I’m so glad you joined us because we have Ron Douglas, Cody Gough and Ashley Hamer here. Ron is a bestselling author. You’ve seen his cookbooks everywhere. He’s got the number one copycat recipe website, RecipeSecrets.net. Cody and Ashley both are part of Curiosity.com. He’s the Curiosity Daily Podcast host and she’s the Managing Editor. That fits right into my interest with curiosity. We are going to talk to Ron, Cody and Ashley.
Listen to the podcast here:
How A Hobby Turned Into A Business Opportunity with Ron Douglas
I am here with Ron Douglas, who’s a former finance manager at JP Morgan and Founder of the number one copycat recipe website, RecipeSecrets.net. He’s The New York Times bestselling author and has sold more than a million copies of America’s Most Wanted Recipes. He’s the Founder of Ron Douglas Publishing and he helps aspiring entrepreneurs and authors build an audience and make a greater impact online. It’s so nice to have you on the show, Ron. Welcome.
It’s great to be here. Thanks for having me on. It’s my pleasure.
I saw you on The Wendy Williams Show and I was watching that. I’ve seen your work so much because everybody would talk about, they want to get Kentucky Fried Chicken recipes or different recipes. You’ve done amazing amount of research and all the stuff you’ve done with figuring out these recipes. It’s fascinating to me. I hope we can get a background and what led to your interest in doing that?
You mentioned Wendy Williams. That was a funny story. Not just The Wendy Williams interview, but afterwards when my friends had seen the Wendy Williams clip at the gym. When I went to the gym they all saw it but these tough guys they don’t want to admit to watching Wendy Williams. They all said, “I was watching it with my girlfriend.” “You were watching Wendy Williams. That’s the only way you saw me.”
That’s so funny. When I was watching her, she was stepping back. She was trying not to get the food on her. I was trying to figure out what she was doing because you were frying chicken or something.
I still can’t figure out what she was doing. Backstage, her producers gave me this big pep talk and they told me that I had to keep my energy up, I had to get her involved in the cooking demonstration. Apparently, they didn’t tell her that because I went out there and she refused to participate. I’m a very low-key, laid-back guy and if you look at that clip on YouTube, it’s hilarious because I’m backstage, I’m shadow boxing. I was trying to get my energy up. I’m trying to meet her energy because, like her, the producers told me that when they call my name, I come out with this burst of energy out on stage and I’m like, “Hey.” It was completely not me at all. It was such a weird interview, but I was happy to be there.
I was wondering why she was not so much getting involved in mixing things and maybe she’s not a natural cook. Maybe that’s not her thing because you were doing such a good job cooking and showing her how the different recipes worked. What you do is fascinating because a lot of people want to know like, “What is that in the Jack In The Box Taco? Is that meat? Is that not meat?” It is great. Maybe it’s better off that I don’t know what’s in it. Do you even know what’s in that? Did you hit on the Jack In The Box tacos by any chance because I’ve always been curious about that?Anybody that wants to get a book deal must want to build your platform first. Click To Tweet
What we do is we come up with copycat versions of these recipes so we don’t have to always use the same ingredients that they use. If they’re using horse meat or whatever, we use whatever ingredients that we want to use that’s healthier, that works for us. Those are the recipes in our book. I don’t know of any other thing other than ground beef that they’re using, but we substitute.
As long as the end product tastes the same, does it matter how you got there? That’s what you’re saying. You’re trying to make it be as close to what people want.
A big part of the success of the books is the fun little thing that people like to do because these recipes are famous, these restaurants are famous and then you could make them at home and say, “Here’s my version of this famous recipe. This famous dish from the restaurant that everybody loves.” People try it and they compare versus the restaurant. It’s a fun little thing to be able to do at home, save money and not wait on the long lines at the restaurant at the same time.
Is there one most requested recipe that you kept getting that stands out above all others?
There were a bunch of popular ones. Red Lobster biscuits was one, Olive Garden lasagna, Olive Garden breadsticks, Cheesecake Factory Oreo Cheesecake was one of our more popular dishes, and the KFC original chicken recipe was the one that first got us a lot of national media attention.
For me, they used to have a Cathy’s Rum Cake here in town. I always wanted to know. I’d go right for the desserts, but that’s just me. What led to your interest in doing this? I was watching your interview with Wendy and you were talking about how you would put stuff out there on the internet and then people would say, “Maybe it needs more of this or more of that.” This was a community thing.
The thing was a collective effort with the people on the website, RecipeSecrets.net. I’ve always been interested in cooking. Cooking was a hobby. I’m not a professional chef. I’m more just like a home cook. My wife, she helps out a lot. I was into direct marketing, so I was looking for something different to the sell related to my hobby of cooking. I stumbled upon the idea of doing my research online and I found that a lot of people were looking for these copycat recipes. I remember my wife had challenged me to make it. We’re going to go out to dinner and she’s like, “It was raining. What if we could make it at home?” That light bulb went off and it led me in that direction of looking at the possibility of this as a potential business opportunity as well as a hobby.
