April 18, 2023

1: Matt Harriman – The Purpose and Principles of Pod2

Finally deciding to listen to my audience and those who’ve messaged Pod2 thinking we’re a podcast company (great marketing, I know!), here’s episode 1 of the Achieve and Enjoy podcast from Pod2. In Episode 1, my Co-Founder, Josh Groves, will interview me, Matt Harriman. We dive into what the heck Pod2 actually does, why we call ourselves “a multi-niche calm company,” what effective communication looks like, and the goals we have for this podcast.  If you believe work shouldn’t suck, please stick around for the ensuing episodes. There are some great guests — most of which have no online presence — who will change how you think about work, life, money, and happiness. 

In this episode

[00:00:00] Opening clip + Introduction

[00:01:20] Matt’s background

[00:03:00] Why Matt wanted to tackle “making work suck less”

[00:03:40] Josh’s background

[00:05:40] How kids reshape your priorities 

[00:07:42] What we’re doing at Pod2

[00:10:59] The principles that guide Pod2

[00:13:14] What this podcast explores

[00:14:49] What makes this podcast unique

[00:18:34] Why should people care about Pod2 and the work we do

[00:19:38] Balancing achievement and enjoyment

[00:22:39] Do project management methodologies cover up bad communication?

[00:26:34] Why you should listen to us part 2

 [00:28:25] Closing remarks / Where to find us

Links & Resources

Matt’s Twitter: https://twitter.com/MattMHarriman 

Matt’s LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/mattharriman/ 

Josh’s LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/grovesnl/ 

Josh’s Twitter: https://twitter.com/grovesNL 

Pod2 website: https://pod2.co/ 

Pod2 YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/@pod_2 

Matt’s book, Integrated Upstream Planning: https://amzn.to/3n9Obvl 



Matt Harriman: Hey, my name's Matt and this is the Achieve and Enjoy podcast. We're gonna explore the relationship between work and happiness, achievement and joy, and success and contentment. We're gonna do that in a few different ways. We're gonna share our own stories as we go through and do different things.

I'll talk about who we are here in a little bit. We're also gonna interview, people that we have found really interesting and that seem happy — a lot of them you've probably never heard of. For episode number one, my co-founder Josh is gonna do the interviewing. 

Josh Groves: Why don't we start off by going through your background, how did your career path take you to where you are now?

Matt Harriman: I'll start at the end, where we are right now. I'm the founder of Pod2. We’re a hybrid, multi-niche calm company (how we’re currently describing ourselves). We help companies and people do a better job both for their pocketbooks and for their people. We do that through consulting and tech, which I’ll dive into later.

When I first came out of college and was in grad school, I started working for a huge company — 11,000 people. It took me about six months to start hating it. I worked my way out and joined an energy software startup in 2013. That’s where you (Josh) and I met on my first day. 

There were eight or nine people in the office; ~20 people in the whole company. It was super fun. That was the point where I realized, “oh, like work doesn't have to be shitty.” You can like the people you work with and do great work. The market was perfect for us. We were growing, making a lot of money, and having a lot of fun doing it — it was awesome. 

The company grew. Got bought and did some more growing. And as it grew, I found myself enjoying it less and less. So in 2019, I bailed and started Pod2 on my own. About a year and a half later, you joined and started the tech side of the business. There’s a lot more we could go into, but that’s the short version.

Josh Groves: What made you want to get into this topic specifically of trying to make work suck less?

Matt Harriman: After experiencing how awesome and fun and fulfilling it could be, while also being, financially very successful, I wanted to figure out how to do that more. I wanted to also figure out how to help more companies do that. It seems like so many people are very miserable because of decisions made for nothing but money. I really believe that there's a way to have both. Maybe I'm greedy or naive, but I want to have both. I want significant financial success, and I want to be happy. 

Josh Groves: Maybe I can jump in here with my background and how I got here? As Matt said, we both left university and went right into working for bigger companies. We quickly learned exactly how that environment functioned — not for us. And working together at a smaller startup we really enjoyed it. It felt like that could be a good way to spend a lot of our careers. For me just going through that experience and seeing a degrade over time made me want to get back to that place.

I spent some time living in Houston and then in Calgary. What really stood out to me in Calgary was the number of people that were living for the weekend. They would spend all week being miserable about work and then as soon as the weekend hit, they would go out to Banff or Canmore. They just wanted to leave. While I think part of it is associated with the lifestyle in Calgary, for me, it made me want to get away.

Matt Harriman: Not too many people stick around Houston for long weekends either, right?

