The Man Who Studied 1,000 Deaths to Learn How to Live (#153)


The small things ain’t so small.

—BJ Miller

At the end of our lives, what do we most wish for? And how can knowing this help you to live a better life now?

BJ Miller (@bjmillermd), MD, knows.

BJ is president of Mettle Health in Mill Valley, California, where he also counsels terminally ill patients and their caregivers on how to create a dignified, graceful end-of-life experience.

He is an expert in death, but he’s also learned how we can dramatically improve our own lives, often with very small changes. When you consider that he has guided or been involved with ~1,000 deaths, it’s not surprising that he’s spotted patterns we can all learn from. BJ shares these patterns and more as coauthor of the book, A Beginner’s Guide to the End: Practical Advice for Living Life and Facing Death, which you can learn more about at the book’s website.

BJ is also a triple amputee, and his 2015 TED Talk, “Not Whether But How,” is a moving reflection on his vision to make empathic end-of-life care available to all, ranked among the top-15 most viewed TED talks that year.

If you want to know what being around death can teach you about living, you’ll want to listen to this.

I LOVED this conversation, and I hope you do as well.  Enjoy!

#153: The Man Who Studied 1,000 Deaths to Learn How to Live

Want to hear another podcast that challenges conventional medical doctrine? Listen to my conversation with Adam Gazzaley. In this episode, we discuss building a video game to rewire the brain, the crossroads of hallucinogens, neuroscience, and more (stream below or right-click here to download):

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QUESTION(S) OF THE DAY: What are some of the “small changes” you can make that will have a big impact on your life? Please let me know in the comments.

Scroll below for links and show notes…

Selected Links from the Episode | Facebook | Twitter

Show Notes

  • How do you answer the questions, “What do you do?” [7:43]
  • What does the first meeting look like for a new patient at the Zen Hospice Project? [9:22]
  • Defining palliative care [11:14]
  • What happens when a patient dies in Zen Hospice compared to a regular hospital? [15:24]
  • How many deaths have you experienced? [20:07]
  • What has observing hundreds of deaths taught you about living? [20:42]
  • On keeping a mindfulness or meditation practice [28:51]
  • About the Dinky (a terrifying story of electrocution) [31:06]
  • The Snowball Story [41:49]
  • BJ Miller’s experience as an undergraduate student at Princeton [45:27]
  • On the idea of art [46:33]
  • How BJ Miller would support someone who suffered injuries similar to his own [53:29]
  • What helps people most in hospice care [56:30]
  • Why cookies matter [1:01:11]
  • Thoughts on the use of psychoactive compounds in end-of-life care and treating existential suffering [1:04:48]
  • BJ Miller’s secret habit that might surprise most people [1:14:40]
  • Suggested material for an introverted hospice patient [1:19:48]
  • What do you think of when you think of the word “successful?” [1:26:55]
  • Daily practices for seeing good in people [1:30:43]
  • How to ride a motorcycle when missing three limbs [1:33:39]
  • What purchase of $100 or less has most positively affected your life? [1:38:10]
  • If you could have one billboard anywhere, what would it say and why? [1:40:06]
  • Advice to your thirty-year-old-self [1:41:42]
  • What have you changed your mind about in the last few years? [1:43:37]
  • BJ Miller’s requests/asks/suggestions of the audience [1:45:23]

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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107 Replies to “The Man Who Studied 1,000 Deaths to Learn How to Live (#153)”

  1. Tim, I want to both commend and thank you for doing such incredible work with these podcasts. The people you’ve chosen to interview, along with the probing, thoughtful questions you pose make for some of the most fascinating, potentially life-changing conversations out there. Thank you for enlarging what’s possible in interviewing, going so much deeper than we’re used to, and especially for letting us eavesdrop! I’m so grateful you’re out there, doing the work you’re doing. And to BJ Miller as well–thank you for your powerful work, and for using your voice and your life to transform the Western view of death and dying. Such important work. You are an inspiration.

    1. Thanks so much, Lisa (and you all!) for such kind words. It’s literally a pleasure to do this work and share it. I very much appreciate you listening 🙂

  2. Waiting for Guffman is a great recommendation for absurdity in humanity. Great podcast. BJ Miller’s has taken what most would consider a life defeating event and turned it in a life-defining one.

  3. Hi Tim!

    My name is Cielo, and I’m reading “The 4-Hour Workweek”. It’s AMAZING! I’m not done yet, but I am already planning to buy a dozen for my kids in CPrep (a college preparation company I own).

    You speak of the unrealistic being easier to achieve than the realistic, so I’m trying it out. My hope is that you’ll reply and we will be able to engage in a convo about how we can change the mentality of a group of people that innately believe that a 9-5pm job is the best way to live your life. That, in essence, is my culture (Hispanic/Latinos), and I’ve been trying to break away from it since graduating from Wellesley (much to the disappointment and fear of my parents).

