Tim Ferriss broke into popular consciousness nine years ago with the release of The 4-Hour Workweek. He’s gone on to create a series of books based on the “4-Hour” concept.
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That’s in addition to a wildly popular blog, podcast, and even a TV show. But in economic terms, all of that pales in comparison to Tim’s success as an angel investor; he’s scored early positions in Uber, Twitter, Evernote, Shopify, and Facebook.
So, it was somewhat of a shock to hear that Tim is stepping away from new investments. And you’ll be more than a bit surprised to hear what he’s focusing on next, and more importantly … why.
Listen to Unemployable: Advice for Freelancers and Entrepreneurs below ...
The Show Notes
- How to Say “No” When It Matters Most (or “Why I’m Taking a Long ‘Startup Vacation’”)
- The Tao of Seneca: Letters from a Stoic Master
- Free Profit PIllars Course
- Rate/Review Unemployable on iTunes (Please ;))
Tim Ferriss on Finding and Focusing On What Truly Matters
Tim Ferriss: My name is Tim Ferriss. I’m an author, entrepreneur, and angel investor, and I am unemployable.
Voiceover: Welcome to Unemployable, the show for people who can get a job, they’re just not inclined to take one, and that’s putting it gently. In addition to this podcast, thousands of freelancers and entrepreneurs get actionable advice and other valuable resources from the weekly Unemployable email newsletter. Join us by registering for our free Profit Pillars course, or choose to sign up for the newsletter only at no charge. Simply head over to Unemployable.com and take your business and lifestyle to the next level. That’s Unemployable.com.
Brian Clark: Hey, everyone. Welcome to Unemployable. I am your host, Brian Clark, founder of Copyblogger, CEO of Rainmaker Digital, and completely unemployable. Today, I am very pleased that we have our special guest, Mr. Tim Ferriss. Many of you know Tim from The 4-Hour Workweek, The 4-Hour Body, The 4-Hour Chef — that entire line of books that he has published. An amazing blog, amazing podcast, even a TV show.
Now, I first met Tim about nine years ago. This was just before 4-Hour Workweek broke big. My impression of him at the time was that he was an incredibly approachable nice guy, but so inquisitive. He’s like a sponge. You could tell he was just soaking everything up at this conference we were at. And I’ll tell you, he’s the same guy today despite all his success.
Let’s talk a little bit about that. In addition to the wildly popular blog, the podcast, the TV show, and all that — in economic terms, all of that pales in comparison to Tim’s success as an angel investor. He scored early positions in Uber, Twitter, Evernote, Shopify, and Facebook. Some of that is wealth on paper, some of it is cashed out. But why would Tim walk away from angel investing when he’s had that kind of success? That’s what we’re going to talk about today. I think you’re really going to get a lot out of this episode as an exercise in relentlessly focusing on what matters and how you figure that out, frankly.
Mr. Ferriss. It’s good to speak with you. How are things?
Tim Ferriss: Things are great. Thanks for having me on. Appreciate it.
Brian Clark: Of course, it’s always a pleasure to speak with you. You are a busy man, so I am the lucky one here. As we kick off a new year, everyone’s got goals, growth plans, etc. “Do more,” if you will. And yet, what I want to talk to you about today is something that’s going on in your own life and business, and it’s something that I preach quite a bit, which is actually doing less. Doing more of what matters and less stuff that perhaps you think you’re supposed to do.
I wanted to talk to you about this in the fall, I believe it was late October. You wrote a post about how to say no. Really what that post was about was that you’re no longer — you’re taking a break from angel investing to focus on some other things. You had a nice little summary where you effectively said that. You could have stopped, but instead … I must say, that was an epic and inspiring post. Even though I am with you already, I was like, “This is good stuff.”
Tim Ferriss: Thank you.
Prioritizing Making Over Managing
Brian Clark: Let’s just talk about the general principle. Why did you decide … ? You are an investor in Uber, Twitter — other very early stage stuff that’s, I’m sure, doing quite well for you. Is it because you’ve had some home runs that you’re going to take a step back, or is it something else?
Tim Ferriss: It makes it easier to step back because I have had some home runs. Some of which are still on paper, of course, so you have to have that reality check in mind. That’s not the primary reason. The primary reason was … It’s a multifactorial reason, I guess. There are many different smaller reasons that add up to a large impact to my life.
