What's Important to You? (#179)

What's Important to You

“If you don’t know how much you need, the default easily becomes ‘more.'” – Ryan Holiday

My job is usually to deconstruct world-class performers from business, military, entertainment, politics, or athletics, and then to tease out the routines and habits you can use.

But in this in-betweenisode, Ryan Holiday, author of the book Ego Is the Enemy, shares a chapter called What’s Important to You? This chapter alone is worth the price of the book, and it contains many fundamental truths that can be applied to business and life. (The book is also the newest addition to my book club, which can be found at audible.com/timsbooks.)

If you like what Ryan has to say, check out the recent conversation we had, which dives deeper into what he’s all about.

If you only have 5 minutes, listen to this segment on why most people have trouble appreciating their own successes.

Please enjoy!

[Ed. Note: There is no transcript for this episode, as the text is available in book form.]

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#179: What's Important to You?

Want to hear another podcast with Ryan Holiday? — In this episode, we discuss the “big three” Stoics, how Stoicism applies to the modern world, and how to improve your decision-making when stakes are high (stream below or right-click here to download):

Episode 4: Ryan Holiday

This episode is brought to you by Headspace, the world’s most popular meditation app (with more than 4,000,000 users). It’s used in more than 150 countries, and many of my closest friends swear by it. Try Headspace’s free Take10 program — 10 minutes of guided meditation a day for 10 days. It’s like a warm bath for your mind. Meditation doesn’t need to be complicated or expensive, and it’s had a huge impact on my life. Try Headspace for free for a few days and see what I mean.

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QUESTION(S) OF THE DAY: What was your favorite quote or lesson from this episode? Please let me know in the comments.

Scroll below for links and show notes…

Selected Links from the Episode

  • Connect with Ryan Holiday:

Website | Twitter

Show Notes

  • Two Civil War heroes take very different paths following the war. [06:06]
  • Why do we covet what others have instead of being happy with our own successes? [08:07]
  • The consequences of saying “yes” when we fear saying “no.” [09:04]
  • The more we accomplish, the more often we meet people who have accomplished more — and the smaller we feel in comparison. [10:12]
  • We pick up the pace to keep up with others — but what if there’s more than one race going on? [10:41]
  • Competitiveness isn’t the enemy. [11:07]
  • “If you don’t know how much you need, the default easily becomes ‘more.'” [12:34]
  • Disgraced plagiarist Jonah Lehrer on combining insecurity and ambition. [13:08]
  • What’s your motivation? [13:49]
  • The emptiness of the “if I only had that” illusion. [14:49]
  • What is independence? [15:18]

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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29 Replies to “What's Important to You? (#179)”

  1. Tim,

    I recently listened to the episode of Freakanomics that you were on. One teeny tiny part of that interview really startled me and I haven’t been able to get it out of my head.

    It was the part where you explained that you never give money to homeless panhandlers because you had a homeless person give you a “tour of homelessness” in San Francisco and they pointed out all the places where homeless people can get services. So, I presume your logic for not giving to panhandlers is like that of many…”they have resources to use, they just chose not to, so they don’t deserve my money”.

    I’m asking you to reconsider that conclusion.

    I live not far from you. Over the past five years our homeless population has skyrocketed, while the services available to them have dwindled.

    I get approached a LOT. A LOT A LOT. Unlike you, I always give if I have cash on me. Anyone who asks me will get something. And if I have nothing, I always say “I’m sorry, I just don’t have any cash on me”.

    It’s not because I don’t think he has resources. He may well be an addict just looking for a fix. But that’s not my business. My business is to positively contribute to my community. My community, and your community, includes these people.

    I know enough about you to know that you fully understand things like the Law of Attraction and you know how critically important it is to have your head together in order to move into positivity and abundance in life.

    If you take that knowledge to its logical conclusion, homeless people and people living in poverty don’t understand any of that. Most of them have never been introduced to those ideas. Most of those folks TRULY TRULY believe, deep in their souls, that this is the life they were destined for and there is no way out for them. They truly believe they will be forever destitute and struggling. They believe this is undeniable fact. They look at people like you or me and they fundamentally believe that they could never attain our lives.

    And if you take that a level deeper, and really take apart how they must view themselves…..well, you know where that would take you. You’d see people who truly don’t value themselves, more than likely because most people they encounter tell them they are valueless. They sink deeper and deeper into that mindset every day because they have the idea of their worth enforced by the people who walk by them every single day.

