Can you imagine if you had a chance to meet two hundred top-performers of our time from all over the world – sportsmen, entrepreneurs, artists? What questions would you ask them? How would you extract the most value out of the conversation?
Fortunately, Tim Ferris has already solved this problem for us. If you are also Tim’s fan, you might be aware that during last years he has been interviewing hundreds of high-performance people from different areas (investing, sports, business, art .. ) to learn from their success stories. The interview recordings are published for free as the part of Tim Ferriss Show.
The list of guests is amazing: famous actor, businessman, politician Arnold Schwarzenegger, top life coach and motivation guru Tony Robbins, Dutch daredevil Wim Hof known as “The Iceman”, WordPress creator Matt Mullinweg, World Memory Grandmaster Ed Cooke, retired US Navy Seal Jocko Willink, LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman, showman Jamie Foxx, marketing expert & best-selling author Seth Godin, brilliant actor Edward Norton, and 200+ more.
In “Tools of Titans” Tim has summarized the key insights from all these interviews with top-performers to understand what tactics, tools, and routines helped them achieve success, so we could also apply them to our everyday lives. This includes favorite books and shows, morning and evening routines, exercise habits, time-management tricks, and much more.
The book is split into three sections: healthy, wealthy and wise, which makes it very easy to deep dive into the aspect that you are interested in the most.
- In “healthy” section, you can find a lot useful tips about nutrition and diets, fitness and exercising, yoga and meditation, immunity boosters and performance enhancers, sleep, health monitoring and disease prevention.
- In “wealthy” section, there is a lot of interesting information about building and growing a startup, investing and increasing your capital, career growth and professional development, time-management and personal productivity, growth mindset and leadership skills.
- In “wise” section, you can learn more about motivation, emotional intelligence, mindfulness, gratitude, self-awareness and avoiding burnouts.
So, how all these titans are different from normal people and what do they have in common?
- they build habits around their strengths to ensure a systematic approach to achieving their goals ( read more on the topic here)
- they have daily routines: titans start and finish their day/work in the same way because routines provide structure and focus (read more on the topic)
- they do not compromise on health: they exercise and train their immune system to boost productivity and energy level
- they meditate: more than 80% of titans have some form of daily meditation practice
- they write: they use different types of journaling to practice mindfulness and emotional intelligence, improve vocabulary, communication skills and memory
- they work on side projects investing their own time and money to expand their comfort zone and accelerate learning
- they tell stories: they remember that “good stories always beat good spreadsheets” – we all are emotional human beings first of all
- they value ideas and exercise their idea generation muscle to explore creativity: good ideas result in good experiences, better ideas, better experiences and financial wealth as a side effect
- they show gratitude: they always remind themselves of things and people they should be grateful to
- they have a growth mindset: they thrive on challenge and see failure not as evidence of unintelligence but as a way of learning and stretching existing abilities
A great quote about growth mindset from Jocko Willink, retired Navy SEAL Commander:
How do I deal with setbacks, failures, delays, defeat, or other disasters? I actually have a fairly simple way of dealing with these situations. There is one word to deal with all those situations, and that is: “good.”
Didn’t get promoted? Good. More time to get better.
Didn’t get funded? Good. We own more of the company.
Didn’t get the job you wanted? Good. Go out, gain more experience, and build a better résumé.
Got injured? Good. Needed a break from training.
Got beat? Good. We learned.
That’s it. When things are going bad, don’t get all bummed out, don’t get startled, don’t get frustrated. No. Just look at the issue and say: “Good.”
If you can say the word “good,” guess what? It means you’re still alive. It means you’re still breathing. And if you’re still breathing, that means you’ve still got some fight left in you. So get up, dust off, reload, recalibrate, re-engage, and go out on the attack. And that, right there, is about as good as it gets
The ideas stated above are just things most titans have in common, which is not exactly the same as takeaways from the book. I am sure that the conclusions after reading “Tools of Titans” will significantly differ from one person to another, therefore if you have already read the book, feel free to share your top findings in the comments section.
Below I will share my 5 personal favorite takeaways from the “Tools of Titans”
1. Ask good questions
Innovation, Science, Business Strategy, Self-Development or Career growth. No matter what we are talking about, good questions result in better answers, therefore asking good questions is crucial for success. Mastering the art of asking questions enables you to gain deep insight into the problem and improve your decision-making.
Asking questions is also a very powerful tool for self-development and personal growth. Self-reflection and asking yourself bigger & better questions helps to build emotional self-awareness and gain a better understanding of your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and driving factors.
Below you can find the list of 17 impossible questions for self-reflection that I found very useful
- What if I did the opposite for 48 hours?
