Managing Procrastination, Predicting the Future, and Finding Happiness — Tim Urban (#283)

“I always thought the future would be intense, but now I think the future is going fully fucking crazy!” — Tim Urban

Tim Urban (@waitbutwhy) is the author of the blog Wait But Why and has become one of the Internet’s most popular writers. According to Fast Company, Tim has “captured a level of reader engagement that even the new-media giants would be envious of.” Wait But Why receives more than 1.5 million unique visitors per month and has over 550,000 email subscribers.

Tim’s series of posts after interviewing Elon Musk has been called by Vox‘s David Roberts “the meatiest, most fascinating, most satisfying posts I’ve read in ages.” You can start with the first one, Elon Musk: The World’s Raddest Man. Tim’s TED Talk, Inside the Mind of a Master Procrastinator, has received more than 21 million views.

This episode is a live talk that was recorded on the launch day of Tribe of Mentors. Enjoy!

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

Managing Procrastination, Predicting the Future, and Finding Happiness - Tim Urban

Want to hear another conversation with a mentor from Tribe of Mentors? Listen to this episode with Debbie Millman, in which we discuss how favorite failures and why busy is a decision. Listen to it here (stream below or right-click to download):

Busy is a Decision - Debbie Millman

This podcast is brought to you by Peloton, which has become a staple of my daily routine. I picked up this bike after seeing the success of my friend Kevin Rose, and I’ve been enjoying it more than I ever imagined. Peloton is an indoor cycling bike that brings live studio classes right to your home. No worrying about fitting classes into your busy schedule or making it to a studio with a crazy commute.

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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 Tim Urban:

Wait But Why | Twitter | Instagram | Facebook | YouTube

Show Notes

  • Introduction. [06:54]
  • Tim talks about what led to the creation of Wait But Why. [10:17]
  • Is test prep the ideal starter business? [15:24]
  • What is the origin of the name Wait But Why? [17:29]
  • Embarrassing alternative names that thankfully didn’t make the cut. [18:37]
  • Early blog topics. [21:15]
  • Going viral by posting or launching in the right place at the right time — but understanding that it’s always the right time for something. [23:51]
  • Who is Winston? [26:18]
  • What is Tim’s method to making heavy topics approachable to the layman? [27:36]
  • How might Tim research and write about — for example — cryptocurrency? [31:56]
  • How does Tim perform a search that gets him the results he needs? What are his most trusted sources? [35:55]
  • The approach Tim finds most effective for being informative as well as entertaining. [37:41]
  • To find out what Tim sees for our future as a species, he tells us how an alien might view our history thus far. [41:22]
  • The future of human space exploration and colonization of Earth. [48:26]
  • Is artificial intelligence (AI) an existential threat to humanity? [51:32]
  • How does Tim define happiness? [55:55]
  • Does reality minus expectations equal happiness? How we get stuck on the hedonic treadmill. [58:22]
  • What do Denmark, Costa Rica, and Singapore have in common? [1:00:25]
  • Our advice to recent college graduates (or, as it turns out, anyone) seeking to maximize well-being and perspective before entering a career. [1:03:33]
  • What trends, industries, and topics are we most excited about now? [1:07:44]
  • Why we should learn from rather than mock the pursuits and investments of “rich, white people.” [1:10:41]
  • What cities should everyone visit before they die? [1:13:59]
  • What does Tim’s writing process look like? [1:24:52]
  • Tim talks about his struggles with procrastination. [1:28:08]
  • I talk about coping with depression and practicing self-kindness. [1:31:11]

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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26 Replies to “Managing Procrastination, Predicting the Future, and Finding Happiness — Tim Urban (#283)”

  1. Not sure if this is for SEO purposes, but isn’t it a repost of the last episode, just with a different title and image?

    These 2 identical podcasts look like an IFTTT “buffered” post made by 2 different people handling the blog, but I am just not see the difference just yet.

    Wouldn’t mind to know.


  2. Hi Tim,

    A bit of constructive critique: I’ve noticed the audio on the Tribe of Mentors podcast is subpar. I have to turn the volume way up to hear it with ease. I don’t have the same problem with The Tim Ferriss Show podcast. Maybe you’re experimenting with different technology for TOM? Or maybe it’s a glitch you’re unaware of?

    Sincerely enjoy your work either way,


  3. Is anyone else getting annoyed at the increasing public use of the “f” word? Is it really necessary to make a point? The greats like Zig Ziglar and Jim Rohn never resorted to this. Call me a prude but I’m not listening to this guy. I might be throwing out the baby with bathwater but I don’t care, I do not like this bad trend, it’s in poor taste. Let’s have some basic standards on public media.

