Please enjoy this transcript of a Q&A episode I did with questions from supporters of my recent experiment with a fan-supported model for the podcast. (To learn more about the outcome of that experiment, please go to tim.blog/podcastexperiment.)
We covered 40 or so questions! It was a lot of fun, the questions were great, and while it was scheduled as a one-hour session, we went for longer.
I answered questions on dating, depressive episodes, major life transitions, networking, uncoupling happiness from achievement, what I would hypothetically ask Richard Feynman, and much, much more.
Please note that there were a few small glitches in the audio when the connection was poor. We cleaned it up and it’s not too bad. The transcript matches the cleaned-up audio as accurately as possible.
I also want to reiterate how grateful I am to everyone who contributed to and supported the podcast, as well as to all of you who listen to it. I wouldn’t be able to do what I do without you, so thank you.
Transcripts may contain a few typos—with some episodes lasting 2+ hours, it’s difficult to catch some minor errors. Enjoy!
Listen to the episode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Overcast, Stitcher, Castbox, or on your favorite podcast platform.
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First and foremost, thanks to everybody who is joining in. And if you’re not joining in and watching this later, thanks all the same for supporting the podcast and all of these various other things that I am up to. You are in a small elite group, emphasis on small and elite. And maybe I’ll have some updates on that as we progress through the questions. There are a few that are related to fan-supported. And it means a lot that you’re here, and welcome to the very first live video Q&A for supporters only.
And many of you submitted and upvoted questions, so we will get to a bunch of those, and there are a million and one questions coming in on the live chat. I will prompt questions, just so I can look through and make some sense of selecting questions. But let me jump in just to whet my appetite and limber up a little bit, look at some of the questions that are here at random. Are you still working on the self-love book? I think this is a reference to the book I alluded to with Greg McKeown and a book on self-love and healing, which doesn’t sound very sexy, but it would really cover a lot of the experiments and adventures that I’ve had on and very much off the beaten path for the last five or six years. I am working on that book, and that book is going to be my main priority after I finish another book that should be announced very shortly.
Let’s see. Stephanie. Alzheimer’s plus psychedelics latest research. Do you have a current stack for preventative, or would I try on a family member with Alzheimer’s? I am looking very closely at this. The Paul Stamets episode that I did gets into this towards the end, and he talks about what type of stack he might use for that or mitigating neurocognitive declines. So I would take a look at that. Also worth looking at octanoic acid, other types of medium-chained triglycerides — MCTs — for potential application to Alzheimer’s, which some people consider to be brain diabetes.
All right. Why don’t we jump into some of the questions that you guys have submitted and upvoted. And I recognize that uploading is never perfect, and it can be manipulated, but fortunately, it’s only being manipulated by a very small group of supporters. And I will jump around. I’m not going to do these in perfect order, also because I grabbed the top 20 or so and put them into a Google document. So let me jump into some of the more popular ones here.
This is one that I also had some guest input on. The question is from Anonymous. If you are 24 years old today and living in New York City, how would you approach dating? What assumptions or rules are important, how to become more successful with girls? So this is pretty gender specific, but the recommendations could apply to both and all genders. I’m going to begin with a piece of advice that was given to me by my lovely girlfriend, who has actually provided dating coaching professionally and has even gone to the extent of having an earpiece in where she can hear and coach remotely someone who is on a date live. So she knows what she’s talking about.
And this advice is not specific to males, but just to make it simple, I’m going to answer it from the standpoint of a male. Her advice was, go to the same restaurant or coffee shop or bar, probably better bar or restaurant, multiple days in advance before the date and then make that your go to location for the date. Why would you do this? This is also advice, by the way, that I’ve had in The 4-Hour Chef, particularly effective if you start off-peak hours. So if you do let’s say on a Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, by the time you get to Friday, this staff is going to know you. You could have a preferred table.
One insider question is: “What is the number for this table?” So at the pass, where service staff will go then pick up, or at least I should say front of the house, will go pick up dishes and deliver them, more often than not, each table will have a number. So you can figure out what your favorite number is. You could refer to it. You know the appetizers, you know the best dishes, you’ll get special favors, preferential treatment, et cetera. This does a bunch of things. Number one, it removes a lot of uncertainty and a lot of unknown variables. Number two, it gives you confidence. Very helpful things on a first date.
Now how would you approach dating? That is how to implement, I suppose, on some level, a first date. If you’re in New York City, I have to tell you, if you’re looking for girls also, you are in a target-rich environment. So you could do a lot worse. And it depends on what you’re optimizing for. So if you’re looking for sport and recreation, there will be one approach. And I think that if you’re looking for more, some of the same portfolio of tools would apply. Frankly, Bumble, Tinder, et cetera, in New York City, it’s not like, oh, closest date, 14 miles away. It’s like, oh, closest date, 14, potential date, 14 feet away. It is a very dense, dense environment.
I do think that some of the kind of baseline — this is going to sound strange, but philosophical underpinnings are worthwhile to read, like The Way of the Superior Man by David Deida. Don’t agree with everything in that book, but I do think that if we’re talking about heteronormative male seeking eligible female, that there is some valuable information to be found in that book. But I make no claims to be a dating expert. How to be more successful? Don’t be desperate. Also, there’s a maxim in negotiating: He or she who cares the least wins. And I’m not saying that that should be your golden rule for dating, but if you exude confidence because you have the confidence that you will have other options, other opportunities, that, in my experience, is a huge advantage over many people you may be competing against.
And let’s not kid ourselves, it is a mating competition. So those are my thoughts on starting over, if I were 24 and living in New York City, how would I approach dating? Those are a few of the thoughts that I would have.
Next, this is from Larry. If you are comfortable talking about it, do you still get depressive episodes?
You know what, let me take a step back. Also Anonymous. This is going to probably get me into hot water, but screw it. One of my friends is Neil Strauss, as many of you know, who wrote The Game, recently which he’s been somewhat apologetic for.
But nonetheless in that book, that for a male who does not have confidence when interacting with women, which really means does not have experience interacting with women or at least initiating that type of contact. A lot of the exercises are, I think, very, very useful, very, very helpful. And it’s a slippery slope and there’s a lot of manipulative and kind of skeezy stuff in the pickup world. But a lot of it is pretty supported by behavioral psychology and conditioning.
So if you look at a book like Don’t Shoot the Dog, which is about mammalian training, which is mostly applied in this book to dogs, but it could be applied to dolphins and could also be applied to humans, you want to be, if you feel you lack confidence in interacting with women — and I do think confidence is certainly an attractor — that you can condition and train yourself to be more confident. It is not a mental trick. In other words, I am asked quite often, “How do I build confidence or how can I — this is just me reading between the lines — think of my way into being more confident? And I don’t think you can. I think you can train your way into being more confident because your inner self will always know if you’re simply going through mental gymnastics to create an illusion of yourself as confident.
The way you build confidence is by doing things that are just outside of your comfort zone and repeatedly doing so, much like you would by going into the gym and having progressive resistance, increasing the discomfort and the range of comfort so that your sphere of comfortable action expands. Okay. So that’s the footnote to the first question.
Larry, your question — if you’re comfortable talking about it, do you still get depressive episodes? If yes, have you learned to live with them? If yes, what are your top three tips? I have not had, very fortunately, knock on wood, a major depressive episode in the last five or six years. I attribute this to a lot of things. I’m not a doctor. I don’t play one on the Internet.
