Phil Keoghan — The Magic of Bucket Lists and Amazing Races (#242)

“We celebrate success, but I think we should also just celebrate giving it a go.”

– Phil Keoghan

Phil Keoghan (@PhilKeoghan) has worked in television for almost thirty years on more than a thousand program episodes in more than a hundred countries. His work has earned him numerous awards, including ten prime-time Emmys. He is perhaps best known as the co-executive producer and host of CBS series The Amazing Race, currently in its twenty-ninth season.

But there is much, much more to Phil’s story, including unbelievable bucket lists, near-death experiences, and more. As just one example…

In 2013, he decided to retrace the 1928 Tour de France riding an original vintage bicycle, with no gears, to tell the forgotten underdog story of the first English-speaking team to take on the toughest sporting event on earth.

This experience was captured and turned into the brand-new film Le Ride, a gorgeous documentary and the first to be shot on a Sony F55 camera in 4K, which is equivalent to Super 35mm film.

There are many takeaways from this conversation, and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

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

#242: Phil Keoghan -- The Magic of Bucket Lists and Amazing Races

Want to hear another episode on positive mindset? In this episode, we explore meditation and mindfulness with Chase Jarvis, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sam Harris, and Rainn Wilson (stream below or right-click here to download):

#201: The Tim Ferriss Radio Hour: Meditation, Mindset, and Mastery

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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 Phil Keoghan:

Website | Twitter | Instagram | Facebook

Show Notes

  • Phil shares his Milli Vanilli dreadlock-twirling story. [06:03]
  • Phil tells us about having a panic attack while diving a shipwreck at a hundred and twenty feet — and how this charted the course for a life of adventure. [11:50]
  • What was Phil’s self-talk when returning to the wreck (and in the moment of facing similar fears)? [24:05]
  • Applying the concept of deliberate practice to optimism and surrounding oneself with people who work to make anything possible. [26:01]
  • Cultivating optimism in others (especially one’s children) and the benefits of removing “I can’t” from the family vocabulary. [28:59]
  • How does Phil always say yes to spending time with his daughter — even when he’s got a deadline looming? [31:21]
  • A simple but effective way to start your own bucket list. [33:26]
  • What Tim Urban of “Wait But Why” taught me about the limited time we really have with our parents (and children). [34:43]
  • The importance of word choice on thought (and how we can positively modify our everyday vocabulary). [36:11]
  • On Aussie-Kiwi rivalry across the Tasman Sea (and a couple of good sheep jokes). [44:49]
  • Low expectations vs. high expectations. [50:00]
  • Favorite failures. [53:09]
  • The two kinds of bucket lists. [58:23]
  • How did Phil get involved in American television — and eventually The Amazing Race — in spite of concerns about his New Zealand accent? [1:00:50]
  • How long does it take to shoot a season of The Amazing Race? [1:03:33]
  • What are the most common mistakes that novice TV hosts make? [1:05:23]
  • Phil shares the story of his brilliant grandfather. [1:08:23]
  • Respect your elders. [1:12:01]
  • How did Phil’s latest documentary, Le Ride, come about? [1:13:19]
  • How long was the 1928 Tour de France course? [1:18:05]
  • Why Harry Watson should be in the Sporting Hall of Fame (and what Phil is doing to memorialize him in his hometown). [1:20:01]
  • What a standing desk did for Phil. [1:21:54]
  • We talk general gear, travel recording equipment, Phil’s experience shooting the first documentary ever on a Sony F55 4K camera, and how sometimes a smartphone does the job in a pinch. [1:22:14]
  • A purchase of less than a hundred dollars that had the most positive impact on Phil’s life. [1:26:27]
  • What are Phil’s journaling habits? [1:27:58]
  • Parting thoughts. [1:30:36]

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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27 Replies to “Phil Keoghan — The Magic of Bucket Lists and Amazing Races (#242)”

  1. Can’t wait to give this a listen Tim.

    I am currently a student studying at the University of Pretoria in South Africa. I listen, read, and write notes on your work almost daily–I think I have a problem. You’ve been such an inspiration in my life. Your depth, knowledge, and paradigm of success is really what I aspire to.

