πŸŽ™ Follow Your Curiosity with Buster Benson

Podcast Apr 21, 2022

David speaks with Buster Benson, a CEO of 750words.com, author of "Why Are We Yelling? The Art of Productive Disagreement".

Previously co-founded 43things.com, healthmonth.com, the Locavore iPhone app, a bar/art gallery in Seattle called McLeod Residence, creator of the Cognitive Bias Cheat Sheet, and was an engineer and product manager at Amazon, Twitter, and Slack.

πŸŽ™ Listen in your favourite podcast player

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πŸ“Ή Watch on Youtube

πŸ‘€ Connect with Buster:

Twitter: @buster

Book: Why Are We Yelling

Website: 750words.com

πŸ“„ Show notes:

Buster as an introvert [4:19]

Why he’s willing to be authentic on the internet [5:38]

Buster's early experiences on the internet [6:30]

Being able to write online and having that creative streak [9:11]

What was it like coming into Amazon [13:13]

His text ad service for blogs [16:28]

What was the motivation? [21:29]

The infinite possibility of the internet [27:26]

What inspired Buster to write why are we yelling? [30:27]

Productive Arguing is a Secret Skill [36:33]

How to learn from people you disagree with [40:02]

Important considerations for the Metaverse [44:27]

The origin of 750 words, and why Buster built it [55:06]

πŸ—£ Mentioned in the show:

NaNoWriMo

43things.com

Why Are We Yelling?

Thinking is hard

Cognitive bias cheat sheet

The Artist’s Way


πŸ‘‡πŸΎ
Full episode transcript below

πŸ‘¨πŸΎβ€πŸ’» About David Elikwu:

David Elikwu FRSA is a serial entrepreneur, strategist and writer. David is the founder of The Knowledge, a platform helping people learn more and live better.

πŸš€ Career Hyperdrive

David runs a course which will help you build a toolkit of mental models and bulletproof core skills that will drastically shorten the growth curve for your career, business or personal brand. Join the next cohort to take control of your path, build future-proof skills, and design a career you can be proud of.

🧭 The Knowledge

As a writer and serial entrepreneur, David Elikwu speaks with elite performers from a variety of backgrounds, unpacking everything there is to know about navigating the world around us.

This podcast is a catalogue of excellent data points. Join us each week for actionable insights to make sense of what matters most.

The Knowledge is an online publication designed to save you from information overload. It’s where you go to figure things out. A curated digest of the world's best ideas, drawing on insights from psychology, philosophy, business and culture. We explore tools, frameworks and stories that will help you navigate with clarity and cut through the noise.

πŸ“œFull transcript:

Buster Benson: [00:00:00] A lot of disagreements are one person, wanting to force someone using the voice of power, to force someone to change, to do something differently. And the other person's only motivation is to leave, like, to get out of the way and so when you have one person that's trying to force you to do something and one person that's trying to like find any exit possible how would that ever turn into a constructive conversation?

David Elikwu: Hey, I'm David Elikwu and this is The Knowledge. a podcast for anyone obsessed with learning more and living better. In every episode I speak with successful people from a variety of backgrounds to unpack everything they've learned about navigating the world around us.

This week, I'm speaking with Buster Benson. Buster's had a well storied career across Silicon valley, having worked at Amazon Twitter, Slack and Patreon. [00:01:00] But he's also an entrepreneur. He's built and co-founded several incredible businesses like 43things.com, Healthmonth.com, and currently is the CEO of 750words.com.

This was an incredible episode that you won't want to miss. We talked all about Buster's background, his early days at Amazon in the late nineties. And how he discovered his talent and passion for building things and for writing online and how all of the cumulative experiences that he had led to writing his book.

Why are we yelling? Which is about the art of productive disagreement.

You can get the full show notes, the transcript and my newsletter at theknowledge.io.

You can find Buster online at Twitter @Buster. And, if you're a writer or into writing checkout 750words.com, which I've used in the [00:02:00] past to build a habit of writing daily and last but not least check out Buster's awesome book. Why are we yelling?

If you love this episode, please engage with it. Subscribe, share it with a friend. And most importantly, please don't forget to leave a review because it helps us tremendously to grow the show and reach other people. Just like you.

I didn't know where to start with you actually, because you are extremely, I want to say vulnerable online. I don't know if that matches your perspective, but even just looking at your website, like forget about, you know, like Twitter and all the other spaces that you're on, just in your website,

there's a plethora of stuff and information. and almost anything that everyone could wanna know about you is there in some form. And it was weird because, okay. I knew we were gonna have this conversation. I didn't wanna look at too much of it. I was thinking of, I think it's David Letterman,

Buster Benson: It's all there. You wouldn't have [00:03:00] to have me here. If you had looked at it all.

David Elikwu: Yeah, exactly. And he just wants to be led by his curiosity and, and see what happens.

And so I kind of wanted to do that, but simultaneously you have this really great, page. I think, I don't know if it, I think it's like your about me page, which has like this graphic with all the, the time of your life. And that seemed really interesting to me. And so I thought maybe we could start with your background and your upbringing and then see what threads we can pull on and see where that goes.

Buster Benson: Yeah, well, I'm old. I'm I'm 45.

And yes, I do have a page on my website that is, has mapped up my entire life up to this week for every single week in my life. There's a box and the boxes start from, you know, when I was born in may of 1976 to when I turned a hundred years old 20 76, because I have a goal to ride a bike around the block on my hundredth birthday.

That's my one, like always always present life goal, because everything else can sort of be hung from that in some ways like my health, my relationships, [00:04:00] my, my mental capacity, my stress to just get me there. I just wanna have a long life that is. by the end of it. I feel like I I'm still living a quality life. So that was, so that was, I think, a lot about death and I think a lot about life as a, as a result of that.

And this, this maps. So I, you know, I grew up in Southern California. I, I have, you know, I was raised with, you know, a Japanese mom, a white dad, and he was into computer science. He was an engineer. And so I had a pretty standard, like middle, upper middle class life had good schools did okay. In school. I never wanted to get A pluses or A's like I always wanted to get the, a minus for the maximum, like effort to reward ratio there.

David Elikwu: Could I, just double click on that quickly?

Buster Benson: sure.

David Elikwu: Is that how was that impacted by, you know, was that maybe just your upbringing in terms of like, how you were brought up, where you had a freedom to do that, or was that more, just an intrinsic 'this is how you are' and you wanna impose that on the world?

Buster Benson: I've tried to tease this apart [00:05:00] before to understand like what, cause I have a kid now I have two boys, 11 and five, and I'm trying to help them like sort of find the same mindset that I had found early in my life around seeing things like things that could be a drag, like school as games. And so I saw school as a game where my goal is to do enough, to get an okay grade and then to also pursue my interests.

So I was always twisting the assignments to do what I wanted to do. And for the most part, teachers or professors have always been pretty amenable to that because, you know, ultimately they want, you know, the good teachers want you to just enjoy learning. So it worked well for me. Yeah, so I, I don't know how it came about, but definitely was a formative.

Sort of pattern throughout my life, throughout my early school, my late school, my early career, my late career. And even now where I think about things, not as like you're, you know, you walk [00:06:00] into a university or you walk into a new workplace, you don't just assume that you're gonna take on all of the rules and all the, all, all the assumptions and the, the tricks that you need to do.

