My guest today is friend Tim Ferriss. Author of the 4-hour workweek and host of the Tim Ferriss Show. I wouldn’t say Tim loves to be interviewed which makes this all the more special for me. We talk about his journey to healing from childhood trauma, his feelings on psilocybin, his strategy if he were to start on his professional journey today, his approach to NFT and crypto and so much more. I always admire Tim’s ability to be the endless beginner. Enjoy
Listen to the episode here:
- Fruits of Reflection [00:03:46]
- Things that Come with Success and Fame [00:11:59]
- Impactful Interviews [00:18:55]
- Preparing “Selfish” Questions [00:24:05]
- Nervous Before the Interviews [00:28:15]
- Figuring Out the Landscape [00:32:51]
- Tim’s Superpower [00:39:25]
- Objects that Changed Tim’s Life [00:47:47]
- On Procrastination [00:53:24]
- On NFTs and Crypto [00:59:07]
- Minimalist View to Technology [01:08:59]
- Psilocybin Research [01:14:42]
- Time Perception [01:27:02]
Tim Ferriss | A Masterclass in Process & Self-Analysis
“A medium that you think is out of style. It doesn’t matter. You can still make it work. To make it work, you need energy, consistency, and endurance. The perfect plan you don’t follow is not the perfect plan. A good plan that you do follow is maybe the perfect plan for you.”
“I pay attention to these things that bother me. The most successful serial entrepreneurs I have met who seem to have this supernatural ability to hit home run after home run do have failures and they have incredible execution ability. They’re almost always scratching their own itch in some way.”
Welcome to the show. My guest is Tim Ferriss. You know Tim from The Tim Ferriss Show, his famous podcast, and all of his books, The 4-Hour Workweek, The 4-Hour Chef, The 4-Hour Body, Tools of Titans, and Tribe of Mentors. These are the interviews that I love doing. Also, I always drag my feet. I’ve known Tim for over ten years. I know that he doesn’t love to talk about himself and he will for the sake of sharing or if there’s something helpful in there.
To ask him to do an interview is always a little bit tricky for me. We talk about a ton of things. He’s come out in the last few years. If you’re interested in listening, I direct you to his September 2020 podcast that he does about a serious trauma that he experienced as a young child. What you realize is that was an impetus naturally to his personality and his intellect to set him on this trajectory of all of this amazing work that he’s created. I can relate to this. A lot of it is fear-based work. It’s like, “What’s happening? What is that? How does that work?”
We always have this pain and suffering and out of that, we can make many beautiful things but then how do we go back and maybe heal that and move in a new way through our life? He talks about leading with vulnerability and some of his experiences with psilocybin or some other modalities that have helped him heal. What would you do? How would you approach it if you were starting right now?
He gives some of his strategies in business. We talk about NFTs and where crypto is out for him. This is the most open that I’ve experienced him and it says a lot. Here’s somebody who has been successful and they could go along as they’ve always been but yet he always chooses to be a constant beginner and self-reflective, “How can I do that better? What’s going on with me?” I hope you enjoy.
Tim Ferriss, thank you. Welcome to my show. When I tell people that I’m going to be talking to you, I need to tell you the amount of joy and questions people have for you. I can’t imagine what it’s like for you. People are barely asking me questions when they see me. They want to know a little bit about this or that or something about a board that Laird rides. With you, people want to know.
I have a lot of questions for you but maybe we’ll save those for our next dinner together. We’ll see. I have to hop in for a second. I was talking to a friend of mine who is a former SEAL and we were talking about BUD/S. I was reflecting on all the many pools and water experiences with you. I got to get back in shape, psychologically, in water shape. That’s a different therapy session for another time.
We get a lot of those guys and I’m amazed, the awkward trauma, for real. I find it gratifying and fascinating to work with these high-level guys but they touch the water and the way that it was used against them in BUD/S is real.
Not to sidetrack too far but this particular guy does cold plunges. We’re doing cold plunges, a nice balmy 36 degrees. He said it took ten years to get to the point where he could go into a cold plunge. He was allergic to that type of submersion.
People who’ve been cold are like, “Why do I need to do that again? I’m good.” We’re doing it like, “I’m cold.” These people have done it. It’s interesting talking to you because you’re a person who doesn’t like to talk to people that much in a certain way. You like to share information but you’re like, “Talking.” What I thought we could do is we can start a little bit in work and then lightly slide over. To watch you and watch your trajectory is an interesting journey. It’s unusual when you see somebody who not only creates such a unique path but also a path that didn’t exist. In some ways, it doesn’t seem that obvious.
It’s not like when you came out of Princeton, you thought, “That’s a guy who’s going to be communicating tons, writing books, and creating all this content for people to help them navigate their lives better.” You went from work. I understand the technology and biohacking but you go from the 4-Hour Workweek to The Body, to then The Chef. That’s an interesting progression. I’m curious. when you took that on and you did one and you thought, “This is the next.” What was the thinking behind that?
The thinking behind it was, first and foremost, no one expected the first book to do much of anything, including me. What do I do now? There was some trying to set the stage. It wasn’t 100% accidental happening but there was a lot of good and lucky timing involved. The first book takes off. There’s this quote and, for years, I used it as the opening quote in any presentation I ever gave, which was from Mark Twain.
The quote was, “When you find yourself on the side of the majority, it’s time to pause and reflect.” That applies to me after the success or the beginning of the success of The 4-Hour Workweek because the pressure that I felt externally was to do a follow-up book to The 4-Hour Workweek, The 3-Hour Workweek, The 4-Hour Workweek Volume Two, or whatever it might be.
[bctt tweet=”Be attuned to the things that excite you and the things that bother you personally. I have used that for almost all of my best investments.”]
When I looked around and tried to identify models, who are the people who may be 3 to 5 years ahead? What are their lives look like? Who has chosen a similar track? What it seemed like to me was that many people had painted themselves into a corner where they were the such-and-such business guy or they were the such-and-such fill-in-the-blank gal. They felt the need to do the same thing over and over again. I met quite a few of them and they’re like, “I’ve given the same talk on the same thing 200 times. I want to throw myself out a window.”
This is to segway to your question. What I decided to do then at that point was to see if I could hopefully test my audience and test myself in a different subject area and try to model someone. I’m not saying I’m nearly as good as someone like this. Let’s say Michael Lewis who can write about any topic or John McPhee who is a writer and who’s written about everything from oranges to Alaska to tennis.
People follow his writing because of the way he approaches those topics and not because of one subject. I thought to myself, “Right now, I have some leverage with publishers. Let me take a risk and try a different subject matter. If it works, it opens up a million doors. If it doesn’t work, I can always come back and do The 3-Hour workweek. The window of opportunity for following up on that first success is not as narrow as people may think so let me take a risk.”
As soon as The 4-Hour Body worked, which took a few years to pan out, I thought, “I’ve done the business side and the physical side. I want to approach the cognitive accelerated learning side.” Each project since has been a reflection of my personal interest and that’s how, in brief, it has unfolded. I try to think about, “If I choose this particular project, am I doing it out of fear or FOMO or pride? Am I doing it for other reasons? I’m not saying any of those are automatically bad. Does this project, even if it fails, open up more opportunities and relationships? Does it narrow the new skills and relationships?”
If I keep choosing things that are opening up the optionality, so far, at least things tend to, over time, work out. You’re still going to have failures. The 4-Hour Chef was not a huge success. It was too confusing for people. It was too many books in one. If The 4-Hour Chef launch hadn’t happened, in which I ended up the guest on a bunch of long-form podcasts, if I hadn’t burned out on that book, I wouldn’t have started my own podcast. There you go.
