The Tim Ferriss Show with Derek Sivers - On Success Habits and Billionaires with Perfect Abs

When you think of the word successful who is the first person that comes to mind and why?

Well, the first answer to any question isn't much fun because it's just automatic, right?

What's the first painting that comes to mind? Mona Lisa! 
Name a genius. Einstein!
Who's a composer? Mozart!

Rephrasing the question as "Who is the third most successful person you know?"

Why in hell did you become a programmer?

For me it was absolute necessity. I think that's the best way to learn anything.

There is this story about Socrates, that a student came to him and asked, "Socrates, how do I get wisdom?" And Socrates said, "Here, come with me." And they walked down to a nearby lake. When the water was waist-high, Socrates suddenly grabbed the student's head and held it underwater. At first, the student thought it was a joke. But then Socrates kept holding him and he started panicked and struggling to get up and his lungs started burning.

So finally Socrates let him up, coughing and gasping for air. And Socrates said, "When you desire wisdom as much as that next breath, well then nothing will stop you from getting it."

If you want to start programming, first you have to have a problem that you need to solve, right? You have to feel the pain of the problem first, and then go find it's solution. Usually that means just start trying to build something you need, so you can find out what you don't know.

But also I think it helps to learn from a well-written book that guides you through things that you didn't even know existed. You search Amazon for a programming book released in the last few years where multiple reviews say that it was good for a beginner to use [...] those are the books I gravitate towards for learning a new thing.

What are some directives for creating relationships with people who hold interesting worldviews?

Sivers recommends books on people skills, saying they are "worth the time":

How to win friends and influence people by Dale Carnegie
How to talk to anyone
How to make people like you in 90 seconds or less
Power schmoozing

They have the most awful titles, but really every book I've ever found on the subject of people skills has been great.


I think it really helps when you have something to show for yourself. You've gotta have some kind of cred because people want to meet another winner. Whenever you're introducing yourself definitely don't hide your accolades. Helps to just have a little tagline that hints at the fact that you got something going on.

Does business need to be more complicated than coming up with ideas on how to help other people succeed?

"...What you have to do is notice in your mind when your complications are holding you back and then turn the dial toward simplicity in your mind, so you just jump out the door and start running. but then notice in your results when your simplified approach might be holding you back. Perhaps you're using only one tool in your toolbox and you need to learn others.

And as for all the business advice out there, well, you know, if information was the answer we'd all be billionaires with perfect abs. So really you, and yeah, you listening to this, most of you probably just need to shut that shit off, put your blinders on, and get out the door and start running. Metaphorically speaking that is."

What should someone ask to determine their own Utopia?

"First, ask yourself, is this in theory or in practice? Have you proven from your experience that this is really what works best for you?

Whatever idea you have, you have to challenge it. You need to argue against it because there are so many things that seem great in theory."

Book recommendation: Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert

What habits or skills are most important to living a successful life?

"...The point is if you want to be undeniable successful you need to both master yourself and help others. Don't focus on the money or the fame. The real success is mastering your emotions and actions, and actually helping lots of people. 

But now you asked what habits or skills are most important to living a successful life, well, by this definition:

1. The skill and habit of managing your state and your emotional reactions and actions

2. Knowing what people need in general and what you need in particular

3. People skills - How to see things from the other person's point of view and how to communicate from their point of view

4. The ability to focus, learn, practice and apply what you learn

If you can do those four things, you can do anything. You can first be happy without depending on anyone or anything in particular and then you can understand what people need, learn how to provide it, and make sure they know it."

The Tim Ferriss Show with Jason Silva

Self-described epiphany addict

"I often describe myself as an epiphany addict and what I mean by that is that I feel that I am most alive, and I think most people can relate to this feeling, I feel like I am at my most alive when I have these profound moments of revelation and understanding, these moments when the gestalt is revealed, when I see something in a new way, when a pattern is revealed."

