Home » Blog » Business Book Summaries » Tools of Titans by Timothy Ferriss

Tools of Titans by Timothy Ferriss

by Sheldon Nesdale on 12 October 2017

in Business Book Summaries, Business Strategy, StartUp Business

I’ve been a fan of Tim Ferris since the beginning when his first book 4-Hour Work Week caused me to quit my job. I own every book he’s written.

This book is a collection of his favourite moments from the 100’s of pod-cast interviews he’s done with “Billionaires, Icons and World-Class Performers”.

It’s also crammed full of recommendations for documentries and books, so after reading this book instead of my reading list being reduced by one, it has increased by 10.

The book is in 3 parts: Healthy, Wealthy and Wise.

Here are my favourite bits of “Tools of Titans: The Tactics, Routines, and Habits of Billionaires, Icons, and World-Class Performers” by Timothy Ferriss.

Part 1: HEALTHY

A very simple 10-second exercise. I tell the audience members to each identify two human beings in the room and just think, “I wish for this person to be happy, and I wish for that person to be happy.

Everybody emerges from this exercise smiling, happier than 10 seconds before. This is the joy of loving-kindness.

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.

I found myself wondering throughout the day, “Why am I so happy?” Part of the reason I think it’s so effective is that meditation is normally a very “me”-focused activity,

Part 2 WEALTHY

CHRIS SACCA

GO TO AS MANY HIGHER-LEVEL MEETINGS AS POSSIBLE

“Go to all the meetings you can, even if you’re not invited to them, and figure out how to be helpful. If people wonder why you’re there, just start taking notes.”

Chris was well known at Google for showing up to meetings with anyone, including the co-founders. Even if attendees looked at each other puzzled, Chris would sit down and let them know he’d be taking notes for them.

GOOD STORIES ALWAYS BEAT GOOD SPREADSHEETS

“Whether you are raising money, pitching your product to customers, selling the company, or recruiting employees, never forget that underneath all the math and the MBA bullshit talk, we are all still emotionally driven human beings. We want to attach ourselves to narratives. We don’t act because of equations. We follow our beliefs. We get behind leaders who stir our feelings.”

MARC ANDREESSEN

RAISE PRICES

It has become conventional wisdom in Silicon Valley that the way to succeed is to price your product as low as possible, under the theory that if it’s low-priced, everybody can buy it, and that’s how you get to volume,” he said. “And we just see over and over and over again people failing with that, because they get into a problem called ‘too hungry to eat.’ They don’t charge enough for their product to be able to afford the sales and marketing required to actually get anybody to buy it. Is your product any good if people won’t pay more for it?

DEREK SIVERS

HOW TO THRIVE IN AN UNKNOWABLE FUTURE? CHOOSE THE PLAN WITH THE MOST OPTIONS. THE BEST PLAN IS THE ONE THAT LETS YOU CHANGE YOUR PLANS.

THE STANDARD PACE IS FOR CHUMPS

“I think you can graduate Berklee School of Music in two years instead of four. The standard pace is for chumps. The school has to organize its curricula around the lowest common denominator, so that almost no one is left out. They have to slow down, so everybody can catch up. But,’ he said, ‘you’re smarter than that.’ He said, ‘I think you could just buy the books for those, [skip the classes] and then contact the department head to take the final exam to get credit.”

TF: Lack of time is lack of priorities. If I’m “busy,” it is because I’ve made choices that put me in that position, so I’ve forbidden myself to reply to “How are you?” with “Busy.” I have no right to complain. Instead, if I’m too busy, it’s a cue to reexamine my systems and rules.

TAKE 45 MINUTES INSTEAD OF 43—IS YOUR RED FACE WORTH IT?

Why don’t I just chill? For once, I’m gonna go on the same bike ride, and I’m not going to be a complete snail, but I’ll go at half of my normal pace.’ I got on my bike, and it was just pleasant.

I was like, ‘Hey, a pelican!’ and he shit in my mouth.

