Tim Ferriss

tim ferriss

I am Tim Ferriss, author, angel investor, host of the Tim Ferriss Experiment, and human guinea pig. AMA!

Hey reddit, my name is Tim Ferriss.

I’m best known for the books “The 4-Hour Workweek,” “The 4-Hour Body,” and “The 4-Hour Chef,” and I did my first AMA many years ago to support the education non-profit DonorsChoose.org: https://www.redditgifts.com/blog/view/tim-ferriss-answers-your-questions/ Answers here: https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=tim+ferriss+reddit+ama

I’m also an active angel investor and startup advisor; investing early in companies such as Twitter, Duolingo, Alibaba, and advising companies including Uber, Evernote, DonorsChoose.org, and a bunch of others (Most are here: http://angel.co/tim).

Today, I’m excited to announce the full online release of my TV show “The Tim Ferriss Experiment.” The show is about me attempting to deconstruct (or teach) various skills: surfing, professional poker, tactical shooting, parkour, languages, etc.—in just one week. I get help from some of the top teachers in the world (Laird Hamilton, Stewart Copeland, etc.). Not all turn out well. Think of it as Mythbusters meets Jackass, and the goal is to show anyone how to accelerate their learning speed. I stumble, get injured, and look really, really stupid a lot, but that’s part of the process. Here’s the trailer, if interested: http://fourhourworkweek.com/tv

25% of all my launch proceeds are being donated to After-School All-Stars (http://www.afterschoolallstars.org/), an incredible non-profit dedicated to help mentor at-risk youth during the “danger hours” of 3-6pm.

As part of that, you can actually get a personalized motivational video from the Terminator himself, Arnold Schwarzenegger (seriously). Here are the details: http://fourhourworkweek.com/2015/04/28/tim-ferriss-experiment/

I’m super excited to be here. AMA!

PROOF: https://twitter.com/tferriss/status/593454931115253760 PROOF: https://twitter.com/tferriss/status/593456419094925312

You recently did a fantastic Interview with r/GovSchwarzenegger. I learned a lot more about Arnold thanks to you but what 1 question do you wish you could still ask GovSchwarzenegger that you may have forgotten to ask him last time?

He’s amazing. I wanted to ask him a ton of extra questions, including “What have you bought for $100 or less (free OK) that has had the greatest impact on your life in the last few years”? Or “Did you really use to do stone lifting competitions in Europe? Tell me about that.”

I was really nervous for that interview. Researched my ass off and couldn’t sleep for two nights before. As a child of the 80’s (and runt until 6th grade), he was my hero. But when I landed at his house and we sat at the kitchen table, he was really cool at just being “Arnold” and putting me at ease.

ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER RESPONDS:

I can answer these now.

  1. So much. Besides a camouflage robe I bought at Wal-Mart when I was on location for a movie, I use the app Penultimate on my iPad constantly. It is the only way I email, actually. I have used it on reddit in AMAs. I love that I am working on my handwriting at the same time I’m making all of my notes more personal.
  2. Yes. I did this in a beer hall in Munich. I think it is about 600 pounds. It isn’t just a strength competition – it is a tough man competition. There is a metal ring that just digs into your hand. And you do it completely cold, no warm-up. Every day there is a competition for around 30 days during beer-fest. I had the day’s record. But in the full competition I finished 12th. A farmer named Krenzebach won.

Thanks for using the show to support After-School All-Stars. And it was fantastic to have you at the poker tournament, even though you lost brutally. I know everything for you happens in fours, but I didn’t know you take it so seriously you wanted to get knocked out in four minutes.

Just finished listening to your podcast with Brendan Moynihan about “What I Learned from Losing a Million Dollars” and found it pretty interesting. What has been your biggest mistake/ failure? And how did you learn from it?

