How to Use Philosophy as a Personal Operating System: From Seneca to Musashi

(Photo credit: Graphistolage)

The following interview is a slightly modified version of an interview that just appeared on BoingBoing.

It explores philosophical systems as personal operating systems (for better decision-making), the value of college and MBAs, and the bridge between business and military strategy, among other things.

Avi first reached out to discuss my practical obsession with the philosopher Lucius Seneca (you can learn more by checking out The Tao of Seneca: Practical Letters from a Stoic Master), so that’s where we start…

From Seneca to Musashi…

Avi Solomon: How did you get to Seneca?

Tim Ferriss: I came to Seneca by looking at military strategies. A lot of military writing is based on Stoic philosophical principles. The three cited sources are — first — Marcus Aurelius and his book Meditations, which was effectively a war campaign journal. The second is Epictetus and his handbook Enchiridion, which I find difficult to read. The last is Seneca and, because Seneca was translated from Latin to English as opposed to from Greek to English, and also because he was a very accomplished writer and a playwright, I find his readings to be more memorable and actionable.

So, Seneca came to me through a number of different vehicles. First, through the study of war and war strategy. Second was through philosophers like Thoreau and Emerson who were also fans of Seneca. Thirdly, was when I was really embracing minimalism and trying to eliminate the trivial many, both materially and otherwise. From a business standpoint, Seneca is constantly cited by people in the “less is more” camp of philosophical thought.

Part of what appealed to me about Seneca was the similarity I found between his brand of stoic thought and the brands of Buddhism and Zen Buddhism that were practiced by people like Musashi Miyamoto. He wrote The Book of Five Rings and is also the most famous Japanese swordsman in history.

Avi: Did you also read James Stockdale?

Tim: Absolutely. You said James Stockdale, right? He was in a POW camp.

Avi: Yeah, in Vietnam.

Tim: Yeah, absolutely. He would be one of dozens of military leaders who have embraced Stoicism to survive and to win in combat.

Avi: Do you have a favorite letter of Seneca?

Tim: Offhand, it would be hard for me to choose a single one. The first that comes to mind is “On the Shortness of Life,” which is more of an essay. I’ve read Letters from a Stoic at least 50 times and I tend to find different letters appropriate and helpful at different times.

Avi: There’s a difference between reading and doing. How do you apply this in your daily life?

Tim: It’s really, for me, the base foundation of an operating system for decision making, and I’ll explain what I mean by that. I don’t view philosophy as an idle form of intellectual masturbation. I really view good philosophy as a set of rules that allows you to make better decisions. What Stoicism helps you to develop is a value system that allows you to take calculated risks, which I think is very effective for entrepreneurs.

So, in very simple terms, stoicism and, by extension, Seneca teaches you to value only those things that cannot be taken away, meaning you would actively practice poverty, for example, subsisting on the meagerest of food and clothing for, let’s just say, one week every two months. The way Seneca would phrase it is all the while asking yourself, “Is this the condition I so feared?”

That type of practice – and I do view it as a practice, just like you view meditation as a practice and I don’t think it’s entirely coincidence that Marcus Aurelius’ book is called Meditations – helps you to live life offensively as opposed to defensively. So, I would say that on a daily basis I revert to some of the basic principles of stoicism to make decisions about where to invest my time, which relationships to cultivate, which relationships to sever so forth and so on.

Avi: And it’s also making you comfortable with failure. The essence of entrepreneurship is being OK with failure and with having fears.

Tim: Yes, absolutely. It also helps condition you so that you don’t have emotional overreactions to things that you can’t control and I think that’s very, very helpful. Critical even, not only for competitive advantage but for quality of life.

Avi: Do you have a generic method for hacking some advanced skill set. You seem to have hacked so many advanced topics that you must have a method to your madness!

Tim: Well, I do have a method and it’s really a series of questions more than anything else. It’s almost a Socratic process but I would say that, first and foremost, I have to have a very clear, measurable objective, whether that’s in language acquisition or in power lifting.

The common element is measurement, so you need to know when you have succeeded and how to measure progress to that success point, whether that’s a 500 pound dead lift or a 50 kilometer ultra marathon or getting to the point where you can do, let’s say, a single lap in an Olympic pool with 15 or fewer strokes. These are all real examples. The number of footfalls, meaning stride rate, per minute in endurance training and how long I can sustain that for say with a goal of 20 minutes at a time. Or a 95 percent fluency in conversational German as measured through different metrics. Again, all real examples.

So the first is measurement. I have a clear idea of what success looks like and how to measure it.

Secondly, I will look at the most common approaches, which are, oftentimes, the lowest common denominator but have some thread of efficacy. I will ask, “What if I did the opposite?” I’ll look at the established common practices, the established dogma, and ask myself what if I did the opposite.

If it’s endurance training, let’s look at Iron Man training, and the average is 20-30 hours of training per week for people in the upper quartile. What if I limited that to five or fewer hours per week? What would I have to do? How could I make this type of training work, or perhaps be more effective, if I had to focus on low volume instead of high volume? The same could be said of weight training. The same could be said of language learning.

If someone says it takes a lifetime to learn a language or it should take 10 years, what if I had to compress that into 10 weeks? I know it’s “impossible,” but what if? And if they say that vocabulary comes first because we should learn as we did when we were a child, which I completely disagree with – it’s entirely unfounded – what if you were to start with a radicals (Japanese/Chinese) or grammar instead?

So, flipping things on their heads and looking at opposites can provide some very surprising discoveries and shortcuts.

Thirdly, I look for anomalies. For any given skill, there’s going to be an archetype of someone should be successful at that skill. If it’s swimming, for example, it would be someone with the build of Michael Phelps. They would have a long wingspan, relatively tall, big hands, big feet and large lung capacity. So, if I can find someone who defies those anatomical proportions — say, someone who’s 5′ 5″, extremely heavily muscled, like 250, who is still an effective swimmer — I want to study what the anomalies practice because attributes can compensate for poor training. I want to find someone who lacks the attributes that can allow them to compensate for poor training.

Typically, you find much more refined approaches when you look at the anomalies. That’s true for any skill I have looked at, whether that’s programming or otherwise. So, let’s just take computer programming. If the common belief is that someone should start with language A, then progress to framework B and then progress to language C, if I can find someone who skipped those first two steps and is regarded as one of the best programmers in language C, I’m going to look closely at how they developed that skill set. In some cases, it correlates to their use of analogies and background from music or natural languages (for example, Derek Sivers or Chad Fowler)

Then I would say, lastly, is a set of questions related to rate of progress. So I don’t just look at the best people in the world; I look at people who have improved upon their base condition in the shortest period of time possible.

Let’s say I’m looking at muscular gain. I would certainly interview the person who’s, let’s say, 300 pounds and 7% body fat, but there’s a very good chance that I’ll learn more from the person who’s put on 50 pounds for the first time in their life in the last 12 months. So, I always try to establish the rate of progress and, when that person has plateaued at different points, for what duration. I find that exceptionally helpful also for finding non-obvious solutions to problems.

Avi: Thanks, I would call that a meta-hack! It might take a while to digest but it could drive a lot of things in many different domains.

Tim: Oh, sure. That’s the framework that I overlay on any skill I’m looking to analyze and hack.

Avi: So like in language learning, you have one critical sentence I think.

Tim: Right. Each of these different skill sets will have certain domain-specific approaches, but in the case of languages, a big part of learning language quickly is teaching native speakers to deconstruct their own language for you. You only do that through very refined questioning, because they’re not going to be able to explain to you the difference between abstract concepts.

If you say, “What’s the difference between ‘anything’ and ‘something’?” the average native English speaker’s not going to give you a good answer, but if you know how to ask them for comparisons properly and you can simply ask them to, perhaps, provide five or six examples of various types then you can get your answer [so, focusing on deductive learning vs. inductive]. You can essentially use a lateral approach to get your answers. So, in my particular case, it had determined that we had eight to twenty sentences of various types, if you have them translated effectively. Fortunately for native English speakers most of the world is forced to study English or chooses to study English.

If you translate those 8 to 20 sentences, you’ll have a very good grasp of auxiliary verbs, sentence structure, like subject-object-verb versus subject-verb-object, how indirect objects, direct objects are treated, how personal pronouns are treated, etc., and it only takes 8-20 sentences to get all of that onto one sheet of paper. So, it’s entirely possible to become fluent in almost any language. Conversationally fluent – there’s a problem with definition there – so that’s a longer conversation, but effectively what most people would consider conversationally fluent in 8-12 weeks.

Avi: So again, there’s also the traces of Pareto’s law there.

Tim: Without a doubt. The material you choose is oftentimes more important than the method you use, so it’s important to have an understanding of high frequency versus rote memorization from a textbook that doesn’t do any kind of analysis of frequency of occurrence, for example.

Avi: Food, for example, you boil it down to eggs and spinach first thing in the morning.

