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“It’s not about being eight hours in an office. It’s about increasing the quality of the hours that you spend.”

– David “DHH” Heinemeier Hansson

David “DHH” Heinemeier Hansson (@dhh) is the creator of Ruby on Rails, founder and CTO at Basecamp (formerly 37signals), and the best-selling co-author of Rework and Remote: Office Not Required. Oh, and he went from not having a driver’s license at 25 to winning, at 34, the 24 Hours of Le Mans race, one of the most prestigious automobile races in the world. It is often called the “Grand Prix of endurance and efficiency.”

David is one of the most outspoken technologists out there. He is not one to hide his opinions or mince words.

In this episode, we cover a lot, including…

The power of being outspoken

Running a profitable business without venture capital

Stoic philosophy

Flow space

Parallels across disciplines

DHH’s rules for creating excellence

And much, much more…

If you only have 5 minutes, listen to DHH’s tips on cultivating a sustainable work/life balance.

Please enjoy my conversation with DHH!

Listen to it on iTunes.

Stream by clicking here.

Download as an MP3 by right-clicking here and choosing “save as.”

Want to hear another episode with an entrepreneur balancing family life? — Listen to this interview with Shay Carl. In this episode, he shares his thoughts on the future of ad revenue, how he balances capturing the moment vs. experiencing the moment, his greatest obstacles in life, and lessons learned as a father (stream below or right-click here to download):This podcast is brought to you by Four Sigmatic. I reached out to these Finnish entrepreneurs after a very talented acrobat introduced me to one of their products, which blew my mind (in the best way possible). It is mushroom coffee featuring chaga. It tastes like coffee, but there are only 40 milligrams of caffeine, so it has less than half of what you would find in a regular cup of coffee. I do not get any jitters, acid reflux, or any type of stomach burn. It put me on fire for an entire day, and I only had half of the packet.

People are always asking me what I use for cognitive enhancement right now, this is the answer. You can try it right now by going to foursigmatic.com/tim and using the code Tim to get 20 percent off your first order. If you are in the experimental mindset, I do not think you’ll be disappointed.

This podcast is also brought to you by Wealthfront. Wealthfront is a massively disruptive (in a good way) set-it-and-forget-it investing service led by technologists from places like Apple. It has exploded in popularity in the last two years and now has more than $2.5B under management. Why? Because you can get services previously limited to the ultra-wealthy and only pay pennies on the dollar for them, and it’s all through smarter software instead of retail locations and bloated sales teams.

Check out wealthfront.com/tim, take their risk assessment quiz, which only takes 2-5 minutes, and they’ll show you for free the exact portfolio they’d put you in. If you want to just take their advice and do it yourself, you can. Well worth a few minutes to explore: wealthfront.com/tim.

QUESTION(S) OF THE DAY: What was your favorite quote or lesson from this episode? Please let me know in the comments.

Scroll below for links and show notes…

Selected Links from the Episode

Connect with DHH:

Website | The Distance Podcast | Twitter | Instagram | Medium | Basecamp | Ruby on Rails

Rework by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson

Remote: Office Not Required by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson

The Art of Strategic Laziness by Shane Snow (guest post featuring DHH’s learning process)

The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich by Timothy Ferriss

24 Hours of Le Mans

20 of Our Favourite Retro Racing Games by BBC Top Gear

Levels of the Game by John McPhee

The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine by Michael Lewis

What is flow?

Core Archery: Shooting With Proper Back Tension by Larry Wise

The Daily Rush (The last of the gaming sites David made around the turn of the millennium — and it’s still around!)


Bushnell’s Law

Ruby — “a programmer’s best friend”



From E-Commerce Expert to NFL Owner: How Gary Vee Is Positioning Himself to Buy the New York Jets by Chad Rubin, Skubana

I Am Elon Musk, Ask Me Anything about Becoming a Spacefaring Civ! (Reddit AMA)

Stoicism for Modern Stresses: 5 Lessons from Cato

The Day I Became a Millionaire by DHH, signalvnoise.com

37 Signals Takes Jeff Bezos Investment by Michael Arrington, TechCrunch

Moral Letters to Lucilius/Letter 18: On Festivals and Fasting by Seneca

Join 125+ other companies in taking the Work Can Wait pledge

The Age of Absurdity: Why Modern Life Makes It Hard to Be Happy by Michael Foley

It’s Always Your Fault by DHH, Medium

A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy by William B. Irvine

Punished by Rewards: The Trouble with Gold Stars, Incentive Plans, A’s, Praise, and Other Bribes by Alfie Kohn