The first was the observation that when I ask myself, “How much time am I spending making versus managing … ?” There’s a great essay by Paul Graham, “The Manager Versus the Maker’s Schedule.” If you Google that, that’ll pop right up. I just looked at my calendar and realized that I was spending the vast majority of my time booking meetings and calls to help manage other people’s businesses.
What had provided those opportunities in the first place — making things, creating, writing, etc. — had been squeezed out in a way. And that the investing game is one of replaceable parts, largely — or it’s become that way. In other words, I was interchangeable with other investors. If I said no to something, another venture capitalist or angel investor could be slotted in my place and the world would continue on, uninterrupted.
I was talking to a friend of mine about this at one point who is a close friend, Kamal Ravikant. I told him I was considering making a fund and doing venture capital full-time, but I felt conflicted. He said, in effect, “That’s not what you’re uniquely here to do. Please don’t stop writing,” and had a few stories to share with me related to that. I decided that life is short. Life can be very short.
I actually had a friend who, very sadly and unexpectedly, died about a month before writing this post. He was hiking up a mountain with his new wife and a rock came tumbling down, hit him in the head, and he was dead on the spot. It was a good reminder that time is short and long life isn’t guaranteed. So I decided to focus on what I felt would be more uniquely a contribution, hopefully, for myself and enjoyable for myself. That was one.
Then there were other heuristics and rules of thumb that I’ve been trying to build into my life. Another one, borrowed from yet another person — Derek Sivers, the philosopher king of tech in some ways, who started CD Babies, sold it for 28 million, and gave all the proceeds to a charitable trust for music education. He makes his decisions based on, “It’s either a ‘hell yeah’ or it’s a ‘no.'” In other words, if you can’t say, “Hell, yeah. I’m excited. I really wanna do this, no doubt,” then it’s a no. That means that if you say, “Yeah, that sounds kinda cool. Oh, yeah. I could kinda see that,” you don’t say yes. By default, if it’s a five out of 10 in enthusiasm, that makes it a zero.
I realized that I was just battle-weary and fatigued by a lot of the tech stuff. I’m still working with my portfolio that I had already committed to, but not taking on new investments, because it was no longer a “hell yeah” for me. The learning curve had flattened out a bit. There are many other reasons. I think, principally, if you rewind and look at the reasons for investing in the first place, I had the realization that I am investing — whether that’s time, money, or otherwise, energy — to improve the quality of my life and those of the people I love.
What that means is, in my case, investing in a public stocks is a bad idea because it makes me a nervous mess. I don’t have, it seems, the self-control to not look at the stock price repeatedly, even though I know that is not the best way to go about it. In theory, I know I should just hold it and not look at it, but I don’t seem to have the ability to do that. Since that makes me nervous and gives me insomnia if something is really going through a roller coaster — even if the return on investment say two, three, four, five years later is good, it’s a bad investment for me personally, because it’s actually decreasing my quality of life. I could build systems to correct that, or I could just stop doing that type of investing.
I think that things in excess become their opposite. Help becomes hindrance, freedom fighters become tyrants, etc. My drive to invest started to negatively impact other areas of my life and it became self-defeating. Those are some of the reasons that I decided to very publicly announce a semi-retirement or retirement from this stuff.
Brian Clark: You touched on this, but extrapolating out, everyone — regardless of whether it’s angel investing, freelancing, starting a business — has that feeling of weariness when they’re doing things that they’re not passionate about. I love what you said in the piece as a general statement of how to find what matters. It was, “Are you doing what you’re uniquely capable of? What you feel placed here on Earth to do? Can you be replaced?” That really seems to be the criteria by which you evaluated your torn decision on whether to start a fund or to go back to something else more core to you.
Practicing Saying No
Tim Ferriss: Definitely. Yeah, absolutely. That was a big piece of it. Another was that I enjoy being playful and trying to create things that allow other people to be world-class learners or discover latent talents they didn’t realize they have. That’s what gets me high. And that’s what has gotten me this far in many cases — whether it’s The 4-Hour Workweek or whether its other types of work I’ve put out there — is trying to show people how to unearth their own superpowers and to do it in a really methodical way. Not to make it sounds too nebulous.
