KevKev TimTim TalkTalk on Dragon Slaying, Lessons Learned, Viagra, and Assorted Nonsense (#500)

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Kevin Rose (@KevinRose)—technologist, serial entrepreneur, world-class investor, self-experimenter, and all-around wild and crazy guy—was the first guest on the podcast nearly seven years ago. We were in San Francisco, sitting at this huge wooden table, and I remember being very nervous. I didn’t know what to expect, but if people liked the idea, I promised to do at least six total episodes.

600M+ downloads and hundreds of guests later, Kevin is taking the reins and interviewing me for episode #500!

Hard to believe it all started off as a lark. It’s arguably the biggest thing I’ve ever done, and without you all—my dear listeners—it wouldn’t be possible.

Thank you for allowing me to do this work. I love it. 🙏

Please enjoy!

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

Brought to you by Wealthfront automated investing, Literati Kids, a try-before-you-buy subscription book club, and Athletic Greens all-in-one nutritional supplement. More on all three below.

#500: KevKev TimTim TalkTalk on Dragon Slaying, Lessons Learned, Viagra, and Assorted Nonsense
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This episode is brought to you by Literati Kids, a try-before-you-buy subscription book club! Great children’s books open up new worlds for discovery. With Literati Kids, your child can explore uncharted places every month, with spellbinding stories handpicked by experts.

From art and escapades to tales of compassion and friendship, each Literati box follows a new, enriching theme. And with personalized extras like stickers, surprises, and special guest artwork, every box is a fun and fresh adventure. Head to Literati.com/Tim for twenty-five percent off your first two orders. Select your child’s book club and start them on a literary journey like no other.


This episode is brought to you by WealthfrontWealthfront pioneered the automated investing movement, sometimes referred to as ‘robo-advising,’ and they currently oversee $20 billion of assets for their clients. It takes about three minutes to sign up, and then Wealthfront will build you a globally diversified portfolio of ETFs based on your risk appetite and manage it for you at an incredibly low cost. 

Smart investing should not feel like a rollercoaster ride. Let the professionals do the work for you. Go to Wealthfront.com/Tim and open a Wealthfront account today, and you’ll get your first $5,000 managed for free, for lifeWealthfront will automate your investments for the long term. Get started today at Wealthfront.com/Tim.


This episode is brought to you by Athletic Greens. I get asked all the time, “If you could only use one supplement, what would it be?” My answer is usually Athletic Greens, my all-in-one nutritional insurance. I recommended it in The 4-Hour Body in 2010 and did not get paid to do so. I do my best with nutrient-dense meals, of course, but AG further covers my bases with vitamins, minerals, and whole-food-sourced micronutrients that support gut health and the immune system. 

Right now, Athletic Greens is offering you their Vitamin D Liquid Formula free with your first subscription purchase—a vital nutrient for a strong immune system and strong bones. Visit AthleticGreens.com/Tim to claim this special offer today and receive the free Vitamin D Liquid Formula (and five free travel packs) with your first subscription purchase! That’s up to a one-year supply of Vitamin D as added value when you try their delicious and comprehensive all-in-one daily greens product.


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

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An Urgent Plea to Users of Psychedelics: Let’s Consider a More Ethical Menu of Plants and Compounds

Extraction of Kambo frog poison near Iquitos, Peru. (Photo: Pawel Bienkowski / Alamy)

“Do as little as needed, not as much as possible.”

Henk Kraaijenhof 
Coach of Merlene Joyce “Queen of the Track” Ottey, who won 23 combined medals at the Olympic games and world championships.

[This post can also be reached and shared via tim.blog/conservation.]

This is a blog post I wish I didn’t need to write.

I have personally invested years and millions of dollars into nonprofit psychedelic research around the world (one example in the UK, one in the US, and one in NZ) because (A) I believe it has the potential to revolutionize the treatment of mental health and addiction, which the results of studies seem to thus far confirm, and (B) I’m a case study. Psychedelics have saved my life several times over, including helping me to heal from childhood abuse.

So, it’s with a very heavy heart that I’ve come to accept several sad truths. 

Chief among them is this: Most natural sources of psychedelics simply cannot withstand ever-increasing global demand. Many plant and animal species are already endangered or near extinction.

To have a hope of stemming the tide, we need to revise our psychedelic “menu,” and that’s what this post is about. It aims to offer options that are eco-friendly instead of eco-destructive and ethical instead of inadvertently abusive. If enough people make a few simple switches, I believe we can mitigate and possibly reverse the trend of ecological damage.

