Tribe of Mentors Podcast — Tim Urban

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This is the most recent episode of my brand-new Tribe of Mentors podcast! It features a live interview I did with writer Tim Urban at Union Square Barnes & Noble in NYC on the launch day of Tribe of Mentors: Short Life Advice from the Best in the World

Here we go…

Tim Urban (@waitbutwhy, waitbutwhy.com) is the author of the blog Wait But Why and has become one of the Internet’s most popular writers. Tim, according to Fast Company, has “captured a level of reader engagement that even the new-media giants would be envious of.” Today, Wait But Why receives more than 1.5 million unique visitors per month and has over 550,000 email subscribers. Tim has gained a number of prominent readers as well, like authors Sam Harris (page 365 in Tribe of Mentors) and Susan Cain (page 10), Twitter co-founder Evan Williams (page 401), TED curator Chris Anderson (page 407), and Brain Pickings’ Maria Popova. Tim’s series of posts after interviewing Elon Musk have been called by Vox’s David Roberts “the meatiest, most fascinating, most satisfying posts I’ve read in ages.” You can start with the first one, “Elon Musk: The World’s Raddest Man.” Tim’s TED Talk, “Inside the Mind of a Master Procrastinator,” has received more than 21 million views.

Want to hear another conversation with a mentor from Tribe of MentorsListen to this episode with Debbie Millman, in which we discuss how favorite failures and why busy is a decision. Listen to it here (stream below or right-click to download):


Get Tribe of Mentors at these fine retailers or at your local bookstore!  Barnes & Noble Amazon Apple iBooks | Books-A-Million | Indigo

Here’s a partial list of people included: tech icons (founders of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Craigslist, Pinterest, Spotify, Salesforce, Dropbox, and more), Jimmy Fallon, Arianna Huffington, Brandon Stanton (Humans of New York), Lord Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Ben Stiller, Maurice Ashley (first African-American Grandmaster of chess), Brené Brown (researcher and bestselling author), Rick Rubin (legendary music producer), Temple Grandin (animal behavior expert and autism activist), Franklin Leonard (The Black List), Dara Torres (12-time Olympic medalist in swimming), David Lynch (director), Kelly Slater (surfing legend), Bozoma Saint John (Beats/Apple/Uber), Lewis Cantley (famed cancer researcher), Maria Sharapova, Chris Anderson (curator of TED), Terry Crews, Greg Norman (golf icon), Vitalik Buterin (creator of Ethereum), and roughly 100 more. Click here to see the full list, sample chapters, and more.

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10 Short Life Lessons From Steven Pressfield

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The below profile is adapted from the new book, Tribe of Mentors: Short Life Advice from the Best in the World, which features practical and detailed advice from 130+ of the world’s top performers. Enjoy!


Steven Pressfield (@spressfield, stevenpressfield.com) has made a professional life in five different writing arenas — advertising, screenwriting, fiction, narrative nonfiction, and self-help. He is the best-selling author of The Legend of Bagger Vance, Gates of Fire, The Afghan Campaign, and The Lion’s Gate, as well as the cult classics on creativity, The War of Art, Turning Pro, and Do the Work. His Wednesday column on stevenpressfield.com is one of the most popular series about writing on the web.

What is an unusual habit or an absurd thing that you love?

This’ll sound crazy, but I have certain places that I go to, usually alone, that summon up for me earlier eras in my life. Time is a weird thing. Sometimes you can appreciate a moment that’s gone more in the present than you did when it was actually happening. The places that I go to are different all the time and they’re usually mundane, ridiculously mundane. A gas station. A bench on a street. Sometimes I’ll fly across the country just to go to one of these spots. Sometimes it’s on a vacation or a business trip when I’m with family or other people. I might not ever tell them. Or I might. Sometimes I’ll take somebody along, though it usually doesn’t work (how could it?).

What advice would you give to a smart, driven college student about to enter the “real world”? What advice should they ignore?

I’m probably hopelessly out of date but my advice is get real-world experience: Be a cowboy. Drive a truck. Join the Marine Corps. Get out of the hypercompetitive “life hack” frame of mind. I’m 74. Believe me, you’ve got all the time in the world. You’ve got ten lifetimes ahead of you. Don’t worry about your friends “beating” you or “getting somewhere” ahead of you. Get out into the real dirt world and start failing. Why do I say that? Because the goal is to connect with your own self, your own soul. Adversity. Everybody spends their life trying to avoid it. Me too. But the best things that ever happened to me came during the times when the shit hit the fan and I had nothing and nobody to help me. Who are you really? What do you really want? Get out there and fail and find out.

What is the book (or books) you’ve given most as a gift, and why? Or what are one to three books that have greatly influenced your life?

The single book that has influenced me most is probably the last book in the world that anybody is gonna want to read: Thucydides’ History of the Peloponnesian War. This book is dense, difficult, long, full of blood and guts. It wasn’t written, as Thucydides himself attests at the start, to be easy or fun. But it is loaded with hardcore, timeless truths and the story it tells ought to be required reading for every citizen in a democracy.

Thucydides was an Athenian general who was beaten and disgraced in a battle early in the 27-year conflagration that came to be called the Peloponnesian War. He decided to drop out of the fighting and dedicate himself to recording, in all the detail he could manage, this conflict, which, he felt certain, would turn out to be the greatest and most significant war ever fought up to that time. He did just that.

Have you heard of Pericles’ Funeral Oration? Thucydides was there for it. He transcribed it.

He was there for the debates in the Athenian assembly over the treatment of the island of Melos, the famous Melian Dialogue. If he wasn’t there for the defeat of the Athenian fleet at Syracuse or the betrayal of Athens by Alcibiades, he knew people who were there and he went to extremes to record what they told him. Thucydides, like all the Greeks of his era, was unencumbered by Christian theology, or Marxist dogma, or Freudian psychology, or any of the other “isms” that attempt to convince us that man is basically good, or perhaps perfectible. He saw things as they were, in my opinion. It’s a dark vision but tremendously bracing and empowering because it’s true. On the island of Corcyra, a great naval power in its day, one faction of citizens trapped their neighbors and fellow Corcyreans in a temple. They slaughtered the prisoners’ children outside before their eyes and when the captives gave themselves up based on pledges of clemency and oaths sworn before the gods, the captors massacred them as well. This was not a war of nation versus nation, this was brother against brother in the most civilized cities on earth. To read Thucydides is to see our own world in microcosm. It’s the study of how democracies destroy themselves by breaking down into warring factions, the Few versus the Many. Hoi polloi in Greek means “the many.” Oligoi means “the few.”

I can’t recommend Thucydides for fun, but if you want to expose yourself to a towering intellect writing on the deepest stuff imaginable, give it a try.

 

How has a failure, or apparent failure, set you up for later success? Do you have a “favorite failure” of yours?

I just wrote a book called The Knowledge about my favorite failure and guess what? It failed too. In all truth, when my third novel (which, like the first two, never got published) crashed ignominiously, I was driving a cab in New York City. I’d been trying to get published for about 15 years at that point. I decided to give up and move to Hollywood, to see if I could find work writing for the movies. Don’t ask me what movies I wrote. I will never tell. And if you find out by other means, BE WARNED! Don’t see ’em. But working in “the industry” made me a pro and paved the way for whatever successes finally did come.

If you could have a gigantic billboard anywhere with anything on it, what would it say and why?

I would not have a billboard, and I would take down every billboard that everybody else has put up.

What is one of the best or most worthwhile investments you’ve ever made?