Like you have to make it your game first and then sort of figure out what you're gonna do within your own context.

David Elikwu: That makes sense. Did you find I'm interested in, compared to maybe your peers? I know that Irvine, particularly, maybe around that time is very, you know, like loose and I don't know if I'm using the right words, but like a, you know, very adoptive place to be in the world at that time. And I'm interested to know, were your, were your peers like that?

Do you, was that something that was just unique to you in terms of like your own like perspective or was

Buster Benson: No .

David Elikwu: that was like part of the culture? Okay.

Buster Benson: Yeah, no, I, I was so I, I, I would classify myself as an extreme introvert early, early childhood and up all, all the way up through to probably middle of high school. Like I, my nickname was silence in school, because I just didn't talk. I didn't want to talk. I was too nervous to talk to anyone. [00:07:00] I wouldn't like go up to the counter.

I wouldn't ask if I didn't understand the assignment. I wouldn't ask the teacher, you know, those kinds of things. So my friends, I always was just scrambling to have friends in the first place and , by the time I did find my crew sort of like in the middle of high school, it was a, it was cross country and track and we didn't really bond on academics so much as lifestyle philosophy.

That kind of stuff. And I did finally really like find a really close group of people that did share my values and shared my sort of approach to life. And many of those people, I think good hand, like five plus of them are still really good friends today. So when I was 16 to where I am now, like I, I might not have changed a whole lot cause you know, we, we were all still really close.

And we shared some of the same stuff. So yeah, I, I guess in some sense, like I, I spent many years struggling and then when I found my, my people, then I sort of realized, well, I can be this kind of person. Like it's not, I'm not just like trying to survive. I can actually just be myself and that was really important.

So that could going back to [00:08:00] your first question it to sort of speak to why I'm willing to be authentic on the internet, because I felt like it was a hard lesson for me to learn, to be authentic in real life with my peers and my family, with my friends. And I saw the internet as sort of an extension of that.

Once I found it is that there is a lot of reward to being yourself. Like there's a lot more to win or to gain from being yourself and projecting that outwards than there is from hiding it and forcing people to try to guess who you are.

David Elikwu: sure. Okay. Maybe the next question that I'd ask off the back of that, I'm really interested to know what your first, what were your first experiences like on the internet and what were the first places you explored? And I don't mean to ask that in a like a patronizing kind of sense, like, you know, when did you first discover it, but I'm really interested to know.

I think there were so many internet subcultures and you were like right in the heart of it, I think pretty much throughout your life. So I'm interested to know, like, where were the places that you explored and what were the maybe knock on effects of that?

Buster Benson: yeah. Yeah. My father was into computers and you know, that was a [00:09:00] job I was very anti them for a long time. But I, I was around them my whole life. I played a lot of like like ultimate online kind of games like that, you know, sort of like these role playing games on the computer that you put an eight floppy discs in your computer and, and play them.

And then when BBSs come out, I played a few like sort of networked. What was the game? Trade wars was a big one of like, just like buying and selling stuff in, in a, in a shared community of people that you don't know. And I was very much into like video games and stuff. So when I believe the first, my first real, I remember I got my first email address after I graduated college.

So I was sort of late, like 98. Is that right? Yeah, 98. And then immediately jumped onto Diary Land, live journal, and these kinds of journaling websites that were really just about, like posting gossip on the internet. And quickly sort of learned how to make websites from that. Just like, cause I want my, my blog or my website to be,

Interesting.

So I would just always be trying to innovate on [00:10:00] that stuff. And that's what got me into ultimately like web development, programming, computer science, and eventually that be came my job for a while, but yeah, so I was, I was immediately drawn to not necessarily the commercial aspects, but the community aspects, the, you know, year, 2000 blogger and movable type and gray matter.

And all these things were coming out to like software. We had to download the computer that would FTP files to the websites and usually break. So yeah, I was really into that. That was my introduction. And at the same time I worked at Amazon. So it was like the polar opposite of like selling stuff on the internet.

And those two things sort of just. Sort of fused into like on one hand, it's like publishing authenticity, people other hand it's like data, like security transactions expand, like, like just like growth, money, all that stuff. And those two forces have been like sort of battling in my life for, for another, the next 20 years until I [00:11:00] ultimately got spit out the other side.

And I'm now very much back to like my original intent of like wanting to build a web that is more about bringing out the best of people than bringing out the money from people.

David Elikwu: Yeah, that's you made a really good point and I think there's two threads I'd love to pull on and I'm not sure which to go with first. I know that. So you did a degree in creative writing, you mentioned, you know, coming across live journal and starting this you know, being able to write online and having that creative streak.

Was that where that started, or were you already having like a tingling of writing before that?

Buster Benson: Oh, I was, I, I was a creative writing. Yeah, like you said, graduate. I, I was working on my great American novel at the time. You know, I had the whole system, it was my whole identity. Like I'm writing a novel, it's gonna be, I was planning the whole thing out. I had all these notebooks, I would do certain number of pages per week.

And then I really, I, you know, like many, I don't know, 23, 24 year olds that are like trying to write the great American [00:12:00] novel. You realize like, there's just not enough material in your, in your head to do that. So I, I ended up. trying this thing called NaNoWriMo, which was, I just happened upon it as like this national novel writing month of November and ended up writing a couple novels that way, which I really, really enjoyed, because it was just like these brain dumps of like where I am now, rather than trying to like be, write something that's, you know, of the caliber that's beyond my reach.

David Elikwu: Yeah.

Buster Benson: so I saw that and I really, so again, like finding these constraints, finding like what is, what is the right tool to like bring out what I'm best able to do right now? I thought NaNo was a great one for that and yeah, so, but yeah, and then that sort of translated to publishing online. I, I love writing. I love, you know, conversation and putting it up on the internet where anyone could read, it seemed like this, you know, magical, magical shift in the world.

And I was all there for that.

David Elikwu: Can I ask when you started, on NaNoWriMo?

Buster Benson: Yeah, I did the first one in. 2000 and the [00:13:00] second one in 2003. Yeah. And eventually when I moved down to Berkeley, I was in Seattle. At the time I happened upon someone that knew someone that worked at NaNoWriMo, it was like sort of a nonprofit and it was a few blocks from my house. So I had to go meet them. And I was on the, board, ended up being on the board for a while because of my work with 750 words and a couple other things.

But yeah, I, I love that organization and I think they're still amazing. If yeah, if only more of us could just put everything aside for a month and write a novel, I think it would be better, you know, it's, it's a, it's a big ask though.

David Elikwu: It is a big ask. It's it's so I've tried NaNo oh, eight, no seven times. I didn't get my eight-peat, but seven consecutive years, I think starting in 2012 for eight

years,

Buster Benson: So you've done it . Seven times.

David Elikwu: I've tried it seven times. I've completed it twice in terms of writing 50,000 words. And then the third years I was working in corporate law at the time.

Funnily enough. So. [00:14:00] Okay. And, and I guess maybe then from here, we'll go back to your early Amazon days. Cause I have some questions about that, but that's one thing I found interesting that I tried NaNoWriMo twice in the two years before I started working in corporate law. One of those years I was unemployed and I could barely write more than maybe 22,000 words.

