Today’s guest is none other than Tim Ferriss. Tim is the author of three #1 New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestsellers: The 4-Hour Workweek, The 4-Hour Body, and The 4-Hour Chef. In his own words “For the last two years, I’ve interviewed nearly two hundred world-class performers for my podcast, The Tim Ferriss Show. Guests range from super celebs (Jamie Foxx, Arnold Schwarzenegger, etc.) and athletes (icons of powerlifting, gymnastics, surfing, etc.) to legendary Special Operations commanders and black-market biochemists.” Today, Tim is here on Bulletproof Radio to tell you about the culmination of those interviews — his new book, Tools of Titans: The Tactics, Routines, and Habits of Billionaires, Icons, and World-Class Performers. Enjoy the show.
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Now, today’s guest is someone who’s been on Bulletproof Radio before, someone that you’ve doubtless heard of, because it is none other than Tim Ferris, New York Times’ best-selling author of, “The 4-Hour Workweek, The 4-Hour Body, The 4-Hour Chef,” and his new book which we’re going to talk about today called, “Tools of Titans.” Tim also runs a very successful podcast called surprisingly, “The Tim Ferriss Show.” It’s been downloaded 10 hundred gazillion times, and is one of the top 20 iTunes podcasts. My favorite description of you Tim, is you’ve been called, “The Oprah of Audio.”
Tim Ferriss: It’s got to be the resemblance. It must be the resemblance. I have special moisturizer for that.
Dave Asprey: Nice. Now, you’ve discovered the podcasting benefit, which is that you get to talk to cool people and ask them stuff you would ask them anyway, right?
Tim Ferriss: Right, exactly.
Dave Asprey: That’s why I do Bulletproof Radio, because I just wanted to talk to these dudes and these women who are just doing cool stuff. You went out and you distilled the knowledge from these people and to the Tools of Titans. You’ve talked to about 200 people and boiled it down to like, “Let’s copy successful people.” It’s a cool concept. What I want to know is out of all of the things that you learned in this book, the single most important one, what was that?
Tim Ferriss: Single most important one was probably the answer to what would you put on a billboard if you wanted to get a message to millions of people? The person was a palliative care physician. BJ Miller, he’s a triple amputee who’s helped more than a thousand people die. He’s associated with UCSF and his answer was, “Don’t believe everything you think.” If I had to boil down how these 200 or so people have excelled, got into the top 1% in their fields which are across the entire spectrum, and they’re very, very different from super athletes, to these physicians, to black-market biochemists like Patrick Arnold to special ops folks, et cetera. There are quite a few sharing habits. They all though come down to and are still on top of I would say belief system. The belief system is that of testing assumptions.
There are questions these people ask. There are deep-rooted operating system level, philosophies that they hold close to their chest, and they almost all come down to testing the basic assumptions or the conventional wisdoms, which end up to be very often completely off base. Don’t believe everything that you think is I would say the thread that runs through all that.
Dave Asprey: It’s really good to see how strong your powers of self-deception are. Because once you start thinking it, you’re going to reinforce it. Sometimes you’re wrong and it can be disastrously wrong, right?
Tim Ferriss: Oh sure, yeah. This is from my personal life and my entire life, but something that I’ve started telling myself in last year or two years really, which relates to some deep exploration and research with psychedelics also, but that could be a whole separate seven-hour conversation. We can get to that if you like but don’t retreat in the story. This phrase is something I repeat to myself but I don’t retreat in the story. On top of that, I’ve spent quite a bit of time with Tony Robbins over the last few years. One of his principles that I think has been most powerful for me in the last few years is moving from state, to story, to strategy. Meaning, before you sit down to problem solve or look at a grand challenge ahead of you or a goal, optimizing your state, so optimizing your physiology first, which then allows you to tell yourself an enabling story or you see different opportunities instead of just problems and only then deciding on or try to come up with a strategy.
That’s state, story, strategy is related to the don’t retreat into story. Because if you wake up at a funk or you’re in a depressive period and you then have a disabling story about yourself or the world, your strategies are going to be, be player strategies at best. They’ll probably be really junior varsity. That’s been a good little sound bite and progression that I’ve used a lot as well.
Dave Asprey: It’s cool though, you get to go deep on stuff like this. When I do affirmations and I actually do a lot of them in the neuro feedback, stuff that I do the 40 Years of Zen. We write really powerful ones. If you look at many different spiritual teachers, a lot of times they phrase it in a positive way. How would you phrase, “Don’t retreat into story?” What do you do instead of not doing something? What do you do instead?
Tim Ferriss: This is I know a common preference to have a positive do as opposed to using the do not.
Dave Asprey: I couldn’t do it in my head.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah, the don’t retreat into story has worked very well for me. It’s like a stop sign, which has been exceptionally useful as a pattern interrupt. If I had to convert that into a positive affirmation, it would probably be look through the right lens perhaps.
Dave Asprey: There you go or like to tell yourself the right story. Am I getting the vibe?
