Filling the Void: Thoughts on Learning and Karma

Palmyra Atoll National Wildlife Refuge (Photo: Jim Maragos/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)

What man actually needs is not a tensionless state but rather the striving and struggling for a worthwhile goal, a freely chosen task.

-Viktor E. Frankl, Holocaust survivor, author of Man’s Search for Meaning

I believe that life exists to be enjoyed, and that the most important thing is to feel good about yourself.

Without the latter, little else gets done.

Each person will have his or her own vehicles for achieving both, and those vehicles will change over time. For some, the answer will be working with orphans, and for others, it will be composing music. I have a personal answer to both–to love, be loved, and never stop learning–but I don’t expect that to be universal.

Some criticize a focus on self-love and enjoyment as selfish or hedonistic, but it’s neither.

Enjoying life and helping others–or feeling good about yourself and increasing the greater good–are no more mutually exclusive than being agnostic and leading a moral life. One does not preclude the other. Let’s assume we agree on this. It still leaves the question: what can I do with my time to enjoy life and feel good about myself?

I can’t offer a single answer that will fit all people, but, based on the dozens of fulfilled people I’ve interviewed, and the thousands who’ve provided feedback on this blog, there are two components that are fundamental…

Continual learning and service.

What follows is how I think of both.


Americans who travel abroad for the first time are often shocked to discover that, despite all the progress that has been made in the last 30 years, many foreign people still speak in foreign languages.

-Dave Barry, American writer and humorist

To learn is to live. I see no other option. Once the learning curve flattens out, I get bored.

Though you can upgrade your brain domestically, traveling and relocating provides unique conditions that make progress much faster. The different surroundings act as a counterpoint and mirror for your own prejudices, making addressing weaknesses that much easier. Learning is such an addiction and compulsion of mine that I rarely travel somewhere without deciding first how I’ll obsess on a specific skill.

A few examples:

Connemara, Ireland: Gaelic Irish, Irish flute, and hurling, the fastest field sport in the world, and perhaps the most amazing sport I’ve ever played (imagine a mix of lacrosse and rugby played with axe handles)

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: Brazilian Portuguese and surfing

Berlin, Germany: German and locking (a form of upright breakdancing)

I tend to focus on language acquisition and one kinesthetic skill, sometimes finding the latter after landing overseas. The most successful serial vagabonds tend to blend the mental and the physical. Notice that I often port a skill I practice domestically-—martial arts-—to other countries where they are also practiced. Instant social life and camaraderie. It need not be a competitive sport-—it could be hiking, chess, or almost anything that keeps your nose out of a textbook and you out of your apartment. Sports just happen to be excellent for avoiding foreign language stage fright and developing lasting friendships, while still sounding like Tarzan.

Language learning deserves special mention here. It is, bar none, the best thing you can do to hone clear thinking.

Quite aside from the fact that it is impossible to understand a foreign culture without understanding its language, acquiring a new language transforms the human experience and makes you aware your own language: your own thoughts.

The practical benefits of this are as underestimated as the difficulty of language learning is overestimated. I know from research and personal experience with more than a dozen languages that 1) adults can learn languages much faster than children when constant 9-5 work is removed and 2) it is possible to become conversationally-fluent in any language in six months or less. At four hours per day, six months can be whittled down to less than three months. It is beyond the scope of this post to explain applied linguistics and the 80/20 of language learning, but here are a few starting points.

Don’t miss the chance to double your life experience. Gain a language and you gain a second lens through which to question and understand the world.

Cursing at people when you go home is fun, too.


Morality is simply the attitude we adopt toward people we personally dislike.

-Oscar Wilde

Service to me is simple: doing something that improves life besides your own.

This is not the same as philanthropy. Philanthropy is the altruistic concern for the well-being of mankind–human life. Human life and comfort have long been focused on to the exclusion of the environment and the rest of the food chain, hence our current race to imminent extinction. Serves us right. The world does not exist solely for the betterment and multiplication of mankind.

Before I start chaining myself to trees and saving the dart frogs, though, I should take my own advice: do not become a cause snob.

How can you help starving children in Africa when there are starving children in Los Angeles? How can you save the whales when homeless people are freezing to death? How does doing volunteer research on coral destruction help those people who need help now?

Children, please. Everything out there needs help, so don’t get baited into “my cause can beat up your cause” arguments with no right answer. There are no qualitative or quantitative comparisons that make sense. The truth is this: those thousands of lives you save could contribute to a famine that kills millions, or that one bush in Bolivia that you protect could hold the cure for cancer. The downstream effects are unknown. Do your best and hope for the best. If you’re improving the world–however you define that–consider your job well done.

Service isn’t limited to saving lives or the environment. It can also improve life. If you are a musician and put a smile on the faces of thousands or millions, I view that as service. If you are a mentor and change the life of one child for the better, the world has been improved. Improving the quality of life in the world is in no fashion inferior to adding more lives.

Service is an attitude.

Find the cause or vehicle that interests you most and make no apologies.


Afterword: My Current Passion

I’m passionate about many things, but one of them is timely.

In one of the most ecologically diverse areas in the Bahamas, I am working with Summit Series and others to help create a Marine Protected Area (MAP). Think of it as a ocean-based national park. It would be patrolled and run by the Nature Conservancy. I am passionate about saving the oceans upon which we depend.

To get this protected area to the finish line for funding, it needs just one last nudge. I’m therefore offering a match:

For the next week, up to $25,000, I will match every dollar donated here. This means that if you donate or help raise $25,000, I will donate another $25,000 for a total of $50,000.

As a bonus, anyone who donates $10 or more is automatically entered to win one of five seats on a shark tagging trip with the University of Miami research team (all the fine print here). I did this myself, and it’s AMAZING.

Please take a look at it all here. It’s tax-deductible, and everyone who donates will get a tax receipt seconds after they donate.

If we raise less than $50,000, I’ll still match dollar-for-dollar, but I think we could raise $25,000, don’t you? Then I’ll make it $50,000.

Thank you in advance to anyone who decides to give this a shot. Thank you also to everyone who politely declines but asks themselves: how might I make my own dent in the universe?

