The success mindset of the CEO's wikihow – Jack Herrick
DAVID LAROCHE: Hello Achievers! Today, I am with a new guest seated just next to me, and it's wonderful. His website is wikiHow and I am with the CEO, Jack Herrick.
JACK HERRICK: Hi, David.
DAVID LAROCHE: How are you?
JACK HERRICK: I'm great. Thanks so much for coming in today.
DAVID LAROCHE: I have a lot of questions to ask you about what you do. I would like to know how you built wikiHow. Can you share to me the story from the start and the struggles you've had?
JACK HERRICK: My life’s mission for the last decade has been to build the world’s greatest how-to manual. When I say that, what I really want to build is a how-to manual that is the single, best place to learn how to do anything; and that would contain pretty much every topic. So each topic would be the single, highest quality place to go to start learning something and then have it be in multiple languages.
I've had this dream for a long time. I think learning how to do things is one of the killer applications in the Internet, one of the things that everyone should be doing more of; and it's one of the best ways that I, as a person, can give back to the world.
So this has been a dream of mine for a long time.
DAVID LAROCHE: To help people …
JACK HERRICK: Yes. There's the old story that if you want to feed a man, give him fish, right? If you want to help a man for a lifetime, you teach him how to fish.
And so, “How-to” is teaching someone how to fish, teaching someone how to tie shoes, and teaching them whatever they want to learn.
DAVID LAROCHE: That's great. You had a career. Why did you stop? Why did you begin to build something?
JACK HERRICK: I used to own a different website called “eHow.” It's the same sort of thing. It's a how-to manual. But the business model of eHow is quite different from wikiHow, and it didn't quite work well in the way that I wanted it to work.
I mentioned that I wanted to have super high-quality stuff in multiple languages, and with the way I was doing it at eHow, I couldn't get there.
But I kept trying to figure this out and I, eventually, found Wikipedia; and Wikipedia had built a multi-lingual encyclopedia with extremely high quality. I've done a fantastic job in that and I said, “Well, this Wiki method looks like a bit of magic. I wonder if the Wiki method would work for how-to.”
And so, in 2005, I launched a little page that just said, “wikiHow.” And the wikiHow idea grew from there.
DAVID LAROCHE: There are lots of hows. How did you choose the first one? How did you choose the people? Did you write the first how?
JACK HERRICK: When we launched wikiHow, we actually launched it on January 15, 2005 which was on the fourth birthday of Wikipedia. We specifically chose that date to honor Wikipedia and its influence on us.
When we launched it, there was really nothing there. It was just a page that said, “This is wikiHow. This is the vision of wikiHow. Our dream is to build the world’s greatest how-to manual. We hope you contribute.”
And that was really it. That was the whole site on launch day.
The launch got no press. The launch attracted no users. The launch was not interesting.
So, when we launched in 2005, the launch was a dud by any sort of measurement. We got no press. We attracted very few users. There was really nothing to see at the website. It was terrible.
If you go back and look at the archive.org at the very first version of wikiHow, it's really quite embarrassing. It's embarrassingly bad.
But I think the vision was a good vision, and I think a lot of people share the goal…
DAVID LAROCHE: Was it the same title and the same domain?
JACK HERRICK: No, originally, it was Wiki.eHow.com because it was a side project within eHow, initially. But we always had the domain, wikiHow.com, so we'd go there.
The language on the introduction was kind of the same language we use today.
DAVID LAROCHE: Why did you change …
JACK HERRICK: WikiHow was one of those things that just took a long time to start rolling. In the very early days, what would happen is that people would come to the site and there were very few people. In the first month, we got 2000 people visiting the site which is very small by website standards.
And I think we had eight people who edited; but each of those people who edited in that first month, I would go greet them personally and say, “Hi, my name is Jack. I'm the founder of WikiHow. My goal is to build this fantastic how-to manual that's going to be read by everyone in the world. Thank you for coming here and contributing.”
And I would do that whether they wrote a very helpful article or even if they just added a comma that needed to be there. No matter what they did, I would welcome them.
I kept doing that for months and months. And as I did that, some of these people would stick around and then keep contributing; then, they’d welcome more people and describe to the next person, “Hey, here's the vision of wikiHow. Here's what we're trying to do.”
And it kind of grew as more people would come. More people would welcome other people; and, eventually, over many years (it's been eight years now), it grew to the site it is today.
DAVID LAROCHE: It's amazing. You mentioned that after a few months that you earned …
JACK HERRICK: Yes, it lost money for several years. I was lucky that I was able to soft finance it and I was running eHow at that time which was profitable. So I was using the profits from eHow to pay for wikiHow. And after I sold eHow, I was using the money from the sale of eHow to fund wikiHow.
DAVID LAROCHE: I imagine that you, sometimes, had some fears.
