How does Tim Ferriss achieve so much when he has all these inner doubts?

When I interviewed Tim Ferriss at a live Mixergy event in San Francisco, I expected to have to warm him up with some easy questions before asking him to talk about his inner doubts, but he just went for it.

Why did he admit so much in front of a live audience? How can he do all the things he did in his new show, The Tim Ferriss Experiment, despite his doubts? And, more importantly, how can you break through your inner critic?

Catch this interview and see for yourself.

Timothy Ferriss is the author of The 4-Hour Body, an uncommon guide to rapid fat-loss, incredible sex, and becoming superhuman. His previous book, The 4-Hour Workweek, was a New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and BusinessWeek bestseller.

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Full Interview Transcript

Andrew: Hey there freedom fighters. My name is Andrew Warner. I’m the founder of Mixery.com, home of the ambitious upstart. And I have a big smile on my face because I just recorded an interview for you with Tim Ferriss in front of a live audience here in San Francisco, and I’m really eager for you to watch it, or frankly, listen to it. And this interview is sponsored by 845. They create product commercials for startups. They are especially good for crowd funding campaigns. What do I mean by good? I mean, they help you get more people to support your crowd funding campaign; more people to back it, more people to spread the word, because their videos are polished, and they can say more in a short video than you can say in pages and pages of web text. So if you want to check them out, go to 845A.com. Check out their videos. They do fantastic work, and I’m really proud to have them as a sponsor here on Mixergy. All right, here’s the interview.

Andrew: I was searching my site for Tim Ferriss’ name just so I could come up with all the examples and how many entrepreneurs who I interviewed on Mixergy who said, “I read this book. He helped me understand, just start small and get launching, like the founder of Genius.com. I said, “You did it in a weekend?” He said, “Yeah, I read Tim’s book. He said just get it out there, right? Other entrepreneurs said, “Tim told me to just running ads to see if anyone even cares and then start building it.” Before there were names for it, Tim was the guy, Tim Ferriss, the author of “The 4-Hour Workweek,” “4-Hour Body,” “4-Hour Chef” in books, and a blog, it’s at FourHourWorkweek.com/blog, right? Lifestyle design. He was out there evangelizing, and today we see the fruits of all of that creativity and all that energy. Help me welcome, Tim Ferriss. It’s so good to have you here.

Tin: It’s so good to be here.

Andrew: You guys are recording this? We’re all good? I’m going to put this up on the site.

Tim: Audio, check, check, can people here me?

Andrew: Actually I think we’re going to use the mics just for his recording.

Tim: Okay, sorry.

Andrew: And they’ll all hear us natively.

Tim: Sorry guys, like stop tapping the mic. It’s my signature move, all right.

Andrew: Tim, I think of you as an especially focused guy, right? You set your mind on learning a language, and you do it to the point where you can go and have a conversation. You decide you’re going to drum, and you become a drummer, right? What’s one accomplishment that you said, I’m going to focus on this, and you achieved? One that was especially hard?

Tim: I think I’m good at sprints, very short sprints of focus. I’m not good at marathons, or even mid-distance. So the “4-Hour Chef” is a project that I pulled off, but that I think took probably seven years off my life, and was very, very difficult for me. I still feel like I have some, I mean, literal symptoms of PTSD from the experience, because it was a gamble.

Andrew: What do you mean? What was the gamble?

Tim: Yeah, a gamble in so much as it was the first major acquisition as a book by Amazon Publishing. They announced their existence or their launch of Amazon Publishing to compete head-to-head against Random House and Simon Schuster in the New York Times with this book. And I expected to get some blow-back, but I did not expect to be boycotted by every retailer imaginable: Barnes and Noble, Target, WalmMart, Costco.

Andrew: Because they said, we don’t want to support Amazon, which is crushing us and they’re our competition. But as you write in the book, what’s the difficulty there? Why can’t you focus on writing the “4-Hour Chef?”

Tim: The difficulty was that my books tend to require, for me some people are very prolific and very fast, I’m neither, three to four years. And that was compressed down to a year and a half.

Andrew: I see.

Tim: And there was also almost 50% or actually more than that. It was probably 60% longer than the “4-Hour Workweek.” And my right hand man, about two or three months after I committed to this crazy deadline, burned out and had to resign.

Andrew: You’re talking about Charlie?

Tim: That’s right.

Andrew: You wrote a book about burning out.

Tim: Yeah. And Charlie and I are … put a name to the story. So yeah, Charlie is …

Andrew: [inaudible 00:04:12]

Tim: No, I don’t think so. Charlie’s a good guy, but that left me in a very, very precarious horrible position, because he was quarterbacking. And then that’s when all the goblins come out.

Andrew: What’s a goblin that comes out for you?

Tim: I think we all have inner demons. Mine are perhaps more. If any of you have played Dungeons and Dragons, it’s like an entire fiend to folio. It’s like an entire book full of little demons that come out. And I’d say among those are you’re not going to do it. You’re going to embarrass yourself. This is going to be your worst book of the three. You’ve agreed to things you can’t deliver. Why even bother if you’re not going to have the distribution, etc., etc.

Andrew: I’m always so shocked when you tell me that because I told you this, that to me you seem like a very competent, very with-it guy.

Tim: Yeah.

Andrew: Right, thanks for that.

Tim: Things like the duck, you know, the duck looks really calm on the surface and it’s just like kicking like hell underneath.

Andrew: Don’t you ever get to a point where you say, look, I’m a best-selling author. I’ve proven I could write this. If I don’t write this book, who cares, right? I understand when I was starting out if I couldn’t achieve something, then everyone had the right to think that I was a failure. But once you achieve something, aren’t you a success forever?

Tim: I don’t think so, or, at least, I’m not sure if my ego doesn’t believe that. And in the court of public opinion, I don’t think that’s true. But then there’s, of course, the question of whether that matters at all. But for me, I don’t feel like you ever get rid of your problems. You trade up. So instead of having the Corolla of problems, then you have the Mercedes of problems. Then you might have the Lamborghini of problems.

Andrew: It’s just always there?

Tim: I think so, and it’s not to say that having problems is bad. But I think we confuse comfort with success. So I think that if you’re striving to create something that is really going to demonstrate the extent of your capacity, you’re going to face these demons. It’s inevitable, because you’re pushing past your previous comfort zone limitations.

