David A. Antler

Tools of Titans

The Tactics, Routines, and Habits of Billionaires, Icons, and World-Class Performers

By Timothy Ferriss

Read: 2017-06-17
Rating: 8/10
ISBN: 978-1328683786

A reference book containing insights, tactics, and sometimes idiosyncrasies of some very effective people. The format is readable, like a long blog, and lends itself well to being picked up and put down a lot. Lots of ponderable thoughts are in here: on creativity, philosophy, tricks and routines. Serves as a gateway to Tim’s archive of podcast episodes, which might be worthwhile since this book doesn’t go deep on anything. I’m looking forward to checking out some of the book recommendations from Tim’s interviewees.

my notes

More than 80% of the interviewees have some form of daily mindfulness or meditation practice A surprising number of males (not females) over 45 never eat breakfast, or eat only the scantiest of fare (e.g., Laird Hamilton, page 92; Malcolm Gladwell, page 572; General Stanley McChrystal, page 435) Many use the ChiliPad device for cooling at bedtime Rave reviews of the books Sapiens, Poor Charlie’s Almanack, Influence, and Man’s Search for Meaning, among others The habit of listening to single songs on repeat for focus (page 507) Nearly everyone has done some form of “spec” work (completing projects on their own time and dime, then submitting them to prospective buyers) The belief that “failure is not durable” (see Robert Rodriguez, page 628) or variants thereof Almost every guest has been able to take obvious “weaknesses” and turn them into huge competitive advantages (see Arnold Schwarzenegger, page 176)

“Flexibility” can be passive, whereas “mobility” requires that you can demonstrate strength throughout the entire range of motion, including the end ranges.

Coach Sommer dislikes the fitness fixation on “diet and exercise.” He finds it much more productive to focus on “eat and train.” One is aesthetic, and the other is functional. The former may not have a clear goal, the latter always does.

The QL walk is intended to get your glutes and quadratus lumborum (QL) firing, the latter of which Donnie calls “an angry troll in your back”:

Ag Walks with Rear Support These are hugely productive and a major wakeup call for most people. 99% of you will realize you have no shoulder flexibility or strength in this critical position.

Dom’s top go-to resource for the ketogenic diet, including FAQs, meal plans, and more is ketogenic-diet-resource.com.

Dom suggests a 5-day fast 2 to 3 times per year.

If you’re in your 40s or beyond and you care about living longer, which immediately puts you in a selection bias category, there’s an 80% chance you’re going to die of [one of] those four diseases. So any strategy toward increasing longevity has to be geared toward reducing the risk of those diseases as much as is humanly possible.

He is a proponent of magnesium supplementation. Our ability to buffer magnesium with healthy kidneys is very high. He takes 600 to 800 mg per day, alternating between mag sulfate and mag oxide. He also takes calcium carbonate 2 times per week. Two of his favored brands are Jarrow Formulas and NOW Foods.

Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me) by Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson. The latter is a book about cognitive dissonance that looks at common weaknesses and biases in human thinking. Peter wants to ensure he goes through life without being too sure of himself, and this book helps him to recalibrate.

a wonderful short documentary called The Pleasure of Finding Things Out.

“There’s an herb called gotu kola that—I learned this from Dr. Mauro Di Pasquale, who was one of my early mentors—will get rid of what we call unnecessary scar tissue or unnecessary connective tissue. The truth of the matter, though, is that you will see zero progress for the loose skin for 6 months. So people say it’s not worth it, but I tell people, just keep doing it for 6 months. And then it’s almost like overnight. . .

TF: I asked Charles about oral sources, and he suggested one dropperful of Gaia Herbs Gotu Kola Leaf liquid extract per day, which also improves tendon repair and cognitive function.

“I think the best magnesium out there is magnesium threonate, if I were to pick one. But I prefer taking different chelates. [TF: Dominic D’Agostino also takes magnesium; see page 30 for his thoughts.] So I use glycinate, I use orotate. If you look at the physiology behind it, and there’s a lot of good research that’s really easy to find, every form of magnesium tends to go to a specific tissue. So for example, magnesium glycinate has a preference for liver and muscle tissue; magnesium orotate tends to work more in the vascular system. Magnesium threonate is more of a GABA inducer, therefore it improves sleep. Personally, I take 2 g of magnesium threonate at the last meal before going to bed, and I use various forms of chelates like magnesium glycerophosphate from GabaMag [made by Trilogy Nutritional Supplements].” Another go-to recipe for sleep: glutamine and physician-prescribed probiotics (vary the brands) before bed.

the best thing to increase testosterone is to lower cortisol. Because the same raw material that makes testosterone and cortisol is called pregnenolone. Under conditions of stress, your body is wired to eventually go toward the cortisol pathway.” TF: If you’ve ever laid down in bed exhausted, then felt wired and been unable to sleep, cortisol might be a factor. To mitigate this “tired and wired” phenomenon—as well as reduce glucose levels—before bed, I take phosphatidylserine and N-acetyl cysteine (NAC). For me, this also has a noticeable impact on lowering anxiety the following day.

decide beforehand that you’re going to rest from one set to the next for a certain number of breaths (i.e., you get to do 5, 10, 30, or however many in between). This is going to discipline you to slow your breathing and stop overtaxing your nervous system. This control will help your endurance, even before biochemical adaptations.

One-arm swing Turkish get-up (TGU) Goblet squat Do these three exercises in some form every day, and you are guaranteed to get a great return on your investment.

Kettlebell windmills (or “high windmills”) are incredible for hip rehab and “prehab.”

always say that I’ll go first. . . . That means if I’m checking out at the store, I’ll say hello first. If I’m coming across somebody and make eye contact, I’ll smile first.

“A Lonely Place Is an Unmotivated Place”

If you spend a lot of time thinking of the “how” and “what” of exercise (exercises, programming, etc.), as I do, you might consider asking yourself, “What if I had to choose all of my exercise based on ‘Who?’ first? What would I do if exercise were only allowed with other people?”

For volunteers with children, the experience was often put above, or on par with, the birth of their first child.


