Holy crap! The Tim Ferriss interview! Finally!
(Jordan’s note: We literally released this at midnight Eastern time on Nov 20th so that we’re the first interview Tim could give after his book was officially launched — take that…everyone else!)
His new book is out and AJ and Jordan talk with Tim about:
- Innovations that will change the world forever
I mean, it’s Tim Ferriss; ’nuff said, right?
The 4-Hour Chef by Tim Ferriss
Secrets of Power Negotiating by Roger Dawson (Audio CD)
More Money Than God: Hedge Funds and the Making of a New Elite by Sebastian Mallaby
Getting Past No: Negotiating in Difficult Situations by William Ury
1000 True Fans via The Technium (blog post)
The Truth About Social Media Marketing by Tim O’Reilly (blog post)
Topgrading (How To Hire, Coach and Keep A Players) by Brad Smart and Geoff Smart
Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High by Kerry Patterson, et al.
Crucial Confrontations: Tools for Resolving Broken Promises, Violated Expectations, and Bad Behavior by Kerry Patterson, et al.
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig
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Jordan: All right, we’re glad to be back in touch. We actually met at Summit Series in 2010, DC.
Tim: Yeah, I remember. How are you?
Jordan: Right on. I’ve got to ask, because you meet a ton of people, how do you remember everyone, or don’t you? You just remember how obnoxious we were, so it’s stuck.
Tim: I don’t remember everyone but there are a few places that, I think, act as really useful pegs for names and faces. Summit Series is certainly one of those places.
Jordan: Okay, good to know. Yeah, that’s a lot of fun. I just remember people were, like, “Oh, you met Tim Ferriss. What were you guys doing?” I was, like, “Well, we were all chatting about something and Tim was shoveling granola bars in his mouth, like, as fast as possible.” It was ten or fifteen minutes to midnight, and it was like weird cheat days. So it was, like, “I must eat.” It was like one-bite granola bars. We were pretty impressed.
Tim: Oh, yeah, I don’t mess around with cheat day.
Jordan: No, if you’re going to cheat, cheat hard. Cheat in hard.
Tim: Yeah. Work hard, play hard. But, the hard and smart is important in both sides.
Jordan: Yeah, absolutely. Speaking of getting that sort of going and getting motivated, how do you motivate yourself and stay there? A lot of our listeners were asking, “How do I get motivated?” You know, when I think about it, I kind of think, all right, some people are motivated and others aren’t, or some people are motivated based on what they’re doing. But, sometimes you’ve just got to rally. It seems like there’s probably been times where you were, like, “I don’t feel like putting a shun in me and having stuff plugged, or taping a plastic bag over it so I can shower for a month and looking at my glucose.” So how do you rally? How do you stay motivated?
Tim: I think there are two things I tend to focus on. The first is that recognizing — in many cases — you get motivated after you start, not before you start. So I think having a lot of motivation and then starting is out of sequence a lot of the time. So the boldness of taking that further into action, I think, is what’s necessary for someone to see a new — whether it’s hobby, interest, business project, partnership, whatever, as a reality and to get motivated by it. Secondly, it is picking your peer group really, really carefully. So I say this a lot but you definitely are the average of the four, five people that you associate with most. So I try to spend time with people who make me feel like I should be thinking bigger, pushing harder, etcetera.
Tim: I think that that is really what it comes down to in large measure. Secondly, I do read things that bring me back to a stable baseline when I feel overwhelmed, whether that’s Letters from a Stoic from Seneca or other readings. They tend to be pretty philosophical but they allow me to really carve out the noise so that I can focus on the signal of the few things that actually matter. Because when you feel overwhelmed, there’s no way you’re going to feel motivated about the most important things, if you feel like you’re juggling a hundred knives at once.
AJ: So you were talking about juggling a hundred knives, and when we look at your last book and now the new book you’re working on, it’s such an immense project. How do you go from the planning phase to execution, because putting together such a book of that magnitude had to take a lot of time?
Tim: Yeah, it takes a lot of time, and there are a lot of moving pieces. So I think when you’re dealing with a project, like let’s take the 4-Hour Chef, right? So the new book is much more complicated. It was much more complex for me to put the other than the 4-Hour Body. I think it’s easier to read, in many cases. But, it’s 672 pages, full color, 1500 photographs — about 20% I took myself.
There were hundreds of illustrations, hundreds of different people who were interviewed, and we needed to create a team, basically a startup of between 20 and 40 people, depending on the time, operating in New York, California, and other places. So the first thing was to determine exactly how we were going to communicate and how we were going to assign next actions and things like that. So in my particular case, I used Basecamp and broke that into separate projects so you have 4-Hour Chef site, 4-Hour Chef launch, 4-Hour Chef editing, 4-Hour Chef sidebars, and all those silos have specific teams assigned to them so that all of the files, messages, and everything are in one place. That is extremely important because e-mail is the mind-killer.
Jordan: Yeah, definitely.
Tim: So for the purposes of scheduling, for the purposes of assigning next actions, for the purposes of, let’s say, reviewing design and things of that nature, anything graphic, certainly using tools like Skitch, for editing any type of screen capture using ScreenFlow, instead of typing out e-mails. All of those things combined saved hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of hours. Also, having systems in place. This is important whether you’re doing something yourself or doing something with a team of 30 people.
If the objective is to secure interviews and very hard to reach people and then to have successful interviews, you need to have a recipe for that. You need to have an operational manual for that, even if it’s just five paragraphs. But, there has to be a system that can be replicated so that you can take five people and have them all produce reliably good results, and you may be one of those five people. So really thinking through systems so everything as little as possible is ad hoc, I think is extremely important.
And then, at the end of the day, I think that the objective determines how hard you push. So for me, I think a common misconception is, because I wrote this book called the 4-Hour Workweek, especially if you haven’t read it, that I have an issue with hard work, which is not the case. I have an issue with wasteful work. But, in terms of working hard, I’m all for it, if it’s applied to the right things.
You really can do a surprisingly minimal amount to generate significant revenue if that’s your goal for lifestyle design. But, for instance, if I want to have a book that redefines the genre and it’s a complete category-killer and stays on the Best Seller List for four or five years at a time, then I have to go past Pareto’s Principle, the 80-20 principle, and really bleed out my eyeballs for the last five percent, you know what I mean? That is what is going to make the difference between a really good book and a holy-fucking-shit-this-is-a-one-of-a kind-never-before-seen book.
That’s where I think I can have the greatest leverage in the world, so that’s where I push myself. But, for instance, the mistake that I made earlier on in my career and the mistake that a lot of people make is having that bleeding-out-the-eyeballs approach to a lot of things that aren’t mission-critical. I think that’s where it becomes important to say no to things as much as it becomes important to say yes to things.
AJ: So I mean it sounds overwhelming, and you have to feel overwhelmed from time to time. What do you do in those moments where you just feel completely overwhelmed with the project?
