Please enjoy this transcript of my podcast where I answer the most up-voted questions from subscribers to 5-Bullet Friday, the free newsletter I send out every week. Transcripts may contain a few typos—with some episodes lasting 2+ hours, it’s difficult to catch some minor errors. Enjoy!
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Tim Ferriss: Hello, boys and girls, this is Tim Ferris, and welcome to another episode of the Tim Ferris Show. This episode is going to be a bit of an anomaly, an experiment. And instead of my usual long form interviews where I deconstruct world-class performers to tease out their habits, routines, favorite books, and so on, I will share some details from my own life and decision-making and so on based on questions that have been upvoted by subscribers to Five Bullet Friday.
What is Five Bullet Friday? Five Bullet Friday is a free newsletter that I send out every Friday that includes the five coolest things I found or explored that week. It can include what I’m reading, books, articles, gadgets, tech workarounds, any time of experiments that I’m doing, favorite purchases, etc., etc., etc. And this newsletter has proven to be very, very popular. More than a million people subscribe. It has more than a 60 percent open rate.
For those of you in the email world, you know that is absolutely astonishing. So, people do look forward to this. It’s free. It will always be free. So, if you want to check it out, and there are also exclusive meet-ups, opportunities to ask me questions and so on, check it out at tim.blog/Friday. Tim.blog/Friday. And it’s a super short, five-bullet point email with lots of fun stuff every Friday. Something to help you get a little morsel to chew on for your weekend. So, let’s just jump right into it.
Question number one:
Hi, Tim. What are the top five health markers to check and watch regularly?
This is a very tough question to answer because so much of it would be predicated on your personal situation, biochemistry, family history, and so on. I’m not gonna totally dodge, but I will say, and I’m paraphrasing here, the words of much wiser doctors that I work with.
However, above the age of 40 or so, I want to say, with a 70 percent or greater likelihood you are going to be killed or you’re going to die from one of four things: cancer, stroke, heart attack, or neurodegenerative disease, or complications thereof. Looking at family history, you can pretty quickly figure out which are the primary candidates.
In my case, it’s a heart attack and neurodegenerative disease like Alzheimer’s and so on. Therefore, many of the things I do both track and preemptively or preventatively treat are gonna be related to heart attack, cardiovascular disease, or neurodegenerative disease, all right? So, that would dictate, say, the use of curcumin. I think it’s called therocumen, something like that, for instance; or, on the heart attack side, looking at other things.
But I want to refer everyone to tim.blog/attia, A-T-T-I-A. This will take you to episodes featuring Dr. Peter Attia, who is one of the best MDs I know, and I know a lot of MDs. He works with many, many name brand folks as a concierge doctor you would recognize. He has a very credible background. He is exceptionally evidence-based. Also a former ultra-endurance athlete, swimming 25-plus mile swimming races and things of that type. So, he understands and appreciates the implications and also tradeoffs of, say, longevity versus performance, which are very often at odds. Does that mean you want 100 percent of one and none of the other? Probably not. So, how do you navigate that blend?
In any case, specifically if you go to tim.blog/attia, look at episode 65, because he answers this question in great detail. And I may be getting some of this wrong, but I’m looking at the show notes, and here’s what I see listed under medical terminology.
APOE genotype, right? This can be indicative of your predisposition to things like Alzheimer’s. LDL particle number, right? Particle number is a critical piece of this. LPa. And then next, we have OGTT. That sounds for oral glucose tolerance test. Then you have IGF1, insulin-like growth factor one, desmoserol, and a few other things are listed here.
And very frequently, if you’re talking with, say, Peter, at least the way that he and I often do things, using either intermittent fasting or extended periods of fasting, say three contiguous days per month, and then longer periods a few times per year as a purge fast, as discussed in my episode with Dr. Dominic D’Agostino, who was introduced to me by Peter. This can be used as a plausible preventative measure to counter cancer, which is not one of my most likely candidates to kill me personally, although it certainly is for a lot of folks.
And going between phases of, say, hypertrophy, meaning muscle building and performance optimization, alternating that with periods of autophagy, which you can help trigger, this type of cellular self-cleaning through things like fasting, among others. Exercise certainly plays a role. All right. So, long story short, I defer to Peter Attia. Go to tim.blog/attia. Check out episode 65 specifically, and this question is answered as his first question from y’all.
All right. Next, I’m going to answer:
How do you manage all of your contacts? You know so many people and how they are all interrelated. Do you have a specific system or software to help you?
And I’m going to answer this with a non-answer, which is no, because I don’t want to make it seem like I have all the answers and that I’m selectively picking those I have great answers to, which will create that illusion. So, no, I do not have software for this. I wish I did, but simultaneously, I am nervous, I suppose – creeped out would be another way to put it – by the amount of data Google, Facebook, and so on have, Apple included, and what they’re able to correlate without any input from me.
For instance, autocorrecting names I’ve been texting with or that I have off of what I perceive to be the Apple platform in my phone; or, for instance, Facebook in some way correlating, based on their app use on the phone, people I’ve just added to contacts, or been texting with or names I’ve mentioned with their suggested people you should know on Facebook.
All these things creep me out, so I don’t think I put in enough data or detail into my contacts to make this easily solvable by software. Because even if you were to pull by area code – say I’m traveling to Texas, so I want to know who has a 512 area code, let’s just say, so that I can ask certain people out to lunch or dinner. Well, people’s physical addresses change more often than their phone numbers, so that is not an accurate indicator. So, the short answer is no.
