If you’re a fan of podcasts, my next guest likely needs no introduction. His name is Tim Ferriss, and he’s the author of several New York Times bestselling books and the host of the popular podcast, The Tim Ferriss Show. Tim’s out with a new book called Tools of Titans, which distills the hours of interviews he’s conducted with high-performing guests on his podcast to give readers the best tactics and strategies on how to live a successful, flourishing life.
Today on the show, Tim and I discuss self-improvement advice and the survivorship bias, the common habits of high-performers, and how to ask better questions so you can learn things more quickly. Tim also discusses his struggle with depression and what’s worked for him in keeping the black dog at bay. This podcast is crammed with actionable advice, so you’ll want to take notes.
- Does Tools of Titans fall prey to the survivorship bias?
- The common habits and routines of Tim’s guests
- The device that vastly improved Tim’s sleep
- How to meditate without meditating
- How to discover your ideal routine
- How Mike Birbiglia tricked himself to stop procrastinating
- Why you should embrace your funk
- How beliefs direct tactics
- Why learning how to learn is the master key to success
- How to ask better questions so you can learn things more quickly
- Beware the curse of knowledge when asking advice from an expert
- Why you should always ask yourself “How will I be disrupted?”
- Why “red teaming” will make you a better man
- Why you should talk to a lawyer to improve your writing
- The most impressive, but lesser-known guests Tim has had on his show
- Don’t be a donkey!
- How to take part in star therapy
- The one tactic that provided immediate ROI in Tim’s life
- What to do if you’re a having a hard time developing a habit
- Why you need a “why to” and not just a “how to”
- Why more information isn’t the answer to improving your life
- How Tim manages his depression
- And much more!
Resources/Studies/People Mentioned in Podcast
- Survivorship bias
- Tim’s interview with Marc Andreesen
- My podcast with Michael Mauboussin about skill and luck
- My podcast with Jocko Willink
- How to Whistle With Your Fingers
- Selection bias
- How to Meditate
- Tim’s interview with Arnold Schwarzenegger
- Tim’s interview with Sam Harris
- Tim’s interview with Maria Popova
- Soundtrack for Your Thumos
- How to Get a Better Night’s Sleep
- My podcast with Kelly Starrett about how standing is killing you
- Poor Charlie’s Almanack (a favorite of mine)
- Primacy bias
- How Your Willpower Is Depleted
- Tim’s podcast with Chris Sacca
- Hardcore History
- The Four-Hour Chef
- Curse of knowledge
- Tim’s podcast with Peter Thiel
- 80/20 rule
- The most graceful freestyle swimming by Shinji Takeuchi
- Tim’s podcast with Peter Diamandis
- Tim’s podcast with General Stanley McChrystal
- Red teaming
- Tim’s interview with Neil Strauss
- Tim’s interview with Derek Sivers
- Tim’s interview with B.J. Miller
- Tim’s podcast with Dominic D’Agostino
- My podcast with Charles Duhigg about the power of habit
- B.J. Fogg
- Tim’s story with depression
- How to Manage Your Depression
- The Benefits of Cold Showers
- The Five-Minute Journal
- Lithium supplements
- Should We All Take a Bit of Lithium?
Tools of Titans is crammed with actionable advice. You can flip to anywhere in the book and find something useful. It’ll definitely be a go-to resource for me for years to come. Like Tim said in the podcast, there isn’t one tip that’s going to work for everyone. Experiment with different stuff in the book. If it works for you, keep doing it. If it doesn’t work, move on to something else. You can find out more information about the book at toolsoftitans.com or you can pick up a copy on Amazon.com.
Connect with Tim
Listen to the Podcast! (And don’t forget to leave us a review!)
Mack Weldon. Get great looking underwear and undershirts that eliminate odor. Use discount code “AOM” for 20% off your first purchase from Mack Weldon.
Bouqs. Flowers make a great holiday gift for the women in your life. Save $15 off the bouquet of your choice by going and enter promo code MANLINESS.
Indochino offers custom, made-to-measure suits at an affordable price. They’re offering any premium suit for just $389. That’s up to 50% off. To claim your discount go to Indochino.com and enter discount code MANLINESS at checkout. Plus, shipping is FREE.
And thanks to Creative Audio Lab in Tulsa, OK for editing our podcast!
Read the Transcript
Brett McKay: Welcome to another edition of The Art of Manliness podcast. If you’re a fan of podcasts, my next guest likely needs no introduction. His name is Tim Ferriss and he’s the author of several New York Times bestselling books and the host of the popular podcast, the Tim Ferriss Show. Tim’s out with a new book called Tools of Titans, in which he distills the hours of interviews he’s conducted with high performing guests on his podcast, to give readers the best tactics and strategies on how to live a successful and flourishing life.
Today on the show, Tim and I discuss self improvement advice and the survivorship bias, the common habits of high performers, and how to ask better questions so you can learn things more quickly. Tim also discusses his struggle with depression and what’s worked for him in keeping the black dog at bay. This podcast is crammed with actual advice, so you’ll want to take notes. After the show’s over, check out the show notes at aom.is/ferriss. That’s F-E-R-R-I-S-S.
Tim Ferriss, welcome to the show.
Tim Ferriss: Thank you, sir.
Brett McKay: All right, you’ve got a new book out, Tools of Titans: The Tactics, Routines, and Habits of Billionaires, Icons, and World-Class Performers. Basically what you have done is you’ve distilled hours of interviews you’ve done on your podcast The Tim Ferris Show, to get the best tactics to help people live a flourishing life. I love these sorts of books, like what successful people do, the routines of successful people. One of the criticisms that’s levied at these sorts of books and articles and things like that, is that they can fall prey to the survivorship bias.
For those who aren’t familiar, the survivorship bias is, if you just look at successful people and look at what they did, you can get the assumption that, well if you do these things too, you too will also be successful, but you ignore the people who did the exact same things, but failed. You don’t see the losers.
How do you respond to a criticism like that? Does that apply to the Tools of Titans or not?
Tim Ferriss: I think that survivorship bias, the survivorship bias is something I’m very acutely familiar with because of investing. If you look at Barrons and you look at the mutual funds that advertise, that is a common criticism. That they just happen to be the monkey that flipped heads up a hundred times in a row, but if you have enough monkeys you’re going to end up with a lot of those, and how do you know that that monkey will go on to write how to books about how to flip coins? It just was a probability that of course given the sample size, you’d end up with something like that.
I’m very familiar with how people can confuse correlation with causation. In this case, I think there are a few differences. The first is that from the hundreds of hours and about ten thousand pages of transcripts, that is probably 50 or 60% of Tools of Titans. The distilled tactics and routines and so on. The important portion is that I don’t view myself as an interviewer. The rest is all new stuff. Brand new tips from past guests, and also new folks like Jack Dorsey and so on.