Tim: Exactly. In behavioral change related to diet, small changes are more effective than big changes. The abandonment rate is less, so I would say give someone a very simple prescription, like 30 grams of protein within 30 minutes of waking up, and that could take the form of a few hard boiled eggs and spinach, a few hard boiled eggs and lentils, it could be scrambled, certainly, or you could simply have them consume 30 grams of unflavored whey protein with cold water. I think that in the world of behavioral change, simple works.

Avi: I remember you saying that access to rich experiences doesn’t have to cost a lot of money. Can you expand on that?

Tim: The perception is…let me first take a step back: Most people have a number, a fairly arbitrary number, usually influenced by their peer group, which is a financial target, typically an amount of money in liquid assets like a checking account. So that could be “once I have a million dollars, I won’t have to worry about anything.” “Once I have five million dollars, I won’t have to worry about anything.” “Once I make 250,000 dollars a year, I won’t have to worry about anything.”

That number is typically arrived at with no calculation of what their ideal lifestyle actually costs and the question I like to pose is if you had 20 million dollars, 50 million, 100 million in the bank, after the first month or two of going crazy of buying all the toys and doing all the ridiculous girls gone wild stuff, what would you actually spend your time on a daily basis, monthly, weekly, and what would you like to do and what would you like to have? And then you can sit down and cost those things out and for most people it very seldom costs more than, let’s say, 150,000 dollars a year. [Here is an ideal lifestyle calculator to test this for yourself.]

And what we find is even to privately charter a private airplane in Patagonia, which I did or in my particular case also in the wine county in Argentina, it cost me, I think it was, less than 300 dollars for effectively a half day and that included gasoline costs, or to live on a private island in Panama, especially a research island, to go snorkeling and scuba diving every day, that cost similarly less than 500 dollars.

And what you find is that the deferred-life plan which is based on retirement and redeeming these experiences, that are most valuable in your peak physical years, is a false paradigm. It’s a very Faustian bargain and bad bet. So when I say that having incredible experiences, once in a lifetime experiences, is generally less expensive than people think, it simply results from sitting down and costing those out. So if you want an Aston Martin DB9, there are definitely ways you can do that for 1,500 dollars a month, even if you purchase. And to postpone all of these bucket list experiences until 50, 60 years old or beyond is, I think, a very bad wager.

Avi: So that kind of leads me to the other question I have, which is about college or MBAs. Is college a scam in terms of lost opportunity cost or investment? If you’d rather invest the money, like 40,000 a year, with the added advantage of not being in debt?

Tim: So I’m going to leave aside the debt question, as that’s a very personal question. I have different views of, let’s say, a liberal arts undergraduate degree versus an MBA. I don’t think the objective of a liberal arts education is to train you for a single profession. I view the value of a liberal arts education as making you a well rounded human being, and to that extent I think it’s a very worthwhile investment. The real world doesn’t go away once you enter it, so I don’t see any particular rush in jumping into income generation if you have the option of cultivating yourself through a good liberal arts program. I don’t regret having gone to college at all and I would recommend it to most people who can afford it or find a way to afford it, even if that puts them into debt for limited amount of time.

When you start looking at professional programs like law school or MBAs, then I have a less favorable opinion simply because they’re so specific, and they’re designed to train you for a specific career path. If you’re not confident that is your career path, I view it as a huge opportunity cost and financial burden.

But if your goal is to reach the pinnacle of success in investment banking or management consulting, where an MBA is effectively a prerequisite to have certain job titles, then that is a good investment of your time, if that is your chosen path. It requires being very honest with yourself about your motives. So if you’re going to business school, as I would say at least half of the students do, because they want a two-year vacation, an excuse to party and decompress that looks good on the resume, that’s fine, but don’t fool yourself into thinking that that’s the best way to gain practical business experiences, which it is not.

I would much prefer to take someone who’s interested in becoming a competent deal maker or business development icon and put them into a start up of, let’s say 15 to 50 people, in a position where they can work directly with the CEO or one of the top deal makers or negotiators in the company like a VP of Business Dev. or a VP of Sales.

An MBA buffers your decision making from the consequences of the real world. It’s fantastic if you can sit down in a Harvard case study and determine what the best decision is for a company that you have no vested interest in. It’s quite a different story when you’re sitting across the table from someone who has 20 years more experience negotiating than you do and you have millions of dollars at stake that will personally affect you and affect everyone at your company. Theoretically, you might understand what to do, but you need practice in the trenches to be able to respond properly in those circumstances or you’ll fuck it up.

Avi: What would be advice to a smart kid in high school today?

Tim: I would say choose your friends wisely. You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with. Choose your peer group wisely and if you can’t find the type of mentors that you’re looking for in person, find them through books and don’t be biased towards the latest and greatest. I think that you can certainly learn just as much, if not more, from Seneca and Benjamin Franklin by just reading their writings, as you can from the hot CEO of the moment.



Want to dig deeper? Check out The Tao of Seneca, which is a free collection of Senecas letters and profiles of modernday Stoics It might just change your life.

To see my highlighted notes (thus far) from the incredible book, Benjamin Franklin: An American Life, just click here. To see all of my highlights on this and other books, which I’ll make public soon, simply follow me on Amazon here. Hope you enjoy!

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.)

174 Replies to “How to Use Philosophy as a Personal Operating System: From Seneca to Musashi”

      1. I devoured Seneca’s letters and am now looking forward to daily meditations to really digest it. Could not have come at a better time for me. I have given away two personal copies of 4HWW to friends in the past. One friend is teaching English overseas now for a year in Hanoi and is really enjoying a new life with more purpose. I have two sons and enjoy devoting a lot of time towards them. Brainstorming M.U.S.E. ideas so that I can fund my lifetime teaching and coaching of them 😉 Thanks again man. Hope you are enjoying safe and happy travels.

      2. I love the hacking part. I have been looking for this for a long time, esp after watching Yabusame. I had to highlight word for word what you said in this post and am sure to be using it for my next projects. You are too much, Tim! Am sold completely.

      3. I have a question on the slow carb diet is Hummus allowed to be eaten like lentils or black beans since it is made from gabanzo beans and tahini? I want to know because I would like to start including it.

      4. What is this I read about an amazon list? Do you have a list of books on amazon that I can look though or something?

        P.S. Thanks for the FHWW & 4Hr body.

  1. Tim

    Your posting comes at the right time. I am trying to figure out how to hack becoming a life coach. Any ideas?


    1. I’d say do it as he says. Find the best in your field, model after them. Most importantly, follow his guideset for hacking skills. Life coaching is applicable.

  2. Tim,

    How would you describe your thought system – 4-hr Work Week, 4-hr Body, Body & mental hacks, etc. It’s not pure stoicism, and definitely not neo-stoicism.

    What do you call your philosophy?

  3. Tim, for someone who is interested in getting the experience of a start-up instead of getting their MBA where would you recommend these people look?

    Are there certain forums or groups that I could join to find start-ups that would fit this criteria? I have a small business right now that I am slowly growing but would love to have the additional experience of working with another start-up. Would it be worth my time to do that or should I continue to focus exclusively on my business?



    1. Ofcourse there’s other start ups you can join. Having a start up of my own I have to say that there’s tons of entrepreneurship clubs and seminars going on in your area. All you have to do is attend the events and build up the right network.

      Google StartUp Weekend for example, they’re pretty awesome.

  4. Tim,

    For posts like this your blog is on my rss feed and google reader. To be honest, last few months I didn’t read all your posts as thoroughly as I used to do a year ago. They felt a little bit forced and not ‘timeless’ like your earlier posts. But with a post like this and the Random Show, you are back in the game.

    Irrespective of all these, I will keep on reading everything your publish on the web. Because the guy who can write T4HWW is worthy of reading every line he publishes.



  5. Great read. For me it comes across as a distillation of all your main principles. I read Letters of a Stoic, based on your recommendation, and I truly enjoyed it. It made me think of how rare stoicism, but important, can be in the world we live in today. And how much I admire the stoics in the world. My dad use to work construction and told me once that the was the guy who used to come by and suck the fecal matter out of the Porta Potties. Everyone would go hang out with this guy while he did this because he was the happiest guy in the world and brightened everyone’s day while doing some of the worst work out there. Everyone admired who he was and not what he did professionally. My dad use to say that this man carried the secret to the universe. There is just something magical about a true stoic.

  6. Dude, I just want you to know how helpful your stuff has been. I’m working away at doing things that I would’ve never had the opportunity to do without the books/blog. I’m finding it easier and easier to do things that my friends just shake their head at and ask…”WTF? How do you do this stuff?” I’ve gifted the 4hww to so many people that i’m losing count. (The last one was to the guy looking at repairing my badass little waterfall two days ago at the new house I told you about in one of my previous post comments.)

    I had high hopes when you posted the Opening the Kimono scholarship, but I think the vid fell short of conveying what I’ve been able to do. The upside is that I even benefitted from that hugely by learning to use imovie and screenflow in like a day and a half which i’m now going to use to complete a hugely useful product for my site. I WILL have the money to make it to an event you put on in the future without winning a contest, but I will still enter them because I think they’re a blast and an adventure in and of themselves.