Given the slope of popularity growth, if we don’t reconsider our sources, I’d wager that we extinguish at least a handful of critical species within the next 3–5 years. There are also questions of animal abuse, and while some practices are ethically justifiable for small indigenous populations, they are catastrophic if expanded to even tens of thousands of people. It is inviting disaster to copy and paste from a tribe in the Amazon—as just one example—to NYC, LA, London, Sydney, or any other large city. It’s very easy to go from taking one tree to taking a forest or to go from grabbing one toad to extirpating an entire species.

So let’s make some changes.

Over the last decade, I’ve acquired enough familiarity with these medicines, and spent enough time (i.e., many hundreds of hours, if not thousands) with both scientists and indigenous practitioners to feel that I can speak with decent confidence to their therapeutic applications and interchangeability (or lack thereof).

That said, I am by no means the world’s top expert. Even though drafts of this piece were proofread by biochemists, ethnobotanists, and guides/facilitators with hundreds of sessions with different compounds, this post will no doubt contain typos and mistakes. Those are mine alone, as I also made final edits after receiving revisions. I will aim to improve this post over time as I get feedback.

IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER: These plants and compounds are illegal in many countries, and even possession can carry severe criminal penalties. None of this post constitutes medical advice or should be construed as a recommendation to use psychedelics. There are serious legal, psychological, and physical risks. Psychedelics are not for everyone—they can exacerbate certain emotional problems and there have been, in very rare cases, fatalities. This article is simply an attempt at harm-reduction through education, as I know many people will use psychedelics, regardless.

AND ONE MORE NOTE: Please don’t make the all-too-common mistake of assuming that “all-natural” means safer; the deadly poisons strychnine and hemlock are derived from plants, and some psychedelic plants (e.g., datura, brugmansia) and animals are well-respected among indigenous peoples for their ability to kill. Similarly, don’t assume that synthetic psychoactive agents are automatically less effective or therapeutic than natural products. Many of us—present company included—wouldn’t have survived childbirth or childhood without synthetics. There are pros and cons to both, places for both, and responsible and irresponsible ways to use both. 

Now, on to the list…

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Katie Haun on the Dark Web, Gangs, Investigating Bitcoin, and The New Magic of “Nifties” (NFTs) (#499)

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Katie Haun (@katie_haun) is a general partner at Andreessen Horowitz. Previously, she spent a decade as a federal prosecutor with the US Department of Justice, where she focused on fraud, cybercrime, and corporate crime, alongside agencies including the SEC, FBI, and Treasury. She created the government’s first cryptocurrency task force and led investigations into the Mt. Gox hack and the corrupt agents on the Silk Road task force.

While serving as a federal prosecutor with the US Department of Justice, she also prosecuted RICO murders, organized crime, public corruption, gangs, and money laundering. She held senior positions at Justice Department headquarters in both the National Security Division and attorney general’s office, where her portfolio included antitrust, tax, and national security. Katie has testified before both houses of Congress on the intersection of technology and regulation.

Katie serves on the board of Coinbase, where she chairs its audit and risk committees, and HackerOne. She also advises numerous technology companies and has invested in a range of companies from seed to Series C stage. She teaches a class on cryptocurrencies at Stanford Business School and previously taught cybercrime at Stanford Law School.

Katie clerked for US Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy and is an honors graduate of Stanford Law School. She is a lifetime member of the Council on Foreign Relations.

Please enjoy!

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

Brought to you by Four Sigmatic mushroom coffee, Eight Sleep’s Pod Pro Cover sleeping solution for dynamic cooling and heating, and LinkedIn Jobs recruitment platform with ~700M users. More on all three below.

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

Katie Haun on the Dark Web, Gangs, Investigating Bitcoin, and The New Magic of “Nifties” (NFTs) (#499)
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This episode is brought to you by LinkedIn Jobs. Whether you are looking to hire now for a critical role or thinking about needs that you may have in the future, LinkedIn Jobs can help. LinkedIn screens candidates for the hard and soft skills you’re looking for and puts your job in front of candidates looking for job opportunities that match what you have to offer.

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This episode is brought to you by Eight Sleep! Eight Sleep’s Pod Pro Cover is the easiest and fastest way to sleep at the perfect temperature. It pairs dynamic cooling and heating with biometric tracking to offer the most advanced (and user-friendly) solution on the market. Simply add the Pod Pro Cover to your current mattress and start sleeping as cool as 55°F or as hot as 110°F. It also splits your bed in half, so your partner can choose a totally different temperature.

