Transcribe your podcast

Hello, boys and girls, lemurs and squirrels. This is Tim Ferriss. Welcome to another episode of the Timber Show, where it is usually my job to deconstruct world class performers, tease out their routines, habits and so on, that you can apply to your own life. This time around, the tables are turned. I was interviewed by Guy Raz on Twitter. You can find him at Guy Raz are crazy for his mega popular NPR podcast, How I Built This.


There's a lot of fun in this episode. Guy traces my story from the very early days to the current day, asking me about key decisions, hard times, obstacles, lessons learned, mistakes, all sorts of things. We had a blast. We covered a lot of new ground, and Guy was kind enough to offer me the chance to post the audio here. So that is what you'll hear in this episode. For more Guy, check out his podcast, How I Built This Wisdom from the Top and the Rewind.


He's also the co creator of the acclaimed podcasts TED Radio Hour and Wow in the World, a children's program. And last but not least, Happy Holidays and a very happy New Year to you and yours. Thanks so much for listening. 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. 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, 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 take 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 Weblog 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 two hundred and fifty dollars at give. Well again Tim and Select podcast and Tim Ferriss a check out one more time. Definitely take a look at this give will 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 question now. It is like. Cybernetic organisms living tissue over metal embryos go to Paris, so. There's a difference between persuading someone to purchase a product and debating with someone who has no intention of ever changing their mind. I wasn't making that my job, which I think a lot of people do. They make it their job to convince the world.


And you shouldn't convince the world. You should convince the people who match most closely to what you're providing. Yeah. So I came to believe really early on that it's not about the number of people who don't get it. It's about the number of people who do get it. From NPR, it's how I built this show of innovators, entrepreneurs, idealists and the stories behind the movement's. I'm Guy Raz. And on today's show, how Tim Ferriss, as an entrepreneur, author, investor and podcast turned himself into a multi-million dollar brand.


In 2007, a completely unknown writer named Tim Ferriss published an obscure book called The Four Hour Work Week. The book basically outlined how Tim escaped the nine to five grind by outsourcing most of his job to other people.


The small number of influential critics who even noticed the book were not charitable. Wired magazine called it formulaic, and that was generous compared to other reviews. But none of that ever worry Tim Ferriss because he had a plan. He had spent nearly a year mapping out how he was going to get his book into the right hands and maybe turn it into a bestseller with almost no marketing budget and no major push from the publisher. Now, think about this for a moment.


There are more than a million books published each year. Fewer than 10 of those books sell more than a million copies. In fact, the average book sells just a few hundred copies. And yet, Tim Ferriss, an unknown writer and entrepreneur who lived in a small apartment in San Jose, California, would go on to sell more than two million copies of the four hour work week. That book set on the New York Times bestseller list for four years.


And although Tim was a small time entrepreneur before the book came out, after its success, he turned his attention to building a business around his own brand, a brand that is really about Tim's own curiosities to him as a guinea pig. He spent the past 15 years trying to figure out how to master everything from starting and running a business to foreign languages, to cooking, to bodybuilding, to Chinese kickboxing, to tango dancing and much more. And he doesn't pursue these things as a gimmick.


Tim methodically outlines his process. He collects copious data on himself. He analyzes it and uses it to get better and more efficient at whatever he tries. And he does all this because he believes that almost anyone who is reasonably motivated can master these things, too. Since 2007, Tim has written four other books and has launched a podcast, all of which focus on self-improvement and learning from the highest performers on the planet. He's also become one of the most outspoken voices on the uses of certain hallucinogens to help treat depression and PTSD, which we'll hear about a little later.


Anyway, Tim was born in the late 1970s and he grew up in eastern Long Island. His dad was a real estate broker and his mom was a physical therapist. And as a kid, Tim saw the contrast between his parents and neighbors who worked at the shops and farms around town and the wealthy people who came to the Hamptons for vacation. For me, it was normal. I didn't realize how strange that environment was, and I worked in restaurants growing up and got to see the best in the worst of Manhattanites.


I mean, you could just see you'd see some great behavior.


Remember, Billy Joel used to tip like 20 bucks for a cup of coffee, and that just blew my mind. That was that was just a display of generosity and wealth beyond my wildest imagination. And then you had, you know, the duchess of such and such, she would show up and just cause a huge mess with a table of 15 people and then say, I tip very well, better luck next time to the server and leave zero tip.


And I saw that, too. Yeah. So then I worked.


One of my first jobs was at the lobster roll where they filmed a lot of the affair, this TV series. So that was one of my jobs. Was a busboy at the lobster roll.


I guess from from, from you've talked about this before, but I guess you were you were born pretty premature. And so as a result of that, you were small when you were a kid and had had a bunch of health issues. And what kind of what kind of health issues?


I had severe allergies and respiratory issues. My left lung collapsed when I was born. So I had respiratory issues growing up. And I was until I hit puberty, kind of the slowest one of the slowest, smallest kids.


I mean, in every grade, there was a lot of bullying up until sixth grade, actually. Remember exactly when that stopped.


But up until sixth grade. Because you were. Because you were little. Because I was little. Yeah, I was tiny. So, yeah, I spent a lot of time sitting on the step by the classroom reading instead of going out to recess just because it was so tremendously unsafe for me to wander around the swing sets and stuff. It was like being let out into the prison yard. I remember that.


What was it? What was the thing that that kind of. Changed oh, that's easy. I mean, I remember the last day of fifth grade, I had this amazing teacher and this is Talmage and us sitting up in the front of the class. I was the last kid left in class. This was the bell right at the beginning of summer breaks. Everybody had run out and I had terrible sunburn. And these two bullies walked out and one of them goes, have a good summer, Tim, and slaps my back really hard with an open palm.


And I held it together until they got outside of the classroom. And then I just started bawling because it hurt so badly. And this is Talmage who had this kind of raspy voice. She had a bunch to say that I couldn't really absorb those crying. And then she said, one day you'll show them, you'll show them to me. And I was like, Okay, okay.


I went away to camp that summer and I grew something like five inches and gained like 40 pounds of muscle. And because puberty hormones just flooded my system and came back. And the sixth grade was just my year of joyful vengeance.


I mean, oh, the bullying stopped pretty quickly in the beginning of sixth grade. And school came pretty easy for you when you were a kid. I did enjoy school and I don't know how much of that is intrinsic. My parents didn't have much budget for new new toys or new bikes or anything like that. But they said to my brother and I, we always have budget for books. So my parents cultivated this love of reading very early on.


And as a result, I did well in school and focused on school. I read that when you were 15, you went to Japan for years and exchange student, which is pretty cool. I mean, there's programs existed, but like tell me about that here. What did that or that do for you? That year?


For me, completely changed the trajectory of my life and the way that I looked at the world because I had never spent any extended time outside of the United States and went to Japan speaking very basic Japanese. And I was the Where's Waldo American in this school of let's call it a few thousand Japanese students wearing a school uniform.


And that year helped me to see how many of the rules that we follow are really social constructs and kind of arbitrary, right. Driving on the right side of the road versus the left in Japan or bathing rituals.


