These highlights are from the Kindle version of Tools of Titans by Tim Ferriss.
You are forced to shed artificial constraints, like shedding a skin, to realize that you had the ability to renegotiate your reality all along. It just takes practice.
While the world is a gold mine, you need to go digging in other people’s heads to unearth riches. Questions are your pickaxes and competitive advantage. This book will give you an arsenal to choose from.
More than 80% of the interviewees have some form of daily mindfulness or meditation practice.
Borrow liberally, combine uniquely, and create your own bespoke blueprint.
My goal is for each reader to like 50%, love 25%, and never forget 10%. Here’s why: For the millions who’ve heard the podcast, and the dozens who proofread this book, the 50/25/10 highlights are completely different for every person. It’s blown my mind.
Humans are imperfect creatures. You don’t “succeed” because you have no weaknesses; you succeed because you find your unique strengths and focus on developing habits around them.
Everyone is fighting a battle you know nothing about. The heroes in this book are no different. Everyone struggles. Take solace in that.
My original intention with The 4-Hour Workweek (4HWW), The 4-Hour Body (4HB), and The 4-Hour Chef (4HC) was to create a trilogy themed after Ben Franklin’s famous quote: “Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.”
I agree with Tony Robbins (page 210) that information without emotion isn’t retained. Look up “von Restorff effect” and “primacy and recency effect” for more science, but this book has been deliberately constructed to maximize your retention.
“In acupuncture the goal is not to feel the needle. In dry-needling, you are sticking the needle in the muscle belly and trying to get it to twitch, and the twitch is the release.” It’s used for super-tight, over-contracted muscles, and the needles are not left in. Unless you’re a masochist, don’t have this done on your calves.
“Hyperthermic conditioning” (calculated heat exposure) can help you to increase growth hormone (GH) levels and substantially improve endurance. I now take ~20-minute sauna sessions post-workout or post-stretching at least four times per week, typically at roughly 160 to 170°F. If nothing else, it seems to dramatically decrease DOMS (delayed-onset muscle soreness).
“Two 20-minute sauna sessions at 80°C (176°F) separated by a 30-minute cooling period elevated growth hormone levels two-fold over baseline.
“Flexibility” can be passive, whereas “mobility” requires that you can demonstrate strength throughout the entire range of motion, including the end ranges.
If you have no gymnastics background, this one will be fun/terrible. I use cast wall walks as a workout finisher and recommend you do the same, as you’ll be worthless afterward. First, let’s define the position you need to maintain.
The ketogenic diet, often nicknamed “keto,” is a high-fat diet that mimics fasting physiology. Your brain and body begin to use ketones (derived from stored or ingested fat) for energy instead of blood sugar (glucose)—a state called ketosis. The diet was originally developed to treat epileptic children, but there are many variations, including the Atkins diet. You can achieve ketosis through fasting, diet, exogenous ketones, or a combination.
How do you know when you’re in ketosis? The most reliable way is to use a device called the Precision Xtra by Abbott. This can measure both glucose and blood levels of beta-hydroxybutyrate (BHB). Once you reach 0.5 mmol—millimolars, a concentration—you can consider yourself lightly “in ketosis.” I tend to feel increased mental clarity at 1 mmol or higher.
“If you don’t have cancer and you do a therapeutic fast 1 to 3 times per year, you could purge any precancerous cells that may be living in your body.”
There is also evidence to suggest—skipping the scientific detail—that fasts of 3 days or longer can effectively “reboot” your immune system via stem cell–based regeneration. Dom suggests a 5-day fast 2 to 3 times per year.
I now aim for a 3-day fast once per month and a 5- to 7-day fast once per quarter.
Each day of fasting, feel free to consume exogenous ketones or fat (e.g., coconut oil in tea or coffee) as you like, up to 4 tablespoons.
A chicken breast by itself will kick you out of ketosis, but a chicken breast cut up into a green leafy salad with a lot of olive oil, feta cheese, and some Bulletproof Coffee (for example) can keep you in ketosis. One of the challenges of keto is the amount of fat one needs to consume to maintain it. Roughly 70 to 80% of your total calories need to come from fat.
Instead of lunch, Dom will consume a lot of MCT throughout the day via Quest Nutrition MCT Oil Powder. He will also make a Thermos of coffee with a half stick of butter and 1 to 2 scoops of MCT powder, which he sips throughout the day, totaling about 3 cups of coffee.
Magnesium daily. “Magnesium citrate, magnesium chloride, and magnesium glycinate . . . When I started the ketogenic diet, I started getting cramps. Now that I’m supplementing, I don’t get any cramps. . . . If I had one go-to magnesium, it would be this magnesium citrate powder called Natural Calm.”
Some of Dom’s colleagues are opposed to the “standard of care” protocols, like chemotherapy. Based on the literature, Dom feels these are warranted in situations involving testicular cancer, leukemia, lymphoma, and stage 1 and 2 breast cancer. Outside of those examples, “it makes little sense to treat cancer with something we know is a powerful carcinogen (chemotherapy).”
Recommended to watch “The Gut Is Not Like Las Vegas: What Happens in the Gut Does Not Stay in the Gut,” presentation by Alessio Fasano
Peter wears a Dexcom G5 continuous glucose monitor to track his glucose levels 24/7, which are displayed on his iPhone. His real goal, if he could wave a magic wand, is to keep his average glucose and glucose variability low. Outside of a lab, this approximates minimizing your insulin “area under the curve” (AUC). To accomplish this, Peter aims to keep his average glucose (per 24-hour period) at 84 to 88 mg/dl and his standard deviation below 15. The Dexcom displays all of this. Peter calibrates the Dexcom 2 to 3 times per day with a OneTouch Ultra 2 glucometer, which requires less blood and appears more accurate than the Precision Xtra that I use for ketone measurement.
“If you’re over 40 and don’t smoke, there’s about a 70 to 80% chance you’ll die from one of four diseases: heart disease, cerebrovascular disease, cancer, or neurodegenerative disease.”
“There are really two pieces to longevity. The first is delaying death as long as possible by delaying the onset of chronic disease (the ‘big four’ above). We call that the defensive play. The second is enhancing life, the offensive play. On that defensive play, there are basically four diseases that are going to kill you. In other words, if you’re 40 years old and you care about this, you’re probably not going to die in a car accident or homicide, because you’re out of that demographic. You’re less likely to die of X, Y, and Z. It turns out that when you look at the mortality tables, there’s an 80% chance you’re going to die from cardiovascular disease, cerebrovascular disease, cancer, or neurodegenerative disease, period.
“For those who don’t know, cerebrovascular disease would be stroke, and there’s two ways you can have a stroke. One is through an occlusion; the other one is through bleeding, usually due to elevated blood pressure and things like that. Neurodegenerative disease, as its name suggests, is degeneration in the brain. The most common cause of that is Alzheimer’s dementia, and Alzheimer’s is one of the top ten causes of death in the United States.