And when dopamine floods our system, from what I understand, we come alive because it immediately arrests our attention and our senses are heightened and all of a sudden that which is of the everyday, which is stale and invisible, is pushed aside and everything becomes as if seen for the first time. And there is a kind of rhapsody to that.

There’s something kind of amazing when we can transcend what Michael Pollan calls the “been there’s and done that’s of the adult mind” - in other words, jaded. To me being jaded is almost like being dead. Like, oh my god, nothing impresses you because you feel like you’ve seen it all before, and you go through life with basically dark lens on, the curtains closed, no light gets in, no rhapsody gets in, and to me that’s death.

"The same way that a pilot has longitude coordinates when he is in the sky to orient him as he is in flight, so too does the psychedelic tripper needs to have signals, set and setting, to control the orientation of his trip. And what I thought was fascinating is that you could take those tools and techniques and apply them to non-tripping minds too. Normal consciousness is still affected by set and setting. Stephen Johnson says our thoughts shape our spaces and our spaces return the favor”. So I think a lot of it has to do with the environments you put yourself in, the people you surround yourself with, the routines, the songs that you listen to, all of these artful aesthetic choices you make about your surroundings work to induce the subjective spaces that we desire. And those that don’t incorporate those elements I think miss out on the power that they have to basically control their experience."

Advice to younger self
"I would encourage my younger self to just not be afraid, to realize that a lot of things that were - I don’t want to say crippling anxieties, but definitely ever-pervasive fears in my life growing up, a lot of them were unnecessary. A lot of time was wasted, a lot of energy was wasted being worried and I wish I could just let go of that and encourage myself to let go a little more."

The Tim Ferriss Show with Derek Sivers

The standard pace is for chumps.

Founder of CDBaby, Derek Sivers found this out the hard way riding his bike. Redlining to finish a regular 15-mile track, Sivers would always clock in at 43 minutes. Then, one day, when giving everything he had was a bit too exhausting, he took a chill pill and a calmer pace instead of zipping around other cyclists. Do you know how long it took then? 45 minutes.

All the effort and pushing and pain for two measly minutes. Of his relaxed ride, Sivers recalled, "I saw two dolphins in the water. A pelican flew right over me in Marina del Ray. When I looked up to say “wow!”, he shit in my mouth. I can still remember that taste of digested shellfish. I had to laugh at the novelty of it."

On keeping book notes:
"Books are my mentors. Books guide almost everything I do, like the stuff I've learned from books totally guides my life. I realized though that I would love a book while reading it and maybe it would still echo with me for a few weeks after but, you know, two years later I couldn't even remember if I had read it or not. And I thought that's really a shame. I remember at the time that book meant a lot to me, why is it now two years later I've forgotten everything?

I said, no, no, no that's not good. So what I started doing in 2007 is every book I read I would keep a pen in hand and I would underline my favorite sentences, circle my favorite paragraphs, write notes in the margins, and then after I was done reading the book I would put aside like two hours to open a blank text file and type out everything... 


I started doing this for every book I read and then I would review my notes later. So every time I'm say just eating breakfast or something for ten minutes, I'll pull up one of the notes from a previous book I read, and just kind of re-review it, sometimes kind of stop, take a sentence that means a lot to me now, open up my diary and write about that for a while. Like really internalize. Basically I wanted to memorize every lesson I had learned in every one of these books.

If you trust the source, you don't need the arguments. So much of a book is arguing its point but often you don't need the argument. If you trust the source, you can just get the point.

After taking detailed notes on 220 books on my site, I realized that distilling wisdom into directives is so valuable but it's so rarely done. In fact, the only time I can think of when it was done was Michael Pollan with his three books in a row about food, each one getting shorter and shorter. 

On why directives feel presumptuous and are important:
Who am I to tell others what to do? But then I think well who am I not to? Right? It's useful. So get over myself, kinda like you asked about me onstage when I was eighteen - what was the biggest lesson learned? This isn't about me. People aren't here about me. They're here for their own gain.