Within that, there are three questions. You are a strategic person. I can see that you are genuinely surprised at the level of success of the first book. In a way, that’s the goal. Where do you manage that? All of a sudden, it’s like, “I want people to enjoy this and buy it. Am I ready for this attention?” It’s an interesting thing when you’re trying to be a genuine person but part of creating more opportunities is having enough foresight or strategy to go, “I have to consider that success.”
The short answer is that I’m not convinced anyone can prepare you for any type of public exposure that comes with any success however small or big. When you go from being a private or relatively unknown person to having any type of audience or fan base, things can get strange quickly. I would say that books and magazines and so on are full of warning stories, caveats, or cautionary tales related to failure or making bad decisions. There’s not much out there to prepare you for what happens when suddenly weirdos are showing up at your house. They’re well-intentioned but nonetheless, you got strange stuff that starts to happen.
To come back to the strategy piece, I wanted to try to identify the numbers required to give the book a good shot of hitting the New York Times bestseller lists. I assumed that if I did that, that would open doors for other things, and then I could focus on the next objective or goal. I tend to approach my life in that way. It’s not, “I’m going to do A, B, C, D, and then out to Z.” It’s, “Let me focus on A because if I don’t hit A, then B doesn’t matter. Let me focus on this one thing that’s right in front of me.”
For the New York Times bestseller lists, at the time, given the week and the publication window that we had chosen, which was not accidental, if you’re going to launch right before Christmas, you’re going to be fighting giants. It’s going to make it a lot harder on a ranked list to end up on the print list. If you choose a softer week and you can do this by researching Publishers Marketplace and identifying what’s coming out in which weeks, then you stand a much better chance.
Number one is to know thy competition. The second, I figured out, “If I can aim for at least 10,000, ideally 20,000 books per week for two consecutive weeks, I will have two solid at-bats.” It won’t guarantee anything. If I can try to sell that many books, which will count towards the tally, there will be a good fighting chance to hit the list. I then could work backward from everything else. It’s like, “Let’s try to identify the specific target demographics and markets.”
I had this myopic focus first on the book. The book has to stand on its own two feet and it’s still standing on its own two feet this many years later, which is crazy. When I then hit the New York Times list, I was completely unprepared. I don’t think I could have been prepared. All of a sudden, I’ve got random speakers agencies reaching out, “We have somebody who would like to pay you X amount to talk for 60 minutes in Milwaukee.” I’m like, “What are you talking about? Sure, sounds great.” I said yes to all these things.
Six months later, when the rent comes due in terms of your obligations, I was like, “What have I done? I’m a traveling salesman for the next six months.” I would say that I’m strategic. In most ways, I tend to focus on the gating objective that opens up other doors. In the case of public exposure, I did not have anyone who could have prepared me. Even if they had a lot of exposure, I’m not sure I would have believed what they would have shared. It’s like, “What was it like for you? I’m being curious if you don’t mind me bouncing it back.”
It’s different. First of all, let’s say you shoot your vessel sports. All of a sudden, maybe when you’re in high school, you get in the local newspaper, then you go to college. It’s a slower burn. Also, you’re put out front. When you win, you win in front of people. When you lose, you lose in front of people. You do a lot in front. You get used to, “This is part of the deal.”
It’s interesting when I see someone like you who is curious and onto the intellectual side not even understanding or considering that you are part of your business and you’re like, “I’m putting together and curating information for you people to use your life.” It’s like, “No. We want to know what you’re doing. What’s your story? Who are you going out with?” I thought it was interesting.
It’s completely different when you’re in sports. Also, this happened at a time when technology also developed. By the time technology came around, I was a fully formed adult that had taken my lickings both ways. “You’re great. You suck.” I’ve heard it all. No problem. You come along at a time when it’s like, “Everyone’s going to tell you.” Part of it is that’s your audience, the biohacking-like-crazy group. By the way, I want to say, the Chef book was a lot but it’s a beautiful book on top of it.
I would like to say that as a side note.
There’s a lot going on but I’m very proud of the book.
It is beautiful. I was like, “Tim went hard in here to put all this.”
A pro tip for anyone who’s thinking about doing their first four-color book, don’t decide if you’re the author that it’s a good idea to try to learn how to become a photographer and do 70% of the photographs yourself. Don’t do that. It’s a terrible idea.
It looks great.
It worked out.
You mentioned the podcast. You’re an original person in this space. Was there a person or persons that after they interviewed you, you thought, “This is going to be an interesting medium for me to communicate on.” Was there somebody that turns you on? You’re early into it and somebody who has been a great example of doing it at this professional and produced level.
There definitely were, for sure. For each book launch, what I’ve tried to do is identify the undervalued but rapidly growing channel or platform. For each launch, at least 3 to 6 months before, I’ll do a landscape analysis to try to identify what is currently undervalued or not longer sexy. For instance, for some of the prior book launches, that was email lists. Email lists are old-fashioned, are no longer interesting, and are neglected. When I talked to methodical authors repeatedly, the feedback came that said, “Email this report and focus on.”
For the first book, it was blogs. People are like, “Blog? What the hell is a blog?” I had authors who were telling me, “TV is getting weaker and weaker and it matters less and less even though publishers might think is important.” These things are called blogs, they move books. I would pay attention to them. For The 4-Hour Chef, it was podcasting or podcasts. I go, “This thing is called a podcast.” It came out in 2012.
There were a number of interviews and interviewers who had an impact on me, including Marc Maron, Joe Rogan, Chris Hardwick, Nerdist, and a handful of others. It was refreshing for me to be able to not rush to be myself. From Long Island, if I curse in a lot of podcasts, that’s okay. You’ve done this before. You show up for some TV morning show. You show up at 5:00 AM. They airbrush your face for an hour.
You sit there for another two hours and then you sit in front of someone who mispronounces your name and is looking over your shoulder in a teleprompter. You have 30 seconds to try to say something smart that encapsulates a project you spent years on. They’re like, “Goodbye.” It’s a rushed strange and surreal experience.
Whereas the long-form podcasts felt natural. You could get into some of the subtleties and go all over the place. I thought, “I do interviews for my books anyway. The portion of the book creation process that I enjoy the most is the research, the interviewing, and the digging. Why don’t I just try that?” My thought was, “If I try the podcast, let me commit to six episodes. Let me do at least six episodes.” This is important. I view all these things as experiments. It’s not a project that will fail. It’s like, “Let me do an experiment to see what I can learn from it.”
With the podcast, my thought was, “I’ll do six of these. It’ll force me to get better at interviewing because I’ll want to study other interviewers. I will get better, hopefully, at removing verbal tics. I should become a better speaker.” It’ll drive me nuts with my type of OCD if I’m reviewing audio and I hear myself saying, “Like,” over and over again or something. I’ll be able to deepen relationships with some of my friends because I’ll want to have softballs in the beginning. Why not? Let’s try that and see where it goes. It seems to have worked out so I’m still doing it.
To the extent that you take something on because you never do anything partially. What people don’t realize is that when you say, “It’s a project and I do six episodes,” you’re putting a lot of time and effort into each episode. You’re doing a lot of research. Peter Attia, you’ve interviewed him many times. This is more of a selfish question. I generally put the person first and then we’re going to do the learning.
With you, the expectation will be the extraction process of like, “I am coming to you to tell me.” How do you have the courage? Where do you find your footing or the depth when you’re dealing with people? No matter how much preparation you do for that particular episode, it can be difficult to corral or rein in all of that information. What Northstar do you use to go, “I’ve got to talk to this person who’s an expert in this. Where am I going to go for 75 minutes?”
For people who don’t know Peter Attia MD, he will have forgotten more about the fill-in-the-blank subject in medicine today than I could learn in the next ten years. It’s important to have some constraints of some type. I would say a few things. Number one, to come back to something you said at the beginning of this conversation, you said, “You don’t like to talk to people.”