I won’t talk about anything that would imply I’m recommending doing something illegal since these compounds are illegal in many places and they are not sufficient in and unto themselves. But this is part of the reason I’m supporting a lot of science at places like Johns Hopkins, Imperial College, London and elsewhere. There’re also a lot of tools that I think can be very valuable. Byron Katie, The Work, I would encourage looking at if you feel like you are a prisoner to thought loops that may not be the most beneficial or helpful, that is a set of exercises and questions you can find for free online that I would recommend. Tony Robbins, controversial figure in a lot of respects, but many of his exercises, the Dickens Process included, I have found to be very, very powerful defining the driving values and whether or not you may have competing values and goals. Very important.
Other things that I have developed as habits, which are really foundational, would be exercise. It’s very easy to try to think your way out of a funk or some type of depression. And as Tony would say, I’ll quote him again, “You start with state, your physical state, then story, the story you tell yourself, and then the strategy. But if you’re in a depressed state, the story you have is going to be glass half full. It’s going to be cloudy with a chance of rain and therefore the strategy you come up with is going to be inferred by that negative state.” So first is exercise. And I really do, whenever possible, try to get some type of physical motion in the morning.
And right beside me, now, for instance, is a kettlebell. I ordered it on Amazon and it was shipped Prime. And this morning, I wanted to get directly to doing some writing, but did about 30 swings with this kettlebell beforehand. Very minimal effective dose of exercise, but just enough to change my hormonal state to activate my entire nervous system, which changes the lens through which I look at any problem that might pop up during the day.
Second is certainly diet. And third, this is not necessarily in order of importance, is sleep. And I highly recommend checking out a podcast episode with Matt Walker and Peter Attia. This is on The Drive, a podcast hosted by Peter Attia. Matt Walker also wrote a book called Why We Sleep that has been recommended by multiple podcast guests, most recently, Amanda Palmer. And there are a few other questions here that we’ll also have — or I should say relate to one of the tips for avoiding depressive episodes or potentially reversing a tailspin.
So this question here is: What would you suggest — this is from Anonymous and related to what we were just talking about — what would you suggest to an individual considering a major life transition — example given — stable, successful career to entrepreneur? What were your key considerations? And that applies to the depressive stuff in the following capacity. I would recommend fear-setting, the fear-setting exercise. And you can find that on tim.blog/ted. It was the subject, in part, of my TED presentation, which at this point has five million or so or six million views.
And fear-setting takes whatever is causing your fear, uncertainty or doubt in your mind, which can often precipitate loops that lead to physiological and psychological depression, and puts them under a microscope and dissects them, which is incredibly valuable because it plays out worst case scenarios in a very systematic way so that you can see that the absolute worst case scenarios are, in most cases, either avoidable, reversible, or very temporary. So the answer to, what can an individual do if they’re considering a major life transition and what can you do to avoid or mitigate depressive episodes, in this instance, have the same answer, which is do the fear-setting exercise. I still do this exercise all the time, I would say at least once a quarter, more like once a month.
Okay. Next question here. I’m going to tackle this from Dean Harrington. Do you have a process or tool that helps you read so many books? There are a few things. There is a short, I suppose, exercise training approach that I’ve used for increasing reading speed. And if you just search Tim Ferriss and speed reading on Google, it should pop right up. And there are a number of different tools that I outline. They’re all free. And you can very easily double or triple your reading speed. But that says nothing about selection. And I do think selection is key here, because it doesn’t pay to read a lot of garbage quickly.
So you have the technical aspect of developing better motor control when reading. But your question is specifically read so many books. How do I read so many books? Number one is finding really good books. It makes it easier to read books if they’re outstanding. And I will rely very much on my podcast guests, quite frankly, and look for patterns, look for books that are recommended more than once. I also prefer old to new. So I look for books that have, in some respect, stood the test of time and I strongly prefer books that are at least five years old. We could talk about classics in an entirely separate category, but books that have really demonstrated a longevity through word of mouth and a sustained minimum of say, four stars on Amazon.
And once I then download these books — so this is one of the keys — I will read in electronic format because my next move, I think, of really absorbing key takeaways and next actions more than I think about the volume of reading, read in Kindle format, then I will go to the Kindle notes or notebook URL, which you can access when you’re logged into Amazon. I will then use Evernote to scrape the entire page of my highlights for that book. I will then go into the Evernote document, and I will do a — in this case, it’s at least a third pass of this key material — and I’ll put three asterisks at the beginning of key material. Sometimes I’ll also bold it.
And what this allows me to do then when I want to review the key takeaways of a book — which could be fiction by the way, it’s not limited to nonfiction. I also take these types of notes in many fiction books for turns of phrase that I might want to study, beautiful paragraphs, the structure of which I want to really look at repeatedly or leadership lessons in Dune, for instance. And I’ll put these three asterisks before key parts in this Evernote document. That allows me to then — let’s just say I’m like, “Huh, Dune. What were the things I felt were really, really important after looking at it three times?” Go into that document and do a control f to search for three asterisks. And then I can find all sorts of goodies very, very quickly, like that and spend five minutes finding what I want, rather than going through a paperback version, even if I have created an index in the beginning of the book for searching for content.
If I only have a paperback and I’ve created an index at the beginning of the book for my own highlights, and if you search “how to take notes like an alpha geek” or something ridiculous that I used as a headline many years ago, you’ll see examples of these indices that I’ve created. And I will, sometimes, when traveling, only be able to get a paperback. I’ll create that type of index. I’ll come back and then I’ll use TaskRabbit or something else or have one of my employees scan the index and the pages that have highlights.
In some cases, if I feel it is a particularly valuable book, I will have them then download the Kindle version themselves, pull the highlights from the scans that they see from that text, and create a copy-and-pastable, editable version of those highlights for me. Very long answer, but there you have it.
Next. Jesse. In your opinion or experience, do the workouts in The 4-Hour Body still apply if on a keto diet instead of the slow-carb diet that was originally the book? So if you are on a ketogenic diet, do the workouts still apply? If you are on keto — that is, running on ketones as your preferred fuel instead of the slow-carb diet, which would be a low-glycemic but still a predominantly glucose-based diet if we’re talking about brain and heart and so on. Many of the workouts will still apply, and they can still be used, if you’re on an extended keto diet, you’re going to have low insulin levels or lowered insulin levels.
Insulin is a highly anabolic hormone. So if for instance, you’re following Occam’s Protocol in The 4-Hour Body, which is intended to be paired with a higher calorie loading phase for increasing muscular mass, it will be more difficult to add muscle on a ketogenic diet than on a slow-carb diet. There are many variations of the ketogenic diet that increase your ability to add muscle mass. The CKD or cyclical ketogenic diet is one such example, Mauro Di Pasquale or Di Pasquale, I don’t know how he pronounces his name, had the anabolic diet, which was, in effect, what I’m describing as cyclical ketogenic diet.
Dan Duchaine also had a diet which was very much this type of ketogenic diet. And with the CKD, at least one iteration of it that I used very, very effectively when I was in college, this was a hundred years ago, but nonetheless very effective, was ketogenic diet for five or six days a week, then a glycogen depletion workout the morning of, let’s call it cheat day, but it’s sort of glycogen saturation day, and then a window of high carbohydrate consumption. And then it would take say another day or two to get back into ketosis.
And there are certainly tools you can use to accelerate that. I would not recommend using injectable insulin, which is what some bodybuilders would do and it can be very, very dangerous. It can be fatal. So do not do that. But there are tools that some people can use responsibly like alpha-lipoic acid and others to accelerate the descent into ketosis. There are other things that are non-pharmacological that can increase your descent, or I should say the speed of your descent into ketosis, like extended moderate walking, drinking a lot of water. Sounds silly, but it really works. And you can ask Peter Attia and others about that.