I’ve never invested in the stock market or taken a risk on anything outside myself. I decided a long time ago that I would only bet on myself. I will risk two years on a book that’ll probably fall flat on its face. I don’t mind. I tried. It didn’t work. I believe in investing in your heart. That’s all I do, really. I’m a servant of the Muse. All my money is on her.

In the last five years, what new belief, behavior, or habit has most improved your life?

I’ve always been a gym person and an early morning person. But a few years ago I got invited to train with T. R. Goodman at a place called Pro Camp. There’s a “system,” yeah, but basically what we do (and it’s definitely a group thing, with three or four of us training together) is just work hard. I hate it but it’s great. T. R. says, as we’re leaving after working out, “Nothing you face today will be harder than what you just did.”

In the last five years, what have you become better at saying no to? What new realizations and/or approaches helped?

I got a chance a couple of years ago to visit a security firm, one of those places that guard celebrities and protect their privacy — in other words, a business whose total job was to say no. The person who was giving me the tour told me that the business screens every incoming letter, solicitation, email, etc., and decides which ones get through to the client. “How many get through?” I asked.

“Virtually none,” my friend said. I decided that I would look at incoming mail the same way that firm does. If I were the security professional tasked with protecting me from bogus, sociopathic, and clueless asks, which ones would I screen and dump into the trash? That has helped a lot.

When you feel overwhelmed or unfocused, what do you do?

I have a friend at the gym who knew Jack LaLanne (Google him if the name is unfamiliar). Jack used to say it’s okay to take a day off from working out. But on that day, you’re not allowed to eat. That’s the short way of saying you’re not really allowed to get unfocused. Take a vacation. Gather yourself. But know that the only reason you’re here on this planet is to follow your star and do what the Muse tells you. It’s amazing how a good day’s work will get you right back to feeling like yourself.

What are bad recommendations you hear in your profession or area of expertise?

Great, great question. In the world of writing, everyone wants to succeed immediately and without pain or effort. Really? Or they love to write books about how to write books, rather than actually writing . . . a book that might actually be about something. Bad advice is everywhere. Build a following. Establish a platform. Learn how to scam the system. In other words, do all the surface stuff and none of the real work it takes to actually produce something of value. The disease of our times is that we live on the surface. We’re like the Platte River, a mile wide and an inch deep. I always say, “If you want to become a billionaire, invent something that will allow people to indulge their own Resistance.” Somebody did invent it. It’s called the Internet. Social media. That wonderland where we can flit from one superficial, jerkoff distraction to another, always remaining on the surface, never going deeper than an inch. Real work and real satisfaction come from the opposite of what the web provides. They come from going deep into something — the book you’re writing, the album, the movie — and staying there for a long, long time.

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The above was taken from Tribe of Mentors, which shares short, tactical life advice from 130+ world-class performers from every imaginable field. Many of the world’s most famous entrepreneurs, athletes, investors, and artists are part of the book.

Get Tribe of Mentors at these fine retailers or at your local bookstore!  Barnes & Noble Amazon Apple iBooks | Books-A-Million | Indigo

Here’s a partial list of people included: tech icons (founders of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Craigslist, Pinterest, Spotify, Salesforce, Dropbox, and more), Jimmy Fallon, Arianna Huffington, Brandon Stanton (Humans of New York), Lord Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Ben Stiller, Maurice Ashley (first African-American Grandmaster of chess), Brené Brown (researcher and bestselling author), Rick Rubin (legendary music producer), Temple Grandin (animal behavior expert and autism activist), Franklin Leonard (The Black List), Dara Torres (12-time Olympic medalist in swimming), David Lynch (director), Kelly Slater (surfing legend), Bozoma Saint John (Beats/Apple/Uber), Lewis Cantley (famed cancer researcher), Maria Sharapova, Chris Anderson (curator of TED), Terry Crews, Greg Norman (golf icon), Vitalik Buterin (creator of Ethereum), and roughly 100 more. Click here to see the full list, sample chapters, and more.

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TRIBE OF MENTORS — Sample Chapter and a Taste of Things to Come

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The sample chapter is below, but first, to answer a common question…

Some people have asked how the new Tribe of Mentors (subtitle: Short Life Advice from the Best in the World) is different from my last book, Tools of Titans. They’re different in content but similar in format.

Differences — First, 90% of Tools of Titans was based on the podcast, and more than 90% of Tribe of Mentors has never appeared on the podcast. It’s a new cast of characters and all new material. Second, my reasons for writing Tribe of Mentors are totally different. Third… well, if you read the first chapter in this post, you’ll understand how much they diverge.

That said, I did keep the “snackable” short-profile format that worked so well in the last book, and the universe helped me pull off some miracles for Tribe of Mentors (e.g. Ben Stiller, Temple Grandin, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Yuval Noah Harari, Arianna Huffington, Marc Benioff, Terry Crews, Dan Gable, and many more). So, thanks, universe!

Enjoy the sample chapter below, and please grab the book at one of these fine retailers! Barnes & Noble | Amazon | Apple iBooks | Books-A-Million | Indigo  I promise it won’t disappoint.

If you want to hear the audio version, here you go (or click here to download):

Now, on to the first chapter…

INTRODUCTION TO TRIBE OF MENTORS — READ THIS FIRST

“The only true voyage would be not to travel through a hundred different lands with the same pair of eyes, but to see the same land through a hundred different pairs of eyes.”

          — MARCEL PROUST

“Albert grunted. ‘Do you know what happens to lads who ask too many questions?’

Mort thought for a moment.

‘No,’ he said eventually, ‘what?’

There was silence.

Then Albert straightened up and said, ‘Damned if I know. Probably they get answers, and serve ’em right.’”

      — TERRY PRATCHETT, MORT

To explain why I wrote this book, I really need to start with when.

2017 was an unusual year for me. The first six months were a slow simmer, and then, within a matter of weeks, I turned 40, my first book (The 4-Hour Workweek) had its tenth anniversary, several people in my circle of friends died, and I stepped onstage to explain how I narrowly avoided committing suicide in college.

Truth be told, I never thought I’d make it to 40. My first book was rejected 27 times by publishers. The things that worked out weren’t supposed to work, so I realized on my birthday: I had no plan for after 40.

As often happens at forks in the path — college graduation, quarter-life crisis, midlife crisis, kids leaving home, retirement — questions started to bubble to the surface.

Were my goals my own, or simply what I thought I should want?

How much of life had I missed from underplanning or overplanning?

How could I be kinder to myself ?

How could I better say no to the noise to better say yes to the adventures I craved?

How could I best reassess my life, my priorities, my view of the world, my place in the world, and my trajectory through the world?

So many things! All the things!

One morning, I wrote down the questions as they came, hoping for a glimmer of clarity. Instead, I felt a wave of anxiety. The list was overwhelming. Noticing that I was holding my breath, I paused and took my eyes off the paper. Then, I did what I often do — whether considering a business decision, personal relationship, or otherwise — I asked myself the one question that helps answer many others . . .

What would this look like if it were easy?

“This” could be anything. That morning, it was answering a laundry list of big questions.

What would this look like if it were easy? is such a lovely and deceptively leveraged question. It’s easy to convince yourself that things need to be hard, that if you’re not redlining, you’re not trying hard enough. This leads us to look for paths of most resistance, creating unnecessary hardship in the process.

But what happens if we frame things in terms of elegance instead of strain? In doing so, we sometimes find incredible results with ease instead of stress. Sometimes, we “solve” the problem by simply rewording it.

And that morning, by journaling on this question — What would this look like if it were easy? — an idea presented itself. Ninety-nine percent of the page was useless, but there was one seed of a possibility . . .

What if I assembled a tribe of mentors to help me?

