How to Succeed in High-Stress Situations (#319)

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“A good person dyes events with his own color…and turns whatever happens to his own benefit.” – Seneca

From the outside looking in, the last several weeks have been disaster after disaster for me:

  • Death in the family
  • Several deals that have been worked on for 6+ months fell apart at the last minute
  • I might need to sue someone for egregious breach of contract and unexpected damages
  • On and on and on…

I’ve thought of several books over and over again during this period to cope. One of them was The Obstacle Is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph by Ryan Holiday (@ryanholiday). It has helped me to turn problems upside-down, look at them through a different lens, and even uncover unique opportunities.

The Obstacle Is The Way is a collection of stories and principles about Stoicism, which I consider to be the ultimate personal “operating system” for anyone who wants to thrive in high-stress environments and situations.

If you want to be antifragile like Thomas Jefferson, Marcus Aurelius, Bill Belichick, and many of the most dominant investors in history, Stoicism offers a real playbook. If you want to make better decisions, if you want to smile when other people cower, it offers real tools.

To quote Andy Grove, former CEO of Intel, “Bad companies are destroyed by crisis. Good companies survive them. Great companies are improved by them.” What if you could be a person who is improved by crisis? At the very least, it would give you opportunities no one else can see, let alone grasp. Much more important, it would make you a happier human being.

Here are a few sample chapters from The Obstacle Is The WayPlease enjoy!


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Want to hear another podcast featuring Ryan Holiday and Stoicism? — In this episode, we discuss the “big three” Stoics, how Stoicism applies to the modern world, and how to improve your decision-making when stakes are high (stream below or right-click here to download):


This episode is brought to you by Teeter. Inversion therapy, which uses gravity and your own body weight to decompress the spine or relieve pressure on the discs and surrounding nerves, seems to help with a whole slew of conditions. And just as a general maintenance program, it’s one of my favorite things to do.

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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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The Tim Ferriss Show Transcripts: Practicing What You Preach

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Please enjoy this transcript of my in-betweenisode with a letter from Stoic heavyweight Seneca the Younger to his friend Lucilius. It was transcribed and therefore might contain a few typos. When episodes last 2+ hours, it’s difficult to catch some minor errors. Enjoy!

Listen to the podcast here or by selecting any of the options below.

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Tim Ferriss: Hello my little munchkins. This is Tim Ferriss and welcome to another episode of the Tim Ferriss Show where it is usually my job to deconstruct world class performers, tease out the habits, routines, favorite books, etc. that you can apply, test in your own life. This episode is an in between-isode. A little bit different, but some of my most popular episodes been these shortened nuggets of practical, tactical philosophy.

What I am going to present to you is on practicing what you preach. This is a letter from Seneca the Younger, who lived a mere 2,000 or so years ago and his letters to Lucilius are comprised – effectively my favorite book of all time that I have read dozens of time – The Moral Letters to Lucilius. Which I loved so much, that as a labor of love I turned them into the Tao of Seneca, a three volume set of audios that I could listen to one letter every day when I walked to the coffee shop. So, Tao of Seneca is where you can find all of it, but this is a letter you have not heard on the podcast before on practicing what you preach.

It is worth the listen just for the definition of wisdom alone. Then, you have some incredible quotes from Epicurus and it also discusses how you have riches without riches having you.

So, if you want to listen to more of this you can go to Audible.com/Timsbooks and check out Tao of Seneca, but otherwise this is standalone very useful on its own. Please enjoy on practicing what you preach.

Male Speaker: Letter 20 on practicing what you preach. If you are in good health and you if you think yourself worthy of becoming at last your own master, I am glad. For the credit will be mine. If I can drag you from the floods in which you are buffeted without hope of emerging. This, however, my dear Lucilius, I ask and beg of you, on your part, that you let wisdom sink into your soul, and test your progress, not by mere speech or writings, but by stoutness of heart and decrease of desire. Prove your words by your deeds.

