Hurry Up and Fail — Tim Kennedy (#310)

“Everything you want is on the far side of hard work.”

– Tim Kennedy

Tim Kennedy (@TimKennedyMMA) is a former UFC middleweight contender who simultaneously served in the US Army as a Green Beret sniper and had tours in both Afghanistan and Iraq. He is a three-time winner of the Modern Army Combatives tournament, a grueling three-day event that tests mixed martial arts skills among other things. Tim is now a member of the Special Forces wing of the Texas National Guard.

In his spare time, Tim heads up Sheepdog Response, an organization that trains civilians in self-defense and counter-terrorism skills, and Ranger Up, a military-themed clothing line. He’s shared his martial arts and military expertise on several television shows, including the Spike TV series Deadliest Warrior, Hunting Hitler on the History Channel, and in the 2016 indie film Range 15. Tim is currently involved in an unscripted series from Discovery called Hard to Kill. Enjoy!

Hurry Up and Fail -- Tim Kennedy

Want to hear another inspiring conversation? Listen to this episode with Terry Crews, in which we discuss his workout and diet routine, overcoming failure, discovering happiness, and much much more. Listen to it here (stream below or right-click to download):

Terry Crews — How to Have, Do, and Be All You Want

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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 Kennedy:

Website | Sheepdog Response | Ranger Up | Twitter | Instagram | Facebook

Show Notes

  • Why does Tim hate sports jiu-jitsu? [06:28]
  • How does “hurry up and fail” play into Tim’s training? [10:19]
  • When he’s not enjoying the bleachy clean facilities at Gracie Humaita Austin, Tim sometimes attacks flaming boats in poop water with tomahawks. [12:56]
  • Tim talks about his new project, Discovery Channel’s Hard to Kill. [15:36]
  • A PSA from Tim for American crane operators everywhere. [16:10]
  • Tim’s “hurry up and fail” training mantra changes when competing against world-class fighters like Roger Gracie. [17:51]
  • Fighters past or present who impress Tim. [23:36]
  • What psychological advantages does Tim bring to a fight — in life or in battle — and how did he develop them? [26:30]
  • How did Tim get involved in military life? [30:28]
  • What did the people around Tim think of his decision to join the military? [33:23]
  • What did Tim have to do to get into Special Forces once he enlisted? [34:36]
  • Why do Special Forces seek out “the grey man” in the group during the qualification course? [37:50]
  • What goes on at SERE (Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape) school — especially if you’re not the grey man? [39:44]
  • Why did Tim compete in the IFL six days after graduating from ranger school? [45:16]
  • Tim describes the Modern Army Combatives tournament. [46:09]]
  • On testing the spirit of the fight and checking his ego on deployment during the hunt for Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. [49:51]
  • Tim describes his IFL fight with Dante Rivera. [55:32]
  • Tim talks about his walkout music selections. [56:54]
  • How would Tim encourage an average listener to become harder to kill? [58:47]
  • What might help an urban dweller start learning the basics of survival? [1:03:06]
  • What is Tim’s emotional state while testing his situational awareness in a public place? [1:07:36]
  • Why did Tim recently re-enlist in the military? [1:11:18]
  • How does Tim explain this decision to his kids? [1:15:06]
  • How does Tim process risk? [1:17:23]
  • What is Tim’s contingency plan if something goes awry? [1:18:49]
  • What would Tim’s billboard say? [1:20:08]
  • Parting thoughts. [1:22:09]

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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25 Replies to “Hurry Up and Fail — Tim Kennedy (#310)”

  1. Hi Tim,

    Wanted to thank you and the team because I was notified of this new podcast episode through email, right away as it was released. If I’m not mistaken, this is not really something that is done all the time.

    Interesting to see that an athlete, which was in his prime not too long ago is brought up. Maybe athletes that even got to a higher level can get soon on the podcast as well. Might be a little far-fetched to think of Connor McGregor, but Ronda Rousey, Jon Jones and even someone like John Cena, could really bring in even more interest than Maria Sharapova.