    I’m currently caught in a wedge between, do I pursue a financial degree in which I have no real interest for, and work on my passion along the sidelines (which is writing/blogging and sharing my knowledge)–or do I just say fuck it, and go for what I want?I think I know what you would say…but any advice would be great.

    Thanks TIm, have a good one.

    1. Hey man. I’m currently a student too. Let’s be honest though. Degrees cost a crap ton. There’s really no point in the long run wasting a lot of time and money on degrees that you’re not even interested in. Your playing the long game. Since your interested in blogging, you would need to know how to market yourself. Maybe if your interested, pursue a marketing degree. Your choice

      1. Hi, I’m a recently graduated engineering student, so I thought I’d chime in.

        Whether its better to “do your passion” or to just develop work skills is really up for debate. You might want to read Cal Newport’s “So Good They Can’t Ignore You”, if you are interested in the latter perspective. Pertaining to your question, you might pursue a degree that matches subjects that you would enjoy writing about (one which has widely applicable specialized skills for the job market). I’m a risk averse person, so that’s the middle ground answer, I think.

        Not sure if you’ve read the 4HWW, but the “What’s the worst that can happen and how can I get back to where I am now?” thought experiment might be useful to you. If you did decide to step out of school, started blogging…and things didn’t work out…could you find a way to go back into college and continue on? I reckon it is possible. Figure out your contingency plans and then go experiment.

    2. As someone who quit college, I’d say don’t – at least not yet.

      First, what you do for a living doesn’t have to be what you love doing. In fact, people can ruin their passion by making it a job. Derek Sivers has a great post on this here:

      Second, validate your passion. Work at it on the side, over the summer months. If it becomes successful (and you still enjoying doing it by that point), then consider going all in.

      My favourite resource on this topic is Cal Newport’s book So Good They Can’t Ignore You – highly recommend you check it out. It doesn’t say don’t go to college, but provides a great framework for approaching your career regardless of which way you choose.

      Try to get them most out of your degree whilst you’re still there. Even if it’s skills like effectiveness, negotiation/persuasion, time-management, or more personal skills and attributes, you can pick up a lot that doesn’t have anything to do with your degree.

      Hope it helps!

    3. One more thing, you might try talking to a college academic counselor about your plans (to learn how easy it would be to restart this path if you needed to). I doubt you are the first student who has came to them with this issue.

  2. Great podcast, keep them coming. Check out “The Ironcowboy” aka James Lawrence. Just read his book “redefining impossible” would love to hear him on your podcast.

  3. Scribbled a lot of notes from this one, thank you. I’m a Kiwi too, and that part about performing better when people’s expectations are low has made me think.

    You asked Phil about favourite hosts… have you heard of Kim Hill? Well-known NZ radio journalist/interviewer. It’s amazing what she can drag out of people with a single “Why?” She never shows off her own knowledge… but just has this incredible skill at spotting loose threads in what people say. She’ll tug and tug and before you know it she’s unravelled their entire facade and got to the truth of them. Such a masterclass.

    Cheers for your work!


    1. Emma, thanks for your great suggestion. I just looked at Kim Hill’s website and will definitely listen to some of her shows. Cheers!

    1. If by “beans” you mean legumes (not baked beans), yes. General rule is if you have to ask, don’t eat it – so go regular vegetables. You’ll find the rest in the book (4HB).

  4. Excellent pod. I am not sure if you have come across John Lofty Wiseman but he would be great on your show 🙂 He wrote the SAS survival handbook. [Moderator: Links removed.]

  5. Hey Tim, another GREAT story. I was wondering if you have a post regarding the gear/equipment you use for your podcasts, as well as the “system” you use. Thanks in advance, and PLEASE keep up the great work/play!!

    1. Kenilee – it’s all in his book Tools of Titians. The amount of knowledge in there…worth 100x the price of the book 🙂

  6. My favorite thing an the episode this week was the realization of how much time we spend with our kids before they leave after high school. Also making them the priority and pushing back work or whatever else seems important. When your kids are young you can never get that back, you have to seize those moments as they come.

