Hello, boys and girls, ladies and germs, this is Tim Ferriss, welcome to another episode of the Tim Fair Show. Or it is my job to deconstruct world class performers, to tease out the thought processes, the best practices, the influences and so on, that you can hopefully copy and paste into your own life in some fashion to test out the toolkits of people who are the best at what they do. My guest this episode is a return guest, Josh Waitzkin.
He was, in fact, the second ever guest in episode two of this podcast. We've known each other a long time. Josh Waitzkin is author of The Art of Learning. He is an eight time U.S. national chess champion, a two time world champion, Taichi Push Hands, and the first Brazilian jujitsu blackbelt under nine time world champion Marcello Garcia, widely believed to be the greatest grappler who has ever lived, at least in the world, APJ for the past 12 years, maybe 13, maybe 14.
Now Josh has been channeling his passion for the outer limits of the learning process towards training elite metal performers and business and finance or finance, if you prefer, and to revolutionizing the education system. Through his non-profit foundation, The Art of Learning Project, Josh is currently in the process of taking on his fourth and fifth disciplines paddle surfing and foiling. Josh's always a fantastic thought partner. He is constantly pushing back at anything that I say, which reflects sloppy thinking or imprecise thinking or consensus thinking.
And he's a lovely guy. So please enjoy this wide ranging conversation with none other than Josh Waitzkin.
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At this altitude, I can run flat out for a half mile before my hands start shaking. Can I ask you a question now at the time? I'm a cybernetic organism living over metal and was going to Paris, so. We have beautiful Oza. Dutch shepherd of small stature next to us, growing quickly with Josh Waitzkin, polymath of medium stature, Tim Fabrício.
I'm Tim Ferriss and Josh Baby, it's good to see you again. Interesting label, polymath of medium stature.
Dembo That's good. Uh, I've got excellent coffee. Strong. To fuel our conversation, feel good about this whole thing, me to turn the tables on you a little bit. Yeah, let's get into it.
So our plan here is for me to interview Tim a little bit and open up some questions. And we've been having a beautiful few weeks of dialogue. Over meals in ice and ice plunges and sonas, last bunch of days have been really intense conversation. One of the patterns that I find really powerful in our dialogue is that when we talk about ideas and potential projects, you consistently have the ability to ask gating questions that frame the discussion differently. And I tend to think I'm pretty good at that.
But what I find surprising is how and one thing I love is that when I bring ideas to you, you you take it to another level and it's consistently jolting. And after our conversations, I often look at something quite differently and I love that. And so how would you deconstruct your relationship to gating questions? How do you approach them? Let's do a deep dive first. Could you define or describe for me what the gating question is?
If we're talking about an idea or let's just say someone ought to approach you with a project that they're thinking about, you tend to go at it with first principles and you have a way of approaching the subject with a different framing.
I observe your approach exposes like on the David Foster Wallace, this is water people. A fish isn't aware of its water. You are very good at showing people what their water is. And you have a way of of tackling the subject that they've been thinking about for days or weeks or months or years and very quickly showing them angles of it that that they haven't considered. And I've watched you that with a lot of people. I think it's one of your power zones.
And I just thought it'd be really cool for you to talk about how you approach it. Yeah, this is fun. I don't often talk about this. Or I suppose even think about it explicitly when I talk to. Folks who are presenting an idea, a plan, hope, a goal, think the first thing that I do, and this is probably honed over many, many, many years of getting pitched hundreds of times with startups.
Is. There are a few stock questions, so I think I cheat in that respect, I have a handful of. Triage tools that I use on the intake, so if somebody comes in, it's kind of like, are you having trouble breathing? No, I mean me check your pulse, let me check your vitals. And there are a few questions like that that I use repeatedly.
One would be asking someone what assumptions they are making to see if they're even consciously aware of the assumptions that are being made, which is also a really good test to see how rigorously they've examined other aspects of whatever the plan or goal might be. What makes this attractive? What are the aspects of this that you assume to be true, that make this attractive?
If it's an idea or something like that, the answer they give or don't give, it's kind of like the Sherlock Holmes the case of the dog not barking, like sometimes they don't give it. That really says a lot and removes the need for a lot of follow ups. Another one that I ask all the time, and I think this is in part because I get asked a lot about writing books. I'm thinking about writing a book or I'm about to start writing a book or I'm going to be selling a book.
And I've talked to dozens of friends about this.
And the way I put this will sound familiar is I ask them, you know, if it takes twice as long and you get half the rewards or a quarter of the rewards and it's not a bestseller, is this still a no brainer for you?
And the wording there is really important. The no brainer part is important.
It's not is it still a good idea? Because a good idea could be pro and con list and you come to the conclusion 51 percent good, 49 percent bad. Yes, it's a good idea. That's different from a no brainer, right? If it's a whole body. Yes. So this question is fishing for how intrinsic the motivation is. It's fishing for how intrinsic the motivation is.
It's also fishing for a few other things. So the first might be more a different way in the case of books like is it easier to write the book than to not write the book for me? I rarely and there are different motivations for writing books of different catalysts. But for me, usually I can't find something I'm looking for and it bothers me so much that I have. I just have to write the goddamn thing because I'm not going to have it otherwise.
And in that respect, it's easier for me to write it than to not write it, because it bothers me so much that it's not written in some way. The other is taking into account all of the things outside of our control. Right, you could put the perfect plan into motion, you could write an outstanding book, just a genre defining, you know, category killing book, and then 9/11 happens the week your book launch and nobody ever sees your book in effect because it's crowded out.
There's so many things outside of our control. I mean, certainly the last year's highlighted that. And so I want to know, are you going to in some sense find a reward and gratification and edification through the process in case a curveball hits you square in the face? Because it's. It's not a black swan event. I mean, it's very common that this happens if you just come out in the wrong week in the case of books. So those are those are two questions.
And then for me, I think in the last handful of years, in particular, thinking of energy management over time management. Has led me to. Think of. Experiments that can be done, that might be alternatives to what people are considering that allow them an easier termination clause, if that makes any sense, I'm using that metaphorically, but it's sometimes very easy to get into plans. And then you have employees or you have a company or you have your identity potentially wrapped up in something that has gone out and now you feel like you can't remove yourself or shut it down because it will be viewed as a failure and sort of mitigate against all those things.