I looked at my watch, and it said 45 minutes. I thought, ‘How the hell could that have been 45 minutes, as opposed to my usual 43? There’s no way.’ But it was right: 45 minutes. That was a profound lesson that changed the way I’ve approached my life ever since…. “We could do the math, [but] whatever, 93-something-percent of my huffing and puffing, and all that red face and all that stress was only for an extra 2 minutes. It was basically for nothing…. [So,] for life, I think of all of this maximization—getting the maximum dollar out of everything, the maximum out of every second, the maximum out of every minute—you don’t need to stress about any of this stuff.

What’s something you believe that other people think is crazy? “Oh, that’s easy. I’ve got a lot of unpopular opinions. I believe alcohol tastes bad, and so do olives. I’ve never tried coffee, but I don’t like the smell.

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.

is the ultimate quantification of success? For me, it’s not how much time you spend doing what you love. It’s how little time you spend doing what you hate. And this woman spent all day, every day doing what she loved.

REID HOFFMAN

QuestBridge supplies more exceptional low-in-come talent (i.e., kids) to top universities than all other nonprofits combined. QuestBridge has created a single standardized college application that’s accepted by more than 30 top universities like Stanford, MIT, Amherst, and Yale. This allows them to do some very innovative things, such as give away laptops and have the giveaway forms double as college applications. They then offer scholarships to many kids who could otherwise not even think of college. Did you know that roughly $3 billion available for scholarships goes wasted each year? It’s not a funding problem: It’s a sourcing problem.

“I have come to learn that part of the business strategy is to solve the simplest, easiest, and most valuable problem. And actually, in fact, part of doing strategy is to solve the easiest problem, so part of the reason why you work on software and bits is that atoms [physical products] are actually very difficult.

“Never go to sleep without a request to your subconscious.”—Thomas Edison

PETER THIEL

How important is failure in business? “I think failure is massively overrated. Most businesses fail for more than one reason. So when a business fails, you often don’t learn anything at all because the failure was overdetermined.

“I think people actually do not learn very much from failure. I think it ends up being quite damaging and demoralizing to people in the long run, and my sense is that the death of every business is a tragedy.

What I prefer over trends is a sense of mission. That you are working on a unique problem that people are not solving elsewhere. “When Elon Musk started SpaceX, they set out the mission to go to Mars. You may agree or disagree with that as a mission statement, but it was a problem that was not going to be solved outside of SpaceX. All of the people working there knew that, and it motivated them tremendously.

So if I said that nobody should go to college, that might be hypocritical. But what I have said is that not everybody should do the same thing.

SETH GODIN

So the goal isn’t to get good ideas; the goal is to get bad ideas. Because once you get enough bad ideas, then some good ones have to show up.”

Seth has no comments on his blog, he doesn’t pay attention to analytics, and he doesn’t use Twitter or Facebook (except to rebroadcast his daily blog posts, which is automated). In a world of tool obsession and FOMO (fear of missing out) on the next social platform, Seth doesn’t appear to care. He simply focuses on putting out good and short daily posts, he ignores the rest, and he continues to thrive. There are no real rules, so make rules that work for you.

“I think we need to teach kids two things: 1) how to lead, and 2) how to solve interesting problems. Because the fact is, there are plenty of countries on Earth where there are people who are willing to be obedient and work harder for less money than us. So we cannot out-obedience the competition.

James recommends the habit of writing down 10 ideas each morning in a waiter’s pad or tiny notebook. This exercise is for developing your “idea muscle” and confidence for creativity on demand, so regular practice is more important than the topics:

“I [then] divide my paper into two columns. On one column is the list of ideas. On the other column is the list of FIRST STEPS.

