Hey everybody, how's it going. I'm Chase Jarvis. Welcome to another episode of Chase Jarvis Live here on CreativeLive. You're tuned into the 30 Days of Genius series on this show, and what that is I sit down with the world's top creatives, entrepreneurs, and thought leaders, and extract awesome, valuable information that will live your dreams in career, hobby, and life. If you're new to CreativeLive and/or the 30 Days of Genius series go to creativelive.com/30daysofgenius. All you gotta do is click that blue button and then you will get one of these badass interviews in your inbox every morning for 30 days, full of information and inspiration. My guest today, he's a personal friend but he's also a badass certifiable in many categories, one of which is he is a number one New York Times bestselling author of three books. That's three times number one times New York Times bestselling author. That's a lot of times. The second thing he's very good at is, oh gosh, I was gonna say, was it sal...
sa? Don't look over here. Was it salsa or was it tango? It was tango. That's not really what we wanted. What's the second thing we were going to do?
TV, oh yeah. He's the star of his own television show called the Tim Ferris Experiment and he has a podcast, of which I've been on, that has been downloaded 60 million times. I already gave away my guest today is none other than Tim Ferris. Hi buddy.
How are you? Can we do that again? (laughter) (industrial music) (applause) They love you! All right buddy, again, welcome to the show. Let's see if we can not botch that. And we're just gonna hold each other for the rest of the show. So, how are you?
I'm well. Are you good?
I'm doing great man.
We're in San Francisco, sunny San Francisco. It's 80 degrees today. I'm wearing a sweater because we were wearing the same outfit before we started. I end up with the same outfit as my guest all the time. How are you, you good?
I'm fantastic, I'm really fantastic.
Your podcast is crushing.
It's funny how that, as a side project, as a stress release valve, turned into the main focus.
It was really intended just to be a creative outlet.
I was guest number either two or three. You pitched it to me as an experiment like, this is gonna be weird.
It might be bad.
It might be bad.
Quite probably will be bad, but I was so burned out after doing the last book, The 4-Hour Chef, and just wanted something different. And also, along the lines of what Scott Adams, the creator of Dilbert, has talked about before, to focus on systems thinking, in his language, which is planning projects that even if they are viewed as a failure by the outside world give you skills or a network, something that helps carry over to your next project. For me it was like well, even if the podcast fails I'll get better at asking questions, and I'll get better-- this is funny-- at eliminating verbal tics, I say as I sound like Porky Pig. Work in progress, folks. But yeah, it's just been a blast, and it's one of those rare cases where the thing that is now driving a lot of the creative ship for me is what I most enjoy doing.
Yeah, go figure.
Is there a-- Not is there, I know the answer, the answer is yes. You engineered that, but did you engineer it so carefully, like did you know it was going to be this perfect or this magical when you started? Or did you start, like give us a little bit of your thought process. Baked in there is the answer but I want to know--
It was not a disaster when I started, but if you go back and listen to episode one with Kevin Rose I was nervous.
You start with your friends.
I start with my friends and I was still nervous. A couple things happened in that first interview: number one, I was throwing out the questions that I had borrowed from the other people I had seen interview. One of them was like, if you could be a breakfast cereal what would you be, and Kevin was like, "Oh, it's gonna be one of those interviews." I'm like, "Ugh, stop chafing my balls. I'm already nervous." I was nervous and drinking wine, so when I flash forward like three quarters of the way through I sound, and I was, completely drunk. So it's like right out of the gate I embarrass myself.
This is gin.
This is gin, we should be very clear. But what I did do is interviewed, or really just reached out to podcasters before starting, to ask them a series of questions, which is what I do anytime I try to learn about anything, even if I don't launch, even if I make the decision to abort. And in this case it became clear that almost everyone who launches a podcast quit after, say, three episodes. You look on iTunes, 300,000 podcasts let's say, and the vast majority have three episodes and then they go silent, they go dead. And it's because people get overwhelmed with editing. So I made the decision to do longform, long conversations, next to no editing. And just that decision alone I think has allowed me to get to where I am in a necessary but not sufficient manner. Like those small decisions that are made-- and we were chatting about this before we started recording but in response to the question that I've been asking myself more and more, which is what would this look like if it were easy? Like yes you can try to make it perfect over here, but that might mean that you quit after three attempts. So what would it look like if it were easy? And part of the answer was next to no post-production.
I love it. To describe a parallel track, Chase Jarvis Live, this particular show is five or six years old now and the original 50 episodes were only in Seattle, 100 person live studio audience, live only, no prerecorded, also the same long format. And it was hard, and even then I've made some decisions, some aesthetic decisions, one of which is making it black and white. Primarily that was intentional so that it would be reductive and you're just focusing on the two people in the conversation. But then I was also like, oh wow, that saves all kinds of other problems because we can use mixed light and natural light, and artificial light, and we don't have to solve for all this shit. I kind of tried to do it then, and this, what we're looking at right now, is an even easier version of that, and it's weird how when you take out these things that are the blockers, how you can steamroll through something.
And not only that but what I've come to realize, maybe a little later in my life than I would've liked--
You're like 26, what do you mean? (laughs)
That's true, I'm 26. Been doing a lot of roids, that explains the lost hair. That's a joke, folks. Not a very funny one. The point I was gonna make is that, I think for type A personalities-- I put us both in that bucket--
Is it is easy as a default to assume that if you don't feel like you're burning the candle at both ends you're not doing a good job. And what I've realized is yes, there's a place for hard work if you've chosen the appropriate place to put it. However if you're really focused on your unique abilities and really just honing in on the things that you are best at-- and it doesn't mean you're best in the world, but just of the things you do you are best at this small piece-- it shouldn't feel really, really hard and forced. And I think that leads some people who are really driven to veer away from what they're good at to incorporate all this complexity that is comprised of things that they're mediocre at, or just so-so at. I've just realized for myself, the podcast really was the wakeup call for me, that it doesn't have to be so hard. And yes there are times when you grind, yes there are times when like I'll batch record the podcast, which is another thing I'll do to make it sustainable. I'll record, say I record on Mondays and Fridays, just decide as a policy I'm gonna record on Mondays and Fridays, then I'll do two or three on a Monday, two or three on a Friday. That's a month and a half of longform interviews. Then I have the shorter ones, and all of that is intended to make it sustainable and consistent and it allows me to focus on the pieces that I am best at, whereas if I had made other decisions based on what the crowds were doing-- I was told this when I started blogging, "You have to blog at least a half a dozen times before noon "or nobody's gonna pick up on your blog, "it's not gonna become huge. "It has to be this length, "it has to be this, it has to be that," and when you ask those folks for the evidence or any supporting data, "Well how do you know that?" Even just that question, you don't have to be abrasive about it. Like, "How do you know that," and they're like, "Because so and so, "Bill, Bob, and Harry, and Jane told me that it was true." And it's like, oh you realize just because something's been repeated that often doesn't make it true. And you find the same thing in podcasting, "You have to do this, you have to do this, "you have to do this." I'm just thinking of one example, since I'm all fired up on green tea, is the audio quality. Audio quality is important insomuch as for 99% of the people listening they're going to be in a subway, in a car, cooking. It has to be intelligible, and it has to be loud enough. And make it stereo-- or rather mono, so that you don't have one person's voice in one ear and one person's voice in the other. As long as you do that everybody except for audio engineers will be happy. But people will kill themselves who know nothing about audiovisuals like preamps and all of this gear and they become so overwhelmed-- none of which I use-- that they quit, because they're like, "This is too complex for me." What would this look like if it were simple, if it were easy.
Let's extrapolate to some really concrete stuff. What's the universal lesson? If you simplify it it's easy, but presumably there are folks out there who aren't writers and photographers and designers. Is there a maxim that transcends just "make it easy"?
I think there are compatible maxims. If there's something to transcend it... Am I making this hard, am I making this harder than it needs to be. For instance, one of the best pieces of advice, just to get out of podcasting and look at writing-- which I find infinitely harder than podcasting.
We're podcasting right now. I'm not even trying. Are you trying?
I'm not trying, although I've had so much mushrooms before we started. No I'm kidding.
You did hours of prep for this.