Oh, you asked about my advice to TED speakers, that's my main advice to TED speakers: People aren't here to see you and your life story. People come to Ted or watch TED videos to learn something so just speak only about what is surprising and skip everything else.

How to be useful to others

1. Get famous. 
Do everything in public and for the public. The more people you reach the more useful you are. The opposite is hiding which is of no use to anyone.

2. Get rich
Money is neutral proof that you're adding money to people's lives. So by getting rich you're being useful as a side effect. Once rich spend the money in ways that even more useful to others, then getting rich is double useful.

3. Share strong opinions
Strong opinions are very useful to others. Those who are undecided or ambivalent can just adopt your stance, but those who disagree can solidify their stance by arguing against yours, so even if you invent an opinion for the sole sake of argument, boldly sharing a strong opinion is useful to others.

4. Be expensive
People given a placebo pill were twice as likely to have their pain disappear when told that that pill was expensive. People who paid more for tickets were more likely to attend the performance, so people who spend more for a product or service value it more and get more use out of it, so be expensive

How to thrive in an unknowable future

1. Prepare for the worst
Since you have no idea what the future may bring be open to the best and the worst. But the best case scenario doesn't need your preparation or your attention, so mentally and financially just prepare for the worst case instead. And like insurance, don't obsess on it just prepare and carry on appreciating the good times.

2. Expect disaster
If you ever watched a VH1 Behind the Music, you know that like every single success story had that moment when that narrator would come in and say, "and then things took a turn for the worst", so fully expect that disaster to come to you at any time. You have to completely assume that it is going to happen and make your plans accordingly. Not just money, but health and family and freedom, you have to expect it to all disappear. Besides, you appreciate things more when you know this may be your last time seeing them.

3. Own as little as possible. 
Depend on even less. The less you own, the less you're affected by disaster. 

4. Choose opportunity, not loyalty.
Have no loyalty to location, corporation, or your last public statements. Be an absolute opportunist doing whatever is best for the future in the current situation unbound by the past. Have loyalty for only your most important human relationships.

5. Choose the plan with the most options. 
The best plan is the one that lets you change your plans.  For example, renting a house is actually buying the option to move at any time without losing money in a changing market.

6. Avoid planning.
For maximum options, don't plan at all. Since you have no idea how the situation or your mood may change in the future, wait until the last moment to make each decision. 

How to stop being rich and happy

Prioritize lifestyle design. You've made it so it's all about you now. Make your dreams come true. Shape your surroundings to please your every desire. Make your immediate gratification the most important thing.

Change that comparison moment.
You have the old thing, you want the new thing. Yes! Do it! Be happy for a week. Ignore the fact that happiness comes only from the moment of comparison between the old and new. Once you've had your new thing for a week and it becomes your new normal, just go seek happiness from another new thing.

Advice to younger self: Women like sex. I didn't know that till I was 40.

Advice to 30-year-old self: Don't be a donkey, referring to Buridan's ass - the fable of a donkey between equidistant piles of hay and buckets of water, unable to decide until he dies of starvation and thirst. Our awareness of the future allows us to do everything in our life. We need foresight and patience.


The Tim Ferriss Show with Scott Adams

Tim: Would you tell me what you had for breakfast, please?
I had my usual coffee and protein bar while staring out the window and wishing I had eaten more calories.

Testing the bullshit feeling of affirmation, Adams talks about how he tested it multiple times throughout his life, including meeting the hot girl in the office, beating out a friend and scoring a 94 on his GMATs without a preparation course, and waking in the middle of the night with a burning desire to purchase stock.

