As part of our series, World’s Most Interesting People, I chatted with Noah Kagan, host of the Noah Kagan Presents podcast and founder of Sumo.com and AppSumo.com.

In this episode, you’ll learn:

  • How Noah cuts through the fluff on phone calls
  • How to breakout of autopilot, be authentic and practice reciprocity and vulnerability regularly
  • Noah’s personal challenge for connecting with strangers (hint: it includes elevators and high-fives)
  • How to make your asks more specific
  • The one word to add to your asks to help make things easier
  • Noah’s firsthand experience with karma

and get the answers to:

  • Do you have a framework for dealing with people?
  • How do you approach and ask guests to be on your podcast?

Watch the Episode:

“Do you have a framework for dealing with people?”

Noah has enjoyed shaking up the way he meets or greets others, especially on the phone. He reminds us that we typically get stuck in this, “How’s it going?” – “Fine,” interaction. He likes to switch things up by responding with, “Horrible,” and even has a friend who responds with, “Stupendous,” but Noah sticks to answering the question honestly and then explaining why. He believes that this cuts through fluff and suggests to whoever he is engaging with that, “Oh, he’s human!” This also encourages conversation and a response from with whom he is speaking.

Key Takeaways:

  • Breaking Autopilot: Actually thinking about a response rather than deferring to “Fine.”
  • Trying to be Authentic: Not responding with “Good” or “Stupendous” unless you actually are.
  • Reciprocity and Vulnerability: By sharing a vulnerability, others are much more inclined to share that back.

“Why don’t you actually say how you’re doing?” -Noah Kagan

One challenge that Noah is tackling (that he says “really sucks”) is that any time he is in an elevator, he forces himself to engage with someone else in there with him. He feels that this improves his social skills and generally makes him a better person.

Key Takeaway: Those social habits we say “really suck” are actually ways that we are practicing and flexing our social muscles.

When Noah was in Israel, he challenged himself in another way by giving strangers high-fives when he was walking or biking. When he does this, he feels connected with society and the world and reminds him that “the world isn’t that bad.” He says that it is also a fun way to get over interacting with people and becoming more comfortable engaging with others. His challenge reminds us that the physical contact of a high-five releases oxytocin which makes us feel good.

Noah says that, mainly, this is a practice that makes him feel a little uncomfortable which he believes helps him in business, because a lot of interaction in business is asking for things; So the more he asks, the easier it becomes.

“The more that you can build that muscle of an ask…the easier it is for it to actually happen.” -Noah Kagan

Key Takeaways/Challenges:

  • Next time you are in an elevator, break the ice.
  • Give people high-fives!

“How do you approach or ask people to be on your podcasts?

Noah says that a lot of times, he asks people who don’t get asked.

“A lot of people have heard the same stories from the same people over and over, so I’m trying to find the people they haven’t heard stories from or that I want to share their story.” -Noah Kagan

One way that he finds these people and expands his networking is by asking someone he knows to bring an additional friend when they meet at events or lunches. Rather than saying, “Can you bring one friend?” which feels like a big ask, he specifies. For example, he may ask, “Who is one friend that runs a software company that is successful?”

Also, although Noah feels that he has a stronger desire to take than give in business, he reminds himself to work backwards for his podcast guests and ask, “What’s in it for them?” (He calls this WIIFT.)

“What are they getting out of it? How do I help them get that? And then subsequently I will get what I want.” -Noah Kagan

Key Takeaways:

  • Ask More Specific
  • WIIFT: What’s in it for them?

Noah has been trying to get on other podcasts, so he has been emailing people and asking to be on their show and sharing how he can help that particular podcast… but what he is really asking for is to be promoted. So one night, he trashed his typical email outline asking for this, and, instead, began to ask other podcasters to share their favorite episodes with him so he could promote these episodes with no strings attached. Noah found that this approach ended up encouraging others to ask him to be on their show.

“What I’ve really taken away from that experience is… I’m just going to give, and I’m not going to ask for anything, and then it started coming back.” -Noah Kagan

By asking for others to share their favorite episodes, Noah was giving them a gift by tapping into their “creative baby” that most creators have. He would also specify and ask for a recent favorite episode to share so that it would narrow down the podcastor’s options.

Noah approached his Youtube presence similarly and promoted others’ Youtube channels with no strings attached. He found that the same thing happened, and he was being promoted just by giving to others.

“There’s definitely something there, where the more that I’ve just been practicing and giving out to other people, more comes back.” -Noah Kagan

Noah also mentioned a time where one of his competitors asked for a referral for video help. His immediate response was to delete the email. Late that night, he was reflecting on this, and he could just feel that he didn’t do the right thing. Noah ended up un-deleting the email, giving his competitor a great referral, and feeling good about it. The next day, his competitor asked to promote him to all of their audience and work together.

“This karma… is cool.” – Noah Kagan

Key Takeaway: Our intent can be perceived through our tone and word usage (and body language).

You can find more of Noah and his work at:

About Vanessa Van Edwards

About Vanessa Van Edwards

Lead Investigator, Science of People

I'm the author of the national bestselling book Captivate, creator of People School, and behavioral investigator.

I’ve always wanted to know how people work, and that’s what Science of People is about. What drives our behavior? Why do people act the way they do? And most importantly, can you predict and change behavior to be more successful? I think the answer is yes. More about Vanessa.

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