#206 - The Antithesis to Hustle Culture: Chill Work, with Rand Fishkin & Amanda Natividad

January 11, 2022

#206 - The Antithesis to Hustle Culture: Chill Work, with Rand Fishkin & Amanda Natividad
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We often believe that people who are more successful than us have worked harder than us, and so hustle culture has become so ingrained in today’s workforce. But it doesn’t have to be this way! In this episode, we discuss the concept of chill work.


We often believe that people who are more successful than us have worked harder than us, and so hustle culture has become so ingrained in today’s workforce. But it doesn’t have to be this way! 

You would expect the three people involved in a fast-growing tech startup that’s doing north of a million dollars in revenue would be burning the midnight oil, but that is not the case. 

Today we are joined by SparkToro’s Marketing Architect, Amanda Natividad, and Co-Founder and CEO, Rand Fishkin, to talk about exchanging hustle culture for chill work. SparkToro is an audience research software program that helps brands discover what their audience reads, watches, listens to, and follows. 

Before co-founding SparkToro, Rand also co-founded the SEO software company Moz and wrote the book Lost and Founder about that experience. When he co-founded SparkToro, he did it with a very different approach. 

In this episode, we discuss the concept of chill work, how it differs from hustle culture, what goals and objectives look like when you embrace this mindset, and how to embrace it from the inside of an organization that does not. You’ll also hear more about what SparkToro does and how it may benefit you.

Sponsored by Georgetown University: MS, Environment and Sustainability Management.

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🗣 TOPICS DISCUSSED:

  • An introduction to Amanda Natividad and how she transitioned from a journalist to a chef to a marketer
  • An introduction to Rand Fishkin, his book, and his motivation for starting SparkToro
  • Insight into what SparkToro is, what it does, and how much it has grown
  • How Rand’s work with SparkToro feels different from his work at Moz
  • What drew Amanda to SparkToro
  • How Amanda and Rand first started working together and what led Rand to hire her
  • What inspired Rand to write the blog post: “Hustle Culture vs. Chill Work”
  • With all that a startup can do, how they know where to draw the line
  • How Amanda approaches marketing from a qualitative standpoint
  • What ‘chill work’ is to Rand
  • What goals and objectives look like when you embrace the concept of chill work
  • Why venture capital is not conducive to creating a company that embraces chill work
  • How to embrace the mindset of chill work from the inside of an organization that does not
  • Why Amanda insists that everything she works on serves at least two purposes
  • The case study of how a regenerative agriculture wine company could create a bigger impact through a content campaign by using SparkToro
  • Books that Amanda and Rand recommend: Lost and Founder and Obviously Awesome
  • A daily habit that Amanda cannot do without: working out
  • Why Rand doesn’t believe in making his bed
  • Parting advice from Rand and Amanda


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Transcript

Cory Ames  0:00  
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No matter how much you're making, you're always feel like other people are doing better than you and you're in this race. Like I get how that environment creates a sense of I want to post hoc and justify why rich people are rich. And that justification is well they must have worked harder than me. Not they were luckier. Not the system sort of is unfair and unbalanced. That's no fun. So our brains go to a different place

Hey, y'all, it's score here with the social entrepreneurship and innovation podcast. As always, so grateful to have you here listening in. Today we are talking about exchanging hustle culture for chill work. And to do so I'm joined by a couple folks from Spark Toro, which is an audience research software startup, on a mission to help people do better marketing by making the publications people and sources that influence any audience more transparent. With me today is spark khoros marketing architects, Amanda, not to be done. And Rand Fishkin, co founder and CEO. Amanda is also a contributor for Adweek la corde own Blue Train chef and a former journalist. She previously led marketing for an SEO content marketing agency called growth machine and marketing for Liftopia and built Fitbits business to business content program. She also led content and communications for NatureBox and Rand has dedicated his professional life to helping people do better marketing through his writing videos. Speaking in his book, Lawson founder before spark Toro ran co founded a software company called Moz. Any folks in the SEO space will recognize the name much of his experience, they're growing the company to 130 plus employees 30 million plus in revenue, and traffic of over 30 million visitors a year. Rand documents the experience Lessons Learned pros and cons of that whole chapter his life in his book Lost and founder which I highly recommend. But since then, Spark Toro is the latest endeavor for rands in one in which she he's taking a different approach to and that's much of what we're going to discuss today. We'll be talking about Spark Toro, their chill work culture as an antithesis to hustle culture. And as well how social entrepreneurs can use an audience research tool like Spark Toro to get the word out about their brands and better for the World Mission. Before we dive in, y'all I want to recommend you sign up for the Grow ensemble Better World weekly newsletter is a weekly newsletter that I write, curate and publish myself. Every single Monday, we have just over 3200 changemakers and innovators from all sectors all over the globe getting this email in their inbox every single Monday go to grow ensemble.com backslash newsletter, to sign up and join in our discussion of all that it takes to leave the world a better place than we found it in that scroll ensembl.com backslash newsletter. Alright, y'all without further ado, here's Rand in Amanda

Amanda Natividad  4:10  
Thank you for having us. I am a journalist turned chef turned marketer. So this is sort of a third career for me. My started out in tech news, working for some of the original tech news sites paid content.org and Giga ohm.com. And then along the way, you know, discovered a passion for food, decided to go to culinary school and decided to become a food writer didn't do any research on the food writing industry and realized oh, they're like eight jobs, and they're all taken. And that's that so I'm going to do something else. Another you know, I kind of parlayed that into a food media career got into content marketing at a direct to consumer snack company called NatureBox. And then just kind of, you know, grew my marketing experience there have worked, you know, worked in DTC, b2b b2c See, worked on the agency side for a bit. And now I'm here at Spark Toro working with Rand Fishkin and Casey Henry, and having so much fun all the time. I truly, it's been an amazing past couple of months here. And we're having fun on this podcast too.

Cory Ames  5:18  
Lovely. Well, thank you so much for being here. And before I turn it over to you ran, Amanda, I saw a bit about one of the benefits of signing up for your newsletter, we're, I think, recipe tips or food tips with no fluff. Can you tell me? Can you define that a little bit more clearly? For me? What's the fluff that we're trying to avoid in the cooking tip space?

