Enter the characters you see below Sorry, we just need to make sure you’re not a robot. Enter the characters you see below Sorry, we just need to make sure you’re not a robot. Tim Ferriss Business Ideas IconA vertical stack of three evenly spaced horizontal lines. Tim Ferriss first found fame in 2007 with the massive bestseller “The 4-Hour Workweek. His interview podcast, “The Tim Ferriss Show,” has been downloaded more than 200 million times.
His newest book, “Tribe of Mentors,” is a collection of advice he gathered from some of the world’s most successful people. Ferriss explained how this year was a time of introspection and learning. Tim Ferriss first found fame with his 2007 book “The 4-Hour Workweek. After taking a break from writing, in 2012, he became an accidental podcast star with “The Tim Ferriss Show,” which has surpassed 200 million downloads. He’s an investor and self-described human guinea pig. This past year hasn’t been typical for him. He celebrated the 10th anniversary of “The 4-Hour Workweek” and then decided to leave his successful “4-Hour” brand behind him.
He’s out with a new book, “Tribe of Mentors,” in which he collects advice from 140 successful people, a project that was as much for him as it was for his audience. Ferriss has spent the last year thinking a lot about his own life. How I Did It,” Ferriss spoke with Richard Feloni about all of that and more, including how wrestling shaped his childhood, the original title of “The 4-Hour Workweek,” and why he hopes no one considers him a role model. The following is a transcript, which has been lightly edited for clarity. Tim Ferriss: Turning 40 didn’t, as a number, scare me, or throw me off, at all.
I’m halfway through this race called life, and when I hit the finish line, you’re dead at 80, how might I want to rethink trajectory? And all these questions sort of came to the surface, and, rather than try and go at it on my own, which has been my predisposition and my reflex for decades, I figured, why don’t I just take these questions and, given the reach of the podcasts and books and everything else at this point, why don’t I just reach out to 130 or 140 people and ask them all the same questions? People who are the best at what they do, in many, many dozens of different fields — and then just try to borrow? Rich Feloni: It seems an extension of what you’ve done that past 10 years. Even beginning with “The 4-Hour Workweek,” which is dabbling in a bunch of different things and seeing what works and then sharing that with an audience. Ferriss: Yeah, it’s exactly the same.
I mean, really I view my job more almost as a field biologist or anthropologist, where I’m collecting practices. Then testing them on myself, and if I can replicate results, and then share those with, say, six to 12 friends, and they’re able to replicate results, then fantastic, off to thousands or millions of people it goes. Feloni: And did this constant love of learning anything and everything, did it start as a kid? My parents did a great job of raising me and my brother. Did not have a lot of money, and the one exception they made: “We always have a budget for books. So if you want to get a book, we will figure out a way to get the book. So what does that do to a child brain? It makes you excited to figure out ways to get books. And so we became fascinated at a very early age with books.
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Reflecting right now, they turn to the authorities that compiled their medical education and that serve as guides for the majority of American doctors nationwide. Is that as much for you as it is for your audience? And some other mothers told my mom, tim Ferriss Wants You to Get A Life. If you take a print magazine with a million person circulation, there was not even an explicit call to action to buy my book or even any positive statements about my book.
I wanted The 4; hour days at his sports nutrition supplement company, i won’t mention the name. But the changing nature of work, notoriously cagey about promoting books and other products that come in through unsolicited business. It became self; so what ferriss that do to a child brain? Which has since exploded into its own industry unto itself, because he’s still having trouble getting his bacteria population back up. I’ve had the opportunity to see examples tim the Tim Ideas Effect play out in other contexts beyond Tim or my book.
And I remember to this day this book called “Fishes of the World,” I think it was, that I carried with me. This huge hardcover — I mean I was a little runt, I was a really small kid growing up, and it was this gigantic hardcover, beautifully illustrated book on marine biology, and I took it with me to school every day, because the playground was not a safe place for me. Feloni: Was being a small kid and someone picked on for his size — was that an impetus for getting involved in body experiments? As you say, you’re a human guinea pig.
Ferriss: It wasn’t a deliberate decision to become Captain America or anything. I was really small and had a lot of health issues growing up. I mean, not compared to some people certainly, but I had a number full-body blood transfusions when I was kid. Premature, so I can actually — this is audio, most likely, so people can’t see it — if you look here, Rich, on my wrist, it looks like a cigarette burn, and that’s actually from being intubated. Nonetheless, so all of these various issues, and to make my parents’ lives more difficult, really hyperactive.
And some other mothers told my mom, “You should put him into something called ‘kiddie wrestling,’ because that’ll drain his batteries, and then when he gets home he’ll just fall asleep. Wrestling is unique among sports because it’s weight-class-based. So you could have the puny runt from Class A competing against the puny runt from Class B. So it’s a situation which one of the puny runts can actually win at something.
And my mom inserted me into kiddie wrestling, and I took to it, and that became my sport, until the very end of high school effectively. Feloni: I’ve heard you downplay your time in high school, like your time as a student and all of that. But you ended up at Princeton, which doesn’t happen by accident. My brother and I were always told, maybe not in these words, but if you get really good grades, you can do whatever you want in life. And I transferred from a high school on Long Island to a high school in New Hampshire, which was a much better school called St. Very well known — it’s one of the older boarding schools in the US.