Tim Ferriss: Yeah, maybe tell yourself the right story or more so look at what’s in front of you. Really trying to the extent possible non-reactively without emotional baggage that we’ve developed through trauma or past mistakes, assess the situation dispatchable. If someone on the phone for instance appears to be very curt and rude to you, don’t assume that they have some personal vendetta against you and they’re trying to ruin your day. Maybe they’re just hungry or maybe they need a sandwich, maybe they’re thirsty. Maybe they need to go to the bathroom and their boss won’t let them until the next hour clicks through, whatever it might be. I would say, look through the right lens is probably if I had to pick one as an adjunct of [crosstalk 00:09:30].
Dave Asprey: Okay. That really helps me understand the don’t retreat in your story, which makes good sense, but that’s powerful advice. I believe listeners will benefit from doing that, because yeah if you believe your own lies, and I mean you’re not going to like your life.
Tim Ferriss: No and there’s actually a great book called, “Radical Acceptance.” The title sounds very woo-woo and I resisted it. It was recommended several times to me. It was recommended twice both by a guest on the podcast and then by a friend of mine, a neuroscience PhD out of UCSF. Then last-
Dave Asprey: Is it Dan Kraft or someone’s?
Tim Ferriss: No, it’s actually Darya Pino. Now, Darya Pino Rose who worked with Adam Gazzaley at the Gazzaley Lab. On top of that, then Maria Popova who’s just an incredible woman who runs Brain Pickings, told me that Tara Brach changed her life perhaps more than any other person, because she was in story, Guided Meditations each morning. In fact, the same guided meditation, which is the 2010 smile meditation. You could find it for free online. Tara is the author of Radical Acceptance. Radical Acceptance is very good at helping you to contend with any what’s called handicapping, driving emotions. One of my reflexive driving emotions for a long time and still to a certain extent now is, I use aggression and anger. I’ve utilized it as a tool. I’ve felt it to be in times an asset, but everything in its excess becomes its opposite of course. That helped becomes a major hindrance and I’ve wanted to [curtail 00:11:08] that and handle it, but trying to suffocate it and push it away never worked. It always came back tenfold.
Dave Asprey: The more you push, the more you push it.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah, exactly. The book Radical Acceptance I found was very, very helpful. Tara Brachs, a well-known meditation teacher and buddhist thinker, her dharma talk is really good. There’ll be another example of learning to contend with and in some ways work with the stories that you’ve accumulated that are no longer serving you that you tell yourself.
Dave Asprey: I’m going to ask a question that may sound odd, but I don’t think it’ll sound odd to you, but to listeners it may but just bear with me for a minute. Awhile back, I think it might have been at yourself by self west talk. Like your first one, you mentioned something about how you had some birth trauma. I don’t remember what it was. Do you think and the reason I’m asking this is I was born with a cord wrapped on my neck. I had to do a lot of self-reprogramming, because my story was the world is a threatening place and I should kill everyone who’s going to even mess with me a little bit. That was causing me a lot biologically. I don’t have that programming and everybody was like, 10 years of digging and reprogramming and all that. Do you think that that’s why you went to anger or do you think there’s other reasons?
Tim Ferriss: I think there are probably other reasons that maybe a factor, I don’t know. I was born premature. I was in the ICU for a long time and had test blood transfusions. I couldn’t oxygenate my blood properly and my left lung still has issues. Actually, I have a lot of thermo regulatory problems as a result of that, so I’ve been hospitalize for heat stroke a couple times. I think the perhaps consequence of that that has led to using anger and rage as a coping mechanism is up until about sixth grade, I was very, very small. I was extremely small and just got my ass kicked on a daily basis. No, my ass is kicked on daily basis. The way that I was able in a few instances at least to fend that off was just by going 10 times batshit crazy and just being more of a hassle than the other punitive kids are getting their asses kicked, but I had to go completely insane and turn into a banshee.
Perhaps that was put into a container and never quite dissipated, but that’s also speculation. I think that if you look at some of the males in my family too, and I don’t want to absolve myself of responsibility certainly, but there seems to be just some genetic hard-wiring that makes us a little quick, a little quick on the draw. Maybe I’m closer to the Rottweiler than the Labrador of the human species, I don’t know.
Dave Asprey: That’s awesome. That’s by the way a great tweet. Now, did you learn more from writing Tools of Titans than you did from the discussions themselves or were the discussions really meaty or was it like a processing of the discussion that really brought the knowledge for?
Tim Ferriss: Yeah, the discussions were very helpful in and of themselves. I clarified a lot of my own thinking talking through things in this two to three hour conversations. What I wasn’t able to do and in fact, I never planned on writing this book, so I wanted to put together a cliff notes for myself of all of the most practical, tactical recommendations of my guests, just for myself. I took a month off and I took my parents to Paris, which my mom had never been. My dad hadn’t been since 60s to digest, to go through 10,000 plus pages of transcripts to go through my handwritten notes and Evernotes on all the things I guess it taught me afterwards was we became friends and to create this condensed distilled version just for me as a reference book.
Then I got to 250,000 words and I was like, “What?” Okay. If I’m going to go to this trouble, I might as well just polish it up and share it, and this is something my parents have been asking for. The reason that or I shouldn’t say the reason, but one of the ways in which it became very interesting is that I was able to spot patterns across a two-year arc and so I would say, “Oh my God, that weird thing that Ed Cooke, the memory champion from the UK did when he was feeling overwhelmed to really to looking at the stars or thinking about the stars is exactly what BJ Miller, this M.D. I mentioned, does himself. They were just a year and a half apart and separated by notion and I wouldn’t have put them together had I not been combing through all of the details, or noticing that the ChiliPad, I’m not sure if you’re familiar with this device, but-
Dave Asprey: Oh yeah, I was one of the first guys to launch the ChiliPad, yes.
