this question on the fly while chatting with Austin Calvert (episode 9!) I’ve used it in nearly every episode since. Guests hate this question. It’s a tough one to answer on the spot and I sometimes feel bad for asking it. Nonetheless, I love the chaos this question spawns, which is why I unleash it at the very end.
  12. How to cold email: Don’t hedge. Be precise. “Hey so-and-so. I’ve been a big fan of your work since such-and-such. I host a podcast about thing-and-thing. Would you like to come on to chat about your work?” Bonus points: send them a stylized notion page with more information and a Calendly link at the bottom. Here’s a video on how I use Notion to create such a page to send everyone I invite onto the show.

What a podcast isn’t:

a money machine

a way to promote yourself

a ticket to fame

a thing we have too many of

an easy thing to do

What a podcast is:

a collaboration between you and your guest

a collaboration between you and your audience

a way to indulge in your curiosity

an opportunity for connection

a movement


I’ve made a few podcasting tutorials on YouTube which you can check out here.

Enjoyed this podcast? post? Reach out to me on Twitter! Don’t be shy, say hi. I’d love to hear from you.

Some rough thoughts on distractions, written on a whim as a distraction from something more important than this.

Note: I wrote this two days ago. Sharing this because I think we get too caught up in playing productivity olympics.

I’m sitting at my desk to get some work done.

‘Some work done’

What does that even mean? What constitutes work? Is this work? Writing these words that you’re reading now, is that work? Is it work if I’m not being paid for it? Am I distracting myself away from something more important?

Yeah, I am.

I’ve been doing it for the last 2 hours. I sat down 2 hours ago to get some work done, and now I’m writing this post. I’m doing this to trick myself into believing that I am being productive with my time. It’s working.

In the last 2 hours, I…

Ate 2 spoonful’s of ice cream

Checked Twitter

Wrote a tweet but ended up not tweeting it because I thought, eh.

Watched 4 seconds of an algorithmically recommended YouTube video.

And then I clicked on a bunch of random folders on my hard drive, I guess, you know, just to be sure they still work? — they still work.

What I struggle with most in this work-from-home-solopreneur-freelancer-creator-everyday-is-wear-pajamas-to-work-day-world is intent. On my worst days (today), I find it hard to decide what I am going to do and what I am not going to do. When I lose focus, I make up for it by doing stuff that tricks my brain into believing that Wow I sure am getting a lot of work done stuffing 2 spoonfuls of Phish Food ice cream down my throat. What’s the answer to this problem? Should I schedule ice cream time in advance? Make a little Gcal reminder that says ICE CREAM, color it pink, and repeat it every Tuesday? As ridiculous as it sounds, this seems like the only solution.

I’ve treated productivity as a force that comes to me on a whim. I’ve believed that if I merely sit at my desk, “work” will flow out of my fingers like magic out of a wand. That never happens. I need to know, in advance, why I am sitting at my desk. Better still, I need to know why I’m not sitting at my desk. I need to know what’s off limits. If I lose focus, if I start twiddling my thumbs, if YouTube becomes more interesting than whatever I’m working on, then I should know that it’s time to stop.

We need to be careful, diligent, and clear about what we are going to do when we decide that it’s time to work. We need, also, to sprinkle our idleness with just a dash of intentionality. Know why you’re resting, know why you’re moving about.

One should relax without guilt.

One should work without reservation.

A dash of difficulty

Small tasks like to masquerade as gargantuan efforts.

Let’s take for example the humble email. Say you just finished reading a good book by a famous author, and you’d like to invite them onto your podcast. You’ve recorded 4 episodes of your podcast. An average of 28 people download your show every week. You’re small. They’re big. Emailing that famous author to invite them onto your podcast is like running a 5 minute mile with a stomach full of rotisserie chicken. They could strike your ego by responding with a polite ‘no.’ ‘No’ hurts. ‘No’ is what we’d rather not hear. No, not right now, sorry, perhaps at a different time. This is exactly why you should email that famous author onto your podcast. Because it’s difficult.

Do the difficult stuff first thing in the morning. When you wake up, go through your usual routine. Brush your teeth. Drink water. Shower. Pee, etc. Do whatever it is you do to remind you that you’re just a humble ol’ so-and-so, a mild-mannered sort of fellow, nothing out of the ordinary here officer. Once you’re done with that, get absolutely fucking evil. Do all the stuff you’d rather not do. Swallow down a spoonful of ‘no.’ Work out for an hour. Tie your running shoes and run. Even if it’s cold outside. Especially if it’s cold outside. Cold is just an extra serving of no. Then, eat breakfast. Drink coffee. Kiss your S.O good morning I love you. Pack your kids lunch and drive them back to their bedroom for Zoom school.

