Testing The “Impossible”: 17 Questions That Changed My Life

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Learning to zig instead of zag during horseback archery in Japan. (Photo: David West)

My life has been a series of questions and odd experiments. Here, horseback archery in Japan. (Photo: David West)

The following is a sample chapter from my new book, Tools of Titans: The Tactics, Routines, and Habits of Billionaires, Icons, and World-Class Performers. Any page numbers are from the print edition.

Enjoy!
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—-“Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.” — Mark Twain

Reality is largely negotiable.

If you stress-test the boundaries and experiment with the “impossibles,” you’ll quickly discover that most limitations are a fragile collection of socially reinforced rules you can choose to break at any time.

What follows are 17 questions that have dramatically changed my life. Each one is time-stamped, as they entered the picture at precise moments.

#1 — What if I did the opposite for 48 hours?

In 2000, I was selling mass data storage to CEOs and CTOs in my first job out of college. When I wasn’t driving my mom’s hand-me-down minivan to and from the office in San Jose, California, I was cold calling and cold emailing. “Smiling and dialing” was brutal. For the first few months, I flailed and failed (it didn’t help that my desk was wedged in a fire exit). Then, one day, I realized something: All of the sales guys made their sales calls between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Obvious, right? But that’s part one. Part two: I realized that all of the gatekeepers who kept me from the decision makers—CEOs and CTOs—also worked from 9 to 5. What if I did the opposite of all the other sales guys, just for 48 hours? I decided to take a Thursday and Friday and make sales calls only from 7 to 8:30 a.m. and 6 to 7:30 p.m. For the rest of the day, I focused on cold emails. It worked like gangbusters. The big boss often picked up the phone directly, and I began doing more experiments with “What if I did the opposite?”: What if I only asked questions instead of pitching? What if I studied technical material, so I sounded like an engineer instead of a sales guy? What if I ended my emails with “I totally understand if you’re too busy to reply, and thank you for reading this far,” instead of the usual “I look forward to your reply and speaking soon” presumptive BS? The experiments paid off. My last quarter in that job, I outsold the entire L.A. office of our biggest competitor, EMC.

#2 — What do I spend a silly amount of money on? How might I scratch my own itch?

In late 2000 and early 2001, I saw the writing on the wall: The startup I worked for was going to implode. Rounds of layoffs started and weren’t going to end. I wasn’t sure what to do, but I’d been bitten by the startup bug and intoxicated by Silicon Valley. To explore business opportunities, I didn’t do in-depth market research. I started with my credit card statement and asked myself, “What do I spend a silly amount of money on?” Where did I spend a disproportionate amount of my income? Where was I price insensitive? The answer was sports supplements. At the time, I was making less than $40K a year and spending $500 or more per month on supplements. It was insane, but dozens of my male friends were equally overboard. I already knew which ads got me to buy, which stores and websites I used to purchase goods, which bulletin boards I frequented, and all the rest. Could I create a product that would scratch my own itch? What was I currently cobbling together (I had enough science background to be dangerous) that I couldn’t conveniently find at retail? The result was a cognitive enhancer called BrainQUICKEN. Before everyone got fired, I begged my coworkers to each prepay for a bottle, which gave me enough money to hire chemists, a regulatory consultant, and do a tiny manufacturing run. I was off to the races.

#3 — What would I do/have/be if I had $10 million? What’s my real TMI?

In 2004, I was doing better than ever financially, and BrainQUICKEN was distributed in perhaps a dozen countries. The problem? I was running on caffeine, working 15-hour days, and constantly on the verge of meltdown. My girlfriend, who I expected to marry, left me due to the workaholism. Over the next 6 months of treading water and feeling trapped, I realized I had to restructure the business or shut it down—it was literally killing me. This is when I began journaling on a few questions, including “What would I want to do, have, and be if I had $10 million in the bank?” and “What’s my real target monthly income (TMI)?” For the latter, in other words: How much does my dream life—the stuff I’m deferring for “retirement”—really cost if I pay on a monthly basis? (See fourhourworkweek.com/tmi) After running the numbers, most of my fantasies were far more affordable than I’d expected. Perhaps I didn’t need to keep grinding and building? Perhaps I needed more time and mobility, not more income? This made me think that maybe, just maybe, I could afford to be happy and not just “successful.” I decided to take a long overseas trip.