I'm constantly looking for cheap, fast ways to test. How can you test your assumptions? How can you test your assumptions about the upside? How can you test your assumptions about the downside? How can we find comparables? Have you spoken to any of the people who are at the helm of X, Y and Z at those comparables? I really. Don't view myself as a risk taker, even though at points I've had that. Label or reputation, but I view myself as first and foremost a massive risk mitigator.
I do a lot of testing.
So those those are a few things.
So if you were to invert that, if you think back on to all those conversations you've had with people pitching you on something, if you were to take their perspective, what do you think the patterns would be and what those people said about the insights they gained from the conversation, other tactics, but the insights about themselves and how they relate to their project.
So I look at everything with an editorial I. Which is part of the reason why I almost never read friends manuscripts, because I can't just give them a paragraph of feedback, I'll end up copyediting the whole goddamn thing. So when I look at a deck like a pitch deck, and then I go down a level deeper and I look at the bios of the people involved, I spot weaknesses and red flags that would turn off. Oftentimes, other investors, they were involved or the types of investors they would want involved.
So I get to see I'm answering this somewhat indirectly, but I get to see also how founders in the case of startups.
But this could apply to almost anything. This could apply to books. Also, book ideas could apply to any idea.
How people respond to constructive criticism and what's really interesting about not just startups, but book ideas, business ideas, career switching ideas that people have is very often people around them.
Feel like support means giving positive feedback. So they their baby, even if it's ugly, never gets called ugly, and then I come in and I'm like, well, first thing I noticed is, you know, on the first page you misspelled profile might seem like a minor thing, but I would fix that. It's low hanging fruit. It's easy to fix, you know, and that's not a massive correction. But I get to see how people respond to that.
The other question or another question, there are a lot of questions I'd like to ask, but this is a question I was asked in the last year.
I want to say I can't recall the source, but it's not mine. I mean, I borrow borrow most of what I use and ask the question, is FlashForward three years? The company has failed. What went wrong? What is the most likely reason the company will have failed also, if it's due to an incorrect assumption, which assumption do you think is most likely to be wrong?
And if someone can't answer that or is unwilling to answer that because they're getting a lot of adulation and they have more say in the case of a startup, they have more demand, in other words, investor interest than supply. That's definitely a red flag for me.
So what people get to see then, if they really take those questions seriously and assuming someone else hasn't asked those questions, is they very often find blindspots.
That are real risks, their risks that they have not accounted for. Right, like most authors think, if I or potential authors, if I get the right publisher, if I have the right distribution and I write an amazing book, it is inevitable. That the book will do well if I follow a few guidelines for launch, if I want a big show, and that's just not true. Yeah. So building on this, one of the themes that I spend a good deal thinking about is the entanglement of genius and eccentricity.
I think that most of the the great performers that I've known or competed against or worked with in different fields have just had this beautiful. Connection between. There are areas of dysfunctionality and brilliance. Sometimes the very thing that helps them excel in their professional life or their artistic life or the competitive life is something that in their personal life can be a little bit awkward or sometimes very awkward or sometimes very awkward.
And it can be extremely subtle and it can be fascinating. Like, you know, the recent study of Hussein Bolt's stride and the fact that it's uneven. People would might want to normalize it. But then you can think about how the unevenness of his leg length or spinal construction might actually be part of why he is so fast. And you can think about this. I think about it a great deal with Marcelo Garcia. And he and I have been having a fun conversation about this theme over the past few days.
So for people who don't know, I'm just a sentence or two on Marcelo. What we've spoken about Marcelo somewhat, Marcelo, is the nine time submission grappling in Brazilian jitsu world champion. He's probably, I would argue, pound for pound, the greatest grappler martial arts grappler to ever live.
And he's a dear friend of mine. We own a school together in New York and I've trained with him for. Decade plus, really exquisite learner and a really interesting, eccentric learner.
And anyway, this theme of the entanglement of genius and eccentricity is one that I find to be liberating for people because there's a big pressure to normalize oneself.
How does that show for Marcello or why did you bring him up after he was involved?
Well, I think Marcello is that at a similar league, in a similar league in terms of dominance of his field. And he's someone who's really built. A game around his idiosyncrasies in a beautiful way, I mean, he's a he's both physically he's physically small, short, short limbs, has built an incredible technical repertoire that really revolutionized the Brazilians. It's a world based on his body type and the idiosyncracies of his personality. The way his mind works is incredibly overdevelop.
Somatic intelligence versus his. Many years ago, lack of conceptual relationship to what he was doing, for example, one of the remarkable things about Marcelo is the way he repeats mistakes less than anyone I've ever known. It's incredible whether it's a technical mistake, a psychological mistake. And I've observed this I felt this with I mean, when he and I have you know, we've spent hundreds of hours grappling, sparring, fighting on the mats. And you catch Marcello with something one time and you don't catch him with it again.
And that's just not true about people. It's incredible. Usually it's the opposite. Yeah. You can hear you've exploit a weakness. You like what I got guillotine 77 times in a row, right?
Well, we had a good time with that one. So but like but the amazing thing about, for example, how that manifests in Marcella's life is that, you know, as he's told me and really powerful moments of conversation, he experiences pain really viscerally. He experiences pain. And it never his body never forgets it in his life. And it's true on the mats. And so there's an area of that could really make life painful. Right. But that is incredibly powerful in his life.
And I think what there's a lot relative myself as well entangled. But I was curious to open up with you when you you know, people obviously you have a public life and you and I mostly interact outside of your public life in just the eccentric nature of our of our friendship, meeting up in the jungle for weeks at a time and having great conversations.
And I have my own perspective on this. But I'm curious how you would talk about your so admired in the world. And people are people have think a lot about your brilliance and your ability to deconstruct and how how much insight you have. How would you describe the underbelly of that? What's the what's the shadow of it? How does that brilliance manifest in your personal life where the areas of eccentricity or dysfunctionality that people might not see?
Mm hmm. Yeah, I think I think the word I'm glad you use the word dysfunctionality because sometimes, like eccentricity can be used as a substitute. A nice substitute for crazy when somebody is successful in a given field.
