How to Build a World-Class Network in Record Time (#99)

How to build a world class network
Photo by Ron Herrman

“Don’t dismiss people, don’t be a dick, and don’t rush. Play the long game.”

– Tim Ferriss


Welcome to a special edition of The Tim Ferriss Show. Back in 2007, I experienced a massive tipping point for The 4-Hour Workweek at the South by Southwest (SXSW) conference held in Austin, Texas. Two or three days played a key role in the book becoming a worldwide bestseller in 40+ languages.

So what exactly happened at the event? How did I optimize those 2-3 days?

The below audio is a presentation I recently gave about a better, more effective way to network. My suggestions might surprise you or seem counterintuitive–the best way to build a world-class network quickly is to spend very little time networking, at least not in the “ugh, gross” sleazy sense of the word.

In this episode, you’ll learn:

  • How SXSW played a role in the success of The 4-Hour Workweek
  • How you can “stack the deck” for your own product launches
  • Simple biohacks for handling booze overload and sleep deprivation
  • Why it’s so important to meet people in person to build your network
  • The most common mistakes people make when attempting to “network”
  • How to interact with A-listers (or opt not to)
  • How to enjoy the ride and not end up exhausted with a pocket full of business cards that do nothing
  • And much, much more…

If you are able to apply a few lessons from this talk, you may find that you never have to network again.

There is a better way.

#99: How to Build a World-Class Network in Record Time

Want to hear a podcast relating to mental performance and stamina? — Listen to my conversations with my friend, Ed Cooke, a Grandmaster of Memory. In this episode, we discuss mental performance, imagination, and productive mischief (stream below or right-click part 1 here and part 2 here to download):

Ep 52: Ed Cooke, Grandmaster of Memory, on Mental Performance, Imagination, and Productive Mischief
Ep 53: Ed Cooke (Part 2), Grandmaster of Memory, on Mental Performance, Imagination, and Productive Mischief

Still looking for more? — Listen to my conversations with Pavel Tsatsouline on the science of strength and art of physical performance (stream below or right-click here to download):

Ep 55: The Science of Strength and Simplicity with Pavel Tsatsouline

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Sign up for a week and give it a try.  It’s 100% free, super short, and a small dose of awesome to kick off every weekend.

You can see a lot of people are excited about this on Twitter.  Please check it out here!

QUESTION(S) OF THE DAY: What’s the most important lesson you’ve ever learned about “networking” or interacting with big wigs? Please share in the comments.

Scroll below for links and show notes…


Selected Links from the Episode

Show Notes

  • Hangovers at important events [7:20]
  • The three core tenants of successful networking [11:45]
  • Don’t make an impression, leave a memento [17:00]
  • Why ignorance can be bliss [18:33]
  • How to pitch “A-listers” [24:44]
  • How to pick people out of a crowd [28:00]
  • What to ask instead of, “What do you do?” [30:00]
  • How to escape conversations [31:10]
  • How to play the long game [34:35]
  • Can you have too many mini-retirements? [36:40]
  • If you were launching a new company with only $1,000, what would you start? [37:30]
  • Do you meditate or do yoga? [38:45]
  • How do you find good events and parties? [39:35]
  • Now that you’re a big deal, what are your goals at SxSW [40:35]
  • What thought leaders do you follow? [41:10]
  • How do you stay focused? [41:45]
  • What part of your 4-hour workweek do you personally find hardest to follow? [42:50]
  • How do you want people to remember you? [43:45]
  • What tricks do you use for retaining info? [44:25]
  • Where is the best place in the world, besides Austin? [46:00]
  • What are you most excited about for this year’s SxSW? [47:00]
  • Have you tried polyphasic sleep? Does it work? [47:40]
  • What’s the most memorable “thank you” note that you’ve received? [48:35]
  • Are you recording a podcast while you’re at SxSW [49:40]
  • What animal best describes you? [50:00]
  • I have a 9-5 job. Can The 4-Hour Workweek actually transform my life? [50:30]
  • What are the 3-4 best bodyweight exercises for business travelers? [51:25]
  • What’s the best way to respond to, “Do you have a business card?” when you don’t have one [52:50]
  • What do most entrepreneurs do wrong? [53:25]
  • What is the most memorable memento you have received? [54:10]
  • Advice for introverts [55:25]
  • What are some of the biggest lessons learned from starting your podcast? [56:00]
  • What are some tips on executing on all the great ideas gathered? [57:25]
  • What questions do you use for reflection and why? [58:30]