Tim Ferriss: All right, well there you go. The ChiliPad came up multiple times for a handful of folks and long and behold. Actually, changing the sleep temperature from underneath can have [Fusion Pack 00:16:06] and/or documentaries. We are documentaries like the Up Series. Sometimes called the, “7 Up Series,” from the UK where they track the same people every seven tears from something like, from making this up from like 3rd grade until 50 years old.
Dave Asprey: Yeah, I know that study.
Tim Ferriss: This documentary series was brought up multiple times, but I didn’t remember noticing that because they were so spread out. For me, stepping out a bit and looking at a 3,000-foot view or 30,000-foot view enabled me to see the matrix or the patterns and the emerging properties, and all these weird things that I don’t think I would have been able to pinpoint or use properly had I not done it. This is the first book that was fun for me to put the other. I find writing really, really difficult. It’s not true for some people. I know Malcom Gladwell just loves writing, so the tougher it is, the more entertaining and fun it is for him. I’m not like that. I think that tends to be journalists who are accustomed to daily deadlines or tight turnarounds who develop that type of psychology or come into it that way. There’s a survivorship bias, but for me, writing is hard. It’s really punishing.
This book was the first one that was fun to put together. I noticed, as I was writing the book, it was just cool on a very mental level is that I got calmer and I got more effective, and the process improved for writing the book as I was picking up all these bits and pieces and absorbing them. It was really awhile. This is the first time I’ve had that meta experience. It just made sense at that point for myself and for I think other people to break it up in the way that I did in just with the Healthy Wealthy and Wise. What I also began to wonder as I was going through this myself, “Maybe I should include this in an updated version of 4-Hour Workweek. Oh, maybe I should include this in an updated version for our body. Oh, maybe I should include this in updated version of 4-Hour Chef.”
I was like, “Look, if Healthy Wealthy and Wise is good enough for Ben Franklin then why don’t I just effectively take everything I would update my last three books with and put it into Tools of Titans. It’s effectively what it is for me as well.
Dave Asprey: Just an update for all three books at once.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah.
Dave Asprey: That’s a good way to position that. I like that. How do you make the cut to be a titan? What makes you a titan?
Tim Ferriss: I would think to me, I think being a titan is twofold. You need to reach the top of your field, so let’s just call it the top 1%, the top tier of your field, however that is defined. You need to have overcome many obstacles or defeated many opponents to get there. If you’re just part of the lucky sperm club, and have inherited hundreds of millions of dollars, and have happened to somehow they go away through [inaudible 00:19:04] to be the CEO of a gigantic company, that does not qualify you. You have to have endured hardship. One of the reasons I decided to make this a book and not just keep it for myself is that there’s this really dangerous and unfortunate delusion and illusion out there, which is the people on the magazine covers have it figured out.
I can’t do what they do, because I’m this flawed normal human being. When you start looking at these profiles, and the book, it’s a long book. All my books are 704 pages, but about 350, 400 of it is based on the past interviews. The rest is all learning stuff. From new guests, from past guests, from me, and I wanted to really underscore the fact that all of these titans, these so-called superheroes that we think of as invincible and flawless creatures, no, they’re just like us. They’re walking around with their weaknesses, they’re walking around with their insecurities, they have extremely tough days just like we do. In almost every case, they’ve simply figured out there are one or two, maybe one or two core strengths that they can then develop habits and routines around and coping mechanisms around. I find that very encouraging.
In the process of interviewing a lot of these folks, its really helped build my confidence or at least willingness to try new things and to really stick my neck out there. Because you realize that all these people have some version of the same fear or fears that we all do. That’s very, very important, because people view Hero de Jour as someone they could never emulate, because that person started with a hundred times better materials in every possible respect and doesn’t have any of the same fears, or weaknesses, or insecurities, or bad days. They’re never going to take step one towards improving in that general direction for the most part. I want to completely dismantle and remove that excuse, because it’s an illusion. Don’t believe everything you think once again.
Dave Asprey: When you talk to some really successful people, a friend of mine, a venture capitalist in Silicon Valley named “[Uas 00:21:27]” had a profoundly poor beginning in India. He’s a major power player at one of big D.C. firms. You see this over and over but you don’t know the backstory or you only know what you were told and so you’ve had a chance to hangout with some of these people. I have a different side of, but similar very successful business people. People in YPO, that Young Presidents’ Organization. I think you have some connection there too, I’m sure.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah, I’ve done a couple of events with them.
Dave Asprey: Okay, cool. I’m a member of this. Just like you were saying, you maybe thinking like, “No, nepotism here.” When you talk to these guys, some of them are really profoundly unhappy but they’re like, “Yeah, I’ve got a company that’s worth tens of millions. I have a helicopter or whatever,” but they’re working, and they’re struggling, and they have their crappy days. I think especially for your audience, the people who are listening to this, it’s a service you’re providing them by pointing that out to them. Because there aren’t really any superheroes like that. Some people feel less pain as we have more skills than others, but everyone works, right?
