(The full title of the book is Tools of Titans: The Tactics, Routines, and Habits of Billionaires, Icons, and World-Class Performers.)
I bought this big behemoth of a book on 12/11/16 and I’m about 475 pages into it.
I’d been reading about it and hearing about it on podcasts for a few weeks when I finally decided to fork over the $28 to make it mine. (You know how it is with book launches these days – they go on for what feels like weeks and months and years on end.)
By the time I walked in to Barnes & Noble in early-ish December 2016 and read through a few pages of Tools of Titans, I decided I had to buy it. (That’s what priming’ll do for ya. It works.)
But wait, let me back up a minute. That’s not exactly how it happened, come to think of it.
The first time I actually saw the book, I picked it up read through the table of contents and the bullet copy on the back cover, thought, “Hmm, never mind,” put it down, and walked away.
I wanted the book, no question, but I was resistant, and here’s why: if my math is correct, of the 112 people in the book Ferriss shares wisdom and insight from, just 14 are women. Of the bullets on the back cover of the book – you know, the copy that’s meant to really sell the thing (so it’s where the – ahem – uber “important” people are mentioned) – there are 14 bullets and only one features a woman.
So it is that most “successful” people come in the male variety in Tim Ferriss world.
I’ll admit, I was disappointed. It confirms what I’ve long felt about many of the male-lead businesses and people I follow online, great though they may be – you’re way more likely to be featured in/on someone’s podcast, website, blog, book, or even in their testimonials or case studies if you’re a man, unless the website, blog, or podcast is woman-owned. I’ve seen it over and over and over again.
If you came here from another planet and took notice of this, you’d think, “Hmm, what constitutes ‘success’ on this planet is for men, defined by men, and about men.”
[As an aside, if you want to read a fantastic piece on this dilemma, far more eloquently written than what I’ve scratched out here, check out Sarah Kathleen Peck’s article, Why We Can’t Keep Having “Best of Entrepreneur” Lists That are Overwhelmingly Male.]
Anywho, back to the book. I bought it despite my disappointment over the underrepresentation of women, so obviously I believe there’s value in it.
Now, if you’re still with me, here’s a brief overview of the book:
The book is laid out in three sections: Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise, which Ferriss describes as “a tripod upon which life is balanced. One needs all three to have any sustainable success or happiness.” (His definition of wealth is about more than money, it also includes an abundance of time, relationships and other life categories.)
He calls it “a compendium of recipes for high performance,” lessons he’s learned from the 200 world-class performers he’s interviewed on his podcast, The Tim Ferriss Show. Among these are writers, actors, comedians, and photographers, so it’s not all hedge fund managers and Silicon Valley people, not that those folks don’t have important lessons to share as well.
The book is made up of distilled wisdom, strategies, tips and tricks from these high-achievers that Ferriss put together for his own use, and only later decided to publish. It’s not just a book of interviews, it’s “a toolkit for changing your life,” according to Ferriss, and many of the lessons he’s learned and applied have indeed changed his life, he says.
And because it’s such a long book (well over 600 pages), Ferriss says to treat it sort of like a buffet, to skip what you don’t feel compelled to read, and read what grabs you. I skipped the entire first section, “Healthy,” and started right in with my reading at section 2, “Wealthy” (page 164). I’ve been reading in order straight through from there though.
(It’s my OCD. I feel like I can’t skip pages and sections now, and once I get to the end, I’ll go back and read the “Healthy” section.)
What I liked:
There’s something here for just about any kind of challenge you might face, as cliché as that sounds.
For example, if you tend to “compare and despair,” Sophia Amoruso (page 376), founder of global clothing brand Nasty Gal and #Girlboss Foundation, says not to be so impressed by the high achievers you admire, because you are entirely capable of doing what they do, and there’s no reason you can’t have the things they have. Despite her massive success, she shares that she still cries sometimes, and doesn’t ever feel like, “I’m done, I’ve arrived.”
Or maybe you have a medical condition, or something else in your life is causing you mental, emotional or physical pain that keeps you from doing all you’d like to do, and your tendency is to complain about it, as much as you’d like not to (been there/still sometimes there).
Tracy DiNunzio (page 313), founder and CEO of Tradesy, who has raised $75 million from investors including Richard Branson, talks about being born with spina bifida and having to undergo several surgeries. She says she tried “complaining and being bitter,” but it didn’t work. Because, she explains, sharing a Stephen Hawking quote (someone with a bigger reason to complain than most people), “when you complain nobody wants to help you.”
She talks about putting herself on a “complaining diet,” because she was thinking and talking about being in pain enough that it caused her life to go in a negative direction. She decides not to say, or even think, anything negative about the situation she’s in. She admits it took a long time and she wasn’t perfect at it, but that replacing the negative thoughts with more positive ones helped get her life moving in a better direction, one where she wasn’t obsessing about what was wrong, which served to lessen the physical pain.