What I try to do with my contacts, because rightly, I meet – you have, I suppose, inferred by the question that I have thousands and meet thousands of new people every single year. I try to simply know one or two people who are very strong in each given field, and through those people, I can get to anyone I might need. In other words, I’m focusing on just in time introductions and contacts, not just in case contacts.
And this is a corollary to something that Kathy Sierra taught me a long time ago, which was to focus on just in time information – in other words, knowing how to find the information you need when you need it – as opposed to just in case information.
A good example of that would be reading business books, say, on how to sell your company when you’re running a startup in the early stages because you’re going to take notes, promptly forget everything, and then have to reread that book at a later point in time, if you ever pick it up again. And that is a silent cost.
So, just in time information instead of just in case information, and just in time contacts vis-a-vis one or two highly competent people in each field versus collecting hundreds of thousands of business cards and figuring out what to do with them, which is a more reactive way to go about it.
Have you or your guests any strategies to prevent or minimize binge eating during periods of stress?
Yes. And the last two weeks have been very stressful for me. I’ve had many crises pop up at the same time. And it has been very challenging. And I will tell you that the first rule is to eliminate from the home anything that you would binge eat.And this really underscores my belief that your systems trump willpower. You should rely on proper systems and restrictions, environmentally speaking, versus this thing we like to think of as discipline or willpower, which is very fallible.
And case in point, I have come home from late dinners or, say, two glasses of wine during this period of high stress, landed home, gone into the pantry deliberately looking for things to snack on. Any bit of chocolate, any bag of potato chips, anything that might remotely qualify as a cheat food, and instead, I find mustard, MCT oil, athletic greens, protein powder, canned beans. Not interesting whatsoever as late night cheat foods, and therefore, I don’t end up binging.
When I violate that – for instance, about six days ago, I was visiting a consumer packaged good company, and they gave me three amazing bags of – I’ll say potato chips, but they’re really tortilla chips made from different types of root vegetables and so on. Delicious. And came back one night, and what did I do? I had these three bags that are never in my pantry, and I promptly ate all three bags. 2,100 calories of these tortilla chips. And they were delicious.
Did I regret that? Yes. Did I feel guilty? Yes. Did I think less of myself for having done it? Yes. So, keep it out of your house. If you have anything that is cheat food in your house, remove it from your house. That is system over willpower, number one.
Number two is get your breakfast right. So, if you consume, for instance, what I would consider, perhaps, an ideal breakfast for many people – 30 grams of protein within 30 minutes of waking up, which means you wake up, you have breakfast.
And that could be, say, three eggs, three whole eggs – this is what Gretchen Rubin does as well, by the way, for those of you who head her on the podcast some time ago. Three eggs. Some spinach. Could be microwaved, doesn’t make a difference to me. But let’s just say a little bit of spinach so you have that fiber. And you also have some type of black beans or lentils or pinto beans. Some type of beans, right? So, you have three eggs, lentils, or beans, and then some spinach.
The composition of that meal, the macro, so to speak – the protein load plus the fiber content will help to stave off any type of binge inclination for the rest of the day. And there’s a very, very good chance if you just fix that meal, if you just dial in that as your new default breakfast, that you will consume, say, 15 to 30 percent fewer calories for the rest of the day. This is very, very common.
And it’s also why if you have 100 pounds, 150 pounds, 200 pounds to lose, and many people have done this on a slow carb diet – and you can search “how to lose 100 pounds, slow carb diet” for free case studies and instructions on how to do this, with photographs. I will first ask that they do nothing other than change their breakfast? Why? It is a lead domino that then has made downstream effects you could treat as independent decisions otherwise, but that would lead to decision fatigue.
So, why not look at all these decisions and ask yourself, which of these, if made or done correctly, would make the others automatic, irrelevant, or easier? And the answer is fixing breakfast. And there are other guidelines, but really, those are two of the primaries.
All right. Next question:
What’s next for you now that your book is launched?
The book that is referred to in this question is Tribe of Mentors. Well, Tribe of Mentors, thanks to all of you – thank you very, very much – ended up number one New York Times, number one Wall Street Journal. And it is in orbit, so it has reached escape velocity.
And it is always my job just to get the flywheel spinning. And if the book is any good, it sticks. If not, then it doesn’t. But this one appears to have stuck, and at this point, I view my job as saying no to a thousand things and creating space to listen.
This is along the lines of what Tim O’Reilly has shared on this podcast. And if you haven’t heard that episode, I highly recommend you check it out. If you’re asking yourself “Tim who?”, all the more reason to go check it out. But creating space to listen, to really just exist and develop a higher level of perception.
So, I am focused on all manner of things to assist that, such as testing a beta version of the Waking Up app by my friend Sam Harris, who’s also been on this pod before, who manages to somehow speak in fully formed prose paragraphs; or blocking out time, whether that is, for instance, this weekend, when I will be going to an AirBnb way out in the country here in Texas with no Wi-Fi, no reception whatsoever; or, say, more extended trips of two to three weeks with my family, which I do twice a year after reading “The Tail End,” an essay by Tim Urban on Wait But Why, which put the remaining number of hours as a percentage of the total that I’ll spend with my family before they die, my parents specifically, into perspective; or blocking out an entire month to hopefully go off the grid without using any social media or electronics, which I am in the process of planning.
