This episode is brought to you by Tunnel Tony A-L, I'm super excited about this one and I was skeptical of it in the beginning. Total quote, Total is the world's most intelligent home gym and personal trainer, end quote. That's the tagline from their website, folks, to give you the one sentence summary. And this device, it's really a system is perfect for anyone looking to take their home workouts to the next level or someone who just wants to get maximum bang for the buck.
In a tiny, tiny footprint of space, Total is precision engineered to be the world's most advanced strength studio and personal trainer. It uses breakthrough technology of all different types to help get you stronger, faster. I was introduced to total by three different friends. All of them are tech savvy. One of them is a former competitive skier who's doubled his strength in a number of moments using total, even though he has a long athletic background. And I'll paint a picture for you by eliminating traditional metal weights, dumbbells and barbells, Total can deliver 200 pounds of resistance, which doesn't sound like a lot, but it's actually it feels like a lot more at the high end in a device smaller than a flat screen TV.
And you can perform at least 150 different exercises. And these different technologies are exclusive to tunnel. And you can dial weights up and down with the touch of a button in one pound increments using magnets and electricity. So the movement is extremely smooth. And even though I have a home gym already in my garage, I'm still getting a total installed. I've used total for multiple workouts now to do things I just cannot do in my home gym, such as the chop and lift exercises from the four hour body, all sorts of cable exercises that would usually involve much, much bigger piece of equipment, eccentric training, for instance, you can do to give a simple example, bicep curls where you are lifting, let's just say twenty pounds in each hand up and then total will automatically increase the weight because you can lower more than you can lift to, say, 25 or 30 pounds on the way down.
And I do kettlebell swings. I do all sorts of deadlifts this, that and the other thing. And after one workout Octonal focusing on pulling, I was blasted for a full week. It's really incredible what you can do with eccentrics. They also have all sorts of other really, really cool advantage that you can apply to any of your favorite movements. Tonal learns from your strength and provides suggested weight recommendations for every move with detailed progress reports to help you see your strengths grow.
Tonal also has a growing library of expert led workouts by motivating coaches from strength training to cardio. So you can do really just about everything. Every program is personalized to your body using artificial intelligence and other aspects of the engineering and smart features.
Check your form in real time, just like a personal trainer. So try it out tritone or at least check it out. Watch the videos on YouTube and see if you can pick out a familiar voice. It's not me, I'll say that, but try tone all the world's smartest home gym for thirty days in your home and if you don't love it, you can return it for a full refund. So visit Tonle dot com for one hundred dollars off of smart accessories when you use promo code.
Tim Tim at checkout. That's not T-Online. AOL Dotcom promo code. Tim Tunnel. Be your strongest. This episode is brought to you by Give Weblog, Tis the Season of Giving and you've got this week and next to make your charitable donations before we close the books on. Twenty, twenty, twenty one is just around the corner. That's why I've been talking to you on this podcast about Give Weblog for more than ten years. Give Weblog has helped donors find the charities and projects that save and improve lives most per dollar.
Here's how give well dedicates more than 20000 hours a year to researching charitable organizations and handpicks a few of the highest impact evidence backed charities. I recommend to give you a blog. And they shared a note with me, which is just incredible. And here it is quote, Here are the data. They sent me a spreadsheet we have from organic donations. It cited Tim over the past few years, transactions that specifically cited Tim Ferriss sum to one hundred and thirty three thousand forty dollars and seventy four cents.
We estimate that those donations will save 15 to 24 lives. How did this happen? I suspect that a lot of these donations came from my interview with Wil McCaskill, who really knows what he's talking about when it comes to effective giving. He's a philosopher, ethicist and one of the originators of the effective altruism movement. He is an associate professor in philosophy at Oxford. That is the University of Oxford and a researcher at the Global Priorities Institute at Oxford.
Just a great guy overall. And in our podcast together, he recommended Give Will by far as one of the best places to give if you want to make an impact, especially if you're busy. It came to his mind immediately. All of their research is publicly available for free on their website and more importantly, give will never takes any fees. So all of your tax deductible donations are given to the charity you choose. Since 2010, Give Will has helped more than 50000 donors direct more than 500 million dollars to the most effective charities.
These donations will save more than 75000 lives and improve the lives of millions more. You only have a few days left to make tax deductible donations before the New Year. So go right now. And when you make your first donation to give, well, your gift will be matched up to two hundred and fifty dollars. Just go to give well Doug Tim and pick podcast and Tim Ferriss at checkout. You got to do those things so they can track it.
This matching offer is good for as long as funds last. So the race goes to the swift. He who hesitates or she who hesitates is lost. Get your first donation matched up to 250 dollars at Give. Well again Tim and Select Podcast and Tim Ferriss a check out more time. Definitely take a look at this. Give well again Tim optimal.
At this altitude I can run flat out for a half mile before my hands start shaking. Can I ask you a personal question. Cybernetic organisms living tissue over metal embryos go to Paris, so. Hello, boys and girls, ladies and germs, this is Tim Ferriss, and welcome to another episode of the Tim Ferriss show. My guest today is a friend layabout about to be a A Cutie A on Twitter at Zend Underscore Habits Zen Habits Dot Net. He is founder of Zen Habits, a website dedicated to finding simplicity and mindfulness in the daily chaos of our lives.
Zen Habits has more than two million readers. That is a lot. And Time magazine has named it one of its top twenty five blogs and top 50 websites. Liow We could talk for many hours. This is just around one, but welcome to the show. It's nice to have you on finally. Yeah, it's great to be here. It's a huge honor, honestly. And I figured for people who don't have context, we could start at the beginning or I should say maybe just the beginning of a transition of sorts.
And I'd like to flashback to more than ten years ago and I want you to correct the timing if I'm not getting it just right. But around two thousand five prior to Zen habits, the phenomenon prior to the best selling books, prior to all of that, could you paint a picture of of where you were, what you were doing, your circumstances and situation at the time?
That was definitely a difficult period in my life. And really, it feels like a whole different lifetime ago. Different person, but twenty five. I was married with a huge family, mixed family, five kids with one more on the way in a job I didn't like. I was overweight. I was a smoker, sedentary, kept trying to change a lot of these habits. I was a big procrastinator very deeply in debt and really not being able to pay my bills and just really felt stuck and felt really bad about myself, which I think a lot of people can relate to some aspect of that story.
It was just really tough for me having to provide for people, but not being able to make ends meet. Feeling terrible about myself as a father, not a good example, and just feeling really discouraged about my ability to make any change in my life. So that's where I was in 2005 and geographically.
Well, at the time I was in the island of Guam, which is where we're from, me and my family.
So we start there. This is this is almost like a screenplay.
We start there. And what happens over the subsequent handful of years or the catalyst, so to speak, for all of your successful changes, what what actually happened? That was the impetus or the spark, so to speak, for some of the subsequent changes?
You know, people say sometimes you have to hit rock bottom before you can climb out of it. So I hit a number of really deep, low points for myself. One of them was, as I talked about, debt, just not being able to put food on the table for my family. And I remember one heartbreaking moment of that depth was when I had to break open my kid's piggy bank to be able to put some, like milk and cereal on the table.
And so that was a real dark point where I felt like a failure as a father smoking as well. My wife was pregnant and so she quit smoking while she was pregnant. But I knew that she was going to start again as soon as she gave birth. So I had to quit in order to set an example for her. But I also knew that my kids were much more likely to smoke, and so I had to quit for them as well.
And there were just a number of points where I just felt despair and like a failure and I felt like I had to save my life. And so I think that was the realization was like I am killing myself in a lot of different ways and I'm failing myself and failing my family. That was the most heartbreaking part, was that I was failing my wife and kids. And so from that, like heartbreak and feeling of despair and like I was killing myself, I realized I had to reach for a lifeline.
I had to do something to save my life and my family as well. And so I decided I couldn't change all of these things at once. I was trying to multiple times. So I decided to just change one thing and it was smoking. So I committed to that in a really big way to a lot of different people, to my daughter, to my wife made a promise that really felt meaningful to me. And I did a bunch of research, found out a bunch of different techniques and tried them.
All of that's when I tried meditation as a replacement for smoking for stress. So I started meditating. I started running because I needed to do something when I felt like I needed to smoke. And so I finally I actually made the smoking habit stick that I quit smoking for the first time in my life. I had tried it seven times before and that felt like a huge success. And so I felt so much encouraged. And from that, I felt like I could take on the rest of the things, and so one thing at a time, I started changing everything about my life.
I started eating healthier. I started running more, ran a five K, I committed to running a marathon. That's how optimistic I was.