Tim: Yeah, there are two things I do. It’s the first time I’ve talked about this. I was in a brunch place near [Tahoe], at a place called Truckee, with one of my girlfriend, and there was this wooden sign on the wall that just said ‘Simplify.’ A painted sign that said ‘Simplify.’ I actually bought it from the owner and put it over one of my main doorways in my house so that I see it every single time I get up or walk through my house. I create a not-to-do list basically identifying the 20 percent of people, activities, etcetera, that are producing 80 percent or more of my overwhelm, stress, etcetera.
And then, I try to follow a strict sort of a [0:07:49] diet for even 48 hours with those things. That’s really the only approach that I found to be effective. Another thing that relates perhaps specifically to e-mail, which I think is important because it’s such an instigator of overwhelm, is clearing out e-mail and creating a separate list where phone calls will be more effective and then I’ll just go for a really long walk, like a two-hour walk, and knock out all the phone calls. That, alone, can help you get to inbox zero within the 24 or 48 hours where you might not otherwise get there.
Becoming very effective at leaving voice mails or e-mails. For instance, if you send an e-mail that is “Can you do this or this?” or “Can you do this, yes or no?” Following that up in the same e-mail or same voice mail with “If so, then let’s do this as next steps; if not, then let’s do this as next steps.” You automatically, then, take your e-mail threads and cut them down by 50 percent just by cutting all that bullshit short.
AJ: So instead of getting the response “It’s okay” or “Great idea,” you already have the next steps in action.
Tim: Right. So instead of having four e-mails that’s, like, “Hey, what do your times look like next week?” “Well, I can do this and this. What about you?” “I can do this. I can do this.” “Oh, shit. That doesn’t work. Let’s do this.” You have six or seven e-mails. Instead of saying that, say, “Next week, I have these following times available. Can you make any of these? If so, just let me know the best call-in information. If not, please suggest your best times on these following days. Worst case scenario, if neither of those work, we’ll just have, I guess, a ScreenFlow, and I’ll send it to you tomorrow afternoon.” Boom. Done.
It requires a little bit of thinking on the frontend. So it’s like an extra 32 seconds or 60 seconds of thought on the frontend that, ultimately, saves you not only minutes or hours of time later but that overwhelm that is crippling, and that’s the more important piece. The question isn’t can I spare the time later. The question is can you spare the interruption. Can you tolerate the overwhelm? Most people can’t.
Jordan: Now, speaking of overwhelm and obstacles, when you first started, you mentioned the 4-Hour Workweek. By the way, thanks for debunking that you’re not just working four hours a week, because tons of people are like, “Well, first step is work way less and then we figure out this whole efficiency thing and then I outsource my job.” It’s, like, no. I’m sure you get that all the time and it makes you want to kind of strangle people. It’s also like the foundation for most of the articles that are, like, “The 4-Hour Workweek is bullshit,” and it’s because the people are, like, “You can’t get anything done in four hours.”
Jordan: You’re working your ass off and I just want to be clear with that. One of the questions we got from our listeners as well was what are some of the biggest obstacles or what is the biggest obstacle that you faced when you started your own business, even back in the BrainQUICKEN days? What obstacles do you see entrepreneurs today getting stuck in? What are the biggest quagmires where people get stuck in and then it, ultimately, might even contribute to, if not the failure of their company, at least to a massive amount of unnecessary stress?
Tim: The number one thing, honestly, I think is, in the beginning, you’re going to be scrapping really hard and throwing a million things against the wall to see what sticks because, unless you do that and until you do that, you really can’t do any kind of analysis towards the 80-20 to identify what is the least input for the greatest output, right? So during that period of time, I think one of the most valuable skills that pay dividends for the rest of your life that people should focus on acquiring is that of deal-making. That goes by many different names; some people call it sales, some people call it negotiation. In reality, all of those, to me, fall under the umbrella of deal-making.
There are a few resources that I found very effective. One was Secrets of Power Negotiating. I think it was by Richard, it may have been Roger, Dawson. Get the audio, if possible, because the intonation and cadence and everything is very important. Secondly, it was Getting Past No, instead of Getting to Yes. Actually, one of the co-authors of that, from Harvard, split off and later wrote what he felt to be more accurate depiction of negotiation, which was Getting Past No.
I think that having the ability to negotiate effectively, deal-make effectively, is really pivotal to everything that you would want to do, because you’ll get what you deserve and you’ll get what you negotiate. That’s true in business; that’s true in any type of relationship — although it doesn’t have to be antagonistic, of course. But that type of empathic thinking and creative deal-making methodology applies to everything. So I would say that that is one place where people can really save themselves a lifetime of not only stress but repeated failure. It’s to focus on getting extremely good at oral and written communication as it relates to deal-making.
Jordan: Excellent. For the listeners, we’ll have Amazon links to those two products in the show notes for this, so you don’t have to search around or replay this ten times to get the titles.
Tim: Yeah. And then, I would also say, just from the standpoint of marketing, people can get caught up in the merry-go-round of marketing [digital world] where it’s, like, “Oh, my God. I used to focus on MySpace but now it’s LinkedIn and tomorrow it’s Pinterest,” and then it’s a hundred thousand different things that they feel they need to keep track of. In my opinion, good marketing, good product design is really perennial. It doesn’t change that quickly. All these different tools are really just crayons in the crayon box.
To that extent, I would suggest reading 1000 True Fans by Kevin Kelly, which is one of the smartest pieces ever written. He’s the former, well, founding editor of Wired Magazine. Also, Tim O’Reilly, a very well-known thought leader in the tech world, wrote a piece recently called The Truth About Social Media Marketing which touched on, I think, the more intelligent way to approach marketing, which is, in short, really thinking of baking [0:14:08] value and shareability in doing products and the outset, number one.
So the content or product itself is 80 percent of your marketing. And then, secondly, choosing your one thousand true fans or early adopters, early evangelists very carefully so that, once you acquire those first, let’s say, thousand ideal customers, you really don’t have to do any more marketing. As opposed to getting caught in the speeding-the-monster scenario, where you acquire a hundred customers and then you lose 80 and then you acquire a hundred more and you lose 80 and you’re just constantly in this grind to keep the business afloat.
Jordan: Right, a lot of churn. There are tons of that because the guys who are selling these products are, like, “This is how you get sixty thousand Facebook fans,” and then everything automates itself, and “I know this because I’m friends with Tim Ferriss. Look at my Facebook ad,” right? You’ve seen those, right? You know what I’m talking about.
Tim: Every week there’s a new one. I just want to come back to a point that you mentioned which I think is important. That is I do work my ass off but I think there are a few things that are really important to notice. Like you mentioned, there are a lot of people who don’t read the book and are, like, “Oh, Tim Ferriss is full of shit.” I think there are also people who read the 4-Hour Workweek and misinterpret the message, and that can be just as damaging in many ways. So I do work my ass off on the critical few things that matter but — this is really important — what makes me different is that I can hit pause, I can hit the escape button. So for instance, I’m going to go to February.