#4 — What are the worst things that could happen? Could I get back here?

These questions, also from 2004, are perhaps the most important of all, so they get their own chapter. (See “fear-setting” on page 463 in Tools of Titans.)

#5 — If I could only work 2 hours per week on my business, what would I do?

After removing anxieties about the trip with fear-setting, the next practical step was removing myself as the bottleneck in my business. Alas, “how can I not be a bottleneck in my own business?” isn’t a good question. After reading The E-Myth Revisited by Michael Gerber and The 80/20 Principle by Richard Koch, I decided that extreme questions were the forcing function I needed. The question I found most helpful was, “If I could only work 2 hours per week on my business, what would I do?” Honestly speaking, it was more like, “Yes, I know it’s impossible, but if you had a gun to your head or contracted some horrible disease, and you had to limit work to 2 hours per week, what would you do to keep things afloat?” The 80/20 principle, also known as Pareto’s law, is the primary tool in this case. It dictates that 80% (or more) of your desired outcomes are the result of 20% (or less) of your activities and inputs. Here are two related questions I personally used: “What 20% of customers/products/regions are producing 80% of the profit? What factors or shared characteristics might account for this?” Many such questions later, I began making changes: “firing” my highest-maintenance customers; putting more than 90% of my retail customers on autopilot with simple terms and standardized order processes; and deepening relationships (and increasing order sizes) with my 3 to 5 highest-profit, lowest-headache customers. That all led to . . .

#6 — What if I let them make decisions up to $100? $500? $1,000?

This question allowed me to take my customer service workload from 40 to 60 hours per week to less than 2 hours per week. Until mid-2004, I was the sole decision maker. For instance, if a professional athlete overseas needed our product overnighted with special customs forms, I would get an email or phone call from one of my fulfillment centers: “How should we handle this? What would you like to charge?” These unusual “edge cases” might seem like rare exceptions, but they were a daily occurrence. Dozens per week hit me, on top of everything else. The fix: I sent an email to all of my direct reports along the lines of “From this point forward, please don’t contact for me with questions about A, B, or C. I trust you. If it involves less than $100, please made the decision yourself and take a note (the situation, how you handled it, what it cost) in one document, so we can review and adjust each week. Just focus on making our customers happy.” I expected the worst, and guess what? Everything worked, minus a few expected hiccups here and there. I later increased the threshold to $500, then $1,000, and the “reviews” of decisions went from weekly, to monthly, to quarterly, to—once people were polished—effectively never. This experience underscored two things for me: 1) To get huge, good things done, you need to be okay with letting the small, bad things happen. 2) People’s IQs seem to double as soon as you give them responsibility and indicate that you trust them.

#7 — What’s the least crowded channel?

Fast-forward to December 26, 2006. I’ve finished writing The 4-Hour Workweek, and I sit down after a lovely Christmas to think about the upcoming April launch. What to do? I had no idea, so I tracked down roughly a dozen best-selling authors. I asked each questions like, “What were the biggest wastes of time and money for your last book launch? What would you never do again? What would you do more of? If you had to choose one place to focus $10,000, where would you focus?”

I heard one word repeatedly: blogs. They were apparently both very powerful and under-appreciated. My first question was, “What the hell is a blog?” My next questions were “How are people currently trying to reach bloggers?” and “What’s the least crowded channel?” The people pitching bloggers were generally using email first and phone second. Even though those were my strengths, I decided to experiment with in-person meetings at conferences. Why? Because I felt my odds would be better as one out of five people in a lounge, rather than one email out of 500 emails in an overflowing inbox. I packed my bags and headed to Las Vegas for the Consumer Electronics Show in January, which had more than 150,000 attendees in 2005. It’s like the Super Bowl of technology releases, where all the geeks get to play with new toys. I never even walked in the front door. I parked myself at the offsite Seagate-sponsored BlogHaus lounge, where bloggers were invited to relax, recharge their laptops, and drink free booze. I sipped alcohol, asked a lot of dumb questions, and never overtly pitched. I only mentioned the book if someone asked me why I was there (answer: “I just finished my first book, and I’m really nervous about the launch. I’m here to learn more about blogs and technology”). Famous tech blogger Robert Scoble later described my intricate marketing plan as “get drunk with bloggers.” It worked surprisingly well.

#8 — What if I couldn’t pitch my product directly?

