Matt Mullenweg: Internal Code

Matt Mullenweg's Own Internal Code

Episode 220: Do You Have Your Own Internal “Code”

I have a rule. After every podcast, I write down 10 things I learned. I don’t know if anyone else does this. Do you do this? Some people make illustrations. They send me what they’ve learned. It’s a creation of a creation of a creation. A drawing of a podcast of someone’s life.

But I broke my rule. It’s been over a month. And my brain is digging for the lessons from my interview with the creator of WordPress. I think I have Alzheimer’s. Matt was 19 years old when he started WordPress. It was 2003. Now gets more traffic than

The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times both use WordPress. I use WordPress.

I wanted to know if it’s still worth the time and effort to make your own site. He said it is. That’s how you break out…

“We’re trying to revitalize the independent web,” Matt Mullenweg said. He’s 33 now. “It’s not like these big sites are going anywhere. They’re fantastic. I use all of them, but you want balance. You need your own site that belongs to you… like your own home on the Internet.”

This is part of Matt’s code. Not WordPress’s “code.” Matt’s like a robot. I mean that as a compliment. There are many signs of this: language, ability, he’s very exact.

I had to interrupt. He was talking in code. And it was my job to translate.

He said, “If I send you a unit of work…”

“I don’t mean to interrupt,” I said. “I’m a little bit of an interrupter. So I apologize in advance, but you talk in a very code-like language… ‘a unit of work.’ How about ‘a task?’ That works as well.”

He laughed. And thanked me for translating. The podcast continued.

He told me about his personal code (again, robot).

People have values. Geniuses and other advanced forms of life  have “code.” So here’s Matt’s…


A) Measure what’s important to you.

Matt wrote a birthday blog. He does this every year to measure what’s changed. It lists how many books he’s read over the past year, countries he traveled to and so on.

He’s very specific.

It’s a measurement of his personal freedom. He can see where time went. And if he chose himself. “You cannot change what you don’t measure,” Matt said.

So this year, I wrote a birthday blog.


B) Own the work you do

“Other sites provide space,” he said. “They provide distribution in exchange for owning all of your stuff. You can’t leave Facebook or Twitter and take all of your followers with you.”

That’s why he recommends having your own website. It’s yours. Not Facebook’s. Not Business Insider’s or Huffington Post’s. It’s yours.

When I first started, I picked a template, posted a blog, shared a link on Twitter and within 3-4 minutes I had traffic.


C) Ignore concern

Matt dropped out of college and moved to San Francisco when he was 20.

“Were your parents upset?”

“They’ve always been supportive,” he said. “But they were concerned.”

That didn’t stop him. He had direction. And when you know where you’re going, you don’t ask for directions.

Sometimes I feel like I’m driving with the wrong address in my GPS. And Siri won’t stop re-routing.

So what I learned from Matt: Reroute yourself as many times as it takes. Reinvent.

Put someone else’s concern for your wellbeing on your gratitude list. But don’t let it stop you. Don’t let it get in the way of your code.


D) The myth of loyalty

When Matt moved and started his first job, he made more than his dad did.

“I got an amazing salary,” he said.

I kept wondering if his parents were upset. I don’t know why.

“Were they upset?”

He said no. Again. But then he explained. “Learning spreads organically.” And when he moved, it helped spark possibility for his dad.

“He worked at the same company for 26 or 27 years. He more than doubled his salary when he left. It made me so sad. I never want anyone to be in the situation my dad was in,” he said. “He gave the loyalty of decades and they didn’t return that loyalty…”

Why? Because they were following a different code. The “employee code” is not the same as the “employer code.”

I don’t measure much. I try to let my life float by. And I hope to help people feel free enough to live by their own codes too. Like Matt and his dad.

That’s how I measure what’s important to me. Am I supportive of myself and of others? If yes, then I’m a mix of creation and evolution. Robot and human.

“Code” and DNA.

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  • Shary Raske

    Great show! I took 5 pages of notes. Here’s my summary: How do you know what matters? Have a core of self-directed values like trust, integrity, insight, ideas. Matt encouraged us to “zoom out” to evaluate what’s next, and you cannot change what you cannot measure. And open source philosophy is based on freedom to share and believing in abundance instead of scarcity, that the more you share, the more you gain. I love that his 3 words for this year are Stillness, Symmetry, and Yellow Arrows (humor with direction?). Last, I enjoyed the importance of a company offering sabbaticals.

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  • Fabian

    Very interesting pod cast. I’ll check wordpress.

  • Tolulope

    Loyalty can be mythical sometimes

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  • Luke Cavanagh

    A really interesting Podcast.

  • Jose Castro

    What was the software Matt uses to manage the time he spends in each window?

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  • Thom

    I have to completely disagree with James’ early points about there being no need to pay a web developer and his website being ‘advanced enough’. Sure, there are plenty of themes out there to use but they tend to either lack the additional functionality you need, there’s always going to be someone else out there with the same website as you, and most are pretty damned heavy or rely on awful plugins like Visual composer. While I agree developers can’t charge extortionate amounts anymore, and there is an issue with web firms selling on themes built by others and charging for installing said theme (but that’s a different issue altogether!), but there’s untold benefit to having someone build you a theme, something personal to you, with cool features you won’t find on other themes or without having to download heavy plugins, they may customise the backend to make tasks specific to your page much easier, they’re also likely to put extra effort into making your page lighter, or implementing more modern code standards, or faster delivery methods like server side compression, minified code, Contend delivery networks etc. I feel like that whole little speech from James just made him look like he didn’t really know what he was talking about :/ As you could tell from the minimal input from Matt.