In the midst of everything that I’m doing, I’ve never had more opportunities coming to me in my entire life. I’m going to hit pause and I’m going to go to, most likely, Indonesia, for the entire month of February and learn Bahasa Indonesian and how to surf and so forth and so on. You can only do that if you have two things. Number one is systems in place and/or, number two, the ability to say no to a lot of things and miss fleeting opportunities. I think that in order to ensure that the largest good things happen, you have to allow small bad things to happen. There’s no way around that in the digital world where everybody thinks that they should get an immediate answer to everything, no matter how stupid and minute and unimportant it might be.
AJ: What I would like to get is your viewpoint on assembling a team because, obviously, the book had 20 people working on it. As an entrepreneur, both Jordan and I running a startup, we’ve really struggled with hiring the right people and putting together the right team. So are there any strategies that you have in assembling the teams that are running the various things you’re working on?
Tim: Yeah. So I would say there are certainly people who are better at this than I am but I’ll tell you my approach. My approach is pretty simple. Number one, whenever possible, I try to get referrals from people that I know. I know that sounds silly but I want someone I know to be on the karmic hook if I hire someone at their recommendation and it doesn’t work out, because that makes them think very carefully about who they’d recommend or don’t recommend. Secondly, I always test, even if I’m, let’s say, pulling in candidates for specific function via Craigslist, which I don’t do anymore but let’s just say I have done that in the past. The first thing I’ll do is test for reliability and attention to detail.
Forget about skillset, right? So let’s say you’re hiring a designer. It seems kind of odd but, if I’m hiring a print designer, the last thing I’m going to check, in some ways, is their actual portfolio. What I’m going to check, for instance, is in that Craigslist ad, at the very bottom somewhere or hidden in the middle, I’ll say, “Do not respond to this e-mail. Leave a voice mail at this following number by X point in time.” If they don’t do that, they don’t follow directions. I don’t want to hire them because, ultimately, I would rather have a decent person who is always reliable than an amazing person who doesn’t follow directions. I think that’s point number one.
Point number two is there is an art to interviewing, whether that’s as you guys are doing right now and you’re obviously pretty good at it or interviewing job candidates and trying to ferret out the truth from the bullshit and so forth. There are a number of ways to go about doing it. I think the book Topgrading, the original edition, which is a beast of a book but you can skip to the interview portions, is actually very good for this.
Secondly, to avoid any type of legal issues — and I’m not a lawyer so don’t take this as legal advice — there are certain legalities around asking for references and talking to references and so forth. There are some very easy ways to get around doing that early on by indicating, like, “We are going to want to talk to your former bosses and we want to make sure now that you’re comfortable making those introductions and ensuring that they talk to us.” If they say no, you don’t hire them because that’s a huge —
AJ: It’s a red flag.
Tim: Yeah, but you don’t have to that whole dance where you get their names and phone numbers and set it up. You’re, like, no. If this person’s a good candidate, like, “We want to talk to them on one of these following days, could you help us coordinate talking to them? If they say no, they’re out. So those would be a few key points. Obviously, there’s much more to it if you’re building a large organization. But, if you’re building a startup where everyone’s input is really critical and they could be single points of failure, I think reliability is number one and, number two, ensuring that you set expectations clearly.
One of my best favorite examples of that, and I’m going to get the details wrong here, but I think it was Shackleton. It was some type of — it may have been an Antarctic expedition. He was recruiting crew for the ship, and the classified was something like, “Seeking adventurers for dangerous journey. Low pay. Horrible conditions. Return unlikely.” That ensured that 99 out of 100 people who would’ve applied, had it been rosy, didn’t even apply in the first place.
I think that it’s very important to set realistic expectations. This, of course, applies everywhere in terms of will they be working weekends, are you going to call them at 8 pm, are they going to be expected to God-knows-what, take last minute assignments even if they’re headed off on vacation or whatever, so that none of that stuff, if it exists, comes as a surprise. So for instance, I’m hiring some folks right now. Most of them are going to be part-time or just contracted, and I’m going to have them help with this launch.
This launch is going to be closer to a movie launch than a book launch. So it’s, like, “Look, usually, things are this way. Meaning like normal, maybe like 10 to 5, whatever, if-you-are-working-with-me type of thing.” But, a book launch, 24/7. Like, if we get an opportunity in Chicago and it’s nine hours from now and we’re in New York City or California, we’re getting on a plane. Like, end of story, non-negotiable, that’s how it works. You know what I’m saying? It’s like an elite military team.
Jordan: Right, like Navy Seal book launch team. Like, “All right, grab your bug-out bag. We’re going to New York right now. You have to be at the airport in 40 minutes. The emergency pager on your leg is vibrating.”
Tim: Yeah, I know. That is what happens. I mean, with a lot of the best opportunities, with this type of project, things come up last minute so you have to be aggressive. I mean, if nothing else, I’m very, very aggressive in life. I had a great opportunity a couple of weeks ago but, you know, I was in San Francisco, slated to go to Seattle the next day, and I said, “Well, we have one opportunity. It’s 9 am tomorrow in Los Angeles,” and it was already 10 pm in San Francisco the night before. They were, like, “Can you make it?” and I said, “Yup.” I made it happen. So anyway, I’m digressing a little bit. But, in terms of interviewing, I think Topgrading is a good resource certainly for interview approach.
AJ: Okay, and then the flipside of that I think entrepreneurs also struggle with, and that’s firing and handling when people on your team make the inevitable mistakes. Do you have any strategies for handling employees who made a mistake on the job and then ultimately having to get rid of those problem employees that just aren’t working out?
Tim: Yeah, I’ve been very fortunate where I really haven’t had to do this all too much by filtering on the front side, but I would say there are two things. Number one is, before you hire anyone full time, I suggest doing what Automattic does. Automattic runs WordPress.com and is run by a bunch of friends of mine. I actually advise the company. They have all employees take a two-week trial period with the company before they’re hired full time. So never hire full time if you can avoid it, because you just never know, number one.
So allow yourself and the candidate a certain grace period, if at all possible, to do a trial before going full time. Secondly, if you do have to fire — again, I’m no lawyer — you need to put your precautions in place before you hire, whether that’s non-disclosure agreements, non-disparagement clauses, etcetera, non-competes — which are not enforceable in many states — but assignment of intellectual property. You have to have your paperworks.
So number one, I would not skimp. If anywhere, do not skimp on proper paperwork for whether it’s independent contractors or full time employees because that is where you can really torpedo an entire company. If you’re not careful, you can open yourself up to a lot of personal liability. But, for firing, I’m going to give yet another book recommendation. Crucial Conversations is a good book. It was written by a number of people, including a friend of mine. I think there’s also Crucial Confrontations. My experience has been and that of my friends has been, in firing, it’s keep it short, keep it sweet, don’t be a jerk.
The more things get convoluted, the longer it takes, the more dangers there are, I think. And so, when possible, be really matter-of-fact. Don’t be insulting but offer them a decent exit package and move on. Where people tend to hire people that they need to fire is when the jobs are poorly defined and/or they are delegating things that shouldn’t be done in the first place, right? So doing something well does not make it important.
So if you are overwhelmed by a collection of activities, a collection of campaigns, a collection of products or services, the first step should not be hiring people to handle those things. The first step should be doing in depth 80-20 analysis to identify the critical few things you should be focusing on and eliminating everything else before you are redelegated.