After running the five K, I started waking up earlier. I started writing after wanting to write for years procrastinating, lest my wife and I made a plan to get out of debt and one small debt at a time, we started paying them off until like a year later my entire life was changed. I lost 30 pounds in a year. My whole life was different and I ran a marathon at the end of twenty six and I felt like such a huge success.
And I had learned a bunch of things that change those habits along the way. One after the other. I apply the same ideas to changing those habits, and that's when I started Zen habits to share all of those things that I've been learning.
Let's zoom in on a few aspects of this. Sure. It sounds like, you know, on some level, almost a Cinderella story, right. Like everything was wrong. And then 12 months later, you were able to address so much of it. And let's double click on the smoking, because I know that that seems to have been a huge point of leverage and also a proof of concept and also a proof of confidence and a sense for you.
And you you mentioned you'd attempted to quit seven times before. Yeah. And I'd love for you to expand on what made the eighth attempt successful. Why did this attempt succeed when the others had failed?
It was such a pivotal moment in my life. So I'm really glad you're zooming in on this one. A number of things change, but the first one was that I had a very meaningful reason, something that that mattered to me. And again, I mentioned my wife and my kids making a promise to my daughter. I think before that it was only promises to myself, which I never really keep or I didn't at that time. I didn't trust myself to keep those promises.
So making a promise to someone else and really feeling like this was for something that mattered, saving their lives as well as mine. So I really got clear on that and felt it in my heart. And that really started everything else because it motivated me to make a big commitment. I joined a forum online, so I had some social accountability. Social accountability was turned out to be a big one, not only for this, but for all future habits.
I learned about triggers. And so what are the things that triggered me to smoke? I really zoomed in on those things, stress and anxiety and feeling bad about myself and being overwhelmed by all of these things. Really. I got clear that they were the things that caused me to smoke or it triggered me to want to smoke. I also learned to just recognize when I had the urge and then sit with that urge. So it was a form of meditation is just sitting with the physical sensation of needing to smoke with out needing to actually smoke.
So I learned to separate the urge from the action. Before that, whenever the urge happened, I had to take action. I felt like a command, like there was no choice and there was no separation between them. But when I learned to separate the two, I learned that the urge is just a feeling in my body that I could sit with and it would rise and get really strong and feel incredibly urgent, but then it would pass. And so learning that actually unlocked so much for me, because I learned that none of the urges that I had that I thought I needed to act on were actually commands, but they were just feelings in the body.
So that liberated me a lot. I learned about rewards. I learned about all kinds of motivations. One of the other big one was a dip in the habit. So there's a time with every habit that we feel great, everything's going great. And then at some point we hit this dip that feels like we can't do it. And so we want to give up. So our usual pattern when we get hit by this, it's like getting punched in the face is like, OK, that's enough.
I don't want to do this anymore. And so we get really discouraged. And I learned that if you have a plan for when you get punched in the face and you practice with that, the dip doesn't have to be the end of the story. It's just a part of it.
Is the practicing just a rehearsal of sorts or anticipation that the dip will come, or is there another way to prepare yourself for that punch in the face? Is it knowing that it happens roughly X period of time after you start? How have you done that successfully?
Well, knowing that it's going to happen is a big one and then preparing for it, because usually what happens is we think it's not going to happen this time is going to be different. And then when it happens, we're like, oh, crap, like it happened. And so, like, that must mean there's something wrong with me. And so knowing that it's going to happen, that it's just a part of the process is a really big one because it allows you to be mentally in the place where you.
To embrace this and then the other part of it is practicing what you're going to do beforehand, so if you know it's going to happen and you know how it's going to feel, because it's happened a number of times before, you can say, oh, I'm in it, and then you have a plan and you mentally rehearse this beforehand and you can practice with it in smaller versions. I highly recommend practicing any time you get like a micro discouragement is practicing with that.
So giving yourself some compassion, having some kind of a way to pull yourself out of that state. And so for me, just having someone to talk to is a big one screwing this up. I can't do this having someone else to encourage me. And then I eventually learn to encourage myself. So there's lots of different things we can do to encourage ourselves. And then just learning to, like, write it out was part of it, because it just it'll go.
It'll pass. And then another thing that I learned, this is not right away, but I learned it. Multiple habits into it is actually that period is one of the deepest periods of learning that we can have. And so if we can learn to see it in that light where, oh, I can learn a lot about myself in this period, it doesn't have to be a negative thing when that happens. It's like, oh, this is actually when I learn what I'm all about, this is how I learn what the negative thought patterns are that happen for me and how to deal with those.
So it's actually a really rich area and most of us don't want to be in it.
But if we learn that, oh, this is where the growth really happens, then it doesn't have to be anything that we need to get out of right away.
There were I'm going to ask you about your physical movement, not running sense, but actually the relocation since you've had a number of moves. And I want to talk about how those choices were made before we get there. Just a couple of things that came to mind as you were expanding on on everything you just mentioned. The first is that the dip happens in so many areas. It happens in physical training, often in the form of some type. It happens in skill acquisition with, say, language learning.
Very predictably, there will be a period where you try to take on more complex grammar and you take steps backwards that feel like you're failing. If you aren't anticipating that as something predictable and the embracing. I can't remember the athlete who said this to me, but embracing the suck is concerned.
Jim Detmer, who's a previous podcast guest and a very wise, practical guy, has put it to me that when you have those moments and I'm not by any stretch of the imagination, always excellent at seeing things this way when I'm in the midst of it. But I view this as a pop quiz from the universe, like universes like, oh yeah, you've been training and doing all these things, mindfulness meditation, breathing practices for stressful moments like here's your fucking stressful moment.
Let's see how you handle it. Hot Shot, like you've been doing all this supposed practice in the safe confines of your living room. Let's see how you operate in the real world. And that has been a helpful, not always miraculous refrain. But it's certainly helpful if we talk about or if we look at your moving. You left Guam at one point and then you've moved a number of times since.
Could you speak to why you and your family left Guam and what has driven your decisions to move? Because a lot of people, as we record this, this is late September. Twenty twenty are moving. Are many people choosing to move for many different reasons. And I would just love to know more about what the insights and drivers were for you.
We moved in 2010 from Guam to San Francisco, and that time we were a family of six kids, so family of eight.
And we were in a really comfortable place in Guam. We had so much family around us, a huge network. And I knew that we could just go on that way and be fine. But I also knew that it was comfortable and the kids were going to be trained in comfort and that they would then get stuck in that because that's what had happened for me. So I wanted us to move out of our comfort zone into a new place and experience that together where I could help them with that mind shift and see the world and be able to basically have access to the world and then have choice.
They could go back to Guam, where we love Guam, or they could pretty much move anywhere in the world. It was a hard thing because first of all, it's just heart wrenching to say goodbye to so many people that we love. We sold everything we moved with like a backpack each to San Francisco, new. Almost no one there. I met you there. That was pretty great. We basically were in a. Place where it was just completely foreign to us, the kids had never seen a homeless person before or anyone using drugs, they got quite used to that over the years we were there.
And so actually it was really hard because they didn't want to be there. And I felt like I was maybe making a mistake. So it taught me a lot about how I questioned myself in those hard moments, but I really taught them a lot about their first reaction. Not liking it is not always right because they look back on it and say, Oh, I'm so glad that you made that choice, but I didn't want to do it. I was really unhappy for a while.
And so that really taught them a lot about how we react to these kinds of things.
Let's talk about the family a little bit more on that move to San Francisco. Yeah, to a lot of folks listening there to think of themselves. Holy smokes, six kids and how many? Just as a bit of backstory, how many of those kids were home schooled? Oh, yeah.
So, well, we're a blended Brady Bunch family just to make that clear. So I have to for my ex-wife, my wife has to from her previous marriage. And then we came together and had two more. So we have three boys and three girls and it's a very blended family. So my two for my ex-wife went to regular school and then the other four were all homeschooled. In fact, we do a version of it, as you know, called unschooling.
We still have two teenagers in the House now who are being unschooled. And then we have two adults who went through the unschooling process who are, you know, basically doing the same thing.
But as adults are, we're going to we're going to dig into that. I want to talk about unschooling before we get to that, just so I don't lose my train of thought. When you move to San Francisco at the time, presumably you and your wife discuss this. Decisions were made at the time. The kids did not feel like this was perhaps the right decision. How do you think about making decisions for the betterment of the family, even when or perhaps especially when not everyone is in agreement, when you may face that type of blowback or resistance?
How did you think about it or how do you think about it?
We went through a process. So doing anything like this with other people, you can't just make a unilateral decision. So we went through a process with them back when we were in Guam and we had a whole discussion about the reasons why. And I think they really were only like 50 percent convinced, but they agreed to it. So that was kind of the idea was we asked them to agree to like this kind of adventure mindset, to try something new, to explore things that they didn't know.