During the 2007 book launch, I quickly found that most media rightly don’t give a rat’s ass about book launches. They care about stories, not announcements, so I asked myself, “What if I couldn’t pitch my product directly? What if I had to sell around the product?” Well, I could showcase people from the book who’ve completely redesigned their lives (human interest); I could write about unrelated crazy experiments, but drive people to my book-focused website (Google “Geek to Freak” to see the result. It was my first-ever viral blog post); I could popularize a new term and aim for pop culture (see “lifestyle design” on page 278 in Tools of Titans); I could go meta and make the launch itself a news item (I also did this with my video “book trailer” for The 4-Hour Body, as well as the BitTorrent partnership for The 4-Hour Chef). People don’t like being sold products, but we all like being told stories. Work on the latter.

#9 — What if I created my own real-world MBA?

This kicked off in 2007 to 2008. See page 250 in Tools of Titans for full details.

#10 — Do I need to make it back the way I lost it?

In 2008, I owned a home in San Jose, California, and its value cratered. More accurately, the bank owned the home and I had an ill-conceived adjustable-rate mortgage. On top of that, I was on the cusp of moving to San Francisco. To sell would have meant a $150,000 loss. Ultimately, I picked up and moved to San Francisco, regardless, leaving my San Jose home empty.

For months, friends pressured me to rent it, emphasizing how I was flushing money down the toilet otherwise. I eventually buckled and followed their advice. Even with a property management company, regular headaches and paperwork ensued. Regret followed. One introspective night, I had some wine and asked myself: “Do I really need to make money back the same way I’m losing it?” If you lose $1,000 at the blackjack table, should you try and recoup it there? Probably not. If I’m “losing” money via the mortgage payments on an empty house, do I really need to cover it by renting the house itself? No, I decided. I could much more easily create income elsewhere (e.g., speaking gigs, consulting, etc.) to put me in the black. Humans are very vulnerable to a cognitive bias called “anchoring,” whether in real estate, stocks, or otherwise. I am no exception. I made a study of this (a lot of good investors like Think Twice by Michael Mauboussin), and shortly thereafter sold my San Jose house at a large loss. Once my attention and mind space was freed up, I quickly made it back elsewhere.

#11 — What if I could only subtract to solve problems?

From 2008 to 2009, I began to ask myself, “What if I could only subtract to solve problems?” when advising startups. Instead of answering, “What should we do?” I tried first to hone in on answering, “What should we simplify?” For instance, I always wanted to tighten the conversion fishing net (the percentage of visitors who sign up or buy) before driving a ton of traffic to one of my portfolio companies. One of the first dozen startups I worked with was named Gyminee. It was rebranded Daily Burn, and at the time, they didn’t have enough manpower to do a complete redesign of the site. Adding new elements would’ve been time-consuming, but removing them wasn’t. As a test, we eliminated roughly 70% of the “above the fold” clickable elements on their homepage, focusing on the single most valuable click. Conversions immediately improved 21.1%. That quick-and-dirty test informed later decisions for much more expensive development. The founders, Andy Smith and Stephen Blankenship, made a lot of great decisions, and the company was acquired by IAC in 2010. I’ve since applied this “What if I could only subtract . . . ?” to my life in many areas, and I sometimes rephrase it as “What should I put on my not-to-do list?”

#12 — What might I put in place to allow me to go off the grid for 4 to 8 weeks, with no phone or email?

Though wordy, I have asked variations of this question many times since 2004. It used to end with, “. . . allow me to go on vacation for 4 to 8 weeks,” but that’s no longer enough. Given the spread of broadband, it’s extremely easy to take a “vacation” to Brazil or Japan and still work nonstop on your business via laptop. This kind of subtle self-deception is a time bomb.

For the last 5 years, I’ve asked myself, in effect, “What can I put in place so that I can go completely off the grid for 4 to 8 weeks?” To entrepreneurs who are feeling burned out, this is also the question I pose most often. Two weeks isn’t enough, as you can let fires erupt and then attempt to repair things when you return. Four to eight weeks (or more) doesn’t allow you to be a firefighter. It forces you to put systems and policies in place, ditch ad-hoc email-based triage, empower other people with rules and tools, separate the critical few from the trivial many, and otherwise create a machine that doesn’t require you behind the driver’s wheel 24/7.

