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.
It had that barbershop vibe, the relaxed atmosphere where people kicked back, dug the crates, and talked music.
There were posters and promotional displays but they couldn’t outshine the album artwork. Marketing started from the bottom up. Consumption was based on peer recommendations.
The record shop was a place of giver’s gain, where the information shared upfront by one crate digger to another got reciprocated down the road.
Back then, music collecting was truly social. Today, social algorithms make recommendations.
While the data is getting smarter, popularity reigns because the wisdom of crowds leans popular, making music suggestions more mimetic and less random. Pop music exists because people are too shallow, lazy, or genuinely uninterested in looking deeper.
You only need to listen to a few DJs and curators to know what’s good. These are the same crate diggers you used to speak to in the record stores which are now mostly nonexistent.
Taste is not universal. It’s personal yet relatable and trustworthy, especially if it’s coming from a respected source.
Stepping into a particular record store once meant openness and experimentation, the willingness to try new sounds and share tracks with others.
In the absence of music shops, music lost some of its frequency and culture fell on deaf ears.
Whether you’re stuck in a labyrinth or looping around the same racetrack, admitting you’re frustrated and lost is at least a starting point. The hard part is developing a plan to do something about it.
If you want to go pro in any profession, you’re going to have to practice your beliefs and take calculated risks to gauge their rigidity. Doing the work removes the cobwebs of uncertainty.
Being lost is not an excuse to stand still unless something requires patience for results. Dance with the fear and see where it takes you.
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.