Sol Orwell is an entrepreneur and business developer. He is the editor-in-chief of SJO.com and co-founder of Examine.com an educational organization that analyzes nutrition and supplementation research. He is profiled by Forbes as a seven-figure entrepreneur
What is something you wish you would’ve realized earlier in your life?
People will be offended no matter what. Especially people who have no regards for facts or reality.
What are bad recommendations you hear in your profession or area of expertise?
Too many to count. There’s far too many people making emotional decisions and thinking their opinion is the equivalent of expertise.
The death of trust in expertise and the rise of “my opinion matters as much” is one of the saddest things to happen.
Tell me about one of the darker periods you’ve experienced in life. How you came out of it and what you learned from it?
I was dead broke at one point because a partner screwed me over while I was living in Argentina. It was so bad that when buying stuff with my credit card I’d always have to stare at the terminal to see if it said REJECTED (happened a few times).
From then on I always ensure I have control of what I build and also, in any partnership situations, have an easy out.
I still, to this day, look at the terminal to see if my card went through.
What is one thing that you do that you feel has been the biggest contributor to your success so far?
Honesty. There are billions of people online; I’m not interested in getting the biggest share of them. I’m far more interested in people who want to hear the truth; once you’ve built a bond with them, generating revenue becomes far easier.
What is your morning routine?
Wake up, read politics for 10m. Play with the dog. Put a coke zero in the freezer. Go on a 20m walk. Start drinking a slushie coke and get to whatever is most important.
What habit or behavior that you have pursued for a few years has most improved your life?
I disconnect from the Internet. There is no social media on my phone. I do not work or take meetings on the weekend.
When I go lift weights I put my phone on airplane mode.
This makes getting up every day and motivated a lot easier.
What are your strategies for being productive and using your time most efficiently?
My calendar rules my day. I know my most important tasks for every day and every week. Once you know what needs to be done, you can reverse engineer it to achieve what you want.
I frankly believe that dreams are for suckers; smart people chase the inevitable.
When you feel overwhelmed or unfocused, or have lost your focus temporarily, what do you do?
Go for a walk (often with my dog). Everything seems simple when you see the wonderment your dog has for everything around him.
Other options include hot showers, talking to my lady, or lifting weights (it’s my meditation time when no one bothers me).
What’s your favourite book and why? Business and non-business, if possible.
Business: I enjoyed Deep Work by Cal Newport. It helped crystalize some thoughts. Something more explicitly business would be Anything You Want: 40 Lessons for a New Kind of Entrepreneur by Derek Sivers – concise with wisdom and experience.
Non-business: Tough. I have to go with Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas père. An unparalleled revenge story.
Was there a moment, specifically, when something you read in a book helped you? Can you tell me about it?
I find that I rarely get anything brilliant while I’m reading. I love marginalia and often write down notes. I put down a book for at least two weeks after I’ve read it, and then go through it again for my notes. That is when things click.
What books had the biggest impact on you?
I’m interested in finding out more about your reading habits. How often do you read? What format do you prefer?
I love reading with something in my hand. I’ve subscribed to half a dozen magazines and buy books non-stop.
I like to switch between fiction, non-fiction, and biographical. I like having a pen on me so I can scribble all over the pages.
How do you make time for reading?
I’m big on stopping work by 5-6pm. That leaves lots of time for reading 🙂
Do you take notes or have any other technique for conquering the torrent of information?
I love scribbling on the sides (marginalia) and I also start generating an index on the inside cover of things-to-note
How do you choose what books to read next?
Do you prioritize those recommended by certain people? Is there anyone that you consider a book-recommendations guru?
Shane Parish (https://www.fs.blog/2017/11/most-gifted-book/) and Ryan Holiday are prolific recommenders.
What book are you currently reading and what are you expecting to gain from it?
I’m about to start The Inside Story of The Wire by Jonathan Abrams. I love oral histories on how amazing projects came to be.
What books would you recommend to young people interested in your career path? Why?
I hate business books. They are full of wishy-washy inspirational stuff and rarely of anything actionable. And even when actionable, it’s from the context of that founder and the story they’ve spun, not the reality that most people face.
There’s so much value in building deep relationships and understanding how to communicate and bond.
What book(s) have influenced your life the most? Why?
It’s an amazing allegory on the brutality of life and how fairplay is lip service by most people.
Do you have any quotes you live by or think of often?
I’m not a fan of quotes, but there are three I like to cite:
Orwell, Animal Farm: “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others” – brilliant reality of the world.
Steve Jobs: “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards” – there is so much serendepity in this world if we allow it to happen. Too many people focus on the immediate – I try to see 5-10 years agou
Me: “You’re not here to impress your peers” – too many people are trying to impress the people who they should care about the least; your audience/customers are the ones you should be impressing.