And now, my dear listeners—that’s you—can get $250 off the Pod Pro Cover. Simply go to EightSleep.com/Tim or use code TIM. 


This podcast is brought to you by Four Sigmatic and their delicious mushroom coffee, featuring lion’s mane and chaga. It tastes like coffee, but it has less than half the caffeine of what you would find in a regular cup of coffee. I do not get any jitters, acid reflux, or any type of stomach burn. It’s organic and keto friendly, plus every single batch is third-party lab tested.

You can try it right now by going to FourSigmatic.com/Tim and using the code TIM. You will receive up to 39% off on the lion’s mane coffee bundleSimply visit FourSigmatic.com/Tim. If you are in the experimental mindset, I do not think you’ll be disappointed. 


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

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Josh Waitzkin and Tim Ferriss on The Cave Process, Advice from Future Selves, and Training for an Uncertain Future (#498)

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Most of the great performers that I’ve known or competed against or worked with in different fields just had this beautiful connection between their areas of dysfunctionality and brilliance. Sometimes the very thing that helps them excel in their professional life, or their artistic life, or their competitive life, is something that in their personal life can be a little bit awkward.

— Josh Waitzkin

Josh Waitzkin, author of The Art of Learning: An Inner Journey to Optimal Performance, is an eight-time national chess champion, a two-time world champion in Tai Chi Chuan Push Hands, and the first Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt under nine-time world champion Marcelo Garcia.

For the past 13 years, Josh has been channeling his passion for the outer limits of the learning process toward training elite mental performers in business and finance and to revolutionizing the education system through his nonprofit foundation, The Art of Learning Project. Josh is currently in the process of taking on his fourth and fifth disciplines, paddle surfing and foiling, and is an all-in father and husband.

Please enjoy!

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

Brought to you by Wealthfront automated investing, Vuori comfortable and durable performance apparel, and Tonal smart home gym. More on all three below.

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

#498: Josh Waitzkin and Tim Ferriss on The Cave Process, Advice from Future Selves, and Training for an Uncertain Future
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This episode is brought to you by WealthfrontWealthfront pioneered the automated investing movement, sometimes referred to as ‘robo-advising,’ and they currently oversee $20 billion of assets for their clients. It takes about three minutes to sign up, and then Wealthfront will build you a globally diversified portfolio of ETFs based on your risk appetite and manage it for you at an incredibly low cost. 

Smart investing should not feel like a rollercoaster ride. Let the professionals do the work for you. Go to Wealthfront.com/Tim and open a Wealthfront account today, and you’ll get your first $5,000 managed for free, for lifeWealthfront will automate your investments for the long term. Get started today at Wealthfront.com/Tim.


This episode is brought to you by Vuori clothingVuori is a new and fresh perspective on performance apparel. Perfect if you are sick and tired of traditional, old workout gear. Everything is designed for maximum comfort and versatility so that you look and feel as good in everyday life as you do working out.

Get yourself some of the most comfortable and versatile clothing on the planet at VuoriClothing.com/Tim. Not only will you receive 20% off your first purchase, but you’ll also enjoy free shipping on any US orders over $75 and free returns.


This episode is brought to you by Tonal! Tonal is the world’s most intelligent home gym and personal trainer. It is precision engineered and designed to be the world’s most advanced strength studio. Tonal uses breakthrough technology—like adaptive digital weights and A.I. learning—together with the best experts in resistance training so you get stronger, faster. Every program is personalized to your body using A.I., and smart features check your form in real time, just like a personal trainer.

Try Tonal, the world’s smartest home gym, for 30 days in your home, and if you don’t love it, you can return it for a full refund. Visit Tonal.com for $100 off their smart accessories when you use promo code TIM at checkout.


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

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Joyce Carol Oates — A Writing Icon on Creative Process and Creative Living (#497)

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“If you feel that you just can’t write or you’re too tired or this, that, and the other, just stop thinking about it, and go and work. Life doesn’t have to be so overthought. You don’t have to wait to be inspired. Just start working.”