I did hours, hours of prep. The blank page is very intimidating for a lot of people unless they happen to be trained journalists who can churn out 1500 words a day and have them be good. That's not me. But one of the best pieces of advice I got was from someone who told me this lesson in the context of IBM back in the day, when IBM was just the behemoth. It was the 800 pound gorilla across several different industries and their salespeople were known as being incredibly, incredibly effective. They smashed quotas. Now how did they do that? One of the lessons that was taken away from IBM was that they made the quotas really low. Well that's pretty odd. Why would they make the quotas low? Because they wanted the salespeople to not be intimidated to pick up the phone. They wanted to build that sales momentum, and then people would overshoot their goals. Translated to writing, I was told at one point you goal should be two crappy pages a day. That's it, if you hit two crappy pages, even if you never use them, you've succeeded for the day. And alleviating that performance anxiety about putting down like 10 pages of good material-- which inevitably, I think, you're going to fail at least once or twice a week-- allows you to overshoot that goal, and continually succeed, and build that confidence and momentum. That would be an example of rigging the game so that you can win it. It applies to diet, it applies to exercise, it applies to writing, it applies to podcasting. How can I make this easy, how can I set, in a way, the goal lower, the objective smaller, so that I can feel like I'm winning. Because I feel like the feeling that you are winning is a precursor to winning on a very large scale.
Yeah, to actually winning. The way I talk around on here is, CreativeLive, for example, has a ton of momentum right now. It's just growing, it's exceeding our expectations. I mean we have very high expectations, but you can't underestimate the power of momentum. Two becomes four, four-- Just think about compounding interest. You're leaning into it and it's accelerating. Maybe even the accelerating law-- the law of accelerating returns, that's what I'm trying to think of. So is that a-- I don't know, do you apply that to every part of-- Because you just touched on like writing--
I do, I apply it to any type of behavioral change. And if you want to be more creative, you want to make more money, which then has many different component behaviors, if you want to sleep better, longer, deeper, whatever it might be, set of behaviors you need to change. Whenever I'm looking at behavioral modification, I think BJ Fogg at Stanford has done a lot of interesting writing in this department where if he's trying to get someone to floss he'll be like, "Start with your front teeth. "Don't worry about the whole mouth." He's just like, "I want you to floss--" You have enough time to floss your front teeth before you go to bed. And eventually you'll be like, wow, I'm such a loser, I can't believe I'm flossing my front teeth. I'll just floss my whole mouth. Then you do it, and before you know it, boom, you're flossing your teeth. But rigging it in such a way that you don't put it off. So oh, you want to pick up an exercise habit. Five minutes on the treadmill, that's it. And it's like if you get in there and you're like, "Eh, I'm not feeling it," you wanna jet after six minutes, great, you're done, you succeeded, you win. If you wanna stay, you're feeling great, feeling a little froggy as my gymnastics coach currently would say, it's like great, then stay on for another 30 minutes. But understand that's bonus points, you already won. A very close corollary to that for creatives, particularly people who are like, "I need to win. "I want to be number one. I want to--" fill in the blank.
I have no idea (unclear speech).
I know you have none of that hardwiring. Is celebrating the small wins. I think I've been very bad at that historically. My ex-girlfriend helped me develop a habit which I think is a great habit. I have this jar-- and it's gonna sound super cheesy-- but she labeled it the jar of awesome, and it's a big mason jar, and it's like when something really cool happened you're not gonna remember it three months later and have that perspective to give you gratitude. Write it down on a little piece of paper every night, like write down the things that were awesome that happened that day, however small they might be, fold it up, put it in the jar of awesome. And then when you get into a funk, when you're feeling down, when you're feeling uncreative, whatever it might be, go through and read these pieces of paper, these little self-made fortune cookies of goodness from this jar. It's a really easy habit that I think allows you to not only be creative but understand that most people-- and I know this isn't exclusively focused on creativity, but why do people want to be creative? Because they want to do good work. Why do they want to do good work? Because this, this, this. Why? Because they want to feel good about themselves and be happy. Well, you can give yourself small doses of that throughout the process, you don't have to postpone that reward that you think you're going to get at the end. Because guess what, if you don't celebrate the small things you're not actually gonna be very good at celebrating the big things either.
It's come up in this series of talks, somebody was talking about-- I think it was Neil Strauss talking about interviewing Lionel Richie. Lionel Richie just had an epic year. It has to be like 1983 or something like that, but it was an epic year. He won the Grammy, sold a million albums, blah blah blah. He considered himself climbing his way to the top in the music industry and when he got there you know what he told Neil was up there? Fuck all, there's nothing up there. There was no one else on the mountain. The takeaway is it really is the journey. It sounds trite, like you said, like an awesome jar, jar of awesomeness, but if you can't actually celebrate your wins along the way what do you got? The anecdote I still remember to this day and it just puts a lot in perspective which was from Thich Nhat Hanh. This was a Buddhist monk who's nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by Martin Luther King Jr., a Vietnamese Buddhist monk. And he's done quite a lot of writing. I think the first was Pieces Every Step, or something like that, which was intended for internal use only, it was a guidebook to new monks who were attending his retreat center or monastery in Vietnam. But the point being, the anecdote that he talked about was, thinking about this peach. You really want this peach at the end of the day, and this is like your reward for a hard day's work, whatever it is. But, if you're say washing the dishes, and instead of being mindful-- and I don't want to get too woo-woo and out there, but this does have a lot of practical applications. Instead of being present with washing the dishes and doing it in a very conscious way, you're thinking about the peach you're gonna have afterwards. When you're eating the peach, you're not gonna be able to enjoy the peach. You're gonna be thinking about your inbox, or whatever the hell it is you're gonna do after the peach. And so it's like really honing that-- and I actually owe you a debt of gratitude, and I've said this before, but for introducing me to transcendental meditation and getting me to bite the bullet with that. And there are many different types of mindfulness practice that work very well. I think things like Headspace are very helpful.
Yeah, great app. Calm, Headspace.
Calm also very good. But celebrating the small wins, and mindfulness is one of the constituent attributes that you can develop that helps a lot with that.
I love that. I'm gonna go to the meditation thing. You provided the bridge. Now that you're a professional interviewer with the podcast and everything. Natural bridge, I'm gonna take it. One of the things that, I'll tell a short story here, which is, I don't remember where we were, we were in Seattle somewhere, or maybe not. But we were doing something and you said, "Dude you're killing it and you seem really chill. "What's going on?" What's different, or something different. I was like, "Oh, it's interesting you said that. "I can't really think of-- "Oh actually, come to think of what's different is "I started meditating about six months ago or something." I think you were like, "Hmm, are you okay?" I think you checked my pulse, made sure that I was still alive. And then we sort of-- I don't remember if we laughed about it or... There was a few minutes of introspection around what does that mean. Is it the thing that has got us to where we are, any amount of success that you can say either one of us have had, is it because we're hardcore, type A, grinder, gonna not fail at any cost type of people, or is that something that's actually been an anchor all along.
Right, we've succeeded despite it, not because of it.
Yeah, and you asked me, "Don't get all soft on me Jarvis. "Are you losing your edge?" So talk to me about-- we'll get into meditation in particular in a second-- how about the mentality or the fear that some people who are hardcore, hard charging, consider themselves that type of a person. Tell me or the people who are listening or watching how that's not the case or how it wasn't the case for you or how you sort of played through that.
This is something I haven't fully answered for myself, to be quite honest. And I was just having an exchange-- well I was talking on my podcast with Tara Brach about this who wrote this fantastic book called Radical Acceptance. Terrible title, great book, that I think is a very digestible and approachable presentation of how you can implement a lot of what we're talking about. I feel like in the very worst case scenario, when I'm meditating consistently-- and for me, tell me if this is true for you-- but for me, let's just say I haven't been meditating at all. Whatever, I'm just being an idiot, or life intervenes and I'm just not meditating for like two weeks. It takes me about five to seven days for there to be a phase shift. I can meditate consistently and it's kind of like, eh, what am I doing. Okay, that session was eh, meh, meh, meh. And then you drop in, and then you kind of shift gears, and things become very, very different. When I get to that point in a worst case scenario I feel like I have half the anxiety and unnecessary stress, and very stoic sense. I talk about stoic philosophy a lot, I read tons of Seneca, Marcus Aurelius, etc., repeatedly. So not allowing external factors to provoke an excessive emotional response, so like 50% less of all the negative manifestations of that. Stress, anxiety, dah dah dah dah dah. Tony Robbins, I remember said, stress is sort of type A language for fear. (laughter) That's a pretty good one. And secondly I'd say I get 80% as much done. That's a worst case scenario. So it's like 50% decrease in all the negative and at least 80% of what I usually get done.
So that's at the low end, the worst case scenario.
