The Grand Illusion: The Real Tim Ferriss Speaks

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[IMPORTANT: Please note this was an APRIL FOOL'S DAY joke! Please read the whole post, especially the postscript.]

Will the real Slim Shady please stand up?

This is Tim Ferriss. The real Tim Ferriss.

This is the first time I have written a post on this blog since March 30, 2007, 366 days ago, when I penned “How to Live Like a Rock Star in Buenos Aires.”

In the meantime, a virtual pair–Vanhishikha “Van” Mehra and Roger Espinosa–have taken my blog to the Technorati-1000 (around 600 at best) and had their content featured, under my name, in media from The New York Times to CNBC.

I’ve suggested topics and asked explicitly for some when I had photos or video to post, but Van and Roger are the short answer to the common question: how can you work four hours a week if you spend so much time on the blog?

The answer is: I don’t.

The impetus was an on-stage challenge at the 2007 SXSW two weeks earlier, and I resolved to demonstrate just how well the concepts in 4HWW could work. This is one of several pending year-long examples…

Here’s how my longest-term outsourcing experiment to date was executed:

1. Preparation: I used Elance.com to post an online editorial position, and I asked for three writing samples of 250 words on the topics of travel and productivity. There were 11 qualified applicants and four finalists, who further submitted a single 750-word article each.

2. People: Two of the four were selected on a trial basis to produce blog content as a pair.

The first, Vanhishikha “Van” Mehra, an undergrad and computer science major in Bangalore, had an impressive ability to choose topics and spot trends, but her English–learned through private schooling with non-native speakers–contained both British colloquialisms and mistakes common to Indian learners of English. She would be the content originator.

Roger Espinosa, the second, was raised in Chicago until 17 and then educated in Manila to become a systems administrator. He didn’t have the same knack for original content as Van, but his writing was native in appearance and not only grammatically correct but also idiomatically correct (e.g. “peanut butter and jelly sandwich” vs. “jelly and peanut butter sandwich”). He would become Van’s editor and publisher.

3. Process: Roger had sole rights to publish via WordPress, and their collaborations were were initial proofread by my Canadian assistant Amy, then later spot-checked by her via RSS. There have been fewer than half a dozen corrections after publication. I will often suggest topics on Mondays after checking e-mail and sometimes explicitly request posts that will allow relevant photos and video to be posted.

4. Van is paid $20 per post and Roger $15. Both get 100% performance bonuses if a given post front pages on Digg but must follow a “best practices” spec sheet to avoid violating user rules and getting blacklisted. I offered to increase the bonus to 200% for Van if it was directly applied to private English lessons with a tutor of my choosing, to whom I would remit payment directly. She has elected this since month 3, and it contributed to a more than 20% increase in front paging on Digg and other social ranking sites in the subsequent six months.

5. The “Odds and Ends” updates and miscellaneous are usually selected or created by me but transcribed by Amy after our once-daily 10-minute action item calls.

So, dear reader, there you have what I’ve been dying to tell you all for the last year, but I wanted to see if it was possible to make it to the 365-day mark.

Some of you have noticed TOEFL-esque phrasings here and there, and more than a few have noted the strange inflection of a few comments (Roger has written about 75% of my comments).

Please don’t be upset by this, and I encourage you to view it as I intended it: a major example of how well personal outsourcing and “offchoring” can work.

I’ll be writing at least once per week for the next two months, and we’ll see if my posts are half as popular as Van and Roger’s :) If you have any topic suggestions, please let me know in the comments.

Much more to come,

The Real Tim Ferriss

###

Important Postscript!

Happy Japanese April Fool’s Day!

Man, oh, man. I was going to wait until tomorrow, but this post has kicked up some dust, so I wanted to own up. Yessir, it’s an April Fool’s Day prank. Sorry for any confusion! It would have been too obvious on April 1st in the US, so I used the alternate time zone. More to come tomorrow, but I write all the posts (minus attributed guest posts) myself. As _Jon put it in the comments: “a personal blog shouldn’t be work, it should be a passion. If you need to outsource it, you have the wrong motivation.”

I couldn’t agree more. That’s why I’m here writing the posts, including the stupid ones (man crush anyone?).

