Hi, this is Morty Lefkoe with another edition of the weekly podcast, Conversations with Top Personal Development Bloggers. Every week we have a conversation with a blogger who has a slightly different take on personal development. There’s so much valuable material being offered by personal development bloggers. This is the best place to find out which ones might provide you with just what you’re looking for, what’s unique about each blogger, why they started writing their blog, how their personal experiences inform their blog, why you ought to be reading their blog, and lots more.
Today I have the pleasure to speak to Tyler Tervooren, and he has a blog called “Riskology“. Welcome, Tyler, good to speak to you.
Tyler Tervooren: Ah, thanks so much for having me.
Morty Lefkoe: Where are you … Where am I talking to you from? Where are you located?
Tyler Tervooren: I’m up here in sunny Portland, Oregon.
Morty Lefkoe: Oh, okay, that’s a good place. How long you been there?
Tyler Tervooren: I’ve been in Portland … I’ve been in Oregon my whole life, but I’ve been in Portland for 11 years or so. I consider myself a citizen of the world, for some
Morty Lefkoe: Oh, okay, that’s a good way to do it. What was the impetus … Let’s start at the beginning, what’s your impetus to start your blog to begin with?
Tyler Tervooren: There’s a few reasons I started Riskology. First off, I’ve just always been very interested in psychology and understanding the reasons people do the things they do. It was also because I wanted a place that was a … provided me some sort of assurance that I would do the things that I wanted to do; so, it was an accountability measure for the things that I wanted to do in my own life. Then, third, and perhaps most importantly, I had been laid off from a corporate job and I didn’t know what else to do. So …
Morty Lefkoe: Okay, so when did this start? When did you start writing your blog?
Tyler Tervooren: Yeah, it all started in June, well, technically May, of 2010.
Morty Lefkoe: [Crosstalk 02:00]
Tyler Tervooren: So, just over four years now.
Morty Lefkoe: It’s relative … and you’ve built it up to a pretty big following in just a relatively short period of time.
Tyler Tervooren: Yeah, I mean four years, and we have a nice community of 11 or 12,000 email subscribers and roughly 70, 80,000 visitors every month. So, yeah, it’s a nice little thriving community.
Morty Lefkoe: Very good. You said you’ve always been interested in human behavior. Do you have any particular background in personal development?
Tyler Tervooren: Well, when you say … I feel like the background is … everybody has a background in personal development to some extent, right? In the sense that if you think about how to live your life, and if you’re intentional about it, then you … that’s going to manifest itself in some way, shape, or form in the life you end up leading. I don’t have any … I never went to school for it. I studied architecture, actually in college, but ended up in construction, and then eventually, of course, doing Riskology and studying on a personal level psychology.
I don’t have any letters behind my name, but I’ve just found that over the course of my whole life that in any career, in any profession I was in, I was most interested in figuring out the reasons behind the way people did the things that they did. That was always just a driving factor for me. So, when I had the opportunity, I decided that this was the direction I needed to go.
Morty Lefkoe: Very good. Have you had any specific personal experiences that have been particularly useful in writing your blog?
Tyler Tervooren: Yeah, lots of them, actually. For one, just figuring out what to do after I was laid off; you know, that’s one of those, what do you call them, a “life-changing experience”. You get a … Every once in a while in your life these moments come along that are handed to you that you don’t have necessarily created for yourself, but they give you this immense opportunity to do something different, or to change something about yourself, and provide a lot of motivation to do it. But, if you don’t act on them quickly, everything goes back to normal, and you miss the opportunity.
So, having my job taken away from me was a big life-changing experience. I injured myself very badly in a sporting event earlier in life that forced me to rethink how I was going to … For much of my youth, of course, I imagined, like lots of young people who are participating in sports think, “Well, I’ll just become a professional baseball player,” or, “I’ll just become [inaudible 04:41].” So, having that injury forced me to re-look at what I was going to do with my talents. Lots of relationships blooming and fading, those moments have inspired me to look at how I live in those kinds of ways as well.
Morty Lefkoe: Can I … Thank you. Is there anybody in particular of several people who have influenced your thinking? Any role models? Any books you’ve read, or courses you’ve taken, or people you’ve met?