JACK HERRICK: Oh, yes. WikiHow was often embarrassingly bad for the first couple of years. The quality of the content was low. We had very few contributors. I would tell people my goal in building this fantastic how-to manual in multiple languages is that, one day, every person in the planet would use it; and, clearly, I was ludicrous.
It's a little ludicrous today considering there are seven billion people in the planet and we have a long way to go, but it would take a lot of vision to see that the goal for wikiHow is actually possible.
DAVID LAROCHE: Why didn't you quit at the time?
JACK HERRICK: Why didn't I quit? One, I think I'm really stubborn. I just like to stick with things. I try to push pretty much things I start as hard as I can possibly push them. I'm really committed.
I'm very committed to the wikiHow vision so even when things looked bad, it didn't occur to me to quit. I'd always just say, “Okay, how can I make it better? How can I spend a little more time and figure out another angle to help us grow faster or to help our content quality go up where they attract more users to this site?”
DAVID LAROCHE: After how many years did you start to earn money with your project?
JACK HERRICK: We had revenue from day one because we put advertising, let's say, from day one even though, I think, we probably made like maybe a nickel or something in the first month.
It was a money loser, though, for the first couple of years. I think we probably didn't break even until the third or fourth year. I'd have to go back and look. It took us a while.
DAVID LAROCHE: That's great because a lot of people try two things and say, “Oh, I tried everything and nothing works.”
I imagine that, in four years, you've tried a lot of things to make wikiHow work.
JACK HERRICK: Yes. The vision has always been the same from day one. The vision of building this great how-to manual has been the same. But we've already tried different techniques to make it work.
I think anyone who has built a successful startup has to try lots of different things to find the magic formula.
DAVID LAROCHE: Great! And what did you learn in four years? What mistakes have you done that you've learned a lot from? What are you doing today that you didn't do in the beginning?
JACK HERRICK: I think, as we've gone down the road, we've gotten just a little bit smarter in every operation of the business. We've gotten a little bit smarter as to how to get to wikiHow working outside of the English language. We've gotten a little bit smarter about how to increase the quality of our content. We've gotten a little bit smarter about creating content that we know people can learn from very easily.
It's not so much that we were doing things totally wrong in the beginning. It just took us time to learn to get the technique right. And I'm very confident that several years from now or four years from now, we're going to learn a whole bunch of new stuff; and we're going to be that much better.
Our ability to make a large educational impact is going to be significantly higher down the road. The further we go, the more we learn.
Basically, startups are learning machines. A good startup has a group of people who are spending time to figure out as much as possible what's working, do more of it, figure out what's not working, and stop doing it.
To the extent, wikiHow works as an organization and as a startup where it's becoming more and more an efficient learning machine.
DAVID LAROCHE: I would love to know the lessons you would like to share with young entrepreneurs.
JACK HERRICK: Lessons for young entrepreneurs: I didn't start my first business until I was in my late twenties. But there were probably some things I've done leading up to that that were very helpful for me. There are probably a few things I did right in my twenties that would be beneficial to share.
One is that I was bit of a learning machine myself. In my twenties, I was learning as much as I possibly could all the time.
DAVID LAROCHE: A lot of how.
JACK HERRICK: A lot of how! I was a big climber at the time. When I was a traveling rock climber, I had in my pick-up truck that I lived in this little box that I called the “knowledge box.” And this was kind of pre-web.
All the information you would get in those days was from books, and it's had a massive stack of books. I called it my “knowledge box.”
Every night, I'd finish rock climbing and I'd just sit there and read my books. That sort of gave me a base of knowledge, I think, which later helped me as an entrepreneur. That was probably the first thing.
DAVID LAROCHE: So you have to have the kind of foundation on learning and the kind of mindset information to build something. Is that right?
JACK HERRICK: I think I'm the sort of person who is always trying to learn how things work or learn how to become better at anything and, basically, learn how to learn and how to unlearn and relearn. Those are the crucial skills I've probably gathered in my twenties.
And I recommend adopting those skills for anyone.
The second think, I think, I did right was I was very good at following my passions in my twenties, and I still am today.
I had a job which was a great place to learn early in my career, but I wasn’t passionate about it. One day, I just quit and started rock climbing full time for a while.
I learned a ton of things from rock climbing, and that actually helped me become a better entrepreneur, too. And then, later in my late twenties, I followed my passion and became an entrepreneur.
I think those things, learning and following your passions, are probably the two biggest ingredients.
DAVID LAROCHE: Great! I love that. A lot of people are contributing to your website. Why do people contribute to wikiHow? Do you have tips on how to engage them?
JACK HERRICK: People contribute to wikiHow for lots of reasons. If there's one reason that sort of pulls it all together, I think there are a lot of people who share the vision of what wikiHow is about.
A lot of people are interested in the idea of building a how-to manual for the whole world, and that's always been kind of our main calling card.
We put that up and if it appeals to you, maybe you’ll contribute; if it doesn't, well, then, you're probably just a reader of wikiHow.
We're very clear with our vision.
