Transcript – 20 Minute Playbook – Mike Sall of Goldfinch

Please enjoy this transcript of my conversation with Mike Sall, Co-Founder of Goldfinch, a decentralized credit platform for crypto loans without collateral. In this episode, Mike and Daniel discuss habits, routines, and inspirations.
Last updated
January 21, 2022
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Before co-founding Goldfinch, Mike was Head of Data Science at Medium.
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Please enjoy this transcript of my conversation with Mike Sall, Co-Founder of Goldfinch, a decentralized credit platform for crypto loans without collateral. Transcripts for other episodes can be found here

“Change the perspective of doing something not despite the fact that it's uncomfortable, but because it's uncomfortable, because that's the only way to learn.” – Mike Sall


Mike Sall (@sall) is Co-Founder of Goldfinch, a decentralized credit platform for crypto loans without collateral. Mike previously co-founded Unbox Research, was Head of Data Science at Medium, and served as Product Manager at Adobe.


20 Minute Playbook – Mike Sall of Goldfinch

Daniel Scrivner:

Mike. Thanks so much for joining me on 20-minute playbook. I'm thrilled to have you on the show.


Mike Sall:

Yeah. Happy to be here.


Daniel Scrivner:

This will be fun. This is a little bit faster paced. We try to keep these conversations under 20 minutes. And I'm super excited to hear your answer to this first question. The question we ask everyone to kick things off is just for something that you're excited or fascinated about recently, and this can be in crypto, this can be literally anything.


Mike Sall:

Something that I've been reading lately is Carlota Perez's book, Technological Revolutions. And I saw some tweets about this, and she wrote this in 2003, but it's a theory around how these large technological revolutions happen about every 50 years or so and what are the components that make them happen. And I've just been going down this rabbit hole, completely fascinated by this theory. I'm not the first one to know about this theory or anything like that, but I've just been really interested in it and trying to think about how does crypto and all the other kinds of technological things we're seeing today fit into this broader multi century set of trends.


Daniel Scrivner:

I'll ask you one follow question of that. Obviously I get the high level idea of that book and it sounds like a book I would love to read. Is there any heuristic or anything you learned reading it about what constitutes a technical revolution? What kicks it off? Any themes that have shown up so far?


Mike Sall:

I'm still going through the whole book, but from reading it, there are a bunch of different components to it. The big question that I have been thinking through is she describes how usually isn't just one technological innovation, but multiple major innovations that all combine together into a whole new wave of changing the way our lifestyles are. And so what I think about it is like, oh, you look at something like crypto and you're like, is that just one of a number of different innovations or does within crypto, does that combine a bunch of different innovations as part of it? So that's the one thing I found pretty interesting is how to think about the different innovations that are all combining into a broader wave. And then how do you identify when those are starting or not?


Daniel Scrivner:

Yeah, it's super interesting. It's almost like a value chain, it has to come together, bunch of things lining up. This is a two side of the coin question. The first part of this is, when you think about yourself, and this can be yourself at Goldfinch, this can be yourself just as a human in everyday life, what do you think of as your superpowers? You have a background in data analytics, you have, I think, all these really interesting pieces of your background. Is there something that underlies that, or is there something that you think of as your superpower?


Mike Sall:

Yeah. I think for me, this is kind of abstract, but taking ambiguous situations with a lot of pieces and disparate information and forming a coherent story out of it and a coherent way of framing what's happening. And so places where this becomes helpful is when there's a super vague problem and it's like, "Where do we even start?" I feel like I have a strength is being able to say, "Here's a way to think about it. Here's a way to frame it all into a coherent line of thinking. And so then here's how we can approach it." Or when there's lots of things happening in the world and with our team, we want to understand what we're doing, how to tell a coherent story, but here's how all the pieces are fitting together and relate to each other.


Mike Sall:

And so that I would say is an abstract thing that has applied in different ways, but yeah, taking these disparate informations and making coherent stories out of them.


Daniel Scrivner:

Yeah. That's really powerful. So you can have a huge number of data points and triangulate between those and be able to tell what's important and what's not, and how to string it together?


Mike Sall:

Yep.


Daniel Scrivner:

On the flip side, what do you feel you've struggled with and how have you improved or worked around those things over time?


Mike Sall:

A thing that I've always struggled with is I am an extremely shy person, in a way that it could be a problem sometimes when I need to go introduce myself to someone or something like that I'm just super shy about it. And what I've learned is that the way to get better at it for me is just get more familiar with the different kinds of situations and have more of a way to handle them. So I remember way back when I was first a manager and I first needed to be interviewing other people, like hiring other people, the very first time I interviewed someone else was just terrible. I was too shy to interview the person who was applying for a job. But then I don't know, I have to force myself into those situations.


