Adam Robinson — Outflanking and Outsmarting the Competition (#322)

“If I realize my focus is off, and certainly when I’m experiencing any negative emotions, I ask myself, ‘Where should my attention be right now?’ Almost always, the answer is ‘my mission,’ which is like a beacon that always beckons.” — Adam Robinson

Welcome to another episode of The Tim Ferriss Show, where I share the habits, tools and patterns of world-class performers. This special short episode features insights from Adam Robinson (@IAmAdamRobinson). His answers to my questions were highlighted in my most recent book, Tribe of Mentors.

For those of you not familiar with Adam, he has made a lifelong study of outflanking and outsmarting the competition. He is a rated chess master who was awarded a Life Title by the United States Chess Federation. As a teenager, he was personally mentored by Bobby Fischer in the 18 months leading up to his winning the world championship.

Then, in his first career, he developed a revolutionary approach to taking standardized tests as one of the two original co-founders of The Princeton Review. His paradigm-breaking — or “category killing,” as they say in publishing — test-prep book, The SAT: Cracking the System, is the only test-prep book ever to have become a New York Times bestseller. After selling his interest in The Princeton Review, Adam turned his attention in the early ’90s to the then-emerging field of artificial intelligence, developing a program that could analyze text and provide human-like commentary. He was later invited to join a well-known quant fund to develop statistical trading models, and since, he has established himself as an independent global macro advisor to the chief investment officers of a select group of the world’s most successful hedge funds and family offices.

Adam has also been one of this show’s most popular guests, and you can check out his first appearance here, and his second here.


Adam Robinson — Outflanking and Outsmarting the Competition

Want to hear another conversation with an investor who has his mind on more than money? — Check out my interview with Steve Jurvetson, an early VC investor in SpaceX, Tesla, Planet, Memphis Meats, and Hotmail. Stream below or right-click here to download.

Steve Jurvetson — The Midas Touch and Mind-Bending Futures

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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…


  • Connect with Adam:

Website | Twitter


  • What would Adam’s gigantic billboard say, and why? [04:18]
  • How do you change what you’re doing if you’re not getting the results you want? [05:29]
  • When self-confidence is almost as bad as self-doubt. [06:05]
  • Bad recommendations Adam hears often in the field of global finance. [07:02]
  • One of Adam’s most worthwhile investments — in spite of initial reluctance. [12:51]
  • A recent purchase of less than $200 that has had the most positive impact on Adam’s life. [16:50]
  • What new belief, behavior, or habit has most improved Adam’s life in the past five years? [17:21]
  • What advice would Adam give to a smart, driven college student about to enter the real world? [20:54]
  • What does Adam do when he feels overwhelmed or unfocused? [26:45]
  • What has Adam become better at saying “no” to in the last five years? [29:45]
  • An unusual habit or absurd thing Adam loves. [31:29]


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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24 Replies to “Adam Robinson — Outflanking and Outsmarting the Competition (#322)”

  1. What was my favorite quote or lesson from this episode? I really liked what Adam Robinson said about how everything in your life will fall into place when you are focused on your mission. I love that!

  2. I find you to be very thoughtful and provide a tremendous amount of helpful content, Tim. I’d be remiss if I didn’t share, though, my disappointment in not seeing a message about current happenings in the news (treatment of kids on the border). You have an incredible platform. I hope I am missing the traffic where you are talking about morality in the world.

  3. This is THE ONE I’ve been waiting for! Since I heard from Adam R on the Tribe of Mentors Podcast, I knew he spoke to a pain I had: living inside my head and ignoring the value of Other People in my life. I devoured the four-way episode with Ramit, Josh, Adam, and yourself, Tim.

    Thanks so much for this episode, and I am 100% buying Adam’s book once it comes out.

  4. Great episode! I wonder what is his mission?

    What and how a limited and articulated amount of ideas can drive and center a person who seems to be capable of doing everything he puts his energy into.

    He quote Mark Twain: “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” on my side, I am still digging to find out my “why”

  5. Would love to know what your subject line was when emailing all of these folks- to get them to open it. ??

  6. Really liked this one. I totally agree that finding your mission in life is the most important thing. The two most important days are indeed the day you were born and the day you discover why. I think a lot of our problems will be solved if we are living on purpose. I also like his other quote “if you don’t like the results you are getting change what you are doing” excellent common sense advice indeed.

  7. Would love to hear a conversation about what financially successful people think about the vast majority of people who are not. What do they think of a system that can create such vast income inequality?

    1. Hi onethingweight.

      The truth is that they can share their experiences and teach us how to fish, but it’s up to us if we want to apply it.

      ~Felix Dragoi

  8. I think I am going to grab and espresso, and annotate this whole episode into my journal. I loved all four of the opening quotes, in particular, thank you Adam for putting this together and cracking open some magic (and top tricks ;)) into the world!

      1. And I one-clicked on the Heart-Math Solution, can’t wait to get stuck into that too 🙂

  9. I’m private wealth advisor that pleads with my clients to not pay attention to market noise or “predictions for the year ahead” type pieces that permeate the investment landscape. I want to write the a piece on my blog about the horse handicapper study showing that information becomes a marginal deficit. Is there a link to the study anywhere? This is behavioral finance gold.

  10. Maybe the best Tim Ferris podcast I’ve heard yet. So dense in the amount of wisdom it provides. Sharing this with so many people. Also, prepared responses may actually make for a more efficient dissemination of information. 30 minutes versus two hours and I got a lot more out of it.

    1. Hello Jake.

      You just made the exact same comment I was thinking of adding to the conversation.

      At one point it felt as if I was transcribing the podcast. There is no doubt in my mind that prepared responses are way more valuable, because there’s no denying that thoughtful answers have a higher probability of being more carefully crafted than a response that is expected on the spot with a few seconds of thinking at most.

      ~Felix Dragoi

  11. Wow ! ! ! What a treat to the ears ! Nugget after Nugget of WISDOM !!!

    Thank you ADAM ROBINSON for this pleasure and insights, and thank you TIM for bringing this episode to us!!

  12. One thing I would love from you is a weekly email that expands on the “qoute I’m pondering” part of your 5 bullet Friday. I get the most from that every week and would love to hear more into what you are reading/thinking about every week. Such as a “Monday brain food” newsletter.

  13. Thanks for bringing Adam back on Tim. Adam combines the qualities of information, entertainment and enthusiasm100%. Set up a list for Adam’s book as I’ll be buying that for sure as soon as it’s released.

  14. Adam mentioned a book that we was supposed to come out in January but I couldn’t find it in amazon or elsewhere ? Any idea where can I get it ?

  15. His book, What Smart Students Know, helped me to get straight A(s) in college and grad school.