The Tim Ferriss Show Transcripts: Books I’ve Loved — Tim’s Four Must-Read Books (#400)

Please enjoy this transcript of the first episode of a shorter series I’m doing called “Books I’ve Loved.” To kick things off, I am recommending four books that I originally included in the back of The 4-Hour WorkweekI called them “The Fundamental Four.”

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#400: Books I’ve Loved — Tim’s Four Must-Read Books


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Tim Ferriss: Hello boys and girls, ladies and germs, this is Tim Ferriss. Welcome to another episode of The Tim Ferriss Show, where it is usually my job to sit down with world-class performers of all different types—startup founders, investors, chess champions, Olympic athletes, you name it—to tease out the habits that you can apply in your own lives. This episode, however, is an experiment and part of a short-form series that I’m doing simply called Books I’ve Loved. I’ve invited some amazing past guests, close friends, and new faces to share their favorite books, describe their favorite books—the books that have influenced them, changed them, transformed them for the better—and I hope you pick up one or two new mentors in the form of books from this new series and apply the lessons in your own life. I had a lot of fun putting this together, inviting these people to participate, and I have learned so, so much myself. I hope that is also the case for you. Please enjoy.

So to kick things off, here are four of my personal recommendations, which I had originally included in the back of The 4-Hour Workweek when it was published in 2007, back when I had hair. I called these four books The Fundamental Four, and I still do recommend them to a lot of people. They are so named The Fundamental Four because they were the four books I recommended to aspiring lifestyle designers and entrepreneurs prior to writing The 4-Hour Workweek. That was a long time ago. They are still very well worth reading and here’s the sequence that I suggest very specifically. The first is The Magic of Thinking Big by David Schwartz. This book was first recommended to me by Stephen Key, an ultra successful inventor who has made millions of dollars licensing products to companies like Disney, Nestle, Coca-Cola. The list is very, very long.

It is the favorite book of many super-performers worldwide I’ve spoken with, ranging from legendary football coaches to famous CEOs. Many of my podcast guests have also brought this up, and it has more than one hundred five-star ratings on Amazon. The main message is pretty simple: don’t overestimate others and underestimate yourself. I still personally read the first two chapters of this book whenever doubt creeps in. Note that it is a little dated. It is outdated in some respects, in terms of tone, so you just have to accept that as part of the package. But nonetheless, I find it to be a very helpful philosophical and psychological reboot because in my experience, especially in the last, say, twelve months, I’ve realized that it’s not just enough to automate and streamline. And I’ve noticed in the last handful of months, stress creeping in, in the form of having to fix a lot of things and feeling strained for time to create much of anything.

And the solution is not just removing the niggly minutiae that are bothering you; you need a compelling big goal. You need an inspiring, abnormally large objective to chase. And this book really helps with that type of reorientation. 

The next book is How to Make Millions with Your Ideas—subtitle, An Entrepreneur’s Guide. That is by Dan S. Kennedy. This book is also dated. Keep in mind these recommendations are originally from 2007, but it still does the job. This is a menu of options for converting ideas into millions of dollars. I read this, first, when I was in high school, and I have read it many times since—let’s call it six-to-twelve. It is like steroids for your entrepreneurial cortex.

The case studies range from Domino’s pizza to casinos to mail-order products, really lay out a spectrum of options, and that’s kind of the point. If you think of business—and, in quotation marks, “business” represents in your mind a very specific, one type of business model, a path that is codified, maybe calcified, like venture-backed startups, and you go from your seed round or your convertible debt to your this, to your that—if you only have one script that is associated with business in your mind, this will help to stretch you. It is very, very effective for that. I would also suggest combining, and I’m cheating a little bit here and adding an extra book, but there is a book by Stephen Keys—this is the amazing inventor who initially recommended The Magic of Thinking Big to me—there’s a book he wrote called One Simple Idea. That is the main title. One Simple Idea—subtitle, Turn Your Dreams Into a Licensing Goldmine While Letting Others Do the Work.

So it’s a compelling title. It’s an excellent book about licensing. So instead of venturing, instead of doing the manufacturing yourself, instead of handling a lot of the nuts and bolts and operations, how can you, if you are good at inventing, license products? And I know readers who’ve read The 4-Hour Workweek, one specific person in mind, Steve—hey Steve, you’re going to recognize this, but I don’t have permission to tell his full story—who read The 4-Hour Workweek, then read One Simple Idea, and he’s now making up to $85,000 a day with some of his products. That’s certainly on the high end of outcomes, but it’s not completely impossible and there are many other successes.

