Tools Of Titans is a massive compendium of everything Tim Ferriss has learned about health, wealth and wisdom from interviewing over 200 world-class performers on his podcast, The Tim Ferriss show.
I’m a huge fan of Tim Ferriss’s books. I loved The 4-Hour Workweek and enjoyed both The 4-Hour Body and The 4-Hour Chef, even though I wasn’t as interested in the topics. This was the first of his books I wasn’t very excited about, to be honest.
Tim has moved from books you can read fluidly cover-to-cover to more of an encyclopedic style. For a book about fitness, that made sense. Not everyone wants to be a weightlifter. For a book about cooking and acquiring skills, it did alright with addressing various levels of difficulty.
I’m sure for a book with his collected lessons from over 200 podcast guests, it would’ve worked too, but not if you sort the book by guests. The 2-6 pages per guest can’t fit all of their valuable tips from the interview, yet also fail to deliver based on what topic you want to learn more about.
You can’t just skip to a section about meditation, or investing, or discipline, and are thus left with a pile of info you have to navigate through. Luckily, there are some lessons in that itself, so even if Tools Of Titans isn’t structured perfectly, we can learn a lot from it.
Update: Tim has published an index, which helps a bit in navigating the book.
Here are the 3 things I learned from that:
There is no formulaic path to health, wealth or wisdom.
One of the first things you should learn to combat is peer pressure.
You can only be creative if your life offers you the space to be creative in.
Personal preference this or that, let’s not fret and look at some of the most versatile tools of Tim’s favorite titans!
Lesson 1: A proven formula you can follow to find health, wealth or wisdom doesn’t exist.
If there’s anything to be learned from this book, I believe it’s that there is no recipe you can just plug and play on your path to a fit body, a jacked up bank account, or a serene mind. This book has all the tools and tactics used by the best in the world in their field, and yet, it’s up to you to pick which ones will work for you.
I’m generalizing here, because the lesson in the book this relates to is one about health, which Tim learned from Dr. Justin Mager, physician to Olympic athletes, health experts and elite entrepreneurs. Justin says you have to figure out your own approach to health by running experiments. Sure, you can read books, educate yourself and try different diets. But that doesn’t free you from having to eat gluten to find out if you’re gluten-intolerant.
What works for the cubicle champion might not for the professional sprinter or the stay-at-home mom. This expands to the other two topics of the book. Learning is good. But only through applied learning can you translate those lessons into real results.
Lesson 2: You need thick skin and a mule’s attitude to beat peer pressure and do your thing.
This is something I’ve been thinking about a lot through the first semester of my Master’s degree. By my admittedly high standards, most college students are lazy. They do the bare minimum required to slip through exams, if that, and spend the rest of their time recovering from their “demanding college life.” Naturally, the peer pressure to procrastinate here is huge.
“Come on, just one beer!”
“A cup of coffee, how bad can it be?”
“I didn’t get a thing done today, might as well…”
As someone who’s eager to get back to work, that’s tough to deal with. Do I love to take a break? Sure. Just not all the time.
Professional snowboarder Shaun White acquired the thick-headed attitude you need to beat peer pressure and do your thing early in his career. When he was 15, his parents paid for his trip to Japan, to compete in an event. Unlike all the other athletes, whose trips were all paid for and who partied the night before the competition, he wasn’t going to waste his parents’ money by slacking.
So instead of agreeing to the deal to just show off and split the prize money, Shaun did the best he could – and won. He didn’t just pocket the $50,000 prize, but also a valuable lesson for life: If you’re not stubborn enough to swim upstream, you’ll never be able to take the rare actions required to find success.
Lesson 3: To be creative, you first need to experience the stories you later want to tell.
Maybe some of his friends and advisors did tell Tim to not structure the book the way he did. But to even get to the point where he could be stubborn and say: “I’m doing it this way anyway” and going through with this particular experiment, he had to come up with it in the first place.
Running your own experiments requires creativity. The way you cultivate that creativity is by living your life and having experiences that will form the creative dough you can then knead into a story, a podcast, or even a business deal. This isn’t obvious, especially not early in your career, when working hard is the most important factor.
Whitney Cummings, actress and writer of the mega hit show 2 Broke Girls was stuck in a cycle of making fun of herself – the only way she knew how to make good comedy – for years, until she realized she was missing the life that would provide her with new material. Only when she started making time for herself and non-work related things did her creativity reach the next level.
As a personal example, I now spend most of my time working, as I still have many stories from the past seven years I haven’t told yet. But eventually, those will run out, which is when it’s time to carve out more room to roam.
Working hard is good and important, but be aware of this balance to make sure your creative well never runs dry.
My personal take-aways
As I said above, I’m not too excited about this book. But I think the lessons from looking at it, even on just a meta-level, are worth considering. That said, if you know your field, what you need help with, or even some of the experts, and want to pick individual people’s brains, Tools Of Titans is a great go-to resource.