Now, why would I want to do this? I mentioned this in brief earlier, but developing a higher sensitivity and ability to perceive. This can be helpful, whether you are doing some explicit type of work, such as Cal Newport’s deep work, say, which requires extended periods of uninterrupted time, blocks of time; or if you are simply trying to be more aware and develop an awareness of how you feel, how you think, how you react in perhaps a vipasana meditation respect, so that your ability to parse life and be less reactive is developed over time, which is something certainly I am paying a lot of attention to right now, especially given the number of crises that have hit in the last week or two, which was proven to me the value of this type of training and deliberately creating space to listen, a la Tim O’Reilly. And that is O’R-E-I-L-L-Y, for those of you who want to check it out.
All right, next question is about EDC, every day carry:
What do you keep on your person as part of your EDC? How do you carry it? How does it change during travel or other activities/events? Bonus points if you do pocketdom.
All right, short answer is, I have a very unimpressive EDC when you consider my pant pockets. I don’t like keeping things in my pant pockets, so I don’t have much. I do use a Patagonia lightweight fleece vest oftentimes as my walking portable bag that I wear on myself. But the backpack is really the standard for me, and it travels with me almost everywhere that I go.
And I have a number of different backpacks, including one made by Datsusara, D-A-T-S-U-S-A-R-A, made out of hemp, which was – or is, I should – a company created by a reader after going through The Four-Hour Workweek, which is fun.
And in that backpack, there are a number of things that I travel with at all times, including the Rubz ball, R-U-B-Z, a ball that looks like a golf ball with little prongs on it. And that was introduced to me by Amelia Boone, four-time world champion in obstacle course racing, for use, say, before flights, after flights, during any period of travel. And it alleviates tightness and pain, not just in the feet, but all the way up through the legs, the posterior chain, hips. It unlocks more than you would expect. So, that always travels with me.
A headlamp. I always have a headlamp in a side pocket. Very often, Black Diamond sprayable zinc for bolstering the immune system, and melatonin, typically three-milligram tablets, and everyone from Art De Vany to Dominic D’Agostino are fans of melatonin use at different points. Voodoo floss for self-care, different types of joint issues, created by Kelly Starrett. You can Google that for more.
A journal of some type, very frequently the Five-Minute Journal or Morning Pages. But the Morning Pages paperback is exceptionally heavy, so I often ditch that. Ear plugs, most frequently Mack’s silicon putty earplugs, so you can sleep on, say, your side without having foam poke into your inner ear. And then an eye mask of some type. And the Sleepmaster eye mask is one I use very frequently. It also covers the ears on the outside, as opposed to digging in with an elastic strap. The only caveat is that it can be very warm, so I also collect eye masks from various flights and so on.
If you were to look at what I carried some time ago, for instance, when I was writing The Four-Hour Chef and got really into Prepperville and all of that, I would have had a multi-tool in my wallet. It would look like a metal business card with little nooks and crannies for a Phillips head screwdriver, say, a saw edge, etc. That was recently confiscated by the TSA, surprise, surprise. I would also have potentially a Surefire flashlight, tactical flashlight, in my bag.
And then I would have a paracord wristband or bracelet of some type. If you’re wondering what you could use paracord for, the answer is almost anything, including bow drill, which is a bit of an edge case for all practical purposes, but you can look up bow drill if you want to see how to make fire using something like paracord that is woven into a bracelet. And you could also look up “Tim Ferris experiment Las Vegas escape” to see some of the training I did with On Point Tactical and Kevin Reeve, where we looked at getting out of zip ties, getting out of handcuffs, and all sorts of other craziness. So, you can check that out at your leisure. But these days, I don’t have a whole hell of a lot in EDC.
I suppose now that I live in Texas, I could go get my concealed carry, and that would add a whole new layer to paranoia, danger, and potential offense. So, there you have it. Slash defense.
All right, next up, we have:
Most valuable skills for financial freedom and being better with money?
This is a super dicey question, so I am going to add a very important preamble, which is I am not a professional investment advisor, nor do I play one on the Internet, so this is for informational purposes only. A lot of people take everything I say literally, and that is dangerous. So, don’t do that. Use your own brain. And much like the question of what are the top five health markers to check and watch regularly, the most valuable skills for financial freedom and being better with money is highly personalized.
But what I would say is that if you are in debt, if you have a substantial amount of debt, I have found, for instance, or I’ve certainly heard from hundreds of listeners and readers that Dave Ramsay is very helpful. Some people are very big fans of Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Kiyosaki, and the quadrant, in particular, in that book is something that many have found useful.
Ramit Sethi, good friends of mine, R-A-M-I-T S-E-T-H-I, is very adept and, I think, very smart in this particular arena. And if you want to look up automated finance system, Ramit, R-A-M-I-T, and then Tim Ferris, he has a guest blog post on my blog that is very, very popular, has been very popular over the years, and is worth taking a look at. So, I do think that if you are in debt, those three places are good places to start.
Beyond that, I can really only speak from personal experience. But financial freedom can entail a lot and can mean many things to different people. That could mean lack of debt. It could mean being able to do whatever you want, in which case, the sky is the limit. Perhaps you need tens of millions or hundreds of millions of dollars if you want to buy that jet. It could mean financial freedom, that you are free from financial worry. It no longer occupies 20 percent of your RAM at all times. And being better with money.
All right. I would divide being better with money into two different categories. And keeping in mind that for me, a good investment is one that increases your quality of life. Why otherwise would you invest? So, if you, say, are invested in crypto and the percentage gains are very attractive, you’re a complete crackhead compulsively checking the charts every 15 minutes, is that a good investment?