Most of us have had the experience of sitting at a computer with 20 open tabs. How did this happen? Didn’t I just clean this up last week? Then you get a warning of “Startup disk almost full.” So you delete a few videos as damage control, but . . . why is everything still running so damned slowly? Oh, Dropbox is syncing. Slack has 17 new notifications. Microsoft needs another “critical” update? There are 20 applications running on top of 20 windows, fracturing your ability to focus. 60 minutes later, you’ve done a lot of stuff, tapped the keyboard a lot, and burned a ton of energy, but you couldn’t say what you’ve achieved. Feeling rushed and frustrated, overwhelm begins to set in. Time to go get another coffee . . . Life can feel this way. Finances, taxes, relationships, wedding invitations, car check-ups, Facebook, groceries . . . “Startup disk almost full.” For me, moderate to high dose of psilocybin with supervision serves as a hard reboot. It closes all the windows, “force quits” all the applications, flushes the cache, installs upgrades, and—when I’m back to “normal”—restores my 30,000-foot view. It removes the noise, giving me a crystal clear view of the most critical priorities and decisions. The first time I used psilocybin at sufficiently high doses, the anxiolytic—anxiety decreasing—effect lasted 3 to 6 months. This catalyzes not only insight but action. Sounds great, right? It can be, but that result is far from guaranteed. Psychedelics usually give you what you need, not what you want. To get to pleasure, you often need to claw through pain first.

There’s a saying in the psychedelic world: “If you get the answer, you should hang up the phone.” In other words, when you get the message you need, you shouldn’t keep asking (i.e., having more experiences), at least until you’ve done some homework assignments, or used the clarity gained to make meaningful changes.

“Men, if you wake up and you don’t have a boner, there’s a problem. Yes or no? One or zero? Boner, no boner?”

“If you can’t squat all the way down to the ground with your feet and knees together, then you are missing full hip and ankle range of motion.

“When I landed, I would check into the hotel. The second we checked in, I’d ask them: ‘Is the gym open? Can I go train?’ Even if it was to get on a bike and ride for 15 minutes to reset things. I learned early that it seemed any time I did that, I didn’t get jet lag.”

My go-to tranquilizer beverage is simple: 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar (I use Bragg brand) and 1 tablespoon honey, stirred into 1 cup of hot water.

Yogi Soothing Caramel Bedtime Tea: If you’re trying to avoid sugar (honey), this is an alternative.

Short and uplifting episodic television: I’ll offer just one recommendation here: Escape to River Cottage, Season One. I’ve watched this series multiple times. If you’ve ever fantasized about saying “Fuck it,” quitting your job, and going back to the land, buy this as a present for yourself. If you’ve ever dreamed of getting out of the city and moving to Montana or God-knows-where rural Utopia, procuring your own food and so on, then this is your Scooby snack. It’s endearingly retro, like a warm quilt from Mom, and host/chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall will make you want to grow tomatoes, even if you hate tomatoes.

Sleep Master sleep mask and Mack’s Pillow Soft Silicone Putty (ear plugs):

“If you make your bed every morning, you will have accomplished the first task of the day. It will give you a small sense of pride, and it will encourage you to do another task and another and another. By the end of the day, that one task completed will have turned into many tasks completed. Making your bed will also reinforce the fact that little things in life matter.”

We suggest finding a “mindfulness buddy” and committing to a 15-minute conversation every week, covering at least these two topics: a. How am I doing with my commitment to my practice? b. What has arisen in my life that relates to my practice? We also suggest ending the conversation with the question, “How did this conversation go?”

With “Just Note Gone” we train the mind to notice that something previously experienced is no more. For example, at the end of a breath, notice that the breath is over. Gone. As a sound fades away, notice when it is over. Gone. At the end of a thought, notice that the thought is over. Gone. At the end of an experience of emotion—joy, anger, sadness, or anything else—notice it is over. Gone. This practice is, without a doubt, one of the most important meditation practices of all time.

Informal Practice: Wishing for Random People to Be Happy During working hours or school hours, randomly identify two people who walk past you or who are standing or sitting around you. Secretly wish for them to be happy. Just think to yourself, “I wish for this person to be happy, and I wish for that person to be happy.” That is the entire practice. Don’t do anything; don’t say anything; just think. This is entirely a thinking exercise.

And accept that quality long-term results require quality long-term focus. No emotion. No drama. No beating yourself up over small bumps in the road. Learn to enjoy and appreciate the process. This is especially important because you are going to spend far more time on the actual journey than with those all too brief moments of triumph at the end.

Book recommendation for people who cant swim: Total Immersion swimming by Terry Laughlin,

Marc and I are both huge fans of Steve Martin’s autobiography, Born Standing Up: A Comic’s Life. Marc highlighted one takeaway: “He says the key to success is, ‘Be so good they can’t ignore you.’” TF: Marc has another guiding tenet: “Smart people should make things.” He says: “If you just have those two principles—that’s a pretty good way to orient.”

Neal Gabler’s biography of Walt Disney.

everything around you that you call ‘life’ was made up by people that were no smarter than you. And you can change it, you can influence it, you can build your own things that other people can use. Once you learn that, you’ll never be the same again.”

there should be another ‘paired’ metric that addresses adverse consequences of the first metric.”

“The Tail End” by Tim Urban on the Wait But Why blog—

Words That Work, written by Republican political strategist Frank Luntz. It’s brilliant. Matt added, “If someone likes that book, then I might point them to George Lakoff. He has a great seminal work from the 1980s called Women, Fire, and Dangerous Things.” He loves books about framing and language.

“It’s a belief: Life is always happening for us, not to us. It’s our job to find out where the benefit is. If we do, life is magnificent.”

The reason you’re suffering is you’re focused on yourself.

that I’ve scribbled “STATE → STORY → STRATEGY” at the top of each page for the next several weeks. It’s a reminder to check the boxes in that order. Tony believes that, in a lowered emotional state, we only see the problems, not solutions. Let’s say you wake up feeling tired and overwhelmed. You sit down to brainstorm strategies to solve your issues, but it comes to naught, and you feel even worse afterward. This is because you started in a negative state, then attempted strategy but didn’t succeed (due to tunnel vision on the problems), and then likely told yourself self-defeating stories (e.g., “I always do this. Why am I so wound up I can’t even think straight?”). To fix this, he encourages you to “prime” your state first. The biochemistry will help you proactively tell yourself an enabling story. Only then do you think on strategy, as you’ll see the options instead of dead ends.