Here’s the most important point: The systems far outlive the vacation, and when you come home, you’ll realize that you’ve taken your business (and life) to the next level. This is only possible if you work on your business instead of in your business, as Michael Gerber might say.

#13 — Am I hunting antelope or field mice?

I lifted this question around 2012 from former speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, Newt Gingrich. I read about it in Buck Up, Suck Up . . . and Come Back When You Foul Up: 12 Winning Secrets from the War Room, written by James Carville and Paul Begala, the political strategists behind Bill Clinton’s presidential campaign “war room.” Here’s the excerpt that stuck with me:

Newt Gingrich is one of the most successful political leaders of our time. Yes, we disagreed with virtually everything he did, but this is a book about strategy, not ideology. And we’ve got to give Newt his due. His strategic ability—his relentless focus on capturing the House of Representatives for the Republicans—led to one of the biggest political landslides in American history.

Now that he’s in the private sector, Newt uses a brilliant illustration to explain the need to focus on the big things and let the little stuff slide: the analogy of the field mice and the antelope. A lion is fully capable of capturing, killing, and eating a field mouse. But it turns out that the energy required to do so exceeds the caloric content of the mouse itself. So a lion that spent its day hunting and eating field mice would slowly starve to death. A lion can’t live on field mice. A lion needs antelope. Antelope are big animals. They take more speed and strength to capture and kill, and once killed, they provide a feast for the lion and her pride. A lion can live a long and happy life on a diet of antelope. The distinction is important. Are you spending all your time and exhausting all your energy catching field mice? In the short term it might give you a nice, rewarding feeling. But in the long run you’re going to die. So ask yourself at the end of the day, “Did I spend today chasing mice or hunting antelope?”

Another way I often approach this is to look at my to-do list and ask: “Which one of these, if done, would render all the rest either easier or completely irrelevant?”

#14 — Could it be that everything is fine and complete as is?

Since starting deep work with “plant medicines” in 2013 (see James Fadiman, page 100), I’ve doubled and tripled down on cultivating more daily appreciation and present-state awareness. The above is one of the questions I ask myself. It’s accompanied by complementary tools and rituals like the 5-Minute Journal (page 146), the Jar of Awesome (page 570), and thinking of “daily wins” before bed à la Peter Diamandis (page 373). To reiterate what I’ve said elsewhere in this book, type-A personalities have goal pursuit as default hardwiring. This is excellent for producing achievement, but also anxiety, as you’re constantly future-focused. I’ve personally decided that achievement is no more than a passing grade in life. It’s a C+ that gets you limping along to the next grade. For anything more, and certainly for anything approaching happiness, you have to want what you already have.

#15 — What would this look like if it were easy?

This question and the next both came about in 2015. These days, more than any other question, I’m asking “What would this look like if it were easy?” If I feel stressed, stretched thin, or overwhelmed, it’s usually because I’m overcomplicating something or failing to take the simple/easy path because I feel I should be trying “harder” (old habits die hard).

#16 — How can I throw money at this problem? How can I “waste” money to improve the quality of my life?

This is somewhat self-explanatory. Dan Sullivan is the founder and president of a company called Strategic Coach that has saved the sanity of many serial entrepreneurs I know. One of Dan’s sayings is: “If you’ve got enough money to solve the problem, you don’t have the problem.” In the beginning of your career, you spend time to earn money. Once you hit your stride in any capacity, you should spend money to earn time, as the latter is nonrenewable. It can be hard to make and maintain this gear shift, so the above question is in my regular journaling rotation.

#17 — No hurry, no pause.

This isn’t a question—it’s a fundamental reset. “No hurry, no pause” was introduced to me by Jenny Sauer-Klein (jennysauerklein.com), who, along with Jason Nemer (page 46), co-created AcroYoga. The expression is one of the “9 Principles of Harmony” from Breema, a form of bodywork she studied for many years. I routinely write “No hurry, no pause” at the top of my notebooks as a daily reminder. In effect, it’s shorthand for Derek Sivers’s story of the 45-minute versus 43-minute bike ride (page 190)—you don’t need to go through life huffing and puffing, straining and red-faced. You can get 95% of the results you want by calmly putting one foot in front of the other. One former Navy SEAL friend recently texted me a principle used in their training: “Slow is smooth. Smooth is fast.”