Amanda Natividad  5:38  
Yeah. So I mean, it's really just just the recipe, right? Like, I think, I do think that there are times when the very long backstory or the very long context behind a recipe on a food blog can be really helpful. Like when you may be when you are new to a certain kind of cuisine, it might help to know more about the ingredients. But sometimes people are just looking for a recipe, they just want to make the thing and have it be done with. So in my newsletter, I do just that I try to make it. Usually it's a recipe every once in a while it's a cooking tip, but it's always original in some way. It might be derived from a couple of different recipes that I turned to as original sources, but have reiterated on. And I just tried to make it accessible by not giving the backstory.

Cory Ames  6:27  
Awesome. Well, yeah, and I mean, that's a nightmare, we can all resonate with that, that experience of googling for particular recipes and getting the adblockers. And this this 1500 words of the origin story of how this recipe came to be. But with all that ran, thank you so much for your patience, we'd love to hear a little bit more about you in the work that you do.

Rand Fishkin  6:48  
Oh, man, I'm so boring. So I dropped out of college and started a company called Moz, which was in the SEO software space, and ran that company for many years, stepped down as CEO in 2014. And was there a few more years left in 2018. And started spark Toro the next day, I published a book about Well, I didn't publish it. But you know, Penguin Random House published a book about that experience called Lost and founder that I wrote, which a lot of folks in the entrepreneurial and tech space have read. And yeah, that's been exciting and fun to hopefully convert a few more people away from I need to grow at all costs and do the venture capital thing. And yeah, maybe there's another way. And that's what we're trying to do with Spark Toro, which is change the game, right? Change the game in a bunch of ways, including this concept of chill work, which Cory I know, you saw, and we'll probably chat about today, we're trying to change the game in terms of funding structure, change the game in terms of how we're building a product, especially in software as a service with a subscription business where we're much less single term, subscription, you know, churn rate focused, and much more, how much value can we provide to people that will hopefully make them want to come back whenever they have this problem, or never again, if they never have this problem that they need to solve again? And yeah, Spark Toro has been just the two of us, myself and my co founder, Casey, until July when Amanda joined us. And now we cannot live without her. And so, yeah, so Casey and I are like, oh, man, all right, we gotta, how do we make sure that she stays Okay, we got to just like build the best company in the world. And so that's been our journey. Spark Toro is for folks who might not be familiar. It's like an audience research tool. So helps helps you figure out what your audience is listening to watching, reading, paying attention to. And when I say your audience, could be any online audience that you can describe. And we have about 1000 customers right now. So it's grown nicely. The products only been live 17 months.

Cory Ames  8:54  
Excellent. Yeah, no, I'll say grow ensembles is one of those 1000 customers. So we use the tool in our content campaigns with our partners here and we'll definitely get more into some of the details of that later on. But

Rand Fishkin  9:09  
no one can see me slipping you this $20 bill. 

Cory Ames  9:13  
Yeah, that's right. That's right. Well, I'd love to start ran with it seems like the journey of Spark Toros is now nearing maybe four ish years, I'd love to know first off just how does it feel different then? You know, generally right now your experience at this point in time, How's it feeling different? In contrast to to work with Moz?

Rand Fishkin  9:34  
What's weird, Cory, is there's this great deal more happiness and sort of underlying satisfaction with building a company in this unique way and building a company sort of the way we want rather than the way that tech world kind of dictates through its asset class structures and capital structures and those kinds of things. But Casey and I were talking About this, the, the highs aren't as high and the lows aren't as low. So gosh, you know what it's like, it's, I don't know, if either or both of you, this is an odd time to bring it up. But like your romantic relationships in like high school and your early 20s had this very different feel right? Somebody broke up with you broke your heart, someone turned you down for a day, someone didn't turn out to be who you hoped they'd be. And it felt like the world was falling apart, right? The emotional core of yourself was just falling through your body and you know, nothing would ever be good again and the world was ending. And then, you know, as you get older and more mature, right, and you if you find a spouse or partner for long term, right? You know, even if you have a bad fight, or things are like not going great, or the lows are not as low, right, those bad feelings about what's going on in the relationship, you kind of know that it's going to be repaired and it's going to be fine. You'll talk it through figured out tomorrow, everything's gonna be fine. And the same time, right? Those highs are not nearly you don't get the adrenaline meets dopamine meets, you know, in boys cases, lots of testosterone meets, you know, every other hormone that a teenager thinks, you know, late stage teenager has got going on, right, all those things. That's not nearly as powerful, right? When you I don't know, walk down the pier holding hands after, you know, on date number 1000 versus date number two, right? And that's fine, right? It's still a great feeling. It's a different kinds of great feeling. That's how I describe spark Toro versus Moz. You know, when we made whatever $99 at Moz. It was like, Oh, my God, everything's amazing. We're the best and then that customer cancelled. It's never gonna work. It was World descending at Spark Toro. It's kind of like, Oh, we're having a bad few days. Hey, we're having a good few days. That's great.

Cory Ames  11:51  
Yeah, at some point, you got to get off the roller coaster, you know. And Amanda, I'm curious to hear from your perspective. And I liked how this was documented on the spark Toro blog a bit. But Amanda, I'd love to hear what appealed to you about working with Spark Toro. And you can be as honest as you want. What appealed to you about working with Rand, maybe I'm not listening. But I'd love to hear what that process was like for you in coming across spark Toro and finding it to be a fit. 