I have many. The first that comes to mind, which I don’t think I’ve spoken about: A number of friends committed suicide around college and just after, and I nearly did the same. The mistake was thinking that depression lasts forever (it rarely does) and being selfish. I wasn’t thinking about how my family would blame themselves forever. It was sheer luck — a library card for a Dr. Kevorkian-like book ended up getting mailed to a family member by accident, which sparked a conversation that saved me. I hope to write more about this soon. Suicide among 20-30-year olds has skyrocketed in the last decade, at least according to an article I recently read. It’s tragic, and I was one of the lucky ones.

How do you maintain focus?

Despite what many think, I do not consider myself good at “focus.” Here are a few things that help me, despite my lesser impulses and ADHD nature:

  • The 5-Minute Journal. This helps me clarify things for the day, and the post-mortem at night helps me sleep.
  • Meditation in the morning. Try the Headspace or Calm apps for 10-20 min upon waking, before email or laptop or phone.
  • Get the “Momentum” extension for Chrome, if you use Chrome. Hugely helpful for avoiding getting distracted and lost in the Internet.

If you could wave a magic wand and have a startup created to solve your most pressing problem, what would it be?

They would make a continuous monitoring device, perhaps like nicotine patch, that would alert me if my cortisol or other factors (like galvanic skin response) were going nuts due to anxiety or stress. This would be a pattern interrupt to remind me to breath, chill, etc.

Meditation apps like Headspace or Calm are great, but having an early warning “Chill the fuck out” ping from a device would speed the process.

What are your thoughts on the online education industry? Specifically sites like udemy, skillshare, etc…

I’m HUGELY bullish. I love what all of these companies are doing. Education currently has too many political interests that are screwing over kids, and the playing field is extremely uneven globally. The future of education is software, including open-source projects like the Global Literacy X PRIZE, which I am a supporter of. I’m also heavily involved in startups like http://creativelive.com and http://duolingo.com Duolingo now teaches more students foreign languages per month than the entire K-12 public school system in the US. They now have 70 million+ users, and it’s all free. Their business model is genius: businesses pay for crowdsourced translations! It’s amazing what good, scalable technology can do. I’m very optimistic.

As a young person who just started their career and realized they hate it, what advice would you give me? I’d love to follow in your footsteps and work in startups.

Read “The Magic of Thinking Big” (Schwarz) and “Losing My Virginity” (Branson). Then volunteer at business events, like those put on by the EO (Entrepreneurs Organization), which has chapters everywhere. That gives you the opportunity to interact with speakers, icons, successful people, etc. above your pay grade. That’s how I learned a lot and built my network as a nobody when I first landed in Silicon Valley. Volunteering is an amazing secret weapon. Charlie Hoehn has written great stuff about this in “The Recession-Proof Graduate.” Definitely grab that as well.

Taken from your Peter Thiel ep: what do you believe to be true that very few people agree with you on?

Hmmm… A few things come to mind. The craziest: I believe that (sometimes) elements of what people witness in psychedelic states induced by certain plants is external. In other words, it’s not that their brains are creating internal hallucinogens, but rather tuning the “radio” to a frequency that accesses other planes or entities. This is why I like the word “entheogen” — new word I learned a few weeks ago — more than “hallucinogen.”

You have become super successful, but are involved in so many different things. What have you failed at recently? What would you do differently?

Sure. Two big ones —

Since The 4-Hour Chef was published by Amazon, it got boycotted by nearly everyone, including Barnes & Noble, Target, Walmart, Costco, etc. That turned the launch into a disaster. It was <25% of what it should have been. After 2-3 years of work, that was a huge blow and put me into an extended depression.

Next, the TV show! I’ve been negotiating and fighting for nearly 2 years on this. It was originally on HLN (why, I’m not sure), then the division responsible got shut down, and the TV show was pulled off the air. No one saw it. That was another failure, and my first big project after licking my wounds from The 4-Hour Chef.

But now it’s back and I couldn’t be happier. It ain’t over ’til it’s over, but I certainly felt like it was the end of the world at the time.

Hope that helps!

Whats the largest amount of mushrooms you’ve eaten in a sitting, and how often do you partake as a mental ‘reset’?

First, a caveat: I am not a doctor, nor do I play one on the Internet, and these drugs are very powerful.