I don't know what it is about having all the time in the world, but I couldn't see to, to use it productively. And then as soon as literally my first year in corporate law at one of like the biggest firms in the world where you're doing all these hours, suddenly I write 50,000 words and I do it. They, the next year again, and the year after that, I almost did it.

I think I got to like 30,000 words, but that month I was also averaging something like 95 hours a week. And so I just, I shut down, I quit a week early and I was like, this is too much. But the point is that those three years consecutively, I wrote more than I had maybe even in the two previous years combined.

Buster Benson: Yeah. Yeah. I, I can relate. I think I wrote both my novels while I was at my desk at Amazon. So

Yeah, I think it [00:15:00] might have been different because I was working a lot of hours I think, but not working like my heart wasn't into it as much. So I think there was a, a mix of that. There's a lot of people that are, you know, clocking the hours, but not doing the work

David Elikwu: okay. So what was it like maybe, okay. Coming into Amazon, first of all, like what was that journey of, of getting there? And then the second part is, you know, what were those early days like both professionally in terms of what you were doing for work, but then also, I know you mentioned kind of this maybe tug internally of finding the balance between like your creative pursuits and the things you actually care about.

And then the job that is maybe putting food on the table,

Buster Benson: Yeah. Yeah. Well, there's so much, so much there. I was, I was there for five years from 98 to 2003, 2005 whatever eight years after that is 2006. And then, yeah, I've been, I've worked closely with them past that. So I I've, I sort of see that as like the cauldron that my, my like, career [00:16:00] DNA was formed had, and it's not what you might expect from that statement, I guess.

So early on it was a startup. It was, you know, I think there were like 2000 people when I joined I was on customer support, so I was just answering emails and phone calls and, you know, doing it on the night shift. So I was, you know, doing it. For people in other parts of the world. And it was scrappy.

It was just like, everyone was just excited about the internet. And I was there to like help people walk them through how to like use a browser and it was great. I was really into it. I felt like the money was ridiculous because you know, being right outta college as with a bachelor's in I creative writing, I did not expect I was working at the, at the art museum before that I did not expect to be making I think it was probably like $20 an hour, you know, but plus overtime, which there was plenty of and I was like, wow, I'm awash in money.

What do I do? And but yeah, it, it was so fast-paced, it was, I was working 80 hours a week. Like most of people back then it was just books and music and they launched auctions and then video and then more and more of that.[00:17:00] And then like I told you, I sort of like, I, I scrapped myself like into like someone that could write code too.

So I was publishing like intranet pages and learning that on the fly and it was fine because nobody in the world was trained as a web developer. And I just happened to be in this place where they were basically internally training everyone how to, how to do this stuff. And I just on jump on that bandwagon and I loved it.

I mean, I felt a lot of those people are still my friends too. Like a lot of those people are like people and some of them still work there. I think I saw the shift when my job stopped being like I was on the personalization team. So doing things like similarities and you know, shopping cart recommendations, that kind of stuff.

And I just saw the pattern I saw like, okay, the way this works is you just take what people do. You put it into the algorithm, you show them stuff that's slightly like that. And you're gonna make endless money. And I just got bored with that and I was like, my last. I went from customer support to trainer, to [00:18:00] web developer, to program manager product like had a technical product program manager to software developer.

And then by that point, I was like, I can't do this anymore. I'm too bored. I learned everything. I thought I need to learn to start my own company. So I, I went and did that after that, but I, you know, I it's, the company is now is like so different from what it was back then, but it was, it was formative in the sense of like, I saw this open wide vista of possibility.

And even though they chose the path that I didn't want to take necessarily, I still see that there's that possibility there

David Elikwu: Yeah. And so you touched on the fact that I guess during that time is you were also starting to build your own things and you maybe built a few, projects during that time. And I think you also published one of your NaNoWriMo novels

during Following decade

Buster Benson: Yeah, I , it's been enough years now. I could tell some of these stories. I was, I was, I built a text ad service for blogs. So like really medium [00:19:00] sized blog to be like, you know, a direct, like you could buy for $5, you could buy a text ad to go on other people's blogs, if you have JavaScript and was running that like, in some cases like, you know, I'm, I know under my desk in some at the time, and I built a thing called the, the idea.

So I was building a lot of, I was learning pearl at the time and I was learning like how this all works and just I loved it. A lot of it was like flashes in the pan, like the text ads was called, what was it called? Ad farm. Like it blew up, it got like featured on something ugly and suddenly my servers all melted and I was like, oh shoot, I can't do this.

So I had to turn it off but many of my, like, I, I was in this pattern of building websites, seeing if they worked, seeing if I could sustain them, seeing if I wanted to keep working on them and then, you know, nine, nine outta 10 of them don't and then some of them did some of them are still around, but yeah,

The last thing I'll say is that I, I realized sort of in year five or six that I didn't want to be there. I didn't want to [00:20:00] like, climb the, the ladder for a while. That was interesting. And then I was like, instead of climbing the ladder, going back to like my turning things into games, like I was, I wanted to be a level one, everything.

So I, I wanted to be a level one marketer, a level, one designer, level one software developer level, one project manager, level, one manager. And I actually told my bosses at the time and he was sort of like, okay we can't do that officially, because there's no career thing that says that, but like unofficially, that's your job.

And if you want to like go embed yourself on this team and learn marketing, you can do that for a month that you can do it for. So like I was, so I was like, I love that because you know, that was a big gift for me to first like realize that's what I wanted and then to be in the place that was so perfect for learning all these different skills.

And to have a manager that was willing to sort of entertain it, like I felt, and then to be paid a lot of money on top of that, like it was, it was great. So I have no ill will to the whole thing. And to this day I still like I'm, I, I think of myself as a [00:21:00] generalist and I, whenever I need a job, I will like narrow that down into something that can get a job, but because people don't like to hire generalists, but that's how I see myself as just someone that's interested in how the things connect and not, not.

I mean, I like the details too, but I, I tend to hop from vertical to vertical to like understand them better.

David Elikwu: No, I love that. And I absolutely agree. I think funnily enough, that is almost word for word, something that I talk about on the course that I run. But just also in general, maybe like on, on Twitter and, and spaces is this idea era of, first of all, I love the idea of being a generalist, because I think that fits me very well.

Similarly, I don't know if I've necessarily had the opportunity to have a boss that says, you know, you can just go run around and learn whatever you need to learn. But I think I've been able to build that in a way like throughout my career as well. Like I started very early on, so I taught myself like some design and I used that design to get into marketing and I did some like very early marketing.

and then I, [00:22:00] but I think okay, long time, this is like the immigrant mindset. I wanted to go into like some kind of profession so I was like, okay, I'm gonna be a lawyer. That's what I'm gonna do, but I'm gonna like pursue all these other things on the side. So I'm still doing like some marketing jobs and still doing some design.

I'm building websites, doing all these random things on the side.

Buster Benson: Yeah.