For folks who don’t have any context, that might be like, “What? That doesn’t make any sense.” I’m introverted. I don’t like big groups. I don’t flamboyantly showboat in social contexts. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with that but that depletes me. It’s maybe a useful commentary for folks who are like, “I need to be extroverted if I’m going to have conversations.”
Part of the reason I stopped doing speaking gigs, which I don’t do anymore, and started focusing on podcasts is that it’s a one-on-one conversation. Hopefully, tons of people get to listen to it. It’s one on one. I love one on one. In front of groups or in groups, I don’t do that well. For people who might think they’re doomed to some fate because they’re introverted, it’s not necessarily.
To your question on the constraints or how you try to corral that, I tried a bunch of different approaches. Where I’ve landed for myself is to make it personal. When you said, “This is a selfish question,” what I was going to say is all my questions are selfish. When I get somebody on the podcast, if I just follow my own interests and try to get their help for me selfishly, I know at least I have an audience of one. I know I’ll at least have one happy audience member and that’s me.
[bctt tweet=”It would start first with self-assessment and then I would look at traction. More than traction, I would be looking at what I think will endure.”]
If I can then follow my own interest and ask Peter whatever question I might want to ask him about. There’s a fascinating drug called rapamycin, which is an immunosuppressant. You shouldn’t play with it. It’s powerful. There are side effects and risks. Let’s say I went to ask him about that. I and Peter, to a greater extent, have all this pre-existing knowledge. I could still ask about it but I would need to take 20 or 30 seconds to either explain a little bit of the background myself or say, “Peter, for people who don’t know rapamycin, for 60 seconds the basics of rapamycin. Great, check.” Now I can ask the question that I want to ask.
It’s personal interest and personal need or goal or personal pain. It’s usually through that filter. What I also assume since I’m doing the podcasts and continuing to do the podcast is I don’t have to cram it all into one episode. If I’m having somebody on like Margaret Atwood, for instance, this legendary fiction writer. Her life is incredible that a first interview will often have a good amount of biographical information but I’ll try to touch on things that have not been touched on elsewhere.
This is true for my books too. People are like, “You should write a book on A, B, and C.” I’m like, “There are twenty great books about that already. There’s no reason for me to write that.” They’ll say, “You should interview so and so.” I’ll say, “Joe Rogan interviewed him or her and did an awesome job. He checked 50 boxes. Go listen to that. I don’t need to interview that person.” It’s usually personal.
I agree with that so much. When I hear a perfect interview, I think, “That’s been done.” Either let people enjoy that. I appreciate that. I’m sure it gets easier as time goes on but have there been people whom you’re not only intimidated to do the interview but even to ask for the interview?
Sure. I remember the first. Not only am I nervous to ask for the interview but if I get the interview, I remember multiple interviews where I’ve been nervous. I remember my first interview with Ed Catmull. At one point, he was the President of Pixar. I’m not sure what his particular gig is at the moment. He was the first stranger I had on the podcast. I’m not sure exactly how it came about. He had a new book, Creativity, Inc. is the name of it, which was good. It was coming out. He agreed to do the podcast. We’d never spoken before. This was nerve-wracking, to begin with, because I don’t know what his personality is like. Is he going to be rushed? Is he going to be annoyed? Who knows? You never know what you’re going to get.
By the way, some people, if they’ve been forced in a sense by their publicist to do something, are going to show up and they’ll be annoyed. That also does happen which is unbalancing if you’re not expecting them. He was fine but I was nervous from start to finish from asking for it to getting it to preparing. I’ll skip to the punch line in a sense. The interview comes out and I see on Twitter all this feedback, which is, “@TFerriss, mmm…mmm…wtf.” I’m like, “What are you talking about?”
I went back and I listen to the audio and every time Ed said anything, I’m like, “Mmm.” I did that 700 times in this interview. Somehow, I missed cleaning it up because I did the editing myself for the first 30 or 40 episodes because I’m a masochist. There are still interviews where I get nervous. I still get nervous after 600 or 700 of these things.
You don’t have to tell me which one but have you ever had one where you shelved it?
I have. Not that many. I would say probably six or so interviews that I have not published. That’s always awkward. I’ve become better over time avoiding that. In the beginning, those were in the first probably two years of interviewing where I was seduced by fame in a way that I’m not seduced now. I’m not going to name names but I would say yes to people I felt iffy about because they were no names.
Lo and behold, there’s an expression, “When in doubt, there is no doubt.” If you are an aspiring podcaster and you watch a video or audio of someone and you’re like, “I don’t know,” don’t do it. It’s going to be terrible. If you’re on the fence, don’t do it. I had to shelf six. I haven’t done that in years, though. It’s been a long time.
You find sometimes when people are well known, they can’t disclose anything. They can’t tell you anything. As a person trying to have a connection or bring value to the audience, yes, they’re well known but they won’t share anything with you. It’s either they can’t. The other thing is we can’t relate if you’re uber-famous. Every single thing you said, who knows? I agree with that. Sometimes it’s tricky. It’s like, “Are we going to talk or are we just going to go through the motions?”
If you were starting out today, given the landscape, what do you think your younger self would be focusing on? You do an assessment of what’s happening or what’s picking up juice but you have a knack for it. It’s maybe your ability to look and trust your instincts. If you were starting out now, given your interest, I’m not saying project for the whole world, where do you think you would be looking at?
Let me tell you how I would approach it because maybe that’ll be helpful for folks. I don’t have a ready answer because I haven’t gone through the exercise. If I were doing it, one critical piece, maybe the most critical piece when you are doing this type of landscape analysis, try to figure out what to do if you’re figuring out a format, platform, or all of this type of thing if that is what indeed we’re looking at.
Where I start is with a self-assessment. Where are you strong? Where are you weak? Where are you mediocre? What are you excited about? This is going to sound simplistic but trust me. For me, at least, it makes a huge difference. Where do you have a lot of energy? When you think about writing, when you think about recording audio, or when you think about multiple cameras, television-like video, how do you feel? In your body, which of those are you excited to jump into and which of them are you like, “Eh.” Which are you’re like, “I don’t want to do that.”
For instance, with me, I know this is a current state of affairs but it would be similar if I were getting started right now. Videos/TV is not my native element. There are people who will always be 1,000 times better than I am. Joe Rogan is an example and there are many others. They’re comfortable and native with video and that’s not me. I don’t enjoy it. As a result, let’s say I did an analysis and I came back and I said, “The land of opportunity is TikTok.” If I don’t have that whole body yes to it, if I’m not excited about it, if it doesn’t overlap with my strength, I’m never going to have the endurance and the consistency to do anything on that platform.
Don’t start. Do something else. Even if it’s a less popular platform, even if it’s a less popular format, even if it’s a medium that you think is out of style, it doesn’t matter. You can still make it work. To make it work, you need energy, consistency, and endurance. The perfect plan you don’t follow is not the perfect plan. A good plan that you do follow is maybe the perfect plan for you. For me, it would start with an assessment of my own strengths and weaknesses and then also my kinesthetic full body response to consider different options.
I then would start looking at traction, sustainability, and things like that. For instance, a lot of folks are focusing on TikTok. Not to beat up TikTok. TikTok could last forever. Who knows? Not all platforms last forever. You might recall, a lot of self-described creators went all in and pushed in all their chips on Vine and then Vine went away.
I’ve talked to some very successful entrepreneurs who have seven-figure businesses built on Facebook pages. I remember I asked one of them what that felt like and he said, “It feels like I have the most profitable McDonald’s in the world built on top of an active volcano because it could go away. The algorithm change. The policy change. It can go away.” For me, because I’m also hyper-vigilant and that’s my world orientation, email allows me to sleep well at night because I know I can take it with me. I can move around. If I need to pack up all my belongings on my back, metaphorically speaking, and move from place to place, I can do that with email.