And I think they were hesitant, but they agreed to it. A piece of me knew that they were resisting this. And so part of it is just kind of talking about the adventure and the excitement and all these new things that we'd be able to explore together. And so they're like, OK, well, maybe I can do this discomfort stuff if there is a good reason for it. So there is that. But also part of me knew that I had to guide them to being able to deal with all of the negative stuff because that everything comes with a cost.
And so they were going to be heartbroken to say goodbye to people. And I knew that was actually a good thing for them is to learn how to deal with that, even though it was painful. And really, it's the same process as you talked about what how I think about this. It's the same process that I think about for myself when I make these decisions, like I know I'm going to go through discomfort. There's a part of me, the little kid in me that doesn't want to do the hard stuff, that wants to just be in comfort.
And there's an adult part of me that has to guide the little boy, Leo, that doesn't want to do it. And so that adult has to kind of give compassion and reassurance. But also that's the part that needs to make the decisions. When I'm in the like little boy Leo state of mind, I don't let myself make decisions at that place because I know that that one wants to hide or run. And when my kids are in that state of mind, too, I usually don't let us make a decision at that place.
We work through that. And then when they get to a place where they're not wanting to shut down, that's when we make a group decision. So that's the same exact process for myself. We're going to come back to unschooling, but I think that a lot of people, present, company included, would be very interested to look at the early years of Zen habits because it seems like when did Zen habits start? When was the site launched? January twenty seven, January 2007.
In some respects, people must remember that twenty seven to two thousand nine was was a golden era of blogging, very competitive, very similar to podcasting. Now, in some respects, blogs are still very, very powerful, but hugely competitive. Many, many entrants, so to speak, new blogs, options for readers, but it seems like in a relatively short period of time, let's just say eighteen to twenty four months, that Zen habits had really become in the eyes of many a behemoth, a real force to be reckoned with.
How did that happen? What can you point to, if any decisions or particular posts or anything at all that helped to put Zen habits on the map? Yeah, it really did happen in a matter of months. And part of me that wants to just say, like, I stumbled upon something just out of pure luck. And then another part is that, well, no, you worked your ass off, Leo. So give yourself some credit.
Yes, I started it really just to blog about a lot of the things I've been learning and changes that I was making. And so it really started partly as accountability. I got some early responses from some readers. There was only a handful in the beginning that really encouraged me and it got me excited. And I remember maybe two and a half months into it, a point where I, I said, oh, my God, like, I really want to do this all the time.
And I had a day job at the time. What was your day job, if I may ask?
Yeah, I was working for the government in Guam at the time. I think it was the Guam legislature. I was helping with veterans from the legislature so it didn't take up all my attention. Let's just say that it was the kind of job where a lot of people will play like solitaire for like a quarter of the day. And I realized, like, I didn't want to do that. And so I just used all of my spare time, even when I was, like, supposed to be doing other work, just doing blogging a switch just flipped where I was so passionate about it.
And I realized, like, oh, this could be my calling. And so I had never had that before. This idea that something could be my calling, it was always kind of like just do something for the paycheck. And when I had that switch flipped, I went on this crazy, like hyperdrive where like I was writing a post every day, present habits. I also started freelancing for other blogs where I was writing one post a week for them.
So four, five different ones. So it's five posts a week for those paid blogs. And then I would do guest posts for other blogs, and I was doing about five of those a week. And so it was like fifteen to twenty blog posts a week.
How do you choose the five outlets or blog post office? How did you select those?
Well, I was already doing freelance writing for magazines in Guam. And so I decided instead of writing for those which I wasn't inspired to write for, I'd write for the online ones, even if the pay was less. So I looked for a blog strategically that first of all, they were paying people freelancers and second, their audience had some kind of overlap with mine. So there was productivity, there was mostly self-improvement type stuff. So similar audiences. And the effect that I had and I kind of realized this early on when I started making the switch, the effect was that if you're reading about self-improvement, there was a good chance that I would you would come across me, because all of these self-improvement blogs that were paying me, I was there every week and then a bunch of other blogs that were doing self-improvement would allow me to be a guest poster.
And so if you're reading this blog about self improvement, you probably came across the CEO of Zen habits. If you were within this certain kind of sphere, it was almost like I was everywhere. And that was kind of crazy that I could do that at the time. But yeah, I actually had people write to me and say, man, you are just like on every blog that I read. And of course I was on every blog in the world.
But for this particular type of person that I was trying to reach, I was on almost every blog that they were reading.
Just a quick thanks to one of our sponsors, and we'll be right back to the show. This episode is brought to you by athletic greens. I get asked all the time what I would take if I could only take one supplement. The answer is invariably athletic greens. I view it as all in one nutritional insurance. I recommended it, in fact, in the four hour body, this is more than 10 years ago and I did not get paid to do so.
With approximately 75 vitamins, minerals and Whole Foods sourced ingredients, you'd be very hard pressed to find a more nutrient dense and comprehensive formula on the market. It has multivitamins, multi mineral greens, complex probiotics and probiotics for gut health, an immunity formula. Digestive enzymes adapt to genes and much more. I usually take it once or twice a day just to make sure I've covered my bases. If I missed anything I'm not aware of. Of course, I focus on nutrient dense meals to begin with.
That's the basis. But athletic greens makes it easy to get a lot of nutrition when Whole Foods aren't readily available from travel packets. I always have them in my bag when I'm zipping around right now. Athletic greens giving my audience a special offer on top of their All-In-One formula, which is a free vitamin D supplement and five free travel packs with your first subscription purchase. Many of us are deficient in vitamin D. I found that true for myself, which is usually produced in our bodies from sun exposure.
So adding a vitamin D supplement to your daily routine is a great option for additional immune support. Support your immunity, gut health and energy. By visiting athletic Greens NORCOM Tim, you'll receive up to a year's supply of vitamin D and five free travel packs with your subscription. Again, that's athletic greens dotcom tim.
Now I'm trying to step into my mental time machine and go back to, say, 2007 to 2009, I want to say that at the time there would have been some powerhouses to reckon with in the productivity space, Lifehacker 40 folders. Were there any particular outlets that looking back and doing it of 80, 20 analysis of sorts that really seemed to help you reach critical mass for any number of reasons?
It's hard to remember. I remember the first time that I got linked to from a bigger blog. It was a blog called Dumb Little Man. I think they're still around, but they had so many more readers and I had like 20 or something like that. And somehow they had read my blog and links to it. And I remember looking at the stats and it just spiked up into the thousands and it was just like this mind blowing thing, which they link to or what was it was like 20 productivity hacks or something like that.
I definitely wrote a lot of LinkedIn type headlines at the time. I try to put real wisdom, real like useful stuff in there, but I played around with a bunch of types of titles for the Post that were attention grabbing. And eventually I moved away from that because I just didn't feel very good, but definitely was doing a lot of it at the time. Just experimenting. I want to just basically try anything because I didn't know it would work or not.
So I tried everything. That was the kind of, like I said, hyperdrive that I went into because I basically tried every single thing because I didn't know what worked. And then by the end of twenty seven, I figured out the things that worked and the ones that didn't. And so I stopped doing the ones I didn't feel in alignment with me and then really just focus on the important stuff. I think that's the case when we try anything that we don't know how to do it, we try like everything possible and then we narrow it down to what actually does matter.
And by the way, I want to say that 2007, when Zen habits took off, is when I met you online. We never met in person that year. But you had come up with four hour work week, which was just this powerhouse of a book. And you were starting out with your blog as well. And I was also coming out with a book which I didn't know how to do. And you're coming with the blog, which you were new to.
And so we kind of crossed paths at that point where I was good at blogging and not good at books. You were good at books and not good at blogging. And eventually you got really good at blogging, like your blog just took off. And so it was just really cool to see you rise up in that space just because I think anything you set your mind to, you're going to be really good at.
I appreciate you saying that, that it was it was really fun to have those early interactions. And just like you, in the very beginning, I did a lot of experimentation with all sorts of click titles and headlines and blog roles of various types. And I really threw as much as I could against the wall. And it's very true that you have to throw a lot against the wall to know what works. But I would add to that you need to throw a lot against the wall to determine what works for you, because if you're experimenting in a new medium, you really don't know what you're going to enjoy and you don't know what you'll be good at.
And I think those are very closely related in the sense that your power zone tends to be some degree of inherent skill or predilection towards a certain format. That's true with podcasting to that predilection or enjoyment then gives you the stamina to outlast and compete. So I think that both of those are extremely important ingredients. And if I think back to one of the inflection points, for instance, for my blog, it's very clearly getting on the front page of Digg the first time with my geek to freak post, which is about building muscle.