Certainly, as far as references for the ketogenic diet go, Dominic D’Agostino knows just about everything there is to know about ketones, and many have written on the subject, including the names I mentioned earlier. Mauro Di Pasquale, sorry if I’m mangling your name, the late Duchaine, D-U-C-H-A-I-N-E, I believe it is, and many others.
All right. Dieter, I’m guessing it’s Dieter and not dieter. If you started out creating one today, what would be the route you’d probably take given the tools and tech of 2019?
Muse, for those who do not recognize the term in this particular context, refers to a primarily automated cash flow optimized business as described in The 4-Hour Workweek. And The 4-Hour Workweek for the most part holds up. I did a revised edition in 2009, and it became very quickly clear — I have thought about doing perhaps some updates to that, but the book will always be slower than the technology. So the technology for implementing the principles will change, but the principles themselves remain the same.
For instance, in The 4-Hour Body I talk about doing market sizing and testing using various types of niche publications like magazines. That is adorably antiquated, of course, at this point. But if you understand the principles behind the testing, you can now use Facebook advertising and say, Optimizely on your site and Shopify to accomplish what would have taken months in the span of several days. And that is an example of adapting the principles to new tactics that are not contained in the book.
I do not have a recommendation for type of muse. One of the most common questions I get is: “What product should I create? What trends should I capitalize on now?” And my answer to that is, if you are not willing to at least attempt to answer that for yourself, you shouldn’t do it at all. Because you will not be able to improvise and adapt sufficiently well to run or to architect and then run, whether hands-on or by system, a business as I described in The 4-Hour Workweek. So If it’s extremely easy for you to identify a trend, and you pick a product that you think you can then private label or drop ship or fill in the blank in a very low labor way, chances are you’re going to have a lot of competition. And what that will mean is you’ll be tempted to engage in a race to the bottom with discounting. And that will violate one of the principles in The 4-Hour Workweek, when I talk about different multiples of COGS, cost of goods, and creating a margin of safety with higher pricing, ideally premium pricing, which provides you all sorts of insurance against factors outside of your control that can wreak havoc.
Okay. Next question from Matt Wood. Given what is known about the benefits of intermittent fasting, do you still stand by the 30 grams of protein within 30 minutes of waking up recommendation from The 4-Hour Body? Yes, I do. I do stand by it. And the reason is that my first criterion for any type of behavioral change or new behavior that I might try myself or recommend, is adherence. Will I or will other people actually follow this protocol to the extent that it needs to be followed? Let me give you an example of low adherence, high adherence.
Low adherence, even though I am a fan of the ketogenic diet, it is the type of diet that has a very binary outcome based on your degree of compliance. So if you follow a ketogenic diet 80% of the day, but eat a hundred grams of carbohydrates in the other 20%, you could just create a train wreck of your blood lipids and body composition. It could be a complete mess. Whereas you do get partial credit following the slow-carb diet, and there is a cheat day built into the system, which acts as a psychological release valve and the degree of compliance with say, the slow-carb diet, is much higher than something that is all or nothing, whether it’s all or nothing physiologically — and this is very simplified of course, but as would be the case in a strict ketogenic diet or if it’s ideologically all or nothing, in the case of say very strict keto or very strict veganism.
So number one is compliance. It’s not effectiveness. Number one is, will people do it, and to what extent and will they do it to the extent necessary for it to be, number two, effective? How effective is it? Does it produce the result desired? Have we defined the metric that we are going to measure? How are we going to know when we have succeeded? That’s effective. And then efficient, does it allow us to do what we have aimed to do in a measurable way, in the most time or resource efficient manner available to us?
So it may just be relative to other things. 30 grams of protein within 30 minutes of waking up is absolutely achievable for almost everyone. It is very, very easy to do. Intermittent fasting is not achievable or not sustainable for many people. And a very common — I do practice intermittent fasting. I do a lot of fasting. And for anyone who has read Tools of Titans for instance, there are many examples of different formats you can use for fasting for different purposes.
A lot of people I know, and I’ve corroborated this in discussions with people who run body composition measuring facilities with say DEXA scan and other tools, that many people who attempt intermittent fasting but are unable to follow it to the letter will compensate with tons of caffeine with tons of binging later, which it may lead them to ignore the composition of their food because they justify it with their intermittent fasting. And in some cases, the figureheads of intermittent fasting use a lot of anabolics.
And one of the wonderful things about anabolics, putting aside all of the possible side effects, is that you can do all sorts of things that would lead to muscle wasting without anabolics and not suffer the consequences. So that is a somewhat winding and broad ranging answer to your question. But short answer, yes. Given what is known about the benefits of intermittent fasting, do I still stand by the 30 grams of protein within 30 minutes of waking up? Yes, I do. And skeptics might say 30 grams within 30 minutes, that’s so specific. It’s ridiculous. Why not 20 grams? Why not 40 grams? And the answer is compliance. 30 within 30 is fucking easier to remember. That’s why I use 30. Yeah, it might be 27, it might be 22, it might be 43. I’m not looking for the tail end of diminishing returns, I just know that 30 within 30 is something people can easily remember, and it’s something they can implement very easily.
Okay. So we are 30 minutes into this Q&A. I’m going to hop over to the live questions, and I’m going to answer a few here and then potentially jump back into the upvoted questions. All right. We have a question from Vel. Podcasts are getting competitive and crowded. Will there be a shift in your strategy? What’s new? I have never thought of competition in the world of podcasting. And in a way, I’ve never thought of competition in the world of books either, or really anything that I’ve done in the last seven to 10 years. And that is a bit of sort of a semantic tightrope. And let me describe what I mean.
I don’t think of competition because I always aim to create a category of one. You can, yes, choose to conceptually view yourself as a competitor in a crowded arena and play by the same set of rules and measure your success by the same outcome measures that people are using, or you can ask yourself, “How would I create something that is a category unto itself, something that is entirely different?” Or “How can I ignore competition entirely? What are the assumptions baked into say, podcasting? What are the CPM rates?” This is for advertising purposes, but “What is the range that has been, for whatever reason, accepted as the boundaries of acceptable among the top 20 podcasts that fit a certain profile? Can that be changed? Can I experiment with ultra short? Can I experiment with ultra long? Can I have guests on no one has ever heard of and make them the most downloaded episodes that have ever been published on the podcast? The answer is yes.
I am always trying to be different and better. Different is very important and then better is based on criteria that I set for myself. So I think that things may change in terms of how I approach the podcast, but it’s going to be very much internally dictated. And there are few things that have informed this quite a bit. Many of you have heard me recommend it a million times, but 1,000 True Fans by Kevin Kelly. The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing is a book that has come up recently — actually in conversation with many of my friends who are exceptionally, exceptionally adept in their various worlds of business, and specifically the law of category chapter in The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing.
And Derek Sivers, I think his book is How to Get Anything You Want [Ed. Note: Get Anything You Want], that’s a great book. I’ve read it dozens of times. Has little short chapters, effectively philosophical vignettes with stories that illustrate also a lot of shared DNA that he and I have. So that is my answer to that live question here in the chat.
And let’s see what else we got here. All right. Leif, I think it is. Leif Olsen. How do you network and get connected to people that you have no connection to? Do you simply continue to provide value until they bring you into their circle?
Let me answer the second part first. I do not think of adding value. And I certainly never ask “How can I add value?” That’s a huge red flag for me when someone asks me that because I know that they’re basically engaging in foreplay before they get to the main act of bending me over a barrel and asking me for a huge favor. So I certainly never ask for that. And the way you network is by playing the long game, is the short answer. And that answer then informs the strategies and the tactics.