The most I’ve ever ingested was 7g, followed by another 2g about 120 min later. I was supervised by a psychotherapist and in a closed room without a lot of sharp corners. In retrospect, this was totally excessive and unnecessary. I would highly NOT recommend this.

These days, I’m much more interested in micro-dosing (sub-perceptual, no hallucinations) and occasional 2-3g dosing for therapeutic purposes. I find the latter to give me at least 90% of the benefits of “heroic dose” that Terence McKenna talks about. That said, I’m looking for therapeutic versus mystical at the moment, as I want to try and port my experience over to broader discussions of treating vets with PTSD, etc. Definitely see my podcast interview with Dr. Jim Fadiman. These substances are powerful, and I don’t consider myself a recreational user. I treat them as if I were going into brain surgery, and that’s effectively what you’re doing.

I just reread 4HWW and it was different than i remembered. How do you decide what to change for updates to the book? It seems like it is becoming more classic, but there’s still lots of tools that were more applicable 5-10 years ago.

I totally agree. Books are a real challenge — and primitive medium — in that way. The tools will continue to change super quickly, so I might simply create a forum or community online for keeping it updated (though massive spam potential). The principles, fortunately, are timeless and borrowed from Seneca, Drucker, and other great minds. The 80/20 principle isn’t going away. I’m hoping to do a companion volume of case studies, as well as updated 4HWW, for the 10th anniversary (what?!) around 2017.

I’ve been trying for many years to get my life closer to where I envision it but I always come up short, mostly because I don’t follow through or let other, less important things, get in the way. I’m starting to wonder if the reason I’m failing is because I don’t actually want the things that I think I do and/or I don’t get the same drive to do the things that I want that you do. When you say you’re going to do something, you do it. Your strength of conviction and desire to get it done get’s you there. Any thoughts about cultivating strength of purpose or other ideas?

I can help here. First, you wrote “When you say you’re going to do something, you do it. Your strength of conviction and desire to get it done get’s you there.”

Not true! I often have terrible conviction and willpower. I need systems and habits to prevent my lesser self from winning. It’s a daily fight.

A few things that help me dramatically:

  • Grab “The 5-Minute Journal” and spend a few minutes on this each morning, BEFORE checking your phone, laptop, etc.
  • Do the “fear-setting” exercise from The 4-Hour Workweek about big choices or projects you’re considering. This is often the inflection point for people, and I still do this every 4-6 weeks. Here are the basics: http://www.businessinsider.com/tim-ferriss-on-exercise-to-overcome-fears-2015-4
  • Schedule and defend 20-40 minutes of exercise to “bookend” your day and get you off of computers around 6pm or 7pm. This will provide some structure to organize everything else around.

Hope that helps!

Hey Tim – Big fan. I recently found out through your videos/tweets that you have been fighting Lyme Disease for a few months now. How is that going and is there anything else such as advice you can offer to those who suffer from chronic illness? I can relate. I suffer from cognitive decline and can’t get a proper diagnosis.

Thanks for the kind words, man. I’m so sorry for the cognitive decline. Lyme took me out of commission for almost 9 months, starting July 2014. It’s common on Long Island, where I got it. For chronic illness, I always recommend (but get a medical opinion first, of course) to remove things before adding things. For instance, when my Lyme was really severe and I couldn’t remember friends’ names and my knees were swollen like grapefruits, I started removing things from my diet to see if it would quiet auto-immune response. Ultimately, I’m on a ketogenic diet now and finally feel like myself. I’ll get back to Slow-Carb, but I suggest removing carbohydrates to the extent possible as a starting point. Check out Dr. Terry Wahls as well: http://terrywahls.com/ Terry’s TED talk is fantastic. I wish you much luck, my friend. I have Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s on both sides of my family, so I worry and think about these things a lot. Kia kaha!

What do you think CAN NOT be learned meaningfully in a relatively short period of time?