More specifically, what if I asked 100+ brilliant people the very questions I want to answer for myself? Or somehow got them to guide me in the right direction?

Would it work? I wasn’t sure, but I did know one thing: If the easy approach failed, the unending-labor-in-the-salt-mines approach was always waiting in the wings. Pain is never out of season if you go shopping for it.

So, why not spend a week test-driving the path of least resistance?

And so it began. First, I scribbled down a list of dream interviewees, which started as one page and quickly became ten. It had to be a list with no limitations: no one too big, no one too out-of-reach, and no one too hard to find. Could I get the Dalai Lama? The incredible Temple Grandin? My personal white whale, author Neil Gaiman? Or Ayaan Hirsi Ali? I wrote out the most ambitious, eclectic, unusual list possible. Next, I needed to create an incentive to encourage people to respond, so I sought out a book deal. I figured “Be in my book?” might help. From the outset, I told the publisher that it also might not work, and that I’d return the advance if so.

Then, I started pitching my little heart out.

I sent an identical set of 11 questions to some of the most successful, wildly varied, and well-known people on the planet with “Answer your favorite 3 to 5 questions . . . or more, if the spirit moves you.”

After hitting “send” dozens of times, I clasped my hands to my chest with excitement and bated breath, to which the universe replied with . . . silence. Crickets.

For 12 to 24 hours, nothing. Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse. And then, there was a faint trickle through the ether. A whisper of curiosity and a handful of clarifying questions. Some polite declines followed, and then came the torrent.

Nearly all of the people I reached out to are busy beyond belief, and I expected short, rushed responses from a few of them, if I got any at all. Instead, what I got back were some of the most thoughtful answers I’d ever received, whether on paper, in person, or otherwise. In the end, there were more than 100 respondents.

Granted, the “easy” path took thousands of back-and-forth emails and Twitter direct messages, hundreds of phone calls, many marathons at a treadmill desk, and more than a few late-night bottles of wine, but . . . it worked. Did it always work? No. I didn’t get the Dalai Lama (this time), and at least half of the people on my list didn’t respond or declined the invitation. But it worked enough to matter, and that’s what matters.

In cases where the outreach worked, the questions did the heavy lifting.

Eight of the questions were fine-tuned “rapid-fire” questions from my podcast, The Tim Ferriss Show, the first business-interview podcast to pass 200 million downloads. These questions have been refined over more than 300 interviews with guests such as actor/musician Jamie Foxx, General Stanley McChrystal, and writer Maria Popova. I knew that these questions worked, that they could help me in my own life, and that interviewees generally liked them.  

The remaining three questions were new additions that I hoped would solve my most chronic problems. Before taking them into the wild, I tested, vetted, and wordsmithed them with friends who are world-class performers in their own right. These three often ended up indirectly answering the “big” questions.

The older I get, the more time I spend — as a percentage of each day — on crafting better questions. In my experience, going from 1x to 10x, from 10x to 100x, and from 100x to (when Lady Luck really smiles) 1000x returns in various areas has been a product of better questions. John Dewey’s dictum that “a problem well put is half-solved” applies.

Life punishes the vague wish and rewards the specific ask. Conscious thinking is largely asking and answering questions in your own head, after all. If you want confusion and heartache, ask vague questions. If you want uncommon clarity and results, ask uncommonly clear questions.

Fortunately, this is a skill you can develop. No book can give you all of the answers, but this book can train you to ask better questions. Milan Kundera, author of The Unbearable Lightness of Being, has said that “The stupidity of people comes from having an answer for everything. The wisdom of the novel comes from having a question for everything.” Substitute “master learner” for “novel,” and you have my philosophy of life. Often, all that stands between you and what you want is a better set of questions.

The 11 questions I chose for this book are listed below. It’s important to read the full questions and explanations, as I shorten them throughout the rest of the book. Special thanks to Brian Koppelman, Amelia Boone, Chase Jarvis, Naval Ravikant, and others for their hugely helpful feedback.

First, let us take a quick pass of the 11 questions. Some of them might seem trite or useless at first glance. . . . But lo! Things are not always what they appear.

  1. What is the book (or books) you’ve given most as a gift, and why? Or what are one to three books that have greatly influenced your life?

  2. What purchase of $100 or less has most positively impacted your life in the last six months (or in recent memory)? My readers love specifics like brand and model, where you found it, etc.

  3. How has a failure, or apparent failure, set you up for later success? Do you have a “favorite failure” of yours?

  4. If you could have a gigantic billboard anywhere with anything on it — metaphorically speaking, getting a message out to millions or billions — what would it say and why? It could be a few words or a paragraph. (If helpful, it can be someone else’s quote: Are there any quotes you think of often or live your life by?)

  5. What is one of the best or most worthwhile investments you’ve ever made? (Could be an investment of money, time, energy, etc.)

  6. What is an unusual habit or an absurd thing that you love?

  7. In the last five years, what new belief, behavior, or habit has most improved your life?

  8. What advice would you give to a smart, driven college student about to enter the “real world”? What advice should they ignore?

  9. What are bad recommendations you hear in your profession or area of expertise?

  10. In the last five years, what have you become better at saying no to (distractions, invitations, etc.)? What new realizations and/or approaches helped? Any other tips?

  11. When you feel overwhelmed or unfocused, or have lost your focus temporarily, what do you do? (If helpful: What questions do you ask yourself?)

Now, let’s take a look at each, and I’ll explain why they appear to work. You might ask, “Why should I care? I’m not an interviewer.” To that, my response is simple: If you want to build (or foster) a world-class network, you need to interact in a way that earns it. All of the following points will help.

For instance, I spent weeks testing the order of questions for optimal responses. To me, proper sequencing is the secret sauce, whether you’re trying to learn a new language in 8 to 12 weeks, overcome a lifelong fear of swimming, or pick the brain of a potential mentor over coffee. Good questions in the wrong order get bad responses. Conversely, you can punch well above your weight class by thinking about sequencing, as most people don’t.

As one example, the “billboard” question is one of my podcast listener and guest favorites, but it’s heavy. It stumps or intimidates a lot of people. I didn’t want to scare busy people off, who might opt out with a quick, “Sorry, Tim. I just don’t have bandwidth for this right now.” So, what to do? Easy: let them warm up with lightweight questions (e.g., Most gifted books, purchase of <$100), which are less abstract and more concrete.

My explanations get shorter toward the end, as many of the points carry over or apply to all questions.

  1. What is the book (or books) you’ve given most as a gift, and why? Or what are one to three books that have greatly influenced your life?

“What’s your favorite book?” seems like a good question. So innocent, so simple. In practice, it’s terrible. The people I interview have read hundreds or thousands of books, so it’s a labor-intensive question for them, and they rightly worry about picking a “favorite,” which then gets quoted and put in articles, Wikipedia, etc. “Most gifted” is lower risk, an easier search query (easier to recall), and implies benefits for a broader spectrum of people, which the idiosyncratic “favorite” does not.

For the curious and impatient among you, here are a few books (of many) that came up a lot:

Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl

The Rational Optimist by Matt Ridley

The Better Angels of Our Nature by Steven Pinker

Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari

Poor Charlie’s Almanack by Charlie Munger

  1. What purchase of $100 or less has most positively impacted your life in the last six months (or in recent memory)? My fans love specifics like brand and model, where you found it, etc.

This might seem like a throwaway, but it isn’t. It provides an easy entry point for busy interviewees while providing readers (and me) with something immediately actionable. Several answers have already changed my life, boosting immune function, improving sleep, and much more. The deeper questions elicit more profound answers, but profundity is the fiber of knowledge — it requires intensive digestion. To keep marching forward in the meanwhile, humans (yours truly included) need short-term rewards. In this book, I accomplish that with questions that provide tangible, easy, and often fun answers — Scooby snacks for your hard-working soul. To get the heavier lifting done, these breathers are important.  