Mike Sall:

And then once I did a whole bunch of interviews, it became more familiar. It was something that I was more used to. And so that's how I've dealt with it, is forced myself into these uncomfortable situations so that I get more practice and more familiar with it.


Daniel Scrivner:

Yeah. It sounds that's something that you acknowledge is probably always going to be there. And it's just, how do you overcome that little one step at a time?


Mike Sall:

I think so. Changing the perspective of not doing something despite the fact that it's uncomfortable, but because it's uncomfortable, because that's the only way to learn. So yeah, I think it's will always be there.


Daniel Scrivner:

It's powerful. When you think about habits and routines, do you have a daily set of habits that you follow? And if you don't, then a second way you could approach this is just habits that you've tried that have had an impact and you just try to incorporate whenever you can, because I think part of the behind this question is, I think it's really interesting to ask this. I don't want to assume that everyone is this insane person with a day that's mapped out every single day at 4:00 AM.


Mike Sall:

Yeah. I don't have too many habits, but the one that I've done consistently for a while is always locking off an hour in the morning for breakfast and reading, reading news, or even reading books or novels or things like that. And that started a while back when I was working a lot, it almost felt like I was just working until I went to bed and then getting up and working right away and I was getting super burnt out. And then since then, I've just made sure I always have a big chunk of time in the morning to focus and do non-work related things. And that has been really helpful for me.


Daniel Scrivner:

I want to ask a second question, which is, and there may not be anything here, we haven't talked to this before, but I figured I would ask it. You've been a founder multiple times before, you're a co-founder of Goldfinch right now, which is a protocol that's had a lot of success already. One of the things that I feel like I've learned in those situations is you've learned to live with a different level of stress and pressure. Do you have any techniques that you use to deal with stress and pressure?


Mike Sall:

I think usually what I find to be the most helpful thing with stress and pressure is talking to other people about it, just being able to talk about it helps me put in perspective. And so it was great, now with my co-founder, we could talk about those things and that alone helps. So that's one thing. And then I think the other thing for me that is important is just sleep, getting more sleep tends to help with that kind of thing. And making sure that the stress doesn't lead me to stay up later and not actually get as much sleep. So just making sure I protect that time as well.


Daniel Scrivner:

Yeah. That makes sense. On the fitness side, do you have an approach or a methodology or anything you use? We just talked about sleep a little bit, but just diet, exercise, and sleep, anything that's interesting there that's worth sharing with others?


Mike Sall:

I don't really. I don't really have specific diet and exercise approaches, but I'm very careful about the sleep part, that is the more important part to me.


Daniel Scrivner:

Yes. Sleep and the hour for breakfast, the hour to set aside to decompress in the morning.


Mike Sall:

Yeah. Both super critical for me.


Daniel Scrivner:

We talked about that Technological Revolutions book, last two questions, feel free to answer whatever one makes the most sense to you. Is there books that have had a big impact on your life that are worth sharing? And some of these that I think about is like Ray Dalio, Principles, I feel like is super formative for me. That's a book I think about all the time, I always reference. Is there anything for you there? Any book that's informed a big part of how you approach life or work?


Mike Sall:

Yeah, that's interesting. I actually love Principles as well. There are parts of it I agree with, there are parts of that I don't agree with, but it did definitely make me rethink about a lot of things. Another book that I've been reading is Antifragile, has also changed my perspective on things. And I mentioned Carlota Perez before, and there's an interesting juxtaposition between the two, because Carlota Perez is building these narratives about the world and how things recur, and then Antifragile is not about the narratives, just focus on doing things and just learning what happens and things are random and stuff like that.


Mike Sall:

And so that has helped me rethink how things happen and how things work. And then it's also this interesting juxtaposition to that other book.


Daniel Scrivner:

Yeah. Super fascinating. It's actually funny. I've been listening to Antifragile as the audio book that's on loop right now in my car whenever I'm driving. And it's great, I feel like Nassim Taleb, he gets a lot of flack, he also gets a lot of love, but I think my take is things like Antifragile, I just don't know who else would write that book. Who else would think that idea is important enough to write an entire book on it?


Mike Sall:

Yeah, definitely. And it's just ways of thinking about the world that I've never considered before too. It's just eye opening.


Daniel Scrivner:

On the software tool side, do you use any specific tools to manage work, tasks and time?


Mike Sall:

I think I use the typical tools that a lot of folks use like Gmail and Notion, but I did recently discover in the past year this News function on Gmail, which has been amazing. Now I've become an average News function user, which really changed my experience with email.