The worst case scenario. Trying to look at it with slightly rose-colored glasses on I would say that meditating helps me to be more effective, not just more efficient. Meaning much of what I do when I don't meditate I think is reactive, compulsive, dodging of bullets or putting out of fires. It's like, okay great, maybe you cleared 50 additional email that day. Were those email important to clear at all in the first place? Maybe not. And I think that with meditation I'm able to, or mindfulness practice, just because meditation needs a total rebrand. It's got so much baggage. But it allows me to step back where I'm like, no longer am I on the front lines of a trench having grenades lobbed at me. I'm actually like the general looking at the battlefield and the map of the territory being like, okay, let's make some high level decisions. These guys shouldn't even be fighting over here, what the fuck are they doing over here. No, go over here. Call these guys out, we need more troops here, and objective wise we should be going after this this this. Great. (exhales) Everybody deep breath, execute. So that's a bit of a whining answer but I feel like, especially at this point in my life, I do feel like I could have benefited tremendously from it previously, even if it were just for the benefit that I find myself less likely to engage in addictive behaviors, like stimulants. I have always loved coffee. I mean tea, at the weakest. When I was a-- Yeah, exactly. When I was a high school athlete I got hooked on pre-workout supplements, you know ephedrine, caffeine, aspirin, all that stuff, and I think I did a lot of physical damage to myself by taking that stuff consistently, because it was sort of self medicating, but also just really put me on level 11, in Spinal Tap parlance. But when I meditate I don't need those things as much nor do I want those things as much. So I think it could have been very helpful just from a health standpoint if I had started earlier. These days, you know I'm 38, I feel like, I wanna pick my shots. I'm no longer the athlete I once was. I'm not gonna go out there like Joe Frasier and just throw hooks all day long. Nope, I wanna have very surgical strikes. And to do that you need to, I think, have just that general level awareness and not be a foot soldier.
I just actually read a great quote from Maya Angelou, something about creativity. For some reason this is a tie-in to meditation, which is, creativity is an infinite resource, the more you spend, the more you have. And I find that there's this sort of compounding thing. You alluded to it in your meditation recount right there where it's compounding, day one, day two, day three, it's like three, three, three, and then all of a sudden it's four, five, six, seven, eight on a scale of one to 10. And I find that if I'm in it, boy it's an accelerating sort of experience. And effectiveness, not efficiency, for sure. There's clarity. The way Jordan talks about basketball, like he sees the game in slow motion, that's what makes him different than most of the other players I think. That's the one that I've used on why I think meditation is powerful, because I tend to see my life in slow motion as opposed to the hyper-caffeinated like, "Gotta run from here. I'm late for this in five minutes," and you're busy feeling so powerful because you're always doing, and, "Oh man I'm so awesome."
No I agree. Creativity being an asset that grows the more you use it, the more you spend, I think is a very interesting concept and what I've been focusing on personally in the last, say, three to six months, really trying to focus on, is seeking out and creating the absurd. I think that there's so much absurdity in life, and as adults we've kind of inculcated ourselves to be very serious, we're so serious and mature, and I think that is kryptonite for creativity. I really think that taking life and yourself too seriously is just, it's like waterboarding your creativity. It absolutely nullifies, or at least decreases it dramatically. And so for me I've been trying to not only seek out absurdity-- which I think, quite frankly, is in many cases a synonym for creativity, or creative. If creativity is too nebulous, like people are like, "I've read six books on creativity. "I'm still not sure what the hell it means." It's like, go for absurd. Try to find the absurd, and create the absurd. On that note, Kurt Vonnegut, one of my favorite writers.
Hilarious writer. Also incredibly deep philosophical thinker, but it's embedded in this humor, like Cat's Cradle. It's like, no cat, no cradle. (laughs) That doing things just for the hell of it, for no good reason whatsoever, and making them as absurd as possible, I've created some very interesting opportunities for myself, some very unexpected opportunities for myself, just by doing things on a lark, and doing things because they're absurd.
Can you give us an example?
I'll give you an example. On Instagram I try to put up at least a handful of photos a week that are just completely absurd with minimal explanation just to see how the world responds. So it's like me testing out my dog's new dog bed with little to no explanation. Or like yesterday, putting up this photo of myself with these ridiculous things call sunstaches, which got sent to me, and it's like sunglasses with these little bunny ears with like a chain that hangs down with a bunny mouth over my mouth. So I take this photograph of myself with a Save Ferris shirt on holding a kitchen knife and a bottle of wine, and just put that out there, and I was like, let's see what the world does with that.
How was it received?
I mean, as to be expected with the Internet. There are a lot of people who don't know how to take anything non-literally, and I'm not sure how you'd even take that literally. It was great, it was just like scratching my own itch to be absurd and just stir things up a bit.
Can we use the word play?
Play for sure. And I think that another-- and I know we're going all over the place here-- but I think that I've also revisited a lot of mythology in the last year or so. We haven't talked about this.
Minotaurs and shit or what do you mean?
Yeah potentially minotaurs, but a lot of animal related, say Native American mythology, looking at the coyote and the raven, or like Iktome, or these different trickster gods. I used to be a D&D-head, in all fairness. Dungeons and Dragons for those who have not played with the graph paper.
The twenty-sided die.
The twenty-sided die, so good. I still have all of my dice. Dodecahedrons and all that goodness. Go gray elf. Anyway, the point being I think that the masks people wear-- and this is someone else's quote-- often tell us more about who they are than the "truth". And the stories that persist for hundreds or thousands of years can tell us, even though they're fiction, more about our existential condition and humanity, and human nature, than any nonfiction book written on the subject. And that's something I've been trying to explore, to discover truth through what people would consider "nontruth", in the form of mythologies. And specifically for me focusing on these kind of trickster, prankster gods. I mean, very interesting characters. Because they're viewed on one hand as creators and one hand as destroyers, but they, in many cases kind of walk the line between this ordinary reality of human beings and this other world of the mythology surrounding the gods and whatnot. As off the reservation as all of that sounds I think there's a lot of truth to be gleaned by looking at stories that have just persisted for hundreds of thousands of years. That's informed a lot of my behavior.
There's a play component embedded in that for sure. It's make believe. It made me, as you were talking, I reflected on my own life and I have a list of 10 habits that I do every day. There's actually two words that I put in one habit and it's play or make.
Where do you put that?
I put it in an app called Habit List and I track 10 habits. It's not a free app, so be prepared to pay $1.99. Which literally I've said, "Yeah, check out this app," and like, "Oh my god, it's $1.99..." Like literally you paid twice as much for your coffee this morning, so get off your ass and fork up the $1.99. Habit List, it's a good one.
Make or play, are those two separate habits?
They're one habit, and that's the part that I think is interesting is we were talking about creativity is sort of making something out of nothing and then you gotta be careful not to take yourself too seriously, and that led us into play.
What are some of your other habits? Sorry. (laughs) I'm holding back. Protect this family programming.
This is great. I'll get to those in just a second, let me put a bow on this point. But the fact that play and make for me are interchangeable, I look at making as a playful activity, even though, basically, the only job I've ever had is as a professional creative. And reflection on someone you introduced me to, Charlie, who used to work for you, helped you launch the 4-Hour Body. His book Play it Away which is about finding some relief in your day, 30 minutes, to just go hit baseballs, or take a walk, or goof off, basically, and how that stimulates creativity. So I put those on the same thing, on the same level, and if I make something, say this show, or I will take some time out and actually go to take some pictures everyday, that making or goofing off, I lump those in the same thing because it makes me a better human. You wanna know some other habits?
Make sure to drink 64 ounces of water every day.
Which is not an incredible amount, it's just like--
Yeah, roughly eight glasses. And Kelly Stretts got me salting that water, of course. Kelly does that. Another one is eight hours in bed. I don't require eight hours of sleep of myself but generally there's a strong correlation.
Bedtime is sleeping.
It's weird how those go together, right?
I do the same thing with napping. It's not sleep for 20 minutes, it's lay down for 20 minutes. Because that, again, like rigging the game so you can win. If you lay down you're like, "Fuck I need to get to sleep. "I only have 20 minutes. Sleep, come on, sleep!" You're never gonna get to sleep. But if it's just like lay down, you're gonna get 80% of the benefit if you just close your eyes and just relax for 20 minutes. Then you actually will oftentimes fall asleep.
There you go, so that's my eight hours in bed. Eat clean. And clean, I have sort of an operative, whatever clean is right now. Sometimes it's paleo, sometimes it's just no fake foods, like nothing with preservatives or whatever. Is that I eat clean today, or it should be cleanly. I'm questioning, what else is on my list here. Well, this isn't about me. You asked the question, you are now a professional interviewer.
This is about us.
Meditation AM and meditation PM. I give myself 20 minutes every morning, 20 minutes every evening, and I don't hold myself to the 20 minutes, that's why it just says meditate. Sometimes when I come out of it and its been 11 minutes, I'll usually just sit there for another four or five.
What time do you meditate at night?
I try and meditate before dinner.
Because I almost never meditate in the afternoon or evenings. I kind of threw in the towel with that early on, but I do the mornings consistently. So before dinner.
