Two Short Videos – How and Why to Be Unreasonable, The Art of Tweaking

Just take a right at…. huh? (Street signs in Wales)

In the wee morning hours of September, I took my first trip to Wales to experience The Do Lectures, which is held in tents in the Cardigan wilderness.

Not only did I get to sleep under deer skins in a high-end geodesic dome (not kidding), I got to dropkick my brain reading Welsh and drink the best peppermint tea I’ve ever had. Fun times indeed. Even water buffalo came to the party (again, not kidding). I put some pics at the end of this post.

My 15-20-minute presentation — the first video below — was titled “How and Why to Be Unreasonable.” The Do Lectures have a clear environmental focus, but I’ve never done anything large in conservation or enviro-activism, so I decided to explore more universal principles of doing big things.

Here’s the thumbnail description:

“Case studies of how to think big and test assumptions to accomplish the impossible, whether launching a #1 bestselling product, setting a world record, or changing the world”…

The blog post I mention at the end is “From Shanghai to Silicon Valley: 3 Tips for Turning Lack of Resources into Strength.” Last but not least, please note that the mentioned Oscar Pistorius is actually South African and not Australian.

The second video was one of the most memorable (there were at least 6 killer presentations) and is well worth watching:

Tinkering. Playing. Interesting. Slow. Lessons learned building the Instorematic.


Matt Jones is a designer. He is one of the founders/lead designer of Dopplr, a service for intelligent travel and was creative director for the award-winning BBC News Online. He’s also done design work at Nokia.

Russell Davies’ auto-bio: I was born in Derby. Did school, university, tried to be a pop star and gag writer, failed at both and ended up in advertising. I did OK at it. Worked on brands and campaigns you’ll have heard of, like Honda, Microsoft and Nike. Now I’m trying to use my powers for good, doing interesting little projects which mostly seem to involve either printing the internet out and gluing it back together in a different order, or slowing it down with postcards.


About a year ago we volunteered to build a machine thing to go in Howie’s shop window in Carnaby Street. It took longer than we thought, but building it has taught us all sorts of interesting things about building, playfulness, slowness, making things with your friends and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

We’re going to talk about those things and others that seem related. There’ll be jokes and funny videos from the internet.

Follow Tim’s travels and adventures in real-time here.

The Tim Ferriss Show is one of the most popular podcasts in the world with more than 900 million downloads. It has been selected for "Best of Apple Podcasts" three times, it is often the #1 interview podcast across all of Apple Podcasts, and it's been ranked #1 out of 400,000+ podcasts on many occasions. To listen to any of the past episodes for free, check out this page.

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72 Replies to “Two Short Videos – How and Why to Be Unreasonable, The Art of Tweaking”

  1. Hey Tim, I certainly envy your traveling freedom. It’s great to see you really make the most of your time and freedom. Thanks for sharing these great videos and pics. Eric.

  2. The ‘simple’ vs. ‘easy’ reference is very good. It is something we come up with when working with clients all the time. Things might seem ‘simple’ but getting out of your own way to do it is the ‘hard’ part. Things can be easy if we allow them to be easy, as per your book.



  3. I want one of those Domes!! Thats way too rad!!!!! What system(if any) do you use to determine which place you will visit next?



  4. Thanks for the video Tim. It really re-enforced my belief that doing the impossible is far more possible than most people take it for.

  5. Fantastic talks! I’m learning that tweaking pays bigger dividends. Since following your blog, the quality of writing and reach of my blog. Thanks Tim!

  6. By far the best speech I have heard you give. The reason I say this is you could feel the conviction in what you were saying. Especially the last 30 seconds was like a shot of adrenaline to an entrepreneur. Thanks for all the time you have invested in this blog, I look at you as a mentor, as I am sure many others do too.

    Continue Enjoying Life & the Best to You…….

    Jose C.F.


  7. I’ve found that raw talent and ability doesn’t always point people to success. There’s a certain talent that can overcome limitations in ability. It’s almost like an acceptance of reality but a denial of obstacles.

  8. Hi Tim,

    None of the video’s was short actually, but interessting enought to keep me out of bed untill 4.30 in the morning. Very good stuff.

    The funny thing is that they are the reason for met to postpone starting with writing down my dreamlines till tommorrow. You could say that makes them a little bit of a procastination tool. But one of the positive kind.

