Tim Ferriss Scam! Practical Tactics for Dealing with Haters


Brute force seldom works with haters. Redirection does. (Photo: Deadstar 2.0)

I recently spent a week in Amsterdam enjoying bicycles, canals, Queensday, and… ahem… coffee shops. For real. Honest. The best coffee I’ve had in Europe has to be De Koffie Salon.

I also gave a short keynote at The NextWeb about how to deal with haters, protect yourself from (some) media, respond to FlipCams, and other personal branding self-defense 101.

Think you have crazy people contacting you or commenting on your blog? Me too. I share some of my favorite hater e-mails, Amazon reviews, and voicemails. It’ll make you feel better to hear the stories.

It is possible to learn to love haters. But it does take some know-how and tactical planning…

I elaborated on a few points in an interview in the Netherlands with Amy-Mae Elliot, who originally posted them on Mashable in her piece Tim Ferriss: 7 Great Principles for Dealing with Haters:

1. It doesn’t matter how many people don’t get it. What matters is how many people do.

“It’s critical in social media, as in life, to have a clear objective and not to lose sight of that,” Ferriss says. He argues that if your objective is to do the greatest good for the greatest number of people or to change the world in some small way (be it through a product or service), you only need to pick your first 1,000 fans — and carefully. “As long as you’re accomplishing your objectives, that 1,000 will lead to a cascading effect,” Ferriss explains. “The 10 million that don’t get it don’t matter.”

2. 10% of people will find a way to take anything personally. Expect it.

“People are least productive in reactive mode,” Ferriss states, before explaining that if you are expecting resistance and attackers, you can choose your response in advance, as opposed to reacting inappropriately. This, Ferriss says, will only multiply the problem. “Online, I see people committing ’social media suicide’ all the time by one of two ways. Firstly by responding to all criticism, meaning you’re never going to find time to complete important milestones of your own, and by responding to things that don’t warrant a response.” This, says Ferriss, lends more credibility by driving traffic.

3. “Trying to get everyone to like you is a sign of mediocrity.” (Colin Powell)

“If you treat everyone the same and respond to everyone by apologizing or agreeing, you’re not going to be recognizing the best performers, and you’re not going to be improving the worst performers,” Ferriss says. “That guarantees you’ll get more behavior you don’t want and less you do.” That doesn’t mean never respond, Ferriss goes on to say, but be “tactical and strategic” when you do.

4. “If you are really effective at what you do, 95% of the things said about you will be negative.” (Scott Boras)

“This principle goes hand-in-hand with number two,” Ferriss says. “I actually keep this quote in my wallet because it is a reminder that the best people in almost any field are almost always the people who get the most criticism.” The bigger your impact, explains Ferriss (whose book is a New York Times, WSJ and BusinessWeek bestseller), and the larger the ambition and scale of your project, the more negativity you’ll encounter. Ferriss jokes he has haters “in about 35 languages.”

5. “If you want to improve, be content to be thought foolish and stupid.” (Epictetus)

“Another way to phrase this is through a more recent quote from Elbert Hubbard,” Ferriss says. “‘To avoid criticism, do nothing, say nothing, and be nothing.” Ferriss, who holds a Guinness World Record for the most consecutive tango spins, says he has learned to enjoy criticism over the years. Ferriss, using Roman philosophy to expand on his point, says: “Cato, who Seneca believed to be the perfect stoic, practiced this by wearing darker robes than was customary and by wearing no tunic. He expected to be ridiculed and he was, he did this to train himself to only be ashamed of those things that are truly worth being ashamed of. To do anything remotely interesting you need to train yourself to be effective at dealing with, responding to, even enjoying criticism… In fact, I would take the quote a step further and encourage people to actively pursue being thought foolish and stupid.”

6. “Living well is the best revenge.” (George Herbert)

“The best way to counter-attack a hater is to make it blatantly obvious that their attack has had no impact on you,” Ferriss advises. “That, and [show] how much fun you’re having!” Ferriss goes on to say that the best revenge is letting haters continue to live with their own resentment and anger, which most of the time has nothing to do with you in particular. “If a vessel contains acid and you pour some on an object, it’s still the vessel that sustains the most damage,” Ferriss says. “Don’t get angry, don’t get even — focus on living well and that will eat at them more than anything you can do.”

7. Keep calm and carry on.

The slogan “Keep Calm and Carry On” was originally produced by the British government during the Second World War as a propaganda message to comfort people in the face of Nazi invasion. Ferriss takes the message and applies it to today’s world. “Focus on impact, not approval. If you believe you can change the world, which I hope you do, do what you believe is right and expect resistance and expect attackers,” Ferriss concludes. “Keep calm and carry on!”


One of my favorite authors, Nassim N. Taleb of Black Swan fame, e-mailed me the following aphorism today, which was perfect timing and perfectly put:

Robustness is when you care more about the few who like your work than the multitude who hates it (artists); fragility is when you care more about the few who hate your work than the multitude who loves it (politicians).

Choose to be robust.

