James Altucher: This is James Altucher with the James Altucher Show and I don't even need to introduce you, Tim Ferriss, you've done a billion things, welcome to the show.
Tim Ferriss: Thanks for having me really happy to be here.
James Altucher: Tim, I have one small beef to pick with you, which I'm going to bring up. We know we've known each other now and we've known each other for I guess about almost a year and a half since a conference like at the end of 2012 or 2011, one of those years. But before that, you released the four-hour body and Claudia and I were around the corner in the freezing cold waiting to get into that event in downtown New York.
Tim Ferriss: [Laughing] Oh, I’m so sorry.
James Altucher: We was cold.
Tim Ferriss: That was a mess. That was such a mess. So one thing just a word to the wise for people listening, if you ever hold an event in the winter and it might be crowded venue make sure that if they have a mandatory coat check for fire code that they tell you about it before hand. That is what held up the line and the poor people waiting outside in normal sort of cocktail party clothing on the coldest day of the winter in that year. It was horrible. What a disaster that was. I apologize for that.
James Altucher: No, no, don't apologize because from every problem there is a lesson to be learned. And obviously, we have a lot of things to talk about but I learned a couple of things from that. One is you were trying something different with marketing in general that's been your approach where not only do you have the event of a book launch but you're marketing events themselves are newsworthy events. So you've changed marketing for books for everyone and that was part of it and there's going to be mistakes along the way that will happen. But also, you dealt with it instantly, so of course, you must have gotten many e-mails the next day, I know Claudia sent you an e-mail for instance. And you right away made a response everybody gets XY and Z; you know I forgot what it was some report or something. But you dealt with it right away and it proved to be a successful event for you. Also, it made us thing, everybody in line think oh my God, this book is going to be such a massive success, it really created this aura success around the book even though we were freezing. It was like the coldest I've ever been in my life.
Tim Ferriss: It was so cold. Yeah, it was something like 10 degrees outside and there were people freezing their asses off. So I did learn a lot from that and thank you for the kind words. Yeah, I will do another event and it will be in a warmer season too just as a safety net.
James Altucher: You're a good event holder so I will hold you to that. Now you're kind of – I've had a lot of guests on the podcast and you've now started your podcast so you know what it's like preparing for a podcast, reading the materials of your guests and so on, but you're a particularly hard guest to prepare for. And I even, you know we've spoken, I know you, I've read all your stuff in the past and I read them again in preparation for this as well as gone over many of your other things. But you've done so many different things and I've been trying to categorize in one word what you do. And I think most people would say the number four, but I’m not going to say that. I think if I were to say one word your books are really about possibility.
So on side we have the probable, so we all grow up with this education thinking okay, if I got to standard school standard college, standard graduate school, work a nine to five job, have a family things will somewhere along the line go well for me and I might find happiness. So we're taught from an early age that this is the probably sequence of events if we want happiness. But you instead talk about possibilities that we might – that the average person might not have thought of and that might lead to some version of happiness or success or however you define it much more quickly than anybody would have realized. Would you kind of say that's a general theme?
Tim Ferriss: Oh, definitely. I think that is the overarching theme. If I had to pick a second word, it would be experimentation or experimenter. And really the driver for me, because I've had the great fortune of a number of mentors, who by the way, never have that formal title but they're coaches or teachers or friends of friends who have shown me that some of the impossibles are negotiable. And that many of the things you might perceive as being impossible are in fact, very, very, very achievable. Not only possible but easily achievable, such as fluency in languages as one example where myths are run rampant within the language learning sort of Gestalt and people believe things such as children learn languages faster than adults. False. It takes a lifetime to become fluent in language. False. And you can disprove all of these things relatively easily if you search for the anomalies and the outliers, which is what I do.
James Altucher: Well, that's interesting and I want to get back to the language learning and also your phrase possibility is negotiable. But a lot of people ask how do I find a mentor and I think this is the wrong and you sort of allude to it just then that these people don't necessarily have the title of mentor but how would you define it? How would you answer that question if someone said how do I find a mentor?
Tim Ferriss: The way you find a mentor, in my personal experience at least, is by understanding that you should aim to learn before you earn and that sounds very clichéd. But I feel like your objective as a younger person, and I'll just limit the discussion to people sort of in their formative, early careers, let's just say 20's, early 30's that you should aim to surround yourself with the four or five people you want to be the average of. And if you're able to do that, for instance, by joining say a startup where you report directly to VP or a cofounder and you get to observe them making deals, negotiating with employees, settling disputes, so on and so forth you will become the average of those people. And whether that is through explicit teaching or just implicit observation and absorption I really feel like it's in some cases volunteering. IN my case, for example, when I moved to Silicon Valley this was in '99-2000, just at the apex, the top of the roller coaster --
James Altucher: Good timing.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah, good timing. So I got to agree to rent that was stratospheric and then wait for my income to crash. But the point I was going to make is I volunteered for startup organizations that held events and I took on more and more and more responsibilities of volunteer until they looked to me for leadership roles and invited me to help determine the content of the events. And eventually I was able to manage the production of an entire 500-person event where I recruited the speakers. And what did that turn into, well it turned into relationships with people I wanted to get to know and that I wanted to have a relationship with like Jack Canfield cocreator of Chicken Soup for the Soul who many, many years later ended up introducing me to the editor who became my agent, who help me go through 27 rejections and sell The 4-Hour Workweek.
James Altucher: You know, I think people don't realize this but that kind of incremental things like that like for instance, you meeting Jack Canfield like maybe you picked him to be in a conference, maybe you picked him up at the airport to take him to the conference, I don’t know. But little incremental things like that compound and so four hours a week compounds 10 years later into this is the guy who basically helped you create massive bestsellers.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah. Oh, definitely. And you know I think that Silicon Valley for all its flaws is philosophically a very interesting ecosystem to study. And what I mean by that it there's certain beliefs and belief systems in Silicon Valley among the people who are the best entrepreneurs and investors that are worth emulating. And one of them is you can pass on hundreds of hundreds of fantastic deals and opportunities as long as you get a few right. And what I mean by that is there may be let's say 10-15 startups per years that are going to have a series A funding round that will turn into multibillion-dollar companies. Let's just say that hypothetically. You don't need to get into all 15 of those. In fact, you can miss all of those deals for many years and let's just say you have an angel investing career of 10 years and you invest in one or two of those, you've made your entire career.
And the way that that translates to normal non-Silicon Valley life is you don't need to approach every potential mentor you're excited about and immediately hump their leg and start pitching the [bleep] out of yourself. You can take your time and develop loose ties to these people where you add value where you can, you don't rush it, you don't make 20 e-mail intros a week to play matchmaker. You take it very slow and steady and you know as Gary Vandertuck would say you don't act like a 19-year old guy on his first date every time. You play it smooth and that doesn't mean you're lazy it means that you spread your bets and naturally a handful of those relationships will become real friendships. And you need a basis, in my experience, a basis for friendship and rapport and camaraderie before asking for any type of favor makes any sense.
And by the way, in my experience, if you develop that type of genuine relationship the person you would perhaps refer to as your mentor will offer to help you. They will ask how they can help you. You don't have to strong-arm them at all. You don't even need to introduce the favor itself because they'll express to you a willingness to help, if that makes sense.
James Altucher: Yes. Well, I will tell you in every experience I've had whether I've been starting companies, selling companies, you know offering services to get customers, whatever it was it was always from me first soft-shoeing it, you know basically just offering ideas or the most smallest of connections that I can make. And then spreading it out as throwing as wide a net as possible and just gradually over months and years pursuing those connections. And that's always planting the seeds grows the garden and that strategy has always worked for me.
Tim Ferriss: Absolutely. Yeah, you need to not – it's possible to be proactive without rushing and I think that that is a sweet spot that people --
James Altucher: That's a key phrase.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah. People need to practice. And it does take practice it's a learned skill. But getting what you want without – being proactive without being a hard seller. And there are times to hard sell but it's less often than one might imagine. You don't have to be --
James Altucher: So, so --
Tim Ferriss: Yeah, I was just going to say like there is a time and a place to be Alec Baldwin from Glen Garry Glen Ross and you'll always be closing that's not all the time in my experience.
James Altucher: And I think that's less and less now because social media allows you to create that wide net without doing the hard sell, which didn't occur during Glen Garry Glen Ross.
Tim Ferriss: Absolutely. Yeah, agreed.
James Altucher: Now you mentioned experimentation I agree that's a very important part of your books but combined with that is sort of this almost supernatural ability to learn that is kind of emanates through all of your books. Where it's almost like you have this process where you take anything and you're able to kind of break it into its components, observe it, you know, see what components are the 80/20, you know which 20 percent of the components give 80 percent of the value. Then you try – then you, you know that's when you start the experiment, then you have feedback, the you repeat. And often there's a mentor in there like in your TV show in the first episode you had Stuart Copeland in there giving you feedback on how you were drumming and also watching him drum allowed you to kind of break apart the components. But I see this sort of cycle, almost virtuous cycle in all three of your books. The key though is how do you learn to break apart something into its critical components whatever it is you're trying to learn. Let's say you're trying to learn poker, for instance.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah. So in the case of poker or surfing or investing, for that matter, startup investing I think that there's a general framework that I follow, which is represented by an acronym DISSS. So the I is silent so it's deconstruction, selection, sequencing and stakes. And in some of these instances the stakes, the consequences are built in so if you're putting my on the line in the case of poker or investing the stakes are somewhat built in. If you're trying to change your diet, for instance, it's not always quite as clear you need to build in to short-term consequences.
But the deconstruction phase is a step where you try to take something that is very large and nebulous like learn poker and break that down into what it might mean. And it's really an information gathering stage much like doing notes or a first draft of a book that you later intend to chop down to one third the size.
James Altucher: So you could be wrong at this level. You could be drastically wrong at this level.
