Tools of Titans – Tim Ferriss

This is it. It's the book. A massive modern source for practical advice, how to live a better life, and examples of success. That's it. It's starting blocks for any endeavor. It's the world's most successful people sharing their habits, strategies, thoughts, and advice. And it's all indexed by neurotic meta-learner Tim Ferriss. This book is huge, and as much as it focuses on pragmatic advice, it's one of the most impulsive, honest, and personal books that gets into what truly matters.

Tools of Titans is an analyzed collection of conversations and interviews from The Tim Ferriss Show. The podcast began in April 2014 and currently has over 200 episodes. It's typically the #1 business podcast on iTunes and has surpassed 100 million downloads. The guests are truly from every walk of life, and are usually at the top of their field in their niche or career. These friends and acquaintances speak with Tim in long form conversations, anywhere from 30 minutes to 3 hours. The book, cut and crafted by Tim's manic perfectionism, is the actionable, heartfelt advice and stories given by the guests.

This book has 3 sections: Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise. Every section contains corresponding interviews, separated person to person. Each profile begins with a personal quote or two, their spirit animal (Tim emphasizes having fun with the process), bio, then selected segments of their conversations. There are bonus guests and extended thoughts from Tim throughout the book. While packed with real advice, a lot of fun facts and entertaining stories are included - the book isn't all serious. You can read Tools of Titans any way you want - skip to certain guests or sections, look for bolded sentences and quotes, or read through the entire book and enjoy the diversity of guests. Just like the podcast, not everything will be interesting to everyone unless you approach it with a very open mind. The healthy section can go very in depth with diets, exercises, and psychedelics, and the wealthy section can go at length on team building, stress testing, and personalities of successful investors.

 

I honestly have no idea how to adequately share the notes - there's a lot. One of the challenges with this book, and reviewing it, is that there's so much killer advice that it's easy to glaze over or disregard profound statements. I had to really slow down and categorize things, to be referenced later when I was ready to take in more information. Below I'll list some personal highlights from each section, plus some random groups of recommended material to give a taste of what's being discussed.

Healthy

“If the best in the world are stretching their asses off in order to get strong, why aren’t you? ” - Coach Christopher Sommer
 
Cold exposure (Wim Hof, Laird Hamilton, Tony Robbins): “All the problems I have in the daily world subside when I do [cold exposure]. Exposing myself to the worthy cold . . . it is a great cleaning, purifying force. Simply make the last 30 to 60 seconds of your shower pure cold."

Josh Waitzkin

Triple H talking to Floyd Mayweather before a fight: "You’re not wound up about this at all?" and he goes, "Why would I be wound up? I’m either ready or I’m not. Worrying about it right now ain’t gonna change a damn thing. Right? My work isn’t done tonight. My work was done 3 months ago, and I just have to show up.” 

General Stanley McChrystal's home workout:
- Set of push-ups to max reps
- 100 sit-ups, 3-minute plank, 2 to 3 minutes of yoga
- Set of push-ups to max reps
- 50 to 100 crunch-like crossover (legs up), 2.5-minute plank, 2 to 3 minutes of yoga
- Set of push-ups to max reps
- 50 to 100 crossover sit-ups (the first two variations combined), 2-minute plank, 2 to 3 minutes of yoga
- Set of push-ups to max reps
- 60 flutter kicks, followed by static hold; 1.5-minute plank; set of crunches; 1-minute plank; 2 to 3 minutes of yoga 
 
Wealthy
 

Tony Robbins

“So our brainstorming was: Let’s come up with as many ideas as possible, and then put them under scrutiny, and basically try to kill them off, and if they were unkillable, then we’d keep going with them.” - Stephen J. Dubner
 
Four commonalities across the best investors, from Tony Robbins:
  1. Capping the downside (be obsessed with not losing money)
  2. Asymmetrical risk and rewards (least amount of risk for the maximum upside)
  3. Asset allocation. “They absolutely, beyond a shadow of a doubt, know they’re going to be wrong . . . so they set up an asset allocation system that will make them successful. They all agree asset allocation is the single most important investment decision.”
  4. Contribution. “And the last one that I found: almost all of them were real givers, not just givers on the surface . . . but really passionate about giving. . . . It was really real."