Tim Ferriss: Yeah, everyone works or has work to do. Just to underscore something you said, I’m not going to name names here, but a friend of mine who is I would say a very content and reflective, let’s just call it happy guy at this point. It wasn’t always the case, extremely high achiever, he’s a brand name type folk. He went to this dinner in Silicon Valley and everyone at the table had at least $200 million. They’re drinking $10,000 bottles of wine that are just stacked up by the hundreds in the basement. They were in listening to the dinner he said, “You would assume that they’ve just been laid off from Burger King and had five kids, and couldn’t pay their mortgage.” They were so deeply unhappy and so depressing to be around, because of their pessimism or cynicism I would say even worse in a way that it highlights the importance for me.
This is something I’ve really tried to work on in the last few years and why this book is I think very different in a sense to The 4-Hour Workweek. It doesn’t controvert any of it. It doesn’t contradict it, but it’s an important supplement. The last section is wise section. It focuses a lot on how to program yourself, so that you’re taking care of not just the achievement piece, the type A, set goals, knock them down onto the next thing, but also the appreciation gratitude component, which is much more present tense.
I remember hearing at one point that depression is being stuck in the past and anxiety is being stuck in the future. If you’re stuck in the future as many people are, if you are good at goal setting and goal achieving, you are probably spending a high percentage of your time in the future, which is why I think or at least partly why so many successful people are highly anxious and take Xanax. A disturbing but not too surprising now percentage of CEOs I know in Silicon Valley are on Xanas and a whole slew of different I think many medications. I think that is impart, because they’re taking care of only half of the puzzle. The other half being a present tense, which would include different types of say meditative or mindfulness practices.
The most common or one of the most common patterns across all of these world class performance is they have some type of let’s call it, “Mindfulness practice.” By that, I’ll define that because I [guess 00:25:16] the word throwing around a lot. I’ll just say, “Mindfulness practice is something that it is a rehearsal, or practice, or routine that helps you to develop present state focus and an awareness of your thoughts. That’s it. It can take many forms. You have some people like Arnold Schwarzenegger who did transcendental meditation for a year twice a day stopped and then self-resistant affects for decades. He took the sensibility, the mantra approach and basically translated it, transferred it to his workouts.
Then you find people like I mentioned, Maria Popova who listens to the same guided meditation audio every morning from Tara Brach. Then you have let’s just say Vipassana and Zen but it can take or Headspace app, whatever you might want to use. Then there are a lot of these folks who listen to single tracks of music on repeat. It came up at least a dozen times and Matt Mullenweg who’s thought of as the lead developer of WordPress, which now powers more than 25% of the internet. He wrote a large portion of the code base listening to the same track or tracks on repeat, also following a polyphasic sleep schedule.
Dave Asprey: Yeah, that’s crazy events.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah and it came up over and over again. Alex Honnold, the superstar phenom of rock climbing, listens to the last of Mohican soundtrack over and over again, which I had to buy just to be like, “That’s in the movie maybe 15 years ago, but let’s try it out.”
Dave Asprey: I’m glad you said that. I never thought of it that way, but yeah there’s one soundtrack I’ve probably heard 20,000 times. It’s like a 1994 weird mashup of North African and electronic dance music stuff. I listen to it, because no matter how much I listen to it, it’s too complex to comprehend all things, so your brain goes, and then stops thinking. A lot of my books are written in that way. I go into a flow state but I have to have good music on to go into the flow state to write. Then writing is like a release for me. Otherwise though, it’s painful. It’s like if I don’t write, I’ll be unhappy, but if I do write without the right mental state, it doesn’t work.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah. No, exactly. You might actually like this, but Beats Antique is a band-
Dave Asprey: Oh, I love it, yeah. I love Beats Antique, okay.
Tim Ferriss: Beats Antique is amazing. When I wrote this book, I listen to three sets of music for morning, afternoon, evening for different physiological states in some were from winding down, some were from winding up. In the case of say Beats Antique or any of these things, I think that it’s exceptionally similar to using a mantra in TM. You’re effectively turning on the equivalent of a thought white noise machine so that your monkey mind stops bouncing around your head like a ricochet bullet. These types of tricks are really common. I have to tell you man, the tools in say wise for instance, I would have in my 20s thought that they would make you weaker, that they would detract from your ability to be competitive.
What I’ve realized is for probably 15 years, I never recover properly mentally and emotionally. Physically, I was journaling all of my workouts tracking my strength ends, that I had covered but it was compartmentalized and that if you’re really driven in type A and you’re not willing to think of doing something called, “Meditation” it has terrible brand and he needs a new brain bath or something, it just needs new makeover because it’s carrying so much baggage. Then you can think of it as nonslip recovery. If you do this for 20 minutes, you will get the equivalent of a two to three hours of sleep in terms of restored of effect.