    Every time you ignore a human who reached out to you, it adds a brick to the giant wall that divides that person from a life that feels worth living.

    I know you could imagine what that would do to a person’s soul after days, weeks, months, years of that. Having people talk down to you daily. Tell you that you’re worthless daily. Being treated like a criminal or pariah daily. Can you imagine what a person must think of themselves after enduring that treatment for any length of time? Can you imagine having people talk to you like that daily?

    So….I give not because I think they really need that money. I give because I think they really need something OTHER than being ignored or worse. Knowing what I know about the vital importance of ones perception of themselves in order to improve, I don’t feel that I can just ignore another human anymore.

    I’m not magic….I can’t see if that person legitimately wants to get off the street or how they are going to spend my money. And it’s not my business to guess at it, either.

    I believe that if we want to improve our communities and ultimately see less homeless, we need to positively engage.

    On a very basic level….there is just so much wrong with the idea of telling yourself “Well, theres resources out there, they could help themselves if they really wanted”. It’s just plain not true.

    Again, we don’t live far from one another…..in my city, our resources are completely tapped out. Sure, I can point out to you where services are available to homeless folks, but I’ve taken it a step further and actually tried to do it. ALL our services are drastically overburdened and cannot possibly help everyone. There’s just not enough resources. Once, I met a mother with two small children the street. I called every single shelter in town and they were all full, with months long wait lists. The one shelter we have that is dedicated to women and children had a wait list so long they couldn’t even give me an estimate of how long it takes to get in, but MINIMUM was 6 months. I met a vet on the street and spent a week making phone calls to different agencies that help vets, including the VA, only to be told the same thing………wait lists or no help available at all.

    Sure, there are agencies that help. But there is no way they have the bandwidth to help everyone who asks. Which leaves many homeless people even more desperate, depressed, and feeling even more like they are in a hole that is impossible to climb out of.

    For folks in cities where there are ample resources, they have to contend with getting to them. Even if a person in my city could get resources………they’d have to figure out how to get to a half dozen different parts of town that are not readily accessible my public transit. And how do they get money for public transit anyways? The practical barriers to accessing help make that help virtually useless for the majority of homeless.

    Anyways…I’ve rambled on long enough. TL/DR version: I don’t really believe that it’s good for our community to ignore homeless people or treat them as anything other than fellow community members. I believe it adds to the cycle of homelessness and poverty, because one’s mindset is probably the most important thing to cultivate if we want people to believe they can do better.

    I hope you reconsider you thoughts on helping your homeless neighbors. I’m not saying give to them all…….sometimes you just don’t’ have money, sometimes it’s a potentially dangerous situation……there are reasons not to sometimes. But I am a firm believer in the idea that if you know better, then you should do better.

    Thanks for your time

    1. Cindi, you are awesome. You’ve articulated so well, what I feel and how I choose to contribute in my city. You inspire me to say that if you’re ever coming through Albuquerque, I can put you up in my guest house (nice, private, peaceful). I hope you’ll find time to tour my factory (small but very nice) so you can see what we are doing to help the less fortunate. I do not care if you are someone “important” or not but want you to see that people, unknown, in little pockets and corners of this land, are toiling to better our communities. We make coats, nice heavy ones, for poor children. Donated, free of charge. I get 25 volunteers from around the world to come and sew them up over Labor Day. Come see sometime. Thank you for your words, I am cheered.

    2. Cindi, your post is one of the finest pieces of writing I have seen on the Internet and I agree with every word. If someone asks me for money, I’ll always give them some, assuming I’m carrying cash on me, but I have been known to go to the bank and return to them if I haven’t. It’s no big deal, I’ve never mentioned it to anyone before, and this posting will be most likely be my one and only on the subject.

      (I do draw the line if I see it’s professional begging. In London we have teams of Eastern Europeans who come over to run a racket on the tube. They put packets of tissues on vacant seats, and shortly after, a mother and child will come round to collect their earnings. People will have picked up the packet, not knowing where it came from, and will feel obligated to help. It turns my stomach.)

      Over the course of a year this adds up to surprising little. When someone has reached a point of becoming a beggar, to pass them by is the final kick in the teeth. Throughout history there have always been beggars, and probably always will be. Withdrawing our humanity for them is unthinkable.