And the second thing we do is we really try to be of service to our community and build tools that we think are going to be interesting and engaging for them.
For the people who love editing, we are probably the best place on the web to do editing and sort of stay in the flow and in the zone. We've built lots of tools which have helped people.
If you love editing, you can copy edit articles all day long on wikiHow if that's what you want to do. You can … changes all day long if that's what you want to do.
We build tools that we think people who enjoy these activities are really going to love. We use them ourselves so we've figured out what we like and, in turn, try to just keep building most of those tools.
DAVID LAROCHE: Great! I also have a question about what you've done. Did you do it alone or did you have a co-founder?
JACK HERRICK: WikiHow was originally part of eHow, and I was doing eHow with a guy named Josh Hannah. Josh was there at the beginning and we had an engineer named Travis who was there at the beginning, too.
I guess, I'm listed as the sole founder of wikiHow but those guys definitely helped out.
DAVID LAROCHE: When you're an entrepreneur, you've got a lot of things to do. How do you choose what you have to delegate?
JACK HERRICK: In the beginning stages of wikiHow, there was me and this one engineer, Travis, for the first couple of years. And so, there was not a lot of delegation that could be done. We were on it all the time. Crystal was there at the beginning, too. So there was not a lot of delegation that could be done.
Now, the company is larger. As the company grows, it allowed us to hire people which allowed me to delegate more. I think the first things that any manager should try and delegate are things they aren’t good at.
There were plenty of things I was doing that I was not great at. That's the first thing to take off the plate.
The second thing to delegate is anything where you think you can see great opportunities. If you could find people who can help you grow, those are the people you should hire to move up that way as well.
DAVID LAROCHE: So you started to delegate some tasks. Today, how do you manage your life now that you have a family, children, and you have passions like surfing? How do you manage every field you have in your life?
You can work today for wikiHow. What didn't you? Why don't you do that? How do you manage your life today?
JACK HERRICK: The beauty of having a lot of passions in life is that whatever you're doing, it's really fun. So when I go to work, I'm having a great time. The weekdays for me are pretty much as fun as the weekends.
I go to work and I love it. When I come home, I love hanging out with my family, and that's great, too. And I'm also very passionate about surfing. I went surfing this morning. And I still like to rock climb as well.
I'm always trying to balance time among the three things I love—my work, my family, and my surfing and climbing passions.
How do they balance?
Well, ironically, I just keep kind of a traditional set up on them. I do most of the work Monday through Friday. I do most of the family activities on the weekends. And the surfing and climbing fit in somewhere in the weekends as well.
It's kind of a simple-minded way to keep the balance; but it basically works.
DAVID LAROCHE: So is it kind of a rule for you to not work on the weekends?
JACK HERRICK: Well, I shouldn’t say I don't work. I do work on the weekends, but I keep it just a couple of hours. And I also see my family in the night time. I try to get home every night for dinner and see my family. And I might work after I put the kids to bed.
Any entrepreneur ends up working a lot.
DAVID LAROCHE: Yes. It's interesting to see how you manage that.
JACK HERRICK: I don't think there's any perfect formula for it. Some weekends, I won't work at all; but, usually, I only do a couple of hours here and there. And I may be working the whole weekend on some weekends, but that's kind of rare.
DAVID LAROCHE: Currently, how do you earn money with wikiHow? What is the business model of wikiHow?
JACK HERRICK: We have a pretty simple unrefined business model, I should say, where we haven't put much work into it. We run Google Ads, basically. You come to the site and there's some advertising. It's almost often Google, and 99% of our advertising is done by Google.
If someone sees the ad and clicks on it, we make a little money. Ironically, for someone who makes his living off of advertising, I personally don't love advertising that much and I don't love seeing it on the website.
Due to my feelings about it, if users don't want to see advertising, all they need to do is register an account and the ads disappear. So if you don't like ads, come to wikiHow, create an account, and you won't see them again. But very few users do that.
DAVID LAROCHE: Do you get the email addresses of the viewers?
JACK HERRICK: If you register an account, we make it optional at that point. If you want to give us your email, we'll take it; and then, if you do things like edit on wikiHow, we'll tell you how the articles you've edited are doing. And we'll send a message to you via email.
But for the vast majority of users—no, we have no idea what their email address is. Most people who come to wikiHow who want to learn how to tie their shoes learn how to tie their shoes, and they're walking down the street. We don't really have much deeper interaction with them than that.
DAVID LAROCHE: In the next five years, what would you want for wikiHow? Do you have a business model or a company that inspires you in terms of how wikiHow can grow?
JACK HERRICK: What we want to do is really help every single person on the planet learn how to do things. There are seven billion people on the planet. Right now, there are 2.4 billion people online. Our goal is to reach every single one of those people to help all of them learn how to do whatever they want to learn how to do and just help them keep on learning new things.
We know we're miles away from that vision, but we're getting a little closer every month.