    At this moment I am reading your book for the second time. The first time I wanted to make me a picture of the whole thing. Very soon I discoverd the extra value of your book, because it’s not just one selfhelp book in a row, but it’s the blueprint that it claims to be. That is nice and important. There are so much books out there where readers are going to say: ‘Oh, thats fine! That will work!’ But in a matter of fact there will no action follow. Partly regarding to a lack of blueprint potential and partly because (80/20-rule) people don’t do anything in the end. There are always fast and easy reasons to find to do nothing.

    I decided to user your blueprint and so is a friend of mine I met via the Internet. Next month I travel from the Netherlands to New York and then we will help each other in doing online businessess. Brainstorming, inventing, developing a.s.o.

    Personally I am at a point where I have to find something that excites me again. Something that gives me the feeling back that I live. Hard to explain this early in the morning. However, keep up the good work and good night.

    Thanks for your valueable input!

    Kind Regards,


    P.S.: Excuses for my poor English. My teacher would never had thougth that I could ever write an email in a foreing language,.

    P.P.S.: I considering writing in my blog about my 4-hour-workweek-expirience, but not sure about it already.

  9. Hi Tim, thanks for posting these videos and making me aware of the ‘dolectures’ site. Your talk was fantastic and very inspirational. It’s great to be reminded of the ideas and actions you know you should be doing! I’ve got to get back to thinking big!

  10. Thanks for the comments all! Off to dinner in Scottsdale for a bit, but one last thing — Mario, your English is great! You should be proud.

    Keep up the good journey and the good fight, guys,


  11. Excellent Talk + 2 Points (of many) Hit da Mark – the Adam + Eve Riding the Dinosaurs – I love that Biblical Fable!! ;)) & the Importance of Science + Math being Taught + that Students are engaged by it* Embryonic Stem Cell Research is under attack in America under Bush + Brainwashed Flock + why I think it’s crucial that the other Dude U mentioned Barack Obama has got to WIN exactly 4 Weeks from now!!

    I shudder to Think of the numbers of Lives Worldwide that could have been Saved + the Amazing Scientific Discoveries + Cures for Every Disease known to Mankind + the Whole World if Bush didn’t Veto + Deny Funding + place Roadblocks impeding Scientific Research based on his Phony Religious Beliefs + Wisdumb from god* Scary beyond all Belief + in Educated 2008 no less.

    Rock On Tim!! Cheers! Billy ;)) Peace*

  12. From what I’ve read, KFC is not called Kentucky Fried Chicken because the “Fried” part turns people off now (what with this crazy health craze thats going on).

    In related news, Col. Sanders was 66 when he started KFC. Apparently, he also traipsed around the USA talking with heaps of people to buy his recipe, but noone did.

    Kinda like… what was his name… Thomas Edison, who made over 1000 dud light bulbs before creating one that worked.

    Just goes to show that its not how many times you fail, but how many times you get back up and try again. You only need to succeed once, after all.

    And… (just as another interesting fact to add to your quiver) … Thomas Edison was richer (comparitively) in his day and age than Bill Gates is today.


  13. The thing I have discovered about being unreasonable and experimental is the the kitchen (a.k.a life) can get messy. I really liked the 2nd video about “doing” the thing and then tweaking along the way. Go with the flow.

  14. Hi Tim!

    Totally enjoyed your Do Lecture — thank you!! Oh, according to Snopes, KFC changed their title due to the state of Kentucky copyrighting their name, believe it or not. They wanted a piece of the chicken pot pie, so to speak, and the Colonel’s heirs weren’t playing that game. LOL I think Kentucky finally backed down after they saw what a negative impact it had to alienate one of their most well-known namesakes, not to mention the Kentucky Derby, et al. Interesting to see where greed and lack of foresight will get ya’.

    I also popped in to ask about the date on your 10K club at LitLib — did you mean to update the party details for this month’s challenge? It’s dated 2007, so I was somewhat confused. Btw, when are we gonna get you on the bandwagon for integrating the principles of Democratic Education into the schools?

    If you seriously plan to reach your goal of doubling the number of US Science and Math majors in the next 10 years, I highly recommend focusing on students who learn in freedom! These are the creative, self-directed thinkers playing with “absurd” and “impossible” concepts on a daily basis. Check out my blog at the iLearn in Freedom Network (click on my username and scroll down to Jain sporting his MatheMagics robe): The PARENT-CHILD RELATIONSHIP in VEDIC MATHEMATICS CLASSES

    Laissez les bons temps rouler, mon ami ~ I AM!

    (Let the good times roll!)

  15. Nice to see Russell Davies on this site. He’s a brilliant thinker, I recommend reading his ideas on “Always in beta”.