I remember that one controversial post and the amount of traffic that that brought was just an imaginable. Were there other particular posts of yours that you recall or projects? Right. Zenda Done mind is one that I'm wondering if that kind of grabbed people in a way or if that type of writing grabbed people in a way that brought you dedicated readers. Is there anything at all that comes to mind as having done a lot of heavy lifting?
Yeah, and by the way, Digg was a big one for me, too. I got in the front page of Digg a bunch of times and those were like the early days of social media. Reddit was also getting big and there was a bookmarking site called Delicious, or if you got on their front page, you'd also get a bunch of traffic. So I remember like bringing back all these early memories, the ones that really worked for me were around productivity and motivation, habit, change.
And then the other one, that was a big surprise to me, actually. I didn't think anyone would be interested. It was simplicity. And that's when I said that. Look. Was a big factor because there were a lot of productivity and motivation plugs at the time. There weren't that many of that blogged about habits at the time, but there were a lot around productivity and motivation. So mine wouldn't have stood out if it were just about that.
But I brought an element to everything that I wrote about of simplicity. So my blog was a lot about simplifying your life. But I realized, like, oh, it doesn't have to be just about simplifying your possessions. I could write about simple productivity and simple motivation. And so I brought simplicity that lends to almost everything that I wrote about. And that turned out to be an extinguisher for me that I just kind of looked upon. But again, you throw everything against the wall.
So simplicity was something that I thought I was only interested in and not a lot of other people were. So I wrote about it because I liked it, but I thought that wasn't going to resonate. I had to write about productivity and motivation. And it turns out that I tapped into a nerve that people really crave simplicity in their lives when they're feeling overwhelmed and chaotic and just overloaded with all the stuff, all the emails and messages and everything that we have.
Simplicity struck a nerve that I wasn't expecting to strike. That was the one surprise for me that year of many surprises. That was the biggest one. And I still feel really lucky that I wrote about that and tapped into this like Zite guys at the time.
How would you suggest people think about simplification? I'm sure many people listening would like to simplify. They listen to your story of each family member with a backpack and they don't know how to go from zero to 60, so to speak. And given that you have so much practice applying simplicity to different areas, if you were and I know you don't necessarily do this, but if you were doing sort of maybe do you tell me. But sort of one on one high end consulting and someone said, I want to in my life, what would you say to them or do with them, by the way?
I do do one on one coaching. I didn't do that until a couple of years ago, but now I do. The place to start is how things got not simple in the first place because you can get rid of like 90 percent of your stuff and simplify your day. And then I'll be done with you as a consultant and consider that a huge success. And then I come back in three months and things are back to their complicated things like how did we get here in the first place?
I think is really important to look at. And the reason why we have so much stuff and we have so much debt and we take on so much in our lives is really because of uncertainty and anxiety. You notice this year as we record this, we're in the middle of a pandemic is the most anxiety that people have felt in a long time, probably since like wartimes and the Great Depression. And so as that has gone up, people started ordering things online more.
One of the things that people started to reach for and so like we got so many Amazon packages because we couldn't go anywhere and release that anxiety. And so that was a way for people to release that. And so that's always been true, is that we always have gone to getting more stuff as a way to feel control in our lives or security or like have some kind of protection against the chaos of this world. And so I think that's the place to look, is like, how did you get there?
What are the mindset and the thought processes that trigger you to having so much in your life? And this also applies to having too many commitments and too many goals and projects and meetings and things like that. How do we fill our lives up so much? And then we can start to look at the underlying stuff and dealing with the uncertainty and anxiety because the external stuff is only symptoms. And I'm not someone who just likes to treat symptoms, but the symptoms are fun to treat to.
It's just you can't just do that.
Got it. Let's look at the commitments and non-physical forms of clutter because I live selfishly for myself, feel pretty good about possessions and material accumulation. But the commitments and projects are, perhaps unexpectedly to some listening are an area where, at least as a stress response in times of acute stress, I will often overcommit myself, I think, as a way to not feel whatever is coming to the surface. What would your prescription be to someone who wants to become.
Better at saying no or simply someone who wants to reverse the trend of overcommitting. I love that you're bringing this up because it really strikes to the the core of what I've been digging into in the last few years, which is uncertainty and anxiety. But in terms of overcommitment, I would say it's really good, actually, to make an external commitment that I want to only have this much in my life. That's really the place to start. So we don't necessarily have to start underneath.
We start externally. I know. I just I'm contradicting what I just said, but it really helps to see the stuff underlying. If you say, OK, I commit to only doing one project at a time or three projects at a time, or I commit to taking completely Saturdays, Sundays off and Friday afternoons or something like that, where you commit to something externally, which is a limitation. And then what happens is you see yourself rebelling against that.
When things feel really uncertain, it's the urge to undo that commitment that we start to work with. So the underlying part of it is like, oh, I'm feeling a lot of anxiety. We actually don't usually notice when we're feeling anxiety, we just start to go automatically to our ways of reacting to that anxiety, which, like you said, I think a lot of people listening can probably relate to what you just said, which is we go and take on a bunch of stuff.
We go and do a bunch of things, or for other people would be like Netflix or YouTube. So comfort things is one common response. Procrastinating on a lot of things is another common one. But for people like me and you who are doers, we go out and do a bunch of things and that's our way of feeling more in control when things are feeling out of control. So if you have a commitment externally to only do a certain number of things and you notice like, oh, I've broken that commitment in the last week, then you can start to see like, oh, there's something under that that is coming up.
There's anxiety here and that that allows you to bring awareness to the anxiety and then to start to work with that in a way that doesn't break the commitment. And so if you have that kind of external thing that holds you in that commitment and I really like having accountability. So, like, you commit to a group of close friends, that you're only going to do a certain number of projects, that kind of thing, or have a certain number of meetings or my meetings are only going to be on Tuesdays and Thursdays or something like that.
Then it really helps you to like highlight all the times when you're trying to rebel against that.
What are some of the rules, constraints, forms of accountability that you have found powerful in your own life?
I have tried it like as you can imagine, I've tried everything and it changes over time as some of them get easy after a while. And so I take on something else to adjust to the level that I'm at right now. So like right now, I realized that I was filling up almost every single day, seven days a week with Zoome calls. First it was like there was only going to be on certain days and then it started to fill up every other time.
And so I started, first of all, having weekends off, no calls on weekends, which meant I had to move things away from that. And then I started doing those calls on Friday so I could still work on Fridays, but no calls. And then I started taking I decided I was going to take Decs and Jeunes off of coaching people and then also doing meetings each step along the way. I had to make some shifts and then I had to watch myself rebell against that, which I have actually recently started filling up Fridays, even though I'm like, oh, it's just this one time.
So I'm going to get to do a podcast with Tim Ferriss. Oh, that's OK. Right, because that's a big deal, but nothing else. And then once you start to do that, you start to see yourself doing it a bunch of other times after you've let you kind of open up the floodgates.
Now I'm the snake in the tree. You got to be careful. Yeah. Tim abler. I'd love to talk a bit or hear rather a bit about Zen Buddhism. So Zen Buddhism for a lot of people, I think is more than anything unclear and confusing.
And you have recommended in for instance, in my last book, mentors recommended a few books related to Zen Buddhism, Zen mind, beginning by shooting news. And also what is Zen subtitle Plain Talk for Beginners Mind by Norman Fisher.
If I are, are you still finding Zen Buddhism to be helpful in your life? And if so, why? How would you describe it and its impact in your life?
It's such an interesting topic because in some ways if you start to dive into it, it does become really confusing. And I actually don't recommend Zen Mind Beginners Mind as the first book. It is a great book. It's got so much wisdom in it. But when you start to read, it doesn't make a lot of sense. So if you read one book to start with that, what is then by Norman Fisher is a great intro. But also, if you don't dive into it and you just have this like idea of what Zen is, people think of it as like.
Calm and tranquility and simplicity, and in some ways it is it does work with that kind of stuff. So when I started, I had that idea like, oh, it's going to be just mindfulness and simplicity and calm. And then I started diving into it and I had that same response, which is like, I don't understand what this is about at all. I don't know what they're talking about. And if you go to like a Zen temple and, like, meditate with them, there's a bunch of chanting and it feels really off-putting and confusing.
So I completely acknowledge is a lot of confusion that comes up around it. And it's just because it's like this old tradition where they have their ways of doing things. I do find it really useful. I studied with a Zen teacher and I am setting the precepts which are like don't intoxicate yourself and don't abuse sex and that kind of stuff. So I study with these precepts as a way to deepen into the practice and I'm planning to take some vows in the near future.