So it's true, but in a different adjectives sometimes apply to the same thing, depending on how well someone is done by luck or design or both. It shows up a lot, shows up a lot in many, many different ways.
And I've thought about this quite a bit because there have been times when I've wanted to. There still are times, I think warned at times when I want to fix certain dysfunctionality and there is occasionally a fear that in attempting to snuff out those areas of dysfunction or those. Exhibitions of eccentricity that will also snuff out. Whatever the pixie dust is, that allows me to do certain things. This is very true. I know for a lot of comedians, for instance, they some comedians don't want to get therapy.
They don't want to fix the pain because they feel like. The gift. That that pain provides is a certain degree of insight or cynicism and also wittiness that leads to what they're able to do, which is a really tough position in a lot of respects to find yourself in or to put yourself in.
So it's a on the more amusing side of things. A good example would just be my as I mentioned, the the editorial I. Well, let's take that same editorial I. Well, that seems like a huge gift when you're reviewing a manuscript. But when you look at.
A countertop, and I'll give a friend of mine a nod here, I won't mention his full name, but Popy let's call called Popi Bobby and I remember I was he's a character who's with us with Popy in Panama at one point.
This is a very long time ago, 2004.
So for those who have read the four hour workweek, this is before right before I went to Argentina and had the entire saga of tango unfold, I was in Panama and it was actually a friend of his initials, J.M. Mitchell, who said I had to go to Argentina. But backing up to the point I was going to make, I would sit there and I would write and I was working on various things time and I was running this the sports supplement business.
And I had all my notebooks and all of my pens and everything laid out almost like an unboxing photograph or like a pack photograph that you see on Instagram.
Like everything was either parallel or perpendicular.
I mean, it was. Yes, like it was like it was set up by, you know, some type of Japanese artist on graph paper. I mean, it was perfectly organized to my liking and hope you would come over and he would just he just like very slowly he'd look at me kind of like a cat, kind of like your cat Lokey. And he'd look at me and he just with his index finger, like, push the edge of one pen to knock it off, knock it off angle like 10 percent.
And then he would just go back to whatever he was doing. And I knew he was trying to fuck with me so I would leave it. I'll be like, I'm not going to succumb, I'm not going to succumb. And I'd leave it and I'd leave it.
And then I'd just be like, I can't do it. And I would fix it. And after, like a half hour of this, he came over and he's like.
Tim. You're behaving like American Psycho, and so this monk like sensitivity, especially visual sensitivity, can be really problematic, right. And that can certainly lead to domestic strife. And that's that's on me. That's on me.
I should know, by the way, we're having this conversation in front of my desk and I have the exact opposite dynamic of Tim. So and during my world, it's just pure chaos. It just means, yes, he's functioning quite beautifully with without a single thing in a straight line. I was going to mention the stuff underneath the desk is terrible.
If we take it as true for the moment, which I think it is, that hyper function and dysfunction are often right next to each other. I think another way to think about that is that your superpower is very often right next to your wound, like your biggest wound. Yes. And I think that. That's an interesting way to reflect on it or journal on it or think about it, is how did this possibly develop if it developed through a wound or traumatic event or.
Challenge of some type in my life. Right, and many of these things are fed by innate qualities, and I think that using Bolt does matter how many coaches he has for sprinting, if he's built like me, it's going to be the story turns out differently. Nonetheless, I think the superpower being right next to your wound is very, very often the case. And I mean, there are often two sides of the same coin. And I think it is possible to work on the areas of dysfunction, whether they're minor or major, without subjugating and muting your superpowers.
I do think that's possible. You have to track it. I'm not saying it's always possible, but in my experience so far, I think that it is very possible. And I'll just say another thing, which is, you know, a phrase that I used to use a lot and I hear a lot of my type of friends used a lot.
When it comes to considering meditation therapy, fill in the blank is that they're afraid of losing their edge. I just want to lose my edge, and I'm afraid I'm going to become complacent. I don't want to lose my edge. Lose my edge is this phrase is used a lot.
And in my experience, the edge that they have in mind almost inevitably cuts both ways.
I like that intensity in that edge that they view as a pure advantage, which helps them most often professionally, usually has a lot of consequences personally.
So those are some of the ways that I relate to it. But I definitely agree that they are side by side. You know, this framing of yours around the the wound is is really beautiful, really powerful. And I relate to it. I've in the last stretch, I've been writing about training. And one thing that I'm very careful about is to for anyone who's trying to convey something to be to be able to see their context, because any kind of teacher or coach or writer, anyone who's not aware of their own context, can be trying to impose something on somebody else that doesn't fit them.
And so I'm trying to be explicit, introspective about my context and my context.
Really, the training comes from a wound which was in a nutshell. I started playing chess when I was six years old. When I was seven and eight, I became I was at that point, I was the top rated player in the U.S. for my age. And so I was the target my whole childhood from age seven until, you know, into my 20s, I was the the target. And as a kid, that means that not only were other kids focused on beating me because I would be the person to beat in the tournament.
But their coaches, who are adults, who were masters, international masters, grandmasters. So every weakness that I showed would be seen very clearly because the adult coaches were much stronger players than me and would be focused on exploited. And any strength that I had would also be I had to refine it or else it wouldn't work. And so as a child, as a really young child, I had this experience. It was almost Pavlovian of not taking on an error, led to pain.
Taking on an error or a finding of strength led to flow, pleasure, love of the game, winning all those things. So now as an adult, what I'm aware of is that not taking on a weakness is almost outside of my conceptual scheme unless I really consciously try. Josh, can you just make a mediocre turkey, as one friend recommended? Josh, try not to make the best turkey in the world. Just make a mediocre fucking turkey.
Our friend Jim, that was a brilliant man who Tim interviewed recently, has been saying to me for a long time, Josh, just try to cook like shit, just practice mediocrity. And it's a beautiful, wise piece of counsel, given my madness is something I grapple with. And then it's really important for me to see. And this is a core of strength of mine. But of course, it can lead to complexities and interpersonal relationships and in my own life.
And so I have to feel to see it.