I’m curious if restaurants ever complained or people ever complained that you’ve got a little too close for their comfort?
Legally, you can reverse engineer anything as long as you claim it as your version and not their version. I’m not in their kitchen taking their cookbook, taking their recipes from their secret cookbooks or anything like that. I’m coming up with my own version of their dishes. There have never been any complaints at all honestly. The only thing that was ever a concern was KFC contacted me once because I had their logo on my website to say, “We make dishes from these restaurants. We copycat dishes from these restaurants.” They were like, “We’re not endorsing that at all. Take our logo down.” I took that thing down immediately. I didn’t want any problems. That’s the only time.
Have you ever tried doing Coca-Cola or something harder like that? I always wondered why Pepsi didn’t get closer to Coke. For me when I drink Sprite, it tastes much more like 7 Up than Pepsi does like Coke. I’m always fascinated by how come we don’t have a close second to Coke?People gravitate towards those who are bold enough to stick to the plan. Click To Tweet
I’ve tried it out a few times but I never could crack the code on it, so it didn’t make the book. That one is definitely a tough one. A lot of high-fructose corn syrup.
Were you surprised that you sold more than a million copies? Did you have any idea it was going to be that big of a deal?
I had no idea when I first started. I was happy to get a book deal with Simon & Schuster. I had no idea that it would get the media attention that it got. It sold over 1.5 million copies. I’ve done six books with Simon & Schuster in that America’s Most Wanted Recipes series.
What makes you pick the next series of recipes? Is it somebody suggest them or you go, “I’ve got to know these?” What is it that makes you pick the next idea for a recipe book?
A lot of it had to do with Simon & Schuster, their marketing team, the research results and what they think the marketplace wants. The first book was America’s Most Wanted Recipes. The second one was More of America’s Most Wanted Recipes and those were recipes based on recipes I had collected over the ten years prior that became a book. After that, I did a kid’s book, kid’s favorite restaurant recipes. They’re all under the same series, America’s Most Wanted Recipes, but it was the Kids’ Edition, it was a Grilling Edition, it was Low-Calorie, Low-Fat Edition. Those were six books and they were all themed based on what Simon & Schuster’s research team thought would sell well.
Are you going to do anymore or are you done with the series?
There was a dessert book as well.
You’re the Founder of Ron Douglas Publishing. What do you do with that? That’s an interesting direction that you’ve gone. Can you talk about that?
I started out as a direct marketer. I was into marketing and sales and looking for something to sell online. I was a digital marketer before I started the cooking series. I went full circle. I went back to my roots of teaching people what I know how to do. It was low-hanging fruit for me after all the success with the books to be able to teach people like, “Here is how you get a book deal. Here’s how you build an audience. Here is how you get publicity.” People wanted to know that from me because I had done it. That’s what I ventured into. It piggybacked off the success of the books.
At the point when you’re writing the book, I imagine you didn’t have probably a big platform at that point. How do you get a book deal without a big platform if you didn’t have a radio show or a television show or whatever?
I did have a decent platform by the time. I started off doing this self-published and I self-published between 2003 and 2008. I built up a nice audience and that’s how I built my platform initially. That’s what helped me get the book deal because I already had a pretty good platform and a pretty good audience already. I got the book deal in 2008 and the first book came out in 2009. I would suggest anybody that wants to get a book deal, you definitely want to build your platform first because they want to give book deals to people who can sell books on their own. That’s one of the limitations is their marketing. They definitely want you to be able to sell books on your own as you can. It’s a low-risk proposition for them and they’ll definitely give you a book deal. On my first book deal, I’ve got $100,000 advance to do my first two books.
You don’t hear much of that anymore. I have talked to so many people who maybe had television shows in the day and they can’t even get those deals anymore. It’s a different market. You mentioned self-publishing. A lot of self-publishers maybe are trying to see what it’s like to write a book and they’re having fun creating something. If it doesn’t sell big when the publisher goes to look at you they’ll go, “You didn’t do anything with this book, so why should we invest in you?” Do you think that’s something they should be thinking about if they’re considering self-publishing right now that maybe it could impact future potential?
If you build an audience, you could have a good chance of getting a book deal. I like self-publishing. There are pros and cons to it. With getting a book deal obviously you will get an advance. They have a better distribution. They can get you in bookstores. You are eligible to get like a New York Times Bestseller, things like that. It’s a lot tougher to do that with a self-published book, but you’re only going to probably get maybe 8% to 10% of your sales in terms of royalties that you get as a self-published author.
