Dean Kamen – Don't Tell Me It's Impossible

Roger Bannister broke the mythical 4-minute mile barrier in 1954. (Source: Guardian UK)

Dean Kamen is no stranger to innovation.

He’s also no stranger to doubters and skeptics. People said the Segway was impossible, but Kamen disagreed, and he was right.

“Don’t tell me it’s impossible,” he says, “tell me you can’t do it.” “Tell me it’s never been done. Because the only real laws in this world–the only things we really know–are the two postulates of relativity, the three laws of Newton, the four laws of thermodynamics, and Maxwell’s equation–no, scratch that, the only things we really know are Maxwell’s equations, the three laws of Newton, the two postulates of relativity, and the periodic table. That’s all we know that’s true. All the rest are man’s laws…”

-From Esquire profile titled “How Dean Kamen’s Magical Water Machine Could Save the World“, December 2008.

Dean was elected to the National Academy of Engineering in 1997 for his biomedical devices and for making engineering more popular among high school students. He was later awarded the National Medal of Technology in 2000 by then President Clinton for inventions that have advanced medical care worldwide. In April 2002, Kamen was awarded the Lemelson-MIT Prize for inventors, for his invention of the Segway and of an infusion pump for diabetics. In 2003 his “Project Slingshot,” a cheap portable water purification system, was named a runner-up for “coolest invention of 2003” by Time magazine. In 2005, he was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame for his invention of the AutoSyringe. (source: Wikipedia)

Be careful about trusting intuition, but be more careful not to bend to the majority for whom “impossible” is a comforting excuse for inaction.

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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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131 Replies to “Dean Kamen – Don't Tell Me It's Impossible”

  1. A friend was recently down in Florida. One day while she was sitting on the beach, she saw a person with 2 prosthetic legs, running past her. She turned to her sister and said “I guess we have no excuse now.”

  2. Great posting. The mind can be our biggest ally and at the same time our biggest obstacle. I have been reading your blog for months now and finally have decided to send you a comment. Thanks for all of the insight and wisdom.

  3. Tim,

    I realize you want to make frequent posts to boost your AdSense revenue, but I urge you to remain cognizant of quality.

    Your heart is in the right place. Next time, do more than regurgitate a WikiPedia entry with a couple platitudes slapped on.

    1. Hi John,

      I appreciate the comment, but I do not have any AdSense revenue — or any advertising revenue — on this blog. There is no pressure for me to post often. I just like this and wanted to put it up. There will be more meat, but I enjoy short ones every once in a while 🙂


  4. I’m always motived when I do the P90X plyometrics workout and one of the guys in the video has one prosthetic leg. The human body can do a lot when pushed.

  5. Dean Kamen is truly an inspirational person. His work w/ FIRST ( is what lead me to become an engineer. The FIRST robotics competition is a very big deal in high schools across the country and gets students involved w/ technology in a very unique competition. Dean Kamen’s effort to promote technology and improve lives is outstanding! It was great to see this post. Most people don’t even know who he is yet he has done so much. Just look up some of his inventions and his company (DEKA).

  6. I’ve been a long time admirer of your work, Mr. Ferriss, but never compelled to write, until I read about the tragic news out of Pittsburgh about George Sondini – the gym killer. You have an uncanny resemblance to him. I’m sorry for posting this on your Blog – I didnt know how else to get this message to you.

    Regards & Keep up the great work.

    Craig K.

    1. Hi Craig,

      Yikes. That’s a first. I usually get Steve-O, who–in this context–I’d certainly prefer!


  7. Nice post here, Tim.

    It reminds me my credo who’s guiding me everyday:

    “Je l’ai fais car je ne savais pas que c’était impossible de le faire”

    Translation: ” I did it because I didn’t know it was impossible to do ”

    I know it’s a quote from a famous person but I don’t remember who it was…

    If someone knows, say it loud! 😛


  8. Heh – two replies about people getting around on prosthetic legs and then one where someone with both legs wants a Segway. 🙂

    Good stuff, Tim. I always like these snippets that remind that reaching too short often is more a disservice to us than reaching too far ever will be. “Won’t change your brand of cereal” or something I believe is what you said about it.