There is a video of me — there’s also a podcast episode on this called How to Build a World Class Network In Record Time. And this particular approach that I outlined in that — and I’m not going to try to give you the answer right now because you can find it so easily. But if you search South by Southwest, SXSW, how to build a world class network in record time, Tim Ferriss, it’ll pop right up. It’s really reflective of the military dictum “Slow is smooth and smooth is fast.” So if you want to go fast, if you want to do things quickly in certain areas, paradoxically, it pays to look at it very meticulously and to move very methodically in a slow way and play the long game.
You have a tremendous competitive advantage when you do this. Jeff Bezos and Amazon are a perfect example of that, when your time horizon can be pushed out further than those who view themselves as your competitors, and if you are trying to network above your weight class, make no mistake, you are a competitor because you are competing for a finite resource called attention that these, in your mind, high value individuals might have. And part of that strategy is looking for people you could legitimately develop a friendship with, a relationship with, that would last say, at least, 10 years. And the proof is in the pudding. Many of the people I met and developed friendships with, say at South by Southwest in 2007, the first time I was there, which was a tipping point for The 4-Hour Workweek, are still my friends today.
All right, let’s jump back into the questions. Live chat. Darshiel…Barkoush? I’m sure I’m killing that name. You rarely talk politics. Is this a policy of yours? What’s your thought process behind this? Do you have any tips on addressing controversial topics elegantly? I do avoid politics, absolutely. And I would, however, say that I look forward to addressing many controversial subjects or discussing many controversial topics if I think that people who are listening, in the case of the podcast, are open to changing their position or modifying their perspective. If they are looking for education as opposed to an opponent to fight, because they have a position and they spend most of their time locked in confirmation bias, looking for any data, any headline, any bit of news to support what they already believe to be true, which I find to be the case in politics. It is just a swamp of monsters that is not worth wading through, generally speaking.
Very similar, of course, to religion and many hot button issues. I’m open and actually eager to discuss controversial topics if I think that by bringing experts say, onto the podcast or extremely thoughtful, intelligent people who have looked at something from multiple perspectives, I can provide stories and data to people listening that will allow them to make better decisions and if they hear a compelling case for it, to change their position. But if everyone coming to the party has already decided what they believe, and it’s just a matter of rolling up their sleeves and punching one another in the face, then I have very little interest.
Which yes, is the reason I have very, very few politicians on the show. And if I have someone on the show who is very, very right-leaning, I almost always compensate or balance that out by having someone who is very, very left-leaning. If someone asks me a pointed question about specific issues, I’m happy to give my personal perspective, that I don’t shy away from. But bringing on politics to discuss politics is rarely of interest to me. And I actually talk about this somewhat at length. If you do want to hear a lengthier discussion about how I think about politics, which is probably naive in many respects, but I’m really focused on information people will use to make positive changes for themselves and others. So I generally steer clear.
But Ezra Klein, I believe — am I getting last name all wrong? Ezra of Vox, and I had a conversation specifically about this, which you can find on the podcast.
Vincent…Michaud? Here we go with names. More names I can’t pronounce. M-I-C-H-A-U-D. If I had to pick one interview from the many in Tools of Titans, which one would you choose and why? It’s impossible for me to choose one for all seasons because each of those are so personal for me, and it’s separated out into healthy, wealthy, and wise. So categorically, they’re really for different purposes, but it’s hard to go wrong with Naval Ravikant, the density of insight per sentence is very difficult to beat.
Right. Let me jump into another question. Robbie Wade. Why don’t you do Tim Ferriss conferences? Primarily because I prefer the flexibility of being able to have a one-to-many interaction through the podcast, particularly in a recorded format that can then be shared with millions of people at a time. I have done conferences before, not specifically for or about Tim Ferriss, but rather about content marketing, which were very successful. And in fact, one event I did, I think it was eight years ago, has a Facebook group that is still active to this day, eight years later. It’s quite remarkable. So perhaps at some point, I’ll consider doing events. But for the purposes of sharing, teaching, and expertise and information from those who are the best at what they do, which is what I try to do on the podcast, I find the podcast to be a better vehicle.
All right. This is a vague question, but I’m going to take a stab at it anyway — general advice for a 23-year-old. Number one, start meditating. Do it first thing in the morning, 10 to 20 minutes. And if in doubt, try TM, I find to have a high compliance rate, which, once again, is my first criterion. Other things, advice for 23-year-olds, is really the advice I would’ve given myself at 23 and 30 and beyond, would be optimize for skills and relationships.
So when you choose projects, try to ensure that you can win even if you fail. And the person I know who’s developed this thinking the most in his writing is Scott Adams, the creator of Dilbert. And he’s written about career advice related to this. So a few things. Number one, if you choose projects based on the skills you’ll develop and the relationships you will build with people who are very good at what they do, those skills and those relationships will transcend an outlive the project, even if the project fails, which means in my mind, over time, you cannot fail if you are very consistent in using those two criteria.
And also, this is directly from Scott, who by the way predicted just about everything with Trump in my podcast interview with him, which was eerily prescient and highly accurate. But that’s a complete aside just to get everybody’s panties in a twist in one way or another, had to invoke the T word. He talks about the difference between becoming the best in the world at one skill, so let’s just say for the sake of argument, a LeBron James or a Warren Buffett, and combining two seldom combined skills. And Marc Andreessen has referenced Scott Adams as it relates to this.
Say a law degree and a computer science degree or a vast career of negotiating where you have experienced negotiating at high levels with public speaking and fill in the blank. Perhaps you went to a code camp like Lambda School. It’s much more than a camp, but you have that complementary skill that you’ve laid on top of these other two in that combination of three as a Venn diagram puts you in very rarefied company. That allows you to compete and that allows you to stand out and be what? Be different and better. To play by your own rules. Why? Because you have not developed yourself as a Jack of all trades, but a Jack or a Jane of two or three that are rarely seen in combination that work synergistically.
Epic Bear Cat. Do you drink a glass of wine every night? I do not, actually. The last few months have seen me drinking very, very little. And I’ve probably had — I don’t know, something like five glasses of alcoholic beverages in the last few months. Very little alcohol. So go figure, maybe Tim is growing up. I do like booze, don’t get me wrong, but I found that the more I meditate, the more I have tried to develop sensitivities. And this could get out into pretty strange territory quickly, but sensitivities, which really means just paying attention to nature, being in nature more often, listening very carefully, paying attention to my kinesthetic response to people and things, the more intense and exaggerated my response to alcohol is.
Meaning rather than having three drinks and feeling it the next day, I drink two drinks, and I have a splitting headache immediately at the dinner table. So the appeal of alcohol has diminished a lot. And I think there’s a place for it for me. There is a place for it. The disinhibiting social lubricant that it provides can be very helpful and fun. But it is also, for me, a dulling agent, and right now I don’t want to dull. I want to develop sensitivities.
Let’s jump back into the submitted and upvoted questions. And for those people who are still on, I will say, I know that we’re supposed to only have about 12 minutes left, but I will go over. So I’m happy to go over and try to answer more questions. I can’t promise you exactly how long I’ll go over, but I will go longer than an hour because you guys are O, for awesome. If anybody can catch that reference and pick that out, bonus points. Give you a hint: it relates to a boxer.
All right. Question from Anonymous. This is upvoted. Everybody talks about the same things for reaching your goals — persistence, grit, focus, et cetera. What are the things, and ugly things nobody talks about? This is a good question. I don’t know if my answer will include ugly things, but it might include things that are less sexy to talk about. All right. Let me reread the question so that everybody can really take it in. Everybody talks about the same things for reaching your goals, persistence, grit, focus, et cetera. What are the things, and ugly things that nobody talks about?
