Life & Philosophy Productivity & Work

TED Talk: Tim Ferriss ‘Fear-setting’

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 lectures walking around a painted porch, a “stoa.” That later became “stoicism.” And in the Greco-Roman world, people used stoicism as a comprehensive system for doing many, many things. But for our purposes, chief among them was training yourself to separate what you can control from what you cannot control, and then doing exercises to focus exclusively on 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.

Creativity Life & Philosophy Writing

Maria Popova talks about writing for herself, creativity, and more on the Tim Ferriss Podcast

Below are some of the highlights of Maria Popova from her interview on the Tim Ferriss podcast. Some of the topics discussed include how to be interesting, on doing the work, and what makes a person creative.

On being interesting

  • “The key to being interesting is being interested and enthusiastic about those interests.”
  • When Kurt Vonnegut wrote “write to please just one person” what he was really saying was write for yourself. Don’t try to please anyone but yourself.
  • Content implies an “external motive” for advertisement. Nobody does content from the joy of their soul. Write because it’s personal and you love it.

Summary: Write for yourself. Stay interested. Don’t call your writing content.

“Love words. Agonize over sentences. Pay attention to the world.”

Susan Sontag

On writing

  • “Becoming” is a life long process. You never stop evolving so what you want to become is never done.
  • The most important aspect to work is consistency. All successful authors are consistent about their work. They show up and do it.

The formula for greatness: “Consistency driven by the deep love of the work.”

On creating

  • You don’t have to have a mental illness to be creative. That’s bunk. Yet without art, you may suffer even more.

On reading

  • “Literature is the original Internet. Every footnote, every citation, every reference, is a hyperlink to another book.” Read books, not just tweets, to find other compelling content.
  • “I read to make sense of life. The writing is a record of the reading.” Moments of time, place, weather, etc impact what you read. As long as it helps make your life better and richer in moment and long run, read it.

On inspiration:

  • Thoreau’s journals are timeless: “Those who work much do not work hard.”

Listen: Podcast: Maria Popova Hosts the Tim Ferriss Show

Arts Books Productivity & Work Quotes

Define your fears instead of your goals

steven pressfield scared work

Remember our rule of thumb: The more scared we are of a work or calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it.

— Steven Pressfield, The War Of Art

Echoing Seth Godin, “Habits are more important than fears.” Or as Tim Ferriss says, “Define your fears instead of your goals.”

Creativity Culture Productivity & Work

Why Seth Godin opts out of social media

Writer’s block is a fallacy, according to Seth Godin. You just write bad sentences and bad ideas until you something good to play with. After all, whoever got talker’s block?

Seth’s thoughts on social media are also thought-provoking and to the point. If you listen to his latest interview with Brian Koppelman, you’ll hear Seth say this:

“Social media is based on infinity. If you look at how many Facebook shares you got, if you look at how many Twitter followers you have, you have just enrolled in the wrong dialogue with yourself. I don’t read my Amazon reviews. I don’t look at my Google Analytics. I have no idea whether my subscriber base is going up or down. I don’t know if the the buzz is about something I did on Facebook because none of those things helped me do better work.

Seth Godin was popular as an author before he even started blogging every day. He doesn’t need to gain new fans nor expand his fan base by playing the system and responding to his fans on social networks–you’re either in his tribe or your not. Furthermore, he wouldn’t participate in social media even if he were just getting started today. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram–all that stuff gets in the way of doing what matters which is, first and foremost, the work.

Work requires tremendous focus. Thom Yorke goes off the grid when he records a new album. When some authors write books, they announce their departure from Twitter. Here’s one from author Teju Cole back in 2014. Note: he reemerged on Instagram about a year later.

Social media is hard to ignore. For one, it’s incredibly addicting, like playing the Vegas slot machines. You just want to keep pleasing the crowds which if you’re not careful, will start programming your thinking. You’ll begin to publish things that satisfy an audience rather than yourself.

As Maria Popova mentioned in a Tim Ferriss Podcast when Kurt Vonnegut said “write to please just one person” what he was really saying was to write for yourself. Still, there are tremendous benefits if you use social networks as a tool to connect with like-minded people that you hope one to meet in real life.

As Seth would go on to say in an interview with Tim Ferriss, we work for Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, etc. They make money breaking our individual and collective focus, tying our identity to their velocity. Consequently, we start avoiding the work that’ll outlast all of them.

PS. If you do want to reach out to Seth, he’s good about responding to email. But he still prefers you email Tim Ferriss instead.

Life & Philosophy

Highlights: Dissecting the Success of Malcolm Gladwell

In his interview with Tim Ferriss, Malcolm Gladwell talks about his admiration for Brian Eno’s music and then reminds people about the power of music with this adage:

“The music you discover when you’re 18 is the music that stays with you the rest of your life.”

For me, that music came from Mos Def and Talib Kweli. The Blackstar album had everything: the beats, the lyrical poetry, and descriptions of otherness – on “Thieves in the Night” in particular – which resonated perfectly with my feelings about high school.

Gladwell also discusses the importance of playing the long game in the podcast. As a writer and runner, he finds that what you’re looking for often doesn’t come until later, until page 1,000 in a long novel or the 6th mile of a marathon.

You’ll find your stride if you can delay gratification.

Listen to the podcast. 

Creativity Life & Philosophy Productivity & Work

The Top 5 Things I Learned from Jamie Foxx

In his most recent podcast, Tim Ferriss interviews the actor, comedian, and musician Jamie Foxx. As with all Tim’s interviews, you have to take notes because of all the insightful advice along the way.

Below are five takeaways from the interview:

  1. Think global. Learn as much as you can about other cultures, their struggles and history, to appreciate the perspectives of all sides. Rise above narrow mindedness.
  2. Be brave. Fear is an impediment to success. Most fear is impractical and fabricated in the mind, hurting your chances of learning of what you’re capable of. “There’s nothing standing on the other side of fear.”
  3. Look up. Generation thumbs are pecking at their screens without accountability. You need to talk with people to appreciate true sensitivity. “There’s no digression on the Internet. Interact with people.”
  4. Don’t settle. If you give it your all, you leave nothing to chance. “Your hustle muscle is the most important thing…If you’re not hustling, you’re worrying. So give it your all.”
  5. Be wary of the media. Be cautious with your public microphone in the social Internet era, especially as a comedian. The media today will spin your words in their favor to get clicks. But don’t let the their hyperboles prevent you from contributing to a conversation you believe in.

And lastly, Jamie Foxx is a stage name. He came up with it when he was trying to get picked during his standup days. His real name is Eric Marlan Bishop.

Listen to the podcast here.