As an entrepreneur, writer, podcaster, investor, motivational speaker, and life hacker, Tim Ferriss is a jack of all trades.
Like many of us, he's obsessed with work and optimizing work habits. But he learned the hard way. A near suicide and a breakup with his girlfriend made him change. Instead of being goal-driven, he played with ‘what ifs' in what he calls fear-setting.
To much chagrin, he left his business in 2004 to spend a month in London. It turned out all those fears he had – his company would collapse, the IRS would come after him — never happened. The opposite unfolded. He ended up traveling the world for a year where he lived more and worked less. an experience which led him to write his best-selling book The 4-Hour Work Week(Amazon).
At the core of Tim's life-practice is stoicism, an age-old philosophy that has guided successful leaders from George Washington to Bill Belichick.
So around 300 BC in Athens,someone named Zeno of Citium taught many lectureswalking around a painted porch, a “stoa.”That later became “stoicism.”And in the Greco-Roman world,people used stoicism as a comprehensive systemfor doing many, many things.But for our purposes, chief among them was training yourselfto separate what you can control from what you cannot control,and then doing exercises to focus exclusivelyon the former.This decreases emotional reactivity,which can be a superpower.
There are two quotes Tim always keeps the top of mind in his daily life. The first is that “We suffer more often in imagination than in reality,” wrote the Stoic philosopher Seneca the Younger.
The second comes from a modern-day Stoic Jerzy Gregorek “Easy choices, hard life.Hard choices, easy life,” which became the backbone in his survival as a political refugee and endurance as four-time world champion Olympic weightlifter.
Fear-setting is a life practice. It takes a lot of nerve to imagine our worst fears and take calculated risks, but the cost of inaction is even worse. Remember things are never as bad as they seem.
Inspiration fuels aspiration. Without inspiration, we relax on our laurels and accept things the way they are.
There's no lack of material for inspiration. It can found everywhere: on the Internet, in a book, from a role model, or in a chat with a loved one or a friend. But a surfeit of inspiration can backfire. Seeking too much of it can descend into inaction and stagnation.
The advice I like to give young artists, or really anybody who'll listen to me, is not to wait around for inspiration. Inspiration is for amateurs; the rest of us just show up and get to work.
Introverts are egg people. They’re not hiding anything (per say), they are mostly reserved. And once they start to get comfortable, they are as open and talkative as anybody else. “Don't think of introversion as something that needs to be cured,” writes Susan Cain in her book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking.
Extroverts, on the other hand, are onion people. They contain so many layers of bombast that it’s hard to know when they are being authentic, showy, or just spewing flotsam. Yet, extroverts are most likely to be leaders because they talk loud and carry a big stick.
George Mason economics professor and Oxford humanities associates Robin Hanson sums up the egg and onion divergence:
I’ve sometimes been tempted to classify people as egg people and onion people. Onion people have layer after layer after layer. You peel it back, and there’s still more layers. You don’t really know what’s underneath. Whereas egg people, there’s a shell, and you get through it, and you see what’s on the inside.
Are ambiverts egg or onion people?
Ambiverts are more like salad people, easy to digest and mix in with all types of other folks and scenarios. They’re adaptable like a chameleon depending on whatever social situation they’re in.
We all contain multitudes. But it is the mouth that separates us apart, with different levels of signaling.
Words are the original memes, for which some things are still best unshared and unsaid. Sometimes silence does all the messy talking, reveals all that needs to be conveyed. As Susan Cain puts it: “We have two ears and one mouth and we should use them proportionally.”
Some people are obsessed with work. It defines them, gives them a structure. Without work, they'd sail away at the mercy of the waves and get lost at sea.
But technology facilitates creativity. The accountant becomes a music producer at night or a photographer on the weekend. He or she identifies more as being an artist than a professional that crunches numbers. Their online persona is who they really want to be.
Everyone wants to pursue something meaningful. We want to do something that matters. Work, whether it's the day job or an artist, is supposed to reflect our life philosophies. Most jobs though are solutions to a practical problem: we need the cash to live.
The pressure to blend work and life is the result of our obsession with the careerism in a twenty-four seven hyperconnected world. So what would we do with all that free time if we didn't work? We'd probably just do stuff: read, hang out with friends and family, watch and play sports, and listen to music. It would look like a lot of a vacation.
Will we be ok when the robots take over, and the concept of labor fades away? Will making art suffice? We're born off balance. It's how we dance with the uncertain future that shapes who we are.