To have those creative breakthroughs, you need some slack in the system. You can’t constantly feel rushed. At least for me, feeling rushed and being creative are mutually exclusive. I think in many worlds — and this is exacerbated by social media and everything else — there’s a culture of cortisol that is driven by a few different phenomena, including FOMO, the fear of missing out. Startups is very much like this. It’s like, “We’re closing tomorrow. We’re already over-committed. But we could squeeze you in for a $25k if you commit in the next 25 minutes.” That kind of manufactured emergency is par for the course.
I said something or I wrote something about six months ago that I didn’t realize how true it was for me until after I’d said it or put it out there, which was luxury to me is feeling unrushed. I wanted to get back to that. And the only way to do that was to, in a very binary way, say no to all of that startup stuff. I think that we’re all binary for certain things, we’re either on or off.
For some people, maybe it’s like Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. They’re not just going to have one. If they open the package, they’re going to eat 12. Therefore, knowing that, you don’t start having Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups unless you’re committed to having the 12. I’m like that with ice cream, and I’m also like that with startups. I can’t do just one, because to evaluate the opportunities and choose one — whether it’s two, 10, 100, 200 — you’re going to feel compelled to look at all the options that are before you. I had to say no across the board. I do that with book blurbs too, same thing. I have that, “If you say no to one, you say no to all” policy for a few categories.
Brian Clark: It’s interesting to me that you brought up both now and in that article FOMO, or fear of missing out, which is a concept within social and/or social media. It’s a business concept too, because even if you find that thing — what matters to you most, what are you here to do — it happens to everyone. I’m pretty good at fighting it — others maybe less so, in the sense of opportunity. Like an opportunity passes by. It’s not your passion. It may be lucrative, but I learned a long time ago that the way you make money is almost as important as how much. And yet it’s there nagging at people. It depends on how good your force field is to be able to just say, “No, that’s not the thing.”
Tim Ferriss: I think that that’s true, and I think that you get better at it through practice. You say no and the opportunity passes, and then you realize later when maybe the enthusiasm of the pitch that you were given wears off that it was absolutely the right thing to do. “Holy God. Thank goodness I did not commit to that.” You have that realization. Or, there is some nagging regret that you didn’t commit to something and then a week later it doesn’t matter and you realize, “You know what? That really, in the grand scheme of things, had no importance in my life,” That initial reverse buyer’s remorse, saying no remorse, passed just like a night fever. It was gone within a day or within a week, and that emboldens you to say no to more things.
I think that self control is overrated when you remove conditioning. You’re conditioning yourself and training yourself to realize that saying no is an option, and you do that by practicing with little things and then you build up. You do bigger things, you do bigger things, and you do one big thing — something you perceive to be big, a fleeting opportunity. That then coaches you, in a way, to be able to play a game of offense instead of a game of defense.
That’s why a guest on my podcast and a friend of mine — Chris Sacca, one of the most successful if not the most successful venture capitalist in history now, based on his latest fund — moved from San Francisco to Truckee up in the mountains in the middle of nowhere. So that he could invite people to come to Truckee as opposed to being able to — he had to remove the ability to have casual coffee dates 100 times a day, because it was not productive. It was scattering his energies and distracting him.
But being in the middle of nowhere, having to pick and choose and take these sniper shots, in a way … Being very strategic gave him the slack to be creative, to think bigger picture, and then forced him to think with more of an offensive mindset as opposed to a defensive mindset. Defensive, i.e. “I need to take these 20 meetings because who knows what the next Uber is going to be.” You do that by practice.
Brian Clark: It’s good advice. You were a successful entrepreneur well before 2007, but the current journey you’ve been on for nine years now. We were just talking about that before.
Tim Ferriss: Crazy.
Reflecting on the Legacy of His Work
Brian Clark: I know. The 4-Hour Workweek, let’s be honest, it spawned an entire sub-industry, if you will. And the principles were somewhat revolutionary. Now, more and more people — I really think that’s the intersection of networks and the Internet and the rise of people who weren’t tied to traditional employment to create these ad hoc networks. How do you reflect on the legacy of that work? I know there’s an updated and expanded version now. Are you still living it?
