“Don’t believe everything you think” — Tools of Titans Book Review
This +700 page, $16 book is kind of like a summarization of the +200 interviews that Tim Ferriss has done on his podcast.
So in this review, I’m not going to try to just summarize the summarization; I’ve been living a Tim Ferriss kind of lifestyle for over 5 years now and I’m going to try to add my own experiences and insights to some of the best passage of the book.
You may think…
I don’t need to read this book. I’ll just listen to the podcast.
As I discussed in the High Leverage Information Diet, podcasts themselves are actually a pretty limited medium for learning…
- With listening to podcasts your listening comprehension is pretty low because you’re almost always doing something else at the same time (Commuting, working, at the gym, etc). With reading, the only thing you are doing is reading, your attention is not divided. Reading really is one of the better ways to absorb knowledge; this is why wealthy, successful people are consistently really well-read.
- With reading you can meter your absorption of knowledge, you can speed read sections on stuff you already understand pretty well or you can really take your time on something totally new you want to understand.
- Tim’s interviews are long, often over 2 hours. Some of the interviews are quite technical as well, they’ll spend a lot of time having a granular discussion of weight lifting techniques or risk quantification of startup investment.
- Also, the podcast has ads and sponsors, which aren’t really annoying but I’d much rather spend $15 on a book than listen to hundreds of advertisements.
- The book summarizes each interview, so it’s a great companion to the podcast. After reading the book I went and listened to the podcast interviews that I found particularly interesting.
I hope to see more podcasts doing the same thing! In fact, I’m considering doing the same thing myself because I’m aware that few people are going to go through and watch the +300 videos I’ve done and +400 articles.
I’ve got a bit of a system for devouring content-rich, dense books like this, I highlight in three different colors
Yellow — Anything useful I want to remember
Blue — Anything I want to Google or look up on Youtube later
Red — Anything that strikes me as beautiful language or is cleverly worded.
More than 80% of the world-class performers I’ve interviewed have some form of daily meditation or mindfulness practice.
“cultivating a present-state awareness that helps you to be nonreactive.”
That’s a pretty good definition of mindfulness
I believe there is a minimum effective dose for meditation, and it’s around 7 days.
With “Just Note Gone” we train the mind to notice that something previously experienced is no more. For example, at the end of a breath, notice that the breath is over. Gone. As a sound fades away, notice when it is over. Gone. At the end of a thought, notice that the thought is over. Gone. At the end of an experience of emotion — joy, anger, sadness, or anything else — notice it is over. Gone.
It’s said that this is the meditation technique you might want to do if you’re ever tortured, I’ll try it when I’m getting a massage!
Loving Kindness Meditation
to increase your happiness, all you have to do is randomly wish for somebody else to be happy.
I tend to do a single 3- to 5-minute session at night, thinking of three people I want to be happy, often two current friends and one old friend I haven’t seen in years.
This is an intermittent meditation method, you do it for just seconds every hour and it has a real antidepressant effect. My reminder is to just do it every time I go to the bathroom which is about once an hour because I drink a lot of water and tea.
One woman reported
Happiest day in 7 years. And what did it take to achieve that? It took 10 seconds of secretly wishing for two other people to be happy for 8 repetitions, a total of 80 seconds of thinking.
Men vs Women
He notes that substantially more men end up at Transcendental Meditation (TM), and substantially more women end up at vipassana.
Which I like because it’s Politically Incorrect; saying that men and women prefer different types of meditation — because our minds differ fundamentally…
On a tangent; I’ve always wished I could be in a woman’s mind for just a day…
Women, in general, are more impulsive and make decisions more emotionally but at the same time I think are more introspective, more self-reflective.
So I imagine that being in a woman’s mind is kind of like being constantly pulled in different directions by my emotions and being anxious all the time that I was going to make a bad decision on a whim and that life was going to go badly for me.
Maybe some female commenters can tell me if that is pretty accurate or if I’m way off.
Rule #1: Avoid “white” starchy carbohydrates (or those that can be white). This means all bread, pasta, rice, potatoes, and grains (yes, including quinoa).
Rule #2: Eat the same few meals over and over again, especially for breakfast and lunch.