Dave Asprey: Just to reiterate that point. There was a time when I said, “I’m going to become a morning person.” I woke up at 5 a.m. everyday for two years. Biologically, I’m not a morning person. The power of when the recent book that just came out about chronobiology, that really helped me to see, I’m a night person and I’m happy as I’m actually biologically healthier if I stay up later and wake up later. I did this for a long time and the deal was I’m still going to stay up late, so I cut my sleep. I found an hour of breathing and meditation in the morning at 5 a.m. from five to six was equal to two hours of loss sleep. You could do that indefinitely. That’s the recovery piece you’re talking about.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah, exactly. If we’re defining mindfulness also as, and we don’t have to dwell on this piece of it, because we could certainly go into all the crazy physical as well, all the drugs, and all the other goodies. Anything that involves counting, also this came up, can act very effectively as a mindfulness tool. Again, because it is making you aware of your thoughts. It could be an external mantra and it is focusing you in the present state. Any type of lifting with cadence, so let’s say you’re lifting five seconds up, five seconds down, two seconds up, four seconds down. Very effective. This is what Arnold Schwarzenegger does, or let’s just say you’re swimming and you’re breathing on every third stroke, or you’re keeping track of how many strokes you are using per length to try to optimize your stride length so to speak. That will also contribute to a mindfulness effect.
Dave Asprey: In 4-Hour Workweek, you mentioned art of living, breathing exercises, don’t you?
Tim Ferriss: I might have, I want to say. It’s been a while since I’ve read 4-Hour Workweek myself.
Dave Asprey: I respect that. Did you practice art of living?
Tim Ferriss: Maybe it’s the lack of sleep. Maybe it’s the amount of caffeine I’m consumed today, but I am not … It is not ringing a bell for me.
Dave Asprey: The reason that the [inaudible 00:31:28] is it’s a set of breathing exercises where you have to always count, that you do 20 of these and you put your hands in this position. You put your hands in this position. I did it for five years with a bunch of uber successful Silicon Valley entrepreneurs came out of India. That thing about counting, it’s so legit. If you breathe without counting, it doesn’t work, but I figured that [crosstalk 00:31:50].
Tim Ferriss: I’ve never heard of it, so I’ll check it out. No, that’s not me. You’re basically doing a super slow motion macarena without counting as you do it and breathing.
Dave Asprey: You hold it with 20 seconds or something. I am going to go back and I swear, I can see it in my [crosstalk 00:32:08]. There’s other things like these that are also effective. It was [crosstalk 00:32:13]. I was guessing, you must have taken it.
Tim Ferriss: Oh, you know what I think you’re thinking of is there’s a portion on, I think it’s in the filling the void chapter where I talk about different types of retreats that I might recommend. That’s where it came from, that it wasn’t the breathing exercise specifically. It was-
Dave Asprey: The whole retreat.
Tim Ferriss: Exactly. There were set of retreats. I also talked about spirit rock in silent retreats. Then among those was the art living. That’s great.
Dave Asprey: Your caffeine problem was overcome there, because that was exactly where it was. Nice job. I remember again. I totally was guessing you must have done.
Tim Ferriss: It’s only 2005 when I wrote that.
Dave Asprey: Yeah, that’s remarkable. Some of those memory hacks appear to be working. Tim’s actually right about that counting thing. In fact, it’s such a big deal that I worked with my friends at Biohacked in order to create a new kind of brain training. We partnered with Bill Harris from Centerpointe. The guy has been a guest on Bulletproof Radio multiple times who spoken on the Bulletproof stage. One of the top brain-hacking audio experts out there. We’re using Bill’s technology from Centerpointe to put your brain into an altered state. Then we have you do a counting memory training exercise. It’s fascinating, because when you put yourself in an altered state using sound frequencies, an altered state where normally you can’t remember anything. You’re actually not supposed to be able to remember anything during that time, but that’s where creativity and intuition, and things like that happen.
With this new Neurominer software, you can actually mind what’s going on your nervous system, because we train you to remember what happens when you’re in different brain states. It takes about 20 minutes a day. Do it everyday for about a month and then you do periodic brush ups. For listeners of Bulletproof Radio, you can head on over to biohacked.com. That’s B-I-O-H-A-C-K-E-D dot com. If you use the coupon code “Bulletproof,” you can save 20 bucks off a Neurominer subscription. It’s an annual subscription. It’s all web-based, it’s very easy to use. You guys could put on a blindfold, put on your earphones, and you do the memory exercises while listening to the sound files. It’s amazing what happens to your creativity and your intuition. New memory training and it’s exactly what Tim and I are just talking about here. It’s counting and it’s using counting and other technologies to get you in the altered state where your creativity and intuition happen. Biohacked.com and the coupon code is “Bulletproof” to save 20 bucks off a subscription to Neurominer. Now, what do titans do in the morning?
Tim Ferriss: Okay, so there’s a good news, good news not good news, bad news. You were just talking about trying to become a morning person. There are general trends that you see in the interviews and the sample size that I have, which is about 200, maybe few more. As far as what they do in the morning. The good news on top of that is that for every pattern that you spot, there is someone who does the exact opposite thing, which I find very reassuring. I remember when I first started looking at the patterns I was like, “Jocko Willink, a superstar revered Navy SEAL commander wakes up at 4:30 every morning.” Then I went to the next breakfast and I saw 4:30 in the morning. I was like, “Oh no, I don’t want to wake up at 4:30 in the morning.”