It works for me if I sold 1.5 million books, but most people will publish a book not really to make a million dollars, but to get their name out there for credibility. A lot of people use it as a business card. For those purposes, you could self-publish and have the same effect. The reason you want to get a book deal is just really that distribution and if you think it’s a book that has a mass-market type of appeal to it, then you should go for it. If you think it’s a book that’s more like a niche subject that would never sell 100,000 copies because it’s not enough interest in that topic, then you should definitely consider self-publishing.Go there and share what you know and then people will gravitate to you. Click To Tweet
I’ve had a lot of the hybrid publishers on the show too because a lot of people don’t know how to self-publish and there’s a middle ground there with the hybrids that they’ll do a lot of the stuff for you, but it’s not the same as having a regular publishing house setup what you would get that way. You’re not going to get any checks for $100,000, that’s for sure. They do take away a lot of the stress of doing this stuff yourself. I’ve seen people do it all different ways, but you talk to people about direct marketing. I’m curious what mistakes you see a lot of people make when they’re trying to do online marketing. What advice are you giving people? What are the biggest issues you see?
Most people don’t have a budget for it. If you’re doing online marketing and you don’t have a budget, then you’ve got to be prepared to get out there, bootstrapped, hustle and get your name out there. If you are trying to get your name out there, a lot of people are a little bit gun shy about staking your claim, “I’m the expert on this particular topic. Here’s why you should listen to me.” That doesn’t come naturally for a lot of people. You’re trying to be humble. You’re trying to not put yourself out there like that and you’re trying to say, “Who am I to say I’m the best at this particular topic? Who am I to say that everybody should listen to me?” People gravitate towards people who are bold enough to stake that claim.
If you believe that you have something that people need to read, then you have to be bold about getting it out there. Most of the time you spend a little bit of money as well. I do a lot of online advertising for different businesses. We have an agency component to my business as well. The big problem that people have is they’re not willing to lose a little bit of money, not even $500 or so to tweak their advertising campaigns and find a winner. Sometimes it’s just a matter of being patient and buying data. You are buying data and you are figuring out what doesn’t work in order to get to what works. Unless you find what works, you can put some money behind it profitably and scale that up. I don’t want to get too much into marketing conversation, but those are the issues that I see most of the time.
There are a lot of A/B tests in different things that people do in their marketing. This brings up some of what I’m dealing with. I come to you and I say, “What should I do to get known out there?” With me, I’m fortunate. I have a platform because of my radio show, but let’s say I didn’t have what I have and I’m trying to get known as the curiosity expert. What advice would you have for somebody like that?
You definitely want to do what we’re doing here. Be a guest on other people’s shows and piggyback off of other people’s audiences. As long as you have something valuable to share, people are always looking for a guest on their show. It gets your name out there. Put together a nice website about what it is you do, your credibility, what you’ve accomplished and just reach out to people and just get your name out there as much as possible. Do videos, live streams, put your stuff out on YouTube. Just get your name out there so that when people look you up, they can see, “This person is active. This person is definitely the expert on this stuff. I’ve got to have them on my show. I want to endorse them.”
The way I did it way back in 2003 to get a lot of bookshelves was I had my own digital information products that I was selling and I had what’s called an affiliate program. I was able to offer other websites, other publishers, other blogs, other podcasts an affiliate commission for all sales that they referred. I could approach someone and say, “I want to do a webinar with you. I want to be on your podcast. I want to publish an article on your site or on your fan page. it’s a win-win because you’re going to get a commission if someone consumes this content and then ends up buying the product that we’re talking about during that interview or during that article or within that content.” You’re approaching them with a win-win scenario rather than just asking for favors.
You were talking about hustling to get your name out there and I don’t think that they know what that means. That was a specific example and that’s a good idea. So many people got very successful who got into Twitter early and who got into LinkedIn early. A lot of it is timing. Is it hard to catch up if you’re just getting into it now?
To catch up in terms of building an audience? No, it’s easier than ever because there are so many more people on those platforms and it’s easy to find your audience, especially with a nonfiction topic. You can find people in different groups. They’re there now raising their hand. Before, you would have to run ads to be able to find them. Now, they’re there in a group raising their hands saying, “I’m interested in this topic.” You could go there and share what you know and then people will gravitate to you and follow you and want to consume your content and your product as well. Back when I started, it was a lot less competition but there were a lot fewer people and they were a lot more difficult to find where they hang out online. Now everybody’s on three or four different sites and you can go right there, start your own group, whatever you want to do.
How did you get on a show like The Wendy Williams if in case anybody’s listening for that thing?