Be the change you want to see.

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

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163 Replies to “Filling the Void: Thoughts on Learning and Karma”

  1. Hey Tim,

    Thanks for the reminder (wake-up call) to start living life again. Much needed.

    Quick question: What kind of Yerba Mate Gourd do you use? Any favorite additives for the Cruz de Malta (honey mixed in water, whiskey?)

    Thanks for everything.

    1. Hi David,

      I use a metal gourd these days for ease of cleaning and less bacteria. The purists hate it, but plenty of Argies use the metal.

      I don’t, however, use any additives — just plain “amargo” (bitter) Cruz de Malta 🙂



      1. Thanks for the response Tim!

        I’ll get a metal gourd (hard to find a good one on Amazon) – I use a natural gourd and it’s growing mold every now and then.

        Stay awesome!


      2. Hi Tim!

        I have started reading your book The 4-hour work week yersterday! I couldn´t stop reading it.

        I´m one of yours, love travelling and believe that being busy is overrated: THE KEY IS TO BE PRODUCTIVE! and enjoy your spare time in things you want to do.

        Last year I opened a company with my brother (both argentineans), to expand argentine culture around the globe and start living the dream, TODAY… I can´t wait to get my hands on your book again.

        Thanks for sharing your treasure!

        If you want to stop by to have a good asado next time in Buenos Aires, it´s on me!


  2. Good food for thought! This could be the begining of your next book… I have a good idea what your next book should be..

  3. Tim, Im currently in London on my first mini retirement! Its been a blast so far and Im continuing to learn one sport (Crossfit) and starting another (Parkour)! Thanks for all the great stuff!

  4. Hey Tim, I am in the Caribbean island of Antigua, found this article informative and also reaches out…Thus i would like to make a small contribution. Unfortunately, I just read the fine print, seems like i’m not eligible for the shark tagging affair.

    I enjoy reading your articles. Regards


  5. Great post Tim,

    I really enjoy reading your ‘filling the void’ posts & I couldn’t agree more in the fact that some people get “charity blindness” in the way that they can only see their cause and their cause only.

    A lot of the giving we do (im talking about giving money) is done on a selfish mode. some people give cause it makes them feel better about themselves, while other’s give to the starving kids in Africa cause they feel bad.

    Regardless the the cause, giving away some of our time is almost as valuable if not more than just opening our pockets.

    Just food for thought…

    1. Giving away some of our time is probably the most difficult thing in these times of Smartphones, internet,

  6. Very well written post. I love your writing style here and I think you touch on a bunch of very important points.

    I am in total agreement with you pertaining to travel. I only wish everyone could see the world from a different perspective. I started traveling in 2010 after reading the 4HWW and subsequently Vagabonding and my life has since done a 180.

    I’ve lost over 100 lbs and spent over 6 months seeing over 14 countries and my perspective is forever changed.

    Just wanted to say thanks and keep up the good work. Your post has inspired me this morning (or night for us insomniac writers)

    All the best,

    Rick A. Griffith

  7. G’day Tim

    Thanks for the reminder to be grateful for the opportunity to serve. I’m just back from my first vagabonding jaunt and currently doing a job that feels ‘menial’ (as it was what I was doing when I was 17) whilst I build my muse.

    However, for all it’s hourly-rate drawbacks, I have the opportunity to help people with their fitness programs, their attitudes towards exercise, diet and themselves. I know that my support and respect for their efforts has a positive impact and for that opportunity, I’m grateful.

    xo, AB

  8. Tim, thank you very much for another insightful post. I especially enjoy those which are not primarily focused on financial matters. 😛 I am in the beginning stages of planning a jaunt to Argentina in 2013 to A) Learn Spanish and B) Ski Ski SKI. I was thinking of spending 2-3 months in Buenos Aires. The fact that I just signed into twitter and this was the first post up was an AMAZING feeling. You would be making a 4-Hour double owner very happy by addressing these questions.

    Cheers, and keep sharing your gifts 🙂



    1. Sorry, I meant to say “spending 2-3 months in Buenos Aires learning Spanish and then heading to the mountains.” Do you have any advice in regards to language schools/programs and the best place to set up shop for the ski season?

      Thanks again


  9. A pity that nowadays it takes disease or old age to find the Feldenkrais Method. Functional Integration is clearly and by far the most important skillset a grown up human can learn. Learning is the future of our society.

    But sadly, young, prosperous, strong men are too much drawn to shiny, show-offable, fast skills. It saddens me every time I see years and years and years wasted.

    But old age and disease will come. And then it’s finally time to pick up where the teenager left off.

  10. Tim,

    Thanks for this – inspiring as ever, and finally these strange sticks some students carry around here make sense to me.

    One question: you mention that adults, when not working, will learn a language much faster than children – which goes against the theory of language acquisition taught at unis. I’m horribly keen to find out if this is research or your experience – and if it’s the former, where can I get the data?



    1. This has also been my experience, and I’ve met so many adults who learn way more efficiently than children do. The only thing that’s different is that conscious effort is required, whereas children can learn it more unconsciously.

      But when you have that conscious effort, you can show-up a child in no time.

      Here is one example of research that confirms experience from Tim, myself and many many others:

      Most research that “proves” that children are better learners does not take adults’ unique advantages into account and compares them in academic or other inefficient environments.

      And in the rest of cases it’s actually a self-fulfilling prophecy. “Children learn better than me, so why even bother?”

  11. Hey Tim

    A great post! Self improvement and giving can of course easily be combined, travelling to Africa to work with children or to the Bahamas to protect coral reefs benefit both the individual and the wider world.

    For me as a runner it is easy for me to my passion for running marathons (self improvement) with raising money for charity by sponsorship (giving). It’s win win all around!

    Keep up the good work



  12. Thanks Tim, I love this post! I am taking action to make my own dent in the universe – however insignificant it may seem…. YOU can be proud knowing that you have already made such a massive dent to the world! Thanks for taking a trip to Australia recently too – it made me so happy to get to see you share your thoughts with us. You inspire me to keep my thinking cap on and to be the master of my own ideas….

