The Athlete (And Artist) Who Cheats Death, Jimmy Chin (#114)

Pacific Ocean Wall, El Capitain, Yosemite, CA

“I’m the laziest motivated person that I know!” — Jimmy Chin

Jimmy Chin (@jimkchin) is an artist and professional athlete, often at the same time. If Chase Jarvis and Laird Hamilton had a love child, it would be Jimmy.

He has participated in and documented breakthrough expeditions around the planet, from climbing first ascents in the Karakoram to skiing first descents in the Himalayas. He is one of the few people to both climb Mount Everest and ski it from the summit.  Most recently, he filmed and directed the incredible feature documentary MERU, which is in theaters now and won the 2015 Audience Award at Sundance.

What is MERU? In the high-stakes game of big-wall climbing, the Shark’s Fin on Mount Meru is the ultimate prize. Everest is a cakewalk by comparison. Sitting at the headwaters of the sacred Ganges River in Northern India, the Shark’s Fin has seen more failed attempts by elite climbing teams over the past 30 years than any other ascent in the Himalayas. This movie is the story of one group’s journey to conquer it—a white-knuckle quest of friendship, sacrifice, hope and obsession. How Jimmy captured it on film while risking his life is almost impossible to fathom.

In this episode of the podcast, we talk about his origins, training, nutrition, gear, and MERU, of course.

Suffice to say, if you want a benevolent kick in the ass, the film MERU is your assignment. I saw it a few weeks ago, and all my family could say for minutes afterward was, “Whoa….” My refrain was, “Holy shit…,” which I muttered to myself at least 20 times in 90 minutes.  It’s an amazing, terrifying, and inspiring edge-of-your-seat experience.

You can find the transcript of this episode here. Transcripts of all episodes can be found here.

#114: The Athlete (And Artist) Who Cheats Death, Jimmy Chin

Want to hear another podcast with super athletes? — Listen to my conversation with Laird Hamilton, Gabrielle Reece, and Brian MacKenzie. In this incredible episode, we explore underwater training, strengthening your weaknesses, and advice for beat up athletes. Check it out.

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QUESTION(S) OF THE DAY: What other athletes or world-class performers would you love to hear on the podcast?  Please let me know in the comments.

Scroll below for links and show notes…


Selected Links from the Episode

MERU | Instagram | Twitter | Facebook | Jimmy Chin

Show Notes

  • How do you pronounce “MERU?” [08:22]
  • How do you answer the question, “What do you do?” [09:18]
  • What is a first ascent and a first descent? [11:55]
  • Defining car-to-car time [17:25]
  • Why an outdoor athlete may start spending more time at the gym [19:55]
  • A typical week of training [21:06]
  • Most common beginning rock climbing mistakes (and corrections) [27:42]
  • Overcoming the fear of rock climbing [30:30]
  • Jimmy’s gear (shoes, boots, skis) [32:00]
  • Jimmy’s nutrition routine [33:11]
  • What does Jimmy listen to when he’s on expeditions? [34:50]
  • Goals for aspiring climbers [37:07]
  • Finding a good mountain guide [39:42]
  • Defining moments from Jimmy’s childhood [42:44]
  • Jimmy’s parenting style [44:44]
  • How Jimmy got started with photography [51:14]
  • Lessons Jimmy learned from Galen Rowell’s work ethic [58:38]
  • Dealing with fear and House of Cards [01:01:36]
  • How Jimmy improved his writing skills [01:09:31]
  • The first person who comes to mind when Jimmy thinks of success [01:11:52]
  • The books Jimmy gives as gifts [01:13:25]
  • Jimmy’s morning rituals [01:15:00]
  • Drinks of choice  [01:17:54]
  • A purchase of $100 or less that had the most positive impact [01:19:03]
  • What would Jimmy put on a billboard, and where would it be? [01:20:07]
  • What advice would Jimmy give his 30-year-old self? [01:21:05]

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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48 Replies to “The Athlete (And Artist) Who Cheats Death, Jimmy Chin (#114)”

  1. Tim I think a follow up podcast is in order with Jimmy. I would love to understand the mechanics an expedition, what planning is involved, when does he say “no”, how does he assess risk. Also it is totally fascinating that besides the fact he is climbing impossible mountains he is filming it all…….OMG, how does he do that!!! More Jimmy please.

  2. Hey Tim,

    First I want to say that me, my brothers, my dad, and a lot of my friends are all listeners, so thank you so much. I listen to your podcast on my daily walks a lot; it makes for a great combo of education and vitality.