So it's something that I am diving deeper into. And the reason why I find it so helpful is not because I need to be like this. Some like Zen monk, some Zen master or anything like that. But because it is a way of practice that allows you to open up in the middle of the most difficult stuff that you could face, the dip that we talked about earlier, the uncertainty and anxiety that we talked about that's coming up this year and allows you just to be completely open in the middle of that.
It's that embracing the suck that you talked about, it's even like realizing the suck isn't even suck. It's actually just life. It allows you to open up in the middle of life some of the hardest stuff and be completely open and relaxed and present with it. And it's just a completely different way of being than what we're usually taught. And it's not something that you can just do in a week. You have to actually practice with it for a long time.
Practice can be discouraging. It can be something that we shy away from because we're busy. And then when you notice yourself discouraged, that's when you bring the practice to that. That's how I've been practicing with it lately.
You mentioned the precepts. The Buddhist precepts are open to sharing what values you are considering taking.
You brought the word bodhisattvas of the Buddhist off of oil in general is just I know you're familiar with it, but for those who aren't, it's this idea that you're going to help all beings, which is like it's impossible, though. It's like, how the hell are you going to help every single being on earth? Right. Which is actually one of the amazing things is that you turn towards this thing that feels completely impossible and you ask yourself the question, bringing curiosity to it.
What would it be like to turn your heart open to helping all beings to this intention that's really wholesome, heartfelt intention to help people who are suffering in the world. And so that's what the Buddhist type of show is. And it's about to basically uphold the 16 bodhisattva precepts, which I have not memorized. If you quiz me right now, if you give me a pop quiz, I won't be able to list them off. But they're all actually really the same vow, which is this thing to open up beyond our self concern, which is where most of us are almost all the time, is we're in self concern.
And like, what does this person think of me? Will I be judged? Am I going to fail? Should I take on more? All of these things are all about ourselves and there's nothing wrong with that. That's not a bad thing. But the Bodhisattvas vow is about opening beyond that to all beings. And it's this amazing way of being that you are no longer only in self concerned. You still care about yourself. But that's not the thing that limits you.
And that's not where your mind is and where your heart's coming from. It really actually is the most powerful thing. It's it's almost like when I talked about when I talked about quitting smoking is having some reason to do it other than yourself. I made the vow to my daughter and my wife. It actually held me in the darkest parts when I didn't want to do it, when I was faced with discomfort or punched in the face like you, if you have something that matters more than yourself, you can actually go through the hardest discomfort and the same thing.
When I hit a marathon, at the point when I hit the wall in the marathon, why was I doing this? I had to have a reason other than my own comfort, because I was not feeling comfortable at the time. And so I had to have a reason to do it that was more important to me than my own comfort. And that's what the bodies of about is. What was it in the case of the marathon for you? It was my kids.
Honestly, if you're going to ask me, like a number of all my different motivations, 90 percent of the time it's my kids. But nowadays it's not just them. But at that time, that was the most accessible thing for me. That was beyond myself was my wife and kids. It was so easy, like looking at their faces to really care about them and their hearts and like being an inspiration to them. And just to show you, like, how that actually did pay off.
A few years later, they did a birthday party for me where they celebrated me as like a superhero. They had super dad. And like this is how they saw me was this person who was larger than life and willing to be a hero. It was so touching because that was what I wanted for them, was to have this example who wasn't stuck in comfort zone, who could go out of that for something that was more meaningful. That's what it was.
And for me when it came to the marathon was I'm doing this to show them that this could be done. I'm looking at the boat set for precepts on Wikipedia. And of course, you can go as deep as you want on this. But just to give people a flavor and I want you to correct me if this doesn't sound familiar, but I'm looking at the Brahma Jaala Sutra, which has a list of 10 major and forty eight minor, but something for everybody.
And what strikes me about these is there's some similarity to, say, the Ten Commandments right there and the Ten Commandments case, thou shalt not kill. Right. But in addition to that and of course these are all translations, but not to kill or encourage others to kill. And at the end of each of these, there is or encourage others to ex use false words in speech or encourage others to do so, not to broadcast the misdeeds or faults of the Buddhist assembly, nor encourage others to do so, not to harbor anger or encourage others to be angry and so on.
And so it is, as you mentioned, broader than just the sort of skin encapsulated ego that we refer to as I am, by the wording at least that I'm seeing here in the precepts. If we hearken back to family and the family, your kids being such a form of drive and motivation and accountability, I want to ensure that I don't miss unschooling. OK, could you speak to how on God's green earth you had so many kids home schooled?
And is it you and your wife doing the homeschooling? Do you have help? I think for a lot of people who have kids right now, they have seen in some cases how woefully underprepared they are to assist with schooling at home. And there are certainly technical hurdles. But this is a thing that has been forced upon by circumstance and sort of forced which or through pandemic quarantine and so on, millions of people who have been completely unprepared. So I would love to hear from you what unschooling looked like.
Can I speak? I do want to dive into that, but I want to speak just briefly, because something that you talked about in the previous section, which was the Bodhisattvas vows, because you compare them to the Ten Commandments and there's a big difference that I want to just touch on. They aren't rules or commandments so much as a ways to kind of examine how you're practising with this stuff. So, like, thou shalt not kill. There's a similar precept to that and encouraging others, as you said.
But the difference is it's only a lens to examine how are you practising with the main intention of all of this stuff? And it's not about making yourself wrong and judging ourselves, which is kind of where we usually come from in our Western society is like with all kinds of ways to judge ourselves. And so that's something I just wanted to bring out. It's really just, oh, maybe I haven't killed anybody, but have I done anything that is aggressive towards people?
And so looking at that and then there's always deeper ways and there's even much deeper ways to go into these things. So I just wanted to kind of share that this is the really only just practice tools for this this area. OK, unschooling, which is an amazing topic. But I have to start by saying if you ask how on God's green earth, my secret ingredient, of course, is and not so secret is my wife. So she decided to quit her job as a teacher.
So she had some background in education and then homeschool our kids. And at the time we just did home schooling, which is like school in the house. So we had the same kind of classes, same kind of lessons and books and everything. And so that's and to this day, like, she's down there right now doing that with them. So I definitely I'm a big part of their unschooling, but I just have to say, like, we're actually really lucky that she gets to do that as a full time thing.
How would the decision made? I don't want to skip over that. Why did that happen? Well, we were inspired by my sister who is homeschooling her kids, her two kids. That was one thing. And then the other one was we realized for some of our kids who are in school, school is not working out for them. Well, we had one son who is very intelligent, but he didn't conform well to the rules of school.
And what we realized as we started to look into this stuff is at school and a lot of ways is very much about conformity and follow the rules and you'll get along fine. And it doesn't matter so much about how much you've learned, but more especially in the early days of school, like how much you can actually follow the rules. And so he was learning a lot, but he was not following the rules. And so, like, one day he was he had read whatever it was supposed to be read in the in the class and was bored.
And so he so he broke out a novel that he was reading and started reading it and he got sent to the principal's office because of that. And that was like our wake up call. It's like, oh, they don't care that much about him learning, it's more about him following the rules. And so that was one was following the rules versus learning. And so we started to look at it like, is this possible for her to quit?
That was why we made the decision. But another thing that we learned along the way that I think is really important this day and age is that unschooling. So we went away from the structure of schooling to the structure of homeschooling, and then we tossed all of that out in favor of unschooling, which is a way of learning that's completely unstructured other than what the kid wants to structure for themselves. And so the idea behind unschooling is that you're learning in the same way that you and I do today.
Tim, as adults like you and I have not stopped just because we're out of school. We haven't stopped learning. We're actually probably learning more than we did when we were in school. But we're we're learning on our own terms because we are motivated by it at our own pace with our own structure. That's what unschooling is, is empowering the kids to actually decide for themselves what they care about, what they want to learn. And what that means is that they're not going to necessarily learn everything that everyone is, quote unquote, supposed to learn by the age of 13.
But they would have learned a whole different set of things. And the really important thing is that actually learning can be incredibly fun, that they learned how to face uncertainty. They learn how to motivate themselves and create their own structure. They learn that it's OK to give up on learning something if you find something else that you're more passionate about. They also learn how to hold themselves into learning something when they are feeling discouraged about it. So there's like a whole set of meta learning that is available to an schoolers that isn't given to regular school hours.
And I wanted to say, like, you're not making a bad decision if you're sending your kids to school and you're not a bad person if you're a teacher or a bad parent. So I don't judge anybody who does that. But school, by its nature, is someone making the decisions for the kids. So it takes away all of the decision making for them. It takes away the uncertainty of their learning path because someone else has laid it out for you.
So you feel like, OK, this is laid out for me. So I'm just going to follow it. And then you get to college. And the same thing is there's a path laid out for you and then you get out of college and then you're like, now what do I do? Because there's no path laid out for you as an adult. And so what happens to most people is that they get out of the schooling thing and they look for another thing to replace that.