I track this behavior so I can tell you exactly what my percentage is for PM mediation. I'll do that right now. In the week of 3/27 in March I was at 57% of the time. So not all the time, right. Versus the week of 3/13--
Almost a passing grade.
71%. But again, the point is that I don't-- I set the habit to just do the thing. Let's see, I'll give you the rest of them. Zero to one glasses of red wine.
Zero to one, that's a lot of self control, sir.
It is, and I've been doing this basically since-- I think you've probably known me as someone who parties reasonably hard. I'm not afraid to drink 10 drinks. And starting January 1st I just said, you know what-- I did the Januwagon, basically didn't drink anything in January, felt amazing and my sleep was completely transformed. I was sleeping in a really different and much deeper way. And then February I said, okay well, I'll just have a couple drinks here or there. Now I've been on this thing and I love it. So I'm probably drinking 90% less.
I don't do moderation very well, so I'll do binary on or off. So I haven't done any booze this month.
No. I have to eliminate. I'm not very good at moderating.
Well we'll go have a drink after this.
Go ahead. Stiff kombucha.
Visualizing gratitude. I already said play or make. And move my body.
How does gratitude manifest?
Immediately following my morning meditation-- and I put those things, I put gratitude and-- visualizing gratitude, so I visualize some of the things that I want to happen in my day and my life. I usually do that immediately after-- So when I'm coming out of meditation I look, okay great, I got my 20 minutes, what are some things I want to manifest. And these are just pictures. I think in pictures, as most people do, and I just picture some of the things in the process of happening, whether it's a great interview with Tim Ferriss. I picture us sitting here laughing, talking. (laughs) So great, we love it. And then I'll picture some success with CreativeLive or some sex--
Oh yes. (Chase laughs)
Some success with my wife Kate. Whether it's personal and professional, what are some things I want to have happen. And then, like, oh that was awesome, what are some things I'm grateful for, and it's usually a little bit of reflection on what I just wanted to have-- man I'm really thankful for all the things that Kate's taught me in my life. You know, I've got an elderly cat, Dexter. He's in his sort of end of life horizon. I'm really grateful for every day hanging out with Dexter if I'm at home. That guy, he's done a lot for me. And five or 10 things. I sometimes write those down, sometimes just say them to myself depending on what kind of time I've got. There you go.
Yeah, I have a similar routine, I mean in the morning.
Give me the Tim Ferriss morning routine. Bullet points.
I'll bang through it. Wake up. This is my current morning routine. Wake up, have the supplements that generally are absorbed on an empty stomach better than not. Feed the dog with some sardine oil on top of kibble. Molly.
Awesome, she is so precious.
She's great. She's getting big. Then sit down, meditate for 20 minutes. Usually set it for 21 minutes, because I want to have 20 minutes but I usually fidget and like fuss with my legs, and kind of crack my back for the first minute. Then I'll have a three minute decompress after that, where I just focus on the sounds and so on around me. Get up. Set tea. I have a Breville tea, I guess tea maker of sorts, 185 degrees. Then I will make tea, generally pu'er or oolong tea plus turmeric and ginger. I will sit down with that, put some coconut oil, usually two tablespoons of coconut oil, which is about 60 to 65% medium-chain triglycerides for some nice ketones to the brain. Keep in mind I haven't really had breakfast yet. Sometimes I'll have a whey protein when I first wake up if I'm training that day or if I just trained the night before. Then sit down with something called the five minute journal or morning pages, and I will journal, and I'll hit the gratitude points, a few things that I'm grateful for that day, being sure to pick one that is a very small thing. I picked this up from Tony Robbins, which is like the cloud outside my window right now, or the cup of tea, or something very small so that they're not all large things. Again coming back to the celebrating little wins. That will help me also prioritize for the day, or just get my thoughts on paper so that the monkey mind isn't rattling around in its cage all day long, I can actually get something done. Then I will usually do some type of gymnastic warmup, just for the joints really, a few minutes of scapular circles, wrist stretches, a handful of maybe planche leans, and they're called cat camels, for those people who want to look this kind of stuff up. And some rotational stuff, then I'm off to the races.
How long does that take for you? Because people are like, "Oh shit, I've got three kids. "This is totally undoable."
Yeah, wake up earlier. It's just like, I am a lazy bastard. And look, to state the obvious, I'm in a very fortunate position where I have a lot of flexibility in my schedule, but you look at the person who wrote The Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini I think his name is. Full time doctor, brutal schedule. He woke up an hour earlier and he put pen to paper for like 45 minutes every morning and he wrote a book that turned into a massive, iconic bestseller.
And a movie.
And a movie and everything else. You make the time. You're not gonna find the time, you make the time. And I should also say, I know people with three, four, five kids, like Leo Babauta, zen habits, I know people who have like "real jobs", people in finance, people who have nine to five, non-managerial, entrepreneurial, CEO jobs, who make it work really really really well. You have to make time. And I think that-- I don't remember, I think it is W. H. Auden, A-U-D-E-N. I wanna say this is the quote, the right attribution. But like, the routine-- In the intelligent man routine is the sign of ambition or something like that. Of course it applies to men and women. Routine will save you. It's like if you're trying to reinvent the wheel and reorder things every morning, you're dead in the water, it's not gonna work, especially with kids.
As a creative I used to fight any system. Like, oh that's just meant to keep me down! And then you realize that it makes your life that much better.
Have a recipe. That's why when you asked me what my morning routine is I'm like this is exactly, this is the algorithm. What's an algorithm? We use this word a lot now. Journalists use it a lot. Like what the fuck-- What is an algorithm? Algorithm is, and computer scientists you can rip me apart here, but it's a series of steps intended to produce a replicable result. It's a recipe, in effect. You need that in your routine. For my evening routine I have the same thing, it's like locked down, I have a very particular evening routine. My hot bath with epsom salts with ice bath alternating.
This is gonna sound weird but I've been in your bathtub.
It does sound weird but yeah. It fits a few people, it's not like we're-- We're not laying on top of each other in the standard issue bathtub, gazing into each other's eyes.
You have an awesome tub, its great.
The rose petals were nice. (laughter) Yeah, routine will save you. The crazier you are, the more neurotic you are, the more important routine is. Speaking as someone who, I think, is both of those things.
No no no, me. You too. Keep it under wraps better than I do.
Evening routine, without going into detail, I just think it's interesting. I spent some time with Arianna Huffington. She's really a huge sleep advocate, and the sort of end of day routine, how powerful that is. And she does the same thing, take a bath, turn down all screens, hide those things 30 minutes before you need to go to bed. I recently did a little video that's not out yet but about eye mask, ear plugs, stuff like that. I'm not a good sleeper. Game changer. And less drinking for me has been a really powerful thing. Sprinkle a couple things in there.
Yeah I'll do tweaks that I find helpful. Oh, I left make my bed out of the morning routine. I always make my bed in the morning. I got that from some former Navy Seal commanders as well as, I think it's Dandapani, a former monk. It really sets the day off on the right foot. It seems weird. It's like a minute. I don't tuck it, it's not Four Seasons. I have a large blanket that covers the whole thing, it makes it look fine. But at night-- and I bring it up because the night triggers thinking of the made bed because when you come back in, if you've had a difficult day, you come back in and your bedroom is in complete disarray I find that psychologically unsettling. It's not a good bookend to your day. So a couple of things. I have, I think it's called Dohm, D-O-H-M I want to say is the spelling, white noise machine that is very very-- and if you search sound machine and my name it will probably pop up, but I don't make it. It's a small device about yay large. You can adjust the airflow, and it just provides consistent background noise for sleeping. That's not so much my routine as the sleep setup. I also have a sleep mask, I think it's called the Sleep Master. Cheesy name but it wraps over the ears as opposed to on top of the ears, which I find very uncomfortable. It has velcro and it basically buffers sound additionally. I have these disposable, which I tend to reuse a couple times, 3M construction earplugs.
The orange ones?
Yeah, orange or yellow.
Same, that's what I use.
They're really powerful. And in terms of evening routine I'll throw out two things. The first is definitely less screen time. If you're gonna use a screen, a laptop lets say, then you use an app like f.lux which will change the wavelength of light that is emitted from your screen.
Matt you use that, don't you? Matt's behind that camera right there. I was like, "What's his orange screen?"
Tip for people like CEOs, don't let your designers work on stuff if they're using f.lux past a certain hour because the colors will be fooked. This happened to a number of people I know. But great app. And then the two pieces I would say is hot bath with epsom salt is just a must-have for me.
Every night too?