Tim Ferriss: Well, there's no wrong or right at this level because you're only gathering, you're gathering different tools and resources and hypotheses. And the way you go about doing that is principally through, or course, online research and I use tools like EverNote to pull things offline then to clip web pages and so on into folder, which I did for poker, in fact, after the fact. I mean once I was into the learning process. And then secondly, I will interview people. And I try whenever possible to find breeds of players who are dramatically different in their approaches and ideally anomalous within the poker world.
So for instance, it is widely assumed that you need to be very, very good at probabilities and mathematics, at least basic statistics in the world of poker. Are there people, however, who play on a more instinctual level? Who are playing the players as opposed to the probabilities and I might seek someone out with that profile. And on the flip side, I might look for someone who's very, very quantitative and they might not be a professional player per se. They could be someone like one of the cofounders of Renaissance, which is a hedge fund or one of these hedge fund managers who plays in Salt, which is a conference and goes to the tables and wins hundred thousands of dollars, millions of dollars as non-professional players. How do they take their quantitative apparatus and apply it to poker?
So I'll start gathering media stories, Wikipedia entries, so on and so forth and eventually narrow down a handful of people that I want to interview. And it seems people erroneously assume that you have to be a bestselling author or whatever it might be to interview to people. Not true at all, there are many easy ways to do it. Number one, you may not be able to interview say a gold medalist in the current Olympics because everyone's trying to get a hold of them but could you find a silver medalist in the same event from two Olympics ago that you can jump on Skype with and use video for an hour and pay perhaps $50-100? Probably. It sounds insane but it's very, very possible.
James Altucher: And again, just from my own experience that's definitely true. Like, for instance, I always try to get better at chess, I can't get in touch with the world chess champion but I can certainly get in touch with someone who won the U.S. chess championship 10 years ago is always possible.
Tim Ferriss: Oh, absolutely. And so you can either do that for free, you can pay out of pocket, or guess what, develop a basic level of writing ability or conduct an interview for a media outlet. And it could be a local outlet, the Sacramento Bee, whatever it might be, right? Choose your outlet and spec out a Q&A with someone that you want to develop a relationship with and you're offering value in the form of exposure if they want it. And throughout that process you have, let's say, you know 12 questions that make it to print and you ask 20, eight of which are related to trying to deconstruct their skill. And, again, take your time you don't need to then close after that and ask them for free mentorship for life, which is what a lot of people do. They're like oh hey, could you be my mentor i.e. unpaid part-time assistant for the rest of my life? No, that's not what you want to ask people to do.
So the deconstruction process is really about teasing out leads. It's sort of acting as a detective and looking for people who also are very good at something who shouldn't be, right. So if you're trying to become --
James Altucher: What do you mean by shouldn't be?
Tim Ferriss: Well, people who lack, apparently lack the attributes of someone who typifies a given skill. So you might look at ultra-endurance running where the guys who are the best and the women who are the best tend to look like spiders. They tend to be built like Jack from The Nightmare Before Christmas. But what if you could find, and I'll actively seek these people out? I'll reach out to say the editors of magazines, writers in the field, whatever, and I'll say who's good at this who shouldn't be, i.e. are there any people who are massively overweight or who weigh 250 pounds who aren't overweight just huge, muscular people who run ultra-endurance marathons? Like structurally they shouldn't be able to do it but are there any people and then I'll see them out and those are people who need to compensate for mediocre attributes with superior technique very often or superior training, more intelligent training. And I find those cases always very, very interesting.
James Altucher: So that's almost like I would say the secret ingredient in the soup, you know seeking these people out.
Tim Ferriss: I think that's a huge part of it. Another example would be trying to identify, for instance, I mean successful business people who are severely dyslectic. And there are quite a few examples, Charles Schwab is one, the founder of Kinko's, ironically enough. And you can go down the line and find people who have overcome apparent handicaps that many other people would view as terminal in these fields and identify what they're doing right. So I think something that's very under leveraged is the Paralympics, for instance. Like you want to learn how to swim like study someone who doesn't have legs, like what are they doing differently? Seriously, it's like that is just a goldmine, I think, for dissecting what is possible and what is not.
James Altucher: All right, so like let's say you wanted to get a good surgeon, right. Let's say there was no such thing as medical school and you wanted to be a good surgeon what type of person would you look for?
Tim Ferriss: Well, I would contact anyone tangentially related to surgery and someone, a friend of mine who is a surgeon or who has had surgery, therefore, has contact with a surgeon. And reach out to people in the field to ask who in your field is controversial but very good at what they do. That's another question that I find very helpful. Who is good at this who shouldn't be and I would give them the examples of say dyslexics or people who were not able to undertake conventional training or people who skipped conventional training in some fashion like anyone who's taken a circuitous route.
And usually with those questions alone I'll be able to get a hold of a lead and that's all I'm looking for. I'm looking for a scent trail, right. So if I find out there's a controversial doctor whose doing really interesting rehabilitate work, for instance. So tennis elbow, chronic injuries, things that are though to never go away very often times. You know, who's somebody who's controversial who's working in this field. And I might someone who's using let's say, PRP injections where they pull out your whole blood, spin it in a centrifuge, take out the growth factors and inject them locally into say tennis elbow, which can be very effective.
James Altucher: It sounds like a lot of fun, I’m going to have to install that in my house.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah, yeah, you can get a home PRP unit.
James Altucher: Draw my blood out there.
Tim Ferriss: Just jab syringes in your kneecaps while you're sitting on the toilet. And that is all I'm looking for in that original conversation or e-mail thread is a foot in the door. I want a name. I want a university, a lab, something that will allow me to examine someone who is controversial, yet effective or who's very good at something despite handicaps, lack of training, whatever it might be. So that would be the first step I would take. Like if we got off the phone right now I would send e-mails to a handful of people I know are either surgeons or have interacted with surgeons.
James Altucher: I see. And then, again, finding that person who stands out for something unconventional like whether they're dyslexic or they had weird training or they shake a little or maybe they have no arms that would be an interesting one.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah. Yeah, somebody who performs surgery without – exactly – without manual dexterity and there are examples, I'm sure, of people who developed say a tremor who then proceed to address the tremor somehow, right. The process of figuring this stuff out and I just want to point out the underlying theme here, is that if you're trying to learn anything and explore the possibilities, right, what is possible and what is not you have to test assumptions. And the way you test assumptions, the way you test the obvious is by asking seemingly absurd questions.
So how would I win a swimming race without legs? If I had to run a business in two or four hours a week or my business whatever that happens to be, I know it's impossible but what would I do? If I had a gun to my head, if I had terminal cancer and I was having chemotherapy and couldn't work for more than four hours a week what would I actually do? Asking these constraining absurd question and --
James Altucher: So it sounds to me like over time and this is really where you have put in your hours you were learning how to ask these impossible questions because not everyone says oh, how can I work a four-hour week. Most people say well, I have bills to pay I need to work my 9-5 job that was what I was taught all my life I need to do this. And so people don't learn to ask these impossible questions.
Tim Ferriss: That's right. And it's very often trained out of you.
James Altucher: And I would almost say that success in a meager way is like the enemy of possibility. So people find some degree of success oh, well I am paying my bills with a 9-5 job so that almost prevents them from looking at what's possible. I mean it suddenly – success defined for them what was impossible because oh, I found success I have a 9-5 job.
Tim Ferriss: Right. I agree. And I think that it's very easy to go from a proactive to protective mindset. And it's human nature. I mean this is very much, I think, animal nature. You build your nest, you have your mate, you have your territory and then you just fight people off that's the general programming. And I think that it's very important in modern life, you know assuming that most people listening to this live in some – probably have sort of white-collar jobs, although it applies elsewhere. And it applies far outside of this, but the definition of risk is very important. I think that one of the reasons that so few people do bold things is because they don't define risk at all.
And they have a nebulous fear of a worst case scenario of having too little money, whatever it might be, but they don't define it very clearly. Which is why I encourage people to do this fear setting exercise instead of goal setting, which is look at the decision you're considering, the project you're considering pursuing, for instance, that would dramatically change your life, whatever. Maybe you have to quit your 9-5 job or what not. And you make a list on a piece of paper, I usually just draw two vertical lines so I have three columns. The first category is what are the worst things that could happen in excruciating detail like lets' get very, very specific, right. So all of the worst things that could happen however absurd, right those down if you pursue this. The second column is what could you do to minimize the likelihood of those thing happening? And then the last category is if those things happen what could you do to get back to where you are now?
And you run through this exercise and you realize that if you define risk as the likelihood of an irreversible, negative outcome, which is how I define it, okay. So the risk is the likelihood of an irreversible negative outcome, there's very little risk. There's very, very little risk. And this is typically kind of the inflection point for a lot of people have a lot of undefined fear.
James Altucher: It seems like there's a little more than that in that you can mitigate that left hand column a lot obviously doing kind of these mini experiments. Like in the four-hour body you're constantly experimenting on your body but you're not doing it all at once. You're doing little experiments here, little experiments there and that's how you mitigate the risk, for instance, of destroying your body with too many experiments at once.
Tim Ferriss: Right. No, that's exactly right. And it's also true with any kind of career shift. I think it's easy for human beings to look at choices as dichotomies or mutually exclusive at the very least. So it's either I have a 9-5 job or I throw a Hail Mary, I quit my job and stomp out like Edward Norton in Fight Club and all of a sudden I have to fend for myself in the wild world and maybe I can't pay my rent. But you don't have to do that, that's silly. And if you look at say, I believe his name is Khalid Hossenia who wrote The Kite Runner, which turned into a huge best-seller and a feature film, I believe, unless I'm mistaken that he wrote that while he was still working in a hospital. And he would wake up two-three hours early and just chip away at this thing for an hour at a time. There was a broad spectrum of possibility between binary choice A and binary choice B.