  9. I think Kamen’s attitude is sorely needed in light of the energy, environmental, and economic challenges facing our civilization. However, I worry that it can also be used–disingenuously–to justify inaction:

    – We don’t need to conserve energy now because human innovation will find a way to provide abundant cheap energy in the future

    – We don’t need to reduce carbon emissions now because human innovation will provide cheap and effective means of carbon sequestration

    – We don’t need to _________ (the opposite of any position that espouses near-term sacrifice) because we’ll find find an easy solution in the future that won’t require such sacrifice

    These kinds of arguments seem inherently appealing to the human brain, and especially in modern liberal democracies. This is NOT to say that we shouldn’t place a premium on innovation. On the contrary–I agree with the sentiment that we must avoid categorizing anything as impossible. However, we should be careful that, to the extent we have faith in our ability to innovate, this faith can be used to rationalize poor near-term decision making.

  10. I had just finished my second NYC marathon, and I was feeling pretty pleased with myself. Probably a bit too pleased with myself. Then I overheard this conversation behind me between two other runners:

    “How many have you done?”

    “This is my 98th”

    “Wow, 98 Marathons!”

    “Yeah, I have Parkinsons, so I want to get as many in as I can”

    Very inspiring and incredible. And there’s also Scott Johnson. I was watching an Ironman on TV, I think in Hawaii, and during the bicycle leg the TV truck pulled up next to a cyclist who had a date written on his arm. The TV crew asked him what that date was.

    “That’s the date I had my double-lung transplant.”

  11. I used to believe that wealth (or being one of the New Rich) was reserved only for certain people (i.e. not me). Now I see that wealth-building, making a name, or being successful (at anything) are for the ones who, among other things, make wise choices and don’t take NO for an answer. And that’s something anyone can do–just a choice.


  12. Something that amazes me about the online world: If you can think of the idea, there’s always someone out there with the skills to pull it off. So think big, come up with big ideas and get the right people on board to execute them. I think it’s really exciting to imagine what the future holds online.

    And the same is probably true in the ‘real world’.

  13. Fascinating. Reminds of something my father used to say to me all the time when I was young: “Anything a man can imagine is possible”.

  14. I love this article, but completely disagree with your conclusion: “Be careful about trusting intuition….”

    Really? Tim, it seems that Dean trusts his intuition more than most people. He knows that he–and we–are capable of so much more than our limiting (and often unproven or unfounded) “logic” might otherwise dictate. Invention comes from intuition as much as any of other faculties.

    It’s time to wake up and realize that if we listened to our intuition a little more–and to our egos a little less–we would achieve far more with less hassle than we ever dreamed possible.

  15. Perhaps I’m fortunate to live with a disability that reminds me that something that is impossible it’s simply challenging. What is impossible for some is simply a perspective for others.

  16. “So think big, come up with big ideas and get the right people on board to execute them.”

    Good advice, Kirsty. I came up with an idea recently that I didn’t have the math/finance chops to implement, but it wasn’t too hard finding a grad student who did. An NDA, a consulting agreement, and some $ later, and I think we’ve got something interesting.

  17. Raina and Michael,

    Glad you liked it. That was one of the best Iconoclast shows, mainly because Kamen is such an interesting character. I hope the producers feature more inventors and entrepreneurs in the future.

  18. Love it, Tim! I have always lived with that kind of thinking ( as I am sure you and many of your readers do as well). I adore how you inspire and encourage people to open their minds to new ways of thinking!

    I can not tell you how many people were horrified when we sold our home and small vineyard near silicon valley in 2005 ( at peak). They were sure we lost our mind when we decided to educate our child by doing an open ended world tour. Now they think we were psychic and brilliant. Ha! Timing is everything.

    I’m sitting in a cafe in Vienna now giggling at it all and glad I found this just now. I so admire all the out-of-box thinkers and the planet needs as many of them as possible today. Dean Kamen is right!!

    I have a life history of doing things that people said can not be done ( runs in the family) from running a full marathon at 36 on a whim with no training or experience in running to uniting a deaf boy with his birth family that he longed for ( after many experts were not successful) which resulted to a healing for all. Heck, I even got pregnant at 47 & my midwife said my dna didn’t know how old I was! LOL!

    Don’t tell me it is impossible! Doing the” impossible” regularly, is the only way to live!

  19. @Brandon James

    The doers are the only ones you hear about. There are millions of great ‘thinkers’ out there.

  20. This post couldn’t of came at a better time. I am in the middle of working on a partnership and when doubt creeps in you want to hold back and not act. But that is just an excuse for being afraid. Thanks for the post it inspires me to greatly enhance my performance and expand my mind.

  21. The only thing I like more than reading your blog is reading all the critical comments. It cracks me up. Thanks for adding a few giggles(and in the case of the gentleman that submitted the rainbow and unicorn book putting me in hysterics) to my day <3

  22. Impossible is nothing. Very true – now just gotta get my mind across this fact.

    Tim, don’t mind the haters, please keep posting and inspiring!