    Aside from thanks, I’m leaving this comment (which will probably add even more to your busy life) because this idea seemed too fitting for the podcast. So I know your interested in drums. I’m guessing you’ve considered dissecting a drummer on the show at some point. If you can get the opportunity, I highly recommend you interview JOJO MAYER. There are hundreds of awesome amazing drummers out there; the reason I say Jojo is he’s beyond that. I’ve spent a lot of time considering it (and I’m a fan of several drummers) and I think Jojo is THE best. He’s made massive contributions to the community both technically and musically. It’s honestly hard to grasp how far his waves will go. I also think he’s a great option because he interviews sooo well. He has an awesome voice with which he spits endless wisdom. Please check him out if you can find the the time, you kind of have to hear him talk. He did a TED X talk relatively recently that highlights just one of his influential branches. He just seems too fitting for the show. When the idea came to me I had to at least try and get it your way. Thanks a lot Tim.

  3. Tim,

    Love your interviews. And your books. Know you’d rather not be contacted, but I went from living the dream to slumpin’ and I can’t see the forest through the trees. I need someone who gets it to help me see what’s probably right in front of me. Could I have like 10 minutes?

    Tim Leary

    [Moderator: phone # removed]


    1. Tim (Leary),

      Let me know if you still need some help. Never written books or put up podcasts, but willing to listen.


  4. Thank you Tim for bringing Jimmy in. He is a great inspiration to photographers & athletes. Keep pushing the limits!

  5. Jimmy was talking about ways to get started climbing, but most of those ways assumed you are out west.

    If you are in New England there are also some amazing climbing locations up here to get started with. The Appalachian Mountain Club chaoters around here tend to run a rock climbing and ice climbing program. The major advantage over going out with a guide is the classes are taught by volunteers many of whom are very experienced. It is a good way to make climbing friends and people who will climb with you for the cost of gas and a beer.

    Guides are also an option for the White Mountains and other climbing pursuits

  6. Tim’s upcoming trip to Korea-

    Hello Tim, Tim’s team,

    Love your stuff. I’ll cut the bullshit and get down to it–

    Proposition: Be so kind to guest speak at a Global MBA program – I will let you stay at my apartment (I live in Hapjeong, have a spare room w/ a bed), will take you out for food and drinks, and tour you around Seoul at your pleasure.

    About my MBA program: small program, about 40ish students. Was partnered with Syracuse, but the partnership is transitioning to Arizona State. Students from all over the world. Classes on weeknights and Saturdays. Usually have guest speakers on Saturdays from 12-1PM.

    About me: 31 year old American. Been in Korea for three years, long enough to have a grasp of the language/culture but not long enough to be jaded… Poliquin was my favorite pod, dude was hilarious and brilliant.

    Don’t know what your plans are for Korea, just heard you’re coming on your podcast with Sophia Amoruso. Would be sincerely grateful to have you share your thoughts w/ my program! Thanks in advance for passing this on to Tim!

    Brandon Lockhart [Moderator: email address removed]

  7. If you want an tough interview, you should interview my friend Dwight. His bio excludes a whole bunch of things he’s done, but should give you a start.

    He’s done everything from sinking ships and escaping from prison to saving lives and getting a whole lot of kids jobs (including my first job out of college).

    He can also give you a unique perspective on the university system and learning as he’s been on the inside for a while now…and often fought that system. Shoot me an email if you want help talking him into it or doing prep.

  8. Thank you for another excellent show, Tim. I have followed Jimmy Chin for years and was also in awe of MERU (and everything we didn’t see that it took to make).

    I’d be grateful to hear an interview with competition shooter, JJ Racaza. He recently Periscoped “seeing” a faster sight picture. I did not see it, but I am interested in learning more about the skills and process involved (shooting and personal/day-to-day). I’m sure there is something we can all learn about focus.

  9. Amazing episode.

    Results in me being stoked to watch it, even though i couldn´t find it immediately (i am located in germany).

    I enjoy your podcasts immensely.

  10. Hello I’m recovering from a stroke and trying to gain use of my right hand back do you have any suggestions

  11. Tim, First off I’m continually impressed with your approach to life and find great value in the recommendations you make to people, products and thoughts. So, thanks for putting it all out there.

    I’ve noticed you reference Musashi a few times and am wondering if you’ve ever read Taiko. It’s something of a complementary companion to Mushahi in that the main character Nobunaga uses his life experience to influence those around him while Musashi uses his life experience to influence himself.