The NorCal Margarita

Here is a recipe for an excellent cocktail. With this you can reach an appropriate level of intoxication while avoiding the hangover the day after.

  • 2 shots of high-grade tequila
  • Club soda
  • As much lime as possible

People Mentioned

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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43 Replies to “How to Build a World-Class Network in Record Time (#99)”

  1. Thanks for all the tips, Tim – I particularly like the idea of giving A-listers a well-crafted, handwritten note instead of trying to pitch them in thirty seconds. In my experience as well, approaching someone of “status” casually and without an agenda is the best way to gain their trust and form a real human relationship.

    Like you say, play the long game!

    Jordan of

  2. Tim, speaking for all of your readers we would absolutely LOVE IT if you created your own conference called the 4-hour conference or something. Us “4-Hour Workweek” business owners would love to network with other like minded individuals. I’m sure you could get a ton of business vendors to show up as well, and you could be the keynote speaker of course:) Just a thought.

  3. Tim,

    Maybe this is not related with the podcast ,but always wonder what was first? Your blog or your book 4HW?

    Back to the podcast, what you mention about get information from the person for be in context (where are you from instead what do you do?) is great strategy and inconsciently when I used it gives me good results,the only moment when I have difficulties is when I know found that the person that is “famous” or I think that will help me and not sure how look genuinely look interested instead be looking like a for a transactional encounter.

    1. Tim had a blog first. A much uglier version than the current design you see. But the book is what made the blog explode.

      1. admin, where can we read the transcripts for the podcast? Many people with hearing impairments want to know about Tim’s information. Thank you.

  4. Tim,

    Enjoyed this podcast. (2 things in particular)

    1. The subtlety of NOT launching into a dissertation when someone asks you what you do.

    It’s so crucial to gauge interest and THEN respond to people who are already interested.

    2. Also enjoyed the example of asking someone where they’re from, then asking if they were born there.

    When they say no, encouraging them to fill in the information gap.

    This does two things:

    -Give you access to “conversational hooks” to grab on to so that you can continue the conversation effortlessly. (assuming you want to)

    -People like talking about themselves…and they will feel connected with you the more they talk.

    Humans are funny like that. 🙂

  5. Someday I will make it to SXSW, but for me, Coachella is my go-to event although it lacks meet-and-greets. Great advice on networking also. It can be so fake and spiritless when done improperly. Keep relationships organic people.

  6. Great inbetweenisode! And I think sound advice for living one’s life in general. Your 3 points would be a good mantra to say in the mirror every morning after waking up. Dude, your candor in this presentation is refreshing. Also, would agree on your opinion of living in Japan. It’s a gaijin paradise, but would agree people are adverse to the language barrier.

    Any chance of getting Don Wildman on the podcast?

  7. Personally, I’ve found that connecting with gatekeepers is more valuable than connecting with the influencer himself/herself.

    The pitch on paper idea was priceless; (something to obsess about tomorrow)- Thanks Tim.

  8. Love this so much! If one piece of advice I wanted from you was networking

    Thank you sincerely!

    That is all.

  9. I like doing a quick thank you video after meeting someone at an event, like Jayson Gaignard does. [Moderator: link removed]

  10. Totally reminds me of the two times I went to NCECA (National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts, pronounced en-SEE-kah). Every year, 5K+ mud people flock to a big city for four days of muddy debauchery, art speak, lost sleep and strong drink. It rocks!

