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Intro to 17 Questions

Lesson 2 from: How Billionaires, Icons, and World-Class Performers Master Productivity

Tim Ferriss

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Lesson Info

2. Intro to 17 Questions

Next Lesson: 17 Questions: 1-4

Lesson Info

Intro to 17 Questions

Today, I thought what we'd might talk about, is the value of questions, and how you might use questions, and I do have notes, because I trust what I write down, a lot more than I trust my ever-weakening memory, as I get older. So, I do have 17 questions. We may not get through them all, and that's okay. But... What I would say is, among other things, one of the key commonalities. Alright, the commonalities, when you look across all the people that I've interviewed, and this is now 200-plus, at this point, meditation would certainly be one, or some type of mindfulness practice. And that can take the form of, say, transcendental meditation. It can take the form of... A guided meditation, along the lines of head space, or Tara Brach has a great meditation, which is from 2010, the Summer Smile Meditation. Maria Popova listens to that, every morning. But, a very high percentage, 80-plus percent of the folks I've interviewed, have some type of mindfulness practice, generally within the first...

, say, hour and a half of the day. So, that'd be one. But, the other, is asking absurd questions. And this is a very important focus on, I think, because if you were to break productivity, and I get asked about productivity, all the time. But, I get asked about productivity, all the time, without it having first been defined very clearly. So, I like to work with terms, that are very clearly defined. And for productivity, I would say, it's the combination, primarily, of two things. You have effectiveness, and you have efficiency. So, effectiveness is doing the right things. And you don't have to do a lot of the right things, to tenax your closest competitor, or colleagues, or whatever it might be. Then, efficiency is doing things well, but doing something well does not make it important. Does that make sense? So, a lotta folks, and certainly, we're sitting right now, in Silicon Valley, people seem to be in a race, to get better at building sand castles, (chuckles) that get swept away, by the tide, or whatever it might be! There are many ephemeral tools, and so on, you can spend your time mastering the next tech tool. But, it's all crayons, pens, pencils. You have to learn how to draw, and the drawing is choosing what you do, very, very carefully, and thinking outside the constraints, of a very incremental mindset. How do I do 5% more of this, 10% more of that, rather than, how would I not do that period, at all, for eight weeks, and still have my business survive, or double, or triple, in the case of a professional context? So, as a way, to start off the conversation, you might ask, why can't you achieve your 10-year plan, in the next six months? And I'll explain how do you use these questions. That is actually a paraphrase of a question, from Peter Thiel, who's been in the news a lot. (audience laughing) And a very good long-term thinker, I will say that. And I've spent a bit of time with him. But, he will ask a question like that. So, if you think you need to go to law school, then this, then that, and there are all these prerequisite steps, that you've seen, as conventional wisdom, why can't you do that, in the next six months? And to spend time, as I recommended, journaling on it. And so, I do either morning pages, or five-minute journal, almost every morning, and I find that I cannot improve my thinking, or really even examine my own thinking, unless I freeze it on paper. And you could do that, in that analog faction. That's my preference, and then I take a photograph, and put it into Evernote, 'cause I'm freaked out, that I'm gonna lose my journal. Or, you could just do it digitally, to begin with. As long as you are using something, like the Freedom app, to block yourself from going online. That's what Neil Strauss has used. And now, he has eight New York Times bestselling books! Okay, so let's propose another one. If you are thinking about building your business. If you were asking Peter Diamandis for money, Peter Diamandis is chairman of the X Prize. He's... Co-founded, or been involved with many, many... Almost beyond belief companies, Human Longevity, Inc., with Craig Venter. Or, you could look at Planetary Resources, to mine precious metals and resources, off of asteroids! And the question he would ask you, if you were pitching him, to get an investment, is... Somewhere along the lines of, if you had to tenax the economics of your business, in the next three months, how would you do it? And if you were to respond, well that's not really possible, he would say, I don't accept your answer. Could you please try again? And if you sit with these types of questions, what you end up finding... Is that... To answer them, in any fashion, you have to temporarily abandon all of the constraints, and assumptions, that you currently use, to operate your life. Does that make sense, right? And so, I thought I would share a few questions, that I've used, that have led me to where I am today. And I'll show you. This is something I haven't shown anybody, and it's gonna be hard to see, from where you're sitting, but I'll