Number one, I would say, is talking to those who have approached the skill before to ask them when you should expect sticking points and plateaus or dips in performance or morale. And I do this quite a lot. And you can map it out. In The 4-Hour Chef, which is really a book about accelerated learning, I show a map, effectively of — it’s a diagram, and it’s very loose, of course that used to be on — it might still be on a whiteboard at Y Combinator in Mountainview. Y Combinator, for people who don’t know, also known as YC is kind of the SEAL Team Six, Harvard Dean’s list of startup incubators. I know it’s more than an incubator, but it’s produced some incredible alumni and companies like Dropbox, Airbnb, Reddit, et cetera. Highly, highly competitive application process and highly, highly coveted positions within that often lead to quite a bit of funding for quite a few companies.
There, they have a whiteboard and part of the whiteboard shows the common trajectory of startup experience, and there’s a portion called the trough of sorrow. And this trough of sorrow is very common. In other words, you have the idea on the back of the napkin, “Oh my God, we’re going to be the next Steve Jobs, we’re going to build up multibillion dollar company.” You happen to put together a deck, maybe even a version one prototype that gets people really excited, you’re built on top of AWS and a bunch of other stuff. “Oh my God. We’re the cat’s meow, we just raised $10 million. We are the kings or queens of the world.”
And then surprise, now the next few months you actually have to build this fucking thing and go out and recruit users and customers. And you can run into a lot of rude surprises that aren’t as full of sugar highs as perhaps the preceding handful of weeks. And there’s that trough of sorrow that people can enter into and stay in for quite a long period of time. And here’s the great aspect of what sounds like a very depressing story. This is predictable. This is predictable. What does that mean?
If you know that you’re going to run into a one-lane availability, in other words like the highway is going to be broken down into one lane 20 miles from now, it is not going to have the psychological impact on you that it would if you’re driving along on a tight schedule and you hit traffic and ahead of you, let’s say a half mile away, is the construction that’s breaking down the highway to one lane. Your psychological response, if you anticipate it is going to be much more measured, it will be much calmer. You may even have had a chance subconsciously or consciously to prepare yourself so that you view it as part of the process, as opposed to a gigantic problem that is inflicting misery upon you. And you become less of a victim.
This is true for physical training, certainly, many types of physical training. Coach Sommer, S-O-M-M-E-R in The Secrets of Gymnastic Strength Training episode that I did talks about this at length because your muscular adaptation will outpace the development of the connective tissue necessary for a lot of the gymnastics techniques or positions, postures, movements, et cetera. You have to be aware of that. So number one is identifying, in advance, when you are going to experience the trough of sorrow. And there may be multiple points. In language acquisition, this is what I did in The 4-Hour Chef, I took a nearly identical graph to Y Combinator startup graph and put it on the same page or the same two-page spread to show that in language learning, there’re also predictable plateaus, predictable dips, say when you go from very basic set phrases and — “I ate the apple, I eat the apple” — to more complicated grammatical constructions like subjunctive. “If but I had $1 million, I would this. If I had been dah, dah, dah.” These types of hypothetical cases can get very tricky in different languages.
When you learn those and begin to attempt them, you will feel that your baseline performance, because now you have more input kind of gumming up your software, has dropped for a period of time. And what that can then inform is of a hundred people, you being one of the 10 who actually continues because you know there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. This is something that is supposed to happen that always happens.
So that is the first thing I would say about reaching your goals, is that it is not a straight line. It is not a hockey stick from the bottom left to the top right. It rarely is. Perhaps there are some exceptions, but it rarely, rarely is. That’d be number one. The second thing I would say is there are few things you want to figure out in advance, and I’m pretty sure this corresponds to a Chinese proverb of some type or another or maybe a country western song. You want to know the rules of the game? If you’re, say engaging in a project or a competition, particularly if there are counterparties, if there are opponents, if there are teammates, what are the rules of the game? What have we agreed to? Have we agreed to rules of the game? If not, it makes sense to explicitly define what those are.
What are the stakes? So what is the potential upside and potential downside? What do I stand to lose in a worst case scenario, in a sort of realistic case scenario, what do I stand to gain in then best case, et cetera. Doing this type of calculus, understanding what the stakes are. And then last, this is the one that gets neglected, what is quitting time? Can I decide, in advance, what the check boxes should be for when I walk? And if you don’t do that in advance, pursuing goals, it is very easy to end up persisting and persisting towards a goal that is no longer worth focusing on.
So trying to decide in advance, at what point do the downsides, do the costs end up outweighing the potential benefit of this outcome? What is quitting time? What qualifies as quitting time? And the fastest way to take something off your to do list is to not do it at all. And I’m blanking on the programmer who said it, but “The fastest code is no code,” similar philosophy. That which should not be done at all should not be done well. It should not be done. Okay. Those are a few thoughts on reaching your goals. And let me go to some additional questions here.
Richard Fantozi. How about an update on how the ad-free podcast is working out from a sustainability standpoint and what trends you are seeing from the initial announcement? Okay. So it’s been fascinating. And the overwhelming response has been — I can’t believe this still, but it’s hard for me to refute the data, if we want to take literally hundreds of comments as data. My listeners rely on me, to a very large extent, for finding new products and services. And they know that I vet and highly filter the products and services that make it through the gauntlet of reviewing and testing to become sponsors. And they like the ads.
So the number of supporters has been surprisingly low, and the number of people who have expressed regret that the ads have disappeared has been very surprisingly high. It also requires quite a bit of labor for the fan-supported aspect of this. Not referring to this type of Q&A. I enjoy doing this type of Q&A, and this type of audio, for instance, could be used for the podcast as promised no sooner than a month after we have done this together. But we shall see, we shall see. But as it stands right now, the majority of feedback has been, we prefer ad supported, which is really surprising to me. But sometimes reality doesn’t conform to what you expect and you continue to adjust. So I will be looking very closely at numbers and feedback over the next few weeks.
All right, Riley. Riley Spiller, zone of genius. And to mention one more time guys, I know we’re coming up on the hour mark. I said I would do this for an hour, I’m going to go longer. So I’ll probably go for at least another 15 minutes to try to answer more of your questions, and I will go back to the live questions to try to answer some of those. Riley Spiller, “zone of genius.” You touched on this in your recent Waitzkin interview. That’s referring to Josh Waitzkin, one of my favorite people in the world. Seems crucial to know what kind of learner you are. How does one determine this?
So Josh and I have perhaps a slightly different opinion or view of learning style. I think that it is helpful to know how best you absorb material that is worth absorbing, whether that’s through, say, audio format, like audiobook, text, video, or otherwise, but that it is very beneficial to train yourself to be more efficient and effective at vetting, consuming, highlighting, and reviewing written material because you have just a huge competitive advantage if you’re able to do that. And I already answered how I do that with books in Kindle format earlier in this Q&A, so I’m not going to do that again now.
But determining what kind of learner you are is something I have not focused on all that much myself. I am highly visual and despite the fact that I live in a world of audio with the podcast, which has just recently passed 400 million downloads — I expected it to take longer, which is a — it’s just really an incredible milestone. So it’s about probably close to maybe exceeding a billion hours of listened-to content, which is completely bonkers. I’m highly visual, so I have a bias towards visual information. But there are some folks also — that’s Molly shaking her collar in the background — which is bi-modal.
In other words, people who will, for instance, take an audiobook, put it on one and a half or 2x and assuming that it has whisper sync or in some sense it’s the same as the text, they will read along as they are listening to increase their retention. I find it easier to really dramatically increase your reading speed, say three to 5x, which you can do, as I mentioned earlier, just by searching speed reading and my name and you’ll find all sorts of free tutorials. No email capture, no nothing. You can find it on the blog, tim.blog, for free. Then you can do multiple passes of chapters that you determine have information you would like to retain. I find multiple passes rather than more careful reading to be a real key approach if you’re focusing on retention.
