David Laroche: Hello Achievers! Today we are in New York, we are still in New York with a new guest. He is—sorry—he is Peter—yes, it’s OK—he’s Peter Hopkins. He is the CEO of Big Think. He did interviews with awesome people, awesome leaders on a lot of fields and I’m very happy to have him today.
Peter Hopkins: Hello, David. It’s great to be here.
David Laroche: How are you?
Peter Hopkins: I’m doing very well, in particular after that enthusiastic introduction.
David Laroche: Thank you. I’ll let you introduce yourself. You will do better than me.
Peter Hopkins: Yes. So I’m co-founder of Big Think. I’m president of the company. We are an online knowledge form. We conduct interviews, as you said, with top thought leaders from every major field, people whose ideas are leading change in the XXI century, and we try to boil those ideas down into small, very digestible nuggets of video and text, curate them on our website bigthink.com.
We’ve just launched, actually, a couple of new offerings that take that thousands of hours of information on all these big ideas and actually focus just on the actionable parts, what you can do today kind of as you were describing your work to me. We really want to help and show people that big ideas can lead to change…
David Laroche: Action.
Peter Hopkins: Exactly. And it can start…
David Laroche: Now.
Peter Hopkins: Now. Exactly.
David Laroche: It’s awesome. Why did you start Big Think?
Peter Hopkins: Well, my co-founder and I were producers at a television show on American public television where we saw major thought leaders—from the President of the United States, the President of France, actors and actresses who had few great things on film and on stage. We say them every day being interviewed on the hour-long daily television program, but their ideas—some of which were so powerful and so seemingly useful to other people—would just go out into the ether and would disappear.
This was right around the time that YouTube was created and launched and we thought, “What if we could take some of that amazing content, amazing ideas of move it to the internet where it can be accessible forever and where we could actually distill it into smaller bits and really just focus on the best pieces and that people can kind of get to them more quickly. That’s how Big Think began and really has sort of tracked throughout its history.
David Laroche: Do you have a special goal, a special domain in Big Think? You have a lot of videos on education. Do you have some field that you prefer to talk about?
Peter Hopkins: Sure. Well, the areas that we tend to focus on most are those where there’s a lot of change happening. So education is one, as you mentioned, it’s an area of particular interest to us because in some ways of thinking about it what we do is a form of online education. We are interested in, how we say, we are making our audience smarter faster. That’s our motto, our tagline.
So we focus a lot on the topics around how education’s changing at all levels, via primary education, high school, lower school and then also higher education, university education as well.
We also focus on technology. Those two go hand in hand. We’re very interested in how topics ranging from big data, of how measuring everything that we do—from where we go on our cell phones to our health and medical conditions—how the ability of measure it and use those measurements to learn things that you can't see or perceive with the eye, but are going on underneath or maybe even above can help us progress even faster and do more with your resources.
Then, we are interested in art and culture. We’ve had many great authors like …, poets… And we’re interested in also societal issues, people who study economics and growth in the developing world. Just pretty, it’s a pretty wide array.
David Laroche: I believe a lot on the power of interviews. What did you learn from the beginning? Because you’ve interviewed a lot of inspiring people and I believe that in the contact of inspiring people you learn. What did you learn from the start?
Peter Hopkins: Well, I think from the start I think we learned that there’s nobody better able to express an idea than the person who thought of it. That the reason why—you know, we could have just read about these people and written about them, and in our words told their story and explained what we thought was the point that their story told. We could’ve also interviewed them on the phone and got them to tell us their story and written it down sort of in their own words but not from their own mouth as such.
What we learned, as we went to the next level, and said, “We really want these people to tell their own story. We don’t want to be an intermediary. We don’t want to be a messenger. We want to be a facilitator. We want to help get their story out there, but they should be the ones who actually deliver it.”
I think we’ve seen—the interviews have been viewed almost 100 million times. We have reached 5-6 million people a month all over the word on video and via the website. And what we’ve heard is that that was the opportunity that was missing, that people have heard from many of these people but not ever seen them, not ever heard the exact story the way that they wanted to tell it. And that they also appreciated the fact that even when they had heard the story before, that we have brought to bear a certain editing sensibility that focused on getting it down to its core pieces.
