Tim Ferriss Scam! Practical Tactics for Dealing with Haters

Brute force seldom works with haters. Redirection does. (Photo: Deadstar 2.0)

I recently spent a week in Amsterdam enjoying bicycles, canals, Queensday, and… ahem… coffee shops. For real. Honest. The best coffee I’ve had in Europe has to be De Koffie Salon.

I also gave a short keynote at The NextWeb about how to deal with haters, protect yourself from (some) media, respond to FlipCams, and other personal branding self-defense 101.

Think you have crazy people contacting you or commenting on your blog? Me too. I share some of my favorite hater e-mails, Amazon reviews, and voicemails. It’ll make you feel better to hear the stories.

It is possible to learn to love haters. But it does take some know-how and tactical planning…

I elaborated on a few points in an interview in the Netherlands with Amy-Mae Elliot, who originally posted them on Mashable in her piece Tim Ferriss: 7 Great Principles for Dealing with Haters:

1. It doesn’t matter how many people don’t get it. What matters is how many people do.

“It’s critical in social media, as in life, to have a clear objective and not to lose sight of that,” Ferriss says. He argues that if your objective is to do the greatest good for the greatest number of people or to change the world in some small way (be it through a product or service), you only need to pick your first 1,000 fans — and carefully. “As long as you’re accomplishing your objectives, that 1,000 will lead to a cascading effect,” Ferriss explains. “The 10 million that don’t get it don’t matter.”

2. 10% of people will find a way to take anything personally. Expect it.

“People are least productive in reactive mode,” Ferriss states, before explaining that if you are expecting resistance and attackers, you can choose your response in advance, as opposed to reacting inappropriately. This, Ferriss says, will only multiply the problem. “Online, I see people committing ’social media suicide’ all the time by one of two ways. Firstly by responding to all criticism, meaning you’re never going to find time to complete important milestones of your own, and by responding to things that don’t warrant a response.” This, says Ferriss, lends more credibility by driving traffic.

3. “Trying to get everyone to like you is a sign of mediocrity.” (Colin Powell)

“If you treat everyone the same and respond to everyone by apologizing or agreeing, you’re not going to be recognizing the best performers, and you’re not going to be improving the worst performers,” Ferriss says. “That guarantees you’ll get more behavior you don’t want and less you do.” That doesn’t mean never respond, Ferriss goes on to say, but be “tactical and strategic” when you do.

4. “If you are really effective at what you do, 95% of the things said about you will be negative.” (Scott Boras)

“This principle goes hand-in-hand with number two,” Ferriss says. “I actually keep this quote in my wallet because it is a reminder that the best people in almost any field are almost always the people who get the most criticism.” The bigger your impact, explains Ferriss (whose book is a New York Times, WSJ and BusinessWeek bestseller), and the larger the ambition and scale of your project, the more negativity you’ll encounter. Ferriss jokes he has haters “in about 35 languages.”

5. “If you want to improve, be content to be thought foolish and stupid.” (Epictetus)

“Another way to phrase this is through a more recent quote from Elbert Hubbard,” Ferriss says. “‘To avoid criticism, do nothing, say nothing, and be nothing.” Ferriss, who holds a Guinness World Record for the most consecutive tango spins, says he has learned to enjoy criticism over the years. Ferriss, using Roman philosophy to expand on his point, says: “Cato, who Seneca believed to be the perfect stoic, practiced this by wearing darker robes than was customary and by wearing no tunic. He expected to be ridiculed and he was, he did this to train himself to only be ashamed of those things that are truly worth being ashamed of. To do anything remotely interesting you need to train yourself to be effective at dealing with, responding to, even enjoying criticism… In fact, I would take the quote a step further and encourage people to actively pursue being thought foolish and stupid.”

6. “Living well is the best revenge.” (George Herbert)

“The best way to counter-attack a hater is to make it blatantly obvious that their attack has had no impact on you,” Ferriss advises. “That, and [show] how much fun you’re having!” Ferriss goes on to say that the best revenge is letting haters continue to live with their own resentment and anger, which most of the time has nothing to do with you in particular. “If a vessel contains acid and you pour some on an object, it’s still the vessel that sustains the most damage,” Ferriss says. “Don’t get angry, don’t get even — focus on living well and that will eat at them more than anything you can do.”

7. Keep calm and carry on.

The slogan “Keep Calm and Carry On” was originally produced by the British government during the Second World War as a propaganda message to comfort people in the face of Nazi invasion. Ferriss takes the message and applies it to today’s world. “Focus on impact, not approval. If you believe you can change the world, which I hope you do, do what you believe is right and expect resistance and expect attackers,” Ferriss concludes. “Keep calm and carry on!”


One of my favorite authors, Nassim N. Taleb of Black Swan fame, e-mailed me the following aphorism today, which was perfect timing and perfectly put:

Robustness is when you care more about the few who like your work than the multitude who hates it (artists); fragility is when you care more about the few who hate your work than the multitude who loves it (politicians).

Choose to be robust.

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.

Leave a Reply

Comment Rules: Remember what Fonzie was like? Cool. That’s how we’re gonna be — cool. Critical is fine, but if you’re rude, we’ll delete your stuff. Please do not put your URL in the comment text and please use your PERSONAL name or initials and not your business name, as the latter comes off like spam. Have fun and thanks for adding to the conversation! (Thanks to Brian Oberkirch for the inspiration.)