    Countless people at NCECA (myself included) tried the same failed tactics to approach heavy hitters about their awesome art, my awesome art, pitching Ceramics Monthly for coverage…the typical crap. I’ll definitely practice your laid back, polite, focused tactics from SXSW at future NCECA conferences.

    If I had to choose just one conference, it would be this year’s SXSW. This is tough because of the higher expense, people and products far outside my industry and because I will likely be the only potter. Well, I’m sure there will be at least a couple hobby potters. SXSW will help me figure out how to use technology to let my art prosper while positively influencing society. If successful, I will bring these ideas back to NCECA, spreading them in the ceramics community for decades to come.

    I’ve created what Seth Godin calls a, “Purple Cow.” Like the $500+ Aeron Office Chair, which is now in the permanent collection of the MOMA in NYC, these new “Cosmic Mugs” can change the world. They will be an innovative idea at SXSW.

    Tuesday, November 3rd is the launch date for our Cosmic Mug Kickstarter. Thanks to mentorship from Clay Hebert and his coursework, as well as email collection tools from Noah Kagan and his Sumos, Kickstarter will successfully grow our business. We have two months to reach our 10K email goal, but we’ve almost tripled our email list. Almost 1,500 people are already excited about getting a great deal on cosmic mugs before Christmas. This project will allow me to afford a trip to SXSW, as well as provide a story that relates art to technology.

    I’m working on my SXSW budget. The “Interactive” section March 11-15 seems best, but I might just be saying that because it shows a photo of Neil deGrasse Tyson (we’ve been in contact- he and his staff love and are using the cosmic mugs!). Would you recommend this badge?

    SXSW Budget: $825 badge, $225 for 4 nights at a super cheap hotel, $125 food and $525 gas/road trip, or a flight.

    Can SXSW be done properly for about $1,700? Do you think it’s a worthy trip for a ceramic artist who wants to learn more about technology and find my “Tipping Point?”

    Whops…guess I went off a bit on your first question from the email newsletter. To answer you question on this post, this podcast was probably the best lesson I have received on “networking” with big wigs. There were cautionary tales I could relate to and lessons I look forward to testing at future conferences.

    1. Have you tested the mugs for lead content? (Oprah had a show a few years ago on how important it is to test ceramics thusly, to guard against lead poisoning.)

      1. Hello Danielle, yep! I knew my ceramics would pass with flying colors because I mix custom glaze recipes from raw earth powders that are mined from the ground. Lead would need to be an ingredient in my recipe in order for it to be in my pottery. I doubt that lead can be legally purchased from ceramic supply stores. A local coffee shop serves meals from my pottery daily and the regional health inspector tested for lead. The only ceramics from his testing that resulted in positive lead tests were antiques and some new ceramics produced in middle eastern countries.

        You might enjoy this article/video of potters who used toxic clay on purpose:

  11. Thanks for the great info in this one Ferriss. Lots of good stuff here. I love how you keep coming back to ‘play the long game’. As a physician assistant in the ER by night, and health coach-blogger by day (in a completely saturated market) the long game is my goal. I am far from the most followed or popular blogger around, but no one else has my background. The long game and sharing quality information for my “1000 true fans” is my goal. Thank you!!

  12. Hi Tim.

    I found your podcast about 6 months ago and I’ve been listening to it almost every day since then. It has helped me many times and I’ve learned a lot.

    Your interviews are real treasures.

    Thank you very much for what you do. It really means a lot to me.

    From listening to your podcast I know that you are very interested in learning and, as you said many times during your interviews, “creating better learners”.

    I’m also very interested in learning (I’m a medical doctor undergoing my residency so I have to memorize a lot) and few weeks ago I discovered I’m not sure if you are familiar with it, if you are not I think that’s something you might be interested in. I’ve been testing it for some time now and I’m astonished how powerful that thing is.