— Joyce Carol Oates

Joyce Carol Oates (@JoyceCarolOates) is the author of novels, short story collections, poetry volumes, plays, essays, and criticism, including the national bestsellers We Were the Mulvaneys, Blonde, and A Widow’s Story. Among her many honors are the National Book Award, the PEN America Award, the National Humanities Medal, the 2019 Jerusalem Prize, and the 2020 Cino Del Duca World Prize for literature.

Joyce is the Roger S. Berlind Distinguished Professor of the Humanities at Princeton University and has been a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters since 1978.

Please enjoy!

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

Brought to you by Pique Tea premium tea crystals (pu’er, etc.), ShipStation shipping software, and ExpressVPN virtual private network service. More on all three below.

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

#497: Joyce Carol Oates — A Writing Icon on Creative Process and Creative Living
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This episode is brought to you by ShipStation. Do you sell stuff online? Then you know what a pain the shipping process is. ShipStation was created to make your life easier. Whether you’re selling on eBay, Amazon, Shopify, or over 100 other popular selling channels, ShipStation lets you access all of your orders from one simple dashboard, and it works with all of the major shipping carriers, locally and globally, including FedEx, UPS, and USPS. 

Tim Ferriss Show listeners get to try ShipStation free for 60 days by using promo code TIM. There’s no risk, and you can start your free trial without even entering your credit card info. Just visit ShipStation.com, click on the microphone at the top of the homepage, and type in TIM!


This episode is brought to you by ExpressVPN. I’ve been using ExpressVPN to make sure that my data is secure and encrypted, without slowing my Internet speed. If you ever use public Wi-Fi at, say, a hotel or a coffee shop, where I often work and as many of my listeners do, you’re often sending data over an open network, meaning no encryption at all.

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This episode is brought to you by Pique TeaI first learned about Pique through my friends Dr. Peter Attia and Kevin Rose, and now Pique’s fermented pu’er tea crystals have become my daily go-to. I often kickstart my mornings with their Pu’er Green Tea and Pu’er Black Tea, and I alternate between the two. Their crystals are cold-extracted, using only wild-harvested leaves from 250-year-old tea trees. Plus, they triple toxin screen for heavy metals, pesticides, and toxic mold—contaminants commonly found in tea. I also use the crystals for iced tea, which saves a ton of time and hassle.

Pique is offering 15% off of their pu’er teas for the first time ever, exclusively to my listeners. Simply visit PiqueTea.com/Tim, and the discount will be automatically applied. They also offer a 30-day satisfaction guarantee, so your purchase is completely risk free. Just go to PiqueTea.com/Tim to learn more.


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

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Marc Randolph on Building Netflix, Battling Blockbuster, Negotiating with Amazon/Bezos, and Scraping the Barnacles Off the Hull (#496)

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“You have to have the willingness and the confidence to walk away from sure mediocrity to bet everything on the long shot of a big success.”

— Marc Randolph

Although best known as the co-founder and first CEO of Netflix, Marc Randolph‘s (@mbrandolph) career as an entrepreneur spans more than four decades. He’s founded or co-founded half a dozen other successful start-ups, including, most recently, Looker Data Sciences, which he sold to Google in 2019 for $2.6B. He is currently mentoring a handful of other early-stage companies and advising hundreds of other entrepreneurs. He is also an active seed investor in start-ups all over the world, author of an internationally bestselling memoir, and host of the new podcast That Will Never Work, where he dispenses advice, encouragement, and tough love to struggling entrepreneurs.

When not surfing, mountain biking, or back-country skiing, Marc is a frequent speaker at industry events, works extensively with young entrepreneur programs, sits on the board of the environmental advocacy group 1% for the Planet, and chairs the National Outdoor Leadership School‘s board of trustees.

Please enjoy!

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

Brought to you by Wealthfront automated investing, Helix Sleep premium mattresses, and Athletic Greens all-in-one nutritional supplement. More on all three below.

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

#496: Marc Randolph on Building Netflix, Battling Blockbuster, Negotiating with Amazon/Bezos, and Scraping the Barnacles Off The Hull
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This episode is brought to you by Helix SleepHelix was selected as the #1 best overall mattress of 2020 by GQ magazine, Wired, Apartment Therapy, and many others. With Helix, there’s a specific mattress to meet each and every body’s unique comfort needs. Just take their quiz—only two minutes to complete—that matches your body type and sleep preferences to the perfect mattress for you. They have a 10-year warranty, and you get to try it out for a hundred nights, risk free. They’ll even pick it up from you if you don’t love it. And now, to my dear listeners, Helix is offering up to 200 dollars off all mattress orders plus two free pillows at HelixSleep.com/Tim.


