How to Be Tim Ferriss – Featuring Freakonomics (#162)

How to Be Tim Ferriss on the Tim Ferriss Show3
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This episode is a role-reversal.

I flew to New York City and sat down with Stephen J. Dubner (@freakonomics) of Freakonomics fame. He proceeded to ask me all sorts of questions that I’d never heard before, and we recorded the entire thing.  It was a blast.

His team did an incredible job with post-production, and I wanted to share the conversation with all of you. You can learn more about Stephen J. Dubner and his team at, on Twitter, or you can subscribe to their show on iTunes.

Without further preamble, please enjoy this wide-ranging and sometimes-weird conversation with Stephen J. Dubner!

#162: How to Be Tim Ferriss - Featuring Freakonomics

Want to hear another podcast featuring Stephen J. Dubner? — Listen to this early episode of The Tim Ferriss Show. In this episode, we discuss the craft of brainstorming, narrative storytelling, and how to avoid wasting mental energy on meaningless nonsense (stream below or right-click here to download):

Episode 7: Stephen Dubner, co-author of Freakonomics

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QUESTION(S) OF THE DAY: What do you think is the best possible future invention or discovery for humankind? Please let me know in the comments.

Scroll below for links and show notes…

Selected Links from the Episode

Show Notes

  • If you had to pick a noun to describe what you think of yourself as, what is that noun? [6:23]
  • Why start a podcast and thoughts on the 4-Hour books [6:57]
  • Growing up as a Long Island townie [9:47]
  • Age, partnership status, Molly, sardines and ketones [10:30]
  • Steven Dubner tells the story of my adventures in enterprise and absence [11:53]
  • On The 4-Hour Workweek [12:49]
  • Learning to say “no,” lucky startup bets, and leaving the startup world [15:41]
  • Experiments in lucid dreaming [20:33]
  • The story behind my thoughts of attempting suicide [21:52]
  • Adventures in TV and The Tim Ferriss Experiment [29:12]
  • FREAK-quently asked questions [31:28]
  • Morning rituals [31:42]
  • Something you own that you should throw out, but probably never will [33:21]
  • My strategy for giving money to panhandlers [34:45]
  • What is something you believed for a long time to be true until you found out you were wrong? [35:46]
  • If we were to leave the studio to get something to eat, where would we go and what would we eat? [36:53]
  • What is the best possible future invention or discovery for humankind? [37:50]
  • With a time machine, where would you travel to, why would you travel there, and what would you do there? [40:25]

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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18 Replies to “How to Be Tim Ferriss – Featuring Freakonomics (#162)”

  1. Tim,

    I have many reasons why I loved this (I’m an avid luster and reader of both yours and Stephen Dubners, I loved the episode of your podcast with him, I loved the role reversal, learning more about your background etc) but the part that I most appreciated was about your experiences with struggling with your mental health.

    Like you, I went to a well regarded university to study neuroscience, and changed my mind (although I dropped out rather than changing majors), and like you, I struggled with depression and anxiety during my time there. Knowing a little about neuroscience was a double edged sword at the time. I followed your advice on previous episodes of your podcast (re: gratitude, meditation, mind dump in the morning) after reading studies or review articles about them, and found it to have greatly improved my quality of life. As much as I love empirical evidence, and large sample sizes etc, there is something about reading/listening to personal anecdotes about depression, and it makes your advice more convincing after being able to relate to your experiences.

    Thank you, Tim, for your continued interest in mental health research, acting as guinea pig, and communicating your experiences to us.

  2. Didn’t realize your mother was a PT. Let me know if she’d have any interest in coming on my podcast geared towards PT’s that work with older adults – Senior Rehab Podcast. I’d love to pick her brain on lessons learned throughout her career.

  3. Best invention- some sort of cell regeneration technology to preserve optimum cell function for longer periods of time. Basically extending life while preserving physical/mental capabilities.

  4. Good podcast, but I like your “simple” format better. I probably wouldn’t/couldn’t listen as much with the same amount of post production. All the background noises are quite distracting and if the conversation needs sound effects…

  5. The different format was a nice variety and I much-appreciated Stephen Dubner’s “Andy Rooney-esque” style; however, I agree with Benedict, in that I prefer the long-form interview format in order to get the full context and not miss any of the valuable nuggets of conversation. Three quick questions for Tim:

    1. Being that this comment is posted on Memorial Day weekend, I’m curious, how do you approach such holidays that don’t fall on your dietary cheat day (Saturday, if I recall)? Do you adjust your cheat day to the actual holiday, not imbibe at all, or just write off the whole weekend?

    2. In the Tony Robbins episode, he offered to let you try his cryo-therapy device; but I am not aware that you posted any follow-up thoughts or impressions. Did you try it, and what did you think?

    3. It is fairly common in your interviews for you to ask the guest questions that were posed by your audience. How do I find out about upcoming guests, and where do I post questions for them?

    Thanks, and cheers from Texas!

    Clint Leffingwell

  6. I really liked this. He asked tough questions and I got some real insight. I think interview styles match the person and both you and the interviewer here have found their natural styles.

  7. really could have done without the naked males thing, Tim. Come on. we know you have a ‘physique’ . It’s a fairly unpleasant image to chance upon at the very beginning of a post.

  8. Hey Tim,

    Love the podcasts. I have a quick question on content included in the Freakonomics role-reversal edition. During the ‘cast, you mentioned nutritional habits which you believe help prevent depression but didn’t expand on it. Is this covered in any of your other books/materials, if so would you mind pointing me to it and if not would you mind sharing these habits? Thanks a lot for your help.


    Mr T. Worm

  9. Hello Tim,I discovered and read a lot about the MYOSTATIN gene,this is the gene that tells the body how much muscle mass to produce,some people are born with very low levels of myostatin gene, generating muscle mass without even working out ,my question to you is , what supps or what to do to lower the levels of myostatin in the body?

    I want you to look at the documentary on youtube about the kid from chicago that lacks that gene.

  10. Great episode! Tim, could you devote an episode toward a grieving victory over depression? Many thanks good man.

  11. This is the by far the best episode of you. I’ve been an avid follower of your and Mr. Dubners work. But this was the first time we getto se Tim Ferriss- The human. & not the 4 hour guy. Of all the interviews of your that I have watched this one episode has given more insights than the rest combined. (One with Art of Charm, With Rich dad(in which i felt he was always bringing his own shit and really not fan of that guy now), with Lewis Howe and with michael covent). But this one is just the best cause it talks about your struggles.

    I also liked how you subtly (intentionally or otherwise) promoted your book into it. One of the greatest takeaway for me.

    I hope you continue to inspire and stay healthy!



  12. What? Rice cakes a shot of insulin.. makes sense but what about whole grain rice cakes? What should I put underneath my peanut butter?

  13. Tim , I really love your poadcasts. You say to combine a thing you dont like but you have to do with something fun. Well, your poadcasts keep me running !! Thank you and keep up !

  14. I don’t like it to be true but my no. 1 gamechanger in dramatically lowering depression is stop having orgasms. There is a lot of science about this summarized in the book “cupids poisoned arrow”. It is a high prize but compared to real depressive states it is nothing. I have tested various phases with and without this momentary pleasure and for me the effects are crystal clear. Alternatives are also available in the book.

  15. I have a question for the incredible Tim. Doesn’t he ever have a bad day? He looks like he is spending so much time experimenting on himself, how does he experiment with his feelings? Is it that the magic drugs have subsided the human side of Tim and Tim is now what the world calls a Guinea Pig?