- What do I spend a silly amount of money on? How might I scratch my own itch?
- What would I do/have/be if I had $10 million? What’s my real TMI?
- What are the worst things that could happen? Could I get back here?
- If I could only work 2 hours per week on my business, what would I do?
- What if I let them make decisions up to $100? $500? $1,000?
- What’s the least crowded channel?
- What if I couldn’t pitch my product directly?
- What if I created my own real-world MBA?
- Do I need to make it back the way I lost it?
- What if I could only subtract to solve problems?
- What might I put in place to allow me to go off the grid for 4 to 8 weeks, with no phone or email?
- Am I hunting antelope or field mice?’
- Could it be that everything is fine and complete as is?
- What would this look like if it were easy?
- How can I throw money at this problem? How can I “waste” money to improve the quality of my life?
- Advice on answering these questions: “Be sure to look for simple solutions. If the answer isn’t simple, it’s probably not the right answer”
2. Face your fears
Are you familiar with the art of Seneca? You might be surprised thinking what ancient Roman philosopher has to do with your success. Actually, quite a lot.
Nowadays, stoicism philosophy is a really hot topic in the startup & business world. From Jeff Bezos to Elon Musk, from Mark Zuckerberg to Bill Gates, it is difficult to find one hugely successful businessman who doesn’t see the benefits of stoicism. For those, who are not familiar with an ancient Greco-Roman philosophy, stoicism is about recognizing what you can and cannot control in order to focus all your energy only on what you can (learn more).
One of the stoic philosophy ideas is to carefully consider the worst case scenario to be ready for it. By becoming familiar with the worst case scenario, you decrease your emotional reactivity and begin to melt the fear holding you back.
Below you can find the “fear-setting” strategy from Tim to determine your fears and conquer them, which is based on the old Stoic practice “premeditatio malorum” meaning “the pre-meditation of evils”
- Define your nightmare, the absolute worst that could happen if you did what you are considering. What would be the permanent impact, if any, on a scale of 1 to 10? Are these things really permanent? How likely do you think it is that they would actually happen?
- What steps could you take to repair the damage or get things back on the upswing, even if temporarily?
- Now that you’ve defined the nightmare, what are the more probable or definite positive outcomes, whether internal (confidence, self-esteem, etc.) or external? What would the impact of these more-likely outcomes be on a scale of 1 to 10? How likely is it that you could produce at least a moderately good outcome?
- If you were fired from your job today, what would you do to get things under financial control? Imagine this scenario and run through questions 1 to 3 above. If you quit your job to test other options, how could you later get back on the same career track if you absolutely had to?
- What are you putting off out of fear? Usually what we most fear doing is what we most need to do. That phone call, that conversation, whatever the action might be—it is fear of unknown outcomes that prevents us from doing what we need to do. Define the worst case, accept it, and do it.
- What is it costing you—financially, emotionally, and physically—to postpone action? Don’t only evaluate the potential downside of action. It is equally important to measure the atrocious cost of inaction. If you don’t pursue those things that excite you, where will you be in 1 year, 5 years, and 10 years?
- What are you waiting for? If you cannot answer this without resorting to the BS concept of “good timing,” the answer is simple: You’re afraid, just like the rest of the world. Measure the cost of inaction, realize the unlikelihood and repairability of most missteps, and develop the most important habit of those who excel and enjoy doing so: action.
3. Find your niche
I am a big fan of Pareto principle or 80/20 rule: 20% of effort is bringing 80% of result; 20% of clients are bringing 80% of revenues & so on; 20% of actions are bringing 80% of growth and so on. “Titans” also refer to this idea quite often: determining which areas to focus your efforts and resources is crucial in order to achieve maximum efficiency
1,000 True Fans’ by Kevin Kelly
To be a successful creator, you don’t need millions. You don’t need millions of dollars or millions of customers, clients, or fans. To make a living as a craftsperson, photographer, musician, designer, author, animator, app maker, entrepreneur, or inventor you need only 1,000 true fans.
A true fan is defined as “a fan who will buy anything you produce.” These diehard fans will drive 200 miles to see you sing; they will buy the hardback and paperback and audio versions of your book; they will purchase your next figurine, sight unseen; they will pay for the “best-of” DVD version of your free
YouTube channel; they will come to your chef’s table once a month; they will buy the superdeluxe reissued hi-res box set of your stuff even though they have the low-res version. They have a Google Alert set for your name; they bookmark the eBay page where your out-of-print editions show up; they come to your openings. They have you sign their copies; they buy the T-shirt, and the mug, and the hat; they can’t
wait till you issue your next work. They are true fans.
If you have roughly 1,000 true fans , you can make a living—if you are content to make a living, but not a fortune.