Tim Ferriss: Yeah, I am. I think that The 4-Hour Workweek was a very unexpected success. I won’t belabor the story that a lot of folks have heard, but I was turned down by 27 publishers, I got a tiny advance, drawn out over forever because that’s how publishing works. The initial print run was 10,000 copies, and then things went bananas and it’s in 40-plus languages and millions and millions of copies. It just took on a life of its own. I didn’t anticipate that would be the case. I think if I had anticipated that to be the case, the book wouldn’t have worked. I think I would have felt too much performance anxiety or some type of weird psychological dynamic. It wouldn’t have worked.
I’m really happy that that the feedback that I’ve had from many different readers and case studies is that they are not only implementing some of the principles from the book … I would have to separate between principles and tactics. You might have principles like basic rules of testing a viable business or testing a viable anything, and then you have some tactics and tools — whether it’s Google AdWords or Facebook or print magazines or anything else. Prototyping, like IDEO maybe. Those evolve and change. What’s been really fun for me is seeing how people take what’s in the book and apply it in a way that I couldn’t have foreseen. That’s really exciting to me.
That ranges from, say that the single mom who uses technology I wasn’t aware of to travel around the world with her two or three kids, making a fantastic full-time income. Two, say a company like Quest Nutrition. The CEO, Tom, was inspired largely by The 4-Hour Workweek to start Quest Nutrition. Quest Nutrition — I think it was last year, 2015 — was number two on the Inc. 500 fastest-growing public companies, or privately held companies in the U.S. It’s a massive company. And those are not mutually exclusive. It’s been very rewarding.
As for myself, I do think that I am — I do take the mini-vacations or mini-sabbaticals. I still apply Pareto’s Principle to almost everything that I do. I have a journal. It’s god-awful. I don’t know why I bought this journal. It’s like a purple — it’s a horrifically ugly journal. But I have this journal, anyway, right next to me now, where I record a lot of my notes for my podcast.
I also do 80-20 analysis probably once every two to four weeks on my inputs and outputs to try to remove as much as possible and focus on a handful of very powerful, hopefully powerful, Archimedes’ levers in my life. I would say absolutely I’m still applying it. To those people who haven’t read the book, the title has been a blessing and a curse, but the objective is not to be idle. The objective is to have control of your time so that you can allocate this non-renewable resource as effectively as possible to the things that you want to apply it to.
There are fans — Marc Andreessen was quoted in the New York Times when the book first came out as a fan of a lot of the techniques in it. But he’s a billionaire several times over. He loves working 80 to 100 hours a week, but he wants to still get 10x more done per hour. Whether you want to work zero hours a week — actually, I guess zero wouldn’t apply. If you want to work one hour a week or you want to work 100 hours a week, you still want to get as much bang for your buck in each given hour, and that’s the directive of the book. I definitely think that I apply a lot, if not all, of the book on a daily and weekly basis.
Why Tim Disagrees With Focusing on Presence Over Performance
Brian Clark: Yeah, systems and process processes. It’s ironic to me that serial employee, great guy, Robert Scoble helped break that book. Robert is famous for giving advice to entrepreneurs while he takes another job. I love to give Robert a hard time. He did really help, because you were really smart about using the blogging community — not using. I remember meeting you before the book broke, and you were just as gracious and intent to learn as anyone I’ve ever met. Which is also ironic in that now people come to you when they have a book and they’ll get more results from your blog than the New York Times. I remember that’s great. It’s so funny.
There was a theme in The 4-Hour Workweek that, I would say, might be highly critical of traditional employment and/or especially corporate employment. A narrative justification to get people fired up? Or just where Tim Ferriss was coming from, having run a business since 2001?
Tim Ferriss: That’s coming from me and my own experience. And we have to characterize — it’s characteristics of most traditional employment. There are mentor-mentee, boss-employee relationships that I think are amazing. They just happen to be rare, or I don’t see them functioning in a way that impresses me very often. I think the principal sin that is imposed on most traditional employees is rewarding presence over performance.
When supervisors, bosses, CEOs, and business owners don’t take the time to determine how to evaluate their employees’ outputs and results, and that the input, the mileage they put on in the office, really should not have that much of a bearing at all. Unless you happen to be in a law firm or something like that where you’re charging per hour, which is a perverse incentive, in a way, to begin with.
