The Duff McDonald Interview

Welcome to the first podcast of the New Year featuring bestselling author Duff McDonald!

Duff is the author of several critically acclaimed books, including “The Golden Passport: Harvard Business School, the Limits of Capitalism, the Moral Failure of the MBA Elite,” and “The Firm: The Story of McKinsey and Its Secret Influence on American Business.” His most recent book, Tickled: A Commonsense Guide to the Present Moment, includes a chapter on kombucha.

In this podcast, we’ll hear how Duff was introduced to kombucha via GT’s Gingerade, and what quickly turned into a five-bottle-a-day habit led to him becoming an accomplished home brewer who keeps 30 gallons on the go in his upstate New York home.

Duff’s podcast How to Tickle Yourself, which he co-hosts with Matt McButter (!), has featured KBI President Hannah Crum discussing Consciousness and Kombucha, and the founder of what Duff considers “the best commercially available kombucha in the New York region” Adam Benziger of Laughing Gut Kombucha.

Check into Duff’s podcast, read Tickled, and you’ll quickly see how broad his interests are. He’s into Bob Dylan, Sri Aurobindo, technology, business, education, parenting, innovation, art, and more. What’s fascinating is the role kombucha has in his life, both as a beverage and a touchstone for his philosophy of life.

Duff titles the chapter in his new book ‘Infinite Kombucha.’ It starts with a quote from John Luis Borges on the nature of the infinite. He shares details of how he began home brewing in 2019 and his delight in experimenting with various flavors.

The promise of kombucha is possibility. The flavor of a particular kombucha in choice. Do you know why this happens? Because kombucha is a living drink. That is, it is made with a living yeast. It is alive. Anything that at is alive contains the universe, or infinite possibility. Kombucha is infinite possibility in a drink.

Tickled, p. 226

Listen to the podcast, and you’ll hear details of his home brew setup (with a kegerator in the kitchen for his family to enjoy their freshly brewed ‘booch). What he calls “a different kind of hobby” is a springboard for life:

So we try to eliminate uncertainty in the places where we don’t want it. But the key is then to seek it out in the places where we do. That is what hobbies are for,although you don’t really see the results until you’ve invested the effort. Once you have the craft, you can reside in the deep now, and let uncertainty come at you with all it’s got. That’s why we read. That’s why we play music. That;s why we ski, surf, dance, talk, grow gardens, and more. It’s why we make kombucha.

Tickled, p.234

There’s more about Duff on his website, including an essay on How My Kombucha Hobby Transformed My Life.


Listen to the podcast to hear Duff explain why he’s “tickled” by kombucha.

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