Jordan: All right, right on. One of the things that we were really interested in, considering that a lot of our listeners are into the dating stuff as well, what do you think is the relationship between sex and business? I mean both are different expressions of a very similar instinct or drive. Now you’re kind of renowned in both fields, right? So I’d love to hear about that relationship and what it is in your mind. Can one side benefit from the other and do they both benefit from the same lifestyle?
Tim: Yes, I would say more than lifestyle. I would say mindset. So one of the things I like about you guys, is that it’s really unlike many, perhaps, people in related fields is that you don’t advocate false personalities and developing sort of a thin veneer that is then extremely short-lived. I think that whether we’re talking about business or sex, mating in general, so this is going to sound kind of strange perhaps but this is the first rule of negotiation, which is ‘He who cares less, wins.’ If you always are willing to walk away, you win. You know what I mean? It’s, like, how can someone negotiate against you? If you know your walk away point and you’re cordial, you’re professional, or you’re at least very forthright, but you’re not in any way, whatsoever, desperate or pressured to agree to something, I think that gives you tremendous power and, therefore, most certainly longer term success in business.
I think that’s also true in relationships. What I mean by not caring or caring less does not mean that you’re constantly issuing ultimatums to girls or anything like that. It means that you can live without it and you are self-sufficient; you feel complete without it and you’re confident in your ability to generate opportunities elsewhere. That is it. When people feel like they have one golden goose that they can’t sacrifice or one incredible girl they need to chase, that’s when they fail. Not only that but that’s when they develop neurosis and all sorts of insecurities and psychological problems. So for instance, I have had some incredible deals come to me, opportunities, and, at the end of the day, I haven’t trusted the people I was talking to. Despite the paperwork, no matter how good the contracts might look, I just didn’t trust them. In every instance I’ve said no to that, the better opportunities come along, and I felt good about it.
In every instance where I have second-guessed my intuition or feeling about it and tried to do a good deal with a bad person, it has backfired. I think it all comes down to feeling confident that you can generate equally good opportunities or better opportunities, whether that’s related to women or to business; therefore, having the confidence to walk away. I think that’s the first thing that comes to mind, at least in this conversation.
AJ: Now, being as busy as you are and travelling and constantly looking for those hacks to your lifestyle, how are you able to maintain the relationships, not only with females but also friends who maybe you weren’t in contact with all the time?
Tim: Yeah, absolutely. So I’ve been dating the same girl for a year and a half. I would say that there are a couple of keys. The first is having low-need, highly-driven, independent friends and, in this case, a girlfriend. That does not mean you have shallow relationships with people. What that means is when you see them, you’re on 100 percent. And then, when you’re not with them, you have your respective passions or interests outside of the relationship, whether that’s friendship or an intimate relationship, and you focus on those. So it’s challenging but I don’t think it’s impossible.
If I look at the highest functioning couples, whether those are business partners, whether those are married couples or otherwise, they’re very good at doing their own thing; they’re very comfortable with focused alone time if one of them needs to go do something, whether it’s in the office or with handling family problems or otherwise. There’s no neediness. I think that that is the only way that you can have the type of lifestyle that I have, which is play hard, work hard, even if that working hard is only two weeks. For those two weeks, I may be checked out, completely emotionally unavailable and in machine mode, and I need a woman who recognizes. In most cases, that’s part of what attracted her to me in the first place was that I’m very mission-driven and making an allowance for that, like, “Okay. If Tim needs to go in the cave for two weeks, that’s fine, because when he’s back in with me, he’ll be with me.”
I think that, you know, work-life balance, meaning 50 percent of the day, will be family; 50 percent of the day will be business. It just isn’t practical for most people like me or many of my friends. It’s like family for a week, business for X period of time. Or, I’m going to jam on this for two months because that’s the length of the project and then we’re going to spend three weeks completely off the grid doing something else is more of a mesocycle type of approach that I think more people should consider. Similarly, to digress just a little bit from a time management standpoint, I think part of the reason so many people have trouble getting a lot done — and this is also true for me. I mean, it’s important to constantly course-correct. It’s not like you just flip a switch once and you’re done.
Tim: It’s when people have ten different types of tasks that they do on a specific day. “So I’m going to do my e-mails here and my phone calls here and my this here and my that there, my meetings,” and they have meetings spread throughout the entire week. One of the things that I try to do, and there are a number of my friends who do this very well, is to have, for instance, all of my in-person meetings on Fridays, all of my kind-of paperwork, accounting, legal stuff, on Mondays, the two-hour phone calls that I told you about, whacking those up and doing it on Wednesday morning, so that I’m not constantly task-switching. I think that’s true with family and business as well. It’s extremely difficult to task-switch. You can’t have a girlfriend or, if you’re a woman, you can’t have a boyfriend who wants to talk to you every 30 minutes for 60 seconds. The time cost might be very low but the psychological toll and productivity toll is off the charts.
AJ: How much do you set up those boundaries at the start of your relationship, especially with the women you’ve dated in your life? Is there an explicit conversation where you sort of outlined those boundaries and what you’re able to give and what she can expect?
Tim: Oh, absolutely. I mean, if anything, I exaggerate my own foibles and malfunctions because relationships are hard, relationships are not easy, whether it’s boss-employee, girlfriend-boyfriend. Relationships are never easy, even if the two people involved are awesome; like you have a parent die, okay, you have a kid born with learning disabilities. If somebody gets fired or God-knows-what, life is hard. Juggling that is difficult. It’s hard enough with one person. So I think it’s important to have someone sign up for inevitable rough times and also to be extremely honest about your own deficiencies, if you have them, or just your own hardwiring. You can correlate the success of my relationships, the degree of honesty, at the very beginning. It’s not that I’m dishonest but I’m being extremely explicit about all of that stuff. The more explicit I am, the better things turn out.
Jordan: Yeah, I think that that is mandatory because one of the things that people complain about a lot is, “Well, you’re always busy and you’re always doing this.” But, if you know sort of from the outside, all right, I need to screen in a woman who is okay with that, has her own thing going on, and isn’t just saying that for the sake of being agreeable in the beginning of a relationship, and understands at a very visceral level, like, “Okay, he’s not always going to be readily available for me at the drop of a hat. He’s going to be off-grid sometimes, and that’s just the way it is.”
That can be tough but I think it helps eliminate incompatible people probably pretty early on in the game. You’re known for sort of hacking everything as well. What about your dating life, other than trying to outsource the online dating stuff? Have you sort of hacked with respect to dating and relationships and do you feel that that was effective, because that seems all right at first but then it’s kind of like, “Okay, now I’m back to stage one.” It’s like, online dating, you spend six hours doing what you could do in five seconds, seeing if you like someone. Outsourcing that, great, but what else have you sort of hacked in your relationship life?
Tim: Let’s see. Well, I would say, if we’re talking about dating, there are many different ways to approach this, right? So if guys are looking for more play time, there is one approach. If you’re looking for finding an amazing girlfriend, it’s quite different. But, I would say that, in either case, lunch dates, coffee dates are extremely under-utilized. I mean dinner is a real, serious investment.