His 9 to 10 minutes are broken into thirds. Here is an abbreviated synopsis: The first 3 minutes: “Feeling totally grateful for three things. I make sure that one of them is very, very simple: the wind on my face, the reflection of the clouds that I just saw. But I don’t just think gratitude. I let gratitude fill my soul, because when you’re grateful, we all know there’s no anger. It’s impossible to be angry and grateful simultaneously. When you’re grateful, there is no fear. You can’t be fearful and grateful simultaneously.” The second 3 minutes: “Total focus on feeling the presence of God, if you will, however you want to language that for yourself. But this inner presence coming in, and feeling it heal everything in my body, in my mind, my emotions, my relationships, my finances. I see it as solving anything that needs to be solved. I experience the strengthening of my gratitude, of my conviction, of my passion. . . .” The last 3 minutes: “Focusing on three things that I’m going to make happen, my ‘three to thrive.’ . . . See it as though it’s already been done, feel the emotions, etc. . . . “And, as I’ve always said, there’s no excuse not to do 10 minutes. If you don’t have 10 minutes, you don’t have a life.”

Ben Franklin’s excellent advice: “If you would not be forgotten as soon as you are dead and rotten, either write things worth reading, or do things worth writing.”

Morning pages are, as author Julia Cameron puts it, “spiritual windshield wipers.” It’s the most cost-effective therapy I’ve ever found. To quote her further, from page viii: “Once we get those muddy, maddening, confusing thoughts [nebulous worries, jitters, and preoccupations] on the page, we face our day with clearer eyes.”

“How do you know if you have A-players on your project team? You know it if they don’t just accept the strategy you hand them. They should suggest modifications to the plan based on their closeness to the details.”

So I think, every day, it’s something to reflect on and think about ‘How do I become less competitive in order that I can become more successful?’

“All you do is you pick a goal and you write it down 15 times a day in some specific sentence form, like ‘I, Scott Adams, will become an astronaut,’ for example. And you do that every day. Then

I’m thinking of these ideas and they’re flowing through my head, I’m monitoring my body; I’m not monitoring my mind. And when my body changes, I have something that other people are going to care about, too.”

“In the world of ideas, to name something is to own it. If you can name an issue, you can own the issue.” —Thomas L. Friedman

When you launch a new product, the first question to ask yourself is not “How is this new product better than the competition?” but “First what?” In other words, what category is this new product first in?

when I was able to start to monetize my craft, I did so at a very high price point. Little note: If someone ever says ‘yes’ that quickly, you didn’t ask for enough.”

Hardcore History. Tip: Start with “Wrath of the Khans.”

“Success” need not be complicated. Just start with making 1,000 people extremely, extremely happy.

First, you have to create enough each year that you can earn, on average, $100 profit from each true fan.

it is always easier and better to give your existing customers more, than it is to find new fans.

True fans are not only the direct source of your income, but also your chief marketing force for the ordinary fans. Fans,

Chris Anderson (my successor at Wired) named this effect “the Long Tail,” for the visually graphed shape of the sales distribution curve: a low, nearly interminable line of items selling only a few copies per year that form a long “tail” for the abrupt vertical beast of a few bestsellers. But the area of the tail was as big as the head.

Go to any Kickstarter project, click on Share, and pick a social network, like Twitter. A pre-populated tweet will appear with a shortlink. Copy and paste the link alone into a new tab, add + to the end, and hit Return. Voilà.]

Prompts to Elicit Stories (Most Interviewers Are Weak at This) “Tell me about a time when . . .” “Tell me about the day [or moment or time] when . . .” “Tell me the story of . . . [how you came to major in X, how you met so-and-so, etc.]” “Tell me about the day you realized ___ . . . ” “What were the steps that got you to ___ ?” “Describe the conversation when . . .”

Follow-Up Questions When Something Interesting Comes Up, Perhaps in Passing “How did that make you feel?”

General-Use Fishing Lures “If the old you could see the new you, what would the new you say?” “You seem very confident now. Was that always the case?” “If you had to describe the debate in your head about [X decision or event], how would you describe it?” TF: I often adapt the last to something like “When you do X [or “When Y happened to you”], what does your internal self-talk sound like? What do you say to yourself?”

‘When you complain, nobody wants to help you,’

If you spend your time focusing on the things that are wrong, and that’s what you express and project to people you know, you don’t become a source of growth for people, you become a source of destruction for people.

“His hypothesis is that everything breaks at roughly these points of 3 and 10 [multiples of 3 and powers of 10]. And by ‘everything,’ it means everything: how you handle payroll, how you schedule meetings, what kind of communications you use, how you do budgeting, who actually makes decisions. Every implicit and explicit part of the company just changes significantly when it triples.

the job I was going to do hadn’t even been invented yet. . . . The interesting jobs are the ones that you make up.

One of the top 10 venture capitalists I know uses a variant of this litmus test as his measurement of “disruptive”: For each $1 of revenue you generate, can you cost an incumbent $5 to $10? If so, he’ll invest.

an out-of-print book on thermodynamics called The Second Law.

“My parents always taught me that my day job would never make me rich. It’d be my homework.”

For Hiring Well—“Who?” Is Often More Important Than “What?” “The Who book [by Geoff Smart, Randy Street] is a condensed version of Topgrading, and I learned of it at Mint, where the founder was using it.” TF: I now recommend this book to all of my startup founders, who have, in turn, recommended it to others.

When you are just starting out, we can be sure of a few fundamental realities: 1) You’re not nearly as good or as important as you think you are; 2) you have an attitude that needs to be readjusted; 3) most of what you think you know or most of what you learned

discover opportunities to promote their creativity, find outlets and people for collaboration, and eliminate distractions that hinder their progress and focus. It is a rewarding and infinitely scalable power strategy. Consider each one an investment in relationships and in your own development. The canvas strategy is there for you at any time.

The person who clears the path ultimately controls its direction, just as the canvas shapes the painting.