    I’m 25, and I created CPrep with the mission to help out high school kids who have no guidance when seeking higher education. I’ve always thought life should be the way you describe in your book! I’m itching to be able to teach, motivate, and inspire the kids in my program to stop conforming to society’s expectations. I’m so happy to be able to have your book confirm many of my beliefs and push me to my limits.

    Hope to hear from you soon!



    [Moderator: link removed]

  4. Wow! One of my favorites to date. Listening to BJ’s voice was relaxing yet uplifting at the same time. There was an incredible amount of information and wisdom in this podcast that I will be pondering for awhile. Thanks Tim!

  5. This is a touching episode. I especially appreciated the personal story of how BJ dealt with his disability. It made me tear up. Great story and a very smart interviewee. I also meditate in the same way, by hanging out in nature and being very aware of being alive–a state we will one day abandon. I watched someone close to me die in a hospital a few years ago and it was nowhere near as peaceful as watching my grandfather’s last days at the hospice. I feel like we don’t talk enough about death (in a positive way). Thank you.

    1. I agree on several levels, and thank you for reminding me that I need to visit hospices in person soon.

  6. Stunning episode, one of my favorites. I love this concept of learning how to live from the dying. Any book recommendations on this premise?

    1. [Moderator: link removed.] Stephen Jenkinson, his books, movie, writings, workshops music and presentations are all about living well. He was a palliative care social worker for over 20 years.

  7. Such a good episode. Coincidentally, I paired with Morgan Spurlock’s episode on elder care and was thoroughly inspired. BJ’s comments about the ends / absurdity paradigm of seeing things showed me why so many people can’t stand hanging out with seniors during this point of their lives — they can’t create meaning after having lived in a culture which only values cultivation and achievement. When we switch to the “fart around” template of living, we can focus on life and all of its aspects being ends instead of means. The Ricky Gervais show “Derek” was extremely boring to me until I listened to this episode. Afterwards, I wrestled with the story I was telling myself about old people not having meaning in their lives and resolved to check the show out again. Approached from the Absurdist perspective, the show is beautiful and even sublime.

  8. Wow!

    What an amazing episode! I’m still into it will finish later this afternoon on my walk but…had too much to say couldn’t keep it in 🙂 these topics are always on my mind!

    Purposelessness and meaninglessness – why do we love so much those moments? – That’s when we allow Universal “purposelessness” to work through us, letting the “purposeful” brain go for a while.

    What the purpose of the Universe? Never-ending exploration, expansion where it has not gone before – and we as humans as everything else are the continuation of that purpose – expansion, exploration, growth…

    That’s ultimately also the “purpose” of life. Every time we hold ourselves and stop it – we get sick physically or mentally, the reason of ANY “sickness” is our inability to let the expansive nature of the whatever it is out there to “live” through us, expand more.

    Why art? Why music? Just because we can, just because through humans the life, the universe can do it, can try it out and feel what it is like to be able to do that. Arts are purposeless only if we see the purpose of our life managing problems in one way or the other – making money, “fixing” the environment, creating tech to solve issues etc.Art have just as much purpose as any creation, any active exploration of any realms – physical or non-physical.

    Why are arts especially healing? – as I said, when we allow art to flow through us we allow expansive nature of reality to expand through us taking out all the “toxins” that accumulate when we don’t allow things to flow through us – ideas, emotions, projects etc. In a way arts just remove the blockages – it can be done with other things that allow us to get unblocked – baking cookies for example.

    Asking why arts is like asking why do trees grow (or flowers whatever). They just do – growth, expansion, energy transformation… (that death is a part of, death is just transformation of energy, we don’t need to get all dramatic about it).

    Life is actually easy, not the way everything works, I don’t claim to understand, or even start to unveil the laws of existence of everything, but it’s easy in a sense that there is no grand vision or purpose, there are laws of life (that also evolve constantly), but no purpose, life itself in all its various forms is the meaning, the purpose – everything points to it, we jut tend to blind ourselves when we don’t like the answer. – We need to feel special, to have the purpose different from the one the trees have, don’t we? We are special, arent we? well, just like any leaf on the tree, if you ask me…

    I wish I could talk to both of you Tim, Bj – there are not so many people out there who want to explore those questions that for me is a mystery since it is all SO fascinating and interesting…

      1. Thank you for reminding me of the episode today Tim! Perfect for a rainy Sunday New York morning of contemplation! 🙂

        Have a good one! I bet it’s a sunny day on the other coast!

    1. Life is easy? you obviously haven’t lived “life” then, or have been living in a cave, even then, living in a cave can’t be easy.

      1. Life can be easy. It is all in your choice of illusion that you wish to perceive.

        It does not have to be full of fear.

      2. Indeed, the more I live, the better I get at living and understanding the nature of reality the simpler and easier living gets.

        I’m not saying there are no challenges – not at all. Challenges make us grow, evolve, learn. But suffering and stressing out about them, worrying, anxiety is not necessary.

        That’s what I was saying.

