Cory Booker — Street Fights, 10-Day Hunger Strikes, and Creative Problem-Solving (#233)

“Don’t feel powerless, ever.”

– Cory Booker

Cory Booker (@corybooker) is an American politician and the junior United States Senator from New Jersey.

I generally have an allergy to politics, but Cory’s story is endlessly fascinating (e.g., he’s faced down death threats from gangs, run into burning buildings, and much more), and we have a few years of history together.

We cover a lot in this wide-ranging catch-up conversation, including his diet, lessons from early mentors and athletics, routines, books that have had an impact, learning how to “street fight” in New Jersey after receiving a Rhodes Scholarship, and much more.

Cory began his political career as a city councilor from 1998 to 2002 in Newark, New Jersey’s largest city. He later served as mayor of Newark, which under his leadership entered its biggest period of economic growth since the 1960s — the first new downtown hotels were constructed in forty years, the first new office towers in twenty.

He then won the Senate Democratic primary in August of 2013, and then won the general election on October 16, 2013, becoming the first African-American U.S. Senator from New Jersey.

Cory is also the author of The New York Times bestseller United: Thoughts on Finding Common Ground and Advancing the Common Good.

I hope you enjoy this conversation as much as I did!

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

#233: Cory Booker -- Street Fights, 10-Day Hunger Strikes, and Creative Problem-Solving

Want to hear a podcast with an influencer in the world of politics? — Listen to my conversation with Ezra Klein. In this episode, we discuss influencing the rules of the game by which this country is run (overall politics — not partisan), how Ezra lost 60 pounds, and his ascension into the ranks of the most respected media companies in the world (stream below or right-click here to download):

#208: Ezra Klein -- From College Blogger to Political Powerhouse

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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 Cory Booker:

Official Senate Website | Campaign Website | Twitter | Instagram | Facebook

Show Notes

  • Even Cory Booker experiences imposter syndrome. [06:55]
  • When it comes to parents, Cory feels he “won the lottery.” [08:40]
  • Lessons Cory learned from his parents about being grateful and paying social debts forward. [10:50]
  • Cory talks about his college football career. [16:42]
  • What running a crisis hotline at Stanford taught Cory about empathy, counseling without judgment, and persuasion. [22:06]
  • Cory’s tactics for defusing tense situations and the importance of relating to our heroes. [29:45]
  • Cory talks about the benefits of intermittent fasting. [33:48]
  • How personal experimentation takes us out of our routines and expands our boundaries. [40:05]
  • On the idea of voluntarily experiencing life in an underprivileged community riddled with violence and drugs. [48:56]
  • “I’m not here to help; I’m here to learn.” Cory talks about the challenges of trying to make changes in Newark as an outsider. [53:58]
  • Cory explains the exclusionary policy of “redlining” that created slums, and the challenges these communities still face today. [1:12:06]
  • On bipartisanship and friendship with Chris Christie. [1:21:15]
  • What makes someone a good activist? [1:24:15]
  • “How to Get Straight A’s in College If You’re a Dumb Person” by Cory Booker and Tim Ferriss — coming soon to a bookstore near you! [1:26:45]
  • Is this podcast really one of the few spaces in America where people of all political persuasions can come together? [1:32:06]
  • Cory explains what a superfund is, and how it’s a symptom of deeper problems that need to be addressed from both sides of the political aisle. [1:32:39]
  • On the importance of Americans preserving “an irrational commitment” to one another. [1:36:07]
  • Even the mayor of Newark doesn’t get to cut in line to vote. [1:37:24]
  • As overwhelming as we might find the world’s problems, we can’t allow our inability to do everything undermine our determination to do something. [1:38:58]
  • Cory’s mission statement. [1:42:48]
  • Being successful at activism is like being successful at anything: start small and build momentum. [1:43:35]
  • Books Cory has gifted the most. [1:47:03]
  • A question Cory wishes more people would ask themselves. [1:49:45]
  • As a man of faith, Cory finds the frontiers of science to be very spiritual — and non-partisan. [1:50:39]
  • Has capitalism lost its way? [1:53:15]
  • Parting thoughts and Cory’s ask of the audience. [1:54:32]

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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45 Replies to “Cory Booker — Street Fights, 10-Day Hunger Strikes, and Creative Problem-Solving (#233)”

  1. Tim, I was excited to hear you mention the article “Breaking the Time Barrier” in an ad because I’ve been wrestling with whether a “4 hour work week” is compatible with my job (accounting, based on an expected number of billable hours from my boss). Unfortunately it still didn’t address my issues since I do not determine billing nor do I currently have the experience/skills to start my own practice. Would you have any tips for someone in my situation? Or is it just time to consider quitting for something more flexible?



    1. Drew,

      If you have he flexibility to moonlight and can pick up Quickbooks, I’m frequently running into businesses I consult with that need some form of outsourced bookkeeping or accounting resources. This could be done largely outside of regular billable work hours and might be an option. Good luck!