This little prank has been in my head since Jan. 10th, when the infamous Tucker Max suggested a much better version that I was unable to pull off due to this London trip:

“BTW–I had a hilarious idea for what you need to do for an April Fools prank: Write a post, complete with video, about how you have taken outsourcing to the next level. You’re paying people to workout for you, to eat for you, sleep for you, watch TV for you, do literally everything. The vid would show you sitting in a chair in a white room,
cutting intermittently to people doing things with shirts that have “I am Tim Ferriss” on them. It would be f*ing HILARIOUS. You have to do this.”

Posted on: March 31, 2008.

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Comment Rules: Remember what Fonzie was like? Cool. That’s how we’re gonna be — cool. Critical is fine, but if you’re rude, we’ll delete your stuff. Please do not put your URL in the comment text and please use your PERSONAL name or initials and not your business name, as the latter comes off like spam. Have fun and thanks for adding to the conversation! (Thanks to Brian Oberkirch for the inspiration)

190 comments on “The Grand Illusion: The Real Tim Ferriss Speaks

  1. It REALLY bothers me that you would do that Tim. I’m all about outsourcing and reducing workload but the person who knows about that is you, from the experience you have and your past experiments. Honestly, I think hiring someone else to speak for you like this is wrong. I could understand if this were a company and you had a company spokes person, but I and probably many other readers thought it was you we were personally speaking with… not some pair that you hired. If you put your personal name on something like this, it should’ve be you.

    Like

  2. Tim,

    2 Kudos for you, amazing work.

    I’m just happy to have your friends Van and Roger filter through and respond to many of the comments. Very believable!

    I’m also proud they found my post(Septemberish) about using the ##|# to find(ctrl+f) and filter to your err I mean their replies to the many comments.

    Keep up the good words/works guys.

    Knowing isn’t doing what you need to do my son.
    Telling me that you know is only bluffing on the run.
    Knowing isn’t doing
    Doing isn’t know.
    Nothing but the knowing AND the doing get the job done.
    ~Unknown

    Like

  3. If you want other people to write your content for you, fine, but don’t lie about it. Have them sign it with their real names. That way they will get credit and you will remain honest. And it’s what many other popular blog sites do.

    And re your comments (in a story on a major news channel) that you “outsourced” your dating: I’m curious. Do you mean you outsource finding someone (but presumably go on the dates yourself)? That’s called the old fashioned shadchen or matchmaker. Nothing new about it. Outsourcing your email: most managers used to have someone (secretary) who would screen requests and handle those that didn’t need their personal attention. Again nothing new about it.

    As a doctor in training, who does not plan to outsource seeing his patients, and who will probably be working far more than 4 hours a day, I admit that yes, I undoubtedly should look at outsourcing some of the things that don’t need my personal time and attention. But the things I need done typically are hands on. And you know what? I’m a little reluctant to outsource my life. Why? Because in the long run, I can’t hire someone to die for me – and when that time comes, I want to be the one who has lived my life. Not someone else.

    Les
    Seattle, WA

    ###

    Hi Les,

    I think you might have missed this, but this post was an April Fool’s joke :) LOL… for your other points, I suggest you read the book and you’ll see we’re actually on the same page.

    Cheers,

    Tim

    Like

  4. @Dan and quite a few above,

    Guys, this post was an April Fool’s Day joke!!!

    Please be sure to read the postscript at the bottom of the post, my comments in green above, and the subsequent post titled “Happy Japanese April Fool’s Day”.

    Don’t be upset — we’re all friends here, and if it has my name on it, I wrote it :)

    Pura vida,

    Tim

    Like

  5. I got very suspicious when you said it wasn’t you. A woman from India will NOT and CAN NOT know many things that were mentioned in the blogs.

    Also my question: to what end you’ll be outsourcing your life? It seems to be excessive at some point.

    Like

  6. Pingback: Annelise Gadoury
  7. Interesting. You are quirky to the extreme. After having lived in America for several years all I can say is that more Americans should have your sense of humour!
    Whether you do or don’t write the blog, who cares??? People read it because they are mostly bored sh*tless of their mundane lives, their long commutes and living vicariously is the best they can muster – and well, for some, that is just as good.