Tyler Tervooren: Yeah, that’s a good question, and I do have a lot. I do have … I don’t spend a lot of time reading the literature people, but I do look to a number of people in terms of their general philosophy. [Mah-man 05:29] Gandhi is a big influence for me, the peaceful resistance, that philosophy. In modern times, my friend Chris Guillebeau, who writes chrisguillebeau.com-
Morty Lefkoe: Oh, yeah, Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Tyler Tervooren: [crosstalk 05:48] a lot, he’s traveled to every country in the world, and his philosophy on travel and how to live a successful life has been very inspirational to me. At the same time, people like Leo Babauta, Zen Habits. Henry Ford, I’ve always been intrigued by his passion for building systems for producing greater results. He was a man that was very methodical, so I’ve always admired that. Those are some of my role models.
Morty Lefkoe: Very good, and two of them are personal development bloggers like you.
Tyler Tervooren: Yep, exactly.
Morty Lefkoe: Okay, good, thank you. You have a typical audience, have you ever looked at your analytics to get a sense of male/female, ages, countries, etcetera? What kind of people normally read you?
Tyler Tervooren: I don’t … I’m not the analytical type that looks at stats on a regular basis and digs really deep in them, but actually my … when I rebuilt my website about nine months ago or so, I went digging through my analytics just to see how things laid out. What I learned was that probably about, and interestingly enough, I think about we’re at a split of about 60 percent women, and 40 percent men, which was surprising to me because I felt like because I was a man, I would probably attract more men, because that’s my personality. But, actually, we’ve attracted a pretty big audience of women at Riskology, which is great; I think it’s fantastic that women buy into this philosophy. In terms of age, it’s hard to say. I mean, we definitely we have a concentration of mid-20’s to late-30’s, but we also have … I get emails all the time from people that say like, “Hey, I’m 13, and I just like saw this article … ” Or, even like, people are like, “Hey, I’m 81, and it’s like my grandson just showed me how to use the internet, and like I found this article and wanted to talk to you about it.” So, I would say the vast majority of them are younger, but we also have a community that spans all ages, and from almost every country in the world [inaudible 08:04].
Morty Lefkoe: Very good. What would you say is the essence of your message? If you had to summarize all the different blog posts, what’s in common? What is it you’re trying to communicate to people?
Tyler Tervooren: What I’m trying to communicate to people is that you can live a smarter life by having adventures, by taking risks, by taking calculated risks. So, my whole personal philosophy is that we’re trying to perfect human behavior, in every moment of every day in your life you have decisions to make, and for each individual person, there’s one right answer. We’re trying to refine at every single decision point in your life how to figure out what the right answer is, and my philosophy goes around taking smarter risks and understanding odds, and understanding your own personal goals, and your own personal ideals to figure out what those right moves in your life are.
Morty Lefkoe: Okay, very good. How often do you post?
Tyler Tervooren: I post twice a week, every week. Forever is the goal.
Morty Lefkoe: Do you accept comments on it generally?
Tyler Tervooren: I do yeah, and in fact, we’ve just opened a user forum to people to talk to each other. So, not only do we accept comments, but we accept discussions on all kinds of topics now.
Morty Lefkoe: Very good, and do you generally respond to comments yourself?
Tyler Tervooren: Yes, you know, it’s become increasingly more difficult to respond to every single comment, but I try to get in there, and yeah, and talk to people.
Morty Lefkoe: Yeah, I noticed the same. I did them all at one point, and when you get 20, 30 on any one, or sometimes more, I now try to answer the ones where there’s a specific question or some confusion, or some misconception to clarify something, but the ones that just want to say, “I liked it”, or “I responded to it,” or something, you’re right, it’s hard to get to all of them.
Tyler Tervooren: Yeah, but every single one gets read.
Morty Lefkoe: Oh, yeah. Do read them all. To the extent you’re familiar with Chris, and Leo, and other personal development bloggers, what’s unique about your blog? You’re tying to help people understand themselves better and be happier in life, what’s your unique take? Do you have a specific thing that you could describe as what’s unique about the way you approach your blog?
Tyler Tervooren: Yeah, I think what’s unique about Riskology is that we take a pretty scientifically data-driven look at … our approach is very data-driven, so rather than … and it hasn’t always been that way, it’s been in development. When Riskology first started, it was a way for me to hold myself accountable to these things that I wanted to do, so I was posting all the time about my opinions, and like, “I think you should live like this because this is my opinion.”