Perhaps I’m just getting old, but my definition of luxury has changed over time. Now, it’s not about owning a lot of stuff. Luxury, to me, is feeling unrushed. No hurry, no pause.

***

So, kids, those are my questions. May you find and create many of your own.

Be sure to look for simple solutions.

If the answer isn’t simple, it’s probably not the right answer.

###

Tools of Titans is available at Barnes & Noble, AmazonBooks-A-MillioniBooksIndiebound, Indigo, and more. If you enjoyed the above, I guarantee you’ll enjoy the whole thing. Thanks for reading!

 

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Mark Bittman on Changing the Food Industry and Living Dangerously

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Mark Bittman

“You’re not going to succeed at stuff you don’t want to do.”
– Mark Bittman

Mark Bittman (@bittman) is the author of 20 acclaimed books, including the How to Cook Everything series, Food Matters, and his latest, How to Bake Everything — which is on a coveted shelf in my own kitchen.

For more than two decades, Mark’s popular and compelling stories appeared in The New York Times, where he was ultimately the Lead Food Writer for the Sunday Magazine. He became the country’s first food-focused op-ed columnist for a major news publication.

He starred in four TV series, including the Emmy Award-winning Years of Living Dangerously. He’s been a distinguished fellow at the University of California, Berkeley, a fellow at the Union of Concerned Scientists, and was recently appointed to the faculty of Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health.

Throughout his career, Mark has strived for the same goal: to make food and all of its aspects understandable — and he also extends that to a brand-new podcast called Get Bitt.

In this episode, we talk about:

  • My fasting regimen
  • Mark’s favorite failures and what he’s learned from them
  • Mark’s first piece that broke him into the world of journalism
  • And much, much more

Please enjoy this episode with Mark Bittman!

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Want to hear another podcast with another entrepreneur that has built a career on a love of food? — Listen to my conversation with Andrew Zimmern. In this episode, we discuss his meditation practice, morning routines, and creative process (stream below or right-click here to download):


This podcast is brought to you by Vimeo Pro, which is the ideal video hosting platform for entrepreneurs. In fact, a bunch of my start-ups are already using Vimeo Pro. WealthFront uses it to explain how WealthFront works. TaskRabbit uses it to tell the company’s story. There are many other names who you would recognize among their customers (including Airbnb and Etsy). Why do they use it? Vimeo Pro provides enterprise level video hosting for a fraction of the usual cost. Features include:

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This podcast is also brought to you by Wealthfront. Wealthfront is a massively disruptive (in a good way) set-it-and-forget-it investing service, led by technologists from places like Apple and world-famous investors. It has exploded in popularity in the last two years and now has more than $2.5B under management. In fact, some of my good investor friends in Silicon Valley have millions of their own money in Wealthfront. Why? Because you can get services previously limited to the ultra-wealthy and only pay pennies on the dollar for them, and it’s all through smarter software instead of retail locations and bloated sales teams.

Check out wealthfront.com/tim, take their risk assessment quiz, which only takes two to five minutes, and they’ll show you for free exactly the portfolio they’d put you in. If you want to just take their advice and do it yourself, you can. Or, as I would, you can set it and forget it. Well worth a few minutes: wealthfront.com/tim.

QUESTION(S) OF THE DAY: What was your favorite quote or lesson from this episode? Please let me know in the comments.

Scroll below for links and show notes…

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Tools of Titans: Josh Waitzkin Distilled

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josh-waitzkin-distilled

“I cultivate empty space as a way of life for the creative process.”
– Josh Waitzkin

Josh Waitzkin is an endlessly fascinating person who gets mentioned a lot on this show for good reason (and he’s been a guest not just once, but twice).

He was the basis for the book and movie Searching for Bobby Fischer. Considered a chess prodigy, Josh has perfected learning strategies that can be applied to anything, including his other loves of Brazilian jiu-jitsu (he’s a black belt under phenom Marcelo Garcia) and Tai Chi push hands (he’s a world champion). These days, he spends his time coaching the world’s top athletes and investors, working to revolutionize education, and tackling his new passion for paddle surfing (and nearly killing me in the process).

I initially met Josh through his incredible book, The Art of Learning, which I loved so much that I helped produce the audiobook (download here on Audible).

This episode is a highlight reel of sorts — lessons I’ve learned from Josh and shared in my new book Tools of Titans. Please enjoy!