Josh Groves: Yeah. I mean, part of it is you want to enjoy your weekends, but I want to enjoy every day. I don't want it to be this binary thing where you suffer through the week and then on the weekend, you get to enjoy your time. I want to enjoy every day. 

How can I figure out a career where that's possible? Finding the answer to that question is what took me away from the company I worked at and led me to join you at Pod2. I think a lot of other people are in situations where they're either trying to figure out how to enjoy their current role more (which is totally okay, you don't have to always leave your job to find something else). Or they want to find something else.

I think there are a lot of people looking for encouragement or reassurance that it’s actually possible to come up on the other side of it. 

Matt Harriman: Since you've had your son has that added a layer of importance to this or how has that changed things for you? 

Josh Groves: Absolutely. just having the freedom every day to be able to do what I want. Take this morning, I was able to take my son out for a walk. It’s a Monday morning. If I was working a regular office job, that's not something I could ever do. I’m incredibly fortunate to be able to do that and I know it’s a privilege. 

Matt Harriman: I think one piece that's interesting is, I work closer to normal hours during the day. I take breaks and all that stuff. I know a lot of people that were really successful in their careers but have regrets about how they were as a father or as a husband. I didn’t want to have to give up either one. Obviously, the priority is my family first.  If there is gonna be something to sacrifice, it'll be my work. But, I believe that you can have both. 

One of the reasons I think it matters that you're happy at work is that even if you do work 10, or 12 hours a day, you’re not burnt out and miserable. You’re going to be a worse dad or mom or husband or brother if you are.

Josh Groves: Exactly. For me it's not so much about work-life balance, but more, how do you make both work together? It's not that you're pulling time away from one for the other — it’s trying to find something that just works in general. Maybe there's a bit of a subtle difference there, but that's the idea for me. 

Matt Harriman: I think people think about nothing but time with work-life balance too, which is interesting. Think about it with energy, instead of time. Even if you only have 90 minutes per day with your kid — if you're burnt out and stressed and pissed off during that 90 minutes, then it's, worthless. Might as well be zero. But if you're, present and having fun with them, you can have a great relationship with your kids.

Josh Groves: Can we switch topics a little bit and go into what we're doing with Pod2? Can you explain the background of Pod2? I know that you gave a brief intro to it, but can you go a little bit deeper into it and how it actually functions as a company? What are its different components? 

Matt Harriman: When I first started it, it was very much in opposition to other companies I had seen before. I didn't know what I wanted it to be, but I knew what I didn't want it to be. When we were at Aucerna, we worked with a lot of large management consulting firms. We saw how a lot of those projects went — how people were treated and the incentives — and everything involved.

The first thing I wanted to bring to companies was somebody they could actually trust. I really thought that we could do better. Provide more value with better outcomes for 10% or less of the cost. And it’s proving to be true, which is awesome. But the anti-consultant was kind of the beginning. As we talked over the first year and a half after I started Pod2, we talked about how do we avoid some of the same problems that other software companies run into.

One part that sucks is having to grow every single quarter no matter what. You have investors, you have bosses, and you have these pressures to sell things. You also have this idea that a lot of startups have an exit strategy — there's a life that they're gonna end. Which is their company's, heart. That sucks. But that's the goal for a lot of people. And if the goal is financial and that's it, that's fine. No judgment. That's just not what we're wanting to do. 

The other piece that was tough is, if you only have one software, one revenue stream, then you have to make every problem, fit that product right, and, sales get harder. That starts to push you ethically on, trying to push things into places where it doesn't really fit. 

I think, especially over the last year, we've gotten a lot more clarity into, this [Pod2] is firmly a hybrid business where we're doing consulting and we've got a software arm. Both of those things are going operate, really as a portfolio, where we've got multiple offerings.

That provides high amounts of value for the cost. So I know we've got whatever metrics on some of that stuff. But I think something that I realized a few weeks ago, as I was talking to somebody and I told them about this podcast and the book that I wrote (they already knew about the leadership development work and the software). They know that we're a small, four-and-a-half-person shop. They were like, “How are you just doing all of this different stuff?” 

At first, I was like, “Oh, it's not that much.” And then I took a step back and I was like, “Holy shit!” We're doing a lot of things. So I thought about it — are we actually spread too thin? Are we doing too many different things? And I came back, after thinking about that for a while with a resounding no. It's all connected. I think one thing that's a little unique about us is that we really hyper-focus on the basics —the fundamentals— those fundamental principles that apply across multiple areas.

