Interview: Tim Ferriss

Photo: Olivier Ezratty (cc)

Tim Ferriss is the author of the The 4-Hour Workweek, a Japanophile, tea drinker, tango world record holder, and language learning fanatic.

Avi Solomon: How did you get to Seneca?

Tim Ferriss: I came to Seneca by looking at military strategies. A lot of military writing is based on stoic philosophical principles. The three cited sources are Marcus Aurelius and his book Meditations, which was effectively a war campaign journal. The second is Epictetus and his handbook Enchiridion, which I find difficult to read. The last is Seneca and, because Seneca was translated from Latin to English as opposed to from Greek to English and also because he was a very accomplished writer and a playwright, I find his readings to be more memorable and actionable.

So, it came to me through a number of different vehicles, the study of war and war strategy. Second was through philosophers like Thoreau and Emerson who were also fans of Seneca. Thirdly, was when I was really embracing minimalism and trying to eliminate the trivial many, both materially and otherwise. From a business standpoint, Seneca is constantly cited by people in the "less is more" camp of philosophical thought. I basically came to Seneca through several different directions.

The other was - and part of what appealed to me about Seneca - was the similarity I found between his brand of stoic thought and the brands of Buddhism and Zen Buddhism that were practiced by people like Musashi Miyamoto. He wrote The Book of Five Rings and is also the most famous Japanese swordsman in history.

Avi: Did you also read James Stockdale?

Tim: Absolutely. You said James Stockdale, right? He was in a POW camp.

Avi: Yeah, in Vietnam.

Tim: Yeah, absolutely. He would be one of dozens of military leaders who have embraced Stoicism to survive and to win in combat.

Avi: Do you have a favorite letter of Seneca?

Tim: Offhand, it would be hard for me to choose a single one. The first that comes to mind is "On the Shortness of Life," which is more of an essay. I've read Letters from a Stoic at least 50 times and I tend to find different letters appropriate and helpful at different times.

Avi: There's a difference between reading and doing. How do you apply this in your daily life?

Tim: It's really, for me, the base foundation of an operating system for decision making, and I'll explain what I mean by that. I don't view philosophy as an idle form of intellectual masturbation. I really view good philosophy as a set of rules that allows you to make better decisions. What Stoicism helps you to develop is a value system that allows you to take calculated risks, which I think is very effective for entrepreneurs.

So, in very simple terms, stoicism and, by extension, Seneca teaches you to value only those things that cannot be taken away, meaning you would actively practice poverty, for example, subsisting on the meagerest of food and clothing for, let's just say, one week every two months. The way Seneca would phrase it is all the while asking yourself, "Is this the condition I so feared?"

That type of practice - and I do view it as a practice, just like you view meditation as a practice and I don't think it's entirely coincidence that Marcus Aurelius' book is called Meditations - helps you to live life offensively as opposed to defensively. So, I would say that on a daily basis I revert to some of the basic principles of stoicism to make decisions about where to invest my time, which relationships to cultivate, which relationships to sever so forth and so on.

Avi: And it's also making you comfortable with failure. The essence of entrepreneurship is being OK with failure and with having fears.

Tim: Yeah, absolutely. It also helps condition you so that you don't have emotional overreactions to things that you can't control and I think that's very, very helpful. Critical even, not only for competitive advantage but for quality of life.

Avi: Do you have a generic method for hacking some advanced skill set. You seem to have hacked so many advanced topics that you must have a method to your madness!

Tim: Well, I do have a method and it's really a series of questions more than anything else. It's almost a Socratic process but I would say that, first and foremost, I have to have a very clear, measurable objective, whether that's in language acquisition or in power lifting.

The common element is measurement, so you need to know when you have succeeded and how to measure progress to that success point, whether that's a 500 pound dead lift or a 50 kilometer ultra marathon or getting to the point where you can do, let's say, a single lap in an Olympic pool with 15 or fewer strokes. These are all real examples. The number of footfalls, meaning stride rate, per minute in endurance training and how long I can sustain that for say with a goal of 20 minutes at a time. Or a 95 percent fluency in conversational German as measured through different metrics. These are all real examples.