David Elikwu: then I think I started consulting for startups. Maybe I launched one or two things of my own. I also like previously built a business. And so I think as you go on, you are like accumulating information through your role. I think you maybe get some knowhow from what you're doing and, and particularly for you, I mean, having the customer success element, having some marketing element, having product management and then building all the projects, you, you are getting all of the, the tools and the skillset, and then being able to experiment wildly and, and, you know, sow some seeds and see what grows.

Buster Benson: Yeah. Yep. Yep. It's yeah, it's a, it's I think it's a very privileged sort of path that I've taken, but[00:23:00] it's also up there's downsides as well, I think, but the upsides are really just being able to follow curiosity, you know, to follow, like when you run into a problem, like not having to find a person that can solve your problem, but trying to be having the tools to figure out the problem.

Even if it's in a different domain, I think is really valuable in a lot of ways, because life is sort of chaotic and we end up needing to, so it's so much faster to find an answer than to find somebody with an answer sometimes. But you know, that could be also my introvert side speaking a little bit too.

David Elikwu: with those early projects. Was it more like, what was the motivation? Were you just following your suriosity and just pruning some different, different fields and seeing what stuck or were you actually trying to find one key thing? Like there's something you wanted to knock out of the park and you were just testing lots of different things to see what struck gold.

Buster Benson: I think while I was at Amazon, I was, I was really trying to find a way out of Amazon so I wanted to of the start company. So I needed a, I was experimenting with a lot of different ways [00:24:00] of because the internet was still, you know, extremely new. The tools were still barely working and, but I was at the, the frontier of that and I could sort of see like be the first person to make the connection.

So my first startup was about like it was called 43 things and it was about making a list of goals and then using the internet to help people find. People that have to accomplish the goals you want to do and getting tips from them. And it was a pure, like, you know, blank slate, blogging play, like instead of just writing on a blog, write about your goals and organize everything around what people want to do.

And it turned out to be a really good way to target SEO at the time. Because most Google searches are about gold. And so we ranked really highly and ended up making a successful business out of it, but then got required by Amazon. So that was the other three years of, of that. And yeah, so, but then after, after that, I think there was a point when I turned 27 and I always think of 27 because in astrology, even though I'm not really astrology person, like it's like the side [00:25:00] of returns, like it's it's, it was the year that like many of my favorite musicians killed themselves or died.

You know, it's like this year of, of, of reconfiguration. And I remember like that year. Like everything was falling apart. I hated my job. I hated my life. I didn't like myself. And so I, you know, ended up, you know, I was married, I got divorced, I quit my job. I shaved my head. I sold all my possessions. I like left my house.

I, and I made this plan I thousand days to like reinvent myself. And a thousand days, yeah, this is, this could be a long story, so cut me off. But

yeah, it was like this moment of death and rebirth, right. Of like, okay. I saw that path. I saw where I was going. I didn't wanna be that person. I'm gonna kill that guy.

And I'm gonna start over. And I ended up changing my name, like all three of my names, first little and last on a whim to names that, you know, were voted on and flip coin flipped and decided. And so [00:26:00] at that point, that sort of, at the end of that phase was when I realized like my question was, how do we change ourselves?

Like, how do we like, can we change ourselves? And if we can, how do we do it? Like, is it even possible? Cause I was thinking about a lot of these different things. Like technology is being used to persuade people, recommend things like the internet is being used to form communities and to change behaviors and habits.

And I got deep into like quantified itself and all that stuff. And trying, and then at the same time had this sliver of like doubt of like, is this all working or is it not working? Is this all just a, a racket to like sell things? And so I tried many ways to change myself. Like, you know, I, I did a month where I was like, I'm gonna gain five, 10 pounds this month and the next month I'm gonna lose 10 pounds.

You know, things like that, where it's like, not change for a purpose so much, it's changed for change itself to understand like, what are the levers I need to twist? I mean, to understand, like, what are the, like, is any of [00:27:00] the habit science legit? So that's when like habit labs and health month and locavore and 750 words even.

And so many other websites that have come and gone came from it's like this sort of pursuit of using technology using the web, using social media, I guess, as a way to like, can accountability, help us change? Can, you know, various sort of placebo effects help us change, can social unity help us change and trying to find the answers to those questions.

Yeah. That carried me from like, for another 10 years, I think. And yeah, so that, that was, I think there's always like this central question and then eventually that changed to something that's more about like,

who, who should I be? Like, how do I, how do I exist in the world without. Harming things. And how do I, because it's not about fixing biases or it's about like repairing, I don't know. So I'm, I'm sort of in the middle of this question right now. Like how do we add something valuable back to the world, without hurting it [00:28:00] in the process?

Like I came away from the tech world, I, I quit my tech job in 2019, 2018? I think. And I don't know if I'll go back because like all this time I've had these ideals going through, working at Amazon, Twitter, Slack, Patreon, and each time having the best intentions and each time coming away feeling like, am I making the world worse?

Like especially to Twitter, like, like I, I made the world worse. I had good intentions, but like I made it worse. And that fear now of like, you know, it's not about like, can I change myself or how do I change it? Like, cause like who's to say that I should change. Like who's to say that. The change I do, won't make things worse for other people.

And so now I, I think a lot about like, really like self reflection and thinking about like, how do we, what is, what are the big ways we could participate in the world while accepting it the way it is, and contributing in a way that that doesn't end up, you don't end up regretting. So yeah, long answer, but, and there's a lot more detail [00:29:00] than there, but hopefully that's the gist.

David Elikwu: Yeah. no, there's, there's so much in there. I'd love to maybe just digging in on that last part. And thinking about your experiences, maybe at companies like Twitter, slack, like all of those companies are in my mind, ones that have huge promise, and maybe that's kind of what you went in with is this idea that these are things that can change the world in some ways whether that's positive or negative, but also changed the way that we communicate, the way that we interact with each other, all of them in very different ways.

Obviously like slack is maybe more generally geared towards organizations. Twitter is I think in some ways democratizing speech and, you know, having this like short blog format, or I can't remember what the in original words were, but like

Buster Benson: Yeah. Microblogging or I know it's. Yeah.

David Elikwu: Yeah.

just like a few words and sprinkle them out.

But I think it's, and again, I'll, I'll get to your experiences, but. I do see that conflict, at least in my own life where I can see on one hand, the destruction that can happen when [00:30:00] misinformation spreads and false ideas from spread or not necessarily false, but maybe quite potent ideas spread. And through algorithms, people can be dug into trenches that they can't see out of because everything that they see simply reinforces what they are already inclined to believe.

And then that can also go into like maybe things like beauty and fashion and health, and there's more and more, we are kind of being groomed into identities that are almost built for us. If that makes sense like that there is that perspective. But then on the other side, I, I also definitely see. So I came to the UK from Nigeria and I see this huge tech scene.

That's now. Booming in Nigeria and across Africa. And I see people in Kenya, people that are getting access to the internet. And I think maybe this is also the difference where in the US or even in the UK, the first computers were the first computers. And that is how people started with computers is like these really old, like the Macintosh or, or whatever you know, Atari [00:31:00] computer but.

In Africa and a lot of, and maybe India and places now, like people's first computer is a mobile phone. And so they are jumping in right into that kind of like last third of all of this history of development and people are jumping in right here. And their first interaction with the internet is getting straight into Facebook and straight into Twitter and straight into some of these other things.