        If you look at people who did live (obviously I haven’t, I do think I’m still a kid 🙂 – the wiser the more peace they have. Life is simple. And it’s easy when you let go of things more often, let go of the need to know and control everything – it’s not possible anyway.

  9. We are not meant to end our lives in a hospice under the care of a palliative MD.

    Please read Weston Price, Nutrition and Physical Degeneration — he surveys groups transitioning from traditional (extremely robust and healthy) to modern culture (extremely sick). In traditional cultures, people die of an accident, in their sleep, or after a short illness. They die with all their teeth, cancer is unheard of, there is no diabetes, no heart attacks/strokes.

    We have lost our way, but are gradually figuring out how to get back on a path again.

    For example, read Phillip Beach’s book, Muscles and Meridians: The Manipulation of Shape.

    Actually, I hope you do an interview with Beach! That I would listen to.

  10. I haven’t listened to the podcast in a while and I’m glad I picked this one to come back too. After working in a hospital Emergency Department for a year and witnessing how we deal with end of life issues in this country, podcasts like this are important to start this type of conversation. We need to expand hospice alternatives and allow more people the dignity to die in this fashion rather than the current alternative of a slow, miserable demise in a general hospital. Thanks for doing the interview, Tim.

  11. Thanks for interviewing BJ. I’ve been fascinated by his perspective since watching his TED talk and I so appreciate this reframe and asskick. LOVE the work you do. THANKS!

    1. I thought about the same thing, Matt. I read that book when I was 15 and I felt like a big piece of rock just sat on my chest. I still remember that feeling like today. “What if my whole life has been wrong?”

      Thanks for sharing that article.

  12. This podcast is the best thing I’ve ever stumbled upon on the Internet. Thank you Tim, from a loyal follower from Italy

  13. A lot of what the guest said reminded me of Victor Frankl’s book MAN’S SEARCH FOR MEANING. Highly recommended for anyone who hasn’t already read it. Another great episode of one of my favorite podcasts.

  14. I think these types of messages are super important for entrepreneurs to hear. It’s so easy to remember that life is finite and is happening now. I run a growing crazy business and used to be miserable, and then started to change the way that I thought about things, and change the way I chose to see the world. It was a lot of work, but I am such a happier person and it’s true. When you change the way you look at things, what you look at changes! Reminders like these are a little sobering but at the end of the day I’d rather look back on my life and be happy and fulfilled and “heck yeah!” instead of a life full of shoulda coulda, you know? Ice cream for breakfast!!! 🙂

  15. Awesome Podcast! Interestingly I just watched the TED talk of BJ Miller right before the day this podcast was uploaded. Thank you both for the wisdom!

  16. This episode was very very enlightening Tim. Since I’m 2 years into college now it blows my mind to think of how BJ was able to persevere through his disability but still turn his life into one of such purpose through the service of others at Zen. Episodes like these remind me how that no matter what happens in our life we only have the power of perception and that therefore allows us to determine how we will handle present misfortune and turn those lessons into future gains.

  17. Tim & BJ,

    This podcast was particularly close to my heart. Having

    worked as a makeup artist for years with high profile

    celebs etc – I started an initiative a couple of years ago that uses makeup and beauty treatments as a form of selfcare and we currently work along side 6 different charities- two being hospices here in the UK. I’ve learnt so much from the people I have met and as you have mentioned Tim, the subject of the end of life Is deeply focusing. Bless you both for the work you do and the ripple effect it has on the world …;) P.s. Actor- Tim Roth recently made a small independent film called Chronic where he plays the part of a palliative care nurse. His research was so interesting. Also- another recent documentary here was Simon’s Choice where the subject of the right to die- versus palliative care was debated. An emotive subject!

  18. Not a small change for me, but I recently started training as a hospice volunteer (11th hour support). It’s a great way to make peace with death, and a tremendous opportunity for personal growth and authentic human interaction (no roles, no expectations, no BS). For some reason, I am convinced that there’s no better way to give balance to the rest of my life. All the more so if I get to bake cookies.

    Thank you both for a truly great and incredibly timely interview.

  19. Hey Tim,

    first time commenting, here. Sorry in advance for going a bit off-topic, but I figured it’d be more practical to comment on your last episode. I have a long history of cancer in the family, and I actively research a lot about it.

    To me, the correlation between the ketogenic state and improvement in cancer treatment seems obvious, even if not fully documented yet. But also, I see a strong correlation between THC & CBD and good responses in cancer treatments.

    The thing is: a ketogenic state inhibits hunger, while THC is recommended by many doctors exactly to improve appetite, so in a way they might work against each other.

    I see you actively pursue more information on cancer treatments, so I’m asking you to see if the people you know can draw preliminary conclusions (or, better yet, if there already are studies involving both). I’m very much interested in what the cutting-edge medical community has to say (their opinion) about combining cannabis and a ketogenic diet in a cancer treatment.

