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."