      Whether or not there are services available is irrelevant. In the moment, at this time and place, they’re not accessible, and the reasons could be legion.

      I feel giving them money is the very very least I can do. If it were my son or daughter, I’d hope that others would do more. I feel guilty when I do, as if I’m paying them off, because I should be doing more.

      If we are asked for help, we have to make a decision. If Tim believes there are services available, and he won’t give them money, he should be helping these unfortunate people get access to them. So should I. But I haven’t the time.

      How many times do you hear that as an excuse for just about everything? Well, we all seem to have the time for any number of diversionery activities we choose. And what does it say about us as a person if we don’t have the time to help another human being who is in these circumstances?

      Just what do we have the time for?

      1. RS. Thank you. I’m flattered and it’s heartening to know I’m not the only person who feels this way. 🙂

      2. Cyndi, I just admire you for taking the time to do such a comprehensive post. It’s all too easy for us to just not bother. A colleague has the opposite view to me, and I have in my mind a vivid picture of being in the city, Christmas Eve, it’s snowing, nobody about, strangely silent. Turning a corner, he trips over someone begging in a corner shop doorway, and remonstrates bitterly with them for getting in his way. It’s a young girl, who says nothing, never makes eye contact. She simply draws her sleeping bag up to her chin and continues to shiver.

    3. I met a man who was the Director of homeless services in Los Angeles at a very large shelter. He personally told me to never give money to homeless people, because you’re only “enabling” their homelessness.

  2. Don’t get into pissing matches over the wrong things. Know what fulfills you and stay grounded in that (redolent of Robbins’ advice last week); don’t let others or your competitive spirit pull you into battles you’re not passionate about fighting. Stay focused on what uniquely fulfills you and leave the rest to the others. Ego is the enemy.

  3. Hi Tim and the team.

    I’m Austin Haw, a 22 year old yoga teacher and master healer from Toronto Canada.

    You asked what’s important to me. I am creating the possibility of a world where everyone is accepted and appreciated. I hope to provide the basic necessities for people in my life, from the poorest, most dejected lowest of the low socio economic positions to the highest successful people. I see them as my brother, and I see that they are starved for love. I never give money, but always bring food with me, wherever I go. The food I give to them is only a vehicle for the love that I share. I am reading the four hour work week and am using the advice herein: I contacted you today to exercise the possibility of speaking with you and understanding your philosophies on a more personal level. If you have only a few moments please respond to my email, just to say hi. It would be very important to me, and something i would appreciate greatly.



  4. One of the richest aspects of following your podcasts Tim, is getting a sense for the challenges you and your guests go through, behind all the “success” that we feel, hear, see, look up to. Thinking to Ryan’s interviews too, and your own ever wider and deeper sharing of challenges, it is hearing guests and your own vulnerabilities and down-days that is one of the most empowering aspects of the leadership, and the following. Thank you. Kevin

  5. Something about this book excerpt, when combined with mental exploration I was left doing after the Tony Robbins episode, really resonated with me. I’m asking ‘why’ about so many things right now…

    Really, it’s been a wild few days.

    Just wanted to say thanks.

  6. Ego is the enemy!

    Came up with this thought process that could help people with ego problems.

    Our ego grows and grows if you continue to think that you are entitled to something more. Once you start to think that you are superior than someone else, your ego has taken over.

    An effective way to override this is to appreciate what you have and always be humble for everything you receive.

    Thinking like this grants you so much respect and makes people love you.

    Thank you for this awesome podcast Tim and Ryan!!

  7. Great truism “If you don’t know how much you need, the default easily becomes ‘more.’” If ego is your enemy you will spend your life fighting! To experience Euthymia quickly you need mindfulness and acceptance of your internal experience. and commitment for your external experience…amongst other skills. Have a look at Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT).

  8. Thanks for a great little episode, Tim. I found Ryan’s Obstacle Is The Way very inspiring and useful. Looking forward to reading this one. I find it interesting how a book or a podcast plants a new seed in one’s mind and causes a change in outlook and perception that in the long run proves quite significant.

  9. Tim,

    There’s a person and a movie that I think your audience need to hear about. The person is Steve Gleason, the ex-Saints football player and founder of Team Gleason, the foundation behind the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge and the Steve Gleason Act, a congressional bill that affords gaze tracking technologies to ALS patients through Medicare. The movie, simply named Gleason, is a documentary about his struggle to find balance between faith, work, marriage and fatherhood as an ALS patient himself.