I think that's one thing that helps us do a really good job in what seems like disconnected, markets. The other one is I think we're really fucking efficient. I think our tolerance for nonsense is really low. We just don't waste time on stuff unless we want to, which I think isn't a waste. I think we've got an interesting setup. 

Josh Groves: What really guides the entire vision [of Pod2]? 

Matt Harriman: Our core purpose is to remove suffering from work. That can mean a lot of different things in a lot of different areas. But then, we've got our principles that we've all agreed to. I started them whenever I was trying to figure out what kind of leader I wanted to be — what kind of person I wanted to be— and started documenting lessons that I learned over the years. But I think that's a big, guiding light for us. We pull up our list of principles when we're struggling with a decision or not sure what to do. 

Josh Groves: I really like the principles. Just having that list and being able to, as a team, keep looking back at it and use it as a reference for decisions that we're making just to guide everything that we do daily or weekly or for our 90-day intentions. We constantly look back at the principles and keep in mind what kind of company we want to be.

The other part about the principles is that they're not static. They are dynamic. We can go in and change them any time. And that's actually a pretty healthy thing to do. Being able to go back in and say, “does this principle still make sense?” Or this situation came up and it didn't really feel right to follow this principle anymore. Maybe we can tweak it or maybe we just need to remove it entirely and replace it with something else. But I really liked that idea when I joined Pod2. I added my own set of tech-focused principles to that list, but it's definitely been a guiding light for all of the projects we’ve worked on.

Matt Harriman: In a few episodes, I'm gonna go through our Purpose-Driven Planning Framework, which is how we plan the company. It's how we plan projects, products, and meetings. Essentially, it's how to plan anything. It keeps growing and growing over the years. If anybody's seen the Purpose-Driven Planner Tool that Josh built it's basically that, but the rabbit hole goes really deep. I’m excited to see all of the places it pops up. It's obvious that we're onto something that's universally applicable.

Josh Groves: Yeah, absolutely. It’ll be great to cover that in future episodes. Why don't we talk about what this podcast is? What are we hoping to get outta this podcast? Who might be interested in this podcast? 

Matt Harriman: Anybody who at least has a piece of hope that work doesn't have to be miserable, especially people that are actively exploring how to enjoy success and fix their mindset around accomplishment. That's one thing that I've always struggled with. If I'm not productive or if I'm not accomplishing something, I don't feel good about myself. That's something that I'm trying to sort out cuz you can take it too far the other way and get lazy and not do the things that you really do want to do. So finding that kind of balance. I think the show is also for anybody that has ambition but doesn't want to sacrifice their happiness and/or other really important things in order to achieve, whatever their version of success is.

Josh Groves: Would you say they have to be any kind of particular role in the company? 

Matt Harriman: This podcast is not overly planned out. It's not a super strategic thing that we're trying to do to drive engagement for an offering. I want to explore this idea and learn more about it. I think it’s a great way to help more individuals figure out how to be happier, while also allowing me to learn from other people too. So, we're committing to 10 or so episodes to start and we'll see where it goes. It’ll depend on what feedback is like and if we enjoy it. But I really think it's for anybody who thinks achievement and happiness don't have to be in conflict with each other

Josh Groves: What makes this podcast unique compared to some of the other podcasts out there? I know some podcasts, for example, cover similar topics, but what's different about this one?

Matt Harriman: I don't know. Nobody's unique and everybody's unique, right? I think one part of it is like it's us and we've got our own set of unique experiences that we're gonna bring into it. Another piece is that we're not, “hashtag content creators.” We create content, we do things. We're active on social and all of that stuff, but we are in the real world doing real things. I'm helping companies. You're building software that, companies buy. And we're also sharing lessons and interviews and stuff.

Josh Groves: One of the parts I like is how a lot of the people that you're talking about bringing onto the podcast, they don't have a social media voice, and a lot of them aren't people that you would recognize. If you've seen them on LinkedIn or something they just don't have that kind of profile on social media, but they're really interesting people (I've gotten to meet some of them before, so I can attest to this). And they have a lot of unique insights. So for me, I'm personally really interested in hearing how they got to the point that they are at/go to in their career and what they went through. A lot of the experiences I feel like I can really relate to, especially at the point I'm at currently.

Matt Harriman: One of the first episodes is with, one of my most formative mentors. Fascinating guy. I don't think he's ever posted a word on the internet. If he has it was because some marketing person told him he had to. So real stuff that he's done hasn't been shared. I think that’s really unique. The other reason that I think this is gonna be unique, is that typically shows are either about hustle porn and grinding to make millions of dollars. Or they’re on the other side of it, “super woo-woo,” where if anybody says anything that hurts a feeling, then we're all in trouble.