James Altucher: And let's look at that in your specific example. Because I don’t know when you were a kid if you remember like there was this comic book series called Secret Origins. And it was all about the secret origins of the super heroes and it was one of my favorite comics. So let's see your secret origin. So you were running a company called Brain Quicken and I surmise that this is where you developed a lot of the ideas that eventually turned into The 4-hour Workweek. So Brain Quicken was essentially a _______ company of sorts that you were doing direct mail or what was that company that you were running?
Tim Ferriss: So yeah, Brain Quicken was my first real, real company I suppose if you want to talk about something with any kind of scale or organization. I'd had a couple of hare-brained ideas before that. B
James Altucher: And the company still exists, by the way, I just went to the website. I was thinking of ordering some medicine.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah. Yeah, it's not bad I actually still use the product. And I developed the product originally for myself while an undergrad at Princeton for my own sort of smart drug use because I got nervous about all of the somewhat illicit substances I was imprinting under the FDA personal importation policies. So it was sort of my legal catch all biochemical aid. But Brain Quicken was a single skew company and it aimed to define a category. And the category was non-stimulant based pre workout products. It originally began as a sort of no tropic smart drug company and I very quickly realized – and I developed this, by the way, with basically selling the hell out of the vision and having people help me for free while I was still employed at a startup that I knew was doomed to implode during the startup, you know the dot bubble and dot crash. So I did not just leap into the ether and cross my fingers, I developed the product and the basic manufacturing approach and all this stuff while I still had a job.
James Altucher: I want to just mention that this method of being at one job while developing another, let's say, business on the side is extremely common in – and this is for our listener's ______ really but for everybody. You know in Silicon Valley, in New York, anywhere, I stayed at HBO an entire two years while completely developing my first business totally on the side, at night, in the morning, locking myself in the conference room, whenever I could find spare moments. So it's a very common story and it's also how you mitigate risk.
Tim Ferriss: Absolutely. Definitely. And in the beginning you do have to hustle a little bit and don't be afraid. This is one thing that I've noticed is a lot of would be entrepreneurs are afraid to ask their family and friends to help them. And in my particular case, I had very good friends at this company and I just said hey guys, I know this is going to sound weird but I've bought you booze in the past, I need you guys to commit to just buying one bottle of this stuff so I can actually afford my first manufacturing run.
James Altucher: That's great.
Tim Ferriss: And they're like whatever, fine, okay. And it wasn't a big deal and I had the web designer at the company --
James Altucher: It's an easy sell. You say it's going to make you smarter and your business succeed.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah. Right. So what I realized very quickly when I got out into the wild and started doing testing is that Americans do not want to be smarter, in general. It's really, really hard to sell an intelligence aid in the U.S. It's brutally hard and I spent a lot of money on print advertising, radio advertising before I learned that lesson. And the way that I figured out the sort of right turn to make it work was I had a lot of NCAA athletes and professional athletes who would purchase the product, try it for some cognitive effect and then ended up getting performance gains in primarily sports that involved reaction speed of some types. So tennis, track and field, etcetera.
And it took me a long time to finally basically observe the obvious, which was this has the potential to be a non-stimulant prework out product, which is actually in fact one of the sort of off label uses I had implemented myself. And so I repositioned the whole thing for people who are number one, very price insensitive, athletes. And number two, who are very affordable to reach on a sort of cost per acquisition basis because I could go after very targeted specific sports like power lifting, boxing, MMA at the time, which was very nascent and, in fact, sponsored a number of the UFC's. If you look at some of the very early UFC's you'll see Body Quick, which was the repositioned product or Body Quicken on the turnstiles or the sort of corner buckles in the UFC, which was on pay-per-view and everything else.
So that company was built out it was mostly direct response, but as you probably would imagine once something is successful in direct response you start getting wholesale inquiries. It ended up with distribution in about, I'd say, to 12-20 countries or so.
James Altucher: Were you in like GNC or any supermarkets or anything?
Tim Ferriss: I was in some supermarkets. It was mostly in independently owned either sports nutrition or vitamin shops of various types.
James Altucher: And how long did it take you to make this transition from Brain Quicken to Body Quicken? Like when did you make the switch?
Tim Ferriss: It took about six months, I'd say. Six to twelve months to figure it out and to really also just find my feet as an entrepreneur. The disadvantage that I had at the time, which people don't have now, is I literally had an extremely long testing cycle with say print advertising and whatnot. I had to wait weeks or months to get sales data to determine if something was working or not.
James Altucher: Does print advertising work at all?
Tim Ferriss: Print actually did work and I think that many of these avenues that are thought of as very quaint and old-fashioned are fantastic opportunities for the right companies. I think my general approach with customer acquisition is go where the fewest people are fishing, right. If you can go after inventory that is undervalued because it's out of fashion, you can find some tremendous, tremendous deals. So even though it's most expedient to test on say Facebook or GladWords or others whether it's contextual advertising or pay per click in other fashions, I think there is tremendous opportunity in offline advertising or radio for instance. And a number of my startups like reputation.com have done tremendously well with direct response advertising off of the web.
And so, anyway, that's a longer answer perhaps than was intended. But that's how the company got up and running and eventually you developed a lot of the automation and productivity hacks, if you look at them that way, systems, out of necessity. Because I got to a point in 2004 and I'm sure you've been there before where I was doing really well financially and I was completely miserable. I mean just utterly miserable. And destroying my relationships and a long term girlfriend at the time broke up with me because all I did was work.
James Altucher: What did she say? Did she just like walk out or did she insist on more time from you?
Tim Ferriss: She gave me, you know, I actually still have this, she gave me what looks like a plaque of sorts although it's actually one of those photo holders that you can get at Target that have the three panes and they fold out to stay standing on top of a mantle or what not. And it had a, this is incredible, it had a collage made of a photograph of my head and then a bunch of construction paper and it was me running with a briefcase with papers flying out of it. And underneath it said, business hours end at 5:00 pm with an exclamation point or three after it. And then it was love and her name.
James Altucher: Pretty creative.
Tim Ferriss: It was very creative but it was effectively a dear John letter or it was an ultimatum in disguise that I didn't recognize at the time because I had my head so far up my ***. And she left and honestly I lacked so much self-awareness at the time and I probably still do in some ways that it came as a complete surprise that she would not want to be in an intimate relationship with someone who worked from like 7:00 am to 9:00 pm. [laughing]
James Altucher: Yeah, I can see that could be a problem.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah.
James Altucher: So you were obviously affected by this like did you try to win her back? Did you say I'm going to cut my hours?
Tim Ferriss: No, I tried to win her back later. This is somewhat like tragically amusing. So I started the transformation or the reassessment that is sort of the beginning of The 4 Hour Workweek, which was buying this one-way ticket to London to kind of spec out three to four weeks to either redesign the business and extricate myself or shut it down that was the objective.
James Altucher: Could you have sold it at this point?
Tim Ferriss: Well, at that point probably it wasn't even in my mind as an option if you want to talk about the reality being negotiable and the possibilities and being limited by our own beliefs. I assumed it couldn't be sold so I didn't even look at that option, which ended up being completely unfounded and as soon as I started doing a lot of angel investing and advising much, much later, 2007 plus, I realized holy [bleep] this doesn't have to be so damn complicated I can sell this. And I sold the company in 2009, which was much easier than I could have possibly imagined.
James Altucher: Can you tell me in 2009 what did you sell it for?
Tim Ferriss: Yeah, I don't talk publicly about the sales price. It wasn't enough to retire on.
James Altucher: We won't tell anyone.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah, right. No, it was a decent chunk of change but not enough to say retire on if I believed in the concept of retirement. But it was a comfortable chunk of change that reflected a nice multiple on revenue. There's a longer, there always is, a longer story related to the sale. Well, check this out, so the sale, think about the timing of this. So the conversation for the sale started I’m guessing early to mid-2008 and I might be screwing up the timing, but a number of the financiers who were putting money into purchasing he company were based in London. All right, so what do we run into now? So we have a pound/sterling/dollar conversion rate that's very important to this transaction. So what else happened in 2008-2009? Everything collapsed.
James Altucher: Yeah, bad timing.
Tim Ferriss: The whole [bleep] world collapses and all of sudden the deal is in jeopardy because they're upside down. The deal is suddenly two-three X more expensive than they anticipated so we had to do a bunch of really unorthodox stuff. Meaning sort of a partial payment at one point with a promissory note contingent upon the certain triggers like the exchange rate reaching a certain parity and like all this crazy stuff, which was a great exercise. It ended up panning out, thankfully.
James Altucher: Were you scared? I mean 'cause it sounds like a long – those types of negotiations, for me, I find to be the most stressful.
Tim Ferriss: Of course. It was very stressful and it was stressful not entirely for financial reasons. And I'm sure there are people listening to this who can understand. This had become my baby in so many ways and it was a baby that I didn’t want to spend any more time with. There was that, but nonetheless, I had dedicated so many years of my life to building it that I had an irrational on some level attachment to seeing it taken care of. And being caught in this limbo was very, very stressful and uncomfortable for me.
James Altucher: Did you get like angry at anybody? Like you don't seem like an angry sort of guy, did you scream at anybody in the middle of this?
Tim Ferriss: No, I didn't. I didn't scream at anybody because I tend to and maybe this is odd, but I deal with catastrophic circumstances very, very well. So I was never in the military but I always thought I might actually operate well in a sort of high stress combat environment. Or I've been around car accidents, I've seen people just get dismembered in front of me and I've been able to respond. I've done some EMT training, I'm able to respond really well in disasters. I don't get angry. Where I get angry is with the really small stuff that I know is a result of human beings being idiots or being irresponsible or not delivering things on deadline drive me absolutely insane. And I'm trying to get better at that but I have such an extreme level of impatience for people who are competent but behave as if they were incompetent that's what I get upset about. That's what I really [crosstalk]. Like very, very talented people who deliver stuff habitually late makes me so [bleep] angry it's disproportionate perhaps to the stimulus.