He is a proponent of magnesium supplementation. Our ability to buffer magnesium with healthy kidneys is very high. He takes 600 to 800 mg per day, alternating between mag sulfate and mag oxide. He also takes calcium carbonate 2 times per week. Two of his favored brands are Jarrow Formulas and NOW Foods.
“There is value in exercise, though, and I think that the most important type of exercise, especially in terms of bang for your buck, is going to be really high-intensity, heavy strength training. Strength training aids everything from glucose disposal and metabolic health to mitochondrial density and orthopedic stability. That last one might not mean much when you’re a 30-something young buck, but when you’re in your 70s, that’s the difference between a broken hip and a walk in the park.”
“The most important thing I’ve learned about nutrition is you need to deserve your carbs . . . to deserve hundreds of kcal of carbs post-exercise, you need to be sub-10% body fat. And the quickest way to know if you have sub-10 body fat as a male is: Can I see the lineal alba vertical separation on your abs? In other words, can I see all ab rows? One ab row doesn’t count; you’ve got to see them all. In other words, you have to have penis skin on your abs.”
“As a rule . . . the best thing to increase testosterone is to lower cortisol. Because the same raw material that makes testosterone and cortisol is called pregnenolone. Under conditions of stress, your body is wired to eventually go toward the cortisol pathway.”
59 Seconds: Change Your Life in Under a Minute by Richard Wiseman (for stress reduction)
Rule #1: Avoid “white” starchy carbohydrates (or those that can be white). This means all bread, pasta, rice, potatoes, and grains (yes, including quinoa). If you have to ask, don’t eat it.
Rule #2: Eat the same few meals over and over again, especially for breakfast and lunch. Good news: You already do this. You’re just picking new default meals. If you want to keep it simple, split your plate into thirds: protein, veggies, and beans/legumes.
Rule #3: Don’t drink calories. Exception: 1 to 2 glasses of dry red wine per night is allowed, although this can cause some peri-/post-menopausal women to plateau.
Rule #4: Don’t eat fruit. (Fructose → glycerol phosphate → more body fat, more or less.) Avocado and tomatoes are allowed.
Rule #5: Whenever possible, measure your progress in body fat percentage, NOT total pounds. The scale can deceive and derail you. For instance, it’s common to gain muscle while simultaneously losing fat on the SCD. That’s exactly what you want, but the scale number won’t move, and you will get frustrated. In place of the scale, I use DEXA scans, a BodyMetrix home ultrasound device, or calipers with a gym professional (I recommend the Jackson-Pollock 7-point method).
Rule #6: Take one day off per week and go nuts. I choose and recommend Saturday. This is “cheat day,” which a lot of readers also call “Faturday.” For biochemical and psychological reasons, it’s important not to hold back. Some readers keep a “to-eat” list during the week, which reminds them that they’re only giving up vices for 6 days at a time.
Halos: Grasp a weight with both hands and rotate it around your head to loosen up the shoulder girdle. I use a 25- to 45-pound kettlebell or plate for this and perform 5 slow reps in each direction. Start light.
“Anything more than 5 reps is bodybuilding. . . . If you want to be strong, you want to keep your reps at 5 and under.”
3 High-Yield Exercises—Pavel’s “Simple & Sinister” Kettlebell Program One-arm swing Turkish get-up (TGU) Goblet squat Do these three exercises in some form every day, and you are guaranteed to get a great return on your investment. The TGU is also excellent for diagnosing deficiencies.
“To increase your pull-up numbers, start doing half the reps you’re capable of (e.g., sets of 4 if your personal best is 8) in repeated sets throughout the day. Simply accumulate reps with at least 15 minutes between sets, and adjust the daily volume to always feel fresh.”
From Enter the Dragon: “Sparta, Rome, the knights of Europe, the samurai . . . worshipped strength. Because it is strength that makes all other values possible.”
“Stop drinking now. Stop drinking right now and patent all your ideas . . . and exercise compassion every day.”
The word psychedelic (Greek for “mind-revealing”) is generally used to refer to compounds that can reliably separate you from your ego and occasion mystical or transcendental experiences.
From a psychopharmacological perspective, many psychedelics resemble a naturally occurring molecule called DMT and act as 5-HT2A (serotonin) or NDMA receptor agonists, but there are exceptions, and the mechanisms of action remain poorly understood.
Although marijuana, ketamine, and MDMA have compelling medical applications, I don’t consider them psychedelics. Jim explains our shared distinction, using MDMA as an example: “It’s not exactly a psychedelic because you don’t leave your identity behind, but it is the single best way to overcome intractable post-traumatic stress disorder.”
Most of us have had the experience of sitting at a computer with 20 open tabs. How did this happen? Didn’t I just clean this up last week? Then you get a warning of “Startup disk almost full.” So you delete a few videos as damage control, but . . . why is everything still running so damned slowly? Oh, Dropbox is syncing. Slack has 17 new notifications. Microsoft needs another “critical” update? There are 20 applications running on top of 20 windows, fracturing your ability to focus. 60 minutes later, you’ve done a lot of stuff, tapped the keyboard a lot, and burned a ton of energy, but you couldn’t say what you’ve achieved. Feeling rushed and frustrated, overwhelm begins to set in. Time to go get another coffee
For me, moderate to high dose of psilocybin with supervision serves as a hard reboot. It closes all the windows, “force quits” all the applications, flushes the cache, installs upgrades, and—when I’m back to “normal”—restores my 30,000-foot view. It removes the noise, giving me a crystal clear view of the most critical priorities and decisions. The first time I used psilocybin at sufficiently high doses, the anxiolytic—anxiety decreasing—effect lasted 3 to 6 months. This catalyzes not only insight but action.
Heroic dose: Ethnobotanist Terence McKenna coined the term “heroic dose,” which is often equated to 5 or more grams of mushrooms or more than 400 mcg of LSD. James doesn’t recommend this brute-force dosing, which McKenna described as “sufficient to flatten the most resistant ego.” Jim feels that you don’t remember anything, nor do you bring anything back, at this dose. “It’s kind of like: You want to go swimming? How about going over Niagara Falls?”
400 mcg is where you have a transcendental or mystical experience. At this dose or higher, it is critical to have qualified supervision in the form of a guide. “Transcendental” here roughly means “the feeling or the awareness that you are connected not only to other people but to other things and to living systems.”
200 mcg can be used for psychotherapy, self-exploration, deep inner work, and healing.
100 mcg is useful for creative problem solving with non-personal matters (e.g., physics, biomechanics, or architecture). A number of Nobel Prize laureates in chemistry, biology, and elsewhere attribute breakthroughs to LSD.
50 mcg is considered a “concert dose” or “museum dose.”
10 to 15 mcg is a “microdose.” Described by Jim: “Everything is just a little better. You know at the end of a day when you say, ‘Wow, that was a really good day’? That’s what most people report on microdosing. They’re a little bit nicer.”