  • 10 old ideas I can make new
  • 10 ridiculous things I would invent (e.g., the smart toilet)
  • 10 books I can write (The Choose Yourself Guide to an Alternative Education, etc).
  • 10 business ideas for Google/Amazon/Twitter/etc.
  • 10 people I can send ideas to
  • 10 podcast ideas or videos I can shoot (e.g., Lunch with James, a video podcast where I just have lunch with people over Skype and we chat)
  • 10 industries where I can remove the middleman
  • 10 things I disagree with that everyone else assumes is religion (college, home ownership, voting, doctors, etc.)
  • 10 ways to take old posts of mine and make books out of them
  • 10 people I want to be friends with (then figure out the first step to contact them)
  • 10 things I learned yesterday
  • 10 things I can do differently today
  • 10 ways I can save time
  • 10 things I learned from X, where X is someone I’ve recently spoken with or read a book by or about. I’ve written posts on this about the Beatles, Mick Jagger, Steve Jobs, Charles Bukowski, the Dalai Lama, Superman, Freakonomics, etc.
  • 10 things I’m interested in getting better at (and then 10 ways I can get better at each one)
  • 10 things I was interested in as a kid that might be fun to explore now (Like, maybe I can write that “Son of Dr. Strange” comic I’ve always been planning. And now I need 10 plot ideas.)
  • 10 ways I might try to solve a problem I have This has saved me with the IRS countless times. Unfortunately, the Department of Motor Vehicles is impervious to my superpowers.

SCOTT ADAMS

Everyone has at least a few areas in which they could be in the top 25% with some effort.

It could be as simple as learning how to sell more effectively than 75% of the world. That’s one. Now add to that whatever your passion is, and you have two, because that’s the thing you’ll easily put enough energy into to reach the top 25%. If you have an aptitude for a third skill, perhaps business or public speaking. develop that too.

You’d be hard-pressed to find any successful person who didn’t have about three skills in the top 25%.

SHAUN WHITE

The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing by Al Ries and Jack Trout, The Law of the Category. When you’re the first in a new category, promote the category.

ALEX BLUMBERG

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?”
  • “What do you make of that?

ED CATMULL

IF YOU CAN’T READ IT, TRY LISTENING TO IT

“My brain works differently. It turns out I am unable to read poetry…. Reading poetry, within a few seconds, shuts my brain down.

So this woman at a dinner said: ‘Don’t read it, listen to it.’ I bought the tape and I listened to it, and I found I was completely enthralled.

TRACY DINUNZIO

‘When you complain, nobody wants to help you,’ and it’s the simplest thing and so plainly spoken. Only he could really say that brutal, honest truth, but it’s true, right? 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. That draws more destructiveness.

Book your A list for after your first 10 pitches.

PHIL LIBIN

And Bezos looks at me and goes, ‘Mars is stupid.’ And I say, ‘What?’ He says, ‘Once we get off of the planet, the last thing we want to do is go to another gravity.’ “Bezos said, ‘The whole point, the reason this is so hard to get off the earth, is to defeat gravity the first time. Once we do that, why would you want to go to Mars? We should just live on space stations and mine asteroids and everything is much better than being on Mars.

“Every single thing in your company breaks every time you roughly triple in size.”

“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.

CHRIS YOUNG

His dad, a very successful entrepreneur, gave Chris advice when he was a freshman or sophomore in high school: “I distinctly remember him saying not to worry about what I was going to do because the job I was going to do hadn’t even been invented yet…. The interesting jobs are the ones that you make up

Don’t worry about what your job is going to be…. Do things that you’re interested in, and if you do them really well, you’re going to find a way to temper them with some good business opportunity.

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.

one of my favorite business-related PDFs floating around the Internet is “Valve: Handbook for New Employees

DAYMOND JOHN

“If you go out there and start making noise and making sales, people will find you. Sales cure all. You can talk about how great your business plan is and how well you are going to do. You can make up your own opinions, but you cannot make up your own facts. Sales cure all.

Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World.

That last Genghis Khan book has been recommended to me by several billionaires.

NOAH KAGAN

The book Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman! by Richard P. Feynman: “If you ever meet me in person, I have an extra copy because it’s just that amazing.

LUIS VON AHN

‘I don’t understand what you’re saying,’ and then I would try to find another way of saying it, and a whole hour would pass and I could not get past the first sentence.

This is basically just an act. Essentially, I was being unclear about what I was saying, and I did not fully understand what I was trying to explain to him. He was just drilling deeper and deeper and deeper until I realized, every time, that there was actually something I didn’t have clear in my mind. He really taught me to think deeply about things, and I think that’s something I have not forgotten.