And so for me, it’s like I decided on top of everything, like yeah, I’m going to do 30% or 40% of the photography for the “4-Hour Chef.” I’m not a photographer. So it’s like, what can go wrong? And then it’s like, oh, 400 or 500, 600 original illustrations. Yeah, what could so sideways? So I wanted to make an art project, as if writing the 600 or 700 page book, which was initially supposed to be 250. That meeting went really well. Like oh, good news. The book’s going great. Bad news, it’s four color and now you’re going to have to print twice as many pages. So it was a very, very excruciatingly challenging experience.

Andrew: I was working with a group of people on this topic of the counter-mind that we talked about, where everything you want to do, it tries to tell you why you’re going to fail and how horribly things could happen. A lot of people challenged me and said, “You know what, how do know it really is your inner doubts and inner demons that are coming out, and not just rational thought telling you, “Hey, Tim, you shouldn’t be writing a book. You’re too busy. You have other things going on.” So how do you know? Is it a demon that doesn’t exist, or a real, rational thought that’s trying to guide you towards something correct?

Tim: For me, I don’t think … I’m sure there are tools, but it’s very difficult to reason yourself out of a position you didn’t reason yourself into. That goes for arguments, too. It’s like, if somebody wants to have a debate about religion, politics, whatever, it’s like if they didn’t rationally arrive at their conclusion, you’re not going to reason them out of it. So I don’t bother.

And I think that applies to yourself, as well. And so for that, I rely on my circle of friends. I really believe as is commonly said here in the valley, that you’re the average of the five people you associate with most. And you need people who can kind of grab you by the face and shake you and wake you up and slap you, and like throw water on you, and then call you on your own bullshit.

Andrew: Can you give me an example of a time that a friend of yours said, “Tim, you’re backing out of something you should be running forward on?”

Tim: I’ll give you an example that I got today, actually. Because I have a launch next Tuesday, and it’s for this TV show, the Tim Ferriss Experiment, which was filmed and edited by … Well, I was the co-executive producer, but I wanted to cherry pick the one production company I wanted to work with, which was Zero Point Zero. They do all that Anthony Bourdain stuff. And we can maybe get into this. But the long story short is that it was produced in conjunction with Turner Broadcasting. The division that produced it went out of business. All of the shows, all of the content, including mine got yanked, put in the vault with no plans to ever be seen again. And I spent the last year, year and a half, negotiating and fighting to get distribution rights back. So finally it’s launching next week. So this is a very opportune time to talk about all these inner demons.

And I was texting with Kevin Rose today. He’s a very close friend of mine, and he plays on a pretty high level. I mean, he’s playing with the big boys in whatever he’s doing, whether it’s investing, or startups. And so he’s no stranger to stress. I was bitching and moaning about various things, blowing things out of proportion. And roughly, he goes, “If I could give you a gift, just one gift for life, I would tell you to chill out 20% more.” And he just like sent me a couple of texts to that effect, and I was like all right, I’m being a fucking idiot.

Andrew: Interesting.

Tim: Chill out, you know.

Andrew: Chill out, and relax and not try so hard to achieve it is his way of saying you’re more likely to be happy and more likely to be productive if you don’t try so hard.

Tim: I think, well maybe.

Andrew: What is it?

Tim: I don’t think that I would, and this is maybe a self-defeating belief or something that causes me more harm than good. But I would rather try too hard, than not try hard enough and always ask what if. What if I’d done that extra interview? What if I’d done that extra chapter? I don’t think that’s the problem. I think the problem for me and for many people is that we have nebulous fears of the worst case scenario, that we never really inspect. We never really define them. It’s like oh my God, what if it doesn’t work. What if it fails? What does fail mean? Let’s get granular, right? So I do an exercise called fear setting, that I wrote about as early as the “4-Hour Workweek,” and I do this constantly. The dose depends on how ridiculous I’m being.

So these days I’m doing it pretty often. And I’ll take a piece of paper. I do a lot by hand, and I’ll break it into three columns, so just two lines evenly spaced. And I’ll write down all of the worst things that can happen. Like, if this TV launch goes sideways, what does that mean? Like what are all the worst things that could happen? And then in the next column, what are the things I could do to minimize the likelihood of those things happening. And then in the right-hand column, if these things happen, one by one, what can I do to get back to where I am now? And there are other things I do, like the journaling that you mentioned. But that’s a huge one for me.

And once you put it on paper and really shine a light on it, you’re just like what am I getting so wound up about it, really? It’s silly. And when you start to see it that way, especially when your friends can kind of poke you and make fun of you, in very helpful ways, I find that’s the prescription. You have to have support around you. And I think you can engineer that, I mean. And for me that was examining the where of happiness, and that led me to Silicon Valley. It’s not enough to think of switching locations, so that you’ll be around some companions and partners in crime who will provide that.

Andrew: I always think, and I think other people do too. Does anyone else feel this way, that there’s a sense that at some point you get to a level where you don’t have this insecurity, these inner doubts.

Tim: Never happens.

Andrew: Really, it never happens? Everybody has it.

Tim: All right, there are a handful of mutants. But I feel like they’re emotional mutants in the same way that Michael Phelps is a mutant swimmer. They just came out of the womb with some very unusual hard wiring. But I know you’ve met them, sure. I know people who have hundreds of millions, billions of dollars, and I know a lot of them now. They still have these issues. It might be context dependent.

So like they’re in the office, they might be the 800 pound gorilla who never doubts a decision. I do know those people. There are some of those folks. A lot of the top performing hedge fund managers, in particular, tend to exemplify that. But then you take them into an area they don’t understand quite as well, exercise or relationships, and they have the same bundle of demons.

Andrew: I wanted to get somebody to come here and talk about it before I knew that you were going to be here. And I had such a hard time. I even asked [inaudible 00:13:05], do you know anyone. You guys are coaches. It’s so hard to get people to talk about it publicly. Frankly, I thought we could warm up and get into this.

Tim: I guess it helps that I feel like I don’t have any reputation to protect.

Andrew: Sure you do.

Tim: I talk about hallucinogens, and like sex, and you know, I’ve measured my crap in the “4-Hour Body.” I’m just like, where could it possibly go? I mean like, really.