Albert Hofmann, the inventor of LSD, considered microdosing the most neglected area of research. Hofmann microdosed LSD often for the last few decades of his life. He remained sharp until he died at 101. He would take it when he was walking among trees. In Jim’s opinion, microdosing psychedelics does a far better job than a whole class of drugs we now call “cognitive enhancers,” most of which are simply derivatives of speed.
“There’s something called Salvia divinorum, and the wonderful thing about salvia is it has nothing to do chemically with anything else I’ve just talked about. . . . It’s been used in Mexico historically for who knows how many thousands of years for divination, for finding out things. And, again, we seem to be able as Americans to take almost anything that is indigenous and screw it up in some way. So people smoke salvia and have a short, intense, sometimes meaningful experience. That isn’t how it’s traditionally used. It’s chewed, which means it takes about an hour, and it comes on slowly. It’s a totally different experience.”
There’s a saying in the psychedelic world: “If you get the answer, you should hang up the phone.” In other words, when you get the message you need, you shouldn’t keep asking (i.e., having more experiences), at least until you’ve done some homework assignments, or used the clarity gained to make meaningful changes.
If you can’t handle at least 60 minutes in a flotation tank, you aren’t ready to have an unstoppable psychedelic experience. As one guide for the latter put it to me: “I can start the music, but I can’t make it stop.” In contrast, if you get twitchy during a float, you can step out. Use this environment as training. Lab-verified lucid dreaming (Google “Lucid Dreaming 101 Ferriss”) is also useful for developing navigational skills for psychedelics, but lying in salt water requires less work.
According to Dan, most people get exponentially more benefit from a single 2-hour session than 2 separate 1-hour sessions. Nonetheless, 2-hour floats still make me fidgety, so I routinely do 1-hour sessions.
If you think of psilocybin, LSD, or peyote as different types of alcohol—say vodka, red wine, and Scotch—ayahuasca is more like a cocktail. This makes it hard to standardize. Just as in an Old Fashioned, there are core ingredients. In this case, they are the DMT-containing chacruna leaf and the ayahuasca vine itself, which contains an MAO inhibitor that makes the chacruna DMT orally bioavailable. Different ayahuasqueros (ayahuasca shamans) will then add their own ingredients to the brew, sometimes including powerful or even dangerous plants like toé (similar to the North American Datura plant, containing scopolamine). No session is quite the same as any other.
Ayahuasca is classically described as very “visionary,” or rich in visual hallucinations, though some people have more mental or kinesthetic experiences. I tend to go through it in three stages: visual (often overwhelming), mental (intellectually able to engage and see solutions or answers), then physical. More often than not, I will cycle through these three phases during each long icaro, or song, that is sung. For the best approximation, search for Jan Kounen’s “Ayahuasca Visions” on YouTube.
Martin uses 5-MeO-DMT with his patients after treating them with ibogaine and iboga. DMT is sometimes referred to as the “spirit molecule,” and its variant 5-MeO-DMT is called the “God molecule.” 5-MeO-DMT is found in the venom of a desert toad and is vaporized and inhaled (not taken orally; it’s toxic if ingested). It is a short 5- to 15-minute experience.
“In the body, 5-MeO-DMT acts on the serotonin 1A and 2A receptor sites, which have been linked to mystical experiences in other psychedelics such as LSD and psilocybin. However, compared to classic psychedelics, 5-MeO appears to induce these experiences more consistently, and with greater potency and shorter duration. Interestingly, 5-MeO is also shown to have anti-inflammatory, immune-regulating, and pain-reducing effects because of its action at the sigma-1 receptor. Our patients often report a reduction or elimination of pain as a result of their experience. Frequently people will stretch or move their bodies during sessions to work out physical and emotional tension that they may not have been aware of.
5-MeO-DMT was not classified as a Schedule 1 substance in the U.S. until 2011, and its use is legal in Mexico.
“Iboga is an obscure psychedelic that doesn’t have a long history of recreational use, because it is not a recreational experience. It is probably the least recreational psychedelic. . . . It’s an African psychedelic that has been used for decades to treat opiate addiction and other types of substance-abuse disorders.”
“Iboga” refers to the plant, specifically a root bark, that has been taken as a rite of passage by the Bwiti followers in Gabon for centuries. Ibogaine is the primary alkaloid found in iboga. Both act as dissociatives. The effects are similar but not identical. The difference is akin to using white willow bark for inflammation versus its refined version, aspirin. Martin’s clinic uses ibogaine to detox patients and iboga as a “booster,” or supplementary medication, after the treatment.
“Iboga is four to five orders of magnitude superior to anything in the general psychiatric rehab arena for treating opiate addicts. You have the same level of success with using MDMA-assisted therapy to treat chronic post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). That’s why MDMA is going into Phase III trials. Psilocybin is similarly going into Phase III trials because you have such a high success rate with people going through cancer-related end-of-life transitions being relieved of anxiety, and really being able to walk through death with dignity and strength.”
MAPS (maps.org): Founded in 1986, the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit research and educational organization that develops medical, legal, and cultural contexts for people to benefit from the careful uses of psychedelics and marijuana.
The Toad and the Jaguar by Ralph Metzner. A quick read on 5-MeO-DMT from a pioneer in psychedelic therapy and research.
“If you can’t squat all the way down to the ground with your feet and knees together, then you are missing full hip and ankle range of motion. This is the mechanism causing your hip impingement, plantar fasciitis, torn Achilles, pulled calf, etc. That is the fucking problem, and you should be obsessing about fixing this.”
Dark means DARK. “They’ve done studies where they shine a laser on the back of someone’s knee, and people pick it up. It’s light. You cannot have your phone in your room. You cannot have a TV in your room. It needs to be black, black as night.”
Soft is the solution for bedding. “Today’s modern human needs to sleep on a soft mattress. Ideally, you would be sleeping in a hammock. You should be waking up in the morning feeling amazing without having to loosen up your lower back. Most athletes and people are extension-sensitive because of excessive sitting and extension-biased training (e.g., running, jumping, squatting).
Get your kids (and yourself) flat “zero drop” shoes, where the toes and heel are an equal distance from the ground. I wear Vans for this reason, my favorite model being Vans Classic Slip-On skate shoe (unisex, gum sole) in black. These can be used for hiking in a pinch, or worn to a business meeting when traveling light. Kelly elaborates on the rationale of zero drop: “Don’t systematically shorten your kids’ heel cords (Achilles) with bad shoes. It results in crappy ankle range of motion in the future. Get your kids Vans, Chuck Taylors, or similar shoes. Have them in flat shoes or barefoot as much as possible.”
During his peak travel period, Paul traveled 260+ days per year, performing in a different city each night. Here is one of his rules: “When I landed, I would check into the hotel. The second we checked in, I’d ask them: ‘Is the gym open? Can I go train?’ Even if it was to get on a bike and ride for 15 minutes to reset things. I learned early that it seemed any time I did that, I didn’t get jet lag.”
