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Date: Monday, 21 Jul 2014 20:54

This story is about the launch of Harry’s, a new men’s grooming brand.

Specifically, it will explain how they gathered nearly 100,000 email addresses in one week (!).  This post includes all the email templates, open-source code, and insider tricks that you can use to replicate their success.  It’s similar in depth to my previous how-to post, Hacking Kickstarter: How to Raise $100,000 in 10 Days.

This post is of great personal interest to me, as I’ll be doing a ton of fun stuff with email soon.  For a sneak peek, click here.  Now, on to Harry’s…

Harry’s started small and grew quickly.  They now have 40 domestic employees, an online store, a barbershop in New York, and a thriving online magazine called Five O’Clock. Harry’s also recently raised 100+ million dollars to buy the 94-year-old German factory that makes it blades.  By doing so, they added 427 people to their team. Today, you can find Harry’s products on harrys.com, in select J Crew stores, and at more than 65 men’s boutiques and hotels across the country.

This is piece was written by Jeff Raider, Co-Founder and Co-CEO of Harry’s, with input from key members of the Harry’s team.

Prior to Harry’s, Jeff co-founded Warby Parker, a brand offering designer-like eyewear at lower prices, which also helped pioneer the “buy one, give one” model.


Enter Jeff

We can’t launch to crickets

We opened the digital doors of our shaving brand, Harry’s, in March of 2013.  In the weeks leading up to the launch, there was one persistent worry: Were we going to launch to crickets? Would anyone notice?

My co-founder, Andy, and I had spent the better part of two years researching the global men’s shaving market.  We’d found the nearly century-old German manufacturer who would make our razor blades, we’d worked with talented industrial designers to create an ergonomic handle inspired by fine pens and knives, and we’d laid the groundwork for the direct-to-consumer online brand that would become Harry’s.  We were excited to offer our customers a quality shaving experience at an affordable price.

Fortunately, Andy and I had a team of 10 who believed in our not-yet-existent brand as much as we did. We needed people to find out about us and come to our website to find our products. After all, a direct-to-consumer brand isn’t anything without the consumer. We couldn’t launch to crickets. We had to figure out a way to make sure that didn’t happen.

That also meant a lot of pressure.


Click for full size


Thanks to what you’ll learn in this post, our first week at Harry’s was a huge success. We were inundated by tweets, emails, and—our favorite—customer phone calls. It was an incredibly exciting time.

Much of the success of week one was due to what we did beforehand. One week before our e-commerce site went live, we had gathered emails from nearly 100,000 people who were eager to learn more about Harry’s.

We had collected those email addresses thanks to a one-week long prelaunch campaign, the focus of this post.

Since launching the campaign, we’ve shared it with friends and other entrepreneurs. Now, together with Tim, we’re excited share the details of the campaign —the thinking, the code, our strategy, and the results—with all of you. One of our company values is transparency. We believe in open source, not only for code but also for ideas.  And we hope this might help you or your business reach and engage with more people in a fun and constructive way.

Just one large disclaimer: we can only share what we did. We’re sure we made lots of mistakes (we make them a lot) and have no doubt you’ll be able to improve on our template.

Now, without further ado, here we go…

The Most Credible Source

The idea for our campaign was built around our belief that the most powerful and effective way to be introduced to our new company was through a credible referral.  Thus, we focused on building a campaign that helped people to spread the word to their friends.

Ahead of our launch, Andy and I spent a couple of months meeting friends, entrepreneurs and virtually anyone else who would listen to us talk about Harry’s. Whether or not they were interested in razors, we tried to interest them in our story.  That list of people was probably a couple hundred long by our launch, and we created the campaign to help that group of people publicly share in the excitement of our launch.

We also took inspiration from other startups that we looked up to. Michael Preysman at Everlane is a friend and has built an amazing company. Early on they’d had success with referral mechanics. We also admired Fab’s launch and the manner in which they had success in promoting sharing.

So, inspired by those closest to us and some other amazing startups, we created a referral campaign.

The General Campaign Design

The user interface of the campaign was relatively simple—a two-page microsite.

First, users entered their email addresses on a splash page. This first step was essential since we wanted to capture emails both for our list and so that we could use it as an identifier for tracking referrals.

