Tim Ferris & Jim Collins Interview Sketchnotes: Page 1; conceptual vessels, hierarchy, venn diagram, cycle, window vs mirror, doug neill, verbal to visual

Sketchnotes of Tim Ferriss & Jim Collins Podcast Conversation

A few days ago I become completely immersed in a podcast conversation between Tim Ferriss and Jim Collins.

I enjoyed it so much that I decided to capture some of it in sketchnote form, which I’ve shared below.

Keep an eye out for visual note-taking techniques that you might apply to your own work!

Conceptual Vessels

Early in the conversation the idea of conceptual vessels came up as Collins talked about his research process. First comes the collection of data, then comes the question: what’s the most appropriate structure for communicating what we learned?

The podcast conversation on The Tim Ferriss Show with guest Jim Collins was one of my favorites so far this year.

I think that ties in well to what I focus on here: teaching the skill of visual note-taking. With each individual idea or set of ideas, the recurring question is: what’s the most useful way to capture it with some combination of words and sketches? What visual vessel can you give it to better remember and act on it in the future?

Windows & Mirrors

While discussing leadership (and specifically the idea of Level 5 Leadership), the key question is this: when something goes wrong, do you look out the window and blame external circumstances or do you look in the mirror to identify how your actions contributed to the failure?

Though I don’t lead a team, that question is still relevant for me as I build my own independent career (a process that has its share of failures).

Keeping a Daily Log

One of the most actionable ideas came when Collins described a daily log that he keeps: one column to list out the day’s events, another to capture the number of creative work hours (tracked throughout the day with an upward-counting stopwatch), and a third to rate the quality of the day from -2 to +2.

I’ve already stolen Collins’ simple but powerful approach to logging each day.

I’ve already stolen that approach and I’m a few days into my own tracking. What has surprised me so far is the motivating factor of an upward-ticking clock as I track my creative hours throughout the day (as opposed to a downward-ticking clock that I’ve often used in the past for Pomodoro-style work sessions).

Watching those minutes and hours add up throughout the day is satisfying.

What to Optimize For

I appreciated hearing the three things that Collins is optimizing his life for: simplicity, time in flow state, and time with loved ones.

I think my list would be quite similar, though I haven’t yet taken the time to decide precisely what I want to optimize for in my own life. Perhaps I’ll add that to a future annual review.

Hedgehog Mode

Hedgehog mode describes the state when you’re doing work that you’re passionate about, you’re doing something that you’re encoded for (where nature plus nurture sets you up for success), and you’ve got an economic engine to support that work.

The hedgehog: an unlikely mascot for a powerful venn diagram.

I remember the idea of hedgehog mode from when I first read Good to Great back in 2009, and it’s one of the things that propelled me down an entrepreneurial path. Now, a decade later, I think I’m finally at that intersection.

Lessons Learned From Peter Drucker

I really enjoyed the part of the podcast in which Collins described his interactions with Peter Drucker. Here are two lessons that Collins learned from him:

Don’t make 100 decisions when 1 will do. That falls in line nicely with Collins’ optimization of simplicity.

The question isn’t how to be successful, it’s how to be useful. That’s a helpful reminder for us all.

The Flywheel

What are the smart, disciplined pushes that build momentum over time? That’s the question at the core of the flywheel principle, which Collins introduced in Good to Great but explored in more depth in a new monograph Turning the Flywheel.

The flywheel of your career might be big and heavy, but small, smart, and consistent pushes can get it moving faster and faster.

That might have been my favorite single idea from the conversation, because it got me thinking about my flywheel here at Verbal To Visual – the pushes that I make on a regular basis, and how I might refine the structure underlying those pushes in the future.


If you’d like to develop your own sketchnoting skills to capture podcasts and books and conferences like I did above, then check out our course An Introduction To Visual Note-Taking.

To build your own sketchnoting skills, check out our introductory course!

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