Have trouble getting to sleep? Try 10 minutes of Tetris. Recent research has demonstrated that Tetris—or Candy Crush Saga or Bejeweled—can help overwrite negative visualization, which has applications for addiction (such as overeating), preventing PTSD, and, in my case, onset insomnia. As Jane explains, due to the visually intensive, problem-solving characteristics of these games: “You see visual flashbacks e.g., the blocks falling or the pieces swapping. They occupy the visual processing center of your brain so that you cannot imagine the thing that you’re craving or obsessing over, which are also highly visual. This effect can last 3 or 4 hours. It also turns out that if you play Tetris after witnessing a traumatic event ideally within 6 hours, but it’s been demonstrated at 24 hours, it prevents flashbacks and lowers symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.”
What is something you believe that other people think is crazy? “That you should never publicly criticize anyone or anything unless it is a matter of morals or ethics. Anything negative you say could at the very least ruin someone’s day, or worse, break someone’s heart, or simply change someone from being a future ally of yours to someone who will never forget that you were unkind or unfairly critical. It’s so common today to complain or criticize others’ work on social media, or dogpile on someone for a perceived offense. I won’t do it. It’s not my job to be the world’s critic, and I’d rather not rule out any future allies.”
Humans Use Only 10% of Their Brains? Not Quite . . . “The most complex structure in the entire universe doesn’t have just a vacant parking lot waiting for someone to drive in and start building. It’s all used all the time, and in complex ways that we don’t always understand.”
Favorite documentary Carl Sagan’s Cosmos series inspired Adam to become a scientist, which is true for many of the top-tier scientists I’ve met and interviewed. TF: Neil deGrasse Tyson has a revised version of Cosmos that is also spectacular.
Inversion table: I don’t use one myself, but several Special Operations friends swear by daily use. These are advertised on infomercials and are infinitely less likely to kill you than gravity boots.
The ChiliPad allows you to put an extremely thin—almost imperceptibly thin—sheet underneath your normal sheets that circulates water through a bedside contraption at a very precise temperature of your choosing. There are versions with two zones, so two people side by side can choose different numbers. Maybe your magic sleeping temperature is 55°F. Or 61°F, or 75°F? If you’re cold, you can increase the temperature of the ChiliPad underneath you instead of throwing a thick blanket on top that’s going to make your partner sweat to death. It can modulate between 55 and 110°F. Experiment and find your silver bullet.
Honey + ACV: My go-to tranquilizer beverage is simple: 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar (I use Bragg brand) and 1 tablespoon honey, stirred into 1 cup of hot water. This was taught to me by the late and great Seth Roberts, PhD. Some of his readers also noticed large and immediate strength improvements in exercise after a few days of using this pre-bed cocktail.
Short and uplifting episodic television: I’ll offer just one recommendation here: Escape to River Cottage, Season One. I’ve watched this series multiple times. If you’ve ever fantasized about saying “Fuck it,” quitting your job, and going back to the land, buy this as a present for yourself. If you’ve ever dreamed of getting out of the city and moving to Montana or God-knows-where rural Utopia, procuring your own food and so on, then this is your Scooby snack. It’s endearingly retro, like a warm quilt from Mom, and host/chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall will make you want to grow tomatoes, even if you hate tomatoes.
Sleep Master sleep mask and Mack’s Pillow Soft Silicone Putty (ear plugs): The Sleep Master sleep mask—great product, terrible name. I’ve tried dozens of sleep masks, and this is my favorite.
I would quote legendary Naval Admiral William McRaven, who has commanded at every level within the Special Operations community, including acting as head of Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) during the Osama bin Laden raid. From his University of Texas at Austin commencement speech: “If you make your bed every morning, you will have accomplished the first task of the day. It will give you a small sense of pride, and it will encourage you to do another task and another and another. By the end of the day, that one task completed will have turned into many tasks completed. Making your bed will also reinforce the fact that little things in life matter.”
If you see an external distraction (speaking personally), you end up creating an internally distracted state.
here is one Marcus Aurelius quote on my refrigerator that often does the trick (bolding mine): “When you wake up in the morning, tell yourself: The people I deal with today will be meddling, ungrateful, arrogant, dishonest, jealous, and surly. They are like this because they can’t tell good from evil. But I have seen the beauty of good, and the ugliness of evil, and have recognized that the wrongdoer has a nature related to my own—not of the same blood or birth, but the same mind, and possessing a share of the divine. And so none of them can hurt me.”
I use two types of journaling and alternate between them: Morning Pages and The 5-Minute Journal (5MJ). The former I use primarily for getting unstuck or problem solving (what should I do?); the latter I use for prioritizing and gratitude (how should I focus and execute?). I cover the Morning Pages extensively on page 224, so I’ll only describe the 5MJ here.
To be answered in the morning: I am grateful for . . . 1. __________ 2. __________ 3. __________ What would make today great? 1. __________ 2. __________ 3. __________ Daily affirmations. I am . . . 1. __________ 2. __________ 3. __________
To be filled in at night: 3 amazing things that happened today . . . 1. __________ 2. __________ 3. __________ (This is similar to Peter Diamandis’s “three wins” practice; see page 373.) How could I have made today better? 1. __________ 2. __________ 3. __________
For my entire life, I’d had a phobia of swimming and an acute fear of drowning. This came up over wine, and Chris said, “I have the answer to your prayers.” He introduced me to Total Immersion swimming by Terry Laughlin, and in less than 10 days of solo training, I went from a 2-length maximum (of a 25-yard pool) to swimming more than 40 lengths per workout in sets of 2 and 4.
“Go to all the meetings you can, even if you’re not invited to them, and figure out how to be helpful. If people wonder why you’re there, just start taking notes. Read all the other notes you can find on the company, and gain a general knowledge that your very limited job function may not offer you. Just make yourself useful and helpful by doing so. That’s worked for me in a few different environments, and I encourage you to try it.”
I used a Zoom H6 recorder for primary audio, but I had a backup recorder (Zoom H4n) for our first interview. Arnold asked “What’s this for?” to which I replied, “Backup, in case the primary fails.” He tapped his head and looked at his team, seated around the room. Having backup audio makes a good impression.
Derek has read, reviewed, and rank-ordered 200+ books at sive.rs/book. They’re automatically sorted from best to worst. He is a huge fan of Charlie Munger, Warren Buffett’s business partner, and introduced me to the book Seeking Wisdom: From Darwin to Munger, by Peter Bevelin.
“If more information was the answer, then we’d all be billionaires with perfect abs.” TF: It’s not what you know, it’s what you do consistently.
Being busy is a form of laziness—lazy thinking and indiscriminate action.
Being busy is most often used as a guise for avoiding the few critically important but uncomfortable actions.