    1. Hey Chris,

      I can understand where you are coming from, but I suppose this is one of the first podcasts you’re listening from Tim? I wouldn’t say it’s annoying since it’s not really a pattern, I actually rarely hear it in any of the conversations Tim has on his podcasts. To my knowledge, Zig Ziglar and Jim Rohn have most of their talks on another tone and I would actually find it hard for that style to work when having a conversation.

      Your viewpoint might be feedback for Tim, but for most of us who enjoy the content, thinking about these details actually takes away from the value that can be extracted, that’s why there’s probably so few negative comments most of the time, since the process has been finely tuned to get most out of it.


  4. At 2:00 mins this moment…. excited about this ep. Big fan of the life calendar, really changed my life.

    Thanks Tim.

  5. I am a 21-year old artist currently enrolled in university, and I listen to Tim’s podcast every day while I paint. I have been doing this since 2015, and I am still thoroughly obsessed with this guy. In fact, somebody asked me the other day which celebrity I would be if I had the choice. My answer? Tim Ferriss ha! Without a a second thought. Thanks Tim for be being awesome.

  6. Loved this one! Tim Urban + Tim Ferriss – (success) = Me? At least that’s the feeling. BEST moment was the answer to the last question by Tim Ferriss. Self love and self-improvement have been a huge theme in my life.

    Thanks to both of you for that!

  7. Genuinely curious about the technical background of Mr.Urban with regards to making those ‘predictions’ about artificial intelligence. It’s easy to let our imaginations extrapolate scenarios we don’t fully understand and make analogies that ‘sound’ plausible but if there is no technical proof there is technically no pudding. Wait for the research instead of creating writing ?

  8. Hi Tim,

    I made mistakes in the past that I’m not proud of. From those mistakes, I allowed myself to internalize all the criticism thrown my way, warranted or not. The end result being that I never felt worthy or deserving of love or compassion. Even if someone gave me a compliment or praise, I didn’t believe it. Why would I? I didn’t deserve it. I always made a point to encourage my friends and family to go for their dreams or to pursue the guy/girl they liked for ages because if they can find happiness, I wouldn’t need to find it for myself. Since I didn’t deserve it, I thought that knowing they would/did find their happiness would be the closest I could ever get to my own.

    I know that I need to forgive myself, but there still seems to be a disconnect (for me) in the bridges between – what I know I should do – understanding it – and actually implementing it. So here is my first, albeit long-winded, attempt at not “just tolerating myself.” Vulnerability is the HARDEST thing for me to accept. I would rather be traveling around the world skydiving right now than writing this “post.” The fact that I even put my name is freaking me out.

    Nevertheless, Brene Brown said that the original definition of “courage” is to tell the story with your whole heart. So… thank you for having the courage to share your thoughts and experiences with us. Your podcasts have really been inspiring for me in many ways; allowing me to grow and learn about different topics and concepts that I didn’t really consider before. I bought the book you mentioned, “Radical Acceptance” by Tara Brach. I’m sure reading it now over the holidays will help guide me in my attempt at self-healing.

    I wish you the best on your own journey of self-healing and hope you find the happiness you’re searching for. To you and your staff (and anyone else who made it this far), have a JOYFUL and LOVE-FILLED HOLIDAY, as well as an EXCITING and PURPOSEFUL NEW YEAR!!


    Jamie Lou

  9. I have gifted Tribe of Mentors and Tools of Titans – 8 times and continuing to do so! Thank you for enhancing our lives daily and for being an inspiration!! 😉

    1. This question stirred a response from me. First, I want to share that I am fascinated with your insights and approach to healthy mind and body. Majority who venture to comment on social media under your banner have real substance they are working towards. You hear it in their writing.

      Other profiles it ranges wildly. The group mentality dictates a trend to follow suit conforming to the popular perception in replies. Short and sweet responses that are positive generate copy cats falling in line. While others just the opposite occurs. My approach on my social media is to take links or my studies and share them for those visiting.

      Though on replies where majority is positive I present an ambiguous statement that stirs the basic response mechanism opposite of the analytic trend. It is done in the spirit to get people thinking about self; to open the heart aside the mind. To be less generic and more genuine.

      It has confused thought leaders. None of it is generated because of any illness or confusion on my part. My interests are sociology, Aesthetic philosophy, and world history. Challenging the ‘group think’ mentality, the very nature of appreciation and depreciation. As a U.S. Army strategist for 11 years who has experienced the world first hand and has overcame homelessness 5 years ago I know what pain and suffering does to the attitude of someone.

      Something needs to unlock it? On the surface I have been ridiculed as a conspirator against my own country; this question of ‘rich white men’ have been the places I have wandered because, WOW, the range of people sharing is diverse.

      I have appeared unhinged on some of your own friends online. Radical in my approach for the ‘times’. It is a challenge to question abundance, desires, and the perception of individual beauty. I share this because if anyone understands experimenting for the sake of knowledge and experience I believe you can relate.

