Tools of Titans — Derek Sivers, BJ Miller, and Christopher Sommer (#439)

Photo by Todd White

Welcome to another episode of The Tim Ferriss Show! It will showcase some of my favorite advice and profiles from the audiobook of Tools of Titans. Thousands of you have asked for years for the audiobook versions of Tools of Titans and Tribe of Mentors, and they are now available.

Go to for more details or to download. 

Today’s episode will focus on Tools of Titans and features the introduction of the book, as well as the profiles of Derek Sivers, BJ Miller, and Christopher Sommer.

Just a few notes on the audiobook’s format: I recorded the introduction and selected three fantastic, top-ranked narrators to handle the rest, along with some surprise appearances from friends. 

The short bios, which you will hear at the beginning of each profile, are read by Kaleo Griffith. Ray Porter reads the bulk of each profile including all of my own words. Ray actually narrated my first book, The 4-Hour Workweek, and did an incredible job. Quotations from female guests are read by the wonderful Thérèse Plummer.

The audiobook of Tools of Titans contains the distilled tools and routines I’ve gathered after interviewing hundreds of world-class performers

Everything has been vetted and applied to my own life in some fashion. The techniques, strategies, and philosophies in Tools of Titans have made me more effective, saved me years of wasted effort and frustration, and helped me navigate many periods of darkness and uncertainty. The advice has truly made me a happier, healthier person and changed my life. I hope that they help change yours as well. 

Please enjoy this episode, and if you’d like to listen to the other 100-plus profiles and chapters from Tools of Titans, just head to

Listen to the episode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Overcast, Stitcher, Castbox, Google Podcasts, or on your favorite podcast platform. 

#439: Tools of Titans — Derek Sivers, BJ Miller, and Coach Christopher Sommer

What was your favorite quote or lesson from this episode? Please let me know in the comments.



  • Connect with Derek Sivers:

Website | Twitter | Facebook

  • Connect with BJ Miller:


  • Connect with Coach Christopher Sommer: | Instagram | YouTube | Coach Sommer at Facebook | GymnasticBodies at Facebook



  • How to use this book (and why I wrote it). [02:19]
  • What makes the people featured in this book different? [08:50]
  • Performance-enhancing details — why 10x results don’t always require 10x effort. [11:00]
  • What do the tools presented here have in common? [12:08]
  • Two rules for getting the most out of this book. [14:02]
  • What do I hope to convey in this book? Here are two principles to remember. [16:08]
  • A few important notes on the way this book has been organized — from structure, included quotations, patterns, humor, spirit animals, non-profile content, and the omission of most URLs. [18:13]
  • The three tools that allow all the rest, courtesy of Siddhartha (and Naval Ravikant). [24:40]

Derek Sivers

  • Who is Derek Sivers? [27:16]
  • Derek’s rank-ordered book reviews and two of his life-changing favorites. [28:27]
  • How Derek’s first appearance on this show changed a listener’s life. [29:10]
  • It’s not what you know — it’s what you do consistently. [29:45]
  • The best plan is the one that lets you change your plans. [29:56]
  • Who does Derek think of first when he hears the word “successful” — and why is the third person who comes to mind probably more successful? [30:24]
  • Just starting out? Say “yes” to everything — even if it’s playing acoustic guitar at a pig show in Vermont. [32:11]
  • The standard pace is for chumps. [33:24]
  • Advice Derek would give to his 30-year-old self. [34:11]
  • Business models can be simple: you don’t need to constantly pivot. [35:39]
  • Once you have some success: if it’s not a “Hell, yes!” it’s a “No.” [37:47]
  • Feeling busy? Lack of time is lack of priorities. [39:02]
  • What would Derek’s billboard say? [39:47]
  • On taking 45 minutes instead of 43. [40:28]
  • Why Derek has no morning routines. [43:28]
  • Things Derek believes that other people think are crazy. [44:18]
  • Treat life as a series of experiments. [45:22]
  • The most successful email Derek ever wrote. [46:19]