  23. Good motivational post. For those of us attempting to balance a diverse set of projects, it’s nice to have examples of people who’ve done it at the cutting edge and been rewarded for it. Existence proofs. Keep them coming.

  24. Classic story- excuses are the easy option, doing something about your present circumstances is the better route. On a side note, I’m spending a month in August to rehab two messed up shoulders, achilles tendon, broken cartilage in my chest, and wrists, but afterward I’m doing a lifting program very similar to yours, so props for the program.

  25. Great post, but I don’t get the part where you say ‘be careful about trusting intuition’… why would one need to be careful about that? In my experience, real intuition is accurate 100% of the time. Maybe I’m missing your point Tim?



  26. “We all have possibilites we don’t know about. We can do things we don’t even dream we can do.” – Dale Carnegie

  27. @Craig K. – How rude. Tim looks absolutely nothing like that psycho. He’s a handsome chap..and seems very James Bondish – how hot is that.

  28. Yes and beware of people who tell you your Goals are too high or “unreasonable,” which is code word that theirs are too low.


  29. Coincidentally, Popular Mechanics published this interview with Kamen on the Health Care debate. I posted a few thoughts on this on my blog, but I’m curious on what Tim’s take is on this. I know Tim generally eschews politics and news, but here’s an example where politics intersects with entrepreneurship and innovation: Kamen seems to be worried that the proposed health care reform legislation might stifle innovation.

  30. History suggests that intuition is a poor guide to possibility, e.g. Immanuel Kant’s intuitions led him to believe that Euclidean geometry was the necessary foundation for a theory of space. Then the non-Euclidean geometries arrived to inspire Einstein’s general theory of relativity. Various decision biases, which generate gut feelings, can also be poor guides for rational choice directed at happiness (see Daniel Gilbert’s papers on affective forecasting Of course, intuitions that something IS POSSIBLE are not always reliable either. But as the blog post suggests, it’s people making an intelligent effort that reveals what is and is not possible.

  31. I used to live next door to Dean Kamen. He would fly in to his house in his private helicopter many days, and he would let my brothers and I catch frogs in his pond when we were kids. Several years ago, he moved up the street to a larger plot where he built a Kamen-worthy engineering workshop, and he also now hosts little league games right on his property. I can see his windmill from my parents property.

    He’s an interesting guy, and a lot more successful than some give him credit for – and I like his attitude. I’ve found that if you’ve been doubted, ignored, mocked, and eventually detested that you’re probably onto something big 😉

    I’m sure Kamen has experienced that many-a-time.

  32. DaveinHackensack: Kamen makes an interesting point in that article, but he fails to realize (or at least acknowledge) that the debate isn’t about restricting innovation, the debate is about equalizing access. People with bigger bank accounts shouldn’t be able to monopolize resources even if they don’t need them (money buys unnecessary treatments, and then those treatments aren’t available to others who really need them).

    I think it is fair to propose that a neutral third-party of sorts should be able to equalize access to some degree without sacrificing innovation. And innovation shouldn’t force some people out of the system. The “completely free market” has demonstrated that it does not act in the best interests of the “little guy” all of the time. And health care doesn’t seem to be something that should entirely left up to a free market anyway.

    Imagine if fire protection were left up to the free market. Certainly no one would suggest that there is a lack of innovation in fire prevention and protection simply because the service is managed by the government. But if fire protection were left up to the free market, I can guarantee you that many more homes would be burned when large fires sweep across the land, especially in poorer areas.

  33. Nobody really told Kamen Segway was “impossible.”

    But people told him, and I still agree, that Segway is STUPID. There is a big difference.

    Kamen, congrats on spending millions and years building something that dulls the athletic abilities and drops the exercise needs of postal workers everywhere, and not much else.

    (I am quoting my friend Rob….)

  34. You have a pretty great blog. I know I don’t need to tell you that. I really enjoy what you have to share. It’s positive and purposeful. I am glad I stumbled upon your blog, I will be sure to keep reading. Do you really Tango?

  35. Hey Tim,

    I’ve had many opportunities to watch Mr. Kamen speak live, and while he tends to be verbose, he leaves me with a sense not only of accomplishment, but also confidence that I may continue to accomplish. I’ve also, through the FIRST competition, had the opportunity to sit down with Mr. Kamen’s brother, among other prominent members of the Engineering community to represent my team for consideration for the Chairman’s Award, the most prestigious of awards for the competition. They were quite an interesting group of people!