    Nice one Time!

  16. Dear Tim,

    South Africa was recently given quite a hiding at the Olympic games, with only one silver medal. We were even outperformed by countries like Zimbabwe. The collective ego of the country is still in quite a shock.

    There might have been mass seppuku if it were not for one man – Oscar Pistorius. Someone who displayed very practically, in your words, how “constraint of resources can be turned to an advantage”. So please, for the sake of the South African battered ego, don’t call him an Australian! 🙂


  17. Tim,

    on a weird level what frustrates me the most, is that every single word you utter in your presentation is a word that is hanging around somewhere inside my head:)

  18. The welsh language is really something else, they have huge words and if you’re “lucky” you might find yourself in a nacionalist pub where they’ll refuse to speak english to you, no matter where you come from, english is simply forbiden lol, but it’s a beautiful country no doubt about it, enjoy your trip

  19. Hi All,

    Thanks once again for the comments, clarifications, and kind words. I’m back stateside now and enjoying some California sun (though I’m in Scottsdale for a few hours today).

    @Jan van Rensburg,

    Sorry, bro! I’ve put a note in the post. Oscar Pistorius = South African 🙂



  20. Tim:

    Great post, great speech. Particularly timely right now when the lemmings believe the sky is falling. After 9/11, my luxury travel business took off while others were shutting doors. Adverse conditions and lack of resources were our strength in early years, and the second we got fat and lazy, profits suffered.

    Should you ever make it back to Costa Rica or Panama, my two surrogate homes for a decade, I’d love to talk shop.


  21. Great video. I have read 4HWW cover to cover a few times but still struggle with the doing. I can’t seem to get traction on starting my muse. Deciding on a business idea is where I get stuck. I know that I’m not the only one out there with this problem. Help us out… how about a blog post on taking the first steps?

  22. Tim,

    This is the point I loved the most in your book – Don’t Be Small. When my wife and I started designing our tea business it was important to think and plan big. I have read your book 5 times and have based a lot of the design of Canary Street from BrainQuicken. Thanks for all of your insights, it has made my job a lot easier, haha…

    Good Luck,

    Dana Gundlach

  23. Okay, I finally got back to Russell and Matt’s vid — another very INTERESTING addition to the iLiF collection — thank you! I took the opportunity to add yours and the Tango vids this morning. My daughter, Fawn, just started a group on the Network called “Work With Me” which incorporates the same entrepreneurial and cooperative spirit as DO Howie and his pals on Carnaby Street. 😀


    I wasn’t having trouble with the vids after you posted, but just now they’re not playing correctly on Google Chrome. It was fine just a few minutes ago…


    Great tools and resources in the Readers Resource area of the website, as well as the lively discussion on the 4HWW Facebook group, not to mention the musing all over this blog for the past year and a half! You could hang out here for months and never run out of material on this subject, and Tim just keeps pouring more and more into the mix! I’m sure it all seems overwhelming to a newbie, so I hope this helps you get going. Be sure to look me up on Facebook if you swing over there! 😀

    Welcome home, Tim! We’re enjoying a little liquid sunshine here in Florida this week ~ I’m off to pick up some bunting to spruce up the Network 😉

  24. Tim,

    your speech was truely inspiring! By far the best you’ve given. Your strength are your anecdotes and examples you make references to!!!

    I got a question for you: are you the WArren Buffet of good conferences? or can we find a list of conferences and speaker events that you attend ahead of time?


  25. So when did you do your “Landmark Forum” ???


    Hi Paresh,

    I’ve never done the Landmark Forum….



  26. Hey Tim,

    In creating my 08′ dreamline I put much thought into the ‘Do’ section. Setting my ‘belief bar’ a bit higher was important to me. I’m excited to report that all my Do’s have been accomplished with just two remaining- to take tango lesson in Buenos Aires (I’m doing that one at La Viruta next month) and to Hang Glide off a mountain in Rio (doing that one New Years Eve morning). Kim also took your recommendations and has one more “Do’ to accomplish…..Get body painted at the Playboy Mansion… Yep. You said interesting and exciting right;)



  27. Hello Tim and Everyone Else!

    If you liked the “do” lectures, prepare to have your mind blown. I found this site about a year ago. One of my dreams is to begin attending the conferences every year. Try Jill Bolte Taylor’s stroke of incite or Malcolm Gladwell’s spaghetti sauce talk for a great start. There is truly subject matter for everyone…A warning: the site content is free but completely addictive. DO NOT start watching late at night…You’ll be up all night.