What’s next? The most difficult thing in the world. It’s what we spend our entire lives saying no to. It’s so difficult that dictators would rather send their people to war instead of doing it. It’s so ridiculously, stupidly difficult that only 3 books have ever been written on doing it well. It’s called writing, and it’s very hard to do. And that’s all the reason you need to do it. First thing in the morning.

The magic of difficult things is in their power to improve the quality of everything else. Your favorite ice cream tastes better. Your spouse is prettier. Your friends are funnier. Your favorite music is richer. It’s by sprinkling our lives with but a dash of difficulty that we grant it meaning.

By making a habit of doing a lot of difficult stuff everyday, you will no longer feel guilty about taking a break. Resting will no longer feel like an indulgence, some naughty thing to be ashamed of. Instead, you’ll be content with resting because, in the undying words of Tony the Tiger, you will have earned your stripes.

The sunk-cost fallacy is correct.

Well, you might need it later…

Yeah, I might, but if I haven’t used it in six years, then what makes you think I’ll need it tomorrow?

Sunk-cost fallacy. That’s what. It’s an erroneous albeit alluring way to make decisions based only on how much time is being invested into something. The error of sunk-cost is its assumption that things are valuable only to the degree that they’ve been exposed to the dimension of time. The allure, the allure I find ridiculously annoying, is that fallaciously judging an object’s value based only on time is like saying there is indeed a probability that Jupiter will explode tomorrow. Indeed. Jupiter might explode tomorrow. But the probability that Jupiter will explode tomorrow is so low that it’s stupid to even use it as an example to illustrate a point.

The sunk-cost fallacy is always correct. Jupiter might explode. You might need that old sweater. Might is right, right? Being correct is a way to wield authority. Wielding authority means that our subordinates treat our rules and thoughts and decisions and judgments as immutable as gravity. This is the way we’ve always done it. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. (That last one is most applied to minds locked shut.)

Thanks. You’re right. I might need this. But the probability that I’ll need it decreases with each day. I’ve kept this thing for 8 years now. The probability that I’ll need it now is zero. I don’t need this anymore. Let’s get rid of it. And while we’re at it, let’s get rid of our habit of assuming that we’ll one day perk up and need that thing, that dusty little thing sitting in our closet collecting undocumented strains of dust.

The perniciousness of sunk-cost thinking doesn’t stop at knick knacks and hand-me-downs. Our daily habits are no safe haven from the pitfalls of human reasoning. Every sixth shot of espresso downed increases the chances of a sixth shot of espresso downed tomorrow. Anti-habits, the habit of not having good habits, are exemplars of the sunk-cost fallacy. “I’ve been pretty good at not drinking water for the last 3 days. Might as well keep the streak going.”

We fall for the sunk-cost fallacy because we love streaks. We love momentum. We love Keeping-it-up. Therein lies the damaging error in sunk-cost thinking. We stick with habits and things that aren’t meaningful to us anymore, and reward ourselves for it. We don’t like to abandon our pursuits, old clothes, furniture, and identities because abandonment implies failure and failure is what we seek to avoid. It just isn’t fun to admit that you don’t to be a doctor anymore after being one for 8 years. Getting rid of that weird polo shirt you bought on vacation that one summer hurts because now you need to admit that you don’t have any fashion sense. Or, and I’m willing to take the fight against sunk-cost fallacy as far as it could go, now you need to admit that you don’t have any sense whatsoever about what it is you want out of life. “I thought I wanted this polo shirt,” “I thought I wanted to be a doctor,” “I thought I wanted to spend the rest of my life with them,” are all saying the same thing: I thought that I wanted this. That was back then. This is today, this is the present, this is now. Now, I don’t. Now, I want something else, want to do something else, want to be someone else. The reason for why you want something else could come from your habit of asking yourself what it is you want and why. That’s a very good habit to have. A habit I really think you should keep. You never know. You might need it later.

Mike Newton — In Presence of Tea: A Conversation on Mindfulness, Creativity, Art, Anime, and Sharing Moments That Matter (#37)

Listen on Spotify | Listen on Apple | Watch on YouTube

We are here to learn and do something. And what are we here to learn and do? We are here to practice. And what are we practicing? We’re practicing living.

Mike Newton

This is one of the most important conversations I’ve had on the podcast.

This is a conversation about tea.

It’s almost 2 and a half hours long because we had to cover restroom clams, tea that tastes like compost, isolation, loneliness, the meaning of life, J-rock, happiness, nootropics, chemicals, bodies, hurry, anxiety, wine, coffee, God, sake, beer, seasons, anime, overwork, stillness, books — everything you’d expect when two perfect strangers meet. This conversation summarizes everything I love about podcasting.