Andrew: What about this. So many bloggers have a need for everyone to believe that they are super men, because when someone’s buying some of their stuff, their work, their course, their whatever, they are buying an opportunity to be as super human as them.

Tim: Yes, but I think that part of the reason, and this could be entirely off base. This is speculation on my part, but I get asked a lot. Why do you think this took off? Why do you think your podcast does this well? Or why do you think the book did this well? And I think a big part of it is that I make it an explicit goal of mine to disabuse the notion that I am super human, like look at me. I don’t stumble. I can teach you how to not stumble.

No, I’m like let me write an entire post about how I like stay in bed and don’t want to get out of bed, and I’m lonely and feel isolated, and have this manic depressive tendency. And despite that, I have a toolkit that will allow you to perform and do things you never thought imaginable. And it’s the toolkit. It’s not how you were born. It’s not becoming something you aren’t. It’s having systems that prevent your lesser self from fucking up everything.

Andrew: What’s a good system?

Tim: I’m not sure if I’m allowed to curse or not. I’m from Long Island. I apologize. I’ll try to tone it down. A system would be, for instance, there’s a book that I use very regularly. And it’s actually, I mean, this is a very full circle type of thing. But it was created by some readers of the “4-Hour Workweek.” It was a muse product called the Five-Minute Journal. And I wake up and it’s just like your priorities, a few things you’re grateful for, how you want to be attribute-wise, if I’m recalling it correctly. And you do this for just a few minutes in the morning. It’s very fast. I do that with tea after I meditate.

And then in the evening, doing a recap. This is just as important, a review of the day, identifying the good things that happened. And for me, the challenge is not a competency issue. It is a psychological issue. It’s just letting the doubt and bad behaviors overtake me. Like I know it’s bad for me to oversleep. I know it’s going to make me feel more behind, and end up with more self-loathing. So I’ll be like, God damn it. I woke up late again. I hit snooze twice. What are you doing, Ferriss? You know this makes you unhappy, yet you did it again. And then I get upset that I’m upset, that I’m upset about being upset, and it’s just like it’s a huge catastrophe. And yet I still do it. So it’s like all right, how do I prevent that from happening? And building systems, accountability in having your wife sit next to you, having someone call you. These are all things that you can engineer so that you can slowly train those habits out of you.

Andrew: So we talked about the power of journaling. Tim talked about it. I talked about it. But I always like to call out the real challenge that no one talks about. Is there someone here who is kind of moved by it and says I’m not going to do it, maybe because you heard James Altucher talk about writing 10 ideas a day, and you’re already doing that, and you’re not getting enough results. Is there someone here who’s got any objections to doing it, to journaling daily, or who can see a problem? Yeah, be open with me.

I know what you’re talking about. Ever since the whole NSA thing, I’ve been feeling the same way, right?
So his question is everyone tells me I should be journaling, and the more open I am with journaling, the more value I get out of it, but I’m worried, he’s saying, Rob, right, that other people will read it and that’s what keeps Rob from being more open. So what do you say? You’ve done that?

Tim: No, I have thoughts on that. I’ve written a little bit about it in my morning journal. People can Google it for an actual like snapshot. But the upshot or one of the takeaways for me, I think that the main benefit of journaling is you could call it expunging in the way that I use it. So the value is not in what you end up with on the page. The value is getting defeating thoughts and worries out of your head and onto the paper so that you can progress on with your day. So I think that even if you were to journal, finish the page, give it a quick read over, and then tear it up and throw it in the garbage, I think you’d still get most of the benefit of journaling. That’s my perspective.

Andrew: So you go back and re-read your journals?

Tim: I do because I have hypergraphy. I mean, I write. I have an entire shelf, I have like five feet of journals.

Andrew: Are you worried that someone’s going to come to your house, like me one day, and go through them?

Tim: The reason I’m not afraid of that, although maybe now I will be. I have a bit of a paranoid streak. The reason I’m not worried so much about that is because, and this is going to sound like it’s self-congratulatory, or self-indulgent, but I’ve made a deliberate choice to really show my flaws and wrinkles whenever possible. Because it’s so much easier in my opinion long-term to do that, than to try to build up some stage persona that you have to defend, and then it’s like oh my God, I’m the “4-Hour Body” guy. I can’t be seen eating a donut, and I have to sneak off to some corner of the city, put on a mustache to eat a donut. It’s like no, I love fucking donuts, and I’m going to go crazy on cheat day. And like, you want to take photos, fantastic. I’ll eat them until insulin pours out of my eyeballs, and you can take an Instagram, I don’t care.

Or I’ll get drunk and I’ll be, all right, I’m drunk. Let’s tweet, Q&A. And somebody was like, “I thought this was an agency. And I’m like, you really think this is a fucking agency? I’ll call you right now. Put out your phone number. Then I’ll call people on Skype and like prank call them , and it’s like, who is this guy? So I do that kind of stuff deliberately so I don’t feel like I have a fiefdom of allusions to protect. And I do know a lot of people who have painted themselves into a corner with that stuff. So that was just a deliberate decision early on. Plus it is doomed to fail if I tried to conceal my weirdness anyway.

But to answer your concern, I think that it’s the act of taking this monkey mind and putting it on paper and sequestering it there that is one of the primary values of journaling, particularly in the mornings, for me.

Andrew: And gratitude at night for the day.

Tim: That’s right.

Andrew: The last time I interviewed you was for my thousandth interview on Mixergy.

Tim: I remember.

Andrew: And you said at the time, I wrote it down, that you were going through an existential dilemma, because you said, “I’m taking a break from books.” And now I understand why. You also said you weren’t sure you wanted to do TV. Now I understand why, too.

Tim: Yeah.

Andrew: And you said even though you enjoyed …

Tim: Is that like your [inaudible 00:20:03] moment?

Andrew: Yeah. Even though you enjoyed investing in startups, you said you didn’t want to be a venture capitalist.

Tim: Yeah.

Andrew: But you had all these options in front of you. None of them seemed to be the right ones for you. And before we started here, when we were having some drinks, coconut water and food, I asked people, “What are you hoping to get from here?” And several people said, “I have so many possibilities, I don’t know which way to go.” How did you figure out which way to go?