    Happy mind expansion!


  28. Thank goodness you have NOT done that Landmark Forum. I think it is a very profitable business that exploits people by feeding off people’s fears. Kudos to being independent and not being labeled a “Landmark Forum Persona”

    Love to hear some opinions on this : )


  29. Welsh is a beautiful language. Seeing this is making me a tiny bit homesick for the UK – but only a tiny bit! I’m so much happier out on my travels.

    Tim, you should come and tango with me some time in Portland. I came here after four months dancing in Buenos Aires and found it has a lovely tango scene of its own.

  30. Hey all,

    For some reason the site i’m suggesting didn’t show up. It’s called The talks are truly amazing. See my post above for two suggestions for speakers to watch.


  31. Fantastic 1st video! Lots of great inspiration and info..but where is the Q and A?!

    Keep up the good work! Being homeless and jobless right now…hope to see u out there one day!

  32. Plenty of websites out there to tell you about Landmark forum/est/Werner Erhard, in spite of their best legal efforts to close down anyone who says anything negative about them.

    I’ve always admired the way Welsh has managed to hold on (and even in grow in recent decades) so close to the source of a language whose dominance is growing in the rest of the world. The place name in tim’s photo contains the word eglwys (church) which speakers of french (eglise) or spanish (iglesia) might recognise. And any language which doesn’t really have a direct equivalent of English yes and no must have something going for it?

  33. Wow this is one of my favorite posts by you.

    Tim, quick question for you – what widget/plugin do you use on the sidebar under “Most Popular”? It’s unbelievably functional and helpful when referring new comers.

    Thank you.

  34. You inspire me to step back into the path I was destined to travel from the beginning. I am redefining my life daily and I owe you a lot for that. Thank you!



    Tell me if you’re mind’s not blown…Seriously, if you like the do lectures, this will change your universe. No, I have nothing to do with the organization other than watching the lectures on the site.

    Tim- I can’t imagine you not loving this.

    All the 4hww fans-Ditto!


  36. @Kelly,

    There were female speakers (Tamsin, etc.) and a ton of female attendees. It’s not male-only at all.


    Nice to hear from you. Hope all after YC is kicking ass. The “most popular” tabs are actual custom javascript that pulls from a “popularity contest” plugin, so it’s not quite install and activate. It was coded specifically for this display.

    Hope that helps!


  37. Inspirational as always!

    I love that Marianne Williamson quote, and Kiva is a favorite site, too. They even have TEAMS now, Tim, so you could have a Friends of 4HWW team, and any donation your friends and fans make could count towards that team’s total donation amount- even though we could be picking different entrepreneurs from all over the world- the team’s total impact would be measured.

    Hmmm… I feel a GOAL or CHALLENGE coming on?

    How much could we as a group impact in one day or week?

    I digress- it is 3am and I excited and grateful for all the info and encouragement you so willingly share.

    Why not think BIG? If you shoot for the moon and miss, you’ll still land in the stars…

    Take care,


  38. Hi Tim,

    Hello from Portland, Oregon – the city of world class food and drink. 🙂 I’m glad you enjoyed your visit here Tim – it’s a phenomenal city. I know you’ve moved on to your next topic but I have one quick comment and one important question from your two recent posts — I’d love your insight.

    My comment first. The video post of your speech came at the perfect time. I’m the president of a growing non-profit and I was able to take some of your talking points to our board meeting last night. We’ve been experiencing the manic-depressive rollercoaster effect described in your earlier post and it’s comforting to know that things go in somewhat predictable (and not always rosey) cycles. The online fundraising ideas are great too. I’m ready to retire some of the effort-heavy fundraising methods and move into automation. I also like the idea of having fundraising projects rather than ongoing (read: neverending) fundraising plans. I just realized that fundraising without a clear end product can be such a drag. It’s just like laundry – you’ve never done. People like the feeling of completion. Terrific ideas for streamlining – thank you.

    Now my question and it has to do with being unreasonable. When I’m not working at the non-profit (volunteering) I have a 40+ hour a week job where I’m expected to punch a clock and keep a regulated (even though I’m salaried) schedule. I want to approach my boss about working from home 3 days a week. My boss is fairly strict (he won’t allow casual Fridays) and so I’m trying to taylor my request to a proposal he can’t refuse. Since my company is struggling with the economic downturn right now, I thought I would propose a 3% voluntary pay cut in exchange for working from home 3 days a week. That only comes to about a $200 a month loss for me, but the time wealth gained would be 10X that. I also think it would ward off any coworkers who complain about preferential treatment because they wouldn’t want the pay cut – or if they didn’t mind taking a cut to work from home it would bring money back to a company that needs it right now. I would also use the reasoning that I would be more productive working rom home (I would) as outlined in your book.