Amanda Natividad  12:22  
I mean, so kind of similar to Rand, I had a lot of high highs and low lows throughout my career. But you know, as an employee, not as a founder, you know, I got to first got to kind of be on the outside looking in as a tech journalist, so got to kind of learn about how companies got funded, what companies did with the funding, what it means IPO like that stuff, that all just sounded really exciting. And I just never thought I would be part of that world. Not through any sense of like wishing and hoping would happen, but it didn't, but just more of that wasn't the path that I thought it would be on. And then when I kind of fell into marketing, because remember, the food writing things didn't work out, because I didn't do any research. I got to experience that sort of hyper growth, startup kind of life, from different kinds of areas. Right. So NatureBox was, I think it was a series was Series B, when I joined, I was like employee numbers, 17 or 18. And we were trying to go really fast. We were all doing different kinds of marketing things, marketing, spaghetti, we were throwing at the wall. I was doing content, marketing, PR, Product Marketing, copywriting, email, marketing, a bunch of things that I was not good at. He's not yet and just trying to make things work. Then from there, I got to work at Fitbit, which was pre IPO when I joined. I was probably like, I think the year that I joined, I was like employee number like 300 or 400. But by the following year, we already had like 1500 employees. So massive growth, and I was super lucky to join when I did got to be part of the team and we iPod, got to wake up early, go to work at six in the morning. We all drank champagne together. It was truly so much fun. And like that was definitely a high high where I never thought I would get to experience that kind of moment and super grateful for it. I'm still super grateful for it. But you know, I mean, was there for several years of ups and downs at Fitbit. If you were to Google Fitbit 2014 2015 2016 You'll probably see a lot of different kinds of news highlights. IPO It was awesome. Things were going great. Like to lead the press release announcing HIPAA compliance. It was I mean, awesome. But then a couple months later, the stock took a shit. I mean, we stock price was tanking. I think at one point when I was there, it was like $50 per share. By the time I left it was like $7 A share It hurt, right. And that was as the mid level employee who like, kind of had no idea what was happening and was just hoping things would turn up at some point. That was weird, right. But then also, you know, not being a founder or executive, I wasn't really the one taking on the risk. It was just, oh, this is awkward and kind of crappy. This is hard. Anyway, like, so after that, got to get a sense of like consultant life, worked with a couple of early stage startups, and then got to experience agency life. And agency life coincided with the pandemic, with trying to figure out how to work full time, while also taking care of my toddler, my husband is also working full time. So we were just kind of muddling through each day doing like, you know, with childcare included, it ended up being like 1516 hour days of just making it happen all the time. So that was a different kind of low, a little bit of a meandering story here. But the point is, I sort of, by the time that Randy and I happened to meet, I was just at this point where I was like, I want to take better control of my career in a way that I hadn't been in charge of before. You know, I didn't want to do the traditional job hunting thing. I also, you know, didn't want to start my own company or do the consultant thing again. And so when we started, we grabbed lunch, it was me, Rand and his wife, Geraldine. And it was awesome. It was kind of like, meeting old friends for the first time, but we were technically strangers. But it was great. We got to just be very candid with each other. And I wasn't actively looking for a job. So I also wasn't like, Well, I hope he likes me and hope he hires me. It was like, Well, I hope we could work together at some point, right? So I felt like I got to kind of come at it from a better position of power to be like, Hey, here's what I'm looking for, like, also, like a cure the things that excite me, here's what's really hard about working today. Here's what I don't want to do. Also, I'm kind of old and I don't want to deal with I can't do the the 60 hour work thing. I'm not doing that ever again. And you know, and Rand was very much like, Yeah, that sucks. I don't want to do that either. Like, yeah, you shouldn't work that hard. Nobody should. And so it became Alright, Spark Toro is still early stage. It's just random. Casey, this is a fun opportunity to do something kind of different. That kind of straddles the role of marketing and product, customer experience. And then just be able to support two founders who were making a really cool product. So yeah, I mean, well, it sort of became a natural fit or a natural next step for what I was looking for professionally. And from a mental health kind of standpoint.

Cory Ames  17:57  
There's so much in that I'm imagining, it overlaps quite nicely to Rand's philosophy and where he's coming from with starting spark Toro, and I love exactly what you said there of wanting to take more control over your career and what kind of work experience you're going to have and how that would then balance into Blackfish. Your living and random I like the public announcement on Spark Toro the blog posts that you have for Amanda's joining forces with y'all. How much of that experience? Did you share in what Amanda was describing there? From your perspective? How are you feeling and connecting with someone like Amanda?

Rand Fishkin  18:38  
Yeah, so I believe our first interactions were on Twitter, if I remember correctly, and then Amanda created a sarcastic website to make fun of a version of my name, which was amazing. And that website had a bunch of restaurant recommendations in Southern California. So you know, that's obviously the way to mind Geraldine tart. And then yeah, when I think when we met up, I had this hope, right? I told Geraldine in the car right over I was like, Okay, I wonder if like I I really like Amanda, I wonder if there's like a way for us to work together because she's, I don't sort of get a part of the marketing world that I don't get that, right. There's like a marketing universe, especially. I think one of the first ones that we found together was the you've probably seen these Corey like the fortune cookie tweets. Yeah. Right. And then some of the like, whatever, tick tock videos and like Instagram sort of meme stuff around marketing, and I kept having this like, how does that help anyone do marketing any better? Why did they amplify that? Why is that getting any traction and Amanda and I had a bunch of DMS about it. And she was like, Okay, here's what I think's going on. And here's what explains it. I was like, Oh, okay. I see the incentives here and the structure, right? So when we got together, I mean, it was like, Yeah, well, I'm doing this this thing. You know, at the start of the meal I, you know, I played it cool. I didn't try and be visibly upset about it. But when she told me she was already, you know, employed and doing something else, I was like, well, and then the end of the meal comes right, like the chat comes. And Amanda goes, Okay, sit down, I have to talk to you about something. I don't remember exactly what her opening line was. But she was like, I want to pitch you on why you should be a spark Toros first employee. And, you know, you probably could have like, picked up my jaw off the floor. But it was, it was, and then.