explain what it is. So, these are the questions, and... This is... One of the sheets, that I sat down, to work on, the first week of January, and I'm still working on it. And so, at the very top, just give you an idea of how I think of these things. So, absurdity and beauty, in all caps, is what it says, at the top. So, those are two of my priorities, for this year. Because, I think that when we try to envision thinking bigger, you need to think bigger, you need to think tenax. We often just take whatever our current assumptions are, and put them on steroids, but they're still our old assumptions, if that makes any sense. But, if you try to think stranger, and more oddly, you can find breakthroughs, in unusual places. So, absurdity and beauty. And then, I have a list. Craziest things I could do, and I'm just making a list of all the most absurd things I could do! A few years back, on that list, was cut off both feet. I didn't do that. (audience laughing) You really have to get out there, and then reel yourself in! Don't cut off your feet! Kids at home, don't cut off your feet. But, in the course of spitting out all of these ridiculous ideas, one of them was take an indefinite startup vacation. And that is something I ended up doing, about a year and a half ago. It's one of the best, most important decisions I've made, probably in the last five years. Alright, now on the right hand side, you can see I have a column here, and I'll explain what many of these mean, when I get to the questions. But, two hours per week, question mark. Subtract, to solve, question mark. Off-grid, for eight weeks, question mark. 93 versus 95%. I might explain that one first, because it's not in the 17. Antelope versus mice, question mark. (chuckles) Don't worry. I will explain these. Everything complete, question mark. What would it look like, if it were easy, question mark. That might be the most important, for a lotta people to embrace here. And the last is spend money, to decrease friction, question mark. Alright, so let me touch on the 93 versus 95%, first. This is a story, or related to a story, from Derek Sivers. How many people here know who Derek Sivers is? Alright, we got about half, to 55% of the audience. Derek Sivers is an entrepreneur. He was the founder of CD Baby. And he is a philosopher king of programming, really fascinating guy, who walks the talk, and... Has crafted a very, very compelling, and unusual life for himself. Lives with next to nothing, sold his company for millions and millions of dollars, has dedicated the majority of it to music education, and just left, to live a nomadic lifestyle, among other things. And he was telling me a story, about when he moved to LA, at one point, and he was in Santa Monica. And he's very type A, his friends know this, and they encouraged him to start biking, on the bike path. So, he got a fixed-speed bike, and he would go out, and he would huff and puff, and he'd strain, red-faced, and barrel down, go to the end. He had his set-in plan, and come back. And it was always, I might be getting the number slightly wrong, but it was always 45 minutes. No matter what, it was always 45 minutes. And he started to not look forward, to this super-strenuous, stressful bike exercise, that he had inflicted upon himself. And he avoided biking, for let's say a week, two weeks, and then he thought to himself, you know what? This isn't cool, that I'm avoiding this bike ride, that I should be enjoying. Why don't, just for this one ride, I'm gonna go out, I'm not gonna race, I'm not gonna push, I'm just gonna enjoy my ride. So, he goes out, and he's riding, and he's standing up, he's lookin' around, and he's seeing dolphins. And he came back, had this wonderful experience, and he looked at his watch. 43 minutes. I'm sorry, no, it wasn't 43 minutes. It was the inverse. So, it was 45 minutes, instead of 43, meaning it took two minutes longer, and he enjoyed the entire thing. Did not try to race. And the point, that that really underscored for him, was that... Oftentimes, that last 5%, of overstressing and overtaxing yourself, is not worth the very, very marginal return. And in... In manifestation, in his life, what that means, is when he gets to a point, when he's feeling agitated, or stressed, he asks himself, how he could back off, and how he could reapply that energy somewhere else. Alright, so this sort of... A pushing for 93%, or 95%, or whatever it might be, and cutting back three or four. Oprah Winfrey ended up in the exact same place, for instance, and that is why I have the 93% versus 95%. Maybe 93% is enough. (chuckles) And there's a huge trail-off, after that. So, let's talk about some of these.

Ratings and Reviews


Awesome content. Great job Tom, N creative


Spot on, if you need good examples and brilliant questions that change your way of thinking.

cynthia roderick

He's quite impressive.... wish there was a download of these questions...instead I have to watch again and take indication of where I could find the questions otherwise...of course, these videos drive you to check out his books and website... I bought a synopsis of the latest and either the synopsis was VERY POOR or the book doesn't say much... in any case, don't waste your money on the synopsis... I will buy an earlier book... as I said, he's an impressive guy who does his homework....

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