Tim: With great difficulty. There are a few things, a few habits I have that make the stress of pondering that a little less, which I think is half the way to getting there. And the first is viewing your life as a series of, say, two to four-week experiments. Number one, so if you’re going to start a podcast, as I did, I didn’t say I’m going to start a podcast and I’ll play it by ear. I didn’t do that because it was a little more finessed, or a little more premeditated. What I decided to do was I’m going to do a podcast and I’m going to do six episodes. This was also after I did my week of training for professional poker in Vegas, so I was thinking about my exits. What are my exits like? Know when to fold, and when to walk away. I was like, when am I walking away?

Andrew: This is one of the episodes on the TV Show Experiment.

Tim: Yeah, I had a week to learn. I had never played poker and I had a week to learn professional poker and play against pros for thousands of dollars, which was very stressful it turns out. Yeah, if you really want to see me like, oh my God, I think his head’s going to explode. That’s a good episode.

But I started thinking I’m going to do this podcast. I’m going to do six episodes. That’s going to be what I’ll commit to as a test run. So I’ll try to earn my wings a little and find my feet. And then I’ll reassess and I’ll consider quitting. I will evaluate things then. And I think that’s smart. For me it’s very helpful in the same way that there are some people who will renew their marriage vows every year. It’s like okay, we know that’s coming. It’s not that we’re giving ourselves an easy out for divorce, but it’s like let’s be conscious about this feedback. And for me that was the decision of the podcast.

I also decide on what I want to do based on skills that I want to acquire that will be valuable whether or not the project succeeds or fails. This is redundant, whether the project succeeds or fails. So in the case of the podcast, I was looking at all right, books just came off of the “Four-Hour Chef.” That almost killed me. Some of my close friends were really worried about me. I went through some very dark places when I was writing that. I don’t want to do that again.

But what are the parts of the process that I like, and what are the parts of the process that I hate? And the parts of the process that I like are the interviews, the research, the digging, the experimentation. And I was like, it seems like podcasts are kind of that, and not the writing part. Well, I had some great experiences being on podcasts and being interviewed, like being interviewed by yourself. And I was like, I want to get better at the craft of interviewing and the craft of speaking. I’ve always been very self-conscious about my voice. I always hated hearing my voice. It’s part of the reason I didn’t read my own audio books. And I was like, maybe I should try to get over that. And when I listen to old recordings now I’m like, oh God, you must do the whole [inaudible 00:23:30] speak for you.

But I was so nervous about the first podcast that I got completely shitfaced. I mean like disgustingly inappropriately shitfaced, and that’s coming from somebody who quite enjoys getting shitfaced. I was just like wow! And I was listening to the tape afterward, about halfway through, this was a long one with Kevin Rose, kind of a softball interview. And I got halfway through it and I was like clicking through the QuickTime, just to like I’ll just check to make sure the file’s okay. Like halfway through it, I’m like, “Kevin, you know, you’re being very generous with your time. I don’t want to take up too much of your evening, blah, blah, blah.

I clicked forward, and somehow timed it perfectly. For two hours I was like, well Kevin, I really was to be cognizant of your time. I was so gone. That’s how nervous I was about doing a podcast in my own living room.

Andrew: Wow, what did you think was going to happen that caused that reaction?

Tim: There was just a lot of baggage I was bringing into it.

Andrew: For me, by the way, I used to try to edit out all the ums in my thing, just forever.

Tim: Yeah.

Andrew: So yeah, what was the baggage you were bringing in?

Tim: Just the fear of my insecurity related to my voice. At the time how competitive I thought podcasts were, and they were even more so now. But still I think it’s wide open. People are like, oh, it’s only a podcast now. I’m like, really? I don’t think so at all. So the what-ifs, but if a lot of those what-ifs were removed, because I was like I’m doing it for six episodes. I’m going to get better at interviewing. I’m going to get to talk to awesome people. Who cares?

Andrew: You have multiple options, you don’t know which one to pick. You say, I’m just going to do a test run of one of them, and I’m going to make sure that whatever it is that I’m test running is going to make me a better person, or better at something that I care about.

Tim: Yeah, even if it fails.

Andrew: And then be prepared to say after whatever the run is, I’m done. It’s not working out. What else?

Tim: Yeah, but there are a couple of other pieces. The other is what do I want to do, like fantasyland, three or five years from now. And I don’t have a concrete five-year plan or 10-year plan. I think that to do that reliably you have to aim so far below your capacity, that you’re selling yourself short. But I was like, all right, which one of these options?

Say another book, TV, this podcast. Which one of these opens me up to a new network and gives me more optionality, gives me more doors that could open? And the book, I’d already done it. That’s not going to do that for me. And I really feel like, and this is another clichéd expression, but your network gives your net worth. So for me I was like, all right, what worlds haven’t I really put a foot in the door for, and entertainment was one of them. And I noticed a very interesting thing which was that if you want to get a celebrity on your blog for an interview, even if you have five million uniques a month, if it’s a single-author blog, it’s probably not going to happen. Their publicists will not make it happen.

If you have a podcast that gets 200,000 downloads a month, and you’re killing it in the iTunes charts, you can get all the celebrities. And I was like, well that’s a very interesting phenomenon. Since I have a few million people who read my blog, maybe I can use that to really surprise people with the podcast. And my goal is to get into the top 100. Now this was in Switzerland at the time, and it just sat at number one. It’s crazy. Now, understanding how things work, a lot of people hit number one for a brief period of time.

It was about not focusing in the short term on money. I had no plans for ever having sponsors. Not short-term money, long-term relationship building, and opening up worlds I didn’t previously have access to. So I feel like money is just an intermediary step. It’s a barter tool that you trade for possessions, experiences, and contact with certain people.

Andrew: Is that just something rich people say after they’ve made it?

Tim: No, it’s not. I believe this. The reason that I have the money I have is because I believe that.

Andrew: And because you don’t put so much weight on money, that’s why you can …

Tim: No, I want money. But I recognize that it’s an intermediary step to what the ultimate goal is. Having the money, like if I gave you $10 million, but I’m like, you can never invest it, never withdraw it, never give it to anyone you care about or use it, what’s the value of having it? There’s no value. So money is worth what you can exchange it for. And you need certain things for that time, mobility, etc. Not to get too abstract to bring it back to something very concrete, what that means is I believed if I could crack the entertainment world, the doors would open, that I could not even imagine at that point, which would be more valuable than me diverting my energy from producing the best content possible to trying to recruit sponsors.