You know, it's as we're talking about, this makes me think of a story in the book, Essentialism by Greg McEwan, which which I'm very fond of, I think has a lot of gold in it. And I'm going to paraphrase here, I'm not going to get it exactly right. But it tells a story of I believe it's a man in his 30s or 40s who who flames out completely professionally like he he just kills himself through overwork.
And at the end of the story, his advice to others is something along the lines of OK or type a hard charging, competitive winner in life. He's like, all right, you want to try something hard? He's like something hard is not working. Seven days a week is like try going home in the middle of the day and take a nap. It's like you want to prove how tough you are, like try that because that's the harder thing for you to do.
So let's keep exploring as relative to you. So let me throw out two themes and see where you go with them. One is efficiency. So you're a master efficiency. You're also an athlete and you've had that identity as an athlete your whole life, but you have a very specific physiological dynamic relative to your lungs that could lead somebody to really need to take on the art of being crazy efficient.
So what do you think about that dynamic and how it might have been formed where you've become incredibly overdeveloped? We talk about. Yeah. So for people who are not not aware, I have no very obvious scars on me. You can still see that one on the wrist, which looks like a cigarette burn. But it's it's actually where where I was intubated. I have another one on the left side where the my left lung collapsed when I was born or probably collapsed possibly before I was born or in the the birth process.
And I was premi in the Nick You neonatal intensive care unit for a really long period of time. So I have issues with in particular thermoregulation is how that shows up. So if people and that may or may not be related to the lungs, but I do have some some pulmonary complications.
The if you've ever seen a dog pant that is to dissipate heat dogs don't really dissipate heat through sweat very much. So in my case, I overheat very easily. I've been hospitalized for heatstroke a few times.
And what that meant from an athletic perspective when I was wrestling, which was given how small I was up until sixth grade, was really one of the only or the only sport where I could compete and possibly win. Because you have the the purest of the puny competing against the purest of the puny. I developed an approach to wrestling that compensated for my tendency to overheat and therefore generally lack of endurance. Right. So I think that led to thinking about efficiency.
Although at the time, I don't think I would have labeled it that way, and then much later with language learning in Japanese and so on when I was 15, also led me to think about efficiency a lot.
So I think those were the two sort of seminal chapters, the wrestling and then the language learning that led me to think about effectiveness and efficiency both. I think that even though it gets talked about less, I think about effectiveness that is choosing the right things, choosing material, so to speak. 80-20 analysis style more than efficiency, because doing something really well doesn't automatically make it important, right? But I do I do think about both and the tease your phrasing from earlier.
The shadow side of that is that in the case of wrestling, I identified weight cutting and Greco Roman upper body techniques as places where I could really shine. And if you continue to kind of choke down, chunk down, chunk down, so that you get to a place where instead of using I'm making up these numbers. But one hundred techniques, you're using 10 techniques and they're very shoulder dependent. And then on top of that, you're cutting. In my case, I was cutting from my senior year in high school, 178 to 152 twice a week, which is insane.
That's crazy. It's insane and it's very dangerous. I don't recommend it. I ended up having and still have a chronic shoulder issues.
Yes, I know. Take care of the shoulders. Yeah, I think I think US is letting out some wicked dog fog mist also.
And then I guess I digress. So I do think that striving for like the sort of minimalist, 80-20 analysis in the physical realm can be quite dangerous because you can end up with overuse syndrome and dislocated shoulders and in my case, having reconstructive shoulder surgery and so on.
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I think more and more these days about how I can change things in my life so I don't need to think or I'm not inclined to think about efficiency, same with competition and more about that.
I think we as humans gravitate to what we are good at. In general. I think that we all like the validation, intrinsic and extrinsic or perhaps otherwise, that comes from feeling good about doing something well. And I'm really good at figuring out process improvements and a very good kind of what was his name, Demming manufacturing world of Toyota and so on. Like, I'm very good at identifying steps, looking at a process, figuring out which steps can be removed, which steps should be removed, which should be inverted.
I'm very good at that.
And I'm also we could talk at length about this, but in certain ways, a good competitor like I'm very driven by competition. I find it exciting. I like steaks. I do well when there are consequences usually. And I'm almost always able to perform better in competition than I am in training.
But I think competition, much like positional economics, in other words, there's someone is inclined if they make seventy five thousand dollars a year, let's just say to feel much better about that. If all their friends make 50000 dollars a year versus if all their friends make a hundred thousand dollars a year, even though their life and quality of life may not change at all objectively at that seventy five thousand dollars, it just depends on the peer group. It's a competition I feel like has value in certain areas, certainly, and it's been incredibly valuable to me.
But if you default to efficiency and competition that you can make yourself miserable depending on who you feel you're competing with and you can focus on doing things really well, whether or not you should be doing them in the first place, whether or not they are, in fact, the piece of the puzzle that makes a real difference. So those are those are a few of the things that I'm shifting and thinking about a lot right now in my life. I mean, in the last six months has really been the last six months, especially the last three months has been a a hitting of the pause button, like the pause button is currently on for me.
And this is the awkward part. Not so much. Think about these things, figure these things out, but to sort of watch the conditions of my life and see if I notice anything that pulls me in a different direction or that kind of compels me in a different direction or draws me in a different direction. So, I mean, you and I have spoken about this a bit, and I'm probably mangling your intention of what you said. But, you know, rather than doing something right now trying to, like, slightly change the conditions to see what emerges from that new set of conditions or to set the correct conditions.
But right now, the question for me to correct for what I don't know, because the what is the next step? And right now that's a void for me. I just don't know. And so I'm not I come here to the jungle to spend time with you. It's like, all right, let's like have a shift of a couple of variables, create some space. And see what emerges from that, and it's a beautiful. Entry into this idea of when we talk about the entanglement of strengths and weaknesses or genius and eccentricity or dysfunctionality, however you want to frame it, it opens up the discussion of how much we should be focusing on our strengths and how much we should be focusing on our weaknesses.
Right. And I tend to believe that in life we should really embrace our funk. And we should. We should. An overdeveloped power zone is incredibly powerful, potent. On the other hand, we do need to acknowledge our weaknesses, and one thing I've really come to admire about you is how you do that. For example, what you're saying right now, you're a person who really loves to get shit done, but you've hit pause. And the pause button is revealing some things.