DAVID LAROCHE: For someone who is interested to build something, is it possible for you in the long term to do what Amazon does? Do you think it can be an evolution for wikiHow, for example, that you see what the viewers do and let them …
JACK HERRICK: I think I understand what you're saying.
DAVID LAROCHE: My idea is about training—longer training.
JACK HERRICK: There are many business models that our competitors are doing or other sites in the web are doing that are great revenue generators, and if wikiHow were a more revenue-focused company, we would be pursuing these things.
We've seen our competitors do these things where you pay for training, pay 30 bucks a month and you could get in-depth videos or you can pay to have questions answered or you can pay to buy material.
Some of our competitors do, at least, some of these or all these activities. And they're all great business ideas.
For us, we're really trying to focus on educational impact. And so, we do that often at the expense of pursuing revenue-generating activities. And because we're a small company, currently, we don't think we can do multiple things well. Right now, we're just going to try to focus on the educational impact and serve the mission areas of our website.
Maybe down the road, we'll pick up these other businesses and pursue them. But, right now, we just don't have enough people and resources to go after them and do both jobs well.
I wouldn't want to do a mediocre job in trying to provide the world a free how-to education in the process of trying to do these other businesses. So we're not going to do them now. But maybe down the road, we will. We know that there are good profitable business models there.
DAVID LAROCHE: So your main goal in doing wikiHow is to help the people have the most?
JACK HERRICK: Yes, education impact is how we measure ourselves.
DAVID LAROCHE: Great! I love that. I have a more global question. Do you have some life lessons you would like to share for not only the young entrepreneurs? Imagine that you can speak to your children when they're 20 years old, what would you like to share with them?
JACK HERRICK: When I tuck my children into bed every night and give them a kiss, I ask them two questions. The first question I ask is, what did you learn today? I want to hear what they've learned.
“Make sure that you're learning something every day and you're becoming someone who’s interested in learning and has the ability to learn, unlearn, and relearn.”
And the second question I ask is, how did you challenge yourself?
DAVID LAROCHE: Do you have some examples as to what they say to you, funny examples?
JACK HERRICK: (laughs) I'm hoping to hear, “Today, I learned that the way that the caterpillar becomes a butterfly is x, y, z;” but, instead, I hear, “Well, today, I learned that if I do this in Super Mario Bros, I can get to the next level really quickly.”
So often, they do a lot of great learning around video games. My son is very passionate about video games. He learns a lot that way, and I'm still hoping to hear the science-based things, but what they want to learn is what they're learning.
DAVID LAROCHE: Yes. The main thing now is you train him to have the ability to learn from something. Now, the games; maybe tomorrow, it will be another thing, right?
JACK HERRICK: Right. I think learning how to learn is probably the key skill for the 21st century. So if I can teach my kids to learn how to learn, that's great.
DAVID LAROCHE: What’s the second key?
JACK HERRICK: How do they challenge themselves?
DAVID LAROCHE: We have to challenge ourselves. When we say “challenge,” what do you mean?
JACK HERRICK: I think it's easy to go through life and not ever put yourself out there, not ever take risks, not ever really push yourself and make yourself uncomfortable and break through barriers because any time you're trying to break through barriers, there's always a risk of failure; there's always a risk of embarrassment; there's always a risk of getting hurt one way or the other.
And you have to learn how to challenge yourself, too.
DAVID LAROCHE: Do you have some examples of challenges you've taken that have helped you a lot? Maybe, sometimes, you were afraid to do something and you did it.
JACK HERRICK: Sure. The best lesson for me has been rock climbing. In my twenties, I spent a couple of years as a full-time rock climber. During that time, I really learned how to challenge myself because, as any climber will tell you, to get to the next level or to climb especially a hard rock. If you want to climb Half Dome or some of the more magnificent peaks in California, you have to really push yourself. It's going to be scary. You're going to have to learn new skills. There are going to be times you're going to think you're going to get hurt or you're going to get stuck in the rock in the middle of the night or something bad is going to happen.
And there's no one who can do those things without pushing ourselves well beyond their comfort point.
And so, for the couple of years I was full time climbing, I basically made it a process of always challenging myself and always pushing myself further than I could, and that has really helped me in my climbing career. But, then, after my climbing career, it's really helped me in my startup career, too.
Now, I know what it feels like to be just on the edge of safety, comfort, risk, and having enough internal … to just sort of push through that and get to the other side.
DAVID LAROCHE: How many times in a week do you challenge yourself currently?
JACK HERRICK: How many times today am I challenging myself?
DAVID LAROCHE: Yes.
JACK HERRICK: Geez, now, I feel like you're my dad. You're like a dad asking me as a kid. I'd like to think I challenge myself every day. Do I really? Well, on my best days, I do.
DAVID LAROCHE: So you do your best and you do something new every day.
JACK HERRICK: Yes.
DAVID LAROCHE: It could be a small thing.
JACK HERRICK: It could be a small thing. I'm always trying to figure out something in my business to make it a little better or something in my personal life to make it a little better and in my family life to make it a little better.