We’re both big fans of Peter Drucker and his book The Effective Executive, as well as Alain de Botton’s (page 486) How Proust Can Change Your Life.
On a hike in San Francisco, Matt recommended I read “The Tail End” by Tim Urban on the Wait But Why blog—if you only read one article this month, make it that one. It uses diagrams to underscore how short life really is. Here’s just one gem: “It turns out that when I graduated from high school, I had already used up 93% of my in-person parent time. I’m now enjoying the last 5% of that time. We’re in the tail end.”
The normal QWERTY keyboard layout was designed to slow down human operators to avoid jams. That time has passed, so try the Dvorak layout instead, which is easier on your tendons and helps prevent carpal tunnel syndrome. Read The Dvorak Zine (dvzine.org). Colemak is even more efficient, if you dare. Within Automattic, Matt has held speed-typing challenges, where the loser has to switch to the winner’s layout. So far, Dvorak has always beaten QWERTY.
Matt pays incredible attention to word choice and ordering (diction and syntax). He loves studying “code poets”—coders who have elegant, poetic style—but he does the same with spoken language. He recommended I read the book Words That Work, written by Republican political strategist Frank Luntz. It’s brilliant. Matt added, “If someone likes that book, then I might point them to George Lakoff. He has a great seminal work from the 1980s called Women, Fire, and Dangerous Things.”
I’m embarrassed to admit that I’d never heard of Liszt before my conversation with Nicholas. Now, he’s part of my regular listening. Search YouTube for “Best of Liszt” (Halidon Music): “Franz Liszt is one of the great romantic composers of piano literature. He was really held as the super-virtuoso of the 19th century.”
“The concert(s) of the Argentinian pianist Martha Argerich. She is just superhuman. She is quite elderly now, but she still plays. She’s coming to the BBC Proms this year. She has cult status in our world.” TF: I now routinely listen to her. To have your mind explode, search “Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No 1 FULL Argerich Charles Dutoit” and check out minute 31.
“Mastery doesn’t come from an infographic. What you know doesn’t mean shit. What do you do consistently?”
“Investing in yourself is the most important investment you’ll ever make in your life. . . . There’s no financial investment that’ll ever match it, because if you develop more skill, more ability, more insight, more capacity, that’s what’s going to really provide economic freedom. . . . It’s those skill sets that really make that happen.” This echoes what Jim Rohn famously said, “If you let your learning lead to knowledge, you become a fool. If you let your learning lead to action, you become wealthy.”
“This brain inside our heads is a 2 million-year-old brain. . . . It’s ancient, old survival software that is running you a good deal of time. Whenever you’re suffering, that survival software is there. The reason you’re suffering is you’re focused on yourself.
Most-gifted or recommended books?
Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl
The Fourth Turning by William Strauss
Generations by William Strauss, which was gifted to Tony by Bill Clinton
Mindset by Carol Dweck (for parenting)
As a Man Thinketh by James Allen (see Shay Carl, page 441)
Aside from The Autobiography of Malcolm X, Casey’s favorite book is The Second World War by John Keegan. He’s read this massive tome three times, cover to cover.
The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp is Casey’s favorite movie, made during World War II. Wes Anderson studied this film, and you can see a lot of his adapted style in this movie.
Favorite documentary Little Dieter Needs to Fly by Werner Herzog is Casey’s favorite documentary, made in 1997. This is about a U.S. fighter pilot in Vietnam who gets shot down in his very first mission, and is trapped as a POW for a number of years.
Casey made the short film Bike Lanes in 2011, and it became his first viral hit. He was given a summons from a New York City police officer for riding his bike outside of the bike lane, which isn’t an actual infraction. Instead of going to court, fighting the $50 summons, and wasting half a day in the process, Casey redirected his anger and made a movie that expressed his frustration in a clever way. Casey begins the movie by repeating what the cop told him: He has to stay in the bike lane for safety and legal reasons, no matter what. Casey proceeds to ride his bike around NYC, crashing into everything that is in the bike lanes preventing people from following this rule.
Make It Count, at close to 20 million views, is Casey’s all-time most popular video on YouTube.
“What is the ultimate quantification of success? For me, it’s not how much time you spend doing what you love. It’s how little time you spend doing what you hate.
Is there a common saying, or some public pronouncement, that you can disprove by making art about it? By doing a test? What makes you angry?
On a daily basis, Reid jots down problems in a notebook that he wants his mind to work on overnight.
He might write down “a key thing that I want to think about: a product design, a strategy, a solution to a problem that one of my portfolio companies is looking at,” or something else he wants to solve creatively before an upcoming meeting.
Reid and Josh’s descriptions led me to put the following quote at the top of my notebook: “Never go to sleep without a request to your subconscious.”—Thomas Edison
“How do you know if you have A-players on your project team? You know it if they don’t just accept the strategy you hand them. They should suggest modifications to the plan based on their closeness to the details.”
“I don’t like talking in terms of tech ‘trends’ because I think, once you have a trend, you have many people doing it. And once you have many people doing something, you have lots of competition and little differentiation. You, generally, never want to be part of a popular trend. You do not want to be the fourth online pet food company in the late 1990s. You do not want to be the twelfth thin-panel solar company in the last decade. And you don’t want to be the nth company of any particular trend. So I think trends are often things to avoid. What I prefer over trends is a sense of mission. That you are working on a unique problem that people are not solving elsewhere.
“The next Bill Gates will not build an operating system. The next Larry Page or Sergey Brin won’t make a search engine. And the next Mark Zuckerberg won’t create a social network. If you are copying these guys, you aren’t learning from them.”
“If you’re a competitive chess player, you might get very good at chess but neglect to develop other things because you’re focused on beating your competitors, rather than on doing something that’s important or valuable. So I’ve become, I think, much more self-aware over the years about the problematic nature of a lot of the competition. There have been rivalries that we get caught up in. And I would not pretend to have extricated myself from this altogether. So I think, every day, it’s something to reflect on and think about ‘How do I become less competitive in order that I can become more successful?’ ”
“The blog post I point people to the most is called ‘First, Ten,’ and it is a simple theory of marketing that says: tell ten people, show ten people, share it with ten people; ten people who already trust you and already like you. If they don’t tell anybody else, it’s not that good and you should start over. If they do tell other people, you’re on your way.”
“My suggestion is, whenever possible, ask yourself: What’s the smallest possible footprint I can get away with? What is the smallest possible project that is worth my time? What is the smallest group of people who I could make a difference for, or to? Because smallest is achievable. Smallest feels risky. Because if you pick smallest and you fail, now you’ve really screwed up. “We want to pick big. Infinity is our friend. Infinity is safe. Infinity gives us a place to hide. So, I want to encourage people instead to look for the small.
I like to study what Seth doesn’t do as much as what he does. Seth has no comments on his blog, he doesn’t pay attention to analytics, and he doesn’t use Twitter or Facebook (except to rebroadcast his daily blog posts, which is automated).