Yeah, but it was very exciting. And I think it is not the kind of thing where we had a job opening. Right, Casey and I probably, if we hadn't found someone, right, who pitched us who was kind of as perfect matches, man is, I doubt we would have even hired someone, you know, by the end of this year. But sometimes, sometimes magic happens. I think this is one of the things when people say, Oh, social media doesn't build real relationships, or, Hey, you know, you can't use social to whatever, like move your business forward, right? Boy, the number of counter examples I have just keeps racking up. So

Cory Ames  21:26  
absolutely. I just need to kind of dissect this moment, just because I think it is as well representative of much of the culture that y'all are constructing there, and perhaps as an antithesis to something else. As well, it's nice to see what that process might look like of you know, one hiring someone joining the company, how that could look a little bit different than what we might think, in the context of maybe a more traditional tech or startup or kind of hustle culture that we all know quite well. And just to kind of bridge to that. Now. Much of the reason I felt inspired to send an email out to was the posts that y'all wrote Rand on on hustle culture versus chill work. And I always get curious when someone writes something particularly like that, folks who publish a lot of content online, what inspired you to write that post at that moment? Like, why did you feel like it was time for you to put that down? Into the blog?

Rand Fishkin  22:24  
Yeah, so I actually wrote that post in a hotel room in Victoria BC, first trip out of the country. And like 18 months, Geraldine and I went up there to visit some friends Canada just started letting in Americans like the week before. And we were going up there for our anniversary, like anniversary trip. So you know, long drive long ferry ride out to Vancouver Island, but lovely. And we were, I think just in this kind of beautiful state where, yeah, it was literally getting up and touring around Victoria with my wife and maybe doing like, an hour or two of work a day. And this is spark Toro is a three person company that's, you know, doing north of a million dollars in revenue and has 1000 customers and is growing quickly. You know, you would expect a founder would be like, I am burning the midnight candle, and it's 50 hour weeks. No, it is not. It is not. And it's not by design, right. Like we engineered the business to be one that required very little human intensive capital time. That I think is a really beautiful thing. And just realizing the freedom that we had to do that. And the sort of appreciation and gratitude for I'm kinda on vacation and spark Toro is just doing great, and Amanda and Casey are rocking it. And neither of them are like, burning their midnight oil like that. That's something I want to share.

Cory Ames  23:53  
Well, especially in that just setting the context of a three person company with all that you imagine a company can do. There's always so much you know, in the context of growth, whatever it might be, there's obviously a pressure or an angst that you kind of have to battle against be like, No, it's okay, that we're not doing that right now. And we're doing the appropriate amount that we should be doing. And that seems like such a difficult line to play. But I'm wondering, 

Rand Fishkin  24:24  
I think I think, yeah, I think the mental model, sorry to (no, please) to jump in. I agree with you that many people, founders and employees and team members feel that pressure, like hey, I should be doing more because there's all these more things to do. And my last few years has been about flipping the mental model from how do I do all the things I could possibly do to how do I do the few most impactful things that I want to do the best I can possibly do them. And when you change the game that way, you realize very quickly that the best way to make the best Decisions Right to do your best work is to be well rested and relaxed and do a good balance of work and fun and off time and, you know, puzzle completion and clapping, that those are all critical points. I blogged five nights a week at Moz. For many years, I've burned the candle at both ends, most of those blog posts sucked and were no good, and did nothing for the business. And were wastes of my time. And I justified them by saying, Oh, well, I have to work hard to be successful. I should have blogged one night a week, and done a better job and written about better things, and been more well rested, and my decision making and quality of output would have been much higher, and my results would have been much better. It's just I think it's just a logic puzzle, right? That you, you have to approach the mental model differently. And that I think that's really hard when the culture of tak ingrains this idea of hustle and of hard work and you know, I wrote about in the post, right, like I completely empathize, like I get why, in sort of a late stage capitalist environment where, you know, your, your healthcare is always at risk, and like you're constantly worried about money. And no matter how much you're making, you're always feel like other people are doing better than you and you're in this race, like I get how that environment creates a sense of, I want to post hoc, justify why rich people are rich. And that justification is, well, they must have worked harder than me. Not they were luckier. Not the system sort of is unfair and unbalanced. That's no fun. So our brains go to a different place. Anyway, try and get away from that.

Cory Ames  26:46  
Yeah, I think that's an incredibly important point to make that there are many environmental and systemic things that are providing nudges for us to remain in that hamster wheel of exhaustion and demand of needing to do more and hustle a bit more. And then as well, there is some glorification of it to it's something that can be seen as a badge of honor. But at the end of the day, just it feels as exhausting as it sounds. But Amanda, I'd love to hear from your perspective to what what, as Ryan brought up a couple examples, what are maybe some other things that just to kind of paint a picture people resonating with the description of hustle culture? What are some things that perhaps you felt you did earlier in your career that you maybe feel the greatest relief to not be doing now, in the sense of how you approach work? And how you think about it? At spark Toro?

Amanda Natividad  27:40  
I mean, I think there is a part of me that has always kind of done chill work. But like, and I guess by that, I mean, with my oldest speak to the marketing portion of my career, especially because that's what I remember most. I've always been on this side of marketing that was less direct response driven, less customer acquisition driven. I mean, yes, I've always cared about acquiring customers, but I wasn't on the teams that were responsible for, like the ad spend and realizing the positive return on it, or that didn't come until much later in my marketing career. So I've always approached marketing from that qualitative standpoint of like, what can I do that will? Or what can I write or create that will resonate with the best audience and best audience is not necessarily the biggest audience, right? It's the people who are most likely to become customers, which may or may not be a huge amount of people. So I've always kind of focused on that side. And I've always kind of worked on the things that I thought would have the biggest impact on the business. And I think this kind of just became and the funny thing is, I think this came also from the results driven piece that I didn't actually work on. Here's a weird example. Or I'll try to tie this together. At NatureBox. You know, we were a direct to consumer company that was trying to grow quickly. But I didn't work on the customer acquisition side, I was on the kind of more just say, the brand marketing side. But I worked with leadership who cared very much about the growth stuff. So I had to come at it like, okay, how am I going to do brand marketing that can grow our customer base? And that's kind of a, that's a hard place to be in, because you don't really track ROI of your PR efforts. And like I did, and it wasn't great. But it worked. Right. So by that, I mean, when I worked on PR pitches, it wasn't cool. Let me try to follow up with the New York Times every week, because that's not how you get in the New York Times. They don't choose stories like that, and that's not how they write about you. Instead, I came that I learned to come at it from okay, what are the publications that I could try to get us earned media in that could potentially grow our customer base. So then it became, then it wasn't like the major publications. It wasn't really the trade publications, it was like the niche websites that cater to specific needs. So the websites that were like life hacker, so where that audience base is looking for, how can I do these things in my life and the more optimal way, and then it became, okay, I'm going to pitch to you getting healthy snacks delivered to your door. That's a life hack. And so once I came at it at that point of view, and secure the media spots, then I was able to do things like great, let's, let's try to do a vanity URL so that we can track through that, or let's do a discount code. So we can track the discount code, and the discount code thing. And that was what helped us realize that ROI, then we saw, like, after a couple months, we had like over 1000 brand new customers, just from these sort of channels. So yeah, so that was kind of my weird way of saying that was how I went about chill work, which was realized early on, I had to figure out how to get the most impact out of the work that I was doing day to day. 