I don’t think it’s possible to master most things in a week or similarly short period of time. To become a top-rated player in chess, for instance, takes real mileage on the board. However, if you just want to be able to beat 80% of your friends, I think you can easily get there within a few weeks. Nearly every skill I’ve seen falls along similar lines. But if we’re looking at my personal difficulties, meditation (I use TM, but vipassana and others are great) has been the most challenging to get right. It’s taken quite a few classes and apps and so on. I’m super impatient by nature, which can be an asset, but it can also just make me an ass 🙂 Still working on it…

What is your mindset when you start learning a new skill? What do you tell yourself?

It’s more questions than something I tell myself. I have to reduce fear first. If I’m afraid of embarrassing myself, for example, I’ll do 1/10th what I should. So I ask myself “What’s the worst that could happen?” on paper and go through a “fear-setting” exercise like this: http://www.businessinsider.com/tim-ferriss-on-exercise-to-overcome-fears-2015-4

Past that, it’s just using meta-learning frameworks like DiSSS and CaFE. Those work well for me. Here’s a presentation I did on how I use them: http://fourhourworkweek.com/2013/05/20/accelerated-learning-techniques/

What do you carry around everyday, why, and in what (bag, sling, etc)?

I usually carry a hemp “Datsusara” back pack, which was actually created by a reader of The 4-Hour Workweek. I always have a bound leather notebook of some type, charged batteries for recharging my iPhone via lightning port, often a Logitech bluetooth keyboard for working on my iPhone 6 plus, a woven bracelet of paracord (from my prepper stuff during 4-Hour Chef), L-lysine (for bolstering immune function during travel), and sometimes a Kershaw Ken Onion Leek knife with open assist.

It looks like your TV show is not available for non-itunes user (deal breaker for Linux/Android users) and not outside the US either (I live in France). Any hope to see those two issues resolved soon?

Ahhh… I know, man. This has been a huge battle. I have spent a small fortune trying to get international rights, but the network says that too many have already been sold for broadcast (linear TV). I’ll keep trying.

For the iTunes question — I am considering doing more in a few weeks on YouTube or VHX, for instance, but it’s still TBD. For now, iTunes has been hugely supportive and it’s important for me to dominate the charts, as I want to get the attention of Hollywood talent. Not necessarily studio heads and managers, but the good directors, actors, etc. I have some longer-term plans with feature film that I’m setting the stage for.

So, to recap: non-iTunes options should come up, but it will be at least a few weeks, and they’ll also be geo-restricted to the US due to my contractual limitations. I will keep fighting for international, as that’s what I do 🙂

How does one get started with nootropics? At this point what companies, if any, are leading the nootropics campaign?

I used to be really gung-ho with nootropics (smart drugs) and popped more pills than Ray Kurzweil. I’ve since realized that powerful drugs like Modafinil or even Hydergine have a price. There is no biological free lunch, so I use meds sparingly. Routine use will cause downregulation of other things and all sorts of issues. My favorite “smart drug” of choice right now is traditional, bitter yerba mate tea (or pu-erh tea) with 1-2 tablespoons of coconut oil melted in it. Try it. For many people, it blows most of the pills away. My favorite brand is Cruz de Malta.

Various studies have made claims that mate is correlated with different types of cancers, but only when consumed hot. Maybe try cold?

I suspect that very hot liquid of any type, if solids are involved particularly, likely increases the probability of mouth and throat cancer.

Regarding the anxiety, I also get that if I chug a cold yerba mate from a bottle. It’s not intended to be consumed quickly like that. Rather, it’s sipped — a tiny bit at a time — over hours.

BUT, if you’re getting anxious, I’d stop. The most important thing is to find what works for you, and if mate is fussing with your system, better to keep searching.

Try pu-erh tea and see what you think. I like to combine it with a ginger/turmeric tea from Rishi. Delicious and not overly caffeinated.

I would like to know, what was the biggest Fear of yours, that you have conquered?