To me, one of the biggest quagmires and complications of traditional employment is this focus on presence over performance. If you fix that, things get very interesting very quickly. I’ve never been particularly inclined to employment of any type myself. I’m just not very good at it. I think that with an obsession over effectiveness and efficiency in process, I just see glaring holes everywhere, almost inevitably, wherever I end up. If I’m underneath someone else, that leads them to feel like I’m chafing at authority and being a general pain in the ass, which I probably am. That has frequently resulted in any parting ways with different companies. So I’m better suited to running my own ship, however well or poorly I do that.
There’s a quote, and I’m forgetting the attribution, but it is along the lines of “It is better to go …” Damn it. Now it just flew out of my head. But it’s along the lines — someone can find this — like, “It is better to fail in freedom than to succeed in chains,” something along those lines.
Brian Clark: I couldn’t tell you the attribution either, but I’m familiar with it. That’s the thing.
Tim Ferriss: I think about it often.
Brian Clark: It’s freedom. If you look back at what you’ve been really saying, it’s not just business, it’s lifestyle design.
Tim Ferriss: That’s right.
Brian Clark: Within the context of your life, one must earn money. And a job really doesn’t comport with freedom in many cases. I like to think that the people who work for our company have more freedom in a virtual company that we have, but you’re right, it’s rare. I’m like you, I’m just not good at having jobs. I haven’t had one in so long, I don’t even know if I could do it.
Tim Ferriss: Right. I’m out of practice at the …
Brian Clark: Happily out of practice.
Tim Ferriss: Put it as a massive understatement.
Brian Clark: Let’s talk a little bit about your podcast, which is exceptional and amazingly popular. More than reach, you’re really moving up there in the world of the type of guests that you can speak to. I just heard you interview Edward Norton. I’m Jack’s delirious envy. Do you get nervous when you talk to someone like Edward Norton, or do you just shake it off?
Playing the Long Game to Success
Tim Ferriss: I still get nervous all the time for many different things. It depends largely on the guest. For instance, I had more nerves before Jamie Foxx than Edward Norton, because I’ve actually spent some time with Edward before. We’ve had dinners. We’ve spent a fair amount of time interacting socially, so we had common ground already. Whereas, with Jamie Foxx or Arnold Schwarzenegger, the first time I met both of them was to sit down and do an interview. That presents an entirely different dynamic, because you really don’t know what’s going to come out of the jack-in-the-box.
In the case of Jamie Foxx, for instance, that took nine months to set up. It took a long time to get that time booked and everything confirmed and the stars to align in such a way that that interview could happen. That episode ended up winning Podcasts Episode of the Year — which I was very happy with — on Product Hunt. It was real fan favorite, and I really enjoyed it also. I definitely still get nervous. But if you look underneath the hood at how those interviews come to be — Edward, for instance, even though I’ve spent time with him socially, that took probably a year to nail down from the initial conversation or mention of the podcast to actually sitting down and having a bite to eat and recording. It was probably a year.
I’ve become better at playing the long game in those ways. For instance, when The 4-Hour Body came out — and this is not something you can do very easily, but I had spent time to try to figure out how to make inroads here — I gave a copy of The 4-Hour Body to every agent at CAA, which is one of the largest talent agencies in Hollywood. I was playing the slow game of planting seeds in this realm with the hope that it would make its way into entertainment and start to infuse the culture of Hollywood, film, and music, and so on.
That eventually, having spent a little bit of time here, I would, say, meet … Rick Rubin, the legendary music producer, is another person who took probably six to nine months to get on the podcast, even though I had met him socially. I met him through Neil Strauss. Rick is a very good example, because it shows how you can think laterally or indirectly. A lot folks would potentially say to themselves, “I need to get one huge guest to get another huge guest.”
Brian Clark: Yeah.
Tim Ferriss: They think in terms of name recognition to the masses. I think that’s a hard approach to take, because it’s a chicken and the egg problem. How do you get the first big guest? Let’s just say, hypothetically, you wanted to get Steven Spielberg or Quentin Tarantino or one of these people. There’s a good chance that there’s someone in the film industry — quite likely a film editor, for instance,- who has edited for one of these legendary directors for years …
No one would recognize his name, but if you had him or her on the podcast and did a lot of promotion and maybe even took out paid advertising in Variety or Hollywood Reporter or something like that, that person would be such a superstar in their tiny niche but known to all of the recognizable directors, that you could develop a listenership of the types of people that you want to have on the podcast.