Posted on: May 18, 2010.

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473 comments on “Tim Ferriss Scam! Practical Tactics for Dealing with Haters

  1. Great tips dude! Haters are just jealous of other people’s success because they will never have it. I’ve always admired people that are where I want to be because that’s the only way to get there. By hating on people that are where you want to be, you are telling the universe you don’t want that kind of success and you’ll never get it.


  2. Hey Tim, I had a discussion with my father about this earlier today. I had posted something on my facebook profile that he considered was “unprofessional” and I thought it was just pretty funny. I know that he has my best interest at heart, but he also has been successful living in the corporate life. He mentioned that people will not want to buy from me if they know that I thought something was funny that could be offensive in some way or another. Isn’t that what makes humor what it is though?

    I know that there are going to be people who completely despise how open and honest I am about who I am, but there will also be the group who absolutely loves me for it. Should I focus on listening to his advice or keep being me and just dealing with those people who are understanding of it and are my true fans?

    Thanks in advance!


  3. All true, and since we are quoting people here, my favorite saying about haters is from Katt Williams (to paraphrase): “What you need is more haters. If you don’t have at least 20 haters, then you can’t be doing that much.”

    Both Thomas Aquinas and Napoleon Hill have said that they learned much about their failings from their enemies.


  4. Just 10%??? Wow… sometimes it seems like a lot more. I’ve only watched the first 5 minutes of video, so I’ll have to watch it later tonight when I’ve got some more time.

    It seems that a few months ago you wrote something on your blog to the effect that you can’t try to please everyone… As someone who enjoys making sure people feel comfortable and naturally avoids confrontation, I’m learning that confrontation isn’t bad as I try to do what I feel is best. There will always be people who confront you and think you suck–it just takes some getting used to is all.

    Can’t wait to watch the rest of the video.

    Cheers from Utah!


    • Yeah, the 10% is something called the ‘vocal minority’. Happy people usually don’t have much to complain or whine about and the secure people usually don’t feel the need to degrade or attack someone else to make themselves feel better.

      I always think of an animal documentary. Animals raise their hackles and growl at stuff that make them feel afraid or threatened. :P


  5. Thanks Tim. This is great advice. I have a popular youtube page and i used to go CRAZY when the “Trolls” would talk trash on my videos. i once spent a full day trading insults with a 14 year old kid!!! lol, now thanks to one of your earlier blog post, i just have my assistant delete negative post. thanks!

    P.S. you book changed my life, i make my full income from the net now! I can not thank you enough


  6. “In fact, I would take the quote a step further and encourage people to actively pursue being thought foolish and stupid.”

    This is interesting. I was that kid that was bullied in school. Sometime after college, I realized I like me and started doing things specifically to stand out. I have a hot pink iPod, for example. All my friends say nothing about it because they know I don’t care what people think. Strangers look at it and shy away from me. It doesn’t -mean- anything and yet strangers act like it’s this huge problem for a big burly guy to have a pink iPod.

    Since I’ve been doing things like that, I have gotten a lot better with criticism. Some of that is my mental change that allowed the behavior, but the behavior has been self-reinforcing as well.


  7. Decided to watch the video right now anyway… couldn’t wait.

    “Focus on people who value relationships over transactions.”

    Excellent advice. People who value transactions are there to cause a stir, to do something just for the immediate attention–and more often than not it’s negative.

    As part of your advice, I’d say, make sure you’re one of those types of people who value relationships as well. Be the type of person you want to attract.

    Great video Tim, thanks.


  8. There is always going to be haters. Btw Tim I tried to contact you via Twitter from @JoeHobot account.

    Anyway I got your book yesterday and I read (listened) 85% of it by today!!! Yeah i sleep only 4hrs per day.

    So about those haters , don’t bother and don’t even bother your self with returning them a favor of explaining things…use them in positive way.



  9. All’s I know is I’m glad you’ve gone ahead and said it like you mean it, *especially* when you know it’s controversial. Good example for me.

    Your panache and “extremeness” is exactly what made me sit up and pay attention to what you have to say.


  10. Once read that the opposite of love isn’t hate, it’s indifference. If some people love you and others hate, usually means you’re doing something right.

    Great talk.

    PS – Love the tattoo gimmick. Well-played.


  11. Tim:

    Great reminder. The only one getting shot at is the one sticking his head up above the crowd. Stay down in the crowd to not get criticized. But of course you will accomplish nothing more than follow the crowd.

    The big question is whether to live life safely with mediocrity or live boldly with the opportunity to accomplish great things.

    Having been in high profile positions before and received my share of criticism, I’ve said often our choice is not whether everyone will like us. They won’t. Our only choice is who will like us. Make sure it is the ones that matter to you most.

    Thanks for the post


  12. Im right in the middle of “The Fountainhead” by Ayn Rand and I’m seeing a lot of parallels between the way Howard Roark deals with criticism and your suggestions here. I dont know what your views are on objectivism and individualism but, in any case, I like the operating system you’ve presented here.