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North Star Podcast

Jul 20, 2020


Tyler Cowen is an economics professor at George Mason University. He runs the Mercatus Center, which bridges the gap between academic ideas and real-world problems. He’s published a new post every day for the past 17 years on his blog called Marginal Revolution, where he writes about economics, arts, culture, food, and globalization. Beyond that, he also writes for Bloomberg and hosts his own podcast called Conversations with Tyler. Tyler ends every episode of his podcast asking about other people’s production function. How do you get so much done? What’s the secret sauce of all that you’ve accomplished? This episode is entirely devoted to that question. But this time, I’m asking Tyler. We started by talking about why there aren’t more Tyler Cowens in the world. Then, we moved to Tyler’s process for writing, such as choosing article topics and editing his work. Later in the podcast, we discussed Tyler’s process for choosing friends, why he would travel across the world to visit a new country for just ten hours, and what he’s learned from high-powered people like Peter Thiel and Patrick Collison.



Show Notes

2:40 - What Tyler considers his compounding advantage and where he got it from

5:56 - Why being born as an intelligent person is not as important as developing knowledge

8:23 - How Tyler maximizes the value of his consumption and minimizes the drawbacks

9:19 - What draws Tyler to the people he likes spending time with, and what he likes best about their friendship

12:33 - Why Tyler feels that the way he has lived his life has meant has not given anything up

15:35 - How the fundamentals of productivity came intuitively to Tyler

17:41 - Why Tyler writes in his particular style not by choice, but by necessity

22:19 - Why the things in Tyler's life that bind his output aren't what you think

24:06 - How to develop new ideas while staying focused on the subject and not getting tangled

27:36 - Why Tyler sees art as one of the most important and beneficial things you can spend your time and money on

32:41 - What writers can learn about inspiration and consistency from musicians and visual artists

37:16 - Why Peter Thiel has impacted Tyler so deeply and why Tyler believes he's one of the greatest thinkers of our time

40:30 - How Tyler is able to extract more from his reading than other people do

45:44 - How understanding most other people's intelligence is higher than his in most fields gave Tyler an edge over other thinkers

49:00 - Why Tyler sees a new visibility of talent in people and how he is using this visibility

55:24 - How Tyler constructs his interviews to maximize the freedom of his guests to speak freely on what they love

1:00:03 - How to develop skills as a teacher and where Tyler believes the strengths of a good teacher lie

1:03:34 - Why the novelty and beauty of visiting other cultures excites Tyler so much

1:07:18 - How Tyler makes the most out of his travels

1:13:32 - Why sitting in a suboptimal seat at a concert may give you worse sound but a better understanding of the music

1:16:55 - Why knowledge workers are often not motivated to improve their skills

1:20:48 - Why Tyler still responds to every email and loves it