And obviously, okay, there are negatives. And we see like these viral threads where loads of misinformation spreads and it's rampant, but then simultaneously it's like people being able to have a voice and people that this is the only device that they have, and this is the only internet they have and they are on Twitter and they can see everything that we see and interact with everything that we interact with.

So I think it's an interesting duality there where there's this magic and then there's also the capability for maybe destruction.

Buster Benson: yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, absolutely. I, I, I certainly don't think anything can be just labeled as evil it's really just like the line between good and evil goes through every single heart goes through every single product goes through every single [00:32:00] service out there. And we can sort of be lured in for, I mean, I think there are ways to use it.

To sort of, and push people in that direction of evil or good. But yeah, ultimately there is, you know, you can't, can't just cut anything off entirely. Like, I, I feel pretty strongly about that. You know, even, even if it was possible, which is not I think we have to still deal with the fact that we're part of the problem and we're part of the solution and the same goes for everybody else.

David Elikwu: And I think that leads right into Why Are We Yelling? Which is the book that you wrote. And I think that was published right around the time that you left your last tech job.

Buster Benson: Yeah, yeah. Yeah. I, I left my last job at Patreon to finish this book, so yeah, I think I, yeah, it was published in 2019.

David Elikwu: So I'd love to ask. Okay. Maybe let's just start with, where did the book come from? Like what was the inspiration? I know some of it I could possibly guess, but from your perspective, like where, where, where did that come from?

Buster Benson: yeah, it actually started with a viral, medium post. So when my second son was born, I took a month or six [00:33:00] weeks off and like to keep my mind from rotting. I think I became, I, I dove into this cognitive biases. Wikipedia a page because it's been, it had been bothering me for a decade of like, I don't understand biases.

I don't understand like why they exist. How are we finding them? Are they real? Like, how are they structured? Why do we have them? How do you fix them? All that stuff. And I could also just couldn't remember them. I couldn't remember like all the different ways. And so I thought I would just like immerse myself in the data which I love to do.

The beginning of any problem I'm just like bring on everything, just pile it on and then feel like the overwhelm of that and let your brain sort of like digest it and try to make sense of it. And after. doing this for like a month. I came out with like this post, which is called the cognitive bias cheat sheet.

And it, it was like a 17 minute read. It was called cognitive bias cheat sheet. It wasn't made to be click bait at all. Like it was like the most boring post. But for some reason, [00:34:00] I think, because it promised like this gem of, of like synthesizing a really complicated topic, it blew up and it's like one of the top hundred medium posts, I think.

And that was really interesting for a lot of reasons. One of 'em being, I don't know, I just wasn't used to like my post doing that. Second of all was like, I wasn't under, I didn't understand why it was happening. And third of all was like, book editors started emailing me. Like, you wanna write a book?

Like here here's a deal. And so I pushed them away a bit because I had newborn kid and I was working and books are hard. And even, but eventually sort of was. Was found an editor that seemed to like, understand how I wanted to go about writing a book, which was not necessarily to sell any books but to my, my goal was to be proud of writing a book and it, it was gonna take two years or 10 years.

I was gonna take my time. And they being a great editor like accepted that, and also like [00:35:00] helped, helped me like form into something that was actually a real book and ultimately did sell pretty well. But it started about being about cognitive biases about arguing or as the, well, I actually, no, sorry about cognitive biases.

The title was thinking is hard, which is like the subtitle of the blog post. And I was like, who cares? Of course thinking is hard. There's already plenty of books about that. Why is thinking hard and when is thinking hard and I sort of settled on. Arguments disagreements as the venue, like the arena where all of our biases were meant to be used.

Right. It's where they go from, like being sort of in the background to being front and center. This is what we're doing. kind of modules in your brain. And, and so what do they do for us? They help us in a lot of ways when arguments even if we're not right they do this by like filtering information

that's not convenient to winning. They help us jump to conclusions. When like more data might confuse us, you know, they help us sort of make sense of data points that [00:36:00] don't quite connect, but connect them all into a, a coherent narrative. They help us like, you know, make generalizations.

They help us sort of you know, remember the right things to like use later. So it made sense in that context and it also seemed like a novel book. It seemed like, like this is useful for me as a generalist, like arguing is something that everyone does. We can all relate to this. And it's something that, for some reason isn't talked about a lot, like, no, one's an expert arguer, like there's expert debaters there's expert sales people, but there's no expert moderators really up there.

And maybe diplomats in theory are, but really they're, they're like they're just fighting for their team still. There's no one that's truly out there trying to connect, build bridges, see common, you know, and to bring us back into a coherent, like cohesive community instead of dividing us. And so that was like, if I wrote that book, I would feel proud about it.

So I did, and it took, you know, it was like, it was difficult, but that was the Genesis of it. And yeah,[00:37:00] I, I was, I still feel very proud about the book because it, it isn't what I could, I could not have written that without the book. Like I couldn't have written that as a series of blog posts, I couldn't have written on my own.

It needed the crucible of being on a book deal with a publisher and a really great agent and a really great editor and like having this like really compressed anxiety around the election and everything that was just like contributing to it, that made it happen. And, you know, I look back on it saying both like that sucked, you know, that was the most difficult time of my life, but also like at least something nice came out of it.

Something useful.

David Elikwu: yeah.

absolutely. It's a really interesting book. And I think what I find the most interesting is that on its own, like as a standalone book about cognitive biases, that is like one thing that is already great. And that is extremely useful for a lot of people, but. The, the title and the framing and it being incredibly prescient at that time [00:38:00] where there is a, a lot of yelling.

There's a lot of arguing. There's a lot of looking past each other. There's a lot of people jumping to conclusions, not listening. I think it really seemed to be almost the perfect melting pot in a way. But funnily enough, I think it hasn't really ended simultaneously as much as, okay. You know, some parts of global politics have changed and presidents have changed.

There is still an extent to which people don't seem to be able to see eye to eye and we still

Buster Benson: Oh,

David Elikwu: fall into a lot of these cognitive biases as well.

Buster Benson: yeah. I don't know if I've yet put a dent in that problem at all. Like, I think. There is something, it's a very diff I mean, I'm still not the best disagreer Like I will get heated and I will, you know, and I spent three years of my life just like trying to figure this out maybe four years. And you know, obviously I like, I probably, so people that have read it, like, I think it's really hard to, it's a skill, it's our disagreement, productive disagreement.

I [00:39:00] think I've come to think of it as a skill that we were never trained and that if we could practice this and get better at this over time, we could shift the way that discourse happens. But it's not a read the book and immediately be able to do it kind of thing. You have to take baby steps because your body is gonna hijack you, you know, very quickly if that's your habit and

getting to a point where you can get excited about disagreement instead of dreading it. Like, it's great to have that, but like it's a long journey. It's really hard to get to the point where like, oh yeah. You know, even the worst person in the world, I would have a conversation with them. If they wanted to, I mean, obviously the first question is like, if they want to or not.

David Elikwu: Yeah, I think funnily enough that's a big point that you touched on because sometimes people aren't open to having the conversation in the first place. I think sometimes people just want to argue that's it, that they just want to share their view and, and say what they think and know that they're Right. And they don't hear anything other than that.

