The Tim Ferriss Podcast, Ep 15: Neil Strauss, Author of The Game


Listen on iTunes, download (right click and “save as”), or stream it in the below player now:

This episode is brought to you by…you guys. To help keep this podcast going, please check out the Tim Ferriss Book Club, where, every 1-2 months, I highlight one book that’s changed my life. Here are the first four books.

Now, on to our guest… Neil Strauss!

You asked for him as a guest, so here he is. We had a blast, and I learned a TON.

Neil has written 7 New York Times bestsellers, including The Game: Penetrating the Secret Society of Pickup Artists. He’s also been an editor at Rolling Stone and a staff writer for The New York Times.  Not only that, but he’s built highly profitable companies and is an all-around hilarious guy.

Even if you *never* want to write, his thinking can be applied nearly everywhere.

In this episode, we discuss life, maximizing creativity (and creative output), and generally answer the questions:

  • How did he become a creative powerhouse? How does he consistently create amazing work?
  • How does he overcome writer’s block and other pitfalls?
  • What are Neil’s favorite books and movies?
  • How did Neil become a master conversationalist, and how can you?
  • What’s next?

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When you have a second, please leave me an honest rating and review on iTunes by clicking here. It will help the show tremendously, including my ability to bring on more incredible guests. This show’s had nearly two million downloads…but only 550 or so reviews! If you’re listening, please leave a short one here.

Show notes and links (e.g. mentioned books, resources) can be found below.

Neil is a close friend, and this is one of my favorite conversations we’ve had together. Please ping him on Twitter (@neilstrauss) to let him know what you thought.


Teasers and Select Links from Episode 15

  • The story of Neil Strauss’s first rejection by publishers
  • Why he received hate mail from the great Phil Collins
  • Neil’s techniques for conducting engaging, one-of-a-kind interviews
  • Proof that writer’s block doesn’t exist, and what that feeling really is
  • A deep-dive into Neil’s creative process
  • How the art of empathy improves any creative endeavor
  • How to hater-proof your book, Eminem-style
  • The importance of figuring out what your “white tennis shoes” are and removing them from your writing space
  • The books that Neil gifts the most


Books Mentioned in the Episode

Posted on: June 24, 2014.

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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45 comments on “The Tim Ferriss Podcast, Ep 15: Neil Strauss, Author of The Game

  1. Love this. Much of this mapped my exact experience with writing and publishing my book in the UK — the parts on empathy + hater-proofing are spot on everyone writing a book should listen to that.

    Additional tip on hater-proofing? Don’t get bogged in what the haters might think BUT don’t ignore it. Call out the person on the edge and tell them why that para, why that chapter, is for them by speaking the doubts in their mind. Really works, and honours the thought process of your smart ‘uber-thinking’ readers.

    BTW also LOVED The Game. Great read and also, er, useful when on the dating scene a few years back (let’s just say, it’s amazing how many guys read that… and then used parts of it directly. Ah, a flummoxed PUA called out using The Cube. Nothing quite like it).


  2. I feel like writer’s block doesn’t exist, too; either you’re ready to write it down or you’re not quite ready yet. If you’re ready all the time, you’re a born writer and a real pro. Otherwise, it’s not blocked, it’s still just brewing …


    • Steven Pressfield would say a real pro doesn’t wait to write. A pro sits down and creates an atmosphere were the muse comes. I think this is what Neil is saying, especially with the part about the case study of writers.


  3. Hey Tim,

    Interesting episode as usual. What language are you speaking in the beginning? It’s the first one I didn’t immediately recognize.

    Looking forward to more!


    Liked by 1 person

  4. Another excellent podcast with great strategies for writers. And not just serious writers, but these strategies can be used by bloggers too. It’s very true that writers will usually look for any excuse to get out of writing. All you gotta do is commit to 2 minutes of writing, and that’s it, and you’ll be amazed how most of the time you’ll just keep writing. And even if that doesn’t kick-start your flow, at least you got something down.

    I also loved what Neil said about his interviewees, that he would lead them to show more of their true selves instead of the self they usually want to portray. I think that’s a very, very good skill to have. Not only for interviewing but also for connecting with people, especially our loved ones.