“Breakfast is one more decision I don’t make, so it’s a frozen banana, hemp powder, almond milk, a dried plum, and some walnuts in the blender.”
A) You should taste the food as you go, which a surprisingly small number of people do; and
B) salt and olive oil actually are cheating and they’re secret weapons and they always work.”
“I think we need to teach kids two things: 1) how to lead, and 2) how to solve interesting problems. Because the fact is, there are plenty of countries on Earth where there are people who are willing to be obedient and work harder for less money than us. So we cannot out-obedience the competition. Therefore, we have to out-lead or out-solve the other people. . .
People are plastic in the positive sense: flexible and able to grow. I think almost everything is made, not born, and that makes people uncomfortable because it puts them on the hook.
I roast my own beans, which is key. Marco Arment (co-founder of Tumblr, creator of Instapaper and Overcast) taught me that. Roasting your own beans is more important than any other thing you can do, if you want to make coffee. I think there’s a metaphor there. I know there’s a metaphor there. Which is, you can spend a lot of time trying to fix stuff later but starting with the right raw materials makes a huge difference.”
Take a bottle of vodka—you don’t want the supercheap stuff but you don’t want the expensive stuff because that’s a little bit of a rip-off—you pour it over a pound of just plain old oatmeal, uncooked, and half a jar of honey. You let it sit in the fridge for 2 weeks, stirring it now and then. Then you strain it back into the original bottle and you’re done.”
Compared to traditional VC, angel investing involves putting relatively small amounts of money—often from $10K to $50K—into early-stage startups. In Mike’s world, “early-stage” could mean two engineers with a prototype for a website, or it could mean a successful serial entrepreneur with a new idea. The angels usually have relevant business experience and are considered “smart money.” In other words, their advice and introductions are just as valuable as the money they put in.
Lesson #1: If you’ve formulated intelligent rules, follow your own f*cking rules. Below are a few that subsequently worked well for me. Note that I don’t need to satisfy all of them, but I do want to satisfy most of them: If it has a single founder, the founder must be technical. Two technical co-founders are ideal. I must be eager to use the product myself. This rules out many great companies, but I want a verified market I understand. Related to the previous point: consumer-facing product/service (e.g., Uber, Twitter, Facebook, etc.) or small-business focused product/service (e.g., Shopify), not big enterprise software. These are companies whose valuations I can directly impact through my platform, promotion to my audience, introductions to journalists, etc. More than 100K active users OR serial founder(s) with past exits OR more than 10K paying customers. Whenever possible, I want to pour gasoline on the fire, not start the fire. More than 10% month-on-month activity growth. Clean “cap table,” minimal previous financing (or none), no bridge rounds. U.S.–based companies or companies willing to create U.S.–based investable entities. Shopify started in Canada, for instance. Have the founders ever had crappy service jobs, like waiting tables or bussing at restaurants? If so, they tend to stay grounded for longer. Less entitlement and megalomania usually means better decisions and better drinking company, as this stuff normally takes quite a few years.
Learn to confront the challenges of the real world, rather than resort to the protective womb of academia.
Scott believes there are six elements of humor: naughty, clever, cute, bizarre, mean, and recognizable. You have to have at least two dimensions to succeed.
I would consider myself a world champion at avoiding stress at this point in dozens of different ways. A lot of it is just how you look at the world, but most of it is really the process of diversification. I’m not going to worry about losing one friend if I have a hundred, but if I have two friends I’m really going to be worried. I’m not going to worry about losing my job because my one boss is going to fire me, because I have thousands of bosses at newspapers everywhere. One of the ways to not worry about stress is to eliminate it. I don’t worry about my stock picks because I have a diversified portfolio. Diversification works in almost every area of your life to reduce your stress.”
If you want an average, successful life, it doesn’t take much planning. Just stay out of trouble, go to school, and apply for jobs you might like. But if you want something extraordinary, you have two paths: 1) Become the best at one specific thing. 2) Become very good (top 25%) at two or more things.
I always advise young people to become good public speakers (top 25%). Anyone can do it with practice. If you add that talent to any other, suddenly you’re the boss of the people who have only one skill. Or get a degree in business on top of your engineering degree, law degree, medical degree, science degree, or whatever. Suddenly you’re in charge, or maybe you’re starting your own company using your combined knowledge.
If you didn’t get into the prospect’s mind first, don’t give up hope. Find a new category you can be first in. It’s not as difficult as you might think.
If you can’t be first in a category, set up a new category you can be first in.
There are many different ways to be first. Dell got into the crowded personal computer field by being the first to sell computers by phone.
When you launch a new product, the first question to ask yourself is not “How is this new product better than the competition?” but “First what?” In other words, what category is this new product first in?
When you’re the first in a new category, promote the category. In essence, you have no competition. DEC told its prospects why they ought to buy a minicomputer, not a DEC minicomputer.
“The way that I hacked the system was setting my first hired, day-rate gig at several thousand dollars a day. I pushed myself to a point that was incredibly uncomfortable and required myself to deliver at the highest level. I charged accordingly because I had done the work, done the research, and knew what the top guys and gals were getting. I put myself in that caliber right away. . . . I set it at $2,000 to $2,500 a day. “They (the first contract prospect) said, ‘Okay, well it’s a six-day shoot.’ . . . In my head, I’m shitting myself doing the math. It’s more than I made last year, but I’m going to make it next week. They said, ‘That sounds fine. We may need to add an extra day. . . .’
I didn’t accept advertisers for the podcast until I had 100K+ downloads per episode, as measured at the industry-standard 6 weeks post-publication.
Both Chase and Derek Sivers (page 184) are big fans of the book Show Your Work by Austin Kleon.
*From Time Enough for Love: “A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.”Every few years for the last 20 years, Ramit has read Iacocca: An Autobiography by Lee Iacocca and William Novak.
“If I’ve learned anything from podcasting, it’s don’t be afraid to do something you’re not qualified to do.”
“Amateurs built the Ark, professionals built the Titanic.”
Every few years for the last 20 years, Ramit has read Iacocca: An Autobiography by Lee Iacocca and William Novak.
One of the reasons I put off using email newsletters for years was perceived complexity. I didn’t want to have to craft beautiful templates and ship out gorgeous, magazine-worthy missives. Ramit convinced me to send plain-text email for my 5-Bullet Friday newsletter, which became one of the most powerful parts of my business within 6 months.
One of his most-gifted books is Age of Propaganda by Anthony Pratkanis and Elliot Aronson, and his favorite copywriting book is an oldie: The Robert Collier Letter Book, originally published in 1931.
I have recommended Kevin Kelly’s “1,000 True Fans” to literally millions of people. Many guests in this book have done the same. “If you only read one article on marketing, make it this one” is my common wording. Here’s a highly simplified synopsis: “Success” need not be complicated. Just start with making 1,000 people extremely, extremely happy.