      Relate to the life coaches using twitter bots playing pretend, trolls of all attitudes, and those fishing to thieve genuine ideas from those yet established in the civilian workforce. Seth Godin’s Ted Talk on developing tribes in 2009 has expanded into a bubble where everyone is looking to be the next guru.

      Your efforts are so critical to society. I could share more, but I want to close to keep this as brief as possible. I ask pungent questions for people to consider without hiding who I really am. It is unorthodox, and I am not looking for any recognition. Highlighting behavior and a broader understanding of culture and the art associated.

      “To get something you never had, you have to do something you never did.”

      – Jose N. Harris

      My social media profile explains far more than I can as to what I truly represent in the spirit of the many who come across that I will never meet.

      Happy New Year! Thank you for your time.

  10. Thanks Tim for great podcast. The answer to last question resonated with me quite strongly as I also came to the stage of realization that I need to love and accept myself (despite hearing about it on different podcasts and books for the last 6 years). Through coincidence when this interview came up in my listening queue I was reading “how to love” by thich nhat hanh which I highly recommend. As it also writes about metta meditation the link “Loving Kindness” by Tara Brach became very useful.

  11. What a cool guy!

    I particularly liked how Urban explained how he researches. 10 windows x 10 tabs = level 6 knowledge.

    1. Great insight by Tim Urban. Never heard of the guy before this podcast, but will definitely be following him now. Excellent points on how to be a layman’s master on particular topics of interest.

  12. Hey Tim,

    I had a follow up to one of the questions asked in this podcast. Not sure if this is the best place to ask it but here it goes.

    One of the questions you read was from a girl who had just graduated from college and didn’t know what to do in the time she had before starting her career. I found your answer on utilizing the time to live in a different country really reassuring, because that is what I’ve been eager to try and do.

    However this can be a daunting task in trying to figure out where to go, how much to budget, and what to do when you get there. I’d like to find a place where I could be a functioning member of society by either getting a job or volunteering but I’m not sure if this is even realistic.

    Do you have any insight on where I could research places that are affordable for a college student to live in? Or any volunteer organizations that offer 3 month internationally opportunities? Or even an international job posting of sorts?

    Sorry for the long post, I understand it must be difficult to read everyone’s questions. But I appreciate your work and would love to hear any further insight you have!



  13. Tim, I was disappointed with this interview. Tim Urban seems like a great guy–what’s not to admire about someone who builds a successful business from nothing–but his choice of industries is not great. I personally think the new media–bloggers and internet journalists–are the number one problem around the world. They write from naivete, biassedness, and a lack of real world experience. For example, you asked Mr. Urban how he would write about digital currencies, and his reply was (not verbatim), “I’ll read a bunch of stuff.” I’m sorry, but this does not qualify as or cultivate journalism. There are thousands of bloggers who have tried to write about digital currencies and most have failed. The problem is, if you don’t have real experiences in capital markets and economics, why would you think you could write about a digital currency? Because it’s “new?” Sorry, but currencies, assets, liabilities and manias are not new.

    Anyway, I gather, especially in my case, people read you because you have actual real life experiences around the world–unlike 99% of millennial bloggers and internet “journalists” today. I’m not hating, it’s just that lately it seems bloggers and these new journalists have hit peak and a much needed crash is coming, so be weary who you get your opinions and advice from nowadays.

  14. I’m a big fan of your podcast and loved this episode with Tim Urban, such a creative unique interesting person.

    I’d like to make a simple observation about the second part of the show (when you and him would answer questions from the audience) that you may consider on next episodes (if you like): since the episode was about TU, It sounded a bit strange to also listen to you answering the same questions, and besides, do it before TU.

    Maybe on that live event this made sense, but for this podcast context it seemed a little out of context to me.

    Have a great year!


  15. I just listened to this for the second time and realized that Tim Urban is my spirit animal and kicked myself for not signing up for his blog a year and a half ago when i first heard this. Thank you again Mr. Ferriss for bringing learning and self improvement to the forefront of mine and my immediate friends and families lives.

  16. I listened to this for the second time from it’s original air date and realized that Tim Urban is my spirit animal and kicked myself for not signing up for his blog way beck then. Thanks as always Tim for being our Shaman for the ceremony of perpetual learning and growth. Na Zdrowie!

  17. We just shared this episode with our Blue Zones readers — a great episode and you referenced our founder Dan Buettner’s National Geographic article in here!

    We’d love to hear you guys chat: Dan spent the last two years going back to the original 5 blue zones to find out exactly what they ate to live such long, healthy lives.

    His research and the recipes will come out in The Blue Zones Kitchen and a National Geographic cover story in December 2019.

  18. “I always thought the future would be intense, but now I think the future is going fully fucking crazy!”

    – Tim Urban

    I must say…I love the predictions about future artificial intelligence nd I’m so excited to hear Mr. Urban.