Far different is the purpose of those who are speech-making and trying to win the approbation of a throng of hearers, far different that of those who allure the ears of young men and idlers by many-sided or fluent argumentation. Philosophy teaches us to act, not to speak. It exacts of every man that he should live according to his own standards, that his life should not be out of harmony with his words, and that, further, his inner life should be of one hue and not out of harmony with all his activities. This, I say, is the highest duty and the highest proof of wisdom, – that deed and word should be in accord, that a man should be equal to himself under all conditions, and always the same.

“But,” you reply, “who can maintain this standard?” Very few, to be sure, but there are some. It is indeed a hard undertaking and I do not say that the philosopher can always keep the same pace. But, he can always travel the same path.

Observe yourself then and see whether your dress and your house are inconsistent, whether you treat yourself lavishly and your family meanly, whether you eat frugal dinners and yet build luxurious houses. You should lay hold, once for all, upon a single norm to live by, and should regulate your whole life according to this norm. Some men restrict themselves at home, but strut with swelling port before the public. Such discordance is a fault and it indicates a wavering mind which cannot yet keep its balance.

And I can tell you, further, whence arise this unsteadiness and disagreement of action and purpose, it is because no man resolves upon what he wishes and, even if he has done so, he does not persist in it, but jumps the track. Not only does he change, but he returns and slips back to the conduct which he has abandoned and abjured. Therefore, to omit the ancient definitions of wisdom and to include the whole manner of human life, I can be satisfied with the following: What is wisdom? Always desiring the same things, and always refusing the same things.”

You may be excused from adding the little proviso, that what you wish, should be right. Since no man can always be satisfied with the same thing, unless it is right. For this reason, men do not know what they wish, except at the actual moment of wishing. No man ever decided once and for all to desire or to refuse. Judgment varies from day to day and changes to the opposite. Making many a man pass his life in a kind of game. Press on, therefore, as you have begun. Perhaps you will be led to perfection, or to a point which you alone understand is still short of perfection.

“But what,” you say, “will become of my crowded household without a household income?” If you stop supporting that crowd, it will support itself or perhaps you will learn by the bounty of poverty what you cannot learn by your own bounty.

Poverty will keep for you your true and tried friends. You will be rid of the men who were not seeking you for yourself, but for something which you have. Is it not true, however, that you should love poverty, if only for this single reason, that it will show you those by whom you are loved? Oh, when will that time come, when no one shall tell lies to compliment you?

Accordingly, let your thoughts, your efforts, your desires, help to make you content with your own self and with the goods that spring from yourself, and commit all your other prayers to God’s keeping. What happiness could come closer home to you? Bring yourself down to humble conditions, from which you cannot be ejected and in order that you may do so with greater alacrity, the contribution contained in this letter shall refer to that subject. I shall bestow it upon you forthwith. Although you may look askance, Epicurus will once again be glad to settle my indebtedness.

Believe me, your words will be more imposing if you sleep on a cot and wear rags. For in that case you will not be merely saying them, you will be demonstrating their truth. I, at any rate, listen in a different spirit to the utterances of our friend Demetrius, after I have seen him reclining without even a cloak to cover him and, more than this, without rugs to lie upon. He is not only a teacher of the truth, but a witness to the truth.

May not a man, however, despise wealth when it lies in his very pocket? Of course, he also is great souled, who sees riches heaped up round him and after wondering long and deeply because they have come into his possession, smiles, and hears rather than feels that they are his. It means much not to be spoiled by intimacy with riches and he is truly great who is poor amidst riches.

“Yes, but I do not know,” you say, “how the man you speak of will endure poverty, if he falls into it suddenly.” Nor do I, Epicurus, know whether the poor man you speak of will despise riches, should he suddenly fall into them. Accordingly, in the case of both, it is the mind that must be appraised, and we must investigate whether your man is pleased with his poverty and whether my man is displeased with his riches. Otherwise, the cot-bed and the rags are slight proof of his good intentions, if it has not been made clear that the person concerned endures these trials not from necessity, but from preference.

It is the mark, however, of a noble spirit not to precipitate oneself into such things on the ground that they are better, but to practice for them on the ground that they are thus easy to endure. And they are easy to endure, Lucilius when, however, you come to them after long rehearsal, they are even pleasant, for they contain a sense of freedom from care and without this nothing is pleasant.

