3 Bibles for Developing Clear Thinking and Problem Solving (Plus: Get an Original 4HWW Manuscript with Extra Content!)


I have this on my refrigerator

Feeling overwhelmed? Chances are that, after looking everywhere else, unclear or cluttered thinking is the root problem.

Have you defined your desired outcome and eliminated the extraneous? Removed all of the busy but non-mission-critical activities that consume attention?

Business books and consultants often skip the fundamental shift we need most often: better mental software. Cut out the bugs and upgrade your machine with these three blueprints, listed in the order I recommend reading them:

Simple & Direct
by Jacques Barzun
(288 pages)

It is hard to improve thinking. It is near impossible to remember and review after-the-fact. Practicing writing (thinking frozen in time) is the best way to refine thinking and upgrade your present awareness. Barzun’s stated goal in this book is “to resensitize the mind to words.” His refrain, which applies as much to self-talk as it does to communicating with others, is: do not use a word unless you know both its meaning and its connotations. Great advice and a great book.

On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction
by William K. Zinsser
(336 pages)

I have read this book more than a dozen times, more often for thinking than for writing. It is a hysterical read and a great example of what it teaches: how to cut all clutter and keep your communication and thinking crystal clear. If you think you think and write well, read this book at least once. It’s like going from a tricycle to a ten-speed.

The Elements of Style
by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White
(128 pages)

This is the de facto nuts-and-bolts desk reference for all writers and thinkers alike. There is a refreshing artistry to its bluntness… and brevity. I also love that the New York Times can sum it up and violate its rules at the same time with “Buy it, study it, enjoy it. It’s as timeless as a book can be in our age of volubility.” Volubility? E.B. would have slapped them.

Get the Original 4HWW Manuscript with Extra Content!

This list was in the original manuscript for The 4-Hour Workweek, but it was removed — along with bonus chapters and some awesome case studies — due to space constraints.

Would you like to have 1 of the 8 remaining original manuscripts in the world? This was an early version sent to about 15 people for advanced praise quotes, and even the cover is different.

I’m offering it on eBay now, and I’ll return the full sales price to the winner (minus eBay fees) in the form of a gift certificate to DonorsChoose, the educational non-profit I’m addicted to.

I will also write a personal note on the manuscript and give you 30 minutes on the phone to discuss or ask anything you want. Since I don’t do private coaching and my usual speaking fee is $15,000-25,000 per hour, this is a rare offer.

If you’re a fan of 4HWW, this is the ultimate collector’s item for an unbeatable cause. Check out the bidding here!

Posted on: August 2, 2007.

Watch The Tim Ferriss Experiment, the new #1-rated TV show with "the world's best human guinea pig" (Newsweek), Tim Ferriss. It's Mythbusters meets Jackass. Shot and edited by the Emmy-award winning team behind Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations and Parts Unknown. Here's the trailer.

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39 comments on “3 Bibles for Developing Clear Thinking and Problem Solving (Plus: Get an Original 4HWW Manuscript with Extra Content!)

  1. Thanks for the recommendations, Tim. I’m heading over to Amazon to purchase On Writing Well, and The Elements of Style. I’ve always searching for tools to develop my clarity in thinking and writing.

    My humble, single recommendation for powerful thinking to get your mind out of the trap of mediocrity is the Mensa Brain and Logic books. They help me stretch my mind to allow it to relax and expand further.


  2. Tim,
    If I define “happy� as most of the folks in the USA do, then your choices should contain one more item.

    O About $1,000.00 more that I have right now!

    Most people do not want all the land, just the land next to theirs! I want to thank you for making me inspect my motives and really define what words mean to me. By the way I read Zinsser’s book and it was a great read!


  3. Hi Tim,

    On a very related note to the above blog entry, I roundabout find my way to the 4HWW through my involvement with David Allen’s GTD (Getting Things Done) methodology. I am guessing there is probably a decent subset of 4HWW folks who are also big fans and disciples of Allen’s GTD methodology. Many of the principles, perspectives and day-to-day recommendations behind both the 4HWW and GTD are very complimentary.

    The rubber-hits-the-road skills I have learned in terms of “uncluttering” my mind through GTD have been nothing short of awesome, and I believe have put me in a better position than I otherwise would have been in to absorb and put into practice much of what you cover in 4HWW.

    I am greatful for discovering both your’s and David Allen’s work. I am continuing to learn to have a more empowered and full life because of what each of you have shared with the rest of us.