  2. Hi Tim & the 4HWW Family. I really appreciate all the wonderful content you are putting out. My comment is more a question & has nothing to do with this particular episode. I am the father of 3 children, 16, 13 & 9. I am wondering if you or any of your previous guests have any tips or tricks to get kids, particularly teenagers interested or switched onto this type of content. I would love each my children to understand & learn the habits/lessons etc of all these great minds as early as they can in their life journey, but each time I try to get them reading or listening they are completely switched off – I know you cant put an old head on young shoulders but any thoughts on the subject would be really helpful – thanks Luke

    1. Hi Luke, my very personal 5p: being 16 (and even more 13 and 9) means you want to explore and experience life. I guess some lessons cannot be forced, especially if the lesson is “to receive a lesson”. Show, not tell. Let them be and one day they will pick up that Seneca book from the shelf without telling you 😉

  3. Cory ever consider running for President? I feel you would fill the bill just right.

    Maybe you could get Tim into the act too 🙂

  4. Thank you for your fantastic podcasts, which always help me feel empowered! Keep up the great work.

    Oh, and by the way…you’re beautiful!

  5. My biggest lesson was not a quote:

    Work does not make you humble.

    Humble is something else. My favorite definition of humility is being able to see the greatness in others. When matched with the lesson Cory got from the tenant building manager, I feel like it becomes an OED worthy definition.

    I have never been more moved than when I heard him say, “What you see outside is a reflection of what you have inside.”

    It’s fun to fill big shoes and stand on the shoulders of giants. Thank you Cory for doing so!

  6. Tim,

    Thank you for bringing Cory on the show. I was hesitant at first as well (Politics on the show?) but I believe he aligns well with most of the other guests and would say that he’s probably the model of a “highly performing politician”.

    It’s an amazing thing to see a human actually kicking ass by being a genuine, kind, sincere, generous and compassionate human being. Letting his actions, speech and behavior speak for him. I’m a huge Cory Booker​ fan now.

  7. Hey Tim. I’m an early adapter of your work and so appreciate your books, blog and podcasts and am looking forward to the TV show! Just listened to your podcast w Cory and maybe should let it ruminate a while, but it made me think that your policy of generally veering away from politicians, at least while they’re at the point in their career when they are actively seeking elected positions, makes a lot of sense. The tone of the conversation seemed a little different from the bg; more like a campaign interview and less like a conversation/dissection. I keep trying to find a glimmer of hope that our Federal government is going to begin to tackle and solve some of the many big issues of our day (immigration, education, health care, etc.) and keep looking for politicians who will boldly lead the way instead of constantly running for their next office. Anyway, congratulations to Cory. He has a tremendous resume. Thank you for all of the amazing content. 😊🎧

  8. Hi Tim,

    I came across an article I thought you would enjoy. In the most recent edition of Sports Illustrated Chris Ballard wrote an insightful portrait of former NBA player Monty Williams. Reading this article caused me to examine current feelings about death and how we move on from life changing tragedies. I mention this article because your podcast and writings persuaded me to begin learning about Stoicism and reflecting on death. Here is the URL:

    Thank you for all the great work you do.

  9. Tim good interview. I’m glad to hear Cory’s story. It’s a good one and motivating. At first I hesitated because he’s.a politician and I get the feeling he’s planning on a run for President so played it a little cool. Don’t think he’s as open minded to the other side as he says though. Beyond that I enjoyed it.

  10. Tim: Listening to Senator Booker gives me hope that good people can get great things done in Washington. Thanks for having him on your amazing show — which has changed my life, diet, and opened my mind to so many new ideas.

    By the way, I think the show notes forget to mention a top book recommendation of Cory — Gandhi’s autobiography



    1. I was going to bring that up, as well, Greg. “My Experiments With Truth”, is what I believe Senator Booker mentioned.

  11. You may have just interviewed a future President. I vote moderately right, BUT I would be happy to support this man at any time. Leadership > Traditions. This guy gets it.

  12. I normally shy away from long episodes but am grateful that I took the time to listen to this one. It is chock full of great insights and life lessons. You can’t help but fell that you have been given a key to open doors to a better life after listening. For me, it was reaffirming the benefits of expressing gratitude for all the gifts I have been given and to find little ways each day to help others.

  13. Cory was obviously campaigning! How many times did he mention that he’s a Christian, Jesus, or Admiration for the Troops?

  14. Hands down the best podcast episode you have done. What an amazing and inspiring guy Cory Booker is. The first time I have re-listened to a podcast. Thanks for having him on the show.

  15. Hi Tim!

    I’ve got only one question: Are you trained in NLP?

    What you are doing in your work is whats called „modeling“. Have you ever heard of this?

    is this a good way to get in touch?



  16. In the recent 5-bullet Friday – you seem to have finally got around to listen in Mel and friends on Seneca. You really should make that podcast your first stop on Thursdays :)))) Pre podcasts it was why I was often (30 weeks a year roughly) late driving to work – as it was broadcast 09:00 to 09:40 on Thursday mornings in the UK. Although maybe 10 – 15% were of no interest to me.

    Nice one with Cory too – keep up the good work.