So the first is measurement. I have a clear idea of what success looks like and how to measure it.

Secondly, I will look at the most common approaches, which are, oftentimes, the lowest common denominator but have some thread of efficacy. I will ask, "What if I did the opposite?" I'll look at the established common practices, the established dogma, and ask myself what if I did the opposite.

If it's endurance training, let's look at Iron Man training, and the average is 20-30 hours of training per week for people in the upper profile. What if I limited that to five or fewer hours per week? What would I have to do? How could I make this type of training work or perhaps be more effective if I had to focus on low volume instead of high volume? The same could be said of weight training. The same could be said of language learning.

If someone says it takes a lifetime to learn a language or it should take 10 years, what if I had to compress that into 10 weeks? And if they say that vocabulary comes first because we should learn as we did when we were a child, which I completely disagree with - it's entirely unfounded - what if you were to start with a radical structure?

So, flipping things on their heads and looking at opposites can provide some very surprising discoveries and shortcuts.

Thirdly, I look for anomalies. For any given skill, there's going to be an archetype of someone should be successful at that skill. If it's swimming, for example, it would be someone with the build of Michael Phelps. They would have a long wingspan, relatively tall, big hands, big feet and large lung capacity. So, if I can find someone who defies those anatomical proportions; someone who's 5' 5", extremely heavily muscled, like 250, who is still an effective swimmer, I want to study what the anomalies practice because attributes can compensate for poor training. I want to find someone who lacks the attributes that can allow them to compensate for poor training.

Typically, you find much more refined approaches when you look at the anomalies. That's true for any skill I have looked at, whether that's programming or otherwise. So, let's just take computer programming as an example. If the common belief is that someone should start with language A, then progress to framework B and then progress to language C, if I can find someone who skipped those first two steps and is regarded as one of the best programmers in language C, I'm going to look closely at how they developed that skill set.

Then I would say, lastly, is a set of questions related to rate of progress. So I don't just look at the best people in the world; I look at people who have improved upon their base condition in the shortest period of time possible.

Let's say I'm looking at muscular gain. I would certainly interview the person who's, let's say, 300 pounds and 7% body fat but there's a very good chance that I'll learn more from the person who's put on 50 pounds for the first time in their life in the last 12 months. So, I always try to establish the rate of progress and, when that person has plateaued at different points, for what duration. I find that exceptionally helpful also for finding non-obvious solutions to problems.

Avi: Thanks, I would call that a meta-hack! It might take a while to digest but it could drive a lot of things in many different domains.

Tim: Oh, yeah. That's the framework that I overlay on any skill I'm looking to analyze and hack.

Avi: So like in language learning, you have one critical sentence I think.

Tim: Oh right, so with language learning, each of these different skill sets will have certain domain-specific approaches but in the case of languages a big part of learning language quickly is teaching native speakers to deconstruct their own language for you and you only do that through very refined questioning, because they're not going to be able to explain to you the difference between, if you say, "What's the difference between anything and something?"

The average native English speaker's not going to give you a good answer for that, but if you know how to ask them for comparisons properly and you can simply ask them to, perhaps, provide five or six examples of various types then you can get your answer. You can essentially use a lateral approach to get your answers. So, in my particular case, it had determined that we had eight to twenty sentences of various types, if you have them translated effectively. Fortunately for native English speakers most of the world is forced to study English or chooses to study English.

If you translate those 10 to 20 sentences, you'll have a very good grasp of auxiliary verbs, sentence structure, like subject-object-verb versus subject-verb-object, how indirect objects, direct objects are treated, how personal pronouns are treated, etc., and it only takes 10-20 sentences to get all of that onto one sheet of paper. So, it's entirely possible to become fluent in almost any language. Conversationally fluent - there's a problem with definition there - so that's a longer conversation, but effectively what most people would consider conversationally fluent in 8-12 weeks.

Avi: So again, there's also the traces of Pareto's law there.

Tim: Yeah, absolutely. The material you choose is oftentimes more important than the method you use, so it's important to have an understanding of high frequency versus rote memorization from a textbook that doesn't do any kind of analysis of frequency of occurrence, for example.