Chase Jarvis

“The way that I hacked the system was setting my first hired, day-rate gig at several thousand dollars a day. I pushed myself to a point that was incredibly uncomfortable and required myself to deliver at the highest level. I charged accordingly because I had done the work, done the research, and knew what the top guys and gals were getting. I put myself in that caliber right away. I set it at $ 2,000 to $ 2,500 a day." - Chase Jarvis, CEO of CreativeLive

“I distinctly remember him saying not to worry about what I was going to do because the job I was going to do hadn’t even been invented yet. The interesting jobs are the ones that you make up. That’s something I certainly hope to instill in my son: Don’t worry about what your job is going to be. Do things that you’re interested in, and if you do them really well, you’re going to find a way to temper them with some good business opportunity." - Chris Young, chef/scientist

 “Losers have goals. Winners have systems. Writing is a skill that requires practice. So the first part of my system involves practicing on a regular basis. I didn’t know what I was practicing for, exactly, and that’s what makes it a system and not a goal.” - Scott Adams, creator of Dilbert

The Canvas Strategy - helping yourself by helping others.
Making a concerted effort to trade your short-term gratification for a longer-term payoff. Whereas everyone else wants to get credit and be “respected,” you can forget credit. You can forget it so hard that you’re glad when others get it instead of you— that was your aim, after all. Let the others take their credit on credit, while you defer and earn interest on the principal. Once we fight this emotional and egotistical impulse, the canvas strategy is easy. The iterations are endless.
- Come up with ideas to hand over to your boss.
- Find people, thinkers, up-and-comers to introduce to each other.
- Cross wires to create new sparks.
- Find what nobody else wants to do and do it.
- Produce more than everyone else and give your ideas away.
 
Wise
 
"All other things being equal, to increase your happiness, all you have to do is randomly wish for somebody else to be happy. That is all. It basically takes no time and no effort.” - Chade-Meng Tan, software engineer

Kevin Costner and Jon Baird

“[To a graduating class] You guys are programmed to succeed. The hardest thing you’re ever going to do in your life is fail at something, and if you don’t start failing at things, you will not live a full life. You’ll be living a cautious life on a path that you know is pretty much guaranteed to more or less work.” - Sebastian Junger, journalist, author

“When I articulated that I didn’t care anymore about what anybody thought about what I did except me, all the weight of the world came off my shoulders, and everything became possible. It shifted to everybody else [being] worried. Now they’re worried. But everything for me, it shifted to a place where I felt free.” - Kevin Costner, actor

“One of the many life skills that you want to learn at a fairly young age is the skill of being an ultra-thrifty, minimal kind of little wisp that’s traveling through time - in the sense of learning how little you actually need to live, not just in a survival mode, but in a contented mode. That gives you the confidence to take a risk, because you say, ‘What’s the worst that can happen? Well, the worst that can happen is that I’d have a backpack and a sleeping bag, and I’d be eating oatmeal. And I’d be fine.’” - Kevin Kelly, Wired Magazine

"Let’s really start over. Let’s just completely empty our cup here and really think about what is valuable to me now. What’s honest. What’s sincere about what we’re doing." - Joshua Skenes

Naval Ravikant's Laws:
“These aren’t all quotes from others. Many are maxims that I’ve carved for myself.”
Be present above all else.
Desire is suffering (Buddha).
Anger is a hot coal that you hold in your hand while waiting to throw it at someone else (Buddhist saying).
If you can’t see yourself working with someone for life, don’t work with them for a day.

Kevin Rose

Reading (learning) is the ultimate meta-skill and can be traded for anything else.
All the real benefits in life come from compound interest.
Earn with your mind, not your time. 99% of all effort is wasted.
Total honesty at all times. It’s almost always possible to be honest and positive.
Praise specifically, criticize generally (Warren Buffett).
Truth is that which has predictive power.
Watch every thought. (Always ask, “Why am I having this thought?”)
All greatness comes from suffering.
Love is given, not received.
Enlightenment is the space between your thoughts (Eckhart Tolle).
Mathematics is the language of nature.
Every moment has to be complete in and of itself.
 
Random Groups of Notes
 
Below are some notes I tried to group while reading. None of the lists are complete, but maybe can provide a springboard and give you a better idea of what's in the book.
 