Right. Even the grammar of Japanese is so different from English and the sentence structure. All of these behaviors and habits that I never questioned before became this comparison side by side comparison with everything I noticed in Japan. So when I came back, I was looking at everything in the U.S. and in my life with very fresh eyes.


And I mean, it must have had a significant impact, because I know that you went on to Major in in East Asian studies at Princeton for college. And I know you've talked about this a bit in the past, but, you know, I guess college was not an easy time for you that that you you struggled with depression and at times it got it got to a point where it was was pretty crippling and even scary.


I think it started beginning even in in high school. I recall extended periods of what you might consider depression. But by the time I got to college, the symptoms worsened. What were the symptoms of extreme fatigue? A certain feeling of hopelessness. And it's depression is really one of those experiences that for someone who is who has had a bad experience of the darkness and depression, no explanation is needed. And for someone who hasn't, it's no explanation will really suffice.


But it would be like looking through sunglasses at all times and sort of hearing everything through earmuffs, if that makes any sense, is kind of muffled slightly out of focus, like sensory lens. And I would say probably twice per year. I would have multiple weeks of this type of this type of depressive episode. Did you ever go see therapists or psychologists when you were in high school or in college? I did not. And this is an. Diagnosed, essentially, yeah, it was undiagnosed and we can talk about when it got particularly dangerous, which it did in college, where I decided quite clinically, honestly, that if I was going to struggle with this for the rest of my life and this darkness was inescapable, that there was no point to continuing.


And so I began not just fantasizing about suicide or having suicidal ideation. I planned it. I mean, I had dates in the calendar and I requested a book from Firestone Library on suicide. I can't recall the exact title. And it was already checked out by some other student, so was unavailable. But I put in a request. And the way Firestone Library alerted you, your book was available, they sent you a postcard.


So you get a postcard in the mail. And I'd forgotten to change my mailing address with the registrar. And it was still my home address with my parents. And the postcard went home to my parents, which said, Tim Ferriss, your book, such and such and such and such on suicide is now available.


And my mom called me with a really shaky voice and asked me about it and I lied. I said that a friend from Rutgers had requested it because it wasn't available at their library. So I did some some fancy footwork to kind of wiggle my way out of telling the truth. But the phone call from my mom snapped me out of my sort of delirium and made it really clear that if I were to kill myself, it wasn't just something that would affect me.


It would be like strapping on a suicide vest and walking into my parents house and blowing everyone up.


And that is what led me to course. Correct. But if you think about that, you know, the sheer chance, just the luck involved in that happening is pretty outrageous. And if that had happened today, for instance, it would have been an email alert and I wouldn't be here.


I know we we talked about this when I was a guest on your show about. This period in life, this like late teens to mid to late 20s, is a particularly vulnerable period for a variety of reasons or societal pressures, and our brains are changing.


And there's a bunch of bunch of things happening.


Do you think for you that that was why you were in that state of mind?


Well, I think it was a combination of.


Darkness, meaning seasonal depression, plus feeling everything has been building up prior to Princeton to getting into a school like Princeton, and now my parents, extended family have all helped me to attend this expensive school. This has been a significant, huge commitment and sacrifice on the part of not just my parents, but other people in the family. And now it seems like I'm going to fail. I felt just helpless and hopeless. But let me add a note on the light side, which is I have not suffered an extended depressive episode.


And let's see here something like six to eight years now, so. There are I have found tools and approaches that really seem to mitigate, yeah, a lot of this and and we're going to talk about some of those approaches a little later on.


But but obviously, you were obviously able to to pull yourself out of depression at the time because I mean, you did you did graduate college. You made it through.


I made it through dragging a leg behind me. I made it through. And you moved to, you know, to San Francisco in 2000. This is sort of like right before the dot com crash. Yeah. What did you do about there to get into that world? Is that where your ambition was? Yeah, I did. I did.


I had a tremendous professor at Shell, CSC, who is amazing polymath, former competitive ice skater to take in a few companies public was one of the first computer science professors, was a congressman for a term or two. I mean, the guy had done everything and he taught a class in high tech entrepreneurship. And I wrote my final project on a portfolio company of his called Jarocin Networks, which was based in San Jose. And the CEO was scarcely older than some of the students in the class.


I mean, he was, I want to say, 23 at the time. Wow. Extremely charismatic and spoken to the class is a data storage company. It's a data storage company. I ended up pitching myself to the CEO. I looked back. I want to say it was something like 26 emails and just got rejected, rejected, rejected. And the upshot was he said, you're just not going to stop bothering me until I give you a job.


Is that is that is that what I should take away from this? And I said, yep, that's about right. And he goes, OK, great, you're in sales. You know, you can have a technical sales position.


Right. And that's what I did. That's how I got the job. Why did you want to work for this common sense of boring data storage like that's what you were, like, desperate to go work at after this?


Like, yeah, well, this I'll tell you, it didn't have anything to do with the industry. OK, I got you. What drove that interest?


No one that someone not much older than myself was running this number two. And I can't remember if it was Adshel or someone else who gave me this advice, but they said, look, for a growing industry.


Doesn't matter what it is. If it's growing quickly and you're able to join early, you are going to learn a tremendous amount as you watch companies grow.


Still applies today. That's great advice, by the way, which still applies. Right.


So I joined I was employee number 15 or 25, something like that, and was able to watch it grow to somewhere between 100 and 200.


So you get there, you'll be working for Struzan Networks, a sexy data storage company.


That's right. And what were you doing there?


I was what would be considered outside sales. So we had inside sales, which was like boiler room, if you can imagine that. So inside sales is a bunch of people making phone calls. Yeah. Smiling and dialing to book meetings for people like me. And then I was outside sales so I would team up with my engineer and we would go out to try to close deals and that was pretty good at it.


But you did actually last that long. You lasted like a year right before you were let go? Well, yeah. I mean, I lasted a year, but almost everyone at the company lasted about a year. They started letting go entire divisions. So they let go.


They were part of the dotcom crash. Oh, yeah, absolutely.


So there were just large swaths of the office that would disappear from week to week towards the end and kind of saw the writing on the wall.


So I started thinking of Plan B options and what I might want to do next.


Well, before I was I was let go, but somewhere between a year to a year and a half after joining that company, I mean, sounds like you your intention was to just use this opportunity in this experience to kind of launch the next thing and that that you almost went there with the ambition of starting something yourself. Was that was that the plan or was there no plan? Yeah.


Yeah, that was the plan was a plan. That was a plan. I wanted to learn as much as possible to build something myself. And ultimately, the way I decided what I was going to start is I looked at my own spending because I was making I want to say I was making 40 grand a year. I had a little bit of money, but I wasn't rich by any stretch. I mean, I was operating on a budget, but I looked at my credit card statements and I was spending hundreds of dollars per month.


I made probably 400 plus per month on sports supplements. So I was price insensitivities training in sports really intensely at the time. Doing. Kickboxing and jujitsu and some other stuff. What were you taking? Well, it was creatine at the time. I was probably taking what were referred to as pro hormones, protein powders and like a whole spectrum of products. So I decided to look into starting a company that would scratch my own edge. And in fact, I had cobbled together supplements for myself when I was in college.