The first that comes to mind is swimming. I didn’t learn to swim until in my 30’s. That’s pretty embarrassing, considering I grew up on Long Island (yes, rat tail and all)! It was once of my biggest insecurities. Not only was I afraid of drowning, but that fear made me afraid of humiliating myself. I took classes but failed repeatedly and gave up after 1-2 sessions. Everything changed when a friend introduced me to Total Immersion Swimming. Here are the cliff notes: http://fourhourworkweek.com/2008/08/13/total-immersion-how-i-learned-to-swim-effortlessly-in-10-days-and-you-can-too/

Can I just ask, on an average basis, how much sleep do you get?

Hi Gregory,

I LOVE sleep. On average, I like to get 9-10 hours per night. During a launch like this week, I’m ranging from 2-6 hours per night, plus a 30-90 min nap in the late afternoons. To prepare for that, I went into ketosis and upped my electrolytes to minimize a cholinergic response/insomnia. I’ve done extreme polyphasic experiments before (like Uberman), but I don’t enjoy it at all.

FYI, part of the reason I love sleep so much is that I toy around with lucid dreaming a lot: http://fourhourworkweek.com/2009/09/21/how-to-lucid-dream/

Enjoy the dreaming!

I wanted to ask you for your thoughts on productivity toward physical activity and physical based skills. I am a dancer, and I understand that you are too! I have a three month goal to compete internationally and so constant practice is essential. But on top of working out and learning another dance style as well (all in which I want to improve), the more I try to do it all at once, the more mentally fatigued I am. I try to set aside a large chunk of time each day (I tell myself 2 hours of this style, and 2 hours of another style immediately after) so that it would cut down interruption time and be more productive than having smaller sessions throughout the day. I understand that you danced tango for 6 hours a day, so do you have any tricks and insight on how to get over mental fatigue due to repetition and stay effective during practice?

Thanks for the question. I think more frequent, shorter sessions are key. Testosterone drops quite a bit after more than an hour of intense exercise, which dancing can certainly be. Dance for 30-40 minutes, taking breaks to video moves/sequences you want to review and practice. In Argentina, I often did 2 classes in the afternoon, where I would view the practice just as “capture” sessions, where I would record someone else’s move, practice it, then record myself and review. I’ve review all of the day’s video (and group it in folders on my laptop under “ganchos” or “long steps” or whatever), and then write down my “assignments” (moves) for that night, when I would go out to the “milonga” dance halls and practice with women I’d never met, which is primarily a test of the lead. In between the 8-10-min “tests” (usually 3 songs), I would sit down and note what went wrong and what went right. Hope that helps!

Also, try eating more fat. 1-2 tablespoons of coconut oil at each meal really helps a lot of people with cognitive function and endurance.

As a 17-year old college student, you’ve helped me so much with finding my passions and interests and I just want to say thank you! Btw, what would your advice be to a 17-year-old college student unsure of what to study at Uni, or just advice in general? I’m massively interested in Neuroscience – particularly the areas on how people learn – similar to your early interests? I’ve also been thinking about Medicine but I couldn’t see myself in that career. What were the biggest changes you made in your teens that lead you to where you were now? Did your Neuroscience degree help at all, and if you had the chance again would you have taken the same degree?

Follow what excites you. Unless you’re 100% sure that you want to be a doctor or lawyer, undergraduate degrees are for making you a well-rounded human and offering you the chance to explore widely.

If you like Neuro, go for it! I actually graduated with a degree in East Asian Studies (focus on language acquisition) after a year in Neuroscience. Some people would jokily ask, “What type of job will that get you?” It bothered me a bit, but I had faith that simply improving my thinking (which scientific training and languages do) would translate to any job I might pursue.

If you’re a hard science guy looking for jobs in that space, it’s a different story. Or if you know you want to be a CS guy, you are going to need to program. That said, the best programmers I know started way before college and never did it for the job prospects; they started to make games.

So study the neuroscience. If you change your mind, great! Undergrad is for exploring.