  17. HI Tim, Great work, I’ve been on the SCD for four years now and feel great! Comment on your 5 bullet from this Friday, “Broiling burgers in tin foil”. Recently read this article by Ghada Bassioni on Among other health discussions there is a link to a paper on the subject: I have decided to stop all aluminium foil cooking and am searching for a stainless steel “steamer” for the grill for fish and potatoes. I don’t think it is worth the health risk just for a bit of cleaning. Cheers, Peter

  18. That was great! I didn’t expect Cory to be this awesome, but he’s an all around good guy and such a pleasure to listen to. Your podcasts have helped me a lot in these last couple of months and I can’t wait to get my hands on Tools of Titans.

  19. Hey Timotinus “Writer’s block results from too much head. Cut off your head. Pegasus, poetry, was born of Medusa when her head was cut off. You have to be reckless when writing. Be as crazy as your conscience allows. ”

    Joseph Campbell

  20. You were not wrong about Cory being really well spoken. I’m sure it goes with being a public figure, and I’m sure there’s some natural talent there. But are there any 4-hour methods to getting better at this?

    I’ve tried Ramit’s method of talking slower, and I think I sound like an idiot…

  21. Tim, I have been listening to your podcast for a couple years now. I have never written or commented on any episode before. I learn so much from listening to you podcast, not only to implement in my own life, but I get ideas for when I teach students at high school. This episode was amazing, and has motivated me to find something I can do to make a difference. Thank you for doing this podcast and sharing all that you know. I appreciate it.

  22. Thank you so VERY MUCH for this fabulous discussion. Listening to your conversation has been so uplifting for me. You raise the bar in a compassionate way.

  23. Wow. Never heard of Cory before (I’m from Ireland…). He sounds like what would happen if Tony Robbins went into politics. Inspirational world view – so proactive! Definitely going to check out his book!

  24. This was a glorious interview, I enjoyed every tangent, every snipit, every moment. Thank you for sharing your stories and philosophies, Sen. Booker, and thank you Tim for digging into the good stuff! Great learnings here!

  25. Great episode! I wish there were more politicians like Cory Booker all around the world. Having studied philosophy – political philosophy as well – and being from Greece, the birthplace of Democracy and blah blah, I enjoyed this man’s values and words and was inspired. Thank you for sharing. And btw cynics were also a philosophical movement with Antisthenes and Diogenes of Sinope, as well as stoics with Zeno of Citium.

  26. My favorite takeaway was: Virginia Jones to Cory Booker: “The world you see outside of you is a reflection of what you have inside of you.”… This helped Cory to realize: ““I’m not here to help; I’m here to learn.”

  27. Damn you Tim. I’m all prepared to bad mouth this dem. I end up really liking him. How do we get more of him in office. Can we do away with labels? Sadly no. Although your forem may help to bridge the gap. Thank you for what you do.


    Johnny b

  28. I’m glad Cory is in politics, we need people with his values in positions of power. But as an interviewee? Damn, he couldn’t stop being a politician for one minute! He didn’t answer any question directly, he just talked about what he wanted to talk about and it sounded like everything he said, he’d said a thousand times before. Nothing sounded like he was talking naturally in the moment. His barrage of words was overwhelming 🙁

  29. Many profound episodes in the Archives of the TFS by now. It feels distasteful to compare or rank, but this is up there with my favourites!

    Potted invaluable tidbits noted, with many great questions of reflection for new found habit of journal writing in 2017.

    – in a meeting: be vulnerable at first to loosen everyone up

    – the story of the 10 day fast: message being that there is always something you can do

    – “the most important conversations we have each day are the ones we have with ourselves.” (0h32m)

    – a good coach or counselor is a good para-phraser, hearing people and playing it back

    – “before you tell me what your religion is, show me how you treat other people” (I have mentioned this to numerous friends already)

    – what did you do today to live our “civic gospel”?

    – injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere

    – cynicism is a toxic spiritual state. It gives you the inability to see faint hope among grave problems. If you’re so negative and so cynical about the world around you, you disarm yourself from being able to do something about it. (1h05m)

    – “If you want to fly, you’ve got to give up the shit that holds you down” Alice Walker. What will you give up for the things you want?

    – Do one thing, it might be small, but might make time and space jump in continuum. e.g. Give $1 to one person. Post one thing on your FB profile.

    – Journal on:

    – what are my values, what am i about, what do i stand for, what legacy do i want to leave, what do i want to do with my time on the planet

    – when do i get small, when do i get petty?

    – capitalism got lost when we were allowing people in a very un-freemarket way to foist their costs off on society (excellent example at 1h34m)

    – “go where the science leads whether you are left and right” (trying hard not to write “d’oh”…oh, did I just write that?)

  30. Tim and Cory, this episode was simply brilliant. Truly should be nominated for podcast of the year. Cory, your life is remarkable. Thank you for your commitment to humanity. As another listener said, do run for president.

  31. I normally shy away from long episodes but am grateful that I took the time to listen to this one. It is chock full of great insights and life lessons. You can’t help but fell that you have been given a key to open doors to a better life after listening. For me, it was reaffirming the benefits of expressing gratitude for all the gifts I have been given and to find little ways each day to help others.