  13. Hey Tim,

    Awesome pic at the top of the post! In regards to the Viktor Frankl quote: the best wine in the world is made from grapes that are denied water almost to the point of dying.Basically the winemakers “stress” the grapes almost to the point of failure.

    I am with you here, if I am not continually, learning, growing and improving I feel bored and stagnant.

  14. This snippet from Tim’s post could slip by unnoticed so I want to pull it out:

    “I believe that life exists to be enjoyed, and that the most important thing is to feel good about yourself.

    Without the latter, little else gets done.”

    Emphasis on that last sentence. Have you noticed that when you don’t feel good it’s harder to get things done? and everything just seems uphill.

    There is definitely something to be said about looking after yourself first – making sure you’re feeling good – doing what it takes to make that happen – and then you find meeting all the other goals easier.

    1. Angel,

      You are right about taking care of ourselves. It is very important.

      One of my good friends once told me if we all took care of our health first there would be more healthy people. He went on to say ‘Too many people become unhealthy in the service of others and then end up in need of other people’s help.’

      So true don’t you think?


  15. Hello Tim,

    Thank you. This was a great post!

    I have a quick question as well.

    You said that some criticize a focus on self-love and enjoyment as selfish or hedonistic, but it’s neither.

    I sometimes feel that spend my time, money and energy in enjoyment as selfishness, when there are so many things to do for helping the world.

    Don’t you feel that sometimes?

  16. Hey Tim,

    Cool post. Do you still fill the void with the ould hurl from time to time? (Bit of Irish humor for you!)

    Seriously though you’ve had a huge influence on my life since I’ve read your first book and I thank you for that.

    Keep up the great work.


  17. Awesome post Tim , To learn is to live.

    Your explanation about continues learning agrees a lot with me. I feel everything in this universe is connected , so by continuous learning

    (anything of interest to you) people can help themselves get better and in turn help others one way or another. Basically Live and let live.


    I have many interests and I try to learn as many of them as possible. But as much as I try I am unable to maintain that level of interest or dedication for over long periods hence shifting to a new interest in a few months in spite of a lot of persistence. Basically end up with a “jack of all trades…” But I want to be a master at least a few. I would really appreciate it if you give me a few tips on how to completely learn a skill to the very end or point it out if I have missed it in your work.

    My greatest inspiration “Tim Ferris”


    1. I’m no Tim Ferriss, but I think I have an answer to this. I’ve found myself in the same situation way too many times, and now I’m a jack of all trades. But I have mastered a few. The factor that has made all the difference between the ones I lose focus on and the ones I “master,” seems to be companionship. By companionship, I mean someone that’s basically on the same path as me:

      – We start out at roughly the same skill level;

      – We progress at about the same rate;

      – And we have similar attitudes toward learning in general (i.e., love it).

      Sometimes it’s not just one person but a whole group. Finally, it’s worth noting that some of my strongest friendships have formed from these types of situations.

      See if that helps


  18. Hey Tim,

    Insightful stuff, as always. As a Canadian guy wrapping up a 16 month journey in Australia, I certainly agree with the idea of travelling as a learning accelerator, and I’ll forever be a big advocate of that practice.

    However, one thing you didn’t touch on is the idea that regardless of where we are, learning today is much easier than convenient than ever in human history. With audiobooks, podcasts, videos, and all that stuff, our human need for learning can be satisfied almost effortlessly.

    Us learning junkies are truly blessed to live in this day & age!

    Oh, and btw.. “It is, bar none, the best thing you can do to hone clear thinking.” I disagree- Mediation is. 🙂

  19. Hi Tim,

    This comes at an interesting time for me. My muse is starting to take off, and whilst we’re not there yet I can see it’s going to work. I’m starting to free up more and more time but with my previous job having been an all encompassing Sales Director role for a large technology company I’m struggling to work out what to do with it! Especially between 9am – 6pm.

    I’ve read the 4HWW in detail and one thing it does miss is how many hours is right during the ‘Set-up Period’. I guess it’s something only I can answer, but it leaves you in a bit of a limbo period where I almost feel guilty if I’m not ‘working’, as we’re not quite profitable yet.

    I have loads of hobbies (Squash, Surfing, Sky Diving, Running Etc), but haven’t really masted any of them. I guess the next step is doing some of these during the day and not running home to check what’s been happening in the business (sorry muse!!).

    Anyway the 4HWW really helped me make sense of what I was planning, so thanks a million for writing it.


  20. I’ve been struggling with this idea of “how to make my dent.” I’ve had quite a few conversations about it recently and expressed my extreme frustration in my ability to do so. I’m a graduate student in international development, and I’m coming to realize its possible systemic failures. I recently pitched my business of a global online educational platform at an elevator pitch competition and did not receive great response/feedback. The struggle continues, but this post certainly gave me some much needed optimism – thank you!

    1. Hey Jared, I don’t know the details of your idea, but online education is the future. You’re playing in the right field, you just need to figure out the best way to express your vision & execute it.

      Edison took between 1000 & 10,000 tries before he succeeded and made light appear. And this guy named Tim Ferriss got rejected by publishers something like 26 or 27 times before they accepted some book called the 4 Hour Work Week.

      Every set back can be a stepping stone my friend! Keep at it 🙂

      1. Colonel Sanders took his chicken recipe to over 1000 restaurants before finding one that would agree to his deal.

        Of course Dr. Pimsleur only had to read Tim Ferriss’ work.

    2. Hey Jared,

      I’m in the same boat man. I just participated in an elevator pitch competition with an online education concept as well. (OU student?) I placed last among the finalists.

      The judges were hung up on little stuff like content protection. I just don’t think they grasped the potential of it.

      The main thing is just to keep on trucking man. Learn from it and move on. That’s what I’m trying to do.


  21. Hi Tim!

    I just gotta say that I really enjoy all of your work. I especially have found the language learning helpful as I now am learning Spanish. Besides from that I know Norwegian( my nationality) English and German.

    Currently I’m an exchange student in Utah and I wonder if you have any tips on have to improve my Spanish?