There are a few elements that make it different. The fist is that I don’t view myself as an interviewer. I view myself as an experimentalist. I’ve tried everything in the book, and I have replicated results to one extent or another. I’ve also then been able to look at how these habits have been used by my friends, colleagues, and fans over the last several years. Being able to vet, let’s just call it top 1% of everything that has been on the Tim Ferriss to date.
The second piece of it is that many of these people, and I would be the first to say I think that it’s not any one trick or hack, which is a word I try not to use these days, but there’s no one trick that’s going to turn you into Jack Dorsey. The fact remains that once you’re lucky, twice you’re good, three times something really interesting is going on. Jack is someone who has a history of multiple home runs. Mark Andreessen, same story. These are people who, if they’re lucky, they are some of the luckiest people on the planet, but I have to think there is actually an element of skill involved. They have blueprints and recipes of their own.
In the case of what’s been included in the book, these are things that I’ve been able to duplicate to some extent. It’s a big difference, is I’m not looking at it from the sidelines. I’m really an experiential learner, and only want to give people stuff that they can apply.
Brett McKay: Right, so you’ve vetted everything. You experimented. That’s one of the ways you can figure out, if you can replicate it.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah, definitely. I also just underscore the fact that it’s a matter of not only finding habits and routines and so on that appear to work for someone, but looking at for instance, the sleep cycles and so on, of these different models and finding someone who is compatible with your own personality in life. It’s very easy to say, well, hey you should wake up at 4:30 in the morning and do what ABCD people do. Just because it works for one person, just because it works for even many people, does not mean it will necessarily work for you. There is some trial and error involved, but the good news is, it doesn’t take a whole hell of a long time.
Brett McKay: Right, so we’re not all Jockos.
Tim Ferriss: We’re not all Jockos. For instance, there are certain things that you can test very quickly. I’ll actually pull out one of your pieces of work. When I was trying to learn how to whistle with my fingers to call my dog Molly, back in the day, I watched your video over and over and over again. As you know, it sucks learning to do it in the very beginning. You look like an idiot having some type of meltdown in the beginning. Over time, it takes just a few days, and then you’ll have your first success. The feedback loop is pretty fast, as it is with a lot of this stuff.
Brett McKay: As you interview people, and as you went through the transcripts and writing the book, did you find that there were common habits or tactics or routines of these people you interviewed?
Tim Ferriss: There were a lot of them. Sorry for the police cars. I’m in New York City. It sounds like I’m in Beirut, but hopefully you’re not picking up too much of that.
The common habits and routines are many. There are a lot of patterns that I spotted after the fact. Here are a few. One would be that at least 80% of the people I interviewed, and this could be another type of bias, selection bias. Survivorship, this could be selection bias meaning that I’m inviting people onto my show who are more prone to, in this case, have some type of meditation or mindfulness practice.
More than 80% have it, or have had it. If you look at, say Arnold Schwarzenegger, he only did it for a year, but he did transcendental meditation. Then he explains that it’s had persistent effects for decades afterwards, which is a very interesting idea. That was transcendental meditation.
Then you have Sam Harris who does primarily, let’s call it the positive meditation with some variation. Then you have other folks like Maria Popova of BrainPickings, who has listened to the same guided meditation, which is free audio from Tara Brach. B-R-A-C-H. It’s the summer 2010 Smile Meditation. It’s about 25 minutes long. She’s listened to the same audio every morning for the last several years, and credits Tara with changing her life.
There is the consistency of a mindfulness or a meditation practice, but it can take many forms. It could be what I just described, or it could be say, listening to a song or a given album on repeat. Which a surprising number of these folks do when they need to focus, or code for instance, or write, or fill in the blank. Climb some of the toughest cliff faces in the world, in the case of Alex Honnold, he listens to the Last of the Mohicans soundtrack on repeat.
Brett McKay: It’s a good one.
Tim Ferriss: That’s one. Another is that a very, very high percentage take sleep seriously, and engineer sleep as a very, very, very high priority. For instance, Rick Rubin, legendary music producer. You go down the line. Johnny Cash, Linkin Park, Eminem, Jay Z, Lady Gaga, Kanye, Jay Z, it’s everybody. It’s just insane. His roster of artists.
He uses something called the ChiliPad. The ChiliPad is a device that sits to the side of your bed, and it circulates water through a very thin sheet that you put under your own sheet, and you find your ideal sleep temperature between 55 degrees, and I want to say 80 degrees. This has been a life changer and game changer in a lot of ways for me, and for other people.
Kelly Starrette, who is a super star Crossfit coach and trainer among other things, also credits the ChiliPad. I had never heard of it before bumping into these two guys. You’re talking about people who are in the top 1% of what they do, completely different worlds, yet they’re both using this obscure device.
Those are the things that I get really excited about. Of if there’s a book recommendation or a documentary recommendation that is really obscure, but nonetheless, pops up five or ten or fifteen times. Like Poor Charlie’s Almanack, as a book recommendation. I ask people in all of my interviews, what book have you gifted most to other people? Which is actually I think in many respects, a better question than, what are your favorite books? Which has a primacy and recency bias. People tend to think of what they read recently or something they read a long, long time ago.
Poor Charlie’s Almanack by Charley Munger popped up all the time. Which is not what you would call a huge perennial best seller or mainstream book at all. Those are a few of the things that pop up. There are many, many others.
The most consistent point though I would say, is that they all have routines. The specific routine is not as important as having a routine. You have routines to make a lot of your day autopilot so that you can preserve your decision making hit points, so to speak, and avoid decision fatigue so that you can conserve yourself with stuff that actually matters.
Those are usually meaning the unique strengths that you bring to the table, because all of these people, and this is one of the points I wanted to make with the book. I don’t just ask them about their ideal days, I ask them about their darkest periods and toughest times, and what they did as coping mechanisms.
All of these people, and maybe with the exception of a few mutants, but almost every single one of them, is a flawed creature with imperfections, walking around with a lot of insecurities, just like everybody else. Just like all of us. That is really, really reassuring to see that they’ve just been able to capitalize on and maximize one or two strengths, and build routines and lives around maximizing those.
Brett McKay: With the routines, did you find that they were very mindful about how they created their routines, or was it more of an organic process in how they developed those routines?
Tim Ferriss: Super organic. A lot of it is accidental. It mimics evolution in a lot of respects. Evolution is far from perfect. It’s not just a model that keeps on improving, right? You have all these weird mutations and accidents, some of them work out, some of them don’t. That’s true with many of these routines. I’ll give you an example. Mike Burbiglia, who’s one of the most successful comedians on the planet, he figured out a Jedi mind trick for himself when he was putting off writing his last screenplay, which ended up becoming a hit movie. He kept on procrastinating. He put it off. He’d wash his car, do things in between, whatever it might be, to postpone writing.
He didn’t do that, he noticed with any meetings. When he had to, let’s say have a lunch meeting with someone, or a conference call, he was always early. As an experiment, he took a post-it note and he put it by his bedside, and it said, Mike!!! You have a meeting with yourself at 7 am at … Whatever the café was, to work on your screenplay.