I hold it essential, therefore, to do as I have told you in a letter that great men have often done. To reserve a few days in which we may prepare ourselves for real poverty by means of fancied poverty. There is all the more reason for doing this because we have been steeped in luxury and regard all duties as hard and onerous. Rather, let the soul be roused from its sleep and be prodded and let it be reminded that nature has prescribed very little for us. No man is born rich. Every man, when he first sees light, is commanded to be content with milk and rags. Such is our beginning and yet kingdoms are all too small for us. Farewell.

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How to Turn Failure into Success

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“You will fall. And when you fall, the winner always gets up, and the loser stays down.” 
-Arnold Schwarzenegger

In this episode, we discuss another frequently requested question from listeners. I’ve gathered some of the best advice about coping with frustrations and roadblocks, and — ultimately — learning how to turn failure into success.

These conversations are extremely valuable because they show you there is more than one way to achieve your goals. After more than 200 conversations with the world’s top performers, you start to spot certain patterns. These are the shared habits, hacks, philosophies, and tools that are the common threads of success, happiness, health, and wealth. Behind each success story is usually a lesson on how to overcome failure. Aside from my own take on the topic, this episode includes conversations with:

Enjoy!

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Want to hear another episode of featuring multiple guests and their best tips? In this episode, we explore the best morning routines with Jocko Willink, Seth Godin, Jamie Foxx, and Scott Adams (stream below or right-click here to download):



This podcast is brought to you by Soothe.com, the world’s largest on-demand massage service. Because I’ve been broken so many times, I have body work done at least twice a week — so I have a high bar for this stuff. I do not accept mediocrity, and I wouldn’t expect you to, either.

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If you don’t love your first pair of MeUndies, they’ll hook you up with a new pair or a refund. If you love the product, they have three different subscription plans — so you’ll never be bored with the ever-changing selection. Check out MeUndies.com/Tim to see my current faves (some are awesomely ridiculous, like the camo) and get 20 percent off your first pair. That’s MeUndies.com/Tim.

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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Tao of Seneca – Free PDFs

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Tao of Seneca - Letters from a Stoic Master

My team and I have been working on this for more than six months, and it’s finally finished!  

The Tao of Seneca: Letters from a Stoic Master is a small thank-you gesture to all of you — three volumes of Stoic writing starring Seneca, complete with original illustrations, profiles of modern Stoic figures, interviews, original Japanese and Chinese calligraphy to match themes, and much more. It’s totally free and you can download the PDFs below. Sharing is encouraged. Kindle versions are coming shortly, but it’s easy to get the PDFs on your Kindle now (instructions below).

I hope you find Seneca’s wisdom as life-changing as I have. I also owe a very special thanks to my entire team and all of the contributors who took part in the project. Thank you!

Tao of Seneca: Volume 1

Tao of Seneca: Volume 2

Tao of Seneca: Volume 3

If interested, I also turned Seneca’s letters into an audiobook series (paid). I often listen to one letter (5-15 minutes each) while walking to coffee in the morning. You can find it here: The Tao of Seneca.

For Those Interested: How to Put a PDF on Your Kindle

Below is a breakdown (directly copied from Amazon with my comments in [brackets]) on how you can easily email a PDF document and upload to your Kindle.

  1. You and your approved contacts can send documents to your registered Kindle devices, free Kindle reading applications, and your Kindle Library in the Amazon Cloud by e-mailing them to your Send-to-Kindle e-mail address ([name]@kindle.com). Your Send-to-Kindle e-mail address is a unique e-mail address assigned to each of your Kindle devices and free Kindle reading applications upon registration.
  2. How to send a document to your Kindle:

To find your Send-to-Kindle e-mail address, visit the Manage your Devices page at Manage Your Kindle. [TIM: To skip to the part you need, go to the “Settings” tab and then scroll down to “Personal Document Settings.” That will be true if you click on any of the links in these instructions.]

Documents can only be sent to your Kindle devices or apps from e-mail accounts that you added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List. To add an e-mail account, visit the Personal Document Settings page.