Well, that’s a question for you to sit with. But if it progressively worsens your quality of life or consistently creates more anxiety than you had beforehand, is the marginal utility of the dollars you are gaining as reflected in that percentage enough to offset that with some type of lump sum payment of happiness or improved quality of life at the end? Maybe not. But this is something worth considering.
Coming back to what I was saying, though, I tend to think of money as getting rich, staying rich. So, there are different tools in the toolkit for getting rich – different tools than in the staying rich category. And I would say, if you’re looking at beating the market, so alpha, I don’t do that in hands-off styles of investing. I have that very much on one side of my barbell.
So, I personally, partially by choice and partially by fate, have ended up with a very barbell-looking asset distribution. And if you were to look at what I have, you’re gonna have a highly volatile, what most people consider a highly risky class of investments, namely startups and cryptocurrency. That’s gonna be more than 50 percent of my total assets. And then you have real estate and cash or cash-like equivalents. And that’s pretty much it. So, on opposite ends of the spectrum.
And we could debate whether or not real estate is risky. We could debate the benefits of cash if you also have to contend with inflation. But let’s just keep it simple for the sake of this discussion. Let’s say that you have highly volatile, what most people would consider high-risk, high reward categories like privately held startups and cryptocurrency on one end of the barbell, which is where I create my alpha.
And then you have real estate, cash, cash-like equivalents, and things like, for instance, muni bonds and so on, where you would then preserve that alpha, okay? So, you create alpha, take it off the table, and then preserve alpha. Now, forget about the question of converting crypto to fiat or keeping it in crypto. Let’s just keep it simple.
So, that is currently what my, say, asset allocation would look like. That is very, very likely to change over time. And I should address a couple of questions that likely come to mind. One would be, why on earth do you have more than 50 percent of your net worth in startups and crypto? And it is not because I had a hundred units of assets and decided to put 50-plus percent of those units into crypto and startups. That would be complete insanity, I think, for almost anyone.
It’s because I started off with a very reasonable allocation. Some of you might remember that many years ago, 2008 or so, I created for myself a real world MBA. Rather than going to a Stanford GSB or one of these graduate school programs of business, I decided to take the same amount of money over two years – at that point, it was $60,000.00 a year for two years – and invest that into the “Tim Ferris Fund” in quotation marks to try my hand at startup investing, in the very beginning, piggybacking and co-investing with people who knew what they were doing.
And I assumed the network built, the skills developed, and the knowledge acquired over that two-year period of time would benefit me more than the $120,000.00, which I assumed I would lose. The assumption was, much like tuition, that would be a sunk cost. And that then set me on this accidental career of being an early stage tech angel investor and advisor.
And that tiny sliver of my total pie chart at that time, due to lucky/good investments and company selection, has swollen to a gigantic percentage of the total pie chart, with companies like Uber, Facebook, Twitter, Alibaba, and so on. Crypto, very similarly, has not necessarily risen as it would have had I gone in early with something Ethereum, but has nevertheless doubled and so on over time, more than doubled.
So, if you look at my cost basis, it was a very rational – well, semi-rational decision at the time to allocate what I allocated. But due to growth, they now represent a very, very large percentage of my total holdings. And the crypto can be freely traded. The startups are locked up, all right? So, I am unable to decrease my positions and balance those, for the most part. And that is why my portfolio looks the way it does. I would not recommend my asset allocation to, really, anyone.
Now, this comes back to the question of financial freedom, getting better with money. If we’re looking at the getting rich part, the building wealth, for a less crass way to put it, building wealth, preserving wealth sounds a lot fancier, much more Rockefeller than nouveau rich, so let’s stick with that, all right? Building wealth, preserving wealth.
The way that I’ve – assuming there’s some aspect of skill involved and that I’m not just lucky, lucky, lucky, which could be the case. I mean, if you have a thousand orangutans flip coins long enough, as Warren Buffett would say. Well, actually, Warren Buffett wouldn’t say this. The efficient market theorist folks would say this. A thousand monkeys flipping coins, eventually you’re gonna find one or two monkeys who flip 50 heads in a row and then end up writing books about how to flip coins and so on. So, maybe I’m that monkey.
But if we assume there’s some element of skill, the way that I thought about it is, one, capping downside first versus evaluating upside, and looking at the minimal downside. And this is borrowed from a lot of folks, including some famous names you might recognize – Warren Buffett, for instance, who’s a – would be considered by most, I think, a value investor, although Charlie Munger has certainly informed their later investment styles.
Paul Tudor Jones of hedge fund fame, and this is actually a quote that I took from Tony Robbins’ book Unshakeable, which is very good, or Money: Master the Game, also very, very good – is this truly the hard trade? This is from Paul Tudor Jones, paraphrasing. Is this truly the hard trade? Meaning something others can’t easily replicate.
Does this really have asymmetric risk reward? Is it a five to one or a three to one? That means for every dollar he is risking, is there the potential or expectation of a $3.00 or $5.00 ROI? What’s the entry point? What are your stops, right? These are all really, really good questions.
And the downside risk, capping the downside risk is also something that, for instance, Richard Branson does, like when he started Virgin Atlantic, negotiating a lease with Boeing so that he could return the plane or planes if it didn’t work out. So, even these people who are viewed as inveterate risk takers, people who throw caution to the wind, are in fact determining how to limit their downside right upfront, and then looking for asymmetric risks.
So, in the startup world, that checked the box. You can put in $25k max. You know your maximum that you can lose, because you’re not using leverage or anything else. $25k is the maximum you can lose, and yet there is the potential, if you focus on an unfair advantage, and we’ll come back to that, that you could have a $100.00, $2,000.00 X return.