    It would be great if you could interview the people who made it one day :).

    One more thing. I’ve read all your books and I’m not sure if you have plans to write another one, but just in case you do, if I can suggest something…”4-hour mind” would be a great title :). I’m not sure if that’s correct but I’ve noticed the increased frequency with which the topic of meditation comes up in your interviews. It would be awesome to read your book about it.

    Thank you again.

  13. Loved this one Tim! In the Q&A you mention Thich Nhat Hanh’s first book as being great for meditation. Bumbling around Amazon I’m guessing that’s “Being Peace” – can you please confirm?

  14. Tim, I attended your talk at SXSW and proceeded to meet new contacts and now-friends at the conference because I wasn’t trying to “network.” I was just trying to meet great people, and if I did that better at a taco truck than at a talk, so be it. Thanks for the great tips and (indirectly) the great friends.

  15. This helped me understand a lot of things. I have tried other networking techniques online but it does not last long. I may have done it wrongly. Thanks for sharing.

  16. I loved this. Learnt so much. So many new things here. And I have guzzled the content of Timbo for years now, including the excellent blog posts on networking. Thanks Tim. Another favourite, back in the days of “in-between-isode” was the “Not to do list” and the value of being a master of many trades and a jack of none. Being very prone to this, it was self-affirming. Hope you and puppy are doing great! Kevin

  17. Interesting podcast here Tim. Thanks !

    Maybe it’s not related, but I have to say that almost all of things you are talking (writing) about meant and work for those who are living/from US. It has catted value for those who lives outside US.

    Just FYI.

  18. How does one get to this point where they’re comfortable around people they don’t know? This might seem like a silly question, but interaction and small talk are my worst suit. As you said in your talk , the big talk or important talk is in the small talk – I hate parties, I hate small talk, I hate mingling.

  19. Thank you for the tips! I do have a quick question… How is it that millennials like myself are finding it more and more difficult to land jobs though we had experience and continued education? Is the Silicon Valley curse true (30 years experience but fresh out of college)? Love to know your thoughts!

  20. If anybody ends up visiting the comment section for this, here’s a tip for making one-legged squats more approachable…

    Get on a chair, table, or other elevated surface. You won’t have to keep your other leg up, which eliminates a lot of flexibility requirements. This is a cheat, to an extent, but you’ll still reap the strength benefits.

    That’s how Paul “Wonder of Nature” Anderson did pistol squats despite his enormous girth.

  21. Thanks for the tips! I am reading your book “4 hour work week” and I want to apply your suggestion to “cold emailing” an impossible-to-reach person. However, if a person does not have a blog, nor is he on any social network, nor does he live in my country, how else can I a get an email? In your book you mention a search by address engine…is there such a thing for emails as well?

  22. I find going to big events or mixers are relatively useless (and a waste of time). I prefer small events where I know someone (preferably if I can see the attendee list ahead of time).

  23. Tim, I’m writing to apologize, and to ask for your forgiveness. I posted an insane rant on one of your Instagram photos last week, then realized what I had done, deleted the chain of comments, then temporarily suspended all my social media and changed my insta to MindfulDev to try and embody a more mature version of myself, THEN listened to this podcast. Should have done the reverse lol (minus the insane rant)

    Thank you for the work you do so well, it has changed my life. Please accept my apology, and forgive me if you will, for any repercussions my other post/comment/rant may have caused. (It would be fantastic if you hadn’t noticed at all!!)

    Peace and love!

  24. Really great podcast. I think there’s one thing that you missed and that is, have a really fantastic product that you’ve created. Being humble when you know you can deliver the goods is powerful.

  25. Always a pleasure to go through your podcasts Tim. I find it particularly interesting how to network the special way. Handing hundreds of business cards is a thing of the past!

  26. The most important lesson I’ve learnt is Big Wigs have personal and professional strategies, showing interest in both of these enables a true conversation to happen and does the seeds for a long term relationship