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Want to hear another Tools of Titans preview? — Listen to this podcast with Derek Sivers. In this episode, I share my thoughts on Derek’s life philosophy, his marketing strategy, decision-making, and much, much more (stream below or right-click here to download):



This podcast is brought to you by Four Sigmatic. I reached out to these Finnish entrepreneurs after a very talented acrobat introduced me to one of their products, which blew my mind (in the best way possible). It is mushroom coffee featuring chaga. It tastes like coffee, but there are only 40 milligrams of caffeine, so it has less than half of what you would find in a regular cup of coffee. I do not get any jitters, acid reflux, or any type of stomach burn. It put me on fire for an entire day, and I only had half of the packet.

People are always asking me what I use for cognitive enhancement right now, this is the answer. You can try it right now by going to foursigmatic.com/tim and using the code Tim to get 20 percent off your first order. If you are in the experimental mindset, I do not think you’ll be disappointed.

This podcast is also brought to you by Wealthfront. Wealthfront is a massively disruptive (in a good way) set-it-and-forget-it investing service led by technologists from places like Apple. It has exploded in popularity in the last two years and now has more than $2.5B under management. Why? Because you can get services previously limited to the ultra-wealthy and only pay pennies on the dollar for them, and it’s all through smarter software instead of retail locations and bloated sales teams.

Check out wealthfront.com/tim, take their risk assessment quiz, which only takes 2-5 minutes, and they’ll show you for free the exact portfolio they’d put you in. If you want to just take their advice and do it yourself, you can. Well worth a few minutes to explore: wealthfront.com/tim.

QUESTION(S) OF THE DAY: What was your favorite quote or lesson from this episode? Please let me know in the comments.

Scroll below for links and show notes…

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David Heinemeier Hansson on Digital Security, Company Culture, and the Value of Schooling

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DHH

David “DHH” Heinemeier Hansson (@dhh) is the creator of Ruby on Rails, founder and CTO at Basecamp (formerly 37Signals), and the best-selling co-author of Rework and Remote: Office Not Required. Oh, and he went from not having a driver’s license at 25 to winning, at 34, the 24 Hours of Le Mans race, one of the most prestigious automobile races in the world. It is often called the “Grand Prix of endurance and efficiency.”

Listeners had a million questions we didn’t get to last time, so he’s back for round two because his episode is about to cross a million downloads — and that’s in barely two weeks!

In this episode, DHH discusses:

  • Digital security
  • The value of schooling
  • Three questions you should be able to answer
  • Company culture
  • How bladder relief happens in a 24-hour race
  • And much, much more!

Please enjoy my round 2 conversation with DHH!

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Want to hear my first episode with David “DHH” Heinemeier Hansson? — Listen to this interview, which has already been downloaded almost a million times. In this episode, DHH shares his thoughts on the power of being outspoken, running a profitable business without venture capital, Stoic philosophy, and much more (stream below or right-click here to download):



This podcast is brought to you by 99Designs, the world’s largest marketplace of graphic designers. I have used them for years to create some amazing designs. When your business needs a logo, website design, business card, or anything you can imagine, check out 99Designs.

I used them to rapid prototype the cover for The 4-Hour Body, and I’ve also had them help with display advertising and illustrations. If you want a more personalized approach, I recommend their 1-on-1 service. You get original designs from designers around the world. The best part? You provide your feedback, and then you end up with a product that you’re happy with or your money back. Click this link and get a free $99 upgrade. Give it a test run.

This podcast is also brought to you by Wealthfront. Wealthfront is a massively disruptive (in a good way) set-it-and-forget-it investing service led by technologists from places like Apple. It has exploded in popularity in the last two years and now has more than $2.5B under management. Why? Because you can get services previously limited to the ultra-wealthy and only pay pennies on the dollar for them, and it’s all through smarter software instead of retail locations and bloated sales teams.

Check out wealthfront.com/tim, take their risk assessment quiz, which only takes 2-5 minutes, and they’ll show you for free the exact portfolio they’d put you in. If you want to just take their advice and do it yourself, you can. Well worth a few minutes to explore: wealthfront.com/tim.

QUESTION(S) OF THE DAY: What was your favorite quote or lesson from this episode? Please let me know in the comments.