I have a publicist. It was the right place at the right time as well. I hired a publicist. I got the book deal with Simon & Schuster. My publicist, his girlfriend at the time worked for the New York Post and I had a good story about a local Long Island guy who leaves his job on Wall Street to pursue his passion of cooking and ends up cracking the code on KFC’s recipe. They love that story and if you look at what it is, it piggybacks off of several different things. It piggybacks off the fame of KFC original recipe and the curiosity around. We’re talking 2009, this was right during the great recession. That piggybacks off of the topic of a former Wall Street guy who leaves his job on Wall Street or laid off during the great recession and here’s what he did. He’s rebounded. That whole story.
The thing with publicity is you want to tap into what the media is looking for to cover stories and look at what hot topics are out there already, what everybody’s talking about and then try to position the angle for your story to fit right into that. It helps if you have some credibility behind like a book or some type of following behind you as you can show. If you think about the media, 24 hours a day, they have to be reporting on something. They have to find new stories. They’re always looking for stories, but they have an agenda in terms of what angles, what storylines they want to cover.
If your story can fit into that topic, then it’s not very difficult to get on. After I got into the New York Post, that story got picked up. All the New York stations, local TV, they all look at the papers for stories to bring on. They found that story in The Post. Before you know it, I was on Good Day New York, I was on Fox & Friends, Good Morning America and I was in all the different shows. I had a nice fifteen minutes of fame, nice run back then with the publicity.The fear of being wrong keeps people from getting curious. Click To Tweet
You said you’re more of an introvert. You’re not that guy that you said you had to be for The Wendy Williams Show. How was it getting on those shows? Was it stressful for you to go out there on those big name shows?
It was nerve-racking, but I got used to it after a while. I am an introvert so definitely, I had to be on. It drained a lot of energy. I was tired. I would go home and go to sleep.
What advice would you give someone who was going to try and get on those type of shows? What would you tell them as for what to expect?
I would say have three things that you want to talk about because these interviews go fast, eight minutes to twelve minutes. In a blink of an eye, it’s over and if you don’t have the three things that you really want to get across, you could spend the whole interview answering silly unrelated questions that the host might throw at you trying to make small talk and waste that effort. You want to promote your thing. You want to do it in a subtle way and you want to do it within the frame of the conversation. That’s why you want to be able to come back to those three points when they asked you questions. If they asked you about what you’re talking about, you could always go into great detail, “In my book, such and such XYZ.” You throw the title out there so people know. You use it as an opportunity to promote yourself as well to answer that question.
The other thing I would say is it’s not as organized as you think it would be and it’s not as a terribly strict as you think it would be. You think you would go there, they would have a whole big meeting with you beforehand and you would have to say certain things and do it a certain way. It is a lot less, it’s a lot more laid back than I expected. Especially like Home Shopping Network, I would go there and they would talk to me in five minutes before I was about to come onto the set. You have to have your three things in mind and know that you know your topic better than they do and you know what you’re supposed to say and they don’t know anything that you were about to say. You just talk, have a conversation, and you know that you’re the expert on that particular thing that they want to talk about, so you conduct yourself in confidence.
You did a great job on the interviews. I enjoyed hearing about what you’re working on. A lot of people probably are very much aware of your book series. Can you share how they can find you and your books?
You can find me in bookstores, on Amazon, just search Ron Douglas or search for America’s Most Wanted Recipes. If you’re interested in publishing a book or if you’re interested in online advertising, you could follow me on Facebook, Facebook.com/LikeRonDouglas or you can go to my site, RonDouglas.com.
Ron, this was so interesting. Thank you so much for being on the show. I enjoyed it.
Thank you. This was a lot of fun. I appreciate it.
Delivering Content To Pique People’s Curiosities with Cody Gough and Ashley Hamer
I am here with Cody Gough, who is a Chicago-based radio host and podcast veteran with more than a decade of on-air and production experience. He is here accompanied by Ashley Hamer, who was the Managing Editor of Curiosity.com and a science communicator with the love of all kinds of different things. That’s why they’re both on the show because they work at Curiosity.com and they are interested in curiosity, which you might know is a topic that I am fascinated with. Welcome to the show.
It’s good to be here.
I have your app. I followed your show in different things that you guys do at Curiosity.com because what the world doesn’t focus on enough is curiosity and the importance of it. There’s a lot of discussion about drive and motivation, but it’s all entangled with, do you have the curiosity to begin with? What do you think is the main thing that keeps people from being curious?
A fear of being wrong is a big one. We’re really comfortable in the things that we know for sure and branching out into the things that we might not know the answers to. Those things could be scary. They could make us feel like we don’t know everything, we’re wrong about something. The things that we’ve operated on this whole time have been the wrong rules in the wrong ways of being.