Feeling stuck? Legendary music producer Rick Rubin (page 502) says to start with a very small, doable task. He recounts the story of an artist he was working with who hadn’t made an album in a long time and was struggling mightily with getting anything finished. So Rubin gives him the assignment to write one word in a song that needs 5 lines by the next day. Just one word. This advice resonated with me because I’ve found the “small, doable task” trick great for building momentum in my own work and life when I’m feeling stuck.
Searching for the courage to do something bold? Research professor Dr. Brené Brown (page 586), whose TED talk, “The Power of Vulnerability” has been viewed more than 31 million times, shares her experience teaching as a public figure despite hurtful online comments and attacks. She realized that if she wanted to live “a brave life,” a life “in the arena,” that yes, she would get her ass kicked, but she chooses to live by the question, “When I had the opportunity, did I choose courage over comfort?” As someone who regularly chooses comfort, this is a lesson I need to ponder. Actually not to ponder, that’s too “comfortable.” I need to implement this, fer cryin’ out loud!
Afraid to be your “true self,” online or elsewhere? Glenn Beck (I know, I know, but bear with me. Page 553), shares some excellent advice, especially appropriate for those of us conducting business online who sometimes hide behind our “real” selves so as not to offend or scare away potential clients or customers.
Beck says, “What I realized . . . was that people are starving for something authentic. They’ll accept you, warts and all, if that’s who you really are. Once you start lying to them, they’re not interested. We’re all alike. So the best advice I learned by mistake, and that is: Be willing to fail or succeed on who you really are. Don’t ever try to be anything else. What you are is good enough for whatever it is you’re doing.”
This is only the second time in the history of ever I’ve agreed with something Glenn Beck said (the other time was some comments he made about Trump), so I’m as shocked as anybody that I’m mentioning him in a blog post. But there it is.
My Favorite Bits
These are my favorite bits, meaning, I’ve actually added these practices to what I call my “Daily Practice,” and do them regularly now:
The Five-Minute Journal, page 146, which consists of a couple of brief morning prompts, and a couple of evening prompts. Each morning I write 3 things I’m grateful for, 3 things that would make today great, and 3 daily affirmations. In the evening, I write about “3 amazing things that happened today,” and “3 ways I could have made today better.” Though I was doing some form of this before, it wasn’t organized, and it wasn’t daily. Now it’s both, and I feel happier. At the end of each week on Sunday night, I spend 10-15 minutes reviewing that week’s journal entries.
Tim’s 8-step process for maximizing efficacy, page 200, which is a list of things he does to make sure he gets stuff done, despite “self-defeating habits and self-talk.” Oh, how I love this, because we all have bad habits, and so do the most successful people we admire. But they still manage to get big and amazing things done, and so we can too.
I won’t share the entire list here, but the crux is: Wake up at least one hour before you have to be at a computer screen; write down 3-5 things that are making you the most anxious or uncomfortable; for each item, ask yourself, “If this were the only thing I accomplished today, would I be satisfied with my day?”; look at only the items you’ve answered “yes” to for that question; then block out 2-3 hours to focus on ONE of them for today. [That’s a brief overview.]
I love that he says, “This is the only way I can create big outcomes despite my never-ending impulse to procrastinate, nap, and otherwise fritter away days with bullshit.” Sounds like someone I know very well. Ahem.
And lastly, one of my favorite new practices that came from the book, is wishing for random people to be happy, page 158. What you do is simply randomly identify two people who are standing, sitting, or walking nearby, and wish for them to be happy. Just say to yourself, “I wish for this person to be happy, I wish for that person to be happy.” It’s just thinking, mind you, it’s not saying it out loud.
I’ve done some form of this before as part of my daily practice, but not consistently, and not for a long time now, but after reading this passage in Tim’s book, I sat on my bed and randomly wished for all kinds of people to be happy, even people I don’t much care for, like Trump. AND BOY, WAS THAT EVER DIFFICULT TO DO.
This practice does tend to make me feel happier, and I think it’s because of what Ferriss identifies – it takes the focus off you and your “stuff,” at least briefly. Which is a welcome respite for those of us who tend to live so much in our heads and focus obsessively on all we have to do/be/accomplish/handle, etc.
At the end of the day . . .
Despite my quibbles about the book’s mostly male focus and version of “success,” I’m happy I bought the book, and would recommend it.
That said, I have to say I agree with Emma Jacobs, who reviewed the book for the Financial Times:
“Halfway through this book, I started to feel battered, like I had been hit by a tsunami of testosterone. I flicked through the book tallying the number of men and women proffering the advice — just over 10 per cent of the interviewees were women. Granted, there are fewer female billionaires — to take his subtitle — but icons and world-class performers? Give me strength. The overall effect is a kind of quantified self, Silicon Valley machismo. And that will appeal to many.”
Though I don’t find “Silicon Valley machismo” compelling in any way, shape, or form, I still found many things to like about this book, and found it worth the $28.
And there ya have it.