I’m not sure if that answers the question well but it would start first with self-assessment and then I would look at traction. More than traction, I would be looking at what I think will endure. Also, if we’re talking about content creation, which I’m assuming for the sake of argument, the medium that you choose for your content can be different than the approach you use to draw attention to your content.
When I launched The 4-Hour Workweek, I put up posts on biohacking even in 2007 and played the game with, at the time, Digg.com, which was the equivalent of having a video take off on TikTok and getting millions of views. You won the lottery. If you got on the front page of Digg, at the time, you would almost certainly have your site crash. It was a tremendous amount of traffic. I played that game for attention but my content game was not predicated on Digg. The tools you use to draw attention do not have to be the same tools that you rely upon as your actual workshop daily driver tools.
I appreciate that. For me, if someone’s genuinely doing the work, if Digg led me to you and then I got to your content, you’d be like, “There’s a great deal of work that’s gone into this.” You don’t mind the direction of getting attention. What I don’t like and audiences get fatigued over is getting attention directed toward a place where there’s still nothing there. It’s important that you’ve always backed it up with real work. I am curious. When you invested early in a lot of companies, do you use always your instincts? I was talking to Rick Rubin. We were both fascinated by marketing and your ability to see things. Is that innate and one of your superpowers?
I have been thinking about this. What I think my superpower is, which is a superpower that other people can cultivate and that a lot of other people have and they just don’t use, I am sensitive. You’ve seen me in the sun. I’m pale. I’m like the underbelly of a whale. I’m sensitive physically. Sometimes I wish that weren’t the case. I’m sensitive to different types of pains and inconveniences.
In a sense, if I pay attention to that, I can be the canary in the coal mine. I noticed something that annoys me to no end that I’ve come to realize within five years is probably going to annoy a lot of other people. It’s like, “Who was the person who finally figured it out?” They were dragging their suitcase through some airport and they were like, “We need wheels on these things. What the hell?” Everyone else is like, “How do we not realize? This is so bad.” I pay attention to these things that bother me.
The most successful serial entrepreneurs I have met who seem to have this supernatural ability to hit home run after home run do have failures and they have incredible execution ability but they’re almost always scratching their own itch in some way. For me, I’d say there are a couple of ingredients with investing in startups specifically, which I do not recommend to most people because it’s a high-risk approach. Number one was putting myself in physical proximity to a lot of smart, strange people who were obsessively working on dozens of different things.
There is something to physical proximity even in this virtual world, maybe especially in this virtual world, frankly. A lot of online is posturing, presenting, and performing. You may not get the real scoop until you’ve had two drinks with somebody or you maybe hiked with them until they’re significantly fatigued and you take a water break or whatever it might be. There’s the physical proximity, being in the pinball machine so you might have some random collision that produces an interesting thought or conversation.
The second, which is probably more important on some level, is being attuned to the things that excite you and the things that bother you personally. I have used that for almost all of my best investments. To be responsible, there are many other checkboxes. I would say those are a few of them. Another one is trying to distinguish between trends and fads.
Don’t you think when you live long enough, maybe that’s not true, but you think, “What’s the practical application for the long term beyond?” My teenager is going to be digging this for about 18 months to 3 years or something. I don’t know.
My feeling also is by the time you’ve had 10 or 20 people tell you, “You should pay attention to something,” it’s probably too late for my purposes to look at it as an early-stage investment. That’s already to consensus in a sense. For me, coming back to that Mark Twain quote, “When you find yourself on the side of the majority, it’s time to pause and reflect.”
Maybe this is a petulant child-like response from me but whenever I feel a lot of push to get me onto a platform or a new thing, I always say, “No.” If there’s a lot of pressure, I am going to pause. I’m going to look at this closely because not only is it possibly too late from an investment perspective but even from a user perspective. If everyone is clamoring for the same three podium spots in one sport, you’re going to have to do a lot of work. That is going to be competitive.
Maybe if they all jumped from sport A to sport B, let me take another look at sport A if that’s uncrowded. Let me see. Let me see what there is to farm there. Maybe using email is another example where it’s been around forever. I remember, someone said to me that there are a lot of investors who say, “Kids don’t use email anymore. They’re all on this and this. They don’t use email. Until they have a job and then they use email. They’re all going to use email for a while.”
[bctt tweet=”Try to distinguish between trends and fads.”]
For me, not to harp on the email piece because it could be something else but I would say being attuned to my own needs, wants, and frustrations, which also applies to investing outside of startups, frankly, I remember the first time I invested in Amazon, a publicly traded company. This is a long time ago. This is not investment advice. I’m not saying invest in Amazon now. This is quite a lot of time ago, maybe 2006 or something.
I looked at my personal spending on Amazon and then I talked to a bunch of my friends and I’m like, “What does your Amazon spending look like compared to last year or the year before?” I was like, “Okay. It’s not a sophisticated investment thesis but let me see where that goes.” This is not investment advice. This is going to sound stupidly simplistic to a lot of folks. I pay a lot of attention to my personal use, habits, my credit card statements, and where I’m cobbling together solutions. It’s like, “Where am I trying to piece together a solution that is clumsy? Where am I doing that? Maybe there’s an easier way to get that done.” That kind of stuff.
Do you sell send out your favorite 5-Bullet Friday?
Yes. 5-Bullet Friday, I’ve done it consistently for 5 or 6 years every week. The five things.
What shows up for you? If anyone is not already on this, I would suggest getting on it because you always are sharing interesting and cool things. Laird not only has his chili pad but he has his chili blanket, and he calls it he’s in a cold burrito. Not to get too vulgar but if you’re going to have sex on your bed, you have to move his girlfriend over because the pad and the blanket take all this room. You’re like, “Do you want to move the thirteen-pound blanket off the bed?” Is there anything that shows up for you like a few objects that you’re like, “These not only changed my life but have been something I’ve kept up with and use still.”
Yeah, there are tons. I’m traveling. What did I bring with me? As an example. I can mention a few other things that I often travel with that I haven’t been traveling with this time. I’ll give you a few that I commonly traveled with, several of which I’m traveling with right now. I almost always travel with a percussion device of some type, a Theragun let’s say. It could be any number of other models. I will almost always travel with a Theragun of some type. I find that it is a great swiss army knife for so many things. I will almost always travel with a percussion device of some type, which I have with me even though it’s a pain in the ass to carry around.
I will frequently travel with, in my case, a Nayoya Acupressure Mat. You can find these on Amazon. There are other versions that look identical like Bed of Nails. They’re effectively these roll-up mats that have what look like golf cleats on them and you lay on them with your shirt off. That was introduced to me by an athlete, Mr. Andrii Bondarenko from Ukraine who lives in the US now. He’s a Cirque du Soleil performer and a high-level acrobat.
His coach in Ukraine would have all of them lay on these mats for 30 minutes after every practice. It sounded nonsense but for any type of, especially for me, mid-back or neck spasm or tightness, I don’t know exactly why, I couldn’t explain the mechanism but this particular type of mat works incredibly well. I have some injuries in the mid-back that tend to flare up. Those would be two. A lot of them are self-care.
Another one that I’ve been using that very excited about is something called the O2 Trainer. Bas Rutten, who’s this legendary fighter, a wild man who I’ve tracked since 1992 or 1993 when I was in Japan and saw one of his first MMA fights, he has this device. It’s a breath restriction device for developing your inspiratory muscles, developing the intercostals, and the different muscles involved with respiration. I’m traveling with that right now.