Yeah. If I'm at home, every night. And I will usually sit down and listen to a podcast or an audiobook. I'll listen to Hardcore History, I'll listen to Here's the Thing with Alec Baldwin which is short, or I'll listen to any number of audiobooks. Let's talk about the content of the audiobook, or TV show, or book, here's where I'm going. I find it for me, I have experienced lifelong onset insomnia and this seems to be hereditary. The males in my family almost all have onset insomnia, meaning they won't necessarily wake up in the middle of the night but it takes them forever, me included, to get to sleep. Typically because I'm running through the things I didn't do, the things I'm gonna do tomorrow, the problems I'd like to solve, the creative stuff I'd like to figure out, and I just can't turn off those hamster wheels, they're just constantly going. The way you turn those off is not by reading, say a business book before you go to bad. That's just gonna pour gasoline on the fire. The way that I can hijack that process and enable myself to sleep is by focusing on fiction. So watching, say, a great TV series that I just finished binge watching which is Black Mirror. It's a little dark, maybe not the best pre-bed stuff for everybody. But Black Mirror, or a book like The Baron in the Trees which is a short story by Italo Calvino about this young boy who gets in a huge argument with his father and goes up in the trees and never comes down, for the rest of his life. And it's a great fiction book, and it will pull you into this sort of surreal space of storytelling that temporarily disables this problem solving apparatus and then I find it easier to get to sleep.
Interesting. Speaking of sleep, and you said it a couple times. I put a thumbtack in it a while ago and I wanna come back to it now, which is the voices in your head. Dear Tim.
They never stop.
They never stop, okay. But let's talk about controlling them for a little bit. Because, you know, Brene Brown is a mutual friend of both of ours, talks about them as the gremlins. Arianna, who I already mentioned, talked about that annoying-- Is it annoying roommate? What does she say? Obnoxious roommate, that's always sort of back there. I find it almost universal, people are at one of the spectrum, high performers, high degree of self confidence, maybe even actualized, that's just beating them up all the time and on the other end people who have low self esteem, they're like you're not good enough, you're not this, you're not that, and it's weird how we're all in this together because regardless of where you are on your human journey there's this voice inside of so many people's heads. I found that really interesting, and it does in part parley into the meditation conversation we already had, but you undoubtedly have voices in your head, and the reason I'm bringing this up because the people at home, Tim is so successful, he's got it made, he's got all these number one New York Times bestsellers, he's got millions of people that pay attention to him, we love his podcast. I can't believe that he has voices in his head too. (Tim laughs) It's funny but it's true.
No, the voices in my head just told me this great joke. I struggle a lot. I think that it's part of the human condition. If people want a real snapshot of what like a day of, say a bottom looks like for me, there are two posts. One is called, if you search for anything along these lines it will pop up, but productivity hacks for the neurotic, manic depressive and crazy and then in parentheses like me. That gives a pretty good snapshot. Then there's another one which is, it's gonna sound very morbid but I think it's just practical thoughts on suicide, and it has a very dark story from my past. And I think that blog post is arguably, for me at least, the most meaningful and important thing that I've ever written, period. So I've had some very deep struggles. But we can separate between the deep, dark, downward spiral set of voices in the head, which is like an angry mob that like chases you down and corners you in an alley. That's one type, but then there's the obnoxious roommate, who's just like tapping you on the shoulder while you're trying to do anything, who's telling you that you're not trying hard enough, you're not thinking big enough, you're not doing this, you're not doing that, you're not doing this, you're not doing that. It's not always a negative thing. I think that the ego for instance, and I don't want to get to esoteric, but it's like, "Ego's bad, ego's bad." I'm like, well I'm not convinced it's 100% bad. I think that the dose makes the poison and that having some type of drive-- we're primates, and you can read Chimpanzee Politics if you want a real look into this, it's a great book. A lot of politicians read it, I'm not kidding, to learn how to navigate the Senate and Congress and stuff. The way that we function in the world is positionally. You look at positional economics, we're constantly comparing and contrasting. So to some extent you're always going to have that voice in your head. I'm sure, and they might not admit it, but if we were to track down the best known zen/Buddhist/mindfulness teachers, I'm sure part of them is like, "God, (unclear speech) is so much better "at meditating than me. "God that guy, look at his robe, "it's so clean and orange," or whatever. We all have it. One refrain that I've been saying to myself, very literally, to my own obnoxious roommate is-- because I think there's like the observer, there's "me", and then there's the obnoxious roommate, if that makes sense. We can talk about the id and all this stuff. Waking Up by Sam Harris is actually a great book that delves into some of this, and I'm not saying what I am saying is reflective of Sam's writing. What I have tried not to do is what I would call retreating into story. Retreating into story, for me, is I do something... Let's think of a good example. Not known for my patience, I'm a pretty impatient guy. I'm very, very aggressive.
The trains run on time.
Yeah, trains run on time. On time means on time, it does not mean five minutes late. On time is late. I'm one of those stern dad types, with myself and with other people. So let's say that someone doesn't meet my expectations, and I have hired them or contracted them, and I don't fly off the handle but I have a very curt, abrasive conversation or send off this missive via email that is just clearly 20% unnecessary prickliness. Then their feelings get hurt, or they come out throwing haymaker counter punches and I'm just like, "God, I always do this. Okay." And then I retreat into story. I always do this, remember the time I did this and did that. I am this, I am that. That is a point for me to pause. "I always" or "I am" is, I've learned to kind of just time out.
That's a trigger for you to go, "Okay..."
As much as possible, I'm not perfect, but I'll be like, "Wait a second, "am I retreating into my story?" Am I taking that old record off the shelf that is like, "Tim's pessimism regarding self image and anger," and it's like putting that on and just like rocking out to that. It's like no no no no no, you can choose the record. Put that record back. I read this, if you're pissed off, rather than saying, "I'm pissed off," it's like no, you're doing pissed off.
You're playing pissed off.
You're playing the role of pissed off. Retreating into story could also be like, "Oh my god, so and so, they always blah blah blah." I was listening, in my bath, and this isn't quite nonfiction but it was this old recording by Wayne Dyer.
Yeah, just an incredible delivery also.
One of the things he said, I think it was like no limit, becoming a no limit person. It's kind of a cheesy old recording but I like those cheesy old recordings sometimes. And he talked about, in effect, people behave the way you teach them to behave. People treat you the way you train them to treat you. And so taking the step back and using the I always, I am, they always, they are, as a cue to help me to pause and be like, "Wait a second." Their reactions are outside of my control but what can I do to train myself or them to minimize this stress that I'm experiencing. But yeah, the voices, I think, to come back to the original question though, that I struggle as much as the next person but I'm trending in the right direction at getting better at not necessarily eliminating those voices but recognizing them as the obnoxious roommate.
I don't think those voices ever go-- Maybe if you're a monk they go away. But just being able to have a set of tools. And that's really what I am trying to tap into here for the folks who are listening and watching is, hey you're not alone, these things happen to even wildly successful people, and here's a toolkit to not solve all your problems, but to get you moving in the right direction.
It's very helpful.
Sweet. We've talked before about various books. We're not gonna talk about your books. I wanna talk about your podcast actually.
I'm tired of talking about my books.
As someone-- you mentioned just sitting on the front lines of Ryan's book, and you said the front lines a couple of different times on a couple different things, I got to sit front lines on your podcast, as one of your original early guests, as we talked about. Kevin was your first guinea pig. I might have been your second or your third. You've become really good at it. You're having fun?
Thank you. I'm having a blast. I'm having a really great time. There are many points at which that is an engineering decision, because complexity will invite itself to your table every week. "But you could do this. You could try this. "And there are five people out of a million "who are complaining very loudly about this, "and you could do this." There's so many temptations. I'm probably a-- what is it, like a maximizer, not a satisfier I think it is, in the Paradox of Choice. Another book. I am a perfectionist, and so my inclination is to be like well, I know no one else is gonna notice, but I'm gonna notice, and so I want to put in the last 2%. It's 98% there, but the last 2%, and that's gonna require like 10 hours a week. That's my inclination. There's a place and a time for that but it's less and less compelling to me. So the enjoyment almost always, if I do the podcast and I find myself for whatever reason a little down or lacking in energy related to it, that's a problem. And I call in Audible, sit down, I'm like, all right, what is causing me stress right now? And it's like, if it's sponsorships it's like, okay, well I'm happy to lose half of the sponsors, just like change the terms. If there's a term in our agreements that's causing problems, change it, and if they're like, "We're gonna walk," it's like, okay. (laughs) The general rule of negotiating is he who cares the least wins, or she. It's like okay, then walk, and they're like, "Uh, oh shit. They just called our bluff. "Okay, we'll take your terms." Or if it's the programming or the scheduling. It's like, all right, well maybe I'll use some type of meeting software. There is ScheduleOnce where people pick their own blocks that you can use to simplify the guest recruitment process. Maybe it's like, well you know we're constantly answering the same questions, and that's becoming a huge drag on time. Let's put together a guest prep sheet. Exactly, an FAQ.