Jordan: Yeah, it’s a commitment right there. That’s your night.
Tim: It’s a real freaking commitment. Another thing that is underrated: early dinners. Highly, highly underrated — whether it’s for finding a girlfriend or for more play time. Like, you have dinner starting at 8:30 and that’s an uphill battle from the very start.
Jordan: Yeah. Then you’re full and you don’t want to put out till, like, midnight.
Tim: Right. It’s hard for everybody. So including dinner reservations, by the way. You can get better dinner reservations if you have earlier dinners.
Jordan: Do you hang out with my parents?
Tim: The other thing, I would say, just related to the 4-Hour Chef, is that cooking — even having one or two good default meals and a few good techniques that you can teach other people. For instance, knife skills, if we’re talking about men dating women, is the ultimate mating advantage that I have ever seen. Being able to, keep in mind, also host a dinner at home. Hello? I’m not going to point out the obvious. But, you’re just ahead of the curve from the very get-go. I think that also allows you — again, whether you’re looking for something serious or not serious, if a girl is just being polite, you can go on many dates with a girl you’re attracted to who has no attraction to you, whatsoever, because she doesn’t want to offend you.
I think that even if there’s no physical contact, whatsoever, a really fast qualifier is “Do you want to come to my house and I’ll cook you dinner on such and such a night?” because it is a clear romantic overture. There’s no way that she can rationalize that you’re just going out for yet the fourth dinner as friends. If it’s not appealing to her, great; that means you can move on. I think that that’s come to me to be a really clear sort of qualifier and it’s also fun. It’s also really enjoyable.
AJ: So at-home dinner dates are keeping you out of the friend zone, essentially.
Tim: Yeah, absolutely. It accelerates everything in terms of mutual understanding. So I think that the art of the at-home dinner date is really under-utilized, particularly by people who think that cooking has to be complicated, which absolutely does not at all. I mean, in literally five minutes of prep time and have Osso Buco two and a half hours later and, bam, restaurant-quality food, you’re done, which is something that I think a lot of folks miss when they pick up encyclopedias of cooking that are just more overwhelming than helpful, and they’re really written by chefs to make them easy to write and not necessarily logical to read.
AJ: So can you walk us through what we can expect from the new book, as a novice in terms of cooking? I clearly don’t have knife skills either. What am I going to be able to get after reading the book?
Tim: Yes. So the 4-Hour Chef, the subtitle is really important because I’ve been a lifelong non-cook. I had no interest in any amount of cooking, whatsoever. I actually became pretty famous, at one point, on YouTube, for microwaving liquid egg whites and plastic as my breakfast. Not the best. But, my readers have been asking me for a book on accelerated learning for four or five years now. What I decided to do was take a skill that had kicked my ass many, many times — cooking — and take readers on this journey with me, from ground zero, traveling around the world, trying to figure it out; failing, learning, failing, succeeding. In the process of doing that, to teach them this process of meta learning, which is the real recipe of the book, that you can apply to learning a language in eight weeks, or learning to dance tango and get the world championships or whatever in five months, right?
So the book is really like Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance in that respect. So even if you’re not interested in motorcycles, that’s an interesting book. This is a cook book for people who don’t buy cookbooks. What you can expect is, number one, you’ll easily cut in half the amount of time required to learn any skill; whether that’s surfing, basketball, marksmanship, whatever, all of those are included in the book. Secondly, in roughly four hours of total prep time, so actual preparing meals, and that’s cooking twice a week for two months. That’s like the curriculum. In roughly four hours of total prep time, you’ll acquire all of the principles and most versatile skills of a two-year culinary school. No stress, no overwhelm, nothing, which is a huge pain in the ass to put together, by the way, but it does work. Let’s see, what else? You’ll learn how to forage meals, like hunt, catch, and eat pigeons in a post-apocalyptic world, seduction meals, and practical approaches for just about anything related to learning or food.
AJ: All right.
Tim: Yeah. I think it’s the best book that I’ve put together so far. I’m pretty psyched. I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to pull it off. I had a lot of moments of doubt in producing this book. I just got my first physical copy last Friday, and it’s fucking gorgeous.
AJ: Oh, man.
Tim: Yeah, I’m super, super psyched.
AJ: We’re definitely excited to check it out. For bachelors like me and Jordan, what are the essential tools that we need in our kitchen to accomplish these many culinary feats you’re talking about?
Jordan: Just a pigeon trap. There would have to be an apocalypse for me to eat a pigeon. I’m just going to throw that out there.
Tim: There are some legal issues related to catching pigeons, but pigeons are delicious. They’re pretty easy to catch, too. Anyway, we’ll come around to that another time. But, the subminimal gear, this is actually one of the main pain points that always irritated me about most cookbooks is you’re like, “Oh, to get started, here are your $3,000 of gear that you need to buy.” Who the hell is going to do that? So for the bachelor, here’s what you need: you need a cheap knife that will allow you to learn knife skills easily without freaking yourself out.
There is a Rada Cutlery cleaver, effectively. It’s actually easier to learn knife skills with a small cleaver than it is with a regular chef’s knife, and that costs between seven and 20 dollars. On Amazon, it’s super cheap. Then you have a cast iron Dutch oven skillet combinations so that the cover on the Dutch oven is actually also a skillet. That’s like 20 bucks. If you don’t have potholders and things like that, you want to get some surgical huck towels. Those are lint-free surgical towels, believe it or not, used by a lot of the top chefs out there. Those are like a buck a piece. So you get twelve of those.
Jordan: You can sell yourself up or sell a cup of the blood you’re going to get while you’re learning knife skills.
Tim: Right, exactly. Actually, the way that I teach it, I’ve never had a single injury with knife skills, because it freaks you out. You’re afraid of cutting off your fucking fingers.
Tim: Anyway, so, yeah, the knife skill is just awesome and you can freaking knock it out in an afternoon. It’s pretty sweet. It’s a great feeling, too, from a manual, kind of tactile standpoint, just to use your hands for something other than a spacebar and a keyboard. The other gear that I would recommend, from the get-go, would be a cheap probe thermometer. So this would be like 30 dollars or something like that, maybe less, Holder or ThermoWorks probe thermometer that you can insert into meat and many other things to check the internal temperature, so you never have to worry about underdone, overdone stuff ever again. You just set an alarm, temperature, and you’re done. That’s about it, man. Honestly, it’s like that’s what you need to cook thousands of amazing dishes. That’s pretty much it.
AJ: That doesn’t sound too scary.
Tim: No, not at all. It’s super straightforward. In terms of ingredients, people get overwhelmed with herbs and spices. I tackle all that stuff, too. I mean, how you deconstruct taste? How do you acquire tastes like vocabulary in a foreign language? It’s actually pretty tricky. That was something I had to figure out. But, in the beginning, it’s like, man, you just figure out a couple of different types of salt, you learn how to use acid properly, like lemon or white vinegar, and you’re set.