Then I came across BJ Novak who’s like, “You know what? I stumble out of bed. It takes me until eleven o’clock to really kick into proper gear before I can do anything productive. I’m paraphrasing here, but the exceptions make the rule in a sense. In the morning, I’ll tell you that I can give you some of the things I’ve picked up. I could talk about what I do impart in the morning, which is reflective of a lot of what I’ve picked up. The meta observation is that if you were to ask what routine is the most important to have if I want to emulate these titans, I would just say, “The important thing isn’t the routine that you follow, it’s that you have a routine you follow.”
Almost every single person at least in a few areas of their lives including the mornings for many of them put as many things on autopilot as possible. For instance, Scott Adams creator of Dilbert wake up at exactly the same time and walk down the stairs. He will eat a particular type of I think Builder’s bar, same flavor everyday, press a button on his coffee machine, have his coffee cup the exact same cup of coffee everyday and so forth and so on so that he is not in any way expending his limited number of mental calories and decision making willpower on things that don’t matter and don’t correlate to his unique strengths. That you observe over and over again.
I will say one thing that a fan actually observed. It’s funny when I asked him, “What do you do in the first 90 minutes of your day?” No one says, “I take a shit.” It never came up. I’m like, “Wow, these people are cyborgs. They never go to the bathroom.” I think there’s some artful ambition going on. Yet, no one says like, “I wake up and I go to the bathroom and I swipe right on Tinder for half hour.” That doesn’t come up very often. There are few things that do come up a lot. Morning meditation before any inputs is very common. That can be 10 minutes on something like Calm or Headspace. Quite a few people also use Headspace to go to sleep.
Then you have let’s say the 20-minute TM people. For whatever reason, and again, I don’t know the explanation for this, but a high percentage of the men end up gravitating towards transcendental meditation and a high percentage of the women end up gravitating towards Vipassana meditation, so go figure that. Yeah.
Dave Asprey: I see that too and we look at their brainwaves in the 40 years of zen program and that people do TM, it’s interesting. Some of them have profound brainwaves and some of them have flat brainwaves. There’s a way to do it wrong, and if you’re doing it wrong and you don’t know it you’re like, “Oh,” but we see some really powerful brains that way and Vipassana it’s so intense for 10 days. It’s hard to get 10 days off, it’s a miracle.
Tim Ferriss: Oh yeah, to do a retreat is intense. There are exceptions, like Sam Harris who I think is an expert meditator and has very good guided meditations tends more towards the Vipassana side of things. Then okay, so here’s one pattern, in 45 year old or older males, not eating breakfast, very common. Not eating any breakfast at all or one meal per day primarily you say in early-ish dinner like 6 p.m., 7 p.m. That came up over and over again whether it was or at extremely minimal breakfast. You’d have Deneral Stanley McChrystal, primarily one meal per day, Wim Hof, Dutch Daredevil, same story. You just go down the line Malcolm Gladwell. It’s a long list, they’re all male, the ones who skip breakfast or skip two out of three meals of the day. That was very, very exceptionally common.
High percentage, make their beds in the morning. Keep in mind, a lot of the people extremely rich and this one came up from me in two ways. It seems like such a small thing. There was this small thing that makes a big difference to the extent that even when I’m in a hotel, I will put “Do not disturb” on the door for the entire time I’m at the hotel generally. I don’t like people touch my stuff.
Dave Asprey: I do that too.
Tim Ferriss: I will make my own bed and it’s not because they won’t make it, it’s because there were a few reasons, so let me backpedal or just rewind. Dandapani, this former Indian monk I met at one point in Toronto, and he after listening to begin a presentation, talk about so much. He said, “You should start making your bed.” I was like, “What?” He explained his rationale and I think it’s very well explained by, there’s military figure, he’s a navy commander named McRaven. He gave his presentation in a commencement speech. He talked about why making your bed was so important.
There are few elements. Number one, and there are a few of this he mentioned, a few of these are observations of mind. The first is you’re starting with exerting control of a one thing you have control over. There are many aspects of your life that will be subject to external factors fortune outside of your control. This is within your sphere of control. Your first exerting control and exerting order on one thing, you have total controller. If you start your day there, chances are you’re also going to end your day, book end with seeing something you’ve accomplished, even if the entire day go silence.
You bob this momentum with that first snag, and what I’ve observed is that for people who spend a lot of time in their home environment. External clutter tends to create internal clutter. Even if it’s just a little bit tousle and things are kind of throw it around, if you are exposed to seeing that on a regular basis, I find that it creates an internal disorder. That might only be 5% off, but that 5% over the course of a 100 days, 300 days, adds up. For me, it has become this tiny thing that allows me to book in my day and I go straight from that to meditation.
It has an incredibly disproportionate positive effect on my days. It sound so ridiculous to say, but if McRaven saying it, if Dandapani is saying, and I’ve talked to a number of people. These are worth hundreds of millions of dollars who will make their own beds in their hotels when they stay in places. Okay, maybe there’s something to it. Also, a big part of vetting things for tools of tightens is just testing everything and I tested everything that’s in there. No matter how absurd, if I saw it as a pattern I’m like, “Okay, that seems ridiculous.” I don’t see how it could work, why it would work, but if it came up five times oddly enough, people in the different countries they don’t know one another. “Fuck it, I’ll try it.” Then I’m going to be home. Who knew?