We're focused on finding harmony between both. We want to be successful (whatever that means) whether it's money or impact or whatever else, but also, we want to have happiness and good mental health and balance.

Josh Groves: And it's right in the title. That’s where the title came from? 

Matt Harriman: Yeah, exactly, that's the point. And on the logo, we bolded the word “and” because it's the “and” that makes the difference.

Josh Groves: I definitely can relate to that. It's too easy to get caught up on just one side of the equation. You listen to some podcasts, it's all about just achievement — you need to bring yourself out as hard as possible, for as long as possible. And then you can enjoy it at the end. For a lot of people, that's very, very late in their life. I don't know. I don't want to have any regrets about my life based on my career choices. I just want to be able to enjoy life as I live it. 

Matt Harriman: I know a bunch of people who sacrificed a lot in order to have a big payoff, and I think almost all of them regret some of the sacrifices that they made. That sucks. I think living a life so that you don't have regrets is probably a lot more important than how many millions you made by whatever age. 

Josh Groves: Yeah, absolutely. What else might people take from this podcast? 

Matt Harriman: I think as we get into the interviews, they're gonna be super free flowing and we'll just see where they take us. I'll try to do a good job of making sure we get to like practical and tactical things (if applicable), but I think there are a lot of just interesting stories and mindset things I want to cover. As I get more comfortable doing podcasts, I think we'll have more fun. We'll be goofy and it'll be fun. 

Josh Groves: What about what we're doing in general, why might people be interested in Pod2? 

Matt Harriman: I haven't seen a company like it before. I'm sure there have been. I'm sure people have seen these same, systemic problems that we've seen and tried to do the opposite of that before. But I feel like most of those people are, sitting tranquil somewhere, not talking about it too much.

Josh Groves: Or they've just been really unsuccessful.

Matt Harriman: And totally failed, you’re right. I don’t know, we just haven't found that out yet. And we'll follow 'em to the grave? No, we'll see. It’s just interesting to me, our desire to not be bored. It comes through in how we build the company. For example, one reason we don't do a lot of the things that most companies do is that if it's boring, it’s the opposite of happiness to me — apathetic, boredom. It's an experiment, we'll see where it goes. We're three and a half years in, holy shit. But it's working so far. Profitable since day one, minus a little bit of time during COVID, but it's working. I'm interested to see where it goes. 

Josh Groves: How do you feel like you've personally been able to deal with that balance of achievement and enjoyment?

Matt Harriman: It's really hard. I think the first step was deciding that I'm going to try to both be productive (ie, effective) and happy. It's something I struggle with every week, all the time. My wife and I were talking last night about exactly this kind of thing. 

Josh Groves: Is it something that you just achieve or is it continuous?

Matt Harriman: You kind of hone in, right? You get closer and closer to finding that harmony. When two things that you're trying to balance are out of balance, it's harder. Once you learn and can start to predict or feel when things are starting to get out of balance, you can do things ahead of time. 

Like we were talking on, I think it was Friday, with Leslie about it. For me, if I know that the next two weeks are gonna be pretty grindy and not full of super creatively interesting things to do, then I'll bake in time to do things that are totally unproductive or fun. Things that help just knock the edge off. So I'll still be working, but the reframe is it’s something that I want to do, nothing that I have to do. 

Josh Groves: That was just something that you learned after going through not doing that kind of thing and learning that's not the best way to approach work for you?

Matt Harriman: Yeah, and it's different for everybody. But for me, I noticed myself during a super grindy period, I would get to a day where I wanted to work, but doing those four things on my task list felt like a prison. Before I was aware of that, I would procrastinate on the task items by doing other stuff and in turn, feel bad about it. Now, I can realize, “hey, I'm just feeling a little burned down. I need to do some stuff that feels like fun, but I still wanna be productive.” It may not be the optimal thing to do right now on paper, but to keep me going, to keep me happy next week, that's what I gotta.

Josh Groves: I can definitely relate to that. And I think there have been multiple points during my career where everybody's focused on how productive can you be. I should mention, this was probably before burnout was as big of a thing as it is. We've come a long way and even just awareness of what burnout actually is and that it's actually healthy to take breaks or not be working at, 110% constantly is huge.