    I was judging previous commenters that complained about the audio on the previous podcasts, I would tell myself how they could criticize about a free podcast with such valuable info and insight. However, it seems I’m now one of them. I do wish Neil’s connection would have been better, it sounded like he was on speaker-phone or something, and he speaks real fast. I had to rewind in several spots because I couldn’t understand. But taking Josh Waitzkin’s advice, it made me be more attentive and stop surfing around while I listened and just focus on listening as if I was gonna be quized afterwards, haha.

    Great podcast.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Loved the Episode! “First Draft is for you, Second for the reader, Third for the Hater”. I’m visiting SF. Do you have have 5 minutes anytime this week? Would love to come and shake your hand…you’ve been a mentor from afar for the longest time!


  6. Hi Tim. Please publish your podcasts in a downloadable format. I like to listen to these on the go. itunes sometimes allows me to download and sometimes it doesn’t work. Thanks


  7. Fantastic episode, Tim, my favourite so far! But I’m biased as I’ve loved Neil’s writing for years now. I feel that this was your strongest interview yet, with the clearest and most interesting questions. Maybe a little of Neil’s interviewing wisdom rubbed off on you as you chatted to him!


  8. Writing a self-help book, to me, is probably what making a movie is to you, Tim – it’s just one of those things I “have” to do it within this lifetime.
    What’s been holding me back? (a) I’m not a great writer, but more importantly, (b) I don’t have any impressive accomplishments under my belt.
    These past few years I’ve been trying to emulate you and other successful entrepreneurs in hopes that I might be able to create an abundance of cash flow and time (to be used primarily for activities that excite me), which would of course put me in a great position to give people valuable advice. But for the most part I’ve been experiencing “entrepreneur’s block”.
    So I’ve been considering to work backwards, i.e. composing a first draft of a self-help book that contains only problems and goals, but no actual solutions. Honing the craft of writing and clear thinking would hopefully jump-start a creative process which leads to the solutions needed in order to achieve the goals – This would be a story that writes itself, so to speak.
    In this podcast you mentioned that there are many bad reasons for people to write books. Hopefully this is not one of them. :)
    Any words of wisdom?


    • Dude I don’t see why a) or b) keeps you from anything? A good idea might be to just start whatever you want to do and stop thinking. Trial en error is extremely useful and should be embraced, just like failure (don’t be scared man). Because you will have to actually do things instead of just planning or talking about them… That’s all there is to it.

      All the best to you mate, I hope you get stuff done!


      • I appreciate your comment, JD. Yes, you’re absolutely right – why not just go ahead and try it out? Fear of failure isn’t the problem. I’ve just been trying to choose my activities wisely and be selective (80/20), since I’m the type who comes up with 10 new ideas or activities every day, but doesn’t stick with anything in the long run. Following Tim’s advice, it’s better to block out 2-3 hours per day to focus on 1 or 2 critically important things, rather than choose to do 10 and get nothing done. On the other hand, you often have to try out many things trial-and-error style, as you say, in order to determine if the activity or action is truly effective for any given goal. Maybe that’s the case with this self-help book (literally “self-help”), and imperfect action always beats perfect inaction, so thanks for the positive encouragement.


  9. Tim, I loved this podcast. Neil is a very cool guy. Would love to see him back so you could pick his brain on the following topics:

    – 80/20 approach to getting better with women / pick-up
    – What the ordinary person should do to protect against the worst case emergencies

    Would be great if you could get him to reveal stuff that’s not in the books.




  10. Tim, your use of foul language is getting too over the top and out of control for me. Its too bad because I want to pay attention to you but I’m finding it hard too. I’m turning you out more and more.


  11. With all due respect to your friend Neil, he’s wrong about writer’s block. This anxiety-fueled pause makes great writers. When WB affects journalists, they produce writing without feeling. WB is a metaphorical one month vacation.


  12. Interesting to hear Neil’s take on asking interview questions that would suggest his understanding of the person’s point of view on a situation. Naturally, I assumed this podcast was going to be about the game, but I think this was more valuable. Side note – Stay Focused and LeechBlock are free browser extensions that I assume act on a similar level to Freedom


  13. I listened to the game on audible and I wanna point out that this is one of the books very optimized to listen to because it is written in a simple and easily understandable book. It’s basically a narration so you can follow-up while doing other non-important routine stuff around the house :D


  14. Neil’s thoughts on writer’s block were spot on. I enjoyed the episode!

    Also +1 for internet blocking – it’s hilarious to watch how much more productive you become after doing it. Highly recommended.