Andrew: Is there someone here who is wrestling with multiple options and wants to just finally break free of that?

Tim: Can I give one more, one more time?

Andrew: And think about the way that you’re going to phrase it, because we’ve got to repeat it.

Tim: The question that I ask a lot, if I have a to-do list or if it’s options of like five options, I’ll ask myself, which of these if successful or completed will make all of the rest either easier or unnecessary?

Andrew: So if you have four options, four different things that you could do with the next few months or years of your life, you’ll say which one will make the others better if I do it?

Tim: No, which one will make the others easier, or completely unnecessary.

Andrew: Okay. What’s your name?

Chris: Chris.

Andrew: Hey, Chris. Chris is saying he’s got multiple options, and he’s saying what can he work on now that’s going to allow him to do the others? What are they? What are three of them?

Okay, he’s got an app that he actually is excited about. And he’s got another business that’s doing well, a coaching business. If you were going to do one, and know that it was going to make the others easier to do …

Tim: Or unnecessary.

Andrew: Or unnecessary. Frankly, it’s not just you, Chris. Every one of us can get into these cycles where I pick one, but then what about this other one right there. And this one really makes sense. What about these other two? How do you break that cycle? Does that even happen to you? And if it doesn’t, that’s okay. It seems like you’re …

Tim: No, it happens to me every day, but I’m not sure I’ve broken it very well. I think that the only effective, well I shouldn’t say only, the only effective approach and mental model that has helped me to mitigate it, not solve it completely, but minimize the shiny object, like dog from Up [inaudible 00:29:59]. That’s how I am most of the time. It’s a way of looking at opportunities that is actually borrowed from a friend of mine, Derek Sivers, who was the founder of CD Baby.

He sold it for tens of millions of dollars, and is sort of a philosopher king in programming, set as far as I’m concerned. He’s really a fascinating guy, and his feeling is if it’s not a hell yes, it’s a no; so like nothing in between. If it’s not a hell yes, you know, you jump up out of your chair and like want to chase down. If it’s not a hell yes, then it’s a no. And so what I feel the people in this room are not at risk primarily from really bad options. They are at risk of committing to too many kind-of-cool options. Like drowning in the pool called kind-of-cool, where you’re just like, that that could go. I could do this thing over there and that thing over there. Write an article for this magazine. Like yeah, sure, whatever. And then it all piles up and before you know it you have no room for the big stuff.

And so a helpful metaphor that I think of oftentimes when I’m looking at what I’m doing and what I’m considering doing. Maybe this will be helpful for people, is I imagine, and this is borrowed from other people. I didn’t invent this. But if you have, say, a really big Mason jar, and you have two big rocks, then a couple of smaller rocks, and then a bunch of sand. If you put the sand in first, then the smaller rocks, then none of the big rocks will fit. If you put the big rocks in first, then the smaller rocks, then the sand, all of it fits. And it’s a matter of sequencing it. And choosing those big things.

So for me, a very big piece of that, not getting distracted by the little kind of cool stuff, is basically having the first half of my day before lunch be my maker schedule for those people who’ve read Paul Graham’s piece, “The Maker’s vs. The Manager’s Schedule.” The first half of the day before lunch, that’s kind of my transition, is the maker portion where I’m doing like podcast, writing, something creative that’s sort of using whatever modicum of abilities I have in that creative world. And then after that, only after that, is the manager’s portion of the schedule. That’s when I can look at the smaller things. But I’ve already put a big dent in some type of larger creative work.

Andrew: What time do you get up? What time is the first snooze?

Tim: I generally default to getting up around 10:00 or 10:30.

Andrew: Okay.

Tim: That’s not ideal. I got up very early this morning, because I had two blood tests that I had to do fasting, because I’m comparing two different labs. So I got up today at about 6:15, and went to bed at about 2:00, which I don’t recommend. But I’m in ketosis, so I can get by on less sleep, long story, coconut oil. Go coconut oil. But I would like to wake up between 7:00 and 7:30. I think 7:00 is a good time for me to wake up.

Andrew: Shane, can I put you on the spot? There are so many things I want to put you on the spot for. There’s Shane Mack. Can you stand up for a moment? Because you’re an interviewer, right? You’re watching me, and sometimes you’ve told me openly that I missed certain questions in an interview, right? You’re watching this and saying I wish Andrew would ask something. What are you wishing? What’s the one thing, don’t hold back.

Shane: Where do you get your LSD?

Tim: It’s not my drug of choice, so I don’t know. I have procurement methods for other interesting.

Andrew: Where do you get your other interesting?

Tim: I think that might fall into the my lawyer yelling at me, why the fuck did you say that category, so I’m not going to answer that one, okay?

Andrew: Yeah, take a moment. Anyone else have something? You’re sitting here going why is Andrew not asking this really important question. Yeah, the relationship between glucose and calories. I was going to say, that’s what you’re going to ask. But then he’s nodding, so maybe I’m missing something. Do we deplete our decision-making abilities at the end of the day, and how does nutrition factor into that? What do you think?

Tim: Can you use a nutritional link in your decision-making stamina, or give you more hit points? Absolutely. I think it’s not even a possibility, it’s a certainty as far as I’m concerned. Because your brain, there isn’t any Cartesian duality, I mean. The mind is an organ, right? The brain is an organ, and it’s subject to the same constraints and processes that your body is, whether that’s neurotransmitters or otherwise.

For instance, I’ve noticed just, and I’m not saying everyone should be on a ketogenic diet. Most people would know that an Atkins Diet is one version of that. But I’ve noticed just experimenting with ketosis for the last 10 days or so, and I’ve done ketosis a lot in my life, that the general grogginess that leads me to hit the snooze button, completely gone. I saw it as soon as I hit about 1.2 millimolars of concentration and ketones, which you can measure with a $40 device called the Precision XTRA, from Abbott Labs. You can order it on Amazon. The strips are a little expensive, but you get what you pay for.