To send a document to your Kindle device or app, simply attach it to an e-mail addressed to your Send-to-Kindle e-mail.

[TIM: Note that the above does NOT work for the Kindle app on Mac desktop. If you want to read a PDF in that app, go to “File” –> “Import PDF…” and you’re off to the races.]

 

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Fear-Setting: The Most Valuable Exercise I Do Every Month

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I do an exercise called “fear-setting” at least once a quarter, often once a month. It is the most powerful exercise I do.  

Fear-setting has produced my biggest business and personal successes, as well as repeatedly helped me to avoid catastrophic mistakes.

The above TED talk (brand-new!) gives you an overview, and the below text provides more detail, step-by-step instructions, and real-world examples. For the three exercise slides from the TED presentation, click here.

Now, onward…

Enter Fear-Setting

“Many a false step was made by standing still.”
— Fortune Cookie

“Named must your fear be before banish it you can.”
— Yoda

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Twenty feet and closing.

“Run! Ruuuuuuuuuun!” Hans didn’t speak Portuguese, but the meaning was clear enough—haul ass. His sneakers gripped firmly on the jagged rock, and he drove his chest forward toward 3,000 feet of nothing.

He held his breath on the final step, and the panic drove him to near unconsciousness. His vision blurred at the edges, closing to a single pinpoint of light, and then . . . he floated. The all-consuming celestial blue of the horizon hit his visual field an instant after he realized that the thermal updraft had caught him and the wings of the paraglider. Fear was behind him on the mountaintop, and thousands of feet above the resplendent green rain forest and pristine white beaches of Copacabana, Hans Keeling had seen the light.

That was Sunday.

On Monday, Hans returned to his law office in Century City, Los Angeles’s posh corporate haven, and promptly handed in his three-week notice. For nearly five years, he had faced his alarm clock with the same dread: I have to do this for another 40–45 years?

He had once slept under his desk at the office after a punishing half-done project, only to wake up and continue on it the next morning.

That same morning, he had made himself a promise: two more times and I’m out of here. Strike number three came the day before he left for his Brazilian vacation.

We all make these promises to ourselves, and Hans had done it before as well, but things were now somehow different. He was different.

He had realized something while arcing in slow circles toward the earth—risks weren’t that scary once you took them. His colleagues told him what he expected to hear: He was throwing it all away. He was an attorney on his way to the top—what the hell did he want?

Hans didn’t know exactly what he wanted, but he had tasted it.

On the other hand, he did know what bored him to tears, and he was done with it. No more passing days as the living dead, no more dinners where his colleagues compared cars, riding on the sugar high of a new BMW purchase until someone bought a more expensive Mercedes. It was over.

Immediately, a strange shift began—Hans felt, for the first time in a long time, at peace with himself and what he was doing. He had always been terrified of plane turbulence as if he might die with the best inside of him, but now he could fly through a violent storm sleeping like a baby. Strange indeed.

More than a year later, he was still getting unsolicited job offers from law firms, but by then had started Nexus Surf,5 a premier surf adventure company based in the tropical paradise of Florianopolis, Brazil. He had met his dream girl, a Carioca with caramel-colored skin named Tatiana, and spent most of his time relaxing under palm trees or treating clients to the best times of their lives.

Is this what he had been so afraid of?

These days, he often sees his former self in the underjoyed and overworked professionals he takes out on the waves. Waiting for the swell, the true emotions come out: “God, I wish I could do what you do.” His reply is always the same: “You can.”

The setting sun reflects off the surface of the water, providing a Zen-like setting for a message he knows is true: It’s not giving up to put your current path on indefinite pause. He could pick up his law career exactly where he left off if he wanted to, but that is the furthest thing from his mind.

As they paddle back to shore after an awesome session, his clients get ahold of themselves and regain their composure. They set foot on shore, and reality sinks its fangs in: “I would, but I can’t really throw it all away.”

He has to laugh.

The Power of Pessimism: Defining the Nightmare

“Action may not always bring happiness, but there is no happiness without action.”
— Benjamin Disraeli, former British Prime Minister

To do or not to do? To try or not to try? Most people will vote no, whether they consider themselves brave or not. Uncertainty and the prospect of failure can be very scary noises in the shadows. Most people will choose unhappiness over uncertainty.