So I ordered raw materials and ordered stuff from Europe. I had combined things myself in my dorm room, which looked very sketchy to powders and just mix the various pills and powders and potions that I would get from all over the place. So I had a lot of familiarity with this particular world, the landscape, the players, how things were sold, because that is where I spent money. Got it. OK, so you're you're thinking of starting a business where you're going to sell some kind of sports supplement, right?


Yeah. And so what do you do next? Well, like, the best time to start a company is when you have a job.


Yeah. Yeah. I knew this was a good window. So I begin when I realized I was going to get fired because everyone was getting fired.


Yeah, I would say about maybe a month or two before I started using these empty conference rooms during lunch hour to make phone calls to contract manufacturers, to make phone calls to biochemists who are who are available as contractors, reaching out to anyone and everyone to try to figure out how things were formulated, how things were made, what type of insurance was needed, what the minimum investment was, all these things while I was still employed.


And so the first and ultimately only product that I made was intended to be initially a smart drug.


So this is not a muscle drug. This was, well, your brain muscle. But it was not for, like big muscles.


It was it was not for big muscles. It was very specifically. So I was cobbling together various ingredients to improve reaction, speed, reaction, like to anything.


Yeah. So reaction speed had sports implications. It also had attentional applications and improved starting time off the blocks as sprinters and improved performance in a couple of different sports.


And what were the what were the ingredients, by the way? What were the basic ingredients?


Was some of the ingredients would be things like the positive vinca, which is an extract of a minor and other compounds, little saryan, which inhibits cortisol release.


On some level, it's actually pretty good for sleep. I still use that now. So it's important for me to point out for a second for the first six months or so of trying to sell this product, which was called Brain Quicken. So very on the nose name.


I got all of my co-workers who were like secretly cheering me on to start this company, to commit to buying a few bottles upfront so that I knew I could afford them.


Manufacturing is an important point just for, say, I'm just imagining myself as your friend or colleague at that time. You're like, yeah, I'm working on this is like brain stimulant that's going to improve reaction time. And I'm experimenting with this and Vita Preen and Korda's all this and that. I would be like, I like Tim, keep that light away from me like you're nuts. You're just putting this stuff in your body, like you're just testing on your body.


Like, yeah, yeah.


Like I mean I would be terrified to take this stuff. Why would anybody want to. But why would anybody commit to buying a bottle of this stuff. Like what kind of peace of mind could you give them. Yeah, that's a very fair question.


Question is super fair, right?


Like you just imagine me like you get twenty dumping powder all over the dumping powder into a funnel in my bathroom next to the mirror.


Right. Right. This is the peace of mind came from this gentleman. I wish I can remember his name. I found during one of my lunch hour conference call sessions who was a biochemist who worked extensively with different brands trying to get into Trader Joe's. Right. And so he he was the adult supervision in terms of formulation. So everything in the product was on what's called the grass list. Jerry s generally recognized as safe. I guess I was not playing it fast and loose with selection of ingredients nor sourcing ingredients.


And that was the peace of mind because I was not going to be touching these products in terms of I'm not packing capsules in my living room couch right there. You might want to have you want to have good manufacturing practices and have this done by professionals. So, you know, and this is really how a lot of brands are started, whether it's. Supplements, whether it's clothing, whether it's cosmetics, right, it's not the entrepreneurs sitting down and figuring out by themselves all the specs of what these products will look like, you have an entire industry set up to assist someone in arriving at what they would consider a good product and just and just declare that the plan was to try to make this and then try and pitch it to like Trader Joe's and GNC and put on the shelves there.


The plan was initially to do actually what a lot of direct to consumer brands do now as a playbook to sell direct to consumer for better margins and to develop direct relationships with customers. And then the objective was to create enough consumer demand that people would ask at retail for this product, at which point then you sell at retail through wholesale accounts. I mean, you are at this point 23, 24, maybe close to 25, and you have no money.


So what was your entry point into getting these contract manufacturers and this biochemist to even work with you? I mean, did anybody like did they not know great age?


Do they not know like was it all all over the phone? Like, where did you get the confidence? Like where you just kind of putting on a deeper voice like what are you doing to me.


Like, yeah. How are you. How are you convincing them to work with you. This is like serious science.


Yeah. You have to remember that my job was selling multimillion dollar storage systems to CEOs and CEOs of sometimes major companies. I got really, really good at sales.


Yeah. So I bought every book you can imagine on sales. I read every biography I could find on people considered to be good salespeople like Richard Branson.


I made a real study of it and I kept meticulous logs of everything that worked and didn't work. Imagine an athlete recording every workout. I recorded what I did that worked when I was selling to CEOs and CEOs over the phone or in person. So I had scripts are openers that worked.


I would keep track of times of day that worked. For instance, it turns out that almost all of my coworkers made calls between nine to five. Well, who else is working from 9:00 to 5:00, every gatekeeper to CTO or CEO? And if you just came in an hour early and stayed an extra hour after work, your chances of getting the decision maker on the phone went up like, you know, hundredfold. So I made the bulk of my calls before the workday and after the workday.


So all of that. I used exactly to a tee to get a hold of, for instance, the president of this one contract manufacturing company, I called after hours. I called it like seven p.m.. Yeah. And he picked up.


But getting them on the phone is one thing. Convincing them to take you on as a client is quite something else.


And I couldn't afford their minimum orders.


So I had to pull on the heartstrings a little bit and say. I know there are a million reasons why you should say no to me, but I'm sure when you were coming up at some point, someone gave you a chance and opened the door, gave you an opportunity to prove yourself, and that made all the difference. I'm just asking for one chance.


Like the downside risk to you is this, this and this. It's very minimal.


But if this works, I'm going to be a client of yours for years and I will use you exclusively, which, by the way, is exactly what happened.


And I did make good on that. I mean, it's it's interesting because at that time in your life, this is like 20 or so, I'm a couple of years older than you, but around that time, I was a foreign correspondent and I lived in a world of journalism.


So there's a lot of skepticism like your natural response to something as you approach it with skepticism. And so I would have been mortified to do something like this because I thought, God, people are going to question me and ask me about my expertise and they're going to want to know how I know how to do this. And I'm just you know, I'm not a scientist like was any part of you did any part of you have self-doubt?


I didn't have a whole lot of self-doubt about the product just because I had effectively compiled the same motley assortment of ingredients and taken them myself as a competitive athlete in college.


So I didn't have a whole lot of doubts about that. Did I have doubts about the company doing well? Oh, yeah, absolutely. I mean, I was I was always very good about cash flow. I never took outside funding. I it was all bootstrapped, but the feedback loop was really long. I was doing most of my advertising through magazines. And I mean, you're committing to the advertising. I mean, sometimes like a month before printing, then it's printed, then it goes out.


Then you sort of wait for people to buy this magazine until you think you've reached the tail end. And then you look at your results. It's very slow, particularly compared to what you can do now online.


So you were advertising and and a lot of like fitness magazines because you realize that that's really where you've you've got to kind of target your your product. And what was the value proposition? What did it what did it promise to do?


The value prop was improving reaction, speed and power output. So I advertised in Blackbelt magazine. I advertised in Powerlifting USA. There were a handful of niche publications I worked with on a on a really consistent basis. So.