This episode is brought to you by Athletic Greens. I get asked all the time, “If you could only use one supplement, what would it be?” My answer is usually Athletic Greens, my all-in-one nutritional insurance. I recommended it in The 4-Hour Body in 2010 and did not get paid to do so. I do my best with nutrient-dense meals, of course, but AG further covers my bases with vitamins, minerals, and whole-food-sourced micronutrients that support gut health and the immune system. 

Right now, Athletic Greens is offering you their Vitamin D Liquid Formula free with your first subscription purchase—a vital nutrient for a strong immune system and strong bones. Visit AthleticGreens.com/Tim to claim this special offer today and receive the free Vitamin D Liquid Formula (and five free travel packs) with your first subscription purchase! That’s up to a one-year supply of Vitamin D as added value when you try their delicious and comprehensive all-in-one daily greens product.


This episode is brought to you by WealthfrontWealthfront pioneered the automated investing movement, sometimes referred to as ‘robo-advising,’ and they currently oversee $20 billion of assets for their clients. It takes about three minutes to sign up, and then Wealthfront will build you a globally diversified portfolio of ETFs based on your risk appetite and manage it for you at an incredibly low cost. 

Smart investing should not feel like a rollercoaster ride. Let the professionals do the work for you. Go to Wealthfront.com/Tim and open a Wealthfront account today, and you’ll get your first $5,000 managed for free, for lifeWealthfront will automate your investments for the long term. Get started today at Wealthfront.com/Tim.


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

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David Rubenstein, Co-Founder of The Carlyle Group, on Lessons Learned, Jeff Bezos, Raising Billions of Dollars, Advising Presidents, and Sprinting to the End (#495)

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“Honor your parents.”

— David Rubenstein

David M. Rubenstein (davidrubenstein.com) is co-founder and co-executive chairman of The Carlyle Group, a global investment firm with $230 billion under management.

David is chairman of the boards of trustees of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and the Council on Foreign Relations, a fellow of the Harvard Corporation, and a regent of the Smithsonian Institution.

David, an original signer of the Giving Pledge, has made transformative gifts for the restoration or repair of the Washington Monument, Kennedy Center, Smithsonian, National Archives, National Zoo, and the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

David is host of The David Rubenstein Show: Peer-to-Peer Conversations on Bloomberg TV and the author of The American Story: Conversations with Master Historians and How to Lead: Wisdom from the World’s Greatest CEOs, Founders, and Game Changers.

David is a graduate of Duke University and the University of Chicago Law School.

Please enjoy!

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

Brought to you by ShipStation shipping software, Headspace easy-to-use app with guided meditations, and Theragun percussive muscle therapy devices. More on all three below.

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

#495: David Rubenstein, Co-Founder of The Carlyle Group, on Lessons Learned, Jeff Bezos, Raising Billions of Dollars, Advising Presidents, and Sprinting to the End
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This episode is brought to you by ShipStation. Do you sell stuff online? Then you know what a pain the shipping process is. ShipStation was created to make your life easier. Whether you’re selling on eBay, Amazon, Shopify, or over 100 other popular selling channels, ShipStation lets you access all of your orders from one simple dashboard, and it works with all of the major shipping carriers, locally and globally, including FedEx, UPS, and USPS. 

Tim Ferriss Show listeners get to try ShipStation free for 60 days by using promo code TIM. There’s no risk, and you can start your free trial without even entering your credit card info. Just visit ShipStation.com, click on the microphone at the top of the homepage, and type in TIM!


This episode is brought to you by Theragun! Theragun is my go-to solution for recovery and restoration. It’s a famous, handheld percussive therapy device that releases your deepest muscle tension. I own two Theraguns, and my girlfriend and I use them every day after workouts and before bed. The all-new Gen 4 Theragun is easy to use and has a proprietary brushless motor that’s surprisingly quiet—about as quiet as an electric toothbrush.

Go to Theragun.com/Tim right now and get your Gen 4 Theragun today, starting at only $199.


This episode is brought to you by Headspace! Headspace is your daily dose of mindfulness in the form of guided meditations in an easy-to-use app. Whatever the situation, Headspace can help you feel better. Overwhelmed? Headspace has a 3-minute SOS meditation for you. Need some help falling asleep? Headspace has wind-down sessions their members swear by. And for parents, Headspace even has morning meditations you can do with your kids. Headspace’s approach to mindfulness can reduce stress, improve sleep, boost focus, and increase your overall sense of well-being.