For whatever weird reason, for whatever quirk of human psychology, it actually worked for him. You could call it a crutch, but one of the tricks that he used to hold himself accountable and get his screenplay written.
Brett McKay: I love that.
Tim Ferriss: Also, you’ll found a lot of these folks, there are some who are just terminators like Jocko. Jocko Willink, retired Navy Seal Commander. An extremely impressive guy in every possible respect. Then you find the vast majority are very, very, very highly disciplined in a handful of areas. Then they are, I’m not going to say sloppy, but just very human in others.
Sam Harris, PhD in Neuroscience, incredible thinker, one of the smartest humans I’ve ever met. I asked him about his morning routines, and unlike say Jocko, who has a very codified morning routine involving working out and waking up early, and so on and so forth. Sam said, “I’d love to give you this picture of a well oiled machine, but it’s really stumbling out of the bedroom in search of caffeine. I may or may not have checked my email on my phone by the time I press the proper button.” Which I also find very reassuring. I would say that there’s some people who are very systematic, and they’re the product of training. Their routine is a reflection of that. Whether it’s Jocko or certain athletes let’s say. Some super athletes.
Brett McKay: I think that’s actually very useful to know, because I think a lot of the frustration that comes with trying to be more productive, or trying to get stuff done, is you think you have to come down with this perfect system, and design it top down. Then it never works out, and you get frustrated and you give up on the whole thing. I like the idea of just trying to figure it out organically, work with your quirks instead of working against them.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah, 100%. That’s expressed different ways by different folks. You have, embrace your funk, which is Josh Waitzkin, chess prodigy. He’s not really a prodigy, because he can take his learning frame work and apply it to so many things. He’s a world champion in Taiji Push Hands, first black belt under … Arguably the best grappler of all time, Marcelo Garcia, and so on and so forth.
Embrace your funk. Then you have Chris Sacca, billionaire investor, encouraging you to be your weird self. Then you have someone like Dan Carlin, who is the host of my favorite podcast of all time, which is Hard Core History. He says, “Copyright your faults.” In radio, he was heavily criticized for his voice and how he would peak. He was known as the guy who would talk real low and then scream and throw it into the red. He was coached by his supervisors to change that. Later, it became a really, really valuable trademark style of his, so copyright your faults is another one that Dan Carlin says.
I think that if you were to look at everything in Tools of Titans, you have different layers of abstraction. You use them all. You have, say at the top, value systems or philosophies, or beliefs. You’d have say, Jamie Foxx, what’s on the other side of fear? Nothing. This is this phrase that he uses to instill confidence in his kids. It’s the belief that past fear, generally there are little or no consequences. In other words, if you’re under a magnifying glass and run through some exercises, there’s nothing there. There’s no there, there. You can de-risk a situation completely because there isn’t any real risk.
There are many such examples of just core beliefs that then enable the tactics. If say, everything you want is right outside your sphere of comfort. Let’s just say that’s one of your beliefs at the high level of abstraction. Then you go one layer down, and you have Chris Sacca, who I just mentioned before, when he was working at Google as a new hire, he would just walk into meetings he was uninvited to, before they started or as they were starting, with anyone and everyone, including the wonder twins. Sergei and Larry, the founds of Google. He would just walk in and sit down, and they would ask eventually, “Why are you here?” He’d say, “Oh, I didn’t realize I couldn’t attend. I figured I would just take notes for you guys.”
The company was of a size at the time, it wasn’t a tiny startup, but they allowed him to do it. Once he did it five, six, seven times, he became a standard presence at these super high level meetings, which allowed him to not only get promoted extremely quickly, but his learning curve was just 100X any of his co-workers at the same level. That would be then a tactic.
When you combine all of those, and you don’t have to use all from one person, you end up with a really cool recipe that you can test, and test pretty quickly.
Brett McKay: I love that. My favorite nuggets in the book weren’t really the very specific tactics that people did. Which those were cool. I loved reading those types of things, but the things I got most out of it were the more abstract things you were talking about. The big picture advice that you’ve been able to extract from your guests. Particularly about how to learn how to learn. It seems like most of your guests you’ve had on, they’ve thought a lot about how to learn, and how to learn better.
For example, several of your guests talked about asking good questions. I think Tony Robbins said, “The quality of your life is the quality of your questions.” I like this idea, because I think it connects with the Four Hour Chef, about this meta-learning thing. You’ve seemed to develop a knack for asking questions that allow you [inaudible 00:19:18] the most salient points in something. Whether it’s learning how to do three gun shooting, play poker, or even more abstract things like how to run a business, etc.
What sorts of questions should someone be asking if they want to learn something quickly? Are there questions you can ask that apply across domains, or does it depend on the domain?
Tim Ferriss: Oh, there are definitely questions you can ask that apply across domains. There are, I would say a few that come to mind. This was the first book of all my books that I actually enjoyed writing. The reason for that is that the interviews themselves are my favorite part of the book writing process without the writing. Interviewing experts and trying to tease out the concrete details of how you can achieve in say three months, what might normally take three years or three decades.
The questions include some of the following: I would find an expert, which is not very hard to do. In sports for instance, I would look probably for a silver medalist in the last two Olympics, in your given sport and your city name. Just a simple Google search.
Then I would a number of questions like, “Who shouldn’t be good at your sport, who is good at your sport? It doesn’t have to be at the Olympic level, but who is in the top say, 10% of competitors, professional or amateur, who are not built for it?” That might mean in a world of ultra running, they’re not built like a 6 foot 5 spider, they are short and they weigh 220 pounds. That person by attributes shouldn’t be good at that sport. Which means they compensate probably with an unusual or an unorthodox form of training. That is how you separate the nature versus nurture elite performers. You want to separate that, delineate that as quickly as possible.
The next would be, if they are a coach, “Have you been able to replicate your results? What separates the fast responders from the slow or non-responders?” This is also fishing to determine how much of what they’ve achieved can be attributed to technique versus some god-given talent that you won’t be able to model.
Then a lot of hypothetical questions come into play. These hypothetical questions are very often absurd. They’re absurd for a reason. That is that the most powerful questions are very often those that seem impossible to answer. It’s not, what is the sound of one hand clapping? It’s not a [inaudible 00:22:05], but you might use something like, Peter Thiel’s, why can’t you achieve your 10 year plans in the next six months? You can’t answer a question like that using your normal frame work and set of assumptions.
I would ask say, an athlete, or it doesn’t really matter, angel investor, it could be anyone. Let’s just use sports for the sake of simplicity. If you had to train me for a state level or national level competition, in eight weeks. You could say, I know it’s impossible. If you had a gun to your head, or 10 million dollars on the line to win, you had eight weeks to train me, what would you do? This is to try to figure out the 80/20. The 20% of the training that will give you 80% or more of the outcome that you want. In this case, a competitive repertoire, technique, or conditioning.