All right, so you presumably you start to go to the contract manufacturer and maybe they're sending it to you, but you're picking up like pallets of bottles of supplements of these supplements. Yeah, initially I was doing a lot myself.


Later we had warehouses and call centers and, you know, the whole nine yards.


But in the beginning, I would pack and mail out these products, which were sealed yet.


So I wasn't I wasn't messing with the contents of any of these bottles, but I would pack them up and ship them out priority mail so you would get like an email or somebody would order to the website.


And this is pretty Shopify.


It's super janky.


Yes, it was really janky in the B, so you would go in and see like somebody you have mail and somebody would would have ordered two bottles and then you would get them and pack them into it like a puffy envelope and then put a label on it and send it out yourself. That's what you did at the beginning. That's what I did. I remember the day I knew things had to be outsourced when I had a larger than normal day and I had all these boxes that I needed to get to the post office.


And my car wasn't working. So I put them all in a garbage bag like a huge hefty garbage bag and got on my motorcycle and rode to the post office with this gigantic Santa Claus sized sack hanging off of one of the handlebars and almost killed myself. I was like, OK, that's enough. We need to professionalize this outfit a little bit. When we come back in just a moment, how Tim goes on to build Brand Quicken to the point where it starts to burn him out and how his new ambition to work less and live more leads to an entirely new career.


Stay with us. I'm Guy Raz, and you're listening to how I built this from NPR. Hey, welcome back to how I built this from NPR. I'm Guy Raz.


So it's around 2004 and Tim Ferriss is hustling to get his sports supplement Brain Quicken into major retailers. And he doesn't really care if people like me or you or anyone are skeptical about the product as long as it's resonating with his target audience. Athletes, athletes really are binary.


Right. I mean, most athletes only care if something works. That's it. They try it.


If it works great, they'll keep you. If it doesn't, it's it's out. It's there not in it to have debates. They want to improve times or lift totals or whatever.


But honestly, I concluded pretty early and this translated to a lot of things later, too, that there's a difference between persuading someone to purchase a product and debating with someone who has no intention of ever changing their mind.


Right. Right. I wasn't making that my job, which I think a lot of people do. They make it their job to convince the world. And you shouldn't convince the world. You should convince the people who match most closely to what you're providing.


Yeah. So I came to believe really early on that it's not about the number of people who don't get it. It's about the number of people who do get it.


And at this point, were you were you still running the business out of your apartment in San Jose at that time?


I was in Mountain View and then later to San Jose and then eventually up to San Francisco. But at that point, I was out of a tiny apartment complex in Mountain View, right across the street from the Jack in the Box.


Perfect breakfast, lunch and dinner. That's right. So was there a turning point, like, did something happen? Like, all of a sudden you just. Got a big order one day or was like a like a slow burn, it was slow until I developed a playbook that could be repeated and it was it was pretty straightforward, actually. It came down to managing cash flow. I mean, this is not going to be super surprising that one of the benefits of this product category is that the margins are very healthy.


Even if you use top tier ingredients, you can have very healthy margins, like movie popcorn is like movie popcorn, except drugs.


And and secondly, if you get to a point where you can negotiate very effectively for advertising, which I did, you can sometimes buy, say, a full page advertisement for.


A tenth of rate card, so let's say then that I get a page that is priced at 20 K for 2K. Then I go to one of the best-known larger retailers or retailers out there. Right. So I might go to making this up, obviously. But let's just say Bob suppliments dotcom. He is a wholesale account. He's buying at 40 percent off of my list price. And I say, you know, Bob, I have a full page ad coming out in X, Y, Z magazine.


Rate card is 20000 dollars. I will make you the exclusive retailer.


I'll put your 800 number, your website in the ad if you pre commit to 15000 dollars worth of product.


In that case, even before a single customer has called, I have effectively locked in 13000 dollars. Right. And I've removed a lot of risk.


Tim, how did you learn to do that at such a young age?


Did you. Was it from that sales job being around those people? It was part of the sales job. Another thing that I did when I was really young, I had terrible insomnia. When I was a kid, I would not be able to fall asleep. And when I was a kid, I would stay up. Now, what if thinking about early 80s, what was on television at 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning? Infomercials. Infomercials, correct.


So I became fascinated by infomercials. How does this actually work? And even in high school and college, I would sometimes order products from infomercials or call their numbers to see what types of scripts they used. I had this fascination with systems and what worked and what didn't, which is pretty easy to discern. Like if somebody advertises all the time for months or years on end, something is working. They have to pay for those ads in some fashion.


And I started putting together what is sometimes called a swipe file swipe, meaning steal any time I was persuaded to buy through an advertisement, through a phone call, through whatever it was. I would say in the case of a magazine where the advertisement put it into a three ring binder and collect everything that persuaded me to buy. And then I would study those ads and and circle what I thought the salient points were that compelled me to buy. And I would also track everything that happens.


So let's say I bought a product, I might buy two of them and then return one to see what their return process looked like, to see what their refund process looked like. And so I I collected all of these scripts in terms of capping downside, and that was in the case of advertising and negotiating the price down and then getting a guaranteed minimum from the retailer. That was just a discovery. And then once I figured out that it worked because I'd thrown a million things against the wall and only a few of them worked, I was like, this is something I think I can replicate.


What's so interesting is that, like taking know, calling up these these like infomercial call numbers and analyzing the script and taking out ads and circling names. That's not normal. Like most teens. It's like it's like that character on on Homeland, you know, like circling people and putting them on a pinboard like and I'm wondering if.


Yeah, because I think it's obviously really smart.


Right. You start to recognize patterns and you were studying different approaches that would then serve you well later.


But I can't imagine you were thinking one day I am going to be doing something like this.


I will need to know how to do this. Now, it sounds to me like you were just really interested in it. You were just like, how does this work?


I think the drive to replicate it and the interest in doing it myself actually came up really early when I was a kid suffering from insomnia.


I wasn't thinking that I was just watching these things because they were on.


But later, because they know my family didn't have much money, like money was the thing.


That was a point of contention.


It was sometimes a point of stress is not really a whole lot of conflict, but it was a concern. Right. This was a subject that came up a fair amount. And I think in my mind, if you have money, all these issues and problems you might have in life for yourself or for your family, just go away.


That was what I concluded. So the drive to make money came in early.


Yeah. For me, which makes sense.


And I mean, because I'm sure you are passionate about the mission of brain quick and maybe maybe you weren't, but but ultimately it was a way for you to earn a living.




And I was a passionate may not be the right word, but I, I believed in the product and I would not have been able to do it. Had I been slinging God knows what. I don't think I would have had the endurance to keep going in that case.


And at what point did you have to hire somebody to help you like a year in or less? I didn't do a whole lot of hiring, I had a virtual assistant, it was just me and.


And were you still packing the stuff too? Or or was the contract expired? Dealing with the logistics?


There was a contract manufacturing that would get shipped to a fulfillment center which was coordinated with call centers.


And these people were all independent contractors. But I was still a bottleneck for a lot of decisions. Right. I mean, I would get calls from the fulfillment center. They're like, hey, this Olympic athlete needs this thing overnighted to Croatia. What should we do? Because there wasn't a policy in place for how to handle that. You know, I got these daily questions that just suffocated me. So I would say early mid 2004 is when I broke basically.