  20. Hey Tim,

    first time commenting, here. Sorry in advance for going a bit off-topic, but I figured it’d be more practical to comment on your last episode. I have a long history of cancer in the family, and I actively research a lot about it.

    To me, the correlation between the ketogenic state and improvement in cancer treatment seems obvious, even if not fully documented yet. But also, I see a strong correlation between THC & CBD and good responses in cancer treatments.

    The thing is: a ketogenic state inhibits hunger, while THC is recommended by many doctors exactly to improve appetite, so in a way they might work against each other.

    I see you actively pursue more information on cancer treatments, so I’m asking you to see if the people you know can draw preliminary conclusions (or, better yet, if there already are studies involving both). I’m very much interested in what the cutting-edge medical community has to say (their opinion) about combining cannabis and a ketogenic diet in a cancer treatment.

    Congratz on the episode, and thank you for your dedication.


    1. A quick comment: I’m not necessarily interested only in “medical” or “mainstream” medicine. I want to know the opinion of investigators, as you and DAgostino like to say (I own and preach the 4-hour body book, so I guess you know what I mean).

  21. Yes, yes, and hell yes! Inviting death over for tea and making peace with him leads to more abundant living. My friend (and wife) thought I’d lost my marbles when I started a podcast on death, but it is just a classroom on how to thrive.

  22. Loved the conversation. Missed hearing more references to what Dr. Miller actually experiences with his work IN the unique relationships. While I dig hearing about what makes you guys tick, THIS was an opportunity to learn about sitting with someone when they pass. A sacred, once-in-a-Universe? experience and didn’t here much of that which we ALL think about. What has he inferred about death/passing away? What IS it? Any extraordinary experiences…how different people get ready for and DO it?

    I hope you’ll do it again, Tim and thanks for this one about a subject near and dear to my eternity.

  23. I recently made some small changes in my morning routine and it has really made my day more positive and productive. 1) mandatory meditation for 15 mins and think about positive things only 2) think about a few things I am grateful for during or after meditation 3) read no news or e-mail until I get to my office at 9am.

  24. Great great podcast. Always have been a fan of your work. You asked for a few ‘small changes’ that anyone can make that will have a big impact on their life. I’d say ‘morning pages’ has been the smallest change that has brought the biggest impact in my life. I sleep with a few blank pages and pen next to my bed at night and write immediately as I wake up. Nothing tells me better what’s running in my sub conscious mind. Helps me start my day with a lot of self awareness and clarity.

  25. Hi Tim,

    As a pediatrician and palliative care physician, I am grateful that you posted this interview. We have such a long way to go toward caring for our loved ones in their most vulnerable moments, and there will never be enough palliative care personnel. Educating everyone that palliative and hospice care is not about “giving up” is crucial. We strive to do anything and everything in order to relieve pain and suffering, and avoid interventions that will prolong the dying process. It is about saving the living while they live.

  26. Bloody legend, as said here in New Zealand! Hey Tim, you probably know, but if not, Check out Eckhart Tolle, The Power of Now or A New Earth, or YouTube a video, I think he did a talk at Google. That podcast was super empowering I was doer a classic striver and that helped as I’m learning the balance of being, while still seeking to make my body more comfortable, after brain injury! There is okness even in pain- sometimes! Kia kaha

  27. Wow! What a beautiful and positive podcast, BJ and Tim. Chock full of good vibes and goosebumps. The notion of saying “Bless you” out loud or to yourself to someone, and the minute positive change you send out into the Universe is a good and simple first step all of us could take to making a huge change in an otherwise negative world we live in. Huge Thank you for your time BJ, and hoping for a round 2.

  28. Thanks Tim, Great great episode! On the topic of anger and holding grudges I was thinking there’s more you can do than meditation.

    I’d like to share a small change I used “Reframing” that I thought might be useful for anyone reading. Along with Tim’s 4HWW’s mention of Pareto’s 80/20 on my personal life, including friends, activities, it’s had such a big change on my life and friends and family members are amazed at how calm and peaceful I can be in situations that they personally would be quick to be angered in.

    “Reframing involves identifying our unhelpful thoughts and replacing them with more positive or adaptive ones.”

    In this case, being mindful of situations that bring on thoughts of anger and creating a new thought that takes away the response to be angry.

    Real-life example: You visit your family and the dog eats the bottle top of a BPA-free stainless steel water bottle you recently invested in and haven’t got to use yet for exercising and on-the-go. You could get angry at said dog or instead you could reframe your thinking. In that situation I would think about the fact I left the bottle top lying around so it was more my misdoing and the dog responded in a predictable way seizing the opportunity to chew on something small. I also think luckily I had another top for the bottle so it wasn’t a big deal.

    That example may be so silly but you may be amazed at how many situations you could get angry at in a day, which affects your health and by mindfulness and altering how you think about something, you automatically create a way of thinking that doesn’t call for anger.

    I use it almost everyday automatically and I hope it’s useful.