You go to a Whole Foods, you buy 40 bucks worth of stuff, and you’re set for months if you want to. You don’t need anything else. That stuff will not go bad, it will not rot in your refrigerator, and it won’t make you feel guilty, whatever. It won’t rot. What I set out to do for the first four weeks of this kind of curriculum is to remove all of the common failure points, the sticking points for people who have tried to learn cooking or have just abandoned it in the past. Like cleaning; eliminate the cleaning. Number two, fear of knife skills. Don’t introduce that shit too early; introduce it later. So avoid that altogether. Just on and on and on. Like grocery shopping — keep it super fast, super simple. People do not want to spend. Bachelors, right? Busy guys like you don’t want to spend three hours putting together dinner.
Jordan: Yeah, not a chance.
Tim: You want to come home, throw something in, and not have to think about it. You can do that. It just takes a different methodology. Yeah, that’s it. To get started, that’s pretty much all you need.
Jordan: That’s a relief because I was, like, “Oh, man. I’m not going to have one of those blowtorches for crème brulee sitting in my counter. I don’t need that garbage.” Or, like, seventeen different knives to cut different types of meat. No thanks.
Tim: No, not at all. This is really the common thread in the 4-Hour Workweek, 4-Hour Body, and the 4-Hour Chef, both as it relates in the new book to cooking and to learning, is what is the most elegant path from point A to point B, the fewest number of moving pieces, the fewest types of costs, the fewest incidents of headache. What is the most elegant path from point A to point B? To that point, as I’m laying out, for instance, some of these different meals that I encourage people to tackle in order, the costs are layered.
So as you move on, all of the costs are distributed so that it’s really, really inexpensive as you move through it and you acquire the most important, cheapest stuff first. So I mean, I’ve never seen like it. There are a lot of awesome cookbooks out there but, as far as novices who fucking hate cooking but who have always kind of been curious about it, certainly on the accelerated learning side. I think people who’ve liked the last two books are going to like this one.
Jordan: This went from cookbook that I’m never going to buy to something that is right up my alley in the last five minutes of this conversation.
Tim: Awesome. Yeah, I mean, look, I have actively hated cooking my entire life.
Jordan: Yeah, me too.
Tim: Now, I cook to relax. I mean, it’s the weirdest thing. I will fine-dice vegetables and onions with a ridiculously sharp sword of a knife now, which you don’t need to do. But, I can do that without looking at what I’m cutting and find it meditative, which would have been unthinkable to me.
Anyway, I’m just saying that also one of the big drivers for me with this was realizing — because I went on a number of really extended hikes with guys, sort of men’s men, who knew when the trout were running, could figure out all sorts of things related to wildlife and [game]. Like, if the full moon was out, they were eating the night before so you’re not going to see them in the morning. Just having this real tactile manual literacy that you just don’t really see much anymore. Like, if I look at myself and most of my friends, it’s like we’ve mastered this white collar —
Jordan: Twitter. We’ve mastered tweeting.
Tim: We’ve mastered Twitter and we’ve mastered this virtual world, which is very valuable and I think incredibly important, but I think that we’ve lost a lot of our humanness and, you know, building things, making things, being able to forage things, being able to create shelter, like, being able to do all these things to understand the six most critical knots that you can use in any particular situation — all that stuff which is on the book. It really, I think, brings back a certain life force that I didn’t have before. I just let it wane because I was spending so much time indoors and I was having fun doing what I was doing. But, it’s just been extremely life-changing for me to really use my hands more, and I do think it has an impact across the board on just about everything.
Jordan: Yeah, I would agree. I mean, it’d feel like our brains are hardwired for that at some level. If we don’t do it, we start degrading a little bit. Now, you mentioned some of the good deals on paper with bad people or bad deals with good people, etcetera. What are some ways you can tell immediately if someone’s a quality person that you want to work with or not? Of course, the red flags of being late or not following detailed instructions. But, what are some other ways where you’re, like, “You know what, this guy is doing this and this and this, and I love that. I want this guy on my team,” or “This person did this thing that normally wouldn’t be a big deal but, in my experience, has led to disasters down the road, and I want to steer clear.”
Tim: Well, I mean, first thing is — and this is, of course, very independent on the person — but I always do a little Google, detective work, not only searching their name but I’ll search their name plus, like, FTC violation, FCC violation, lawsuit, felony, etcetera, and you can certainly take that to another level and do background checks, if necessary. But, I like to have a couple of potentially awkward conversations way upfront. So ask them about times they’ve lied or ask them about times they’ve failed, disappointed bosses, things like that, to see how they respond. Do they get emotional? Do they get defensive? Do they never talk about their weaknesses or give some fake Goldman-Sachs, Mackenzie interview answer, which is like, “Oh, I’m non-flawed. My biggest flaw is I’m too driven. Sometimes I work too hard.”
Jordan: Michael Scott answer. “My strengths are actually my weaknesses. You see that right there?”
Tim: Right. So you’re really trying to force them to talk about stuff that would make most people uncomfortable because, really, adversity, I think, reveals character more than it builds it. You want to see how they operate under difficult conditions or uncomfortable conditions because everybody can do a good job when it’s clear skies and smooth sailing. When people are going to misbehave is when they feel overstressed or pressured or trapped or whatever. If you’re in a fast-moving company, that’s going to happen. So I think planning out, yeah, diplomatic but potentially awkward conversations from the get-go is a good tact when you’re interviewing, certainly.
AJ: You most get pitched all the time, and you mentioned earlier you have some advisor positions with some startups. What have been some of the most successful pitches, in your experience? How do people stand above the rest?
Tim: People stand above the rest or are most likely to get responses from me in a few different ways. I would say, number one, and this goes for anyone so I’ll just generalize this. When you’re pitching someone who’s very busy and who is public-facing and involved with a lot of things, number one, you have to understand what they’re involved with and what you believe their motivations to be. So for instance, if I’m doing startup investing, I love startup investing but it’s not a non-profit activity for me. So I have to enjoy the people I work with but that, in and of itself, is not sufficient. That would be true for speaking engagements, typically, also. So I think that understanding, if there’s a financial component, what are the other opportunities this person’s involved with and what are those likely financial implications.
If what you’re pitching is Primary Financial, it’s ten thousand dollars but they have other opportunities that are worth a hundred thousand that take an equal amount of time. You shouldn’t even bother. I think you have to do your due diligence there. Secondly, do your homework: understand their market, understand their activities, and so forth. But, I would never say A, B, and C is perfect for you. I totally understand this, this, and this about you; therefore, this, like look forward to your favorable reply. Those types of forcible pitches, I don’t like.
Most people who are as involved with various things as I am also dislike those because they’re sort of laden with guilt implications. I get the best responses from my pitches. Keep in my mind I just don’t pitch people, right? I basically soft sell it and I say — beginning of e-mail, all right? I’ll give you the e-mail. Beginning of e-mail: “Dear so and so, this is me. Here’s who I am,” credibility, credibility, credibility indicator. “This is how I got your e-mail. This may be of no interest to you but I feel like I’ve done my homework and I know this, this, and this about you.” Pitch in one or two paragraphs. “This is what I’m asking. This is what I’m offering. I totally understand if you’re too busy to reply but it would certainly mean the world to me if you found a few moments to do so,” or something like that. “Sincerely, so and so.” End of story. Super soft.
