Episode 7 – Nicolas Cole

Author: Karolina Matyska

Nicolas Cole is a Top Writer on Quora with published work on Forbes, Fortune, Entrepreneur, TIME, Business Insider, CNBC and more than 400 articles on Inc Magazine. He writes about self-development, productivity, and positive habits. He is also the founder of Digital Press, a content marketing agency that builds CEO’s, Executives, and serial entrepreneurs into industry Thought Leaders. Let’s hear more from him in this episode of Productivity Masterminds.



  • Dream big enough. And think big enough. And don’t make excuses around it. Rather sacrifice things to make sure that you’re able to excel there.
  • Combine two things to have more time. So whether it’s friends and fitness or spirituality or learning, education – there are all these different elements that make us up, and by combining them you’re working on two different habits, two different things that instead of having to create new time for each specific aspect of your life
  • Learn how to play the game. Find out the principles of what makes the whole world work, as opposed to just the short-term tactic on how you win at one industry specifically. Apply this knowledge to all the things you do and you will see, even if they seem unrelated, they are all the same.
  • Opportunity costs. You might make a few thousand dollars, but you’re missing out on potentially a much larger introduction, a much larger project, a much larger something. If you start to look at every decision in your life as opportunity cost, it’s like, do I want to watch Netflix? Yeah. What’s the opportunity cost? That’s one less day that I work on my next book. You’re always measuring things back and forth.


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Show notes

Juan: Cole, you’ve done more in the last five years than most people do in a lifetime. You certainly know more about time than most people do. What is it that you understand about time and productivity that you can share with us today?

Nicolas: [01:40] So this is, this topic- it’s been a huge driver behind how I’ve been able to do a lot, you know, and I think it started with when I was in high school, I played World of Warcraft, you know, and I became one of the highest-ranked World of Warcraft players in the country. And by nature of it, if you’re a student in high school, you’re in class from 8:00 AM to 3:00 PM and then you come home and then your parents come home and everybody’s home and you have dinner at like 5:00 PM. And then your dad’s like, ‘you need to study.’ And so you’re studying till like seven or 8:00 PM. And then you got to get ready for bed and like all of a sudden your day is gone, right? And so for me as a kid, I was like, ‘I want to become the best player ever, but I don’t really have the time, because I have to go to school and I had these responsibilities,’ you know what I mean? Like at a very young age, it became so apparent to me that I had to make a decision around.

Do I just go to school and not achieve this goal or do I set parameters for myself and demand that I find the time to achieve this goal that I want to.

And in order to do that, I had to be like, by nature, you know, I didn’t have a lot of friends, I spent a lot of time by myself, I stayed up really, really late at night. I sacrificed a lot in order to achieve the thing that I wanted to. There were a lot of things that most people either don’t like doing, don’t want to do, but at the end of the day, that’s what I had to do, you know?  I just kind of have carried that through everything that I’ve done. I kind of have applied that to, you know, I got really into bodybuilding and college and then applied that to writing and applied that to business.

I think the most actionable way of thinking about protecting your time for me is that I’ve never thought about my interests and my friends as different, I’ve always seen them as one in the same.

So I’m not the type of person that goes, ‘I’m really interested in, you know, writing, but I’m going to hang out with people who have no other interests of mine and we’re just going to sit on a couch and hang out and watch TV together.’ Like, I don’t do that, I’ve never done that, that’s not who I am. Instead, the friends that I make are always in line with where it is that I want to go. So when I wanted to become the best gamer in the world, all of my friends were gamers, when I wanted to become a bodybuilder, all of my friends were in the gym, when I wanted to become an entrepreneur, all of my friends were entrepreneurs. And when you do that, you realize very quickly that your time is so valuable that you have to build friendships through what it is that you love, as opposed to segmenting those two because then you’re living two separate lives.

Juan: [04:41] Totally. So you’re touching on kind of two main tactics that are very, very practical for most of us. There’s dreaming big enough in calling yourself out on your own excuses as if you’re not carving out enough time to do things, you’re probably not driven enough or it’s not a vision that’s compelling enough to actually get you to sacrifice the things that you have to sacrifice to make the time to actually excel in that habit or that specific vertical, that discipline, you know, so that’s one element of it. It’s like thinking big enough, making it compelling enough and not making excuses around it, but rather sacrificing things to make sure that you’re able to excel there, so that’s one aspect of it. And then the other aspect is combining different interests. So whether it’s friends and fitness or spirituality or learning, education, you know, there’s like all these different elements that make us up, and by combining them, now you’re actually compounding, you’re working on two different habits, two different things that make you, you at the same time, instead of having to create now new time for each specific aspect of your life. You’re not able to have overlapping, compounded time that’s working towards both disciplines at the same time. And in your case, it’s friends and your interest, your friends and your professional career. Right?