  4. Interesting question there at the end… I said no more, I have enough. I sat and thought about it for a while before I answered though! My inital reaction was to go for the middle value ;)

    It came down to what is it that makes me happy in the end, and the true fact is that money just can’t buy happiness. The things that make me happy are those things that money just can’t buy.

    Things that make me happy are:
    Friends & family
    Work that is enjoyable, satisfying and challenging
    The time to travel (I make time to do this)
    An outlet for innovation and design stuff
    Sports and excercise
    Improve the state of the tech industry as an industry to work in!

    I don’t really need a lot to be happy. Money would just be something that was an enabler to do more.

    Thanks for the recommended reading list :) It looks good!
    BTW have you come across Larry Hendricks Motivation on the Run series… I think you would find some of the content of the podcasts quite interesting.




  5. I think your book is awesome. I recommend it to everyone, and I am about to go thru it again myself.

    How much money is enough? enough to take care of the basics and start some “mini retirements”.

    Thanks as always for your recommendations and advice.


  6. Tim,

    I am a huge fan of the 4hww, your blog and the NR lifestyle. I have to say though, this post is by far my favorite. You don’t bother with books that try and improve you, these are books from which you learn how to think.

    Far too many “GTD” books are filled with lots of neat tips and interesting facts, but nothing beats learning how to think. If more people read Sophocles than read “7 Highly Effective Habits,” we’d be a lot further along.



  7. I don’t think the purpose of this post was to discuss life goals and motivational techniques. Tim was giving recommendations for clear thinking and problem solving books (bibles), thank you for them Tim!


  8. Thought provoking poll. Money alone doesn’t bring excitement, contentment, peace, joy, or the time to pursue them.. “Happy” no longer being in my vocabulary :0)


  9. Quick mention, there is a 4HWW for writers groups on Ning, as well as other 4HWW groups and many popular self publishing groups. just go to ning.com and do a keyword search.

    I’m tempted by the manuscript auction on ebay. Would love to own that piece of current history and have 30 minute consult!


  10. Dear Tim,
    statistics is a little bit difficult do understand.
    Do you ask for the money you need or the money you need in addition to the money you already have. The first question indicates the latter.
    But…. money you already have tend to vanish when you it it up, so it’s the money you need for your lifestyle?
    Man, doesn’t really matter, but…
    Kindest regards and have a wonderful weekend.


  11. Hi All!

    Thanks for the wonderful new recommendations and observations.

    There will be much more coming on the ever nebulous concept of “happiness” and the fascinating field of comparative economics… how do we get past “keeping up with the Joneses”? It’s coming!

    In the meantime, have a kick-ass weekend!



  12. Hey Tim–
    Wanted to appreciate you for your work and the clarity with which you have expressed a concept that has been simmering in , what appears to be, a whole bunch of people…

    The fact that you have given the basic recipe and then invited a community of interested folks to add to it is phenomenal and rare, in the self-improvement business.

    To show our appreciation, my partners and I at http://www.nakedsoma.com have made you our FIRST ever SomaStar, (don’t worry, there are no naked people at NakedSoma, ;-)

    Strunk and White, man that brings back memories…my dad was always pulling that book off the shelf, whenever there was a question about diction or grammar, great stuff.

    Thanks for being the “rebellious teenager” who was willing to point out to the rest of us that there really is, a better way.

    With Gratitude,
    Jeb Thurmond


  13. The Master does nothing,
    Yet leaves nothing undone.

    The Student always does,
    But with much more to do.

    My interpretation of …
    Chapter 38, Tao Te Ching

    Dear reader: are you a student or a master?


  14. Hi Tim,

    Thanks for the recommendations. This is the second time this week I heard the book “On Writing Well” is being recommended. Will check it out.

    I also want to take this opportunity to thank you for writing the 4HWW. Started reading it this morning and it’s simply awesome. It happens that I’m quitting my job for feeling that there should be a better way to live apart from being locked to the desk for the best years of our lives. Your book therefore comes at the right time. And, BTW, I can’t help laughing reading it – esp. on “your story”. Let me get back to you with the good results applying your “rules”.

    One minor thing: Your book is not available at the local bookstores here yet (I’m from HK), so I got it from Amazon. Look forward to see it on the shelves here!


  15. Tim,

    Great stuff as always. I have 2 questions for you. I don’t think I read it in your book or have seen it on your site.

    1. How do you handle your book keeping for your businesses? I am sure its outsourced…but how?

    2. Do you use something like Neat Receipts to scan in any papers/documents/important printed items to get rid of paper and keep it on your computer?

    Thanks for your thoughts.

    Keep up the great work!