We could go down the list. I’ll give you one more that’s fun because it’s another physical device. There’s something called the XPO Trainer. I’m sure that there are many other versions or competing models now but the XPO Trainer is a sled and the sled is on wheels. They’re not on a sled. I’m not even sure what you would call them. Super plates. They’re not on anything that you would push on directly on grass. These are actual rubber tires, three of them.
There’s mechanical resistance. The harder you push, in a sense, the harder it pushes back. It’s perfect for driveways. I mean you can get a spectacular workout with this device just push it. For the posterior chain, hips, full extension, hamstrings, and calves, it’s exceptional. I’m sure there are many other mechanical resistance sleds out there that mimic a prowler but with mechanical resistance. Those would be a few.
It’s pretty uncommon that I include something in 5-Bullet Friday that I don’t stick with for a while. What makes 5-Bullet Friday even a little wilder that not many people realize because I have friends reach out to me and they’re like, “Are you putting this together?” I’m like, “Yeah, I’m putting it together.” They’ll reach out and say, “Did you read and watch all these things?” I’m like, “Yeah. Of course, I did.” What they don’t realize is that for every five bullets that go in there, I’m reading, digesting, and testing probably 30 or 40 things. There are a lot of things that do not make the cut, the vast majority. Those would be a few that come to mind that I still use.
The other thing that’s intuitive is when someone sees your work or meets you, it’s like, “This is somebody who’s working. This is a person who’s scheduled and working.” For me, it’s like that person you don’t maybe want to talk to. When it comes to my work, I generally try to get right to it. Do you ever procrastinate? If you do, what does that look like for you?
I procrastinate all the time, it’s embarrassing. I’m happy to talk about this to disabuse anyone of any illusions they might have about me. There are many days when I will get to the end of the day and think to myself, “I know I did a bunch of stuff today. I know I spent a lot of time staring at the screen and whacking my fingers on a keyboard.” If someone said, “What’s the important thing you did today?” I honestly couldn’t tell them. There are definitely those days.
There are other days when I’ll wake up and have some melancholy or lethargy which tends to go together for me. I’ll usually try to fix that with some cold. I find cold to be tremendously useful. If for whatever reason I can’t or I slept poorly the night before because I still do have quite a lot of challenges around sleep, that day might a total wash. I’ll know what the important thing is but I’ll stare at my keyboard like I’m being hypnotized. Two hours later, I’ve just been clicking around on tabs. I don’t even know what I’m doing, “What am I doing?” I have no idea what I’ve been doing for the last two hours.
This type of thing happens regularly. What offsets that is I am much better at being effective, meaning picking the right things, than I am at being efficient, which is doing those things right. I’m pretty good at being efficient. There’s a creative project that I’m working on, which is one of the higher leveraged, most interesting, and exciting things, if not the most exciting thing that I’m working on right now. I can procrastinate for 2 or 3 days of the week and not touch that as long as I get in at least two solid 3 to 4-hour sessions of working on this project. I’ve identified that as the highest leveraged project that is going to open up new skills, and new relationships, even if ultimately it doesn’t succeed financially.
As long as I get in a couple of solid work sessions a week, I can procrastinate for a couple of days. It might seem like wasted time and it probably is on some level. As long as I don’t lose sight of that one project that is the highest leveraged, as long as I get in a couple of work sessions, which in my experience, a small percentage of people do. By do, I mean, identifying the one priority, which is the highest leverage project, in this case, professional that you should be focusing on if your hope is to open up a lot of doors and to continue to grow, etc.
I procrastinate all the time. For people who may not know because there’s the podcast, which has sponsorship, and there are the books, which people buy, before the podcast, I had written probably 700-plus extensive blog posts that were always and will always be free. One of them was “Productivity” Tricks for the Neurotic, Manic-Depressed, and Crazy (Like Me). It paints a picture of how sloppy some of my days look. If you have that one thing, that light that is at the end of the tunnel, a couple of days a week at least, you can meander your way to that and spend a few hours on it in an unbroken period of time, in a block, things seem to work out over time.
The sloppy time that you’re talking about, that’s where you’re who you are. Performance and execution are tips of who we are or extensions or moments of who we are. I don’t think we live there. We live in the sloppy and blobby, “I’m frustrated and I don’t know what to do,” relationships. People don’t realize that, in a way, that’s where we gather up again who we are and then we go, “I’m going to see if I can execute something that feels important to me to contribute.”
If you are walking around like a laser beam, generally, the collateral damage in your personal life is probably pretty significant or you’re just a robot. It’s that. I appreciate that answer. I want to slide over and I’ll tell you something funny that dawned on me once I was realizing we were going to connect here. Before we leave, out of curiosity, with NFTs and crypto, I would love your take on it because everybody has a take on it. If you have a take and if you go, “I don’t know. It’s still shaking out.” That’s fine, too.
I have a take. Maybe some readers will be too young for this. I’m not the first person to make this analogy. I am sure at least a handful of companies and platforms and technologies are going to be world-changing within Web3, which, in some cases, will include NFTs. Almost certainly that’s the case. However, identifying those choice few is like finding the needle in the haystack in the 1999 Peak Bubble. The good news is there are five companies that are going to change the world. The bad news is there are 10,000. You have to find the five. That’s hard to do.
From an investment perspective, if I put on my Angel investing hat, that’s how I’m looking at the space. I’ve dialed back significantly because I had a couple of large investments in that space go to zero in the last twelve months. It highlighted some of the systemic risks that people may not be aware of and the contagion that can quickly start to have domino effects that cause things to collapse.
We don’t have to get into all of the backgrounds but Luna, USDT, and all these things, there were all these secondary and tertiary effects that led to things going to zero. I’m not smart enough to be a macro investor who is familiar with all facets and interconnections within Web3. I’m not smart enough nor am I going to take the time to become smart enough to do that.
I own some NFTs but I am treating NFTs like a casino entertainment budget. Here’s what I mean by that. Even though people might think I’m a betting man, I don’t view myself that way at all. I am focused, a lot of the time, on risk mitigation. How do I cap my downside? How do I limit my downside? You then can swing for the pitch but how do you cap your downside? I never go to casinos. If I do, every once in a while, I treat it like I’m going to the movies.
I’m like, “This money is for entertainment. I’m going to spend this money. I’m going to lose it all but let me try to lose it over at least a few hours so that I have a good time with a couple of friends.” I’ll do that once every two years or something like that. It’s a small amount of money. I can afford to lose. The trade is pretty good. A couple of hours of fun, get some free drinks, fantastic, and then you walk out with no expectation of ever getting that money back. That’s how I treat NFTs.
I’m using NFTs as a gateway drug in a sense. When we say NFTs in this context, we’re talking about expensive JPEGs if that’s what we’re talking about. There are many different forms they can take. If we’re talking about expensive JPEGs, it is something that people can wrap their heads around and I include myself in that group of people where it’s like, “This is like contemporary art but it’s in this weird digital space. How should we even think about this?”
[bctt tweet=”For me, I require many more points of proof or social proof from people I trust before I’m even going to test something now because there’s so much garbage.”]
Before you can decide how to think about it, for me at least, it’s important for me to get in there and get my hands dirty and have to deal with setting up wallets and connecting and doing all of this stuff that is a pain in the ass, frankly, to see what the hell’s going on. There’s a ton of bad behavior. NFTs are like “medicine” in the wild west. No regulation and no FDA. You have a toothache. How are you going to find a dentist who isn’t a charlatan and who is going to hurt you? It’s going to be challenging. That’s how I think of NFTs right now.