Life Is Elsewhere by Milan Kundera; “I think it’s an analogy for that choice we all have in life: Are you going to fulfill your potential? Or, are you just going to give into the peer pressure of the moment and become nothing?”

use “TK” as a placeholder for things we need to research later (e.g., “He was TK years old at the time.”). This is common practice, as almost no English words have TK in them

a golden key early on: Open up and be vulnerable with the person you’re going to interview before you start. It works incredibly well. Prior to hitting record, I’ll take 5 to 10 minutes for banter, warmup, sound check, etc. At some point, I’ll volunteer personal or vulnerable information (e.g., how I’ve hated being misquoted in the past, and I know the feeling; how I’m struggling with a deadline based on external pressures, etc.). This makes them much more inclined to do the same later. Sometimes, I’ll instead genuinely ask for advice but not interrupt things, along the lines of “You’re so good at X, and I’m really struggling with Y. I want to respect your time and do this interview, of course, but someday I’d love to ask you about that.” Listeners often ask me, “How do you build rapport so quickly?” The above is part one. Part two, I preemptively address common concerns during those 5 to 10 minutes. I’ve been fucked by media in the past, and I want my guests to know A) I know how terrible that is; and B) my interview is a safe space in which to be open and experiment. Among other points that I cover: This isn’t a “gotcha” show, and it’s intended to make them look good. I ask, “Let’s flash forward to a week or month after this interview comes out. What would make it a home run for you? What does ‘successful’ look like?” I ask, “Is there anything you’d prefer not to talk about?”

“It is essential to get lost and jam up your plans every now and then. It’s a source of creativity and perspective.

The danger of maps, capable assistants, and planning is that you may end up living your life as planned. If you do, your potential cannot possibly exceed your expectations.”

around the world. “From this experience I learned what legendary writers call ‘killing your darlings’—the plot points and characters that detract from a novel.

“Perhaps the greatest lesson from the past is how important it is to be inspired by things that surprise us. When I come across a quirky business model in an unpopular space, I try to find a fascinating thread worth pulling. I challenge myself to stop comparing what I learn to the past. If you only look for patterns of the past, you won’t venture far.”

Vagabonding is an attitude—a friendly interest in people, places, and things that makes a person an explorer in the truest, most vivid sense of the word. Vagabonding is not a lifestyle, nor is it a trend. It’s just an uncommon way of looking at life—a value adjustment from which action naturally follows. And, as much as anything, vagabonding is about time—our only real commodity—and how we choose to use

We’d love to drop all and explore the world outside, we tell ourselves, but the time never seems right. Thus, given an unlimited amount of choices, we make none.

One of the books he recommends for cultivating dealmaking ability is actually a children’s book and a 10-minute read: Stone Soup. “It’s a children’s story that is the best MBA degree you can read.

There are two elements that tie very much to human longevity. It’s strange. . . . One is those people who floss and, second,

Tony Robbins’s Date with Destiny program, which he feels helps people improve their “operating system.”

when you’re going 10% bigger, you’re competing against everybody. Everybody’s trying to go 10% bigger. When you’re trying to go 10 times bigger, you’re there by yourself.

when you are trying to go 10 times bigger, you have to start with a clean sheet of paper, and you approach the problem completely differently.

When possible, always give the money to charity, as it allows you to interact with people well above your pay grade.

Every idea, no matter what, was valid during this period. The idea generation and filtering/editing stages were entirely separate. As B.J. explained, “To me, everything is idea and execution and, if you separate idea and execution, you don’t put too much pressure on either of them.”

“I consider being in a good mood the most important part of my creative process.” B.J. typically spends the first few hours of his day “powering up” and getting in a good mood, until he gets an idea he’s excited about, or until he has so much self-loathing and caffeine that he has to do something about it. (See Paulo Coelho, page 511.) It can take B.J. hours of walking, reading newspapers over coffee, listening to music, etc., before he hits his stride and feels he can write, his zone generally occurring between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Says B.J., “I find that being in a good mood for creative work is worth the hours it takes to get in a good mood.” He added, “I read the book Daily Rituals, and I am demoralized by how many great people start their day very early.”

The Oxford Book of Aphorisms by John Gross because it contains the most brilliant one-liners in history. You can spend hours on a page, or you can just flip through it.

Below are the key questions I asked to arrive at this cord-cutting conclusion.

Are You Doing What You’re Uniquely Capable of, What You Feel Placed Here on Earth to Do? Can You Be Replaced?

How Often Are You Saying “Hell, Yeah!”?

How Much of Your Life Is Making Versus Managing? How Do You Feel About the Split?

“Maker’s Schedule, Manager’s Schedule” by Paul Graham

What Blessings in Excess Have Become a Curse? Where Do You Have Too Much of a Good Thing?

Why Are You Investing, Anyway?

the goal of “investing” has always been simple: to allocate resources (e.g., money, time, energy) to improve quality of life.

Life favors the specific ask and punishes the vague wish. So, here “investing” means to allocate resources (e.g., money, time, energy) to improve quality of

Are You Fooling Yourself with a Plan for Moderation?

Domino triggers aren’t limited to food. For some people, if they play 15 minutes of World of Warcraft, they’ll play 15 hours. It’s 0 or 15 hours.

You Say “Health Is #1” . . . But Is It Really?

What’s the Rush? Can You “Retire” and Come Back?

step one is always the same: Write down the 20% of activities and people causing 80% or more of your negative emotions. My step two is doing a “fear-setting” exercise on paper (page 463), in which I ask and answer, “What is really the worst that could happen if I stopped doing what I’m considering? And so what? How could I undo any damage?”

Tonight or tomorrow morning, think of a decision you’ve been putting off, and challenge the fuzzy “what ifs” holding you hostage. If not now, when? If left at the status quo, what will your life and stress look like in 6 months? In 1 year? In 3 years? Who around you will also suffer? I hope you find the strength to say “no” when it matters most.

A lot of people—when you’re standing at the edge of your horizon, at death’s door, you can be much more in tune with the cosmos.”

BrainPickings.org. Founded in 2006 as a weekly email to seven friends, Brain Pickings now gets several million readers per month. Brain Pickings is Maria’s one-woman labor of love—an inquiry into how to live and what it means to lead a good life.

“All those artists and writers who bemoan how hard the work is, and oh, how tedious the creative process, and oh, what a tortured genius they are. Don’t buy into it. . . . As if difficulty and struggle and torture somehow confer seriousness upon your chosen work. Doing great work simply because you love it, sounds, in our culture, somehow flimsy, and that’s a failing of our culture, not of the choice of work that artists make.”