For skills to focus on, in general, I would recommend:

  • Get good at writing, which equals thinking on paper. Stephen King’s book, as well as “Bird by Bird” are great. “On Writing Well” similarly good.
  • Start learning how to negotiate now, and practice. “Getting Past No” and “Secrets of Power Negotiating” (Dawson – get audio if you can) are solid.

Good luck and have fun! If you can’t have fun in college, you won’t have fun in life, so try a lot 🙂

What’s a question no one ever asks you, that you wish they would?

Hmmm… I get a lot of questions about “marketing,” but people usually ask a granular technical question, but I think they usually miss the forest for the trees. So perhaps “What exactly is ‘marketing’?” is the question I don’t get asked. My answer: “Marketing” is knowing exactly who your reader or customer is, and making a product exactly for them. Kevin Kelly’s “1,000 True Fans” (somewhere on http://kk.org) is a great read that helps this type of thinking. People should spend 80% of their time on product, and the so-called “marketing” largely takes care of itself later.

Is there any lifehack that you used to be big on but now realize it wasn’t good, worth it, or safe?

Long ago, I was big on liquid egg whites for convenience and health. I no longer think that’s necessary or ideal. Soft-boiled (ah, the sweet nectar!) whole eggs with Maldon sea salt are now my jam. In my more recent experiences, ingested cholesterol has very little to do with serum cholesterol.

I love your work. What advice would you have for someone who has very high ideals, but a hard time staying on track and course correcting? I’m a musician who goes through these hyper motivated stages in life where I’m 100% on point, maintaining a schedule, staying free of undue stress, making the right decisions, and suddenly I’ll revert back to self indulgent slobbery (messy, getting stoned, not practicing my craft, writing schedules and lists but not doing them). Going from 100% to 0% quickly. I’m 26, and most of my plans for the future are entrepreneurial in scope so I have to handle this aspect of myself promptly. Any advice for guarding against my self sabotaging tendencies?

I have a lot of the same tendencies. So, the first thing is realizing that you’re not alone. Many of the top performers I know still deal with self-doubt and stuff like this: http://fourhourworkweek.com/2013/11/03/productivity-hacks/

Second, get the book “Bird by Bird” by Anne LaMotte (sp?). It saved me and several of my friends, who were going to give up on their books and who then went on to become NYT bestselling authors.

Third, I don’t think self-control is enough, at least not for me. I need accountability. Consider tools like:

Stickk.com Dietbet.com Coach.me (I advise these guys)

Hope that helps, and perhaps my writing mantra could aid you: “Two shitty pages per day!” That’s my goal. If I do that, I’ve “won” for the day 🙂

Good luck!

Have you seen the documentary ‘Terms and conditions may apply’? And how do you feel about the privacy issues it raises as someone who has invested in some companies involved?

I haven’t seen it, but I’ll check it out. If it’s referring to the Facebooks and Twitters of the world, I agree that privacy is a major issue. I am quite paranoid about all this stuff, so using DuckDuckGo, Tor, pre-paid cards, etc. is always on the mind. I love the tech tools and will pay the price to use many of them, but I’ll also mitigate the Big Brother aspect by sometimes accessing them obliquely.

What is the 4-hour solution to hair loss? You have a solution to virtually everything. Anything regarding hair loss?

I wish I knew! That said, I tried (as corbinsmith said) products like finasteride/propecia, but it lowered my strength and sex drive. I decided I preferred more sex and strength to my silly faux-hawk I had at the time. Now, I’m down to shaving with a zero clipper, but I’ll take it to Bruce Willis style soon enough. If I figure anything out, I’ll let you know!

You’ve talked in the past about your annual psilocybin mushroom trip. Could you elaborate on what kind of insights you gain from such psychedelic experiences, and why you think they help you live a good life?

I found Richard Feynman’s books to really de-mystify a lot about science, much like some of Michio Kaku’s books. Read “Surely, You Must Be Joking, Mr. Feynman!” (sp?) to get excited, then check out Khan academy and others. Some great universities like Stanford and MIT have tons of their classes online. That how some of my close friends learned to program.

If you’re fascinated by it, you’re ahead of most people. Get after it! 🙂