    I’d like to invite you (and anyone else who wants to be inspired) to either attend or stream online the FIRST kickoff event held in about 5 months (on January 9th, 2010 I’d like to say it starts at 10:00am EST. Website linked on my name). During the kickoff, several speakers, including Mr. Kamen himself get up and address the participants. Perhaps more importantly, however, is the presentation of videos, made both professionally and by students, highlighting the incredible work done by students ages 14-18 in building highly sophisticated pieces of machinery in just the allotted 6 weeks of competition time. It’s truly remarkable. (There’s also tons of video on YouTube of competitions past, if you just want to get to the juicy results of all the students’ hard work :D)

  36. Thanks! If anything is possible, what records are you going to break with your revised and expanded 4hww?

    I know you’ve got “people”, but you should get in touch with Frank Kern (he was behind the release of Neil Strauss’s annihilation method) or Dr. Harlan Kilstein (he was behind the release of T. Harv Eker’s Millionaire Mind book), and both set records when they were released.

    Best of luck!

  37. A lot of people will choose to see Kamen as a genius and as an outlier of the general populace, but what really sets him apart is not his ability to turn impossible ideas into possible ones but rather to see all things as possible.

    But does this ability not reside in all of us?

  38. A lot of people will choose to perceive Kamen as a genius, an outlier from the general populace, but what sets him apart from the rest is not his ability to make the impossible into possible, but rather to see all things as possible.

    But does this ability not reside in all of us?

    Just an aside for Tim:

    Tim, the current economy has devastated the households of many but many are using it as the catalyst to go at it alone and become entrepreneurs. Can you recommend any “idea nests” or business sources, that was not covered in 4HWW. I know that this may be a highly redundant question (maybe to the point of irritation) but I just wanted to throw it out there.

    1. Hi Norman,

      I’d like to help, but I’m not sure what you mean by “idea nests”. I might suggest watching TechCrunch to see what’s being funded and then try and apply industry patterns to your own expertise, while looking at the convergence of two or more trends in the next 2-3 years. Not sure if that helps!


  39. Stephen Fofanoff,

    We already have incredibly widespread access, which is why we spend so much on health care as a country. It’s not just rich people getting expensive treatments — it’s almost everyone with insurance (private or government), and that includes the poor on Medicaid.

    If you want to engage in this discussion in more detail, may I suggest we do it somewhere else so as not to hijack this thread? You can leave a comment on the post I wrote about this on my blog, or if you prefer a neutral location, Megan McCardle posted about the PM interview of Kamen as well on her Atlantic blog (I found out about the interview from reading her post), and you can leave a comment there.

  40. Norman Dacanay,

    Regarding your comment: I have at least a half a dozen business ideas in my head that I think are promising (I’m in the process of implementing two of them now). If there were a way for me to hand one of these ideas off to another entrepreneur with the resources and skills to execute it, in exchange for some reasonable share of the proceeds, I’d be willing to do so. But there are some challenges associated with that scenario. For example:

    – You would need to evaluate my idea and kick it around to see if you thought it was worth doing, but I would need some assurance you wouldn’t just run off with my idea after you learned about it. A non-disclosure agreement would help here, but would it be enough?

    – What would represent a reasonable share of the proceeds for each of us?

    – How would I (or another person with a business idea) evaluate your ability to execute the idea (assuming you didn’t have experience starting-up another venture)?

    Maybe there’s a business idea for you in creating an exchange or ‘dating service’ of sorts that addresses those challenges, and facilitates this sort of partnership among entrepreneurs.

  41. Hi tim

    Love your website and your book its an inspiration think i saw a film on this guy a few weeks ago. Any chance you could tell me the plug in your using to highlight your comments looks great. thanks

  42. Right on Tim… there are more naysayers than positive thinkers in the world. And it is try that anything is possible. I remember seeing a placard not too long ago from a Disney imagineer who said, “If we can dream it we can do it.” I couldn’t agree more.

  43. Tim – A short, but thoughtful blog. Too many people live their lives doing what other people tell them can be done and stay away from the popular thoughts of what can’t be done in life. It seems like the people who change the world are people who do the extraordinary and just believe in themselves. They don’t worry about what other people think.

  44. Good point here about pursuing goals.

    However, I think we all need a dose of realism about pursuing certain dreams. We need to be clear on what we want, but also clear on our skills and assets, and the probabilities of success and the payoff of success.

    I live in the rural part of far northern California. I see many people start businesses with the “build it and they will come” attitude. Many of these eventually fail because the market is just too small.

  45. Great reminder that I need to stop making excuses and try more of my ideas that I think are a little too far ‘out there’. Thanks for sharing and don’t let the few complainers rain on the short post parade. 🙂

  46. Hey Tim,

    Good idea posting quickly after the contest post………man, you have a tough crowd.

