Say No to Bullshit: Hustle Lessons from Anthony Bourdain

TL;DR

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Long version:

Anthony Bourdain has a foul mouth, likely a drunk, and stirs controversy. But you cannot deny, the man has legit entrepreneurial game. He’s written best selling books. Hosted some pretty damn good shows, and now a household name.

Maybe I can relate to him more as I’ve worked in the food industry. My very first job was as a waitress in a sushi joint — typical — then moved on to bartending. Working in food is where I picked up a lot of hustling skills that consistently help me in my non-food industry life. In food, it’s about knowing your capabilities and ceasing opportunities. When your salary is minimum wage and you depend on tips, there is no such thing as ‘luck’ — you create your own luck. Not because you want to, but because you have to make the most out of situations in order to make ends meet.

Any business owner, founder, aspiring entrepreneur, and even individuals looking to climb the corporate ladder can learn a thing or two from successful people who have ‘made it’, in an industry as cut throat as food. And Bourdain lays it out best in this Men’s Journal interview.

On actions vs words

“I quickly came to understand that there are two types of people in this world: There are the type of people who are going to live up to what they said they were going to do yesterday, and then there are people who are full of shit. And that’s all you really need to know.”

Takeaway: When it comes down to it there are those who walk the walk and those who talk the talk. Key is recognizing the difference quickly and cutting out the bullshitters. It saves lots of time, effort, money, and feelings. Yes feelings. Let’s be real. It sucks being let down or disappointed.

On networking

“In a world full of bullshit, when you need something as badly as drugs, your bullshit detector gets pretty acute. Can I trust this guy with money? Is this guy’s package going to be all he says it was?”

Takeaway: Imagine every conversation like a beautiful presentation. If you think about it, 99% of presentations that stick with us have filler slides — you know, the slides that seem to have no purpose except to impress the audience with inspirational quotes in pretty font faces, compelling charts with repetitive factiods or some unrelated slide with cute baby animals or a funny meme photo, etc., etc., — you get the picture right? When stripping away filler slides and concentrate on the objective of the deck, the essence is 1% — if that. On decks, it’s okay. Presentations are supposed to awe the crowd and leave impressions.

I look at conversations with people we meet for the first time like Powerpoint (or Keynote) presentations. People paint the best pictures of themselves. It starts from presentation — attire, mannerisms — to online personas to what they talk about. Ignore 99% of the superficial stuff and listen to what they say.

Bourdain nails it with two questions to ask yourself when meeting new people: is the other person all he says he is? And can I trust this guy with money?

Words that come out of people’s mouths and first impressions can charm and impress. But life is way too short to deal with bullshitters who simply want to look good to other people for whatever reasons they may have. Do you really think people who spend all their energy looking good to others can add value to your life? Sure they may be fun but they most certainly don’t help you make money, and frankly, distract you from reaching your goals. And I’m not going to lie, I’ve wasted a great deal of time being burned by people who seemed this way and that way, promised all kinds of stuff but were just full of shit.

Find your own questions that help identify if someone is really worth your time and can help reach your bottomline.

On saying no

“…we met with someone who’s very, very good at this business and would have no doubt made us spectacularly wealthy. We all emerged from the meeting and looked at each other, and I said, “Look, do you want to answer, when the phone rings, do you want to pick it up and have that guy on the other end? Do you want that person in your life? We’ll all be fucking miserable. I don’t want to go on that ride. I want to keep the assholes in my life to an absolute minimum, if not zero.” That’s worth real, real money — to not have assholes in your life.”

Takeaway: as a founder out there raising money or someone looking to ride up the corporate ladder, everything is a two way street — a marriage, if you will — to your angels and VCs, to bosses, anyone you need to answer to in order to keep the money flowing.

Don’t get me wrong. There are many helpful, good hearted, wonderful VCs and managers out there, but there is also a large pool of assholes. I’ve been exposed to a lot more in Asia than the US, and some of these angels / VCs, managers and bosses are absolutely foul. They micromanage and patronize, unreasonable, arrogant, insisting they ‘know best’ and force others to do things their way. But a lot of people don’t push back because they’re the ones who sign the checks. And disagreeing is just not the Asian way.

When raising or seeking jobs, ask yourself exactly what Bourdain says: “Do you want to answer when the phone rings, do you want to pick it up and have that guy on the other end? Do you want that person in your life?”

Yes raising money is hard. Working in corporations is hard. But do you really want to be tied to a dickbag? There is plenty of opportunities out there if you look hard enough. Save yourself unnecessary headaches, RUN don’t walk, from assholes.

On growth

“I have an operating principle that I am perfectly willing, if not eager, to believe that I’m completely wrong about everything. I have a tattoo on my arm, that says, in ancient Greek, “I am certain of nothing.” I think that’s a good operating principle.

If you can get a little smarter about the world every day, it’s a win.”

Takeaway: “Stay hungry. Stay foolish.” by Steve Jobs is perhaps the most circulated quote in the tech circle, Bourdain reiterates higher learning. And they’re not the only ones. Almost every big CEO, founder, leader, etc. stress the importance of being an eternal student, checking egos, and staying humble in their own ways. But sometimes we tend to forget — and that’s ok. Just keep reminding yourself to listen to these guys who have accomplished enough to go down in history. I kinda sorta think they have authority. (The last sentence is sarcastic; just in case.)

Products, sites, and services need constant updating and humans do too. How else can we keep becoming better versions of ourselves?

On criticism

“There are critics that have been unfair, meaning they’ve misrepresented, or they came at something I did with a preconceived notion.

I don’t like it — it hurts, but if you cook food or write books or make television, it’s like the tide — the weight will break on the beach.

There is no stopping it. It will come, and then another wave, and then another wave. There’s nothing you can do about it, and there’s no point to railing against it. You’ve just got to toughen up. Learn to swim. I just suck it up. You’re lucky that people give a shit in the first place to even bother to talk about you.”

Takeaway: There really isn’t much to say here. It’s impossible to please everyone and if you worry about what other people think, you’re just asking to fail. Yes, it sucks. Yes, it hurts. Yes, you want to justify yourself and maybe change their minds.

But for what?

There are 7.3 billion people on the planet — who gives a shit what one, two, or maybe 50 people have to say about you? If you are an entrepreneur, are they running your company? Are they responsible for your employees like you are — putting food on their tables, roofs over their heads? Do they pay your bills? No. No. And a massive HELL NO.

So like Bourdain says, just feel fortunate people care enough to talk about you good or bad — means you’re doing something right — and suck it up.

And there you have it.

Those are only five points I cherry picked, but I could’ve included everything from that interview — though I think that might be plagiarism.

Anyway. Keep these reminders with you to be the best versions of yourselves and hustle on!

Read the Bourdain interview here

Sidenote: this post is important and personal to me, as my little brother who just launched his own business read this and said to me “Man that was awesome. I got sucked in as soon as I started reading it. Thank you.”

This is why I write and will continue writing ☺

2 thoughts on “Say No to Bullshit: Hustle Lessons from Anthony Bourdain

  1. I can say the same what your brother said about this post.
    Your explanations were pretty damn good and greatly elaborated the points. Thank you!

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