The theme of control is also quite interesting, like when you speak about a power of yours is risk mitigation. Right, trying to think about how things can go wrong on projects. You also have a very interesting relationship to control. Yeah. And hyper vigilance and hyper vigilance. That would be another example of something that in excess kind of becomes its opposite. Right, like an obsession with security. Breeds a feeling of insecurity. That's that's actually I'm glad you brought that up, because that would be a probably the most crippling in a sense, like emotionally, psychologically crippling of the wounds, dysfunctions right next to superpowers.
And in some ways, I would think, as your friend and I'm just putting this out of the question that you're grappling with those dynamics is part of what's led you to this incredibly powerful work you've been driving in the world around psychedelics.
Maybe speak to that relationship between control and what? Your medicine journey has opened up. Yeah, yeah, well, you I thought you put it really well a couple days ago or weeks ago. Time changes in the jungle, OK? Remember when you said something along the lines of, you know, I find it very interesting that. As someone who is controlled so much and focused on control so much that one of your primary focuses, if not your primary focus right now, is compounds that create experiences that are not controlled and they can be safe.
But, you know, if you think you're going to take mega dose of psilocybin or an MDMA or else to hear any of these things and then write the screenplay of your experience and live that out line by line, you're going to be very disappointed. Know, maybe, maybe more like Ulysses strapped to the mast.
And I think there is a tremendous I experience a tremendous relief when.
I can completely let go of control or attempt to let go of control and feel the beauty of floating downstream instead of trying to swim up river.
Against the current. Because I think most of my life.
I have prided myself on being, you know, the the fastest human right as fuck and thrashing like man, like making it up the rocks, dodging the grizzly bear and being willing to.
Suffer more than other people that you could you could dress that up and say, you know, developing a pain tolerance or compete, but ultimately, I think if we're honest with ourselves and I'm not saying there isn't a place for this. Right. But I think certainly I have to be very careful about assigning too much dignity and profundity to our suffering people. I think if we lionize that and really put it on a pedestal, you can you can paint yourself into a really nasty corner.
So with the with the medicine experiences and the let me rephrase that.
Just because that lingo might not make sense to people, but in these transcendental sometimes certainly transcendental or transpersonal meaning. That you experience ego, dissolution, the concept of I and Tim and time and space dissolves, which, you know, it's kind of like sex or it's really just not going to make any sense unless you've had an experience of this type.
So I won't belabor the the description. And it's kind of like if some guys never ejaculate in your and you're like, well, it's kind of like sneeze in your balls.
And they're like, I think I get it. But, you know, you can't really wrap your head around it. But I digress. The point is, having these experiences where I'm not trying to out suffer, I'm trying to out to surrender, not out surrender, of trying to surrender. And also lots of people have said this, but I think that experiences of anxiety, depression, et cetera, are very often. Me focused there, you know, in some respects, very self-absorbed, very me, me, me focused, and they're also in the case of well, in the case of depression, often passed, focused on the case of anxiety or a future focused.
And, you know, if you take five grams of potent slice of the mushrooms maintaining any type of me, me, me centric focus in the past or the future is going to be next to impossible.
Right. So you're given a reprieve. And once you experience that reprieve, you know that it's possible. And then you can begin to look for avenues for. Extending the effects into normal, everyday, sober life and looking for other modalities or tools to find those spaces, and so for me, it's it's just been a revelation in that respect.
Beautiful, so a pattern that I that I hear you speaking to is that your previous relationship, for example, to efficiency or control, is evolving increasingly into an exploration of setting the conditions for success or for for X being down river surrender.
Yeah, so so this is just in the exploration of the entanglement of overdevelopment and underdevelopment. And you talked about people, friends of yours, who have said, I don't wanna lose my edge. So as you feel yourself making that movement, which is really a deep exploration of these core themes. Do you feel like it's taking away your edge or adding to it? I think it's multiplying my edge and this is going to be maybe really seem like really mundane or odd example.
But he's been on the mine because he just stepped down as CEO Jeff Bezos.
And I'm not comparing this to Jeff Bezos, just to be very clear. But one of the massive advantages that Bezos has had for so long and still has is his time frame. He somehow managed to. Convince and persuade Wall Street to give him. Different time horizons than everyone else being judged quarter by quarter.
Now, Amazon is still judged on quarterly results to some extent, but for the longest time, the growth of Amazon, I mean, it was if you read the shareholder letters, I encourage everybody to look at these collected PDF of the Amazon shareholder letters.
He just had a longer time horizon. And when you have a 10, 15 year, 20 year time horizon, you can think about making decisions in a very different way. You relate to feeling rushed or pressured in a very different way. And I feel like now I have to be careful here to also recognize that my circumstances have changed a lot in the last 10, 15 years.
So I might be inclined to say, well, I can just wait for fat pitches and I feel like I have more of an edge. And that may be also a byproduct of my changing circumstances.
So I don't want to attribute that solely to this ability to wait. But my experience is now that the way that I've heard other people describe the shift that I'm trying to embrace is being patient, but I don't think about it that way. It might be that. But patients to me, I think, can sometimes I have a bit of an allergic reaction to patients just because I think it's used so often as an excuse for complacency or laziness. So the word is not my favorite to apply here, but paying attention, like really paying attention to.
Things around me and the feelings around me and let's just say, you know, the dog that's laying right next to us, you know, like OSHA and zoos at mealtime, like whether they need water or not, like I'm constantly tracking all that stuff.
But it's a very. Light tracking and. When I cultivate that, I feel like I have less still comes up occasionally, but less fear of missing out because I have a confidence that I am going to see things that most people are going to miss simply because they are rushing. It's interesting how universal this theme is. And if you if you think about it in a multidisciplinary way, there are of course, always exceptions.
But almost always when you watch, for example, an athlete over the years and over the decades, their progression is from doing more to doing less, being more, just getting more done. And with one of the fascinating and kind of mystical looking things about really superb virtuoso fighters, martial artists, is that they can move much slower and always get there first. Yeah, yeah. And it's gorgeous to see and it's beautiful to really work on embodying. And it's not because they can't move quickly.
They can move like lightning, but they can move slower and get there first.