Many of them are experts who’ve done interviews with, who have spoken in many other places, you know, but we bring a certain standardness, certain sensibility that says, “Let’s get to that specific actionable idea. Let’s not have stories about things that they’ve told 100 other places and let’s get them also to think about their story in terms of what other people can learn from it.” So not just what their PR people have said, “This is how I want to sell my book,” or, “This is what I want you to do for me,” but more from the advantage point of, “This is what I can teach you.”
That I think is what makes us among very few entities that do that as such. That has been what we’ve heard most from the audience, is what they’ve enjoyed about Big Think.
David Laroche: I enjoy it too. Who does the interviews?
Peter Hopkins: Well, we have a production team. So we have three producers who are just focused on conducting the interviews. They work with an editorial team who will identify candidates for being interviewed. They will work with that interview in advance to isolate topics and themes that we think our audience is interested in hearing about their lives and their accomplishments and sometimes their struggles and challenges. Then that editor will create a dossier about that person, isolating topics and themes, framing questions that they think would be good to ask and then they turn it over to our production team, who are expert at eliciting answers on camera.
Our interviews are filmed not in this style as such—not quite as a conversation but more as a documentary interview, where we may have people repeat things multiple times. Often in the course of the conversation but conversations usually you don’t say, “Back up. Great idea but can you say that one more time and when you say it could you repeat the question?” These are the things that you do when you really want to, there’s…
David Laroche: Yes, to keep only the essence.
Peter Hopkins: The essence. Exactly. So we do that, and that’s actually something we shifted towards over the years. At the beginning we did it much more conversationally and, as we realized that we really wanted to emphasize the faster part of “smarter faster” and really clip another 30 seconds off or another minute, we began to focus much more on the technique of how to conduct the interviews and balance it against the awkwardness of being an interviewee and having being stopped occasionally.
But the balance that we found has worked for both because the interviewee ends up with a record of their ideas better and crisper and then the audience gets, you know.
David Laroche: Do you talk with each interviewee?
Peter Hopkins: Yes. So we will speak with them. Many of them we had known before, so they are familiar we our process so we don’t necessarily speak to them directly the second or third or fourth time, but we certainly exchange with everyone before an interview. And the ones we’ve never seen, we’ve never talked to before or for whom there’s very little video available to review, we definitely speak with them, get a sense of their comfort level on different topics, their understanding of who and what we are and what we’re trying to achieve and also the constraints.
Some people are available—our interviews will run as long as an hour and a half, sometimes even two hours at the long end, and for those who have the time and their availability that’s great. And then on short end, it might be a very busy, well-known person who’s just released a book. They’re in New York press-junket, they’ve got 20 minutes, 15 minutes, sometimes 10 even and we can get maybe one good clip, but we’re ready to do that and we’re ready to having to do that without any preparation until they walk in the door and do it in a way that makes them feel comfortable and not make it not terribly awkward.
David Laroche: You’ve met a lot of inspiring people. Do you feel that you improve yourself each time you met an inspiring people? For example, Richard Bronson. He is so inspiring. Do you feel a difference in you after you meet some people like that?
Peter Hopkins: Absolutely. I mean, I think without a doubt to hear their stories, to understand from their perspective what it took, to hear candidly, both the potent and potential achieved, but also the fact that at any given moment in an individual’s story of success—there are moments of darkness, there are moments of doubt, there are moments of struggle—and to see those both come across and realize the full picture—because what people only see…
David Laroche: Is success.
Peter Hopkins: Is success. And they don’t realize every success story has five stories of struggle within it and moments of doubt, moments of failure, moments of learning, moments of questioning whether it’s worth going on. Only when you get to hear both, the good and the bad and the in between…
David Laroche: You see the power.
Peter Hopkins: You see the power. So without a doubt, it’s—
David Laroche: I’m very glad with what you’re saying about because, I’m glad because the people will be able to listen to that. It’s awesome.
Peter Hopkins: Right, absolutely.
Julie: Just one second.
David Laroche: Why?
David Laroche: OK.