James Altucher: Well, like what do you do? Do you yell at them, do you fire them, what do you do?
Tim Ferriss: I fire them. I don't yell typically because it doesn't get you anywhere and it just causes more problems. But I get upset, I do get upset. I'm just like you knew this. You promised this other thing and yet here we are with a number of large problems that were created because you didn't do what you said you were going to do that's unacceptable.
James Altucher: Let's talk about this on an industry level because you've dealt with several industries that are filled with intelligent, competent people but the industries themselves are so fractured and incompetent almost structurally that it's hard not to turn these intelligent people into incompetent people. And I'm talking about both publishing and television. So Brain Quicken kind of you experimented on yourself, you developed, you know all the techniques in the four hour workweek, which I’m sure everyone's read it. But if you haven't I really encourage people to read it 'cause it's incredibly useful for creating a four-hour workweek, which you successfully essentially turned Brain Quicken into for you was that was your four hour workweek job.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah. Well, just a quick funny side note on that of all the titles we were considering for the book, so one of the original sort of 12 titles or so was the two-hour workweek and my publisher thought that was too unrealistic so we settled on testing the four-hour workweek.
James Altucher: Yeah, you know somebody wanted to ask me or no, I might have written about this once. I said you would have – I was just guessing – I said you probably would have called it the zero hour workweek if you could but that wouldn't have been realistic. So through testing, I know, you figured out four was like the right number. 'Cause you know people don't want to work like people want a zero hour workweek.
Tim Ferriss: Well the other thing is that I was in 2005 spending two hours, literally, two hours a week managing all Brain Quicken related stuff. Anyway, that's a whole separate conversation on testing titles and whatnot.
James Altucher: By the way, I did your testing technique for Choose Yourself because my initial title was The Choose Yourself Era. And I had this weird problem where I couldn't say the word era it sounded like error or it sounded like, you know one editor said is this a book about anthropology? So speaking of Tucker Max he said why you test it against pick yourself. And I didn't really like pick yourself either 'cause like pick your nose so I said okay, let's just do Tim Ferriss' technique. So we did Choose Yourself, Pick Yourself, The Choose Yourself Era and then like 10 other titles. And then we did the same thing with subtitles and that's how we came up with the title and the subtitle so thank you for the idea.
Tim Ferriss: Of course. Yeah, it's great to trust your gut but you should verify with numbers.
James Altucher: I don't trust my gut at all, you know I’m a former day trader by profession and I ran a hedge fund and I quickly learned my gut is filled with all sorts of toxic bacteria and I totally needed to rely only on software, so I didn't trust my gut at all. My gut was always wrong.
Tim Ferriss: But I took you off course, you were talking about publishing TV where otherwise very competent people sometimes are cornered or put into a position where they can't do their best work to put it bluntly.
James Altucher: Right, because we both know very sore people in publishing and it's not their fault so I don't want to blame anybody. But you know one thing about you is that you reinvent yourself quite a bit. So you say Brain Quicken was your baby but at some point you decided you know what, I’m also going to not only am I gonna sell these nutraceuticals but heck, I've never done it before I'm going to write a book. And you went ahead and did it while you're running Brain Quicken. Why did you decide that everybody in the world needs to hear what you have to say about this? You have to have a certain ego to write a book.
Tim Ferriss: Well, I wish I could take credit for it, honestly. I was a reluctant writer. My senior thesis during undergrad almost killed me and I actually took a year off away from school partially just to work on this thing because I was convinced I wouldn't ever finish it. And I vowed to myself after graduating that I would never write anything longer than an e-mail ever again, which clearly has not panned out. But the way the book came together was number one, I'm a compulsive note taker so hyper graphic maybe if you want to give it a diagnosis. I have dozens and dozens of notebooks. I just take notes all the time. I record notes. And it's very, very, very hard to find me at any time anywhere without a pen or something to write with handy.
And I collected all of my notes on these learning's and tactics and different tests and so on as I was streamlining Brain Quicken and removing myself from it as a bottleneck and putting systems in place. So I had all these notes, simultaneously beginning in I want to say 2003 or so. So keeping in mind that I started the company I guess 2000-20001. Starting in 2003 one of my former professors, a great guy named Ed Zschau, he'd been a congressman, competitive figure skater, had taken --
James Altucher: At the same time no less.
Tim Ferriss: I’m not kidding, this guy is the world's most interesting man. He taught a class that I took called High Tech Entrepreneurship and starting 2003, I believe, he invited me to come back once or twice a year to talk about self-funding or bootstrapping as opposed to venture backing. And I was going to these classes and I had to come up with content so I started testing a lot of the material that would later become parts of the book The Four Hour Workweek but I never had any intention to write the book. After all these classes I would send e-mail feedback forms. I wanted to get feedback in how could I improve it, what did you like most, what did you like least, etcetera. Again, just to teach the class more effectively next time.
And at one point one of the students, this is Princeton you got to keep in mind there are a lot of snarky people there and a lot of pompous people there and I'm sure I was probably a bit of both when I was there and maybe afterward. But the point being a student gave some feedback in the other comments or any additional comments, which was I don't understand why you're teaching a class of 50 students why don't you just write a book and be done with it. And I don’t think that was actually serious recommendation.
James Altucher: It almost sounds like a little bit of a F you there.
Tim Ferriss: I think it actually probably was. And nonetheless it planted this seed and I had no desire to write a book but I was up late one night and this is probably 2004-2005 and I started looking at books and book proposals and book publishing. It was like you know what, I have a couple hours to kill let me just have a glass a wine and for [bleep] and giggles I'm going to check this out. So I started messing around with it and looking back at my notes and just coming up with book titles. I like headlines. You know I did direct response for years and I'm like you know what let me just like chapter headlines. Oh this is really funny, ha-ha-ha, probably a little drunk at this point like what would I call the book, blah-blah-blah. Very, very much just an exercise in fun it wasn't intended to be anything.
And then at one point I sent Jack Canfield a note and we had this very intermittent sort of philosophical exchange. I would contact him asking him for very real advice on some like life decision or philosophical decision that I needed to make. It was very seldom something super specific or an introduction or whatever. And I asked him one of these questions and then at the end of the e-mail I was like hey, you know, this student recommended I write a book about blah-blah-blah, I mocked up a cover and a back cover, pretty hilarious, what do you think? And pretty much right out of the gate he said, well, you should totally do it. I could see it on Fox and Friends. You know who you should talk to is this person, this person, this person. And before I knew it, you know the cat was kind of out of the bag if that's even an expression I don’t know it sounds right. And he'd made introductions to a couple of potential agents and all of whom said no, a number of which gave me good advice.
James Altucher: Why did they say no?
Tim Ferriss: Well, I wasn't even trying to sell the thing but they were like – what were some of the reasons; this doesn't fit into a clean category, I don't know where this would be slotted, this isn't what publishers are looking for. All the same kind of routine lines that you hear in book publishing and television and movies, right. It's just the same stuff. And a number of them gave me good advice even though they said no, which I appreciated. Like saying no is fine but I do appreciate some parting advice, which a number of them gave me. And then I ended up signing with Steve Hanselman who was just becoming an agent at that time and had been a superstar editor and had acquired a bunch of really fantastic books in his previous career as an editor like You: The Owner's Manual and a bunch of really big winners.
So that's how the whole thing got started. I was never intending to write the book. There was no courage on my part in jumping into the deep end that way. I was sort of goaded, not goaded but like spurred along and very inadvertently ended up trying to sell a book.
James Altucher: And at this point did you have the title or had you done that testing yet?
Tim Ferriss: No, I hadn't done the testing yet. The title, this is probably another reason I was turned down, I had a horrible original title. Oh my God, I’m so glad it didn't pan out. It was called Lifestyle Hustling. I mean just like the worst imaginable title for me. I came up with far worse titles to test later.
James Altucher: Yeah, there was like the drug dealing one, drug dealing for fun and profit.
Tim Ferriss: Drug dealing. Oh, so it was Lifestyle Hustling at the very beginning at the proposal stage and then I think when it got sold it had Drug Dealing for Fun and Profit, which is problematic on many levels, but I still like that title. I actually I still like that title. I still think I could have made it work but it wouldn't have spread as far and wide as The Four Hour Workweek.
James Altucher: Oh my God, so how can you and I’m interrupting the flow of this, but how can you now do something that has that title in whatever form? Like what can you do like a podcast with that title or a supplementary report.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah. I mean I could do a new nutraceutical line that's just called drug dealing for fun and profit just so it gets used.
James Altucher: You know seriously, actually like right now here's where you can buy the ingredients, here's how you can package them, here's how we'd use Google ads or Facebook ads or Clickbank to put together an info product and sell it. Like here's how from scratch, you know Brain Quicken in a box and drug dealing for fun and profit.
Tim Ferriss: I've had a lot of people for ask me for that. The liability is just so off the charts I was like yeah, there's no way, man, you're kind of on your own, I’m sorry.
James Altucher: Okay, fair enough. We're just brain storming.
Tim Ferriss: No, no, no, I love brain storming but I'd say since I've also talked about that title so much I'd be amazed if there aren't a hundred squatters all over it at this point, so on to the next thing.
James Altucher: Okay. So you did the book, you sold it, it became a bestseller and then Four Hour Body feel like you're starting to figure out what your core message is, which is really, again, not necessarily about four hour workweeks or losing a lot of weight, which you cover in the four hour body among other things. Or, you know, learning how to learn, which you cover in the four hour _____, but again, it's this idea that lets question the impossible and is it really impossible and if not how can we get through it. And it seems like you get closer and closer to that core message.
Tim Ferriss: Right. Absolutely. Because the Four Hour Body I could have very easily done The Four Hour Workweek, you know part deux or whatever and that would have been the layup and the easier path. But I really did not, by that point and this is I'd say 2008 or so, 2009 when I’m starting to think about perhaps another set of subject matter. And I was so sick of talking about e-mail auto responders and so on ad nauseum in ever interview that I wanted to take a complete lateral move and do something entirely aside from business.