Prompts to Elicit Stories (Most Interviewers Are Weak at This) “Tell me about a time when . . .” “Tell me about the day (or moment or time) when . . .” “Tell me the story of . . . how you came to major in X, how you met so-and-so, etc.” “Tell me about the day you realized ___ . . . ” “What were the steps that got you to ___ ?” “Describe the conversation when . . .”
Follow-Up Questions When Something Interesting Comes Up, Perhaps in Passing “How did that make you feel?” “What do you make of that?”
TF: I will often say, “Explain that a bit more . . .” or “What did you learn from that?”
General-Use Fishing Lures “If the old you could see the new you, what would the new you say?” “You seem very confident now. Was that always the case?” “If you had to describe the debate in your head about X decision or event, how would you describe it?”
TF: I often adapt the last to something like “When you do X (or “When Y happened to you)”, what does your internal self-talk sound like? What do you say to yourself?”
The interesting jobs are the ones that you make up.
“Five days a week, I read my goals before I go to sleep and when I wake up. There are 10 goals around health, family, business, etc., with expiration dates, and I update them every 6 months.”
Most-gifted or recommended books? Think and Grow Rich, Who Moved My Cheese?, Blue Ocean Strategy, Invisible Selling Machine, The Richest Man in Babylon, and Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World.
Life Is Elsewhere by Milan Kundera; “I think it’s an analogy for that choice we all have in life: Are you going to fulfill your potential? Or, are you just going to give into the peer pressure of the moment and become nothing?”
Much like Inside the Actors Studio (I hired their senior researcher to read my transcripts and help me improve), the guest has “final cut.” The recording isn’t live (99% of the time), and we can delete anything they like. If they think of something the following morning, for instance, we can clip it out.
I’ll say, “I always suggest being as raw and open as possible. My fans love tactical details and stories. We can always cut stuff out, but I can’t add interesting stuff in later.”
my favorite museum in the world is the Ghibli Museum in Tokyo, created in the “Mitaka Forest” by Miyazaki.
Lesser-known bands Mike introduced me to Royal Blood: I like “Figure It Out” and use it for writing. Doomriders: “Come Alive” is for headbangers and reminiscent of Danzig. Best suited for workouts or piñata-smashing.
f you could take one album, one book, and one luxury item to a desert island, what would they be? Aphex Twin’s Selected Ambient Works, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, and a Chemex for coffee.
“After being laid off from my job, I decided to switch paths and dive into music headfirst. I maxed out a credit card to buy my first pair of pro studio monitors (speakers): Genelec 8040A. Monitors are arguably the most important studio purchase you will make. I still use this same pair today.”
There are two elements that tie very much to human longevity. It’s strange. . . . One is those people who floss and, second, those people who have a higher VO2 max.”
As for the flossing-longevity connection, Peter is the first to admit this might be correlation instead of causation: People anal retentive enough to floss regularly probably have other habits that directly contribute to longer life.
The Oxford Book of Aphorisms by John Gross because it contains the most brilliant one-liners in history. You can spend hours on a page, or you can just flip through it.
“Don’t believe everything that you think.”
“When you are struggling with just about anything, look up. Just ponder the night sky for a minute and realize that we’re all on the same planet at the same time. As far as we can tell, we’re the only planet with life like ours on it anywhere nearby. Then you start looking at the stars, and you realize that the light hitting your eye is ancient, some of the stars that you’re seeing, they no longer exist by the time that the light gets to you. Just mulling the bare-naked facts of the cosmos is enough to thrill me, awe me, freak me out, and kind of put all my neurotic anxieties in their proper place. A lot of people—when you’re standing at the edge of your horizon, at death’s door, you can be much more in tune with the cosmos.”
“This should be a cardinal rule of the Internet (and of being human): If you don’t have the patience to read something, don’t have the hubris to comment on it.”
“The culture of news is a culture without nuance.”
If you could guarantee that every public official or leader read one book, what would it be? “The book would be, rather obviously, Plato’s The Republic. I’m actually gobsmacked that this isn’t required in order to be sworn into office, like the Constitution is required for us American immigrants when it comes time to gain American citizenship.”
“Two Is One and One Is None.” This is a common expression among SEALs. Jocko explains: “It just means, ‘Have a backup.’” If you have two of something, you will break or lose one and end up with one remaining; if you have one, you will break or lose it and be screwed.
“If you want to be tougher mentally, it is simple: Be tougher. Don’t meditate on it.”
“You can’t blame your boss for not giving you the support you need. Plenty of people will say, ‘It’s my boss’s fault.’ No, it’s actually your fault because you haven’t educated him, you haven’t influenced him, you haven’t explained to him in a manner he understands why you need this support that you need. That’s extreme ownership. Own it all.”
“I think there’s only one book that I’ve ever given and I’ve only given it to a couple people. That’s a book called About Face, by Colonel David H. Hackworth. The other book that I’ve read multiple times is Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy.”
“The future is already here—it’s just unevenly distributed.”—William Gibson
Put tape or a cover over your laptop camera (and perhaps your phone) when you’re not using it. Samy explained to me how simple it is to hijack cameras. It’s terrifying. This could be used to surveil your house and determine when you’re not home. It could also be used to catch you playing patty cake with Captain Winky. Covering it is 60 seconds well spent.
Use BitLocker on Windows or FileVault on OS X. Your data will be encrypted when the machine is off or suspended. Encrypt your hard drive using “full disk encryption” in order to keep your confidential data protected in case your machine is ever lost or stolen, preventing others from extracting data from your device without the password.
You can use BlockBlock on OS X, which notifies you if a program is trying to install itself to run upon startup, even when it’s hiding itself in a nook or cranny of your system, and you have the clear option to block it if you wish.
To learn about some of the starting tools a hacker, attacker, or someone just curious about security would use, I’d suggest looking at beginning tools such as Wireshark, Charles (web debugging proxy), NightHawk (ARP/ND spoofing and password sniffing), arpy (ARP spoofing), dsniff (password sniffing), and Kali Linux (penetration testing) and looking up tutorials on network intrusion, sniffing, and man-in-the-middling. Within a few minutes and with a tool like Wireshark, you can start seeing all the traffic going in and out of your computer, while tools like Nighthawk and arpy in conjunction with Wireshark can help you inspect and intercept all traffic on a network!
Stan starts his workout at home, if he’s at home: Set of push-ups to max reps 100 sit-ups, 3-minute plank, 2 to 3 minutes of yoga Set of push-ups to max reps 50 to 100 crunch-like crossover (legs up), 2.5-minute plank, 2 to 3 minutes of yoga Set of push-ups to max reps 50 to 100 crossover sit-ups (the first two variations combined), 2-minute plank, 2 to 3 minutes of yoga Set of push-ups to max reps 60 flutter kicks, followed by static hold; 1.5-minute plank; set of crunches; 1-minute plank; 2 to 3 minutes of yoga
When I get to the gym, I do four sets of pull-ups, alternated with inclined bench press and standing curls. One-legged balance exercises are the rest break between them.
