John Carmack: Working beyond 40 hours | Note: Lex Fridman Podcast

Lex Fridman interviewed John Carmack last week.

It was 5 hours and 15 minutes.

It’s the longest podcast episode that Lex has done and I’m pretty sure it’s the longest podcast I’ve ever listened to. And I’ve already started my re-listen of it.

It’s 40% the length of Masters of Doom—one of my favorite books and an audiobook I’ll pop on and jump around in whenever I’m in a creative rut.

I started making some Shorts on YouTube and thought it’d be useful to post those here with any additional notes.

Some additional thoughts on this interview:

  • Meta-point from me – Lex Fridman is a good interviewer: I saw some of the Hacker News comments and Lex Fridman is polarizing. So is John Carmack, though people tend to agree he’s a brilliant programmer, the polarizing part is that some can’t square the idea that he’d work for Meta. In any case, some people love Lex Fridman for not being over the top with his personality. Many people hate him and think he’s uncharismatic. That the person being interviewed could talk to a wall and it’d be the same as talking to Lex. I disagree with that entirely. That he can keep a conversation going with someone for 2, 3, 5 hours is proof that he’s charismatic. If it were just to be on his platform, they could end the conversation earlier.
  • You’ll get more done in 60 hours: I tend toward the “Rest is important for productivity” camp. But I also very much agree with his point. Hours 1-40 will be more effective than hours 41-60. But the total completed in 60 hours will still be more than 40 hours. You could argue that at some point, the effectiveness becomes negative and you’re making bad decisions that derail things at a higher level. But that might come more in the 70-80+ hour range in the week. You can do 12 a day for 5 days a week and have some kind of reasonable life. The tough part (which I think I first heard from DHH) is when you start sacrificing weekends entirely. You go from managing 5 days straight and skip directly to 12 days. (Unless for some reason you’re working Saturday and Sunday and taking Monday off.)
  • Diet (Coke) and pizza: In his younger days, John Carmack would pretty much order a pizza a day and drink can after can of Diet Coke. He’d have some slices throughout the day and the pizza shop knew him by name. They even silently grandfathered him into a price point.