As soon as I hit 1.2, zero fatigue. Literally, I opened my eyes and I’m ready to like jump on stage and give a speech, like I’m completely alert. And that is a function of utilizing body fat or dietary fat as opposed to glucose as my primary fuel. Because if you have 10% body fat and 200 pounds, let’s just say, that’s 20 pounds of fat and 9000 calories per pound of energy. So you can last three plus weeks without food, pretty much no problem if you’re even reasonably fit.

I could keep going, but hold on. So I would just say one way to experiment with this is ketones because you’re producing ketones even if you’re not considered according to the books, in deep ketosis, is, say, consume a tablespoon of coconut oil with each meal and see how your brain responds. If you feel a lot sharper, then it might be an indication that your body is pretty fat adaptive or you run on ketones. And the brain and heart love ketones.

Andrew: It’s coconut?

Tim: Coconut oil, a tablespoon.

Andrew: A tablespoon of coconut oil with every meal, you said?

Tim: Yeah, like three a day. I mean you could have two tablespoons.

Andrew: My wife just gave me this big smile. She keeps trying to get more coconut oil in every …

Tim: Well, it’s pretty cool stuff. It’s converted, a portion of it, I think about 70% is converted into, well their medium chain triglycerides, and they get converted preferentially into ketones by the liver. So that’s a very easy way to experiment, just have like one tablespoon or two tablespoons at each of your three meals, let’s just say. And that’ll get you an additional, I’m guessing here, but like 200 to 300 calories of fat that will not be deposited easily as body fat, because it goes through the portal vein. It’s a long story. And that would be an interesting experiment. Absolutely, 100% if you want to improve your mental performance, improve your diet; first and foremost, 100%.

Man: After you take that coconut oil and it doesn’t react, like you don’t get that increase then …

Tim: If you don’t get that increase, then you do one of my two-week experiments. Or you just treat yourself as the lab, and ideally with some type of medical supervision, I have to say that. Actually, absolutely with medical supervision, professional supervision. You do not play doctor on the Internet, nor am I one. But you can experiment. For instance, I should respond. I know I should try to wrap this up. I thought I would respond better to something called caprylic acid, which you can buy than coconut oil. And a lot of people believe like, oh my God, coconut oil. Screw that stuff. It’s all about caprilic acid. And I was experimenting with caprylic acid, felt nothing. And then had coconut oil warmed up in tea. I’d just like plop it into a cup and then pour my tea on top of it, and stir it up. And it just felt like I was on a benevolent version of crack. I mean, I was just on fire for like an hour.

Andrew: Tea with a tablespoon of coconut oil will feel like crack?

Tim: For me. But there are other people who take caprylic acid …

Andrew: How anyone taking crack here and is willing to try it?

Tim: So caprylic acid, but there are other people who take that and they feel like that puts them in the zone in 30 minutes. So it’s very personally dependent. And you can experiment with the stuff and there are genetic tests that can help, blah, blah, blah. But the coconut oil is hard to go wrong. It’s pretty tasty, too. So put that in your coffee or your tea.

Andrew: The reason by the way that I called on Shane Mack earlier is because sometimes in an interview I think did I miss something, and there’s no way to know until a month later when you publish, or a week after.

Tim: If it’s anything like me, I just assume you’re absolutely going to miss something. There’s only a finite period of time.

Andrew: Okay.

Tim: It’s like as long as you deliver more value than the attention your interview consumes, then you’re good.

Andrew: All right. Let me go into a couple more things and then we’ll move on to the next part. But I’ve got so much that I want to ask you, and we’ll try to rush it in here.

Tim: No worries. I’ll try to keep my answers short here.

Andrew: I noticed in your podcast you talk about meditation a lot.

Tim: Yes.

Andrew: You ask people about meditation. Why? What’s your fascination with it, and you’ve talked about you meditating? What’s your interest in it?

Tim: I find meditation interesting and I’ve found it increasingly interesting, because when I ask people about their rituals, it didn’t start with me asking people leading questions about meditation. I would ask them, what does your morning routine look like, your nightly routine.

Andrew: And then meditation came up.

Tim: It came up in 80%, 90% of the interviews. And if you look at the people I’m interviewing, I mean, these are people who are the best at what they do in their fields, I mean. Arnold Schwarzenegger used TM for a year, and never talked about.

Andrew: I remember him talking about that in the interview was the best. If you don’t listen to any of his other stuff and you just fast forward to that , right?… Who said oh yeah?

Man: I did.

Andrew: Right, it was such a good part of the interview where he says he had all of these opportunities come into his life, right? He was making, what was that documentary he did he was known for?

Tim: Yeah, it was Pumping Iron.

Andrew: He suddenly had opportunities to…

Tim: Conan the Barbarian, real estate,

Andrew: Real estate, exactly.

Tim: It was just a long list of projects and he was feeling overwhelmed.

Andrew: And he went to transcendental meditation and he said that the focus helped him really organize everything.

Tim: Yeah.

Andrew: But the thing is he didn’t continue doing it.

Tim: That’s the most interesting thing.

Andrew: Right.

Tim: He did it for a year, and then he’s like I felt the benefits. I still feel the benefits, but I only had to do it for a year. I find that actually very, very worth digging into. But meditation is interesting to me, and I agree, it needs some type of rebranding. I think mind bathing was the one that came to mind.

Andrew: Mind bathing?

Tim: Because I heard meditating is like a warm bath for your mind. And I’m like, that’s a good way to put it.

Andrew: So Shane is right when he says don’t call it meditation, call it something else.

Tim: Maybe mind bathing. But I think meditation, mindfulness is just as bad. It gives off just this like woo-woo one-percenter vibe. And yeah, that is what it is. But the meditation helps me and I think of it simply as a pattern interrupt that trains me to be aware of automatic thought patterns and defeating thoughts, so that I can recognize it and bring my attention somewhere else. So if I’m meditating, it’s just like when I’m meditating for, say, 15 to 20 minutes, I find for me, and I’ve worked up to this. I started by listening to one song while meditating. It was just the same song. I listened to, We’re Going to Party Like It’s 1999 by Prince.

Andrew: You meditated to that?

Tim: Yeah, I would lean against the wall and sit and listen to Prince and get zoned for the day.

Andrew: Wait, stop this. Did you just write that down so you get Party Like It’s 1999.