You see it all the time with confirmation bias and lots of other biases that people have. We’ve written about a lot of mental shortcuts people have and a lot of psychological quirks people have that they’re always seeking out information that they already agree with. It is hard to have your beliefs challenged. It’s not a fun thing necessarily. Another one of those things, my sister works at a planetarium, so I’ve gone and visited. You look around the planetarium and you’re like, “There’s a lot of stuff. There are billions of years of history. There’s space. There are trillions of miles in. There’s just so much.”
The more you learn that you don’t know, the more you realize, “There are so many different things that I could get into.” We write about space and things like that. Sometimes on the surface can seem overwhelming. The trick then becomes for us and our job becomes how do we present information so that people who are curious, can wrap their head around it in an accessible way and it’s easy for them to process and we don’t freak them and scare them away because that’s not fun for anybody.People don’t really seek what they don’t know. Click To Tweet
That’s so fascinating because you don’t know what you don’t know and people don’t seek what they don’t know sometimes. What I did for part of my research was I discovered four factors that hold people back. Fear was first when it comes to mind with people but they sometimes overlap and I found that fear, assumptions like, “It’s going to be boring. I don’t like it. It’s going to be something I’m not interested in.” Technology is sometimes doing stuff for you or you are freaked out by it. Their environment, your parents maybe directed you over here or teachers had to teach to the test and different things. I did a factor analysis for my assessment they created to see how things aligned and those were really the four areas.
Everything fell into those four buckets. I know you deal with curiosity more in general where I’m dealing with the workplace in my work a lot. What I was trying to do was not to find out if you’re curious or not because there are some assessments out there. Harvard has a great assessment. There are a lot of great assessments out there whether you’re curious or not, but a lot of them don’t tell you what’s holding you back. That’s what I wanted to know because if you could figure out what holds you back from being curious that you could move forward by baby steps. You’re not going to learn all astrophysics tonight, it’s too much.
How do we help people get past that fear, get over the environment? Those are the things I’m trying to do. I know you have little exercises on apps, learn something new a day, but how do we get people to try and explore something new? Do you have exercises you suggest like, “Read this section of the paper for daily instead of every other day reading the same things?” Do you write about things like that or talk about things like that on your show? I’m curious what you would suggest.
One way that we try to bring people in to any given story or article is by making it relatable to the individual, which is a great way to enhance your own curiosity because you’re the most important thing in your life. Everybody’s the star of their own show. If there’s something that has to do with you and your own life that you have a quick question about that you’re like, “I don’t know this one thing.” That can lead you to a whole world of different things.
For example, when you pour the cream into your coffee and you see those cool little pillows of cream that come up to the surface and it’s so pretty. “What is that? I don’t know what that is.” Maybe you look into it and you start to find out about the physics and the fluid dynamics that’s going on. You find out that Einstein once wrote a paper about tea leaves and all things that just start from your own curiosity about the things that you do every day. The idea is just to ask those questions. If you don’t know something, find out.If you could figure out what keeps you from being curious, then you can move forward. Click To Tweet
There is information everywhere that we have access to. Every person that’s connected to the internet has access to the universe’s knowledge. There are a lot of different ways to consume content right now. You can read articles, you can listen to podcasts, you can watch YouTube videos, you can watch Netflix Original Series and you can watch documentaries. There are a zillion ways to consume. One way to overcome that fear of curiosity or maybe the difficulty in processing all that information and knowing where to go is by exploring which avenue works best for you.
Some people are naturally podcast listeners. It will be great for them. We like listening to stuff. I can do multitasking. I like to process information that way. Other people aren’t and that’s part of why curiosity we have a lot of different avenues for people to consume us. We put a lot of effort into our Instagram account.
Maybe all you can handle if you’re a curious person is a couple of sentences on a nice image every day, “I need the bullet points and that’s all I can handle.” That can lead to a gateway. It will always give you a link that says you can read more if you’re more interested in this. Tumblr, Pinterest, all the social media networks you can think of and then we’ve got our podcast. If you don’t have time to read five articles a day or you’re on your commute, maybe you used to be a commuter on a train or a bus and suddenly, you’re driving so you can’t read while you’re driving. That’s another way to do it. Certain things are going to resonate with you more and you’re just going to be able to process that information a little bit better. Overcoming the fear may mean switching the way you’re consuming information and hopefully, you find the right way to do that.
Overall, exercising that curiosity muscle, no matter how you do it but the more you do it, the more you’ll learn that it’s not scary and it’s probably not boring whatever you’re going to find out. It’s fun and rewarding once you get to the end of that rabbit hole.
