Interview: Tim Ferriss


47 Responses to “Interview: Tim Ferriss”

  1. Avi Solomon says:

    @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.

  2. Sayes says:

    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.

  3. altofeux says:

    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.

    • Anonymous says:

      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.

    • Yep says:

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

      • rebdav says:

        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.

        • Yep says:

          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.

      • Anonymous says:

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

    • TheVoBRX says:

      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.

  4. Rotwang says:

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

    • Anonymous says:

      The greatest thing about both ambition and enthusiasm is that they are both free.

    • Ambiguity says:

      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!

  5. hassenpfeffer says:

    Did this guy deliberately model himself after Adrian Veidt? Watch out…

  6. IronEdithKidd says:

    What is the purpose of this interview series?

    • Anonymous says:

      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.

  7. Anonymous says:

    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.

  8. Rob Cruickshank says:

    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.

  9. Nina says:

    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.

  10. altofeux says:

    Sorry my reply #7 was intended to Yep (#5)

  11. Anonymous says:

    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.

  12. echo4mike says:

    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.

  13. caspar1999 says:

    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. joelphillips says:

    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?

    • Avi Solomon says:

      @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.

      • IronEdithKidd says:

        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.

      • joelphillips says:

        Thanks for the reply. Although fwiw, my original comment stands :-).

  15. Anonymous says:

    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’.

  16. davechua says:

    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.

  17. self-propelled says:

    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.

  18. fewz says:

    “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.

    • jsd says:

      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?

  19. joelphillips says:

    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?”.

    • RedShirt77 says:

      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?

  20. gmoke says:

    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.

    • RevelryByNight says:

      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?

      • RedShirt77 says:

        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.

      • Jorpho says:

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

        • RevelryByNight says:

          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.

          • MarkM says:

            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.

          • johnnycache says:

            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.

  21. tylerkaraszewski says:

    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.

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