The next book I want to mention, so the third book of the Fundamental Four is The E-Myth Revisited—subtitle, Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What To Do About It. This is by Michael Gerber. This is a classic. Gerber is a masterful storyteller, and this classic of automation discusses how to use a franchise mindset, not necessarily the business model, but a franchise mindset to create scalable businesses that are based on rules and systems and not outstanding employees. 

I’ve certainly felt the pain of making the mistake of trying to focus on hiring Michael Jordans as opposed to having sufficient systems in place, and this can be very, very beneficial, this book, either when you’re first thinking of starting your first business or as another reboot.

If you’ve strayed from the path of systems and rules and process, this provides an excellent roadmap, told in parable, for becoming an owner instead of a constant micromanager. And for those of you who have a lot of time in the trenches, you will probably recognize that it is easy to fall into the trap of micromanaging or just looking for the superstar employees who are going to be completely self-driven without any guidance to solve your problems. And there are aspects of that we could discuss in a separate forum, but suffice to say, if you’re stuck in your own business, this book can help you get unstuck. That’s The E-Myth Revisited.

The next one is—and this is the fourth of The Fundamental Four—is Vagabonding, An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-Term World Travel by Rolf Potts. Rolf Potts is the man. He’s great. He’s become a friend. I read this book a long, long time ago. This is, in fact, the book that got me to stop making excuses and pack for an extended hiatus trip overseas. He covers bits of everything. And don’t discount it because the subtitle has “long-term world travel” in it. Maybe that’s not what you want to do, but it covers a lot. It’s helpful for determining your destination—or destinations, if you’re thinking about travel—adjusting to life on the road, and re-assimilating back into ordinary life. But it also includes great excerpts from famous vagabonds, philosophers and explorers as well as anecdotes from ordinary travelers. And this is really a philosophical reset. This book helps you to better value time-wealth, while recognizing the limitations of money as currency, in the end, which most people want to trade for an experience which gives them an emotion.

So it really helps to deconstruct your own thinking about materialism, success as quantified by money, and the trappings that we all fall into, the trappings that we all succumb to at various points. It happens. And this book is one that I’ve read at least ten times. I still have my original copy. This is the first of two books. The other was Walden that I took with me on my first fifteen-month mini-retirement around the world. That was from 2004 onward, where all the tango stuff and all the craziness happened in my life, and it really did change my life. So Vagabonding is the fourth book of The Fundamental Four. And the sequence, again that I recommend, not mandatory, but that I would recommend is The Magic of Thinking Big, number one, How to Make Millions with Your Ideas by Dan Kennedy and/or Stephen Key’s One Simple Idea. Then you have The E-Myth Revisited by Michael Gerber, and then Vagabonding. But certainly, you can pick and choose and grab one of those out of order. Vagabonding also—I noticed after many years—had no audiobook, so I produced that audiobook myself and released it. You can find that in my audiobook club on Audible. If you just go to, you can find that.

I’m going to give you guys one bonus book, and I know I’m cheating, but the bonus book is Awareness—subtitle, The Perils and Opportunities of Reality, by Anthony De Mello. So the book Awareness—subtitle, The Perils and Opportunities of Reality, by Anthony De Mello. This short book has completely captured me. And just in the last two years, I’ve probably reread it five or six times. And when I feel myself bleeding into overwhelm or feeling scattered, this is one of the first break-glass-in-case-of-emergency steps that I take. I pick it up and I read a few chapters. 

It was first recommended to me by Peter Mallouk, who’s associated with wealth management investing in finance—he was on the podcast—because he said that it gave him peace of mind for weeks at a time. And it was a bit of a non-sequitur in our conversation, and I took a note about it. I grabbed the Kindle version with very low expectations because, come on, the title sounds super generic in some respects, Awareness. Okay, there are a million-and-one books that claim to be about awareness. What the hell does that mean anyway? The subtitle is more interesting, The Perils and Opportunities of Reality.

So I grabbed it with low expectations, devoured it in three days, and I have bought dozens of copies to give to friends. Twenty, thirty, forty, fifty to give out to friends. I have an entire shelf in the guest bedroom in my house that is full of copies of this book for guests to take with them when they leave. It found me at the right time, and it won’t resonate with everyone, but it has equally impacted several of my close friends and buddies I’ve recommended this to. So it’s worth checking out. Awareness by Anthony De Mello. Those are—you want to count it?—four, five… four, five, six books, and I’m going to leave it at that for now. Thank you for listening, and I hope you check out one of those books and find any of them even partially as valuable as I did. And if you find that, it will be worth the time.

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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