The Myth of the Spoiled Child: Coddled Kids, Helicopter Parents, and Other Phony Crises by Alfie Kohn

Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel H. Pink

Turn the Ship Around!: A True Story of Turning Followers into Leaders by L. David Marquet and Stephen R. Covey

The Origins of Political Order: From Prehuman Times to the French Revolution by Francis Fukuyama

Political Order and Political Decay: From the Industrial Revolution to the Globalization of Democracy by Francis Fukuyama

Maverick: The Success Story Behind the World’s Most Unusual Workplace by Ricardo Semler

Comedian (documentary with Jerry Seinfeld)

The Big Short (movie)

Montage of Heck

New Rules — Real Time with Bill Maher

Hardcore History — Wrath of the Khans Series with Dan Carlin

Common Sense with Dan Carlin

Casey Neistat’s Boosted Boards

David considers his Leica M 240 “not just a good camera, but a freaking amazing camera.”

Understanding Exposure, Fourth Edition: How to Shoot Great Photographs with Any Camera by Bryan Peterson

Composed Method by Kent Beck

Coding: It’s Just Writing by Jeff Atwood, Coding Horror

Show Notes

David and I talk about how we first met. [07:29]

How did David go from not having a driver’s license to racing cars? [09:17]

What did David do differently compared to others when learning to drive? [15:35]

Everything’s interesting if you dig deep enough — whether it’s a driver’s manual or writing code. [17:09]

David describes the flow state he experiences when racing vs. the flow state he experiences while programming. [21:28]

David’s big aha moment that changed his perspective and brought about the development of Ruby on Rails. [37:13]

Is picking up a programming language akin to learning a new human language? [46:59]

David talks about Ruby on Rails and why experienced programmers find it instantly familiar. [49:09]

Is it more satisfying to be a jack of all trades than a master of one? [53:28]

David talks about the start of his business ventures with Jason Fried and their first principles [1:03:28]

David on keeping his business small and streamlined without being negligent. [1:09:24]

Does David consider himself a happy person? [1:18:34]

“Expectations — not outcomes — govern the happiness of your perceived reality.” [1:27:00]

How David and Jason went from the stance of eschewing venture capital to accepting money from Amazon’s Jeff Bezos. [1:31:49]

For most captains of industry, doing interesting work and taking on new challenges is far more gratifying than retiring. [1:36:06]

How is money like alcohol? [1:38:33]

What Seneca had to say on the subject of negative visualization. [1:39:22]

What has Jeff Bezos gained by investing in Basecamp? [1:40:42]

On cultivating sustainable work/life balance habits [1:43:50]

Bad luck vs. bad planning [1:54:21]

How is David’s “almost pathological” distaste for repeating work part of what makes him a good programmer? [2:01:03]

Books David has been enjoying. [2:05:56]

How does David know when he’s being a good parent — and what common mistakes does he see other parents making? [2:10:55]

What are the habits that have helped David develop empathy — and convey it — as a parent? [2:24:10]

Who comes to mind when David thinks of the word “successful?” [2:28:21]

Does David have any business idols? [2:31:15]

Does meeting your heroes ever live up to your expectations? [2:33:55]

David’s favorite documentaries and movies. [2:38:25]

Books David has gifted and recommended most. [2:42:17]

David’s favorite podcasts. [2:44:25]

David’s purchase of $100 or less that has had the most positive impact on his life in recent memory. [2:46:29]

David’s most worthwhile investment of money, time, or energy. [2:52:08]

Resources that have helped David improve as a photographer. [2:56:52]

What is beautiful code? [2:59:18]

What advice would David give his younger self? [3:14:15]

Does David have a favorite failure? [3:17:05]

People Mentioned

Seth Godin

Jason Fried

Tom Kristensen

John McPhee

Arthur Ashe

Clark Graebner

Michael Lewis

Martin Fowler

Chad Fowler

Scott Adams

Michael Jordan

Marc Andreessen

Nolan Bushnell

Yukihiro “Matz” Matsumoto

Gary Vaynerchuk

Elon Musk

Jeff Bezos

Coco Chanel

Jerry Colonna


Alfie Kohn

Patton Oswalt

Ricardo Semler

Richard Branson

Warren Buffett

Steve Jobs

Jerry Seinfeld

Bill Maher

Dan Carlin

Casey Neistat

Amelia Boone

Steve Huff

Tobi Lütke

Upton Sinclair


Jack Ma

Posted on: October 27, 2016.


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