How can a simple warm beverage be so profound, so elusive, beautiful, subtle, and wise? Is there anything useful we can learn from such an unassuming liquid? Those are the questions I asked myself as I went into this conversation with Mike Newton (@thetealetter), creator of The Tea Letter, a blognewsletterYouTubechannelPodcast about tea culture.


The Tea Letter Blog, Newsletter, and YouTube channel

Mike Newton on Twitter

Mike Newton on Instagram

In this episode we cover…

  • (7:00) My attempt at homebrewing Pu’er tea over a stove without a teapot or kettle
  • (8:00) A tour of mike’s tea setup, and his tea of choice
  • (10:00) Tea as a hobby: “Low floors, high ceilings, and wide walls.”
  • (12:00) Life lessons from the practice of tea (we circle back to this point a lot).
  • (15:00) “Tea makes time real.”
  • (20:00) Are you awake at the wheel?
  • (23:00) What led Mike to discovering the practice of tea? How has tea helped him alleviate anxiety?
  • (26:00) What does Mike do and use to prepare the perfect cup of green tea?
  • (32:00) How does the preparation of tea, and the tea room itself, reflect the season?
  • (36:00) What are the differences and similarities between tea and coffee?
  • (43:00) How to reuse leftover tea leaves
  • (45:00) Mikes mission to spread the lessons from tea culture
  • (47:00) Happiness, doubt, and art
  • (53:00) A history of the World in 6 glasses, how the drinks we love define our culture
  • (55:00) How does tea create community?
  • (58:00) Nuance: coffee, tea, sake
  • (1:07:00) “You can spend a lifetime drinking Oolong tea and nothing else.” A lesson on what makes tea…tea.
  • (1:12:00) Why do we like what we like?
  • (1:16:00) The one thing about tea that shook Mike to his core
  • (1:20:00) What, philosophically speaking, is in a cup of tea?
  • (1:28:00) “Now we’ve arrived at the core of it.”
  • (1:33:00) Book recommendations
  • (1:37:00) Thoughtful reading, drinking, and living
  • (1:44:00) What constraints does Mike apply to do his best work?
  • (1:48:00) Scheduling empty space to boost productivity and think clearly
  • (1:52:00) Thom Yorke, Masaaki Yuasa, Satoshi Kon, FLCL, etc.
  • (2:11:00) What does Mike do to get unstuck?
  • (2:13:00) Sendoff: the final message


The Book of Tea by Okakura Kakuzō

From Mike’s blog: Getting into gongfu tea

In Praise of Shadows by Junichiro Tanizaki

John Daub

A History of the World in 6 Glasses by Tom Standage


Cliff tea – Oldwaystea

Organic Chaga Tea by Buddha Teas

David Perell

Ryan Holiday

Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

The War of Art by Steven Pressfield

Brave New World

Aldous Huxley

Carl Jung

The Bhagavad Gita

The Practicing Mind by Thomas M. Sterner

Tea in Japan by Paul Varley and Kumakura Isao

Wind in The Pines by Dennis Hirota

The Japanese Way of Tea: From Its Origins in China to Sen Rikyu by Sen XV Soshitsu

Wabi-Sabi by Beth Kempton

In Rainbows by Radiohead

Asian Kung-fu Generation

Masakatsu Takagi and Mamoru Hosoda

Kenshi Yonezu


Jon Hopkins (the musician)

Coheed and Cambria

Masaaki Yuasa, Tatami Galaxy, and Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken!

Satoshi Kon

FLCL (the greatest anime of all time)

Jed Henry

The Four Pillars of Chanoyu

Please enjoy! Cheers, and here’s to your good health.

Listen on Spotify | Listen on Apple | Watch on YouTube

Does The Penguin Latte Podcast remind you of fresh presents on Christmas morning? If so, please consider leaving a review on Apple Podcasts/iTunes. It takes all of 60 seconds (61 if you’re feeling extra spicy). Reviews make the podcast 1% better. If 500 of you leave reviews, the podcast gets 500% better. Plus, I love reading all of your juicy comments. Thanks!

This episode is brought to you (and powered) by Flow State Coffee!

My buddy Greg Frontiero started a company that sells products designed to put you in that groovy sensation called Flow. His first product, Flow State Coffee, is some of the best coffee I’ve tasted. Plus, it doesn’t make you feel like you’re about to have a heart attack after drinking 6 cups of it (I’ve tried).,c_limit,f_auto,q_auto:good,fl_progressive:steep/

Use this link to buy a bag with code PAUL automatically applied for a discount.