I mean, that's when I kind of burned out because you were just we were working all the time. I was working all the time. Oh, yeah. And my girlfriend at the time, I thought I was going to get engaged to, et cetera, left. She broke up with me because I never saw her. I mean, I can't blame her in retrospect, but she gave me this, huh? Dear John Plack, it was basically one of these three sided photo holders from Target or someplace like that.


And she had created this piece of artwork with like a photo of my head cut out. It was quite elaborate and said business hours. And at five p.m., wow, put that on my desk as a reminder, which she encouraged me to do as she exited stage left. And I was like, OK, well, what I'm doing isn't working. And you're doing pretty well, right? Like you, I think your business was doing like 40000 dollars in revenue month at that point.


Yeah, yeah. I was doing like 42, I would guess one hundred, maybe even slightly more per month. Wow. So it was doing really well. I mean, you were making it the salary of a partner at a law firm when you were 26, 27. And, you know, I saw a path to grow that in multiples, keeping in mind that that's one product. Yeah. The normal playbook would then have me create a whole line of products which you can sell, guess what, to the same distributors, to the same retailers.


But I was already a human bottleneck, so I was just, you know, as far as full time employees jobs, just me. Were you selling the products at retailers now? I mean, mostly retailers rather than direct to consumer?


I don't remember the exact split, but it was at both. It was both direct to consumer end at retailers, which was becoming a real thing, and at retail and internationally. So it was also being sold internationally at this point.


Did you like the operational side of it or was that the part that that you didn't like?


I would have said didn't like it just because that would have been a contributing element of having no time.


And I had no time.


Yeah, I was waking up super early to communicate with customers in Europe and so on. I would stay up extremely late to communicate with clients and other time zones.


The only breaks out take like Cantabrians in the morning, maybe Lean Cuisine for 45 seconds at lunch, and then thankfully some type of exercise for, you know, an hour, hour and a half stop at Jack in the Box on the way back, take a shower and then keep working. I mean, I just never stopped working.


And, you know, when that relationship ended for me, it also just put into stark relief the fact that the objective isn't to have the money.


The objective is whatever you two have, whatever you trade the money for, whatever it represents to you and. I telescoped out a few years and I'm like, what does this look like a year from now? Three years from now, five years from now? And it just everything gets worse. My health gets worse, my psychological well-being gets worse. So I need to change something.


Yeah, but presumably you still wanted to make money, so I wanted the business to operate. So what kind of things do you put in place to allow you to do that?


Well, there are some really simple things, for instance, that I sent out an email to my fulfillment center and said from this point forward, in effect, please assume that if a problem can be fixed for less than 100 dollars, just go ahead and fix it, charge it to my account. That type of providing of guidelines for autonomous decision making and the fixes required a lot of hard thought, but the implementation of most of them was actually very, very simple, firing a bunch of my high maintenance customers.


That was another thing. You know, a handful of my 20 wholesale customers were producing like 90 percent of the negative emotions that I felt with my customers. So but there were really lucrative. So I had I put up with a lot of nonsense and bad behavior and basically sending a letter to those folks saying, here are the policies going forward. If these terms don't work for you and your company, we're happy to make a referral to another company.


You can blah, blah, blah, blah. And almost all of those belligerent customers did a complete 180 about face and went on best behavior. One or two coerced me out and I fired them. And just with that decision alone, the emotional experience that I had working completely changed. But what's really important is that I had arrived at a point where I had committed to either untangling the mess and extricating myself as a bottleneck or shutting down the business.


I had come to a point of acceptance and a willingness to do that if I couldn't figure it out. But but I mean, you didn't you didn't shut down the business. I mean, you you kind of got it to the point where you you were able to travel and then you you ended up traveling for like the next 18 months or so starting in London and then Ireland and Berlin and then Argentina.


And was that I mean, was that your idea to kind of do like a total reset on the way you'd been living your life up to that point?


Yeah, while I was traveling. So what I'd done up to that point is scheduled my entire life in 10 or 15 minute outlook increments. Right. Or calendar increments and everything was extremely regimented. And when I landed in London, I wanted to do the opposite of what I had done up to that point. You know, I went to an Irish pub and liked the music and somebody said, if you really like this, you should go to Dublin.


And I said, OK.


And I got on a easyJet flight or Ryanair flight, landed in Dublin and went to another pub and they said, What the hell are you doing in Dublin? Galway has the art festival about to start. You should go to Galway. And I said, OK. And I got on a bus and went to Galway knowing nothing about Galway and bounced around like that, determined by chance encounters with people along the way. And a friend of mine who was born in Panama invited me to Panama.


I go to Panama and one of his best friends was half Argentine and said, If you want the best wine, the most beautiful women and the easiest ability to live like a king on dollars, you should go to Argentina.


And I said good sales pitch and initially planned on being in Argentina for four weeks. I was not planning on being there for a long time.


How long you to stay? Nine months. Wow.


And you would go to these places and just without knowing anybody and you would start out at a youth hostel and that's how you would kind of start to meet people.


And yep, that's exactly what I did.


And I would use activities to build friendships quickly. I had hurling in Ireland, I had different types. I did kickboxing and jujitsu and Berlin. I did then tango in Argentina, which I, I actually had a strong bias against when I first got there. I had no interest in learning tango because my impression of it was all based on true lies and movies where it looked super cheese ball and over choreographed. But it got so damn hot in Buenos Aires at one point and I was waiting for a friend of mine to finish a Spanish class.


So I walked into this tango music shop that had air conditioning and this chain smoking woman who was the owner got so pissed at me eventually because I was just loitering in there, pretending to look at crazy stuff that she asked. She's like, Hey, hey, kid, if you're going to hang out here all day, you might as well pay me ten pesos and take a ten. A class upstairs and I was like, OK, and that was it for me, I realized that anger just consumed me from that point forward.


You were just following your curiosity everywhere you went, like you would just find something that was interesting and then you just kind of follow that. That's exactly that's exactly what I did. But but you were also like not just taking tango classes like you then eventually would compete in the Tango World Championships and got an entry in the Guinness Book of World Records for most consecutive tango scenes. Like that's like taking it to a different level, like a competitive level. Is that what where did that come from?


It came from a few things. I wanted to get better tango. And they're for me, getting learning skills has a blueprint. And it's there are certain approaches that just improve your rate of learning. So I collected video clips of myself dancing of other instructors, dancing, teaching certain techniques. And then each night I would take that footage and I would put them into different folders based on the type of technique. Then based on the video, I would take notes in a tiny little notebook that I could fit in my back pocket and I would try to use these techniques in the wild, which often backfired.


Then I would take notes on what went wrong. And I mean, I practiced like six hours a day. I mean, I had to take days off because my feet would get bruised because the shoes are really, really thin. And I loved it. I really I really loved it.


I mean, it sounds almost like I'm trying to think about about this from, like, the easy analogy. As a journalist, I would have written a profile about you. Right. And I would have done all of that work out of looked at videos. I would have studied you. I would have followed you. But it's almost like you did that about yourself, like you told yourself the entire time that you were. Studying yourself, yeah, I mean, how do you the real question I was trying to answer and implement was how do you observe yourself?