    To answer Tim’s “Question of the day” properly – a small change I believe would have a big change would be that I’m currently practicing ‘acceptance’ on myself and everything in general.


  29. Wow! This episode is a treasure trove of deep wisdom. Many thanks to both BJ and Tim. Just goes to show that genuine spirituality does not require the language of spirituality. Maybe spiritual language even gets in the way.

  30. Hey Tim, just half-way through this deep and thoughtful interview… so much to think on I have to pause every 5 minutes!

    But I caught the comment about music, and I’m wondering if you came across Perlovsky’s research on cognitive dissonance. As a musician, educator and armchair philosopher myself, I often discuss and riff on the idea that “music is a language” or “music is the universal language” or even “music is the first language.”

    The research I’m referring to seems to point in the direction that music is not a language, but somehow language’s equal, sister or partner… that while language separates, categorizes, deconstructs and differentiates, music unifies. The relevant expression being “music expresses that which can not be put into words.”

    Some assorted reading if you’re interested in this hypothesis:

  31. I was blown away by this episode! Thank you both (BJ + Tim) for sharing your incredible conversation. It really hit me when you asked “what type of bullshit excuses do you have for not going after what you want?” – so liberating! Thanks again x

  32. Hello Tim (formality feels unnatural after you’ve been chatting in my ears for so many hours). Thank you for a fantastic podcast and all the inspiration.

    Interview idea: Jane Goodall. But don’t wait too long…while she is vibrant, she is also 82.

    Thank you and all the best,


  33. Thank you for this interview. I lost both my parents to cancer — my mother 5 months ago and my father just the year before). My mother died in her home surrounded by family under the care of Hospice. My father died in a hospital. Although we had far less warning that my mom was terminal, it was a much gentler and more peaceful experience. I am extremely grateful to Hospice for both the care they gave my mother and the grief counseling they provided.

    I appreciate you drawing attention to the topic. The podcast left me wishing for more. I feel like a lot was left unsaid and unexplored.

  34. Wow! What an amazing podcast with BJ Miller!! I have no words to describe the impact this interview left on me. I often silently recite the mantra “you live until you die” and I mean that in a way to remind myself to truly experience every moment in life (the perceived “good” and “bad”). Thank you Tim for the variety and very interesting people you have on your show. BJ Miller, you ROCK man! Thank YOU for all that you ARE and the amazing work you are doing to help people and families with their end of life experiences. 🙏

  35. “There’s a lot to this story my friend” (01:34) – I liked the way B.J. adds “my friend” every now and again to the end of his responses. Surprising how much warmth and familiarity these two words communicate.

  36. If you are someone who works to keep a positive mindset and happy tone 100% of the time (like me), then you might be apprehensive to listen to this ep. Don’t be.

    Consider it…insurance for the day when things go bad. Tough times are inevitable, so it’s best to mentally prepare yourself BEFORE those events.

    BJ kicks butt and you can too.

  37. Hi Tim Ferris,

    I live in Pakistan here is online shopping trend is about to very premature stage only 5% population buy online how can I successful online business in Pakistan I read 4 Hour work week two time but can’t figure out what to do if dont have culture of online shopping, please answer me!

    Even here in Pakistan online shopping is like this people order online

    and pay Cash on Delivery. even Pakistan is not in Paypal list.

    May I change the country move somewhere els to start my online journey or what?

  38. Tim if I may call you Tim:) I’m 63 and retired and I’m doin alright. 80% of what’s on you blog doesn’t really pertains to me but dame it I read it anyway for that 20% This post was great. Thank you. Shout out to Ms. Trunk.

  39. Thank you SO much Tim for helping me to massively improve my life after starting to really follow you over the last 6 months. I own all your books and have recommended them. Your PODCASTS continue to inspire me and always impress.

  40. hmmm, if I ever wake up to pee in the night and stub my toe again, I won’t even get upset. 37 minutes #bestworststoryofthepodcast #notadream

    this guy is AWESOME, thank you again to interviewer and interviewee

  41. Tim –

    I am a 26-year-old female from Australia, living in LA. I have always had the mindset of wanting to know more, about everything. I would train, study, ask questions, read the in’s and outs of everything, it is what really excites me and I absolutely love it. Though years ago this way of thinking limited the amount of people I felt connected too. I felt alone and different.

    When I started listening to your podcast it was one of the best things I did. Not only was this information highly interesting but I felt connected. I would listen to things I knew nothing about but still be immersed in the conversation. There was something about the mindset of yourself and those you interview that stuck with me. The habits, the self-improvement strategies was similar to mine and was always something that I felt discouraged by and ashamed of, as those qualities seemed unfamiliar with those around me. By listening podcast after podcast, I realized that those qualities were actually not bad at all. It was a strength.

    Because I finally a connection to people, it nourished my friendships. I didn’t feel the need to isolate myself from my friends because of feeling indifferent. I now appreciate the different qualities we have and now know I can also build more friendships with those who are similar to me. Because I know they are out there.