Yeah, I remember thinking that with I don't know, this name is going to mean anything because it's a really this is this is dating me. When I was in Japan when I was 15, that's when I really I had always had an affinity for martial arts and had trained in various schools as a kid but had never really seen real. Hard hitting. Fighting in the sense of May, which didn't exist as it does now, but Sogo Kokoity in Japan seeing pancreas and so on, but also one with the big guys and there's a fight her way back in the day and in Peter Aritz, the Dutch lumberjack, huge guy and gigantic I mean, just a mountain of a guy.
And he had such impeccable timing. Which is certainly in part. Very fast perception. And and also acute perception that even though he wasn't the fastest fighter, he almost always got there first and he was a huge guy, but he was just able to read. The ring and the opponent and the space so perfectly. It was amazing to watch. Yeah, it's a beautiful principle, and I think it really manifests everywhere. Yeah. And the the you know, one of the mantras that I've been repeating to myself a lot recently is from what I learned from a friend who's former military, which is slow, is smooth and smooth as fast and really trying to apply that to my writing, trying to apply that to different types of training, trying to apply that to decision making also.
Which is why I get almost always if just as a rule, if someone tries to rush my decision making is just no answers, no automatically. Right. As one example, that's part of what I'm. Revisiting is within this pause period. So in this pause period where you're really sitting and I've been watching you sit in an empty space without rush, what's surfacing and what are some of the core tension points or areas that you're aware of being torn off?
Massive tension points.
I mean, my every fiber of my programmed being, like my socializr self that has been rewarded for so long by doing things, it can be very hard to sit with empty space.
And it makes me think a lot. And I've been thinking about this in the last few weeks, a lot. A quote from Tara Broch, who's a mindfulness and meditation teacher. I mean, she's much more than that, but wrote an amazing book called Radical Acceptance that I recommend to everyone. And she has this. I'll just call an expression. It's probably a story in one of her books. But she says, you know, a famous sage once said, there's only one important question.
And that question is, what are you unwilling to feel? And I think for a lot of people, maybe the majority of people, maybe all people, I don't know. Many of our compulsive behaviors are.
To mask or override things that we don't want to feel right, so if there is something you feel you need to focus on, something you feel you need to do, if there is a pack of cigarettes, you need to pick up its ties into what Gabor mate who recommend people check out.
He's been on the podcast as well, will sometimes talk to with respect to addiction. He says, you know, people ask why the addiction? They shouldn't ask why the addiction. They should ask why the pain, because the addiction is a consequence of the pain and trying to mask the pain, although I'm paraphrasing.
So bring this back down to earth, sitting here, the empty space, a lot of uncomfortable feelings come up and it's been challenging to sit with them and not immediately try to fix them. And our fears feeling a lack of direction, feeling a lack of security fears. Anger has come up a lot, although I think that's probably in part due to a therapy session a few days ago where I talked about the childhood trauma, which really is is dangerous.
Yeah, it's tricky terrain to navigate and can have a lot of after effects if I revisited.
A lot of emotions and there have been great days. Know yesterday was a great day, there been some really hard days. What the fuck am I doing? What the fuck am I not doing? And why am I not doing it? Like, am I actually going to figure out anything?
So I just feel like I'm sitting by the pool staring at trees, you know, like this.
Is there am I expecting some lightning bolt from the heavens to come down and oh, give me this, you know, miraculous epiphany that will solve all my issues, like what am I doing?
And so it's been it's been really challenging and super challenging not every day. And I'm very fortunate that we've been able to spend time together and I've been able to spend time with your family and with a number of our friends who are here in strict isolation lockdown.
So that's been gorgeous. And I've had so much fun. And when I'm by myself and it's quiet, lot comes up. Because I'm I normally have so many other activities, many of which are great, many of which are productive, many of which are in some way contributing, whatever the adjective we might want to use that allows me also encourages me to do those things. When you take all those away. Yeah. A lot of stuff can come up to the state you're in is a it's a version of what so many people are feeling right now.
This is such a painful time in the world. There's so many people are alone and in pain, in different forms, sometimes of some. So many have lost loved ones. So many are forced into isolation or a lack of socialization. And it's there's a lot of heartbreak out there. And and just so you speaking about your own journey here is powerful. I'm curious, just given where you're at, I often go with people who I'm kind of exploring with do something we call a cave process, which is essentially I was going to ask you about that disappearing and the way I first thing written down about the cave process.
What the hell is the cave process essentially sitting in a space that is empty enough to get away from. The inertia or reactivity, the inertia of where we're coming from or reactivity away from where we're coming from, you're in a version of that state right now. And you last time you and I jammed, we talked about this this framing that I play with sometimes of. Of how would your future self guide you, because no one will know you more intimately than yourself 20 years from now.
And odds are yourself 20 years from now will be less attached to the things that you're extremely attached to now. So just given your intuitive sense of the direction you're going in life, what do you think or feel that your, say, twenty year future self would say to you? How would he guide you today? I will answer that first, I want to ask you with the key process, how do you implement that with people you're working with?
Are people you advise? Is it is it a physical relocation to a place of stillness? Is it blocking out the calendar so they have space to remove themselves from the bombardment of stimuli? What does that process look like? Well, I think it can take many forms. As you pointed out earlier, there are some people who are in a state of privilege where they can really disappear from the world for three or four months and reflect. And there are other people who are just you can't do that.
They've got maybe they've got families, they've got a job, they're putting food on the table. They can't just disappear. And so I think there's micro ways of manifesting it. For example, waking up first in the morning and journaling is like a mini version of this. Just creating empty space where we can tap into our unconscious is really powerful.
I've gone through. Three, four or five month period with people where they truly stepped away from everything and reflected and tried to blue sky where they wanted to go in life, as opposed to getting caught up in the execution concerns, is it a structured reflection? Do you have prompts questions, et cetera, that you provide or practices, or is it really just empty space?
Let's see what emerges.
I think the stillness comes first and then the structure can be layered in with the structure, as you know, like I would structure differently for every person who had been directing with because we're all different. That's how I honestly relate to that question, but I I think that the principle of getting away from reactivity or inertia is powerful relationships.
