Performance Psychologist Michael Gervais — Fear{less} with Tim Ferriss (#564)

“Every day is an opportunity for a living masterpiece.”

— Michael Gervais

Welcome to another episode of The Tim Ferriss Show, where it is my job to deconstruct world-class performers to tease out the routines, habits, et cetera that you can apply to your own life.

You’ll get plenty of that in this special episode, which features my interview with Michael Gervais from my 2017 TV Show Fear{less}. The “less” is in parentheses because the objective is to teach you to fear less, not to be fearless.

Fear{less} features in-depth, long-form conversations with top performers, focusing on how they’ve overcome fears and made hard decisions, embracing discomfort and thinking big.

It was produced by Wild West Productions, and I worked with them to make both the video and audio available to you for free, my dear listeners. You can find the video of this episode on, and eventually you’ll be able to see all episodes for free at

Spearheaded by actor/producer and past podcast guest Vince Vaughn, Wild West Productions has produced a string of hit movies including The Internship, Couples Retreat, Four Christmases, and The Break-Up.

In 2020, Wild West produced the comedy The Opening Act, starring Jimmy O. Yang and Cedric The Entertainer. In addition to Fear{less}, their television credits include Undeniable with Joe Buck, ESPN’s 30 for 30 episode about the ’85 Bears, and the Netflix animated show F is for Family.

Please enjoy!

Listen to the episode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Overcast, Podcast Addict, Pocket Casts, Stitcher, Castbox, Google Podcasts, Amazon Musicor on your favorite podcast platform. You can watch the interview on YouTube here.

The transcript of this episode can be found here. Transcripts of all episodes can be found here.

#556: Performance Psychologist Michael Gervais — Fear{less} with Tim Ferriss

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

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


Want to hear another episode with a guest from Fear{less}? Listen to my conversation with David Blaine in which we discussed what happens when stunts go awry, sleep deprivation hallucinations, how magic got David through a night in jail, controlling audience expectations, childhood superstitions, maximizing results with a minimal timeframe, and much more.

#546: Master Magician David Blaine — Fear{less} with Tim Ferriss
  • Connect with Michael Gervais:

Website | Finding Mastery | Twitter | Instagram | Facebook


  • How Michael helped daredevil Felix Baumgartner mentally prepare for his 24-mile fall to earth from the edge of space. [05:06]
  • What does extinguishing phobia look like? [08:07]
  • What was Michael’s childhood like? After moving away from their farm, how did his family help him adjust to life in the big city? [10:48]
  • How Fight Club SoCal led to Surfin’ USA, and what kept Michael’s ambitions in check during this time. [13:48]
  • How Michael began to rein in this anxiety, and who was there to help him. [17:24]
  • Michael describes the week he spent at the bottom of the Grand Canyon, and how it changed his life. [18:37]
  • How Michael became involved in the world of performance psychology, the mentor who guided him, and what his first lessons as a teacher looked like. [21:24]
  • Michael and I share our basic life philosophies. [23:27]
  • What was Michael’s first paid gig with an athlete, and why is the word “potential” often such a powerful performance killer? [26:25]
  • Effective pre-performance routines Michael has seen, and why he discourages the popular deference to superstition so popular among athletes. [27:31]
  • Is the effectiveness of a team dictated simply by a formula of individual multiplied by X number of team members? What ingredients best facilitate a team’s culture toward success? [29:34]
  • Three rules (and one bonus, unwritten rule) that govern the Seattle Seahawks. [30:55]
  • What was it like to lose a Super Bowl? [33:08]
  • What role does mindfulness play in Michael’s world? [36:47]
  • Michael’s advice for someone new to — but curious to explore — mindfulness, and what they can do if it’s just not clicking for them from the get-go. [38:47]
  • To avoid encouraging false confidence leading to overly risky or reckless behavior, how does Michael know when to draw the line? What specific incident really put this sense to the test, and how did he manage it? [43:01]
  • Something Michael believes everyone should do on an everyday basis, and how he puts this into practice. [46:18]
  • What is the first step back from massive failure? [47:29]
  • Would the general advice Michael dispenses differ between high performers and everyday people? [48:57]
  • How much of a role does Stoicism play in Michael’s life? [51:24]
  • What would Michael’s billboard say? [52:28]
  • Parting thoughts. [53:21]


“‘How do you make decisions?’ is what a philosophy is.”
— Michael Gervais

“Every day is an opportunity for a living masterpiece.”
— Michael Gervais

“The word ‘potential’ can be a crippler.”
— Michael Gervais

“Make a decision, build capacity, and test yourself.”
— Michael Gervais

“Get in really rugged and hostile environments and feel what it feels like to be on the razor’s edge, and be overwhelmed by it, and then come to love that razor’s edge.”
— Michael Gervais

“Learn how to be here now.”
— Michael Gervais

“There’s no shortcut to the path of mastery or understanding the complexity and the beauty of the human experience. It’s complicated.
— Michael Gervais

“The only reason people change is because of pain. So the worst thing a friend or a psychologist or a coach could do is take away pain.”
— Michael Gervais


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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2 Replies to “Performance Psychologist Michael Gervais — Fear{less} with Tim Ferriss (#564)”

  1. Wanted to share an artist that your new-agey recommendation “Last Chance” reminded me of. Check out Diane Arkenstone, especialy her Soul Nektar albums.

    You might also enjoy Jesse Cook’s “Oran.”

  2. Such a great episode! I would love to hear Tim interview Lacy Phillips of the To Be Magnetic podcast. “Manifestation” is such a buzzword now, and she is a major force behind its widespread use. It would be awesome to hear Tim investigate how her ideas relate to the work of Tara Brach, Mark Phillips, and others.