Scroll below for links and show notes…

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Tools of Titans: Derek Sivers Distilled

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derek-sivers
“If [more] information was the answer, then we’d all be billionaires with perfect abs.”
– Derek Sivers

Derek Sivers(@sivers) is one of my favorite humans, and I call him often for advice. Think of him as a philosopher-king programmer, master teacher, and merry prankster. Originally a professional musician and circus clown (he did the latter to counterbalance being introverted), Derek created CD Baby in 1998. It became the largest seller of independent music online, with $100 million in sales for 150,000 musicians.

In 2008, Derek sold CD Baby for $22 million, giving the proceeds to a charitable trust for music education. He is a frequent speaker at the TED Conference, with more than five million views of his talks. In addition to publishing 33 books via his company Wood Egg, he is the author of Anything You Want: 40 Lessons for a New Kind of Entrepreneur, a collection of short life lessons that I’ve read at least a dozen times. I still have an early draft with highlights and notes.

I posted the following on Facebook while writing this chapter: “I might need to do a second volume of my next book [Tools of Titans: The Tactics, Routines, and Habits of Billionaires, Icons, and World-Class Performers] 100% dedicated to the knowledge bombs of Derek Sivers. So much good stuff. Hard to cut.”

Here’s a bit of what made it into the first edition — cherry-picked from the nuggets I’ve applied to my own life. Enjoy!

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Want to hear an entire conversation with Derek Sivers? — Listen to this podcast, which was Derek’s first appearance on the show, and also a favorite of Seth Godin. In this episode, Derek discusses developing confidence, finding happiness, and saying “no” to millions (stream below or right-click here to download):



This podcast is brought to you by Audible. I have used Audible for years, and I love audiobooks. I have two to recommend:

  1. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
  2. Vagabonding by Rolf Potts

All you need to do to get your free 30-day Audible trial is go to Audible.com/Tim. Choose one of the above books, or choose any of the endless options they offer. That could be a book, a newspaper, a magazine, or even a class. It’s that easy. Go to Audible.com/Tim and get started today. Enjoy.

This podcast is also brought to you by FreshBooks. FreshBooks is the #1 cloud bookkeeping software, which is used by a ton of the start-ups I advise and many of the contractors I work with. It is the easiest way to send invoices, get paid, track your time, and track your clients.

FreshBooks tells you when your clients have viewed your invoices, helps you customize your invoices, track your hours, automatically organize your receipts, have late payment reminders sent automatically and much more.

Right now you can get a free month of complete and unrestricted use. You do not need a credit card for the trial. To claim your free month and see how the brand new Freshbooks can change your business, go to FreshBooks.com/Tim and enter “Tim” in the “how did you hear about us” section.

QUESTION(S) OF THE DAY: What was your favorite quote or lesson from this episode? Please let me know in the comments.

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The Tim Ferriss Radio Hour: Meditation, Mindset, and Mastery

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Tim Ferriss Radio Hour

I’m excited to bring you a little taste test of a new show format that I’ve been working on — The Tim Ferriss Radio Hour.

After 200 conversations with a variety of fascinating people, including Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jamie Foxx, Tony Robbins, Maria Popova, Peter Thiel, Marc Andreessen, Amanda Palmer, Malcolm Gladwell, Rick Rubin, Reid Hoffman, Chase Jarvis, Sam HarrisRainn Wilson, and so many others, I started to spot patterns. This is the premise of my new book Tools of Titans, which is a compilation of all of my favorite habits, philosophies, and tools of world-class performers.

This is where Tim Ferriss Radio Hour comes in. In each episode, we’ll take a deep dive into one specific topic or tactic, bringing together the collective genius of past guests — with some new insights from yours truly — to help you become world class in your own right (if you aren’t already).

In this episode, we’ll be exploring meditation and mindfulness. You’ll hear from Chase Jarvis as he explains his top priorities for feeling fulfilled. I talk transcendental meditation with Arnold Schwarzenegger. I cover a wide spectrum with Sam Harris, and ask him about everything from hallucinogens to meditation techniques. And then I wrap up with Rainn Wilson, discussing how to handle life when you feel overwhelmed.

Without further ado, let’s jump into the first episode of The Tim Ferriss Radio Hour!

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In this podcast, we talk with Arnold Schwarzenegger. In his first episode on the podcast, we discussed psychological warfare, never-told-before stories, how he became a millionaire outside of Hollywood, and much more (stream below or right-click here to download):



This podcast is brought to you by 99Designs, the world’s largest marketplace of graphic designers. I have used them for years to create some amazing designs. When your business needs a logo, website design, business card, or anything you can imagine, check out 99Designs.

