“In life — from the simplest thing to the biggest thing — I want to be proud of what it is and stake my claim: ‘That’s mine and that’s how I do it.’” — Ken Block
His rally career began in 2005, and he won Rookie of the Year that season in the Rally America Championship. Ken has accumulated five X Games medals and achieved global fame through his wildly successful viral series of Gymkhana videos. Gymkhana videos (including all associated edits) have racked up more than 500 million views, landing the franchise in Ad Age’s top-10 viral video charts.
In January 2010, Block formed the Monster World Rally Team (later renamed to Hoonigan Racing Division) and signed with Ford to pursue his dreams of racing in the World Rally Championship and in doing so, became one of only four Americans to ever score points in the WRC.
His latest project is The Gymkhana Files, which takes viewers behind the scenes of GYMKHANA TEN: The Ultimate Tire Slaying Tour, a video that, as of this writing, just went up and already has nearly 20M views. It’s all complete insanity.
Please enjoy this interview with Ken Block!
Want to hear an interview with another entrepreneur who loves to race? — Listen to this interview with David “DHH” Heinemeier Hansson in which DHH shares his thoughts on the power of being outspoken, running a profitable business without venture capital, Stoic philosophy, and much more! (Stream below or right-click here to download.):
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QUESTION(S) OF THE DAY: What was your favorite quote or lesson from this episode? Please let me know in the comments.
Scroll below for links and show notes…
SELECTED LINKS FROM THE EPISODE
- What’s the practical side to being headquartered in a workspace made of shipping containers? [06:04]
- What the heck is a hoonigan? [08:06]
- Though he’s known as an adept marketer, 600 million views for the Gymkhana video series is beyond even Ken’s expectations. [09:51]
- Ken shares his journey from skateboarder to dirt bike racer to rally car racer. [10:50]
- What was Ken’s first exposure to Team O’Neil Rally School, and how did he tackle driving as a latecomer in competition with people who had been driving their whole lives? [12:49]
- What behaviors, beliefs, and practices did Ken observe that differentiated rally driving’s top performers from the rest of the herd, and what tricks and tips did Ken employ to catch up and win 2005 Rally America Rookie Of The Year? [17:35]
- What exercises help Ken physically and mentally prepare himself before driving? [21:52]
- Though initially a reluctant businessman, how did Ken’s entrepreneurial life begin? [24:31]
- Ken’s transition from a behind-the-scenes guy to a brand ambassador — and the lessons he learned from the missteps of others. [31:50]
- Business mistakes and failures that informed later success, and what Ken understands about the value of targeted marketing that many miss. [37:01]
- What does the “DC” in DC Shoes stand for, and why does its logo look different on shoes and snowboards? [42:11]
- For Ken, trademark enforcement does not spark joy. [43:26]
- What book does Ken credit with helping him understand basic management and people skills when he started his first business? [44:21]
- In the highly competitive and cutthroat apparel business, a miss is far more likely than a hit. How did Ken and his partner differentiate DC Shoes in order to stand out from the competition? [47:42]
- How did Ken and his partner hire the right people for the job in the early days? [54:22]
- Before DC was bought by Quiksilver, was the business self-funded or financed externally? [57:01]
- What’s the story behind Gymkhana, the “viral video series that changed automotive filmmaking forever” — and which one is Ken’s favorite so far? [57:55]
- How does someone go about getting permission to use the heavily trafficked San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge — or other landmark location — for their video? [1:06:30]
- What does the budget look like for creating one of these videos? [1:11:42]
- Ken’s advice to people hoping to create attention-getting videos on a smaller budget. [1:14:20]
- How Ken and his crew brought storytelling back to extreme sports marketing in the ’90s. [1:17:27]
- How is sponsorship value fairly determined and negotiated when dealing with athletes and celebrities? Here’s where we begin to understand why agents are so well-compensated. [1:20:37]
- As a 51-year-old who hates the gym, how does Ken stay fit? What does his weekly training regimen look like? [1:30:59]
- With a fairly extensive history of injuries from leading such an active life, what kind of exercise does Ken now avoid? [1:33:37]
- Ken talks us through a tough time at DC, dealing with its accompanying self-doubt, and the adjustments he made to cope. [1:37:07]
- What’s Ken’s favorite drink? [1:41:15]
- What’s Ken’s default breakfast? [1:42:18]
- Daily wind-down and pre-bed rituals. [1:43:25]
- What would Ken’s billboard say? [1:45:23]
- Parting thoughts. [1:47:30]
Posted on: January 31, 2019.
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Who was interviewed? Here’s a very partial list: tech icons (founders of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Craigslist, Pinterest, Spotify, Salesforce, Dropbox, and more), Jimmy Fallon, Arianna Huffington, Brandon Stanton (Humans of New York), Lord Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Ben Stiller, Maurice Ashley (first African-American Grandmaster of chess), Brené Brown (researcher and bestselling author), Rick Rubin (legendary music producer), Temple Grandin (animal behavior expert and autism activist), Franklin Leonard (The Black List), Dara Torres (12-time Olympic medalist in swimming), David Lynch (director), Kelly Slater (surfing legend), Bozoma Saint John (Beats/Apple/Uber), Lewis Cantley (famed cancer researcher), Maria Sharapova, Chris Anderson (curator of TED), Terry Crews, Greg Norman (golf icon), Vitalik Buterin (creator of Ethereum), and nearly 100 more. Check it all out by clicking here.