Discussing God's Debris and the challenge of writing as the smartest person in the world when you're not the smartest person in the world:
"My writer solution was a version of Occam's Razor, a bastardized version, in which I simply had the smartest person in the world say the things that seemed like the simplest explanations. And it turns out when you read the simplest explanation, even if its not what you were set to believe, or already did believe, it's very compelling anyway. it's one of those ways your brain is wired that simplicity looks compelling, i.e. Ronald Reagan, Donald Trump. Simplicity is always compelling.

"Take the debate where he came in as the underprepared buffoon who was going to blow himself up and Megyn Kelly of Fox News decided that yes, that's exactly what was going to happen and she started right out with the "Did you say all these things bad things about women?"

Now every other politician would have been smeared off the stage by that because it wouldn't matter what he said back. It wouldn't matter what the response was because the question itself, like NLP...

Tim: is so incriminating.

Right. Yeah, the question is the content, alright? Maybe somebody said, "Oh that was taken out of context" or whatever, which is what people usually say. And it usually is. That's actually usually true. But the public isn't going to hear that. They're just going to hear the feeling that they felt when Megyn Kelly said that person's name, bad to women. That's really like the beginning and the end of thinking for, let's say, at least 20% of the public, right? About the same 20% that can easily be hypnotized, coincidentally.

But what did Trump do? As soon as that question came up, he semi-interrupted her and he said, "Only Rosie O'Donnell." That, my friends, is hypnosis. He took an anchor that everybody could visualize and his core audience already had a negative impression. Their negative impression of Rosie O'Donnell almost certainly was bigger, stronger, and visual, and more important than whatever Megan Kelly just said which should have been a full house, right?

She showed him four kings and he beat her hand! And he did it without even trying, and he did with a method which is well understood. It's a negotiating technique. You throw down an anchor, you divert everybody. And so instead of becoming this sexist, which he could have been on day one, he became the straight talker.

On why Dale Carnegie's How to Stop Worrying and Start Living needs an update:
"Because I have a theory that there is a real, there is something called a digital disease, meaning that if you take the average person and put them in the average simple environment of the past they were not overwhelmed by its complexity. But i believe that today the average person is overwhelmed by the complexity of life because it got more complicated, and that I barely know an adult who isn't on some kind of drug, either prescribed or otherwise, to deal with anxiety and I'm pretty sure that wasn't the case when I was a kid. Maybe we have more options now, I guess. I think there is a real, legitimate mental illness plague."


"Keep in mind the names of these biggest companies in your world, like Google, Apple, their business model is distraction. All of that depends on taking you off your task and making you look at an advertisement or buy their new song or buy their new thing or look at a new app or something. So they're literally in the business of making you distracted and doing the job that the smartest people in the world using the best science and A/B testing can provide. While in the normal world you had, it was a fair fight. You're like, "Hey I'm going to ignore your billboard on the highway because I can. It wasn't that hard, ha ha." Those guys with the billboards they weren't using a ton of science. But now its me against all the scientists in Google."

On dealing with the complexity of modern life with systems versus goals:
"The idea is that if you have a goal-oriented approach to the world that that's an approach that made perfect sense 200 years ago if you were a farmer and you had a simple operation and you thought if you cleared another ten acres before winter you could grow more corn, you were almost certainly right. So clearing those ten acres before winter was a perfectly good goal and it made perfect sense to pursue it.

But now fast forward, alright? It's modern times. There's probably more technology, more complexity in your pocket, right now, in your smartphone than the farmer had in his entire operation. Today if you're focused on one thing for more than a minute and a half there is a good chance that that thing is no longer worth having. There are people going to school for degrees that won't mean anything even four years for now when they get out of school. You've got people who are making plans with a clear focus in a world that no longer supports a clear path to anything. 

If you cant predict the future and on top of that, even if you could predict it, and you picked a goal and you marched straight at it, when you got there, there is a really good chance that you would have said, "you know I didn't notice there were five other goals that were way better than this one" because they emerged while you were focusing on your goal. So if you're not keeping your eye on the whole of it and if you're not playing the odds and you're picking a moonshot as your way to go through life, you're going to feel like you're failing, not only if you miss the moon, but you're going to feel like a failure all the way to the moon cause you haven't gotten the moon and you're not quite sure if you're going to get there."

