Cal Fussman Corners Tim Ferriss (#324)

“All the pieces are coming together here!” — Cal Fussman

I’ve interviewed legendary storyteller Cal Fussman (@calfussman) on this show before (here and here), but this time the roles are reversed, and he interviews me!

If you are not yet familiar with Cal, he is a New York Times bestselling author and a writer-at-large for Esquire magazine, where he is best known for being a primary writer of the “What I Learned” feature. And this interview originally aired on Cal’s podcast, “Big Questions with Cal Fussman.”

Cal has transformed oral history into an art form, conducting probing interviews with the icons who’ve shaped the last 50 years of world history: Mikhail Gorbachev, Jimmy Carter, Ted Kennedy, Jeff Bezos, Richard Branson, Jack Welch, Robert DeNiro, Clint Eastwood, Bruce Springsteen, Dr. Dre, Quincy Jones, Woody Allen, Barbara Walters, Pelé, Yao Ming, Serena Williams, John Wooden, Muhammad Ali, and countless others.


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

Cal Fussman Corners Tim Ferriss

Want to hear another episode with someone who’s collected a lifetime of great stories? — Listen to my interview with Shep Gordon, the man behind some of the biggest names you’ve ever heard, including Alice Cooper, Wolfgang Puck, Anne Murray, and Teddy Pendergrass. (Stream below or right-click here to download):

Shep Gordon - The King Maker on His Best PR Stunts, Hugest Failures, and Practical Philosophies

This podcast is brought to you by Four Sigmatic. While I often praise this company’s lion’s mane mushroom coffee for a minimal caffeine wakeup call that lasts, I asked the founders if they could help me—someone who’s struggled with insomnia for decades—sleep. Their answer: Reishi Mushroom Elixir. They made a special batch for me and my listeners that comes without sweetener; you can try it at bedtime with a little honey or nut milk, or you can just add hot water to your single-serving packet and embrace its bitterness like I do.

Try it right now by going to and using the code Ferriss to get 20 percent off this rare, limited run of Reishi Mushroom Elixir. If you are in the experimental mindset, I do not think you’ll be disappointed.

This episode is brought to you by “5-Bullet Friday,” my very own email newsletter, which every Friday features five bullet points of cool things I’ve found that week, including apps, books, documentaries, gadgets, albums, articles, TV shows, new hacks or tricks, and — of course — all sorts of weird stuff I’ve dug up from around the world. 

It’s free, it’s always going to be free, and you can subscribe now at

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 Cal Fussman:

Website | Podcast | Twitter | Kevin “The Manager”


  • How does Cal approach an interview with someone he knows pretty well — like me, for instance? [09:44]
  • A story about Brian Grazer and Ron Howard and how their teamwork reminds Cal of me. [11:09]
  • Is my origin story anything like “Iceman” Wim Hof’s? [12:58]
  • Childhood wrestling and adaptation to thermoregulation woes that led to lifelong self-experimentation. [14:58]
  • Why growing up when I did probably influenced my interest in nutrition. [20:53]
  • Contrasting the characteristics of the people who raised me and piecing together what I’ve inherited from them. [22:25]
  • How does my interest in persuasion and salesmanship tie in with my night owl tendencies? [24:43]
  • Even if Cal doesn’t think I have the mindset of an artist, I did grow up with serious artistic aspirations. [28:43]
  • What the “get the crowd first, then sell the product” approach gets you. [30:48]
  • Contrary to what seems to be popular opinion, I don’t consider myself a risk-taker. [31:47]
  • How did the way I think about money and efficiency get me fired from one of my first jobs in high school? [32:15]
  • Other high school jobs that were better suited to my efficiency-centered work ethic. [35:15]
  • On taking a class with John McPhee at Princeton, a writer who can mesmerize readers with entire books about seemingly mundane subjects like oranges, rocks, tennis, and the time-honored tradition of the bark canoe. [38:36]
  • How my love for minimalism and elegance relates to my love for Japan. [46:38]
  • What I learned from John McPhee’s class that translated into better grades in all my other classes. [47:46]
  • At what point did the ability to control my own journey come into play? [48:10]
  • My brief career as a safeguard (bouncer) at Princeton. [51:34]
  • High-tech entrepreneurship field studies on a Radio Shack budget. [59:38]
  • Learning to speed read through the coursework at Princeton — while coping with dysgraphia. [1:01:34]
  • What I learned by collecting and analyzing the advertising that caught my eye. [1:05:12]
  • My first taste of failure as an entrepreneur. [1:06:03]
  • In marketing, what is a dry test? [1:07:02]
  • My first taste of success as an entrepreneur. [1:07:52]
  • My first investment. [1:13:56]
  • When did the concept for The 4-Hour Workweek really start to formulate? [1:16:07]
  • Negotiating with Ed Zschau for a seat (or spot on the floor) in his class after I missed the registration deadline. [1:17:48]
  • Hustling for a job after college. [1:20:57]
  • Laying the groundwork for my next business venture. [1:27:26]
  • When success became a series of liabilities and the company I ran started running me. [1:31:41]
  • How a twice-a-year lecture for Ed Zschau and some time off the grid helped me begin to put what would become 4-Hour Workweek principles in effect. [1:32:14]
  • The exact moment when business scaling became lifestyle design. [1:33:57]
  • How insomnia, lack of a television set, and a snarky Princeton student’s feedback led to me writing my first book (in spite of an earlier vow to never write again). [1:34:51]
  • If you’re going to bother volunteering, make a point of being a good (and memorable) volunteer. [1:36:32]
  • How Chicken Soup for the Soul co-author Jack Canfield helped me begin the process of writing a book. [1:37:34]
  • The real reason I was annoyed at The 4-Hour Workweek being rejected over 25 times. [1:39:50]
  • What sealed the deal at my final pitch. [1:42:21]
  • How I upheld my part of the bargain and finalized the winning book title. [1:45:17]
  • Putting a cap on Chapter One: Tim Ferriss — The Early Years. [1:49:41]
  • Asking better questions and what you can expect if you haven’t had a chance to read Tribe of Mentors yet. [1:49:58]