Daniel Scrivner:

And for people that haven't used that, that's basically, I'm going to try an attempt to explain it and then you can correct or add back. But basically you're saying, "I can't deal with this right now, I'm going to have this email resurface at X time in the future."


Mike Sall:

Yes. It's because I use email basically as a to-do list. And so there might be something and I'm like, "I know I'm going to do that next week." And then just being able to put it out of mind and let it just show up again next week is very helpful for just helping me focus on what I actually need to focus on.


Daniel Scrivner:

I've also found it's the world's best cheat for actually getting to inbox zero, because box zero at least for me doesn't mean everything's been answered, but it means I've dealt with everything for now and it could maybe come back at the future. On the personal growth side, one of my favorite questions to ask is if you have a favorite failure. And the idea behind this question is trying, one, I think to just openly talk about failure. But then the second piece is something that I've found just talking to a lot of successful people is they've had a lot of failures and a lot of those failures have propelled them in the direction that they they've ended up having a lot of success in. When I ask that question, is there any failure that comes to mind?


Mike Sall:

Well, as I mentioned before, I've tried starting a number of companies and they were all failures, but there's one that I think of that I had tried. I was looking to build an art subscription at the time and I just wasn't able to get it off the ground at all. I was trying to raise money, I couldn't raise money, I was trying to get lots of customers and I couldn't. And so at the time, I felt like I had put myself out there, telling everyone I was doing this thing and then it didn't work and I was pretty embarrassed after. It didn't work, I didn't want to talk about it. When I was interviewing at jobs afterwards or something like that, I didn't want to go into this thing that I had just done that didn't work out.


Mike Sall:

But it did help me learn about how to think about what needs to be in place to start a business, what do I care about when I'm working on a business and what I need to do differently next time. So that is one that stands out to me that really changed the way I approached things like Goldfinch that we're doing now.


Daniel Scrivner:

I want to ask you a follow-up question, which is, going through those experiences and having a number of attempts that just don't work for whatever reason, did that desensitize you to failure, meaning make it so you were willing to take another swing being less scared or did that make it much more like, "No. Now, I'm learning something each point in time, I'm figuring out what this bar is"?


Mike Sall:

I would not say that it desensitized me, it's still hard every time. And when something isn't going well, it still feels like a similar struggle, for me at least. But I feel like I did learn more. I learned about more boxes that I want to check off or more things I should be doing in advance. For example, I was just not doing enough market research before that art subscription. So just spend a lot more time doing that this time around and then it helped. So I view it as more like just iterating on what makes things work out better compared to before. But when things aren't working out, it's still super stressful. I don't think I'm desensitized to it.


Daniel Scrivner:

Yeah. I guess the opposite of desensitizing is stigmatizing, failure is absolutely stigmatizing. It becomes a thing, no one wants that, no one enjoys that. On the flip side, just to ask you a question, I guess, around success, do you have a definition of success or for you, I guess, how do you think about that and contextualize that? What does that mean to you?


Mike Sall:

I guess I think of success as being achieving your goals relative to whatever your personal goals are. For me, my goals tend to be, I just really like building things and my goals are to build something that is meaningful and has impact on other people. And so seeing something that I've built have that is what success would mean for me.


Daniel Scrivner:

Super interesting. Last question, what are you most grateful for in this phase of your life?


Mike Sall:

Right now I would say I'm most grateful for the people that I get to spend time with. So my family, and my friends, and my coworkers, I'm grateful that the things that I do involve spending time with these people who I like to spend time with.


Daniel Scrivner:

You've done a good job of cultivating I think a lot of those people in your life, and the team at Goldfinch is world class. I'm not surprised by that. People, if they're interested, I know they can follow you on Twitter @sall, S-A-L-L, do you have a personal site anywhere else online?


Mike Sall:

Not really. No, mainly Twitter. Yeah.


Daniel Scrivner:

Okay. So Twitter and then the other place obviously, and we talk about this in-depth in the Infinite Games interview, but Mike is the co-founder of Goldfinch protocol. It's protocol that's launching in early 2022. And you can find out more information about that at goldfinch.finance. Thank you so much for the time, Mike. It's been awesome.


Mike Sall:

Yeah. Thank you. This was great.






On Outlier Academy, Daniel Scrivner explores the tactics, routines, and habits of world-class performers working at the edge—in business, investing, entertainment, and more. In each episode, he decodes what they've mastered and what they've learned along the way. Start learning from the world’s best today. 

Explore all episodes of Outlier Academy, be the first to hear about new episodes, and subscribe on your favorite podcast platform.

Daniel Scrivner and Mighty Publishing LLC own the copyright in and to all content in and transcripts of the Outlier Academy podcast, with all rights reserved, including Daniel’s right of publicity.

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