I didn't send you yours by the way, I'm sorry.
That's okay. So it has been a lot of fun, but to allow it to continue to be fun as it grows requires some architecting.
Fair. Let's talk about your specific, some of your favorite questions. You've had some great guests. Why don't you just drop a couple of your favorite guests? Do you not wanna do that?
No I'll totally do it. The Tim Ferriss Show has been a work in progress and part of what keeps it functioning is having a wide spectrum. Jamie Foxx as an entertainer, the guy's just amazing. I mean, so incredible. So we did that episode in his sound studio at home with like impromptu music, and imitations, impersonations, it was just incredible. All the way to the opposite end, and this is an episode that actually has not come out yet but I did an interview with BJ Miller. I like doing interviews with people that the audience will almost certainly not know. Like I did one with Patrick Arnold who's the world's most famous black market drug designer. Barry Bonds, Marion Jones, like he was the guy. And BJ Miller is a triple amputee who runs the San Francisco Hospice Project. Oh, the Zen Hospice Project, excuse me, based in San Francisco, and he's helped roughly 1,000 people die. He's a young dude but he's gone through some incredible trauma himself. He was electrocuted, at Princeton actually, in an accident, lost three limbs, and that interview is deep, and there's a lot to be gleaned from it. So that would be one that I really enjoyed. And I'm just naming a few along the spectrum.
My favorite thing about it is there's a philosophy that's the same as mine. Some people really fancy and famous that you can like, "Oh, what's it like to be that? That's sort of weird," people that everybody knows, and then people that no one would know but you, like I know you're gonna find this person fucking fascinating.
Yeah, exactly. So you have the Arnold Schwarzenegger, everybody is gonna know Arnold. Hopefully I get some stories out of him that people haven't heard, which was the case. But then you'll have somebody who is, say, very well known in a tiny subset-- not tiny, I mean he's well known anyway, but like Kevin Kelly, who is extremely well respected in the tech world, an incredibly gifted writer, has an Amish beard, and incredible family. Like I really look up to him because he's not only-- He's designed an incredible life for himself, and he's one of the most astute, accurate technology predictors and forecasters, as a futurist, I've ever seen anywhere. And I'm in Silicon Valley, there are very few people, like maybe Ray Kurzweil in a number of capacities. Kevin Kelly is right up there. I think he's the world's most interesting man, the real version. So I did a two or three part series with him. Derek Sivers, another one, like the philosopher king of kind of PHP programming, although he did a bunch of Ruby on Rails stuff, who built up CD Baby, sold it, gave it all to a music charitable trust for music education and then disappeared and now lives in the middle of nowhere in New Zealand. It's like, okay, let's talk to Derek, one of my most popular episodes to date. And what's been really reassuring to me or life affirming is that those episodes, there's still a place, if you put out good content, good art, good craft, good work, is the best SEO in the world. It still works. People are like, "Oh it's too crowded, "there are too podcasts, there are too many this, "too many photographers." There's still a place if you put out really good work. And I'm not putting this all on me, but it's like when I have a guest who really performs, meaning they just deliver super detailed tactical stories, anecdotes, routines, things that my listeners can use, it's like a Derek Sivers or somebody who has zero, next to no recognition compared to say Jamie Foxx, can do as well. It's nuts, in terms of the downloads and the listens. That stuff spreads. That's another thing that's just made me excited again to get back in the game of creating some type of editorial work, is that, to see that there's still a place. I was told when I started podcasting, whenever it was, a year and a half. I think it was actually, I dunno, one to two years ago. "Oh it's too crowded, it's done. "No you can't-- It's too late." And you're gonna hear that all the time, when you do anything. "I wanna do this," ah it's too late. That ship has sailed. It's like no, you just have to be different and you have to be better in some capacity. If you do that and you stick with it and you screw up like I did in the beginning and get too drunk on multiple occasions in your first three episodes because you're so nervous and it's super sloppy and people are like, "Dude, it sounds like your wine bottle "has a separate mic on it. Tone it down." And you keep it fun for yourself. Make it fun for you and you will find an audience has been the other thing I've learned. Like if I want to throw chimpanzee screeches in the middle of a podcast as a transition just to see what the hell people do, going after the absurd again. Like this one listener actually said she freaked out. She was in a retail store, and she took her bag and threw it across the store because it was so loud. I'm still working on my levels. It's like, I can do that. If I want to make weird Mogwai noises in the beginning--
What is a Mogwai noise?
Mogwai is like (imitates Mogwai humming). You know, Gremlins. The gremlins are the bad guys, the Mogwai are the good guys. It's like Gizmo. Gizmo noises. Then I can do that. And it's just like, it's given me such a sense of freedom. Because with the books, and maybe you feel this way, maybe you don't, I have so much work out there as a writer. Number one I've developed tropes or tricks or frameworks that I've become a little reliant on as crutches. They work really well. I know how to get people to pull through a chapter and enjoy it, with stories, even if there's dense material. But I feel like I'm getting a little stale, which is why I'm doing a writing workshop, this summer in fact, as a student. But the podcast is such a different element. It's like, okay, well you've been a skier but now you're gonna be a swimmer, or you're gonna acro yogi. Okay, now you can start with beginner eyes again and fuck around. Sorry I'm dropping the f-bomb a lot today. Long Island. Long Island, sorry. And that freedom to play, to make, to experiment, then infuses everything else that has grown stale or less interesting to you. So it's like now my writing is more playful. It's great man, I'm having a lot of fun with the podcast.
Those things are connected, by the way, like the amount of enjoyment and play that you're having, there's a correlation, at least for me and many people I know, to great work.
One of the things you said is great stories that maybe they haven't heard on some other podcast. So tell us a story here that you really haven't told somewhere else.
Well I'll tell you what, I'm gonna ask you refining question related to that while I answer your other question about questions that I ask on my podcast.
These were two distinct things in my mind.
I'm going to, because I'm going to buy you time, the question I'd like to ask is what type of story? Give me like some categories, creative constraints. So some of the questions I like to ask on the podcast, while you're gestating on that, are if you could have a billboard anywhere, what would you put on it? And I'm sure I borrowed this from someone else. I'm not making all of these things up. What advice would you give your 20 year old self, 30 year old self, 40 year old self? The refinement I made to that, which I think is important, is place us somewhere. Like where were you, what were you doing, and then give me the advice, because it's so contextually dependent. There are some other ones that are hit or miss that I borrowed from say like Peter Thiel. Roughly, what do you believe that other people think is crazy?
That's his classic interview question.
Interview question, right. So I borrow from many, many different places. When you think of the word success who is the first person who comes to mind, and why? These are some standard questions. What book have you gifted the most to other people? That's a question I came up with.
I'm glad you didn't have many of these questions formulated when I was on your show, because a lot of them are hard!
They're hard. Some of them are hard. Gifted is important because if you ask someone what is their favorite book or favorite books, there's a primacy and recency effect, meaning they'll tend to remember the most recent books they read and they'll, especially if they're caught on their heels they'll just pick something that they read in the last year or two. Whereas if you ask them what book have you gifted the most to other people, usually it's an extremely short list of like two to four books that are their go to gift books. So those are a few. So stories I haven't told.
Stories you haven't told. Tell me a story you haven't told about a struggle with writing, because I feel like there's a lot of glamor-- I'm just continuing to namedrop other people here, Brene Brown talks about gold-plated grit like, "Oh there was this time shit got so hard it was so real "but then I made it through and everything is awesome," they go back to the awesome story again. It's like, "Oh I'm so vulnerable for a quarter of a second "then I go back to..." So I believe that people think of you first and foremost as an author, in the sort of guinea pig way that you framed yourself, but clearly you've had a lot of hardship. So talk to use about something that people wouldn't know about that time period that might reveal something about you.
(laughs) Oh my god. There's a story that comes to mind. I'm not sure what it reveals would be very good.
I'm not looking for good, I'm looking for honest.
This might be the closest I've come to like double leg dropkicking someone.
I just pictured that.
Like the lucha libre style. In the last few years, so this was probably 2011. Because this is just like, I felt like I was at the breaking point. Like really, physically, mentally, emotionally, just at the breaking point. I was at the last like 30% of the 4-Hour Chef. It's like a 700 page book, it's a monstrous book. Thousands of photographs, hundreds of original illustrations.
You did that class, the 4-Hour Life, but it was really in the launch of the 4-Hour Chef on CreativeLive, we should link to that somewhere around here.