BJ Miller

  • Who is BJ Miller? [49:00]
  • What would BJ’s billboard say? [50:20]
  • Stargazing as therapy. [50:37]
  • What purchase of $100 or less has had the most positive impact on BJ’s life in recent memory? [51:45]
  • A good reason to question your “I can’ts.” [52:35]
  • The miracle of a snowball in the burn ward. [55:58]
  • The power of bearing witness and listening. [58:52]
  • How BJ would honor an introverted hospice patient’s request for something to watch, do, or absorb without human interaction. [1:00:31]
  • Some people say laughter is the best medicine. But sometimes it’s cookies. Or art. Or anything that allows us to live in the moment “on behalf of nothing” but the enjoyment of that thing. [1:01:26]
  • Advice BJ would give to his 30-year-old self. [1:02:24]

Coach Christopher Sommer

  • Who is Coach Christopher Sommer? [1:02:54]
  • How did gymnastic strength training and AcroYoga remodel my body at age 39? [1:03:56]
  • “If you want to be a stud later, you have to be a pud now.” — Coach Sommer [1:04:23]
  • Flexibility versus mobility. [1:05:30]
  • Consistency over intensity. [1:06:11]
  • The difference between “diet and exercise” and “eat and train.” [1:07:02]
  • How exactly does someone fail warmup? [1:07:24]
  • Why male Olympic gymnasts have gigantic biceps. [1:08:34]
  • Three movements everyone should practice. [1:09:32]
  • Good goals for adult non-gymnasts. [1:10:14]
  • Sometimes you just need a vibrator. [1:10:35]


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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5 Replies to “Tools of Titans — Derek Sivers, BJ Miller, and Christopher Sommer (#439)”

  1. I very much looking forward to these stories. For many years I beat my head against a wall trying and failing at running my software business. Thanks to your writing I hope to turn a corner. I hope it is soon because the covids-19 have nearly bankrupted my company.

  2. Dear Tim

    I trust you are well.

    I’ll keep this short because I’m conscious of your time.

    I really love the way you’ve shared your personal story with the world.

    I’ve just gone fully public with my diagnosis of Schizophrenia (I was diagnosed over 10 years ago)

    I am keen on teaching meaning through psychosis and life changing experiences. I’d also like to inspire people to feel better about themselves.

    I want to have a large reach on social media but am just getting started. I’m also starting out in the public speaking circuit.

    What advice would you give someone taking on this challenge? I’ve learnt from you authenticity but what else should I be doing???

    I really respect you and your time, if you can’t return this email, that is fine 🙂

    Thanks again!

    Kind regards,

    Kevin M Walker

  3. Hey Tim!
    What ever inspired you to do a podcast in this format – I loved this episode, even though I listened to the original podcasts and even though there is a Tools copy on the bookshelf. 4HWW came along when I contemplated and executed leaving corporate life and you and now your podcast guests have been helping out ever since.
    Thank you – The intelligence of your questions makes listening valuable and subscribing a no brainer, while your authenticity, making yourself vulnerable, makes you feel like a friend.
    Congratulations on your success and notoriety – its been well earned – thanks again.

  4. Tim,

    I recently started listening to your podcasts and I can’t believe I didn’t pick them up sooner. I’ve only gotten through a few, but I already feel a transformation happening. I actually started with this episode, 439, and I really enjoyed getting a front row seat of your methodology in terms of designing questions to ask your guests and how much you’ve put into developing them. Questions really have an ability, to borrow your phrase, to tease out the details that ultimately make the biggest difference. I’m a high school English teacher and have recently started focusing on the quality of my question and my approach to others in general (another recommendation I picked up from a different podcast: “How to Win Friends & Influence People” – an absolute must read for everyone!), and I’ve noticed such a difference in how my colleagues respond and what they are willing to talk about. It is truly remarkable. I was wondering if you could do a podcast on the most influential questions of all time. It would be interesting to hear what you and others consider in their approach to questions and how the questions shape responses and relationships and overall outcomes. I really hope that’s not too forward, I’m just a fan of learning and growing and would love to know more about the functionality of questions.

    I know you are super busy and I also know just from the few podcasts I’ve already listened to that you are so generous with your knowledge and content. If you can’t get to this, I would just like you to know that you are a remarkable human being and I intend on going back to as many of your previous podcasts as I can consume and will always look forward to the next one. Thank you for your time, generosity, and for making the world a better and more interesting place. I look forward to the next 444 podcasts!