Because most of us are so wrapped up in our own experience that we can't really deconstruct what went well or what went wrong. No.


And there are some really simple fixes to that. And I learned a lot of this through languages, honestly, including the fact that you're always going to have plateau's when you try to add more difficult skills and then you'll have another inflection point and a plateau, maybe a dip and then inflection points. That became something I expected rather than something that discouraged me.


In the case of sports, use a video camera. It seems so obvious, but like how many people have taken tennis lessons or fill in the blank lessons and have never seen video of themselves.


Yeah, so there are some really basic approaches to increasing your ability to see yourself.


So. So, all right. So you're having this experience and while you're overseas, you you realize you can have a much richer, more fulfilling life without having to work on this all consuming business all the time.


And and is this when you start to think you might write a book about this whole experience?


The book was nowhere on my radar during the travel period, but.


I had taken notes along the way because I have always taken notes and I ended up with this huge stack of material, so I at one point emailed Jack Canfield, who was co-author, cocreator of Chicken Soup for the Soul, because I had gotten to know him by volunteering at non-profits. And I reached out to him and I was like, Jack, here's what's going on. Do you think there's anything here to chew on? Should I even look into this hoping that he would just kind of snuff it out, if that makes any sense?


I didn't really want to write a book, but and the idea was I was when you when you wrote to Jack, you said what? Like, I think I think I want to write a book about my experience or how to run a business. Like what was that was the elevator pitch. Well, the pitch was I had mocked up a front and back cover, which I think is an excellent way to force some clarity on the book itself. Right.


So the elevator pitch was the back cover and it and it really came down to creating more time, more wealth and doing it through systems and working smarter instead of working harder. That's what it came down to. And he introduced me to a couple of agents and they all said no. And then one who had been a very successful editor but was only newly an agent, had to follow on conversations and he thought I had legs. And so we pursued it.


It's just to see what the hell would happen, really. And it started to become exciting to me. But just to clarify, I mean, like to make it, quote unquote, sexy or interesting, you were going to include personal anecdotes of kind of your adventures overseas to to illustrate how you could live a more fulfilling life and own your time. Yeah. To give concrete examples of what this looks like in the wild, because the abstract, high level conceptual stuff is boring.


OK, so you you have this book idea and you start to shop it around to a bunch of different publishers. Hmm. And what's their response when you when you sent the proposal around?


The response was mostly who the hell is this kid?


No, emphatically saved a few of those.


So the book was turned down somewhere between 26 and 29 times. It's turned out a lot and my pitch got better.


I mean, if you think about how I took notes on phone calls, I took notes and video and tango. I took notes and did postmortems on every meeting we had with every publisher. So we were able to tweak and iterate and refine the pitch.


By the time we got to Crown who was the publisher, it was very polished and they said yes and bought it at a very, very advantageous bargain basement price.


But the upside, the royalties would go to you. But they got, yeah. A good deal. And I was fine with that. And I was fine as they should as they should. And the book was called The Four Hour Work Week.


Right. That was what you called it. Yeah. And the main thesis of the book is for those who haven't read it essentially is that time is the most valuable thing you have. It's not having a lot of money. It's having time and the freedom to choose what to do with your time.


Yeah, the thesis is time is a non-renewable resource. Money is renewable. You can always make more money later time. Haven't figured that out just yet.


And whether you want to work four hours a week or 10 or 80, there are certain principles and tactics you can use to dramatically increase your per hour output. And that was the book.


And when it came time to actually launch the book, I mean, just like you, you done with Tango and Brain Quicken and and so many other things, from what I understand, you basically made a systematic study of how you were going to launch it. Yeah. And once I shipped the final manuscript to the publisher, you know, I sat down and made a study of book launches and I interviewed best selling authors. And one of the questions I asked was what type of promotion or marketing delivered much better results than you expected and which delivered much worse results than you expected.


And one of the patterns that was spotted at the time was that television was decreasing in importance, that blogs these things, called blogs, were dramatically increasing in importance and impact. So I decided to take all of the budget I had allocated for. For the book launch, almost all of it, and to go to in-person events to try to put myself in the path of bloggers, of various types. I wanted to achieve a surround sound effect of sorts, at least that's what I call it, which is choosing four or five outlets that nearly every one of my target demo at the time consumed on a daily or weekly basis, Techmeme, TechCrunch, etc.


Gizmodo, so that I would appear to be everywhere, even though in reality that was not the case. So I had some very clear, quantifiable targets to hit and ended up getting early copies of the book to many of the most influential bloggers of the time. And a few of them ended up writing about it, which provided a toehold in the tech entrepreneurial community of Silicon Valley. But how did you given that you were an unknown writer? Right.


You did not have access to national media. You were not a celebrity. I mean, how were you going to convince these or how did you even get these outlets to cover the book at all under cover?


You. Well, it was a progression, so I think when people try to launch, oftentimes they think that the more customers I have, the more prospects, the better. So everyone's going to be my customer. Right. And when everyone's your customer. No knowing that your customer, you don't have any focus.


So for me, I thought to myself, well, really, my first target is let's just let's just call it 20 to 35 year old tech savvy males in a handful of major cities like San Francisco.


And I know how to reach those people because I'm being highly specific. If I knock over that domino, then the next domino to fall will be 20 to 35 year old tech savvy females in the same cities. So I went after the bloggers first, and what I would do is just go to these events.


I'd kind of loiter around a try to end up in a small group of people who are talking. I would buy drinks when I could, and eventually somebody in the group would say, who the hell are you again?


Like, you've been sitting here for an hour listening to everybody else, like, what do you do? And I go, Oh, I'm working on my first book and I'm here trying to learn more about blogs. I would leave it at that. This is really important.


And then if anybody followed up and said, well, what's the book about, then I would tell them and then maybe give them an example.


And at the end of it, if they seemed interested, I would say, if you'd like, I can send you an early copy and I can put a Post-it note on the five or 10 pages that I think would be most interesting to you to take 20 minutes to check out. And that's a sure great. And so I, I just repeated that over and over again and sent out 20 to 40 of them with Post-it notes. And I had to put in the work and that set the ball in motion.


Let me come back in just a moment. How a book turns into a brand and have a four hour workweek starts to take over Tim's entire work week. Stay with us. I'm Guy Raz, and you're listening to how I built this from NPR. Welcome back to how I built this from NPR. I'm Guy Raz. So it's 2007 and after a very carefully crafted marketing campaign, Tim's book, The Four Hour Work Week, is launched into the world in just a short time later, it starts hitting all kinds of milestones, like the New York Times bestseller list.


It happened very quickly. So it happened in the first week or two.


I want to say, and I remember how the Jackson, my editor calling me and telling me and I was so exhausted, I had just done a radio satellite tour where you are just on the phone doing radio interviews all day long and drinking pots of coffee. And I was so wiped out it was six or seven o'clock Eastern. And she said, hey there, Mr. New York Times, best selling author or something like that. And I remember just saying I was like, Heather, please don't I just I don't have it in me right now.