Buster Benson: [00:40:00] Right. Well, a lot of disagreements are like one person, wanting to. force someone using the voice of power, to change, to do something differently. And the other person's only motivation is to leave, like, to get out of the way to like, and so when you have one person that's trying to force you to do something and one person that's trying to like find any exit possible how would that ever turn into a constructive conversation?

You need to both shift your own perspective and be like, you know, my goal is not to change you because I can't do that. And another person has to be like actually interested in communicating backwards. So it's it, it's, it's a, it's a big difference from most of them, but it can be done, it can be done and it could be done quickly too, when you, when you have the right mindset and you go into it, with the right opening and the right consent getting and context, then it works like, like magic.

But any small misstep, can make it not work.

David Elikwu: I want everyone listening to this to go and read the book, but I'd love maybe if you could pull out, what would you say are like the [00:41:00] three or four key lessons

Buster Benson: Yeah. So there are like these eight tips to try that. I sort of like framing the book. The first one I think is important, because it's just to sort of like listen to, to look for your, your, when your anxiety spikes, because that is the moment you enter. Like you sort of like, if you're like link, you're like you're in the overworld, everything's fine and as soon as like some anxiety, like some... you disagree about something that's unacceptable and your blood pressure like spikes.

That is the moment that you go into the dungeon and you're like, okay, now I'm battling and I'm gonna try to win this. And that is the moment when you can start to, if you can open that up a little bit and sort of redirect it back to yourself and say like, instead of thinking about how I want them to change, I should think about

what I value that feels threatened right now. Like what is it, what do I value that I now feel threatened by? And is that value truly threatened? And how can I communicate to them? Like, do they truly want to hurt that value? Or do they have some other, you know, [00:42:00] agenda? Like, oftentimes they're not even aware of the things that they're, that they're supposedly threatening.

So if we just shift and think about like, whenever I feel upset, it's usually because I care about something. It's either I care about the person I care about my own autonomy.

I care about my own health. I care about my own safety. I care about this group's safety. I care about this person sort of ability to lead a happy life, whatever it is. And that brings in warm feelings that brings in like kindness. And you can use that to connect with a person.

Another one would be.

Asking open-ended questions, like asking questions that you don't know the answer to. So most of the time in an argument, we do ask questions, but they're always like, why are you so dumb? you know, like, how can you believe that this is true when this is clearly not true. Those are not questions that have answers that would ever surprise you.

It's better to think about questions where you might actually learn something and it's a selfish pursuit. Like you can ask, like, what do people like you, you know, what do people like me miss about? [00:43:00] What's what you're thinking. Like, what are my blind spots? What are my, like, how am I seeing this wrong?

How are you like, and who, what do you get out of this belief? How was it formed that kind of stuff. Because then a couple things happen. One of 'em is now the discussion might go somewhere. That's not like this predetermined route that you've been a thousand times. The second one is that you might learn something.

From them, because like it's not often that you get access to information like people that you disagree with are like these bundles of information that you don't have access to. And if we don't sort of tap them for that, we are missing an opportunity. Third is that by asking these questions it's a gesture of Goodwill, right?

It's you're actually, actually you're not trying to force them to do some, say something. You're actually trying to get them to open up and, and if they can, then that might sort of start a better pattern of like asking opening questions instead of ones that are meant to bash people in the head. So that's another big chapter.

There's a, let's see a third one might be, [00:44:00] speak for yourself. I think, you know, it's really like, it's really hard to catch ourselves talking about other people that aren't there. Saying like this person thought this and they did this for these reasons. Instead of doing that, talk about yourself, talk about, you know, maybe, maybe you saw something that hurt your, you know, your sense of safety or your sense of, of truth or whatever it is.

And if you can bring that person in and ask them, like, why did you do this? Like, tell us, tell us in your own words, you know, what was going on? What led you to this? What are we missing about how this happened and bring them into the conversation so that they can speak for themselves? Cause then again, that's another area where like, you can be surprised by what people say.

We, we have these perfect projections that we think are the truth, right? We think people are the most evil, awful people we can imagine. And we might be surprised that while those kinds of people do exist, maybe this particular person isn't one of them, maybe this particular person, maybe there's some complexity [00:45:00] there, maybe that you can find, maybe there's something else that, that can sort of turn this from just projecting shadows, everywhere to learning something about people.

So that's a couple of them.

David Elikwu: No, I think those are great and they are incredibly useful just because now that we spend so much of our time online and people are already talking about the metaverse, where we're gonna be spending every waking minute of the day, apparently online, locked into some kind of, yeah. I dunno whether it's play, whether it's work

Buster Benson: yeah.

David Elikwu: think we have enough time on zoom as it is

but

I think that would be a really interesting world. And I'm interested to know maybe what you think about this part as well, actually, particularly considering your background and being able to participate in some of the early internet companies and being at some of these great businesses over time and seeing the progression of the internet and how it's interfaced with people's lives, particularly because you also happened to have a childhood without it.

And now you have kids that are growing up [00:46:00] with it. And now we have a potential future where I think we're still maybe in a middling phase where, okay, kids spend a lot of time on the computer, but not all of their time. And aside from the pandemic, kids still went to school and people still played with each other and had communities that were offline.

And we had meetups and we had events and we had all of those things and. Now, I think the pandemic has accelerated this trend of being remote and working remotely and just working online, just schooling online. What, what do you think that looks like in the future where we're spending all this time online and we have to communicate, we have to get along and, and navigate this online space.

How, how does that look to you?

Buster Benson: Yeah, I think that date is passed. I think we're already there.

David Elikwu: okay, sure.

Buster Benson: I, I think, you know, if you look at anyone anywhere alone, they're on their phone. Right. So no matter what, where we are, we're also [00:47:00] online. And you know, the kids are gonna have a more, homogenous experience there with their lives, but the adults we've, we've taken it upon, like taken it to it quite readily, I would say.

So what it's gonna do, I mean, I think there is this, sort of, if you just zoom out and you're like, okay, well, what is happening in the world? Like what, on the, on the sort of century level, like they, things are changing very quickly and it's hard to imagine, like, there's a, there's a trajectory, right.

And the trajectory is that like, we're gonna get past this, the limitations of sound and and speech, and space and we're gonna be able to talk to each other all the time until we go crazy. The question is, you know, I'm not trying to stop the train necessarily. I'm more thinking, like, how do we find a better seat in this train?

How do we like where, what are the ways that we can seat ourselves on this train in a way where [00:48:00] we don't get sucked into the negativity and the depression and the anxiety and the the horribleness and the, the loneliness and the cynicism and jadedness, and like all the stuff that is existing and mean it's existed in pockets and individual people, but now it can be, you know, sort of spilled everywhere.

And like many things I don't have the answer. I, I think, I think about, you know, what am I gonna do? What am I gonna encourage my kids to do? And. My answers are usually oftentimes the same, which is like center yourself on your values. Like, what do you want from this day? What do you want from this life?

like, what do you, what do you believe is worth fighting for? And instead of reacting to what's attacking you, fight for the things that you want. And you know, it's a hard skill to learn because everything is just jabbing us all the time. Like, what are you gonna do about this? What are you gonna do about this?