Others would be, what are the biggest wastes of time for novices? Where do novices typically mis-spend their time? What are the things they focus on they shouldn’t focus on, and what are the things they neglect that they should focus on starting day one? These are questions that really transcend any specific area. You could use it for language learning. You could use it for business. You could use it for fitness. You could use it for diet. You could use it for just about anything.
Brett McKay: That’s awesome. That’s interesting. You said go for the second, the silver medalist. Is there a reason why? Is it just because you couldn’t get access to the gold medalist?
Tim Ferriss: Oh yeah. Let me explain that, because the gold medalists will be higher in demand. They’ll be harder to get ahold of, and they will be more difficult to convince to help you. Silver medalists, very frequently, there are some exceptions but they are athletes who are just as good as the person who won gold. They just happened to have a bad day. Any given Sunday, with most of these sports.
In the Olympics at the highest levels, again there’s some outliers but silver medalists just makes it easier and cheaper to get advice, say via a Skype video which I’ve done in the past with say, people who took second place in world championships. You can certainly go after the big dogs, but don’t be shy about pursuing the second best because they’re very often as good as the person who took first place.
I’ve done that for learning to do surfing pop ups for instance, which I learned from a world class competitor. I happened to be in Berlin at the time, where it was pouring rain. He was in southern California, and we did it via Skype video. He coached me through doing surf pop ups on the living room floor of an Airbnb in Berlin, Germany. It was, I think 80 bucks for the hour. It’s just an incredible bargain. I just cut at least three months of headache off of my learning curve, by doing that.
It’s just sitting out there for people to grab for a lot of these things.
Brett McKay: Have you had an instance where you’ve talked to someone who is a high performer, but they weren’t able to really give you any good insights because they had the curse of knowledge. They couldn’t really explain it to you because they took for granted, the very basics that you needed to get in order to get this skill?
Tim Ferriss: All the time. Yeah, this is very common. I will never just go after the top performers. Meaning in certain areas, say in acting or in sports, where the best people tend or the most famous people tend to have started at an extremely young age. They are not always, they are frequently incapable of teaching novices or intermediates, because everything they do is second nature at this point. They don’t remember what it was like not to know.
That means I have two buckets of so called experts that I’ll go after. You have the people who are the best in the world, and then you have the people who have made the most progress in a short period of time. Which is why, in addition to asking who is good at this who shouldn’t be, I will ask, which of your students or which people are you aware of who have gone from zero to say national caliber, in an unbelievably short period of time? Or just come out of the blue? No one knew them, and all of a sudden they’re a national champion, or a world champion. Who comes to mind? I’ll get that list. At the very least, even if someone can’t teach me what they know, they can tell me who the outliers are that I should study.
For swimming, let’s say you might have a Michael Phelps who is going to be impossible to get ahold of most likely. Then you might have somebody like Shinji Takeuchi. Shinji Takeuchi is not a competitive swimmer, but went from not being able to swim, to having one of the most beautiful freestyle swim strokes on YouTube.
There was a point in time where the first most viewed swimming video on YouTube was Michael Phelps. The second was Shinji Takeuchi for total immersion method, which was just mind blowing. Shinji went from zero to that in an exceptionally short period of time. Something like six or nine months. He is someone I would reach out to, absolutely.
That is often where the gems are. You can exploit that in a million different ways. If I’m looking at investing, if I’m looking at podcasting. I’m looking at always separating out the experts I pursue into those two groups. Yes, if I’m operating in the world of podcasting, all right, maybe I want to look to say, Ira Glass. Good luck. Probably not going to happen, of This American Life. Maybe I want to talk to Mark [inaudible 00:27:57]. At this point, also probably not going to happen. Really busy guy. Really in demand.
Perhaps there is someone who just started, who through the grapevine, I figure out is getting a million or five million downloads a month, and they started three months prior with no pre-existing fan base. Okay, something interesting is going on. Even though they’re not as big as Mark, and they’re certainly not as big as This American Life, their zero to 60 speed is faster than both of these examples. I will really dig on that. I’ll spend a lot of time investigating that person and asking them questions, if they’re willing to answer them.
Brett McKay: Yeah, that’s great. One of the questions that I love, that’s really stuck with me, was from an interview you did with Peter Diamandis, is that how you say his last name?
Tim Ferriss: That’s right. Diamandis.
Brett McKay: Diamandis. He says if you’re a business man and you own a business, you should always be asking, how would someone disrupt me? I think this is applicable even if you don’t own a business. You can just figure out, how would I lose my job? What would cause me to lose my job in my industry?
That could be a hard question to answer, right? Clayton Christensen, the guy who wrote, The Innovator’s Dilemma, says that it’s hard for successful companies to figure out what’s going to disrupt them, because they can’t see it coming. Are there questions that you can ask to help you answer that question? Like how would someone disrupt my business, or disrupt me?
Tim Ferriss: There’s certainly ways you can go about it. I think perhaps the best way to go about it, which is another pattern in this book, if you were to talk to say, General Stan McChrystal, so a retired Four Star General, ran JSCOC and effectively all of Special Operations in Afghanistan and Iraq for a period of time. Or you talk to Jocko, or you talk to Mark Andreesson in the world of investing, or you talk to as you pointed out, Peter Diamandis. There’s a concept of red teaming.
Red teaming is so named because it was an exercise that originated in the military. At least, I’m sure it exists in many militaries, but in the US during the Cold War you had the blue team, the US, and the red team, the Soviets. The objective was to take say, I’m just making these numbers up, but if you had a 50 person team in the Navy, you might take five of those people and designate them as a red team. The other 45, they had focused on say, defensive plans. The other five would focus on solely trying to determine how to defeat those plans, or to penetrate a secure perimeter, or whatever it might be.
You can do that with your friends. You can ask for help. This is something I’ve had to learn repeatedly over the years. You don’t have to just sit in isolation and think yourself into a tizzy trying to logic your way, do miracles every day. You could actually just sit down and bribe your friends with pizza and beer, and say, “Hey guys, I’m trying to figure this out” and get ideas. Gather ideas from friends, ideally people who are intelligent. That would be one way of absolving yourself of complete responsibility for figuring that out.
You could even couch it in a way that could become an opportunity. Let’s say you’re in a company. You’re trying to determine the most likely scenarios for you being fired, you being replaced, or your division being made obsolete. Whatever it might be. In the process of trying to figure out how to take down the company that you work for, as a red team exercise, you might actually come up with a fantastic idea for a startup that ends up being hugely successful. This is actually a common Genesis story in Silicon Valley. I think red teaming is an incredibly powerful concept.
It’s part of what you could consider also, and this has come up a few times, a SWOT analysis. A strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats analysis. This would fall in the weaknesses or threats category.
Brett McKay: That’s awesome. Have you red teamed yourself, like how would someone disrupt Tim Ferriss Inc.?