475 Replies to “Tim Ferriss Scam! Practical Tactics for Dealing with Haters”

  1. “If you want to improve, be content to be thought foolish and stupid.” (Epictetus) Oh my friend, this happens to me everytime, cause in Venezuela the mentality it’s so poor.

    See you!

  2. I really enjoyed this article. One of the things I always say is, “if you are getting haters, you are probably doing something right.”

  3. I can’t wait to check this show out. I have been bedfast 60% of the time with the Lyme Disease that was misdiagnosed as MS for 15 years before I began proper treatment so my goal is to watch this show and absorb/learn all I can to hopefully amaze my family and friends with all the amazing things I am still capable of and not to write me off just yet. I know I may just be dreaming of accomplishing some amazing things yet but its the dreaming that keeps me trying to move and get out of bed every day. The only other thing that I found to date that can motivate my ass out of bed and push through the pain is my new passion of helping feed the homeless with a organization called Homebound Heroes. So Im finding if the nd goalreat I can exhert exert my ‘mind over matter power’as I refer to it as and beat this disease in short bursts. Hopefully this show will teach me more ways to not just push harder but also smarter so I can get my life back. So thats my story and just wanted to say thanks for letting me get it out there….it felt good to vent!

    Much love,

    Gary P.

  4. Tim Ferriss ruined my life! That’s right you heard me right. I was perfectly content living “the dream” until I read his book. And I’ve been made aware what a waste the rat race really is. Now all I want to do is fulfill my dreams, spend time with my family and let my kids grow up and live the same life I am now working to build! Tim Ferris thank you for ruining my life!

  5. Well said. This is an issue we all experience weekly, if not daily. Still a jungle out there and you gave some practical advice.

  6. Just because some people think you are arrogant doesn’t meen they “hate” you. I take it as shy and insecure. Sometimes it’s constructive to analyze peoples opinions NOT peoples hate. Might be hard to do when everyone is kissing your ass. Bottom line; don’t believe your own hype no matter which direction it goes.

  7. Thanks for the info, but now I’m depressed because I don’t have any haters, which means I haven’t arrived to where I want to be. My new goal is to try to get at least one hater a week, for about 50 per year.

  8. … I was halfway into thinking ‘that sleeve must have hurt like a B*%&!” before I realized I had been punk’ed. Damn.

    Great talk, Tim. In addition to being useful, it reminds me of a framework I came across recently on giving feedback. I bring up feedback only because I think that, often, there are those who come across as haters because they haven’t learned effective ways of providing feedback.

    The framework goes something like this (there are two dimensions).

    Dimension 1. There are three types of feedback: (1) observational, (2) assessment and (3) advice.

    Observational. – a statement of fact, which helps someone get objective (ish) feedback on their performance. “I noticed that the audience audibly gasped when you took off the sleeve in that talk.”

    Assessment. – an evaluation. “Tim, that talk was 9.5/10”

    Advice. – a recommendation for the future. “Tim, next time you should wear a blue t-shirt in your talks” or “don’t say, XYZ.”

    The second dimension is Re-inforcing versus Correction.

    In my limited experience, I have found people observation to be the most effective, or at least the style people are most open to. And the optimal ratio of ‘re-inforcing’ vs. correction to be something like 5:1.

  9. Perfect timing for me. I’ve been being pursued about a tv show and while it’s an exciting prospect to share my passion; there’s always a twinge of hesitation to be in the public eye and opened up to haters. The first bullet is exactly what I needed to hear: it doesn’t matter how many people don’t get it. What matters is the people who do. Yes!

  10. “Speech is the mirror of the soul; As a man speaks, so is he is”

    I do like the bike tour and coffee shops.

    1. Nice work. On a linguistics note, you would look for coffee in a Cafe not a coffee shop.

      Coffee shop implies the retail of comestibles involving THC. Of course you can usually get a coffee there too.

      The Netherlands being the Netherlands, you get beer in the cafes too.

  11. One practical tactic worth mentioning is to take a page from Buddhism’s books: set ego aside and choose to place your awareness on an object or action like honing your message, your craft, or your product.

    To return to Seneca, “train yourself to only be ashamed of those things that are truly worth being ashamed of”…and once you set ego aside, you realize how few things there are to be truly ashamed of.

  12. Hey Tim,

    Great tips man. The analogy of the pitcher of acid being more damaged than the object that acid is being poured on is really powerful and it stuck with me. I’ll remember it next time 🙂

  13. The tactical decoy tattoo would actually make for a very effective tool for urban fieldcraft, similar to the subtle facial disguises used during the cold war to throw off surveillance in Moscow.

  14. Tim,

    Just heard you reference this in the James Altucher interview and wanted to drop a line.

    I recently partook in a reality show that featured my brother and I pitching our business. It was a ton of exposure. While a lot of good came from the show, there was some bad, too. I’ve never had so many people publicly express hatred towards me.

    This column helps put things in perspective. Pick up a few haters, but a whole lot of new fans too. And that’s what really matters. Thank you for putting this together.


  15. Whenever I need some advice or inspiration, I check out if you have said anything about it and you always have it covered.

    This is the perfect advice on the topic of haters even six years later. It is comforting to know that this happens to all successful people.. I am so grateful for you sharing this.

    Keep on smashing it Tim, your an inspiration!

  16. The @NNTaleb quote speaks to me – staying robust is focusing on those who like your work, worry about the haters is fragility.