One side to that is the whole sprint model. I just think it's kind of funny where you sprint for two weeks and then you sprint for two weeks again, and then you sprint for two weeks again. If a runner sprints like that they're gonna pass out. I feel like the whole idea of just go, go, go as fast as you possibly can, sets a lot of people up for failure. It’s okay to take it easy when you're going into a big task list like that. 

Matt Harriman: This is a total tangent, but I heard a few weeks ago there was a Senior Principal Software Engineer at one of the FANNG companies and somebody asked him about agile methodology. His response was “it’s a waste of time, just work.” He got me thinking about project management and product management methodologies, and all these structures. Do those just cover up and mitigate against bad communication and unhealthy dynamics in a team?

Josh Groves: I think so. I think a lot of them were meant to serve as guidelines.  You obviously want to keep your team in check by using good communication so that everybody's aware of what's going on, but there are a lot of ways to do that. 

I think some of the frameworks started off really simple and then were oversold. Now it’s to the point that its way beyond what the initial intentions were. What it comes down to is “'how do we communicate effectively to make sure that we're not going down the totally wrong path?” 

Matt Harriman: That's what I've found with projects and stuff as well. Anytime it seems like a good idea to put a really rigorous structure and details in place, it's usually a sign that the team doesn't actually work well together. To compensate, you use a whole bunch of processes. But, if you could actually just get the team to work well together and communicate, with some light structure, then things would go a lot faster.

Josh Groves: You’re overcompensating forward by layering on all these strict rules on top of it. I think that a good thing to get into at some point on this podcast is, what kind of communication structure can work really well for organizations.

I know what we do at Pod2 is kind of interesting. We prefer asynchronous communication by default. We have a place where we store all of our daily notes — our second brain —that allows us to tag each other, ie communicate on topics. 

I’ve found it useful. We don’t really email internally. Which, with things like Slack becoming big, that’s more common, but we don’t have Slack either. It’s mainly communication via our knowledge base. Because the thing about Slack is that it also kind of encourages synchronous communication — you can ping somebody and get an immediate response. Same thing with Teams and all of the other work messaging platforms out there. 

Matt Harriman: It's all distracting as hell. The fact that there’s a book (thank you, Craig Burgess, for sharing this with me) called Deep Work, where the guy basically describes sitting for more than an hour doing a thing is a sign that we really screwed up our focus and ability to just do a thing. Cal Newport is super awesome, but deep work to me, is just work.  

Josh Groves: Absolutely. At least for me, I've found that to be a huge difference. And I know from speaking with a lot of companies that they're struggling with the same thing. They've replaced their email with Slack, but they haven't received any kind of productivity gains from that switch. It might be because they're spending a lot of time dealing with notifications on Slack now instead of emails. But you're just trading one problem for another. 

Matt Harriman: That’s the classic thing, right? If you speed up a bad process, you just do dumb things faster.

Josh Groves: Is there anything else you'd like to cover with this introduction?

Matt Harriman: There's a lot of stuff that we could go into, but I want to reiterate that we’re very intentional at Pod2 about what we’re doing. We’re doing this podcast because people in our audience (and even a few who thought we were a podcast company because of our name) asked us to. We’re going to try to be interesting and provide something that is helpful. I steer away from saying “value” because that’s just the marketing bro meme at this point. 

If nothing else, I’m sure I’ll learn some things as we go about the podcast and I interview people. To those listening, I want to hear what you think. Who do you think we should talk to? Who else is working on the balance of work and happiness and achievement? What are topics you care about in this space? 

Josh Groves: Especially if they don’t have a social media presence. We want to bring them a voice with this podcast. 

Matt Harriman: Some of the people on our guest list have advised the biggest companies in the world, they're worth a gazillion dollars, but they’ve never worked more than 45 hours in a week. Or they're the most laid-back, happy person you’ll meet — and they were while they were doing all this stuff (read: working) before they made their coin too. Those are the ones I'm really excited to share with people.

Josh Groves: Very exciting. Is there anything else?

Matt Harriman: That’s it. Josh and I are on LinkedIn and Twitter. Pod2.co is our main website. We have an email list that we send things to, sometimes. Maybe we'll get better about that or maybe we'll just keep saying that we'll get better about that forever. We are super open to feedback and we're gonna experiment with this podcast thing. For anybody listening, we really appreciate it. We're gonna keep this thing going. 

Josh Groves: Awesome. Thanks, everybody for listening. Hopefully, you enjoyed the first podcast episode. Tune in for more. 

Matt Harriman: Yeah, thanks for interviewing me, Josh.

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