If you have the money you can afford to lose easily, it’s not going to affect you or anyone you care about in any way, the same amount of money you might put into a casino and the way that I explained. If you use that and you say, “This is my entertainment budget for NFTs. Before this entertainment budget runs out and goes to zero,” which it will, that’s my assumption, “I’m going to try to learn as much as possible.”
There’s an argument to be made that could be an interesting use of time. I have seen so many people on the internet who are day trading and NFTs. They are romanced by the idea of making a lot of money quickly. #YOLO. They’re taking their last savings and putting it into an expensive cat JPEG. That’s a terrible idea.
What people should realize also with NFTs or any investment, it’s not just buying. You got to know when you’re going to sell and you should have an exit strategy. If you don’t have an exit strategy, it doesn’t matter. If you buy $1 and it goes to $100, congratulations. If it goes back to $0.50 cents, guess what? You’re not in a great place. People should be cautious with NFTs. I am engaged with them but I’m playing with casino money that I expect to lose entirely.
I appreciate the idea of learning. I have been working on a project for ten months getting educated about it. As the creator, I’m using Laird as the obvious person. I do things with Laird. He’s not even barely online but he’s the best person to lead with. The whole idea is, what are you going to give? When we’re approaching this, it’s getting beat into my head about the utilities. What are you giving them? What does this thumbprint give you? What does this card give me? I don’t know if that shows a value or if maybe there’s a new idea besides the electronic JPEG. To your point, could we put things in Web3 that would somehow elevate your health? Can we get you up out of your chair away from your desk? Things like that. I don’t know. It’ll be interesting to see.
I’ll build on what you said to point out that, number one, Web3 and blockchain are going to fundamentally change how a lot of things work in the world, full stop, I have zero doubt about that. Things are already in motion. A lot is going to change. There are also many different types of NFTs. I’m simplifying here but NFT is like a digital title. You have a deed to your house and now you have this digital deed to some type of file or something. You can simplistically think of it that way.
There are some interesting utility NFTs out there. I have friends who have created different membership passes. You can create incentives, some of which can be embedded into the smart contract, some of which are layered on top in some way. It’s super interesting. What I will say to anyone who is creating NFTs is only make promises that you can deliver.
Make sure you talk to lawyers so that you do not run afoul of securities law. Be careful with that both for the people who may buy your stuff and for yourself legally. You got to be careful. Because a lot of people are bending, breaking, or ignoring the rules online, it does not mean that you are immune. Pay a lot of attention to all that stuff and work with good lawyers. If you’re like, “I don’t have the money to work with good lawyers,” then don’t do it.
That’s important advice. I’m also curious. People are navigating. There’s so much information online, especially about health and fitness, hacking, and all these things. It’s funny, we get invited to do all these biohacking things and and our thinking is that works if you’re doing some of the fundamentals. You still have to go to bed at some point. You have to have time under tension. How do you weed through all the noise and see the mix of real information and valid hacks? Let’s face it, technology is a tool if done correctly.
My approach to a lot of this has become more and more minimalist over time. I suppose it’s not shocking if you consider that the volume and the ratio of noise have become and will continue to become worse and worse. Finding the signal to the noise is increasingly challenging. This is a quote. I’m blanking on this coach’s name. I wish I can remember. It was a Dutch track and field coach. This quote was in the 4-Hour Body. Somebody can find it. Henk is the first name. He trained multiple world champions and his quote was something along the lines of, “The goal is to do the least amount necessary, not the most possible.” I think about that a lot. The minimum effective dose of various things.
What that means is I’ve cut way back on supplements, I’ve cut way back on ancillary training gadgets. Clearly, I mentioned a bunch so I still use them. For me, I require many more points of proof or social proof from people I trust before I’m even going to test something now because there’s so much garbage. It’s no accident that I know a bunch of researchers and doctors and so on because I have them on the podcast. That is deliberate that I get to know these folks and become friends with a lot of them.
If they happen to know a lot about X and something comes on my radar that seems plausible, maybe there’s a scientific study, maybe there’s a good scientist involved even if it’s commercial or for profit. I’ll send something to them and I’ll be like, “Stiff test, what’s your take?” If it’s anything hyper-skeptical, I’ll also be looking at the pros and cons or the upside and downside. I’ll use supplements specifically and I do take supplements. I got a vitamin C right here. I do take supplements. I’m not saying that I don’t.
There are few biological free lunches. For instance, I remember when a lot of my friends were taking tons of Modafinil, Provigil, this anti-narcolepsy drug. They’re like, “I feel great. I can focus. I’m like, “No downsides.” It’s one of those things where if you’re at the poker table and you can’t spot the sucker, you’re the sucker. If you are getting a huge amplitude of effects from something, there are other things going on. Those resources need to be pulled from somewhere. We need to be metabolized in a certain way. Be aware of it and then you can do a risk calculus.
I’ll give you an example, the O2 Trainer, inspiratory muscles, and so on. I wanted to go on PubMed and do a bunch of reading. let’s see if there’s actual literature. Are there actual studies that demonstrate that you can develop this musculature in a meaningful way using some type let’s say breadth volume per second limitations? Is there anything to support that or is this a bunch of hand-wavy stuff? There’s a ton of data that you can look at and a ton of research. I was like, “I’ll give it a shot. Why not?” Supposedly, you start to see some results within a few weeks. I’m going to be at altitude. Let’s go for it.
I grew up in the Caribbean and everyone was freewheeling and a little bit more wild. That forced me into a linear path. I know you understand. Certain things that happen when we’re younger push us and if we already have a natural tendency. It took maybe a natural tendency to be disciplined or whatever, which is great and has worked great. Obviously, there’s been things that I’ve had to look at. For me, it was having children and being in a long relationship that it was like, “You got to deal with it.”
I appreciated your approach when you talk about psilocybin or things that you use as tools for healing and help. Michael Pollan and people like that have put a different tone on it. MAPS has put a different tone on it where it’s like, “This is in a clinical environment.” You have a male and a female clinician with you. There’s a system. There was something about when you said, “I’m going to invest in this space because it’s also helped me and there are important things here.” I’m curious if there’s anything that you can share that’s new or different in the research in the psilocybin space or this space in general.
I can try to share some of that. Certainly, these tools have also played a role in the toolkit that has helped me with a number of various things, treatment-resistant depression, and trying to metabolize I suppose childhood abuse also. I’ll give some research points. I’m not a scientist. I’m not a doctor, I don’t play one on the internet. I’ll share a couple of things that I do think are interesting about the research and then I’ll share my commentary on the compounds in general.
Within the category of psychedelics, I would include things like psilocybin, ayahuasca, and other things, LSD, certainly. On the research side, there appear to be many conditions for which psychedelic compounds are potentially effective let’s say cluster headaches, which is a debilitating condition and affliction for a lot of people, that do not require the psychedelic effects of psychedelics.
There are certain compound designer molecules that are being created that remove some of the psychedelic effects while maintaining the clinical efficacy for some of these conditions. That’s both exciting and encouraging because it broadens the populations that could benefit from some of these molecules, at least with slight tweaks made to them. That could end up proving true for a lot of conditions, including those that are responding well to classical psychedelic treatment.
There are also new combined therapies that are being explored with different drugs that affect mTOR pathways that could extend the anti-depressive effects of psychedelics including, in this class temporarily for the sake of conversation, ketamine at higher doses used in a clinical setting intravenously for acute depression or treatment-resistant depression. Those are all exciting. The comment I would add is that for me personally and for many, the psychedelic experience, meaning the reality-bending ego-dissolving experience, is what we would attribute a lot of the clinical benefits to.
In other words, the content isn’t a problem. The content is, in some cases, the gym that allows you to have or contributes to durable effects. Let’s say psilocybin as an example. The half-life is short. After twelve hours, it’s out of your system. If that is the case, how then would you explain durable, for some people, antidepressant effects, anti-anxiety effects, or anxiolytic effects out 6 or 6 months? How do you explain that?