You said boring and all of a sudden it brought to mind my high school history teacher who was so boring and it just killed me because it took my interest in history away because she was just monotone and you just zone out. I think a lot of people have associated bad past experiences with things and so they go, “I’m not interested in that.” They don’t open up their minds to that in the future. It’s important if you didn’t like something in the past to try something with the way of looking at it. I liked that you’d mentioned all the different ways to deliver content because I’m a professor and teach at multiple universities and we use BAR and different assessments to test if they are better at visual or audio and you try to deliver content in different ways. That’s important.Information is everywhere. Anyone who is connected to the Internet has access to a universe of knowledge. Click To Tweet
You’ve also written about Einstein and a lot of the quotes in my book are about Einstein, Buffett and Gates and all those guys. They all account for their success, they all at one point or another say because they were curious. How many quotes can you find from those guys that talk about that? What I’m trying to do in the workplace is to develop that sense of how important the question I was asking and not putting people in that position where they’re afraid that their ideas are going to be shut down. Now that AI is such a big thing, that innovation is going to be the big word, the buzzword. Everybody’s going to be talking innovation in the workplace. How do you get people to be innovative? They’ve got to be curious. They have to want to look into this thing. Do you focus on the business aspect at all of how companies can benefit from getting their employees to be more curious and innovative?
We have a pretty broad variety. We covered lots of different types of content, but there’s certainly a lot of business we’ve done. We just wrote about a study and talked about on our podcast about some research that says not just employees, but companies bottom line will benefit from employees taking all their vacation days. It seems counterintuitive. You’re like, “That seems odd.” There was a travel company that found that 19% of its employees were taking all their vacation days in the year. They decided, “We’re going to incentivize employees. If they take all of their vacation days, then they will get a $500 bonus.” Turned out that not only did they increase the percentage of employees who took all their vacation days, it went up to 89%.
They more than quadrupled the number of employees taking all their vacation days, but it saved the company more than $36,000 in liability. Other studies have shown that employees who take all their vacation days are more productive, usually happier, usually more curious and innovative. They come back to work fully charged. I mentioned our show that I came back from vacation one time and I was charged up and ready to go. I didn’t realize that. There are all these benefits and from the curiosity of one company asking what if we tried to incentivize vacation, what benefits can we see?
They saw a huge immediate impact on their bottom line. They saw presumably much happier employees because who’s not happy when you take vacation days? That one thing leads to another. This is a trend that whenever a company is willing to try something, just out of curiosity, it could lead down a path that seems totally counterintuitive and counterproductive. Study after study has shown that unlimited vacation days is really great for a lot of companies, it has a huge amount of benefit.
Unlimited vacation days, people take less if they don’t have an actual amount. There’s also another study that we’re about to write. You may have seen it from Harvard Business Review. You’re talking about curiosity with innovation and that’s huge but also it turns out that learning something new is a great way for employees to relieve stress. They found that when employees learned something new during their work day, they enjoyed work more, they were more productive, overall their wellbeing was improved. Curiosity is hugely important. To circle back to what we feature about business stuff, we do have many articles about how to make the workplace better.
In my own personal experience, a great way to make people more curious is to stop that knee-jerk reaction when someone asks you something that you already know the answer to and you react in a way that’s like, “It’s this,” and then you make them feel stupid. That’s a silly thing to do. A great way to encourage curiosity is to just get excited with someone else learning something new because you learned it for the first time, just like anyone. To go back to that moment when you first learned it and be excited with this other person that’s learning it too is a great thing to do and it encourages it.
You brought up feeling better. The dopamine release when you’re curious is going to make you feel better and there’s cortisol in different aspects involved in the research I found. All that is so important to stress. My dissertation was emotional intelligence and stress was one of the things I looked at in salespeople for that, when I wrote about it. If you could reduce stress, you’re getting productivity, you’re getting so many things. I am looking at it from productivity, from innovation, from engagement. A third of the workplace is feeling that sense of engagement for their jobs right now, which is terrible. We want to get that up. Part of it is they want to know how they’re doing. They want feedback and I love that you’re saying, “Don’t roll your eyes. Don’t do that.”
I’ve had bosses that you ask them a question and they’ll say, “I’ll pretend I didn’t hear that,” or they’ll say something really obnoxious like that. What does that do? It cuts you off at the knees. You’re never going to say anything to this guy again. It’s important that we look through other people’s fresh eyes because even if you’ve learned something in the past, you’re not going to learn it the same way if you see it from somebody else’s perspective. I like the thought of bringing curiosity to the teams in the workplace.
What I like though about the younger generations, you look like Millennials to me. Millennials have this desire to get all this feedback and to cooperate and these teams and there are so many more opportunities. What I like is the look of how they view failure. We were talking about fear of failure, fear of looking dumb, fear of whatever. I see a lot more your generation looking at learning experiences from what happens more than failure. Do you see that more in what you do?