Harry's Prelaunch Microsite

Click for full size

The second page was where the referral mechanisms lived. It contained a shareable link to the splash page coded specifically to the user. Below the link were buttons to share the link through email, Facebook and Twitter with the click of a mouse. By sharing the link with friends, users had the opportunity to earn free product. The more friends who signed up using your unique referral link, the bigger the prize you earned.

Harry's Prelaunch Microsite

Click for full size


Here is all the code for the campaign.  If you have trouble with that link, you can also download the files here.

[Note from Tim: Modifying and deploying this app requires some technical knowledge, BUT if you're non-technical (like me), you can find people to help you. If you aren't familiar with editing HTML and CSS code, or have never deployed a Ruby on Rails app, I recommend finding a partner with design and Ruby skills in either the Heroku Partners Directory (if you want a team), or ODesk (if a single freelancer will do). ODesk will have more options.]

The mechanics are simple. It automatically generates a unique code for every unique email address entered, and it appends that code onto the given URL. In our case, the link looked something like this:


When a referral—say, a friend of that first user—comes to the site using a unique link, we save it as a cookie we can use to find the email address responsible for the referral. For the engineers out there, you can see our engineering team’s explanation of the code here. As for the code itself, check it out here.

The code is, of course, important to creating a campaign.  In addition to sharing the code, we wanted to provide a few insights into how we thought about using it to drive growth.

Step 1: Make Special People Feel Special.

We saw prelaunch as a way to make people feel special.

And the first people in the world to find out about our brand were really special to us. We wanted our first customers to feel like they were getting insider access.

Splash Page Messaging

The copy on the splash page said, “Respecting the face, and wallet since like right now.” These words were intended to be playful and introduce people to the purpose of our brand but also leave an air mystery as to what we were all about. We paired the line with photo of one of our razors, but we included no more information about our company or product.

For the call to action on the button, we chose the words STEP INSIDE. Above the field was a small drawing of a key. We wanted to reinforce for our early customers that they were getting insider access.

Referral Page Messaging

Our referral page had more enigmatic design and copy. A picture of a wooly mammoth was coupled with the words: “Shaving is evolving. Don’t leave your friends behind.” Again, we wanted people to feel that something big was happening to which they had front row seat and the opportunity to invite friends to join them. Our first customers were insiders and we wanted to make them feel like insiders.

Step 2: Choose Tangible Rewards And Make Them Achievable.

The fundamental mechanic of our campaign was a game: complete the challenge of referring friends and earn prizes. It seems pretty straightforward—and it is—but we think that what those prizes are, and how they are doled out, is critical to getting people excited play. Not all reward structures are created equal. Here are a few things what worked for us.

First, we tried to make our rewards tangible: free Harry’s product. On the page, we very clearly emphasized, “Invite Friends and Earn Product.” It was the one message on the page where we did away with mystery and left nothing up to interpretation. We didn’t want there to be any doubt about what people might receive.

Second, we paced out the rewards so that they were attainable, appropriate for actions taken, and increasingly exciting. The first award was easily attainable and each subsequent tier wasn’t discouragingly difficult to achieve. To earn the first tier prize—a free shave cream—you had to make only five successful referrals. The next tier was only five further referrals. If you signed up ten friends, you earned a free razor. The jump between tier two and tier three was more significant but still not overwhelming: 25 referrals and you’d receive a shave set with our more premium handle, The Winston. Finally, even the grand prize was within reach: a year of free shaving for those who referred 50 friends.  Indeed, over 200 people achieved our highest referral tier. At one point we had considered offering a lifetime of free product for 1,000 referrals. We ultimately decided to scrap that tier, worrying that it would discourage people from participating at all, and — though we can’t prove that that decision bolstered the strength of the reward structure — I strongly believe it did.

Harry's Prelaunch awards

Click for full size


Step 3: Make Sharing As Fun As Humanly Possible.

We wanted the entire experience to feel like a fun game. To amplify the experience, the campaign page included a tracker, pictured above, where users could see how many friends they had referred and what prize they had achieved—or not yet achieved. This dynamic progress tracker served the dual purpose of (1) giving users faith throughout the one-week campaign that we were good for our word and (2) keeping track of their referrals while also incentivizing users who were close to the subsequent tier to keep sharing.

It also amplified the fun people might have with the interface and campaign as they compared their progress to their friends and strived to reach the next tier. We heard from some friends that they took the referral campaign like a personal challenge.

Step 4: Make Sharing As Easy As Humanly Possible.