I think that it’s important for people to realize, when you’re pitching someone, if the deal makes sense, the deal stands on its own merit. If the deal doesn’t make sense, pitching harder or like wordsmithing in some weird pressure-related way is not going to make a difference. You’re just going to piss them off. So those would be a few of the things that I would think about. I mean, for myself, I have certain, let’s say, financial minimums for many opportunities, where there has to be the potential of a financial outcome between X and Y, right? I also tend to do things that are either free because they’re so incredibly, unbelievably awesome or very high paid. I try not to do a lot of things in between. So it’s either extremely high-impact financial or free because it’s so awesome on other levels. I have a friend named Derek Sivers. He’s founded and ran CD Baby.
Jordan: We interviewed him on the show as well. He’s an awesome dude.
Tim: Derek is an amazing guy, really pragmatically philosophical. I don’t know if he mentioned this to you guys or not but, one of his policies is you either say hell yes or no — there shouldn’t be anything in between — to opportunities. I think that’s a good guideline.
AJ: So what are some startups you’re really excited about currently? I know you’re really tapped in the tech field. One of the reasons I really enjoy your blog is because you’re constantly introducing me to new services and new businesses that I wasn’t even aware of.
Tim: Yeah. Oh, boy. Well, there’s quite a list. I mean, I would say that there are a number of them. One is Clear Card for effectively skipping airline security lines. They’re expanding quickly and that just saves my sanity every time I go to any airport where it’s supported. So that’s Clear Card. I cannot function without it. Uber, of course. I mean I was one of the first three advisors to Uber. Also, one of the services that I would pay to continue to have — I mean I’m already paying for it but it would be extremely painful for me to lose that service, which is one of my criteria for looking at startups — TaskRabbit, of course. Evernote‘s continuing to kill it. I’m trying to think of the ones that I can actually discuss. BlackJet is actually quite interesting. This one was just announced three days ago.
Jordan: What’s that? That sounds baller.
Tim: Yeah, it is baller. So BlackJet is Uber for private airplanes, if you can imagine that. So most private airplanes, private jets, etcetera, are empty 90+ percent of the time. So what if you could pull out your iPhone and, for something close to first class airfare, just like, boom, boom, boom, now I have a flight from SF to LA on a private jet and off I go to the private jet strip instead of going to SFO. That’s BlackJet. Obviously, for a very limited subset of the population, it doesn’t make it any less interesting.
I like very segmented startups. It could be for a very high earning population; it could be for a designed population, for instance. What other startups am I involved with most recently? Blue Bottle Coffee, I was part of the syndicate that bought Blue Bottle Coffee. A huge brand. We’ll be doing a lot in the coffee space. I’m very interested in that. I’m also becoming more involved with restaurants. There’s Central Kitchen in San Francisco. It’s an award-winning restaurant that I’m involved with in addition to Kevin Rose and Ed Williams and a couple of other folks. So those are a few that come to mind immediately that I’m really excited about.
Jordan: Right on. I love that. BlackJet looks really cool. Oh, you said you have one more?
Tim: Yeah, one more that comes to mind, and that is — of course, there are a bunch — actually, there a few more. So creativeLIVE is one that I’m very, very excited about. They’re basically cracking the online education market; meaning, like PBS on steroids. There’s like eight cameras and opticopters and better-than-TV quality production for, let’s say, a two-day course. So I’m teaching a two-day course coming up soon on creativeLIVE. That platform is just incredible, and they’re killing it.
Lift, which is a behavioral modification app that was created by guys from Twitter, I’m involved with that. And then, I’ll just mention one more which is Duolingo. So for learning languages, Duolingo.com is just incredible. It was founded by the computer scientist, Luis Von Ahn, who created Captcha and reCaptchas. So anytime you have to fill out letters and numbers or anything like that to get through a form, to approve that you’re not a machine, he created those. So he’s basically translating the entire web while teaching people languages for free. It’s pretty amazing.
Jordan: That sounds awesome. I’m a big language geek as well. I’m even learning Chinese right now, which is awesome. I’d love to be able to check something out like that. I noticed that BlackJet has invite code requirements. So we’ll just call you ten times a day until we get one of those. What’s one experiment or two you’ve really wanted to try but haven’t been able to for whatever reason?
Tim: Let’s see, experiments I’ve wanted to try but haven’t been able to. Well, there are two that come to mind. So one is genetic modifications, like gene therapy for increase in muscle mass, things like that. I know at least one UFC fighter went to China and gained — he’s already 250+ and gained thirty pounds of muscle in about 28 days with really targeted gene therapy.
AJ: Holy cow.
Tim: That’s, I think, the future of doping in a lot of respects. I know, obviously, a ton about that.
AJ: For curiosity. I have a bit of science background. What genes was he targeting?
Tim: I mean I would have to dial in. He was looking at some of the interleukin, a few things related to interleukin. He’s also looking at myostatin and, I would imagine, probably, although not certainly, actin- for fast twitch muscle fiber. I would have to dial into it. He was not very forthcoming with the details, this particular guy.
AJ: So it wasn’t a study, by any means. It was something off the record, more or less.
Tim: Oh, it was completely off the record. Yeah, it was totally black market, which is part of the reason why I haven’t done it yet. I mean I have the means to experiment with it but, as much of a risk-taker as I am, you can really get yourself into trouble when you’re using retroviruses and whatnot to toy around with genes.
AJ: Yeah, it’s very hard to turn off the effects once they’ve been started.
Tim: Yeah. So if you’re going to take the anabolic steroid equivalent genetic factor but, like, half ebola virus and put it in your body, you really should know what you’re doing. So I haven’t done that yet. Let’s see, other things like mass production, like systematizing production of really good dishes, restaurant-style, doing a meal for 60 to 70 people as an exec chef is something I’ve never — or even just cook something I’ve never done. I’m going to do that in New York City in the next few weeks in a pretty high pressure environment. That should shave a couple of years off my life. I’m, like, cortisol pouring out my eyeballs. Yeah, I’m looking forward to that. Those are a few that come to mind.
AJ: What’s up next now that you’ve got your copy of the book, and it seems like it’s in the final stages, and then you’re getting ready for the launch? What’s on the horizon in the next year or two for you?
Tim: Wow. I mean, next year or two, I would say, first and foremost, making sure that the 4-Hour Chef gets into as many hands as possible; simply because, also, I’m not sure if you guys are aware of this but because it’s the first major acquisition of Amazon Publishing, it’s being boycotted by Barnes & Noble and most of the retailers. It’s not going to be kept in the bookstores. So I actually have an offer for your listeners if they want to grab three books. We can talk about that in a second.
But, beyond that, I would really like to experiment with the visual medium. I’d like to do some TV. I’ve had a lot of interest. Most of the opportunities had been pretty unappealing. Some variation of Tim Ferriss life hacking meets Real Housewives of Orange County, which is not very interesting.