For years, I set goals, made resolutions to change direction, and nothing came of either. I was just as insecure and scared as the rest of the world.

The simple solution came to me accidentally four years ago. At that time, I had more money than I knew what to do with—I was making $70K or so per month—and I was completely miserable, worse than ever. I had no time and was working myself to death.

I had started my own company, only to realize it would be nearly impossible to sell. This turned out to be yet another self-imposed limitation and false construct. (BrainQUICKEN was acquired by a private equity firm in 2009.)

Oops. I felt trapped and stupid at the same time.

I should be able to figure this out, I thought. Why am I such an idiot?

Why can’t I make this work?! Buckle up and stop being such a (insert expletive)! What’s wrong with me? The truth was, nothing was wrong with me. I hadn’t reached my limit; I’d reached the limit of my business model at the time. It wasn’t the driver, it was the vehicle.

Critical mistakes in its infancy would never let me sell it. I could hire magic elves and connect my brain to a supercomputer—it didn’t matter. My little baby had some serious birth defects. The question then became, How do I free myself from this Frankenstein while making it self-sustaining? How do I pry myself from the tentacles of workaholism and the fear that it would fall to pieces without my 15-hour days? How do I escape this self-made prison? A trip, I decided.

A sabbatical year around the world.

So I took the trip, right? Well, I’ll get to that. First, I felt it prudent to dance around with my shame, embarrassment, and anger for six months, all the while playing an endless loop of reasons why my cop-out fantasy trip could never work. One of my more productive periods, for sure.

Then, one day, in my bliss of envisioning how bad my future suffering would be, I hit upon a gem of an idea. It was surely a highlight of my “don’t happy, be worry” phase: Why don’t I decide exactly what my nightmare would be—the worst thing that could possibly happen as a result of my trip?

Well, my business could fail while I’m overseas, for sure. Probably would. A legal warning letter would accidentally not get forwarded and I would get sued. My business would be shut down, and inventory would spoil on the shelves while I’m picking my toes in solitary misery on some cold shore in Ireland. Crying in the rain, I imagine. My bank account would crater by 80% and certainly my car and motorcycle in storage would be stolen. I suppose someone would probably spit on my head from a high-rise balcony while I’m feeding food scraps to a stray dog, which would then spook and bite me squarely on the face. God, life is a cruel, hard bitch.

Conquering Fear = Defining Fear

“Set aside a certain number of days, during which you shall be content with the scantiest and cheapest fare, with coarse and rough dress, saying to yourself the while: “Is this the condition that I feared?”
— Seneca

Then a funny thing happened. In my undying quest to make myself miserable, I accidentally began to backpedal. As soon as I cut through the vague unease and ambiguous anxiety by defining my nightmare, the worst-case scenario, I wasn’t as worried about taking a trip. Suddenly, I started thinking of simple steps I could take to salvage my remaining resources and get back on track if all hell struck at once. I could always take a temporary bartending job to pay the rent if I had to. I could sell some furniture and cut back on eating out. I could steal lunch money from the kindergarteners who passed by my apartment every morning. The options were many. I realized it wouldn’t be that hard to get back to where I was, let alone survive. None of these things would be fatal—not even close. Mere panty pinches on the journey of life.

I realized that on a scale of 1–10, 1 being nothing and 10 being permanently life-changing, my so-called worst-case scenario might have a temporary impact of 3 or 4. I believe this is true of most people and most would-be “holy sh*t, my life is over” disasters.

Keep in mind that this is the one-in-a-million disaster nightmare.

On the other hand, if I realized my best-case scenario, or even a probable-case scenario, it would easily have a permanent 9 or 10 positive life-changing effect.

In other words, I was risking an unlikely and temporary 3 or 4 for a probable and permanent 9 or 10, and I could easily recover my baseline workaholic prison with a bit of extra work if I wanted to.

This all equated to a significant realization: There was practically no risk, only huge life-changing upside potential, and I could resume my previous course without any more effort than I was already putting forth.