    I am at beginner level.

    “When the power of love gets bigger than the love of power, the world will know peace.” Jimi Hendrix

  22. Tim,

    For a long time I struggled with my biases and jaded feelings about causes/charities. I’ve seen too many people try to work the system or straight up LIE to benefit from services or get their hands on the proceeds from fundraisers. I avoided giving back at all.

    Now I use my skills to help people with unresolved conflict through the Dispute Resolution Center I founded in my area. The center provides free or low-cost Mediation, Arbitration and Dispute Resolution services and training programs to residents and organizations in several local counties. My “community service muse” isn’t changing the world, but it is improving the lives of some of the people in my little part of it.

    Thanks for the continued inspiration!

  23. Hi Tim,

    I often find that the greatest happiness comes when serving others, and I’ve always learned a lot about myself when taking the time to focus on the needs of others.

    I also think that even if you find yourself not focusing on a “large initiative” such as saving the whales or helping build schools in Africa, or whatever, that much good can be done by making sure no matter where you go, you help those around you and focus on providing service.


  24. Tim,

    Thank you for the “Don’t be a cause snob” tip. I’ve been killing most of my ideas these past few months with the “how can you do something like that when there are starving kids in India?”

    Looking forward to living more.


  25. Its always interesting to hear your perspective on these two subjects specifically. Well done.

    P.S. Can you please post the new Random Show- its been far too long!

    Muchas Gracias,


  26. Excellent post, Tim, Thank you!

    I believe self-love comes from humility — which is understanding others, being empathetic, having appreciation for their beliefs, and most of all gratitude for having the opportunity to know them. By truly extending ourselves this way, the “love” is reciprocated, and builds within us personally. It’s very fulfilling.

    Even for those of us who aren’t as travelled or have seen such a broad spectrum of cultures and perspectives. If we truly open our minds and hearts, we can experience vicariously through those of you who have the travels and experiences… until we create the opportunity to experience for ourselves.

    Apply all that to our purpose, or job even, and it creates passion for all that we do.

  27. Tim,

    …how interesting that you began this post with a quote from Viktor E. Frankl, I just began reading “Man’s Search for Meaning” last week … the book is profoundly moving, and if not informative for those not aware of some of how the camps were run, tremendously valuable for those seeking some sort of normalcy in our current world. More people should read this book – particularly when they’re feeling beat down, beat up, or otherwise “not” up to the challenge that is life!



  28. After reading this I plan to go to Ireland, one of the few European countries I haven’t been yet, just to watch a hurling game!

    Any suggestion on the better place to watch and play?

  29. Hi Tim,

    thanks for the inspirational reminder! My partner and I have always been following our dreams but its people like you who inspire us to never give up and to never settle with anything less than achieving your dreams. We’ve had this “isn’t this selfish?”-thought before and its still sticking to my mind for some reason… Maybe because we’re getting told things like “too good to be true” all the time…

    Anyway, so far we’ve emigrated from Germany to Australia after traveling half the continent and you’re so right with saying that you can’t grasp a culture without understanding its language – its an amazingly rewarding journey.

    A few years ago we used to think our lives will be too short for all the things we want to do but then we came across some wonderfully inspirational people; online as well as real life and it changed everything.

    Thank you for the inspiration! I consider it the most valuable gift one can make!

    Cheers, Tina

  30. Another idea is to take 10% of your time and instead of giving money (something some of us struggle with!), give your time. Take 10% of your week and give it to someone… or something…

    Before you know it, that 10% of your time will translate into 10% of your money. In religious terms, It’s a _time tithe_.

  31. Well, well, well, I was just coming from criticizing personal development-minded people for their focus on adventure and records to the detriment of the world – “Personal Development, Not for Records But For a New Better Normal”… Parts of that still apply, but – there’s Tim sounding like he’s gone green.

    There’s still (as there’s always) a lot more that could be looked at and tried out, and in many instances it would be good to stay home and see what one can change for the better right in front of one’s doorstep – and maybe even find ways how the whales and the children can both be saved. Oh, and your own life made better, putting it into service for more than mere enjoyment, learning new things, finding adventures right where you are!

    I sure hope more people will learn, and get away from the “serves us right” to ecological literacy and a way of living that suits those who want to still grow, and contributes to having the adventure that is humanity continue. With more people like that, who knows where it may lead…

    Oh, and Tim: If you want to try a nice little mountain (ultra-)marathon of some 70 km and 4500 or so meters of ascent/descent, which can be run as well as walked, is both considered one of the most beautiful, and one of the toughest, I’d try and invite you. First Saturday in July, Upper Austria, “Bergmarathon”

  32. Great words Tim.

    Often people get caught up with the “how much of a difference can I make?” question, which can put them off making a change or taking action. But all it takes is having an effect on one person, in a small way, and the mutually beneficial gain is there. We don’t have to be Bono.

    This is my first time posting. I’d had the bug for a while, but reading 4HWW gave me a boost that I needed. So thanks for that!

    Cheers and keep it up,


  33. I feel like I read this was posted at the exact right time in my life. Thank you, Tim, for being a continued source of inspiration.

  34. Nice post, but got to take issue with one sentence:-

    ” If you’re improving the world–however you define that–consider your job well done.”

    It’s that middle clause, “however you define that” that’s troubling. I see too many people in this world that, however well meaning they think their cause is, trample over the smaller and less powerful.

  35. Tim, how do you come across these causes, i.e. creating a marine protected area in the Bahamas? For international travelers, is there an easy way to find out what types of causes we can participate in when we’re in the area?


  36. I’m so glad you finished the post with a fundraising pitch. People gotta put their “money where their mouth is”. And this post challenges people to do that.

    This post is really about two things the Average Joe often doesn’t value enough: 1. Giving and 2. Growing.

    1. So many people seem to try to convince themselves they don’t have enough time or money or ability to give. The reality is that this is almost never true.

    2. For many people, learning is just something that happens in schools. So sad. Learning is everywhere. Everyday. Potentially. 🙂

    Giving and Growing take nothing extra than what you already have.