I tend to not worry about retention. I focus more on effective highlighting and winnowing down the material to smaller and smaller subsections using those three asterisks that I mentioned earlier in this Q&A.
Diana Horn. Can you share your note-taking format or tips when reading books with an eye to retaining and accessing key takeaways later on? I think I have mentioned this most, but I will refer again to the how to take notes like an alpha geek, I believe, the ridiculous headline was that I used and that shows you actual screenshots of my note taking and describe some of how I approach this.
Let’s see. Jordan. How do you get away from a goal-oriented mindset where happiness becomes dependent on achievement? Part of it, for me at least, is — I think these are two separate things. In other words, implied in the question — and this, I think, is a skill unto itself that is worth paying attention to. When you are looking at a statement or a question, can you identify the assumptions that are built into that statement or question? And that is very helpful for finding your own thinking. It’s also very helpful for not replying to questions that paint you into a corner. All right. So implied in the question — and that’s Molly drinking water in the background. You’re welcome, audio verite.
How do you get away from a goal-oriented mindset where happiness becomes dependent on achievement? So implied in the question is that if you don’t get away from a goal-oriented mindset, you will be trapped in a mindset where happiness is dependent on achievement. I don’t think that’s the case. I think you can have both and not either or. So you can have a goal-oriented mindset, plus an appreciation-oriented practice. You can still achieve goals and have systems for achieving goals and simultaneously have practices for cultivating appreciation. Yes, goals and appreciation can cohabitate. They can survive side by side. And I think one of the most effective — it might be overstating it to say approaches that I’ve taken or absorbed from other people for uncoupling happiness from being dependent on achievement is realizing that if you are not happy with what you have or if you cannot be happy with what you have, nothing you ever get will make you happy. And this is evidenced very clearly in observing hundreds of people I have met over the years who have tens of millions of dollars, hundreds of millions of dollars, billions of dollars in some cases, who simply experience now, more magnified versions of their previous neuroses and concerns.
If we assume — this will not be true for everyone — but if we assume that achievement is a focus because people want to succeed and that success is often measured in dollars or money, that money, like alcohol and power, tend to make you more of what you already are. So money, alcohol, and power all tend to exaggerate characteristics you have, all tend to exaggerate strengths and weaknesses that you have. If you’re a moderate asshole at a hundred grand a year and then you’re making a million dollars a year, you will probably be a major asshole. If you are moderately generous, you might be majorly generous once you have more. But these tend to be amplifiers.
So it’s helpful also to — this is going to sound strange, but read about miserable rich people and conversely spend time with people who have very little, who have found routines and built community and engage in community in such a way that they seem to have quite a high baseline of quality of life and happiness. Contentedness may be a better word. This is very common, I think, in places like Costa Rica, many places in central and South America, and Latin America in general. So I try to spend time in those environments, observing that, combined with gratitude practices, realizing that if you cannot be happy, if you cannot appreciate what you have now, nothing you get will change that default state of mind.
Hopefully that’s happy.
John Parker. Have you ever considered having Jordan Peterson on the podcast? What are your thoughts on his carnivore diet? I’ll save my thoughts on his carnivore diet, but I will say that I have considered having Jordan on the podcast. We have many mutual friends, and I think it would be fascinating. So that is certainly something that perhaps at some point I’ll chat with him about.
Stacey Phillips. If you could go back and add one question to your list of questions that you asked since writing Tools of Titans and Tribe of Mentors, what would it be and why? It would be: “What are your commandments, what are your rules for saying yes or no to things, and what language do you use when you say no?” I think that would be the question. And I may have a lot more on that soon. Let’s go back to live questions. All right.
All right. Ryan Combs. In the interview with Jocko Willink — the infamous and magnificent Jocko — you said you initially wanted complete freedom but realized that was too stressful and really wanted positive constraints instead, could you elaborate? Yes. The paradox of choice, as written about by Barry Schwartz and others, is a real issue. And there are many things of which you would hope to be ignorant or to at least have on autopilot. This is, for example, why I will batch-order a lot of the daily necessities, toilet paper, paper towels. If I know I’m going to need more dog food, I don’t need to order one bag at a time, I can order several bags, assuming they don’t expire. And the same holds true with different types of tea and so on and so forth.
So really, one of the guiding questions that I have is: “Where can I make single decisions that eliminate a hundred decisions or a thousand decisions?” One example would be effectively retiring from startup investing in 2015 or 2016. And this requires an awareness of where you can apply moderation in your life and where you cannot. For instance, for some people, if they drink one glass of wine, they’re going to drink four. I happen to generally fall on that camp. So if I don’t want to drink wine, rather than rely on this illusion of self control that I have and this complete illusion of moderation that I can apply, I will go, “No booze. I’m not drinking alcohol for a period of time.” And that makes life much easier.
Ditto with the retirement and very public announcement related to startup investing. These are constraints. And what you find is that you can apply, at least in my case this is true, creativity much more effectively when you have constraints. If you can do anything, the decision tree is just too broad. There are too many branches and it’s, I think, very difficult, at least for me, to coerce that into some semblance of order. And you might think that creativity and order are at odds; I would not agree with that.
Instead, if you said, all right, you are going to write for the next 10 minutes, even though you’re not Hemingway, imitating the writing style of Hemingway, very short, declarative sentences, et cetera. Or you can write for the next 10 minutes and for those 10 minutes, you can’t use the word interesting, you can’t use the word A, B, C, D, E, and you apply this reductive approach. It’s very effective for making you highly self-aware of choices that you currently make subconsciously/automatically. So there are many different ways to apply constraints. Steve Jobs wearing effectively the same uniform every day, for instance, for many days of a given week would be an example of a constraint or a constant that is set so that his creative, decision-making brain power can be applied in places where it actually matters. All right. Those are a few thoughts on that.
Adam Bucci, in reference to your latest Waitzkin interview with the MIQ — that’s Most Important Question gap analysis — how do you go about trusting the unconscious or subconscious release to bring insight? You test it. Simple as that. You try it, you try it, you try it, give it a fair shot, give yourself a week, two weeks, I would say, minimum and look at the results. And you can assess, in what circumstances, in what type of days over what types of period have I found it to be helpful, which questions have been most effective?
The most important question for those people who are lacking the context is a question that you might ask yourself right after the end of a workday before dinner, which you then put in a journal or an Evernote file, which is what Josh Waitzkin does, then you let it go completely for the rest of the day. You don’t do it right before bed, at least he doesn’t. And then the following morning, you wake up, the first thing you do pre input is sit down and journal any answer to that question. Stream of consciousness, whatever comes up as an answer to that question, you write down.
And I did learn also, after we had that interaction on stage, a workaround, which came from one of his clients. And he said that the workaround, if you can’t figure out what your most important question should be is to ask, “What is the most important question?” It’s a bit recursive. But if you don’t know where your most important questions should be, your question can be — in other words, your MIQ is — “What is the most important question?”
Chris Crocker. This is more of a comment. I suppose it would be cool to have a Q&A on a specific subject you want to talk about to, I suppose, hone in a focus, for example, investing and then everyone gathers their investment question. I like that idea. Stacey Phillips. I think Molly is his dog. Yes. Molly is my dog. I do not have my girlfriend drinking out of a bowl on the bricks by the fireplace, although that could be hot too. I don’t know, I haven’t tried it. Okay.