One approach would be to look at the brain structurally and say, “These following changes have taken place. Maybe the dendrites are longer. In these falling places, there’s more snapped density in these falling places.” Those tend to last on the order of days or weeks and not months. How do we explain months? Are these people delusional? Are they reporting incorrectly? Are they trying to please the experimenters by telling them that they’re still feeling good? I don’t think that fully explains it.
I’m not the only person who thinks this, of course. My perspective is that often we’re all enmeshed in our own stories about ourselves in the world. Those stories or the software that is running in the background constantly form our reality and inform how we feel. It’s difficult in a sober state. It’s not impossible. With dedicated meditation practice, you can also do this, which is an important adjunct to all of this.
If you tried to look out your eye to examine the lens of your eye, it’d be difficult without a mirror. Similarly, trying to examine the automatic subconscious beliefs that drive your behavior and your vision of who you are is hard to do without some assistance or some tool. Meditation can be one. Psychedelics properly supervised at a proper dosing range seem to, for a lot of people, help them to become an observer of their own minds.
It enables some people to look at the effects that these beliefs are having on their lives and they can suddenly take something that is usually read-only. Usually, it can’t be changed because it’s endemic to who you are. Now you can begin to make little edits. You can start to rewrite those narratives and you can start to modify those beliefs. At the least, become aware that you even have these beliefs. When you get back to your normal waking sober state, you begin to have an emotional reaction to something.
This is a common pattern. You can say, “That’s because I have belief X. There’s not a lot of evidence to support belief X. It’s a remnant from something that happened to me when I was 5 years old. Now that I’m an adult, I can relate to that differently.” Some of the durability that is seen doesn’t last forever, by the way. For most people, it doesn’t last forever. Some of the durability that we see can be attributed to that type of content, which is a feature of the classical psychedelic experience.
You need to have a support structure in place. Do not go into a psychedelic experience unsupervised. Do not do it without a therapist who can act as a safety net afterward. You are working with nuclear power and not everyone turns out better afterward. People go in and they assume, “I don’t have any childhood trauma.” What happens if something comes up that is shocking and you don’t know how to contend with that? I’ve seen this happen also.
You need to hope for the best and prepare for the worst in that sense. Don’t assume it’s going to be kaleidoscopic euphoria. It can end up being challenging. For all of those reasons and more, you need qualified professional help not just during but before and also after. It’s like having a full knee reconstruction. You need to have pre-op, op, and then post-op.
I appreciate that perspective. I honor the way you work. You have been forthcoming about some late discovery traumas that you had. It was a podcast in September 2020 that you talk at length in an environment chosen by you with the opposite of somebody that you wanted to talk with. I encourage people.
Talking about it’s already been done but you do share that you experienced through this process the discovery that you recalled having your own childhood traumas from age 2 to 4 or so. If anybody wants to listen to that podcast again, it’s September 2020. The pandemic might have been the thing. I’m sure it was a long time coming navigating this but you also give a lot of resources on that podcast and you share your experience. To your point, Jack Kornfield was there to help you.
Jack was the safety net in the beginning.
It’s reminding people that you’re not also speaking from a book but this is something personal to you. I pay attention to you, Tim. I consider you a faraway friend, those people that you don’t see them. I know if I needed you, I could call you. I have to tell you, learning about your experience taught me something. I always feel that I’m completely transparent usually. When you see me, here I am. Laird is also even more guilty of this. Here it is.
When you meet someone like you who I like, we spent time together. There was always a guard. I used to be like, “What’s up with Tim?” It’s an interesting thing to look back at myself. When you’re not understanding what someone’s going through or has experienced, I think, “He’s smart. He’s successful. He does all these things. He’s completely self-aware. He’s just skittish.” I used to think, “What’s up? Can we get past that?”
I listened to your podcast and I thought, “That makes a lot of sense.” I only bring this up, first of all, for personal accountability but to remind people the whole thing about we don’t know the burden that other people are going through and we are quick to make it about ourselves. I admired your courage. Especially knowing you a little bit, I was like, “He is sticking his neck way out there sharing this.”
Handling it also as you do. It’s like, “This is what helped me. Here are the tools. This is where you can go and read this and check this out.” I wanted to bring that up because I’m sure I’m not the only person that was misreading the vibration or the signals. You go, “It’s been six times. I’m safe.” You don’t realize that’s got nothing to do with it. I wanted to bring that up because everybody has their way that they do it differently. I want to remind people of that too, we don’t know, and if we can just show up.
Thanks, Gabby. I appreciate you saying that. The conversation, if people are interested, if you search Tim Ferriss and Debbie Millman, my conversational partner, and childhood abuse, it’ll pop right up. I’ll warn people in advance. It’s not terribly graphic but we both talk about sexual abuse. She also has that in her history.
I wish I had the attribution. I can’t remember who said this to me once. It’s a good reminder also for myself because we can all forget easily. The expression that was shared with me was everyone is fighting a battle you know nothing about. I was like, “Assume that.” You’re not getting 100% because sometimes the person doesn’t even know what that 100% looks like themselves. They’re being driven by 10% that they are not even consciously aware of. Assume everyone’s fighting a battle you know nothing about. I appreciate you bringing that up.
I’ve experienced something as a parent that was uncomfortable in this space. You and Debbie talked about it. It’s probably more boys than we realize. They don’t always report. It’s 1 in 4 girls and things like that. This is everywhere. It’s never easy to manage from any side. What I want to say though is, for example, selfishly, my mom took a parenting hiatus from age 2 to 7. This made me pretty independent and diligent. All these great things came out of it.
You said the word sensitive. I’m sure naturally because of your intelligence and you have natural sensitivity but this probably ramped it up times 100. Simultaneously all of this amazing, beautiful work that you have put into the world that also people have enjoyed and use those tools, a great part of it comes from this difficult and challenging thing that you’ve gone through. You’re putting things in order. You’re putting things in buckets. You’re navigating to go, “What’s this going to do and what’s that going to do?”
I sometimes wonder also it’s always remembering that that’s for most of us. People have asked me, “Why do you think you do all these things?” I go, “It started with fear and then I’ve redirected.” As you said, “Now I’m an adult. I don’t need to have those same responses.” How do we be grateful for those things and heal from them and move on?
I appreciated you continuing to share your experiences uncomfortable and comfortable. I have one last question. I have 100 more but I’m not going to keep you all day. You knew early about the pandemic, earlier than certainly the Americans. Maybe people in China were getting some indication. I’m curious what you saw that you thought, “Something’s happening.”
It’s wild to look back at that whole chapter. It seems like yesterday but also 100 years ago. It’s a funny thing, time perception. What I saw was a collective response among some of the global macro investors I respect a lot. This is another reason why I like to cultivate. You don’t have to be Tim Ferriss with the podcast to cultivate friendships in different spheres. This is going to sound particular to me. I don’t think it needs to be because I was trying to develop these deep friendships with specialists in different places well before even writing the first book. You don’t need to have a huge platform to do this but it does help.
I saw among a number of global macro investors, what does that mean? I’m going to simplify it here. That means they’re watching global political events. They’re watching natural resources. They’re watching sanctions. They’re watching any type of disaster that could befall a given city, country, and, therefore, world if everything is highly interconnected.
Also, these guys, in this case, they’re all men but a few, have something in common also with tech investors. A lot of tech investors were early to pay attention to COVID-19. One of the reasons for that is that both of these groups have a lot of practice looking at exponential growth and what exponential means. For instance, it’s counterintuitive when you start to look at exponents and exponential growth and what that means. Humans, by default, are linear in how they think about growth curves, positive or negative.