  1. How has a failure, or apparent failure, set you up for later success? Do you have a “favorite failure” of yours?

This one is particularly important to me. As I wrote in Tools of Titans:

The superheroes you have in your mind (idols, icons, elite athletes, billionaires, etc.) are nearly all walking flaws who’ve maximized one or two strengths. Humans are imperfect creatures. You don’t “succeed” because you have no weaknesses; you succeed because you find your unique strengths and focus on developing habits around them. . .  Everyone is fighting a battle [and has fought battles] you know nothing about. The heroes in this book are no different. Everyone struggles.

  1. If you could have one gigantic billboard anywhere with anything on it — metaphorically speaking, getting a message out to millions or billions — what would it say and why? It could be a few words or a paragraph. (If helpful, it can be someone else’s quote: Are there any quotes you think of often or live your life by?)

Self-explanatory, so I’ll skip the commentary. For would-be interviewers, though, the “If helpful…” portion is often critical for getting good answers.

  1. What is one of the best or most worthwhile investments you’ve ever made? (Could be an investment of money, time, energy, etc.)

This is also self-explanatory . . . or so it seems. With questions like this and the next, I’ve found it productive to give interviewees a real-world answer. In a live interview, it buys them time to think, and in text, it gives them a template. For this question, for instance, I gave everyone the following:

SAMPLE ANSWER from Amelia Boone, one of the world’s top endurance athletes, sponsored by big brands and 4x world champion in obstacle course racing (OCR):

“In 2011, I shelled out $450 to participate in the first World’s Toughest Mudder, a brand new 24-hour obstacle race. Saddled with law school debt, it was a big expenditure for me, and I had no business thinking I could even complete the race, let alone compete in it. But I ended up being one of 11 finishers (out of 1,000 participants) of that race, and it altered the course of my life, leading to my career in obstacle racing and multiple world championships. Had I not plunked down the cash for that entry fee, none of that would have happened.”

  1. What is an unusual habit or an absurd thing that you love?

I was first asked this when interviewed by my friend Chris Young, scientist, co-author of Modernist Cuisine, and CEO of ChefSteps. Before responding, and while sitting onstage at the Town Hall in Seattle, I said, “Oooooh . . . that’s a good question. I’m going to steal that.” And I did. This question has deeper implications than you might expect. Answers prove a number of helpful things: 1) Everyone is crazy, so you’re not alone. 2) If you want more OCD-like behaviors, my interviewees are happy to help, and 3) Corollary to #1: “normal” people are just crazy people you don’t know well enough. If you think you’re uniquely neurotic, I hate to deliver the news, but every human is Woody Allen in some part of life. Here’s the sample answer I gave for this question, taken from a live interview and slightly edited for text:

SAMPLE ANSWER from Cheryl Strayed, best-selling author of Wild (made into a feature film with Reese Witherspoon): “Here’s my whole theory of the sandwich… every bite should be as much like the previous bite as possible. Do you follow? [If ] there’s a clump of tomatoes here, but then there’s hummus — everything has to be as uniform as possible. So any sandwich I’m ever given, I open it up and I immediately completely rearrange the sandwich.”

  1. In the last five years, what new belief, behavior, or habit has most improved your life?

This is short, effective, and not particularly nuanced. It has particular application to my life reassessment. I’m surprised I don’t hear questions like this more often.

  1. What advice would you give to a smart, driven college student about to enter the “real world”? What advice should they ignore?

The second “ignore” sub-question is essential. We’re prone to asking “What should I do?” but less prone to asking “What shouldn’t I do?” Since what we don’t do determines what we can do, I like asking about not-to-do lists.

  1. What are bad recommendations you hear in your profession or area of expertise?

A close cousin of the previous question. Many problems of “focusing” are best solved by defining what to ignore.

  1. In the last five years, what have you become better at saying no to (distractions, invitations, etc.)? What new realizations and/or approaches helped? Any other tips?

Saying yes is easy. Saying no is hard. I wanted help with the latter, as did many people in the book, and some answers really delivered the goods.

  1. When you feel overwhelmed or unfocused or have lost your focus temporarily, what do you do? (If helpful: What questions do you ask yourself?)

If your mind is “beach balling” (nerdy Mac reference to when a computer freezes), nothing else matters much until that is resolved. Once again, the secondary “if helpful” question is often critical.

***

Since any greatness in these pages is from other people, I feel comfortable saying that you will love some of what’s here, no matter where you are in life.

In the same breath, I know you will find some of what’s inside boring, useless, or seemingly stupid.  This is by design and a byproduct of collecting very different people with very different life experiences from around the world. Out of roughly 140 profiles, I expect you to like 70, love 35, and have your life changed by perhaps 17. Amusingly, the 70 you dislike will be precisely the 70 someone else needs.

Life would be boring if we all followed exactly the same rules, and you will want to pick and choose your own.

The more surprising part of all of this is that Tribe of Mentors changes with you. As time passes and life unfolds, things you initially swatted away like a distraction can reveal depth and become unimaginably important.

That cliché you ignored like a throwaway fortune cookie? Suddenly it makes sense and moves mountains. Conversely, things you initially found enlightening might run their course, like a wonderful high school coach who needs to hand you off to a college coach for you to reach the next level.

There’s no expiration date on the advice in this book. In the following pages, you’ll find advice from 30-something wunderkinds and seasoned veterans in their 60s and 70s. The hope is that, each time you pick up this book, not unlike with the I Ching or Tao Te Ching, something new will grab you, shake your perception of reality, illuminate your follies, confirm your intuitions, or correct your course that all-important one degree.

The entire spectrum of human emotion and experience can be found in this book, from hilarious to heart-wrenching, from failure to success, and from life to death. May you welcome it all in.

On my coffee table at home, I have a piece of driftwood. Its sole purpose is to display a quote by Anaïs Nin, which I see every day:

“Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.”

It’s a short reminder that success can usually be measured by the number of uncomfortable conversations we are willing to have, and by the number of uncomfortable actions we are willing to take.

The most fulfilled and effective people I know — world-famous creatives, billionaires, thought leaders, and more — look at their life’s journey as perhaps 25 percent finding themselves and 75 percent creating themselves.

This book is not intended to be a passive experience. It’s intended to be a call to action.

You are the author of your own life, and it’s never too late to replace the stories you tell yourself and the world. It’s never too late to begin a new chapter, add a surprise twist, or change genres entirely.

What would it look like if it were easy?

Here’s to picking up the pen with a smile. Big things are coming. . . .

Pura vida,

Tim Ferriss

Austin, Texas
August 2017

###

Get Tribe of Mentors at these fine retailers!  Barnes & Noble | Amazon | Apple iBooks | Books-A-Million | Indigo

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Tools of Titans — A Few Goodies from the Cutting Room Floor

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This post contains a few things that didn’t make it into Tools of Titans (#1 NYT), pulled from more than 300 cuts.

Please excuse casual grammar. This is how all people sound in-person, even uber-smart ones.  The below quotes weren’t copyedited for the book, as they didn’t make it in (though every person did), so any typos are mine. Bolding is also mine.

Hope you enjoy!

NAVAL RAVIKANT

*What are the things that you look for in founders, or the red flags that disqualify an investment or a founder.