Avi: Food, for example, you boil it down to eggs and spinach first thing in the morning.

Tim: Oh yeah, absolutely, in behavioral change related to diet, small changes are more effective than big changes. The abandonment rate is less, so I would say give someone a very simple prescription, like 30 grams of protein within 30 minutes of waking up, and that could take the form of a few hard boiled eggs and spinach, a few hard boiled eggs and lentils, it could be scrambled, certainly, or you could simply have them consume 30 grams of unflavored whey protein with cold water. So I think that in the world of behavioral change, simple works.

Avi: I remember you saying that access to rich experiences doesn't have to cost a lot of money. Can you expand on that?

Tim: The perception is...let me take a step back. Most people have a number, a fairly arbitrary number, usually influenced by their peer group, which is a financial target, typically an amount of money in liquid assets like a checking account. So that could be once I have a million dollars, I won't have to worry about anything. Once I have five million dollars, I won't have to worry about anything. Once I make 250,000 dollars a year, I won't have to worry about anything.

And that number is typically arrived at with no calculation of what their ideal lifestyle actually costs and the question I like to pose is if you had 20 million dollars, 50 million, 100 million in the bank, after the first month or two of going crazy of buying all the toys and doing all the ridiculous girls gone wild stuff, what would you actually spend your time on a daily basis, monthly, weekly, and what would you like to do and what would you like to have? And then you can sit down and cost those things out and for most people it very seldom costs more than, let's say, 150,000 dollars a year.

And what we find is even to privately charter a private airplane in Patagonia, which I did or in my particular case also in the wine county in Argentina, it cost me, I think it was, less than 300 dollars for effectively a half day and that included gasoline costs, or to live on a private island in Panama, especially a research island, to go snorkeling and scuba diving every day, that cost similarly less than 500 dollars.

And what you find is that the deferred life plan which is based on retirement and redeeming these experiences, that are most valuable in your peak physical years, is a false paradigm. It's a very Faustian bargain and bad bet. So when I say that having incredible experiences, once in a lifetime experiences, is generally less expensive than people think, it simply results from sitting down and costing those out. So if you want an Aston Martin DB9 there are definitely ways you can do that for 1500 dollars a month, even if you purchase. And to postpone all of these bucket list experiences until 50, 60, or beyond is, I think, a very bad wager.

Avi: So that kind of leads me to the other question I have, which is about college or MBAs. Is college a scam in terms of lost opportunity cost or investment? If you'd rather invest the money, like 40,000 a year, with the added advantage of not being in debt?

Tim: So I'm going to leave aside the debt question, that's a very personal question. I have different views of, let's say, a liberal arts undergraduate degree versus an MBA. I don't think the objective of a liberal arts education is to train you for a single profession. I view the value of a liberal arts education as making you a well rounded human being and to that extent I think it's a very worthwhile investment. The real world doesn't go away once you enter it, so I don't see any particular rush in jumping into income generation if you have the option of cultivating yourself through a good liberal arts program. I don't regret having gone to college at all and I would recommend it to most people who can afford it or find a way to afford it, even if that puts them into debt for limited amount of time.

When you start looking at professional programs like law school or MBAs, then I have a less favorable opinion simply because they're so specific, and they're designed to train you for a specific career path and if you're not confident that is your career path, I view it as a huge opportunity cost and financial burden. But if your goal is to reach the pinnacle of success in investment banking or investment consulting where an MBA is effectively a prerequisite to have certain job titles, than that is a good investment of your time, if that is your chosen path. It requires being very honest with yourself about your motives. So if you're going to business school, as I would say at least half of the students do, because they're on a two-year vacation, an excuse to party and decompress that looks good on the resume, that's fine but don't fool yourself into thinking that that's the best way to gain practical business experiences, which it is not.