DAVID LAROCHE: To tweak every time, I love that. I will let Julie ask you two things and I will come back with other questions.
JULIE: My question is always the same question that I ask everybody. … hundreds of people to see what comes up with the same question.
My first question is about education. How do you think could we improve education?
JACK HERRICK: Geez, I have a lot of answers on this one. For one, I think the way we view education is this whole classroom where you sit in the classroom, you learn things, then you keep studying, you go out into the real world, and maybe you use these skills.
That is very much a technique that had worked for the 19th and the 20th centuries. I think with current technologies, we don't have to learn that way anymore.
One of the things I think that's really exciting at wikiHow is that we are in this world where we're creating what I call “just-in-time education.”
Let's say, you're doing something in your daily life, and I'll use the tie-your-shoes example. You want to learn how to tie your shoes. You could just go to Google or wikiHow and say, “How do I tie my shoes?”
You read the article. You've tied your shoes. And, now, you know it. You know how to tie your shoes.
I think technology is creating this world now where we can just in time learn tons and tons of things. And the world, instead of there being this divide between the classroom and the rest of the world, we can now turn the whole world into a classroom.
So wherever you go, whatever you're doing, it can be an educational experience.
I see sites like wikiHow that's basically a part of that; and I see, as people are searching for more and more how-to things on wikiHow, on Google, and on other sites, that it's a reflection that people really want to learn the minute they need the knowledge, and I think that's a pretty exciting change.
JULIE: Yes, I think so, too.
JACK HERRICK: The other sort of educational transfer, I think, we're going to see is, I guess, very similar to the first thing. The dominant educational philosophy now is the instructivist philosophy, basically, like learning from books, lessons, and hearing someone describe how to do it.
The constructivist philosophy is a little more learning by doing. Constructivist education happens everywhere. I think that’s really exciting.
JULIE: So you're saying that, one, we can learn anytime, anywhere in the future; and, two… what was your second point?
JACK HERRICK: So you can learn anytime, anywhere which I call the “just-in-time education.” And the second point is almost a different way of saying the same thing which is that the 20th century was about the instructivist philosophy and the 21st century is really about constructivist education philosophy.
JULIE: Thank you very much.
JACK HERRICK: Sure. And they're really two different ways of saying the same exact thing.
JULIE: And my second question is about your vision. What could be the three actions human beings could do to make this world a better place to live?
JACK HERRICK: Well, one, I think everyone could teach someone something. Everyone knows something. And when you teach someone, you're helping the other person. You're lifting the other person up.
And you're also lifting yourself up. There's something very satisfying about teaching that feels good for the person who does it, and it also helps the other person.
And so, if people will do more of that and sort of pass that down the path and sort of pay that forward, I think the world will be a better place.
JULIE: What would you hope for your children in the future?
JACK HERRICK: This is a common answer but it's not a common answer to this question. I think everyone could be a better listener. Listening is the beginning of empathy; and if the world were more empathic, it will be a better place to live.
JACK HERRICK: I don't have a third one off the top of my head.
JULIE: Thank you very much.
DAVID LAROCHE: What is your favorite book? I would love to know that.
JACK HERRICK: I could tell you which book has been more influential on me.
DAVID LAROCHE: The two, the most influential and your favorite.
JACK HERRICK: I'll call it my favorite because it's changed my life so dramatically that, I guess, it has to be my favorite.
The author is Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and the book is called “Flow.”
DAVID LAROCHE: It's your favorite, right?
JACK HERRICK: This is my favorite and also the most influential book on me. The book is called “Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience.”
I read it 20 years or so ago. At the time, back when I was a full-time climber, I realized that the reason I love rock climbing so much was it really put me in a flow state.
And the book, Flow, is really about how you get into the state of mind where…
DAVID LAROCHE: Everything flows.
JACK HERRICK: Yes, you're in the zone or flow where you lose track of time and you just feel like everything in the world is going right.
DAVID LAROCHE: Now, what are you doing everyday to activate this flow?
JACK HERRICK: I'm always trying to find activities that are putting me in the flow. And I've done that by having the work that I love (I'm super passionate about wikiHow) and in doing activities outside work that I love like surfing and climbing. Things like that definitely put me in the flow.
DAVID LAROCHE: So you're saying that the fact you do surfing helps you to have more flow in your job.
JACK HERRICK: No, it's not so much that. Certainly, surfing is definitely a flow activity. I try to make my job also a flow activity.
There are a couple of ways I do that. I try to hire people who are very passionate about education and passionate about the wikiHow mission; and I try to find work that they are really going to enjoy. I think one of the secrets of hiring is finding people who love what they're going to do.
And then, if they're in the flow and they love what they're doing, that makes my job better, too; and that helps me be in the flow at work.
DAVID LAROCHE: So you take time to find the good people. How much time do you wait to hire people who have the flow and who will love what you will offer?