Julie: There we go.
David Laroche: You are dealing with struggles. It’s funny because one of my favorite questions is about struggle. Did you have struggles and can you share me one struggle you had and how you overcame it?
Peter Hopkins: Sure. I mean, one struggle we’ve had has been convincing people that there is a market for big ideas online. When we started in 2008, we launched it early in 2008, there was very few, if any, outlets that focused not on news—which in the United States tends to be very sensationalized and very much focused on extreme situations that are not very representative of real life, crime or tragedy of some sort.
They love when bad things happen in the weather, whether it’s a tornado or an earthquake. That’s when the news pays attention and that’s what people have long thought that could only be the only way of succeeding in the media, is to focus on that, at least in the United States where we are based.
So it has taken a long time to convince people that indeed—
David Laroche: When you say “people”, what people?
Peter Hopkins: The people, to begin with, investors, people who would help us raise money to start the company and to bring it into life. Other people, advertisers, people who would invest money to show their brand on Big Think and support the work that we do.
And also, for a period it required a convincing of the audience. We started with an audience of zero and now we reach 6 million people a month, but between zero and 6 million there’s some convincing that needs to take place. That requires each step of the way, as you grow and you build and you reach more people, you have to find new ways to explain your story in clear, simpler and more accessible terms so that the essence and the core of what you’re doing it reaches the most number of people possible at any given moment.
When you’re struggling around the couple of hundred people a month looking at your website in month one or month two or month three or the first year, it requires when you go home and lay your head on the pillow and think, “Wow! Four hundred people this month is not going to keep this flow.” You have to step back—maybe not one step, maybe not two steps, maybe three or four—and remember why you did it in the first place. In the same time you have to ask yourself, “What could I be doing that I’m not?” or, “What could I be doing differently because 400 people won't keep the lights on or the doors open forever.”
It’s that balance of believing in the core of what you’ve done and why you did it in the first place, but also the self-reflection and the introspection to say, “Something must be just a little off, or a couple of things. What could they be? Where am I not, where are the things not popping and hitting just the way I thought they might?” That’s staying in the course while tweaking the course, changing just a little bit. It’s probably the biggest skill I’ve learned.
David Laroche: So when you have struggles you develop two things. When you have struggles or problems or maybe bad energy, you learn to step back in the back to remember why you are doing that—your mission, your goal, your main goal—and secondly, you are focusing on how I can learn from this situation and changing maybe just one thing to improve myself, to improve my work. That’s right?
Peter Hopkins: That’s right.
David Laroche: It’s a constant and never-ending improvement.
Peter Hopkins: That’s exactly right. And realizing that that is the part of the process, wherever you are in it, and not using your goals in a way that hurts the chances that they might be realized. Because if you focus—I think the term “bad energy” is a good way of thinking about it—if you look at your goal and only think in terms of how far away you are from it, not in terms of how much closer you’ve gotten to it, then you’re less likely to ever get there.
David Laroche: I have a lot of people, especially us, I have a lot of people who are wondering, “How can I reach these kinds of people?” For example, the sister of my old friend, she’s 40 years old. She has dreams to become a filmmaker and she would like to interview people like Spielberg, for example. She would like to, but on her field, what advice could you give to reach and to contact or to interview inspiring people?
Peter Hopkins: Well, I think the biggest advice I have there is interview the most inspiring people, the ones people have all seen and heard of—Steven Spielberg, Barack Obama—anybody who has a global recognition and a brand. They’re very difficult to get to for a good reason, because, you know, everyone knows about them, everybody is interested in them in one way or another. The thing that I think in order to reach them, or even reach somebody who’s not the absolute A-level superstar, but somebody who is a busy person, who is doing a lot of things, has a lot of demands on their time, you have to make sure that you make an argument, you frame your request understanding what you’re bringing to them.
These are people who will have a vision, a mission, a set of values that they do want to share with the world, but they only have so much time in the day and the more important they are, the less time they likely have because they are doing so many things.