I would much prefer to take someone who's interested in becoming a competent deal maker or business development icon and putting them into a start up of, let's say 15 to 50 people, in a position where they can work directly with the CEO or one of the top deal makers or negotiators in the company like a VP of Business Dev. or a VP of Sales, because an MBA also buffers your decision making from the consequences of the real world. It's fantastic if you can sit down in a Harvard case study and determine what the best decision is for a company that you have no vested interest in. It's quite a different story when you're sitting across the table from someone who has 20 years more experience negotiating than you do and you have millions of dollars at stake that will personally affect you and affect everyone at your company. Theoretically you might understand what to do, but you need practice in the trenches to be able to respond properly in those circumstances or you'll fuck it up.

Avi: What would be advice to a smart kid in high school today?

Tim: I would say choose your friends wisely. You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with. Choose your peer group wisely and if you can't find the type of mentors that you're looking for in person, find them through books and don't be biased towards the latest and greatest. I think that you can certainly learn just as much, if not more, from Seneca and Benjamin Franklin by just reading their writings, as you can from the hot CEO of the moment.


  1. Is college a scam in terms of a lost opportunity cost or investment?

    Quite easy to answer : look at the 5% poorest and 5% richest and look who has college degree or not.

    1. Does not going to college cause people to become poor? Or does going cause people to become wealthy?

      1. Going to college allows you to network with others who have the means to attend college, and you go to classes which might teach you a few skills.
        Not attending college means you miss out on networking with a pool of people most of whom have access to the capital:
        1-to attend an expensive college
        2-to fund a business

        You also miss out on networking with people who will be autoscreened by resume sorting software or a random HR employee for management and better paying positions and can then hire their old friends with someone else’s money.

        College privilege is like white privilege, it allows those who are already in power, money, or good position to network and meet each other keeping the culture of institutions of learning and positions requiring college and able to afford college for their offspring reasonably stable demographically, it typically even keeps mating patterns within the group.

        1. I guess my point was, being poor is more likely to be the cause of one not going to college, rather than not going to college being the cause of one being poor. Talk about opportunity cost.

      2. …or do you need the same mindset and determination to get to college AND to make money?

    2. I don’t think it’s as black and white as you might think. About half of the top 10 richest people in the world are college dropouts. I’m sure their financial success is highly dependent on circumstance, but I guess YMMV.

      A little more closer to home (and I realize it’s anecdotal), my grandfather emigrated from Europe to America in the 60s in the typical storybook fashion (going on ahead of his wife and young daughter to lay the groundwork for a new life, nothing but a suitcase full of clothes, 100 dollars in his pocket, and not knowing a word of English) and retired a millionaire. He did it all with a fourth grade education.

    3. Not a significant amount of people to look at. You delude yourself if you think that an answer can be reached by only looking at the extremes. Judging by what you say, we could say “Living in a house with a value above X makes grow up to be rich. If you want to confirm, check the top and bottom 5% of population”. ie: Correlation doesn’t imply causality.

      And: many, many factors are left out by that simplistic analysis. Furthermore, the sample is too focused… you’d need population from all across the “richness” spectrum in order to make a significant statement in that matter.

    1. Above all, I wish I had Ferris’ ambition and enthusiasm.

      Exactly. I don’t know how I feel about the specifics of what he tries to teach — I read his “Four Hour Work Week,” and while it had some useful advice, the whole book seemed a little tacky and over-promising — but I think most of us would do well to have a bit of that enthusiasm!

    1. Yeah, I don’t understand the purpose of the interview. Ferris is nothing but a huckster selling “The Secret”-quality information packaged to appeal to Gen-Y.

  2. I would rather read an interview with Timothy Ferris (with one “s”)
    People who wear those headset mikes and talk about success give me the willies.

  3. I stopped listening to Tim Ferriss a couple of years ago when I realized he is kind of a BS’r and/or just the latest incarnation of the self-help gurus of the past.He just markets himself to a more educated and successful audience.

  4. Everything I have learned from Tim Ferris:
    – Be white
    – Be male
    – Don’t have kids
    – Don’t make bad decisions when you’re 14.
    – Move to Buenos Aires because it’s cheaper
    – Invent a career for yourself that involves pushing bits around.

    What’s funny is that nobody realizes how rare and extraordinary that is. He looked around, saw everybody working harder with no free time at jobs they hated and thought “Well, everybody can do this.”