Billboard message: Be useful.

Advice to your thirty-year old self:
That was a time of great transition. I would say probably patience because I've been playing the system game and not the goal game since I got out of college. And literally have a diary in which I wrote my master plan.

If you take ten years following a process and it's not giving you results thats hard to remain patience, so in retrospect that was the only thing I needed to maybe alleviate some of my pain. But on the other hand impatience probably drove me harder, so maybe I wouldn't tell myself that either.

Tim: And if your thirty-tear-old self said, how exactly do you purpose I be patient, how would you respond to that?

Well, my thirty-year-old self would not have access to medical marijuana so I have a limited canvas of which to paint.

I've always made it a top priority since I was a teenager and had tons of stress-related medical problems to make that job one: to learn how to not have stress.

I would consider myself a world champion of avoiding stress at this point in dozens of different ways. And a lot of it is just how you look at the world, but most of it is really the process of diversification. So I'm not going to losing one friend if I have a hundred, but if I have two friends I'm really going to be worried. Not going to worry about losing my job because my one boss is going to fire me because i have thousands of bosses at newspapers everywhere and lots of them can like me one day and it doesn't make any difference to my life. 

One of the ways to not worry about stress is to eliminate it. I don't worry about my stock picks because i have a diversified portfolio, so diversification works in almost every area of your life to reduce your stress."

Book recommendation: Influence by Robert Cialdini

The Tim Ferriss Show with Maria Popova

On what she decides to write about:
"I write about a very wide array of disciplines and eras and sensibilities because that's what I think about, so anything from art and science to philosophy, psychology, history, design, poetry, you name it. But the common denominator for me is just this very simple question of does this illuminate some aspect, big or small, of that grand question that I think we all tussle with every day which is how to live well,  how to live a good, meaningful fulfilling life. Whether that's Aristotle's views on happiness and government, or beautiful art from 12th century Japan, or Sam Harris' new book - anything."

About the temptation to create clickbait for rankings:
"It's interesting because I think anybody who thinks in public - which is what writing is, which is even what art is, it's some sort of putting a piece of oneself out into the world - anyone who does that struggles with this really irreconcilable tug-of-war between wanting to stay true to one's experience and being aware that as soon as its out in the world there is this notion of the other, audience. 

And Oscar Wilde, very memorably, said that a true artist takes no notice whatever of the public and that the public to him are non-existent. And it's very easy to say - especially for somebody as Wilde, who was very prolific, very public, almost performative in his public presence - it's very easy to call this out as a kind of hypocrisy and say well you can't possibly not care about the audience given you make your living through it and sort of perform to it.

But I think that's a pretty cynical interpretation. I think that rather than hypocrisy, it's this very human struggle to be seen and be understood, which is why all art comes to be because one human being wants to put something into the world and to be understood for what he or she stands for and who he or she is. 

And so with that lens I do think it's hard to say, well, I don't care about what happens to it out there, even though I write for myself and think for myself.

The awareness of the other really does change things, but I think perhaps Werner Herzog put it best [...] in one passage, Herzog says something like it's always been important for me to have my films reach an audience. I don't necessarily need to hear what those audience reactions are, just as long as they're out, that the films are touching people in some way.

And I feel very similarly. With that in mind, I guess to answer your question rather circuitously, I don't feel quote unquote tempted to make listicles or to make anything that I feel compromises my experience of what I stand for. In part, I think the beauty of the web is it's a self-perfecting organism, but for as long as its an ad-supported medium the motive will be to perfect the commercial interest, to perfect the art of the Buzzfeed listicle, the endless slideshow, the infinitely paginated article, and not to perfect the human spirit of the reader or the writer, which is really what I'm interested in."