    Its just amazing…Someday, i’ll write a guest post for you that illustrates the what, how, why, and everything i’ve learned using stuff you’ve produced and recommended as a jumping off point. You will love it…and it’ll go a long way to gettng others to see what’s possible even if they’re not “Tim”.

    Anyways, thanks so much. You are appreciated.

    Paul C.

  7. Tim,

    This is one of my favorite posts so far! It’s funny that you mention, “I would much prefer to take someone who’s interested in becoming a competent deal maker or business development icon and put them into a start up…” because I was just having this conversation with a good friend. I want to go into finance and investment(and become a CFP) as a means to an end but am not sure school is the best choice for me at this point. Part of the reason is that getting an MBA is only one small piece of the puzzle the other key is networking and being able to get your foot in the door. Do you know of any startups that are offering the opportunity to gain first hand knowledge and and experience like what you speak of? Feel free to email me as well. I’d really appreciate your help and insight.


  8. “And to postpone all of these bucket list experiences until 50, 60 years old or beyond is, I think, a very bad wager.” …Made me think. It’s about time I change that bucket list of mine and check out your Ideal Lifestyle Calculator. Cheers!

    1. Celeste

      I wholely agree with you. Been to your sight. What a GREAT bucket list for such a young woman. Dont wait until your 50 or 60 to DO what you want from life. One of the gifts Tim’s blog gives me is the opportunity to see how other people are living out their dreams.

      Remember life is really an illusion. You can be who ever you want to be. The opportunities are unlimited for anyone who gets it. Tim you and everyone who contributes to this blog demonstrate that with each posting.

      Go and live out your life you only live once. I am 48 and just overcoming a second life changing experience. When you loose something that defined you for so long the mindset changes. Been having the best AHA moments since this happened. I thank people like Tim you and all the other 4HWW people for their inspirational stories. Makes my heart sing with hope purpose and happiness.

      Go and Be DO and HAVE the life you want. Dont wait for someone to give it to you. It is all there for the taking. Enjoy


    2. Who wan’t to wait to play the best golf courses in the world when you can’t hardly swing anymore! right?

  9. “…don’t have emotional overreactions to things that you can’t control…”

    couldn’t agree more

    I find that meditation helps with this tremendously.

    1. I was going to say that I heard that somewhere else but I suddenly remember it’s from Tim’s 4HWW on the 80/20 topic.

  10. Hey Tim,

    Great stuff here, big fan of Seneca as well. Any takes on learning music and playing instruments at an accelerated rate? Trying to get a better hold of learning guitar, not too sure how soon I’ll hit 10,000 hours of practice 😉

    1. Look at the book “Effortless Mastery” by Kenny Werner. It’s one of my favorites (I’ve re-read it 4 times and I’m not a musician) and has timeless lessons for life, not just for music.

    2. He hasn’t released any news of progress in these areas, but his principles are timeless and applicable. Do what he does, and you’ll succeed.

  11. Tim,

    Awesome post!

    “And what you find is that the deferred-life plan which is based on retirement and redeeming these experiences, that are most valuable in your peak physical years, is a false paradigm.”…. I couldn’t agree with you more. After becoming “well rounded” and learning how to critically think at college I moved to Edinburgh, Scotland to refine my rugby “skill set” and it was way less money than I ever expected! 3 bedroom flat right in the shadow of Edinburgh Castle where I was paying less than $400usd/mo!

    Now I’m back state side working for a very small corporate turnaround firm gaining more real world business experience than any MBA program could give me, and am currently testing and refining my muse (thanks to the 4HWW) in hopes that I can generate enough cash flow to travel, re-learn spanish, and serve underdeveloped areas with my beautiful girlfriend!

    I love these posts man, keep it up!



    1. I just googled “turnaround firm” to see what it meant and it seems really cool! Are they a lot of firms that do this, because I’m interested in learning more about it!

  12. “I don’t view philosophy as an idle form of intellectual masturbation.”

    Brilliant. “Wordsmithing” at its best.

  13. Notes for all yous!

    Advanced Hacking Questions:


    What does success look like and how do I measure it?

    2)Least Common Effective Approach

    What is the established dogmatic approach to mastery?

    How could I do the exact opposite while maintaining efficacy?


    Who are the atypical (norms-defying) and successful masters of X skillset?

    What specific techniques and practices do they do that MUST be accomplished to be successful (since they cannot compensate with natural ability)?

    4)Fastest Progression

    Who has achieved mastery in a fraction of the time most do? What do they do differently?

    1. Thanks, Denny! And to all of you contributing comments, which have been fantastic on this post. This is why I love blogging so much 🙂

      Bis bald,


      1. Cliff notes are easy, Tim, introducing ideas that have an impact is not.

        So many personal thanks, and I’m sure I speak for all of us. Cheers! I’ve had so much fun using your ideas!


    2. I find hard defining success that I could measure against when the thing I’m going for I’m doing for the first time. recently I have capitulated and decided that NIKE has been right all along. Now that I’ve included “just do it” into my vocabulary, I believe that doing and then measuring against my own progress is the way to go.

      On the other hand it’s hard for me to admit that I’m still not comfortable with contacting people who have achieved success and even find it hard deciding who I should contact and why. I can see from your post that it’s possible to measure someone else’s success first.

      Thank you Denny for the useful digestion and Tim for another evergreen 😉



  14. I really enjoyed the part about “rich experiences.” Most people or even business owners tend to believe that once they have a set dollar amount they don’t have to “do work” ever again….if the value they were making money from was considered as “work” in the first place – where is the personal fulfillment? You are likely to blow it all with that mentality.

    With reference to the lifestyle calculator – when i first got out of college, i was lucky enough to make a job paying about 90K. Since it was the first time i was making that kind of money i blew it all on fancy gadgets and the “girls gone wild stuff.” Yet after all said and done (layoffs included) i had nothing to show for it. Experiences > Material Comfort.

    Now at 45K (and some snazzy budgeting) i have traveled to more places, experienced more cultures and made more friends which i would be hard pressed to trade for a higher paying job.

    Great read Tim.

  15. Hi Tim, the Seneca quotes you read are great.

    The last one:

    “For no one is worthy of a god unless he has paid no heed to riches. I am not, mind you, against your possessing them, but I want to ensure that you possess them without tremors…”

    — it reminds me a lot of two related concepts I came across, “Living with one foot raised”, and “Cultivating an attitude of indifference” – both expounded in the book, Heroic Leadership, by Chris Lowney.

    It is, with no exaggeration, one of the best books I have ever read.

    1. I love that quote: “until you possess them without tremors,”….and would add,….I feel it is equally profound wisdom applied to relationships, careers, experiences, etc. How liberating (and challenging?!) to fully enjoy the riches of life, both material and immaterial, without attachment to them. Thanks Tim for the post. Would love to see you expound on this kind of thing,….in particular the philosophical points that you use to live by. One of my greatest focuses in writing, teaching, etc. is to find that which you can actually apply: that which provides actual results in your life. Otherwise it is meaningless (to me, well, unless it is just comical :)). It is a constant process of experimentation and refinement. Thanks.

  16. @Tom

    Here are my tips for reducing time spent learning a musical instrument:

    1) Get a good teacher

    You can get a lot of things right by yourself but you won’t know what you’re getting wrong. A cheap teacher is a false economy.

    2) Learn stuff you love

    Forget technical exercises. If a technical problem crops up in a piece master it then. If it never crops up you don’t need to.

    3) Accuracy not speed

    Aim for accuracy and the speed will come of its own accord. You can’t do it the other way round.

    4) Apply the Pareto principle when practicing

    It’s natural to want to play a piece straight through, but you have to practice the difficult parts in isolation.

    5) Don’t practice until you can get it right, practice until you can’t get it wrong

    Like the last rep on a weights workout, it’s repeating something once you’ve got it right that makes it stick.

    Lastly, a word of warning: while you might be able to achieve “95% fluency with 20% of the effort” for some definition of fluency, it’s the extra 5% that makes the difference between selling out Madison Square Garden and sounding like everyone else.

    Good luck and enjoy. 😉

    1. wow, Benedict, this is fantastic! I feel that your simple list is more than just a way to learn to play an instrument. You have here something much more versatile. I would say that it could even apply to business. Let’s say you build a website and you get it right, and have a few visitors. It doesn’t mean that you can stop there if you wanted more visitors. You still need to keep building more links to it, and more relationships with other website owners.

      Does it make sense?



    1. Thanks so much for the kind words, Avi! I’ll add this to the post as well. Great find!

      All the best,


    2. Avi,

      Thank you so much for the link. I haven’t read Seneca’s epistles myself. Although Philosophy is my major in college, I haven’t really deep dived into Seneca’s head. He was mentioned a lot but didn’t get much attention because he is not really a major philosopher such as Socrates, Plato, etc.

      I got interested in him through Tim’s writings.