    I still am finding my flow and figuring out the direction, but it has definitely added more joy, drive and excitement to what I create in my future.

    Thank you for being an awesome human!

  42. “If you want to follow your dream, you have to say no to all alternatives”

    This means you have to make decisions. Deciding is hard because it means you have to choose one way to act now and in the near future out of the many alternatives. This means you will choose to focus on only one option for enough time to make it happen.

    Imagine being atop of a mountain an looking at a great panorama. You see a misty top in the distance, a river through a valley and a small village. You would like to go and visit all places at once. But that is impossible. You are in the area for only one day and then you must leave. So you have to decide which one it will be.

    It’s hard but if you want to visit one of those places you should decide before noon, otherwise it will be too late to get there. So you decide you want to climb the mountain. This means you won’t bathe in the river and won’t have a good meal in the village. Because there is no time for that. So now you need to focus on climbing that mountain before sunset.

    Then at one point you take a wrong turn and don’t really know where you are. You start thinking and having doubts about your decision. You say “Nah, it’s just too hard to get there, I should’ve went to the village to get something to eat.” But you know where your destination is because it’s plainly visible even if there is no road towards there and the forest starts to get more and more dense. If you would say now: “Oh forget it, I’ll just go to the river” you might get even more lost in the woods. However, you know that keeping that direction will bring you closer even if it’s a hard path. Eventually you will reach your goal in time.

    So, following your dream implies that you need to focus on your dream and make it a priority. Focusing means you will ignore a lot of the big picture, you will have to say no to many things that are trying to distract you from keeping your direction.

    [Moderator: link removed]

  43. It’s funny the coincidences in life. I have a story (I’ll keep it brief) about your podcast with BJ Miller.

    You and BJ Miller (separately) set me on a road of transformation, exploration and changing my life several months back. I’m currently blogging about my movement from an IT Manager of a fortune 500 company to a hospice volunteer and really moving my life more in the service of others.

    I’d reached out to Zen Hospice about the best place in AZ to leverage and deepen my Buddhist practice and getting their guidelines so I could live them in AZ in my hospice work. In the mean time I’ve started my volunteer training at a nearby hospice to at least get started doing it. Some day I’d love to fill a hospice chaplain role.

    You’ve been critical in this change and I’d like to let you know of the impact you’ve had on me personally.



  44. Tim, have you ever considered inviting Buzz Aldrin to the podcast? I’ve been reading a lot about him lately so here’s my pitch:

    -One of the first public figures to publicly disclose his struggles with depression, alcoholism and metal illness.

    -Disclosure put his career and reputation at risk; doing so during a time when most people viewed mental illness as a myth and/or weakness (a view strongly held by his own father).

    -He inspired countless others to “come out of the closet” and seek treatment for their illnesses, including many other public figures.

    -He still hasn’t “won the battle” with mental illness. He still has set backs even today.

    -One of the first two men on the moon. He set the standard for “high performer!”

    -Dealt with suicide in his own family. His mother committed suicide only one year before he landed on the moon!

    -Has struggled every day to find purpose in his life since the moon landing. A struggle many of us feel and could learn from.

    -He’s 86 years old and not getting any younger!

    Tim, I’ve listened to nearly every one of your pod-casts. Your growth as a researcher, interviewer and teacher has been amazing to watch! Many of the interviews I’ve seen with Buzz have been full of “got ya questions,” questions repeated from previous interviews and B.S nonsense about UFO’s and conspiracy theories. I know Buzz Aldrin could provide valuable lessons for us all. Your unique style, personal history with mental illness and passionate drive to decode and deconstruct could make a Buzz Aldrin episode one of your finest yet.

    Tim, thanks for reading and thank you so much for all you do for us!

  45. Another great episode Tim! Amazing to learn from extraordinary human beings.

    Would love you to have Nick Vujicic in the show!! That guy is such an inspiration!

  46. Thank you, Tim and BJ, for this wonderful conversation about something that impacts all of us. My mother died at Zen Hospice Project’s guesthouse in February. I don’t think BJ had the chance to meet her while she was there, but she was someone BJ would have considered a quiet success. She lived with grace, a loving heart, a quick mind and steady integrity, and she had an incredible impact on all whose lives she touched. BJ’s comments about sensory experiences being a focus at the end of life really resonated. While my mom could still express her preferences, all she wanted was to have quiet, to have her face washed with a hot washcloth, to have her hair brushed, to have her hands and feet massaged, and to feel a fan blowing cool air on her. She also didn’t want to cry in front of her – a tall order. She died in a beautiful and calm setting at Zen Hospice Project, with excellent care, and where everyone there made our family feel welcome and comforted in an incredibly difficult time. It sounds a little weird to say, “Hey, if you know anyone dying, have I got a great place to recommend to you!”, but…I do and it’s Zen Hospice Project. Thank you, BJ, and keep banging the drum. Dying with dignity in peace matters.