So you have to ask yourself, “What is it that I can bring to the table? And how do I communicate that as quickly as possible with these few words and how can I get that message to the right person?” It may well not be the person themselves. You are not likely to send an e-mail to the President of the United States and have them read it. The President’s e-mail address is not easy to obtain, and even if you got it, you probably, it’s likely not to end up in his inbox one way or another.
So by knowing what you can bring to them and by distilling that message as quickly as possible—because everyone’s attention is so distracted and there are so many things and they can easily click to the next e-mail—and then making sure that you get it to the right person. So recognizing the more important people—
David Laroche: So you write very short message?
Peter Hopkins: Go to the shortest possible. You want to make sure you say the key important things. In your case, you reach a foreign audience, not English audience. Let’s say some American person, a well-known American person likely isn’t reaching as often as possible. I think you achieved, one of the reasons I responded to your e-mail was that you made implicitly an argument about the value of coming and spending not a large amount of time, but still making it, fitting it into my schedule in a way that I thought was worthwhile.
You also appealed to me on the basis of a good will and common cause. We both do similar things. As I thought of myself in your position, I thought, “Well, how can you say ‘no’ to somebody who believes in something you believe in, who is pursuing it in a way similar to what you’re doing.” In addition to the benefit I or Big Think might get from sitting for an interview with you.
I also thought each benefit from those who come before us reaching back to help and offering a hand of help. And by communicating that clearly and relatively succinctly, briefly you were able to make an argument that was persuasive. I think that that is the key, that insight is important for everybody, regardless whether you are asking for an interview or you want to introduce yourself in a professional context of any sort. If you remember what is in it for the person you’re asking to do something and you frame it very quickly and get to the point really fast—the subject line, the body of your e-mail—and start respecting their time right from the first letter that you write in the subject line until the very end and then you use one or two references that appeal to a sense of giving back, probably indirectly, but still getting this idea that you’re advancing, their help advances a larger cause one way or another, that’s how you’ll succeed.
And if you do your homework and understand who is the person who reads the e-mails or who takes the calls—the assistant, the advisor—or you leverage a contact, you have a friend who knows, has a friend who has went to high school with, so and so is daughter, then you’re able to get arrived at and get that piece of information request in front of the right people one way or another.
David Laroche: Cool. Your message is short, maybe ten lines?
Peter Hopkins: Yes. I mean, think about, just look at, start to think about it when you read or get e-mails from people you do not know and ask yourself, “What is it about that e-mail that made me click it to open it?” And then take that and apply it actively, proactively on writing your next set of e-mails, you’ll begin to see what actually works and appeals to you and how to then apply it as you reach out to others.
David Laroche: And the e-mail you sent today, did you mention the people you had before?
Peter Hopkins: Yes. I think that that helps. I think that, you know, we have done that less and less only because often times now people know who we are or will just go to our website and see very clearly what we are… I think with the less, the less you’ve done, the more it is to highlight the best of what you’ve done because are not likely that have been exposed to it, and giving them quick and easy access with a link or just some known names is very helpful. If you’ve not done anyone yet, then you focus on the mission, you focus on what you’ll do have not on what you don’t have—kind of like the way you should look at the whole process, you want to focus on what you’ve achieved, not on what you don’t. And if you haven’t achieved anything then you focus on what you would like to achieve. That’s it!
You work back to the beginning. Everyone starts with nothing, as they go after something you just have to maximize, even your thought of wanting to do something as something. So that’s what people can reassure themselves about. Otherwise, if you have to only, you only could build on what you’ve achieved, actually then it would be a kind of logical fallacy, nobody could achieve anything because before you started you got nothing.
David Laroche: Today in Big Think what do you do?
Peter Hopkins: Me personally or the company?
David Laroche: Personally.
Peter Hopkins: So my job is to look to the future and think about what could be that is not yet—new platforms we can distribute our content…
David Laroche: On iPhone for example.
Peter Hopkins: On iPhone, yes, exactly. That is a project we’ve undertaken. Build apps for other platforms, partnerships. We just launched a paid channel on YouTube. They’ve just launched paid channels and I said two weeks ago…
David Laroche: What is it?
Peter Hopkins: These are private channels that you have to pay to get access to. So we have a big free channel with lots and lots of free content and now we have a paid channel—
David Laroche: What is the difference in the content between the two?