    Does this sound like a good idea? Am I shooting myself in the foot with the pay cut? Am I being too risky asking my boss for this type of “special treatment” when people are bracing for more economic uncertainty? I’m wondering if not being physically present at work might affect my job security. I’ve been in my current position for 3 years, I’m well-liked, and I work in a small and necessary department. There’s a woman who’s been here less time than me so I don’t think I’d be first on their radar, unless not being here gave them fodder for letting me go. (“Well, she’s never here anyway so she won’t be missed… ” type of thinking.)

    It feels like the stakes are a bit higher when the economy is bad. Am I being unreasonable in the best way or in an ill-timed way? Should I wait until things turn around a bit?

    Looking forward to your thoughts…

    Thank you,


  39. @Rebecca,

    I don’t think this is crazy, but I wouldn’t offer the pay cut upfront.

    How about asking for 2 days at home per week (not Mon or Fri, as it will look like a 3-day weekend)? Then you can fall back to 1 if need be.

    From 1 day per week at current pay, you can demonstrate better results from home.

    Then you can up it to 3 over time. If they balk, you can then offer the pay cut, starting at 1-2%, reserving the 3% for a counter and final offer.

    Be sure to get “Getting Past No” — a book — for negotiation.

    Good luck!


  40. Part of Tim’s presentation reminded me of a lecture by Joseph Campbell where in his closing quote he talked about the quest of the Grail in King Arthur’s court.

    In short..

    Those in King Arthur’s court all agreed that they should seek out the Grail BUT….

    ‘They thought it would be a disgrace to go forth in a group. Each entered the forest at the point that he himself had chosen, where it was darkest, and there was no way or path.’

    Campbell goes on to say that seeking advice is cool, but to follow it exactly instead of choosing your own “way or path” is unhealthy.

  41. Tim, thanks for this video and your whole dealio- blogs, resources on your site, etc.- i’m still reading your book (i tend to be a bit adverse to adopting ‘popular’ media, should have gotten it long ago). i am an entreprenuer and it’s helping immensely- in the process of hiring at least one VA. i’m sure i’ll be back here again soon.

    One reminder about your Obama thought in this presentation: I agree that’s it’s likely impossible for any politician to be ‘free from corporate interests’- i mean, damn, they’re mostly who he’ll be working WITH, but i’d add that the main reason he can say this more than most is that 50% of his funds have been and continue to be raised online, with grassroots & small donations. it seems you two are aligned in thinking big and using inexpensive, web-based resources. 🙂

    Cheers, rock on.


    San Francisco, Ca

  42. Hey man,

    My name is Justin I am 24 and I live in Toronto.

    Just wanted to say I was working towards the 4-hour work week before I found your book. You gave me tons of ideas to be more efficient and effective in my “work” habits.

    Its nice to have a portable business (business in a back pack). I sure love it!! My travels haven’t been as extreme or as original as yours but I’m working on it.

    (I wonder if you will ever read this, as reading these comments must be very time consuming)

    Thanks for your knowledge as it serves many of us.

    Justin Szabados

  43. Tim,

    I introduced one good friend to the Tim Ferris’ way of life with this video. It embodies what you do, who you are and especially how you tackle life! Lastly, after reading your book and following your blogs religiously, its interesting to see how your philosophy is maturing and how muc hmore you’ve done since writing the book (ie: raising money for Lib). Keep up those motivational (and informational) speeches because that’s what I’m after!!!

  44. I finally figured it out – CableOne representatives report that is blocking three large ISPs in the U.S. – CableOne, Cox, and Comcast. I personally can only verify CableOne.

    I really wish I could have seen this video. Ah well. Maybe it’ll show up on youtube one day.

  45. Tim,

    Watched the vd. Great stuff. Wondering if you could help deconstruct a seemingly impossible task for me? Started a business [in URL] to generate income for my dreamline: becomming a helicopter pilot. Havent had the resources to put into marketing, etc… for business. What should I do to either drive my muse forward or is it possible to get my training for free.



    P.S. If youre ever in Dallas I could take you rock climbing down in austin. We’d have fun dude!!