Tim Ferriss: I’ve red teamed myself from a security standpoint. That’s a digital security and physical security standpoint, just because I’ve gotten to a point, and this is just the price you pay with enough public exposure … Let’s safely assume that one out of every thousand people is just bat shit crazy. If you have an audience of a few million people, well you’re going to have a small army of bat shit crazy folks who may or may not try to track you down. They may or may not make death threats because they’re completely unhinged. They may or may not think that you’re their long lost lover or brother or, fill in the blank, and try to find you.
I’ve red teamed absolutely from a security standpoint, many aspects of my life. That has been extremely productive. You don’t want to wait for other people to identify your weak spots.
Then you’re in a very reactive mode. You want to proactively red team. That could be for home defense, it could be for digital hygiene, it could be as simple as talking to a hacker like Sammy Kamkar, who created the fastest growing virus of all time, who also has a chapter in Tools of Titans on what you should do to defend against people like him.
It’s like starting point number one, put some tape or something over the camera on your laptop because it is child’s play for people like Sammy to hijack that and record you. It is so easy, it is laughable. I have seen it. And on and on and on. Those are primarily the ways that I’ve red teamed.
I’ve also red teamed in the process of doing competitive analysis. Looking at, for instance, when a book is launching. When I launched my first book, unlike Tools of Titans, which is coming out in the hardest possible timeframe, it is the most competitive month of the year, meaning the pre-holidays, pre-Christmas, etc.
Before the 4-Hour Workweek, I looked at historical book scan numbers and tried to identify soft spots where there were fewer competitive threats, and the absolute number of total copies required to say, hit the New York Times was on average lower. That happened to be April. There are ways that you can look at how to disrupt others, and then you can look at how others might disrupt you.
For instance, this is a role playing version of red teaming, but you can do it yourself. Which is Neil Strauss, eight time New York Times best selling author, has also interviewed every celebrity imaginable for Rolling Stone and the New York Times. When he edits his own books, and this is in his profile, he edits with three passes.
The first time he writes it for himself, or I should say he writes it first for himself. Then he edits it for himself, to be fun for himself. Gratifying in whatever way he wants to be gratified. Then he writes it, or edits it rather, for his fans, so that he answers his fan’s questions, the follow up questions, or the doubts, or the confusing points that his fans, his die hard followers will focus on.
Third, he edits for his haters. He tries to identify if, I hated Neil Strauss and wanted to take this down. Wanted to find a contradiction, wanted to cherry pick some things that I can make him look like an idiot, how would I do it? He walks through his own writing with red ink, and figures out how to defend against that preemptively. That is absolutely a form of red teaming. You’re just doing it yourself.
Brett McKay: Right, it sounds like an attorney.
Tim Ferriss: Oh yeah, definitely.
Brett McKay: You’ve interviewed a lot of …
Tim Ferriss: By the way, side note just for those people trying to improve their writing, which by the way along with asking questions, that’s your thinking. How you write and ask questions, that’s how you think. If you want to improve the clarity of your thinking, which applies and helps everything of course, if you don’t have a professional editor to review your stuff or a professional writer or a very good writer, which many people will not, actually find a lawyer.
Find a friend who went to law school, because they have been trained to find a, amorphous or nebulous language which reflects unclear thinking. Unnecessary words, which can compromise the clarity of a message, and so on and so forth. They’re actually very, very good at helping with proof-reading.
Brett McKay: Yeah, I went to law school. I graduated from law school, and my legal writing class was probably the most useful class I took there. I had to learn how to do those things.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah, totally believe it. Yeah, and you see that pop up a lot in Tools of Titans. Chris Sacca, a lot of people don’t realize he has a law degree. A great number of these folks have law degrees who don’t use them because they are both good at writing and putting on paper clear thought and negotiating. Those skills also are a meta-skill that apply to just about everything.
Brett McKay: I think it’s interesting. There’s a lot of internet writers who were once attorneys, like Jonathan Fields, who used to be an SEC attorney, Gretchen Rubin for Happiness Project, she worked on the Supreme Court. Yeah, it’s a pretty useful skill.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah, it doesn’t surprise me at all.
Brett McKay: You’ve interviewed a lot of well known, high performing folks. Who’s the most impressive, but lesser known guest you’ve had on the show?
Tim Ferriss: Oh, that’s a toughie. Lesser known. Of course, you have the Jamie Foxx’s, and the Arnold Schwarzenegger’s and stuff.
Brett McKay: Yeah, it’s all relative. It’s like if your mom wouldn’t know who they are. Everyone knows Arnold Schwarzenegger, everyone knows Tony Robbins.
Tim Ferriss: I would say the first person who comes to mind … God, there’s so many because I deliberately, I’d say more than half of the guests I seek out are exactly that profile. I would say two people come to mind right off the bat. Derek Sivers is one. Entrepreneur, but very under-stated. Lives a very austere … I won’t say austere. Spartan, kind of monkish life, despite the fact that he sold the company for 24 million dollars and gave it all to a charitable remainder trust which helps support music education among other things. Philosopher, king of programming and entrepreneurship. Just a fascinating, fascinating guy who has a lot of rules for his life.
I’ve seen him in action. He actually walks the talk. There are a lot of motivational type folks that I just can’t stand because what they say on stage and what they do in their lives, are completely incompatible. Derek is not that. He is, what you see is what you get. What you hear is what he does.
He has a lot of rules, which are very easy to remember and very useful. For instance, I asked him what advice he would give his younger self. It’s a rule, a guideline he still follows, which is don’t be a donkey. What does that mean? Don’t be a donkey is a reminder to not to try to do multiple things at once. It’s an illusion to Buridan’s ass, which is a fable of a donkey that’s standing half way between water and hay. It looks left and right, left and right, left and right, and can’t decide whether to eat or drink first, and it dies in the middle.
That was his answer because as a 30 something, Derek felt like he didn’t want the world to tell him what to do. He didn’t want to have to over-specialize and paint himself into a corner. Why can’t I do these 10 things at once? I have a lot of horse power, a lot of endurance, I can do it. You end up traveling one millimeter in a million directions and making no real progress on anything.
He taught himself to do one thing at a time. You can get everything done, you just can’t do it at the same time. You sequentially focus on one thing for say, six to 12 months, and then you move on to the next. To remind himself of that is, just don’t be a donkey.
He also has a very simple frame work for making decisions. In the beginning, it was say yes to everything. Before he was a musician, he went to Berkeley School of Music, and ended up founding CD Baby much later. In the beginning, he said yes to every gig. Say yes to everything. In the beginning.
He ended up saying yes to an acoustic guitar gig at a pig show. I’m not making this up. Like rural New England. He went, and he treated it like he was playing Madison Square Garden. That piddly little pig show led to an entire career as a musician basically.
Later, once had a little bit of success, it came down to hell yeah, or no. Basically, if it’s not a hell yeah with a 100% excitement, oh my god, how could I not do that? Then it’s a no. Once you’ve had a little bit of success and it doesn’t require very much in a digital age, the amount of inbound noise, and the amount of kind of cool offers and invites that you’ll get in a month, is more than you could say yes to in a year.