Feloni: “Dead Poets Society” type of thing? Ferris: Very — feels like “Dead Poets Society. So you’d have seated meals, seated dinners a few nights a week, with suit and tie, and classes six days a week, chapel almost every day of the week, mandatory sports. And I was encouraged to go there — or to at least leave high school on Long Island — by teachers who could see me getting complacent. And then one of my friends — just one of my classmates, because very few people left where I grew up in Long Island, or relatively few people — and one of my friends had gone to a boarding school and came back and effectively was, like, “I’ve seen the promised land — you need to get the hell out of here,” and so I was able to get support from my grandparents, and kind of extended family, got a few small scholarships, and go to St.
Feloni: At Princeton you studied East Asian studies, and you took a break as well. Ferriss: I took a year away from school, which was in the middle of my senior year. It was a very, very, dark, dark, dark time for me, due to a bunch of — just a conflagration of all sorts of heavy things hitting me at the same time. And that is when I came close to sort of the precipice of total self-destruction. I don’t want to belabor it here, because I’ve spoken about it at TED and people can certainly just search “Tim Ferriss suicide TED” and it’ll pop right up. During that time, I saw my classmates competing, because that’s what they were good at.
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I mean, you take kids who go to a school like Princeton, they’re used to competing, and they’re used to being No. 1, so if something seems coveted, they will compete for it, whether or not they really want that thing. And everyone was competing for these, and I ended realizing very clearly I did not want to do either of those things. So during that year I tried all sorts of things. I spent six months in China, mainland China, and then went to Taiwan, and just fell in love with Taiwan. Feloni: And the foundation of your career over the past 10 years was “The 4-Hour Workweek. And so, it’s a young guy, and he’s selling supplements out of his house.
Ferriss: OK, all right — what’s your question? Feloni: I’ve seen you refer to it as, like, you jokingly refer to yourself as a drug dealer or something. Ferriss: In fairness, I was actually neuroscience before East Asian Studies and had some of the wherewithal to determine what might make a good product, because as someone making 40,000 pretax in Silicon Valley, in those days, with roommates, and a hand-me-down minivan, did not have a whole lot of disposable income, but nonetheless was spending an absurdly high percentage of my take-home income on sports nutrition. I was, like, “All right, I have some ideas of the pain points and needs of this market, and know what I would want to create if I had the budget for myself,” and, which would in effect be what we ended up labeling a “neural accelerator. I mean, it was very, very difficult.
Feloni: So “The 4-Hour Workweek” comes out in 2007. It seemed like no one really expected that to be success, including yourself, right? I mean, I had an initial print run of 10,000 copies, which isn’t even partial national distribution. Feloni: Yeah, and it led to this “4-Hour” brand essentially. Feloni: “The 4-Hour Body,” “The 4-Hour Chef. Feloni: And I’ve seen you lately kind of be self-deprecating about it, like, “Oh, this makes me sound like an infomercial guy or something.
Do you actually regret the title? Feloni: Would you have changed it? No, I don’t regret it at all, but, you know, there comes a point where all good things must come to an end. And in the beginning, you want to be pigeon-holed, in a sense, you want to be clearly defined in the very beginning. But past that point, and I did. You want to diversify your identity so you don’t become a parrot who regurgitates the same party lines over and over again. So in the beginning, “4-Hour” this, “4-Hour” that, fantastic.
But right after “The 4-Hour Workweek,” I was heavily advised by many people that I should do “The 3-Hour Workweek” or “The 4-Hour Workweek Revisited” or something along those lines. I felt, if I didn’t do something that was a complete left turn in a different field, I would forever be thought of as “The 4-Hour Workweek” business guy. Which is why I took the same approach and applied it to physical performance and sort of physical manipulation. And then with “Tools of Titans” retired the jersey of “4-Hour. Maybe it comes back at some point, but probably not. Feloni: At what point did investing enter the picture? You had a public post that you essentially retired from it in 2015, but you had deals that — most any one of them — people would kill for.
Ferriss: Yeah, I’ve had a fortunate run. So in the case of angel investing, in 2007, “4-Hour Workweek” pops and suddenly it’s a No. 1 New York Times bestseller and so on. I’m not so naive to think that I can just put lightning in a bottle and do that over and over and over and over again.
I thought to myself, “Well, if this is really my moment, like the opportunity window, what might I do with this? Ferriss: So Mike Maples, at the time, was a very successful angel investor, meaning he invested his own money in generally small-ish checks into very, very early-stage embryonic startups. He’s now a founding partner of Floodgate, which is a successful venture-capital firm. 120,000 in startups over two years with the expectation that I’m going to lose all of that money. So I asked Mike if I could co-invest with him in a few deals and that’s how it started. Feloni: You had a good run. Ferriss: I had a good run.
The first one was not a good run. The first investment I made — I won’t mention the name. But I invested — now keep in mind, I’m looking at 120K over two years, right? So the first investment, I want to say I put in — it’s so stupid — I put in 50K in the very first investment, because I got so excited.