    Quick question,,,When is the deadline for the book cover contest,,time wise?

    (I apologize in advance if you already posted this info)

    I have been a fitness professional for a little over 7years, and have been drawing for most of my life …..this contest could me my tipping point………thanks for the opportunity!



  47. Even though I subscribe to your blog, Tim, I was sent this post early this morning by my sweetheart who knew I would appreciate it. He mentioned it was dated 2008, but what difference does that make? I am surprised at the criticism. Your bringing it to the attention to a greater, perhaps more diverse circle through your blog indicates the importance of your role in disseminating ideas, philosophies, and knowledge. Thank you for that. What commentary by you is really necessary? The article says it all and I think your discernment and action in presenting it speaks loudly – much like your post of the Letter by Seneca.

    For me – the vital message is not about creating the impossible – individuals do it all the time – but the fact that there is no rush to support and fund such simple solutions to critical global problems – clean water and clean air. Notwithstanding our own accountability in stewardship of the Earth’s resources, technology – consciously directed might just save the Earth and her people from tipping over the edge of oblivion. If that seems a little melodramatic consider the human body under siege of disease without treatment – either holistic or chemical. There comes a tipping point from which recovery is beyond the organism’s capacity. Intervention is necessary so that the body can recalibrate to its own immune defenses.

    Kamen quotes the percentage of disease based on water born microbes. That is in third world countries (them – over there). But the need is much closer to home. What about our water which while ‘treated’ is still a chemical soup of antibiotics and hormones that are not filtered out of municipal systems? Do we really wonder at the growing incidence of infertility, prostate, and breast cancer, or the threat of antibiotic resistant ‘flu pandemics? And if we’re concerned about the environment – shouldn’t we consider all the plastic that goes into landfills so we can carry bottles to the gym? Do we realize that while we have discovered that water in a plastic bottle that is left in a heated car can create toxicity, that those very bottles are heated to fix the screw-on lids tightly? If someone has come up with something to allow us to drink purified local water – from our own taps shouldn’t we be knocking down his door? It is ultimately cost effective, environmentally responsible – and bonus – supports a healthy illness resistant body!

    Until individuals like Kamen don’t have to put their own $50million (thank goodness he had it) into problem solving solutions – like the iBot offering independence to a wheel chair bound individual, the world will continue to be run on a commercial model. Commerce is based on supply and demand. We have to take personal responsibility to reverse that to demand and supply. If we start with ourselves and demand clean water and energy efficient transportation (clean air) right here right now, and put our money, our votes and our mouths behind the request you can be sure corporations, institutes and governments would find a way. Then the cost of an innovative product would be reduced through production to an affordable and manageable commodity. How fast have we witnessed that happening with electronics of all sorts? If the distiller looks a little bulky for under the sink think of the first room sized computers – not that long ago. Once commodified (new word) the United Nations could place an order and we would be instrumental in improving the lives of those we consider less fortunate – while we improve our own. After all as Dr. Masu Emoto points out water is the one thing we all have in common- it is without boundary – and we can’t live without it.

    It appears that the chap looking for a timely and lucrative business opportunity might start with offering Kamen a hand – maybe create a franchise.

    Again, thanks for bringing forth this timely and compelling article.

  48. Interesting guy., He always wears denim shirts and pants so he doesn’t have to waste seconds thinking what to wear each morning! These were his words

    I hope he find a way to make drinking water cheaply so people around the world can use it.

  49. John (post #3), Tim doesn’t even have AdSense, but what if he did? He’s not charging anything for you to read the blog, and it’s an excellent blog. Don’t be such a small person. What a dumb criticism.

  50. @ Tim – Thanks for the suggestion about TechCrunch, I don’t really know how the ideas brought up there will jive with my skill sets but I’ll just have to see how it goes. Oh and by “idea nests” what I mean is sort of like open forum trend think tanks focused on entrepreneurial ventures on the small business scale.

    @ DaveinHackensack – First off…long-ass name…memorable but long! Second I have no problem with the ideas you suggested considering a quasi royalty/franchise payment for your idea. The whole non-disclosure thing doesn’t bother me at all. I have signed several non-disclosure agreements for ideas shared with me. Suffice to say I have never broken these agreements no mater how good or terrible the actual presented ideas were. Let me know how we can elaborate on this idea further.

  51. Norman,

    Let’s talk further about this offline. If you click on my name it will take you to my blog, where you will be able to find my e-mail address. Or perhaps you can send me a message through my profile on this site. Either way, I’ll look forward to hearing from you.

  52. Hi Tim,

    Great little interlude post, between longer ones!