And the startup world, much like publishing, book publishing, music – these are hits-driven businesses. And you are betting on companies or books or musicians or albums that you hope will return the fund. They will return all of the other losses that you will incur with your other bets.
And I do very well with those types of decisions. They are binary. They are not day-trading. They are certainly not considering buying or selling on a regular basis, at which point you become very susceptible to Mr. Market, if you want to look up Warren Buffett, Mr. Market. That is who I am in the public market, so I do not play much with publicly traded equities, for instance, even though that might be part of my portfolio later.
Instead, I like to do a ton of research upfront, make a binary decision – am I in, am I out? – and then I’m stuck. And that being stuck is actually a benefit. It is a constraint that works for me in this case because I can’t make sell decisions at the wrong time. It is out of my hands. That does not suit everyone’s intestinal fortitude. It just happens to suit my weird psychology.
The unfair advantage that I mentioned I would come back to is really only playing with a stacked deck. So, I do not make investments in startups where I cannot materially impact directly the value of that company; or from the selection standpoint, when I have – unless I have a significant informational advantage.
And when I lived in Silicon Valley, I was there for 17 years, I lived in the middle of the switchbox, and I made every effort to ensure that I was in the hub of information flow. So, I knew about things weeks, months, in some cases, years in advance. And that enabled me to make better decisions as to where I should allocate the Tim Ferris Fund in the first two years, certainly, which worked out very, very well.
I had some great teachers who have all talked about their approaches for investing on this podcast. Naval Ravikant, incredible. You can go to tim.blog/Naval. You can go to tim.blog/ – let’s see. It might not actually be a forward slash. But if you look up Mike Maples, M-A-P-L-E-S, he’s another one who’s been very, very consistently good, and so on and so forth.
All right. So, this is a long answer, but for financial freedom, first understanding how to get out of debt or how to manage debt. I use very, very little debt in my life. Some people are very comfortable with that. I am not. And being better with money is in part not being afraid of money, and also learning how to take small steps and moderate actions with limited downside, rather than being paralyzed by any insecurities or fears you might have about money.
So, a book that I think holistically can help with that is How to Stop Worrying and Start Living, by Dale Carnegie. It has nothing directly to do with money, but it does have everything to do with how you might interact with money. The last thing I would say is, coming back again to financial freedom, is to correct a misconception about the spectrum between full-time employed and entrepreneur. There is the erroneous belief, the false dichotomy that these things exist completely separately. In other words, that you’re either a nine to fiver or work for someone else, or you quit that job and chase your dreams, and you’re a full-time entrepreneur. I don’t recommend, in most cases, that you make that black and white leap.
In fact, it makes much more sense to moonlight, to side gig on, say, the weekends or Saturdays for a period of time so that you can both assess and evaluate your ideas for a company, but also assess and evaluate your own abilities as an entrepreneur to, for instance, structure time that is otherwise unstructured, to set your own rules and policies instead of having them set by someone else or some type of company environment. And not everyone is suited to the uncertainty that you face as a entrepreneur on an ongoing basis. And there’s nothing wrong with that. It comes down to accurately assessing your strengths and weaknesses, which certainly implies to investment. And guess what? It’s all investment. Investment of money, time energy, attention. These are all investment decisions.
All right. I covered the asset allocation and why you should never copy me, and let’s go to the next. All right:
Hi, Tim. I know this is a bit out of your normal focus, but I am curious. Do you have a philosophy about having or not having children?
This is one of the undecided categories. So, hopefully my somewhat non-answer will be reassuring to people who are in a similar place. But I’m conflicted about this because on one hand, if we’re talking about investing and betting, let’s just say, if we look at the divorce rates in the United States and the damage that can be done – certainly based on talking to my friends who are the children of divorced parents – by divorce, I wouldn’t bet on marriage the institution to support, or rather to have a fantastic outcome. If I were betting on partnerships the way that I would be on startups, I wouldn’t bet on partnerships period long-term, whether they are within the confines of marriage or have some other arrangement.
So, there’s a lot of hesitancy on my part for all those reasons. There are other ways to look at this, of course. There are friends of mine who are either divorced or are probably headed towards divorce, and I would ask them, if the only way they could have their kids was to get married knowing they would absolutely get a divorce, would they still have their kids? And the answer is invariably yes.
Now, is this confirmation bias at this point? Probably. It would be very hard for any parent with a heart to say, absolutely not. I would unwind the clock and not have my kids. I have yet to meet anyone who has said that.
And then there are folks – for instance, Jersey Gregorek, the Olympic weightlifting champion, who’s 63 right now, I believe, and I would consider one of my mentors. He’s in my TED Talk. If you’re interested to learn more about him, tim.blog/ted. But he has said to me privately – I don’t think he would mind me sharing this – but he’s like, ah. So, I asked him how I should think about kids, and he’s said, “Well, you know, if you’re a guy, you get past the edge of X” – I think he was saying like 45, 50 – “and you don’t have kids, that’s just weird.” So, he has a very direct – he’s like, you just go crazy inside your own head if you don’t have kids by that point. And I think the simplicity of that is actually really profound.
And the fact of the matter is, I may get to a point where my biological imperative, the sort of Darwinian evolution that has led me to this point, being alive on this planet in this particular period in time, to want to have kids or feel the need to have kids, despite any arguments to the contrary. And at that point, I might say, fuck it, and pull the trigger and have kids, although I recognize that it’s not always that simple.