“This should be a cardinal rule of the Internet (and of being human): If you don’t have the patience to read something, don’t have the hubris to comment on it.”

notes in the margins (what she calls “marginalia”), she’ll sometimes add “BL” to indicate “beautiful language.” I use “PH,” standing for “phrase,” to indicate the same.

Kurt Vonnegut wrote ‘Write to please just one person,’ what he was really saying was write for yourself. Don’t try to please anyone but yourself. . . . The second you start doing it for an audience, you’ve lost the long game because creating something that is rewarding and sustainable over the long run requires, most of all, keeping yourself excited about it. .

It always, always shows in the work when you resent it.

“I’m up and getting after it by 4:45. I like to have that psychological win over the enemy. For me, when I wake up in the morning—and I don’t know why—I’m thinking about the enemy and what they’re doing.

good leader would come back and say [something like one of the following], ‘I lost it, I didn’t control it. I didn’t do a good job. I didn’t see what was happening. I got too absorbed in this little tiny tactical situation that was right in front of me.’ Either they’d make those criticisms about themselves, or they’d ask, ‘What did I do wrong?’ And when you told them, they’d nod their head, pull out their notebook, and take notes. That right there, that’s a guy who’s going to make it, who’s going to get it right. The arrogant guys, who lacked humility, they couldn’t take criticism from others—and couldn’t even do an honest self-assessment because they thought they already knew everything. Stay humble or get humbled.”

So, if I’m having a conversation with you and we’re trying to discuss a point, I’m watching and saying [to myself], ‘Wait, am I being too emotional right now? Wait a second, look at him. What is his reaction?’ Because I’m not reading you correctly if I’m seeing you through my own emotion or ego. I can’t really see what you’re thinking if I’m emotional. But if I step out of that, now I can see the real you and assess if you are getting angry, or if your ego is getting hurt, or if you’re about to cave because you’re just fed up with me. Whereas, if I’m raging in my own head, I might miss all of that. So being able to detach as a leader is critical.”

Balancing those two things—the courage of exploring and the commitment to staying—and getting the ratio right is very hard. I think my 70-year-old self would say: ‘Be careful that you don’t err on one side or the other, because you have an ill-conceived idea of who you are.’”

How Business Travelers Often Get Kidnapped Organized crime outfits are good at bribing airline employees for flight manifests (lists of passengers). They then Google each name, create a list of apparent high-value targets, and arrive early to look for the right names on limo driver signs. They pay or threaten the actual limo drivers, who leave and are replaced: “The executive flying in from New York, San Francisco, or London would then get off the plane, see the piece of cardboard with their name on it, walk up to the person who was dressed like a limousine driver, get into a car, and get kidnapped as a result. There are actually a few people who were killed.” TF: This is why I use Uber or pseudonyms for any car service pickups around the world. By using a made-up name for your car reservation, if you see a placard with your real name on it, you know it’s a set-up.

sometimes a plan can end up being a string of miracles, and that’s not a real solid plan. So red teaming is: You take people who aren’t wedded to the plan and [ask them,] ‘How would you disrupt this plan or how would you defeat this plan?’ If you have a very thoughtful red team, you’ll produce stunning results.”

What will the people who don’t hold you in highest regard say about you?’

“To me, the most important thing was that they have an answer. A) It shows the courage to be able to address it, and B) it shows self-awareness that ‘I might be top peer-rated and have this great career, but there’s somebody out there, and here’s what they’d probably say. . . .’

you should have a running list of three people that you’re always watching: someone senior to you that you want to emulate, a peer who you think is better at the job than you are and who you respect, and someone subordinate who’s doing the job you did—one, two, or three years ago—better than you did it.

Jorge Luis Borges entitled “The Other” (“El Otro”).

Think about how old you are right now and think about being a 10-year-older version of yourself. Then think, ‘What would I probably tell myself as an older version of myself?’ That is the wisdom that I think you found in that exercise. . . . [If you do this exercise and then start living the answers,] I think you’re going to grow exponentially faster than you would have otherwise.”

another tactic for mood elevation, probably best used outside of the airport: “This might sound really crazy, but I’ll just look in the mirror and laugh at myself . . . break down this wall of being so pretentious about not being able to be silly. I think there’s a great power in not taking things so seriously.”

I also build memento mori (reminders of death) into my schedule, whether reading Seneca and other stoicism, spending time with hospice caretakers, visiting graveyards (e.g., Omaha Beach), or placing the memoirs of the recently deceased cover-out in my living room.

Mindfulness by Mark Williams and Danny Penman. This book is a friendly and accessible introduction to mindfulness meditation,

The Power of Persuasion by Robert Levine. The ability to be convincing, sell ideas, and persuade other people is a meta-skill that transfers to many areas of your life.

you have 80,000 working hours in the course of your life. It’s incredibly important to work out how best to spend them, and what you’re doing at the moment—20-year-old Will—is just kind of drifting and thinking. [You’re] not spending very much time thinking about this kind of macro optimization. You might be thinking about ‘How can I do my coursework as well as possible?’ and micro optimization, but not really thinking about ‘What are actually my ultimate goals in life, and how can I optimize toward them?’

One of my top 3 limiting beliefs was “I’m not hardwired for happiness,” which I replaced with “Happiness is my natural state.” Post-event, I used Scott Adams’s (page 261) affirmation approach in the mornings to reinforce it.

What is “vipassana” meditation? “It’s simply a method of paying exquisitely close and nonjudgmental attention to whatever you’re experiencing anyway.”

risks weren’t that scary once you took them. His colleagues told him what he expected to hear: He was throwing it all away. He was an attorney on his way to the top—what the hell did he want? Hans didn’t know exactly what he wanted, but he had tasted it.