That has always been one of my objectives. If you want to get a certain type of guest, put podcasts up that will attract those people or their friends as listeners. From there, things become easier, or I should say simpler, it doesn’t mean easy. But I’ve become — it’s very similar to how I launched The 4-Hour Workweek. It’s just taking this long-term snowball approach to methodically building up a base of support and readership or listenership. That’s how I’ve thought about it. But it does — at least in my case, it’s taken some time.
Brian Clark: It’s so important for people to understand this. Last year, I interviewed Henry Rollins, a hero of mine.
Tim Ferriss: Amazing.
Brian Clark: I was so nervous. And then we got going and you realize, “Henry is a person. He’s a very cool person,” and you just shake it off and you have a conversation. I think there’s also the element that people look at Tim Ferriss and they say, “I can’t do what he does.” Yet they don’t realize that it’s been years of methodical hard work and perseverance. You give the appearance of just being magical and the fact that you can interview Arnold Schwarzenegger. I think it was important that you shared how much you did to make that happen as just a lesson. The magic is really just good, old-fashioned work.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah. That’s another misconception about The 4-Hour Workweek I like to correct, which is I have no problem with hard work, as long as it’s applied to the right things. And that’s an important condition.
Brian Clark: It goes back to the theme that we’re talking about: what matters.
Tim Ferriss: Exactly. If I’m looking at how I can impact the world, if I want to create a benevolent army of hundreds of thousands or millions of people who are world-class learners and who can therefore be world-class teachers and propagate that type of incredibly good and pragmatic karma, if that’s one of my goals — which it is, to create learners who are better than me and incredibly elite problem solvers. If that’s a goal, then having allies in the world of entertainment is a very good investment of my time.
If I ask why three times. We won’t do it right now, because it takes some time. But whenever you ask yourself “why,” then you give an answer, then “why,” then you give an answer, then “why” and give an answer, usually the truth comes out on the second or third why. If someone is like, “I wanna make $250,000 a year,” and they’re making all these sacrifices with their family and otherwise to do that, or a million dollars a year, $100,000 a year — whatever. You ask why and then you give an answer. Then you do why and then you give an answer. Then you do why and you give a third answer.
Eventually, you’ll either decide that it is the right thing to do because you’ve looked at the assumptions underneath, or you’ll realize that the assumptions are completely unfounded and you might therefore find a better, more elegant, less destructive way to go about achieving whatever it is you want to achieve. Or you might realize that you have absorbed society’s expectations of you or goals that you’ve borrowed because they seem attractive to other people, in which case you might just abandon them and choose something else. Those are some of the ways that I think about this type of thing.
Brian Clark: What’s next for Tim Ferriss?
Tim’s Plans to Delve Into Psychedelics and Stoicism
Tim Ferriss: What’s next? This is maybe a weird left turn, but I’ll say it anyway. I am taking the budget, my sort of bankroll that I had previously applied to tech startups. Since I’ve hit pause on that — I’ve invested in 50 to 100 startups over the last 10 years or so — I’ll be applying it to new research at places like Johns Hopkins, probably NYU, UCSF, maybe UCLA, related to entheogens, otherwise known as psychedelics. So psilocybin, perhaps something like ibogaine. To a lesser extent, potentially LSD. Probably a focus on psilocybin and DMA for treatment of, for instance, treatment-resistant depression, depression that is not respondent to things like SSRI therapy.
Can you use psilocybin, which is the active component — or thought it is at least one active component in magic mushrooms — to administer a single dose with significant extended effects for up to six months? The preliminary answer is yes. I’m completing the funding of a study at Johns Hopkins, a pilot study, right now. People can check that out. It’s pretty much wrapped up, but it’s quite cool. Crowdrise.com/TimFerriss with two Rs and two Ss. People can check that out.