1,000 customers is a whole lot more feasible to aim for than a million fans. Millions of paying fans is just not a realistic goal to shoot for, especially when you are starting out. But 1,000 fans is doable. You might even be able to remember 1,000 names. If you added one new true fan per day, it’d only take a few years to gain 1,000.
True fanship is doable. Pleasing a true fan is pleasurable and invigorating. It rewards the artist to remain true, to focus on the unique aspects of their work, the qualities that true fans appreciate.
4. Busyness is a choice
Thanks to Tim’s book, I have discovered a wonderful writing of great essayist and cartoonist Tim Kreider. Tim’s piece “Lazy: A manifesto” raises an important problem of busyness in our daily lives and reminds us that it is all about setting your priorities in a right way. If the wealthiest and most successful of this world are able to find one hour per day for reading and manage to enjoy family breakfasts with their loved ones and you can not, should you probably question your priorities?
If you live in America in the 21st century you’ve probably had to listen to a lot of people tell you how busy they are. It’s become the default response when you ask anyone how they’re doing: “Busy!” “So busy.” “Crazy busy.” It is, pretty obviously, a boast disguised as a complaint. And the stock response is a kind of congratulation: “That’s a good problem to have,” or “Better than the opposite.”
This frantic, self-congratulatory busyness is a distinctly upscale affliction. Notice it isn’t generally people pulling back-to-back shifts in the ICU, taking care of their senescent parents, or holding down three minimum-wage jobs they have to commute to by bus who need to tell you how busy they are; what those people are is not busy but tired. Exhausted. Dead on their feet. It’s most often said by people whose lamented busyness is purely self-imposed: work and obligations they’ve taken on voluntarily, classes and activities they’ve “encouraged” their kids to participate in. They’re busy because of their own ambition or drive or anxiety, because they are addicted to busyness and dread what they might have to face in its absence.
This busyness serves as a kind of existential reassurance, a hedge against emptiness: Obviously your life cannot possibly be silly or trivial or meaningless if you are so busy, completely booked, in demand every hour of the day. All this noise and rush and stress seem contrived to drown out or cover up some fear at the center of our lives
5. Power of documentaries
After “Tools of Titans” I have realized that I am completely missing out on one important source to gain knowledge: documentaries. All the Titans as lifelong learners are big fans of watching documentaries to expand their knowledge horizons.
Indeed, documentaries are probably one of the easiest ways to learn new information due to our attraction to visuals, music, and story-telling. A lot of good documentaries can be found on Netflix or even on YouTube. Top Documentary Films is an easy and free resource to get started.
Find my personal to-watch list for next months below
- Brain Story: guided by top neuroscientist Susan Greenfield, Brain Story attempts to answer the question “What is my mind and who am I?”. The team talks to philosophers, clinicians, neurosurgeons and their patients to discover quite what a finely balanced and complex machine the brain is.
- The Up series: This ongoing series filmed in the UK revisit the same group of people every 7 years to see how their life has changed
- A state of mind : the documentary follows two North Korean child gymnasts and their families for over eight months during training for the 2003 Pyongyang mass games
- Senna: formula One driver Ayrton Senna captivated the world with his driving skills, personality, and film star looks. In a controversial, but brilliant, F1 career (from 1984–1994), he won three World Championships, but his story met a tragic end. His legacy, however, will never be forgotten.
- The King of Kong: two men compete for the title of World Champion on Nintendo’s 1981 arcade game, Donkey Kong, which turns out to be very dramatic and moving.
If you are interested in more documentaries, check out the Kevin Kelly’s blog – he did an amazing job reviewing hundreds of documentaries on different topics.
To sum it up, “Tools of Titans” by Tim Ferris is definitely a must-read of 2017. As FT book review stated, it is “a perfect read for obsessives wanting to boost their new year productivity”. If you remember the book importance matrix, “Tools of titans” is undoubtedly falling under “crucial” category. You should not just read it but you should work with it: therefore, take a pen, highlighter, sticky notes and get ready for a lot of fun!
However, we should never forget that all these high-performers and idols in our minds are not superheroes as they might seem – they are just normal people who adopted the right mindset and had a grit and endurance to master their strengths by developing habits.
Of course, it is extremely helpful to get familiar with their tested beliefs and habits, but it does not guarantee any success. As American entrepreneur and musician Derek Sivers said: “If information is the answer, we will all be billionaires walking around with 6 pack abs“, therefore it is all about implementation and what you are going to do with these “Tools of Titans” after you learn them
Thanks for reading and I hope you found this post useful! If so, please do not forget to share it with your friends and feel free to share your key take aways in the comment section.