Rule #4: Don’t eat fruit.
Rule #5: Whenever possible, measure your progress in body fat percentage, NOT total pounds.
Rule #6: Take one day off per week and go nuts.
I’m skeptical of that last one…
How do you know when you’re in ketosis? The most reliable way is to use a device called the Precision Xtra by Abbott.
Precision Xtra NFR Blood Glucose Monitoring System (Packaging May Vary)
Precision extra blood glucose and ketone monitoring system is fast and simple testing with extra assurance and control…
you can start with a cold water “finish” to showers. Simply make the last 30 to 60 seconds of your shower pure cold.
I’ve heard so many places that this is such a lifehack that I’ve been doing it and added it to my daily Coach.me habits.
AcroYoga is a blend of three complementary disciplines: yoga, acrobatics, and therapeutics.
There are some photos floating around on the Internet of me looking ridiculous doing this at a sushi restaurant in Panama with 3 hot girls…
“If you’re over 40 and don’t smoke, there’s about a 70 to 80% chance you’ll die from one of four diseases: heart disease, cerebrovascular disease, cancer, or neurodegenerative disease.”
There are really two pieces to longevity. The first is delaying death as long as possible by delaying the onset of chronic disease (the ‘big four’ above). We call that the defensive play. The second is enhancing life, the offensive play.
According to Charles Poliquin
“As a rule . . . the best thing to increase testosterone is to lower cortisol. Because the same raw material that makes testosterone and cortisol is called pregnenolone. Under conditions of stress, your body is wired to eventually go toward the cortisol pathway.”
The “boner test”
“Men, if you wake up and you don’t have a boner, there’s a problem. Yes or no? One or zero? Boner, no boner?”
Jim [Fadiman]’s opinion, microdosing psychedelics does a far better job than a whole class of drugs we now call “cognitive enhancers,”
Why? Does he have evidence for this? Perhaps someone more experienced with Psychedelics than myself can comment…
It’s easy to use the medicine as a crutch and avoid doing your own work, as the compounds themselves help in the short term as antidepressants.
The same thing sort of applies to smart drugs, they can become a crutch if you don’t implement other positive habits while your discipline is enhanced.
My go-to tranquilizer beverage is simple: 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar (I use Bragg brand) and 1 tablespoon honey,
That I must try! He also recommends Yogi Soothing Caramel Bedtime Tea
10 minutes later, I start getting wobbly, and then I felt like Leonardo DiCaprio in the pay phone scene from The Wolf of Wall Street. In the most awkward fashion possible, I dragged my ass to the bedroom and fell asleep.
The Sleep Master sleep mask, it’s only $25 on Amazon.
The most important feature of this mask is that it goes over your ears, not on top of them. This may seem minor, but it’s a huge design improvement: It quiets things down, it doesn’t irritate your ears, and it doesn’t move around.
I like these sleep hacks because they can work for a digital nomad guy like me.
The 5 to 10 reps here are not a workout. They are intended to “state prime” and wake me up. Getting into my body, even for 30 seconds, has a dramatic effect on my mood and quiets mental chatter.
When deal-making, ask yourself: Can I trade a short-term, incremental gain for a potential longer-term, game-changing upside?
On profit margins
So, I added in that little buffer so I could give people a discount, which they love.
Improve a notification email from your business (e.g., subscription confirmation, order confirmation, whatever):
Scott Adams on hacking expertise
But if you want something extraordinary, you have two paths: 1) Become the best at one specific thing. 2) Become very good (top 25%) at two or more things.
You make yourself rare by combining two or more “pretty goods” until no one else has your mix. . . . At least one of the skills in your mixture should involve communication, either written or verbal.
This totally applies to me! I’m never going to be as knowledgeable as a Ph.D. researcher like Dr. Mark Ashton Smith who has spent decades in a lab. I’m also never going to be as compelling a lifestyle video blogger like Tom Torero nor am I going to be as articulate as the philosopher Sam Harris, but I’m easily within the top 25% percentile of competence in these three areas.
On being self-promotional
When you’re the first in a new category, promote the category.