I certainly do it.You’re not going to learn the same thing again if you look at it from another’s perspective. Click To Tweet
There’s a healthy share of that. To your point about curiosity and productivity, curiosity doesn’t have to exist as a curiosity in the workplace or curiosity outside the workplace. In fact, curiosity outside the workplace dramatically can help out your productivity in the actual workplace. We wrote about some research that the more hobbies you have outside of work or if you have hobbies outside of work, that can make you a much better one.
It’s called the Temin Effect. It’s basically the idea that the more things you do outside of your main occupation, the better you are at your occupation.
It’s from a scientist, Dr. Temin, who won a Nobel Laureate and it turned out that he won the Nobel Prize. Lots of scientists did win the Nobel Prize. What’s his thing? He read all the time. He was really into reading. He read lots of books in philosophy, science fiction and psychology and all that stuff. That helped compliment him and we found that of curiosity. Ashley is a professional saxophonist on the side, which is pretty awesome. I played in a band, I was going to be a music major for awhile but switched. I played in a band for many years. I understand what it’s like to be in a band and perform in a group. I understand what it’s like to have a conductor cut you off in the middle of a sentence and tell, “You’ve got to do this,” or the middle of a phrase.
Also what’s it like to be able to listen and all these little skills that I picked up on the band environment, I know that Ashley has in the workplace. We’re working together on stuff and in a middle of a podcast I hear something and I’m like, “We need to stop.” I know I can turn off right away or whatever and it’s not like this rude, “Why is this guy interjecting for no reason and interrupting?” I know that most people who have played a lot of music can keep direction well. It’s a huge asset. It’s a cool thing to be able to give immediate feedback and not have it taken personally or judgmentally. It’s like, “We’ve got to hang on for this.” I’m not saying I direct Ashley a lot, only once in a while, and she does the same to me. If I say something, she will be like, “You said that’s weird.” Anybody listening that thinks, “I should be curious in the workplace,” don’t think you should be curious in the workplace, just be a naturally curious person and have interest and that’s going to compliment what you do in all walks of life.
Don’t let those moments go. Hold onto this and follow them. That’s just the big part of it.
You think of the story of Steve Jobs taking the calligraphy course. He’s hanging out, checking that out and look at what he did to change the world with the fonts. You don’t know what one little interest outside of work or if you’re taking a course or whatever. I know I tend to focus more on the workplace because that’s my work. I agree it has to start everywhere. You have to have that open mindset in general because it will carry over into all aspects of your life. A lot of people are raised in an atmosphere where they were taught, you’re better to be seen and not heard or whatever they were taught as a kid that they shut down.
It takes a little bit of a nudge because I was thinking when I was writing this book, the people who need to learn to be more curious or could help them to be more curious are the least likely to pick up a book on curiosity because they’re not curious. For me, it’s important for consultants, HR and leaders to buy into the concept and then filter it down. In the outside world, how do you get a person interested in Curiosity.com or Curiosity Podcast or curiosity whatever, if they’re not naturally curious to explore?You have to have that kind of open mindset in general because it will carry over into all aspects of your life. Click To Tweet
Everyone is interested in something unless you’re a very boring person. At some point, you’ve had some question about the world around you, “Why is the sky blue?” Just from childhood, even if you lost some of that, humans are naturally curious, especially children. We may lose some of that because of fear, because of a trepidation or the way that we’ve been raised as we talked about, but it’s always going to be there somewhere. It’s appealing to what people are interested in rather than a blanket, we’re going to appeal to a person who is curious. It’s more of you’re curious about what. We write about lots of different things and the medium is so much as important as the message. Somebody is going to find us on Twitter. Somebody might find us searching for a podcast. Somebody might find us. Hopefully, Google would be a nice place to be found.
It’s lowering the bar of entry as much as humanly possible for that curiosity. We keep our podcasts short and sweet. They’re less than ten minutes a day. We put it everywhere. You can listen on Amazon Alexa as the Flash Briefing and lots of other methods. It’s more subject based. If you’re looking for business and productivity tips, you’ll probably find your show before you find the curiosity necessarily, but we talk about that stuff and if somebody is looking for how can vacation days increase productivity, you’re going to stumble across us and just being there and pushing out as much as possible. Finding the right audience is always tricky. That’s the million-dollar question these days.
Several ways that we try to get people in as much as possible is by focusing on topics that are surprising. Those could be myth busters, those could be things you didn’t know that change your life or things you didn’t know about places or certain animals or anything and making them personally relatable. We find that people are way more interested in reading about cats and dogs than they are about penguins and salamanders and that’s because they have cats and dogs at home. It’s personally relatable to them.
Another way is pictures. People love beautiful, vivid imagery. They love to see the original image that you’re talking about and the beautiful landscape of this place far away that we’re telling you about. The idea is to get past that fear that it’s going to be boring. We have to show you that this thing is interesting, come on in and learn more about it. That is hopefully getting past some of those people who maybe don’t have that natural curiosity, but we can really entice them to get it.