    Interesting to discover Ben Bleikamp is your bog designer – I really like your blog design (in fact it’s among my top 5 favourite blog designs).

    I’ve been indecisive recently over whether to purchase the WordPress Thesis theme to use as a framework for an upcoming blog and looking at his website, it seems he’s another person who uses it, so this has convinced me!

    Did Ben design the website for you as well as coding it? Or did you do your usual style of micro-testing different design elements (e.g. different colours for stickyness, different taglines for subscription rates, etc)?

    (I remember I briefly did some work for a startup once that researched colour schemes for their website based on what colours their target customer demographic found most attractive).

    Would be great if you had some tips along these lines, in terms of any findings, or resources for existing data on colour/psychology associations, etc?

  53. Nice little post Tim. I’m gonna go research this guy a little more and see what else he did 🙂

    By the way, I’m getting ready to head over to Berlin for a while. I had a ball last time I was there, but I think I might stay there 6-12 months this time to become fluent in German.

    Any recommendations for watering holes in Prenzlauerberg?

    I’m looking to check out the Hartnackschule after hearing what you had to say about it. I hope they’re not too flat chat after you mentioned them 😉

    Viel Spass,


    1. Hi Sean,

      Wow – so jealous! Berlin rocks. I recommend you check out Schonhauser Allee, my old stomping grounds. The whole street has good bars and fun clubs. There is no shortage throughout Berlin.

      Viel Spass!


  54. Hey Tim, You coined a good one, one more Ferrissism:

    Be careful not to bend to the majority for whom “impossible” is a comforting excuse for inaction.-Tim Ferriss

    Do you find the more you write the easier it is or do you reach a point that more is actually worse. What’s the tipping point?

  55. Dean Kamen Is a true Genius.

    I started doing some research about Water Purification devices and came across Dean’s research on “Water and Sustainable Electricity”

    Not only is he interested in delivering powerful solutions (like decentralized water distribution systems) to the world’s poorest, but he manages to get people inspired to use our mind to achieve ‘The Impossible’ like you wrote.

    Great addition to your Blog Tim, it only show’s were your mind is going and the possibilities you have to create a better and bigger impact through your actions.

    Best to you,


    1. Hi Ron!

      It’s custom javascript from a designer/coder friend, but feel free to take it and use it if you can get it from code viewing this site. Otherwise, I’m hoping one of my start-ups will be coming out with a similar tab soon.



  56. Tim,

    That was short but sweet – and the message is loud and clear. Frank Tibolt’s personal growth classic, A Touch of Greatness had a similar message:

    “We should be taught not to wait for inspiration to start a thing. Inspiration seldom generates action. Action always generates inspiration.” ~ Frank Tibolt

  57. It’s because of people with a character like that I am motivated to create my own success story. Thanks for the insiprational Post, Tim.



  58. Since I have studied both nuclear engineering and personal development, I really like the quote regarding the universal laws vs man’s laws.

    Man’s inability to break the barrier of his own mind is cause for much suffering in this world.

    A quote from Bob Marley also says this well, “Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery. None but ourselves can free our mind….”

  59. Tim,

    Really enjoy the book and blog info.

    Question: I have a supplement product that is starting to take off online. 4HWW was a great tool, but was wondering if you have any must read book suggestions and any tips or suggestions regarding the business industry and keeping business organized etc….


    Patrick R.

    1. Hi Patrick,

      The only books I still view as must-read are those in the “restricted reading” section of 4HWW. You might also check out the video Kevin Rose and I did on our other favorite books. Just search our names and “books” on this blog.

      Good luck!


  60. The last line of your blog has stuck with me for the past couple of days:

    “…be more careful not to bend to the majority for whom “impossible” is a comforting excuse for inaction.”

    That is so true! No excuses – sometimes logic or reason has been made up by man and isn’t necessarily a true limit. We can push it.

    Thank you!

  61. Nice one Tim,

    I got into a discussion with a guy the other day about this very thing. He wanted to better himself and his life for the sake of his family but felt helpless because of economy, educational background etc.

    People tend to think “if it hasn’t been done, it cannot be done.”

    I had to explain that the “feeling” or “intuition” that he had was a fear dress up in a nice suit and tie.

    I guess as I do things that I thought I would never be able to do in my life, doing the impossible is becoming my goal.

    Thanks for the extra inspiration.

  62. Tim, I love your work and it shows that so many others do too by your global following. My problem is, every time I read your blogs I get totally motivated to change my life but then I get overwhelmed and don’t know where to start.