When you get to that point, what’s going to kill you, what’s going to make you fail, what’s going to make you overwhelmed, what’s going to make you flame out, is not the bad opportunities. It’s going to be a mountain of kind of cool, interesting, stuff that you commit yourself to, which then doesn’t leave you the bandwidth to pursue the one or two, hell yeah opportunities that you create or come across maybe once a year.
Brett McKay: Yeah, I’ve experienced that in my own life. I get a lot of cool opportunities, but they’re just kind of cool. Now, my default answer is no. It has to be something really, really awesome for me to be like, yeah I’m going to do that.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah, absolutely. The other person who came to mind right off the bat was a palliative care physician, which effectively means a hospice physician. Someone who helps people die, named B.J. Miller. B.J. Miller has helped about a thousand people die. He’s a young guy. He is a triple amputee. During college, lost his limbs in an electrocution accident. They were burned off, three of his limbs. His take on the world is just very, very unique.
He really helped me to understand his approach to helping people pass through the end of life to death. What I liked about it in part, is that it was not compatible with a lot of the listicles you see, like the eight regrets of the dying, or whatever. These lists end up being, which are all the usual things you would expect. Like, having not spent another day at the office. The usual cliched stuff. You have to wonder when you read those things, are these people saying what they feel, or are they saying what they think they should want to say, or is it something else?
B.J., rather than for instance … There are a few things that come to mind that I found very thought provoking. One is when I asked him, what do you put on a billboard? I ask all my guests this. What would you put on a gigantic billboard if you wanted to get a message out to millions of people. He said, “Don’t believe everything that you think.” I was like, oh, that’s a good one. We could chew on that for an hour alone. Just that one line.
Other things were, for instance, how he helps people grapple with the big existential questions. The big say, spiritual questions. In short, the answer is he doesn’t. He actually helps people to consider the beauty of pointlessness, and why that may not be a bad thing. In fact, it could be a really profound, beautiful thing.
He will have them look at, for instance, art books of Mark Rothko paintings, or he would potentially have them do that. To ponder something that is beautiful, but without any explicit meaning, per se. To lose the addiction or attachment to everything having to have meaning, or some pre-destination. I thought that was extremely curious and worth exploring.
Or the fact that both he and a memory champion named Ed Cook, and they’re separated by thousands of miles, do something that I ended up calling star therapy. Which is when, for instance in B.J.’s case, he’s feeling overwhelmed or anxious, he will look up into the night sky at stars and just consider the fact that some of the light may have been emitted from those stars thousands of years before hitting his eye in that instant. Or that some of the stars he’s seeing, so to speak, no longer exist.
Pondering the enormity of the cosmos and how we’re a blip on the screen. We are a blinking of a firefly, as Naval Ravikant would put it, in the grand scheme. It puts a lot of our now realized, trivial issues … The guy who cut us off in traffic. The idiot we got into an argument with at work or on the phone, whatever it might be. It makes all of that seem extremely ridiculous and laughable.
It is incredibly anti-depressant in its effects. I tried this, and it sounded really woo woo and out there. I started doing it every night, even during book deadline when I was writing this. I attribute a lot of little things like that, which have some over-arching philosophical connection, to allowing me to actually be relaxed for the first time, putting a book together. Which has never been the case. Derek Sivers and B.J. Miller are two that come to mind.
Brett McKay: That’s great. You’ve tried all the tips and all the tactics and advice that you got from your guests. Was there one piece that provided immediate ROI as soon as you implemented it? Like you noticed an improvement in your life right away?
Tim Ferriss: Oh yeah. There have been quite a few, but I’ll focus on one. That is, intelligent fasting and entering a state of ketosis. Ketosis, for people who don’t know what it is, it is a state your body enters when you are starved effectively. If you were stranded by a plane crash, lost in the woods, after a few days your body would shift from using carbohydrates, because you’re not eating anything and you run out of stored carbohydrates, which is glycogen, to using your body fat. That’s why you store body fat. Instead of using glucose, blood sugar, you end up using predominantly ketones.
The brain and heart end up working extremely well, among other tissues, on ketones. Turns out that entering ketosis through dietary means, or from taking supplemental ketones, which is a very new thing called exogenous ketones, there are a range of different benefits. There is actually a foundation called The Charlie Foundation that has looked extensively at how ketosis in many cases can reduce or eliminate seizures in children, for instance. It’s a very high fat diet. There are also implications for anti-cancer effects and so on.
In my personal case, I, having grown up on eastern Long Island. I spend a lot of time there in the summers. It has one of the highest densities of what people call deer ticks, black legged ticks, in the world. I contracted Lyme Disease, and I experienced very severe symptoms. It was diagnosed at a very late stage, because I didn’t get the bulls eye rash. I assumed I needed the bulls eye rash, but it turns out about 20% of the people who are afflicted do not display this dermatological symptom.
I waited until my speech was slurred. I was having trouble remembering friend’s names. I took five or so minutes to get out of bed because my knees and joints were so swollen. I was operating at 10% capacity max, for about nine months. I really felt like I had dementia and severe arthritis. It was the scariest health experience of my life.
I reached out to Dominic D’Agostino, who is a PhD who is in Tools of Titans. His chapter is probably the third longest chapter in the book for this reason. He walked me through a process for getting into ketosis quickly and relatively easily, from some of his tricks. Once I hit, using a device called the Precision Xtra, X-T-R-A. It’s from Abbott Labs. It’s a finger prick that allows you to measure your concentration of ketones in the blood. Once I hit about 1.5 millimolars, which is not extremely deep ketosis, but it’s definitely ketosis. I’m using body fat.
I felt like before Tim. My brain was 10 times faster. I had none of the slurring. The swelling went down. Almost everything auto corrected, which was very, very, very odd to me. That was after antibiotics which were necessary. I used doxycycline. There’s a lot of nonsense out there about Lyme Disease folks, so find a proper MD. Do not go for every alternative bit of nonsense that gets thrown at you.
After a proper course of antibiotics from an infectious disease specialist at Sanford, the ketogenic diet with supplemental ketones, was the only thing that got me back to pre Tim levels of mental and physical performance. It was immediate. As soon as I hit 1.5 millimolars, boom. It was different Tim from 10% to 100%. It was just unbelievable to me.
You see that, not only in people with Lyme Disease, but for instance, and these are anecdotal reports, but nonetheless they’re frequent enough and consistent enough that I think there has to be something to it. People with early onset Alzheimer’s or Alzheimer’s, are frequently diagnosed partially using something of a clock test. They draw a clock face with 1 to 12 around the clock face in the right places. As the Alzheimer’s gets worse and worse, the shape devolves. The numbers start to disappear or go off of the clock face. To the point where then it just looks like chicken scratch.