JACK HERRICK: I don't think we're going to hire someone whom I don't think is going to love working at wikiHow. We're trying to create a company of people who all really love what they're doing. And if we succeed, it's super productive for the company. The employees love it.
If people tell me, “Hey, this is the best job I've ever had; I love coming to work,” then, I know I've succeeded. And that's great.
DAVID LAROCHE: How do you do that? Maybe you can write something at wikiHow.
JACK HERRICK: We interview for it. We ask people what they want to do. We try to learn a lot about the candidate before we hire them. We’ll learn a lot more about the person than most employers will. We really want to make sure they're going to enjoy it.
And if they're not going to enjoy it, I'd be happy to find them other places to work in. There are lots of places hiring talented people. We may find someone super talented but if we don't think he's going to love wikiHow, I'd rather find them somewhere else to work than have them work at wikiHow and not be happy.
DAVID LAROCHE: Great! I love that. What do you love? What is your passion? What do you imagine to do at wikiHow? Why do you want to work in wikiHow?
JACK HERRICK: That's right. I ask a lot of questions to determine what they enjoy. I try to figure out what they don't enjoy. I try to figure out what makes them most excited about life.
And if I can see in those answers what wikiHow, as a company, can offer them and if it's a good fit, then, we have a good match.
DAVID LAROCHE: Do you follow your intuition?
JACK HERRICK: Yes. It's not quite down to a science level. It's really intuition-based at this point.
DAVID LAROCHE: That's cool because, in France, I know someone who is studying the power of intuition for the CEOs, and he has shown that a lot of big CEOs use their intuition to make decisions.
I have a lot of questions for you.
JACK HERRICK: Keep going.
DAVID LAROCHE: How do you define your priorities?
JACK HERRICK: As I've mentioned earlier, we measure ourselves by educational impact. So, if I look at the 50 different things I could at work on during the day, if I'm doing my best, I'd figure out, hey, which are the ones that are most important and which are the ones that are going to help us have the largest educational impact; and I go after those first.
It doesn't always work out that way.
DAVID LAROCHE: Yes, it's amazing. You're not focused on those things that make a lot of profit but the things that make a lot of changes in the lives of people.
JACK HERRICK: That's right. In the long term, I think it will also end up being the thing that creates the most profit because if we produce this single best answer on how to do something, if we have the best article on the Internet on how to boil an egg or how to tie a tie, the best, well, that's the one people are going to want to read.
And then, our advertising will do better on that article than in an article that doesn't get read.
I think, ultimately, these things are balanced. We don't talk about profits when we're at the company as much as we talk about educational impact.
DAVID LAROCHE: Do you have plans of action? Do you have a plan for the month? Do you follow your intuition every time? How do you organize yourself for the next week, for example?
JACK HERRICK: I try and keep as much of my time on schedule as possible because I prefer to follow the intuitions as they come. Part of my job is discovering new ideas and coming up with like, “Hey, I just saw “X” and, therefore, I think we should do “Y.”
If I can successfully keep most of my time on schedule, I'll have more odds of having opportunities like that.
I try and not schedule too much time. And then, I have a to-do list. I use GTD and I sort of go down the list.
DAVID LAROCHE: So you follow the method of GTD.
JACK HERRICK: Probably not as perfectly as I should, but I do follow it.
DAVID LAROCHE: Great! Do you, sometimes, have a bad mood?
JACK HERRICK: Yes. Doesn't everybody?
DAVID LAROCHE: Yes, and how do you switch energy? How do you get back your energy when you have that?
JACK HERRICK: If I'm in a slump, I'll try and put myself in a flow activity. And so, if I can go surfing or climbing or spend time with my kids, I'll do that. And if I can't do that, I'll try and find an activity at work that I know I'm going to find to be enjoyable and sort of get my mind back in this flow state which empowers you to become happier.
DAVID LAROCHE: Do you, sometimes, have deadlines and things like that?
JACK HERRICK: Actually, we don't have a lot of deadlines at wikiHow. It's one of the things we've done differently at wikiHow than most companies; and I think probably most managerial experts have recommended against it.
DAVID LAROCHE: Because you don't have any clients.
JACK HERRICK: Right. We have no clients. We have no venture capital investors. We don't have the pressures, kind of the external creators of false deadlines, so to speak. so we don't have this sort of deadline pressure.
That said, we have a very strong sense of urgency. We really want to serve every single person on the planet. While we know it's going to take decades to accomplish our goal, we want it to happen as fast as it can.
So we don't have deadlines, but we do have urgency.
DAVID LAROCHE: Yes. They're your own deadlines, right?
JACK HERRICK: Yes.
DAVID LAROCHE: How will you reach two billion people?
JACK HERRICK: Well, I think the way we're going to get to two billion people is… I know that everyone on the planet wants to learn something new. Some people want to learn multiple new things a day. Some people only want to learn something new once a year.