Peter Hopkins: Well, the paid channel is exclusive content, is content that is not on the free channel and it focuses specifically on the most actionable ideas, the ones that we think can focus on health, wealth and happiness—so personal improvement topics.
The content is richer that it’s built around a curriculum so we have a set of key topics areas that we focus on and the editing is done in a way that the videos all contain a lesson that’s reinforced throughout the video. We have editors who interact with the users and actually respond to questions. And then the guests appear, each interview is part of what we call a workshop around a given skill. Part of that workshop, the expert appears again on a live Q&A, so if you subscribe you get to sit and participate and ask questions.
David Laroche: And you launched it two weeks ago?
Peter Hopkins: Two weeks ago.
David Laroche: I will put a link on the project, it could be fun.
Peter Hopkins: Thank you. It’s called Big Think Mentor.
David Laroche: OK, Big Think Mentor.
Peter Hopkins: I’ll remind you.
David Laroche: You’ve met a lot of people, so according to you what could be the secret of happiness?
Peter Hopkins: I think the secret of happiness I think is probably always reminding yourself what you have and not forgetting that, not forgetting what you have done, not forgetting what you have to be thankful for and appreciative of, even as you’re going after and thriving for big, great things that you don’t have, you may never have. Because it’s accepting and loving what you’ve done that helps to empower you and to enable you to deal with this challenges and the defeats, the small defeats and the struggles that lie between you and what you haven’t done.
If you think about it that way and always step back and align yourself, “What do I have today? What do I have to be happy? What do I have to be thankful for?” then you can go after bigger things or you may just realize that some of the things that you thought you wanted aren’t as important and have more energy to focus on the things you really do want that you don’t have.
But I think when we look, when we manifest our, when we focus on what we haven’t achieved solely, we tend to want things that we don’t really necessarily and truly want. And that just makes the problem, that creates the negative spiral versus the positive spiral, which is what we’re really after, to end up in a place with a smile on your face.
David Laroche: Cool. Is there someone, is there an interviewee that you touched you specially?
Peter Hopkins: Yes, I think that there are a number of interviewees that have touched me specially.
David Laroche: One moment and maybe one sentence that was very special for you or maybe a revelation.
Peter Hopkins: Well, this one is hard. I expect, one of our very first interviewees was, one of our first interviewees was a man by the name of Peter Gomes who was the university minister at Harvard and he’s a very interesting person—African-American, gay, republican at the time at least, many things that… Six years ago he has passed away—were extraordinarily, extraordinary for them existing all in one person.
He described—I asked him about that and that the time early on I was alone with my colleague and a couple of other people worked, were the ones at the interviews—and I asked him about all these contradictions in him. I remember him describing himself as an “Afro-Saxon”, which in English combines two terms: Anglo-Saxon, meaning of kind of British descent, which is usually associated with white aristocratic British identity; and Afro-American, which is of course a term we use to describe American citizens of African descent, Black people basically.
It was the use of this term in the way that he delivered it, which is with this very high American English that almost sounds British. When he speaks, when he spoke it was so unusual itself and the fact that he had pulled this crazy term I had never heard, that it once perfectly described not only him as the man I knew of, but the man that was delivering in the moment, it was so powerful for me because it reminded me in that first week of doing interviews and we were in a basement at Harvard and we’d set up cameras like this. It reminded me why we needed to have it told by the person who was delivering it, because who would have ever thought to describe him that way but himself. Who could have ever said it that way but him?
But yet in that one, that there’s two words combined together, they’re hyphenated—Afro-Saxon—it made so much sense and it was so powerful to hear it. That kind of stayed with me since it’s a kind of reminder why I do what I do.
David Laroche: Cool. I have a last question and I will let Julie ask you something. Do you have some life lessons you want to share to us?
Peter Hopkins: The life lessons I think we’ve gone into a couple of them. I mean, my favorite life lesson that I share—and I think I touched on already a little bit but I’ll repeat it—is when you go out and do something that is a leap a reach for yourself or maybe for anybody, something that is a big goal that is hard to achieve.