    Personally I found Taiko more suited to me, and I’d think that people who like one would like the other but would genearlly stear towards one or the other. Both are baller though.

    Best / Colin

  12. Tim, on your email iTunes avatar, you’re either offering blackjack tips or previewing a new course in ninja poker chip throwing skills…I’m sure excitement will be present either way! Regards, Kent Looft, Visual Artist

  13. Tim,

    The text you sent to his wife, was very awesome.

    “Jimmy is a beast! Good Lord, a real man in a world of “guys”- refreshing to see.” (Audio 1:06)

    So true.

  14. I would love to hear a discussion between you and Kacy Catanzaro! The very first woman to make it up the warped wall on American Ninja Warrior – I would love to hear you dissect her search for excellence and the info she could provide to your audience, I would imagine, would be outstanding!

  15. What impresses me is how matter of fact and unassuming Jimmy is, also how his achievements are woven into his life. This fascinating interview is yet another example of how amazing we humans are and the nutty stuff we all do in pursuing our dreams. I took a leap and decided to pursue an impulse to build a product I think can change peoples’ lives, and it’s not so much that I’m doing it at age 64 that surprises me as much as it is what I’m learning about what all the people now who are helping do; my partner who is the biz development guy putting himself in front of hundreds of people, skeptical investors, press, and all of that; videographers, make up people, grips and gaffers. Who knew starting a company would take folks like this and then seeing what they do at work, maybe not the same as cheating death, but kind of incredible in complexity and diversity. In a way, every day we all put our lives on the line and I think often don’t realize how amazing we all are as individuals.

  16. I want you to talk to Sonny Rollins! That would be a fucking trip. He was big into yoga (before anybody else) and he’s a world class saxophonist and bandleader. He’s a sensitive thinker and has been through some shit. You could event talk 9/11 as his home was down there at the time. I believe he lost Thelonius Monk’s old piano that day. If you could do it, what a different and very cool thing you could do by introducing his genius to a different crowd and new generation. If you think about it, musicians are solo-preneurs as you like to call yourself…especially those jazz musicians in the 50s and 60s. And he’s a nice human being.

  17. What a perfect fit to add Jimmy to your podcast. Meru left theaters before I could see it, and I had SF and CHI chances! Can’t wait to listen, thanks for hosting him. When is he taking you climbing? 😉

  18. This was a top 5 podcast for Tim. If Tim enjoyed diving into mountaineering and what techniques and principals apply to this field, I might strongly suggest he line up an interview with Jon Krakauer. I’m sure Tim could riff with him on writing as he is a world class writer as well as mountaineer.

    I would have loved to have Tim inquire about lack of sleep and performing under exhaustion (no chili pads or gravity boots in the mountains). Jimmy had to have been fatigued, hungry and exhausted at times, yet Meru is an amazing and beautiful film. I think some lessons or principals could have been extracted by going a little deeper on this subject.

    Thank you Tim for this interview and podcast. #gratitude

  19. Hi Tim,

    I’m Chris and of course have to say how much I love the podcast! I paint houses and you are in my ears just about every day. Here is something your sponsors will like too, just bought some meundies! Listened to Jimmy Chen today and really enjoyed hearing his story. Also listened to an oldie, Robert Rodriguez and that one was amazing! One of the repeating themes on your show seems to be a”just go for it” kind of attitude will get you far and that brings me to the reason of this email. I have a request and to frame it as Rodriguez would, how would you like to play a part in the greatest archaeological discovery in human history? I want to keep this brief ( and tantalizing) so I won’t go into much detail, and also you’re likely to think I’m nuts but here goes, I have substantial clues as to where the first and second Gardens of Eden are. They are under water and therefore I would like you to contact or put me in contact with James Cameron since he is a man with underwater experience and curiosity and lots of money. I’ll show you where to find the clues. You can read them for yourself online and make up your own mind. I’m not going to try and coerce you beyond this although the squeaky wheel gets the grease. I just want to assure you that I am NOT some wing nut fringe wacko despite how this request might seem. This discovery needs to be made and I’m just probing for possibilities. Why should you help in this? What have you got to lose? And if it pans out, how great would it be to have a finger in it? I could go on and on but I want to check out wealth front tonight too so…


    Christopher Richmond

  20. Hi Mr Ferriss, Its an honor to listen a world class teacher like you. I just started to learn a programming language and coding skills and it would be great to hear in your podcast from someone of that area to know more about books, routines, resources,people. By the way Samy Kamkar was awesome. You are great deconstructing excellence. Gracias Tim y a todo el equipo que hace posible que sigamos aprendiendo. 🙂

  21. Tim, great work!

    I’ve listened to every single podcast since you’ve started. Most I loved, a couple I disliked, but this podcast with Jimmy Chin has been my favorite so far, hitting home with my passion of ski mountaineering. He is a very well spoken, insightful, humble bad-ass. Some podcasts can drag on and I find myself wishing they would hurry up and finish. This podcast with Jimmy flew by and I didn’t want it to end.