But I have a few TV concepts that I think could be hugely successful, that I would like to explore. But, I would have to have an exec producer and created by status so that I could actually segue into production later. I’m 35. I still have at least a couple of good years left in me to do really crazy physical shit and then push the envelope in that world. So I’d love to actually chronicle some of that, just almost as a diary. I think television, also, being able to film an entire season in a few months’ time and to give me the opportunity to get off my ass and do some crazier things that I’ve wanted to do, but to actually put them on the calendar for filming. It’d certainly motivate me. I think that’s probably where I’m headed next after the 4-Hour Chef is off to the races.
AJ: So to wrap things up on sort of a downer, what have been your largest failures, thus far, in your 35 years here on Earth and what were you able to take out of those experiences?
Tim: Biggest failures. Let’s see. My biggest failure — this has happened a few times but prior to the 4-Hour Workweek, I still catch myself sometimes leaning on this direction so I have to be careful — was ruining personal relationships, mostly with girlfriends, from workaholism, just working too much, letting that become the single dominant focus for excessively long periods of time. That’s hugely damaging not only to the relationship but to me as a person. I mean it’s very unhealthy to have your entire identity wrapped into one thing. So you start cutting back and running to the gym, start cutting back on time with friends to focus on this one singular business goal. I do think that could be extremely dangerous and unstable.
So that’s something that I’ve had to contend with in the past and have dealt with very successfully but, you know, it’s kind of like once an addict, always an addict. I think that if you’re hardwired to have the drive to be a workaholic, you really have to have a management process and a way to revisit that and correct-course constantly. It’s not like you just press go and then you’re fixed. So I think that’s where I’ve had most of what I would consider failures that I have to keep an eye out for, and so far so good.
AJ: What was probably the most difficult thing for you to learn? I know you talked a lot about meta learning and you’re always acquiring new skills. What jumps out of you as just something that was extremely difficult?
Tim: Oh, by far, scheduling rest intervals, scheduling recovery times, scheduling time off, without a doubt. I mean that’s certainly reflected in the 4-Hour Workweek. But, I’m a very driven guy. I want to create a lot of change in the world, and that can lead me down a very slippery slope sometimes, where I almost become a martyr or something when approaching that. It’s stupid. It’s not productive. So I think that consistently taking care of myself has been the hardest lesson I learned and it’s one that I need to continually keep up front and center so that I don’t slip. That is definitely number one, without a question.
Jordan: You tend to be on the cutting edge of a lot of stuff so I thought I would ask. Because I remember when I was younger, I told my dad about search engines and he was, like, “Why would anybody use this? They can just go to the library.” I was, like, “We should try to buy stock in Yahoo or something,” and he was like, “That’s so stupid,” right? I still rib him about this to this day. But, what are some of the biggest opportunities you think that there will be in the future?
Tim: Oh, boy. Any particular sector? Any particular industry?
Jordan: You know what, maybe tech just because you’re so familiar with it, but I would love to get something outside of that if you have something on the horizon. I mean you’re allowed to be wrong, obviously. Nobody is going to invest. This is not investment advice. This is not like any kind of counsel. I’m just curious as to what you think might be, like, “Hey, this is this thing that right now nobody knows/cares about but has the potential to change the whole world and everyone’s going to be talking about it in five years or ten years maybe.”
Tim: Yeah, I would say a continuous physical monitoring that is non-invasive. So for instance, I’m involved with a startup right now that I can’t talk about just yet, but they’re developing something that effectively looks like a nicotine patch and basically gives you your annual checkup, like the six pages of blood markers and all that stuff, on a 24/7 basis. It’s pretty amazing.
Jordan: So it’s a dashboard for your body?
Jordan: I want that now. I want it now.
Tim: Yeah, it’s amazing. So I think that it’s basically hitting activity monitor on your computer but for your body and being able to look at everything that’s going on, looking at trending and everything. It’s pretty astonishing. So I think that, in the world of self-tracking and self-experimentation, there are many, many types of testing and tracking that are valuable but currently very cumbersome or expensive. So for instance, if you want to talk about — I think a very neglected area is fertility. So whether that’s sperm testing and storage or egg testing and storage, it’s extremely analog, it’s extremely cumbersome; very few people do it, which is astonishing to me because it’s such a cheap insurance policy for things that end up like tearing relationships and families apart later, costing at 150 thousand dollars or whatever. It’s like why would you not invest?
In the case of a male, you know, maybe a few hundred dollars a year; in the case of a female, maybe 15 thousand dollars — to capitalize on your production in your younger years. I think that’s a hugely unexploited area that I would love to see some disruption within. Let’s see. Outside of that, outside of tech, I mean everything is so integrally wrapped into tech but I think 3D printing. Not to jump on the bandwagon but, I mean, I know a lot of people involved with 3D printing. I know [0:22:47]. That is going to be a very interesting world to play in even from the standpoint of identifying stocks.
Again, this is not investment advice and I don’t personally do this because I’m not confident in my ability to have an informational advantage over public markets. But, for instance, instead of investing in 3D printing companies, which industries are going to be most disrupted by 3D printing? Which industries are going to be the most controversial where there might be opportunities in the chaos? I mean what happens once you can print pieces for guns on a 3D printer?
AJ: Yeah, I saw an article about that.
Tim: Yeah, which you can already do. Instead of thinking through the longer term implications of that — and I think a lot of the people who are most affected by this type of butterfly effect, long term thinking or macro-level thinking are hedge fund managers. There’s a very good book called More Money than God, which is one of the few books on hedge funds that I found really fascinating and instructive on some level. It’s a big book, though. So those are a few of the areas that I’ll certainly be watching very closely. But, for my personal investment standpoint, I’m going to focus on where I have the greatest competitive advantage and that’s right in my backyard in tech in San Francisco.
Jordan: I love this. I think that was fantastic, man. Is there anything else you want to cover before we wrap up?
Tim: Yeah, I mean if you guys are open to it, I would love to offer an exclusive Q&A later down the line for people who buy three copies of the book. It’s going to be pre-holidays, and it is every bit the ultimate holiday book. So if you guys are open to that.
Jordan: Of course. What do we need to do?
Tim: Awesome. All right. So this is it. Basically, anyone who buys three copies of the print edition of the book on Amazon, all they need to do is send that receipt from Amazon to [email protected] So e-mail the Amazon receipt to that address and then you will be invited, at some point after launch week, to an exclusive Q&A where you can ask me whatever you want. So that’s the opportunity. It should be pretty intimate and pretty fun.
Jordan: Excellent. Thanks so much, man.
AJ: Yeah, we really appreciate your time.
Tim: Yeah, this was awesome, guys. This is the longer format stuff with like-minded folks. This is fun, so I appreciate you guys making the time.
Jordan: No, absolutely. We’ll be sure to have your books and links up in the show notes. So if anybody has any questions about, “Oh, what was that book about hiring and negotiating?” it’s all going to be in the show notes. You guys can check out more from us at theartofcharm.com and more from Tim at fourhourchef.com or the original fourhourworkweek.com, of course, as well, all linked up in the show notes. Thanks so much, Tim.
Tim: All right. Thanks, guys!