But you know, to think about like, okay, I keep this codex of [00:49:00] my beliefs where, you know, I, every year I've revisit it, you know, sometimes more times per year I've been doing it for, I forget maybe 13 or 14 years where I just, I try to capture, like, what do I believe? What do I think is important about not only the world, but myself and my own conduct and.

revise it, sometimes it feels really out of, out of date, really stale. Whereas like, you know, my, my positions on gun control were like reactionary. And then a couple years later, I come back to it like, okay, well now that like that's simmered down and not, not numbers, but in these, the cultural mindset right now.

And know, what do I really think should happen? And try to tease it apart. And, and then what can I do to help that happen? Kinds of questions. And with technology, we need to be able to coexist with technology. We need to be able to coexist with communication online. We need to be able to coexist with polarization and misinformation and war now.

And you know, I think that's the best we can do. And [00:50:00] it's not, there's not like a, I, I don't advocate necessarily like moving off the grid or anything but like, if. , you know, sometimes we need a drastic change to be able to like flip us back into our centered, like sort of values, self. And sometimes we can do that in smaller steps, like by just you know, limiting, like I just turn on, you know, like screen time on my phone, be like, every time I'm on Twitter for more than an hour, just like, turn it on.

And you know, just doing that helps like put, you know, just reminding me of like, okay, well I got sucked in. I could obviously turn it back on, but do I want to, or not? I'm more worried, like personally that, and instead of actually connecting us, we are avoiding each other more than ever. Like, we are avoiding topics of conversation.

We're avoiding nuance within conversations. We're avoiding people that we disagree with. We're avoiding like just. [00:51:00] People like just, and we're doing this in a very, like head in the sand kind of way. And that's worrisome to me because once your head fall away in the sand, like, no, one's gonna be able to reach you to like pull you back out.

And when we do this to ourselves, like it's sort of like this self-fulfilling prophecy where the more I push people, the more I project bad onto them. And then the more I see things I don't like, and the more I push them away and it's this vicious cycle. So overall, when I think about my kids, myself, I think about how do we avoid?

just how do we avoid retreating into our bubbles all the way? How do we accept the world as it is? And if we don't like it, how do we participate in the world? Even though we don't like it yet? Like how do we add something better? How do we make things better instead of adding to the problem?

So. It's easier. I mean, it's, it's a simple idea, but of course like the, the trick is, is how do we do that? So just something I gotta ask.

David Elikwu: Yeah, it's a big question. And [00:52:00] I think what I find really interesting about the internet, when I think about what we have, it's, it's fantastic. Obviously it's, it's immeasurable opportunity, but I also think a lot about the, the speed and the volume of the information on the internet and very much like.

What you touched on thinking about Twitter. People spend hours on Twitter, not just one hour, but six, seven hours. People spend the same amount of time on social media that people used to spend watching TV in the like eighties and nineties and even going a step beyond that. I think I was listening to a podcast earlier this week and the average watch time on TikTok that has usually videos that are 15 seconds long.

The average watch time is over two hours, like the number of videos. And you don't even remember what you've just seen. don't know. I can't imagine how many hundreds of videos that is for the average watch time. And I just think you, we consume so much and I guess maybe there's, there's two points. One is thinking [00:53:00] about how we curate what we consume and how we curate what's blasted at us because for a large part on a lot of these platforms, we're not in control We are not actively in control over the information that's broadcasted towards us. We are passively in control in that. Okay. Whatever you interact with will be shown more to you. And so maybe there is a, a choice where you can step back and start trying to strategically interact with things in a specific way.

But if you're not informed about that, and you're just naively jumping onto platforms then you are, you know, you can very quickly end up in a particular corner of the internet where you're just shown certain things. And that goes to the volume part where there's so much information out there that you can travel miles and miles in internet pace.

You can cross thousands of blogs. You can look at hundreds of YouTube videos without ever leaving a certain neighborhood of the,

of the virtual space. Like you

can go so far, and go nowhere.

Buster Benson: exactly. Yes. Yeah. There's just, [00:54:00] you can, if you , I used to do this exercise as a kid. Another, just like weird habit I had was like, try to write down every word, you know, on a piece of paper. Might be a couple pieces. But it was a great exercise because of what your brain has to do to think of words, because your brain tends to start with

a prompt. Like, okay, goats, cats, you know, dogs, giraffes, elephants, rhinos, blah, blah, blah, grasslands, prairies trees. And then you start like, okay, shoot. I'm at the bottom of that. Like, I need to hop somewhere else. Like how do I hop? And you could either hop like by just like creating a dead end and then looking somewhere and be like, okay, well books, okay.

We could go there. Or you could think about where you are and then twist it to like, be like, maybe I'm talking about, you know, plants and animals. I could talk about sort of designs of plants and art, you know? So like your brain has many ways to like, take where it is and twist it and see like there's a whole other infinite universe.

And I think, think with TikTok and social media, like we spend all day we're like just like reading [00:55:00] Ukraine, tweets and like whatever the latest TikTok meetings are. And then, but you can look somewhere and be like, oh, there's a book about. The sword and the stone, you know, like that's a completely different world.

I could just reach my hand over and grab it and be in that world instead. So why would I choose this one or that one? And if I could choose those two, how many other ones could I be in right now? And so shifting it from like it's all just coming to me to like, each of these is a doorway and each of these will like present like this sort of flow of information and sensations and ideas and stuff, but, and they're inexhaustible each one of these things is completely inexhaustible.

So we don't have to wait until it's exhausted or we were exhausted to switch. We could switch whenever we want, you could put, put that book down if it puts, put that stream down and like, you know, and I think this has been interesting in the pandemic, because I think a lot of these strategies have become like life saving strategies for your mental health in all other ways.

Like how do I put this down? I'm gonna take up kniting. [00:56:00] I'm gonna take up playing the piano. I'm gonna take up, you know, going on, walks my dog, you know? So we, we know that this is a strategy to like, get us out of these, these like sort of endlessly I guess, filled buckets of content into another one.

but we get to choose which ones we go into. And when we realize that there's like a, a different way to relate to each one, each one is sort of like asking more or less of us, like sort of pushing us into direction of, of depression or hope or peace or kindness. Like we might want to then think, like, how can, like, do I want to be depressed all day to day or do I want to be kind that might inform where I go.

David Elikwu: And I think that really ties into writing as well. Cause people talk about writing, being like a forcing function for thinking and how it influences how you think. And I know you've been writing for an extraordinarily long time, and I guess that also ties into your project. Well, I don't wanna say project your [00:57:00] business, but 750words.

Which I think is

Buster Benson: Mm-hmm

David Elikwu: your like longest running projects or businesses. And I'd love to hear

you talk more about that, the Genesis of that, and maybe how that interacts with some of your other philosophies as well.

Buster Benson: Yeah, yeah, yeah. It does tie in I think that, well, I've always journaled and I've always been like a paranoid journaler, so I'm always. Like writing the books and then like going through like this elaborate process of hiding it. So nobody ever reads them, not because I'm saying anything scandalous or anything, but just because like in order for me to feel comfortable writing, like without a filter, I have to also reassure myself that it won't be seen.