Cory Ames  31:14  
Hmm, that feels so intentional and deliberate. And it almost seems like you really need to be in a state, almost a meditative state to think through things with such process and such discipline. Because there is the it's like, Oh, this isn't getting results. How can we measure results? Oh, you know, let's forget about let's do the next thing. It does kind of like you feel the engines running. And so that kudos to you to remain so. So patient. And this,

Amanda Natividad  31:40  
And it's funny. It didn't come from a chill place that came from like hours of ruminating and worrying about, oh, I can do this thing, right? Or like, How can I really make make an impact here. So it didn't originate from a chill place. It just sort of transformed into that over time, as I got more experience, you know, got more losses, got more wins, and just sort of learned, you know, how to do things a little bit better along the way.

Cory Ames  32:07  
Excellent. And well, just to make sure that that we're all on the same page here, of course want to direct folks to that post on show work ran. But if we could open up with something of a definition or a picture so that people can understand a little bit more of, you know, what, what are some of the tactical applications of this culture and this philosophy into Spark Toro, what do you see this as particular? Like, what is chill work? In your words?

Rand Fishkin  32:32  
Yeah, so in comparison to hustle culture, which I define as working hard with the goal of working hard, right, it is putting in long hours because the goal of your work is to put in long hours, whereas chill work is doing the absolute bare minimum possible to achieve the results that you want to achieve. And when I say bare minimum possible, I don't mean in terms of quality, I mean, in terms of time to output, right. So what I want is deep work done well, to the best of my ability, when I'm in the best state of mind to do it. At a time when I can produce that work most competently in the shortest quantity of time. Instead of I need to write this blog post for tomorrow, it's, I need to write this blog post. Eventually, I need to write this blog post when I'm in the best headspace to do it. Because when I am, it's gonna take me 45 minutes, and it's gonna be a frickin great post. Versus I have to get it out tomorrow, it's probably gonna fall flat. I am sure that everyone who's listening has had exactly that experience of I have to get this thing out, I have a deadline. deadlines can be useful in some cases. For some things, I'm not going to argue that but the conception of chill work is making as much of your work as possible that highest quality at the best time for you your life, your mental and emotional state, your quality of work, and engineering your business and your work life to allow for an encourage that.

Cory Ames  34:12  
So under that umbrella, that lens, what do things like, I guess just goals and objectives look like? Like does that as specific and narrow and as aggressive are where do you find the balance between what's reasonable not or, you know, how do you all approach strategic objective setting at all?

Rand Fishkin  34:32  
I think this is absolutely much much easier when it comes from the top down. Right? So I think chill work has to start from the leadership team or it's going to be very difficult to embrace. I do think many folks are their own boss these days, right? You're whatever, you're a consultant, you're a solo contractor, like you're independent. And so you get to be the boss of your time and you can die Chill work standards. But if you work in an organization that believes in the hustle and not the chill, it's not going to work out, right? So from that perspective, right, the top level is first engineering a business that can be very effective at many different growth and revenue numbers, as opposed to, for example, but there are many ways to get into this problem space. But raising venture capital is one way to ensure that chill work will rarely ever be possible for you. Because the asset class, right, that's sort of billionaires and LPs, and funds that put money into the venture asset class are trying to beat market rate of returns. And they're trying to do that by having, you know, a few companies turn into the next Facebook, Google, Uber, Airbnb. And then most of those companies like 95% of them die trying, right. So essentially, you know, you're supposed to get on this growth treadmill, where you raise more money, you're spending faster than you are making money. And so you're in the hole, and you have to raise the next round. And the only way to do that effectively is to show the classic hockey stick style growth. Right? Not incremental. But ex, what I call expositional growth, exponential growth, expositional growth, that's what we do. It's very expository. But so that rat race, if you're in it, it's going to be pretty darn tough. Even if you're in it, though, I make I contend in the blog post, and would say to folks, you can still adopt the mindset of chill work, which is essentially, how do I prioritize my days and weeks and months and my work load in such a way that I give myself space to do my highest quality of work at the best time, rather than glorifying long hours? And I do believe that's possible, I think you can have those conversations with your boss and your team and your manager and say, Hey, you're expecting this, I think I can deliver that better. I think AI can deliver the results that you're looking for better if we create an environment that is more commensurate with how I work well, and how human beings work well,

Cory Ames  37:16  
that's a really important, it seems like what Amanda did specifically, of course, she wished she had the right audience when y'all were talking about working together. But exactly what Amanda said of there is a way in which he one she wanted to take more control of her career in her work experience that is possible, there is some possibility that you might be swimming upstream depending on what kind of culture you're involved with. But I think that that's an important thing for folks to remember, as you mentioned, their ran that there is a way in which you can still step back and the balance of Yeah, I'm a very competent person, I'm skilled and Amanda's context and extremely savvy marketer, it's like, alright, given that that's the fact, you know, and I also love to do my work when I do it and do it. Well, at that point in time, you know, how can I balance that with what are other very important priorities and values? Because it's very difficult, you know, for people to find the right fit, folks, you know, so I think that that's, in so much of, again, the environmental context, folks who are employees can feel that, you know, there are on unsure ground, whereas there is not the power dynamic that you really understand, although it can feel that way on a day to day basis. For sure,

Amanda Natividad  38:30  
yeah. And I'll add to this to a way that, you know, I'm thinking about chill work now is everything that I work on, I want to have at least two purposes, like, like everything I work on should serve at least two needs. And by that, I mean, like, a couple weeks ago, you know, I did a cold outreach presentation for our office hours. But then from that I, you know, I thought, well, I already have the content built out and like the thoughts in my head, it should just become a blog post, like, it should just do that, too. And then even like when we, when we respond to customer support queries, like we had one that came in the other day, that was about like, basically just like how do I use Spark Toro to make better marketing decisions? It took me a little while, but like, I sat down and like, did a couple of queries, wrote out a couple of examples, with the goal of answering the question, of course, but also with the second goal of well, now I'm going to save this answer, and I'll put it into my Google doc of customer support macros, and save it for later. And next time someone asks similar question, which I'm sure someone will, it's not an uncommon question. I can just use the same like template as my starting point. So that's kind of how I think about that.