Raul Bohara. “I’m very impatient when I’m doing a task. I meditate regularly, however. How can I build patience apart from meditation? Thanks.” First thing that comes to mind is decrease your caffeine intake. This is incredibly true for me. I can meditate three times a day, or I can just cut my caffeine intake in half and the result is more or less the same. So I would say decrease the amount of stimulants you consume, if that resonates with you at all. And I would also read books that talk about becoming the observer of your own emotional state and agitation. My current favorite book for that, which is very short and very easy to read, is Awareness by Anthony de Mello. I’ve read it, I would say at least three times at this point and I plan on reading it many, many more times with great frequency. It’s that good. And if it doesn’t resonate, won’t strike a chord with everyone, but for many people, if it finds you at the same time, it can be quite incredible.
And I read it initially when Peter Mallouk, on this podcast, who is a wealth manager and investment manager, mentioned in passing that this book generally gave him two weeks of peace. And I’m paraphrasing here, but put him at ease and gave him two weeks of peace each time he read it, which was a very curious and unusual endorsement. And I found that also to be the case. I’ll let you determine why that is, what mechanism through which it has that effect. But that is another book I have found to help me tremendously with patience.
The Work, which is a series of questions, predominantly four questions by Byron Katie, would also fall into that category. And her worksheets are very valuable. I would not hesitate to buy a packet of the various one-pagers and worksheets that she uses. It may be helpful to take a training or a weekend course with her or one of her trainings, just because it can bring up a lot of resistance. And I thought it was ridiculous when I first encountered it, and I had a lot of pushback internally and a lot of frustration and impatience towards the exercises themselves. Later found them to be exceptionally valuable. And that would be another tool in the toolkit perhaps.
All right. Let’s see. Bear with me. I’ll find another question here. How did I meet Jerry Colonna? That is a great question. I don’t recall exactly how I met Jerry, who is the coach with the Spider Tattoo, is literally the truth and also the name of the episode. He is a coach and advisor, sort of the Buddhist Brooklynite in the wings, available as a consigliere to many CEOs in Silicon Valley and elsewhere, including investors.
I want to say that Jerry was introduced to me by one of my favorite investors and an incredibly good investor named Brad Feld. I believe that is true, but I could be off. What insights did I take away from my interview with him? This is from Wayne Basinger. I would say that there are many insights and many notes from that conversation that I’ve kept, the most important of, which is probably the question that he poses to almost all of his clients and himself, which is: “How am I complicit in creating the conditions I say I don’t want?” And the wording is very important, and I believe I’m getting it right here. You could listen to that podcast or look at the show notes for the exact phrasing.
But how am I complicit in creating the conditions that I say I don’t want? That is a fantastic question, and that is the type of question, if you really take the time to think about it and journal on it, that could change your life. And it’s a question he introduced me to several years ago when I was in a very difficult place, and I found it tremendously insightful. Also painful in the sense that you are looking in the mirror and taking a long, hard look at how you are self-sabotaging doing things that are perhaps destructive or at the very best, slowing you down or preventing you from fully being who you should be or showing up as the person you should be in the world for yourself, for your family, for your friends, for customers, for employees, whatever it might be. So that question, I would say, is my main takeaway from the conversation.
And I will jump from that to another question. Do you plan on interviewing Karlie Kloss? I’ve actually already interviewed Karlie Kloss, so you can find that interview on Tim.blog/podcast. You can just search the name K-L-O-S-S, or on the YouTube channel. So youtube.com/TimFerriss, two Rs, two Ss. Edgardo Santana Santiago. That’s a helluva name. I love it. How do you balance growth and learning with mental rest in order to avoid overwhelm as you pursue personal growth?
Mental rest is something I prioritize. And today’s a very good example of that. I woke up reasonably early initially today, 7:30 or so, and I went back to sleep. I woke up again at 9:30, and I could tell that I was not properly rested. And in the past, I may have pushed through that and would very often end up getting some type of cold or flu as result. And I stayed in bed and ended up having a shorter than normal day today prior to recording a podcast earlier today and then doing this. And that tells you a bit about my week. I also reserve Mondays typically and to a lesser extent, Fridays, for phone calls, video, et cetera, this type of interaction.
But mental rest, I view just like physical rest. If you are really pushing yourself, cognitively, it’s just like pushing yourself physically in the weight room or with marathon training. There is a physical limit to what you can sustain, and there are recovery periods that you need to build into your life so that you can repair and regenerate. There are physical limiters, meaning, say, by neurotransmitter production and so on, that you can absolutely deplete if you’re all go, go, go and no rest. So how do I do it? Number one is listening to my body whenever possible and really paying attention to how I feel and realizing also that I’m just not that important.
So, guess what? If I’m really tired and I need an extra hour of sleep, I’m not the leader of the free world. The global economy’s not going to come to a halt, millions of orphans aren’t going to get thrown out of windows if I get an extra hour of sleep. I like to think that what I put out in the world is a contribution of some type, but at the end of the day, we’re all going back to dust like Marcus Aurelius said, and I try not to take myself too seriously. There’s a lot that I can do when properly restored and rejuvenated, so I try to get the extra hour of sleep. It’s not going to have a disproportionate negative impact on my life. And certainly looking back a year from now, five years from now, I’ll probably say I wish I had gotten the extra hour of sleep. So I try to keep that in perspective as well.
Andrew Regan. What advice would you put on a billboard? You are the average of the five people you associate with most, so pay a lot of attention to who you select to spend time with.
Let’s see here. Al Chen. I’m heading to Austin in a few weeks for my bachelor party, any recommendations? Well, it depends on the size of the party. I would say you can always go to Dirty Sixth, which is a complete mess, and just create chaos. If you’re looking for a good restaurant, one of many, Dai Due would be high on the list. South Congress is always fun. You can go to South Congress and hit restaurants like Pearla’s or Joanne’s Fine Foods. There are also a lot of bachelorette parties that happen to find their way to Austin. So who knows, maybe your entire gang will bump into one of those and then all sorts of trouble can ensue. Have fun in Austin.
Let’s see. What does my cooking look like these days? I am currently on writing deadline. I’m not doing a whole lot of cooking. But I still cook a lot of what is in The 4-Hour Chef. And the basic techniques, if we’re looking at say, brazing, steaming, the portfolio of techniques that I rely on and the staples that I rely on very much correspond to what’s in the domestic section of The 4-Hour Chef. Very easy, minimal cleanup. Almost everything can end up being used well as leftovers for at least two days. That’s my answer.
Roberto Musa. If you could ask Richard Feynman any question, what would it be? “What separates a great teacher from a good teacher?” is the first question that comes to mind. He was an exceptional teacher. He was very good at describing complex concepts or phenomena in simple terms. And that is the first question that I would ask him.
Theron Barber. You’ve helped a few of your guests start their own podcasts — in most cases, they’ve started them themselves, but Peter Attia and Cal Fussman and Jocko and so on, they would have succeeded no matter what, in my opinion — but of my guests, who else does not have a podcast who you feel would do it well? Pretty much anyone who has been on this podcast and speaks well and asks good questions without too many verbal tics should have a podcast. And limit it to an initial season and a commitment of, say, 10 episodes. And as a practice, I think it’s true. It’s tremendously valuable for refining your thinking, improving your ability to ask questions and listen, and removing verbal tics, which removes mental tics. They do correspond.
All right. Justin Osborne has another recommendation for Austin in Austin. That’s very kind of you to offer the bachelor party an answer here, go to the Food Hall, H-A-U-L [Ed. Note: Food Hall] that is somewhere around Second and Congress. All right. David Tua, Stacey Phillips, that is the correct answer for O for awesome. If you guys want a good laugh, tremendous boxer, perhaps not the best Wheel of Fortune competitor of all time, but one hell of a fighter. David Tua, T-U-A, O for awesome. Look it up.