“Number one, intelligence; you’ve got to be smart, which means you have to know what you’re doing, to some level. That’s a fuzzy thing but you talk to people and you kind of get a sense of do they know what they’re doing or not. Do they have insight, do they have specific knowledge? Have they thought about the problem deeply? It’s not about the age. It’s not how many years they’ve spent but just how deep is their understanding of what they’re about to do.”

“So intelligence is key. Energy, because being a founder is brutally difficult. It takes a long time and in the long run, the people who succeed are just the ones who persevere. So if someone runs out of energy or if they’re doing this in some hesitating, preliminary way where they’re looking for constant positive feedback, or if they’re easily thrown off course, then they’re not going to make it to the end, especially in the highly competitive startup context.”

And finally is integrity. Because if you have someone who is high intelligence and high energy but they’re low integrity, what you’ve got is a hard working, smart crook. Especially in the startup world, things are very dynamic, they’re very fast moving. People are very independent. So if somebody wants to screw you over, they will find a way to do it. Fundamentally, ethics and integrity are what you do despite the money. If being ethical were profitable, everybody would do it. So what you’re looking for is a core sense of values that rises above and beyond the pure financial incentives.”

Here are the full episodes with Naval:

The Person I Call Most for Startup Advice (this episode was voted by ProductHunt as the #2 podcast episode of 2015, beaten out only by my episode with Jamie Foxx)

Naval Ravikant on Happiness Hacks and the 5 Chimps Theory

WHITNEY CUMMINGS

*Who are some of the most underrated comedians?

“Sebastian Maniscalco”

Jerrod Carmichael is great.”

“Natasha Leggero is very funny. Tig Notaro, I’m sure you guys all know her by now. Chris D’Elia, I’m a fan. You probably already know him.”

“Neil Brennan, co-creator of the Chappelle Show with Dave Chappelle, has now started doing standup and is super incisive and funny.”

Here are the full episodes with Whitney:

Whitney Cummings on Turning Pain Into Creativity

The Return of the Money Shot

AMANDA PALMER

*Edit down & simplify

“And the true beauty of making a good TED talk or a good book is that you edit down, and you distill…”

“And then the goal was: how do we take this story that took a minute and a half to tell, which I thought I had got it as far down as possible, and condense it into 20 seconds?  Literally, what words, what single words could we use to convey that whole sentence?”

“With a single anecdote or a single detail, they emotionally take you right there, and they don’t need to say anymore, and they can get on to the next thing.”

“The best art is about economy. [..] the artist who’s just trying to do everything winds up unable to express whatever it is that’s of importance.”

“It was the ability to pare down to the impactful detail.  And that’s just true in art, as in life, for sure.”

Here is the full episode with Amanda:

Amanda Palmer on How to Fight, Meditate, and Make Good Art

MATT MULLENWEG

*Don’t B.S. — tell the truth

“I find the smartest guys in the world, and when you get to the very top echelon, they have perfect B.S. detectors.  It’s much better to say ‘I don’t know’ than to try to make up an answer to something you don’t actually know. It’s kind of refreshing, actually, that just honesty and transparency are – even when you’re raising north of a billion dollars – the best policy.”

Here are the full episodes with Matt:

Matt Mullenweg on Polyphasic Sleep, Tequila, and Building Billion-Dollar Companies

Matt Mullenweg: Characteristics and Practices of Successful Entrepreneurs

The Random Show Threesome — Tim Ferriss, Kevin Rose, and Matt Mullenweg

JOSH WAITZKIN

*Keystone habits recommended by Josh

“First of all, meditation, when we’re speaking about this theme of cognitive biases or basically observing your mental directions the moment that they set in. Meditation is as deep and as powerful a tool as I could possibly describe. Maybe six or seven years ago, when I was first talking about meditation with guys in the finance world [Editor: he coaches some of the best-performing hedge hedge fund managers of all time], it seemed like some woo-woo strange thing for them to take on. But as more and more people are integrating it into their process, you wouldn’t believe how many of the most powerful players in the world are meditating very deeply.”

Related:

“It’s one thing to learn skills, but the higher artist has to learn themes or meta-themes that will ultimately, spontaneously tap into the internalization of hundreds of what I would call ‘local habits.’ If you’re practicing quality, you’re deepening the muscle of quality and you’re also focusing the unconscious on that complexity, which we then tap first thing in the mornings [by journaling upon waking].”

[Editor’s note — But to make journaling work, you need to let problems go earlier in the day.] From later in that conversation:

“The very core idea is: when you go home, as best you can, unless you’re red-hot inspired, release your mind from the work. It’s very important to give your stress a recovery. [As a] core habit, you want to be turning it on and turning it off.”

And you can teach people that turning it off is a huge part of teaching them to turn it on much more intensely. [Editor: Josh works with some of the top athletes in the world, like Marcelo Garcia in jiu-jitsu] Stress and recovery workouts, interval training, and meditation together are beautiful habits to develop to cultivate the art of turning it on and turning it off.”

“And then, thematically, this ties back into this internal proactive orientation, building a daily architecture which is around understanding your creative process as opposed to reacting to things, feeling guilty that you’re not working, really teaching people to tap into their internal compass.”

Here are the full episodes with Josh:

Episode #2 — Josh Waitzkin

Josh Waitzkin, The Prodigy Returns

Becoming the Best Version of You

RAMIT SETHI

“Well, one of my general life philosophies is do not try to be 40 before you are 40. It is funny how many of us we want to jump ahead and do all of these really sophisticated things, and I am no exception. Every time I start something new, I want to jump to what all the best people in the world are doing and try to copy them. But, of course, you have to go through the pain and the fire to be able to get there…”

Here are the full episodes with Ramit:

Ramit Sethi on Persuasion and Turning a Blog Into a Multi-Million-Dollar Business

How Creatives Should Negotiate

Becoming the Best Version of You

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The Random Show – Drinking Urine, Exploring Japan, and Figuring Out Life

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Photo credit: Kevin Rose

Coming to you from a late night in rural Japan, this is a special edition of The Random Show.

Per usual for The Random Show, I am joined by Kevin Rose (@KevinRose), serial entrepreneur, world-class investor, and all around wild and crazy guy. We discuss Japan and how to do it cheaply, building apps, urine drinking, love and marriage, beauty and absurdity in 2017, why Kevin doesn’t have New Year’s resolutions, favorite books, and much more.

Enjoy!

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#224: The Random Show - Drinking Urine, Exploring Japan, and Figuring Out Life
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Want to hear another episode of The Random Show? — Listen to this earlier conversation with Kevin Rose. In this episode, we discuss saunas and cold treatment, dating apps, and fitness apps (stream below or right-click here to download):


This podcast is brought to you by iD Commerce + Logistics. I’m asked all the time about how to scale businesses quickly. Rule number one: remove unnecessary bottlenecks. Many businesses can do so by outsourcing inventory management and fulfillment to a company that makes this its primary focus.

iD Commerce + Logistics is just such a company. It helps online retailers and entrepreneurs outgrow their competition by handling all types of details — from inventory to packing and shipping. I depended on iD to handle these types of details when I launched The 4-Hour Chef, so I could focus on promoting the book. As a listener of this podcast, you can get up to $10,000 off your start-up fees and costs waived by visiting tim.blog/scale or idcomlog.com/tim.

This podcast is also brought to you by Wealthfront. Wealthfront is the future of financial advice. It’s become especially popular among my friends in Silicon Valley and across the country because it provides the same high-end financial advice that the best private wealth managers deliver to the ultra wealthy — but for any account size, at a fraction of the cost.