Cory Ames  39:48  
There's a brilliant example there too. And that then feeds other content that you create is what a great you know, insert into a blog post or fuel for what's what's to be a future office hours of yours. So there's just so many different ways to when you take the moment to pause. But you need that moment to pause and think about, you know, how can I get the greatest mileage out of this one very important thing that you're doing the premise there of responding to a customer's inquiry? How can you get the greatest mileage out of that?

Amanda Natividad  40:17  
Yeah. And then sometimes it's not even just like, the marketing goal, right? Like, sometimes it's, there's a people goal. Like, sometimes there's how do I phrase this? It's like, sometimes all, you know, when I answer that question, part, or the other reason or the other purpose of my response, that query is then random case, you don't have to do it. Like what can I do sometimes to approach these customer support questions like alright, like, well, what can I answer? Or what does it require? Specifically Rand and Casey's attention, or Rand's, or Casey's attention? Like, what can I add to this, that someone else doesn't have to do?

Cory Ames  40:57  
And that's a very admirable pursuit that will put some good karma out in the world for sure. Well, y'all, I want to be super respectful of your time. So it's self interested transition here in the conversation to talk a little bit more about Spark Toro specifically, here at girl ensemble, we run content campaigns, with businesses in this space and cover a lot of diverse, interesting topics. So something that we've just started to use Spark Toro specifically for our campaigns, I'd love to get the experts themselves to help provide maybe some tips and strategies as to, for example, a client we worked with a while back the world's first regenerative, organic certified vineyard out in California. And so what they're doing, essentially setting the new standard for how grapes are grown, right, because this sort of methodology of agriculture is something that can be one of the many solutions to climate change, sequestering carbon out of the atmosphere and bringing it down to the soil. So brilliant folks doing really incredible stuff. They're in California, Amanda. But I would love to know if that vineyard, for example, wants to get the word out about both their vineyard for one and what they're doing to kind of set a new standard in the wine industry, but to this important concepts of regenerative agriculture and its benefits. And its important or critical value as being a potential solution to climate change. Where might we begin with a tool like Spark Toro, to make a bigger splash with the content campaign that we put together with them?

Amanda Natividad  42:30  
So sorry, I'm excited about this, because I learned about regenerative agriculture pretty recently, I think it's a super interesting space. So I would probably start with the query of my audience frequently talks about regenerative agriculture. And then I would start looking at because this is a pretty niche topic, and it's an emerging industry, I would pay very close attention to the top hashtags use, and the frequently used phrases that come up in Spark Toro, so of the people that talk about regenerative agriculture, they also talk about supply chain, climate crisis, healthy soil, greenhouse gas, soil carbon, and these are things these are topics, right, that are all related to the notion of, of the problems that regenerative agriculture seeks to solve. So that's where I might even start with content, right? I might think about like, you know, is there content we can create that speaks to soil, like, what healthy soil is what soil carbon actually means. So I would do that and then I would look at in Spark tutorial, I would look at the social accounts. So I would be very interested to connect with people who also talk about this topic or who seem to know a lot about this topic. So I would scroll through and I would see people like who are some of the top ones I'm looking in Spark for now. Like, okay, people who talk about this are people publications are like World Wildlife Fund, Greta toon Burg, Mother Jones. So these all seem like potential people and websites, publications to pay attention to, to read more, could be opportunities to do some PR pitches or guest pieces. And then you know, I would look at this further and try to uncover like, maybe there are other regenerative agriculture companies that I could do some co marketing with, right, like, one that I happen to know of is force of nature. They are doing regenerative farming. So that could be a potential co marketer, right? Like if I'm doing you know, so I as a vineyard or wine company, like great that's not a competitor, but we probably share the same audience. I would look at those opportunities.

Cory Ames  44:50  
Yeah, there's most certainly that it seems you know, look at any industry tea or you know, for we're talking wine or then it's anything in food. You know, a lot of people are starting to To move to this space, Rand, is there anything that you might add to that that would be particularly pertinent?

Rand Fishkin  45:06  
Yeah, I think Amanda's approach is exactly how I'd go about it from a tactics perspective. And maybe, you know, my only shift from kind of like a strategic, like, top level perspective is, what's this winery trying to accomplish? Right? Is there a big goal? More customers buying their wine? People coming to their vineyard? Are they trying to build their footprint kind of in the agricultural press? Are they trying to get more partners? Are they looking for distributors, right? Maybe they're trying to get into more stores. And so I would start from that perspective, and basically say, our goal for the next year is, you know, whatever, we want to get distributed in a bunch of retailers and who are the buyers, the wind buyers, that those retailers Okay, there are these kinds of people? Ah, I can go to spark Toro and look for my audience uses these words in their profile wine buyer. What do they pay attention to? Boom, these publications, these people, these podcasts, these YouTube channels, guess where we're gonna be? That's where we're gonna like, take our pitch. Oh, I can see that whatever. 31% of people who have you know, talked about or you know, mentioned wine buyers are reading Ico watch. Holy crap. Ico watch. This, my boys like, right, I'm gonna go and I don't even have to pitch them. I can basically be like, hello, I exist. And what will they? If you are the very first regenerative agriculture winery in the United States, you have got such a competitive advantage over anybody else. When you're pitching anything at the intersection of climate change and agriculture meets thing everybody loves aka alcohol, right? Like, that is not a difficult pitch, you're going to have a beautiful time doing that. I think that there's just a tremendous amount of opportunity. But I would think about it from that, like structure, that strategic structure, and then I would use exactly the tactical sort of step by step process that Amanda described, to go through it.