Tim makes the good point that those who are self-promotional are annoying! What you want to do is promote a category that you are in. I do this by advocating for Biohacking tools that build Cognitive capital, which are tools that improve your capacity to make money. My smart drug Caballo is something novel within this category.
The interesting jobs are the ones that you make up.
Picking a billion-dollar idea
“If you had $100 million, what would you build that would have no value to others in copying?”
To clarify, the question is asking, if you had unlimited resources what would you build that would put you so far ahead of the competition and everyone else, that there was no point in them even trying to catch up with you? Dwell, on that question for just a moment. It’s profound.
Peter Diamandis on Opportunity
The world’s biggest problems are the world’s biggest business opportunities.”
“The third thing is when you try to go 10 times bigger versus 10% bigger, it’s typically not 100 times harder, but the reward is 100 times more.”
B.J Novak on charity
When possible, always give the money to charity, as it allows you to interact with people well above your pay grade.
I discussed this further the Secret Society Infiltration Model.
Paraphrasing Peter Thiel
“What might you do to accomplish your 10-year goals in the next 6 months, if you had a gun against your head?”
Tim’s 8-step process for maximizing efficacy…
1. Wake up at least 1 hour before you have to be at a computer screen. Email is the mind-killer.
2. Make a cup of tea (I like pu-erh) and sit down with a pen/ pencil and paper.
3. Write down the 3 to 5 things — and no more — that are making you the most anxious or uncomfortable. They’re often things that have been punted from one day’s to-do list to the next, to the next, to the next, and so on. Most important usually equals most uncomfortable, with some chance of rejection or conflict.
4. For each item, ask yourself: “If this were the only thing I accomplished today, would I be satisfied with my day?” “Will moving this forward make all the other to-dos unimportant or easier to knock off later?” Put another way: “What, if done, will make all of the rest easier or irrelevant?”
5. Look only at the items you’ve answered “yes” to for at least one of these questions.
6. Block out at 2 to 3 hours to focus on ONE of them for today. Let the rest of the urgent but less important stuff slide. It will still be there tomorrow.
7. TO BE CLEAR: Block out at 2 to 3 HOURS to focus on ONE of them for today. This is ONE BLOCK OF TIME. Cobbling together 10 minutes here and there to add up to 120 minutes does not work. No phone calls or social media allowed.
8. If you get distracted or start procrastinating, don’t freak out and downward-spiral; just gently come back to your ONE to-do.
There’s a bunch of different productivity strategies and it’s kind of hard to determine which is best for you. You just have to try a few thoroughly. I think Tim’s is pretty good though.
Noah Kagan on time management
Don’t Try and Find Time. Schedule Time.
This is similar to Jordan Harbinger’s time management system. There seems to be a spectrum with the effective granularity of scheduling; some people like Jordan will schedule the entire day, every day into 15-minute chunks. They’ll schedule in things like have a meaningful conversation with my girlfriend — for 15 minutes!
I tried this and it was way too regimented for me. Here’s what I do:
Every project and mini project I need to do is an Evernote on my computer and smartphone. In Evernote, you can schedule reminders for projects. So I will just set a to-do reminder at a specific (yet sometimes arbitrary) time that week. In my Google calendar I schedule reoccurring to do’s, like on Tuesdays afternoons at 2 PM for about an hour I dig into my traffic reports and income stream reports.
Scheduling is important; if you’re not scheduling, start now.
Idleness is not just a vacation, an indulgence, or a vice: It is as indispensable to the brain as vitamin D is to the body,
Scott Adams on systems vs goals
refocus, to use his language, on “systems” instead of “goals.” This involves choosing projects and habits that, even if they result in “failures” in the eyes of the outside world, give you transferable skills or relationships. In other words, you choose options that allow you to inevitably “succeed” over time, as you build assets that carry over to subsequent projects.
Scott Adams on positive affirmations
you can use these affirmations, presumably — this is just a hypothesis — to focus your mind and your memory on a very specific thing. And that would allow you to notice things in your environment that might have already been there. It’s just that your filter was set to ignore, and then you just tune it through this memory and repetition trick until it widens a little bit to allow some extra stuff in. Now, there is some science to back that. . . .