But I know that every single person on the planet would benefit from learning new things and wants to learn new things.
We know that if we can create the best explanations and the best experience for learning things quickly in a very efficient manner for the person who wants to learn it, if we can do that better than anyone else, people are going to find our answers. People are going to find our content.
DAVID LAROCHE: So your goal is to have all the answers in wikiHow and the best answers in wikiHow, right?
JACK HERRICK: That's right.
DAVID LAROCHE: The answers are written by contributors. How do you know if the answer is good or not?
JACK HERRICK: We have multiple layers of quality control or multiple layers of checking. I can describe how an edit happens on wikiHow.
WikiHow is completely open editing. Anyone on the Internet could come and press “Edit” and write whatever they want to write.
DAVID LAROCHE: Yes, I can write an article on self-confidence.
JACK HERRICK: Right. So the first layer of quality control that happens on the site is, let's say, someone comes to an article on how to be confident and write something naughty. Usually, within a few seconds, another volunteer has read that edit and has decided if the edit is good or bad. And if it's bad, it goes right off the page. If it's good, it’ll stick on the page.
That's the first layer of quality control. The second layer of quality control are people who watch articles on our watch list and they'll sort of monitor them maybe on a weekly basis and see if things are good or bad. If they don't like it, they go off the page.
We're always looking at user data to see how people are reading the page. We try and measure how much people are learning from the pages and how much they like the pages. If we see the ratings on the page start to decline, then, that page gets put on another list where editors will look at that again to review it.
With all these systems in allowing anyone on the Internet to edit things with the combination of the quality control and allowing any expert to come and write, you end up with really high-quality pages.
DAVID LAROCHE: …
JACK HERRICK: … all the time.
DAVID LAROCHE: So you want only the best content ever on wikiHow, not only a lot of content but the best answers and content in wikiHow, right?
JACK HERRICK: That's right. Now, I should be clear that we don't always succeed. A wiki content tends to start quite low quality and just improves over time.
DAVID LAROCHE: Yes, like Wikipedia.
JACK HERRICK: It's very similar to Wikipedia. And if you look at versions of wikiHow, what they looked like in 2005, 2006, and 2007, it was not even as good as it is today. We've improved a lot. And, every year, we're going to keep improving.
DAVID LAROCHE: It's a community where we will help wikiHow to grow and to be better. Do you listen to audio books?
JACK HERRICK: I do. I love audio books.
DAVID LAROCHE: What is your favorite one?
JACK HERRICK: Give me a minute and I'll look through my audible list and I'll tell you which of the ones are there.
DAVID LAROCHE: What do you like, maybe three?
JACK HERRICK: Give me a minute. Let me look. The Happiness Hypothesis by Jonathan Haidt is a fantastic book. He's a professor and he talks about different techniques on how to be happy. It goes over the research of positive psychology, and it's just a fantastic read.
He wrote another book called “The Righteous Mind” which talks about how the mind perceives morality. I thought that was a fantastic read, and that was also an audio book.
DAVID LAROCHE: Do you think you can have featured authors on wikiHow? Do you think it could be an evolution at wikiHow to be a place for certified authors?
JACK HERRICK: We thought about that and we might do something like that. It would be fantastic to have someone like that right on wikiHow.
We are considering doing that. I think we're going to do an experiment and we're going to see how it works.
It's going to be tough, though. For example, our article on how to be confident is being written now by a like a hundred people. Now, you're an expert on self-confidence. It would be fantastic to have someone like you write on the article and be sort of the certified author for that article.
But we're going to have an interesting issue, though, with the hundred other people who have written with your name maybe showing in brighter lights than theirs.
DAVID LAROCHE: You don't want to make contrasts between…
JACK HERRICK: We don't to make too much of a hierarchy between the certified authors and the hundred other people.
I think there's something there. I think there's an opportunity for wiki to put together a little more expertise on the site. It's something we're going to look at. We're going to experiment with it. I'm not exactly sure where we're going to end up.
DAVID LAROCHE: If I can help you in any way because I know a lot of experts in my field, I would love to do that.
JACK HERRICK: That would be great.
DAVID LAROCHE: What is your favorite movie that has inspired you?
JACK HERRICK: Geez, I'm not thinking of one right now; I'm sure I have some. I have to go look.
DAVID LAROCHE: It's okay. What is your favorite commitment to yourself to grow in this life?
JACK HERRICK: I'm always trying to learn new things.
DAVID LAROCHE: By books, audio books, people…
JACK HERRICK: Books, audio books, people… I think one of the things I've always done is that every time I'm meet someone, I'm like, “Hey, what can I learn from this person?” Then I talk to them about their life, their story and see what I can learn.
Activities, sort of going through real life and thinking of life as a classroom—what can you learn from it?
DAVID LAROCHE: This is my last question. It's a weird question. My goal is to touch people in a way that they've never been touched before. I do a lot of things about success and happiness; and all these things are about how to reach something.