A, it’s important to break it into steps and understand the goal, the end goals as a process of many different stages and steps that need to be small and incremental—even if they happen quickly—so that you don’t, the largeness and the bigness of the idea, of the goal doesn’t stand in the way of achieving it.
And then you have to realize you will need help. In order to get help you have to understand and appeal to people who might help you, ones who might not know and have never met, especially those who you’ve never met. You need to appeal to them with an eye toward how to make the case for why giving you their time or their advice or their energy in any way, no matter how small. Why is it worth it? What could they be doing, not just for you, but more importantly, what does helping you, how could it potentially help others?
And if you do that, you can make that argument and break the process down into small enough, doable steps and, of course, as we discussed, keep, be mindful of the fact that you will fail at any given step. You may have to step back and try again. You need to do as much as you can to be happy and content each day in spite of the failures, in spite of the setbacks. Those things together mean that you can do great things and will allow you to do great things.
Missing one of those steps tends to reinforce problems with the other steps and they kind of lead you back to the negative spiral where everything seems impossible, nothing seems right. You seem, you are deflated and discontent. You end up a big dream and a big goal and ends up hurting more than it helps. But that does not have to be the case and I try to remind people of that whenever I can.
David Laroche: Thank you very much.
Peter Hopkins: Thank you.
David Laroche: I’ll let Julie to ask you something and I will ask you another question. It is a weird question.
Julie: His question, not my question.
Peter Hopkins: Oh, OK.
David Laroche: My question.
Julie: So my question is just for me. It’s not going to be on the website, I don’t think so. So to explain, you have always wanted to reduce by length …] for the time … between people. And so I’ve been wondering how, what could I do, how to do to make this world a better place to live? And I asked two days ago this question to Seth Godin and his answer was wise to me because he said that I had to focus first on six people, just to ask this to myself focusing on six people.
So my question to you is, according to you, let’s imagine six people who are average people with ups and downs but they have the will to become the best of themselves, to be true to themselves, to live altogether in peace because they really want to build this world for their children, for next generations. What do you think they should do? Where do they start to start to become the kind of person to be?
Peter Hopkins: What should they, in terms of what they should ask themselves or what can you do to kind of trigger in themselves that possibility?
Peter Hopkins: And in the context of the work that you do of video media or just generally?
Peter Hopkins: Interesting. Well, I think, of course it depends on who the person is. I’ll get back to my… In social media, in online media—and Seth Godin is certainly an expert in that as well—you have this incredible ability to target your message to your audience. So now it’s not like TV or ABC or NBC, which once had the only microphone and every message had to go through kind of almost a meat grinder, where you’d pack it all and you could give everybody the same thing. Instead now we can target it.
So I think you need to ask yourself first, “Who are those six people?” And if they’re not all the same six people, then there might be six different ways you want to reach it. I think because of social media, the people that you probably want to reach is first the ones that have something similar to you—even if they’re not from France and they’re not female, they’re not a certain age—that you want to understand what are your touch points them, what do you, how do you look at the world, how do you think about the world in the same way.
One way to think about that is look at the websites to go to, the ones with communities where you exchange and you participate and say, “Why did other people come here? What is it about me? What is it about them? How do I talk to them when I’m talking with them? How do I see that they talk to each other?” And then think about that message as it would appear there. You would say things a certain way on one website you might not say on another website. My Facebook might be one thing, Twitter might be obviously a different way, but tell your message to that person. Then instead of trying to reach, I would probably say—it’s like tweak on what Seth said—I would say rather than target then with five different, very different people, I would say try to reach 60 of the same type of person, or 600. That would be—and when you get the message right for that one, then think about, the next step is not, “How do I do five other messages for five other different people?” rather, “How do I take that message from one to ten to 100 to 1,000 and cause it to grow exponentially?” rather than think of six different.
Julie: Yes. It’s interesting. Thank you.
Peter Hopkins: You’re welcome.
Julie: I have another question. It’s about education in the world. Ready?
Peter Hopkins: Sure.
Julie: How do you think each country or whatever—at USA, whatever country—how do you think we could improve education?