And she is like, no, you hit the list, hit the list. And I remember I was leaning against the wall and I sort of slid down the wall on my back and just like sat on the floor. And I was like, this might change things, just might change things. And then it took until August for the book to become the monthly number one bestseller in the business category. That book ended up spending four years on the New York Times bestseller list, just like this kind of self-perpetuating phenomenon.


And yeah, and I wonder why why do you think I mean, even though you promoted it and you had this really great strategy that only takes you so far.


Like what? What is that? Why why do you think it became this phenomenon?


Well, I do think that it was perfectly timed and I think that it's appealing to fundamental desires people have.


And it's also painting a really humanized picture of the pain and the struggle that people experience. Because I was telling not only my story, but I gathered case studies.


I talked about lawyers who had been caught in Groundhog Day and even though they were making money or miserable, and then they gave it all up supposedly to start a surf school in Brazil, I gave these case studies, which were real examples of people who had passed through this gauntlet of self-doubt and criticism from colleagues, family, pushback from significant others to redefine themselves and to create these lives.


When this became a phenomenon, you became famous overnight. I mean, pretty quickly, not overnight, but pretty quickly and much in demand. As a speaker, as a consultant, you really became this kind of iconic figure, certainly, and among a certain type of Silicon Valley tech worker.


Did you like that?


Did you like all of a sudden becoming kind of famous? I liked aspects of it. I was bewildered and flattered. It just shot so far beyond anything. I could have anticipated that I was also caught very unprepared. I don't I don't know if you can prepare for something like that, even if you do that, it was coming. But the amount of inbound that you get when a book hits the New York Times bestseller list and stays on that list for a period of time is incredibly exciting.


Speakers, bureaus, interviews, foreign rights, movie rights. I mean, all of these things come in and I had no idea how to handle any of it. So there's part of me that thought I finally reached escape velocity. This is what I've always wanted and quickly learned that there were a lot of downsides and compromises, privacy issues, crazy people, stalkers, death threats. I mean, nuts, nuts. So experiences that I would not have envisioned being part of the package.


And also criticism you got criticized. Hey, just like tech, bro, a lot of critical negative reviews. Did you notice that? Did you ignore it? Did you internalize it? Was the positive response so overwhelming that it kind of shielded you from the negative response?


I wasn't shielded, no. At that point, I wasn't shielded and I didn't. In the beginning, I didn't make an attempt to shield myself.


So I felt like it was my job to to answer questions and correct misperceptions and felt very confident. The book. I think that if I look back at a lot of the mistakes I made early on, there were moments when I wanted. Who convert the people who shouted the loudest that they hated my work, but they weren't actually people I admired in general and fortunately on the other side of the ledger, there were tech entrepreneurs and CEOs and people I respected tremendously who found something of value in the book.


They found it compelling enough that they would speak positively about it.


And that offset, I think the the criticism when this came out and the demands for speaking in interviews and consulting and appearances and all these things, at what point did it become clear to you that this, for better or worse, that your business was now Tim Ferriss Inc and not suppliments or the next thing it was actually that you.


As a personality, we're going to be the brand as well, about a year after the book came out, I realized that I had signed up for a journey. I didn't necessarily want to be a part of 100 percent. What I mean by that is I said yes to everything and I was traveling every three to five days to some speaking gig. God knows where. I was exhausted all the time.


I was also repeating myself a lot and then I would say about two years in. So let's just call it 2009. I stopped doing a lot of this.


So the I was being pulled in the direction of author, speaker after speaker, which is a very tried and true path. I mean, this is how a lot of authors make the majority of their income is through speaking. But the biggest risk was that I would become the four hour work week guy and put myself into a corner and that I would knowingly or unknowingly become this kind of talking sock puppet, regurgitating the same lessons that are covered in the first book forever.


So I made the difficult decision, but in retrospect, great decision to stop doing almost all speaking like I really don't do any speaking and have it for a very long time. I do almost none. And instead, that is what took me into the world of angel investing and advising and becoming involved with startups. So that all started around 2008, 2009? Yeah, it was part of diversifying my identity because I was very worried that if I went all in as the book guy, the four hour work week, that my entire self-worth and my ups or downs, my depression or lack thereof would hinge on having a successful second book.


It's a part of my diversification of my identity. And Worth was also getting into the investor. But then clearly you did understand the value of of the four hour concept as a brand because his the next two books would be around that concept. I mean, you did the the four hour chef and the four hour body with with all kinds of suggestions. I'm losing weight and physical training and stuff like that. Yeah, exactly. So in an effort to give myself an entirely new domain in which I could explore my personal and professional life, I decided to sell the four hour body, which was a huge reach.


I mean, we're we're jumping completely out of the work category into diet and fitness.


So is about all things physical improvement related, modification related, everything from breath holding to vertical jump to ultra endurance to fat loss, you name it.


Right. All these mini chapters. I also want to point out that the world body came out right at the birth of or just before the birth of the quantified self movement and biohacking and self tracking, I mean, these were effectively non-existent.


That provided a few incredibly powerful, inevitable trends that were going to surge and provide a lot of rocket fuel to this book.


And it ended up working.


And once it worked, it gave me creative license. And it also gave me credibility with publishers and others to do whatever the hell I wanted as long as it had a focus on efficiency and effectiveness.


This is really where you kind of, I think, begin to. I mean, you'd always been experimenting on yourself, right, with supplements and different things, and but this is really where you kind of become for a while known as it's like a human guinea pig. Did that annoy you?


Did it did you think that that was it wasn't really explaining describing what you do or did? I was all for it.


I described myself that way. Also, one peculiar aspect of my hardwiring is that I enjoy figuring out the puzzle.


I enjoy being the human guinea pig who tries a thousand things and then puts together the Cliff Notes index card version for my friends or readers.


I get a high out of that. Yeah, I will say a lot of the things that I do also are just to see if it's possible. So, for instance, I have reduced capacity in my left lung from complications when I was born premature.


And the story I've always told myself is I can't hold my breath as long as so-called normal people. But then I spent time with David Blaine, who had learned how to hold his breath for, I want to say, 14 plus minutes, and was able to get to a point combining practice and technique. I got to the point where I can hold my breath for five minutes. Plus you can you've come to believe you can train your human body to do things that we think are impossible.


That's right. And what I think gets lost in the shuffle is that when you do something like that or you learn how to memorize a shuffled deck of cards and like 60 seconds or 20 seconds, which is is a very trainable skill that is known like the mechanics of note of learning something. I know it shakes the foundation of the other stories, the other impossibles that you have in your life. Yeah. Do you think that I mean, you're really smart guy.


You were a really good student and you've got a good brain. Do you think that the fact that you like to learn new things and you and you do learn them is because you've got a good brain, or do you think that these are skills that anybody could acquire? I think these are approaches to learning that anyone, almost anyone can use, assuming they don't have physical disabilities. Right.


I mean, if you're and even if you were blind or deaf, I have fans who use these techniques and just adapt them. So a good brain helps tremendously. But I have seen I'll give you a real example. At a racetrack in Northern California, I saw a McLaren supercar get beaten around the track in a race by a driving instructor in a Miata race.