Then, one day, in my bliss of envisioning how bad my future suffering would be, I hit upon a gem of an idea. It was surely a highlight of my “don’t happy, be worry” phase: Why don’t I decide exactly what my nightmare would be—the worst thing that could possibly happen as a result of my trip? Well, my business could fail while I’m overseas, obviously. Probably would. A legal warning letter would accidentally not get forwarded, and I would get sued. My business would be shut down, and inventory would spoil on the shelves while I’m picking my toes in solitary misery on some cold shore in Ireland. Crying in the rain, I imagine. My bank account would crater by 80% and certainly my car and motorcycle in storage would be stolen. I suppose someone would probably spit on my head from a high-rise balcony while I’m feeding food scraps to a stray dog, which would then spook and bite me squarely on the face. God, life is a cruel, hard bitch. Conquering Fear = Defining Fear “Set aside a certain number of days, during which you shall be content with the scantiest and cheapest fare, with coarse and rough dress, saying to yourself the while: ‘Is this the condition that I feared?’” —Seneca Then a funny thing happened. In my undying quest to make myself miserable, I accidentally began to backpedal. As soon as I cut through the vague unease and ambiguous anxiety by defining my nightmare, the worst-case scenario, I wasn’t as worried about taking a trip. Suddenly, I started thinking of simple steps I could take to salvage my remaining resources and get back on track if all hell struck at once. I could always take a temporary bartending job to pay the rent if I had to. I could sell some furniture and cut back on eating out. I could steal lunch money from the kindergarteners who passed by my apartment every morning. The options were many. I realized it wouldn’t be that hard to get back to where I was, let alone survive. None of these things would be fatal—not even close. Mere panty pinches on the journey of life.

I realized that on a scale of 1 to 10, 1 being nothing and 10 being permanently life-changing, my so-called worst-case scenario might have a temporary impact of 3 or 4. I believe this is true of most people and most would-be “holy sh*t, my life is over” disasters. Keep in mind that this is the one-in-a-million disaster nightmare. On the other hand, if I realized my best-case scenario, or even a probable-case scenario, it would easily have a permanent 9 or 10 positive life-changing effect.

my so-called worst-case scenario might have a temporary

Write and do not edit—aim for volume. Spend a few minutes on each answer. Define your nightmare, the absolute worst that could happen if you did what you are considering. What doubt, fears, and “what-ifs” pop up as you consider the big changes you can—or need to—make? Envision them in painstaking detail. Would it be the end of your life? What would be the permanent impact, if any, on a scale of 1 to 10? Are these things really permanent? How likely do you think it is that they would actually happen? What steps could you take to repair the damage or get things back on the upswing, even if temporarily? Chances are, it’s easier than you imagine. How could you get things back under control? What are the outcomes or benefits, both temporary and permanent, of more probable scenarios? Now that you’ve defined the nightmare, what are the more probable or definite positive outcomes, whether internal (confidence, self-esteem, etc.) or external? What would the impact of these more-likely outcomes be on a scale of 1 to 10? How likely is it that you could produce at least a moderately good outcome? Have less intelligent people done this before and pulled it off? If you were fired from your job today, what would you do to get things under financial control? Imagine this scenario and run through questions 1 to 3 above. If you quit your job to test other options, how could you later get back on the same career track if you absolutely had to? What are you putting off out of fear? Usually, what we most fear doing is what we most need to do. That phone call, that conversation, whatever the action might be—it is fear of unknown outcomes that prevents us from doing what we need to do. Define the worst case, accept it, and do it. I’ll repeat something you might consider tattooing on your forehead: What we fear doing most is usually what we most need to do. As I have heard said, a person’s success in life can usually be measured by the number of uncomfortable conversations he or she is willing to have. Resolve to do one thing every day that you fear. I got into this habit by attempting to contact celebrities and famous businesspeople for advice. What is it costing you—financially, emotionally, and physically—to postpone action? Don’t only evaluate the potential downside of action. It is equally important to measure the atrocious cost of inaction. If you don’t pursue those things that excite you, where will you be in 1 year, 5 years, and 10 years? How will you feel having allowed circumstance to impose itself upon you and having allowed 10 more years of your finite life to pass doing what you know will not fulfill you? If you telescope out 10 years and know with 100% certainty that it is a path of disappointment and regret, and if we define risk as “the likelihood of an irreversible negative outcome,” inaction is the greatest risk of all. What are you waiting for? If you cannot answer this without resorting to the BS concept of “good timing,” the answer is simple: You’re afraid, just like the rest of the world. Measure the cost of inaction, realize the unlikelihood and repairability of most missteps, and develop the most important habit of those who excel and enjoy doing so: action.

In a world of distraction, single-tasking is a superpower.

Well, the worst that can happen is that I’d have a backpack and a sleeping bag, and I’d be eating oatmeal. And I’d be fine.’”

Perfectionism leads to procrastination, which leads to paralysis.

My trauma therapist said every time you meet someone, just in your head say, ‘I love you’ before you have a conversation with them, and that conversation is going to go a lot better.

“When I first had money—I grew up without any money—I got a car. . . . It was a Lexus hybrid, and the first day I got it, I filled it up with diesel fuel. I destroyed it. It was awful. I got this great joke out of it, though, a 7-minute bit that probably paid for all the damage.

Comedy is, for the most part, just an obsession with injustice: This isn’t fair. . . . So what pisses you off?

think the way to write standup, if you want longevity in this business, at least for me, is to start by asking yourself personal questions. I write from this. I ask myself what I’m afraid of, what I’m ashamed of, who I’m pretending to be, who I really am, where I am versus where I thought I’d be. . . . If you watched yourself from afar, if you met yourself, what would you say to yourself? What would you tell you?”

Joseph Campbell—The Power of Myth and The Hero with a Thousand Faces. Joseph Campbell was the first person to really open my eyes to [the] compassionate side of life, or of thought. . . . Campbell was the guy who really kind of put it all together for me, and not in a way I could put my finger on. . . . It made you just glad to be alive, [realizing] how vast this world is, and how similar and how different we are.”

Book recommendation: The Art of Learning [by Josh Waitzkin]

When we’re handling babies and the baby is kicking and crying, we almost never once say, ‘That baby’s out to get me’ or ‘She’s got evil intentions.’”

Book recommendations: The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera, Essays of Michel de Montaigne.

Favorite documentary The Up series: This ongoing series is filmed in the UK, and revisits the same group of people every 7 years. It started with their 7th birthdays (Seven Up!) and continues up to present day, when they are in their 50s. Subjects were picked from a wide variety of social backgrounds. Alain calls these very undramatic and quietly powerful films “probably the best documentary that exists.”

“Crazy busy.” It is, pretty obviously, a boast disguised as a complaint.

planshopping. That is, deferring committing to any one plan for an evening until you know what all your options are, and then picking the one that’s most likely to be fun/advance your career/have the most girls at it—in other words, treating people like menu options or products in a catalog.