Go to Headspace.com/Tim for a FREE one-month trial with access to Headspace’s full library of meditations for every situation.


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

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The Master and the Fool

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The book Mastery by George Leonard has been recommended to me by many people, including chess grandmaster Maurice Ashley, swimming legend Terry Laughlin, and drumming phenom Dave Elitch.

One of my favorite sections is the epilogue, titled “The Master and the Fool,” which I’ve posted below with permission from Plume, an imprint of The Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House, LLC.

It explores a question: What are the keys to rapid and lifelong learning?

There are many keys, but arguably the most important is found in this five-minute read…

The Master and the Fool

“I want you to tell me how I can be a learner.”

It was not so much a query as a demand, almost a threat. He was a mountain man, with the long black hair, bold moustache and rough-hewn clothing of a nineteenth-century outlaw, one of a breed that lived illegally in the rugged hills of the Los Padres National Wilderness Area along the Big Sur coast of California—a place of buzzards and hawks, mountain lions and wild boar. Having just turned in the final proofs of a book on education (it was in the late 1960s), I had driven four hours south from San Francisco for a weekend of relaxation at Esalen Institute.

As I approached the lodge—a rustic building built at the edge of the Pacific on one of the few areas of flat land between the sea and the mountains of the Los Padres—I heard the sound of conga drums. Inside, the mountain man was sitting at one of the drums, surrounded by eight other people, each also at a drum. He was apparently giving an informal lesson to whoever cared to participate. One of the drums was unoccupied. I pulled up to the unoccupied drum and joined the others, following the instruction as well as I could. When the session ended I started to walk away, but the mountain man came after me, grasped my shoulder, and fixed me with a significant look.

“Man,” he said, “you are a learner.”

I stood there speechless. I’d never met this person, and he certainly had no idea I had just finished a book about learning. My conservative city garb had probably led him to think that I was a complete novice at the conga drum, the instrument of choice of the counterculture, and thus he must have been impressed by my seemingly rapid progress. Still, I was so pleased by his words that I didn’t inform him I’d played before. He proceeded to tell me that he was a sculptor who worked metal with an acetylene torch, and that he was badly stuck and had been for a year; he was no longer a learner. Now he wanted me, a learner in his mind, to come up to his place in the Los Padres, look at his work, and tell him how he could be a learner. He was leaving right away and I could follow him in my car if I wished.

Continue reading “The Master and the Fool”

Essay I’m Reading — “Still Alive”

Still Alive” by Scott Siskind, better known as “Scott Alexander” (@slatestarcodex). This really struck a chord, and if you are considering growing your audience or “platform,” make this essay part of your required reading. This bullet will be a bit longer and more heated than usual, as it reopened old wounds.

Some of my dear friends are journalists, and they’re wonderful people. They measure twice and cut once. They are thoughtful, unrushed, and considerate, despite organizational pressure and incentives to be the opposite. That takes extraordinary discipline, and it’s fucking hard. It isn’t the path of least resistance, and I admire the hell out of them for doing what is right, despite the uphill path. This includes some amazing humans at the NYT. This praise doesn’t mean that they write fluff pieces; it means they aim to be fair and humane and take the time necessary to think about ethics and the Golden Rule.

That said, there is a great-to-terrible spectrum for any professional group, including surgeons, elementary school teachers, politicians, hot dog vendors, and, yes, even journalists. There are people in all walks of life who are spiteful, narcissistic, harried, or simply uncaring. They do what is easiest and best for them personally, and what is expedient, without thought to those vulnerable to their mistreatment. Perhaps it’s from fatigue, perhaps it’s from outside pressure, perhaps it’s from ill will, but the outcomes are often the same. Sadly, there are journalists who earn a living by repeatedly earning trust and betraying it; they are a minority, but they clearly exist. I don’t say this about anyone referred to in Scott’s essay, as I’m not in the know, but based on my personal experience with hundreds of interviews over 10+ years, plus other authors’ similar experiences. There are great people in the unlikeliest of places, and there are bad apples at even the best publications. Don’t assume a good masthead means you are in safe hands.