I should point out also, this is not a four seasons situation. I’m not spending a lot of time on this. The sheets are still disaster. I just take the blanket and straighten that out on top, and then put the pillows in some symmetrical fashion so it literally takes me three seconds to do it. It is not very involved at all.
Dave Asprey: Now, I can see it. You remind me of a trauma I probably have to resolve. When I was a kid my mom will say, “Make your bed.” It was, “I’ll pay you a nickel to make your bed.” I will them like, “No way.” It’s just like a dime. I’m like, “No way.” I was like, there’s no amount of money you could pay me to make my bed because I just don’t want to make my bed.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah, there’s that.
Dave Asprey: Until this day I don’t but maybe I should thought about it.
Tim Ferriss: The nice thing about all of the stuff is if you have a buffet of options to choose from. Let’s just say you study too successful people or in this case 200 plus lead performers, you don’t have to do it all. I have let’s just say four or five things that I try to do or I would like to do in an ideal morning. If I check off three of those, then the likelihood of me having what I would consider a successful day is three X higher. You have the making the bed, and then I will meditate, that’s step number two, and that takes different forms. I do in different ways. One is the guided meditation, like smile meditation I mentioned, or do something with Sam Harris.
Typically doing a transmedial meditation session at least a few times a week because it’s not gear dependent which I like to have as just a form of adaptability. Then, I’ll have any type of blood draw or urinalysis that I would want to do first thing in the morning. That tends to be more frequent if on aiming for ketosis or fasting in some fashion. Usually it’s looking at my normal or ketone concentration. Any type of supplements or drugs that might be better absorbed on empty stomach or low glucose/insulin levels, and then, I’m doing primarily tea these days.
Very often, that will include either some type of say MCT or like the XCT which I have at my house or some type of [crosstalk 00:45:14]. Yeah, chrolic acid of some other type or coconut oil but it’s generally going to be heavily MCT or beta-hydroxybutyrate weighted. I’ve been playing around for instance with the products have been actually no affiliation with. I’ve been quite impressed with how palatable they’ve made some of the stuff importable.
Dave Asprey: Have you tested it from all the Hydroxyacetone?
Tim Ferriss: No, I haven’t but-
Dave Asprey: You might want to. I’ve tested every BHB salt on the planet but I looked at [inaudible 00:45:47] to synthesize my own ketones, three years ago ketone esters. I can’t find the manufacturer Tim anywhere that doesn’t hit alarmingly high, but still legal levels of formaldehyde. If you’re doing multiple doses, seriously, pay attention to that, because you know about metabolic pathways from the body hacking stuff.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah. I’ll check it out. I knew that it’s based on formulation. Of course the formulation manufacturer are different, but a formulation developed at least in part I think wholly by Dominic D’Agostino. The formulation won’t be the issue but yeah you’re right, it’s the manufacturing issue.
Dave Asprey: It’s the manufacturing issue, it’s not the molecule, it’s the impurities present. There’s a reason that there isn’t a bullet proof round of ketone salt. I’ve been like salivating over this. I can’t get to the standards that’s why I want to put my name on it. Just be aware of that.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah, this is something and I also have straight from the lab of Dom ketones but that’s the drinking diesel kind.
Dave Asprey: Yeah. I have those too.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah. This is generally, if I’m taking something like that, it’s got to be generally speaking no more than two or three servings a week because I’m very often doing it during say a three day fast where I want to see if I can simply boost like preexisting ketone levels by say even 1 to 1.5 millimeters additional. I’m also doing sometimes half servings. Anyway, that’s part of it and then journaling, journaling is a very consistent habit among dozens of the people that I interviewed also tends to happen in the morning. The journaling can sound and is very nebulous if you don’t explain version I’m referring to.
There are many different types. Morning Pages, along lines of Julia Cameron, the artist way of three long hand three or four pages a day came up repeatedly for writers specifically entertainment writers. Brian Koppelman, who has a great podcast of his own, but he’s an incredible writer of, “Rounders,” cover of that, “Ocean’s Thirteen,” and then co-created “Billions,” which is a hit show in Showtime right now, fantastic. He’s recommended Morning Pages to he said probably a hundred people, ten actually took him up on it and did it. Of those ten, something like nine have had multiple hits on the stage, on television, and sold screenplays many of which have been made into films.
The percentage hit rate is very, very high. I tend to use something called find it journal quite a bit which I also have no affiliation with.
Dave Asprey: Yeah, those guys are friends too. It’s great journal.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah, they’re good guys. It’s really a way of particularly in the Morning Pages. It’s a way of locking your thinking on paper so that you can improve it in my mind. Well there are two different actually purposes. The first I would say is purging your demons, and anxieties, and weird undefined worries onto the page that you can see A, how ridiculous they are, and to simply remove them from your mind for the majority of the day so you can get things done.
Secondly, I found it very helpful for problem solving because the emergency breaks of life meaning this petty concerns, or monsters that we’ve made out of molehills mentally that we think involve all of these high stakes and consequences. Once you put them on paper, you see that they have little or no consequences whatever. The risk is really low and writing for me is a way of developing and refining my thinking, at least in the journal form generally that’s what I’m looking at.