And a lot of men assume that the fertility piece of the equation is problematic if the woman has problems. But I will tell you right now, given the trending that I have seen in morphology motility in sperm among men and decreases in testosterone and everything else due to factors we can cover another time, that it’s never quite – or every often not as simple as people would like to think, and that the fertility problems experienced by couples are very much – are very often attributable to the men and not necessarily the women.
All right, next:
You often ask their interviewees for their advice for a younger person or a younger version of themselves. What advice have you distilled from your guests or your own experience that would be appropriate for those over 40?
And I’ll keep this super short. This answer, or I should say this question and the assorted answers from guests are most represented in my last two books, Tools of Titans and especially Tribe of Mentors, where you see many, many, many different options. And with rare exception, the advice that would apply to those over 40 is exactly the same advice that these various guests would give to younger people, with the exception of perhaps risking it all in some capacity because you don’t have mortgages, you don’t have kids, right?
So, apart from the, hey, kid you should try the crazy stuff because you have no mortgage, no kids, no real responsibilities – aside from that advice, which is really a small subset, maybe ten to 15 percent of the answers, all the rest of the advice applies. The reason I ask what advice would you give your younger self or what advice would you give a high school senior or a college senior is that the people I’m interviewing feel qualified to give that advice.
Whereas if I said, what advice would you give to every 40-year-old, and they’re 35 or they’re 45, or maybe even 60, they will be more reserved in the prescription of advice for those older groups than they will be with the younger groups. And so, it’s really a tactical decision on my part also, just to get a more relaxed, less edited answer from these people.
All right, next question:
Do you think people who are introverted should practice, develop, learn to be more extroverted, or just embrace being an introvert?
You can do both. I would consider myself an introvert, at least as defined by someone who is recharged by being alone or with very, very few people. And I’ve never taken the Myers Briggs test, but I’m constantly told I am an INTJ, second most frequent – well, I suppose the precise term – diagnosis would be INTP. But certainly, I would consider myself an introvert who has trained himself to, for short periods of time, be an extrovert and get up on stage and give speeches and so on.
But I avoid large groups nearly all of the time. And even if I go to a large dinner party, I will frequently take five-minute breaks every half hour or so, just to recharge and gather my bearings. So, I take a lot of bathroom breaks when I go to group events or conferences or anything like that. So, you don’t need to be more extroverted at all. It depends a lot on your goals.
But there are certainly very introverted high performers with exceptional careers, both inside of companies as employees or intropreneurs, and then outside of companies or in their own companies as entrepreneurs and even CEOs. You do not need to be a flamboyant P. Barnum, Steve Jobs type to be an effective executive at all. So, it’s really dependent on your objectives.
I will say that I agree with Warren Buffett that public speaking is one of the best investments you can make, some type of training course. I believe that he was part of Toastmasters, or may have just been a course he took in public speaking. But when you take the ability to communicate messages effectively to groups of people and layer it on top of almost anything else, you automatically put yourself into rarefied company.
So, public speaking, I do think, is a useful skill, and in fact even a necessary skill, depending on where your decision tree takes you in life. So, that would be one addition. Even if you are introverted, I would suggest getting better at some type and practicing public speaking.
All right, next question:
How do you arrange the interior of your home? Example given, layout, items displayed versus stored, furnishings, etc., to optimize your mental state and effectiveness? Is this a consideration?
Yes, this is a major consideration for me. And I’m not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but I do spend a lot of time at home. And I would say just a few things are particularly important to me.
I dislike clutter in any of my living spaces, like a living room, for instance. I’m in my living room right now. I have artwork up that elicits very positive emotions for me, and I have books up that elicit positive, enabling emotions or memories for me. So, for instance, I have – up on the wall, I have a photograph that Matt Mullenweg, my buddy, CEO of Automatic, one of the lead developers of WordPress, took when we were traveling in Vietnam. And that is up on a shelf to remind me of that particular trip where I was able to say no and take time off the grid without any side effects or negative consequences that I can recall.
Then I have a book from Joco Willink. That is the Discipline Equals Freedom Field Manual. Because I’m a fan of Joco, and whenever I’m being a complete wimp with any decisions I need to make, ownership I need to take, or discomfort I need to face, then Joco’s on the shelf yelling at me there. I have The Ketogenic Bible; a book called Less Is More, which is an anthology of writing on minimalism. I have The Essential Rumi, poetry; a book called Braiding Sweetgrass; the novel Musashi – two books on Musashi, actually – Myomoto Musashi, who has fought to be one of the greatest, if not the greatest swordsmen in Japanese history; a book called The Book of Laughter and Forgetting by Milan Kundera, which I have a lot of positive association with; Ray Dalial, Principles; and then Go boards and other things; wood block prints, and I’m listing off a few things here, just so you have an idea.
A photograph of an Olympic weightlifter in a training hall doing clean and jerk with several hundred pounds; the nameplate, in effect – it’s a piece of fabric that was stitched into the back of my judo uniform when I competed in judo as an exchange student in Japan at age 15. So, I unstitched that from my judo gi when I was 15, and I’ve carried it with me ever since, with my name and my school name underneath that. And so on and so forth.
A lot of wildlife, a lot of scenery. So, I have panoramic shots of waterfalls and ponds in the Pacific Northwest, like Oregon. I have a photograph of a gigantic grizzly bear coming out of the water. I think it’s called Majesty Rising, which is a photograph by Paul Nicklen, a National Geographic photographer who is just incredible, and one of the few people I follow, one of the few photographers I follow on Instagram. Christina Mittermeier as well would be high up. But yes, I think a lot about what is placed around my home and what type of emotional states they prompt. So, that is a short answer to that.