  46. Hey Tim,

    What a great talk! I’ve forwarded this to several people and look forward to hearing more from you!

    Have a great weekend.



    Quick question- do you know anyone who has $1.25 miliion they’d be willing to lend for less than 2 weeks to make 15% on their investment? It’s all on the up-and-up… just a hedge fund set-up that needs outside funds through escrow. My first thought was that you’d tell me to call Donald Trump, and I happened to get an email from him that day… seems telling…?!

    How would you go about asking him (or some other famous/ wealthy person) for this? I want to be unreasonable- and me pursuing this, in order to literally drag my own butt out of debt and dispair, is definitely an unreasonable thing to do, but I’m not sure how I’d get through to someone who could just pull the trigger. The other complication is that I only have 10 days to do it. Let the games begin!

    I put an ad on LoopNet:

    Any other ideas/ advice?

    thanks! 🙂


  48. Tim, I just discovered your web site and this video was my first opportunity to hear you speak. I currently listen to the audio book of Four Hour Work Week in my car each day – I’ve already read the book.

    The person reading the book (Ray Porter?) sounds a bit harsh. I think you would have done a better job yourself.

    Vincent – Minneapolis

  49. Hi Tim

    I have now been reading a lot of your posts after having read your book. I think what interests me most is the very interesting things you do. The fact that one has to travel all over the world to do them is a bit of an issue though. I mean I live in South Africa and I dont even travel around in my own country. For the very first time I decided to start in my own back yard and went to the Kruger National Park which is massive to say the least and is really interesting. It is actually quite wierd how much stuff there is to do in our world. Anyway I started by looking at the tourist offices and seeing how South Africa is being promoted within our own borders. What opportunities are we selling to the tourist and it is truly amazing what you can get to see in your own backyard.

    Ofcourse it is never as satisfying I guess as going to Alaska and doing something wierd and wonderful there. I am guessing there is never anything to top the desire to go out and see the world.

    I have certainly had my fair share of time off. I have been unemployed probably more time since I left school than what I have been employed. It has had its fair share of anguish but I can truly tell agree with you when you say the mini-retirement is the best thing their is in life.

    So for a while now I am working again. Nose to the grind stone but I have taken a job that allows me certain freedoms which others would not. So although I get paid less I enjoy a better quality of life due to the fact that I dont have the stress and am free to pursue other interests as long as I am ready and able when crunch time comes at my offices. This allows me a lot of freedom which is great. Still working on the autopilot stuff now and as soon as that is in place i will be able to travel as well.

    I have lived in the Netherlands for 5 years and had some good fun but on the whole what you find out is that living in 1 place can be generally speaking as boring as the next unless you are willing to leave your comfort zones and actually travel around a bit.

    I have quite a bit of valuable information regarding the Dutch and their ways in my book. [John, please put your book URL in the appropriate field per the comment rules! Thank you.]

  50. Tim,

    I’m about half way through watching the first video above, when you mention an alternative to ‘extremist madrasah schools’. I feel that I need to pause the video here and take time to point out that ‘madrasah’ literally translates to ‘school’ and has absolutely no implied connection to extremism whatsoever, and has only acquired this negative and ultimately false connotation since the whole Obama kerfuffle . As far as Arabs are concerned, you also went to a madrasah, albeit an American one.

    Other than that, keep up the good work!


    1. To Omar,

      Thank you for this clarification. I wasn’t aware of this! “Madrassa” is — in America, at least — used to refer to schools that focus on militant Islamist teachings. This is also the term used in Three Cups of Tea, a book about building schools in Afghanistan and Pakistan. What would you call these extremist schools in proper Arabic?

      All the best,


  51. Hi Tim,

    To make sure I wasn’t misleading you (and myself), I’ve asked others about the term madrasah and its meaning. All agreed with me, except for a girl from Pakistan, who said that in her country it means a school where religion, and specifically Islam, is the main order of the day. She added, however, that it did not necessarily mean they were extremist.

    And while the general consensus on the net again seems to agree with my original post, I did find this useful bit of information: “The word Madrassa in ARABIC means school but in Pakistan when a person says they attend a Madrassa, they mean a religious school. So the western media is using the urdu meaning of madrasa not the original arabic meaning of it.”

    I’m not usually a stickler for semantics, but I wouldn’t like to be the American around Arabic parents arguing about who’s going to pick up the kids from school.

    (Personally, I’d use the word ‘markez / murkez’ to describe the extremist schools).

    Good presentation. Apologies for the confusion.