As a parent:
 
“As a parent, you have to learn to say sorry because you blew it. Sometimes you can go, ‘Hey, you know what? I am extra tired today and my fuse is short. I am being unfair to you, and I’m sorry.’ You have to learn that you’re imperfect and open that door. I always [ask] my girls, ‘Do you feel loved enough?’ And they say, ‘Oh, come on, Mom.’ But I think you should ask." - Gabby Hamilton (Laird Hamilton's wife)
 

Joshua Skenes

“Success is: Do your kids remember you for being the best dad? Not the dad who gave them everything, but will they be able to tell you anything one day? Will they be able to call you out of the blue, any day, no matter what? Are you the first person they want to ask for advice? And at the same time, can you hit it out of the park in whatever it is you decide to do, as a lawyer, as a doctor, as a stockbroker, as a whatever?” - Peter Attia, M.D., B.Sc. mechanical engineering
 
Marriage:
 
“[Of 10,000 successful couples studied], there’s only one thing that everybody had in common, no matter what the dynamic. What is it? The man respected the woman. The number one thing.” - Laird Hamilton, professional surfer
 
Advice to Your 20 Year Old Self:
 
"You have to believe in your capacity. You have to believe that your capacity is greater than you could probably imagine." - Rainn Wilson, actor, author
 
"Write everything down because it’s all very fleeting. Don’t bow to the gatekeepers because I think, in essence, there are no gatekeepers. You are the gatekeeper. And also, it’s not about being good; it’s about being great. Because what I find, the older I get, is that a lot of people are good, and a lot of people are smart, and a lot of people are clever. But not a lot of people give you their soul when they perform.” - Mike Birbiglia, comedian, writer, producer

Jamie Foxx

 
“Don’t be so fucking shy.” - Richard Betts, author, cofounder, winemaker
 
"I would say it’s pretty simple: Don’t be scared. There are a lot of things I did not do, a lot of experiences I never tried, a lot of people I never met or hung out with because I was, in some form, intimidated or scared. It also plays into what psychologists call the ‘spotlight effect,’ [as if] everybody must be caring about what I do. And the fact is: Nobody gives a crap what I do.” -Stephen J. Dubner, journalist, author of Freakonomics
 
 
 
The following music, documentaries, and books were discussed and recommended by guests on the show.
 
Music:
 
For workouts/repeating/zoning in:
"My War" album by Black Flag
The Last of the Mohicans soundtrack
“Everyday” by A$AP Rocky
“Rigamortis” by Kendrick Lamar

Matt Mullenweg

“One Dance” by Drake
“Tonight Tonight” by the Smashing Pumpkins
“Keep Your Eyes Open” by NEEDTOBREATHE
“Time” by Hans Zimmer
“Lift Off” by Jay Z and Kanye West
“Circulation” by Beats Antique
“Black Out the Sun” by Sevendust
 
Some of Tim’s flow albums:
"Gran Hotel Buenos Aires" by Federico Aubele
"Essential Mix" by Luciano featuring DeadMau5
"Just Jammin" extended single track by Gramatik
"I Choose Noise" by Hybrid
 
Documentaries:
 
King of Kong
Catfish - “It’s a cliché, but it’s a brilliant, generation-defining documentary.”
To Be and to Have - "This is a beautiful and simple film about a one-room school in France, and what happens over the course of one year.”
Grizzly Man - "Any piece of art where I’m not sure whether to sob or laugh hysterically— I love that feeling.”
Man on Wire
 
Books:
 
Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari (sequel Homo Deus out now)
Poor Charlie’s Almanack by Charlie Munger
Anything You Want by Derek Sivers
Influence by Robert Cialdini
Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl
Siddartha by Hermann Hesse
Natural Born Heroes by Christopher McDougall
Deep Survival by Laurence Gonzales, which Laird calls “an incredible book about fear and dealing with fear.”
As a Man Thinketh by James Allen
Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World
Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman! by Richard P. Feynman 
Stone Soup - Children’s book that is the best MBA according to Peter Diamandis 
Start with Why by Simon Sinek - to help find a sense of purpose or mission
Tribe by Sebastian Younger
On the Shortness of Life by Seneca 
Plato’s The Republic 
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho (for fiction)
If This Is a Man and The Truce (often combined into one volume) by Primo Levi (if you’re into reading a dark book to put things in perspective, Jocko) 
The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien (recommended by Caroline Paul, to every graduating college student) 
Cocktail Techniques by Kazuo Uyeda 
Dropping Ashes on the Buddha. "A series of letters that this really funny, very direct, very no-bullshit Korean monk wrote back and forth with his students in the 1970s."