Try experimenting with saying “I don’t understand. Can you explain that to me?” more often.

THE CANVAS STRATEGY

“Great men have almost always shown themselves as ready to obey as they afterwards proved able to command.” —Lord Mahon

Imagine if for every person you met, you thought of some way to help them, something you could do for them? And you looked at it in a way that entirely benefited them and not you? The cumulative effect this would have over time would be profound: You’d learn a great deal by solving diverse problems. You’d develop a reputation for being indispensable. You’d have countless new relationships. You’d have an enormous bank of favors to call upon down the road.

That’s what the canvas strategy is about—helping yourself by helping others. Making a concerted effort to trade your short-term gratification for a longer-term payoff. Whereas everyone else wants to get credit and be “respected,” you can forget credit. You can forget it so hard that you’re glad when others get it instead of you—that was your aim, after all. Let the others take their credit on credit, while you defer and earn interest on the principal.

  • Maybe it’s coming up with ideas to hand over to your boss.
  • Find people, thinkers, up-and-comers to introduce to each other. Cross wires to create new sparks.
  • Find what nobody else wants to do and do it.
  • Find inefficiencies and waste and redundancies. Identify leaks and patches to free up resources for new areas.
  • Produce more than everyone else and give your ideas away.

SCOTT BELSKY

What do you believe that others think is insane? “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.

How has a “failure” set you up for later success? “The hardest decisions to make in business are those that disappoint people you care about.

“From this experience I learned what legendary writers call ‘killing your darlings’—the plot points and characters that detract from a novel. Sometimes you need to stop doing things you love in order to nurture the one thing that matters most.”

“… young creative minds don’t need more ideas, they need to take more responsibility with the ideas they’ve already got.”

PETER DIAMANDIS

“THE BEST WAY TO BECOME A BILLIONAIRE IS TO HELP A BILLION PEOPLE.”

‘When you go after a moonshot—something that’s 10 times bigger, not 10% bigger—a number of things happen….’ “First of all, 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. I’ll give you my favorite example: Tesla. How did Elon start Tesla and build from scratch the safest, most extraordinary car, not even in America, but I think in the world? It’s by not having a legacy from the past to drag into the present. That’s important.

“Three to five billion new consumers are coming online in the next 6 years. Holy cow, that’s extraordinary. What do they need? What could you provide for them, because they represent tens of trillions of dollars coming into the global economy, and they also represent an amazing resource of innovation.

PETER’S LAWS

Peter has a set of rules that guide his life.

His 28 Peter’s Laws have been collected over decades.

Here are some of my favorites:

  • Law 2: When given a choice … take both.
  • Law 3: Multiple projects lead to multiple successes.
  • Law 6: When forced to compromise, ask for more.
  • Law 7: If you can’t win, change the rules.
  • Law 8: If you can’t change the rules, then ignore them.
  • Law 11: “No” simply means begin again at one level higher.
  • Law 13: When in doubt: THINK.
  • Law 16: The faster you move, the slower time passes, the longer you live.
  • Law 17: The best way to predict the future is to create it yourself. (adopted from Alan Kay)
  • Law 19: You get what you incentivize.
  • Law 22: The day before something is a breakthrough, it’s a crazy idea.
  • Law 26: If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.

Money can always be regenerated. Time and reputation cannot.

GET THE LONG-TERM GOAL ON THE CALENDAR BEFORE THE SHORT-TERM PAIN HITS

Make commitments in a high-energy state so that you can’t back out when you’re in a low-energy state.

The Oxford Book of Aphorisms by John Gross because it contains the most brilliant one-liners in history.