That pops up a whole hell of a lot. There were other weird things that people do in the morning. I remember one Mike Birbiglia, whose a very, very successful, one of the world’s most successful comedian and stand up comics, also writes a lot in terms of screenplays. He realized he was putting off his screenplay. He was procrastinating. He will do anything but continue working in a screenplay, but he didn’t procrastinate if he had meeting. If he had a lunch meeting or conference call, he was always early.
He took a post-it note and he told me when he was explaining, he said, “I’m embarrassed to even explain this because it seems so silly.” He said he took a post-it note and on the post-it note which he put next to his bed that said, “Mike!!! You have a meeting with yourself at 7 a.m. at such and such coffee shop to work on your screenplay.” It actually worked for him. There are these tiny little things like that that a really small and the downside of testing them is very minimal or you take someone like Noah Kagan, very successful entrepreneur who uses quite a few different technological tools to help him.
You might use what a browser extension for or it’s called Facebook newsfeed eradicator. It just removes your Facebook newsfeed. If you visit Facebook which you still can do, you just can’t look at your newsfeed and things along these lines. Freedom is another one that Neil Strauss, eight-time New York Times, best-selling author has used to prevent his lesser self from getting lost on the internet when he’s supposed to be writing. He’ll just then batch, meaning he’ll open a separate document and list all the things he wants to research later using TK as a place holder as he goes through.
When he’s writing, he’s writing, and when he’s researching, he’s researching as oppose to getting two paragraphs sending and being like, “Ah,” like in your case, “Oh that study, that citation will be on mitochondria and blah, blah, blah. Let me go to PubMed.” Then two hours later like, “Oh my god, I only have 30 minutes left to write and I have two paragraphs,” to avoid that whole problem.
Dave Asprey: You’re friends with Maneesh Sethi, you know Maneesh the Pavlok guy that [crosstalk 00:51:57] and go to Facebook?
Tim Ferriss: Yeah, I know Maneesh. I know Ramit better than I know Maneesh probably but I know both of them, yeah.
Dave Asprey: Have you played around with shocking yourself and you do things you don’t like? Because Maneesh swears but I think he’s a bit crazy. I’m an investor in his company so like full disclosure or whatever, a very tiny investor because it was too funny not to invest in.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah. I’ve experienced it. I’ve experienced demo of his device. I think there is something to it. I saw it very, very early on, so I think it is improved a lot. At the time, I wanted a software layer that would allow me to involve slightly more complex behaviors. With geolocation, I like the idea of being able to shock oneself based on location, so that if there are places you shouldn’t visit like there’s an ice cream shop in San Francisco that is very close to my house, it’s extremely famous, and I don’t always get lost at the end of my way there. As a pattern interrupt, I would say, “No, maybe it would be helpful to get a little buzz like, hey I’m about to punch you,” and then a shock.
I think there are some very interesting applications to it, particularly I think if you can couple it with addictions like nicotine addiction. I’d been so focused at least on breaking addiction at looking at compounds like psilocybin, and ibogaine, less so LSD, but funding research at places like Johns Hopkins for that. I’ve been taking a slightly different path in the same arena.
Dave Asprey: At this point, we’re going to pause and end the first episode with Tim. We had enough time to get two full episodes in. Go on to iTunes and make sure you’re subscribed to Bulletproof Radio. While you’re at it, leave us a five star review. I’m always grateful for those. It helps other people find the show. The next episode with Tim that you’ll hear, we get to talk about some pretty cool stuff like Ibogaine, which is hallucinogen that’s used for drug and alcohol addiction treatment in a pretty meaningful way and Tim’s own experience using this in a very unusual way. You’ll also hear about Tim’s wine consumption and some of the other nutritional hacks that he’s used to make himself more alcohol tolerant.
Of course, we are going to talk about Tim’s experience with Lyme disease. If you’re a longtime listener, you know that I had a chronic Lyme disease for a long time. I actually don’t believe that you get chronic Lyme without also having an exposure to toxic mold at the same time. Tim is fully recovered and is doing really well. He talks about through the nine months of where his brain just didn’t work. It’s pretty enlightening to see how when someone who definitely is also in a biohacking world, also dealt with something like this.
I think you’ll learn a lot in this next episode and you’ll have a good time here. While we’re at it, we talked about in this episode counting and the effects of counting and have on your mental processes. You definitely should go to biohacked.com and checkout the new Neurominer software. It’s really cool. You get a one year subscription. If you use code “Bulletproof,” you can save $20 off of your subscription. This is a software that teaches you to count and remember when you’re in altered states. We’re using technology from Bill Harris of Centerpointe to help you put in an altered state using sound files. Very advanced technology. Really cool stuff. A stuff that I actually do myself that has helped me to tap into my creativity and my intuition.
I didn’t really plan to talk with Tim about counting, but it just naturally came up. I wanted to put this out there for you, because if you’re into improving what your brain works, this is a new and very unusual type of technology. That’s biohacked.com and the product is called, “Neurominer,” N-E-U-R-O-M-I-N-E-R. Just use code “Bulletproof” and you can save 20 bucks.