And so I eventually built this website it's based on the this Julia Cameron book called the artist way. It's about sort of these eight week program of unlocking your creative spirit. And one of the exercises in it is to write morning pages, which is three pages of like whatever on the top of your head, just like blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, grocery list, like rants, you know, you know, [00:58:00] insecurities dreams, whatever, just to get out of your head and you get your brain past that.

Which, you know, I think in the world of the internet, everything is like, and the thing that drew me to it originally is like everything is public. Everything is published, everything is shared. Everything is seen, commented, liked, whatever. There's not, but the world of private writing has not expanded there has not been in the Facebook of journaling out there.

There's no like, you know, private tweeting, you know, so, I was like, okay, well, that's something I value, which is like, self-reflection journaling, because like I can journal my thoughts and get to the point of like meditation much easier than just being quiet and trying to meditate. Because by getting it all out on the paper, it's sort of just like completes those thoughts and those thoughts no longer have to spin in my head.

And when I realize that this is a service that I can offer other people, if it be, could be private password, protected, encrypted, all that stuff. And it's really easy. It's like the simplest technology [00:59:00] on the internet. I built it in like three days back in 2010 and unlike all my other projects like this is the one project that I neglected for 10 years.

And every single month it was being used more than the last month for 10 years. And so at the end of that, I was like, well, I'm not gonna get that lucky again, stumbling on something that's useful in that way. Well, it's not impossible, but like why, why waste this opportunity to, to like help people with something that is, that I know is valuable, that other people have found valuable and that I've, they've stuck with it, even though it's still like in the 2010 technology.

So it's like a journaling practice. Like you write 750 words, which is equivalent of three pages. You get analytics about it. You get you sort of a number of distractions you get, you're talking about the past or the future. You get about thematic content from various libraries. I have that tell you about like, are you talking about death or your job or family or health?

A lot of it's just for fun, but like, it still makes it, it gives you like this mirror, like you're writing you're, you're [01:00:00] dumping your brain into there. No one's ever gonna see it. And you get to sort of see what's in your brain. And people have been doing it now, you know, for the whole 10 plus years, 12 years, people are now passing like 4,000 days in a row.

It's crazy. But yeah, I like it because I find I like ideas, like productive disagreement, where everyone can understand it. Like everyone understands what disagreements are. Everyone wants to get better at that same with like self reflection internally. I think everybody understands that like having an internal dialogue with yourself is so important.

It's so neglected. We oftentimes use other people to think. Right. And that's fine. Sometimes those people don't want to hear your thoughts. And you don't have to use them that way. You can talk to yourself in a way that's just as productive in a lot of ways. And you know, reflecting on things, there's, it's inexhaustible again, like, you know, You're gonna wake up every morning with thoughts in your head and you're gonna want, you know, when you get them out, you're gonna feel better.

So, you know, I, I think it's a pretty simple [01:01:00] value proposition there. And yeah, my goal has just been like protect the words, make sure no one ever sees these words ever. Like I'm the only person that has ever had that access to the database. And I don't go in there. They're, you know, protected they're, they're not hackable.

I'm not gonna hire employees that do this or anything, so it's just me my partner. And so yeah, I think that, yeah, I use it a lot. It's just a, a way to start the day sort of like taking that dip in the, in the lake, you know, just like, just sort of makes you helps you arrive in the day and from then on your, my thoughts are always clearer and a little bit more Sort of coherent because I've gotten all the gunk out of the beginning.

Yeah. So that's, that's what that is. And yeah, but you know, a lot of people use it where they just, where they write in different tool, they plop it in just for the stats and stuff too. So I don't have too many there's no dogma there. I don't think you have to do this in a certain way.

David Elikwu: Sure, but I think it's incredibly useful. And I think having, [01:02:00] having some form of habit of writing, whether it's digital or you're writing physically, so that's one thing I try and do a lot more now just because one thing I found is that, and I've used 750 words in the, in the past, but I think one thing that happens to me is that I have a tendency to two things.

One is like over-editing and really wanting to. Make every word perfect. And then the other is, I think having a keyboard somehow also gives you like infinite possibilities. And so I have a tendency to just write all the words and just fill, fill a bunch of space and maybe that's the NaNoWriMo instinct, but I think sometimes writing by hand and, and having a balance.

So usually I'll do like first draft by hand and then second drafts typing. But writing by hand is a real constraint because you can't write as fast as you can think, particularly if you can type fast. And it just makes you think about each sentence as you write it. And really just be more conscious of what you're saying.

Buster Benson: yeah, yeah, yeah. I think there, there is this. Yeah, it start the original habit [01:03:00] is like Julie, Cameron is very dogmatic about it being handwritten. And I appreciate that too. I like writing my notes out. Yeah, I can't build the website that lets you do that. So I didn't do that

but

a lot of people, I was like, I was thinking that now you could like write your pages, then take a picture of it.

But I don't know. Because you could, you could do OCR on that. And, but like the words aren't there to be reread again. So really, even if it was just a button, like I wrote on, in a notebook today, like I think that's the, the value, like the actual writing is the value. You don't have to prove it to me.

David Elikwu: yeah,

I'd love that as a feature, but I think you're right. The value is in, but I think it's also the habit tracking aspect where you are able to have this streak of writing these words and doing this action. And it's kind of a self-perpetuating thing where you are motivating yourself to do something.

It clarifies your thoughts helps you prepare for the day helps you think better has all of these other benefits as well. So I know I've taken a lot [01:04:00] of your time. I'm gonna let you go in a second. I have one last question. Which is maybe going back to what you were talking about before you were mentioning this period of your life, kind of around 27, where you had this kind of death and rebirth period where you were figuring a lot of things out, what is maybe the one biggest lesson that you took from that period?

Buster Benson: that, that period of my life, where I, I shave my head, sold everything and went sort of off the deep end.

A lot of ways changed my name. So the biggest takeaway I had from this time if I just like confabulate the whole narrative it would be that we don't really, you know, I personally believe that we bring our own purpose to life and bringing our own purpose to life is, can be means that whatever we come over is equally valid.

That said, I think that what I want to do with my life is [01:05:00] to as much as possible frame life, as an opportunity to collaborate with people, to connect with people, to have positive, strong connections with people. And in order to do that, I need to invent a way to see past a lot of the automatic programs that we, we have to, we inherit from our jobs, from our expectations around family, our expectations around sort of achievement and success.

And I, I feel like I saw past the, the, the end of those games, like, okay, I could be Jeff Bezos. That sounds terrible. Okay. I could be, you know, Einstein, you know, all these things that sort of are at the end points of success and these different pathways, would I actually wanna trade lives with them? No. So I have to let go of these sort of these, these games that I've inherited and got my own.

So that means changing my name. [01:06:00] That means inventing my own philosophy for life. It means tracking my own beliefs. It means making my own goal for life to be, you know, riding my bike around the block. It means finding the. The way to build things in a way that matches my values and that doesn't compromise them.

So I think that's the takeaway I have is, is invent the game and play it to, the best of my ability, I guess and to include people as much as possible in that pursuit And let, let them have their own journey towards whatever they're going for too.

David Elikwu: Thank you so much for tuning in. Please do stay tuned for more. Don't forget to rate, review and subscribe. It really helps the podcast and follow me on Twitter feel free to shoot me any thoughts. See you next time.

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