    Like

  8. Hi Tim, i was referred to your book by my friends in the west coast of Canada, Winnipeg, i only saw the book title and i immediatly jumped on it. Purchased the book, read it in 2weeks and referred 10 of my closest friends and associates to your book. Firstly i would like to say, WOWWWWW, i never knew you won the Championship for Tango in Argentina. Your stories about Argentina, are very amusing, since i travel to Argentina frequently, for business and family. I speak the spanish language. Hopefully one day you can come in speak in Argentina. I would definitely promote you here in Argentina. By the way, i ended up buying 20 copies to distribute to my friends here in Argentina, lets just say..they are loving it and getting great results, especially when they meet Argentine woman. Thanks for your great book and the inspiring words of wisdom. Hope to see you in Argentina soon, your friendly Canadian in Argentina. Brian D

    ###

    Thanks so much for the comment, Brian! Look for me in BsAs in Jan-Feb of 2009 :)

    Tim

    Like

  9. Ok see you in January-Feb.2009, do you know if you will come to promote y our book or just pleasure. I am sure both.

    I look forward to seeing you in Jan.2009, since i will be here for 9 months or more. By the way, thanks Tim for the referral of YMII. 2 of my associates are using this great service.

    Cheers

    Brian

    Like

  10. Hahaha… You got me too.

    I was just telling my girlfriend: “you see that? I told you! I told you that I wanted to do it for my blog too”.
    (I got this idea after reading your book, in my bath, asking myself how would i could avoid loosing time writing in a professional blog…
    For me as a student, it’s a real added value to write a blog.
    Unless it’s “personal”, it’s kind of understandable to pay someone for it to save time…

    Just to tell you (finally), that my girlfriend is fed up with you: i never stop talking about your book, your ideas, YMII etc… And this for anything! Poor thing.

    Good joke
    All the best :)

    Ludovic (A Student from France)

    Like

  11. Great site and awesome book! Quick question with an ounce of background: I’m a writer and editor for a niche market and have finally left the 9-5+ job to do work from home and do the kind of stuff Tim talks about in his book, etc.

    Does anyone know if you can present a book series idea to a publisher–like the Dummies series, for example. I don’t mean a fiction series or one’s own series, but an idea for a series that would cover mutliple, related topics for a niche market. I’m qualified to write a couple of them, but they’d be easy to research/produce (could even outsource a lot), but I don’t know if I need to come up with a prototype first and/or get some sort of copyright or something for the idea. I haven’t had a lot of time to look into this as I’ve been working so much on freelance editing and on some books I have coming out next year. But I’d love to find a way to make a product like this automatic so I could focus on just the things I love and not on paying the bills.

    Also, Tim, if you ever read this yourself, the idea series could actually work well in combo with the ideas in your book for another way to sell your same material.

    Thanks!
    Angela

    Like

  12. Tim: I am so excited about your book that I want to make out with you! I told my husband that I wanted to send you that message. He didn’t think it was such a hot idea but I figured you won’t ever see it, you will outsource it; much to the disappointment of those above who would like to hear directly from you. Ummmm, did they read your book?

    Here is why I finally sent this message: WE NEED YOUR HELP! The state of California is cutting education back to nothing. The parents in our district are scrambling to raise the 7 million dollars required to save teacher’s jobs. After realizing that the plans in place include spaghetti night, selling pins and lemonade stands I broke into a cold sweat and called a meeting for anyone who might be interested in aiming for the fences. Two people showed up. O.K., it’s a start. I explained that it’s 80/20 rule time, my long time favorite but seldom applied rule (except when doing laundry or cleaning). I came home after meeting with my army of two and began setting up a website at http://www.savemyteachers.com. I pulled your book out to use a couple of quotes in the beginning of chapters and found this in front: SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL TEACHER- 10% of all author royalties are donated to educational not-for-profits, including Donorchoose.org.

    I can see it now: “The principles and author of The Four Hour Workweek help Capistrano Unified School District achieve the unachievable.” Seriously, my educational default plan has been in place long before I heard of your book: homeschool and travel. You have given me the roadmap and a good nudge. But from an altruistic viewpoint, the vast majority of students in our school have no default plan. Their education will be compromised if we fail.

    Thanks a million times over for steering our collective consciousness in the direction of quality living!