On the best ordinary days of my life, I write in the morning, go for a long bike ride and run errands in the afternoon, and see friends, read, or watch a movie in the evening. The very best days of my life are given over to uninterrupted debauchery, but these are, alas, undependable and increasingly difficult to arrange.

Idleness is not just a vacation, an indulgence, or a vice: It is as indispensable to the brain as vitamin D is to the body, and deprived of it we suffer a mental affliction as disfiguring as rickets. The space and quiet that idleness provides is a necessary condition for standing back from life and seeing it whole, for making unexpected connections and waiting for the wild summer lightning strikes of inspiration—it is, paradoxically, necessary to getting any work done. “Idle dreaming is often the essence of what

I did make a conscious decision, a long time ago, to choose time over money, since you can always make more money.

The clincher question Cal used to get free room and board around Europe as a poor traveler was: “Can you tell me: How do you make the perfect goulash?” He would purposefully sit down next to grandmas, who would then pour out their souls.

“What are some of the choices you’ve made that made you who you are?”

“Often, exercise will make me feel better, meditating will make me feel better, but the ice bath is the greatest of all. It’s just magic—sauna, ice, back and forth. By the end of the fourth, or fifth, or sixth round of being in an ice tub, there is nothing in the world that bothers you.”

“There are only four stories: a love story between two people, a love story between three people, the struggle for power, and the journey. Every single book that is in the bookstore deals with these four archetypes, these four themes.”

Try one for two pages of longhand writing. Go for uninterrupted flow, and don’t stop to edit. Step one is to generate without judging. Chances are that you’ll surprise yourself. Write about a time when you realized you were mistaken. Write about a lesson you learned the hard way. Write about a time you were inappropriately dressed for the occasion. Write about something you lost that you’ll never get back. Write about a time when you knew you’d done the right thing. Write about something you don’t remember. Write about your darkest teacher. Write about a memory of a physical injury. Write about when you knew it was over. Write about being loved. Write about what you were really thinking. Write about how you found your way back. Write about the kindness of strangers. Write about why you could not do it. Write about why you did.

Goethe wrote this book by locking himself in a hotel room for 3 months, imagining his five best friends on different chairs, and then discussing with his imaginary friends different possibilities of plot and so on and so forth. This is an example, by the way, of that spatial separation I was talking about. [TF: Humans naturally remember faces, people, and locations/spaces well, so you can use them to construct mnemonic devices like the “memory palace” technique, for example.] In one’s own mind, we’re somehow inherently boxed in and constricted, and by imagining in different spatial locations and then iterating an idea—or novel, in this case—through perspectives, he was able to give himself five perspectives separated out, and give himself a multidimensional playground for creating a work of art . . . which, by the way, is an awesome technique.”

TED presentation, “The Art of Asking,”

you don’t need or want mainstream fame. It brings more liabilities than benefits. However, if you’re known and respected by 2–3K high-caliber people (e.g., the live TED audience), you can do anything and everything you want in life. It provides maximal upside and minimal downside.

“Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it’s time to pause and reflect.” —Mark Twain.

Bigoteer (n)—a person who implies other people are bigots, for personal gain.

“Nobody really knew how to do wheeled luggage before 1989. It’s hard to imagine that the whole world had their heads

Try it—write down a precise sequence of curse words that takes 7 to 10 seconds to read. Then, before a creative work session of some type, read it quickly and loudly like you’re casting a spell or about to go postal.

the hallucinogenic elite, whether it’s billionaires, or Nobel laureates, or inventors and coders. . . . A lot of these people were using these agents either for creativity or to gain access to the things that are so difficult to get access to through therapy and other conventional means.”

Julian Schwinger, the great Harvard physicist, I think, who was asked if he would teach the 9:00 a.m. quantum mechanics course, and he stopped for a second. The person asking said, ‘Well, what’s the problem, Professor Schwinger?’ and he answered, ‘I don’t know if I can stay up that late.’”

And even though I wanted to do science rather than technology, it’s better to be in an expanding world and not quite in exactly the right field, than to be in a contracting world where peoples’ worst behavior comes out.

for those of you who have been told that you’re learning disabled, or you’re not good at math, or that you’re terrible at music, or something like that, to seek out unconventional ways of proving that wrong. Believe not only in yourselves, but that there are [ways, tools, methods] powerful enough to make things that look very difficult much easier than you ever imagined.”

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

With the lemon, chilies, and an allium or shallot, I can do anything. I can do ceaseless variations on them. . . . Salt [can act as] an acid and citrus is an acid [TF: Hence, some chefs say, “I use citrus like others use salt”], and there is an incredible amount of acid in all the alliums. There is an incredible amount of acid in all of the chilies. It’s no secret why those things are food-changing, food-altering, technique-inspiring ingredients to use. Much more versatile in the kitchen than basil or thyme or something like that.”

‘the five chimps theory.’ In zoology, you can predict the mood and behavior patterns of any chimp by which five chimps they hang out with the most. Choose your five chimps carefully.”

“The teppanyaki grill. It’s a little tabletop grill [search “Presto 22-inch electric griddle”]. What I learned is that for food, the freshness and quality of the food going straight from the grill to your mouth is way more important than what you do with

“Desire is a contract you make with yourself to be unhappy until you get what you want.”

Be present above all else. Desire is suffering (Buddha). Anger is a hot coal that you hold in your hand while waiting to throw it at someone else (Buddhist saying). If you can’t see yourself working with someone for life, don’t work with them for a day. Reading (learning) is the ultimate meta-skill and can be traded for anything else. All the real benefits in life come from compound interest. Earn with your mind, not your time. 99% of all effort is wasted. Total honesty at all times. It’s almost always possible to be honest and positive. Praise specifically, criticize generally (Warren Buffett). Truth is that which has predictive power. Watch every thought. (Always ask, “Why am I having this thought?”) All greatness comes from suffering. Love is given, not received. Enlightenment is the space between your thoughts (Eckhart Tolle). Mathematics is the language of nature. Every moment has to be complete in and of itself.

this is such a short and precious life, it is really important that you don’t spend it being unhappy. There is no excuse for spending most of your life in misery. You’ve only got 70 years out of the 50 billion or however long the universe is going to be around.”

