The Canvas Strategy — What Ben Franklin and Bill Belichick Have in Common

Photo credit: ©Dan Taylor/Heisenberg Media.

Photo credit: ©Dan Taylor/Heisenberg Media.

“The person who clears the path ultimately controls its direction, just as the canvas shapes the painting.” – Ryan Holiday

My job is usually to deconstruct world-class performers from business, military, entertainment, politics, or athletics, and then to tease out the routines and habits you can use.

In this particular episode, I’m going to share an overarching strategy that has been used by many of the greats. That includes Ben Franklin, legendary NFL coach Bill Belichick, and many more. It is also how I built my network, how my first book hit the tipping point, how I became successful at angel investing, etc.

Of course, if you’re interested in the networking part of it, you can also read the blog post and listen to the episode, How to Build a World-Class Network in Record Time. But that is bonus credit.

The secret to all of the above is the “canvas strategy.”

And in this episode, Ryan Holiday, author of the new book, Ego Is the Enemy, will teach you how to apply canvas strategy to your life. (The book is also the newest addition to my book club, which can be found at

Please enjoy this excerpt with Ryan Holiday from Ego Is the Enemy!


Want to hear another podcast with Ryan Holiday? — In this episode, we discuss the “big three” stoics, how Stoicism applies to the modern world, and how to improve your decision-making when stakes are high (stream below or right-click here to download):

This podcast is 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, take their risk assessment quiz, which only takes 2-5 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. Well worth a few minutes to explore:

This podcast is also 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.

QUESTION 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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The Tim Ferriss Podcast, Episode 4: Ryan Holiday


“The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.” — Marcus Aurelius

This post includes:
– Sponsor intro (please visit them)
– Episode description
– Quick favor
– Show notes and tons of useful links, including mentioned books and documentaries

This episode of The Tim Ferriss Show is sponsored by HipDial, which I’ve been a fan of for ages.

I use HipDial for conference calls: no stupid PIN numbers, no hitting #, and you get a text when people join, so you don’t have to wait. It’s rocks–try it for a free month, and you’ll never go back.

Now, on to the main event…

My guest is Ryan Holiday, who became Director of Marketing at American Apparel at age 21 (!). He’s a beast.

Since dropping out of college at 19 to apprentice under strategist Robert Greene (author of The 48 Laws of Power), Ryan has advised many New York Times bestselling authors and mega-multi-platinum musicians. He is a master of the media, and he knows how to build massive buzz while responding to unexpected crises. He can compete or counterpunch with the best.

I hired Ryan to help with the launches of The 4-Hour Body and The 4-Hour Chef. His unorthodox approaches always impress me.

I loved his new book (The Obstacle Is The Way) so much that I bought the audiobook format and produced it with him. It is the newest addition to The Tim Ferriss Book Club.

In this episode, we discuss dozens of topics, including the real-world strategies he uses to thrive (not just survive) when the world is exploding around him.

And…want to win some cool stuff today? Tweet out your favorite quote or line from this episode, using the following format, and I’ll pick a few of my favorites for prizes:

“[Insert quote]” More: #TFS”

To encourage other people to retweet, try and keep your entire tweet to 125 characters or fewer. The iTunes link above will be automatically shortened.

Deadline is 8:30pm PST.

QUICK FAVOR — If you haven’t already, can you pretty please:

1) Leave a review of the podcast on iTunes here?
2) Vote as “helpful” the reviews you most agree with? Here’s the link. The vast majority are 5 stars (290 out of 333), but there’s some wild Haterade, too, if that’s your thing.

Show Notes for Episodes 4 (Thanks, Ian!)

  • The surprising story of how Ryan was introduced to stoicism by Dr. Drew
  • What makes a “quake book”?
  • How Marcus Aurelius helped Ryan survive a tough breakup
  • About esoteric philosophical ideas that are excellent tools in the modern world
  • Deconstructing the “Big 3” stoics – Seneca | Epictetus | Aurelius
  • Is stoicism compatible with material or financial success, or are they completely at odds with one another?
  • Tim’s strategy for developing connections in Silicon Valley
  • Cultivating advantageous mentorships with peak performers
  • The story of Benjamin Franklin’s lending library…

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