    I used to actively dislike the guy, but now I admire him because he’s pointing out big hacks to The Game – there are easy ways to keep things easy, if you seek to exploit your advantages early on. In many cases, the inside track really *is* shorter.

    He’s also got more practical advice on one page than Seth Godin has ever printed in one of his overpriced pamphlets.

    Avi, might I suggest an interview series after this one that talks to the following people?:
    – Mike Rowe.
    – A welder, preferably in high-rise construction.
    – The head of a municipal sewer department.
    – A factory manager in a state that touches the Mississippi River. The factory has to produce non-consumer, non-defense capital goods.
    – A dairy farmer with less than 150 head.
    – A winning team for the Ford/AAA Student Auto Skills competition.

    Don’t get me wrong – the current series is valuable. But I think it would be more valuable in contrast to people who move metal, meat and mud.

  5. I’ve read a lot of great articles on Boing Boing exposing various scam artists and shills…seems a shame to start interviewing such people as if they’re legit. Success at self-promotion doesn’t excuse deceptive and manipulative practices, e.g. paying for positive Amazon reviews, recommending snake oil supplements, and falsely claiming other people’s endorsements for their own overblown claims.

  6. “What is the purpose of this interview series?”

    I wonder the same thing. It almost seems like an attempt to bolster or reinforce BB’s prior decisions of exactly which “visionaries” they’ve chosen to promote.

    “I read his “Four Hour Work Week,” and while it had some useful advice, the whole book seemed a little tacky and over-promising”

    Agreed. Just like Godin, it seems his greatest skill is in self-promotion. These guys are no different than the Zig Zigler motivational speakers of the 70’s and 80’s, they just use the latest form of mass-media to sell tickets, the net. Much wider reach, and much lower cost of production.

    Very similar to all the “lifestyle business” 20-somethings. What they’re selling, is advice on selling. But using the net now. It really borders on MLM, like Amway.

    1. I completely agree. The story usually goes: Man has job, but doesn’t like his job. Man reads a great blog about quitting you job and pursuing your dreams. Man buys one ebook about pursuing dreams. Man buys second ebook about writing ebooks about pursuing dreams. Man buys third ebook about writing ebooks about writing ebooks.

      Man quits job and starts a website about quitting your job and pursuing your dreams. Man’s only source of income is writing ebooks about quitting your job and pursuing your dreams. Man doesn’t do anything else but this. Just writing a blog about “simplicity”, “the power of social media”, and how “You too can quit your job and write ebooks about writing ebooks!” Rinse, repeat.

      The whole process is a bit scary. It’s bizarrely cyclical. Almost like a giant pyramid scheme in which no one, not even the guys on top, know they’re involved in a pyramid scheme. Aren’t these lifestyle designers at the point in which they’re all selling the same ebooks about the same things to other lifestyle designers who also sell ebooks, and then promote said ebooks to even more lifestyle designers?

  7. You lost me at “nutritional supplement retailer BrainQUICKEN …”.

    Actually, to be fair, you lost me when the first question wasn’t “How do you cope with having to tell lies to sell your product?”.

    1. Exactly, wonderful to name the guy snake oil salesman of the year in a science magazine and repost it on a science blog, but maybe they could ask him if any of his success will ever be invested in finding any real science to support his product.

      I mean, why don’t we all herald John Edward as a huge business success from all that talking to the dead busines?

  8. I guess that I’m supposed to know who or where or what “Seneca” is.

    I also tend to agree that Timothy Ferriss is the world’s foremost authority on getting other people to pay money to learn about how awesome it is to be Timothy Ferriss. He’s fantastic at selling that. Seeing as not working from exotic locales hasn’t been on the list of “fastest-growing professions” for the last few years since the book came out, though, it doesn’t seem to be working as well for all those recent college grads who bought the book as it does for Mr. Ferriss.

      1. The question “How did you get to Seneca?” makes far more sense if Seneca is referring to a college in Toronto . I guess the context kinda sorta of implies it is the name of a Roman philosopher.

