Andrew Warner is the host of the hugely popular startup podcast Mixergy.
After years of talking to some of the greatest business minds like Tim Ferriss, Paul Graham and Gary Vaynerchuck, Andrew decided to give away his secrets.
In Stop Asking Questions, he shares his best tips and tricks to get the most out of conversations and make people tell you what you most want to know.
The idea of writing a book on what he’s learned about interviewing has been with him from the start. Everything accelerated when he was at home during the pandemic and a befriended author asked him to write a chapter. What Andrew came up with wasn’t exactly what his friend wanted, but it didn’t matter.
Andrew loved getting the feedback and asked his friend to introduce him to people so he could start writing his own book. That’s how he met his editor Mary who became a fundamental part of Stop Asking Questions.
She got on a weekly call with him to discuss plans, review the process, and make him feel better when there was no progress.
The book slowly took shape as the focus shifted from Zoom conversations to conducting better interviews. Too many people have the opportunity of a lifetime to talk to someone they greatly respect, and they ruin it by asking the wrong questions. This he wanted to fix.
“This is a book about respect. Respecting others enough to interview them well. Respecting your audience enough to do the work. And respecting yourself enough to be clear about what you’re doing and why.”Seth Godin
If you want to learn how Andrew does it, go on and buy Stop Asking Questions (or the Premium edition). The rest of this post is about the ups and downs of Andrew Warner’s writing journey and his love for hot beverage
Andrew Warner lived at home with his parents until somewhere in his twenties. He didn’t have to look after food or even do his laundry. He was babied, but he didn’t care. This allowed him to focus on his business and the things that most mattered to him.
After he got married, he moved to Argentina. There, the situation was similar. In the early days of Mixergy, he benefited from having few distractions and being able to focus on his company. With a cheaper lifestyle, he could also save time taking a taxi, for example.
When David Kadavy started focusing on writing, he moved to Colombia for similar reasons. But Andrew was long back in the US at the time of writing. And that may have caused some issues.
Writing Stop Asking Questions was a real struggle for Andrew. At times he sacrificed everything else for it. He ignored his companies payment states, emails etc. And in return? He’d write something like three paragraphs in a day.
And the following day, his editor, Mary, would often decide it was better to delete them because they weren’t going in the right direction.
First, he created a graveyard to save those paragraphs for later. But that was just another distraction. He reasoned that Google Docs would let him go back in time and find it if he absolutely needed anything.
After a while, he got angry and wanted to give up. He considered hiring a ghostwriter and emailed Ryan Holiday for help. Andrew found much help in Ryan’s books, especially Perennial Seller. Now, he was hoping for a secret pill or the contact of a great ghostwriter.
All he got was this question: “Did you read my book?”
He had. He realised he should just suffer through it. And he decided not to work with the ghostwriter he had eventually found. Andrew liked his own writing style more, and he knew that he’d be much prouder of the book after completing it himself.
Editing and storytelling
For his podcast Mixergy, Andrew doesn’t edit. He doesn’t want it to be too polished. Moreover, people will always want things to be changed.
With books, this doesn’t work, of course. Fortunately, he loved editing his book. But it wasn’t always as easy.
Stories give credibility to facts.
Stories are incredibly important. So adding more stories and improving them was an essential part of the editing process. Stories help people remember and understand the nuance of your advice.
Andrew wanted the stories to be short, quick and punchy to get the point across fast.
But often, there wasn’t enough colour because he left out the background; he didn’t set the scene or describe the person in much detail. His editor Mary was essential in improving this.
Andrew still feels this aspect needs to be improved, but it’s challenging because he doesn’t naturally pay attention to much detail in real life. He doesn’t notice new flowers at home, for example.
With his interviews, setting the scene is a different story. He likes these little touches about people because they stay with you and help people understand better. For example, he wondered why Sahil Lavingia pays so much attention to detail with the Gumroad design, while in real life, he’s not a stylish person at all—walking in white t-shirts and flip-flops.
Accountability and community
Andrew’s biggest tip when it comes to writing is “Don’t do it alone”.
He always thought writing a book was about going to a cabin in the woods and returning with a manuscript. He’s seen other people around him do this. But it’s not for him.
Andrew advises you to get an editor and a coach. You could even get a coach on Fiverr. It doesn’t matter if they aren’t the best in the world. Just having someone to give you some guidance, listen to you or check in on you already makes a huge difference.
But of course, these people aren’t around all the time. During writing sessions, he often used Focus Mate. This is a service for people who want to focus with an accountability partner. You just log in, and someone on the other side of your screen keeps check on you while you both work on your projects.
Finally, he found it helpful to go to his audience from time to time. Initially, he wanted to write and publish gradually, but he couldn’t deal with that much interaction. Instead, he regularly spent time in Zoom calls with people to help them with their interviews, podcasts etc.
The results of these conversations helped shape Stop Asking Questions. In a way, he taught it first.
Distribution with Damn Gravity
While Andrew was writing his book, he got cold-pitched by Ben Putano from Damn Gravity.
Ben told Andrew he should write a book and why he would be the best person to help him launch it. Ben had no idea Andrew was already writing a book. And it did take some convincing, but Andrew decided to take the leap and become Ben’s first client at Damn Gravity.
Andrew decided to go with a small startup because he loved Ben’s grit. Ben showed how he had been doing it with his own book, and he liked how engaging it was.
But hit also fitted well with his Mixergy spirit. He could go with a publisher who would forget about him or work with a startup like Ben’s who’d be obsessive about making this project succeed.
Ben’s redesign of Andrew’s Twitter campaign, creating a new email list and decision to take the book to the public helped sell the book and get many more people interested.
Andrew loves good coffee and tea. And maybe too big a part of the podcast was about our mutual love for hot beverages while I could’ve extracted priceless knowledge from someone who’s interviewed many of my role models.
Having said this, Andrew’s favourite coffee is Philz Coffee in San Franciso. It’s not that well known outside, but people in SF gravitate towards it. It’s no premium coffee, you won’t get a late, just pour-over, but it’s damn good.
At home, he’ll often have yerba mate, a tradition he picked up in Argentina and for the road, he has a Jetboil.
The thing with yerba mate, like regular tea, is that you can mix it to your desired strength.
You can interchange strong and weak sips easily. More details about how this works in the podcast.
For coffee, however, this is harder. You could brew some strong coffee with an Italian press and mix it with warm water during the day. But it loses taste. If you have better suggestions, please leave a comment.