Favorite documentaries

  • Catfish—“It’s a cliché, but it’s a brilliant, generation-defining documentary.”
  • To Be and to Have—“This is a beautiful and simple film about a one-room school in France, and what happens over the course of one year.”
  • The Overnighters—“This covers oil exploration in North Dakota, which has become perhaps bigger than the Gold Rush in the 1800s

The Road to No

  • If I’m not saying “HELL YEAH!” about something, then I say no. Meaning: When deciding whether to commit to something, if I feel anything less than “Wow! That would be amazing! Absolutely! Hell yeah!”—then my answer is no.
  • My agenda became a list of everyone else’s agendas.
  • great creative work isn’t possible if you’re trying to piece together 30 minutes here and 45 minutes there. Large, uninterrupted blocks of time—3 to 5 hours
  • Life favors the specific ask and punishes the vague wish.
  • If I sleep poorly and have an early morning meeting, I’ll cancel the meeting
  • Making health #1 50% of the time doesn’t work. It’s absolutely all-or-nothing.

Are You Having a Breakdown or a Breakthrough? A Short How-To Guide

  • If you’re suffering from a feeling of overwhelm, it might be useful to ask yourself two questions: In the midst of overwhelm, is life not showing me exactly what I should subtract? Am I having a breakdown or a breakthrough?
  • For me, 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 (here), 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?

To “fix” someone’s problem, you very often just need to empathically listen to them.

Part 3: WISE

MARIA POPOVA

SOMETIMES, THE BEST “NO” IS NO REPLY

“Why put in the effort to explain why it isn’t a fit, if they haven’t done the homework to determine if it is a fit?” Maria could spend all day replying to bad pitches with polite declines.

‘Those who work much, do not work hard.

“When 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

Book recommendations:

  • “The Shortness of Life: Seneca on Busyness and the Art of Living Wide Rather Than Living Long”
  • “How to Find Your Purpose and Do What You Love”
  • “9 Learnings from 9 Years of Brain Pickings”
  • Anything about Alan Watts: “Alan Watts has changed my life. I’ve written about him quite a bit.

JOCKO WILLINK

Freeform days might seem idyllic, but they are paralyzing due to continual paradox of choice (e.g., “What should I do now?”) and decision fatigue (e.g., “What should I have for breakfast?

“You can’t blame your boss for not giving you the support you need. Plenty of people will say, ‘It’s my boss’s fault.’ No, it’s actually your fault because you haven’t educated him, you haven’t influenced him, you haven’t explained to him in a manner he understands why you need this support that you need. That’s extreme ownership. Own it all.

MARC GOODMAN

Book recommendation: Kevin Kelly, The Inevitable

SHAY CARL

HOW SHAY CURRENTLY SHOOTS VIDEO

Canon PowerShot G7 X camera

It’s about the relationship you build, not the production quality. The effects of “acting” more upbeat seemed to last at least 2 to 3 hours.

KEVIN KELLY

Cooking everything using a Kelly Kettle. This is a camping device that can generate heat from nearly anything found in your backyard or on a roadside (e.g., twigs, leaves, paper)

Fasting, consuming nothing but water.

Oddly, you might observe that you are happier after this experiment in bare-bones simplicity. I often find this to be the case. Once you’ve realized—and it requires a monthly or quarterly reminder—how independent your well-being is from having an excess of money, it becomes easier to take “risks” and say “no” to things that seem too lucrative to pass up. There is more freedom to be gained from practicing poverty than chasing wealth. Suffer a little regularly and you often cease to suffer.

WHITNEY CUMMINGS

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.

“Happiness is wanting what you have.”

BRYAN CALLEN

“The difference between the people you admire and everybody else [is that the former are] the people who read.”

Book recommendation: The Art of Learning by Josh Waitzkin

ALAIN DE BOTTON

Favorite documentary The Up series.

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.

When you’re not drinking, you can see drunkenness more clearly than those actually experiencing it.

I did make a conscious decision, a long time ago, to choose time over money, since you can always make more money. And I’ve always understood that the best investment of my limited time on earth is to spend it with people I love.

CAL FUSSMAN

Book recommendations:

  • Gabriel García Márquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude
  • The Right Stuff by Tom Wolfe

PAULO COELHO

What are the most common mistakes or weaknesses of first-time novelists? “Keep it simple. Trust your reader. He or she has a lot of imagination. Don’t try to describe things. Give a hint, and they will fulfill this hint with their own imagination.

  • 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.