A classic in the special operations community is Gates of Fire, by Steven Pressfield. Really highly read. . . .”
The Power of Persuasion by Robert Levine. The ability to be convincing, sell ideas, and persuade other people is a meta-skill that transfers to many areas of your life. This book didn’t become that popular, but it’s the best book on persuasion that Will has found. It’s much more in-depth than other options in the genre.
“On one level, wisdom is nothing more than the ability to take your own advice. It’s actually very easy to give people good advice. It’s very hard to follow the advice that you know is good. . . . If someone came to me with my list of problems, I would be able to sort that person out very easily.”
“In my case, meditation didn’t really become useful, which is to say it really didn’t become true meditation, until I had sat my first one or two intensive retreats. I remember the experience clearly. I’d been very disciplined and had been sitting an hour every day in the morning for a year before I sat my first 10-day retreat. I remember looking back over that year at some point, somewhere around the middle of my first 10-day vipassana retreat, and realizing that I had just been thinking with my legs crossed every hour that I had practiced that year. This is not to say that this will be true of all of you who are practicing meditation without ever having gone on a retreat, but it’s very likely true of many of you. . . . A silent retreat is a crucible where you can develop enough energy and attention to break through to another level. . . .”
In his fantastic and lengthy essay “Drugs and the Meaning of Life,” Sam wrote: “If she my daughter does not try a psychedelic like psilocybin or LSD at least once in her adult life, I will worry that she may have missed one of the most important rites of passage a human being can experience .
“You need to build your own house, your own shelter. It’s not that hard to do, believe me. I built my own house.”
“Many, many people are working very hard, trying to save their money to retire so they can travel. Well, I decided to flip it around and travel when I was really young, when I had zero money. And I had experiences that, basically, even a billion dollars couldn’t have bought.”
“One of the many life skills that you want to learn at a fairly young age is the skill of being an ultra-thrifty, minimal kind of little wisp that’s traveling through time . . . in the sense of learning how little you actually need to live, not just in a survival mode, but in a contented mode. . . . That gives you the confidence to take a risk, because you say, ‘What’s the worst that can happen? Well, the worst that can happen is that I’d have a backpack and a sleeping bag, and I’d be eating oatmeal. And I’d be fine.’”
Whitney and I both love Neil Gaiman’s “Make Good Art” commencement speech, which he gave at Philadelphia’s University of the Arts. I’ve watched the video dozens of times on YouTube during rough periods. Our mutual favorite portion is “The moment that you feel that, just possibly, you’re walking down the street naked, exposing too much of your heart and your mind and what exists on the inside, showing too much of yourself. That’s the moment you may be starting to get it right.”
“I remember reading Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand. That’s good fodder for a young man. It sets these bold, stark characters—you could even call them Christ figures—and you think to yourself, ‘I want to be that.’ Of course, I read Nietzsche. On the Genealogy of Morality, etc., where the truths and truisms are really cut and dried in a lot of ways. It’s the equivalent of, I guess, intellectual red meat. But then I got into Joseph Campbell—The Power of Myth and The Hero with a Thousand Faces.
Which philosophers would Alain suggest for practical living? Alain’s list overlaps nearly 100% with my own: Epicurus, Seneca, Marcus Aurelius, Plato, Michel de Montaigne, Arthur Schopenhauer, Friedrich Nietzsche, and Bertrand Russell.
The best art divides the audience. If you put out a record, and half the people who hear it absolutely love it, and half the people who hear it absolutely hate it, you’ve done well, because it’s pushing that boundary.”
“One of my absolute favorite books of all time, because it changed my life, is a book called Dropping Ashes on the Buddha. It’s by Zen Master Seung Sahn, who was a Korean Zen monk. I read it when I was maybe 24, and it’s a short book: just a series of letters that this really funny, very direct, very no-bullshit Korean monk wrote back and forth with his students in the 1970s.
“General fame is overrated. You want to be famous to 2,000 to 3,000 people you handpick.” I’m paraphrasing, but the gist is that you don’t need or want mainstream fame. It brings more liabilities than benefits. However, if you’re known and respected by 2–3K high-caliber people (e.g., the live TED audience), you can do anything and everything you want in life. It provides maximal upside and minimal downside.
“Trying to get everyone to like you is a sign of mediocrity. You’ll avoid the tough decisions, and you’ll avoid confronting the people who need to be confronted.”—Colin Powell
“If you want to be successful, surround yourself with people who are more successful than you are, but if you want to be happy, surround yourself with people who are less successful than you are.”
“In any situation in life, you only have three options. You always have three options. You can change it, you can accept it, or you can leave it.”
“Desire is a contract you make with yourself to be unhappy until you get what you want.”
“If you don’t believe in an afterlife, then you should realize that this is such a short and precious life, it is really important that you don’t spend it being unhappy. There is no excuse for spending most of your life in misery. You’ve only got 70 years out of the 50 billion or however long the universe is going to be around.”
“One difference between home cooks and pros is acidity level. When you think it’s ready, add another lemon. Pros bump up the acidity level. It’s one of the secrets. We add a little more acid, and it makes everything taste better.”
The trick for soft scrambled eggs is—after you get your butter knives out—I crack the eggs straight into the pan, let them cook for a second, and then mix them up. Then, before you think they’re done, take them out because they’ll harden a little bit as they sit on the plate.”
I’ve developed a love affair with soft-boiled eggs, which can be a decadent indulgence if done right. Here’s my approach:
1) Bring water to a boil.
2) Gently add eggs and set timer for exactly 5 minutes.
3) Manage the heat so it’s a gentle bubbling boil, not a violent lava pit.
4) At 5 minutes, pour out the hot water and replace with cold tap water.
5) Remove, peel, and enjoy.
One of Edward’s recommended essays “The Catastrophe of Success” by Tennessee Williams. TF: One of my favorite lines from this piece is: “For me, a convenient place to work is a remote place among strangers where there is good swimming.”
Three favorite recent films? “Of late, I’m a huge fan of the French filmmaker Jacques Audiard. I think, in the last few years, he put up a hat trick of films”: The Beat That My Heart Skipped, A Prophet, and Rust and Bone. TF: A Prophet is now one of my favorite films. If you like gangster movies, it is violently gorgeous and teaches a lot of leadership lessons.
“Don’t go for funny. Go for the truth, and you’ll hit funny along the way.”
Jamie’s morning workout routine, done roughly every other day, consists of: 15 pull-ups, 50 push-ups, 100 sit-ups 15 pull-ups (different grip), 50 push-ups 10 pull-ups (first grip) 10 pull-ups (second grip)
Jack Ma, founder of China’s Alibaba Group, is worth an estimated $20 to $30 billion, and he explains the secret of his success this way: “There were three reasons why we survived: We had no money, we had no technology, and we had no plan. Every dollar, we used very carefully.”