    I do know this might be more of Joe Rogan’s segment rather than podcasts such as the ones hosted by Lewis Howes or Aubrey Marcus among others but here the ever-green quality is definitely higher.

    Looking forward listening to this episode


  2. Tim,

    I’m not here to judge your work,nor Mr Kennedy, but as a 71 year young Vietnam veteran who’s been trying to shed the result of my youthful, naive, but patriotic folly, I’ve gotta say it’s no help to anyone to fetishize war and martial arts–not the oriental version, the militaristic, war-promoting versions. Along with veterans of all the wars since Vietnam, many of us have dedicated our time and energies to healing and reparation and forgiveness. It is a tough and often unappreciated role, but ultimately rewarding. I appreciate Mr Kennedy’s dedication to discipline toward ultimate physical fitness–he’s quite impressive, but I’m a bit suspect of anyone who promoting sniper skills as a personal point of pride. That’s not a message anyone of us, especially a man with your huge following , should be promoting. I’m betting Mr Kennedy and I could have a long and serious conversation about the real aspect of killing and it’s impact on our lives. I just returned from three weeks in Vietnam where, along with a small number of American and a larger number of Vietnamese, all of whom were once enemies. we buried 70 remains of the over 400 Vietnamese we killed in a three -day battle in 1968. It wasn’t anything to brag about, that killing, but the Vietnamese forgave us, and we reciprocated in the only way we knew how, by helping them bury their dead–dead at our hand. Good on Mr Kennedy for his prowessat all things athletic, but I’d have to add that none of that justifies adding “Sniper” to his CV. Most men who’ve taken a life in combat aren’t all that keen to discuss it, much less promote it. Some things just ain’t right. That’s one of them. Just sayin’. Best, Deryle Perryman, Albuquerque

    1. Wow Sir, that is a remarkable and candid comment. Thank you so much for sharing your highly valuable and unique perspective in such an emotionally intelligent and articulate way.

      These words are so overused that they don’t express the depth that I’d like for them to convey- Thank you.



    2. Wise words, sir, but likely to be overlooked in this testosterone-filled, toys-for-the-boys playgound. With the number of military types that Tim interviews, I wonder when we’re going to see the release of “The Four Hour Killer”, teaching us how to go from zero to throat-slitting ninja just by asking good questions and modeling the best…

  3. When Tim Kennedy says that Ryan Gordon unfortunately is one of his top 3 ever to compete. Does he mean Gordon Ryan? Or is there a world class Ryan Gordon that I don’t know about….

  4. My god – intense is certainly the case of this guy… however I have listened to the Jocko podcast 4 times now so was looking forward to another hardass military guy outlook on life.

    I adore the sentiment of train till you fail and then when it is game day – there is NO fail. I will certainly be applying this to my own way of thinking and training.

  5. His ego is as big as a solar system. He has every reason to be confident, but it’s a stark contrast to stories you can listen to on Jocko’s podcast featuring badass yet humble professionals.

  6. I was pretty disturbed Tim Kennedy says that he wants to tear down a crane and start throwing the construction workers off of it until they put up an American flag? This is the first time in any podcast I have disliked what the interviewee stood for. He comes across and an angry violent man through the entire interview. He has done many impressive things I can by no means compare to his level of discipline but putting him on this platform allows him to inspire others. He may inspire them to discipline but he may inspire them to violence. Does anyone else feel this way?

    1. Agreed, I enjoyed a lot of the topics covered but at one point he got very close to advocating for racial profiling as a way to build social awareness. Although he was spot on about the importance of building that awareness, “just talking shit about people” and looking up an areas ethnic makeup based on census data is not a good way to identify potential threats. He is absolutely a phenomenal athlete and fighter, really wish that was more the focus of the conversation.

  7. Fake News Alert: UK Acid attacks are not about Isis or fundamentalists stopping girls going to school. According to recent Metropolitan Police data “The victims of London’s violent acid attacks are overwhelmingly male. Four out of five victims in 2016 were men”.