AMANDA PALMER

Book recommendation: Dropping Ashes on the Buddha. It’s by Zen Master Seung Sahn.

ERIC WEINSTEIN

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

SETH ROGEN & EVAN GOLDBERG

8 TACTICS FOR DEALING WITH HATERS

  1. It doesn’t matter how many people don’t get it. What matters is how many people do.
  2. 10% of people will find a way to take anything personally. Expect it and treat it as math.
  3. When in doubt, starve it of oxygen.
  4. If you respond, don’t over-apologize. Some version of “I see you” will diffuse at least 80% of people who appear to be haters or would-be haters.
  5. You can’t reason someone out of something they didn’t reason themselves into.
  6. “Trying to get everyone to like you is a sign of mediocrity. You’ll avoid the tough decisions, and you’ll avoid confronting the people who need to be confronted.”—Colin Powell
  7. “If you want to improve, be content to be thought foolish and stupid.”—Epictetus
  8. “Living well is the best revenge.”—George Herbert

NAVAL RAVIKANT

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

“Free education is abundant, all over the Internet. It’s the desire to learn that’s scarce.

“You get paid for being right first, and to be first, you can’t wait for consensus.

GLENN BECK

People are starving for something authentic. They’ll accept you, warts and all, if that’s who you really are.

TARA BRACH

Radical Acceptance

…actively recognizing anger and other types of what we consider “negative” emotions. Rather than trying to suppress something or swat it away, we say to the emotion/ourselves, “I see you.” This counterintuitively helps to dissolve or resolve the issue.

MIKE BIRBIGLIA

…whenever we meet someone who we know doesn’t care about meeting us, my wife and I always try and come up with a trick question that throws them off. They kind of have to answer, or have to think about it.

THE JAR OF AWESOME

Anytime something really cool happens in a day, something that made me excited or joyful, doctor’s orders are to write it down on a slip of paper and put it in this mason jar. When something great happens, you think you’ll remember it 3 months later, but you won’t. The Jar of Awesome creates a record of great things that actually happened, all of which are easy to forget if you’re depressed or seeing the world through gray-colored glasses. I tend to celebrate very briefly, if at all, so this pays dividends for weeks, months, or years.

STEPHEN J. DUBNER

What’s the worst advice you hear often? “‘Write what you know.’ Why would I want to write about what little I know? Don’t I want to use writing to learn more?

JOSH WAITZKIN

Josh has no social media, does no interviews (except my podcast, for which he often says to me, “You fuck!”), and avoids nearly all meetings and phone calls. He minimizes input to maximize output, much like Rick Rubin. Josh says: “I cultivate empty space as a way of life for the creative process.

…when Josh gave me a beginner’s tutorial on chess, he didn’t start with opening moves. Memorizing openings is natural, and nearly everyone does it, but Josh likens it to stealing the test answers from a teacher. You’re not learning principles or strategies—you’re merely learning a few tricks that will help you beat your novice friends. Instead, Josh took me in reverse, just as his first teacher, Bruce Pandolfini, did with him. The board was empty, except for three pieces in an endgame scenario: king and pawn against king. Through the micro, positions of reduced complexity, he was able to focus me on the macro: principles like the power of empty space, opposition, and setting an opponent up for zugzwang (a situation where any move he makes will destroy his position). By limiting me to a few simple pieces, he hoped I would learn something limitless: high-level concepts I could apply anytime against anyone.

Whereas most competitors are secretive about their competition prep, Marcelo routinely records and uploads his sparring sessions, his exact training for major events. Josh explains the rationale: “[Marcelo] was visually showing these competitors what he was about to use against them at 2 weeks, 3 weeks, 4 weeks [away from competition], and his attitude about this was just completely unique: ‘If you’re studying my game, you’re entering my game, and I’ll be better at it than you.’” TF: I often share exact under-the-hood details of how I’ve built the podcast, put together Kickstarter campaigns, etc. I do this because of two core beliefs.

Belief #1—It’s rarely a zero-sum game (if someone wins, someone else must lose), and the more I help people with details, the more detailed help I receive.