  9. Thank, Mr. Solomon, for another great interview.
    Much like the guy who built his own house out of mud, Tim Ferriss does things that most people simply don’t bother with. It’s all a matter of choice. While I’ve never the mudhouse guy or Ferriss, I think it’s cool that they chose the path less traveled. Of course, I write this while sitting at a window-less cubible at my 9-5 job so my opinion seems null and void.

  10. Avi. When you edited the article to remove the bit about him being a retailer of the “nutritional supplement BrainQUICKEN”, was that because you were embarassed about it, or was it Tim Ferriss?

    And ordinarily, don’t BoingBoing contributors flag any edits that they make?

    1. @joelphillips My bad. The Tim Ferriss blurb was just a placeholder text from Wikipedia and the raw interview transcript went live by mistake. Tim Ferriss had no say in any of the edits (all of which corrected typos by the transcriber BTW). If you’re interested in nitpicking further I’ll be happy to send you the raw interview audio for comparison:)

      @IronEdithKidd The purpose of this interview series is to make you think about your assumptions! I highly recommend reading the actual text of the interviews and posing specific questions.

      1. The question was not directed at you. It was a more general question for the BB editors.

        BTW, I RTFA. I want my 5 minutes back.

  11. I can see that Mr Ferris maybe be considered by some as snake oily, or pyramid like- but can not agree with the assessment.

    There is a big difference between the information that Tim provides and the MLM kind of information. It is very possible to do the things described in his books- I have done some myself, and am happy with the results.

    What is important, as always, is for the reader to discern what is right for them, and what is congruent with how they naturally operate. To be able to understand their current situation vs where they would like to be and what information can really help them to get there. That is the difference between any one who is producing meaningful change compared to just ‘spinning their tyres’.

  12. Yeah, Tim Ferriss is an a$$hole and a show-off who games the rules and sometimes cheats. But he is also fairly transparent about what he does and how he does it. I’ve read both of his four-hour books and found useful material in them. I also monitor his blog and see that there are many, many people who have used his teachings to do what they wanted to do. From my perspective, he is trying to figure out the most effective ways to learn – anything. He is experimenting with his life and his time to figure out how to learn and sharing those experiences. Is he obnoxious? Yes. Is he also effective? Yes.

    Take a look at the one hour video he did about learning yabusame, the Japanese art of archery from horseback. He worked hard in a short time period to accomplish something that is dangerous and takes an inordinate amount of skill. The methods he used to do so were both interesting and useful for those who also have to learn a skillset in minimal time.

    Ferriss has been successful not just because he is driven and a genius at self-promotion. He is also generous with his knowledge and expert at building a community of practice. Don’t discount him just because he’s an a$$hole and self-promoter.

    1. Yep, I agree with you, gsmoke. I’ve met Ferris and I see how people could be off-put by him. He’s incredibly results-oriented, which can make him seem impolite (but no more than any one with social anxiety I’ve ever met at a party).

      He’s also very transparent and INCREDIBLY GEEKY. This is why I think BoingBoing did a good job interviewing him, and I think folks could benefit from his suggestions. He didn’t learn yabusame to get rich, he did it because he wanted to figure it out. This is how all his stuff works. He suspects something’s awry in the way society teaches us things: high school language classes, weight loss plans that don’t work, MBAs etc.

      I don’t blame people for being skeptical of his “hacking” but I also think most of the naysayers here are calling him a scammer instead of admitting their own jealousy. I’m jealous I’ve never lived on an island in Panama, and I’m jealous I don’t speak German. What I like about Ferris (unlike snake-oil salesmen) is that he’s transparent about his methods and his goals. He’s not claiming he’s magical or better than the average guy. He’s actually sharing his methods for hacking pretty much anything anyone would like to do in life. What’s wrong with telling people to figure out how much their “rich person dreams” actually cost? What’s wrong with telling people to eat protein in the morning to help build muscle? What’s wrong with all of you guys who say he’s try to pass one over on us, when he’s actually sharing his geekery with us?

      1. I call him a snake oil salesman not based on his technique or skill, or philosophy, or any personal knowledge of his personality.

        I do it because he sells vitamin suppliments. AKA Snakeoil.