I used them to rapid prototype the cover for The 4-Hour Body, and I’ve also had them help with display advertising and illustrations. If you want a more personalized approach, I recommend their 1-on-1 service. You get original designs from designers around the world. The best part? You provide your feedback, and then you end up with a product that you’re happy with or your money back. Click this link and get a free $99 upgrade. Give it a test run.

This podcast is also brought to you by Four Sigmatic. I reached out to these Finnish entrepreneurs after a very talented acrobat introduced me to one of their products, which blew my mind (in the best way possible). It is mushroom coffee featuring chaga. It tastes like coffee, but there are only 40 milligrams of caffeine, so it has less than half of what you would find in a regular cup of coffee. I do not get any jitters, acid reflux, or any type of stomach burn. It put me on fire for an entire day, and I only had half of the packet.

People are always asking me what I use for cognitive enhancement right now, this is the answer. You can try it right now by going to foursigmatic.com/tim and using the code Tim to get 20 percent off your first order. If you are in the experimental mindset, I do not think you’ll be disappointed.

QUESTION(S) OF THE DAY: What was your favorite quote or lesson from this episode? Please let me know in the comments.

Scroll below for links and show notes…

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Susan Garrett — Master Dog (and Human) Trainer

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Susan Garrett

“Dogs are here to teach us. And if you don’t open your eyes to that, you’re going to miss life lessons.”
– Susan Garrett

Susan Garrett (@susangarrett) is an incredible dog trainer. She has a B.Sc. in animal science, and for more than two decades has been one of the most consistently successful competitors in the sport of dog agility.

Susan has been on the podium of the world and national championship events more than 50 times, winning those events a total of 38 times. She was of great help to me when I first adopted Molly, my own pup, and her book Shaping Success (The Education of an Unlikely Champion) was selected as the 2005 dog training and behavior book of the year.

Susan is a champ not only for her competitive track record, but for her ability to convey concrete tips and recommendations for:

  • The most critical exercises for your dog
  • The three types of reinforcement
  • How to use crates properly
  • What you should do in the first 24 hours of adopting a puppy
  • How training a dog is like training an Olympic athlete
  • And much, much more!

We discuss every facet of behavioral modification and conditioning, which applies to much more than dog training. These are techniques that work on everyone from chickens to cats to irritating in-laws.

If you only have 5 minutes, you’ll want to learn why negative reinforcement isn’t as effective as positive reinforcement — even for people.

I hope you enjoy this conversation as much as I did!

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Want to hear another podcast about powerful communication? — Listen to my interview with Malcolm Gladwell. In this episode, we discuss routines, habits, and tools, how to make your stories relatable, and why he eats as little as possible in the morning (stream below or right-click here to download):


This podcast is brought to you by Four Sigmatic. I reached out to these Finnish entrepreneurs after a very talented acrobat introduced me to one of their products, which blew my mind (in the best way possible). It is mushroom coffee featuring chaga. It tastes like coffee, but there are only 40 milligrams of caffeine, so it has less than half of what you would find in a regular cup of coffee. I do not get any jitters, acid reflux, or any type of stomach burn. It put me on fire for an entire day, and I only had half of the packet.

People are always asking me what I use for cognitive enhancement right now, this is the answer. You can try it right now by going to foursigmatic.com/tim and using the code Tim to get 20 percent off your first order. If you are in the experimental mindset, I do not think you’ll be disappointed.

This podcast is also brought to you by Wealthfront. Wealthfront is a massively disruptive (in a good way) set-it-and-forget-it investing service led by technologists from places like Apple. It has exploded in popularity in the last two years and now has more than $2.5B under management. Why? Because you can get services previously limited to the ultra-wealthy and only pay pennies on the dollar for them, and it’s all through smarter software instead of retail locations and bloated sales teams.

Check out wealthfront.com/tim, take their risk assessment quiz, which only takes 2-5 minutes, and they’ll show you for free the exact portfolio they’d put you in. If you want to just take their advice and do it yourself, you can. Well worth a few minutes to explore: wealthfront.com/tim.

QUESTION(S) OF THE DAY: What was your favorite quote or lesson from this episode? Please let me know in the comments.

Scroll below for links and show notes…

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