Wealthfront monitors your portfolio every day across more than a dozen asset classes to find opportunities for rebalancing and harvesting tax losses, and now manages more than $5 billion in assets. Unlike old-fashioned private wealth managers, Wealthfront is powered by innovative technology, making it the most tax-efficient, low-cost, hassle-free way to invest. Go to wealthfront.com/tim to take the risk assessment quiz, which only takes 2-5 minutes, and it’ll show you — for free — exactly the portfolio it would recommend. If you want to just take the advice and do it yourself, you can. Or, as I would, you can set it and forget it. Well worth a few minutes: wealthfront.com/tim. As a Tim Ferriss Show listener, you’ll get your first $15,000 managed for free if you decide to go with its services.

QUESTION(S) OF THE DAY: What was your favorite quote or lesson from this episode? Please let me know in the comments.

Scroll below for links and show notes…

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How to Develop Mental Toughness: Lessons From 8 Titans

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amelia2

Amelia Boone, the world’s most decorated obstacle racer, after jumping through fire.

“We don’t rise to the level of our expectations, we fall to the level of our training.”
― Archilochus

Mental toughness can take many forms: resilience against attack, calmness in the face of uncertainty, persistence through pain, or focus amidst chaos.

Below are eight lessons from eight of the toughest human beings I know.

All are taken from the hundreds of tips and tactics in Tools of Titans: The Tactics, Routines, and Habits of Billionaires, Icons, and World-Class Performers.

#1 – IF YOU WANT TO BE TOUGHER, BE TOUGHER.
(Jocko Willink, former Navy SEAL Commander)

“If you want to be tougher mentally, it is simple: Be tougher. Don’t meditate on it.”

TIM: These words of Jocko’s helped one listener—a drug addict—get sober after many failed attempts. The simple logic struck a chord: “Being tougher” was, more than anything, a decision to be tougher. It’s possible to immediately “be tougher,” starting with your next decision. Have trouble saying “no” to dessert? Be tougher. Make that your starting decision. Feeling winded? Take the stairs anyway. Ditto. It doesn’t matter how small or big you start. If you want to be tougher, be tougher.

Jocko-Quote

#2. I WASN’T THERE TO COMPETE. I WAS THERE TO WIN.
(Arnold Schwarzenegger)  

TIM: In my interview with Arnold, I brought up a photo of him at age 19, just before he won his first big competition, Junior Mr. Europe. I asked, “Your face was so confident compared to every other competitor. Where did that confidence come from?” He replied:

“My confidence came from my vision. . . . I am a big believer that if you have a very clear vision of where you want to go, then the rest of it is much easier. Because you always know why you are training 5 hours a day, you always know why you are pushing and going through the pain barrier, and why you have to eat more, and why you have to struggle more, and why you have to be more disciplined… I felt that I could win it, and that was what I was there for. I wasn’t there to compete. I was there to win.”

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#3 – PUSH BEYOND, SHARE PRIVATION, TACKLE FEAR.
(4-Star General Stanley McChrystal)

TIM: The following from Gen. McChyrstal was in response to “What are three tests or practices from the military that civilians could use to help develop mental toughness?”:

“The first is to push yourself harder than you believe you’re capable of. You’ll find new depth inside yourself. The second is to put yourself in groups who share difficulties, discomfort. We used to call it ‘shared privation.’ [Definition of privation: a state in which things essential for human well-being such as food and warmth are scarce or lacking.] You’ll find that when you have been through that kind of difficult environment, you feel more strongly about that which you’re committed to. And finally, create some fear and make individuals overcome it.”

#4 – PUT FEAR IN LINE.
(Caroline Paul, luger, firefighter, and more)

TIM: In the 1990s, Caroline illegally climbed the Golden Gate Bridge, rising to ~760 feet on thin cables. She’d mentioned “putting fear in line” to me, and I asked her to dig into the specifics.

“I am not against fear. I think fear is definitely important. It’s there to keep us safe. But I do feel like some people give it too much priority. It’s one of the many things that we use to assess a situation. I am pro-bravery. That’s my paradigm.

Fear is just one of many things that are going on. For instance, when we climbed the bridge, which was five of us deciding we wanted to walk up that cable in the middle of the night. Please don’t do that, but we did. Talk about fear—you’re walking on a cable where you have to put one foot in front of the other until you’re basically as high as a 70-story building with nothing below you and . . . two thin wires on either side.

It’s just a walk, technically. Really, nothing’s going to happen unless some earthquake or catastrophic gust of wind hits. You’re going to be fine as long as you keep your mental state intact. In those situations, I look at all the emotions I’m feeling, which are anticipation, exhilaration, focus, confidence, fun, and fear. Then I take fear and say, ‘Well, how much priority am I going to give this? I really want to do this.’ I put it where it belongs. It’s like brick laying or making a stone wall. You fit the pieces together.”

#5 – IS THAT A DREAM OR A GOAL?
(Paul Levesque/Triple H, WWE superstar and executive)

“[Evander Holyfield] said that his coach at one point told him, something like his very first day, ‘You could be the next Muhammad Ali. Do you wanna do that?’ Evander said he had to ask his mom. He went home, he came back and said, ‘I wanna do that.’ The coach said, ‘Okay. Is that a dream or a goal? Because there’s a difference.’ “I’d never heard it said that way, but it stuck with me. So much so that I’ve said it to my kid now: ‘Is that a dream, or a goal? Because a dream is something you fantasize about that will probably never happen. A goal is something you set a plan for, work toward, and achieve. I always looked at my stuff that way. The people who were successful models to me were people who had structured goals and then put a plan in place to get to those things. I think that’s what impressed me about Arnold [Schwarzenegger]. It’s what impressed me about my father-in-law [Vince McMahon].”

#6 – PAIN TOLERANCE CAN BE THE FORCE MULTIPLIER
(Amelia Boone, 3x World’s Toughest Mudder champion)

“I’m not the strongest. I’m not the fastest. But I’m really good at suffering.”

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#7 – WHO DO YOU SURROUND YOURSELF WITH WHEN YOUR EGO FEELS THREATENED?
(Josh Waitzkin, chess prodigy, push hands world champion, first black belt under BJJ phenom Marcelo Garcia)

Back in the world of combat sports and Brazilian jiu-jitsu:

“It’s very interesting to observe who the top competitors pick out when they’re five rounds into the sparring sessions and they’re completely gassed. The ones who are on the steepest growth curve look for the hardest guy there—the one who might beat them up—while others look for someone they can take a break on.”

#8 – THE MAGIC OF THE SINGLE DECISION
(Christopher Sommer, former men’s gymnastics national team coach)

TIM: We all get frustrated. I am particularly prone to frustration when I see little or no progress after several weeks of practicing something new. Despite Coach Sommer’s regular reminders about connective-tissue adaptations taking 200 to 210 days, after a few weeks of flailing with “straddle L extensions,” I was at my wits’ end. Even after the third workout, I had renamed them “frog spaz” in my workout journal because that’s what I resembled while doing them: a frog being electrocuted.

Each week, I sent Coach Sommer videos of my workouts via Dropbox. In my accompanying notes at one point, I expressed how discouraging it was to make zero tangible progress with this exercise. Below is his email response, which I immediately saved to Evernote to review often.

It’s all great, but I’ve bolded my favorite part.

“Dealing with the temporary frustration of not making progress is an integral part of the path towards excellence. In fact, it is essential and something that every single elite athlete has had to learn to deal with. If the pursuit of excellence was easy, everyone would do it. In fact, this impatience in dealing with frustration is the primary reason that most people fail to achieve their goals. Unreasonable expectations time-wise, resulting in unnecessary frustration, due to a perceived feeling of failure. Achieving the extraordinary is not a linear process.

The secret is to show up, do the work, and go home.