That is when I made the decision to take the trip and bought a one-way ticket to Europe. I started planning my adventures and eliminating my physical and psychological baggage. None of my disasters came to pass, and my life has been a near fairy tale since. The business did better than ever, and I practically forgot about it as it financed my travels around the world in style for 15 months.

Uncovering Fear Disguised as Optimism

“There’s no difference between a pessimist who says, ‘Oh, it’s hopeless, so don’t bother doing anything,’ and an optimist who says, ‘Don’t bother doing anything, it’s going to turn out fine any way.’ Either way, nothing happens.”
— Yvon Chouinard, founder of Patagonia

Fear comes in many forms, and we usually don’t call it by its four-letter name. Fear itself is quite fear-inducing. Most intelligent people in the world dress it up as something else: optimistic denial.

Most who avoid quitting their jobs entertain the thought that their course will improve with time or increases in income. This seems valid and is a tempting hallucination when a job is boring or uninspiring instead of pure hell. Pure hell forces action, but anything less can be endured with enough clever rationalization.

Do you really think it will improve or is it wishful thinking and an excuse for inaction? If you were confident in improvement, would you really be questioning things so? Generally not. This is fear of the unknown disguised as optimism.

Are you better off than you were one year ago, one month ago, or one week ago?

If not, things will not improve by themselves. If you are kidding yourself, it is time to stop and plan for a jump. Barring any James Dean ending, your life is going to be LONG. Nine to five for your working lifetime of 40–50 years is a long-ass time if the rescue doesn’t come. About 500 months of solid work.

How many do you have to go? It’s probably time to cut your losses.

””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””

Someone Call the Maître D’

“You have comfort. You don’t have luxury. And don’t tell me that money plays a part. The luxury I advocate has nothing to do with money. It cannot be bought. It is the reward of those who have no fear of discomfort.” 
—JEAN COCTEAU, French poet, novelist, boxing manager, and filmmaker, whose collaborations were the inspiration for the term “surrealism ” 

Sometimes timing is perfect. There are hundreds of cars circling a parking lot, and someone pulls out of a spot 10 feet from the entrance just as you reach his or her bumper. Another Christmas miracle!

Other times, the timing could be better. The phone rings during sex and seems to ring for a half hour. The UPS guy shows up 10 minutes later. Bad timing can spoil the fun.

Jean-Marc Hachey landed in West Africa as a volunteer, with high hopes of lending a helping hand. In that sense, his timing was great.

He arrived in Ghana in the early 1980s, in the middle of a coup d’état, at the peak of hyperinflation, and just in time for the worst drought in a decade. For these same reasons, some people would consider his timing quite poor from a more selfish survival standpoint.

He had also missed the memo. The national menu had changed, and they were out of luxuries like bread and clean water. He would be surviving for four months on a slush-like concoction of corn meal and spinach. Not what most of us would order at the movie theater.

“WOW, ‘I’ CAN ‘SURVIVE.”

Jean-Marc had passed the point of no return, but it didn’t matter.

After two weeks of adjusting to the breakfast, lunch, and dinner (Mush à la Ghana), he had no desire to escape. The most basic of foods and good friends proved to be the only real necessities, and what would seem like a disaster from the outside was the most life – affirming epiphany he ’d ever experienced: The worst really wasn’t that bad. To enjoy life, you don’t need fancy nonsense, but you do need to control your time and realize that most things just aren’t as serious as you make them out to be.

Now 48, Jean – Marc lives in a nice home in Ontario, but could live without it. He has cash, but could fall into poverty tomorrow and it wouldn’t matter. Some of his fondest memories still include nothing but friends and gruel. He is dedicated to creating special moments for himself and his family and is utterly unconcerned with retirement. He’s already lived 20 years of partial retirement in perfect health.

Don’t save it all for the end. There is every reason not to.

””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””

Q&A: QUESTIONS AND ACTIONS

“I am an old man and have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened.”
—Mark Twain

If you are nervous about making the jump or simply putting it off out of fear of the unknown, here is your antidote. Write down your answers, and keep in mind that thinking a lot will not prove as fruitfulor as prolific as simply brain vomiting on the page. Write and do not edit—aim for volume. Spend a few minutes on each answer.