James Altucher: So you wrote a book about orgasms.
Tim Ferriss: So I wrote a book including two chapters on female orgasm, which got the book pulled out of Costco as a side note. But The Four Hour Body was really represented an obsession of mine that predated The Four Hour Workweek stuff by 10 plus years. So it was very appropriate the question was and even after The Four Hour Workweek, right. This is a book that sold into 40 plus languages, you know millions of copies, whatever, it was a hard sell to make The Four Hour Body work. With retailers and everything going well, like we know what you did in business but hey man, like that's not even the same category. This thing is going to fail. You know that the book is going to be big. You know that fitness and health and all that they don't sell internationally. You can't sell those. They don't translate well On and on and on.
And I'm not saying that was feedback from the publisher this is feedback from in some cases successful authors who literally would like spit up their drinks and be like what? It's how long? It's a hard cover? It's what? Like that's never going to sell they never slot those and blah-blah-blah. Never, never, never, impossible, impossible, impossible. It was like have you tested these things? What evidence do you have for that? Oh really, that's interesting. Like what data have you seen? What evidence do you have for that?
James Altucher: What data did you see?
Tim Ferriss: Well, no, I would ask them this and they would just be a blank stare. They would be like no, well, everybody knows that and it's like really, how do they know that? Like because they repeat it so often they believe it to be true and that's typically the answer. So yeah, The Four Hour Body ended up outselling The Four Hour Workweek by a large margin and for a long period of time and it might still even be outselling The Four Hour Workweek.
James Altucher: That's really interesting. I did not know that coming into this that The Four Hour Body had out – so how many copies did The Four Hour Workweek sell?
Tim Ferriss: Oh boy, you know I'd have to check on numbers. I used to be on top of this on like a weekly basis.
James Altucher: What would you say roughly?
Tim Ferriss: I mean it's got to be in the millions but I don't even know. I couldn't even begin to tell you what the exact numbers are.
James Altucher: Because I feel like with The Four Hour Workweek you were really touching into something that was impactful in a historical way in the sense that what we saw in 2008-2009 was the death of corporatism. This idea that if you're loyal to your nine to five job the corporation is going to be loyal to you. So that whole connection that essentially replaced the family connection 100 years ago was now dying. So people actually needed to figure out how to work a four hour workweek. And so I felt in terms of societal impact that that was a very powerful little book and it triggered a huge revolution in thinking about essentially work. So The Four Hour Body is great it just surprised me it sold more than The Four Hour Workweek
Tim Ferriss: Not in total at this point keep in mind that The Four Hour Workweek had a head start by many years, you know three years and then there was the revised edition, the expanded and updated edition of The Four Hour Workweek, which was full of case studies. Which I’m thinking of actually, I’m thinking of doing a completely separate book just of case studies, which I think would be just amazing.
James Altucher: You totally should because the world has changed too. Like now you really can create a four hour business, you know that --
Tim Ferriss: It's so easy now. It's so easy.
James Altucher: It's easy and it's different than it was 10 years ago.
Tim Ferriss: It's totally different. I mean, now, don't get me wrong I think the principles, even the tools in The Four Hour Workweek especially the expanded and updated edition still work but there are other tools and other approaches. I mean, for instance, I've helped a number of companies and people with Kickstarter campaigns. And these are companies that are now doing in some cases you know $500,000.00 a month or a million dollars a month in sales. Kickstarter just didn't exist and similar options whether it's Indiegogo or using things like sellary to do preorder campaigns where you're not charging credit cards but doing it in an organized legal fashion.
Not only that but the scope, the scope of businesses that can be created by using the flexible principles in The Four Hour Workweek, you know 80/20 parkinsons, a lot of the systems thinking is so far ranging. People think company they think product it's like wait, wait, wait I know actors who have used this for their careers. I know lawyers who've used this. I know designers who have used this. I know You Tube stars who have used this. I mean it's so far reaching. And so to show people the spectrum of all of those options I think would be really fun.
James Altucher: Yeah. But it's interesting because The Four Hour Workweek you're right, every principle and like the 80/20 rule you refer to throughout your books and throughout a lot of different things, all of these rules and principles though are incredibly valuable. But right now in particular it's like taking those and you can almost make like a fourhourpedia of all the different types of businesses that can be started and exactly how. Like plug and play exactly how people can do it. And I think that would be an incredible idea.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah. No, I agree. I agree.
James Altucher: So you fantasize about doing four hour workweek – what would you even call it? You can't call it the eight hour workweek. You have to come up with a really good title here.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah. I'm going to come up with a good title but let's call it, no, I won't even call it anything. I'll tell you, because people – here's another sort of publishing tip that people might find helpful – if you have an audience or you're being watched for what you're going to do next you should get into the habit, in my opinion, of using red herrings in some cases. So after The Four Hour Workweek I became very acutely aware of how painful it can be to have people squat on your intellectual property or infringe on your intellectual property. And use your photographs and use your trademarks to sell stuff that you have no association with, in fact, many things that could be very damaging to you. And that's been an ongoing battle.
So typically, for instance, when I published The Four Hour Body prior to that I put up a post announcing what the new project was going to be because I wanted to marshal resources and find interviewees and so on. But I didn't use the real title because I knew that people would immediately go to Twitter, they would immediately go Instagram had it existed at the time and grab handles and grab URLs to try to squat on them to extort money from you later. Or to simply attract traffic from searches at a later point in time so they could monetize with advertising. There's just a lot of, in my opinion, unethical behavior that is automatic. It's triggered in hundreds and thousands of people when you give people advanced notice about what you're going to do if you haven't already secured every possible imaginable permutation. And to save myself that labor when I announced it I called it, I think, Becoming Super Human or something like that because I wanted to provide them with fodder as a false lead.
James Altucher: So once you put out The Four Hour Body did suddenly everybody start registering the four hour investor, the four hour, I don’t know, president? I don’t know all the different permutations there?
Tim Ferriss: Yeah. I mean they have. I mean people have tried that and done that. I mean ultimately I have registered trademarks for four hour as a prefix so I mean there is going to have to be and there is some ongoing stuff that I won't bore you with. But I hate that it comes down to this but it's like there is going to be a legal reckoning for almost all these people. It's just, yeah, I mean it's there are fights worth fighting and then there are fights not worth fighting but there are also battles you have to fight to maintain your intellectual property rights, unfortunately.
James Altucher: Man, I almost feel like registering the three and a half hour workweek right now.
Tim Ferriss: You know, you can go for it.
James Altucher: I'll give it to you for free if you go in that.
Tim Ferriss: I appreciate that. I would just say this, guys, it's like you can ride on someone else's coattails, it's intellectually lazy and I find unethical. It's like try to create something of value. If you leave this planet without creating something original of value I view that life as having being wasted and squandered. Along the same lines, I mean we all have critics, is focus on the people who get it and not the people who don’t get it. And if you're trying to decide sort of which side of the fence to fall on as a supporter or detractor just watch Ratatouille and listen to the Anton ego speech at the end, which is the final review of Gusteau's restaurant.
But basically he says, the piece of work that we critics designate as garbage is worth less than what we're designating as garbage. And you can either focus on building something of value or propagating other things of value that you find, therefore, sort of increasing the karmic value you add to the universe. Or you can nip at people's heals and sort of spread vitriol and spit acid, which net/net really does no good for anyone.
James Altucher: And I highly recommend you run a post on this once, which I've referred to because it's at some point it gets painful for anybody who's trying to put themselves out there and they start to get just criticisms that are riding those coattails. They're criticizing for no other reason than riding their coattails. And you wrote a very good post a few years ago about dealing with the haters that I thought was very good.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah, how to deal with haters and it pulls from say quotes from Colin Powell and some of the stoics and some of the top sports agents in the world just to point that if you're doing everything right, if you're doing your job well 90 percent of what's said about you will have some negative tinge to it. I mean it sounds unbelievable and outrageous and that's just the nature of anonymity and the internet. And to contend with that you have to arm yourself philosophically and tactfully, I guess, tactically, there we go, to content with that type of landscape. It's very, very tough. And there are times when the turkeys get you down and it's very tempting to --
James Altucher: And some will be lucky. Some will hit the right buttons that were in you from birth or you know from whenever and they'll just get lucky. If 1,000 people criticize you and you're looking at all of them one of those 1,000 is going to seem like your mother yelling at you and that's going to be painful.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah, it will trigger something. So I think the post is just how to deal with haters or seven principles on how to deal with haters, something like that. If you search on Google it will pop right up just my name and how to deal with haters. And it's just a pragmatic toolkit for people who want to create value but who are not going to Pollyannaish about it and recognize you're going to have for every supporter you have you are going to have someone in the opposite camp who's charging at you who just like verbally and emotionally wants to put you on a spear. And that's just the – you have to accustomed to that. Even if you're a nonprofit, for God's sake, I mean it's like you see some unbelievable stuff.
James Altucher: Well, and you had the common almost the elephant in the room was oh, Tim Ferriss doesn't really work four hours he's the hardest working guy I know. So people – I would see that criticism of you, which is oddly a criticism that you didn't work four hours even though that's not really what your book's about. Your book is about putting these systems in place so if you have a business like Brain Quicken you can have 36 hours to do things you enjoy or 38 hours or whatever.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah. No, exactly. And I think that I very, first of all, I don't go looking for the negative stuff and there's plenty of positive stuff too. I don't go looking for the negative I think that's a bad habit. I very rarely respond to the negative particularly if it reflects someone who hasn't done even modicum of research. If they haven't read the book and they're criticizing me based off of the title there's really no, nothing to be talked about. Because you're not going to --
James Altucher: By the way, I --
Tim Ferriss: I was just going to say a general principle in life I think is that you can't reason someone out of position they didn't reason themselves into. Does that make sense? It's a waste of breath. It's a waste of time.