For that reason, for me, the rate of growth in a place like China, Italy especially, and South Korea later, was troubling. It was troubling on a number of levels. Number one is Lombardi and Italy. As Americans, go America, it’s tempting. I sometimes have this temptation to be like, “It’s the backwater of fill-in-the-blank country. Of course, they’re not going to know how to figure this out.” It turns out Lombardi and Italy have excellent healthcare on a whole lot of levels. Access is certainly, in some respects, much better than in the US.
Tracking this exponential growth and looking at how it was spreading, this is late January, the first few days of February is when I was paying a lot of attention. I wrote the first blog post probably a week or two later about seatbelts if anybody wants to see. People are like, “Why is it dangerous?” I’m like, “You do a lot of things that hedge against risk.” Even though you’ve never had a head-on collision on a freeway, you still wear your seatbelt. Why? Because it doesn’t take very much.
You have a fire extinguisher in your kitchen. How many times have you used it? Probably zero. You still want it there just in case because the downside risk is high. If you don’t have it, the inconvenience is minimal. Let’s look at where we can apply seatbelts in different areas of our lives. That was the blog post. It was relevant to this particular SARS-CoV-2. That’s the virus that causes COVID-19.
What I was watching was the growth rate and there were a few basic assumptions. One was that with global travel, international flights, and slow-moving governments, this is going to be completely impossible to contain. Of course, it’s going to be impossible to contain. I get it on some level but with people all over the world who are like, “I’m not wearing masks.” I’m like, “It’s definitely not going to be contained.” That’s nothing new. Humans are stubborn. I get it. Sometimes they’re right and sometimes they’re wrong. Often, they’re wrong. I was like, “There’s no way this is going to be contained.”
Based on that, I then started making certain assumptions. I was thinking about, for instance, what happens when this is spreading. What happens when governments panic? Also thinking about, for instance, shortages in medication, something like that. One of the first things I did when I reached out to my parents, which was early on, and before anything in the US was locked down, I said, “Make sure you get at least a few months of all of your most critical medications. If you need me to talk to your doctor, I’ll talk to your doctor. If your doctor will cooperate, call me back and I will find a way.”
I think a lot of it was having friend groups in different places. Also, geographically, by the way, I knew people on the ground in Italy. I knew people who were on the ground in South Korea. When New York started to become a hotspot, I knew people or I was able to get to people who were in the ER treating COVID patients on respirators to chat maybe every other day to say, “What is happening? What are you seeing? What is working? What isn’t working?”
It scared the crap out of me. I was like, “Even if this is a false positive, let’s say this is a false alarm, it might not be. Let’s take a few precautions. Put on the seat belts if they’re easy enough to do and then wait until we have more information. Let’s see what happens.” This is also an assumption of mine. I was like, “Even if the lethality of this is overestimated, the economic damage and social disruption are severely underestimated.”
Even if there isn’t a fire in a theater, if it’s a crowded theater and a bunch of people started yelling fire, you still need to deal with the consequences of that. I thought about that quite a bit too. I’m like, “Even if this isn’t as lethal as people may think, even if it’s not as contagious as people may think, the reaction is going to be slow and there’s going to be panic on an organizational and governmental level.” Also, on a neighborhood and personal level, lots of stuff is going to be sold out immediately. There are going to be run on all sorts of things at grocery stores. People might remember these videos of women duking it out over toilet paper.
For me, it was saying, “Assumption 1, assumption 2, if these two assumptions are true, what are the obvious secondary and tertiary effects of that?” A lot of it came down to being somewhat comfortable with exponential growth. Everybody who’s reading this, I encourage you to get a basic comfort with exponents and probabilities. There are great courses and there are a bunch of ways you can do this in a user-friendly way. It’s counterintuitive. No one is born to have an intuitive grasp of these things. It’s Good to check out.
I’m excited to see whatever you’re doing next. Do we have time on that or is that the unknown?
It’s still TBD but I’ll probably launch something fun as far as creative projects in the next three months. Probably by the end of 2022, I will have something out. I’m excited about it. It will be fun.
Is it true that you were going to do a book about saying no and then you said no to the no book? Is that right?
It is 100% true. This is going to sound insane and it is insane. I got almost 200,000 words of various stuff. 200,000 words, for people who don’t know what that means, that’s four bucks, it’s a ton. I had 200,000 words of rough drafts, notes, and everything. I was going to write a whole book about saying no because I wanted to get better at saying no. I was like, “This is a great excuse to reach out to all my amazing friends and say, ‘Teach me your tricks.’”
I signed this book contract. I’m like, “This is going to be great.” I reached out to a few dozen of my friends and they’re like, “What the hell are you talking about? I’m terrible at saying no. You’re the one who’s good at saying no. You need to write the book.” I’m like, “I don’t want to write the book. I thought you were going to help me write the book.”
I put a ton of time into it and a ton of pages. I realized as people were telling me, “Full body yes. It’s a no.” I was like, “I’m not a full body yes to this.” I said no to the no book, returned the money, canceled the contract, and still have all the notes. At some point, I’ll do something with it. I said no to the no book, true story.
I appreciate you. I appreciate you leading with the vulnerability that you’ve been leading with and for helping all of us continue to learn. Do you feel like a beginner at things? You have all your knowledge.
I feel like such a beginner in almost all the ways.
I want you to have a baby, Tim. I want to see that beginner.
That’s the next chapter.
We’ll talk about that. Tim Ferriss, thank you for your time. I’m excited about the next three months.
We’ll see what happens. Gabby, thank you so much. I hope to see you again in person soon.
You don’t have to pool train, Tim.
I enjoy the pool training.
Laird and I would always nag. It’s like, “Everything’s hot. It’s cold. We’re in the pool.” We can sit knees.
We’ll have to do it before 6:00 PM when Laird falls asleep at the table, but yes.
I like how he’ll go upstairs to his own house. No problem. Talk about someone who’s like, “No.” He doesn’t say no, he leaves.
That’s great. That’s the best way to say no. Laird is one of a kind in many ways. I remember at the end of my interview and I was interviewing you guys for my podcasts forever ago and I asked Laird, “Where can people find you?” People are usually giving out their social handles. He thought it for a second and he goes, “The Pacific Ocean.” I was like, “It’s good.” Gabby, it’s nice to see you.
Aloha, Tim. Thank you.
Thank you so much for reading this episode. Stay tuned for a bonus episode where I go deeper into one of the topics that resonated with me. If you have any questions for my guests or even myself, please send them to @GabbyReece on Instagram. If you feel inspired, please hit the follow button and leave a rating and a comment, it not only helps me, it helps the show grow and reach new readers.
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- The Tim Ferriss Show
- The 4-Hour Workweek
- The 4-Hour Chef
- The 4-Hour Body
- Tools of Titans
- Tribe of Mentors
- Creativity, Inc.
- “Productivity” Tricks for the Neurotic, Manic-Depressed, and Crazy (Like Me)
- Tim Ferriss and Debbie Millman – My Healing Journey After Childhood Abuse (Includes Extensive Resource List)
About Tim Ferriss
Tim Ferriss has been listed as one of Fast Company’s “Most Innovative Business People” and one of Fortune’s “40 under 40.” He is an early-stage technology investor/advisor (Uber, Facebook, Shopify, Duolingo, Alibaba, and 50+ others) and the author of five #1 New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestsellers, including The 4-Hour Workweek and Tools of Titans: The Tactics, Routines, and Habits of Billionaires, Icons, and World-Class Performers. The Observer and other media have called Tim “the Oprah of audio” due to the influence of The Tim Ferriss Show podcast, which is the first business/interview podcast to exceed 100 million downloads. It has now exceeded 800 million downloads.