  47. Imbuing strangers with greatness. Love that idea. In my own practice, I think of one positive thing about every person I walk by. My happiness increases and my self talk is more gentle and positive. I started doing this after a friend pointed out how beautiful the pattern of vitiligo was on the hand of a stranger. It struck me how many people would be repulsed by vitiligo and here my friend was experiencing tremendous beauty in it. I decided I want to live in this space and see beauty everywhere. I resonated very much with BJ Miller. And Waiting For Guffman is a family favorite. 🙂

  48. The fact that you not only inspire through your own work and thoughts, but make the effort to share those of others is truly inspiring and just simply awesome. Thank you! On behalf of myself and surely all the fans you have here in Amsterdam, we would love to have you share all of this with us Live in Amsterdam! It would be an incredible experience! And of course, seeing the ‘world’s best guinea pig’ live is just freakin’ cool. Check us out! Would be great to hear back from you and what you think! 🙂

  49. Dear Tim: Thank you for your love and generosity with ALL of your work. I LOVE your podcasts. BJ what a light you are! This podcast was particularly close to my heart as I was just in San Francisco doing some work in a sort-of-related field. I will be sure to reach out to The Zen Hospice Project on my next trip. How inspiring. I would like to introduce you both to a wonderful man who I think you will appreciate. His name is Gil Hedley and if you’ll google him, you’ll find out exactly what I mean. I think that he would be a great extension of BJ’s interview albeit a little different and yet related. I hope that you’ll consider him for one of your podcasts, Tim. You will be amazed…..

  50. Great podcast, There is a hospice just down the street from my house and I have 4 cute little kids. I have wondered from time to time if there would possibly be people there who would like a visit from kids but I have never stopped in to ask simply because I don’t know what a hospice is like or if they want visitors unrelated to patients. Question for BJ, Does the hospice you work at welcome visitors like that who are just interested in seeing if anyone might want a little company?

  51. While listening to this podcast, I was thinking of the old saying: stop and smell the flowers, which I don’t usually do often. This morning when I walked my dog, I not only smelled the flowers but I listened to the birds and felt the 6:00 AM spring air in my face. It was awesome! Thank you Tim for bringing BJ to us.

    1. Agree Tina. Stephen Jenkinson is fascinating and also packs so much depth into every interview I’ve heard him do. I’d love to hear how Tim engages with him.

  52. Tim, great episode! Very inspiring and life affirming conversation between BJ and you. If you want to go deeper into this subject matter I would suggest you interview – Stephen Jenkinson of Orphan Wisdom who has some fascinating observations on death, life, and culture. I’ve heard him speak before but would be delighted to hear how you would interview him.

  53. I LOVED this podcast!! Thank you thank you Tim and BJ. I work in a lovely homely aged care facility in Australia which is packed full of compassion, humility and grace in every sense. Having nursed a number of people through their palliative phase I completely resonate with BJ’s comments about truly enjoying the small things and what it means to be human. I went into my job with an Immense fear of getting to the end end of my life and thinking ‘what the fu*k was that all about’? I have completely chilled out around that fear after many delightful and insightful conversations with our residents about just this topic (some of whom are 100+ years old!!).

    If anyone is still reading I highly recommend hanging out with senior citizens…… They are our elders and often full of wisdom.

  54. At the beginning of BJ’s story of his admittance to the hospital, he mentioned that they cut the skin to stop the burning. This should only happen in the case of a chemical burn; they would decon the patient in a shower then if the material in a rare instance were still burning through layers of various structures, they would surgical debride the area (cut away). In burn patients, this cutting he referred to is called an escharotomy. Eschar is the technical term for the type of wound on the skin and its secondary structures when burned. The skin becomes extremely taunt when burnt. All of the cells dehydrate, and the protein structures like elastin and collagen essentially shrink. Take a blow dryer or heat gun to saran wrap or a lighter to cellophane. This tightness can further compromise circulation, especially in the skin that may not have been burnt this is a major concern. The pressure is released typically in the emergency room or trauma bay by taking a scalpel and cutting through a few layers of skin thus releasing the pressure and allowing capillary circulation to continue.

  55. I love your podcast: your discussions with guests are truly mind-alterting at times. Many of your guests discuss how to operate at a high level, but I haven’t heard anyone discuss how they’ve managed to operate at that level with kids in their lives. Family life is awesome, but I feel that it impinges on my ability to get to the next level simply because there’s so little time left in my day to execute on side projects–can you do a deep dive into how successful people balance their creative/business lives and their families? Thanks!

  56. Tim, this podcast was amazing to me.

    And suddenly filling up my gas tank at a gas station is now an activity that I used to hate. But not I look forward to and could now rank as one of my most valuable activities in my day. That’s weird. But that’s what this podcast did for me, so thank you.

    I will try to think to elaborate later when I have more time.

  57. What follows is a commendation and a recommendation.

    Thanks for doing this podcast. This is the first episode I listened to after coming by it through another podcast.