    I am inspired to post this comment on this particular story with good reason. While most of us can only write or talk about such things, in Gleason we find the man himself to be a function-forcing question. He pushes us, in the recorded light of such an honest film, to answer the question Ryan Holiday puts forth: what to us is most important? And while so many of us will spend our entire lives with these questions wafting through our minds, Gleason answers them right here, right now, in no uncertain terms, with beauty and comedy throughout.

    Steve Gleason should, in no uncertain terms, be your next interview. He’s done more for humanity than 99% of us will ever do while suffering from a disease whose prognosis includes only 5 years of life. He’s advanced technological solutions, through Team Gleason, to problems few people even knew existed before he began his work, and over the course of what for most of us would be considered a very short life, he’s been immortalized in the NFL, the non-profit world, and now as a documentary film-maker. It is no hyperbole, what he appears in the film to be: a mind and heart seeking answers to questions most dare not face for fear of appearing to themselves lost at sea. For Gleason, as Seth Godin puts it, fear is a compass. Much to learn from him and his film. Please consider interviewing him if he’s willing, and soon.

    Thank you,

    Andrew Dreis

  10. Really good point of view. I really liked the podcast. We have to let aside our ego and hear our selves and bring out our real needs. But in this society is really difficult to be your real self and to go against the crowd.

  11. Excellent topic!

    I was that person always hunting the next cherry high.

    I had a wall filled with community accolades, sport trophies, military medals, diplomas, LOR, Photos etc etc. I confess I even envied you Tim. ☺

    People I met would ask is there anything you don’t do?

    My Reality check was having a house fire in which all of that was turned to ash.

    I had an identity crisis …who was I ???

    Gratefully I survived but I felt stripped of self… Truth is I was free. Ego removed. I was given a clean canvas to focus on soul

    It’s a shame to have to go through dramatic life lessons for that wake up call. This session gave me closure that I am enough.

    Peace. 💙

  12. Hi Tim,

    I’m in the UK and when I click on the Audible link it takes me to the .co.uk version and I cannot see your book list. Is there any way you could put this on your website? It would be interesting to see your reading/recommendation list!

    Kind regards,


    1. If you’re outside the US and looking to view Tim’s Audible book club try adding “?ipRedirectOverride=true” to the end of the url.

      I’m in Australia and it worked for me.

  13. I loved this book exert and will buy the audiobook.

    Discussion around the ego always fascinate me. It helps me rationalize the irrational behaviour I see from other people and taking a step back from decisions helps me see what my ego does to me.

    I’ve purchased things I didn’t really want or could afford. I’ve worked on things that brought me unhappiness.

    Thanks Tim and Ryan for this and the great content you produce.


  14. Read the book about a month ago. Loved it. Due to your post Tim, I reread the chapter and literally had a huge break through today. Thanks to you and Ryan!

    Favorite quote – the whole damn chapter!

  15. Thank you for this podcast. You asked what is important to us. To me what is important is that all human beings on earth raise their consciousness and step into abundance of vibrant physical wellness, joy, peace, love and harmony with self, with others, with nature and with mother earth.

  16. The most selfish and off-putting thing I have heard in a while – avoiding being friends with people with trauma and problems. I hope that Ryan Holiday is lucky enough to one day discover the value of compassion, before he has suffered greatly.

    “The only people I would care to be with now are artists and people who have suffered: those who know what beauty is, and those who know what sorrow is: nobody else interests me.” – Oscar Wilde

  17. Hi Tim (and community)!

    I am in a particular situation considering my University Degree.

    I have finished 90-95% of my master degree. There are a couple of classes and the master thesis left to do. I just can’t get myself to finish it.

    In my field of work (software development) one does not need university degree to be able to perform the job. Also I am currently employed and very satisfied with my job, so I don’t think I will ever have reason to switch jobs so I will never really need that diploma anyway.

    So the situation is this: I know I should really complete the degree, but I have absolutely no motivation to do it.

    What tricks could I apply to motivate myself and finish the damn thing?


  18. Great to see two of my favorite authors together. That’s exactly how you helped me in the first place, Tim. I managed to have a location independent business to pay my bills and travels around the world. However, I just wanted more and paradoxically ended up saying no to time with my girlfriend or taking care of my body. Fantastic episode and insights with, Ryan! I’d love to see more like this. Thanks!