  1. Define your nightmare, the absolute worst that could happen if you did what you are considering. What doubt, fears, and “what-ifs” pop up as you consider the big changes you can—or need—to make? Envision them in painstaking detail. Would it be the end of your life? What would be the permanent impact, if any, on a scale of 1–10? Are these things really permanent? How likely do you think it is that they would actually happen?
  2. What steps could you take to repair the damage or get things back on the upswing, even if temporarily? Chances are, it’s easier than you imagine. How could you get things back under control?
  3. What are the outcomes or benefits, both temporary and permanent, of more probable scenarios? Now that you’ve defined the nightmare, what are the more probable or definite positive outcomes, whether internal (confidence, self-esteem, etc.) or external? What would the impact of these more likely outcomes be on a scale of 1–10? How likely is it that you could produce at least a moderately good outcome? Have less intelligent people done this before and pulled it off?
  4. If you were fired from your job today, what would you do to get things under financial control? Imagine this scenario and run through questions 1–3 above. If you quit your job to test other options, how could you later get back on the same career track if you absolutely had to?
  5. What are you putting off out of fear? Usually, what we most fear doing is what we most need to do. That phone call, that conversation, whatever the action might be—it is fear of unknown outcomes that prevents us from doing what we need to do. Define the worst case, accept it, and do it. I’ll repeat something you might consider tattooing on your forehead: What we fear doing most is usually what we most need to do. As I have heard said, a person’s success in life can usually be measured by the number of uncomfortable conversations he or she is willing to have. Resolve to do one thing every day that you fear. I got into this habit by attempting to contact celebrities and famous business people for advice.
  6. What is it costing you—financially, emotionally, and physically—to postpone action? Don’t only evaluate the potential downside of action. It is equally important to measure the atrocious cost of inaction. If you don’t pursue those things that excite you, where will you be in one year, five years, and ten years? How will you feel having allowed circumstance to impose itself upon you and having allowed ten more years of your finite life to pass doing what you know will not fulfill you? If you telescope out 10 years and know with 100% certainty that it is a path of disappointment and regret, and if we define risk as “the likelihood of an irreversible negative outcome,” inaction is the greatest risk of all.
  7. What are you waiting for? If you cannot answer this without resorting to the previously rejected concept of good timing, the answer is simple: You’re afraid, just like the rest of the world. Measure the cost of inaction, realize the unlikelihood and repairability of most missteps, and develop the most important habit of those who excel and enjoy doing so: action.

###

The above has been adapted from chapters in The 4-Hour Workweek and Tools of Titans.

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Mr. Money Mustache — Living Beautifully on $25-27K Per Year

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Photo credit: Mrs. Money Mustache

Photo credit: Mrs. Money Mustache

“You’re not supposed to optimize for money; you’re supposed to optimize for happiness.”
– Mr. Money Mustache (AKA Pete Adeney)

Mr. Money Mustache (@mrmoneymustache — Pete Adeney in real life) grew up in Canada in a family of mostly eccentric musicians. He graduated with a degree in computer engineering in the 1990s and worked in various tech companies before retiring at age 30. Pete, his wife, and their now eleven-year-old son live near Boulder, Colorado, and have not had real jobs since 2005.

This begs the question of “How?” In essence, they accomplished this early retirement by optimizing all aspects of their lifestyle for maximal fun at minimal expense, and by using basic index-fund investing. Their average annual expenses total a mere $25-27,000, and they do not feel in want of anything.

Since 2005, all three of them have explored a free-form life of interesting projects, side-businesses, and adventures.

In 2011, Pete started writing the Mr. Money Mustache blog about his philosophy, which has grown to reach about 23 million different people (and 300 million page views) since its founding. It has become a worldwide cult phenomenon, with a self-organizing community and incredible news coverage. This episode explores his story, philosophies, and routines.

Enjoy!