So there is even in a field that you would assume is dependent entirely on horsepower and engineering of a superior vehicle. Even in a discipline like that, skill can be and technique can be a real deciding factor. So I would say that in my experience, I do think almost anyone can apply these things in the same way that, you know, you don't need to understand how a microwave works to follow the QuickStart directions in the manual to use the microwave.


Right. You don't have to be a neuroscientist to learn how to memorize a shuffled deck of cards. You just need a system and those systems exist. So I'm a collector of an a tester of these systems. That's at the end of the day.


I think largely what I do well, I think is really remarkable about your journey is that you did actually like you are really not known as the four hour guy anymore like you are. And you've written other books since then and they've been very successful. But really today you're most widely known as a podcast. Yeah. And this is something you kind of just started as a whim in 2014. Yeah.


The Tim Fair show was really just started out as a fun project to improve my ability to ask questions, which I was going to use in writing books later. Anyway, if I wrote more books, the part of the process of writing books that I actually enjoy the most, which is talking to the experts all the hardest when it comes after that.


Yeah, but teasing out the insights and habits of these world class performers is really what I love to do.


One of the things that I think is really interesting about I mean, there's so many interesting things about about your podcast, but one of the things that you've talked a lot about is psychedelics and your use of them to help help you with depression.


And and earlier, we talked about your time in college and we didn't we didn't go into this. But I know that you had experimented with alcohol, mushrooms, and I'm not super sure. Yeah, yeah. We can just call and do that. Kind of just continue for. The rest of your life after that, was it kind of a regular thing or was it on and off or it was on and then off? Because it was at the time this is in college and I think a fair number of people have had this experience.


It was not supervised. It was not methodical. I mean, it's a bunch of college kids reaching into a Ziploc bag and grabbing God knows how much, no scale involved. And I had a number of incredibly positive experiences and that I had a very, very terrifying experience that showed me that these things are very powerful and need to be or should be done and controlled safe environment. So I had been fascinated by the therapeutic potential of these compounds and what they might elucidate about the nature of mind and consciousness.


For a long time, I stopped, though, in any way consuming psychedelics for a good stretch of time. Let's just call it eight or 10 years. But I found someone I was able to get a reference to, someone who is highly recommended for guided mushroom experiences. And I was able to surrender to the experience and to come out of it feeling completely safe. And that marked the beginning of a very, very deep study of these compounds, both experientially, but also from the research perspective.


And it was around the same time that I became very heavily involved in supporting scientific research in a number of different institutions and look for people who are familiar with it.


And I met I mean, I'm not you know, I'm I'm boring, you know, like I'm a dad or two kids. And but I've read enough about it to understand that actually there's a lot for us to learn. Right? Yeah.


Yeah. So I will say just a few things to provide a little bit of context. So the first is that psilocybin, which is the psychoactive molecule or one of them is certainly within the mushrooms we've been talking about so-called magic mushrooms has been granted breakthrough therapy designation for the treatment of depression.


And there are risks if you have a family predisposition to schizophrenia, say, and you're taking these things in your 20s, it can trigger there are risks. Right.


And so I should point out, the legal side effects of these compounds are significant for most people listening. Certainly in the United States, these are schedule one and illegal to possess or use and certainly to distribute in many, many places. So you need to be aware of that.


So I don't recommend these loosley or in any cavalier way. I discourage people from psychedelics more than I encourage them.


I want to I want to turn to something slightly different. And I may throw you for a little bit of a curveball, but but you've talked about your parents support. You know, clearly you have a they're really important to you as a child and clearly you have a good relationship with them.


And I wonder I mean, you know, did you ever think that by this point in your life you would be a parent? No, I didn't. Thinking about kids was off the table for me up until very recently. And quite frankly, I felt up until a few years ago that I was too flawed to, in good faith, bring another life into this world. So I took it off the table. I say first and foremost, that for a long time, certainly with my close brush with suicide in college, I assumed I wouldn't make it past 30.


And then there was a point where I said, I'm probably not going to make it past 40, whether it's these dangerous hobbies that I have or something else probably won't make it to 40. So I should really make this time count. And it's really only with the support of my girlfriend, who I love very dearly, that I've arrived at a point where I feel like that's a possibility. So I would like to have kids and I think that I've taken that emergency brake off only because I have reached a certain level of self acceptance and self-love, which are things I never would have taken seriously in my 20s or maybe even in my 30s.


I mean, I viewed this. The idea of self-love is as self-indulgent a recipe for complacency, and I have certainly changed my mind. I think that if you don't love yourself completely, how are your kids going to learn to love themselves completely? So that's that's a. Project that I certainly don't impose on anyone else, but I take it very seriously for myself. Tell me when you think about what do you think about, like all of the things that you've packed into your 43 years?


It's a lot of stuff. And you're you know, you've got several more chapters ahead of you, including maybe fatherhood. How much of that of what's happened to you do you think is because of how hard you worked and how smart you are? And how much do you think is just because of luck?


You know, I wish I had enough self-awareness and perspective to give you a, you know, 17 percent, 35 percent, and I'm sure you could quantify, but you're pretty good numbers. I could figure out how to quantify it.


But I think there's a tendency among people who have some modicum of success when they're asked a question like that in public to say, oh, it's all luck or believe their own hype to the extent that they think it was all grit and determination and planning, I think it's got to be a mixture.


I do think there are a handful of things I've done right. And the fact of the matter is, I've gotten a lot wrong.


Like I have made so many mistakes and have brought myself to the brink of destruction. I mean, not just once, but multiple times.




I mean, a lot of days I just like roll out of bed and I look like Eeyore and then I, like, get up and somehow managed to, like, get to a basic level of consciousness by jumping into a cold pool and, like, eating a handful of walnuts.


And then I like putts around and I'm not sure what to do for three hours. And then I spend the next three hours, like beating the hell out of myself in my own head because I'm so unproductive and on and on and on.




That is the majority of my day is look something like that. Despite that, I think that I am very good at thinking about bets and experiments that have limited downside, that have incredibly high upside. If they work out and I put those in a calendar and I try a lot of things. And for that reason, I, I would really hope that where I've ended up is not all luck because there's nothing to be learned there. You're right. There's nothing to be learned.


And I don't think it's all luck. I guess just to keep doing what I'm doing, I have to tell myself some version of that story. But I think it's true. I think it's true. That's Tim Ferriss, entrepreneur, author, investor and host of the podcast The Tim Fair Show. By the way, there are so many incredibly challenging things at Tim's tried over the years that we didn't have time to get into them. Like, for example, he learned a form of Japanese horseback archery.


He also worked as an MTV break dancer in Taiwan. And in less than a week, Tim learned how to play drums well enough to perform the song hot-Blooded at a sold out concert with the band Hauner.


And thanks so much for listening to the show this week, you can subscribe wherever you get your podcasts, you can write to us at IBT Unpeg if you want to follow us on Twitter at how I built this or at Guy Raz and on Instagram or at Guy Raz. This episode was produced by Casey Herman with music composed by REM teen Arab Louis. Thanks also to Liz Metzger, Derek Scale's J.C. Howard, Julia Kaniva Grant and Jeff Rogers. Our intern is Fera Safari.


I'm Guy Raz. And you've been listening to how I built this.