Almost everyone moves from one relationship to the next, right, the rebound. But sitting in space, a relationship is is really powerful. Post a love relationship or post a friendship that falls apart. I just think that we have the impulse to fill space at the moment that empties. But sitting in emptiness can be really powerful.
Thank you. For that, so I'm going to take a stab at your question, I will say as a preface that I don't know if I've ever mentioned this to you, the piece of writing that I somehow lost that made me sad. It was a piece of fiction. And I never write fiction, but it was a story I wrote.
I think I was on a train ride and I was and I asked myself this question. Sometimes I was like, what would what would an older version of me say to me? Now, this is a long time ago, 10 years ago, something like that. So I wrote this story of a fictional story, me going skiing, taking a break, going to a ski lodge, sitting by the fire, having some wine and having this older gentleman sit down next to me.
And this is before I read any Borås, because this is like straight Borris and struck up a conversation and about like 10, 20 minutes into it, realized that it was an older version of myself. And so we had this conversation about what he'd learned, what advice you would give me. And it was just like, you know, 10, 12 page document. And it was it was just an incredible exercise. And then I somehow lost it.
If you were writing that story today.
Yeah. If I write that story today, I think the the core piece that comes to mind, if I'm not overthinking it and if it's just whatever kind of pops into my head, which I'm trying to pay a lot more attention to that first flash, I it's very different from the number crunched analytical flash, which isn't really a flash. It's more of like a squeezing out of the sponge.
But that first flash is that he would say focus on enjoyment and fun and pleasure, like the things that give you those.
Feelings and the justification, not that there's one needed, I mean, I think those those are all very good things by and large, in assuming that, no, there's no collateral damage. I just have so much more energy when I feel one of those things. And my life long battle since my teens has been with chronic fatigue. And that led to abusing ephedrine, caffeine, aspirin in high school, which was introduced to me by an upperclassman for wrestling.
And then, oh, now I'm using it to three times a day that I was a mess for, you know, a decade plus. And I had I had severe Lyme disease a few years ago. This happens all the time on Long Island. I mean, to the extent that in the E.R. in the summers, they just have assignments like do you have Lyme disease?
Like, Hey, fill out this survey and get a free Amazon gift card. I mean, it's everywhere.
So I had severe Lyme and the blood tests came back and the doctor said, well, you are positive, you have an acute infection, but you're aware you've already been infected. And I as more and more people now would recognize what the serologic testing me, you know, I guess it's EGI might be getting that wrong. I think it's against that idea. But the long term antibodies for Lyme were present.
And I've just had this incredible fatigue since I was in my teens. So and that that persists to this day on some level. And so I think that deepening my relationships, thinking about family. I think moving from a deep feeling of obligation and responsibility, which I think has driven a lot of my behavior, there's the competitive drive.
Then there's also a feeling, especially after almost committing suicide in college, that I'm just operating on borrowed time and like I owe a lot. Right.
And that I have a moral obligation to do A, B, C, D, E all the way to C and I not to say that's run its course entirely and maybe there is a place for that. And I think I don't think I'm at risk of becoming totally irresponsible. I just don't think that it's likely that the pendulum will swing back that far.
And I think if I have a family and I haven't embraced fun, enjoy and taking time and taking attention for like the small pleasures that will really like my kid will receive or kids will absorb that type of orientation to the world where it is responsibility, where it is obligation, and it will have a very sterilising effect. And muting effect on them and. So right now, you know, I found myself say years ago thinking, well, like when I have kids, I'll change.
When I have kids, I'll change be when I have kids, I'll change DNF. And I've I've come to the conclusion that that I think is very naive. You better start becoming the parent you want to be now before game time. Right. Like you're not going to just step in the ring, be like, OK, now that I'm here with Mike Tyson, I'm going to learn how to box. That's a terrible idea.
And then the beautiful thing is all that preparation you'll do, then you have a kid and the kid just kicks your ass anyway. Yeah. And teaches you how to parent that kid.
Right. So now now, just to be clear, it's not so much learning how to be a parent. It's becoming the person you want to be trying to train yourself and instill the habits and the changes and perspective that you want to have when you are a parent.
So it's purely. It's within your locus of control. Yeah, and then you get a kid who kicks you in the nuts and like, OK, now you got know you're going to change your strategy. But but it's not a it's not a parenting strategy. It's more a way of thinking about the person I want to be when. I'm like holding a child in my arms for the first time versus who I am now and working on that now. That's beautiful.
Yeah, I think you're going to be a hell of a dad. I can't wait. Thanks, brother. Cell phone.
Never a little one's little rugrats duking it out together. I love it. Yeah, OK.
We have about 11 more minutes. Let's pick up the pace. Let's do it. I want to hit you with it. Let's be a little more tactical about these tactics. So this one is tactical, practical. This is not such a tactical question, but it's slightly it's a relatively tactical. So I personally have this feeling that I observed so many people yearning for a return to normal. Right. I don't personally think that normal is necessarily returning so quickly.
And I feel that we're entering an age in human history where a core theme will be a radically accelerating pace of change. So destabilizing events of different forms will become the new normal versus the return to normal that so many people are craving. And so I'm not really suggesting we debate that idea, but just roll with me on that idea. Yeah, and if you just were to play with that framing, how do you think that people would best prepare for the world that we might be enduring over the next five, 10, 15 years if that theme has some validity?
Yeah, well, turns out you're asking Mr. Hypervigilance. So I have I have thought about this, but we've talked about a little bit. So I think I think the assertions right. I mean, certainly with with technology and sort of exponentially ramping technology, global interconnectedness. I mean, all of that is going to continue to the curve of all that is going to continue to steepen for a million reasons that we won't get into right now. So I'll say two things.
Number one is. I think you have to have two is a strong phrasing, but I'm going to use it for simplicity because we're doing a lightning round, you have to focus on mental learning and motor skills or you're just going to be toast. You need to be able to learn to do things that machines have great difficulty doing. Then by machine, I include software, most software and. To embrace your humanness, I think Kevin Kelly's actually a great person to read up on for identifying kind of opportunities moving forward.
He's a lot of people try to predict technological advances. The big difference with Kevin is that he's very often right. And so he's given a lot of thought to say I and humans and the next 10 to 10 to 20 years.