James Altucher: I totally agree. And one thing I will add to that is what I call the 24 hour rule, which is that if you do respond to the haters like that then you've kept the issue alive for another 24 hours instead of just letting it die.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah, starving it of oxygen also for just very specific search engine rules you do not want to add Google juice to something by drawing attention to it. And there are many people who will write really hateful, ridiculous kind of articles about me that are devoid of content just because they want me to respond and send traffic to their sites. And I just never respond to those things and they end up attracting people who are hateful to their sites, which is their own form of punishment. Like that audience is going to turn on you at the very least.
James Altucher: Yeah, that's a very good point actually.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah. What I was going to say though just very quickly for those people that haven't The Four Hour Workweek the reason that The Four Hour Workweek has been praised by hedge fund managers, some of the top venture capitalists in the world very publicly, I mean in The New York Times and these types of people, not because they want to work four hours a week but because they want to maximize their per hour output. That is the point of the book. You maximize your per hour output and then what you choose to do with that new toolkit is up to you.
And in my case like I don’t want to sit around and stare at the wall watching paint dry for the rest of my life and so I have the luxury at this point of doing with my time whatever I want to do with my time. And I choose things like writing on the blog. I love doing it. I love interacting with my audience. Or I spend a ton of time on experimenting and trying to capture that for people because I view myself as a teacher first and foremost. I always wanted to teach I thought it was going to be ninth or tenth grade but instead it ended up being via books and the blog.
James Altucher: So let's talk about that because you also said often and a lot of authors say this actually, writing a book is a very unpleasant experience. So you're used to going out there and doing things in the world and when you write a book you have to essentially spend a year or two or more sitting behind a computer for hours a day doing, you know just doing brain activity into this computer. It's painful.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah, it is painful. It's a very isolating, it's a very isolating process. I mean for me it's like being in solitary confinement. And it's not always unpleasant there are rare moments where you hit some type of – you bottle the lightening and you have just a streak of a few hours where you're really on fire and you're putting together some of your best stuff. And it's funny and you're making yourself laugh and I love those moments but they do not, they do not constitute the majority of the time spent writing. I mean, you know, you have --
James Altucher: particularly with your books. Like your books are almost like they're packaged books. Like Four Hour Chef is a work of art. Like it's just a beautiful book all around. What is there 700 or 800 photos in there? How many photos are in Four Hour Chef?
Tim Ferriss: I think there's a thousand plus photographs. I actually just to be a glutton for punishment probably took 20 to 30 percent of those myself, probably 20 percent just to try to learn photography, which was in retrospect kind of a foolish, masochistic decision. I had fun but it was too much additional work. And it has a few hundred illustration. So that book, part of the point of that book for me was to create a beautiful physical object, which to surprisingly is very challenging to do. It's really involved. But the act of writing I find painful most of the time, there are the moments where you – because as a writer if you're a solo writer, if you don't have a coauthor there are times when you are the architect where you're designing the cathedral and it's this really inspiring, exciting period. The vast majority of the time you're the bricklayer and that is really tough grunt work. And then there's, of course, at the end you can look upon this hopefully beautiful structure that's highly functional and admire it for, you know look back with pride on it for years and decades ideally, but it's a very tough process.
Now what I would say is you don't necessarily choose or I don't necessarily choose my projects based on the ratio of pleasure to pain. And this might sound weird but I think there's value from going through pain. And I voluntarily introduce pain to my life in the form of unpleasant workouts or meditating when I really don't want to meditate. When it's the last think I want to do that's when I most need to meditate. And I remember I was told once you know if you don't have 30 minutes to meditate you need three hours.
James Altucher: Yeah, that's similar to a quote from Gandhi actually. So Gandhi told all of his advisors I need an hour a day to meditate. And his advisors said you know, no Gandhi, you don't have an hour. And then Gandhi said to them okay, now I need two hours to meditate.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah, exactly. Exactly. So the way that relates to writing is I enjoy expanding my sphere of comfortable action and you only do that by subjecting yourself to discomfort and pain and challenging situations. And I think there's a real danger when you have even the barest level of success, like you said, when you have a nine to five job and there's the risk of becoming comfortable and complacent. That is a very dangerous place. It's a really dangerous place to sit.
James Altucher: I wonder if that's got you out of the, let's call it the four hour genre, like you went from The Four Hour Chef to essentially doing a TV show.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah.
James Altucher: Which by the way, isn't called The Four Hour TV show.
Tim Ferriss: No, it's not. And it's called Tim Ferriss Experiment and actually the latest update on that we can talk about all sorts of aspects of this, but I’m really happy that I started the podcast in the last few weeks, which I'd been hoping to do for more than a year, probably two years. And thank you for a lot of your advice related to the podcast, by the way. Because of some internal issues at Turner Broadcasting the launch of the TV show has yet again been delayed and postponed with no particular sort of launch date in its place.
James Altucher: I know. I've been very upset because I wanted to watch. I only was able to see the _____ Copeland episode. I wanted to see the poker episode actually.
Tim Ferriss: The poker episode is awesome. I am working tirelessly so any of you who were kind of enough to offer support with the show in any way. I am fighting my ass off. The Turner people and I want a lot of the same things it's really just a matter of figuring out how to allocate resources and just I won't bore you with all the internal sort of stuff that all the people on the Turner team who want to see this show get out in the open as well. Big companies are hard. Big companies are just very challenging not only if you're dealing, you know interacting with them from the outside and they're very resource rich. There are reasons to work with big companies but they're very challenging political animals.
James Altucher: So, so, let me give you an idea. Let me give you an idea to do. Because like if you end up on Headline News or True TV or any of these kind of like channels, you know channel 187 on cable you're going to have 10,000 viewers. So what you should do, you have a huge blog, just tell them you'll sell for five bucks an episode, do a ______, sell for five bucks an episode every episode. I'm a buyer, everybody I know is going to be a buyer, all your readers are going to be buyers that's how they're going to make their money on this.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah, I'm working on it. I'm working on it. So I'll figure out a way to – I'm really working hard to figure out a way to make it work. So I remain confident and part of the reason I remain confident I'll tell you is when people come to me to ask about books, 90 percent of the time if not more the questions are all related to marketing and PR. And I don't want people to discount the value of those things but the marketing and PR potential is decided by the product. And I spent so much freakin' time on this show and these episodes and the teachers and the lessons and the tools and all this stuff I don't – I know that, I know it can find a home. I know the product can speak for itself. That's' why I’m not freaking out completely.
And I feel like with books, for instance or any type of content you have to focus on the content first and foremost. Especially in a world that has social media available as these arch medias levers and rebroadcast platforms. If you have a really good product and you can pick your 1,000 first fans properly and target them, and everybody should read 1,000 True Fans by Kevin Kelly. Not everyone agrees with it I happen to think it's genius. It's a very short piece. It's the only thing I think you'd probably ever need to read about marketing if you had to pick one thing. You can have an enormously successful product and this goes for blog posts as well. I mean one good blog post, I'd love to hear your thoughts because I know for my blog at least there have been a handful of posts that made the blog. I mean they just like I put the time or the emotion or whatever into the post and literally one blog post can change your life completely. I really strongly believe that.
James Altucher: That's very true. But it's a little bit of the 80/20 rule. So like 20 percent of your posts will get 80 or 90 percent of the traffic to your blog. It's hard to know sometimes in advance like I love writing, for instance, my very personal stories and I think that's my best writing, but that's not necessarily the most popular post. So I write for so I can get this kind of creative outlet but also then I write these other posts that I know have a lot of value and will get a lot of traffic and so on.
Tim Ferriss: No, agreed. Agreed. And I think that I’m going to be writing a post soon about blogging and the lessons that I've learned because I've now just crossed the 500 post barrier, which kind of blew my mind. And what I've realized I was looking at questions that people wanted me to answer in this post, this sort of recap of the last many years blogging. And I realized you don't always write for other people. You should I think in some cases write for yourself. And so there are posts that I've written that are really just for me. Even if I only have 100 readers for that particular post there are posts that I want to put out there. And there are some postings I put out that are like collections of resources that I think are really valuable that get next to no response. I mean literally one to five comments. And these are posts that take 100 times longer to write than some of the emotional outpourings that get 700 comments.
James Altucher: Well, you know, people, a little bit of it is a supply and demand function. So you're actually not incredibly personally revealing on your website. You know even though you're very personal, like you discuss every way you experiment on your body, you know you discuss how you learn languages, how you learned to be a chef. You discussed the Brain Quicken stuff in your books. But I'm sure through all this process, let's say TV or selling the business or some part of this process you probably got depressed at some point. And you know what, I want to read about when Tim Ferriss got depressed and how he got over it.
Tim Ferriss: Oh, definitely. And actually one of the posts that I put up that I expected to get a decent response that just received an insanely overwhelming response that you might find entertaining is actually exactly about this. It's called "Productivity" in quotation marks, "Productivity" tricks for the neurotic manic-depressive and crazy and then in parenthesis (like me). And it has almost 800 comments and it's about a really dark period that I went through not all to --
James Altucher: So what was going on?
Tim Ferriss: Well, let's see, I'd have to – it's been a while since this published. This was sort of end of 2013, November that it came out and I sat on the post for months. I actually kind of put it together and then I was too self-conscious to publish it until I --
James Altucher: You know the advice I gave Kamal when he wrote Love Yourself he was a little nervous about publishing it. You know because it was very revealing. And I said, you know, Kamal, I don't even hit publish on something unless I'm scared what people will think of me when I publish it. But to be fair, Kamal did think about it for a while before publishing it. But I know and the reason I’m asking you about depression is 'cause I know you then tweeted his book shortly thereafter after he published it, so I knew you must have been going through something.