How can I go to a place where someone else has made the decisions for me and I can have the certainty of following someone else's path that they've laid out. And as you know, as an entrepreneur, the most rich kind of learning areas are where someone has not laid the path out for you. And you have to make these decisions for yourself and you constantly question whether you're doing it right. And that's what unschooling is really.
In a nutshell, do you feel in that case that you are preparing them for entrepreneurship? Predominantly because I would imagine I want to hear you speak to this just because I'm speculating, but that in the process of unschooling, your kids, you are providing them with a lot of adaptability, but probably handicapping their ability to travel a more traditional path afterwards to say colleges. Is that is that not the case? I would just love to hear how you think about some of the trade offs.
There are any.
Well, first of all, it is I don't know if it's handicapping them. They definitely it is a little bit harder to get into college, but there's plenty of homeschoolers and on schoolers who get into college. And this is definitely a path my kids so far have not chosen that the ones who were unschooled. But it's definitely a path and it's not that difficult. It just you have to put a little bit of extra effort because it's not all laid out for you.
So I would say that that's one thing. Just to make sure that's clear, there's actually books written on how to get into. College as a as an unschooled but the entrepreneur thing, I do want to speak to that because my favorite person to talk to this about is people like you who are entrepreneurs or creative types, authors, anyone who's done anything that deals with uncertainty and discomfort and knows what that's like, any kind of leader, anyone running a nonprofit, those people get it.
So as I start to talk about like, oh, having to figure out your own path, the people who have had to do that for themselves, they instinctively get it. They already know what that's like. And then if they have a kid or they're about to have a kid, but their kids aren't in school yet, they haven't made that decision yet. That's the perfect that's like the Golden Zone to reach them if they're an entrepreneur or a creative type or leader of some kind and they have a kid or about two who's not in school yet, it's absolutely preparation for any kind of uncharted territory.
If you're going to be an entrepreneur, if you're going to be any kind of leader in any kind of organization where you're not being told what to do, but you have to figure stuff out and deal with the uncertainty of that. The self-doubt, unschooling is like incredible preparation for that and is constantly filled with uncertainty, self-doubt, people judging you and not getting you, which is exactly the path of an entrepreneur and constantly having to deal with all of that stuff and discouragement, motivation, structure, all of the exact same stuff that you and I deal with on a daily basis.
That's what an unschool or starts is do from day one. And they're not going to be good at it at first. And so it's great to have someone who's there to guide them, but they get trained in it. By the time they get to be 18, they can definitely figure out their path to college there. But they can also realize, like, actually, I don't need college for most professions. Right. I don't need this. I'm going to be like a doctor or a lawyer or something like that.
I can actually do without college. So there's the unknown college kind of route as well.
Are there any resources that you would recommend for people who would like to learn more about homeschooling and unschooling and common pitfalls, best practices?
Yeah, there's there's a bunch of books. I'm totally out of date, to be honest. So there's some radical stuff about just completely like liberating. There's the one called Teenage Liberation Handbook, which I highly recommend as an author named Alfie Kohn and something like that. He's also pretty radical. I would actually lean towards anything that talks about unschooling rather than homeschooling. It's an important distinction. Unschooling is a subset of homeschooling. So it is at home, but it's really about all the stuff that I talked about, choosing your own path and dealing with that.
I wouldn't recommend any book that's focused on homeschooling itself because they're usually about how to do school in the home.
Let's talk more about charting the unknown. All right. And this is unknown to me, maybe known to you, but I am looking at a quote from a fast company piece that you wrote in 2015 about the constant tension and struggle between contentment and self-improvement. And here's the paragraph. For the last eight years, I've had an internal struggle between wanting to improve myself and wanting to be content. To be honest, I haven't completely figured out how to resolve that struggle, but I'm working on it.
What is the root of the struggle? While when I started Zen habits more than eight years ago, I'd been working for more than a year on changing all my habits with lots of success, all of those changes were rooted in my dissatisfaction with myself. I'd had a lot of success. The dissatisfaction never went away. So this is dated, of course, five years ago or even a bit more. And I just love to hear from you, as I've also observed your writing shift from productivity, which we could in some sense pare with self-improvement to tossing out productivity and thinking about simplicity and many other subjects.
Are there any particular changes in your life, habits, new beliefs, anything that has had the greatest impact on your contentment or a large impact on your contentment? I think the thing that I did it was I kept digging deeper like I was never content to use that word with just like the surface level stuff, which is where I started. And there's nothing wrong with that stuff. The productivity and all the systems and all that kind of stuff, I think is amazing.
And there's always deeper levels. And so for me, it's like, oh, what? Why am I not content? I got my life under control. I got my debt under control habits and everything like that. But there's still something that I'm not satisfied with. And so I started to dig into that. And I think what I hit upon was this underlying uncertainty about myself. Am I good enough is kind of the question, that feeling of inadequacy that a lot of us will feel.
And there's nothing wrong with that feeling. I think that's something that kind of gets bred into us by our. This just becomes part of our world like I'm not enough and the world is constantly giving us messages of that and we give ourselves that message. So I learn to like kind of sit with that that feeling. And I realize it was just a feeling it wasn't actually the end of the world. And then I learned to, like, tap into self compassion.
And I think that was a huge one for me, was learning to be compassionate for myself.
If I may pause you just for a second, what did that look like in practice?
Yeah, that was a hard one for me, because first it was more of a mental intellectual exercise. Just kind of let myself off the hook. I'm not such a bad person. And just reassuring talk. It actually came when I started practicing more not only with meditation, but with heart centered meditations like Metta. I'm sure you're familiar with that one, lovingkindness meditation. And so I started practicing with that. And that one is for those unfamiliar with it, is basically this thing where you kind of picture someone else or a group of people and you start to wish an end to their suffering, for example, or wish happiness upon them.
That's just a lovely little meditation, right? So you start thinking these thoughts like may they be happy and you think about your loved ones in pain and suffering and may they be happy. You think about other people in the world who are suffering. May they be happy. It's just a really beautiful meditation. But what I learned is I kept practicing with this was there was a feeling in my heart that would be generated of loving kindness. And that's really the main point of that, is not so much like this thought process of loving kindness, but heart feeling, which is really hard to describe until you start to practice it.
And then you start to realize like, oh, yeah, that's the same thing that I feel instantly when someone who I care about is actually in pain. I really want them to not be in pain. Right. This is like a human thing, but you can actually conjure it up. And so I learn to do that through this meditation. And I start to notice when I am feeling inadequate or like there's something wrong with me or I'm not doing enough, or I got through my day really busy, but I never I still didn't do enough.
There is always this feeling of not being enough that I had and I started to give myself compassion when I start to recognize that this kind of loving kindness, compassion in my heart. And so it was just like almost like this pouring out of this loving feeling towards myself, towards my own wounds, which sounds very kind of woo woo. And look, I think there's people who won't resonate with that. But actually, it was a really powerful thing when I started to practice that for myself, because we don't do that.
We are not trained in that as a society. And by practice, with that show up, as you say, being really hard on yourself and before you go into dinner with your family, just taking three minutes with your eyes closed to do a loving kindness, self talk meditation, or did it look like something else?
I think of it more like this salve that I just put on a wound. Any time I'm feeling it, act up, you know? So I have like all these wounds from like childhood and so forth. And so, yeah, when I feel like, oh, I'm not enough or there's something wrong with me or I'm just judging myself and kind of stuck in one of those kinds of thought patterns, it really just feels like a wound in my heart.
And so, like, I just noticed that I'm like, oh, I'm feeling some anxiety right now. Can I give myself some compassion? Oh, I'm feeling really down about myself and how much how little I've done this week or how addicted I've gotten to something. And so I'll just give myself compassion. It's really any time anything difficult is showing up frustration, anxiety, fear, self-doubt and anger, things like that. So, you know, you're feeling frustration with someone.
You can point your finger at them and really focus on them. But you can also notice you're feeling hurt and just give yourself some compassion. And that really helps with that frustration. And you can't really be like open hearted and open minded towards this person who you're frustrated with until you've given yourself some compassion first and dealt with your own pain.
Yeah, that strikes that strikes me is very true, certainly with a lot of my reactive behavior over the last few decades. And I want to also recommend for people who are interested in meta, meta or loving meditation, it really can have a very pronounced, very fast effect on your state. And one book that gave a great description of this, there are many, but is Joy OnDemand written by 10. So a hyphen Emmi Engie last name to and who created a massively successful course internal to Google at the time called Search Within Yourself, I believe.
And the book contains some really fantastic descriptions and prescriptions for lovingkindness meditation.