  7. Hi Tim,

    Great podcast. Have you heard of David Goggins before? He is a navy SEAL I just heard about. his life philosophy is so interesting to say the least. I would love it if he came on your show.

  8. if you like the idea of the 1928 tour ride, read these two books by Tim Moore, French Revolutions, Moore is a journalist who doesn’t ride a bike and decides to ride the tour de france route, its laugh out load funny and inspiring. The second by Moore is Gironomio, Moore rides the tour of Italy, their version of the Tour De France, on a 1914 vintage bike and in 1914 vintage clothing. Start with French revolutions.

  9. Mr. Ferriss, sincere thanks for all you do. Been following your work for almost 2 years and lost 40 pounds, started rolling BJJ, and been working on numerous other life improvements recommended/inspired by you. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

    As a high school English teacher, I’ve been teaching The Old Man and the Sea to 11th graders for years, so was very interested to hear Mr. Keoghan and you discussing it. Some of the students really appreciate it – some I think will “get it more” later. In a world that’s so busy and fast-paced (many complain of feeling overwhelmed with pressures about college, testing, etc.), this book is a great reminder to slow down and appreciate simplicity, and thus can help to re-gain perspective of what’s really important. Have you seen the 1999 Oscar winning animated short of the book by Aleksandr Petrov? It is beautifully done (it was hand painted/finger painted on glass and was shot for IMAX) and captures the essence of the story in roughly 20 minutes. There are “making of”/behind the scenes interviews to be found on the internet as well where he talks about the parallels between his own life and Santiago’s (and Hemingway’s).

    Thank you again, continued success with your podcasts and writing, and best of luck with new TV show!

    1. If you like Hemingway, you should check out the two Josh Waitzkin episodes. Tim and Josh talk about his work, and Josh definitely embodies some of the traits you ascribe to the book. One of my favourite guests.

      1. Thanks – I have caught those two. Meant to share about the animated short after listening to those so was glad the topic popped up again.

  10. Phil’s lead in quote says it all Tim.

    We obsess over results in this world but rarely celebrate the folks who give it a go. I see all my attempts at whatever as being bold, and blessings, and diving into my fears when the old me was too scared or terrified to even try. Doing this helped me take more chances, or to see it as giving myself a chance, so now I just dive in and go for it whether the diving in involves traveling to a remote place or something online-related, or blogging-related.

    Gotta celebrate the trys guys. Even if it seems PC this gives you the clarity and confidence to expand your uncomfortable zone and to dive into life, because if you learn that life is an experiment as Emerson said, the more, the better.


  11. This was a great interview because, as a New Zealander myself, I hadn’t heard Phil interviewed like this before. He’s an icon and was a big part of my childhood back in the 80s. Wish he was held in more regard in New Zealand than he is (unsurprising as we really do love our Rugby players above just about everything else). Great interview and cool insights.

  12. This has now become one of my favorite interviews you did Tim, thanks! Although being a Brazilian I should think in South America the documentary would most likely be called ‘A ride’ instead of ‘La ride’ 😉 I had a lot of fun listening to it and learned great things, can’t wait to watch the documentary later today.

  13. This is an excellent podcast. I don’t think it would have interested me because I didn’t know Phil (because I don’t see much TV) and I don’t find bucket lists all that inspirational, but I guess your title sucked me far enough in to fire it up. I just had to get started and it was hard to put down. To hear Phil talk about utilizing people that were experts, as opposed to doing it all yourself, was fairly interesting. 🙂

  14. The episode had me thinking of the special kiwi mindset. Humble, gentlemanly, with a deep sense of right and wrong. From years of playing rugby with kiwis, and seeing how their physical robustness paired in the bar with a deep humbleness, I so admired the nation and its sportsmen. Living in the US now, where humility is not always in the prevailing extrovert psyche, it was interesting to listen to a Kiwi that knows America well.