Cory Ames  47:10  
Excellent. Well, thank you all.

Rand Fishkin  47:11  
So let's go winery.

Cory Ames  47:13  
It's called Tablas Creek. I would call them a TA B L A s. A Creek, CR. E. K. If you follow them on bourbon, okay, Twitter, they have some excellent, excellent vineyard content of all the different things that they're doing to run the vineyard the way that they do. regeneratively and as well grow wine in a really interesting crap.

Rand Fishkin  47:37  
I mean, their photos are gorgeous, too.

Cory Ames  47:39  
It looks like Eden. So it's 

Rand Fishkin  47:43  
my God. Yeah. So the other thing that's beautiful is since they have such a social following already, you can you know, you can take it and go plug in my audience follows a social account, Tablas Creek, and then see if I want to find more people like the people I already reach. This is where I should be 46% of them follow decanter. Right. If the cantor hasn't already written about Tablas Creek, they would be very very high on my list wine lovers. The drinks business Mac cocktail is a God maybe it's a tougher pitch NPR. I bet NPR would do a piece on them. Yeah. You just got to find someone with a luxurious voice who works there. Know that like NPR. Welcome to the tablet's Creek whiner? I can't really do that's my best NPR voice. It's not great.

Cory Ames  48:36  
Well, it's always interesting to see the different aims and objectives that businesses like these have. And there's so many overlapping constraints as well. Because both it's it's a context of they're interested in growth, but there's always the, you know, at what cost? Because, you know, the more at which these businesses grow, there is a concept as well of just what's generally comfortable for them, their staff, but likewise, you know, they're consciously mining, what is the environmental impact of growing to exercise? Or what is the social worry? 

Rand Fishkin  49:05  
Are you telling us that this is a chill work winery?

Cory Ames  49:07  
I would say So Jason, the general manager there. He is an excellent follow on Twitter and his blog. I've learned so much about wine, even though I've stopped drinking it since we're expecting a baby. But I know I'm not you know, not for me solidarity here, but it's still on like an enthusiast it just following what content they're publishing. It's, it's incredible. Well, she, I gotta get y'all going on with your Fridays here. But if you wouldn't mind, might we wrap up with a couple rapid fire questions. We'll start with Amanda, what's maybe a good book that you'd like to recommend to our listeners or documentary, some resource, something that's impacted you recently it can be about what we've talked about here, or just something elsewhere in your life that's particularly struck you. I'm going

Amanda Natividad  49:51  
to go ahead and recommend this book. I don't know if either of you have heard of it, but it's called Lawson founder. It's by some guy named Rand Fishkin. and kind of he tells a story of how he founded and grew this company called Moz. It is truly a great book. It's a lot of fun to read saw your and your your pain was fun. No, it's really enjoyable to read. Each chapter is even kind of a standalone, like, story. So I mean, yeah, you should read it cover to cover. But each chapter has its own standalone insights. So all very valuable, great first startup founders and employees of early stage companies. So I really do think great for your audience, because they care about growth, and you know, good marketing. And it's just a very honest story.

Cory Ames  50:44  
I'd reiterate that in my going through it in preparation for this chat, very transparent, quite authentic, which is refreshing. You don't always get that from the context of any books with the business overlap. So sorry, ran your opportunity here for recommendation.

Rand Fishkin  50:59  
Oh, man. So one of my favorite books when thinking about marketing, and business overall, is April Dunford, his book, obviously awesome. I gave it to Casey, I was looking around for my copy. And then I'm like, oh, shoot I gave to Casey. But I think positioning is one of the most underrated classical marketing techniques. And when you have a deep understanding of it, you can make experiments there that are potentially world changing life changing for your business. It's strange to think about, wait, maybe if we talked about our product as solving this problem, instead of that problem. For these people, instead of these people, we would be growing much faster and having much more happy customers and be much more successful. I don't know why not. A lot of businesses think about that. Right? Like founders have in their head, who they think they're solving for and what they think they're solving sometimes. Just gotta change it up. Yeah,

Amanda Natividad  51:59  
plus one, two, this book. It's a great book. And April really, she really breaks down specifically why, like with examples, like why bad messaging is bad, what's wrong with it? What's what would make it better? And what would make it the best? Like she really gives? Great, you know, both strategic and tactical advice for how to do this.

Cory Ames  52:19  
Excellent, great recommendation. And next question for y'all. Amanda, back to you. What's one daily habit or morning routine you feel like you absolutely have to stick to if anything,

Amanda Natividad  52:29  
every weekday I work out, it became a lot easier to sustain a workout habit when I decided to just do a couple minutes every morning, because before my approach was alright, I got to go to the gym, do an hour, get some solid cardio, do some strength training. And then once I when I thought about it like that, I was like, Ah, well, I'll just do it tomorrow. I just get three good days this week, and I would keep moving it around and find excuses. But once I told myself, okay, so wake up half an hour earlier, even that, do a 10 minute workout, whether it's like a 10 minute bike ride, or a 10 minute yoga session, like just do that. And then that's the goal every weekday and so since then, I've worked out every weekday since like December, and it is now October Wow. And I I'm in the best shape I've ever been in in my life.

Cory Ames  53:20  
Hmm you know some of those habit tips and prescriptions. They're just so true. It's frustrating you know where it's like start small and you get frustrated even look at that advice like but what's two minutes gonna do? You know, but there it is case study.

Amanda Natividad  53:33  
There it is. Yeah, and if I have more time look you know, if I have more time and energy I'll you know, do a half hour workout but yeah, 10 minutes 10 minutes is the goal

Cory Ames  53:41  
and ran to you.