A blue collar work ethic married to indomitable will. It is literally that simple. Nothing interferes. Nothing can sway you from your purpose. Once the decision is made, simply refuse to budge.

Refuse to compromise.

And accept that quality long-term results require quality long-term focus. No emotion. No drama. No beating yourself up over small bumps in the road. Learn to enjoy and appreciate the process. This is especially important because you are going to spend far more time on the actual journey than with those all too brief moments of triumph at the end.

Certainly celebrate the moments of triumph when they occur. More importantly, learn from defeats when they happen. In fact, if you are not encountering defeat on a fairly regular basis, you are not trying hard enough. And absolutely refuse to accept less than your best.

Throw out a timeline. It will take what it takes.

If the commitment is to a long-term goal and not to a series of smaller intermediate goals, then only one decision needs to be made and adhered to. Clear, simple, straightforward. Much easier to maintain than having to make small decision after small decision to stay the course when dealing with each step along the way. This provides far too many opportunities to inadvertently drift from your chosen goal. The single decision is one of the most powerful tools in the toolbox.”

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The above is a small sample of hundreds of tips in Tools of Titans: The Tactics, Routines, and Habits of Billionaires, Icons, and World-Class Performers.  Check it out!

Tools of Titans is available at Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Books-A-Million, iBooks, Indiebound, Indigo, and more.

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The Unusual Books That Shaped 50+ Billionaires, Mega-Bestselling Authors, and Other Prodigies

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You are the average of the five people you associate with most. Choose your books and authors wisely.

You are the average of the five people you associate with most. Choose your books and authors wisely.

One of the questions I ask the most successful people I interview or meet is:

“What book have you gifted most to others, and why?”  

Below is a mega-list of the most-gifted and favorite books of 50-60 people like billionaire investor Peter Thiel, Tony Robbins, Arnold Schwarzenegger, elite athlete Amelia Boone, Malcolm Gladwell, legendary Navy SEAL Commander Jocko Willink, Dr. Brené Brown, music producer Rick Rubin, chess prodigy Josh Waitzkin, Glenn Beck, Reid Hoffman, Marc Andreessen, and many more.

Several books appear more than once, which might be where you start your own collection.

Important notes on the list:

  • Bolded books are “most-gifted book” answers.
  • Unbolded books were recommended or mentioned by the guest, but not specifically “most-gifted.”
  • Many of these answers were updated or added by guests AFTER their interviews, or the “guests” haven’t been on my podcast, so they are only found in Tools of Titans.

For the answers from 120+ world-class performers, and much more, please check this out.

Enjoy!

***

Adams, Scott: Influence (Robert B. Cialdini)

Altucher, James: Jesus’ Son: Stories (Denis Johnson), The Kite Runner; A Thousand Splendid Suns (Khaled Hosseini), Antifragile; The Black Swan; Fooled by Randomness (Nassim Nicholas Taleb), Brain Rules (John Medina), Outliers (Malcolm Gladwell), Freakonomics (Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner)

Andreessen, Marc: High Output Management; Only the Paranoid Survive (Andrew S. Grove), Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future (Peter Thiel with Blake Masters), Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination (Neal Gabler), Schulz and Peanuts: A Biography (David Michaelis), The Wizard of Menlo Park: How Thomas Alva Edison Invented the Modern World (Randall E. Stross), Born Standing Up: A Comic’s Life (Steve Martin), The Hard Thing About Hard Things (Ben Horowitz)

Attia, Peter: Mistakes Were Made (but Not by Me): Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions, and Hurtful Acts (Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson), Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman! (Richard P. Feynman), 10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works — A True Story (Dan Harris)

Beck, Glenn: The Book of Virtues (William J. Bennett), Winners Never Cheat (Jon Huntsman)

Bell, Mark: COAN: The Man, The Myth, The Method: The Life, Times & Training of the Greatest Powerlifter of All-Time (Marty Gallagher)

Belsky, Scott: Life’s Little Instruction Book (H. Jackson Brown, Jr.)

Betts, Richard: A Fan’s Notes (Frederick Exley), The Crossroads of Should and Must (Elle Luna)

Birbiglia, Mike: The Promise of Sleep (William C. Dement)

Boone, Amelia: House of Leaves (Mark Z. Danielewski)

Boreta, Justin: Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain (Oliver Sacks), Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion (Sam Harris), This Is Your Brain on Music (Daniel J. Levitin), The Unbearable Lightness of Being (Milan Kundera)

Brown, Brené: The Alchemist (Paulo Coelho)

Callen, Bryan: Excellent Sheep (William Deresiewicz), Atlas Shrugged; The Fountainhead (Ayn Rand), The Power of Myth; The Hero with a Thousand Faces (Joseph Campbell), The Genealogy of Morals (Friedrich Nietzsche), The Art of Learning (Josh Waitzkin), The 4-Hour Body; The 4-Hour Workweek (Tim Ferriss), Bad Science, Bad Pharma: How Drug Companies Mislead Doctors and Harm Patients (Ben Goldacre), Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq, 2003 to 2005 (Thomas Ricks), The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11; Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief (Lawrence Wright), Symposium (Plato)

Chin, Jimmy: Musashi: An Epic Novel of the Samurai Era (Eiji Yoshikawa and Charles Terry), A Guide to the I Ching (Carol K. Anthony), Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town (Jon Krakauer)

Cho, Margaret: How to Be a Movie Star (William J. Mann)

Cummings, Whitney: Super Sad True Love Story (Gary Shteyngart), The Drama of the Gifted Child (Alice Miller), The Fantasy Bond (Robert W. Firestone), The Continuum Concept (Jean Liedloff)

D’Agostino, Dominic: Personal Power (Tony Robbins), Tripping Over the Truth (Travis Christofferson), The Language of God (Francis Collins), The Screwtape Letters (C.S. Lewis), Cancer as a Metabolic Disease: On the Origin, Management, and Prevention of Cancer (Thomas Seyfried), Ketogenic Diabetes Diet: Type 2 Diabetes (Ellen Davis, MS and Keith Runyan, MD), Fight Cancer with a Ketogenic Diet (Ellen Davis, MS)

de Botton, Alain: The Unbearable Lightness of Being (Milan Kundera), The Complete Essays (Michel de Montaigne), In Search of Lost Time (Marcel Proust)

De Sena, Joe: A Message to Garcia (Elbert Hubbard), Atlas Shrugged (Ayn Rand), Shōgun (James Clavell), The One Minute Manager (Kenneth H. Blanchard)

Dubner, Stephen: For adults: Levels of the Game (John McPhee); for kids: The Empty Pot (Demi)

Eisen, Jonathan: National Geographic Field Guide to the Birds of North America (Jon L. Dunn and Jonathan Alderfer)

Fadiman, James: Pihkal: A Chemical Love Story; Tihkal: The Continuation (Alexander Shulgin and Ann Shulgin)

Favreau, Jon: The Writer’s Journey (Christopher Vogler and Michele Montez), It Would Be So Nice If You Weren’t Here (Charles Grodin), The 4-Hour Body (Tim Ferriss), The Hobbit (J.R.R. Tolkien), Kitchen Confidential (Anthony Bourdain)

Foxx, Jamie: Without Sanctuary: Lynching Photography in America (James Allen)

Fussman, Cal: One Hundred Years of Solitude (Gabriel García Márquez), Between the World and Me (Ta-Nehisi Coates), Speak Like Churchill, Stand Like Lincoln: 21 Powerful Secrets of History’s Greatest Speakers (James C. Humes), A Feast of Snakes; Car (Harry Crews)