Through the campaign, we wanted to encourage friends to tell friends, and those friends to tell their friends, and so on and so forth.  Any barrier to sharing would hinder the campaign, so we did a few things.

First, we included social sharing buttons. You can’t rely on the user cut and paste the link (though do make it available for the user who prefers that method).

Right below the custom link field on the page, we included icons for Twitter and Facebook. We had learned that using the standard Twitter and Facebook icons for sharing yields higher engagement than if you design your own.  People are used to them and recognize them immediately.

Clicking the icons pulled up a dialogue box with a pre-populated message.

This seemingly small measure was really important. It removed a barrier-to-sharing for the user and allowed you to push forward a message.

Harry's Prelaunch tweetClick for full size

Ours was really, really simple: “Excited for @harrys to launch. I’m going to be #shaving for free” with a shortlink back the campaign site.

Here are a few quick ideas that were helpful to us:

  • Include an @ mention of your company or initiative
  • Include a link to your prelaunch site
  • Resist the urge to be salesy. We tried to let the mystery of the message drive traffic through the link.

Step 5: Start by Telling Your Friends–Use E-mail, Social, Etc.

This post isn’t one where you learn brilliant tactics for generating and closing media leads (for that, check out “Hacking Kickstarter: How to Raise $100,000 in 10 Days”).

In fact, by our count, there was one article about the campaign while it was live. We didn’t have anything to do with the piece, and, while it wasn’t fully accurate, we liked it because it added to the fun around our launch and helped to amplify the social sharing that was already underway.

While we love the press (and they have been generous to us at Harry’s), for this campaign we deliberately decided that we would focus on our friends and let the groundswell build organically. We thought that having the referral come from a publication would be counter to the campaign’s ethos.

We started there, with our own friends. We had our team of 12 employees seed the campaign to their friends. Here’s a breakdown of how we suggest approaching those two mediums.


A few days before the campaign, we walked the whole team through the process of creating groups of contacts in Gmail. Everyone on the team added all of their contacts to two groups—a group that was familiar with Harry’s vs. a group that hadn’t heard of Harry’s. We wrote a sample email (see template below), though we really emphasized making the messages personalized. We wanted people on our team to share the news of our company and brand in the most comfortable way possible for them. We did all of this a day or two in advance because we wanted to be able to simply hit send on the day prelaunch went live.

Here are some tips for these emails:

  • Make it personal. These people are closest to you and, thus, to your product or company. They’re friends—so write to them like they are!
  • This is for friends, not press. If you send your prelaunch campaign to friends who are part of the press, make sure they know it’s not the time to “break news” about your company. If you can’t trust them not to do so, don’t keep them on the list. You want press when your company is actually live.
  • Encourage your recipients to spread the word. Make that ask explicitly—don’t be shy!
  • As a rule of thumb, assume the email will be forwarded, and craft your message accordingly (i.e., don’t disparage the competition etc., etc.,).
  • Set up email signatures—with links back to the prelaunch site and social channels—before emailing the world.
  • Consider appending a visual asset. We included a simple product shot of our razor with the phrase “Harry’s is coming,” hoping to pique interest.

Title: “Harry’s is Coming!”

Friends and Family,

After months of closely examining the weight of razor handles, natural ingredient mixtures in shaving cream and angles of razor blades, we are really excited to only be days away from launching Harry’s. 

You’re important to me and I wanted you to be the first to know about our plans for launch. We have just put up our pre-launch site, you can check it out at www.harrys.com

Our full site will be up in about a week and I’ll be sure let you know when it’s live!

In the meantime, I’d love your help in spreading the word! Here’s how: 

1) Go to our website www.harrys.com 

2) On the first page of the site, enter your email to join our mailing list 

3) On the second page, refer friends using your own custom link back to Harry’s – and as a bonus you can earn free Harry’s products!

Thank you so much for all of your help and support. I can’t tell you how much we appreciate it. Look forward to continuing to shareHarry’s with you and appreciate you telling the world! 

All the best,

[Your name]

We also reached out to a number of people individually.

We wanted to tell them ourselves in a personal way. For example, some of our friends could reach entire companies. We’d ask people individually share Harry’s with their teams. For an example of what this email could look like, see below for an actual email (in looking back maybe I got a little carried away in the excitement of the moment).