    Like

  13. Hi Tim (Van or Roger),

    I am an American living in Germany and really like the idea of personal outsourcing but it seems people in India do not speak German. Anyone who ready my mails or would help me with research would have to speak German. I asked Get Friday but they said that can’t do it. Ask Sunday is the same…. Do you know of any outsourcing possibilities for me. I suppose I could go us something like Get Friday to have them find me 3 or 4 people who meat the criteria. What do you think?

    Thanks.

    Like

  14. Just recently discovered your Blog with the Bigger Goals Equals Less Competition post, and thought you made good sense. Getting to know “You” (Tim? or the 2 Ghostwriters?) better, and coming across this – well, I’m not impressed.

    It’s your Blog. You can play all the tricks you want. But, this is just stupid. Especially in light of recent plagiarisms being revealed in print media, as well as the blogsphere. I see a lack of transperency and good sense.

    Reminds me (on a much smaller scale) of the the famous radio hoax pulled by Orson Welles. Well, can’t waste anymore of my four hours here! So long.

    Like

  15. Tim, add a bit more fun into your already fun-filled life by visiting the guys at Improv Everywhere and joining in one of their pranks:

    http://improveverywhere.com

    This website always makes me laugh and is a great read when I’m trying to kill time at the office coz I always finish my work so fast ;)

    Like

  16. Very well done. I have been outsourcing for a while now. My VA handles my call reports and power point presentations and perception is reality. I am making more money and closing more deals because I am not wasting time on the BS paperwork. It is great thanks for the great site, lots of fun and very inspirational. Go forth and do as little as you can.

    Like

  17. Very well done. I have been outsourcing for a while now. My VA handles my call reports and power point presentations and perception is reality. I am making more money and closing more deals because I am not wasting time on the BS paperwork. It is great thanks for the great site, lots of fun and very inspirational. Go forth and do as little as you can.

    Like

  18. Tim,

    I’m catching this one late but hilarious stunt. It leads to an important question though that I’ve had for a very long time.

    Which parts of social networking DO YOU outsource? Obviously the keep up of the posts, the videos, the links, the twitterering, etc. take longer than 4 hours a week. So while, like you, I’ll always provide the original content which pieces of the upkeep do you send to someone else?

    Thanks man. See you in the stairwell,
    Rory Vaden
    Take The Stairs

    Like

  19. I once made the mistake of shaving a monkey and sending him to work dressed as myself.

    Initially, I was afraid of getting caught by management but it went alot better than expected. Soon I was receiving productivity bonuses on my paychecks and the boss was taking the monkey for lunches and even after-work drinks. This was wonderful, as it gave me time to write this very blog comment. Then, one day, I came home and the monkey was doing my wife. Sad story, yes?

    Who’s the monkey now?

    Like

  20. I’m very impressed but I really wish someone would write a good article or short ebook on how exactly to go about the interview/hiring process with virtual workers, especially in regards to a work contract that makes all website content, etc., the property of the employer. I’ve wasted a lot of my own valuable time just trying to figure out to do this thing properly from the get-go. Thanks for everything!

    Like

  21. I just bought both your books, i hope to get a grip on my weight, and my life. Thank you for sharing your experiments with the world.

    There’s a lot more to India than outsourcing and call centers. You must visit my country someday. We’re pretty good with Yoga, the Kamasutra and have our own take on fitness and wellness.

    Here’s wishing you all the best with your endeavors. I am tracking my progress and will write to you with my results.

    Warm regards,

    Pranaadhika Sinha Devburman
    India.

    Like

  22. Loved it, but am I the only one that was disappointed it was an April Fools joke!?

    My point – On page nineteen of their book, The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing, Al Ries and Jack Trout write “The perception is the reality. Everything else is an illusion.” So, If the reader thinks Tim wrote the article then in their mind he did!

    Like

  23. I see why someone could get worked up about this, and for a few seconds I was going down that route until I stopped my impulses. Yes, we all read this blog because of Tim Ferris and we obviously want him to be writing the content.
    However, just from reading his book, the character of Tim Ferris becomes quite obvious. He is a person who is unpredictable and often does shocking things which might be considered not cool from the start. So should we really be surprised here? The way I see it is that he is yet again challenging us.

    Observation….. it’s amazing how much we care about the ‘brand’, in this case Tim Ferris.

    Another observation….. why are all these smart VA’s working for $4 an hour? and what is the world going to do when they take over?

    Like