  37. Thanks for this.

    Two great passages come to mind, both from Emerson’s “Self Reliance.” I think you’d love reading Pragmatism–America’s core philosophical tradition–it’s incredibly insightful and immanently practical, and I see many of its characteristic insights throughout your work.

    On trusting yourself:

    “Familiar as the voice of the mind is to each, the highest merit we ascribe to Moses, Plato, and Milton is, that they set at naught books and traditions, and spoke not what men but what they thought. A man should learn to detect and watch that gleam of light which flashes across his mind from within, more than the lustre of the firmament of bards and sages. Yet he dismisses without notice his thought, because it is his. In every work of genius we recognize our own rejected thoughts: they come back to us with a certain alienated majesty. Great works of art have no more affecting lesson for us than this. They teach us to abide by our spontaneous impression with good-humored inflexibility then most when the whole cry of voices is on the other side. Else, to-morrow a stranger will say with masterly good sense precisely what we have thought and felt all the time, and we shall be forced to take with shame our own opinion from another.”

    On philanthropy:

    “[…] Do not tell me, as a good man did to-day, of my obligation to put all poor men in good situations. Are they my poor? I tell thee, thou foolish philanthropist, that I grudge the dollar, the dime, the cent, I give to such men as do not belong to me and to whom I do not belong. There is a class of persons to whom by all spiritual affinity I am bought and sold; for them I will go to prison, if need be; but your miscellaneous popular charities; the education at college of fools; the building of meeting-houses to the vain end to which many now stand; alms to sots; and the thousandfold Relief Societies; — though I confess with shame I sometimes succumb and give the dollar, it is a wicked dollar which by and by I shall have the manhood to withhold.”

  38. Cool that you mention this! I have actually just spent 3 month in Rio to learn Portuguese. Rio is amazing, definitely highly recommendable! And soon off to Bali to improve on surfing 😉

  39. Thanks Tim! Great call to action. I live in Miami; would be great to tag sharks with the University of Miami. Do you happen to know what species are being tagged for this trip?

  40. Butterfly effect being what it is…I think the deepest fulfillment for me personally is accomplishment. An idea emerges, a plan begins to take shape, action and adjustments create clarity and commitment from others, finally the result manifests. This can happen in just a few moments or can take most of your life.

    I think we are like sharks (in a good way) in that going “backwards” or “stopping” is suffocating. Like the current political environment in the US. False dichotomies are just that. Deep satisfaction is in progress, accomplishment, and moving forward. The long now. In Vicktor Frankl’s experience, everything is taken but the now. The amazing thing is that we keep getting a new “now” if we stay available to it.

  41. Great initiative Tim, again!

    Question on your languages learning, have you ever tried studying 2 languages at the same time? I am thinking about experimenting it and wondered if you have and can share any experience.



  42. Im sad, I thought we have some new material, but I already read this in 4 hour workweek 😉

    By the way that Youtube video is awesome!

  43. Tim

    Service is an attitude. This reminds me of a poster on facebook back on 11/11/11. It had the pictures and words that captures your thoughts on service. It had the caption of Twentysomethings 1941 and 2011. 70 years apart on so many levels

    Left side Right side

    World War Two soliders in the trenches Occupy Protesters walking

    with the caption underneath saying down a street with banners.

    Giving Everything Caption underneath saying

    Wanting Everything

    I am not saying anything specific about people today in their twenties. The point is that Service is an attitude and a big part of that is Giving Everything for something you believe in. What are your readers giving in terms of service to others. Your blog book and life are an example of giving to others on so many levels. Thank you.

  44. Tim,

    You have the uncanny ability to post something at the exact time that I really need to hear the message. Or perhaps that is the way “service” and the “universe” works. Please know that your work matters, to me, and to a lot of people.

    I just started a 30-day challenge, today…to go to my favorite place in the world, every day for 30 days, and write about it on my blog. Simply to test whether this reduces the specialness of the place or makes me a better person for it. And of course, I spent the whole night thinking other people will call me self-indulgent with this pointless assignment.

    “Find the cause or vehicle that interests you most and make no apologies.” Okaaaaay, here goes!

    Thanks, Tim!

  45. Life is easy… Do the right thing.

    It’s black and white but hormones make us self doubt or talk us into insecurities about our place in life which make us react in non productive ways.

    We all have to deal with daily problems but don’t turn them into catastropies.

    Capitalism has thrown us into making decisions about priorities that are short sighted and self centered (I don’t claim to have the answer to this one..)

    We are here for such a short time and there is so much to understand and learn it baffles me why people spend their free time watching crackhead tv.

    But bth most people think I’m quite strange 😀

  46. Service to me is simple: not doing anything bad.



    Destroying marine protected areas

    Think about it, by doing nothing you already do something good 🙂

  47. Put out good energy, give and once more give and you shall receive. Tim, you ar correct, as per usual.

    I suggest you start writing the 4-hour Linguist or 4-hour language. I find it difficult to learn a language over the internet. It’s just too dull to do it via online.



    1. Tim,

      Thanks for the heads-up about such a great cause.

      By the way, Michelangelo is quoted as saying “Ancora Imparo,” which translates to “I am still learning.” He apparently said it when he was in his late 80’s.

      Thant happens to be one of the few quotes I live by.

      Thanks for reinforcing it!

  48. Thanks for the opportunity to give to a great cause. Glad to oblige. 🙂

    I learned once that high self esteem corresponds to living up to our own value system. So if I am feeling bad about myself, I trouble shoot it by asking “what value am I failing to fulfill right now…?” Then I can correct my behavior or even decide whether or not I need to fulfill a different value at that time.

    The only time this process can be a problem is if someone has crappy values. (i.e., Sociopaths can have great self esteem, because they have crappy values!)

    I like your contemplative posts.

  49. Great post.

    The desire for continuous learning and being surrounded by smarter people is what pushed me to do a PhD. And who knows, my research might provide some service in the end.



  50. Way to use the voice you have to remind us of the bigger picture.

    It’s nice to be able to talk about the important as well as the trivial on here. All parts of the amazing journey!