Hey [CEO],

Hope you’re great and everything is going really well at [Company]. 

I wanted to drop you a quick note and let you know that we just put up prelaunch site for Harry’s – check it out and sign up at www.harrys.com. We plan to launch in about a week. Super excited. Would love for you to pass the prelaunch site on to the [company] team and anyone else who you think might appreciate it. 

Thanks for your help. You’re the best. Hope to see you soon.


Social Channels

We launched our Facebook page and Twitter handle the day that prelaunch went live in an effort to capture social followers from the prelaunch buzz. As part of our seeding, our small team made a concerted effort to interact with our new social pages and handles. Our whole team did the following:

  • Like your company’s page on Facebook
  • Follow your company’s Twitter handle
  • Tweet about the campaign with an @mention of your company
  • Update your Twitter and Facebook profiles to say you work at your company
  • Track @mentions of your company and respond with a thank you—from your personal handle—if you see anyone you know tweeting about the campaign
  • Post a personal Facebook post about the campaign. We encouraged people to frame the launch of the campaign as a personal life event, i.e. I just started working at Harry’s and after a lot of hard work our pre-launch site is finally up! Check it out: www.harrys.com

Step 6: Protecting Yourself Against Fraud

When you’re giving away free stuff, you’re opening yourself up to the risk of being scammed and the liability of people gaming your system. We took a few simple precautions to protect ourselves against fraud.

First and foremost, we set up IP blocking. This means our code looked at the IP address of every sign-up, and if a single IP address had signed up two email addresses to the campaign, we blocked the ability to create any more sign-ups from that IP address.

Second of all, we used SendGrid to send a simple transactional email to every email address entered.  If that transactional email bounced back—a data point that SendGrid provides—the email address was interpreted as illegitimate. Unsurprisingly, we saw the most fraudulent activity in the highest tier.

Step 7: Cross Your Fingers. You Never Know What’ll Happen.

Before the prelaunch, our small team set wagers on how many emails we would collect.

We wrote the figures on a whiteboard: Three thousand. Five. Seventy-five hundred. One bold person thought we could get 15k. (I think that might have been me!) We broke that high bar in the first day. When all was said and done, we had collected by our estimation over 85K valid email addresses (and over 100K emails in total) in the span of seven days.
Harry's prelaunch referral sign ups by day
Harry's Prelaunch Number of Referrals

Click for full image


The referral mechanics were amazing. As the first graph above shows, 77% of the emails were collected via referral, meaning about 20K people referred about 65K friends. This means referrers, on average, referred more than 3 friends.

Yet there were a lot of people who referred well above that average: More than 200 participants referred more than 50 of their friends, achieving the highest tier reward. These were largely people who were close to us with large followings or access to companies that sent out blasts on our behalf. Even in the lower tiers it was pretty amazing how many people participated. In total we gave away product to about 3,000 people and believe that those folks are still some of our most ardent supporters.

Two More Things…

The heavy lifting really started after our prelaunch: we had to get product to customers.

We sent out coupon codes to customers for the rewards they won. In this way, we redirected our customers to our full, live site where they could read the backstory of the mystery company whose prelaunch they had just participated in and browse our full suite of products.

We handled reward fulfillment through the distribution partner we continue to work with today.  We selected a distribution partner based on these four key principles:

  • Scalability – Can they grow with us?
  • Flexibility – Are they willing and able to play around with process to work toward our vision?
  • Price – Are they in-line with the market across all their services (not just pick/pack but also receiving, inventory, etc.)
  • Partnership – Do they require minimums and do they mark-up any pass through costs like outbound carrier costs?

In addition to a reliable distribution partner, a second critical element to our prelaunch campaign was customer support. We used—and continue to use—a platform called Zendesk to manage tickets from customers. We had fully a functioning customer support operation where customers could contact us via e-mail, phone, Twitter, Facebook, and even text message. On our first day in business, we had literally everyone on our small team manning Zendesk and replying to inbound tickets.

Thanks Where Thanks Is Due

It was truly amazing to see the impact that our friends and their friends (and their friends) could have on our brand.

We’ve thanked them numerous times, but if you’re reading this, and you participated in our campaign, then thank you again. It was instrumental to us building Harry’s.

While it’s very difficult to attribute its success to one specific variable — the code, the tactics, the idea — we thought we’d share our story in the hopes it might help you with your future endeavors. We have no doubt that you can tweak and improve this early experiment, and we look forward to learning from your future successes.