Tim Ferriss: Oh yeah, and I read the whole book. It's a great book. So the quote that got me to publish this post and this is line with what you just said. This is from Neil Gaiman, who's one of my favorite writes.
James Altucher: Sandman is all time best.
Tim Ferriss: Oh my God, Sandman, American Gods, I mean the list is so long. The Graveyard book is one of the best audio books I've ever heard in my life. He narrates it and he's just a world class narrator.
James Altucher: Oh, I'll pick that up I haven't listened to that.
Tim Ferriss: Oh, it's so good. This is one of the few books ever of nay genre fiction or nonfiction that as soon as I finished the audio book I was tempted to just go right back to the beginning and listen to the whole thing again. So Neil Gaiman here's the quote. Quote, "The moment that you feel that just possibly you're walking down the street naked exposing too much of your heart and your mind and what exists on the inside showing too much of yourself that's the moment you may be starting to get it right." End quote.
James Altucher: That's a great quote.
Tim Ferriss: And basically I went through a point, this was last summer I guess, where I had a dozen friends or so come over for my birthday. I was on the East Coast and I stayed in bed on the very last day when I knew people were leaving, I stayed in bed until the very last point like basically my head under the covers literally, hitting snooze and whatever because I was afraid of being alone. And I felt very lonely and I was just having all these different facets of self-doubt. And I wanted to put a post together talking about this because I think it's dangerous for people to look at their sort of virtual role models. Whether they view them as successful people or heroes or whatever it might be and because of the selection bias of the content that these people put out to assume that they don't have quote "normal" people problems, fi that makes sense.
And I wanted to just take people through like a bunch of the horribly inefficient behaviors that I have as well as just walk them through a handful of these deep rooted insecurities and horrible behaviors that I have trouble managing. And to point out that despite that and all of that seemingly dysfunctional stuff I’m able to achieve like bullet, bullet, bullet, right. So it's not that I'm able to do seemingly big things because I've eradicated all of these foibles and human, very human weaknesses it's despite them. Maybe on some level because of them, I don’t know. But that was the entire point of the post and I don’t wanna – it's a decently long post so I don't wanna bore everybody by going through it kind of paragraph by paragraph but that's the basic idea. And if people search my name and neurotic and crazy it will probably pop right up.
James Altucher: Well, let's also talk about like more recently then with TV is a lot of work and you shot I don’t know how many episodes did you shoot already that are in the can?
Tim Ferriss: Thirteen episodes excluding all the promotional stuff, which is much more than that.
James Altucher: And the episode that I saw was a half hour but that must have been 200 hours' worth of work or more.
Tim Ferriss: Easily. That was a very intense period and completely not financially driven because TV pays horribly. It was 12-16 hour days that's not an exaggeration.
James Altucher: What does it pay? Like do they give you a budget for the show and you take like a producers fee?
Tim Ferriss: Yeah. I was an executive producer and a host, can't get into the numbers 'cause I'd be in breach of contract but it's not much. I'll just put it that way. It was one of the from an opportunity cost standpoint, if we're looking at it that way, it was not a good decision. But it wasn't a financial decision for me I wanted to before I’m in a wheelchair capture some of these things on camera so that people can learn from them hopefully. The point being was for each episode that is 21 and a half minutes, right. It's a 30-mintue TV show subtract the commercial time, 21 and a half minutes roughly, 22 minutes. It was five to six days of 12-16 hour days for every episode. And that keep in mind is just the production that's excluding the reviews of the rough cut and all the notes and refinement. The reviews of the fine cut, all of the refinement and changes and everything. Sending screen flows, sending notes, sending story, sort of story points that I want to make sure are included, graphic feedback, screenshots with diagrams. I mean all of that stuff it was a tremendous amount of work and I’m very happy --
James Altucher: Honestly, Tim, I don’t know why you did it actually. Like I've shot a pilot before for HBO it is too much work.
Tim Ferriss: TV is – well, I'll tell you what, I wanted to do it because I'd wondered what it would be like for years and years and years. And now I know. I mean now I know. And I worked with a fantastic team. I mean in the field these people were not anything less than A grade. I mean we're talking zero point zero, they knew all of Anthony Bordain stuff. They are really lean. They're really fast. They're really, really good. And even if you are working with the best people it is a tremendous amount of time. And what I would say is I’m glad I did it. I wouldn't do it the same way in a second season.
If I were to do it again, I'll just say that, if I were to do it again what would I do differently? What I would do differently is instead of doing 13, and I should also mention reality TV in the sort of conventional sense does not take this much time because the whole thing is scripted. For all these other shows like The Karadashians or whatever it's all scripted. It is a scripted show. It's not reality. It's not spontaneous. If you get like a phone call on camera do you realize the probability of that happening naturally they'd have to film 24 hours a day, it's all scripted. If you see a bunch of people standing in the kitchen having a debate and like one person's always stirring some random [bleep] it's scripted.
James Altucher: And you had a lot of – it looked like you had a lot of cameras on you. Like they piled a lot of cameras into your room.
Tim Ferriss: They had two camera guys for each episode. Two DP's who were trained to do the dance of crossing in that way without getting each other in the their respective shots. It's actually really tough. It's something that _____ is very famous for. It's super hard to pull off. But the point being, we were capturing that much footage because we were trying to do things spontaneously and make it true to life, which it was. It was very _____ but really time consuming.
What I'd do differently if I were to do it again is I would make the show at least twice as long. So it'd be an hour long and I would space out the production so we weren't on a crash schedule. I mean literally it was 13 episodes one after the other after the other after the other after the other flying all over the United States. It was very exhausting. If I was to do it again I would do half as many and I would make them an hour long and I would make it six days of shooting with at least two days of no cameras just me practicing stuff. And that's generally how I would approach it.
James Altucher: Were you ever scared that an episode would fail. For instance, like let's just take the drumming one that you just wouldn't learn how to drum well enough to play for Foreigner?
Tim Ferriss: Oh yeah, definitely. And actually that's an important component of the show. I don't want it to be The Tim Ferriss Highlight Reel I want all the nervous breakdowns and everything to be in there. So there were episodes that didn't work out.
James Altucher: Like what? Can you say which one?
Tim Ferriss: I’m not going to spoil the punch line. I'm going to wait. But there were episodes that did not work out. There were episodes where I got really badly injured also. This is intended to be true to life and show people if you're going to question the impossible you're not always going to come out looking like a superhero. I mean there are cases where it's like oh, holy [bleep] like that limiter is actually very, very real.
James Altucher: God, I can't wait to watch the poker one. Can we buy the poker one from Turner and just release it? I'll call Turner myself.
Tim Ferriss: I'll keep you posted, man. I'm working on it right now so I appreciate that. I'll let you know what's possible. I'm on top of it.
James Altucher: So now though that it's not quite hiatus but you're in kind of like deal hell with them, this lets you, this freed you up to do the podcast? Like now you've just started this podcast.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah. I am doing, I’m having so much fun with the podcast.
James Altucher: Podcasts are great, by the way.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah. I'm having so much fun but it's on top of that proven to be a God send because I’m actually not in any kind of negation hell with the Turner guys because they want in many ways the same outcome that I do. So it's just a matter of taking a lot of sort of big company stuff and navigating it to get to that endpoint. So I'm confident that something will be figured out. You know talk to me in a month or two and I'll have better idea. But the podcast has just reminded me of how good it feels to have complete dictatorial creative control.
James Altucher: Yeah. I don't think we should ever give that up again. Like even if you did another TV show just sell it off your site. Again, ______ style.
Tim Ferriss: No, exactly. I mean it's just I've realized that I love having creative input from other people. I love working with other people. It's very difficult for me to not have final say in all things creative. It's just it's really, really tough because I feel like there is no one on the planet who knows my audience better than I do. I know them so well, I spend all day every day on some level thinking about them because they are me, I am them. I mean it's like I've been in this for so long I just – I’m not always right but I got to tell ya, if someone's' gonna guess, if someone's gonna gamble I’m the right person for my audience. And I just love that with the podcast I have absolute 100 percent decision making power to test anything I want. You know if I want to test a new mic and it turns out [bleep] like shame on me but you know what, what the [bleep]that's what this format is for. And I've been testing all sorts of locations and mics and audio and everything and it's been so much fun. And as long as I’m having fun the podcast will find an audience. Will it be number one iTunes like it was when it first came out, I mean it's still top 10 or 15 or whatever. Will it stay there, I don’t know. But will it find an audience, as long as I'm having fun and I’m enjoying the creative process, it will.
James Altucher: Well, I can guarantee you this, it's gonna have a bigger audience than Headline News 2 or whatever 'cause cable just has a smaller audience than the podcast world at this point.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah. No, I mean I think that particularly for my audience it's about digital and it's about on demand and binge capability not scheduled watching. I just really feel like that is how I consume content and when in doubt create what you would want to see yourself and distribute it the way you would want to consume it yourself, right. It's kind of simple.
James Altucher: So it's interesting because I sort of feel like your career, you know, kind of forked off probably in some ways similar to mine although, you know, you've had such amazing successes. But I have this writing career and I write these books and I this podcast and I'm also on the boards of several companies including a public company. I’m advisor and investor in many companies, an angel investor. You've also had this fork where because people viewed you I'm assuming as an authentic voice that they could trust and they loved your content people started hiring or bringing on you as advisor or an investor. So you're an advisor to Twitter, to Uber, and my assumption is this without really specifying exact numbers, my assumption this is actually really the bread and the butter, although you've done well with everything else. How did you get involved with like Twitter?
Tim Ferriss: Yeah, Twitter was an investment that was 2009 and the Twitter story, well there are different ways that I get involved with companies and there are different things I do with companies. And if people want to see my portfolio they can get a very good look at pretty much everything by going to just angel.co. So it's angel.co/tim and you can see all of my stuff. And in fact, you can even invest in some of the deals that I do through their syndicate. But the way I got in touch with Twitter was living in Silicon Valley, building the relationships over time with lots of close friends that I have who are very often in tech. And at one point being told of this opportunity to buy Twitter stock from an employee who's leaving and wanted to buy a house.