All right. Next question:
Productivity for non-type A people. Much of your advice and that of your guests seemed to be aimed at people who thrive with setting and maintaining routines. Do you have advice for those of us who are ambitious but see routines as an undesirable daily grind?
Yes, I do have advice, and it is not avoid routines. It is to reframe routines as something enabling. It is a positive constraint that allows you to avoid decision fatigue and allocate your brain power and creative competitive advantages to the things that actually matter, which is not choosing what to have for breakfast in the morning or deciding which coffee shop to go to, etc. Routines, and I think this is W.H. Auden, if I’m getting the name correct, should be seen as a – in the intelligent man, be seen – and that’s, of course, people in general – seen in the intelligent man as a sign of ambition.
So, instead of seeing routines as an undesirable daily grind, to reframe routines – rituals, if you prefer that word – as scaffolding around which you can craft your best life. Without that, every day is a free for all, and it’s effectively an unwritten script that you have to write every single day before you can even think about how to perform the script best. You have to write it. And that draws upon your very limited resources in an incredibly draining way, in my experience. So, my answer is not to get rid of routines, not to avoid routines, but to reframe them as the scaffolding, the reliable scaffolding around which you can then build your best life every day and utilize your unique strengths in the least wasteful way possible.
All right. Next question. And I only have four or five left here. All right. So, the next question is:
How is life in Austin? Have you designed or chosen a new house according to any changes that you’ve wanted to make in your lifestyle?
I’ll answer the first piece. Austin is great. Living in Austin has made me more in love with the city than simply visiting, and that was a concern. I wasn’t sure what it would be like living here as an Austinite. But it’s absolutely spectacular, and I’m exceptionally, exceptionally bullish on Austin. So, I have doubled and tripled and quadrupled down on this town. Very, very, very big fan. I’ll keep it short, but if you haven’t visited, at the very least, live music capital of the U.S., fantastic barbecue, friendly people. It’s a great town, so I encourage everybody to check it out.
What questions should a person ask themselves to determine their where of happiness?
I talked about where of happiness. Now I ended up at Austin for myself. Now, the easiest way to determine, and just as context, people think about the what, what should I do, the who, who should I spend time with, the why, etc., of determining their optimal happiness. What job should I do? What type of people should I spend time around? And the where is very important, the geography. The city or state, place in which you put yourself determines a lot of these other things.
My recommendation is to do an 80/20 analysis of your last calendar year. So, I’m recording this in late February, but it doesn’t really matter. Go back and look at your calendar for the last year. This should only take an afternoon, really – you can do it on a Saturday, for instance, or a Sunday – and go through, and you will fill in two columns.
The first column is the 20 percent of people or activities that produced peak positive emotional states most of the time, right? Peak positive emotional states. The 20 percent of the people and activities that produced 80 percent of the joy, so to speak.
On the other side, you’re gonna have the 20 percent of people or activities that produced 80 percent of the negative emotional states, the irritation, the frustration, the annoyance, the anger, etc. And you’re gonna make a list in that column. That’s gonna be your not to do list, right?
Then you’re gonna look at the positive, and you’re gonna look for different locations that had a high density/ease of encountering those things. So, for instance, I noticed in my own calculus that AcroYoga correlated to a high degree of happiness for me. If I practiced AcroYoga a few times a week – if you want to see what the hell that is, just look up AcroYoga, like acrobatic yoga – “AcroYoga Tim Ferris” on the YouTubes. You can also go to YouTube.com/timferris, and you’ll see some video of this, including me putting Jimmy Fallon up on my feet.
And I then looked on Facebook at different cities. And the AcroYoga community in Austin, Texas is gigantic. It’s larger, and at least based on Facebook, than the AcroYoga in the Bay Area, where it was created, which blew my mind. So, that was then one of the positive checkboxes when I was looking for density/ease of things based on the calendar audit that have created a reliable degree of happiness and improved quality of life through doing that exercise. So, that’s what I would do.
If for some reason or another, you could record only one more podcast, who would you interview and why? They can be dead or alive.
I would interview my parents, because I would want to have that record, really just for myself, of having a long form conversation with them and capturing their story and their wisdom. I don’t think I would share that for public consumption, but just for me, which is actually a recommendation that I received from a name that I mentioned earlier in the podcast, Matt Mullenweg, one of the sweetest, smartest guys I know, who’s also been on this podcast talking about building companies.
Automatic, his company, is worth more than a billion dollars at this point, I believe, and has a distributed architecture for 500 employees. It’s really fascinating. In any case, he made that recommendation to me, and this is a good reminder to get on it. So, thanks for that, Matt, and thanks for this question to remind me.
What are the pros/cons of a silent retreat?
The pros would be similar to some psychedelic experiences, not that I would recommend those in any illegal context or in an unsupervised fashion whatsoever. But when you do a ten-day silent retreat, which I made significantly harder for myself by fasting during. So, I fasted for about seven days too prior to make sure that I was ketoadapted, five during, for the first half of my ten-day silent retreat. That type of experience shows you the breadth and depth of experience possible through meditation.