Yeah, it was a really difficult time for me. It was a very complex project, it was a three year project, in effect that had been compressed down to a year and a half. And I'm very happy with how it came out, we pulled it off, but there were some really big hiccups along the way. One of the biggest challenges was publishing is still very archaic in a way. There are not fantastic digital tools for providing fast edits to really complex layouts. I know there are some options for like website review and things like that, but it's too labor intensive compared to, say, pen and ink on paper, if you're going to be making hundreds of edits, like line edits and whatnot. So what would happen is I would get shipped these printouts. Or actually, we would print them out in San Francisco, wherever I happened to be, these two page spreads, and then I would go through and I would hand edit. I made hundreds of hand edits. Copy it, because you do not want one single point of failure with one copy. Send it back, they would then incorporate those changes into the InDesign doc, and then repeat the process. I had a really tough experience with this book packager who was hired to help with this, and when I would get the next round of edits, very often only about 70% of my changes made it in.
How are you tracking that? Ugh.
So now, what did I have to do? I have to take out both versions, and I have to go through line by line-- this is a 700 page book-- and compare each to see what got missed. And I had to do this dozens of times. To the point where like my girlfriend at the time didn't believe me and I showed her a couple pages and she's like, "I feel like a sixth grader would do a better job with this, "I can't believe you're having to go through this."
You know that book publisher is listening to this right?
No no it wasn't the publisher's fault. The packager, hey, at least I'm not mentioning you by name so you should thank your lucky stars for that because it was a fucking disaster. And I found myself at one point, I committed to-- So keep in mind my job as a writer has become somewhat more complex as things have gone on because when I wrote the 4-Hour Work Week, that's all I really had to do. I was running a company at the time but it was a few hours a week.
Four to be precise.
Four to be precise. Then the 4-Hour Body it's like okay, now Tim's starting to do a lot of angel investing, make other commitments, advising, et cetera. The 4-Hour Chef it's like okay now the doors have been blown wide open. I have 100 times more inbound than I did during the 4-Hour Work Week, so I made a commitment-- this is getting to a story-- made a commitment to speak at some event in southern California like a year before it actually showed up.
It's funny how those come back and bite you.
And so I get back like 50 pages, printed out, and I realize half the edits haven't been made. And at that point I'm probably running on like four, five hours of sleep for a week, and now I have this speaking engagement to go to. So I go down to southern California, I do my speaking gig, that's fine. I put on a smiley face and get it done. You know, be a good soldier, knock that out. Then I have to go back and basically pull an all-nighter to work on these edits. And I'm at this kind of rundown hotel. The hotel room is tiny, the desk isn't big enough for me to spread stuff out to work on the various spreads. At that point too I was still using ephedrine, caffeine, aspirin stuff to keep the engines running which is really horrible for you, it's so bad for your adrenal system and everything. Which makes you extremely grumpy. So I'm like running on nothing except for the ECA stack and I've just finished my speaking gig, it's like two in the morning and I'm working on this stuff. And in the lobby, I remember very clearly the lobby in this hotel, really high ceilings, and it was a rundown kind of shoddy place, and the one light, there's one light on the ceiling that landed on one table, and I was doing all my work and the light goes out. And it's like 2:30 now I'm just like, oh my god, I'm not even close to done, I'm like 40% there. Oh my god, okay. So I get up and I walk the length of the lobby, it's a pretty big lobby, a couple hundred feet to the front desk, and there's like one poor guy who's working at 3:00 in the morning.
The night time dude, yeah.
And there's somebody checking in, who's clearly been traveling all day, really run down, not looking happy, some like bedraggled traveling salesman or whatever getting checked in. So I'm kind of like standing off to the side, like 20 or 30 feet away. (chuckles) I don't know why I'm telling this story. So the guy who's getting checked in, the guest, is like looking down at his phone. The employee behind the counter looks at me and he's like, gives me this yes sir kind of head nod hand wave, which the guy checking in didn't see. So I say, oh actually there's just one problem. I'm gonna have to pull an all-nighter, I'm working on this thing. The light is out. The guy getting checked in now looks up and he's like, who the fuck is this guy? And he goes, "Hey! Hey!" I'm like, "Yes," and he goes, "Fuck you!" And I was just like (inhales). I didn't know what to do. I was just like, do I kill this guy? Like he doesn't look good at sprawling, should I just fireman's carry him into the coffee table? And I didn't know what to do and I was like, old Tim would have attacked this person. New Tim, hopefully, needs TM, hadn't done it yet, would do something, and I didn't know what to do so I went (smooches). I sort of like blew him a kiss and I was like I'm not gonna attack him, but I hope he attacks me right now, because I will like literally, it'll be like Discovery channel, like hyena tearing apart a carcass, then that will be the end of my career. Or who knows, start of a new career, maybe Charlie Sheen style. So ultimately the guy was thrown off by it, didn't know what to do, and the guy behind the counter is like, oh shit, what we do here, I don't know how to manage this. So I was like (exhales). So I just walked back, I like sat in the darkness, looking at all this undone--
This is a sad, sad scene.
You asked about a struggle. So I just sat in the darkness trying to cool off, and I was like, let me let that guy leave so there's no homicide. And I'm just sitting there looking at all this undone homework and thinking to myself, never again will I do it this way. Never again will I sign up to do this this way.
And I haven't. That was late 2010, 2011, book came out 2012. I'm very proud of the book but it's just like man, that was kind of the last nail in the coffin with respect to how I relate to a lot of big business stuff. Meaning like having a publisher who owns rights that inhibit your ability to do certain things with your own work.
That's one of my favorite things about this show, a long time ago, starting up, just there's no rules, no one owns it, I can do whatever I want. Beholden to no one, like you said, sponsor doesn't want to play, uh okay, we're done. And now that you clearly have built yourself an amazing platform, so you've pulled on some freedom in your own work.
You know, the blog I have complete freedom. And the podcast, the podcast is really, was the first art project, which is really how I view it, in a long time for me. The first new art project where I could do whatever I wanted. People are like, "I'm trying to listen to this with my kids "and you say the f-bomb, you need to clean up your language" and I'm like, "You need to find a new podcast. Sorry." This has to be fun for me and I'm not going to censor myself to suit the Mr. Rogers program, this is not how this works.
How important is that for you, freedom, artistic freedom?
The freedom is, it's a tricky term. The ability to do whatever I want-- Let me rephrase it. The ability to play in any way that I want, I enjoy. Having certain constraints, however, I think is necessary for me to actualize my highest creative potential.
What constraint are you putting on yourself for the podcast?
Well, okay, you have an hour and a half, and if someone can only do 30 minutes you have 30 minutes. Constraints might be a form of training or practice. It's like okay, for my first say 20 episodes, 30 episodes, they were mostly over the phone. Why? Because I could have all of my notes in Evernote because I want my questions in front of me. I can have a notebook for taking notes about things I wanted to come back to. You do that in person, it's not quite the same. It's very disruptive sometimes to do that. If we're talking and I have a laptop here it throws off the entire dynamic. So practicing, deciding okay the next 10 episodes are all going to be in person. What are you gonna do? You're gonna have to change your method, you're gonna have to figure out a new approach. You're gonna have to maybe memorize more, or not memorize anything, depending on who you talk to. Neil Strauss does an incredible amount of preparation for his Rolling Stone and New York Times interviews. Tons of review, tons of research, and then he folds it up and he never looks at it during the interview. So testing different approaches. I might try his approach, then I might try someone else's approach. But constraints would be, for instance, ensuring that I talk about, there's something sensitive, but it's not a gotcha show. Let's say there's a sensitive subject that I think will produce and answer or story that will be valuable to my listeners. Has to be valuable.
For sure, value is the key.
How do I navigate the conversation and like ride the wave to get to that? That's a constraint, that's a requirement.
That's weird, I do the same thing. What's the one risky thing that I'm gonna go to.
Yeah. So I know we're gonna talk a lot about masturbation later. Or something like that, so it's kind of like right meow, like Super Troopers. So I decided I wanted to say masturbation, which I did twice, so I've checked that box.
That's three times actually in the show.
Three times, fantastic. There is a thing with threes. But with writing, for instance, just the form factor itself. You have to use words. And in the 4-Hour Chef I changed that and I allowed myself to use visuals but I would enjoy going back to text only, like a John McPhee, John McPhee is one of my favorite writers, M-C-P-H-E-E. Pulitzer prize winner, staff writer at The New Yorker, and where someone else might resort to a bunch of different diagrams his thinking and his writing is so precise and so beautifully elegant, it's just unnecessary. In fact it would detract, because he's allowing the reader to create much higher resolution, impressive, meaning impressing on the memory, imagery than would otherwise be possible on a printed black and white page. So that would be a very strong constraint, no you can't use visuals, only words. Or if I'm writing sometimes I will notice that there's a word I use a crutch, or a phrase I use as a crutch. "That having been said" is one of my crutch phrases. "That having been said, blah blah blah blah blah." Okay, you're not allowed to use it. Not allowed. Dashes, I like to use dashes.