    It was a very enjoyable interview. BJ Miller is an amazing and fascinating person and you asked good questions.

    However, I must say that I felt that the title of the podcast was somewhat misleading. While it was interesting to listen to a lot of BJ’s views on meaninglessness etc, it was not the distilled wisdom that the title implied. I was hoping to listen to thoughts and ideas that were accrued over the years talking to people who were at the end of their lives looking back talking about what mattered most to them, best memories, regrets, etc.

    I once heard a good analogy for this.

    When you’re in the mood for Chinese, you don’t want pizza. No matter how good that pizza might be.

    Thanks for reading.

  58. Tim, you might include Stephen Jenkinson in this conversation (Die Wise) and his doumentary, “Grief Walker”. Promoting “Tools For Titans” on all my sites! Thanks, Brother.

  59. Thank you Tim Ferriss for having Dr. BJ Miller on your program. My father just passed away and now I’m taking care of my elderly mom. The timing of this podcast is a bit nuts, I needed to hear this. Thanks!

  60. Love this conversation, thank you Tim! This really helped me prep my interview with BJ recently. I had the great pleasure to meet Dr. BJ Miller in person while attending the Dr. Robert Leffert’s Palliative Care Memorial Lecture Series at the Massachusetts General Hospital in December 2016. While at dinner, I learned so much more about Dr. Miller as a person, a friend. I decided to interview him on my podcast [Moderator: link removed].

  61. Tim, disappointed on your recommendation of boll and branch. Tried the product, and fail to understand why the product is priced at 200 plus USD. One can buy cheaper and softer sheets at hudsons bay. It’s such a marketing hype and I bought into it.

  62. Of the episodes I’ve listened to, this one with BJ Miller is the one that’s stuck in my head the longest. I’ve gotten a lot out of the podcasts you do about improving/maximising performance, but I hope you keep occasionally making time for other interviews like this, which inspired gratitude, mental outlook, and living fully (at least for me).

    You’ve touched on topics like “Don’t Do Lists” and paring down to be effective rather than just trying to work faster to get more irrelevant stuff done efficiently. Have you considered doing a podcast that loosely touches on living fully with less stuff? I don’t know who would be the “expert” on this topic- maybe Jesse Mecham, founder of YNAB? Someone (preferably a professional athlete) who lives in a tiny house? Whoever is the latest record holder for fastest self-supported through-hike of the Pacific Crest Trail?

    Thanks for doing what you do!

    P.S. I’m a lady-listener- we do exist! Thanks for interviewing Susan Garrett, she was a fantastic interviewee and it was good to hear a woman’s voice filling the “expert in the field” chair.

    P.P.S. Jocko Willink is a very interesting human and I hope he agrees to appear on your show a third time if you ask him to. But please pretty please NEVER do another podcast where your guest just reads him/herself questions and then answers them. The content may be interesting, but the homogeneity of only hearing one person’s voice was unbearable for me! The repartee between your voice and your guest’s keeps my brain engaged (and my boyfriend too, so that’s at least two people).

    P.P.P.S. You’ve mentioned auto replies to take care of responding to some of your e-mail. It’s a great idea… except for the part where it’s generating EVEN MORE e-mail traffic. I’m a busy person, you’re a busy person. I’m writing this as one-way communication, maybe it will influence future shows, maybe not, but I’m certainly not expecting a reply. However, I hope I’m not going to get an auto-reply from you, and hopefully you won’t get an auto-reply from my vacation responder. Is there any “opt-out” code from auto-reply e-mails when the sender knows that the recipient likely has an auto-reply set up?

  63. Thank you Tim , I always find your interviews inspiring. And you are right,if Bj can be so gracious and accepting of his situation and be so willing and selfless in helping others….what is our excuse for not achieving our dreams?

  64. I’m somewhat new to your ecosystem but very much enjoy things. Is there any way to get a transcript or publish summaries of these things for those that speed read?

    Thanks for all you do.

  65. Hi Guys, I enjoyed re listening to this pod cast and would love an updated interview with BJ (to gain the last 5 years of his evolution and how is it different from 2016). Important topics that he would have an insight on include NDE’s with some patients and his thoughts on the world now with Covid, change in culture since and are we any closer to his ideal?

    P.s my favorite quote from Seneca is “to bear trial with a calm mind robs misfortune of its strength and burden” rang true through out the pod cast. BJ’s view is consistent with the stoic views and like how he embraces the not knowing and uncertainty of life. You both may enjoy Omar Cherif work that has a similar bent to “not believing everything you think” ie: “Those who take life, or themselves, too seriously are missing the point.” Cheers,

  66. Great episode and really interesting talk on takeaways for everyday living that are probably of the highest importance. The conversation about art made me think of how humans use art to convey meaning. I think a great related book and author on this topic is george steiner’s book real presences. Tim, is that something you have looked into on the nature of art and being able to convey / communicate meaning?