Belief #2—If it is competitive, I’m simply offering people the details of my game. My attention to detail will scare off half of the people who would have tried; 40% will try it and be worse than me; 10% will try it and be better than me, but … see Belief #1. That 10% will often reach out to teach me what they’ve learned, as they’re grateful for my own transparency.

“One of the biggest mistakes that I observed in the first year of Jack’s life was parents who have unproductive language around weather being good or bad. Whenever it was raining, you’d hear moms, babysitters, dads say, ‘It’s bad weather. We can’t go out,’ or if it wasn’t, ‘It’s good weather. We can go out.’ That means that, somehow, we’re externally reliant on conditions being perfect in order to be able to go out and have a good time. So, Jack and I never missed a single storm, rain or snow, to go outside and romp in it. Maybe we missed one when he was sick. We’ve developed this language around how beautiful it is. 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.”

JON FAVREAU

  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.

Most media rightly don’t give a rat’s ass about book launches. They care about stories, not announcements,

JAMIE FOXX

It’s never been easier to be a “creator,” and it’s never been harder to stand out. Good isn’t good enough.

BRYAN JOHNSON

“What can you do that will be remembered in 200 to 400 years?

BRIAN KOPPELMAN

“Is that a dream or a goal?” If it isn’t on the calendar, it isn’t real.

ROBERT RODRIGUEZ

Robert takes copious notes. He sets an alarm for midnight every night to input the day’s notes into a Word document. He dates everything and stores them by year, so he can find whatever he might want later:

I would go back and review the journals and realize how many life-changing things happened within a weekend. Things that you thought were spread out over 2 years were actually Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and that Monday. So many occurrences happened in chunks that could blow you away, things that kind of define you…. “For anyone who is a parent, it’s a must. It’s a must because your children—and you—forget everything. Within a few years, they’ll forget things that you think they should remember for the rest of their lives. They’ll only remember it if it’s reinforced.

MY RAPID-FIRE QUESTIONS

  • When you think of the word “successful,” who’s the first person who comes to mind and why?
  • What is something you believe that other people think is insane?
  • What is the book (or books) you’ve given most as a gift?
  • What is your favorite documentary or movie?
  • What purchase of $100 or less has most positively impacted your life in the last 6 months?
  • What are your morning rituals? What do the first 60 minutes of your day look like?
  • What obsessions do you explore on the evenings or weekends?
  • What topic would you speak about if you were asked to give a TED talk on something outside of your main area of expertise?
  • What is the best or most worthwhile investment you’ve made? Could be an investment of money, time, energy, or other resource. How did you decide to make the investment?
  • Do you have a quote you live your life by or think of often?
  • What is the worst advice you see or hear being dispensed in your world?
  • If you could have one gigantic billboard anywhere with anything on it, what would it say?
  • What advice would you give to your 20-, 25-, or 30-year-old self? And please place where you were at the time, and what you were doing.
  • How has a failure, or apparent failure, set you up for later success? Or, do you have a favorite failure of yours?
  • What is something really weird or unsettling that happens to you on a regular basis?
  • What have you changed your mind about in the last few years? Why?
  • What do you believe is true, even though you can’t prove it?
  • Any ask or request for my audience? Last parting words?

THE MOST-GIFTED AND RECOMMENDED BOOKS OF ALL GUESTS

  • Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu (5 mentions)
  • Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand (4)
  • Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari (4)
  • Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse (4)
  • The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss (4)
  • The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande (4)
  • Dune by Frank Herbert (3)
  • Influence by Robert Cialdini (3)
  • Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert (3)
  • Superintelligence by Nick Bostrom (3)
  • Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman! by Richard P. Feynman (3)
  • The 4-Hour Body by Tim Ferriss (3)
  • The Bible (3)
  • The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz (3)
  • The War of Art by Steven Pressfield (3)
  • Watchmen by Alan Moore (3)
  • Zero to One by Peter Thiel with Blake Masters (3)

Your Thoughts?

Have you read this book? What were your favourite parts? Are you going to read it thanks to this summary? Have your say in the comments below.

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