      1. Marlon,

        Seneca is deliberately passed over in college Philosophy classes precisely because he’s eclectic and cannot be put into a neat classification slot. The same is the case with Xenophon. Also, teaching students to live a better life is not conducive to hustling the academic rat race.

  17. Tim, your book recommendations go into my reading list directly. I’ve greatly benefited from that.

    Also, I pay close attention to the people you talk about, and have become a fan of many of their work.

    . Taleb

    . Sivers

    . Naomi [Kindness poem]

    Thanks again, and keep them coming.

  18. Read your book. Can’t thank you enough- a breath of fresh air in the dump of business advice. Took notes, taking action. This article and your book speak my language. Will let you know when I make my first $ on my muse!

  19. Tim,

    I’ve been following you for many years. I read the 4-Hour Workweek probably 5 or 6 times a few years ago while my family was in Europe. It’s about ready to fall apart because I’ve referenced it so many times.

    Above you mention the Lifestyle costs and you frequently use travel examples. My wife and two kids (7 & 9) are about to leave for our summer trip out of the country – St. Martin this year. Last year we took the kids to Italy for 6 weeks. It amazes me how everyone thinks last year was a “once in a lifetime trip” and that we must have spent 10’s of thousands of dollars. When we went to S. Africa they said the same thing but I’ll be going back.

    People don’t understand how inexpensive spending 6 weeks in Italy or St. Martin can be. We rented 3 bedroom condos that were the nightly rate equivalent of $90 – $120 per night and they were always directly on the beach (except our amazing condo in the heart of Venice with three canals converging on the corner of our living room and 9 windows overlooking 4 different bridges).

    Our condo in St. Martin is on the beach with a huge patio overlooking the ocean for about $70 per night. What people need to realize is that you can’t go somewhere with a family of four and spend money everyday as if you are a tourist visiting somewhere for a few days. You can’t eat out 3 meals per day. You’ll have an even more rich and local experience if you visit the market and learn how to cook the local food.

    In Italy my daughter and I woke up early every morning to go to the market. If you didn’t buy bread by 10am you were out of luck, and we ate a lot of great bread. We were in a very small fishing village and no one in the store spoke a word of English yet we shopped everyday for 6 weeks with no problems, but a lot of giggles and laughs. What an amazing experience that was for us.

    We met a 70 year old man, Luigi, who came to our house to cook for us and invited us to his 100+ year old, four tiered garden overlooking the sea to have dinner and happy hour. The garden had an outdoor kitchen. It’s such an amazing experience when you are living with the locals.

    Anyway, we’ve taken out kids to many countries throughout the world and we are not rich. We always do it on a very modest budget. We’ve had a travel savings account for over 10 years.

    I would be more than happy to share any stories or ideas if you every wanted to right or blog about this. I don’t want any recognition so this can be in your own words. I’ve been inspired by your words and have always wished you would apply your travel teachings to families.

    Take care and thank you for all the guidance.

    BTW, You and Kevin need to do more random episodes – that are awesome.

    1. AJ, this is a FANTASTIC story — thank you for sharing. Please keep an eye on your email inbox…

    2. AJ,

      Thanks so much for sharing your “success” stories. I really think that this makes it easier for people to believe that they, too, can do it. Like the abundance of examples in the 2nd edition of (4HWW) and all the examples in (4HB), I think it’s easier for people to imagine themselves in the shoes of the sucessor when there are tangible, real people who have already done it. Some people have a hard time with abstracting themselves into something from (lifestyle calculators). Of course, there are those that prefer the abstraction method. 🙂

      With Love and Gratitude,


    3. AJ, by any chance can you send me a link to the website for the condo in St. Martin or point me in the right direction. That sounds awesome.

    4. AJ,

      Make sure you check out the La Grande Case markets when you’re there in St Martin or the kitesurfing school at le galleon beach.

      Hope this helps,

      Archie C

    5. Nice post AJ. I am just about to travel around Central and South America for 6 months with my wife and 4 children. Have negotiated betting them out of school (in the UK, keeping their place at school if they’re out for a semistre . term is not an easy thing). We are in the process of figuring out how to get the most out of the trip with them (2,3,7 and 9 years old) while not spending the equivalent of Chad’s military budget. So would always be happy to read more of what you have to share.

      P.S. although the trip was in our “bucket” and wishlist for years, reading 4HWW catalysed it into action.

    6. AJ,

      Thanks for posting as my wife and I love to travel (thanks to our free time from implementing Tim’s advice from 4HWW) and are looking to start a family in a year or so. We only have 1 couple that we’re friends with that have 4 kids that actually make a point to travel with their kids.

      Fresh back from a recent trip to the UK some friends of ours commented “I’ve always wanted to go but now we can’t” (because they just had their first child). I couldn’t believe my ears. Your story encourages me that we’ll be able to continue our travels with little ones.

      My parents absolutely love St.Marrtin and spend 1 month there every year. Although I’ve never been they absolutely love it. Look for the Emerald flash during sunsets!

      On the subject of traveling my friend just sent me this link today… I find it incredibly interesting.

      It really is sad that more American’s don’t take more time to travel.

      Thanks again for your comment and Tim for the post. I am a longtime reader and first time commenter. Keep the posts & comments comming. I get almost as much if not more from the comments as from the posts. Thanks for sharing everyone.

  20. Thanks for the post. Always enjoy reading about your hacks.

    Question: Why “unflavored” whey protein?

  21. Very good practical article with no bullshit advice. Pretty cool and will look forward to more articles/interviews.

  22. Great post, Tim. I was wondering where you do most of your research when breaking down a skill. Some of your examples for different measurements don’t seem like the kind of thing you would readily find in a book, or on the internet.

    Also, whenever I read your posts on lifestyle design I always have one nagging question in the back of my mind- What does he do for health insurance?

    Keep up the good work.

  23. Hi Tim,

    I’m writing this to thank you for including Dr. Two-Fingers (aka Dr. Craig Buhler) in The 4-Hour Body. Dr. Buhler is amazing!

    When The 4-Hour Body came out I had been in increasing pain for 3 months and no one I went to was able to identify what was wrong or even reduce my pain levels, which were getting to the point where I often couldn’t think straight.

    Your book landed on my doorstep, preordered ages before. As I read the bit about Dr. Two-Fingers, something clicked. Your description of his method made sense, and I was in such pain at that point that the idea of flying to Utah was a reasonable choice despite the cost.

    I am so glad I did!

    Dr. Buhler and his associate, Dr. Bennett, worked on me for 5 hours that first visit, and I left with massively reduced pain. No pain killers needed anymore – just like that! I flew to Utah 4 times over 4 months. I’m back at the gym now, re-integrating and unlearning bad habits, and regaining my strength and flexibility.

    Appearing in The 4-Hour Body has made Dr. Buhler a very busy man, but he’s passionate about his work. Because his methodology includes chiropractic techniques and elements of Chinese medicine, there are people, including doctors, who dismiss him without trial as a charlatan. I send you kudos for keeping an open mind and trying AMIT and Dr. Buhler. If you hadn’t, I expect I wouldn’t have heard about him or have any kind of useful body right now. As it is, I am looking forward to participating in a bunch of activities I dropped years ago simply because I couldn’t trust my body anymore and injured myself every time I tried to get in shape.

    Thanks, Tim! I hadn’t realized how bleak my outlook had become. This was a life saver for me!


    1. Thanks so much for the comment, and I’m thrilled to hear you’re feeling better! Dr. Buhler has an incredible tactile sensitivity, and his AMIT — while controversial — can really work wonders in the right cases.

      Keep it up!

      All the best,


      1. Tim and Tim’s crew, do you know if Dr. Two Fingers could be of help in dealing with ulnar nerve entrapment at the elbow? This a common ailment among cubicle dwellers (second only to carpal tunnel syndrome). Any pointers would be appreciated!!

  24. Thanks for the insights – revealing, concise and useful – more like revelations.

    I read your blog for inspiration and ways to improve my life – it’s working

  25. In the 4HWW the biggest impact for me personally was the part about imagining your worst case scenario, the impact on your life on a scale of 1 to 10. I guess this is the point seneca was making – “is this the condition that i dread”

    That exercise has given me the strength to make life changing decisions.

    I’m already making changes – doing things that I’ve been putting off – seriously considering selling my business. Starting other businesses. Dropping “friends” that drag me down. And if everything goes wrong …. there will be no dead of my condition .

    1. The thing about this is if you know what the worst case scenario is and are prepared to handle it should the worst happen, It’s not so bad.

      We lost our house to foreclosure after I made the decision to return to school to become a doctor, knowing how hard it would be to make the payments.

      A few things went wrong and we were behind – but we had talked about the worst case and were willing to deal with it, so it wasn’t so bad.

      All in all, It’s been worth it 100%

  26. I’ve always been interested in language learning short-cuts, especially after dismal experience and results in school but a love of travel. I’m currently trying to master Estonian, which for someone growing up speaking only English is pretty tough – 14 grammatical cases for starters.