You can look for, for instance, coconut oil. Search coconut oil, Alzheimer’s, clock test. You will see people who completely reverse their regression in three to four weeks of consuming say, seven to eight tablespoons of coconut oil a day. What the hell is going on? That’s weird, right?
Coconut oil is, I want to say around 60% generally medium chain triglycerides by MCT’s as they’re called. MCT oil by weight. MCT’s are readily converted by the liver into ketones. The mystery just continues from there. There seems to be a plausible mechanistic explanation for all of it.
That one just blew my mind. The combination of Dominic D’Agostino’s recommendations from a dietary and supplement standpoint, plus some medical recommendations from Dr. Peter Attia, who is also in Tools of Titans, plus gymnastic strength training, and some really interesting exercises from coach Christopher Sommer , former national team coach for men’s gymnastics, completely just jump-started and revolutionized my body and health from every level. Those did not take a long time. They were really, really rapid onset. Those are the first few that come to mind.
Brett McKay: Was there a habit that, you took a long time? Like you struggled with it, but you stuck at it because the payoff was substantial? Or did you just focus on the quick, big easy wins?
Tim Ferriss: I’ll tell you. Here’s my feeling about that. If a habit is really hard and you keep dropping it, then you haven’t structured your approach to the habit properly. I’m not just looking for the easy wins. Gymnastic strength training is a hugely difficult workout. It is in some cases, extremely unpleasant. The payoff is fantastic, but I think for many people, it would be a difficult habit to establish if you approach it in a haphazard way.
If you have timelines, if you have accountability to someone else like a coach or a training partner, if you have incentives. For instance, if you have a betting pool where five of your friends, you included, so five people each put in a hundred dollars, and three months later the person who … You do before measurements for body fat percentage. The person who has changed their body fat or their body composition for the better the most, three months later wins five hundred bucks. That social press and heckling and so on, is the type of incentive that you need to make a potentially difficult habit, very, very easy.
You need a why to. Not just a how to. This is one of the biggest flaws in books like this, is they don’t give you any why to. They don’t tell you how to implement it in any way. They just give you the information, and off to the races you go. Then 99 out of 100 people fail.
I really encourage people to focus on easy wins in the beginning, or how you make a difficult habit easier. This is supported by research by people like B.J. Fogg out of Stanford, who’s done a lot of work in his persuasion lab, where if you’re going to floss or workout. Flossing is a funny example, but let’s say you want to floss. You want to learn to floss.
Well, you should make it as easy as possible. You should make the threshold for successful flossing as low as possible. That might mean that you just floss your front two teeth every night for the first week. That’s it. If you want to do extra teeth, that’s extra credit. The only success threshold is the front two teeth because the habit, carving out a few minutes to make that part of your automatic routine. Taking something that is conscious and making it slowly sub-conscious so that it sticks, like tying your shoe laces or brushing your teeth, that is the most important element first. The adherence.
If you want to go to the gym, all right, New Year’s Resolution. I want to gain 15 pounds of muscle, I want to lose 15 pounds of fat. Whatever it is. First, you should realize gaining muscle, that’s a function of the gym primarily. Losing fat, that’s 90% diet. You can treat it accordingly, but let’s just say you’re focusing on the exercise component. What a lot of people do is, right out of the gate they’re like, you know what? If I’m going to do this, I’m going to do it seriously and I’m going to go to the gym for an hour a day, five days a week.
Okay, if you have no pre-existing exercise habit, or you’ve fallen off the wagon and you haven’t had one in a few years, that will fail for 90 plus percent of the people who try it. No doubt, because it’s too demanding in terms of time, and it’s too demanding physically. You’ll most likely get injured. What do you do? You make it stupidly easy. I mean really, when I say make it stupidly easy, I mean stupidly, laughably easy.
Go to the gym two times a week for 10 minutes, and do that for a month. What you’re really trying to chalk up is, say five to 10 sessions, and to make it a regular, repetitive, scheduled activity. That’s it.
For me, I do focus on the low hanging fruit, and there are plenty of them. I also focus on making hard habits easy to comply with by setting them up in the way that I just described. I’m very methodical about how I set that up. If you don’t have a punishment or a reward that is significant, you’re not going to stick to your habit. 99 times out of 100.
It’s not just enough to know that in 20 years you might have a decreased risk of cardiovascular, like a heart attack. That’s not enough. You need more. If you want to lose some fat, okay great. Give your most merciless friend some really unflattering photos of you standing there in your tidy whities, and if you don’t lose 10 pounds by the end of month two, those go on the internet.
Trust me, you will figure out how to lose 10 to 20 pounds. You don’t need more information. That’s actually another line from Derek Sivers, is if more information were the answer, we’d all be billionaires with six pack abs. You need more than information, you need incentives.
Brett McKay: Tim, one thing I’ve loved about your writing over the years, and you talk about it in your book, is you’re pretty open about your struggle with getting in funks or depression even. You’ve had some really dark moments in your life. I think for men in particular, that’s a hard topic to talk about or to get help if they need to get help with depression.
We’ll send people to your stories online where you’ve written about your funks and your depression. What’s worked for you in managing the black dog of depression, as Churchill called it? Is it something that you still have to constantly work on, even today?
Tim Ferriss: I’ll answer the last part first. Yes, absolutely. I am prone to depressed periods. Every male in my family appears to experience the same pattern. I don’t know how much of it is genetic versus maybe exposure. This is something that I contend with. Like anything else, the way I try to view it really is, well first and foremost I try not to over-dramatize it. It’s very easy to label yourself. There are people, don’t get me wrong, who need to have proper medical intervention, and many people fall into this category for something like manic depression.
To loosely call myself say, a manic depressive or something like that, is a dangerous habit. I view my pre-disposition to periodic depression as, let’s say if I had a bum ankle, and it’s something that I learned to manage. Okay, I broke my ankle. I have to cope. Maybe I have to ski a little differently than other folks. Maybe I have to modify my workout routines, that I’m not doing squats where my knees go over the ankles. Okay, it’s a manageable problem.
It could be anything else. Like hey, Timbo, lost your hair. I have a lot less hair than I used to. It’s all right, buy a hat. Your head is going to get cold when it looks like a hatchling bird head. Get a hat, and you learn to cope with it and deal with it. Going to go out in the sun? Hey pal, you’re going to have to put some SPF 50 on la cabeza or you’re going to get fried. You learn to contend with it.
Depression, I’ve tried to view very similarly, at least in the last few years. I’ve had some extremely dark periods. I mean, there’s a chapter in the book about suicide specifically. I think it’s the most important thing I’ve ever written, and how I almost offed myself, and the de-construction of how it almost happened, why it didn’t happen, and my thoughts on how to prevent that type of thing, and how to cope.
There are a few. I will say that arguably the most important elements are, one, regular scheduled exercise with other people. Everyone’s trying to implement mind over body. I think body over mind is a very interesting alternative or at least complement. They are not separate. By exercising, you can increase relief of brain drive neurotrophic factor, BDNF, all these various things. They’re intrinsically linked.