So, you will see the best, you will see the worst. You will be listless, then you will be not fatigued. You’ll be restless. You’ll want to be bouncing off of walls with no clear explanation. You will have profound moments of peace and thoughtless, where your ego seemed to dissolve, and then you’ll have times when, like me, right before I broke my fast, the only two thoughts in my head were, fried chicken, calamari. Fried chicken, calamari, for like three hours. And then the next day, it was like, ass, porn, ass, porn, just thinking about porn basically for three hours, which – this might sound reasonably good. It was awful, particularly when you’re trying to focus on your breathing or do something else other than think about such things. So, it will show you the breadth and depth of the experience possible through meditation. And that can then inform your later practice.
So, when you have these perhaps rare or at least intermittent experiences of profound peace and feeling at ease with yourself and everything in the world, and perhaps even the dissolution of the self, in the sense that you feel connected to all people, all things, that can be a very tantalizing epiphany, a beautiful experience that motivates you to meditate later, similar to the effects that psychedelics had on Sam Harris, PhD, who I mentioned earlier, who then has passed on psychedelics, no longer uses psychedelics, but used that experience, that promise, so to speak, of the light at the end of the tunnel, having the firsthand opportunity to do that through psychedelics, to then drive his meditation practice, which is now very, very well-developed and a lifeline for him that is available at any given moment.
And so, those are a few of the pros of the silent retreat. Cons? All right, and not unlike a powerful psychedelic experience, I would say out of 100 people, ten to 15 percent are going to have a – as close to a psychotic break as one can imagine, or an actual psychotic break. And that is terrifying. And I was in that ten to 15 percent in the silent retreat. And I think I had a longer conversation about this with Dan Harris on his podcast, 10% Happier, and also on an episode of this podcast, which should be out by the time you hear this, or it’s coming up very, very shortly after this episode, with Jack Kornfield, who was in fact the person who saved me and allowed me to return to having my feet on the ground well enough to leave the silent retreat after that ten-day silent retreat, Spirit Rock in Whittaker, California.
So, I would encourage you, if you want more details on that, uh-oh! You didn’t expect to be in that ten to 15 percent, which you weren’t even in told in advance, but congratulations/uh-oh, you are in that ten to 15 percent, and you can really be destabilized in a very serious way by such an experience. So, I would encourage you to check out Dan Harris’s podcast with me for more on that, or even better, perhaps, is to listen to my very in-depth conversation with Jack Kornfield about exactly this.
All right, two more questions:
Why have you not illustrated or sketched in your books? You’ve mentioned a few times that you dreamed of becoming a sketch artist. Why not experiment in your books?
And this is true. I was actually an illustrator through much of high school and part of college for paying my expenses, and then I just stopped. I was also the graphics editor of the Princeton Tiger magazine at Princeton when I was there, and have designed all of the covers of my books, with the exception of Tools of Titans. Then have had professional illustrators/designers come in to do the production versions.
But I have drawn out all the covers of my books, starting out with Four-Hour Work Week. So, there’s no reason I couldn’t do a 60-second sketch each day for, say, Instagram. But books that are after the polish, I don’t want to serve up my trial runs in a book. But many of the illustrations that you see in, say, Four-Hour Chef were in fact originally sketched out by me, and then the polish was thrown on for the production by someone who actually does that as a full-time job.
But if you guys would like to see me do, say, a 60-second sketch each day or, I don’t know, a 60-second Sunday or something like that, where I throw up one drawing a week, that would be a good way for me to get back into it. So, maybe I’ll do that. Let me know what you guys think.
Okay, and the last question:
Tim, I’m a huge fan of how you constantly experiment and challenge yourself, so I’m asking you to push me and your other listeners to do a 30-day challenge.
I’m happy to do that. And in fact, it’s the same challenge that I am assigning myself, and it’s one that I’ve done before. This is not a 30-day. I’ll make it easier. The 21-day no complaint experiment. And you can put this in your calendar. Certainly, there is an overabundance of negativity, complaining, and criticism on the Internet, and we lose sight of the fact that it is really positive reinforcement, plotting what you want, and not exclusively punishing or criticizing what you do not like or what that elicits change. You do need certainly at least both and positive reinforcement. That goes for yourself and your inner monologue, your inner voice, as well.
So, if you want to improve your life, and this has already been tested by tens of thousands of folks via the blog, if you want to tip the domino, like we discussed earlier, that affects many, many other dominos and increases your quality of life, doing a 21-day no complaint experiment is a really, really effective way to go about that. And it also very quickly illuminates just how often most of us complain without any type of outcome or action coming out of it. So, check it out.
If you go to tim.blog/complaint, I created a redirect. So, tim.blog/complaint, that will take you to a blog post, which you will see is a little dated, so don’t mind the discussion of switching to the Mac. That was some time ago. But the headline is Real Mind Control, and then subtitle, The 21-Day No Complaint Experiment. And it takes you right through exactly how to do it and exactly how I’m going to be doing it starting right meow.
So, check it out, tim.blog/complaint. That is the 21-day challenge that I would recommend to everyone. And that is it. That is the last question. So, without dragging this out too long, I would say if you’d like to ask me questions directly, if you would like to see what I am finding most interesting in any given week, whether that’s articles, gadgets, new apps, elegant tech fixes and workarounds that a lot of my friends share with me, new investments, you name it, really – anything cool that I am experimenting with, that I’ve found, that I’m pondering, I send out five short bullets every Friday in Five Bullet Friday. And you can side up for free. It’s always free, and it’s fun. People love it. More than a million subscribers, 60-plus percent open rate on average. It’s a lot of fun for me to put together, and people seem to be enjoying it.
So, check it out. You can sign up at tim.blog/Friday. That’s tim.blog/Friday. And as always, until next time, thank you so, so much for listening.
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