    Read an article earlier today ( on a rapid language learning approach, using a Socratic lexical method, to get a journalist to a basic conversational level of Mandarin in two days. Thought it might be of interest to you and your other readers.

    I liked your piece on the international phonetic alphabet in the last Random episode. It reminded me of all the times my daughter (who’s pre-school) corrects my pronunciation of Estonian words.

  27. @ Tim,

    Most formal education, including MBA’s, focuses on training you to work for somebody else. Of Americans that do work for somebody else, over 65% of them work at companies with under 500 employees. These business’s are hardly looking for MBA’s. If you want to be an entrepreneur or work in small business where a majority of people find employment, it seems counter intuitive to get an MBA. What do you think? Is an MBA a legacy idea from the industrial age?

  28. This makes for a nice checklist. These aren’t particularly new ideas to the blog, but the format puts it all together well. Great stuff.

    I think it’s time to sit down and do a better job of hacking my own goals.

  29. Tim,

    I could not agree more with you on education; a liberal arts degree is not job training, but an investment in becoming an individual. Seth Godin wrote a wonderful post about this somewhere on his blog (also in his book “Small is the New Big”).

    I like your take on Seneca and Stoicism: it is simple and actionable.

    I share your belief that less is often more, though this is an ideal I often fall short of.

    However, I disagree with you about most philosophy as “masturbation.” I understand your point, but I think this characterization is unfair, though for another discussion.

    This is the kind of content I appreciate most from your blog: disproportionate results, accelerated learning, and skill acquisition.

    I like your analytical approach to problem solving.

    Question: Above you mention studying “anomalies” that excel in their fields despite not fitting the traditional archetypes i.e. Michael Phelps in swimming.

    This sounds good to me, but what if you do fit that archetype,, can you still learn from anomalies?

    I can only relate with boxing, as that is the only sport that I have any talent at (And I know you have experience in fighting sports). For my weight I am tall, fast and I have power; I fit the archetype, more or less.

    It just seems like another fighter’s build and gifts would be too different from my own to be able to effectively analyze and extrapolate lessons from.

    Long fighters have a different strategy from shorter fighters because of their strengths they either were born with or cultivated.

    Now I’d like to get ideas from an “anomaly”; MikeTyson comes to mind as a very short heavyweight (not the archetype of heavyweight success). And while there is much to admire, there is no way I would fight like him.

    Perhaps there are more than one archetypes in a sport like boxing?

    MMA certainly must have more than one archetype.

    I’d be interested in your thoughts on this.

    Another area: I play Irish flute. I know you play, but I don’t know much more. It seems to me the archetypal route of playing tin whistle first is the simplest and quickest route to learning flute.

    I’d be interested in your thoughts in learning instruments, as my assumption (that needs testing) is that it takes years of learning to become world class.

    I find your blog engaging, and I think we share many common interests, much common DNA. I really liked your first book, found useful bits in your second book (thanks for the autographed copy :-)) and always feel I come away from your blog a wiser, more actionable individual than before.

    Respectfully yours,

    Aaron Fung

    P.S. As I said above, I like your approach to problem solving, and would like to see more posts around it, especially as it relates to muse creation, accelerated learning, and skill acquisition.

    Do you think your approach to problem solving could be abstracted into a process that could be repeated for any skill?

  30. Hey Time,

    This was a very inspiring and informative read. For me personally, the main gem of wisdom I’ve taken away from the entire article was in regards to choosing one’s friends and mentors consciously and carefully. (Richard Koch goes into much detail about this in his The 80/20 Principle book)

    I’m curious though, where do you get such paradigm shifting ideas? Seriously, what do you read? Or are your ideas the results of the very friendships you’ve been able to cultivate over the years?

    I’m quite interested in reading more of the articles/books you suggest. Perhaps you can set up a “Non-Required But Fun” reading list on the blog somewhere for those of us who enjoy quality and actionable information. I’ve found a few gems in your colleague, Ryan Holiday’s collection as well.


  31. Awesome post.

    Have read it, absorbed it now off to go do it…from London to Bondi by bike baby! The pedalling starts in August and I can’t wait!

    Thanks for providing not just inspiration for the trip but the tools that’ll help us along the way and upon our return to the UK.


  32. Hey Tim,

    Why are you interested in screenplay writing books?

    Just curious or .. ?

    Thanks for the post, great, great stuff.

  33. Not based only on this post – but seems like you have a (very) tiny fixation/obsession with the MBA thing 🙂 If so, you’re not the only one. I assume this is actually a reaction to the fact that an overwhelming number of other people on this planet are obsessed in a different way – and believe that MBA degrees gives mythical powers to people.

    Well, I think MBA degrees are great, because just like most university degrees, you do learn some interesting things, exercise the brain about stuff, and (hopefully) meet some smart people. But that’s it – no magic…

  34. Tim, this post is brilliant! I’ve always loved your pratical philosophical perspectives and this post sums it and expands on it brilliantly.

    Although not the most obvious application, I’ve utilized a lot of your principles and teaching both in the 4HWW and 4HB (that, for more obvious reasons) in developing a professional acting career. It’s suprising how much I’ve been able to apply your psychology of testing, life hacking methodology and even your entrepenureal approach to constructing an acting career and developing so many of the associated skills.

    Although it’s so far astray from your field, I’d be interested to get your ever-stratigic perspective on approaching a career in the performing arts/screen industry 🙂

  35. Tim,

    i know you hear it all the time but i cannot thank you enough for your work! 4hww and 4hb have both changed my life for the better in so many ways! as a slightly overweight entrepreneur your books speak right to me! 😉 i have lost 14lbs on scd so far and plan on packing on some muscle in june! i have even inspired my brother and mom to drop weight using the scd and the 30 before 30. my bro has lost about 10 lbs and my mom just started a couple weeks ago and is at about 8lbs down! i have some great slow carb meals i plan on sharing soon along with progress updates (bod pod, body tape measure and pics) once i start packing on muscle.

    with that being said i feel as if your writings are naturally heading in a philosophical direction, you have some incredible ideas and have certainly done your homework and i think tying it all together (lifestyle, body and mind) would be a great direction! sounds selfish but i think you have a lot to offer and by now you have created such a following that offering them a “Tim Ferriss” style mind/soul hack would be just what the doctor ordered! 🙂

    i noticed it as well on your FB post asking your fans what you should write about next and there seemed to be a reoccurring theme… “mind hacks”. my post (which received 8 likes) was “The 4 hour mind: an unconventional guide to remembering everything, achieving anything, conquering fear, and evolving on your terms.” so i hope this is the direction you are heading… there is a huge link between mind/body/work (by work i mean a new definition of work that consists of doing what you love… a “calling” if you will, a chance to make a difference in the world), and your first two books cover the obvious… lets pull it all together… lets close the gap.

    after all Tim, you are building an army, and that army should have a strong moral compass if they are going to be dominating the economy and their bodies. 😉

    this has been one of my favorite posts of yours and i hope to read more covering similar topics!

  36. Tim,

    I’ve long suspected that you had a deep interest in the bridge between business and military strategy. Makes “??“ a hard term to translate into a modern equivalent, eh?

    Anyways, thank you. Your post is really a kick in the ass for me. The presentation of the concepts above are excellent and easy to digest. I am inspired.

    You have reminded me of the deep well of resources that I have yet to put onto paper. It is always inspirational to hear from others that have found Martial practice and philosophy to be a vehicle for physical, emotional, and spiritual cultivation.

    Keep it comin’! I know you will…

  37. This is the first time I have come to your site. Wow I have been missing so much for so long. I see I have lots of reading and growing to follow. Thanks for the great information.

  38. Tim,

    Thanks for sharing this wonderful post and allowing Avi into your process a bit. I’ve been noodling around here since I first read about you in “Transitions Abroad” back in 2007, I believe, just before the book launch – and what I’ve always wished we had more of was the “how” and the “why” of your processes, and of others who have done well following some of your methods. With this post you nailed it.

    I too have been fortunate to have success in a number of areas you talk about, and the one thing I always like to share with people is exactly “how” I came to discover a certain process or result. In doing so, and sharing this type of info with others, we allow them too to duplicate our efforts for their own situations, and can thus share the love a little bit.

    Additionally, I also find myself constantly asking “why.” This too is clearly evident in your own approach to the illustrated tasks above. Some may be familiar with Sakichi Toyoda’s “ask why five times” approach that yields similar results. For example, today when working with an intern, I was encouraging him to recognize repeat processes, while he was building a database, and to then seek out a solution to reduce the repetitiveness of the task. Getting inside one’s head and literally asking “Why the heck am I doing this thing over and over?” is often the first part of changing that mindset. Then the next part of the battle is fighting that internal dialogue that suggests learning a new process to make an old one quicker is a waste of time. In building a database, it’s simple to convince one’s self that it’s better to keep entering data manually, for example, because at least the work is being completed. BUT, if you spend three hours learning a tool that will allow you to create the next phase of the database in half the time or less, then that time expense is a good decision – particularly when you think of how that new tool will save time long into the future.