Most sincerely,

Jeff, Andy, and The Harry’s Team


Afterword from Tim:  For an advance look at what I’ll be doing with e-mail, click here.  I am also creating my own micro-site (a la Harry’s) and will be sharing all of my tweaks and findings with you.

Look forward to your thoughts and questions in the comments!

Author: "Tim Ferriss" Tags: "Entrepreneurship, Marketing, blog, code,..."
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Date: Wednesday, 16 Jul 2014 20:46


Preface from Tim

Back in 2012, Gabriel Wyner wrote an article for Lifehacker detailing how he learned French in 5 months and Russian in 10, using mostly spare time on the subway.  That article went viral.

But don’t run off! That was nothing but version 1.0.  This post gives you version 2.0 and more.

He’s spent the last two years refining his methods and putting them on steroids. Kevin Kelly, founding editor of Wired, was the one who told me, “You have to check this guy out. His new book is amazing.” Keep in mind that I’d previously told Kevin that I thought most books on language learning were garbage.  I took his endorsement seriously, and I wasn’t disappointed.

This post gives you Gabe’s new blueprint for rapid language learning:

  • A revised and updated version of his original post
  • New techniques from the last two years of experimentation
  • How he learned 6 languages in just a handful of years
  • Tips and tricks you won’t find anywhere else

The “and never forget it” in the headline was Gabe’s idea. Read the article and let me know what you think. Is it possible? I, for one, hope it is.

And speaking as someone who’s studied 10+ languages as an adult, I can tell you: you’re much better at learning languages than you think.


Enter Gabriel — An overview of what this is and why it works

Two Foreign Words

Let’s compare two experiences. Here’s the first one: you come into a language class, and your (Hungarian) teacher writes the following on the board:

Kitchen cabinet – konyhaszekrény

She tells you that this is going to be on your vocab quiz next week, along with forty other words you don’t care much about.


Experience two: You and your most adventurous friend are sitting in a bar, somewhere in Scandinavia. The bartender is a grey-bearded Viking, who places three empty shot glasses in front of you in a line. From behind the counter, he pulls out a bottle labeled Moktor and pours a viscous, green liquid into the three glasses. He then grabs a jar and unscrews the lid. It’s full of something that looks and smells disturbingly like slimy, decaying baby fish, which he spoons into each shot glass. He then pulls out a silver cigarette lighter and lights the three shots on fire.

“This – Moktor,” he says, picking up one of the glasses. The locals in the bar turn towards you and your friend. “Moktor! Moktor! Moktor!” they all begin to shout, laughing, as the bartender blows out the flame on his shot glass and downs the drink. Your friend – your jackass friend – picks up his glass, screams “Moktor!” and does the same. The crowd goes wild, and you, after giving your friend a nasty look, pick up your glass and follow suit.

As a result of this experience, you are going to remember the word “Moktor” forever, and if you still remember the Hungarian word for kitchen cabinet, you’re likely going to forget it within a few minutes.

Let’s talk about why this happens. Your brain stores memories in the form of connections. Moktor has a (bitter, fishy) taste, which connects with its (rotting) smell. That taste and smell are connected to a set of images: the green bottle, the jar of rotting fish, the grey-bearded barkeep. All of that, in turn, is connected to a set of emotions: excitement, disgust, fear. And those emotions and images and tastes and smells are connected to the writing on that green bottle and the sound of that chanting crowd: Moktor.

NewImageKonyhaszekrény, in comparison, just doesn’t stand a chance. In English, “kitchen cabinet” may evoke all sorts of multi-sensory memories – over the course of your life, you’ve probably seen hundreds of cabinets, eaten wonderful foods in their presence, and assembled your own cabinets from IKEA – but konyhaszekrény has none of these things. You’re not thinking about IKEA’s weird metal bolts or bags of Doritos when you see konyhaszekrény; you’re just associating the sound of the Hungarian word (which you’re not even sure how to pronounce) with the sound of the English words ‘kitchen cabinet.’ With so few connections, you don’t have much to hold on to, and your memory for the Hungarian word will fade rapidly. (For a more in-depth discussion about memory and language learning, check out this video excerpt)

In order to learn a language and retain it, you’ll need to build Moktor-like connections into your words. The good news is that if you know what you’re doing, you can do this methodically and rapidly, and you don’t even need to travel to Scandinavia.