    ENCORE! Please bring Jimmy back for more!

    Also, please try to get either Kelly Slater or Shane Dorian on the podcast. Both are veteran, next-level surfers that I would love to hear you dissect.

    Keep it up,


  22. Tim! I love your books and podcasts. Would love to hear from more amazing women. A few ideas in no particular order: Ann Trason, Misty Copeland, Mellody Hobson, Diane von Furstenberg and Sheryl Sandberg. There are so many women operating at the top of their game that you need to interview!!

    1. Wildman Richard ‘Yogi’ Bair, Tai Lopez and David Blain.

      Your podcasts make a great companion on long trips. Many of my favorite guest came as a complete surprise. Can’t begin to thank you enough for the inspiration and knowledge expansion.

      Pleasantly surprised,

      – Solomon

  23. Not sure if you are going to read this Tim but in any event, just signed up for your Friday bulletin email. Have been listening to the podcast and got your book (4HWW). I have recommended your book to a lot of my friends. Have learned so much and have taken down and plan to read your book recommendations. Keep it up man. One day, I’ll be on your show and we will talk my friend. Outstanding job!

  24. Wow, that is some trailer! Can’t wait till I see the movie. I guess my fascination with mountain climbing comes from the fact that I have no head for heights!!

    I actually love watching free cimbing, I get sweaty hands just watching it.

    Guys like Dean Potter show exactly how dangerous climbing and base juming are but at the same time they are the ones that keep us enthralled with the sport.

    Thanks for the article. I must Google Jimmy Chin. 🙂

  25. Tim, great interview. I love Jimmy’s grace and humility, especially considering his accomplishments.

    I grew up rock climbing in the French Alps, and there are few activities I know that will get you as focused on the moment (and your blood pumping as hard) quite like climbing rock faces.

    Mountaineering is amazing. Getting into high altitude mountains feels like discovering another world… and another you as you face physical struggles.

    Please check my email (through your assistant) about a related topic you might be into!

  26. Would love for you to do a podcast with pharmaceutical entrepreneur Trevor G blake. He also studied quantum physics and has great philosophies on creativity and growth.

    Here’s a podcast he did with someone else but I think you would do a much better interview!

  27. I loved how humble and down-to-earth Jimmy is, right down to the normality of his breakfast! And kudos for a new answer to “success” in Yvon Chouinard: few build giant businesses in the image of their hobbies and personal values, and how they most fully self-express – rather than business for business sake. Thanks Jimmy and Timmy!

    P.S. Meant to mention it’s been wonderful having interjections from your puppy recently!

  28. Great podcast. Tim, I recommend trying riverboarding if you’re looking for an amazing outdoor experience that you can engage in without spending a ton of time learning techniques. It also has some great mental health benefits. Xsports4vets has been offering it for years to combat vets and the results have been amazing.

  29. Great episode! Always like listening to your interviews with creatives. Would love to hear you interview Shane Smith, Kanye West, and Sebastian Junger (separately). Cheers!

  30. Great podcast! Unfortunately I haven’t been able to see Meru because it’s not playing in Colombia yet but I checked a lot of his movies and stuff. I just finished a really cool book -The Rise of Superman and it describes very well the concept of Flow, I think Jimmy Chin is a living example of someone that lives in flow.

  31. Another excellent podcast. I really loved the story about waiting everyday for a week to meet Galen Rowell and then having it be such a great meeting. I guess when you live in your car, you have time as a luxury to make other awesomeness happen, not that I want to live in a car.

    On a side note, I think Bruce Lipton biologist,author would also be a great interview.

  32. Would love to hear an interview with Tony Horton of P90x fame. Fitness and business genius. Perfect for Tim Ferris fans.

  33. Hi Tim,

    I’d love to hear you interview Mark Twight. I’m sure you would enjoy talking with him about peak performance relating to alpine climbing and training athletes.



  34. Yet another very enjoyable episode with lots of lessons to draw from. I believe Galen Rowell is admired by another guest of yours, Adam Gazzaley, who mentioned on his episode that Galen is hugely influential.