    Anyway, I just really love that you’re sharing more of the “how” and the “why” because those approaches are more enabling than merely citing the results of an action. I also see this in the way you’re now framing your questions for contest participants as well, so each of your readers looking to better boost their own performance can gain greater insight, not only into the great lifestyle improvements of contest participants, but exactly *how* they came to experience these events, and what processes they applied to get ‘er done.

    The next big thing I’ll keep pushing for is a list of recommended suppliers for these missions everyone is completing. Since a lot of us are small business owners, what a great opportunity it would be to know exactly who we’re using as web designers, trip planners, cold callers, list generators, etc., so we can all continue to share in this great community.



  39. This is a great article!

    Thanks, Tim! You are helping me invent my life the way I have been trying to for years. I have learned a lot of good stuff from others; in your material I find tangible knowledge that I can really relate to and put into practice.

    I find you to be a beacon of freedom (if I may so put it), and a big influence in my life right now. You rock!

  40. Thanks for posting Tim, I am working my way through Seneca one letter at a time and loving every bit of it.

    My routine has been to read a letter in the morning and try to internalize one lesson as I set out the one or two important things I’d like to accomplish that day.

    Your recommendation (and that of NNTaleb) of Seneca (especially ‘On the Shortness of Life’) have profoundly impacted my life and I now recommend them to my closest friends.

    Thanks for freely sharing so many great ideas, your own and others that have inspired you!

    – Ryan

  41. Every time I feel your blog is becoming stale you come out with something so extraordinary that you hook me again.

    Awesome stuff! I’m gonna be re-reading this post a few times.

  42. AJ… you kick ass. Props to you for not “talking” about it, but actually executing. Your kids are extremely lucky to have you as a father!

    Tim – This morning, I kid you not, I reached into the bookshelf and pulled Seneca for my MUNI bus ride here in SF. You’re creeping me out man! I’ll pull out one of the lady friend’s steamy romance novels tomorrow to see if you post about it. 😉 Relevant side note: Female Sexual Brain

  43. Fantastic intreview with some fresh angles, great reminder of the key 4hww elements with a useful introduction to Seneca.

    How do you feel about Photo Reading as opposed to Speed reading, Tim?

  44. Caught you on the Random Show the other day and now in the post above. I recently finished Benjamin Franklin’s biography and just started Benjamin Franklin: An American Life.

    Thanks for all of the usable information and background you provide about how and why you do the things you do.

  45. I think the best selfhelp technique/philosophy might be Sedona Method releasing. I’ve made made my best decisions when releasing and some have been financialy rewarding. I’m going to start researching stoicism because it seems to have the same zen like stay in the moment/don’t be overwhelmed by feelings philosophy as the Sedona Method. I find that when I release and am in the moment I create a good life. When I’m not releasing and am unconscious – “bad” things happen.

  46. Tim,

    For a more reader friendly translation of Epictetus check out “The Art of Living.” trans by Sharon Lebell. It contains both the Enchiridion and excerpts from his Discourses.

    All the best,


  47. A question… why is the language learning part not in your book? Does this topic simply not fit into “the 4 hour body”? Or will a “4 Hour Mind” Book also be published 😉 ?

  48. Tim,

    I’ve been enjoying reading and learning from your books and blog for several years. I’m about to launch a muse of my own. It’s all because you simplified the systems and explained how to do it so well. The process is inordinately exciting!

    As I was reading this post – from the title through the last word – I was struck by both the power and the problems that arise with operating from within a fixed philosophical system.

    In order to function in the world we must have some semblance of order. Seneca provides a powerful and orderly model for behavior.

    Yet the universe is so much richer than any philosophy can quantify. I spent years embedded in various philosophies – thinking that each one of them was “true” at the time and then later upgrading the notion of truth to “usefulness”. Each taught me something that I had not known before.

    My my perpetual pursuit of happiness, however, forced me to step out of each one and into the unknown once again until the underlying truths, and untruths, contained within each systematized system of thought revealed themselves.

    As I read your post I wondered what would occur if you applied your own mind/project hacking process to your fundamental life belief structure and spent one year simply doing the opposite to see what happens?



  49. What measurements are you using for “95% fluency in conversational German?” The term itself–conversational German–seems open to interpretation, depending on the individual.

  50. Maybe we can use the method of learning a language in three months and read Seneca in Latin:-)

    I love to see a blog that is also inspiring and not just business and money.

    Great principles.

    All the best,


  51. Tim,

    Impeccably timed blog post! Speaks to personal circumstance and will be downloading the kindle version immediately.

    I agree with AJ and would love the application of your travel teachings to family. More case studies perhaps?

    Thanks to you and the timing of my first 4HWW read (while having a stressful “vacation” in Mexico trying to jungle business and relaxation), you hit home for me in a way no other book has.

    Since then, My wife and two kids have traveled for 4 weeks at a time to the Cayman Islands, Florida, California and more. Our friends constantly ask us “Wow, you must have a lot of vacation time”, or “Do you have time shares or something”, the list goes on. I am almost embarrassed to tell folks we are traveling for so long.

    Our yoga instructor made a comment “This guy’s kids have traveled more in their short lives then most people travel in a lifetime”. Do we travel in style, spending money on expensive places and things, no. That is not what our kids will remember. They will remember the experiences and time spent with family and friends, sites seen, etc.

    Our last trip to the Cayman Islands, we were able to find starfish, and our kids took some quick pictures with them before gently returning them back to the water. They pet (and kissed) the massive stingrays at stingray city. Swam in the ocean and met people from all over the world. But the best part, falling asleep in a hammock on the beach in the shade of a tree while listening to the waves. I keep a picture on my desk of this moment. When business starts to creep in, it reminds me of whats most important.

    You are an inspiration to us all and for that I am eternally grateful. You will never fully understand how far reaching the effects have been. Us, children, grandchildren, etc.

    1. Dear Peter,

      Thank you so much for this wonderful comment. *I* aspire to travel with my children — once I have a family — just have you have done. In that respect, you are very much my inspiration.

      All the best to you and yours,


      1. Tim…are you single? …the girl with whom you set up family will be a lucky girl!

    2. Peter,

      It’s great to hear that someone else is experiencing the awkwardness of telling people that your family is going on vacation for 5+ weeks. We deal with it all the time.

      We told ourselves when we had our first child (9 now) that we would not change our travel lifestyle. The last time we were in St. Martin she was 9 months old and she’s seen so much since. It’s pretty cool when you children study the pyramids of Egypt and can say they have been in one, or that they had lunch on the Nile River.

      We also get the question about how I can get 5-6 weeks off. Well last year I took all my vacation time and 2 weeks unpaid. My employer said that I could never do that again, so guess what. I started my own company this year and my last day is on 5/31. I’ll be leaving 2 weeks later to work from St. Martin during our kids summer break. GOOD BYE TO THE CORPORATE WORLD!

  52. Hey Tim,

    I really liked this article because it relates to where I am in life. One semester left of undergrad(Entrepreneurship) ,applying for Army ROTC 2 yr scholarship, applying to my current school for an MBA program, and studying WWI (for many reasons ^_^).

    I witnessed an “omg he’s right..” moment when you said how it’s all fun to do a case study and not have to suffer a real consequence. I’ve always wondered if school can be too much for someone and detach them from valuable world experience, but my college’s MBA program looks like a kick ass list of cool mods you can add to your car!

    Based on my undergrad experiences, this is what I’ve noticed works well with us business kids. Get an internship with a company that’s not exactly having a good time(mine isn’t). Don’t freak out about taking 18-21 credits but focus on crossing what you learn in school with what you do at work. I noticed on a weekly basis I would come up with something for the business, ponder, implement, and actually feel the burn if something didn’t work.

    But sometimes I wonder if the MBA will be over kill. I keep feeling like I’m hesitating on my entrepreneurial path because I’m afraid of failure so I’m delaying it by staying in school and going into the military. Then I reply to myself with saying, “Well at least you are gaining a strong core and eventually entering the business battlefield with a cautious but at times violent march.”

    Anyways, I would consider you my digital mentor because I’ve applied many of the things you have taught me over the past two years. For example, “measure everything.” Thank you again and I’m excited to read up on your next blog post.


  53. We really need to bring this knowledge to all the high school sutdents.

    This knowledge on philosophy and just how to “make life work” is essential for the flourishing of the global society, as happy individuals create a happy and peaceful environment around themselves.

    So, Tim – I count on you to revolutionize the schooling system!


    J. Matthiessen

  54. I don’t particularly like one philosopher over another. As a matter of fact, I just read a book about Neoplatonic philosophers in late antiquity, Plotinus and Proclus. it was quite interesting, but different from stoic stuff. I didn’t really agree with the blog author’s idea of idle thought about philosophy as intellectual masturbation. I actually delve alot into that kind of contemplation of philosophy, rather than trying to integrate philosophy into my life. I can, however, see the merit of using philosophy in your life: perhaps alot of people think that it’s a proactive approach to philosophy.

  55. Not sure if this is were to comment about 4 hour body.

    I lost over 10 pounds in 12 days.