I will be putting a lot of time and effort into hopefully changing the legal status of some of these compounds and getting them to a prescription status. That’s a very big complex issue to tackle, but I’ve seen some incredible results. Smokers who can stop smoking with 60 to 70% success rate and still be non-smokers six to 12 months later after one to two or three supervised — important term — supervised doses of psilocybin. Same true with alcohol.
Iboga has some incredible applications to opiate addiction, which I think we’ll see studies on. Specifically within the veteran population, because there are 23 to 25 — I don’t remember the exact number — war veteran suicides per day in the United States. About a third of those are associated with opiate addiction. If you could take a treatment with this compound, ibogaine, and remove that addiction and have them walk away a week later with little to no physical withdrawal symptoms, that opens up some very interesting possibilities in terms of treatment. That’s one thing which I know for a lot of people it’s going to be out of nowhere, but that’s one of the most important places that I can spend my energy and resources and position right now.
Then, I’m really trying to revisit the old. We have a neo-mania in the U.S. and outside of the U.S., this obsession with the new. We always want whatever’s new. What is the latest and greatest? What is the tweet at the top of the timeline? What is the blog post that’s viral this week? Because last week is useless, we don’t want last week. Instead of going to last week, I’m going to go 2,000 years back.
I have actually, in the last week — and I’m putting out a sample, in fact, today as we speak on the podcast. I have taken my favorite book of all time. People ask me — and I read three to four books a week — what is the favorite book of all time? It’s actually a collection of letters called the Moral Letters to Lucilius by a Roman statesman, writer, and philosopher named Seneca. I’ve produced, over the last six months, 27 hours of audio. It’s three volumes. But all the letters are about 10 to 20 minutes long. They’re short. I’ve put them all out with a preface by yours truly called The Tao of Seneca. I think this is the most powerful collection of writing that many people who want to operate well in high-stress environments —
Brian Clark: It’s stoicism, right?
Tim Ferriss: Stoicism, that’s right. The Tao of Seneca is something that I just put out. I think that it is the ideal operating system for people who want to get more done with less stress. It directly applies to almost everything we’ve talked about in terms of not succumbing to the fear of missing out, saying no, all of this stuff.
What’s so fun about it is that the short letters are very contemporary. You could replace the names in these letters with John, Mary, Edward, whatever, and it would sound like a letter from you to me or me to you via email. It’d be like, “Oh hey, John, I hear you’re being frivolously sued by so and so, and there’s this guy backstabbing you in the senate and talking all this smack. Here’s how I would address it. Here’s how I’ve dealt with it before.” Or, “Dear Mary, I hear your sister’s daughter passed away in a car accident. I’m so sorry. Here’s how you should console her.”
Each of these letters is that specific. There’s one — there’s an entire letter just on Seneca effectively complaining about how loud this gym is below him, like an actual gymnasium, people dropping weights and grunting and so on. How he mentally contends with that so he can get a lot of writing done. It’s really specific. I’m going backwards, in a way, to focus on really old stuff. Things that have stood the test of time. Not a blog post that evaporates a week later and is deemed no longer relevant.
I’m looking at people and ideas and writing that has been around for hundreds or thousands of years, because there’s a core element there that I want to understand better. The Tao of Seneca is my first stab at sharing a collection of that with the world, which people can just find on Audible or just search The Tao of Seneca and it’ll pop right up.
Brian Clark: Excellent. Our mutual friend, Ryan Holiday — the success of The Obstacle Is the Way, specifically in the NFL — I’m just like, “How did that happen?” But it makes sense, as a philosophy goes, of how to live your life with some congruency to the more spiritual side, perhaps, of Buddhism. I love the parallels there. But psychedelics and stoicism? Tim, no one is going to accuse you of coasting.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah. They actually go really well together. But I should say, just as a caveat, I’m not a doctor and I don’t play one on the Internet. So you should not — I would not recommend exploring psychedelics without professional supervision. That’s particularly if you’re going to strap yourself to the front of the icebreaker.
Brian Clark: Why is it that all of my podcasts have to have a disclaimer at the end?
Tim Ferriss: I know, the world we live in.
Brian Clark: Exactly. Tim, I appreciate the time. This has been great stuff, and I wish you nothing but more success with your new focus and your new projects. Everyone, I hope there’s a lot that you could take away and reflect on here in your own context, your own business, your own life. What matters? Figure that out. But never stop going.