My question is, how do you become a loser and an unhappy person? My goal is to build funny videos but also serious because it will describe what they're doing and what they don't want to do.
I believe a lot in this kind of teaching because I don't want to become unhappy.
In fact, I have a question for you. It is a serious question. One of my missions is to help people to become unhappy in this life. Do you have advices or strategies to become unhappy in this life?
JACK HERRICK: Sure. I would recommend that people should always take the path of least resistance. When there's an easy choice or a hard choice even if the hard one will produce more for you, take the easy one.
DAVID LAROCHE: That's your first advice.
JACK HERRICK: That's my first advice, yes. Always take the easy path and never put yourself out there. Never take risks. Never push yourself. Don't try and learn anything new.
DAVID LAROCHE: Okay, I know everything so I don't need to learn.
JACK HERRICK: Yes, you're already a genius. Why would you need to learn anything?
DAVID LAROCHE: Yes, I am a genius.
JACK HERRICK: I'm a genius. You're a genius. We're all geniuses. We should never try and learn anything.
DAVID LAROCHE: I can write books but I don't read books.
JACK HERRICK: Yes.
DAVID LAROCHE: Do you have a last one? If I would like to become the best loser ever…
JACK HERRICK: Just don't be ambitious at all. Have zero ambitions.
DAVID LAROCHE: I will try to do that. Thank you very much.
I have a short question. I won't be in it; that's why it's my last question.
The goal is to do a video of less than two minutes. You can say things that you've said before because it will be a separate video. Do you understand what I mean?
According to you, what could be the key factors for success? You can have only one. Speak when you're ready.
JACK HERRICK: Okay.
DAVID LAROCHE: Are you ready?
JACK HERRICK: I don't know if I'm ready yet. I'm going to think a little bit.
DAVID LAROCHE: You have time. You're writing an article on wikiHow about the key factors for success.
Think about your experience. Think about what you would like to give to people. What made a difference in your life?
JACK HERRICK: I think I'm ready.
To be successful, I think there are a few things I'm going to point out and tips that anyone could follow. The first thing is to be passionate about whatever you're doing.
Since my late twenties, I've been only working on things that I'm extremely passionate about. I love working at wikiHow. I go to work every day with a smile on my face. I'm totally passionate about helping the world learn how to do many things.
I think that makes wikiHow successful. I hire people with the same passion, and that makes our team successful.
So number one is to be passionate.
Number two is to always be learning things. Always try to learn and get better at learning. Learn, unlearn, and relearn!
My second big break in my twenties was just spending time reading tons and tons of books, meeting interesting people, and trying to learn as much as I could from each person I met. That sort of made the base for me for future success.
And the third thing I'd say for anyone who’s trying to be successful is to challenge yourself. Challenging yourself is something you have to learn how to do.
I, personally, learned it when I was a full-time rock climber. I would always have to push myself and try new things to try to get up cliffs that seemed to daunting to try.
But by putting yourself out there, taking the risks that feel a little uncomfortable, you'll end up in new territory whether it's rock climbing or your career or starting a new company. Whatever it is, challenge yourself.
DAVID LAROCHE: Great! I love that.
JACK HERRICK: Awesome!
DAVID LAROCHE: I would love to have a testimonial from you. Do you prefer if I ask you something and then you'll talk about me?
JACK HERRICK: Sure, yes.
DAVID LAROCHE: Just your opinion on what I do. My name is David Laroche. What do you think about me? And you speak about me in the third person.
JACK HERRICK: I speak about you in the third person.
David Laroche is an expert not only in self-confidence but also in teaching people. Just being around David, having lunch with him, talking about surfing, and spending the day with him, I've learned a lot about myself and about how to push myself even further.
He's a fantastic teacher.
DAVID LAROCHE: Great! Thank you very much. Did you love it?
JACK HERRICK: Yes, it was great.
DAVID LAROCHE: I think you will help a lot of people. And I'm doing my best to promote every interviewee. The new platform I'm building with Julie, “Unleash that Potential,” will reach a lot of people.
JACK HERRICK: Fantastic!
DAVID LAROCHE: And it is kind of a wikiHow interview.
JACK HERRICK: As to your question about sort of verified authors, it's like something we're actually working on. I'd love to have you work on the self-confidence page and, potentially, other pages once we're at the point where I think we're ready.
DAVID LAROCHE: How to do an interview?
JACK HERRICK: How to do an interview? You're also very good at getting interviews like getting Tony Robbins and people like that for the interview. That's fantastic!
DAVID LAROCHE: We do what we love. I totally agree with your three keys. We are doing what we are passionate about. I love to learn also but Julie loves to read more than I do.
Challenge yourself—I do that every day. My first interview in English was terrifying for me.
JACK HERRICK: I'll take a photo before you dismantle everything. Why don't you, guys, get together?
I'll do the “interviewing seat” photo. Maybe you, guys, walk over there…
DAVID LAROCHE: Hello! Thank you very much.