Peter Hopkins: Well, I think the biggest way to improve education is to learn and think about how technology is going to play a role in the classroom and how the classroom needs to change in order to maximize it.
There’s a lot involved in that question. In the US there’s a term that we call “the flipped classroom”, which is the idea that lectures, things that are one person to many, one professor, one teacher to many students really shouldn’t be done in the classroom anymore, that that should happen at home and that we should leverage and use the work of sites like Big Think, sites like yours, sites like Harvard and TED, Udacity to shift the burden of getting information out there, to time spent at home, time spent on homework and then use the time in the classroom where you have this opportunity to engage with each other directly and respond and do lab work or do things that are interactive and actually applied.
That’s what the time in the classroom should be for. And that that shift needs to happen and it needs to happen quickly because right now we’re losing—students who are using Facebook at home and go to school and then are lectured to out of a textbook, that’s not, their appetite, the way they think, the way they interact with information is so different. You can't send them back to the XX century or the XIX century when the come home or when they go to school. That will definitely not work.
Julie: OK, that’s a great idea.
David Laroche: Yes.
Julie: I just have one question in mind. Maybe you have an answer about that. I think today one of the big obstacle people can face to move forward in their life is fear. Do you have an idea on how to overcome fear? How to see that fear as … and how to overcome, to move forward in life?
Peter Hopkins: I do because I’ve confronted fear early in my life when I was a student at Harvard. I encountered fear quite in a way that seemed that it was going to prevent me from being happy and ultimately prevent me from achieving what I wanted to achieve. It was a common thing that your second year, they call it in the States the “sophomore slump”, sophomore is your second year of college. You have a great first year and you’re so excited. You’re living away from home and everything is wonderful and then you’re right back for the second year and suddenly you just, you’re not doing as well in school, you don’t really know why you’re there anymore, things seem hard. It just all sort of catches up with you.
And I had that very badly and I just was depressed and it just seemed all I could think about was, “I’m not doing as well on school as I could be. I’m not having, I don’t have enough friends.” Everything just seemed wrong. And I started to realize that is every day it got harder and harder to get out of bed. I just wanted to stay in bed and just pretend to pull the covers over my head and pretend I wasn’t, I didn’t have to do it. I thought, “My God, if this is the way of life, every day takes as long as yesterday took, this is going to a tough road.”
And I started to then, I came to the conclusion that this is not the way, you know, living with this constricting anxiety and fear and unhappiness wasn’t going to work. I didn’t want to live that way and so I made the decision, “I don’t care what it takes, I don’t want to my each day and every day to go like this.” I then reversed engineered from that and I said, “What’s the worst that could happen?” That’s basically what I said and I would play out these scenarios in my head, making up ridiculous things of how bad it could get. And I said, “I don’t care if I drop out of Harvard, if I’m homeless on the street, if I have to wake up and be this miserable then that clearly is not, you know, if these things happen they can't be that bad because I don’t want to be like this like I am right now.”
It was using examples really extremely to get used to the things that I was really afraid of. The reality is fear exists mostly in your head. You’re not getting, most of our fear mechanisms, why we are afraid, those come from early human evolution when we were running away from saber to tigers and we were scared of giant animals that could rip our heads off. But now we apply those to things that just exist in our heads only. So things that literally could never happen or are almost impossible to happen suddenly have this power to cause us to constrict like we were encased to our death. That’s what you need to kind of dissociate and pull apart. And I use that construct of what’s the worst that could happen and just got very, very comfortable with it. Of course none of it ever did.
Julie: OK, so the key is asking yourself what’s the worst that could happen?
Peter Hopkins: Exactly.
Julie: And then you see that of course you can move forward.
Peter Hopkins: Exactly.
Julie: Thank you.
Peter Hopkins: You’re welcome.
David Laroche: So my weird question. I just explain you why I do that. I would like to inverse the way I can touch people. My question will be, I will repeat my question, but my question will be how to become a loser. My goal is to make a video with the best keys of each person I interview to become a loser.
It is a funny video to touch people who are not touched by success and happiness. I prefer to explain why I do that because with my French accent some people are not sure it is my question. Do you understand me?