So I think meta learning skills, I think your book, The Art of Learning, should be required reading. I think there are aspects of metal learning that are explored in four hour chef, which confusingly is not just a cookbook.
It is, in fact a book about accelerated learning that can make you not just resilient, but antifragile in the sense that the vast majority of people you might ever compete with if you end up competing, will not have this toolkit. So when there's a shock to the system like covid, when there is a shock to the system like some designer, an epidemic or pandemic that is designed using CRISPR and released easily out of some basement when there is a disaster like fill in the blank.
I mean, there's so many technologies, 3D printing, you know, block chain, decentralized social networks or even assassination marketplaces.
I mean, miniature drones were like the cost of defense is a million times higher than the cost of offense.
I mean, these like I mean, the the kind of dystopian possibilities for cheap destabilizing events with many players. We've talked about this. Right. Like not like one or two or three or four players who are state actors, but tens of thousands of people who could. Implement certain attacks that could be really destabilizing he or she, who is the most adaptable wins, I think in many respects.
So metal learning and then really understanding. I do think, you know, for all of his eccentricity, I think Taleb and Black Swan, fooled by randomness, read those books. If you are not on a very basic level and you do not, I never took calculus. I'm not a mathematician by any stretch, but learn to understand probabilistic thinking. It's so fucking important. Just start to read Fooled by Randomness and Black Swan. Get a basic understanding of how probability affects your decision making in life.
Your point about meta learning is so powerful. I mean, one way to just very simply think about this is that people tend to think about technique, tactics, technique. But if you if you focus your learning on the principles that house the techniques, then you can throw all the techniques away and reinvent new techniques quite easily. As you know, I've experimented with a lot. So the techniques are just the external husk, the meta, the principle is the thing to really focus on learning.
And it's really remarkable how they can be manifested in new places quite quickly. I think the learning and adaptability are also intertwined. OK, so you sent me a doc of some questions from some of your listeners, and I want to hit you with a few of those, if you don't mind. Let's do it. So, Andrew t ask, what's the single most important attribute you look for when debating if you'll bring a new person into your circle of friends?
OK, the first one. So I used to debate a lot more in my head than I do now. The first thing, honestly, is just gut feeling like does the animal in me move forward towards that person? Does it stay where it is or does it pull back even a quarter inch, even a millimeter? I look, that's a beautiful answer. Yeah, that's that's that's that's number one. And number two is just trustworthiness. Discretion. Intelligence is a dime a dozen.
I really just I care less and less about what we consider intelligence.
Every time I've overruled my intuition about someone, it's bit me in the ass. Yeah. Every time. And pay attention to Molly. Pay attention to my dog. Yeah. Because even if I'm, I've had two drinks and my spider senses off, if Molly doesn't like someone. Yeah. Pay very close attention to that. Yeah. Yeah.
Russell w do you ever worry you're mistaking noise for signal with learning from successful people, survival bias and all that jazz. It's interesting question. I think about it a lot. I think this is this is a very smart question and very observant question you need to keep in mind.
So for me, the first thing with with world class performers is, a, can they repeat whatever I admire about them? In other words, like once you're lucky, twice you're good, right? Like three times you're world class with something really outrageous. First, can they actually repeat what is their claim to fame? Let's just figured that offers because if not, like, keep looking.
Number two is can they teach it? Are there any examples of DISCIPLE'S which which you can see certainly in in the investing world, you see these rollouts and then also the question of are they succeeding because of X, whatever X is that you're looking at or are they succeeding in spite of X? And those two things are very often confused where people are like this works because I use tough love and I kick my employees in the face every time they fuck up.
And that's because I run a tight ship and that's why it works. And it's like actually Cheesus, it would be ten times better if you didn't do that. So you're succeeding in spite of that, in which case you can ask people around them or who have had exposure to them. Yeah, beautiful answer.
So Riki sent two questions I liked, one of which, of course, is quite personal to me now because I got a beautiful puppy. What have you learned about yourself in the world now that you've had a dog?
For a while I've learned that we project a lot of our shit on everyone and everything, including dogs and dogs are just I mean, there may be exceptions, but dogs are just so tabula rasa. I mean, they come obviously preinstalled with all their Greywolf DNA and canid quirks. But when I was raising Molly and training Molly in the beginning, like looking back, I'm so embarrassed by how upset I got at points when she was not being disobedient, not understanding my training because I wasn't training.
Well, I wasn't clear. And it's so easy to anthropomorphize our animals and assume that they have some internal agenda or that they're doing A, B and C to annoy us and so on, which ends up being such a mirror for what our wounds are.
Our fears are what our compulsions are. So I think Molly is an. Ratable and dogs are an incredible mirror, they really show you, I think, your strengths and your weaknesses.
And I think Molly has really taught me how to love also as a result of that. I mean, just to to just love an animal so deeply and unconditionally. I think I think that it's it's really opened up a lot in me and removed a lot of armor that would have been difficult to remove otherwise.
So beautiful. And I see that in you. I see the way you interact with us and with zoos. My brother lights dogs is just the way you bring love to these these big pups who got a whole lot of energy. They just and they just love you. It's a and there's no no bullshitting in that. Yeah. Yeah. Sorry about making out with that person.
I thought that was, that was the idea behind like I came in just for people who are not in the joke and I was I can't give man give us a little treat. And he's like sure. And this is I guess the first first night out arrived as the alarm that says I need to go get my code test, which is kind of a.m. I don't leave it. Yeah. Yeah. And set the alarm saying I need to go get my covid test, which is appropriate because I just arrived.
And it's like, sure, you can give us a treat. And I put a little piece of chicken in my teeth and Ozzy grabbed it. And I like you can give my get my fucking dog.
He's going to get my whole fucking family covered. It was pretty great. It was pretty great. We had a fiery start. It was a good start to the whole thing. I mean, this has been a lot of fun. Yeah.
It's a great man. So good to see you and so good to jam and to be continued. Brother, I love you very much. Love you too, man. Hey, guys, this is Tim again. Just a few more things before you take off. Number one, this is five bullet Friday. Do you want to get a short email from me? And would you enjoy getting a short email from me every Friday if 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 your clothing smells, but you all are. I Yori. I've been wearing fury at least one item per day for the last few months and you can use it for everything.
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