Ganju, Nick: Don’t Make Me Think (Steve Krug), How to Measure Anything: Finding the Value of Intangibles in Business (Douglas W. Hubbard), How Not to Be Wrong: The Power of Mathematical Thinking (Jordan Ellenberg), Getting to Yes (Roger Fisher and William Ury)

Gazzaley, Adam: Foundation (Isaac Asimov), The Reality Dysfunction (The Night’s Dawn Trilogy) (Peter F. Hamilton), Mountain Light (Galen Rowell)

Gladwell, Malcolm: Strangers to Ourselves: Discovering the Adaptive Unconscious (Timothy D. Wilson), Merchant Princes: An Intimate History of Jewish Families Who Built Great Department Stores (Leon A. Harris), Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy; Little Drummer’s Girl; The Russia House; The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (John le Carré), The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine (Michael Lewis), The Checklist Manifesto (Atul Gawande), all of Lee Child’s books

Hamilton, Laird: The Bible, Natural Born Heroes (Christopher McDougall), Lord of the Rings (J.R.R. Tolkien), Deep Survival (Laurence Gonzales), Jonathan Livingston Seagull (Richard Bach and Russell Munson), Dune (Frank Herbert)

Hoffman, Reid: Conscious Business: How to Build Value Through Values (Fred Kofman), Sapiens (Yuval Noah Harari)

Holiday, Ryan: Meditations (Marcus Aurelius), The War of Art (Steven Pressfield), What Makes Sammy Run? (Budd Schulberg), Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller, Sr. (Ron Chernow), How to Live: Or a Life of Montaigne in One Question and Twenty Attempts at an Answer (Sarah Bakewell), The Fish that Ate the Whale: The Life and Times of America’s Banana King; Tough Jews (Rich Cohen), Edison: A Biography (Matthew Josephson), Ulysses S. Grant: Triumph over Adversity (Brooks Simpson), Fahrenheit 451 (Ray Bradbury)

Junger, Sebastian: At Play in the Fields of the Lord (Peter Matthiessen), Sapiens (Yuval Noah Harari)

Kamkar, Samy: Influence (Robert Cialdini)

Kaskade: Lights Out: A Cyberattack, A Nation Unprepared, Surviving the Aftermath (Ted Koppel)

Koppelman, Brian: What Makes Sammy Run? (Budd Schulberg), The Artist’s Way Morning Pages Journal (Julia Cameron), The War of Art (Steven Pressfield)

McChrystal, Stanley: Once an Eagle (Anton Myrer), The Road to Character (David Brooks)

Miller, BJ: Any picture book of Mark Rothko art.

Neistat, Casey: It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want to Be (Paul Arden), The Second World War (John Keegan), The Autobiography of Malcolm X (Malcolm X and Alex Haley)

Nemer, Jason: The Prophet (Kahlil Gibran), Tao Te Ching (Lao Tzu)

Norton, Edward: Wind, Sand and Stars (Antoine de Saint-Exupéry), Buddhism Without Beliefs (Stephen Batchelor), Shōgun (James Clavell), The Search for Modern China; The Death of Woman Wang (Jonathan Spence), “The Catastrophe of Success” (essay by Tennessee Williams), The Black Swan (Nassim Nicholas Taleb)

Ohanian, Alexis: Founders at Work: Stories of Startups’ Early Days (Jessica Livingston), Masters of Doom: How Two Guys Created an Empire and Transformed Pop Culture (David Kushner)

Popova, Maria: Still Writing (Dani Shapiro), On the Shortness of Life (Seneca), The Republic (Plato), On the Move: A Life (Oliver Sacks), The Journal of Henry David Thoreau, 1837–1861 (Henry David Thoreau), A Rap on Race (Margaret Mead and James Baldwin), On Science, Necessity and the Love of God: Essays (Simone Weil), Stumbling on Happiness (Daniel Gilbert), Desert Solitaire: A Season in the Wilderness (Edward Abbey), Gathering Moss (Robin Wall Kimmerer)

Randall, Lisa: I Capture the Castle (Dodie Smith)

Reece, Gabby: Atlas Shrugged (Ayn Rand), The Alchemist (Paulo Coelho)

Richman, Jessica: The Complete Short Stories (Ernest Hemingway)

Robbins, Tony: As a Man Thinketh (James Allen), Man’s Search for Meaning (Viktor E. Frankl), The Fourth Turning; Generations (William Strauss), Slow Sex (Nicole Daedone), Mindset (Carol Dweck)

Rodriguez, Robert: Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action (Simon Sinek)

Rose, Kevin: The Miracle of Mindfulness: An Introduction to the Practice of Meditation (Thich Nhat Hanh), The Wisdom of Crowds (James Surowiecki)

Rubin, Rick: Tao Te Ching (Lao Tzu, translation by Stephen Mitchell), Wherever You Go, There You Are (Jon Kabat-Zinn)

Schwarzenegger, Arnold: The Churchill Factor: How One Man Made History (Boris Johnson), Free to Choose (Milton Friedman), California (Kevin Starr)

Sethi, Ramit: Age of Propaganda: The Everyday Use and Abuse of Persuasion (Anthony Pratkanis and Elliot Aronson), The Social Animal (Elliot Aronson), Getting Everything You Can Out of All You’ve Got (Jay Abraham), Mindless Eating (Brian Wansink), The Robert Collier Letter Book (Robert Collier), Never Eat Alone, Expanded and Updated: And Other Secrets to Success, One Relationship at a Time (Keith Ferrazzi), What They Don’t Teach You at Harvard Business School (Mark H. McCormack), Iacocca: An Autobiography (Lee Iacocca), The Checklist Manifesto (Atul Gawande)

Silva, Jason: TechGnosis: Myth, Magic, and Mysticism in the Age of Information (Erik Davis), The Rise of Superman: Decoding the Science of Ultimate Human Performance (Steven Kotler), The 4-Hour Workweek (Tim Ferriss)

Skenes, Joshua: Cocktail Techniques (Kazuo Uyeda)

Sommer, Christopher: The Obstacle Is the Way (Ryan Holiday), the works of Robert Heinlein

Tan, Chade-Meng: What the Buddha Taught (Walpola Rahula), In the Buddha’s Words: An Anthology of Discourses from the Pali Canon (Bhikkhu Bodhi)

Thiel, Peter: Things Hidden Since the Foundation of the World (René Girard)

von Ahn, Luis: Zero to One (Peter Thiel), The Hard Thing About Hard Things (Ben Horowitz)

Waitzkin, Josh: On the Road; The Dharma Bums (Jack Kerouac), Tao Te Ching (Lao Tzu), Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (Robert Pirsig), Shantaram (Gregory David Roberts), For Whom the Bell Tolls; The Old Man and the Sea; The Green Hills of Africa (Ernest Hemingway), Ernest Hemingway on Writing (Larry W. Phillips), Mindset (Carol Dweck), Dreaming Yourself Awake: Lucid Dreaming and Tibetan Dream Yoga for Insight and Transformation (B. Alan Wallace and Brian Hodel), The Drama of the Gifted Child (Alice Miller), Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging (Sebastian Junger), Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance (Angela Duckworth), Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise (Anders Ericsson and Robert Pool)

Willink, Jocko: About Face: The Odyssey of an American Warrior (Colonel David H. Hackworth), Blood Meridian: Or the Evening Redness in the West (Cormac McCarthy)

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And that’s just the tip of the iceberg!

For more answers, tactics, habits, and routines from 120+ world-class performers, please check out my labor of love Tools of Titans.

Tools of Titans is available at Barnes & Noble, AmazonBooks-A-MillioniBooksIndiebound, Indigo, and others. If you found the above interesting, I guarantee you’ll enjoy the whole thing.

Thanks for reading!

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