Peter Hopkins: I do, yes. So you want me to sort of take the opposite type, what’s the path, what’s the way or route to being unhappy, to being unliked, to be alone, to being unfulfilled.
David Laroche: And they will learn this time what they have to do.
Peter Hopkins: Well my—
David Laroche: I will ask you. So, it is my favorite question now and I would like to ask you something. It’s very important for me. How to become unhappy and alone in this life? Do you have some tips, advices to have people to do that?
Peter Hopkins: Well, I do. I think the best way to do that is to only think about what other people can do for you. As long as you are focused on only what’s in it for you, only what somebody can give you, how they can help you, what you can take from them I’m certain you will be as unhappy and as alone and as miserable person you could possibly be. Because it is in the giving that people, that they will understand and listen to you, they will realize what they can actually give back to you and that the whole system actually grows. So if you don’t focus on that then the whole system will shrink.
David Laroche: So you focus only on keeping and getting.
Peter Hopkins: On getting, exactly.
David Laroche: And it’s a good tip to start.
Peter Hopkins: Yes. That would be my number one tip. I’m sure there are other ways but that’s a good one that covers a lot of situations.
David Laroche: Cool. Thank you very much because it will help people.
Peter Hopkins: It’s a great question!
David Laroche: Thank you very much.
Peter Hopkins: Thank you very much guys. I enjoyed it.
David Laroche: I have a last thing, it is a short video without me. I do that also. It is on success, it’s a short video. It is about the keys of success. So according to you, what could be the keys, the key factors of success? And you look at only the camcorder.
Peter Hopkins: Well, then I’m going to invert my last recommendation. I think one of the keys to success is focusing on the idea of giving. This is an idea that I have found in my own life, it has been incredibly important and impactful. It’s one that I think it was recently made prominent by an awarded business school professor named Adam Grant, whose book “Give and Take” really explores this idea in experiments he’s done in the workplace around how sharing information, helping, offering a little bit of time to a colleague or a friend or a stranger can actually unleash great sense of possibility and create a system, a society where things get better and not worse.
Unleash—I think it’s to kind of use, invert David’s term of “bad energy” to foster good energy and make the whole process of striving and moving towards your own goals easier and faster and more successful.
David Laroche: Cool.
Peter Hopkins: Great.
David Laroche: Yes, it’s awesome.
Peter Hopkins: Cool!
David Laroche: Thank you very much.
Peter Hopkins: My pleasure guys, thank you.
David Laroche: Thank you very much.
Peter Hopkins: Glad to help you do it.
David Laroche: I would love, can I ask you a recommendation or endorsement?
Peter Hopkins: How to get investments?
David Laroche: Yes. Can I ask you an endorsement in video? It will be great to do that.
Peter Hopkins: Investment?
David Laroche: Endorsement.
Peter Hopkins: Oh, endorsement! Oh yes! Yes, absolutely.
David Laroche: You can do that?
Peter Hopkins: Yes, absolutely. What exactly would you like me to say?
David Laroche: What do you think about David Laroche?
Peter Hopkins: OK. So then I just say, “What do you think about David Laroche”?
David Laroche: Yes.
Peter Hopkins: Oh, that’s the question.
David Laroche: Yes, that’s the question. What you feel? Say only what you have in there. OK, it’s OK for me.
Peter Hopkins: So what do I think about David Laroche? Well, I think that is somebody who understands how important it is to learn from the lives and experiences of successful people, who travels the world meeting them and talking to them about their stories and learning from them himself. He’s somebody that you should a point to learn from because what David is doing is extraordinary work and he’s making available a world to people who would otherwise not be accessible. And I recommend him for it.
David Laroche: Cool. Thank you very much.
Peter Hopkins: You’re welcome.
David Laroche: So you mentioned mentor, Big Think Mentor?
Peter Hopkins: Yes. I will send you the link. It’s a featured channel on youtube.com/bigthink and then there’s a link to it right up in the…
David Laroche: It’s here?
Peter Hopkins: Yes. Let’s see. Oh Jesus! Yes, right there.
David Laroche: I didn’t know that.