    1. Yes, and he said he could go to the UK and stop the “attacks”.

      How come he cannot stop the child shootings in the the US?

  8. Tim,

    I understand and appreciate your approach of making the people you interview feel at ease which enables them to open up and share more interesting stories, but surely there are respectful and non-confrontational ways to question them if their story doesn’t fit together.

    For instance: in this episode Tim Kennedy says that 9/11 was a wake up moment for him and that the first thing he did was to go to the recruitment office. Well, according to his website, he enlisted in 2003, ie. 1,5-2 years later, a bit late for a spur of the moment, I’m-gonna-change-my-life-now kind of decision. I’m almost sure the real story is more interesting than that…

    Same goes for the overall “I was a selfish prick, but I had my rude awakening and now believe in service for a greater good” dynamic – cocky MMA fighter; ‘showboat’ during the SF training; ego-driven in Iraq… it does seem to go in circles, doesn’t it? How does he see it? Back to square zero time and again? Upward spiral? By the way, for a guy poking fun (in a friendly manner, I know) at Navy SEAL “showboats” he doesn’t seem too shy of publicity and self-promotion…

    What I admire the most about you, Tim, is the openness with which you talk about your vulnerabilities and weaknesses. You are also very right when you caution against looking at elite performers only through lenses of their success (they all have their share of failures and shortcomings). An interview during which “Whoa! Look how badass I am!” attitude goes not only unchallenged but also unexamined doesn’t really fit into that perspective. War is not a video game and there’s much more to Tim Kennedy than a FPS game character, no matter how hard he tries to project that shallow kind of image.

    But hey, if a grown-up man retains teenage-like fascination with (and probably also addiction to) violence, that’s his right. However, in my view, leaving this without any counterargument or even a comment, may impress actual teenagers in a wrong, wrong way. There’s a lot of room for violence, in my book, but it should be calculated, not mindless, and spoken honestly of, not mythologized.



  9. Your guest had me till he had to get all fascist about flying the flag. Freedom is freedom…it knows no nationality.

  10. Excuse me Tim, but your latest guest is not a sane person. Killing and biting off cheeks is not cool.

    Yes, I too found him a fascinating person. But only to some extent in a good way.

    I thought that this was just a cliché, but the flagwaving American, screaming ‚muh freedum‘ does seem to exist.

    Please stop glorifying war.

  11. Really enjoyed the podcast – I thought it was one of the best so far. I’ve got to take issue with Tim K on one point though… I don’t know who told him that “people are trying to prevent girls from going to school, specifically with acid” in the UK, but this simply does not happen. Acid attacks in this country are clearly on the rise but they are typically perpetrated by young men, usually linked in some way to gang and/or criminal activity, and their victims are very predominantly other young men. The use of acid is on the rise largely because possession of a corrosive substance can be hard to monitor, in that there could be a legitimate reason to have it. It’s cheap, you can buy it at any hardware store and the consequences of being caught with it are, in all likelihood, much less serious than being stopped in possession of a knife or a gun.

  12. Awesome interview Tim!You should do an podcast with Tim and Jocko,that would be even more awesome.Thanks for the cool show Tim!

  13. Tim K,

    Really enjoyed this episode. You make me want to wake up at 4:30am and run through walls…. very motivational.

    Before listening to you, I thought that the Navy Seals were the most elite US combat unit, but sounds like you think the Green Berets are?

    Curious, who are the most elite special forces on the planet? I’m from the UK, and my understanding is that it’s like to be the our own SAS? And I believe many of the special forces are based on our SAS?



  14. Hola Tim, necesito aprender ingles con tu metodo, quiero saber como puedo hacer. Gracias,


  15. I found your podcast after you’d done about 50 of them and have listened to every one of them since then. After one of your worst interviews (Katie Couric), this one was fantastic. Although I’m not into MMA, I can appreciate the hard work and the mindset that must go into this discipline. Tim Kennedy is a beast and inspired me to be better at the things I attempt (and to attempt). Loved it.