Nicolas: [05:55] Yeah. And the reason why that works so well is two reasons. One is that when you spend that much time with people, and you’re co-constructing something together, like I remember being in the gym and lifting with the same people over and over again, and it becomes something that you do together, you build together, and it forges a better relationship because you’re creating something together. That will always lead to a more meaningful relationship. And a lot of people really fear walking away from certain friendships or whatnot because they’re like, ‘what will people think of me or like what if I let them down or whatever,’ and what I’ve learned, because I’ve always stayed so true to that aim, and doing things that I wanted to do is that the best friends will always understand, even if I have a really close friend, we lifted together every single day for two years straight, and then when my interests changed and I went a different direction and we no longer were seeing each other every day and we no longer were lifting like that and we didn’t have that same relationship, our friendship didn’t go away. Like we might not talk for six months now, but when we do, it’s like, you’re my brother. We went through this together, we built this together, that’s a real friendship, that’s a real relationship. Whereas all the other people that fell off, the truth is you weren’t even really ever a real friend. Like you were a friend and your relationship was there for the time that it needed to be, but it didn’t need to be held on any longer than that.

Juan: [07:30] That’s an amazing lesson. It’s straight out of Dr. Seuss’ book ‘those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.’ It’s that whole principle of like, well, the people that actually matter, they won’t mind, and if they do mind, then they didn’t matter anyways.

Nicolas: [07:44] Yup. And then the second reason why I advocate so much for building friendships and relationships in the direction that you want to go.

The more that you hang around people that share your same interests, the faster you grow, the more skillsets you pick up, the more people in that ecosystem you meet.

It builds momentum. So many people don’t understand that every single industry, every single thing in life, it’s just a game and it always follows the same rules, the same community, the same language. Every single industry has those same basic elements. And so the more time that you spend in that, the more relationships you build, the faster you learn the language, the more you understand the measures for success, the more skill sets you pick up. So, if you construct your whole life around that game, you will move faster. It’s impossible not to move faster.

Juan: [08:45] And it’s been great for you too because you’ve practiced these disciplines on a bunch of different interests. So, now you’re prepared to jump into any new industry and then already be looking for these things. They’re much more intentional about looking for them as like a gamer that justs understand gaming, if they put them in front of a new game, he gets how it works- there’s a scoring system, there’s players, there’s ways for you to be able to move ahead and unlock new features. Most of us, if we’re like in one career for a long time, we think that our career is very unique and that these elements only apply to us. But you’re a perfect example and the testimony of the fact that there are these patterns and the more intentional that you can be about cracking them, the faster that you’ll be able to evolve in them, and that by itself is a huge productivity hack.

If you are just more obsessed with the principles of what makes the whole world work, as opposed to just the short-term tactic on how you win at one industry specifically.

Nicolas: [09:37] You know, that’s why I know once you know the principles, there isn’t a ceiling, you can seriously pick. I mean there is no real relationship between like gaming and bodybuilding and creative fitness, creative writing and then entrepreneurship. Like on the surface, those are entirely unrelated. But in my mind, they are 100 percent correlated because the principles are all the same. And once you’ve done it enough times, you start to realize, ‘oh I can literally pick anything I want in life,’ and as long as I learn the community, the language, the game, and like my measures for success, it is not a matter of ‘if,’ it’s just a matter of when.

Juan: [10:18] Always, always principles over tactics. I love that, Cole. One more question: you’re balancing a lot of different projects, a lot of different things. How do you think about prioritizing tasks and turning down opportunities?

Nicolas: [10:31] Always opportunity cost. So I really, I really liked this idea of if I’m doing this, what aren’t I doing? And constantly asking, this was something that I’ve been meaning to write for a couple of days now, but this idea of even like free work, you know, a lot of people make their decisions based on, you know, this is going to pay me versus this won’t. And I don’t think that that’s a blanket true statement.

I think you need to ask what sort of impact that thing is going to give you.

And there are a lot of decisions where I will forego making money in order to do free work for someone that I know will lead to a bigger and better opportunity. And there’s something to be said for- it’s like, what’s your opportunity cost there? You might make, you know, a couple hundred dollars or a few thousand dollars or something, but you’re missing out on potentially a much larger introduction, a much larger project, a much larger something, you know. If you start to look at every decision in your life as opportunity cost, it’s like, you know. do I want to watch Netflix? Yeah. What’s the opportunity cost? That’s one less day that I work on my next book. You know, you’re always measuring things back and forth.

Juan: [11:46] There you have it. Nothing but knowledge nuggets from Nicolas. Thank you so much for coming on the show as you to grow, Cole, and people want to stay in touch with your career and what you’re up to. What’s the best place for people to see that?

Nicolas: [11:59] I think between Quora, Medium, Instagram, I’m always writing something new, otherwise I post updates to Nicolascole.com and I encourage people with questions, uh, if they want to know anything one want specific help, you know, shoot me an email. I try and respond to everybody.

Juan: [12:19] Perfect. There you have it. Thank you so much for coming on the show.

Nicolas: Cool. Thanks very much, man.