    I also find that a lot of your stuff is very US centric and living in Australia I cannot take advantage of many of your cool tips as they simply don’t service us “down under”!

    If you and your followers could give a list of the top 5 or 10 things to do to get started on your path I think it would be really helpful and cut down on the information overload.

    For example, your recent blog about the top 10 books to read was fabulous, but then who has time to sit down and read 10 books!

    Just looking for some guidence on where to start and really kick start a change in my life.

    Thanks all…..

    P.S. I did the total immersion swimming course a few years ago and experienced similar results as you, it really works!

  63. Hi Tim,

    I bought your book (the original edition) about 2 weeks ago and read it 3 times and especially like the quotes, step-out-of-comfort-zone exercises, reading lists, pareto rule, etc. I think it’s a really cool book.

    How can one achieve a 4HWW or even a 20HWW for an office cubicle worker on a 45HWW if negotiating for flex-work is out of the question due to the nature of one’s job and at best can take a 3-week vacation each year to go on “minimal-retirement” excursions?

    All the best!

  64. Hi Tim,

    I am also a Big fan of Dean Kamen and recently I found this presentation of his: where he explains very detailed how his water purifier works, what is he needs for making it a commercial product and also talks about how his FIRST robot competition changes the lives of thousands of children in the USA.

    I believe he will soon find the needed support to help billions of people live a better life.

    Best Wishes!


  65. Tim,

    This reminds me of a quote from Seneca:

    “It is not because things are difficult that we do not dare, it is because we do not dare that things are difficult.”


  66. “Be careful about trusting intuition, but be more careful not to bend to the majority for whom “impossible” is a comforting excuse for inaction.”

    I don’t think that trusting your intuition is having the same opinion like others & behaving like others. Imo, the act of intuition is not based on emotions that are in any way related with behaving like a sheet or wanting other people’s approval.

    But yes, good post overall.

  67. Tim, I’m glad to see you’ve removed the post about the book cover design contest. I think your intentions were probably good, but seeing yet another indication of the attitude that artists and designers should work for free was pretty disheartening. It turns the idea of a 4 hour work week into the nightmare of a never-ending, unpaid, work week for anyone in the creative professions. I know the trend is already moving in that direction (more encouragement for young artists to just give up and go to law school), but thank you for deciding not to add fuel to it.

  68. David,

    I suspect Tim took the post down because the contest is over, but I sympathize with your point. It seems that there’s a heavy DIY emphasis in the forum here about muse creation in general. Perhaps Tim will weigh in on this, but my sense is that he was trying to demonstrate in the book that starting a business doesn’t have to be tremendously capital intensive. That said, it’s tough build things at the lowest possible cost and still have them look professional. You can get a sense of this by reading the sometimes harsh feedback given about new muses on the forum.

    For my own “muses” which are currently in development, I have hired a professional logo designer. My thinking was that it could be worth the investment because quality, professional design implies a quality, professional product or service. We’ll see how this works out in practice though.

    1. Hi Dave,

      I haven’t gone through all of the comments, but I haven’t taken the post down. I just redated it (taking it off the homepage) because it applied to such a small percentage of my readership. It’s still going and the links to it still work.

      For the muse bit, I’ll check the other comments, but there are more examples and updated resources in the new edition coming in December.

      All the best,


  69. In medicine, there’s a saying ‘if its not on your differential list, then you wont make the diagnosis’. In other words, if you cant imagine something, it will never happen. I always try to think big and challenge myself to be involved in new experiences. Not always comfortable or easy, but always guaranteed to be a good learning experince or at least a good story to tell friends!

  70. Dear Tim, perhaps this response might assist “Magida”: if you do not have time to read all books cover to cover, check out executive summaries available via Internet downloads and/or audio media for on the go. Most authors today have media versions of their books for “sight impared.” Good luck and good listening!

  71. Hi Tim,

    I especially like this article. It very much so relates to me in ways. I don’t mean to set up a sap story, but I myself struggle with disease, Muscular Dystrophy. Dealing with weakness, chronic pain & fatigue, I often think life is hell, because of it. But, recently, my depression has lifted, due to the advancements in medication. And I think about life, in a totally different way. A way that I like it to be, but not fantasize about what I could be, but what I am. That saying, is what is keeping me alive mentally.

    I could be worse. I often think about the life ahead of me sometimes, such as being on a ventilator the rest of my life. Or having a G-tube, or not being able to clean myself. But most of the time, I say forget about it. Because I want to live in the moment, not in the future. I look at life as a quality of life, not quantity, and thankfully my doctors look at it that way, too.

    So just remember, things… could be worse.