And it really came down to sort of the reputational capital that I had built and I was asked if I would like to buy some of the stock and of course, I said yes. Or I shouldn't say of course because it wasn't actually clear there were a lot of people who felt that Twitter was very, very overvalued at that point in time. And I looked at that investment as marketing budget as opposed to a purely financial investment. By being associated with Twitter there was a reputational gain to be had because access was very, very hard. And it just so happened that Twitter despite any of the recent challenges they've had just since the lockup expired has been huge success for me and I'm still very, very confident in the platform.
Other ways that I've connected with companies would include through my followers and my readers. So I will occasionally poll readers, in one case I polled my readers for updating resources in the four hour workweek prior to the 2009 expanded and updated launch and that is how I identified shopify as an extremely fast growing promising and elegant ecommerce solution for people that wanted to get online quickly. And I connected through that chatter via social media with the CEO, Toby, and then we connected in person at a speaking event and I became an advisor. And the same exact thing happened with EverNote, in fact. Both in the same year, 2009.
James Altucher: You know these are awesome examples because people will often ask how do you monetize a blog? And the worst answer is advertising. The best answer is building an authentic voice that then allows you to communicate with your audience and find opportunities like this. That is the way you monetize a blog.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah, definitely. And if you're in a rush to do it it's not going to work. You can't run out and make people feel like pay for play hired guns in a transactional way. You have to build legitimate relationships with people to explore areas that you want to explore. And I think that doesn't mean it has to take 10 years. I think you've done an incredible job of building a diehard reader base with the content that you put out. I mean I've been very, very impressed with how well you've done that.
James Altucher: Thank you.
Tim Ferriss: Oh my God, I've really, I mean one of the most outstanding examples.
James Altucher: I have to say it's worked really well for me in terms of me finding opportunities similar to those. And it also reminds me of the way you communicate with the readers. It reminded me of a few year ago Chris Sacca made a tweet, it was like three in the morning, and he basically tweeted who's programming software right now and what are you working on? And people who response he considered investing and I don’t know if he invested in any of them but that was like an interesting way to find out who's that intense working, you know at three in the morning on a software product.
Tim Ferriss: Oh yeah. And Chris, Sacca is one of the easily in my mind one of the smartest tech investors in the world today. I mean I'd absolutely put him in the top 10 maybe top 5 that I've ever met. I mean he's a brilliant guy and he actually has taught me a lot about how these things work. He's also hilarious to follow on Twitter. So Chris Sacca. ACC, I think it's just @sacca.
James Altucher: And what have you learned from him 'cause he learned a lot from Ron Conway who he admits in a letter that the was one of the most successful angel investors ever.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah, I mean we could go on for a long time with what I've learned from Chris, but I'd say let me take a step back and mention one more thing, monetizing the blog, 'cause this is something that comes up all the time. I just want to emphasize to people monetizing is money is an intermediate. It is wampum, right. It is something that you trade for possessions, experience, access to interesting people or resources. You don't need to have money as that intermediate necessarily. So if my blog is interesting for me as a learning tool, for me I learn a ton from my readers, but also because I can oftentimes get access to people and things I would otherwise not be able to access even with money. And that is why monetizing the blog, squeezing every last dollar and cent out of that traffic is not my highest priority. I just think it's important for people to keep that in mind.
James Altucher: That's incredibly important. And I always view money as a side effect. Like when you take medicine you're looking for completely other things and just by accident you're going to have some side effects to it. And that's the only way to monetize a blog is to not monetize it. To almost delay gratification as much as possible while you build up authenticity, trust and so on in the process
Tim Ferriss: yeah. Absolutely. And so coming back to Chris, what I've learned from Chris is and there's such a long list of stuff, but I think the most important, arguably the most important is the people you invest in and you're really investing in people not ideas 'cause ideas are a dime a dozen.
James Altucher: And in change.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah, and that's even being generous. I mean anyone can come up with great ideas it's the implementation that's important. So if you're betting on a team or CEO, let's get even more specific, like they should pass two types of tests. And I don't want to, I'm pretty sure that Chris mentioned at least one of these to me, but this is the general gist at least. You know the kind of the beer test and the mall test. What are these? The beer test is would you invite them out to have beers? Like would you actually want to spend two to three hours with them hanging out, shooting the [bleep] talking? Would you find that at least stimulating? Would you do it on a somewhat regular basis? If the answer is no, given the speculative nature of startups let's just say that you invest in 10 founders where you think the company has great prospects but none of them pass the beer test, but they're really like hard hitting driven CEO's. Well, if 9 out of 10 of them fail that means if you're splitting your time across those 10, 9/10's of your time is going to be spent with people you dislike.
James Altucher: And to be very unpleasant time because when a business is failing that's when you see someone's true colors. So you better be able to be comfortable with them.
Tim Ferriss: Exactly. So there's the beer test and then there is the mall test, which is very close relatedly. So that is like if you're walking around at the mall and this person is sort of walking the other way on let's say the opposite side of the mall. So you're on the same level, right, so you're not like 10 feet away but you're close enough to make eye contact. You know do you, number one, like run over to them and be like oh my God, hey, what's up? How are you doing? And like actively engage. Number two, do you kind of like give them like the way of a head nod and keep moving or do you like cover your face 'cause you don't want to interact with them? And if it's anything other than number one you really shouldn't do it. And it's closely related.
So does this work all the time? No, but does it prevent you from wasting your life on people you should not spend all of your time with, yes. And you don't have to, coming back to that sort of $15 billion plus companies per year idea, you don't need to take every good company. You don't need to get involved with every good opportunity. You just need really a handful of good bets and you can wait, you can afford to wait for those bets. You can afford to wait for the complements of great opportunity, great market, innovative product and cool people. Like you can actually wait for it and if you can't wait for it, it means that you're like banking on angel investing to pay your mortgage, which you shouldn't in the first place.
James Altucher: Right. That's a very important lesson too. So one final question and Tim, I really appreciate it, you've been so generous with your time. This has been a great podcast. Which areas, which kind of sectors do you look at as an investor right now that you think would sort of open up or where there's opportunity to be found? And then, by the way, after this I'm registering the three and a half hour workweek all over the place.
Tim Ferriss: You should go for it. My pleasure, of course. This is fun for me. In terms of sectors, this is a question I get a fair amount, there are some investors who are what you might term fanatic or sector investors. So they choose, they decide that Twitter is growing quickly and anything that is a platform built on Twitter will ride that rising tide so they want to invest in say Twitter API based companies or something like that. Or they decide that wearable's, you know wearable tech is part of two growing and converging trends, therefore, I'm going to invest in wearable tech.
I don't actually approach it that way. The way that I invest, so this is the only way I can really answer this question is, I look for consumer facing products, which means I'm not doing enterprise software or anything like that. I'm looking for things that are consumer facing, right. Something you could put in The New York Times in the style section or put on a billboard or put in a magazine. And consumer facing products that have shown some traction, so they're showing an organic or acquired rate of customer acquisition that shows me the product is finding some type of product market where it's not a derivative product, ideally. So that means it's not, you know this is Twitterfer, whatever, you know albino cats or this is Foursquare for dyslexics. The derivatives are a dangerous place to play in and it's not somewhere I can add a lot of value typically. And there are some exceptions
Then I look for companies that I could pitch The New York Times. Now that's not because I think The New York Times would actually do anything in terms of sales impact, very frequently it doesn't. But is it unique enough to form a story around? Not only that but is it simple enough to explain that a journalist feels comfortable explaining it in one or two sentences for a mass audience. And if they're demonstrating all of these things, and of course, I could layer on all the things that I look for besides that like ideally the founder has had exits in the past and they know how to play this game. Which includes, by the way, fundraising and managing investors and rounds and valuations and all that employee option pools and all this stuff that a lot of founders don’t' think about when they get into things. If they check all those boxes then I'll take a very serious look at it.
And then it comes down to other things like pricing and there's a great deal at the wrong price is a bad deal, right. A great company at the wrong price is a bad deal. And whereas, you know, a great company at a conservative price, well, you know that could be incredible. And there are opportunities on the secondary market, for instance, if a cofounder is distressed and then you have a Warren Buffet type opportunity where you can buy something at sort of less than book or intrinsic value.
But I’m getting off into the weeds a little bit . Venture hacks, for those people interested in angel investing,venturahacks.com is a great site. Lot of resources there and angel list also itself is a great place to see where people are connected and thematically or otherwise who investors invest. So you could look at my investments and kind of deduce how I choose my investments. You could look at some of these other amazing investors, you know Mark ______, or Bill Gurley or whatnot and you can sort of deduce how they invest.
James Altucher: That's really true. You can basically apply the techniques that you've described in your books to sort of deconstruct successful investing.
Tim Ferriss: It's never been easier. Absolutely. I agree with that.
James Altucher: So again, Tim, thanks so much. Again, I really think throughout all of your career everything that's in there you've explored, you know, what's possible versus the imaginary improbable and this podcast was great, so thanks very much.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah, my pleasure entirely. Anytime. And I've been looking forward to this for weeks now so thank you for hosting me. And yeah, two R's, two S's there's another Tim Ferris who's a great writer, science guy actually who lives like five miles away from me so there's a lot of confusion.
James Altucher: I've gotta remember that I always get it confused.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah, I'm the Tim Ferriss with two R's and two S's so people can – hope people chime in and check out the podcasts and happy to come back anytime.
James Altucher: Okay, thanks a lot, tim, I'll talk to you soon.
Tim Ferriss: All right, buddy, thanks.
James Altucher: Bye.
Tim Ferriss: Bye.
[End of Audio]