Robby Wade. What is a truth that few would agree with you on? Shame is a powerful and effective motivator that we should make better use of. I think shame gets a bad name. And that, in fact, if you look at, for instance, the stakes, S-T-A-K-E-S section of setting up behavioral change in The 4-Hour Chef, when I talk about — and this is true in The 4-Hour Body as well. For instance, if you want to improve your physical condition, your composition, you take a photograph of yourself or have a friend, a merciless friend take photographs of yourself in your tighty whities in very unflattering light after a bender. And they get those handful of photos and if you don’t achieve a reasonable goal within a timeframe that you both have agreed upon, they get to share those photos with your friends, for instance.
Might be frowned upon because the positive psychology folks out there might say you should use positive feedback, the carrot and not the stick. And I quite simply disagree. I think that you can use positive incentives, yes, absolutely, but that someone will work infinitely harder to prevent losing $100 than they will to make $100 they don’t have, and this is true in betting circles. If you look at anything like Stickk, S-T-I-C-K-K.com, which can be used for behavioral change, if you look at SPAR, which is an app that is somewhat similar, if you look at Beeminder, these are very good at using social accountability and other elements to ensure or help ensure that you do what it is you say you want to do. The creation of incentives, and I think that shame is very powerful.
It doesn’t mean that you have to be an asshole about it to yourself or other people, but sort of a fear of social ridicule, I think, is a hell of a thing. And it keeps us also behaving and not letting our lesser selves do awful things in society as a side note. So that might be a truth or something I take to be as true that many would disagree with.
All right. Let me look in here. Another Stacey. Are you still fluent in all the languages you have learned? No, definitely not. But I do have different ways of resurrecting those languages if I have plans to go to such a country.
I went to Mexico not long ago and so I went through the process that I outlined in a blog post, that I believe is titled How to Resurrect Your High School Spanish or something along those lines. So I still believe more than ever that it’s possible to become functionally, conversationally fluent in nearly any language in eight to 12 weeks if you make it your full time job and have proper systems in place. Functionally fluent really means that you have identified the highest frequency words and focus on say, the first 2,000 highest frequency words and idiomatic expressions that fill gaps not covered by those words. And it is entirely possible to do.
I won’t beat a dead horse and go into it deeply here, but if you want to explore how I think about language learning, The 4-Hour Chef has a lot on this in the meta-learning section in the first portion of the book. But you can also go to tim.blog and under topics, find language learning, where there are a number of articles that I have written and then a number of articles that polyglots, people who speak five to 10 languages, have written that lay out, step by step, exactly how they approach and have taught others to approach learning multiple languages, which you can also do in increasingly shorter periods of time if you approach them from the perspective of language families. But I won’t get into the nitty gritty details of that, because we’ll be here all night.
All right. We are at an hour and a half. I am going to try to take a few more and then probably call this to a close. Raul. Do I drink coffee? These days I do drink coffee and I try to limit it, not always successfully, to before lunch. Otherwise, it can interfere with sleep. Even if I feel very tired, and I do it[?], subjectively, I believe I’m experiencing the effects of caffeine, and the half life is pretty long. So, before noon. Let’s see here. Let me zoom down. All right. Yeah, that’s pretty wild. I’m looking at some of the comments here and there are a number of people who are saying, yes, I did enjoy the ads. And fuck, I’ll take it. Means I was doing my job with the ads. So we shall see where all of this goes.
All right. Let me try to find some more questions. Sorry guys. There are a lot of comments, so what I’m doing right now is filtering the questions from the comments. What’s on my current reading list? I just finished a book called, I believe, A Trickster Makes This World, or A Trickster Made This World [Ed. Note: Trickster Makes This World], which is a book about trickster mythology by Lewis Hyde. I have been revisiting a book called The Art of Possibility by Benjamin and Rosamund Zander, Z-A-N-D-E-R, which was recommended to me by Seth Godin long ago. I’ve read that at least twice, gone through my notes more than that. And what else do I have on my reading list? What I have in my reading list is a stack of about a thousand pages that I have compiled for research related to the new book that I am currently working on. So really, what I should be saying is I have a lot on my to write list and fewer and fewer things on my to read list because there is a point where you have to stop reading and start writing.
Current morning routine. What is my current morning routine? Current morning routine, somewhat variable right now because of traveling in the middle of book deadline. Wake up, meditate for 20 minutes, TM. There’s a very specific room for this. Then I will jump out of that room, jump into the pool, do 10 to 15 short laps just as a way to wake up and get some sun exposure. I will most likely then already have printed out the night before 10 to 15 pages of writing to edit, to review. So I will have put that together the night before or received it from contributors the night before. I will then go into a barrel sauna, and I’ll have a clipboard and a towel so that I don’t get sweat all over the paper, and I will edit in the sauna for something like 20 to 25 minutes, hop out, take a quick cold shower. That’s when I have my first bite to eat.
At that point, then very likely make pu-erh tea with a dash of green tea and sit down to do some type of writing or get a status update from my researcher, who will be helping me with this book as he’s helped me with the last two books in terms of gathering various bits and pieces that I need or fact-checking aspects of writing that I’ve done the night before. So it’s a bit of a standing meeting check-in, like a daily status of what has happened since we went to bed, what will happen today, and then assigning marching orders as needed to that assistant.
I have a treadmill desk, where I’ll very often then stand and work for the next three to four hours. Then I get on a bicycle and bike about a mile and a half to lunch where I have the exact same wrap every day along with a cold ice tea and San Pellegrino sparkling water and work there, continue to work at the lunch spot outside, because they have Wi-Fi, for a period of two or three hours until the bugs become too much to bear. Jump on the bike, head back, continue to work for a few hours, dinner out, which is a working dinner, come back, potentially sauna or cold bath or dip in the pool, bed. That is what the whole daily routine looks like, and it will look as much like Groundhog Day as humanly possible, which I and many other people like Neil Gaiman have found important for getting any type of work projects done.
Caesar or Cesar D. Texas life compared to Cali? It’s hard to say Texas life. Austin life, much friendlier. It’s just a warmer place, emotionally, to live than San Francisco.
All right. Bear with me one sec. You’ve given advice to your 23-year-old self. This is from Sarah Thompson. What about advice to your 42-year-old self if he were starting from zero? It’d actually be the same advice. And I might grab the billboard answer as well as the number one principle: Pay attention to “you are the average of the five people you associate with most physically, financially, emotionally, et cetera.” So if you want to improve in one of those areas, find people who help average you up.
And then on top of that, choosing projects based on skill development and relationship development with people who are exceptionally good at what they do, and meditation first thing in the morning. Those would be three staples that I would tell myself at 23, 24, and all the way up to current age as reminders. And do not forget to exercise. And by exercise, I should refine that say, move; move every day. Get some physical movement preferably in the morning, à la, Rick Rubin, with sun exposure within the first, say, hour of getting up. That makes a huge difference in my perceived quality of each day. And it’s such a small thing. Easy to lose sight of the small things, many of which are actually the big things.
All right, my friends. Thank you so much again for being supporters of the podcast and everything that I am hoping to do and in fact doing in the world. I will have updates for you guys on many of those soon. I have some very big announcements coming, so please keep an eye out for some big news in the next month or two. And really appreciate all of you tuning in, whether you’re catching this live right now, as many of you are, or if you’re watching or listening to this Q&A after the fact. I know you have finite time in your life and finite attention, and I always try to give back more value than I consume in attention. So sometimes I succeed, sometimes I fail. But please believe that I am always doing my best. And I really appreciate you guys. You’re all awesome. Have a wonderful night and hope to chat again soon. Much love to you and yours, guys. Bye-bye.
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