    Reminds me of some of Chris Guillebeau’s “World Domination” inspiration…

  51. Hi Tim, Thank you for the solid post. It’s very refreshing to hear inspirational words that have a clear call to action (several in this article). MPA just got a few more dollars thanks to you. Cheers -George-

  52. Thanks Tim. One of my favourite chapters

    I believe that if you’re going to have the wherewithal to make money, you must also have the wherewithal to help people.

  53. I’m curious Tim,

    With the second book success, you seem to have that formula figured out. When I’ve reasonably mastered a new skill, I get bored beyond belief.

    Why the third book? Is there still a steep enough learning curve to interest you?

    1. I don’t know Tim personally, so these are just my guesses.

      I don’t believe the learning curve for him is about publishing, I believe it’s about him challenging his assumptions about cooking. He’s said many times he’s a lousy cook.

      Though an off topic point, if you want to anticipate Tim’s next project/product, get an idea of his fears or limiting beliefs as he often tackles them directly and shares his experience.

      1. Thanks for the comment, Mac. You’re 100% correct. I wanted to write the new book to tackle this very real fear head-on. It’s been amazing so far, and the book will teach a lot more than cooking…

        Thank you all for your support,


      2. Thanks for the reply Mac and Tim. I guess the book then is an excellent way to finance your new learning and hobbies as well as share your discoveries with the world.

  54. Excellent post. Thank you.

    After reading all your very useful language posts it’s obvious your approach revolves around effective learning by learning the most common words within the language.

    How would you go about learning a relatively obscure language which has no data on frequency of word use? (In my case it would be the southern Indian language Malayalam.)

    I’d assume you encountered this problem while learning gaelic…


  55. Tim

    I have been following for awhile. From SF and live in Paris and NYC now. We have a trainer friend in common. Jesse from east bay. My mentor. It is nice to see you writing something again that is not just self promoting. You were boring me. The language thing is hard unless you can really stop working and spend some time in the area being forced to only talk to natives. I find the fact that I go back and forth is slowing my progress. Just thought it was old age. Prove me wrong and rise above. PS do not beat your body up until there is nothing left to work with.

  56. Tim,

    Inspiring as always. I am planning the next chapter/adventure in my life.

    Step 1: Mentally check out of my cubicle job. (done).

    Step 2: Clean out my desk area — so I can make a quick, clean getaway. (almost done).

    Step 3: Read 4HWW to figure out the next Step.

    Thanks again.

  57. Thank you for your generous wise words of wisdom, I will take them with me and they will especially serve me when I travel. You are a mentor to me in so many ways but most importantly is how you live your life – “FULL ON”, it both feeds and inspires me. As someone who has survived torture, it has been a long journey feeling safe in the world learning what it is to live, something so many people take for granted. Kindness, like love is something that is taught, shown through actions and like you and others here I have devoted my life to serving my fellow human beings, WATCH OUT!

  58. Man, every time my feet are on foreign soil I have some extra special energy and I say things to myself like “I need to move here” or “I need to travel overseas at least X times per year.”

    Then I come home and the inertia builds.

    Your writings are one of the few things that re-invigorates my traveliness!

    Thanks Tim 🙂

  59. Very inspirational and just the kind of heart felt, honest encouragement I needed to hear from one of my role models. This was very timely on my journey. Thanks!

  60. Hey Tim,

    Great post. It’s been a while since we’ve seen anything about language learning.

    You’ve written before that frequency lists can give novice language learners the best ROI. I’m looking for a list of the most frequently spoken Japanese words written in kanji or kana (whichever a native speaker would likely use.) Ideally the list would have pronunciations in kana (definitely not romaji)

    So it would probably include words like

    ?? (???? I (formal)

    ?? (???) you (informal)



    Try as I might, I can’t find a list of the most frequently spoken Japanese words. I can finds lists of most frequent kanji, but I’m looking for most frequent words (which may be written in kanji, kana, or a combination.)

    Does anyone know where I can find a list of the most frequently spoken Japanese words?


  61. This is the post I have needed. I have been experiencing some sort of depression or something. I am having trouble motivating myself everyday. I think its because my emotions are not in line with my thoughts. I am trying to get back to that place that will help. Thanks for the post made me think some more.

  62. Tim,

    LOVE the blogpost and your continuing case study muses, thank you! For me, I know that determine how I’ll first fill the void gives me more motive to pursue the challenge of building a muse.

    Question: you mentioned a book about second language acquisition in an interview you did which I can’t find again. I think the author was Asian, perhaps his name started with an O — ring any bells? I’d really appreciate you sharing the book title so I can check it out and get more of an understanding of second language acquisition and research behind it.

  63. Tim

    I completely agree, that “being of service” or giving is an essential part of a fulfilled life.

    It is great to see that you are generously supporting these varied causes and blog regularly about them. We all can need a regular reminder and your blog posts certainly inspire me and many others to make “being of service” a higher priority in our busy lifes.

    There are so many causes that are worthwhile supporting and as you mentioned it is extremely difficult to compare their impact and effectiveness.

    Two former hedge fund managers started a website on this topic where they applied a very analytical approach to compare different donation opportunities for maximum impact. I came across their website

    while I was reading the 4HB last year and thought that this was the Tim Ferriss “Pareto” approach applied to donations. Also learned a lot from their blog.

    Please don’t get me wrong. I think your project is great and there are many very important and effective projects and causes where it may be impossible to compare impact. Still the question of donation effectiveness is in my opinion a legitimate and important question despite its complexity.

    Thanks for giving me lots of great inspirations during the last years

    PS: Idea for the blog: There are some excellent reader comments in your blog, but I feel frequently overwhelmed reading all of them. What about adding “thumb up”, “thumb down” user ratings to each comment so that it is possible to scan the best rated comments. This should be easy to implement. Sorting comments by ratings may be another great way to highlight the gems among the comments.

  64. Tim, in the middle of my day-to-day activities, it’s so good to read your post!

    I have a tendency to get caught up in my work, and put off so many things that helps life become ‘full’, that I wonder if I can ever enjoy myself, and just be.

    It really helps to reaffirm that I should.