    Thank you from the bottom of my (now much healthier) heart.

  56. Tim,

    From my study of Musashi’s book over the past 15 years and others that give insight into the duality of “battle” (Steven Pressfield’s Gates of Fire, On Combat by Lt. Col Grossman, etc.) on the military side as well as those who give insight on the nature of higher consciousness via transcending duality or egoic-operating systems such as Gary Zukav in Dancing Wu Li Masters and Thich Nhat Hanh’s Being Peace – I do think there is a necessary transition from form and rules and good vs. evil dichotomies to a more evolved level of consciousness that might be called “less is more” or perhaps “unitive consciousness” that is not so much about removing the unnecessary but what I would call “being available” for the fullness of the present moment.

    I think this post of yours is vital and incredibly important. In fact, I think the entrepreneur of this age must engage in this level of thought…not only to better understand the marketplace she seeks to serve but also for the sake of self care and clarity. Cash follows clarity – we buy confusion at a discount and sell clarity at a premium. That takes a different consciousness, a decidedly slower speed of life and the internal work that allows us to look deeply into our situations and become decisive.

    Please make your next book a 285 pg version of this post! What a legacy!



  57. Tim,

    I find *great* the way you put philosophy practically at work to get a better life!

    I consider each day as a small “life” in itself: I am born on the morning, in the 40-50s by lunch, by the evening I get older and my life completes at night. Again and again…

    It helps me considering that each day is worth, and getting the best out of every day.

    I enjoyed reading your article, it definitely contributed to improve my today’s life


  58. I have never heard it: “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with” It’s sounds good, I don’t know it it’s true but sounds good.

    Thanks, Tim.

    Regards from Jerez de la Frontera (Spain)

  59. Grand post Tim, me agrado mucho ya había leído algo de Seneca pero la analogía entre Filosofía y Acción es genial. Me agrado el comentario sobre el consejo a un chico de secundaria sin embargo la tasa de lectura es muy baja en mi pais, en ocasiones he regalado libros para ver si así amigos mios toman el gusto por la lectura, pero ni así en fin Saludos..

    Tj, Mx.

  60. Thank you for being so honest and insightful, it’s so refreshing to read and honest conversations about ones personal guidance system/operating system in todays media climate. Thoughtful and thought provoking, thank you for raising all the right questions and leaving us with a challenge that, if we participate, will reveal how our thoughts and views reflect in our decisions and lives. Thank you Tim!

  61. Interesting conversation. Thoroughly enjoy the section on living offensively vs. defensively. I’ve never considered life in such a way but this resonates with my thoughts and hits home on what I’d think is a primary reason so many people lack satisfaction with their lives, successes, achievements, etc. Solid article, I enjoyed it.

  62. Loved this post. I need to find a hack so I can live in small high rise condo (about $1,500/month without utilities) in Vegas and get my Nissan GTR, there’s a way and I’m going to find it.

  63. Hallo Tim!

    Da du es verstehst, kann ich ja auch auf deutsch schreiben 🙂

    Ich wollte dir dafür danken, dass du es immer wieder schaffst, Menschen aufzubauen, die gerade in ihrem Leben nicht weiterkommen.

    Deine Einträge und Bücher sind sehr inspirierend und motivierend.


    Grüße, Paulina

  64. I’m going off subject, great info though. I haven’t heard you talk about hot yoga or Ayurveda. I know you know about these subjects 🙂

  65. I am currently testing a way of life driven by values, w/ little attention given to vision and goals–my direction being set by those things around me that align with my values. In essence, letting the universe or if you prefer God lead the way.

    It is my understanding from reading your blog that you are exceptionally driven by values and goals.

    “How does spontaneity and serendipity factor into your system?” said in a respectfully curious tone.

  66. Hey I was wondering if Four Hour Mind isn’t taken? I was thinking of creating an ebook around that theme. My previous ideas for a name aren’t good and its too saturated of a market and would confuse people interested in my ebook. Im a big fan of your blog and both of your books. Maybe in the future we could even collaborate?

    I’ll try contacting you a few other ways but this seems the best way to contact you Tim.

  67. I came across seneca after you mentioned him and immediately fell in love. But Musashi, is just simply awesome. Makes me wanna become a swordman.

    Thanks for introducing such great personalities. 😀

  68. Wow… Tim, you put way too much info in your posts bro. I don’t know which part to comment on because there’s too many good things to say…

    I guess I’ll comment on the part about not needing to be rich to have rich experiences-

    I think some of the best experiences are just long meals with friends or family (as you said in your book). Have 2-3 of these a week, and that costs you $100 a week you get a much better life for $5200 a year.

    Not too shabby.

  69. Hi! I have been on the slow carb diet for 2 weeks now. I had breast cancer last year and finished all treatment (chemo radiation and herceptin) on feb 2011. I am trying to follow the book’s instructions closely because I have to loose 20 pounds just to be healthy and to make my doctors happy (lower chances of recurrence) and then 20 more to be double happy … I don’t seem to loose weight as easily: 177.2 Lbs weight at the beginning, 2 weeks later: 175.2 lbs. I am not gonna stop. This is the best diet I have ever tried. Just curious to know if you have other breast cancer patients that could share their wisdom and experience. Thank you.

  70. 150,000 a year for the dream lifestyle? Is that a typo? Did you mean 50,000?

    Also, if you wouldn’t mind Tim, what metrics do you track in language learning? Number of minutes you can converse with a native? Number of vocabulary words memorised?

    How do you quantify in language learning?


    1. I’m sure he means by exams. They have tests like the JLPT for Japanese. I assume that if you get a 95% on the speaking portion of the test…?

  71. Tim,

    Thanks for introducing me to Seneca, Bushido is already in my Operative System ( and is why Japan dealt so well with the Tsunami incident ).

    Changing to the 4HB you should check this “Sleep Shirt” that gives you online sleep analytics. ( )

    All the best,


  72. That’s it. It’s official. You eat, breathe, and shit knowledge. You haven’t put out one thing that I find not worth my time.

    This is ridiculous.

    You have experienced things that some would not if they had 20 lifetimes. How you do it and how you did it is something I will be going over for a good while.

    Oh, and if you’re bored: Go to Oklahoma City. 1500 missing? Ridiculous.

    -And if you have the money yet not the time- send me. Because getting there is my biggest problem and the Red Cross doesn’t seem to care about emails from people trying to get catch a ride over.

    Keep it coming Mr. Ferriss!

  73. great read, so about that part of the guy that survived with the help of Stoicism.. where can i get some more information on this stuff. Thanks

  74. I like your web site and your books. However, I don’t share

    all your values. I would never waste my time learning a foreign

    language OR visiting a foreign country. I prefer to spend my

    time on other things. I enjoy your think outside the box approach

    and your desire to enjoy life before its too late. But my interests

    are very different from yours. I also have a finance degree which

    I value more than a liberal arts degree. My life is all about skills.

    Also, you couldn’t pay me to attend Harvard, Princeton or Yale.

  75. That’s the case for Mike O’Neill, an energy policy analyst with mid-sized law firm in Washington, D.C. Part of O’Neill’s responsibilities include writing a daily blog for the firm. “I’m the only person who does this so I do try to avoid being out of the office,” he said.

    This is from a story on CNN Money! I thought of Tim when reading that he cannot be out of the office because he has to write the blog! WHAT! Get out of there! You can write it anywhere!

  76. I just got back from the Bay Area after doing a talk on Overcoming Negativity and the 3 Habits of Super Achievers. It was amazing to see people Wake Up to the idea that their “beliefs” and their speech is creating their circumstance. The next day I was at a Giant’s game bending the rules and sitting in the “Club” section, and it was on a Sunday. I mention that it was on Sunday because many of my Rat Race friends wouldn’t go with me because their J.O.B required them to be at work the next day at 9am. I stopped doing anything on Monday’s just to protest what everyone else finds normal.

    I really like the section above where Tim “danced” around the College topic. It was a very diplomatic response I must say, especially coming from Tim. In the spirit of #GraduationWeek I have been posting some fun facts on my Facebook page to see what some people’s perspective’s are on the topic. Its amazing, I really think some people are awaking to the idea that just getting a degree does not mean you are going to have a wonderful life. I hope we can get more young people to start doing Tim’s Dream lining and stop just accepting advise from the previous “broke” generation. You ask college grads why they went to college and most answer because there parents would have “killed” them if they didn’t go and get good grades. Go get that degree!! Maybe we should start an after school high school program that teaches Kids ROI (return on investment). At least then they could make an educated decision on weather or not to spend the next 4-6 years occurring debt. To lean lessons that will be obsolete by the time the graduate.

    Even though Tim’s book is a few years old it is way ahead of what college kids are learning in “Marketing” & “Business” Classes in our State schools. One of my old wakeboarding school students had me look over a final paper he was going to turn in as a senior project, and after reading two pages I told him to go down to the registers office and as for a FOUR YEAR REFUND!!!