So the best advice I learned by mistake, and that is: Be willing to fail or succeed on who you really are. Don’t ever try to be anything else. What

“One difference between home cooks and pros is acidity level. When you think it’s ready, add another lemon. Pros bump up the acidity level. It’s one of the secrets. We add a little more acid, and it makes everything taste better.”

soft-boiled eggs, which can be a decadent indulgence if done right. Here’s my approach: 1) Bring water to a boil. 2) Gently add eggs and set timer for exactly 5 minutes. 3) Manage the heat so it’s a gentle bubbling boil, not a violent lava pit. 4) At 5 minutes, pour out the hot water and replace with cold tap water. 5) Remove, peel, and enjoy.

“Try smelling with your mouth open, as you’ll get more information.”

“My wife made the observation that everyone’s equal on stage, but off stage, they’re completely unequal.” Mike wrote down, “Art is socialism but life is capitalism,” and that became a guiding principle for his film Don’t Think Twice.

If you ever see Jimmy Fallon on the street, don’t say, ‘I love The Tonight Show!’ Just say something like: ‘What do you think of kiwi?’ and he won’t be able to not be like, ‘I love kiwi!’ Talk to people about a thing they didn’t think they were going to talk about. Then, next thing you know, you’re talking to Jimmy Fallon about kiwi and you’ll have that for your life.

‘Write everything down because it’s all very fleeting.’ I would say, ‘Keep a journal,’ which I have but I would have been more meticulous. Then I would say, ‘Don’t bow to the gatekeepers at the head of, in my case, show business, but at the gate of any business or any endeavor.’ Don’t bow to the gatekeepers because I think, in essence, there are no gatekeepers. You are the gatekeeper. . . . “Don’t waste your time on marketing, just try to get better. . . . “And also, it’s not about being good; it’s about being great. Because what I find, the older I get, is that a lot of people are good, and a lot of people are smart, and a lot of people are clever. But not a lot of people give you their soul when they perform.”

if you don’t want to have a jar with “Jar of Awesome” written on it, you could just put a huge star or exclamation point on the side. However, the more serious you are in “real life,” the more ridiculous I think you should make it. Who are you trying to impress?

Levels of the Game by John McPhee, an entire book about a single tennis match between Arthur Ashe and Clark Graebner in 1968. It’s a short 162 pages and the New York Times gushed, “This may be the high point of American sports journalism.”

so our brainstorming was: Let’s come up with as many ideas as possible, and then put them under scrutiny, and basically try to kill them off, and if they were unkillable, then we’d keep going with them.”

Advice to your younger self? “I would say it’s pretty simple: ‘Don’t be scared.’ There are a lot of things I did not do, a lot of experiences I never tried, a lot of people I never met or hung out with because I was, in some form, intimidated or scared. . . . It also plays into what psychologists call the ‘spotlight effect,’ [as if] everybody must be caring about what I do. And the fact is: Nobody gives a crap what I do.”

believe that when you’re not cultivating quality, you’re essentially cultivating sloppiness.”

Now, whenever it’s a rainy day, Jack says, ‘Look, Dada, it’s such a beautiful rainy day,’ and we go out and we play in it. I wanted him to have this internal locus of control—to not be reliant on external conditions being just so.”

I’ve scheduled deloading phases in a few ways: roughly 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. daily for journaling, tea routines, etc.; 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. every Wednesday for creative output (i.e., writing, interviewing for the podcast); and “screen-free Saturdays,” when I use no laptops and only use my phone for maps and coordinating with friends via text (no apps). Of course, I still use “mini-retirements” à la The 4-Hour Workweek a few times a year.

The big question I ask is, ‘When I had the opportunity, did I choose courage over comfort?’”

If I’m not a little bit nauseous when I’m done, I probably didn’t show up like I should have shown up.”

“Shame is ‘I am a bad person.’ Guilt is ‘I did something bad.’ . . . Shame is a focus on self. Guilt is a focus on behavior.”

find I have endless patience to spend time with people I don’t know very well, if you’re working on a really intimate cooking

People’s IQs seem to double as soon as you give them responsibility and indicate that you trust them.

What past limitations—real or perceived—are you carrying as baggage? Where in your life are you pacing in a 10-by-10-foot patch of grass? Where are you afraid of getting sprayed with water, even though it’s never happened? Oftentimes, everything you want is a mere inch outside of your comfort zone. Test

Khaled Hosseini wrote The Kite Runner in the early mornings before working as a full-time doctor. Paul Levesque (page 128) often works out at midnight. If it’s truly important, schedule it. As Paul might ask you, “Is that a dream or a goal?” If it isn’t on the calendar, it isn’t real.

Morning Pages by Julia Cameron in The Artist’s Way. It’s three longhand pages where you just keep the pen moving for three pages, no matter what. No censoring, no rereading. It’s the closest thing to magic I’ve come across. If you really do it every day in a real disciplined practice, something happens to your subconscious that allows you to get to your most creative place.

“There’s a freedom [in] limitations. It’s almost more freeing to know I’ve got to use only these items: turtle,

building a movie script around what you have. no excuses.

“You’re just opening up the pipe and the creativity flows through. And as soon as your ego gets in the way, and you go, ‘I don’t know if I know what to do next’ you’ve already put ‘I’ in front of it and you’ve already blocked it a little bit. ‘I did it once, but I don’t know if I can do it again.’ It was never you. The best you can do is just to get out of the way so it comes through.

Even if I didn’t know what to do, I just had to begin. For a lot of people, that’s the part that keeps them back the most. They think, ‘Well, I don’t have an idea, so I can’t start.’ I know you’ll only get the idea once you start.

You have to act first before inspiration will hit. You don’t wait for inspiration and then act, or you’re never going to act, because you’re never going to have the inspiration, not consistently.”

And if you say you’re not creative, look at how much you’re missing out on just because you’ve told yourself that.

Book recommendation: Start with Why by Simon Sinek.

Here are the top-25 most popular episodes of The Tim Ferriss Show as of September 2016. All episodes can be found on fourhourworkweek.com/podcast and itunes.com/timferriss

Tim’s interview questions:

Which books came up the most? Here are the top 17—everything with 3 or more mentions—in descending order of frequency: