How to Use Philosophy as a Personal Operating System: From Seneca to Musashi

167 Comments


(Photo credit: Graphistolage)

The following interview is a slightly modified version of an interview that just appeared on BoingBoing.

It explores philosophical systems as personal operating systems (for better decision-making), the value of college and MBAs, and the bridge between business and military strategy, among other things.

Avi first reached out to discuss my practical obsession with the philosopher Lucius Seneca, so that’s where we start…

From Seneca to Musashi…

Avi Solomon: How did you get to Seneca?

Tim Ferriss: I came to Seneca by looking at military strategies. A lot of military writing is based on Stoic philosophical principles. The three cited sources are — first — Marcus Aurelius and his book Meditations, which was effectively a war campaign journal. The second is Epictetus and his handbook Enchiridion, which I find difficult to read. The last is Seneca and, because Seneca was translated from Latin to English as opposed to from Greek to English, and also because he was a very accomplished writer and a playwright, I find his readings to be more memorable and actionable.

So, Seneca came to me through a number of different vehicles. First, through the study of war and war strategy. Second was through philosophers like Thoreau and Emerson who were also fans of Seneca. Thirdly, was when I was really embracing minimalism and trying to eliminate the trivial many, both materially and otherwise. From a business standpoint, Seneca is constantly cited by people in the “less is more” camp of philosophical thought.

Part of what appealed to me about Seneca was the similarity I found between his brand of stoic thought and the brands of Buddhism and Zen Buddhism that were practiced by people like Musashi Miyamoto. He wrote The Book of Five Rings and is also the most famous Japanese swordsman in history.

Avi: Did you also read James Stockdale?

Tim: Absolutely. You said James Stockdale, right? He was in a POW camp.

Avi: Yeah, in Vietnam.

Tim: Yeah, absolutely. He would be one of dozens of military leaders who have embraced Stoicism to survive and to win in combat.

Avi: Do you have a favorite letter of Seneca?

Tim: Offhand, it would be hard for me to choose a single one. The first that comes to mind is “On the Shortness of Life,” which is more of an essay. I’ve read Letters from a Stoic at least 50 times and I tend to find different letters appropriate and helpful at different times.

Avi: There’s a difference between reading and doing. How do you apply this in your daily life?

Tim: It’s really, for me, the base foundation of an operating system for decision making, and I’ll explain what I mean by that. I don’t view philosophy as an idle form of intellectual masturbation. I really view good philosophy as a set of rules that allows you to make better decisions. What Stoicism helps you to develop is a value system that allows you to take calculated risks, which I think is very effective for entrepreneurs.

So, in very simple terms, stoicism and, by extension, Seneca teaches you to value only those things that cannot be taken away, meaning you would actively practice poverty, for example, subsisting on the meagerest of food and clothing for, let’s just say, one week every two months. The way Seneca would phrase it is all the while asking yourself, “Is this the condition I so feared?”

That type of practice – and I do view it as a practice, just like you view meditation as a practice and I don’t think it’s entirely coincidence that Marcus Aurelius’ book is called Meditations – helps you to live life offensively as opposed to defensively. So, I would say that on a daily basis I revert to some of the basic principles of stoicism to make decisions about where to invest my time, which relationships to cultivate, which relationships to sever so forth and so on.

Avi: And it’s also making you comfortable with failure. The essence of entrepreneurship is being OK with failure and with having fears.

Tim: Yes, absolutely. It also helps condition you so that you don’t have emotional overreactions to things that you can’t control and I think that’s very, very helpful. Critical even, not only for competitive advantage but for quality of life.

Avi: Do you have a generic method for hacking some advanced skill set. You seem to have hacked so many advanced topics that you must have a method to your madness!

Tim: Well, I do have a method and it’s really a series of questions more than anything else. It’s almost a Socratic process but I would say that, first and foremost, I have to have a very clear, measurable objective, whether that’s in language acquisition or in power lifting.

The common element is measurement, so you need to know when you have succeeded and how to measure progress to that success point, whether that’s a 500 pound dead lift or a 50 kilometer ultra marathon or getting to the point where you can do, let’s say, a single lap in an Olympic pool with 15 or fewer strokes. These are all real examples. The number of footfalls, meaning stride rate, per minute in endurance training and how long I can sustain that for say with a goal of 20 minutes at a time. Or a 95 percent fluency in conversational German as measured through different metrics. Again, all real examples.

So the first is measurement. I have a clear idea of what success looks like and how to measure it.

Secondly, I will look at the most common approaches, which are, oftentimes, the lowest common denominator but have some thread of efficacy. I will ask, “What if I did the opposite?” I’ll look at the established common practices, the established dogma, and ask myself what if I did the opposite.

If it’s endurance training, let’s look at Iron Man training, and the average is 20-30 hours of training per week for people in the upper quartile. What if I limited that to five or fewer hours per week? What would I have to do? How could I make this type of training work, or perhaps be more effective, if I had to focus on low volume instead of high volume? The same could be said of weight training. The same could be said of language learning.

If someone says it takes a lifetime to learn a language or it should take 10 years, what if I had to compress that into 10 weeks? I know it’s “impossible,” but what if? And if they say that vocabulary comes first because we should learn as we did when we were a child, which I completely disagree with – it’s entirely unfounded – what if you were to start with a radicals (Japanese/Chinese) or grammar instead?

So, flipping things on their heads and looking at opposites can provide some very surprising discoveries and shortcuts.

Thirdly, I look for anomalies. For any given skill, there’s going to be an archetype of someone should be successful at that skill. If it’s swimming, for example, it would be someone with the build of Michael Phelps. They would have a long wingspan, relatively tall, big hands, big feet and large lung capacity. So, if I can find someone who defies those anatomical proportions — say, someone who’s 5′ 5″, extremely heavily muscled, like 250, who is still an effective swimmer — I want to study what the anomalies practice because attributes can compensate for poor training. I want to find someone who lacks the attributes that can allow them to compensate for poor training.

Typically, you find much more refined approaches when you look at the anomalies. That’s true for any skill I have looked at, whether that’s programming or otherwise. So, let’s just take computer programming. If the common belief is that someone should start with language A, then progress to framework B and then progress to language C, if I can find someone who skipped those first two steps and is regarded as one of the best programmers in language C, I’m going to look closely at how they developed that skill set. In some cases, it correlates to their use of analogies and background from music or natural languages (for example, Derek Sivers or Chad Fowler)

Then I would say, lastly, is a set of questions related to rate of progress. So I don’t just look at the best people in the world; I look at people who have improved upon their base condition in the shortest period of time possible.

Let’s say I’m looking at muscular gain. I would certainly interview the person who’s, let’s say, 300 pounds and 7% body fat, but there’s a very good chance that I’ll learn more from the person who’s put on 50 pounds for the first time in their life in the last 12 months. So, I always try to establish the rate of progress and, when that person has plateaued at different points, for what duration. I find that exceptionally helpful also for finding non-obvious solutions to problems.

Avi: Thanks, I would call that a meta-hack! It might take a while to digest but it could drive a lot of things in many different domains.

Tim: Oh, sure. That’s the framework that I overlay on any skill I’m looking to analyze and hack.

Avi: So like in language learning, you have one critical sentence I think.

Tim: Right. Each of these different skill sets will have certain domain-specific approaches, but in the case of languages, a big part of learning language quickly is teaching native speakers to deconstruct their own language for you. You only do that through very refined questioning, because they’re not going to be able to explain to you the difference between abstract concepts.

If you say, “What’s the difference between ‘anything’ and ‘something’?” the average native English speaker’s not going to give you a good answer, but if you know how to ask them for comparisons properly and you can simply ask them to, perhaps, provide five or six examples of various types then you can get your answer [so, focusing on deductive learning vs. inductive]. You can essentially use a lateral approach to get your answers. So, in my particular case, it had determined that we had eight to twenty sentences of various types, if you have them translated effectively. Fortunately for native English speakers most of the world is forced to study English or chooses to study English.

If you translate those 8 to 20 sentences, you’ll have a very good grasp of auxiliary verbs, sentence structure, like subject-object-verb versus subject-verb-object, how indirect objects, direct objects are treated, how personal pronouns are treated, etc., and it only takes 8-20 sentences to get all of that onto one sheet of paper. So, it’s entirely possible to become fluent in almost any language. Conversationally fluent – there’s a problem with definition there – so that’s a longer conversation, but effectively what most people would consider conversationally fluent in 8-12 weeks.

Avi: So again, there’s also the traces of Pareto’s law there.

Tim: Without a doubt. The material you choose is oftentimes more important than the method you use, so it’s important to have an understanding of high frequency versus rote memorization from a textbook that doesn’t do any kind of analysis of frequency of occurrence, for example.

Avi: Food, for example, you boil it down to eggs and spinach first thing in the morning.

Tim: Exactly. In behavioral change related to diet, small changes are more effective than big changes. The abandonment rate is less, so I would say give someone a very simple prescription, like 30 grams of protein within 30 minutes of waking up, and that could take the form of a few hard boiled eggs and spinach, a few hard boiled eggs and lentils, it could be scrambled, certainly, or you could simply have them consume 30 grams of unflavored whey protein with cold water. I think that in the world of behavioral change, simple works.

Avi: I remember you saying that access to rich experiences doesn’t have to cost a lot of money. Can you expand on that?

Tim: The perception is…let me first take a step back: Most people have a number, a fairly arbitrary number, usually influenced by their peer group, which is a financial target, typically an amount of money in liquid assets like a checking account. So that could be “once I have a million dollars, I won’t have to worry about anything.” “Once I have five million dollars, I won’t have to worry about anything.” “Once I make 250,000 dollars a year, I won’t have to worry about anything.”

That number is typically arrived at with no calculation of what their ideal lifestyle actually costs and the question I like to pose is if you had 20 million dollars, 50 million, 100 million in the bank, after the first month or two of going crazy of buying all the toys and doing all the ridiculous girls gone wild stuff, what would you actually spend your time on a daily basis, monthly, weekly, and what would you like to do and what would you like to have? And then you can sit down and cost those things out and for most people it very seldom costs more than, let’s say, 150,000 dollars a year. [Here is an ideal lifestyle calculator to test this for yourself.]

And what we find is even to privately charter a private airplane in Patagonia, which I did or in my particular case also in the wine county in Argentina, it cost me, I think it was, less than 300 dollars for effectively a half day and that included gasoline costs, or to live on a private island in Panama, especially a research island, to go snorkeling and scuba diving every day, that cost similarly less than 500 dollars.

And what you find is that the deferred-life plan which is based on retirement and redeeming these experiences, that are most valuable in your peak physical years, is a false paradigm. It’s a very Faustian bargain and bad bet. So when I say that having incredible experiences, once in a lifetime experiences, is generally less expensive than people think, it simply results from sitting down and costing those out. So if you want an Aston Martin DB9, there are definitely ways you can do that for 1,500 dollars a month, even if you purchase. And to postpone all of these bucket list experiences until 50, 60 years old or beyond is, I think, a very bad wager.

Avi: So that kind of leads me to the other question I have, which is about college or MBAs. Is college a scam in terms of lost opportunity cost or investment? If you’d rather invest the money, like 40,000 a year, with the added advantage of not being in debt?

Tim: So I’m going to leave aside the debt question, as that’s a very personal question. I have different views of, let’s say, a liberal arts undergraduate degree versus an MBA. I don’t think the objective of a liberal arts education is to train you for a single profession. I view the value of a liberal arts education as making you a well rounded human being, and to that extent I think it’s a very worthwhile investment. The real world doesn’t go away once you enter it, so I don’t see any particular rush in jumping into income generation if you have the option of cultivating yourself through a good liberal arts program. I don’t regret having gone to college at all and I would recommend it to most people who can afford it or find a way to afford it, even if that puts them into debt for limited amount of time.

When you start looking at professional programs like law school or MBAs, then I have a less favorable opinion simply because they’re so specific, and they’re designed to train you for a specific career path. If you’re not confident that is your career path, I view it as a huge opportunity cost and financial burden.

But if your goal is to reach the pinnacle of success in investment banking or management consulting, where an MBA is effectively a prerequisite to have certain job titles, then that is a good investment of your time, if that is your chosen path. It requires being very honest with yourself about your motives. So if you’re going to business school, as I would say at least half of the students do, because they want a two-year vacation, an excuse to party and decompress that looks good on the resume, that’s fine, but don’t fool yourself into thinking that that’s the best way to gain practical business experiences, which it is not.

I would much prefer to take someone who’s interested in becoming a competent deal maker or business development icon and put them into a start up of, let’s say 15 to 50 people, in a position where they can work directly with the CEO or one of the top deal makers or negotiators in the company like a VP of Business Dev. or a VP of Sales.

An MBA buffers your decision making from the consequences of the real world. It’s fantastic if you can sit down in a Harvard case study and determine what the best decision is for a company that you have no vested interest in. It’s quite a different story when you’re sitting across the table from someone who has 20 years more experience negotiating than you do and you have millions of dollars at stake that will personally affect you and affect everyone at your company. Theoretically, you might understand what to do, but you need practice in the trenches to be able to respond properly in those circumstances or you’ll fuck it up.

Avi: What would be advice to a smart kid in high school today?

Tim: I would say choose your friends wisely. You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with. Choose your peer group wisely and if you can’t find the type of mentors that you’re looking for in person, find them through books and don’t be biased towards the latest and greatest. I think that you can certainly learn just as much, if not more, from Seneca and Benjamin Franklin by just reading their writings, as you can from the hot CEO of the moment.

In closing, and to that point, here are just a few of my favorite passages from Letter XVIII from “Letters from a Stoic“:

For more, grab the hardcopy or Kindle above, or you can find the entire public domain version of Letters from a Stoic here. It might just change your life.

###

To see my highlighted notes (thus far) from the incredible book, Benjamin Franklin: An American Life, just click here. To see *all* of my highlights on this and other books, which I’ll make public soon, simply follow me on Amazon here. Hope you enjoy!

Posted on: May 18, 2011.

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.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

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)

167 comments on “How to Use Philosophy as a Personal Operating System: From Seneca to Musashi

      • I devoured Seneca’s letters and am now looking forward to daily meditations to really digest it. Could not have come at a better time for me. I have given away two personal copies of 4HWW to friends in the past. One friend is teaching English overseas now for a year in Hanoi and is really enjoying a new life with more purpose. I have two sons and enjoy devoting a lot of time towards them. Brainstorming M.U.S.E. ideas so that I can fund my lifetime teaching and coaching of them ;) Thanks again man. Hope you are enjoying safe and happy travels.

        Like

      • I love the hacking part. I have been looking for this for a long time, esp after watching Yabusame. I had to highlight word for word what you said in this post and am sure to be using it for my next projects. You are too much, Tim! Am sold completely.

        Like

      • I have a question on the slow carb diet is Hummus allowed to be eaten like lentils or black beans since it is made from gabanzo beans and tahini? I want to know because I would like to start including it.

        Like

      • What is this I read about an amazon list? Do you have a list of books on amazon that I can look though or something?

        P.S. Thanks for the FHWW & 4Hr body.

        Like

  1. Tim

    Your posting comes at the right time. I am trying to figure out how to hack becoming a life coach. Any ideas?

    Leonard

    Like

    • I’d say do it as he says. Find the best in your field, model after them. Most importantly, follow his guideset for hacking skills. Life coaching is applicable.

      Like

  2. Tim,

    How would you describe your thought system – 4-hr Work Week, 4-hr Body, Body & mental hacks, etc. It’s not pure stoicism, and definitely not neo-stoicism.

    What do you call your philosophy?

    Like

  3. Tim, for someone who is interested in getting the experience of a start-up instead of getting their MBA where would you recommend these people look?

    Are there certain forums or groups that I could join to find start-ups that would fit this criteria? I have a small business right now that I am slowly growing but would love to have the additional experience of working with another start-up. Would it be worth my time to do that or should I continue to focus exclusively on my business?

    Thanks,
    Chris

    Like

    • Ofcourse there’s other start ups you can join. Having a start up of my own I have to say that there’s tons of entrepreneurship clubs and seminars going on in your area. All you have to do is attend the events and build up the right network.

      Google StartUp Weekend for example, they’re pretty awesome.

      Like

  4. Tim,

    For posts like this your blog is on my rss feed and google reader. To be honest, last few months I didn’t read all your posts as thoroughly as I used to do a year ago. They felt a little bit forced and not ‘timeless’ like your earlier posts. But with a post like this and the Random Show, you are back in the game.

    Irrespective of all these, I will keep on reading everything your publish on the web. Because the guy who can write T4HWW is worthy of reading every line he publishes.

    Cheers.
    Torumoy.

    Like

  5. Great read. For me it comes across as a distillation of all your main principles. I read Letters of a Stoic, based on your recommendation, and I truly enjoyed it. It made me think of how rare stoicism, but important, can be in the world we live in today. And how much I admire the stoics in the world. My dad use to work construction and told me once that the was the guy who used to come by and suck the fecal matter out of the Porta Potties. Everyone would go hang out with this guy while he did this because he was the happiest guy in the world and brightened everyone’s day while doing some of the worst work out there. Everyone admired who he was and not what he did professionally. My dad use to say that this man carried the secret to the universe. There is just something magical about a true stoic.

    Like

  6. Dude, I just want you to know how helpful your stuff has been. I’m working away at doing things that I would’ve never had the opportunity to do without the books/blog. I’m finding it easier and easier to do things that my friends just shake their head at and ask…”WTF? How do you do this stuff?” I’ve gifted the 4hww to so many people that i’m losing count. (The last one was to the guy looking at repairing my badass little waterfall two days ago at the new house I told you about in one of my previous post comments.)

    I had high hopes when you posted the Opening the Kimono scholarship, but I think the vid fell short of conveying what I’ve been able to do. The upside is that I even benefitted from that hugely by learning to use imovie and screenflow in like a day and a half which i’m now going to use to complete a hugely useful product for my site. I WILL have the money to make it to an event you put on in the future without winning a contest, but I will still enter them because I think they’re a blast and an adventure in and of themselves.

    Its just amazing…Someday, i’ll write a guest post for you that illustrates the what, how, why, and everything i’ve learned using stuff you’ve produced and recommended as a jumping off point. You will love it…and it’ll go a long way to gettng others to see what’s possible even if they’re not “Tim”.

    Anyways, thanks so much. You are appreciated.

    Paul C.

    Like

  7. Tim,

    This is one of my favorite posts so far! It’s funny that you mention, “I would much prefer to take someone who’s interested in becoming a competent deal maker or business development icon and put them into a start up…” because I was just having this conversation with a good friend. I want to go into finance and investment(and become a CFP) as a means to an end but am not sure school is the best choice for me at this point. Part of the reason is that getting an MBA is only one small piece of the puzzle the other key is networking and being able to get your foot in the door. Do you know of any startups that are offering the opportunity to gain first hand knowledge and and experience like what you speak of? Feel free to email me as well. I’d really appreciate your help and insight.

    -Elvin

    Like

  8. “And to postpone all of these bucket list experiences until 50, 60 years old or beyond is, I think, a very bad wager.” …Made me think. It’s about time I change that bucket list of mine and check out your Ideal Lifestyle Calculator. Cheers!

    Like

    • Celeste

      I wholely agree with you. Been to your sight. What a GREAT bucket list for such a young woman. Dont wait until your 50 or 60 to DO what you want from life. One of the gifts Tim’s blog gives me is the opportunity to see how other people are living out their dreams.

      Remember life is really an illusion. You can be who ever you want to be. The opportunities are unlimited for anyone who gets it. Tim you and everyone who contributes to this blog demonstrate that with each posting.

      Go and live out your life you only live once. I am 48 and just overcoming a second life changing experience. When you loose something that defined you for so long the mindset changes. Been having the best AHA moments since this happened. I thank people like Tim you and all the other 4HWW people for their inspirational stories. Makes my heart sing with hope purpose and happiness.

      Go and Be DO and HAVE the life you want. Dont wait for someone to give it to you. It is all there for the taking. Enjoy

      Leonard

      Like

  9. “…don’t have emotional overreactions to things that you can’t control…”

    couldn’t agree more

    I find that meditation helps with this tremendously.

    Like

  10. Hey Tim,

    Great stuff here, big fan of Seneca as well. Any takes on learning music and playing instruments at an accelerated rate? Trying to get a better hold of learning guitar, not too sure how soon I’ll hit 10,000 hours of practice ;-)

    Like

    • Look at the book “Effortless Mastery” by Kenny Werner. It’s one of my favorites (I’ve re-read it 4 times and I’m not a musician) and has timeless lessons for life, not just for music.

      Like

  11. Tim,

    Awesome post!
    “And what you find is that the deferred-life plan which is based on retirement and redeeming these experiences, that are most valuable in your peak physical years, is a false paradigm.”…. I couldn’t agree with you more. After becoming “well rounded” and learning how to critically think at college I moved to Edinburgh, Scotland to refine my rugby “skill set” and it was way less money than I ever expected! 3 bedroom flat right in the shadow of Edinburgh Castle where I was paying less than $400usd/mo!
    Now I’m back state side working for a very small corporate turnaround firm gaining more real world business experience than any MBA program could give me, and am currently testing and refining my muse (thanks to the 4HWW) in hopes that I can generate enough cash flow to travel, re-learn spanish, and serve underdeveloped areas with my beautiful girlfriend!
    I love these posts man, keep it up!

    Cheers,
    Dan

    Like

    • I just googled “turnaround firm” to see what it meant and it seems really cool! Are they a lot of firms that do this, because I’m interested in learning more about it!

      Like

  12. Notes for all yous!

    Advanced Hacking Questions:

    1)Measure
    What does success look like and how do I measure it?

    2)Least Common Effective Approach
    What is the established dogmatic approach to mastery?
    How could I do the exact opposite while maintaining efficacy?

    3)Anomalies
    Who are the atypical (norms-defying) and successful masters of X skillset?
    What specific techniques and practices do they do that MUST be accomplished to be successful (since they cannot compensate with natural ability)?

    4)Fastest Progression
    Who has achieved mastery in a fraction of the time most do? What do they do differently?

    Like

      • Cliff notes are easy, Tim, introducing ideas that have an impact is not.

        So many personal thanks, and I’m sure I speak for all of us. Cheers! I’ve had so much fun using your ideas!
        -Denny

        Like

    • I find hard defining success that I could measure against when the thing I’m going for I’m doing for the first time. recently I have capitulated and decided that NIKE has been right all along. Now that I’ve included “just do it” into my vocabulary, I believe that doing and then measuring against my own progress is the way to go.

      On the other hand it’s hard for me to admit that I’m still not comfortable with contacting people who have achieved success and even find it hard deciding who I should contact and why. I can see from your post that it’s possible to measure someone else’s success first.

      Thank you Denny for the useful digestion and Tim for another evergreen ;)

      regards

      Daniel

      Like

  13. I really enjoyed the part about “rich experiences.” Most people or even business owners tend to believe that once they have a set dollar amount they don’t have to “do work” ever again….if the value they were making money from was considered as “work” in the first place – where is the personal fulfillment? You are likely to blow it all with that mentality.

    With reference to the lifestyle calculator – when i first got out of college, i was lucky enough to make a job paying about 90K. Since it was the first time i was making that kind of money i blew it all on fancy gadgets and the “girls gone wild stuff.” Yet after all said and done (layoffs included) i had nothing to show for it. Experiences > Material Comfort.

    Now at 45K (and some snazzy budgeting) i have traveled to more places, experienced more cultures and made more friends which i would be hard pressed to trade for a higher paying job.

    Great read Tim.

    Like

  14. Hi Tim, the Seneca quotes you read are great.

    The last one:
    “For no one is worthy of a god unless he has paid no heed to riches. I am not, mind you, against your possessing them, but I want to ensure that you possess them without tremors…”

    — it reminds me a lot of two related concepts I came across, “Living with one foot raised”, and “Cultivating an attitude of indifference” – both expounded in the book, Heroic Leadership, by Chris Lowney.

    It is, with no exaggeration, one of the best books I have ever read.

    Like

    • I love that quote: “until you possess them without tremors,”….and would add,….I feel it is equally profound wisdom applied to relationships, careers, experiences, etc. How liberating (and challenging?!) to fully enjoy the riches of life, both material and immaterial, without attachment to them. Thanks Tim for the post. Would love to see you expound on this kind of thing,….in particular the philosophical points that you use to live by. One of my greatest focuses in writing, teaching, etc. is to find that which you can actually apply: that which provides actual results in your life. Otherwise it is meaningless (to me, well, unless it is just comical :)). It is a constant process of experimentation and refinement. Thanks.

      Like

  15. @Tom

    Here are my tips for reducing time spent learning a musical instrument:

    1) Get a good teacher

    You can get a lot of things right by yourself but you won’t know what you’re getting wrong. A cheap teacher is a false economy.

    2) Learn stuff you love

    Forget technical exercises. If a technical problem crops up in a piece master it then. If it never crops up you don’t need to.

    3) Accuracy not speed

    Aim for accuracy and the speed will come of its own accord. You can’t do it the other way round.

    4) Apply the Pareto principle when practicing

    It’s natural to want to play a piece straight through, but you have to practice the difficult parts in isolation.

    5) Don’t practice until you can get it right, practice until you can’t get it wrong

    Like the last rep on a weights workout, it’s repeating something once you’ve got it right that makes it stick.

    Lastly, a word of warning: while you might be able to achieve “95% fluency with 20% of the effort” for some definition of fluency, it’s the extra 5% that makes the difference between selling out Madison Square Garden and sounding like everyone else.

    Good luck and enjoy. ;-)

    Like

    • wow, Benedict, this is fantastic! I feel that your simple list is more than just a way to learn to play an instrument. You have here something much more versatile. I would say that it could even apply to business. Let’s say you build a website and you get it right, and have a few visitors. It doesn’t mean that you can stop there if you wanted more visitors. You still need to keep building more links to it, and more relationships with other website owners.
      Does it make sense?

      Regards

      Daniel

      Like