    Thanks for the post, and all you do.


  65. Great post Tim!

    This year I started a campaign through my Multisport club to provide bikes to deserving children in our community. When I had the idea, I knew there were larger issues in the world, but this is how I wanted to make a difference. It feels good to make a difference with something you are already passionate about.

    1. Natasha, hopefully to clear up any misunderstanding about this blog: my policy is to post things I think are timely and of value, whether or not they are new.

  66. Any of you guys know what shoes Tim is wearing in the picture where he is between 2 trees? Teal or greenish looking shoes… I want a pair of those… 🙂


  67. Beautiful post and a great mantra for life – I really believe that the energy you put out into the universe comes back to you in spades.

  68. My amazing friend just got married in the Bahamas on 11.11.11 😀

    Thanks for a thoughtful post at a thoughtful time and another great charity to give to.

    The Gandhi quote, “Be the change you want to see in the world,” is one of my favourites.



  69. This thought is just occurring now, as I write.

    If you want to re-wire your brain to me more Ferrissy, the first Second Language you should learn, the ‘base’ second language, would be Japanese.

    That was Tim’s first, wasn’t it?

    Without the ‘lens’ of Japanese to view the world and myself, I’d have been even more whiney, indolent, and oblivious than my current self, and so many fun things wouldn’t have happened. No good!

    What are some examples of how thinking in Japanese ‘re-writes’ how we see the world? Hmmm…


    When Tim messes up, he cleans up straight away with an apology. (Remember his premature April Fools post?). This makes him Even More loveable.

    “moshiwake gozaimasen’ is what the Japanese say when they mess up. “There is no excuse!”.

    Brave, spoken by a person who takes charge of their life and surroundings.

    In English, we do the opposite

    ‘Sorry, but its not my fault because…”

    Its all there in the etymology: apo ‘away’ + -logia – word – ‘a speech in one’s own defense,’


    When selling a muse product, Tim tests the market reaction before making the product.

    Japanese Micro-test every sentence on their listeners, and adapt.

    In Japanese, the ‘action’ word comes at the end of a sentence

    English:” I want to buy this”

    Japanese: “As for me, this thing, I wish to buy… not.”


    You watch the face of your companion, and change what you say to avoid useless conflict. Maybe you bring them around later, another way.

    *Being Wrong*

    If someone says “Tom is cuter than Tim”

    the English response is “Wrong”!

    Japanese: “Different” ?????

    So you go back out into the world, try again, and get a closer answer.

    Being incorrect doesn’t actually make you morally inferior.


    Learn a heap, share with others, and make the world a brighter place.

    *Effort is Bad*

    When Aussies part, they say “See Ya, mate. Take it easy”, and even “Don’t work to hard”.

    The Japanese say ‘Gambatte’. Meaning something like “Keep up the (freely chosen) effort.

    The Japanese are human, with glaring faults. Bad attitudes are built in their language as well. As second-language adventurers, we can just choose to say ‘quaint!’ and not take on the bad viewpoints.

    But looking at my mates, busy with freely-chosen clean-up work after the tsunami, I can’t help thinking how much more loveable I am when my Japanese self kicks in.

    Maybe its time to get back into action, ‘waste’ my time in freely-chosen effort, and do amazing stuff again.

    Funny though. If Spanish was my first ‘Second Language’ or Finnish, or Swahili, I’d probably thing that was the complete, absolute best too.


      1. I guess the system doesn’t accept hiragana 🙂


        Watashi wa gakusei no nihon go!

        just a beginner though

  70. Tim

    I’ve been respecting, admiring and loving you deeply if you will since this blog had 700 peeps.

    Using your books, blog and forums as the Bible and loudly referring to you as my God (I’m a hard core atheist), the time has come to admit I’ve shaped and designed my life accordingly and I’m lucky to live an exciting life. Was it/is it easy? HELL no!! It was/is painful and I was/is bleeding,

    yet I wouldn’t have it any other way.

    To name a few things all accomplished wile following your recipes:

    I meet Terry Laughlin in Israel 10 days ago and I’ll be emailing him in regards to the business I’ve co founded.

    Rolf Pots will be publishing my Case Study in

    The list goes on and on…

    To be clear: I didn’t know any of this people and/or had a case study/business that would interest any of EM prier to reading your words of wisdom.

    The only thing we seem to be in disagreement is in regarding to Karma.

    I’ve “confronted” you before on the topic and your response was this:

    “What you put out will come back to you, put out harm, it can come back to you. Ditto for good things”.

    You and I both know this will not stand the smallest statistic empirical experiment.

    My “saga” is this:

    I physically left school when I was 14,

    I’m no Silicon Valley entrepreneur nor an Ivy League graduate, my computer/tech skills were none,

    and did I mention I’m an Israeli? Hence, English is my 2nd language.

    How the F#%k did I do it?

    Michael Ellsberg said it best:

    The most honest and self-aware of the superstars, add an additional factor to the list. They also pay respect to the role of serendipity, synchronicity, and random chance. The right place at the right time. Simple, blind luck

    Where do you suggest Karma feat in?



    (I know you’re busy and for a sweet moment in life, look up the word shunit in a Hebrew English dictionary, it’ll make you laugh!)

  71. The uniqueness of your article “What man actually needs is not a tension less state but rather the striving and struggling for a worthwhile goal, a freely chosen task.”

    The concept of freedom to do things can satisfy what we do. I like the way it is put.

    Thanks once again!!

  72. Hey Tim,

    While I enjoyed 4HWW and 4HB and I’m sure to enjoy any prospective cookbooks you release, I feel like something resonated with me, reading this post at this point in my life.

    The world is changing. The rules we depended on don’t seem true anymore. Learning doesn’t take just once in our lives, and after college, we work in a job till death do us part. I think everybody here is aware of that.

    Lifelong learning is the key. I’ve used the principles you outlined in my college life and having studied education science, and then studying education policy after, I can tell you that formal education is a joke. A tragic joke. (I loved your recent post regarding the informal job market by the way)

    What I’m saying is this. Please consider writing “The Four-Hour School”.