    1. Dear Brandon,

      Thank you so much for your comment. Indeed, you are right: it could be worse, and I think we should all remember that while we simultaneously note the things we are grateful for. You are a wonderful example.

      All the best,


  72. Magida,

    There are a number of advantages you have living in Australia (e.g., proximity to the huge, fast-growing economies of China and India; a commodity-backed currency; your country’s great fiscal health, relative to that of most other first world countries; pleasant climate in your coastal cities, etc.). If I were you, I’d try to think of ways to capitalize on them. I remember reading a study last year about how, for example, the population of Perth was expected to grow rapidly in the next several years, swelled by ex-pats from India, South Africa, etc., and the booming natural resource industry in Western Australia. That seems like a great tailwind for an entrepreneur to have, if you know a city is riding a secular boom.

  73. Hey Tim!!

    Though 4HWW was written aiming at the people already in the work field, it helped me a lot in my study and inspired me a lot.

    I have read almost all your posts and specially liked some (e.g note taking, speed reading etc). I personally think you can write a book for the students which might help them to study more effectively and free up some time to do something more interesting.

    Any plan like that? Also, can’t we get a blog post about your Princeton life??

    All the best,


  74. Keep these awesome posts…. Knowing that we only have one time on this planet…makes you look at things in perspective…



  75. Ah…Roger Bannister – my favourite example of someone having an enabling belief plus an effective strategy to realise their goal. We can all adopt these principles in everyday aspects of our lives if we just stop listening to the negative doom and gloom brigade.

    I’m interested in your last comment “be careful about trusting intuition”. I find that people don’t trust their intuition or feelings enough and that’s what can get them in to trouble. 🙂

  76. Hah, the Esquire story was very interesting. However, I couldn’t help but think the whole way through that he seems like Willy Wonka. The way the whole article was written, and then towards the end with the floating above the property in the helicopter, just like the glass elevator. A fascinating person. Thanks for the link Tim! Hope you’re well.


  77. Hey Tim,

    Thanks for your posts and ‘The 4 Hour Work Week’. I recently got retrenched and found your book on the shelf in the book store when I was buying ‘What Colour is your Parachute (I bought both). So I’m finding 4HWW and posts like the above on Dean Kamen really inspirational as I decide what to do next. Don’t have to worry about trashing the job, it’s been done for me 😉

    In light of your interest in learning and intriguing physical activities I wanted to let you know about a dance form called ‘Contact Improvisation’. To explain roughly, it is like a combination of gymnastics and modern dance with partner/s, some people say it has capoeiraesque and aikido-like qualities. If you stick ‘contact improvisation’ in youtube you’ll see some interesting stuff come up. It began at Oberlin College in Massachusetts in 1972 and now it is practiced all over the world in places such as Helsinki, Taipei and Sydney! Sometimes it can be a little difficult to find Contact Improvisation jams and classes however the rummage is worth it.

    Certainly what some contact improvisation dancers are able to do in a dance can seem impossible. After six years of regular CI dancing I’m learning something new at every jam.

    So, hey if you ever end up at a Contact Improvisation jam in Sydney, let me know.

  78. Wow! Thanks for posting this. I always come to check out 4HWW blog for inspiration and motivation when I begin to doubt myself or lose hope. I am especially glad to have read this as now have recharged my entreprenueral lifestyle and am back to sorting all of my strengths on paper. There are so many items on my agenda that I want to create and just don’t know where to begin. One of them is to launch a major Eco-campaign targeted the multi-ethnic population in the US hoping to create awareness in all communities to make minor changes have a better earth. I am sure I will find a way to make this happen. Thanks!

  79. TIM!

    This one is totally off topic but I finally went out and got myself a foam roller for some self myofascial release. 2 days into rolling and my acute lower back pain, shin splints and piriformis strain have smoothed out to the point where I no longer grimace whenever I bend, raise my legs or just casually stand up straight. I don’t think I would have ever thought of this form of therapy without your blog.

    Still waiting to get my hands (or should I say feet) on a pair of Vibram KSO – a bit tough to find them up here in Canada.

    My muscles and I thank you,


  80. Hello Timothy, I am Italian I have read your book 4 hours a week I will create a company and apply the rules of your book in Italy.

    In your opinion what is possible ‘in Italy?

  81. Tim,

    You’re book is amazing! I have told everyone I know that they have to pick up a copy for a life changing experience.

    One question for you regarding the ‘restricted reading’….I went onto Amazon to purchase “The Magic of Thinking Big” and “How to Make Millions with Your Ideas” and there are some comments about the material being ‘dated’. I’m trying to start a business that involves the internet. Do you still think it’s worthy reading?