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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13 Replies to “Cal Fussman Corners Tim Ferriss (#324)”

  1. Great interview, Tim. That filled in the blanks. While we are each a rich tapestry of experiences hearing the whole progression of many of the major ones was helpful.

    The thing I kept asking myself during the middle and later portions of the podcast was, “has he posted his sales scripts somewhere?” So I’ll ask: have you ever published the direct sales scripts/algorithms you developed over your years of learning them from others and using them yourself? If so where? If not, will you? They would be invaluable guides/templates for those of us who have not yet mastered the post-no close.

  2. Good evening, maybe here is not the right place for this comment, but I’m slow on the 4HWW book, and on page 73 there’s an example worksheet for dream delinquency. In the book says that in the blog url tim ferriss has the online spreadsheet and calculator online, I searched here and did not find it. Can anyone give me the link of this tool? Thanks

  3. Tim! Long time listener/subscriber/reader, first time commenter. I listened to this podcast hours ago, yet I just received the email telling me it’s available. This happens most every week. Am I just over-eager or do you find the timing of the e-mail to generate the most opens at that time? I can’t imagine you would leave something with the ability to be automated to chance. So what’s the deal?

  4. Cal prises open the early days of Tim’s life…with some fascinating (and new. I think) insights into just how “this leads to that…” as we all explore curiosities and make decisions….

    For all of us enjoying marching around in the Ferriss benevolent army of life-long learning, this episode may just serve to help you know yourself more, too – in terms of how one thing leads to another. The episode is stacked with example of key decisions, influences and pivot points.

    Thanks Tim, a real privilege to have you open the vaults of your early days.

  5. Hi Tim,

    Looking forward to the next 9 parts of this life story series with Cal Fusman, although it might take some time.


  6. Loving your life story: Since you love wrestlers thought you might like:

    [Moderator: promo for wrestling documentary “350 Days” removed.]

    A H.S buddy’s director debut..

  7. What stood out for me were a number of things. I too can’t stand inefficiency and never understood the concept of making someone do the same task again, at least he should have been efficient and given you more to do, since you were so quick.:^) I like that Mcfee’s class made you a better thinker. That’s a great product from any class, imagine if most classes made one a better thinker. Curious about the heat sensitivity and your mention of potassium– I think there is a connection, for me. I’ve been trying to solve my own sensivity. I’m curious if you have gotten to the root of yours? And lastly, I ordered the Reishi – because it has no sweetners, ty. I’m looking forward to trying it. Thanks for your thoughtfulness.

  8. Loved this episode. Cal Fussman has a great skill of figuring out a person. It felt like he was peeling the onion – only it was the other way around. Totally awesome episode. Learned so much about Tim and what ticks him, and why ! Thank you for sharing it on your podcast else I would have missed it.

  9. I selfishly enjoyed this episode. TruSAN is quite a story for me as well. The brief version: I met “Thomas” while playing some hoops at Pacific Athletic Club in Redwood Shores. We became friends… when TruSAN closed shop in 2003, I helped Thomas move his home to SF. The only other helper that day was a 5’ tall, cute, Vietnamese gal named Cindi. I asked Cindi to lunch and BAM… been married to her for 10’years now. About a year ago, Cindi turned on YouTube to watch something with our daughter… and I had previously entered “Tim Ferriss” into the search field. Cindi said, “Tim Ferriss? I know Tim Ferriss.” Of course, me being a Tim Ferriss supporter, I figured she was talking about a different Tim Ferriss, but no… she told me the stories about how they met at TruSAN and became friends. So, I asked my wife, “didn’t you notice the three New York Times Best Selling Tim Ferriss books on our office desk?” She had no clue what Tim Ferriss was up to. After I explained she said, “So you’re saying I married the wrong guy?” Ha ha ha. Big thank you to “Thomas” for introducing me to my wife… my kids appreciate it too… and my deep apologies that you could never stop my fade away. 😉