Rand Fishkin  53:43  
Weirdly enough, I do exactly the same thing as Amanda although i i am not every weekday I'm probably five out of seven days. Good weeks, six or seven, but five out of seven. And yeah, I'm the same way like 10 or 15 minute morning workout. Let's see my one habit that I think is really great. Okay, there's, there's this weird, this is gonna be so strange. Don't make your bed. I know this is gonna sound crazy. But there's a bunch of science that by making your bed you actually trap germs and dirt and grime inside the bed. And so your sleep is unhealthier and like you get sick more often. Blah blah blah other skin things like yada yada don't make your bed leave the covers off in the morning plus, think of the time savings. Look at you instead of making your bed. You can do 10 Push Ups.

Cory Ames  54:38  
Kind of it's blowing my mind right now. 

Amanda Natividad  54:41  
Yeah, you leave it open like just fold it over. 

Cory Ames  54:44  
Oh my gosh. I don't know. I got to first be comfortable with the side of that. You know?

Rand Fishkin  54:50  
Yeah, you just just think of the bed like when you see it rumpled up, think of how it's airing out. And like how beautiful it is or natural. All these little micro robes are leaving your bed.

Cory Ames  55:01  
Wow. I will never look at my bed my unmade bed the same way. Yeah. Last one.

Amanda Natividad  55:07  
I do that too.  

Cory Ames  55:09  
Do you really? 

Amanda Natividad  55:09
Yeah.

Cory Ames  55:10
Oh my god,

Amanda Natividad  55:11
I like leave it open

Cory Ames  55:13
does everyone at Spark Toro do this to?

Rand Fishkin  55:15  
No, I guarantee you Casey makes this bed like, and he'll he'll also be like, I don't shed microbes

Cory Ames  55:24  
not a problem for me. I don't shed microbes. Yeah, I've had it tested. Oh, one last one for y'all and whoever maybe feels most ambitious to jump in what's one last bit of parting advice that you might share with our audience. These folks are social entrepreneurs and changemakers from all sectors all over the world, trying to leave the world a better place than they found it.

Rand Fishkin  55:45  
Gosh, that is a beautiful thing to do. I like the advice that you can do small things over and over again, and make a huge difference. Rather than you have to constantly be thinking of what's the big change that I need to make. And I also want to, especially when it comes to like social and environmental change, I also want to recognize that like a lot of stuff is like there's this like overwhelming guilt that a lot of people feel and almost paralysis that people can feel from it. And just keep in mind that there can be a lot to fix, and the world can still be a beautiful place, there can be a lot going wrong. And it can still be okay to enjoy and appreciate the life that you have. And maybe that's actually a better way to live than in constant fear. And yeah, I think it's hard. Like I have that existential dread, just like everybody else. But finding a way to appreciate a little stuff, you know, a blue sky on a on a clear day and a bird that you never saw before. That's great.

Cory Ames  56:52  
Excellent. And to you, Amanda,

Unknown Speaker  56:55  
I don't want to go next, that was really beautiful. I think I'm gonna say, find your people. Like, just focus on finding your people don't think about how many like, how can I get the most people it's find your people, like the people you most connect with, who you can best work with who you can help. I really, really think if you focus on the few people who you feel like you can make an impact on who you know, who you can help you can connect with, then I think you will kind of naturally start to, I don't know, I think you'd kind of naturally start to create the value that you want to create, and that you'll find more opportunities, and really just make more meaningful connections.

Cory Ames  57:49  
I think that's excellent advice for us to end on. And last last last thing, where's the best place to keep up with you all individually and check out what's going on at Spark Toro, for folks who are interested,

Rand Fishkin  58:01  
oh, we have this fancy new thing called a website. And if you take your internet browser, you know, mosaic or whatever, you've got to spark toro.com, you can sign up for a free account and play with it a whole bunch, if you run out of queries will actually email you and give you Marsh. This is Casey's new test that he's running, where he's like, let's just give people more queries if they run out. So yeah, go ahead, you'll get five free queries, but then if you run out, you get some more. And yeah, if you find it useful or valuable, and you, you know, find some fascinating data in there. There's obviously paid plans too. But we have like 50,000, marketers who use just the free version, and get plenty of good stuff from that. So by all means, I encourage you to do that. And if Amanda and I can be helpful, can just drop us a line. You can reach both of us through support at Spark Toro, that goes to our support team. There's only three of us. So Cory, thank you so much for having us. This was really fun.

Cory Ames  58:59  
Well, thank you. I appreciate it. You know, we'll have we'll have everything linked up in the show. post.com at grow ensemble.com Thank you so much. I really appreciate it.

Amanda Natividad  59:09  
Yeah, thank you for having us. This was great.

Cory Ames  59:13  
Okay, that is a wrap another episode of the social entrepreneurship and innovation podcast in the books. I hope you enjoyed it. As always your host your Cory Ames. I always really enjoy knowing that you're you're out there listening to this episode engaging with the content, perhaps the folks that we featured doing this exceptional work in the world. If you enjoyed the show and you haven't already, please leave us a review wherever it is that you get your podcasts and hit the subscribe button if you haven't already that really helps other folks like yourself, discover the show. And lastly, if you have not yet sign up for the better world weekly newsletter this is our weekly discussion of building a better world with our global A community of changemakers and innovators from all sectors and all walks of life. So go to grow ensembl.com backslash newsletter to get the next Better World weekly in your inbox. Alright y'all, we'll talk next time.

Rand Fishkin Profile Photo

Rand Fishkin

Co-founder, CEO, Author

Rand Fishkin is Co-founder and CEO of audience research software startup, SparkToro. He’s dedicated his professional life to helping people do better marketing through his writing, videos, speaking, and his book, Lost and Founder. When Rand’s not working, he’s usually cooking a fancy meal for the love of his life, author Geraldine DeRuiter. If you bribe him with great pasta or fancy cocktails, he’ll happily pull back the curtain on big tech’s dark secrets.

Amanda Natividad Profile Photo

Amanda Natividad

VP Marketing

Amanda is currently Marketing Architect for audience research startup, SparkToro. She's also a contributor for Adweek, a Le Cordon Bleu-trained chef, and a former journalist. Amanda previously led marketing for Growth Machine, led marketing for Liftopia, built Fitbit's B2B content program, and led content and communications for NatureBox.