Oh god I love a dash.
Oh they're so nice.
I love a dash.
Like em dashes, I just love em dashes. So it's like all right, you're not allowed to use dashes. You can't use dashes and you can't use parentheticals. Clean up your fucking writing. It's like okay, that will be another type of parameter.
Well there's a million.
Here's another one that I notice through writing that I then use to try to change my speaking. I notice that I use pretty as an adverb. "Oh, that's pretty interesting. "Yeah yeah, she's pretty smart. "Oh yeah yeah, he's pretty successful," and I was like, "Sloppy, Ferris! So lazy!" So what I forced myself to do when I was speaking is if I said pretty, because it would sometimes slip out, I'd have to say "fucking" after that. So it'd be like, "Oh yeah, she's pretty fucking interesting." (laughs) After you do that seven or 10 times over a two hour dinner you're like, all right, your brain just cauterizes pretty right out of the conversation. So I love positive constraints, creative constraints, because it's just like in dance, for instance, in tango, to improve your technique you can take an arm away. You're used to being here, what happens when you take this arm away? All these other components that you're able to fudge because you have this crutch, now they're glaring problems. Or you take away this arm. Now you have to use your chest, you have to really change your signaling related to say lead and la marcha. I love those kind of constraints.
I think self imposed constraints with whatever your medium is, whether it's photography or design, or I talked to Stefan Sagmeister, one of the top designers in the world, about an impetus. There's a style for this, I don't remember what it's called, but, oh you gotta solve a problem, like you wanna design a new drinking glass, well what is the way that you can take some other unrelated object and design a drinking glass through the lens of this thing, like a tennis shoe. What would a drinking glass look if you thought about as a tennis shoe? Would it have a different kind of sole here on the bottom, would it be lifted, or... That's a constraint that can add fuel to your creativity. Actually I think that's pretty powerful.
Totally, and I think that just using the tango example, like taking away an arm, or the writing example of taking away a word, or the podcast example of, for instance I've done this as well, everybody always asks this guest about this this and this. I'm not allowed to talk about any of those. Once you use a constraint to do more with less, only then can you do more with more, I think. That's how I've approached it. Once you are really good at bleeding the stone with very little, then you can make use of all of your resources. But until then I think it's just gonna be a scattershot waste of energy sent in, like one millimeter in a million different direction, as opposed to like (imitates gun cocking and firing), and being really good at hitting your shots and using maximum leverage with all of your gifts. The way you do that is by taking these tiny components and being like, all right, I know you have these 100 things. I want you to do everything with this, that's it, that's all you're allowed. It's a fun exercise too.
That was the original idea behind the iPhone for me, as someone who is traveling all over the world with 100 person crews doing gigantic things, like what could I make with this one camera that's with me all the time?
I'm doing that right now on the blog where I'm experimenting with, well, for me, shorter form stuff. So it's like all right, all right, yeah, you write 23 page long blog posts that are hopefully evergreen and get traffic for years and years and years, but what if you only had 500 words? Suck it up, you don't have time to give your Phariseean preamble. No, you're not allowed two pages to say hello. No, get to it, cut to it. That's another exercise for me.
So get with this ninja shit I'm about to pull here. We're at 90 minutes, which is one of my constraints. With that being said I want to just finish with a couple of rapid fire questions. One is if you could put a billboard up anywhere where would you put it and what would it say?
I would put it... I would put it on a footpath outside of the largest college or university in the US, and it would say you're the average of the five people you associate with most. Yeah, that's the first that comes to me.
And what's the book you've gifted... (laughter) Not bought for people or bought for yourself. What's the book that you've gifted the most? You see how this is happening.
Yeah I see where is going. Probably the Penguin edition Letters from a Stoic which is a collection of Seneca's letters. I'm going to be making my own. Actually I don't think I've even announced this so...
Here we go.
Exclusive. I've had original artwork and calligraphy done over about six months and I'll be putting out, at some point, an edition of Seneca's letters that's illustrated. The artwork is amazing, it's so good.
When are we going to see this?
I'm not sure. I wanna do it right. I'm not in a rush right now but it's gonna be good. So probably though, if I was gifting it, Letters from a Stoic. I just recently bought 10 copies of The Baron in the Trees, that fiction book I was telling you about, just to have at my house so when friends come over or are visiting out of town, if they're looking for something to read I'm gonna give them that book. Surely You Must Be Joking, Mr. Feynman, about Richard Feynman, physicist, safecracker, bongo player, Nobel prize winner, amazing.
I like that you threw bongo player in there.
He's a polymath and he's a-- He's a playful trickster, but very smart and a genius teacher. So Surely You Must Be Joking, Mr. Feynman is definitely up there. Those are the first few that come to mind. What's a thing that people don't know about you that they'd be very surprised if they found out on this podcast?
Very surprised. Maybe let's put a constraint on it. Something that you like that no one would think you like.
Something I like. That's a good one, that's a good one. I'm trying to think of a surprise. Japanese antique saddles. (laughter) A few years ago I had a chance to go to Japan and study with the Ogasawara family, yabusame, which is Japanese for horseback archery. Sidenote, the kind of superstar of that family is a young guy, very handsome, super smart, and his jacket, which was like a cheesy, kind of like '80s bowling jacket, like that shiny material that tapers down to the cuff.
The nylon cuffs.
Yeah, the nylon cuffs.
The back said Ogasawara Yabusame since 1157. (laughs) I was like oh my god, I want that jacket so badly. The point being, when you are doing horseback archery the saddle is not designed to be sat upon, it is just hard wood. The sole purpose of the saddle is to hold the stirrups and then you basically are in a squat.
Hovering over the saddle and that's when you pull off the arrows and shoot at these targets at full gallop while no reins, the horse is just let to sprint. And these saddles are gorgeous as a result because they're not covered, they're very very minimalist. You could pick it up with one hand like this, it's five to 10 pounds. So that was, I think the 4-Hour Body. After the 4-Hour Body my promise to myself was when I finished I would allow myself to buy something Japanese that is at least 100 years old at auction. And I don't buy a lot of artwork at all. Then I thought, I was like well, I'd like to get some armor, and I was looking at armor and swords then I decided, you know what, actually I'm more interested in saddles.
I was at your house once and you had a teepee in the front room. Remember that?
Yeah I do, I do still have a teepee.
Is that related to the saddle, is it a leather and wood thing?
No, no no. I do like earth tones. But no, the Japanese saddles are gorgeous. I have two of those.
Beautiful. Anything else I should ask that I haven't before we go?
Anything you should ask. Nothing immediately comes to mind.
We've covered some ground.
We've covered a lot of ground. I would implore people to watch-- People talk a lot about commencement speeches, and there are some great commencement speeches out there, but I suspect for a lot of people watching, yes the Steve Jobs commencement at Stanford is fantastic. I think, in this region of the world, we've seen the commencement. It's a very good speech. But for people who are fighting the good fight with anything they consider art-- that's up to you to define-- whether it's a show like this, whether it's CreativeLive as a company, whether it's writing, and that daily battle, podcasting, oil painting, anything, dance, doesn't matter, my favorite commencement speech is Make Good Art by Neil Gaiman.
Which I try to watch at least once a week.
And spoken also and delivered from someone who walks the walks. Just a master of many crafts who is just incredibly gifted, incredibly warm. I had the chance to meet him very briefly here at the Castro Theater, he did a live performance. Just an incredible human being, and I would part, I suppose, on that note. Everybody check that out and yeah, if you like podcasts I also have one of those, Tim Ferriss Show.
Good, definitely. Anything else, any other coordinates? You're basically /tferriss with two Rs, two Ss.
Yep, so @tferriss on Twitter.
Are you Snapchatting?
I'm not Snapchatting yet. I might eventually.
You should, it's fun.
I have a little bit of social media fatigue. I'm Instagramming.
You're picking your nose. Move your finger.
It does look like I have...
Now I look weird. Sorry for those folks in the room, we're Snapchatting.
Yeah, @tferriss on Twitter, and then Facebook is TimFerriss, two Rs, two Ss. Instagram, TimFerriss, two Rs, two Ss. I think if you really want to dig deep currently what I'm putting the most energy into is the podcast and the blog.
Super fun. Thanks bud.
Yeah man. Thank you sir.
All right, for those who don't know what's going on here, if you just stick around or if you press the blue button somewhere on this page or in the CreativeLive/30daysofgenius ecosystem you'll get one of these interviews. Not 30 days of Tim, but Tim plus 29 other awesome people, so do that right now, and thanks for paying attention. Ciao. (industrial music)