Scott Adams on problem-solving with your body as opposed to your mind
I’m thinking of these ideas and they’re flowing through my head, I’m monitoring my body; I’m not monitoring my mind. And when my body changes, I have something that other people are going to care about, too.”
On cursing for creativity
This odd technique does seem to quickly produce a slightly altered state. Try it — write down a precise sequence of curse words that takes 7 to 10 seconds to read. Then, before a creative work session of some type, read it quickly and loudly like you’re casting a spell or about to go postal.
This is hilarious! My curse sequence features hijueputa malparido (Spanish), putain merde (French), blyat (Russian) among other expletives.
Is a morning activity that Tim advocates pretty seriously throughout the book. Basically, you spend just a few minutes in the morning freewriting about what you hope to accomplish in the day. The key point is to actually write with pen and paper in a notebook or diary before you do any else cerebral (like look at your smartphone!)
Morning pages don’t need to solve your problems. They simply need to get them out of your head, where they’ll otherwise bounce around all day like a bullet ricocheting inside your skull.
Is the flipside where before going to bed you’ll write…
“What are the kinds of key things that might be constraints on a solution, or might be the attributes of a solution, and what are tools or assets I might have?
“Never go to sleep without a request to your subconscious.” — Thomas Edison
On Saying “No”
If I’m not saying “HELL YEAH!” about something, then I say no.
When you say no to most things, you leave room in your life to really throw yourself completely into that rare thing that makes you say, “HELL YEAH!”
Rolf Potts on vagabonding
Vagabonding involves taking an extended time-out from your normal life — 6 weeks, 4 months, 2 years — to travel the world on your own terms.
I’ve been a long term traveler for 5 years now and I’ve I met a lot of dumbasses completely wasting their lives doing this. Being a traveler kind of gets over-romanticized, it’s like anything else, if you have discipline it will be really rewarding and productive, but if you lack discipline it’s kind of just a deferred life plan, to use another Tim Ferris phrase. A lot of young people who could be starting careers or families waste years of their lives getting drunk and doing drugs in dodgy countries where they can live on a couple of hundred dollars a month.
Vagabonding is about taking control of your circumstances instead of passively waiting for them to decide your fate.
As a long term traveler, you choose your problems as opposed to your problems choosing you. As a traveler there are constant challenges and issues that need to be fixed, you’ll never be comfortable. What I prefer though is that nearly all of these problems are problems that exist because of very conscious decisions I made. Very few of the problems I deal with are things that just happened to me.
For example; recently I’ve been in Turkey, which is an increasingly theocratic Muslim country that’s currently going through some real political instability; which makes it a uniquely challenging country for me to abide in and I knew that before I came here.
The kinds of challenges that average people face are like…
Well my girlfriend’s mom got sick so we moved to Columbus to take care of her, her parents are religious so we got married and then I got a job at a factory through my brother in law, then I wasn’t able to work because I got sick and now I’m taking classes online…
Most people just kind of allow life to happen to them; being a long term traveler will change your mindset about this. It makes you a high-agency person.
vagabonding has never been regulated by the fickle public definition of lifestyle. Rather, it has always been a private choice within a society that is constantly urging us to do otherwise.
You’ll hear people that are a little older say that they are thankful that they got to see the world before the Internet and ubiquitous technology.
Similarly, I’m glad I got to see the world before it became culturally homogeneous. There’s definitely a trend towards all the diverse cultures across the world kind of morphing into a global uni-culture.
As a novelty junky, I enjoyed experiencing the cultural difference between say Spain and Ukraine — these are two of my favorite countries. Both cultures are alien enough to me as an American that after I spend a couple of months in either place I get a bit culture fatigued and then I can get on a plane and in a few hours I’ll be in a totally different culture that I find refreshing. The cultural difference between dating a Colombian girl and dating a Ukrainian girl is so interesting, nuanced and layered that it alone will inspire a man to cross borders.
People who travel the world in 10 years won’t really get to experience that. The novelty they experience will be limited to architecture, accents, and landscapes.
