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What I learnt from Cal Fussman

I was honoured to host on the podcast Cal Fussman. Cal is someone I have admired as I forge my own path in interviewing and writing. Cal is one of the most accomplished writers in the world, his career has taken him full circle where he interviewed the likes of Muhammad Ali, Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, Ted Kennedy, Jack Welch, Serena Williams, Richard Branson and Mikhail Gorbachev.

We connected through our love for boxing, but I just love learning from the best. While I always try to be me, I love getting inside knowledge of how he became successful, but in Cal’s case I love his curiosity, passion and genuineness.


Cal shares some special stories on the show. To listen to the entire episode use the player below

These are my key takeaways from our chat:


“There’s not going to be a better moment with your hero than sitting down and having some ice cream with him”

I think sometimes we take life too seriously, always on the hunt for a huge moment to fulfil our desires. Ice-cream with Muhammad Ali seems so simple but pleasurable, no need for a fancy restaurant, attention or cameras, just a small treat with a great man.




After years of being one of the finest interviewers/writers, Cal decided to turn his creativity to the stage. Public speaking an area of life that can cripple even the most confident. His advice on getting good:

“Over the last year I started trying to get on stage as much as I could so I could perfect it because what you notice is every stage is different, the lighting, the people are paying attention in different ways, so I really wanted to take the time to make the stage my own. Now whether it’s 3000 people or 16 people I’m comfortable. It does take time and you got to put in the effort. If anyone was starting to speak I would recommend to just do it as much as possible”




After spending a week with Muhammad Ali, Cal came to the end of his visit and still hadn’t got something he felt he could turn into a great story. He was on a mission to find a question that would be the heart of his feature. A character by the name of Drew “Bundini” Brown who was the corner man of Ali was the Catalyst behind his name.

“Ali starts to get hurt and when he does he has his corner man Drew “Bundini” Brown who exerts him on. Screaming “the world needs you champ, go to the well once more, go the well once more and always Ali would reach deep inside himself and reached to what he needed to rise to the occasion. So I’m walking around the photos and I’m hearing Bundini in my head go to the well once more and I realised that was my question; what is still in the well?”



Cal is great friends with Larry King and spends most mornings with the great man, as they write his autobiography. Listening to Cal’s first podcast where Larry was the first guest you kind of feel a big brother and little brother relationship and Larry is obviously someone Cal admires and respects. Cal’s advice from Larry King:

“I asked Larry King if there was anything I could do better. He said to stay yourself, there’s no trick to being yourself. If you try to do what I do, our what Oprah Winfrey does, Charlies Rose or Barbara Walters you’re not realising it works for them because they are them, what works for you is you”.




An interesting tale on how Joe Frazier developed his deadly left hook, I’ve followed Joe’s career since the start and this is a new one too me.

“Joe was a short, stocky guy who did chores. Joe’s Dad had lost a left arm. So Joe’s Dad would be cutting lumber with a cross saw with the right arm and Joe would be on the other side on the left.  Back and forth, back and forth every month, every week, every day, until over years the muscles in Joe Frazier’s left arm evolved into a brutal and devastating left hook. That was the one punch Ali was vulnerable to because it came from out of nowhere and you couldn’t see it coming. Watching these guys fight was like lightening vs. thunder”




Ali was his idol, but it wasn’t just for what he achieved in the ring. Ali was a true gentleman and inspiration outside the ring a great lesson for us all.

“People put their hero on a pedestal, then they met their hero and they are just a human being and can’t live up to it. The amazing thing about the week I spent with Ali was when the week was over, he was heroic to me then before the week I met him because of the way he treated me and the humanity I saw in him and that was what was most beautiful about the experience”




What’s the key to making a good story?

“All stories start with vulnerability. If you don’t have a vulnerable character you really don’t have a story. The character needs a vulnerability to get through an obstacle to get to a finish line”


Again simple but powerful advice.

I really valued the time I had with Cal and can’t wait to get him on for Part 2 and hopefully share a beer with him next time he hits the Australian shores.

Be sure to follow Cal on his journey:

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Check out the entire interview and let me know what you think at


have conducted 100’s of interviews with some of the most successful people across business, art, sport and fitness on The Vision Board Podcast and also Talking with TK. Be sure to subscribe for free to the show via iTunes, Sound Cloud & Stitcher and please leave us an iTunes review.


Enjoy the show



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