      2. I concur with Mr. MarkM about Mr. Propelled’s link. This is a rather unsavory fellow indeed.

        1. Except that the link selfpropelled provides refers to a screed by a man who hasn’t read Ferris’ book. Plus most of his “evidence” is based on unhappy people on internet forums- not exactly strong journalism.

          Everyone’s entitled to their opinion, but Christ, make it an informed one.

          1. Did we read the same “screed”?
            Fact after unsavory fact is brought up.
            I can’t tell if he’s read the whole book, but he brings up
            enough points that it doesn’t appear to matter:
            The Super Blue Stuff link seems very interesting.
            The fact that Ferriss referenced the San Jose doctor
            without her permission or knowledge is interesting.
            The fact that Ferriss tells you “to bill yourself as
            an Ivy League lecturer,” rent a room at an institution
            and give a free talk, then you can bill yourself
            as a “Ivy League lecturer”– is interesting.
            And the whole concept itself of hastily putting
            on weight (and, again, why would you? for that
            college reunion you had forgotten about?)– reeks
            of a GetRichQuick ethos, that is, a lack of

            I’m sorry the link didn’t dot every I, and cross every T,
            but it’s fairly comprehensive.

            There’s enough smoke here, that I know not to go inside this
            burning building. I’m not calling the Fire Department, but I’m
            moving along.

          2. If you have read Ferris’ books, they’re quite interesting – a portal into the mind of someone like, say, a Mark Zuckerberg.

            What’s interesting about Ferris is the odd honesty of them.

            Early in 4 hour work week, for example, he explains how it’s not literally a 4 hour work week, how he’s referring to the fact that you can trim fat from your enterprise to cut the drudgerous, administrative, micromanaging parts down to maybe a day or half day (if you’re lucky and have a certain type of business model) *thus freeing more of your time to do what you started the business to do* — be that more time off or more time in the lab/workshop/studio.

            He talks about the value of cachet, about the ethics of marketing, about the way he almost evolved his ads in the wild by doing essentially live testing – and it’s very interesting content. Fascinating, brilliant content, in fact. But it’s not really a set of direct, how-to steps…more principles.

            Four hour body, in the fullness of its text, is much the same – it’s more of a “I tried a bunch of the shit you’ve sort of maybe heard about, some of it worked some of it didn’t much of it hurt” kind of offering than the workout manual its being billed as.

            I found the supposed debunking screed linked above interesting – Ferris’ real point is, in fact, that there are few actual shortcuts, and most people need to have a long look in the mirror, quantify and think about their goals, and devote their work toward them instead of toward activities that barely advance them.

  13. AWESOME! I knew Tim when he was an undergrad at Princeton in 1995-96, and he was both brilliant AND a total fraud then, too. He was very excited about Japanese and mixed martial arts without being particularly committed to anything but himself. But I figured out who he has become: Professor Gilderoy Lockhart, Order of Merlin Third Class! Go Lockhart!

  14. Well while Tim can be quite a windbag, he’s not an MLMer, just a very savvy marketer. His first book is a spazzy book with tips strewn all over, and some of them are actually useful, or surprising to some people. (eg: check your email only once or twice a day, and 20% of your customers give you 80% of your income) Or that, at least for Americans five years ago when the book was released and the dollar was still worth something, travel wasn’t that expensive and not something folks should put off until retirement. You can read his book and the interview with a grain of salt, but I’m less skeptical about him than Malcolm Gladwell’s seemingly well-argued but baseless essays.

  15. The last ‘profile’ said that he leads a simple life: just his three homes on different continents, his wine cellar, international gambling expeditions and his partner and Labradoodle following everywhere.
    now Tim tells me my lifestyle aspirations can be satisfied for as little as 150k/yr.
    this is wasting my time.

  16. I don’t have a problem with the idea of interviewing these types of people, it’s the interviewing style which is bugging me. I think more difficult questions could be asked of someone like Ferriss – what I read here is essentially what you’d read on his own blog.

  17. @gd23 Touché!

    @IronEdithKidd It’s very sad that you couldn’t find anything useful AT ALL in the interview.

    @anon #20 Your opinion matters! Change can take a long time, but you should never stop persisting.

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