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#221: Mr. Money Mustache — Living Beautifully on $25-27K Per Year
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Want to hear another podcast about earning and saving wealth? — In this episode with Ramit Sethi, we dig into the nitty-gritty tools, software, and experiments he’s used to turn a college side project into a multi-million-dollar business with 30+ employees. (stream below or right-click here to download):

Ep 33: Ramit Sethi on Persuasion, Negotiation, and Turning a Blog Into a Multi-Million-Dollar Business
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This podcast is brought to you by Varidesk. You’ve probably heard of research concluding that sitting all day is terrible for you (“sitting is the new smoking” is a phrase I hear a lot). But standing all day isn’t an option for everyone, either.

My assistant and I have been enjoying the use of Varidesk, the middle ground that effortlessly converts your standard desk to a standing desk (and back again) in seconds. It comes fully assembled — just take it out of the box, put it on your desktop, and go. Models start at just $175; check out Varidesk.com to see which one might be the right fit for you. It even comes with a 30-day, hassle-free return policy if you decide it’s not your style. That’s Varidesk.com.

This podcast is also brought to you by Wealthfront. Wealthfront is a massively disruptive (in a good way) set-it-and-forget-it investing service, led by technologists from places like Apple and world-famous investors. It has exploded in popularity in the last two years and now has more than $5 billion under management. In fact, some of my good investor friends in Silicon Valley have millions of their own money in Wealthfront. Why? Because you can get services previously limited to the ultra-wealthy and only pay pennies on the dollar for them, and it’s all through smarter software instead of retail locations and bloated sales teams.

Check out wealthfront.com/tim, take their risk assessment quiz, which only takes 2-5 minutes, and they’ll show you — for free — exactly the portfolio they’d put you in. If you want to just take their 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.

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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David Heinemeier Hansson on Digital Security, Company Culture, and the Value of Schooling

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DHH

David “DHH” Heinemeier Hansson (@dhh) is the creator of Ruby on Rails, founder and CTO at Basecamp (formerly 37Signals), and the best-selling co-author of Rework and Remote: Office Not Required. Oh, and he went from not having a driver’s license at 25 to winning, at 34, the 24 Hours of Le Mans race, one of the most prestigious automobile races in the world. It is often called the “Grand Prix of endurance and efficiency.”

Listeners had a million questions we didn’t get to last time, so he’s back for round two because his episode is about to cross a million downloads — and that’s in barely two weeks!

In this episode, DHH discusses:

  • Digital security
  • The value of schooling
  • Three questions you should be able to answer
  • Company culture
  • How bladder relief happens in a 24-hour race
  • And much, much more!

Please enjoy my round 2 conversation with DHH!

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#203: David Heinemeier Hansson on Digital Security, Company Culture, and the Value of Schooling
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Want to hear my first episode with David “DHH” Heinemeier Hansson? — Listen to this interview, which has already been downloaded almost a million times. In this episode, DHH shares his thoughts on the power of being outspoken, running a profitable business without venture capital, Stoic philosophy, and much more (stream below or right-click here to download):

#195: David Heinemeier Hansson: The Power of Being Outspoken
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This podcast is brought to you by 99Designs, the world’s largest marketplace of graphic designers. I have used them for years to create some amazing designs. When your business needs a logo, website design, business card, or anything you can imagine, check out 99Designs.

I used them to rapid prototype the cover for The 4-Hour Body, and I’ve also had them help with display advertising and illustrations. If you want a more personalized approach, I recommend their 1-on-1 service. You get original designs from designers around the world. The best part? You provide your feedback, and then you end up with a product that you’re happy with or your money back. Click this link and get a free $99 upgrade. Give it a test run.

This podcast is also brought to you by Wealthfront. Wealthfront is a massively disruptive (in a good way) set-it-and-forget-it investing service led by technologists from places like Apple. It has exploded in popularity in the last two years and now has more than $2.5B under management. Why? Because you can get services previously limited to the ultra-wealthy and only pay pennies on the dollar for them, and it’s all through smarter software instead of retail locations and bloated sales teams.

Check out wealthfront.com/tim, take their risk assessment quiz, which only takes 2-5 minutes, and they’ll show you for free the exact portfolio they’d put you in. If you want to just take their advice and do it yourself, you can. Well worth a few minutes to explore: wealthfront.com/tim.

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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