Tim: You should totally use Prince. And because it’s like number one. If you’re like being a surly dick to yourself while you’re listening to We’re Going to Party Like It’s 1999. Like how can you? You really should slap yourself, if that’s the case. So number one, I can’t believe I’m sitting here and listening to this music. This is ridiculous. And so I started with just that, like one song in the morning.

And then I did the TM course. And I have my issues with TM. I have my issues with all these organized approaches. But, you know, the TM.org. I didn’t afford a course. And I found the accountability was what got me to it consistently. And for me 20 minutes…

Andrew: You mean, doing it with other people.

Tim: Having a teacher, I knew I was going to see the next day, and he was going to be like how did your two sessions go? And if I didn’t do two sessions I’d feel like a failure, be embarrassed. I’m spending a decent chunk of change on it. The accountability was what was key. So for me, if I meditate once a day. I did it twice today, and I’ll explain why in a second. But if I meditate once a day for five days straight, 20 minutes in the morning before looking at my messages or anything. I always have my phone on airplane. When I wake up I do not take it off of airplane until I’ve meditated. And I get everything done, I’d say, 50% faster.

Andrew: Why, why 50% faster when you do that?

Tim: Because I’m being less reactive.

Andrew: So you’re training yourself to be less reactive and less, if a thought comes in, meditation says tune it out.

Tim: I don’t chase it, I tune it out. I don’t chase it, or I don’t chase it for as long.

Andrew: I’m sorry, Will Schroeder, are you back there? Where? Well you and I were talking at your place the other day. This is Will Schroeder, who’s buying up all kinds of SaaS-based companies for entrepreneurs like Clarity FM and [inaudible 00:43:23]. You’re interested in meditating, but there’s something that turns you off. When you hear him say that, does that feel like I’m interested now and I’ll actually do something?

Sorry, I should I say for the cameras, that he was saying that he’s interested, but it does need rebranding, because meditation sounds a little too wooey; maybe power meditation, okay? He’s asking if you could do anything, what would you do right now? What am I not doing right? You don’t think this is it? Are you putting what you achieved to its fullest potential, is what Will is asking.

Tim: Right now, I think so. There’s a lot happening underneath the surface that is not public facing, so I do feel like I’m doing a lot of work in education, doing a lot of work with improving language learning in the military, for instance, or will be doing a lot more, I hope. And there are some very unusual things that I’m working intensely on that aren’t intended for public consumption right now. And the startup stuff. That’s also where I feel like I am going to have put a dent in the world just by leveraging my skills across multiple companies, like Uber and Evernote and Dual Lingo is really a big one. No Red Ink, another one. But let me sell you on meditation though briefly, because this is …

Andrew: He was taking you off of it, right?

Tim: No, right. Well this is where my meditation comes in handy. Because no, I was talking about meditation. That’s a very good question. That’s one that I’ll probably write out a two-page answer to that at dinner, as a journaling exercise just to see what comes out of it. Honestly, that’s a great question.

When I’m selling people on meditation, because I was like ah, meditation, like that’s from the sanctimonious dicks in the mission with the beards and the plaid. You know, the guys who are going to talk down to me if I go to church, or I don’t. But it’s like if I go to church or if I’m a Republican they’re going to be like, oh my God. Well, I meditate, and they’re going to give me some lecture like I don’t, that’s the image I had anyway.

And then I add two people, Chase Jarvis, who’s a world-class photographer and a killer entrepreneur. And Rick Rubin, who is like the most successful music producer of the last 100 years, probably. They both say you need to do TM, specifically transcendental meditation. But there are other guys like Sam Harris, also a guy I really respect, who does mostly the positive meditation.

And the selling point was like you will get 50% more done, or you’ll get everything done 50% faster if you do this, because you will not be taken off task as quickly. You won’t be harboring grudges where you’re like winning imaginary arguments over and over again in your head when you should be doing something else. That’s one of mine.

Andrew: You start meditating and you start getting into these arguments in your head and you replay it and meditation is about how do I bring my focus back to what I’m doing right now, which is meditating. And by doing that, you remember when junk comes up in the middle of the day. Let that go, because that distraction is keeping you from being focus.

Tim: Yeah, and the way I might start also, because I do think the class, that’s the power move. If you’re just like look, I don’t want to half ass this and have false starts and restart and do this and do that and go for a day and then quit for three weeks. Do the four to five-day class. That’s just the highest ROI in my opinion of some type. But if you’re looking for a lightweight way to test it out, I’d say an app like Headspace or Calm or some of the guided meditations …

Andrew: I’d like to try something right now. I was going to do it later, but after we’re done I want to try and jump right into that if we can get those beads out into a meditation experience that would work for me. What do you think?

Tim: That’s something. Let’s get those beads out. I was like, what kind of party is this? I should have read the notes very carefully.

Andrew: I shouldn’t have asked. All right, let me close it out with this before we go into that, into that experiment and get the beads out.

Here are the thing that I’m amazed by. Everything that we do, whether it’s learning how to meditate, learning how to figure out which option we should take, or figuring out how to code, everything is about learning faster. You go in, you say I’m going to learn poker. You say, I’m going to learn [inaudible 00:47:27]. You say, I’m going to learn how to drum, and you do it within an episode. In this new show, The Tim Ferriss Experiment, what advice can you give us on how to learn faster?

Tim: A couple of quick things on learning anything faster. Number one, is make a list of the so-called best practices, what people tell you to do, in the order that they tell you to do them. And then question every single one of them. And ask yourself, for instance, like swimming. I didn’t learn to swim until I was in my early 30s. I mean, it was a great example of me not being predestined to learn everything quickly. It’s not the case.

And I was bad at languages when I started in school. Number one, is asking for each of these best practices, like languages, take a lifetime and you have to do this for a year before you can even talk whatever it is. With swimming you have to use kickboards. What if I couldn’t do that? What would I do?

Andrew: If they tell me to use kickboards? What if I couldn’t use kickboards?

Tim: What if you couldn’t use a kickboard or make it even more absurd. So the more absurd the question the better. For instance, if I had to learn a language in a week well enough to do a live interview on TV for six minutes in that language, which I had to do for the show. Like what would you do? I know it’s impossible, but like what would you do?