Why weaknesses are less important than strengths
One could argue that I should work on my reactivity instead of avoiding stocks. I’d agree on tempering reactivity, but I’d disagree on fixing weaknesses as a primary investment (or life) strategy. All of my biggest wins have come from leveraging strengths instead of fixing weaknesses.
another tactic for mood elevation, probably best used outside of the airport: “This might sound really crazy, but I’ll just look in the mirror and laugh at myself . . . break down this wall of being so pretentious about not being able to be silly. I think there’s a great power in not taking things so seriously.”
I use a similar Biohack (in private) to change my mood, I call it aping; I will pretend to be a silly ape for about 2 minutes in a bathroom.
a person’s success in life can usually be measured by the number of uncomfortable conversations he or she is willing to have.
Naval Ravikant on happiness
“If you don’t believe in an afterlife, then you [should realize] that this is such a short and precious life, it is really important that you don’t spend it being unhappy.
A theme that’s common throughout Tim’s books is that…
Reality is largely negotiable.
I’ll re-articulate this by saying that life is one big shit test.
Pickup artists talk about shit testing or congruence testing, this is when a pickup artist is trying to seduce a woman and she starts being challenging, illogical and a little dramatic.
The correct response to such a test is to just keep doing what you are doing, not take it so seriously.
Anyone who has had much experience seducing women knows that if you stay congruent with your actions and intentions, despite her tests, you stand a much better chance of seducing her, consensually of course.
Not long ago, I had bought a bus ticket in Thessaloníki, I showed up at the bus and was informed that the bus was oversold and my ticket was no good. Instead of giving up, I was a little assertive and kept asking them to find a place on the bus for me. After about 15 minutes, they announced that they got me a seat. I thought to myself life is one big shit test!
From Enter the Dragon: “Sparta, Rome, the knights of Europe, the samurai . . . worshipped strength. Because it is strength that makes all other values possible.”
“If you are depressed, you are living in the past. If you are anxious, you are living in the future. If you are at peace, you are living in the present.” — Lao Tzu
‘Any useful statement about the future should at first seem ridiculous’ by Jim Dator.
Dealing with the temporary frustration of not making progress is an integral part of the path towards excellence.
Peter Thiel on Failure
“I think failure is massively overrated.
Peter Thiel on the fundamental philosophical question
‘What do people agree merely by convention, and what is the truth?’
Daymond John on money
“Money is a great servant but a horrible master.”
On political correctness
consensus is how we bully people into pretending that there’s nothing to see.
“Those who are offended easily should be offended more often” — Mae West.
Bigoteer (n) — a person who implies other people are bigots, for personal gain.
This is a great new word. Let’s not be afraid to call people out for being Bigoteers. Check out #Bigoteer
All you need to know is from World War II
I agree, it’s the most interesting part of history. I’m always up to watch another WWII documentary. I find WWII illustrates the destructive power of philosophically shoddy ideas deployed at scale. For example; let’s take national socialism, alone these ideas are not that bad…
Nationalism is like patriotism, being proud of your country and wanting to protect your country. Not that bad of an idea.
Socialism, as an idea is about sharing; trying to be a more compassionate society that takes care of the less fortunate. Not that bad of an idea.
But if you put those two ideas together and scale them way up to a country of 70 million people, you get Nazism and one of the most morbid episodes of history.
Sam Harris on long term thinking
To worry about the fate of civilization in the abstract is harder than worrying about what sorts of experiences your children are going to have in the future.”
This is why some people say that those who don’t have kids should not be allowed to vote. I personally agree with this. I don’t have kids and I would happily give up my right to vote if all the other Americans with no kids could not vote either.
I’ll end this review with Tim’s interview question that most grabs my attention, it’s…
“What do you believe that other people think is insane?”
This question is kind of similar to one of my favorite “first date” questions which is…
How are you crazy?
My answer to Tim’s question would be…
I think everything is going to be OK. I’m a “red pill” kind of guy that likes to be aware of all the problems that the world and society have. I prefer to have a really clear vantage point where I can see all the ugliness and monstrous dis-functionality of the world, but at the same time, I see all these exponential positive trends vanquishing the demons that have tormented humanity since time immemorial. So I think that despite all the human craziness, the environmental problems and the geopolitical instability everything is going to be ok. Human ingenuity and technology will overcome and we’ll eventually reach that Star Trek utopia.