Tools of Titans by Tim Ferriss

As part of my reading for my Personal MBA, I am documenting the key lessons I learnt from Tools of Titans by Tim Ferriss. It is not intended to be a summary or review, rather a reflection of how the book has influenced my thinking.

At first this book annoyed me, then I realised I was reading it wrong.

It’s not a book, it’s Tim’s notes from his podcast interviews, supplemented with his own thoughts. It’s written as if he was studying for an exam (the exam of life success?). I found it better to read it like a magazine, skim and deep dive. Then I loved it and got great value out of it.

For me, the content fell into 3 categories:

  1. Seen/heard/read before – A good reminder
  2. Irrelevant – The book is designed for a variety of “questions”, many of which aren’t in my exam of life or I’m choosing to answer others at the moment.
  3. Gold.

There is a lot of obscure content, some of which I loved, some which was not interesting to me at all. It’s a buffet (in Tim’s words) or an encyclopedia (in mine). Naturally you would get a lot more value from listening to the Podcasts, they are better, but that also takes hours of your time, compared to 10-15 minutes to read and reflect on a chapter.

It becomes a question of return on time invested. I stopped listening to his podcasts, not because I didn’t enjoy them, just because at the moment the hours I prioritise each day for personal development need to be focused more specifically. I imagine next year after my Personal MBA, I will return to listening again. The current plan is read about 26 of the great influencers in our history, a list I am curating in the background.

Outliers are where it gets interesting

There are many routes to success. The best approach is to pick which tools work for you and which don’t, then use them to focus you are your path, don’t be a donkey. Across the book the differences in philosophies is clear, perhaps the only consistent strand across the “Titans” is that most practice a form reflection and mindfulness, usually meditation, but often journalling.

Tim has a fascination with outliers, people who are world class, but shouldn’t be. There is more value in looking at outliers, it is easier to identify the triggers or keys to unlocking potential by looking at worked for them.

I remind myself that I am an “n of 1”, I don’t care what works for 99.9% of people, I need to find what works for me, actually I do care about the 99.9% as that’s where I find what works for me, but that is a lot research and that is why outliers are so interesting, it short-cuts the research time.

Some key thoughts I captured

As I am considering my next steps, there is a bias towards idea generation and validation. Another time in my life it may have been weight loss, another time happiness. For now, it’s idea generation.

  • Arnold Schwarzenegger – nobody is self made and successful, we all feed off others.
  • Altucher – Come up with 10 good ideas regularly, like any skill or muscle, it can be developed through repetition and practice. If 10 good ideas is too hard, then even better, do 20 ideas. Bad ones may lead you somewhere. Once listed, just write down what the first step would be, then evaluate.
  • Scott Adams – Use systems instead of goals, that means failures create transferable skills. These skills are key, as there are two ways to be successful. The first is to become one of the best at one thing, top 1%. The second is to become the top 25% at 2-3 things and create a rare combination. Scott is and above average funny person (top 25%) and above average artist (top 25%), added together, we got Dilbert.
  • Alex Blumberg – Occasionally, a good idea comes to you first, if you’re lucky. Usually, it only comes after a lot of bad ideas.
  • Ryan Holiday – Make other people look good and you will do well. Clear the path for the people above you and you will create a path for yourself. When starting out, you are not as good or special as you think you are.
  • Naval Ravikant – The first rule of conflict is don’t hang around people constantly engaging in it
  • Seth Godin – First Ten People Test – Take your idea to ten people, people that trust and like you, then see if they tell other people. If they do, you have a good idea.
  • Seth Godin – Find the smallest possible project that is worth your time. Find the smallest group of people who I could make a difference for, or to.

Interesting that I took two from Seth Godin, perhaps I should spend more time focused on his philosophy.

General Tips

  • Go remote to go on the offensive. Away from the noise.
  • Awesome trick – When signing up, add + and a word to track who has it. E.g. becomes Both come to your inbox, but you can see who is selling on your e-mail address.
  • There is Kickstarter section very interesting – I am trialing it with my book.
    • Find similar ones that use URL shorteners. Add + to the shortener to get the stats and where it’s been linked from. This will help focus marketing
    • Use an image search in Google Images

This book is a great reference encyclopedia, it definitely should be read word for word. Rather skimmed and then do a deep dive. Do this and you could find gold.

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