In terms of more than nuts and bolts of it too, you’ve probably heard of the news newsletter that lots of Millennials are really into. It’s their little news beeping in your email inbox every day. It’s written in a very Millennial internet-speak style. They say OMG and WTF. Use the little memes and references to shows this and things. That’s the way that we write because if you’re curious about space, I could go find a 35-page scientific paper written at a reading level, but is that fun? Is a 500-word article with puns and references to Linkin Park and whatever else that we do, is that more fun? It’s the way that we write, it’s the medium almost over the message. We interviewed a seismologist who worked for the National Geological Survey for many years. We interviewed her on our show. She talked about earthquakes. She’s like, “I learned in my decades of experience that we have to talk about earthquakes and seismology in a certain way, otherwise people will tune out.”
The other thing was if we say that an earthquake happened and we’re not sure why, people will freak out because they see a geologist or seismologist role as, “You’re the experts. You’re the ones who were supposed to present this information in a way that helps us feel like emotionally that we are safe and that someone understands this.” It was such an interesting conversation because we spent so much time talking about how she’s like, “The facts matter, but facts don’t matter.” You have to present facts in a way that people can process. Otherwise, if they don’t process it, then what’s the point of its existence?
A lot of that we’re seeing more tweetable moments, we’re seeing more things that people can share. I see so much of your information everywhere and I get signed up for everything and I’d love it when I see it. I’ve got something new in my email from you because it’s cool stuff. I blocked everything else, but you have a cool site. That’s why I was grateful that you wanted to be on the show. I was so glad to reach out to you and learn more that you responded back with a positive response. A lot of people want to know more about how they could get the app. How can they listen to your show? What are the different links and how do they get your information?
We have the Curiosity App for Android and iOS and it’s got five stars on both platforms, just search Curiosity. We are not Curiosity Stream, we’re Curiosity.com. That’s a different brand that sometimes people get us mixed up with. Our podcast is called Curiosity Daily. You can find that on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, every podcast app and as an Alexa Flash Briefing. Amazon Echo users can create these Flash Briefings. They give them a customized newsfeed every day and we’re seeing that we’re becoming really popular there. Our social media accounts you can follow, @CuriosityDotCom and that’s across Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and all of our social media sites.
There’s also an email newsletter that people should really sign up for it because that’s a fantastic distillation of everything. If you’re not active social media and you want to follow us there. For the travel buffs out there who are thinking about using all their vacation days because that will make you more productive and happier, then you can follow us @CuriosityDotComTravel on Instagram. We have a travel specific account with lots of cool places to go and just fun facts about places around the world and there’s probably a lot more. We have Alexa’s Skill. We have a Facebook robot somewhere that will talk to you if you ask it about curiosity.
You are so sweet for being on the show and very fascinating stuff you’re doing. I support you 100% because the world needs to be more curious. Thank you again for being on my show.
Everyone should take your advice. This is the right business advice.
Thank you so much to Ron, Cody and Ashley. It has been a great show. You can also find out more about the Curiosity Code at CuriosityCode.com. You could find out the book and the curiosity assessment. I hope you join us for the next episode of Take the Lead Radio.
- Ron Douglas
- America’s Most Wanted Recipes
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- Cody Gough
- Ashley Hamer
- Curiosity Daily Podcast
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About Ron Douglas
Ron Douglas is a former finance manager at JP Morgan and founder of the #1 copycat recipe website RecipeSecrets.net. He is the New York Times bestselling author and has sold more than 1 million copies of America’s Most Wanted Recipes. He is the founder of Ron Douglas Publishing and he helps aspiring entrepreneurs and authors build an audience and make a greater impact online.
About Cody Gough
Cody Gough is a Chicago-based radio host and podcast veteran with more than a decade of on-air and production experience. He’s a writer for Curiosity.com, as well as the executive producer and co-host of their podcast, Curiosity Daily. Cody has hosted shows on Chicago’s 720 WGN Radio and podcasts on The GonnaGeek Network at GonnaGeek.com. Outside of audio production, Cody has written for Huffington Post, and has performed on-camera roles as a commercial actor, improviser, and cooking show host for the Kenmore Appliance brand. He’s passionate about human psychology, history, and helping people understand why the humanities are so important.
About Ashley Hamer
Ashley Hamer is the managing editor of Curiosity.com and a science communicator with a love for physics, astronomy, psychology, exercise science, and all the weird things plants can do. Her writing has appeared in Cosmopolitan, TIME, Buzzfeed, Mashable, and USA Today, and she’s served as a board member of Women Thinking Inc., a nonprofit devoted to promoting science to women and families. Ashley co-hosts Curiosity Daily and is also a professional saxophonist, a Boston-qualified marathon runner, and a cat person.