    One of the most important things you can do is described above by Tim. Pick your mentors and pick your friends because you will always be an average of the 5 people you spend the most time with in your life. That’s why I am now hear on Tim’s Blog, to meet others who want to live the life of their dreams, and who want to help others realize the same.

  77. Tim

    I have got to tell you, the more stuff I read of yours, the more I am developing a real “love-hate” relationship with you (more love than hate though 🙂 )

    Reasons being that your insights and understandings – and acceptances to not only research new things – but actually go out there and try them yourself is AWESOME. I would love to spend 1 day in your mind but I am concerned that I would be totally frazzled at the end of it! 🙂

    The downside ( if you can call it a downside) is that I am compelled to go out and purchase all your suggested books and as I am addicted to “self-development” instead of “shelf-development” ( the UK motivational speakers love that expression) I insist on putting my reading above my socializing…! 🙂 Which I guess is not always a bad thing.

    Just got your 4HB and have dropped a jean size in 3 days…!! I am seriously considering taking the challenge and heavily documenting it to all my friends – even MORE additional leverage.

    Thanks again Tim. Your stuff is not a revelation in theory but it’s life changing in reality.

    Keep it coming!! 🙂



  78. Great advice on looking for outliers. My go-to strategy that has worked well so far is this: first try what everyone else is doing. Then try the exact opposite (within legal/safety reasons). Then pick whichever works best and make micro-adjustments from there.

    1. John,

      Reminds me of a story of a Fly who flew against a window until it died. When Freedom was just 180 degrees in the opposite direction.

  79. I love this post. I keep coming back to re-read it.

    I am commenting to tell you that, because of your website and books, I wrote an ebook on sourcing in China. (Click my name to see if you’re curious.)

    That ebook has broke the top 10 in multiple business categories on Amazon as of this week (although I think just for ebooks, not all books, but still!).

    The ebook made me construct a new paradigm. I’ve networked with other bloggers and networked in ways I never would normally.

    Thank you.


  80. Tim & Team

    Thanks for the blog and the comments; this is such a great community. Wicked post and the thing that most resonates for me is who you spend your time with – it applies at any age and I’m amazed at how much difference it has made applying the 80/20 rule to relationships (along with all of Tim’s hacks). Hanging out here with you guys is hugely valuable and motivating. I wonder what we, as Tim’s Tribe, can achieve – seeing the massive action from Tim’s books plus the latest blogs re the sharks and the scholarship for OTK makes me think this is a very powerful group. Would love to meet face to face someday.

    Oh and I am a big fan of the Random show – on tech gadgets/tools – has anyone tried the Livescribe pen? I love tech but for me nothing beats pen and notebook, and I’m thinking this could be my next best friend.

    Rock on!

    Lisa 🙂

  81. TIM – you should turn your “meta-hack” answer into your next book. All of us would benefit and be the wiser. Your most valuable offering (in my opinion) is the ability to hack skills/topics…

    Please consider it, and thanks for everything.

  82. Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world.

  83. Hi Tim,

    I started a video blog for Sales People and Entrepreneurs. I sell Direct Marketing and walk into 25-30 businesses a day and have learnt a lot..I have focused on adding content and specifically discuss topics on how to control internal state for sales success (observing ego, detaching from outcome etc….)….

    Please let me know what your thoughts are and feel free to spread the word…

    I really respect your comment box so I am not going to add link on this comment box but I have provided my website name above in the “website box”….

    Hope all else is well…



  84. I have a question on the slow carb diet is Hummus allowed like black beans and lentils since it is made from garbanzo beans(chick peas) and Tahini? I would like to start including it in my diet if it is okay to do. Or if I need to save it for binge days.

  85. Tim…Tim, Tim, TIM lol

    Big fan…. love your de-constructive thought processes.


    Think you’ve mentioned playing the drums before…. I’m trying to learn myself and it seems that it really does take years of repetitive perfect practice to gain the muscle memory to enable you to play at any kind of decent standard.

    I would LOVE to hear your thoughts about accelerating this process in the way you do with language, sport etc. Is it one of the few things that can’t be accelerated dramatically in this way??



  86. Thank you for this post and for your examples of hacking into different systems. I apply a few of the techniques, not not enough. You have given me motivation to be a better “hacker.” For example, I am taking courses through an online college. It is more rigorous than I initially imagined. After reading your article, I immediately thought of ways I can streamline the process while still maintaining good grades. I clicked through to your language learning post and it is a very good example of how to hack. I was impressed and inspired by your objective observation skills. It seems that the first thing one needs to do is to stand back from the system and observe it objectively, to discover it’s basic components, it’s rules, then decide on a course of action to master those rules. Discarding previous notions of how to learn the system is an important component of this.

  87. Tim I went to law school and have the Jd to show for it but I don’t practice…I do something different. I work in government and people frequently have commented on my drive and innovation and how different my thinking is compared to the typical govt worker. I sincerely think it’s for two reasons…govt politicos breed angry lazy workers and I’ve tried to stay above it(very hard by the way) and because I learned a Socratic method of problem solving in law school….I have a lot of debt for sure but no regrets. Your point about advanced degrees is well taken but I know I didn’t get exposed to the Socratic method anywhere in undergrad.

    So how do I make sure my kids get it without having to incur $100,000 in student loan debt. Ideas welcome…!

    1. There is a great book that was published called Success For Teens. Type the title into Google and you will see the link to the page and info on the program. We can’t post links in Comments of the blog but it is a nonprofit foundation so I don’t think there is anything wrong with pointing you in the right direction. I also have a few left over from an after school program that I could send to you or you can get them off the site.

      It is so important that you do what Tim says above and that is guard who you, and your kids hang out with because you are always an average of the people you hang out with. You might want to invest in a Bose Head Set for your office!! Learn a different language or something, but block the negativity around you. Trust me I have been in a similar environment and no matter how strong you think you are eventually their ideals and mindsets will rub off on you and you will pass them on like a disease to the people you have influence over.

      Remember internship and mentor-ships usually come free with priceless relationships, connections, and advice. That compared to 100K in debt for a piece of paper and no means to pay it off anytime soon should make it easy to point your kids in the right direction. Always look at ROI (return on investment) it is the best gage of weather you are going the right direction. Example of 4-8 years of time ending up -100K in debt is BAD….. or 4-8 years interning or developing a “muse” & saving or generating 2,500 per month makes you a millionaire which is GOOD. We all have the same amount of time. Time is our most valuable asset, and the one thing that we are all running out of and can’t by anymore of, so use it wisely. You can either choose to spend time, or invest your time, but again the choice is yours. Who you choose to spend your time with and who and what you invest your time in will drastically change the course of your life and the lives of those around you.

    2. @ Krista,

      You asked “How do I make sure my kids get it (Socratic Training) without having to incur $100,000 in student loan debt?”

      The first and most obvious answer is to teach them yourself…

      But let’s say that for some reason that is not an option, the second most obvious answer would be to hire a tutor to teach them. Dreamline it!

      The third, would be find a couple of good books, preferably work books and encourage them to read/work the books…but this may be unrealistic if the kids aren’t motivated.

      Fourth, find a private school that actually teaches Socratic methods before college. Such a school would probably be a far better education in every area than one that doesn’t.

      There are probably some other solutions out there.

      Whatever you decide to do, there is nothing more important than your child’s education and taking an active role in it will give them a head start over all the other kids.

      Live Well

  88. So far so good but all the “philosophising” in the world won’t give you a clue about what to SELL!

    This where it makes a difference, well before any “method”, “approach”, “philosophy”, WTF…

    No product, no revenue!

    1. I was working 12-14 hours a day when my muse fell in my lap. The funny thing is that it took me over a year to see it and listen to someone who could help me make it happen. I had just read Tim’s book back in 2008, and knew that my current path of work was too dependent on me. Actually after starting it took me 8 months to listen to someone who was part of the NR for me to break my old business thought processes and accept his mentor-ship. My suggestion is find someone how has done what you want to do and copy them. You don’t necessarily need to “Find Yoda” but you do need a mentor.

  89. Tim,

    Like AJ, my family (wife and 2 girls 6 & 8) will be taking 5 weeks in Switzerland this July/August. I started planning for this trip after reading 4HW last June (and my wife read it in July). Seeing all the lifestyle changes our family has made (and I have made with my consulting business) come to fruition next month is like a dream come true in itself. Being family oriented in nature, we have taken a slight twist to the more single-vagabonding ideal, but we have made it fun:

    1 – There are 4 people in our family…so every year someone else gets to choose where to take the extended vacation out of the country…from oldest to youngest.

    2 – We start planning a year in advance to get the best deals on apartment, airfare etc.

    3 – The cool thing is 2 family members are doing something all the time…while one is about to go on “their” destination trip, the next person is researching and planning for the year after that!

    4 – I own a consulting business and am now completely mobile (escaping the 9-5 office) trough Skype, email, cell phone, twitter, and Salesforce (awesome program).

    Our entire family is super-stoked to start our “world” adventures every summer…thanks for the inspiration!!!