So I just want to share that for people who might want to explore another one, just to mention another resource. I know your listeners love resources. Tara Brucke think you're familiar with her work. I am, yeah. Radical acceptance. That's what it is. She's all right.
This is a great book. Yeah. That's also one of the key books in The Quiver, which, like a lot of things, has a very generic kind of seemingly handwaving squishy title with a lot of very practical tactical recommendations within.
I'm looking at some of the notes in front of me. This is a might seem like a left turn, but it's it's of interest to me. We've been speaking somewhat broadly, I mean, specifically about your experience, but broadly in terms of, say, gender experience. Right. This is everything we're talking about applies to everyone, at least to the extent that I can tell. In 2013, you went through training with a men's group that deep into masculine practice and seemed to relate to the sort of masculine and feminine polarity work.
And here I'm just taking, you know, John Wineland, can you speak to why you did that training and some of the things that you took away from it?
Why did I do it? I think there was a part of me that would collapse in the middle of discomfort. So let's just say an argument with my wife or pain from like a family member or something like that. And I saw it collapse in the middle of that, not physically, but like, my heart would close and I'd be so discouraged and and just frustrated with them. And so I was looking for something to to work with that with.
And I did a workshop with John Wineland, who is a disciple of David Data, but he's also branched out and done his own work. And so I actually think he's like really an incredible teacher for this kind of stuff. And we did some practices there, there mindfulness type practices that were quite incredible. And so I decided to just dive deep with him. And I went into a nine month program with John. And just to be clear, the polarity work here, there's there's a they talk about the energy of the masculine and the feminine.
And this is not necessarily gendered. Every single person in this framework has both masculine and feminine energy in us. And so this is really about practicing leadership of our own emotions in order to be able to provide leadership for, let's say, our families or in our relationship. So the leadership is the masculine where you're providing structure and consciousness and able to be with all of our. And emotions and all the stuff that comes up, which would be considered feminine, all of our emotions all change, all destructive and creative energy is the feminine in all of us.
And so the masculine in all of us is the consciousness and structure and stillness. And so learning to practice in this way was a really profound thing for me that allowed me to practice with my own inner, like, wounded self and my own emotions. But then be able to do that for my kids, for my wife, for all my other loved ones, and for my readers and the coaching clients that I work with and the groups that I work with.
So be able to hold space for them was really important to do this practice because the practice is not just knowing it intellectually, but it's actually getting it in your nervous system so that you've trained in it for a number of months. And in fact, it's the lifetime practice so that when someone shows up as a coaching client, for example, who is completely complaining about you instead of complaining about them back, you just kind of hold space for them with complete consciousness and love and you don't need to collapse.
Could you give an example of one framework or concept or concrete practice that you took from that training?
One of the best ones. This is the most like I know people like you and me love practical, like technical stuff that comes from deep stuff. Right. So one of the best ones that I use tactically on a daily basis, it's part meditation and part trying to make a decision. So let's say I have a lot of things on my plate and I have to decide, OK, what do I need to do today? And I could really could be anything.
And I'm feeling pulled in a lot of directions. So I think a lot of people can relate to that. What I'll do is I'll drop into it's like a little mini meditation where my consciousness goes like wide, like almost is like why does the universe right. So like really open mind and really deep consciousness. So you go into a state like that and it could really with practice, it could really take two seconds to get into that state and then in that state.
And again, I want to give complete credit to John Wineland for these practices in this state. I drop in the question, what is life calling me to do? And you can interpret that in a lot of different ways. Life, God, your inner heart, your intuition, whatever it is. But in that state of wide open consciousness, we're no longer in our place of self concern. And it comes up for me is usually just one thing.
And it's really clear I'll do that at the beginning of a day is just dropping that question. What is life calling me to do? And it's just one thing. And then I'll just do that. And I might after that, ask the same question and just do that and one after the other, just ask that question. And it's usually the most important thing. It's not the most urgent or the thing that I'm most afraid about, but it's actually just the most important thing.
Have you had any answers pop up that were surprising or particularly unexpected for you? You get anything completely out of left field?
Yeah, sometimes I think, like, oh, it's this fire that I need to put out.
Eat nachos now and like that. No, not not yet. I'm sure that will come. A actually I have had somewhere it's like, oh you need to take some rest. And I thought I had to go and do a bunch of things because I was feeling very overwhelmed and I was like, no, you need to rest. So maybe the nachos would have been a good part of it. But another one that surprises me is you need to go and apologize to somebody.
Like someone came up in the middle of that. I'm like, oh, I hurt them. And unintentionally, of course, but I did hurt them and I need to go and make amends. And so sometimes that comes up and I'm like, oh, shoot. Like, I didn't even think of that until I ask that question.
Well, Leo, I want to give readers plenty to chew on, but not too much to chew on. I think we've covered a lot of ground. Is there anything else that you think we should explore on this conversation?
We've touched a number of times on uncertainty and anxiety, and I want to just leave people with something here that I think is really important. So in this world right now that we're in, as again, as we recorded this, we're in the middle of a pandemic and lock downs and frustrations with other people. And in our country, it's the elections and racial protests and also wildfires, if you're on my side of the country. So there's just like a lot of uncertainty in the world and a lot of anxiety that comes from that uncertainty.
And so I've been doing a lot of training around that. And I think it's so important for us to become present with that uncertainty and anxiety. And what I've learned is that we can train in that it doesn't have to be a thing that shuts us down or gets us spinning out of control. What I've learned is, first of all, we all have uncertainty every day of our lives and we have some habitual ways of responding to that smoking and all the things that I've talked about, procrastination, eating nachos would be some good examples of that Netflix and YouTube and social media.
An email, all of the things that we're familiar with, these are habitual responses to uncertainty, to a feeling of uncertainty in our heart, of like I'm not sure how things are going and the way that we usually feel. That is some kind of tug on our heart or almost like an elevator is dropping out from under our feet. It's this feeling of ground lessness. And again, we have habitual responses that we've been training ourselves in for years for our whole lives.
And those aren't always helpful. Sometimes they are. Sometimes they're not. But there are automatic and so we don't have choice because we have trained ourselves to do it automatically when uncertainty arises and right now you'll see yourself again. I mentioned going to Amazon and ordering a bunch of things, going to Netflix or YouTube or whatever it is, whatever thing that you go to, you'll notice yourself doing it more now than ever before. That's a highlight of your habitual response, because the uncertainty is so intense.
The anxieties is so intense in our lives right now. And so what I would say is that this is the best time to train. This is the most important time to train, because it's so in our faces that we can't avoid it. And so why not turn towards it and welcome it and open up to it and practice with it? And the practice that I have been training people and in training myself, and I think it's so helpful is to drop into the body when you're feeling it and then you notice you're feeling it because you're going to your habitual response is all of the things that I've mentioned drop into the body and drop your attention into bodily sensations.
So just notice what you're feeling in your chest and your stomach, in your throat. And usually at somewhere around the chest area, you'll feel like a tightening or a tug or a pain or an energy. And the energy itself of uncertainty is not a problem. And what we can do is turn towards it mindfully and be with it with a curiosity when we have curiosity, with as it's no longer something we need to run from or get rid of, it's actually just completely fine.
It's just an energy in our body and we can just be curious, wanting to know more and being open with it. And if you train with it in this way and we have so many opportunities to train right now, it's a very, very rich training ground right now. You can actually learn to be completely comfortable with uncertainty and not need to run to habitual patterns. And what that means is you're now in choice and you can still eat the nachos.
You can still do all the usual things. And that's nothing wrong with those. But you also can decide to stay in the discomfort to do the hard thing, to turn towards the thing you're turning away from, to say sorry to someone. All of those things are now available to you when you practice with it in this way.
Yeah, this is this is a practice that is certainly very present for me at the moment. As if you can hear the ice smashing in the background as we look for a recording. The only place that I have reliable Wi-Fi is in the attic of a restaurant which seems to be in Russia right now.
So it's immediately present for me is how to not compulsively go into the thought loops and the default behaviors that we use as temporary painkillers and how we can learn to be more comfortable with the discomfort and certainly expect to have greater and greater need of that in the upcoming months with the not just unpredictability that is naturally occurring, but the sort of engineered spectacle and theatre of uncertainty. Yes, they would call it in the business context, fear, uncertainty and doubt.
It's fun when people are selling Froud, which is certainly the job of many political campaigns with respect to there is fear, uncertainty and doubt. So whether by choice or by force, people will be or by chance people will be dealing with a lot of uncertainty. Are there any other approaches that you found particularly helpful or mantras, any type of self talk, anything at all, really, that you found helpful for surfing the chaos that is part of life and maybe more acutely now than ever for a lot of people, a part of their daily or weekly experience.