    Think of the children Tim. Think of the children. 😉

  73. Self-love should never be considered as selfish. A selfish person is always seeking the love and validation of others, where as the self-loved person seeks to spread their happiness and admiration to others. Breaking or diminishing the ties with the ego can and ultimately will lead to a more fulfilled life.

    Helping people or things in need is fine, but never do so at the expense of yourself. It does no good to offer an assisting hand when it’s on fire.

  74. It’s very strange to see someone else doing what you want to do. I suppose that’s the starting point for everyone right?

    1.) Get Inspired

    2.) Do it.

    Thanks for sharing fantastic ideas Tim!


    1. Most people stop at #1. The comments we get from people that would like to travel more and see or live in other countries is “I’d really love to do that, BUT….( enter any excuse ).

      I respond by saying “If you really wanted to do it, you would”.

      It really pisses them off. And they think that I think I’m better than they are…I’m not, I just had the cohones to find a way to do it.

  75. You have at least two international communities that you can plug into almost anywhere in the world: martial arts and tango. That’s a good entry into society in most cities around the globe.

  76. Hi Tim – Big fan of your work. I was wondering your thoughts on hair loss. I think it’s a pretty inconsequential subject either way but I figured since you’re so on top of the latest and greatest in so many physiological related stuff, that you might have some good insight, whatever it is.


  77. It’s refreshing to find service such an integral part of self expansion and learning.

    Service through novel mediums that are often presented when traveling really get you out of your self and into the world.

    Love the idea of really integrating a physical activity into the novel learning process. Without the physical fulfillment things seems to be unbalanced.

  78. Tim,

    I’ve been a long time reader: there have been lots of great isolated tips in your books but some things made me very skeptical of your intentions and authenticity.

    I’ve never commented on the blog, but this post made me have a better understanding of your work and I’m starting to come around.

    Thanks for the post.

  79. Actually I do believe there are qualitative reasons for one cause over another. Mainly being the fact that any cause that helps humans is not as great as most people think because you would be helping support a destructive species that will one day(maybe very soon) destroy planet earth. I have had to tackle this myself for a while so I’ve chosen causes that help non-human animals because they sit easier on my conscience. It gets irritating to me knowing that if I help save one child’s life today, I might be destroying the lives of thousands and maybe millions of living things later on down the road including an exponential amount of human lives. So I don’t know anymore, we have choices to make. Every person means a certain amount rainforest will get cut down, a certain species will go extinct and a bit further in the future a certain number of humans will pay for it.

  80. I am a “Jill of all trades”. And I have the same Addiction to learning. My husband thinks I am crazy, can never sit still and am never satisfied, and he’s right on a number of levels.

    Nearly 2 years ago we decided to leave the US and move our family to Costa Rica. It was the best decision for us. Learning is dramatically increased when you are thrown out of your comfort zone and immersed in it. My children (ages 3 & 1) speak 2 languages, yes even the one year old.

    When life grew “stale” there, we changed it up yet again and are now in Belize, learning about something that is foreign and fascinating to me: ocean life.

    I think too many settle for comfort to avoid risk, ridicule and, unfortunatly, learning. Boring!

    Make the most out of life…that usually doesn’t involve sitting in a cubicle for a majority of your waking hours.

  81. Awesome, as always Tim.

    Good to hear the work you’re doing with the Bahamas. I’m reminded, coincidentally, that the work ‘Samurai’ once meant ‘one who serves’ (I believe your Japanese is a teeny bit better than mine ;)).

    Go on, you Bushido Blade toting MF-er. 😛

  82. Tim, I work for a small iPad development company whose founder is absolutely brilliant, but fearful of working with VCs or companies that will take his business in the wrong direction. Yet, we need help marketing our products. We are ready and capable of developing amazing apps, but can’t seem to move forward with sales.

    My husband is one of your followers since the first version of 4-hour work week and suggests I write you directly asking for help. Help! Would you mind emailing me? Thanks for your consideration. Laura

  83. I’m an Occupational Therapist finishing my doctorate while attempting to start something good, and I would love for any advice or suggestions to make my business as self-sufficient as possible so I can manage it while in school and impact the most people.

    My passion is obesity awareness – specifically obesity and obesity related disease prevention in childhood. The finishing touches for the primary business launch are being put on this week. The premise of the business is that I am selling awareness bags and bracelets, and for each purchase I am giving an elementary school student (or two) a pedometer, dependent on whether a bracelet or bag is purchased. Teachers and their students are writing essays (I’ve already received a few) to create an educational experience in the classroom and get the kids their pedometers. Also, with my experience as an OT, I will be writing a blog on my website as to how to create healthy lifestyles for the busy individual/family. I’m wondering the best way to go about efficiently ordering the bags/bracelets, then shipping them to thr appropraite places, as well as shipping the pedometers with the classroom reward system.

    Any ideas or suggestions would be much appreciated!

  84. Tim, I want to thank you for writing these two books, as well as posting on this blog, with the help of your book, I gained 3,5 kg’s of weight and I’m at my top weight now :), which is a BIG thing for me, having this weird anorexia like psychotic symptoms and depression etc. I’m feeling better every day.

    I started my own blog, started self studies, leaving college after i finished this semester (getting some credits, just in case). I hope that I can put the knowledge that I learned from your book, and other books into use when training other people!

  85. Great post Tim.

    I love how you start with the phrase: “Let’s assume we agree on this.” Imagine if we all went out this week and just took a premise fundamental to someone else’s world view and logically extended that. Each one of us would be poised to immediately be of service. That’s definitely my takeaway from this post!

  86. Hi Tim,

    Almost finished your book (4HWW) – Terrific piece of work – Many Congrats.

    One Question:

    Do and include Database functionality ?

    (I couldn’t find it myself)

    If not do you know of any Websites similar to them that facilitate this ?



    Kildare, Ireland

    1. Hi John, runs the WordPress content management system (which also powers this site) and as such requires a mySQL database in the back end.

      Depending on the plugins you get for WordPress you can do virtually anything you need. I can highly recommend Black Night for hosting in Ireland who would allow you to run WordPress.

      All the best,