Well, over time I’ve really narrowed down, and started to really get into the fundamentals of psychology, and understanding how science affects … what scientific principles affect the brain, decision-making, and “how-to” building, and all these things. We take a very … We’ve gotten very, very serious over the years, and we take a very psychological research-based, data-driven approach to … we shut off, and we back with our recommendations for why “this is the right way to do this thing”.
Morty Lefkoe: You get into things the brain plasticity, into research like that, neuroplasticity?
Tyler Tervooren: This is the direction I’m headed. We’re still very much learning about just psychology, so focusing on social psychology and how people behave with themselves, and in groups, and how they make decisions, and how they build habits. The next step after that is definitely the start to get … drill even deeper down into the actual functions of the brain, to explain those things. So, yeah, it’s a long, long road to getting all drilling way, way down into there. That’s the direction.
Morty Lefkoe: Yeah, I find that I write something, and then I discover something about science that explains why something I do works, the try and understand … if you do ask why it will happen, no idea why, but it will, and then somewhere along the line I read something, and neuroplasticity, or something like that, will explain, “Ah, here’s what’s going on, now I know what’s going on.”
Tyler Tervooren: Yeah, and it’s really fascinating, because in the world of science there’s always something new to learn, and there’s always something to explain the reason why something happens, but there’s also lots of conflicting opinions, and there’s also plenty that is simply inexplicable at the moment, right? We haven’t figured out what the answer is, so one thing that we do is we try to take very serious in where we get our research from, how we interpret that research to make sure that we’re staying true to the intent of the scientists that have put in all the time to find these results. Then, just being honest as well, like when we’re trying to explain something, we don’t know why it works, and nothing we’ve found explains it; so, we understand this … “If you do this, and you get these results, but we don’t know why yet.”
Morty Lefkoe: Okay, and I’m just curious, personally I’m … Can you give an example of a particular bit of advice or something on psychology that you’ve presented based on the science, that’s science-based?
Tyler Tervooren: Sure.
Morty Lefkoe: Something you’ve written in the last few months?
Tyler Tervooren: Yeah, so one that keeps coming to the top of my head regularly, because I found it so interesting is the difference between men and women make decisions under pressure. There’s this prevailing societal belief that men are better risk takers, right? Because they take more of them, and they’re apt … they’re not as afraid of stepping out and taking a risk when they’re not sure of what’s going to happen. But what we’ve actually learned through a number of studies that have built this new body of knowledge is that actually men are no better than women, and women are no better than men; what the difference is men are better at taking some kinds of risks, and women are better at taking some kinds of risks based on how the chemistry of their brains make them make decisions in different situations.
For instance, a woman is much better at making decisions under pressure when the odds are low. Rather, sorry, when the risk is low. So, women are actually … they’re more … as risk increases, women become more careful and methodical in how they make decisions, but they are faster and more accurate when the risks are lower. Men are actually the opposite. So, men actually think less and act quicker when the risk is higher, but sometimes tend to quarrel with themselves over low risk decisions. So, there’s really no … We can put to rest the battle of the sexes in terms of who’s a better risk taker. In fact, both are best, and to get the best results you should probably work together most of the time.
Morty Lefkoe: Oh, great, fascinating. Very, very interesting, never … was not aware of that at all. Do you have a long-term goal for your blog?
Tyler Tervooren: The long-term goal is just to reach as many people as possible, right? I think that what we’re doing is important, and I think it’s personally helped me improve my own life, so my big hope only is over the years we’ll reach more and more people, and hopefully get people making better decisions and taking bigger risks, and living bigger adventures.
Morty Lefkoe: Got it. What would you say is the single most important thing you’ve told people that’s made a difference in their life?
Tyler Tervooren: Start really small.
Morty Lefkoe: Start really … okay, could you [crosstalk 16:26] on that a little bit?
Tyler Tervooren: Yeah. I used to have a really long, drawn-out answer for that, and then I’d boil it all the way down to “start really, really small,” because what I’ve learned for myself, and what seems to be proven over and over again is that anytime you want to change something about your life, it can quickly become very, very overwhelming to make big changes. So, really the only way to get started and head the right direction is to pick something very, very small, and do it right away, because doing something really small both puts you in the mindset to make the change that you want to make, and it also gives you a better odds of success, and success breeds confidence, and that confidence is what propels you to make bigger and bigger changes over time.