If you had to swim without kicking, how would you do it? In the Paralympics, people do it. It’s just like how do they do it? And then you find a method like total immersion swimming, which is absolutely revelatory. I mean it’s one of the most incredible teaching tools that I’ve ever seen.

Also, you can ask what if I did this in reverse. This is a very useful question. So in the world of chess, for instance, in one of the episodes I worked with Josh Waitzkin. He’s the inspiration for searching for Bobby Fischer, who is training me for jujitsu with a 10-time world champion named Marcello Garcia, who is like the Michael Jordan of the sport. And when he teaches chess, and how he was taught chess when he really kind of made it to high level competition, they didn’t start with openers. Everyone starts with openers. If you pick up 10 chess books, the first chapter is openers.

Andrew: What you do with the pawn.

Tim: What’s that?

Andrew: What to do with the pawn.

Tim: What he’d do is he’d take all of the pieces off the board, and it’d be like, all right, this is going to be king versus king and pawn. Teaching broad principles, not memorized openings, and then apply it to the entire game. So what if I did things in reverse? And there are bunch of things like that.

Andrew: Asking for the steps, question everything, ask why do I even need the basics that they’re telling me?

Tim: Yeah.

Andrew: And then don’t try to go forward. See if you could go backwards. What’s one more?

Tim: Yeah, that’s one I did, the opposite. If you look for unorthodox teachers and you can figure that out pretty quickly with just, you know, 30 minutes of Goggling on your given skill. Find someone who’s not in the limelight, say, maybe a silver medalist from one Olympics ago. They are going to be probably easy to get hold of, compared to the people who got all the press and so on. You can get on the phone for like $80 on Skype and talk to this person, and you can ask them these questions.

You can say, okay, looking at such and such a book, there are 10 steps that are outlined. If you had to get rid of half of them, which would you get rid of if you had do, if you had to train me? One of my favorite questions is if you had to train me for X, like a marathon in eight weeks… No, I’ve never done a 5K. I know it’s impossible, but if you had to train me in eight weeks you would get a million dollars if I finished in a respectable time, how would you do it?

Andrew: And so ask them that, but don’t give them the million dollars. You don’t want them to know on what level you’re operating in.

Tim: Just hypothetically. In a non-binding verbal hypothetical scenario. Those are a couple of the approaches. But yeah, the intention of the show is to give people a toolkit in each of the episodes so they have this full accelerated learning toolkit by the time they get to the end of it.

Andrew: Where do we get it?

Tim: By the time people are seeing this they should be able to go to iTunes.com/TimFerris and see. I’m putting up the whole season at once, [inaudible 00:51:21] card style, like hours of bonus footage. And they can go to FourHourWorkWeek.com/TV all spelled out to get a bunch of free videos and bonuses and extended scenes that we couldn’t include.

Andrew: You mean TV like the letters, or T-E-E-V-E-E?

Tim: Oh, I see what you’re saying. That’s a great question. No, the last half isn’t all spelled out. Man, as if the FourHourWorkweek isn’t difficult enough. That’s FourHourWorkw.com/TV. God, all my URLs are so easily misspelled. Yet another example. If Tim Ferriss wasn’t too hard for you, yeah. So yeah, the FourHourWorkweek.com/TV. Or just search The Tim Ferriss Experiment and it’ll pop right up.

Andrew: All right. Thanks for doing this. Thank you so much for coming out here in person.

Tim: Yeah, my pleasure. Thanks guys, I’ll be around.


  • Kyle Patrick McCrary

    So great. I’ll definitely have to rewatch this whole interview.

    Thanks for sharing this, Andrew. I wish I could have made the event.

  • Pingback: How does Tim Ferriss achieve so much when he has all these inner doubts? | iSafal()

  • ParentEntrepreneurHQ

    One of the BEST events I have had the privilege to attend. Thanks for the big hug, the focus and the beads, Andrew!

    We all have demons, but even with them we can….

    Enjoy the Journey!

  • Thanks for sharing this! I think Tim Ferriss is a great guy.

  • sonibvc

    He is a talented and smart guy. You cant replicate that. He is basically fooling you that you can do the same as him if only you knew how :) He is a very good student and he learns fast….that is his secret. You can not replicate that no matter how many interviews you watch with him. Its like reading or watching Bill Gates and learning how to become a Billionaire. Not possible. If by watching one could learn, the dog would be the best butcher :)

    The guy went to an Ivy League school….they usually accept gifted and talented students and not average Joes like us. I am not bashing him….I do believe he is really a smart and talented guy. But that will not help YOU.

  • Since doing your TrueMind course to combat my counter-mind, which really broke the seal and helped me get to Silicon Valley, I discovered something you and Tim alluded to when you talked about the power of journaling and meditating as part of your daily habits – the Law Of Attraction.

    You are the active creator of your life experiences. And meditation and raising your energetic vibration is part of it – and like Tim I assumes it was for the woo-woo community. Turns out it’s not! I meditate to Titanium by David Guetta ft Sia!

    So sorry I couldn’t make the evening. Looks like it was lots of fun. Next time hey!

  • cdainmiller

    Lol defeatist bullshit.

  • sonibvc

    Ok. Share any tangible results you have personally achieved from his teachings?

  • Princess Amanda L

    When will you answer your Princess ?

  • How refreshing it is to see someone so authentic. This was an inspiring video with many highly valuable take-away tips.

  • StacyBurchard

    Authenticity is key. Especially nowadays online and as a business owner, we get fed all kinds of fake promises for Marketing success. Odditly (an audit company) reminds me of such an authentic and honest company. They tell you how it is.

  • marilynwhite

    After 5 yrs I decided to quit my office job and that decision was a lifechanger for me… I started to work over internet, for a company I found over internet, few hours /a day, and I earn much more than i did on my last work… My last month check was for Nine thousand bucks… Awesome thing about this work is that now i have more free time for my kids… http://urlin.it/143f7e

  • ms.connietdean

    It’s been one year since I decided to resign from my office job and I never felt so good in my life… I started to work on-line, over a website I found over internet, few hrs each day, and I earn much more than i did on my office job… My pay-check for last month was for 9k… Amazing thing about this is that i have more time for my loved ones… http://urlin.it/143f7e

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