This entire essay by Scott can serve as a cautionary tale about public exposure, fame, privacy, and living life. The “don’t kick me in the balls” section speaks to deeper truths and risks of the spotlight. Personally, I’ve been misquoted by tier-one newspapers and even threatened by one writer at a newspaper of record. Why was I threatened? Because I asked that he only include my answers if he quoted them in full, instead of pulling single sound bites out of context, which he’d done before. This was for an online piece, so there were no space constraints. He got very upset and wrote directly, “You are not in control,” and proceeded to explain the power dynamic. Endearing, eh? I immediately saved and drafted that exchange as a just-in-case blog post, which I still have. Thankfully, I didn’t need it then, and I can only guess that he realized the liability of explicitly typing what he did. That’s an edge case. There are tougher cases that don’t leave as obvious a paper trail. For example, I’ve had fact-checkers at a magazine famous for fact-checking *not* make the corrections I provided via phone, which resulted in a grossly inaccurate profile that will sit in Google results for years and probably decades. Lesson learned: only do fact-checking via email. For these reasons and more, I rarely do print interviews any longer, and if I do, I use email or insist on also having recordings of the conversations. Pro tip: ensure you ask to record on your side and have your own audio (via Skype, QuickTime, Zoom, or other), as I’ve also had several writers promise to send their audio and then never do so, despite multiple follow-ups. As Mike Shinoda (@mikeshinoda) says in Fort Minor’s “Get Me Gone”:

“After that I made it a rule:
I only do E-mail responses to print interviews
Because these people love to put a twist to your words
To infer that you said something fucking absurd

Now I’ve got the interviews on file
Which people said what, which number to dial”

Again, in the world of media, as in any group of humans, there are the good, the bad, and the ugly. There are some beautiful humans and some deplorable humans, and a vast majority fall somewhere in between, depending on which side of the bed they wake up on. Plan accordingly. And if you want more scary bedtime stories, alongside some tactical points, consider reading 11 Reasons Not to Become Famous.

Fame, even micro-celebrity, is like a razor-sharp scalpel with no handle; it easily cuts both ways.

[This post originally appeared in the “5-Bullet Friday” newsletter.]

Michael Phelps and Grant Hackett — Two Legends on Competing, Overcoming Adversity, Must-Read Books, and Much More (#494)

Illustration via 99designs

Trying to do something that no one’s ever done before, you really have to approach it in every single different way possible than ever has been done before. There is no blueprint for it.”
— Michael Phelps

“Just be you and feel comfortable in that.”
— Grant Hackett

Michael Phelps (@michaelphelps) is widely regarded as one of the greatest athletes of all time. He captured 28 medals, including a record-setting 23 gold medals, and set 39 world records over the course of his career. Michael utilized his performance bonus for winning eight gold medals in 2008 to establish the Michael Phelps Foundation, which promotes water safety, healthy living (physical and mental), and the pursuit of dreams. The foundation’s signature program—IM—is a learn-to-swim, healthy living, and goal-setting curriculum based on the principles and tools Michael utilized in his swimming career and is available through the Boys and Girls Clubs of America and Special Olympics International. His advocacy for water safety and mental health has earned him the recognition of the Boys and Girls Clubs of America (Champion of Youth), American Image Awards (Humanitarian Award), Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (Special Recognition Award), the Ruderman Family Foundation (Morton E. Ruderman Award in Inclusion), and PR Week (Health Influencer 50 and 2020 Communicator of the Year), among others.

Michael served as an executive producer and featured talent in the HBO documentary The Weight of Gold, which explores the mental health challenges Olympic athletes often face. In addition, he has published two autobiographies, No Limits: The Will to Succeed and Beneath the Surface, which were New York Times and USA Today bestsellers, and one children’s book, How to Train with a T-Rex and Win 8 Gold Medals.

Grant Hackett (@grant__hackett) represented and captained Australia in swimming at the Olympic Games. He collected a total of 58 medals over the course of his swimming career—with 26 gold at Olympic, Commonwealth, and World Championships levels—along with 16 world records. He remained unbeaten for 11 years in his pet event, the 1500m freestyle. Grant also received prestigious honors such as the Order of Australia, Centenary Medal, and Australian Sports Medal. Grant is a member of the Sports Australia Hall of Fame and International Swimming Hall of Fame.

His qualifications include an executive master of business administration with first-class honors, a diploma of business law, and a diploma of financial services. Grant is the CEO of Generation Life, an Australia-based investment firm managing more than $1.3 billion.

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#494: Michael Phelps and Grant Hackett — Two Legends on Competing, Overcoming Adversity, Must-Read Books, and Much More
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