Morty Lefkoe: Got it, fascinating, okay. What’s your mission in life, and how does writing your blog contribute to it? Do you have a mission in life?
Tyler Tervooren: Yeah, well, that’s a good question. I often think about other people’s missions in life more than I do my own. My own mission in life, I think honestly, is to spread the message of risk and adventure, right? Making smarter decisions. My mission is to … I guess, rather than say “my mission”, maybe like one really fun life-long goal I want to achieve is to build a new library of psychology, specifically for decision making, for everyday life-decision making.
Morty Lefkoe: Your blob, which has been lots of articles on those topics, that would be the beginning of your library then?
Tyler Tervooren: Yeah, for the last four years, I’ve written in a [varied 18:10] sense on many, many topics, all based around making smarter decisions in everyday life to get better outcomes, and just keeping doing that for the rest of my life, but then also building in a layer of organization to it, so that it becomes basically an encyclopedia for people who want to improve themselves; they can come and they can look up … or they can type in something they want to achieve, and we can serve them all kinds of resources and results that specifically relate to this one goal that they have. So, I want to build the world’s empire of the body of knowledge for every possible life-achievement you might want to [crosstalk 18:54].
Morty Lefkoe: Okay, sounds exciting. What else do you do other than have people read your blog? Are there any courses or books or workshops or coaching, or anything you do with people who are interested in your approach who read your blog and say, “I’d like some more of Tyler”? What else do you offer?
Tyler Tervooren: Well, right now the main offering outside of the blog is the community; you can join, and that’s free as well. You can join our community and start building relationships inside our little … we call it the “Riskology Lab“, it’s a place for people to go to talk about taking smarter risks on a daily basis. You can join the Riskology Lab for free. Over the next year we’ll be building out a number of courses, specifically relating to the content on Riskology; so, how to improve your life and build hard, useful skills in different areas of your life. We’re going to focus on networking, specifically for introverts, so if you consider yourself an introverted person, we’re going to teach you how to network effectively, even if you know that doesn’t come naturally to you. Lots of things on creating small businesses, that create small amounts of side income, stuff like that, things that the average person living their life thinks like, “Well, I could a little bit better at this,” we’re going to start building courses for those things.
Morty Lefkoe: Great, okay. Is there anything else you’d like our audience to know about you or your blog? Do we have you covered? You’ve covered a lot of different areas, and all the things I specifically thought about asking, but is there anything else that I didn’t ask, or you didn’t say that you’d like people to know about you, your approach, your blog?
Tyler Tervooren: Yeah, we covered … I think we covered the most important stuff. So, here’s just the fun tidbit about me. When I was in February, I finished running a marathon on every running continent, and that quest was the result of a lot of personal development that I did just by following a lot of the research that I found and wrote about on Riskology.
Morty Lefkoe: Artica and Antarctica?
Tyler Tervooren: On Antarctica, yeah, that was the last one in February.
Morty Lefkoe: Holy smokes. What was the temperature up there?
Tyler Tervooren: No kidding. It was actually a nice warm 31 degrees Fahrenheit.
Morty Lefkoe: And you ran 26 miles?
Tyler Tervooren: 26 miles around a ship I ran.
Morty Lefkoe: Holy smokes.
Tyler Tervooren: [Crosstalk 21:21] in a bay.
Morty Lefkoe: Well, thank you. Thank you so very much for your time, this was fascinating, and I think that I found what you do and what you write about fascinating. I’m sure a lot of other people will too. The website is, be careful about this, it’s Riskology, R-I-S-K-O-L-O-G-Y dot co, dot C-O. Not dot com, dot C-O. How’d you get C-O, how did that happen?
Tyler Tervooren: Because the other one wasn’t available, so I got C-O.
Morty Lefkoe: So, that’s from another country? But you wanted the word “Riskology”, right?
Tyler Tervooren: I wanted the word “Riskology”, because that’s my essence.
Morty Lefkoe: I got it. Well, thanks again, Tyler. I very much appreciate it, and I’m sure that a lot of other people, as soon as they get this thing up, will find your message, what you do, what you say fascinating also. Have a great day, good to talk to you.
Tyler Tervooren: You as well. Take care, Morty.