There's a quote actually by a program Trumper, who you might be familiar with. He's a Tibetan Buddhist master. And here's a quote, which is The bad news is that you're falling through the air with no parachute so you can feel already like in the middle of this quote, you can feel the intense like boundlessness, the intense anxiety that might arise. But the second part of his quote is so the bad news is that you're falling through the air with no parachute.
The good news is there's no ground below. And I really love that quote because it just makes you realize you're not in danger, even though it feels completely groundless. And you can relax in that kind of like visual picture. You can just relax in the middle of that. And what I found is available to us, if you can just relax with the uncertainty that's arising. Even anxiety is there's like an openness that's available to us that's always there and it's just really liberating.
And so what I've done is actually start to train myself and now I train other people in it of setting myself these practice periods of like, let's say an hour or half an hour of meaningful work that. I normally would turn away from some big project that's really meaningful to me. I'll set that as like my practice period where I'm intentionally inducing uncertainty in myself. And I'll actually just set an intention, the beginning, the reason why I'm doing this, the thing that I care about.
And then I'll let myself practice with this and I'll notice that I'm trying to go towards my email and just sit with the uncertainty of it and then just go move towards the actual doing with this kind of openness. So I'll do it as a daily practice, but also practice pretty much all the time whenever anxiety or uncertainty comes up and it just becomes like no big deal. So that's another phrase that really helps me is no big deal is just an energy of uncertainty.
It's not a big deal. So those are the ways that I practice with it right now.
I love the good news, bad news or other bad news. Bad news. You're falling in their parachute. Good new ground. That's spectacular. Leo, Leo, about finally on the podcast Twitter at Zent, underscore habits and of course, Zen habits, dot net, all things simplicity. Such a pleasure to have you in conversation and to be able to explore all these things.
I always love asking questions of friends who otherwise would feel like they're being interrogated in a weird format, but it works.
Is there anything else that you would like to to add or say or share with people before we wrap up anything that you would like people to take a look at or consider anything at all?
Well, I have to say, too, that this is just a tremendous honor, just really love the work you're doing in the world, Tim. So thank you for having me on this. But the other thing that I would leave people with is, you know, sometimes in this crazy world that we're in right now, we have the luxury of finding ourselves in. It can be really difficult. Anxiety can be so hard that it's really hard to practice with it.
So when you find yourself in that place where you're just wanting to shut down and curl up in a ball and like this is too hard to practice with in this way that I've just talked about, just bring back that self compassion that I just that we talked about earlier. It's just this is an important time to just take care of yourself, give yourself some compassion, give yourself a warm bath, have some hot tea. Let yourself eat the nachos.
It's OK. Yeah, it's it's such an important time to take care of ourselves.
Yeah. The world will be hard enough on you without you beating yourself up. Lady Luck or Fortune does not need your help flagellating you.
That's right. You have challenges and obstacles. Enough and good lessons. Good medicine for right now and everybody listening.
Of course I will include links to everything we've discussed to Leo's work, to resources on unschooling, everything else, the Zen precepts that we discussed at one point and much more will all be at teamed up log forward slash podcast and Lya, thank you once again. I really appreciate you taking the time. Thank you, Tim. And to everybody out there until next time. Thank you for listening.
Hey guys, this is Tim again. Just a few more things before you take off. Number one, this is five Bullett Friday. Do you want to get a short email from me? And would you enjoy getting a short email from me every Friday that provides a little morsel of fun before the weekend and five? Black Friday is a very short email where I share the coolest things I've found or that I've been pondering over the week that could include favorite new albums that I've discovered.
It could include gizmos and gadgets and all sorts of weird shit that I've somehow dug up into the world of the esoteric as I do. It could include favorite articles that I have read and that I've shared with my close friends, for instance. And it's very short. It's just a little tiny bite of goodness before you head off for the weekend. So if you want to receive that, check it out. Just go to four hour work week dotcom.
That's four hour work week dot com all spelled out. And just drop in your email and you will get the very next word. And if you sign up, I hope you enjoyed this episode is brought to you by Give Wealth dot org. Tis the season of giving you've got this week and next to make your charitable donations before we close the books in twenty twenty, twenty, twenty one is just around the corner. That's why I've been talking to you on this podcast about gift.
Well dog more than ten years give well. Dog has helped donors fund the charities and projects that save and improve lives most per year help give will that it keeps more than twenty thousand dollars a year to researching charitable organizations and handpicks a few of the highest impact evidence backed charities. I recommend to give all dog and they sure to note with me, which is just incredible. And here it is quote Here are the data. They sent me a spreadsheet we have from organic donations.
It cited Tim over. The past few years, transactions have specifically cited Tim Ferriss sum to one hundred thirty three thousand forty dollars and seventy four cents. We estimate that those donations will save 15 to 24 lives. How did this happen? I suspect that a lot of these donations came from my interview with Wil McCaskill, who really knows what he's talking about when it comes to effective giving. He's a philosopher, ethicist and one of the originators of the effective altruism movement is an associate professor of philosophy at Oxford.
That is the University of Oxford and a researcher at the Global Priories Institute at Oxford. Just a great guy overall. And in our podcast together, he recommended did well by far as one of the best places to give if you want to make an impact, especially if you're busy. It came to his mind immediately. All of their research is publicly available for free on their website. And more importantly, give will never takes any fees. So all your tax deductible donations are given to the charity you choose.
Since 2010, Gebel has helped more than 50000 donors direct more than 500 million dollars to the most effective charities. These donations will save more than 75000 lives and improve the lives of millions more. You only have a few days left to make tax deductible donations before the New Year sugo right now. And when you make your first donation to give, well, your gift will be matched up to two hundred and fifty dollars. Just go to give Weblog Tim and Pick podcast and Tim Ferriss at checkout.
You've got to do those things so they can track it. This matching offer is good for as long as funds last. So the race goes to the swift. He who hesitates or she hesitates is lost. Get your first donation matched up to 250 dollars at Give Will again Tim and Select Podcast and Tim Ferriss. Check out one more time. Definitely take a look at this. Give will agree to this episode is brought to you by Tonle Toenail. I'm super excited about this one and I was skeptical of it in the beginning.
Total quote Total is the world's most intelligent home gym and personal trainer, end quote. That's the tagline from their website, folks, to give you the one sentence summary. And this device, it's really a system is perfect for anyone looking to take their homework out to the next level or someone who just wants to get maximum bang for the buck. In a tiny, tiny footprint of space, Total is precision engineered to be the world's most advanced strength studio and personal trainer.
It uses breakthrough technology of all different types to help get you stronger, faster. I was introduced to total by three different friends. All of them are tech savvy. One of them is a former competitive skier who's doubled his strength in a number of minutes using total, even though he has a long athletic background. And I'll paint a picture for you by eliminating traditional metal weights, dumbbells and barbells, Total can deliver two hundred pounds of resistance, which doesn't sound like a lot, but it's actually it feels like a lot more at the high end in a device smaller than a flat screen TV and you can perform at least one hundred and fifty different exercises.
And these different technologies are exclusive to talk and you can dial weights up and down with the touch of a button in one pound increments using magnets and electricity. So the movement is extremely smooth. And even though I have a home gym already in my garage, I'm still getting a total installed. I've use total for multiple workouts now to do things I just cannot do in my home gym, such as the chopping lift exercises from where our body, all sorts of cable exercises that would usually involve much, much bigger piece of equipment, netcentric training, for instance, you can do to give a simple example, bicep curls where you are lifting, let's just say twenty pounds in each hand up and then a total will automatically increase the weight because you can lower more than you can lift to, say, twenty five point thirty pounds on the way down.
And I do kettlebell swings, I do all sorts of deadlifts, this that the other thing. And after one workout on total focusing on pulling, I was blasted for a full week. It's really incredible what you can do with eccentrics. They also have all sorts of other really, really cool advantages that you can apply to any of your favorite movies. Total Learns from Restrengthened provides suggestive weight recommendations for every move with detailed progress reports to help you see your strengths grow.
Total also has a growing library of expert led workouts by motivating coaches from strength training to cardio. So you could do really just about everything. Every program is personalized to your body using artificial intelligence and other aspects of the engineering and smart features. Check your form in real time, just like a personal trainer. So try it out tritone or at least check it out. Watch the videos on YouTube and see if you can pick out a familiar voice. It's not me.
I'll say that. A tritone all the world's smartest home gym for thirty days in your home. And if you don't love it, you can return it for a full refund. So visit w w w tunnel dot com for one hundred dollars off of smart accessories when you use promo code. Tim, Tim at checkout, that's TOTN, AOL Dotcom promo code, Tim Toneless, be your strongest.