Regular exercise, ideally with other people. That could take the form of a training partner, like we discussed, with some type of betting component to ensure that that cohesion lasts more than a week. It could be training in Jiu Jitsu, it could be Tango or some form of dance, it could be Acroyoga, which is my current obsession, also explored. That would be number one. Exercise. Some type of vigorous, physical activity, at least three times a week. Preferably in the morning as a form of state priming, as Tony Robbins would call it.
Cold exposure, I found exceptionally effective. Many people don’t realize that this is nothing new, although it’s been clinically validated or at least supported by some studies now. Van Gogh, when he cut off his ear and was sent to an institution, part of his prescription was ice baths twice a day, or cold baths at the very least. I will routinely do Russian baths, or I have a standing fridge in my garage that is full of ice bags. About two weeks worth. I will regularly do ice baths for 5 to 10 minutes at a time, which Rick Rubin by the way, also does. Which Wim Hof, who’s in the book, also does. Josh Waitzkin, also does. Not necessarily for depression, but it is an incredible mood elevator.
As Rick would say, after round five of hot, cold, hot, cold, nothing in the world bothers you. Literally nothing in the world bothers you. It’s incredible. I would say cold exposure is another.
The last that I’ll mention. There are many different coping mechanisms I use, and I don’t want to claim that they work for everyone, but practicing gratitude. Developing routines and journaling for instance, the five minute journal which I use in the morning and at night. List things that you are grateful for. Appreciative of.
It’s very easy I think, and this is part of the reason you observe it so much in entrepreneurs, is this type of what you might call manic depression, is that people who are very goal focused tend to be future focused. I have heard it said before that depression is a focus on the past, or depression is being stuck in the past. Anxiety is being stuck in the future.
If you are constantly looking for the next thing, you’re never happy with what you have. If you’re never happy with what you have, nothing you ever get will make you happy, if that makes sense. To counteract that, as a therapeutic intervention, practicing gratitude is an extremely critical, at least for me.
I have taken steps, whether it’s using the five minute journal, or using something that an ex-girlfriend made for me, called The Jar of Awesome, which is just a mason jar with The Jar of Awesome on the side. Believe it or not, and as cheesey as it sounds, you each day write on a piece of paper something awesome that happened, you fold it up and you put it in the jar, so that when you are feeling dark. When you’re feeling depressed, when you feel like you’re a complete failure, and nothing is right. You will never be right, nothing will ever be good, you can dig into this and review some of these pieces of paper.
Those are off hand, a few of the things that have helped. I am not beyond pharmaceutical intervention. Certainly dietary intervention. Pharmaceutical intervention. I do not take any SSRI’s myself or anti-anxiety medications per se, prescription medications. I have recently, and this is something everyone should talk to their doctor about, but started taking over the counter, low dose, lithium. Lithium has a bad rap, because as a monotherapy, when applied to certain disorders is used at say, 1300 to 1500 milligrams, I’m taking 5 milligrams of lithium orotate before I go to bed.
There’s an excellent article in the New York Times called something like, Maybe We All Need Just a Little Bit of Lithium. Which is present in groundwater, and it’s been observed, and I think [inaudible 01:07:07] right, but reported cases of suicide, homicide, manic depression, etc. are inversely correlated to groundwater levels of guess what? Lithium. When you look at the observational data, correlated to geographies, you can inversely correlate those. The more lithium, the lower all those things are. I’m taking an amount that is effectively getting me to the high end of that natural occurring spectrum. if that makes sense.
The list goes on. It’s not any one thing, it’s the portfolio of techniques that helps to catch me before I fall too badly. When you have a portfolio of techniques, if one for whatever reason falls by the wayside, perhaps you’re traveling. You’re not doing ice baths. If you’re only depending on one, you have all your eggs in one basket.
I have at least a handful that I practice on a regular basis, and I’m probably leaving out one of the most important, morning meditation practice. This is very critical. You can start with something like Headspace. You can start with something like the guided meditation that Maria Popova listens to every morning. The 2010 Smile Meditation by Tara Brach, or you could start with taking a course, a transcendental meditation course, which is what Arnold Schwarzenegger did for a year. Or at least what sparked a year of consistent meditation.
The benefit of the course, I’m not going to hard sell TM because I don’t think it’s for everybody, but the value of a course of any type, is that you have the incentives. You have the social pressure and expectations, and accountability that you do not have necessarily if you’re doing it on your own. I have found some apps like Headspace or Calm, to be a very effective place for people to start.
Using guided meditation is a very low hurdle for most people. Everyone can squeeze in 10 minutes. If you have to wake up 10 minutes earlier to do it, then sacrifice 10 minutes of sleep to get it done. That would be yet another piece of the puzzle.
Brett McKay: That’s awesome. Well, fantastic. Tim, we’ve covered a lot of ground in a little over an hour.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah, we have.
Brett McKay: I really appreciate it. Thanks so much for your time. I guess people can find out more about the book at … Where can they find that? Timferriss.com?
Tim Ferriss: I would recommend that … I don’t think I’ve touched that one in a couple of years. I need to update it. I would recommend people go to Toolsoftitans.com. Toolsoftitans.com has some sample chapters. It has all sorts of information on the book. It’s a fun book. I had so much fun with this. Just so people aren’t intimidated, it’s a 704 page book, but it’s intended to be a choose your own adventure, buffet of options. Dip in, dip out. If any reader reads a hundred pages, I’m happy. I consider it mission accomplished. You do not have to read the whole thing. Think of it like a cookbook of sorts.
Toolsoftitans.com is where they can find out all about the book. It’s available everywhere. I am at tferriss, F-E-R-R-I-S-S. T-F-E-R-R-I-S-S on Twitter, and just timferriss, two R’s, two S’s, on Facebook.
Brett McKay: Well, Tim Ferris, thank you so much for your time. It’s been a pleasure.
Tim Ferriss: Thanks so much.
Brett McKay: My guest today was Tim Ferriss. He’s the host of the Tim Ferriss show, and his new book is called Tools of Titans. It’s available on amazon.com and bookstores everywhere. You can find out more information about his book at toolsoftitans.com, and also just his happenings at Fourhourworkweek.com.
Also, check out our show notes at aom.is/ferriss, where you can find links to resources where you can delve deeper into this topic.
That wraps up another edition of The Art of Manliness podcast. For more manly tips and advice, make sure to check out The Art of Manliness website at artofmanliness.com. Our show is edited by Creative Audio Lab here in Tulsa, Oklahoma. If you have any audio editing needs, or audio production needs, check them out at creativeaudiolab.com. As always, we appreciate your continued support. Reviews on iTunes or Stitcher helps us out a lot, so please continue to give those. As always, thank you again for your support, and until next time, this is Brett McKay telling you to stay manly.
Last updated: March 6, 2017