The Components of a Memorable Word

If we strip a word down to its bare essentials, a memorable word is composed of the following:

  • A spelling (M-o-k-t-o-r)
  • A sound (MAWK-tore, or ˈmɑk.toʊɹ, if you want to get fancy)
  • A meaning (A viscous green drink, served on fire with dead, baby fish in it.)
  • A personal connection (Ick.)

If you can assemble these four ingredients, you can build a long-lasting memory for a word. So that’s exactly what we’re going to do. In addition, we’re going to use a Spaced Repetition System. This is a flashcard system that automatically quizzes you on each of your flashcards just before you forget what’s on them. They’re a ridiculously efficient way to push data into your long-term memory, and we’ll take advantage of that, too.

My language learning method relies on four stages: Begin by learning your language’s sound and spelling system, then learn 625 simple words using pictures. Next, use those words to learn the grammatical system of your language, and finally play, by watching TV, speaking with native speakers, reading books and writing.

Keep in mind that different languages will take different amounts of time. The Foreign Service Institute makes language difficulty estimates for English speakers, and I’ve found their estimates are spot on – in my experience, Russian and Hungarian seem to take twice as much time as French, and I expect that Japanese will take me twice as long as Hungarian. For the purposes of this article, I’ll assume that you’re learning a Level 1 language like French, and you have a spare 30-60 minutes a day to dedicate to your language studies. If you’re studying something trickier or have different amounts of spare time, adjust accordingly.

Here are the four stages of language learning that we’ll go through:

Stage 1: Spelling and Sound: Learn how to hear, produce and spell the sounds of your target language
1-3 weeks

One of the many reasons that Moktor is easier to memorize than konyhaszekrény is that Moktor looks and sounds relatively familiar. Sure, you haven’t seen that particular set of letters in a row, but you can immediately guess how to pronounce it (MAWK-tore). Konyhaszekrény, on the other hand, is completely foreign. What’s “sz” sound like? What’s the difference between “é” and “e”? The word is a disaster when it comes to spelling and sound, and it gets even worse if you were looking at Russian’s кухонный шкаф, or Mandarin’s 橱柜.

Before you can even begin assembling memories for words, you’re going to need to create a spelling and sound foundation upon which you can build those memories. So spend your first 1-3 weeks focusing exclusively on spelling and sound, so that the foreign spellings and sounds of your target language are no longer foreign to you.

To break down that process a bit, you’re learning three things:

  •  How to hear the new sounds in your target language,
  •  How to pronounce the sounds, and
  •  How to spell those sounds.

We’ll tackle those in order.

How to hear new sounds

Many people don’t think about hearing when they approach a new language, but it’s an absolutely essential first step. When I began Hungarian, I discovered that the letter combinations “ty” and “gy” sounded basically identical to my ears.



If I had rushed ahead and started learning words and grammar immediately, I’d have been at a severe disadvantage whenever I learned words with those letter combinations, because I’d be missing the sound connection when trying to build memories for those words. How could I remember a word like tyúk (hen) if I can’t even hear the sounds in it, let alone repeat them aloud?

There are a few different ways to learn to hear new sounds, but the best that I’ve seen comes from a line of research on Japanese adults, learning to hear the difference between Rock and Lock.

I’ve made a little video summarizing these studies, but here’s the short version: to rewire your ears to hear new sounds, you need to find pairs of similar sounds, listen to one of them at random (“tyuk!”), guess which one you thought you heard (“Was it ‘gyuk’?”), and get immediate feedback as to whether you were right (“Nope! It was tyuk!”). When you go through this cycle, your ears adapt, and the foreign sounds of a new language will rapidly become familiar and recognizable.

For Hungarian, I built myself a simple app that performs these tests. In the end, it took me ten days at 20 minutes a day to learn how to hear all of the new sounds of Hungarian (of which there are quite a few!). It is a ridiculously efficient way to learn pronunciation; after experiencing it myself, I made it my personal goal to develop pronunciation trainers for 12 of the most common languages, a goal that – thanks to Kickstarter – is coming to fruition. These trainers will walk you through ear training tests and teach you the spelling system of your target language in ~2 weeks. As I finish them, I’ll be putting them on my website, here. But if I’m not covering your language yet, or if you prefer to do things on your own, I have an article on my site explaining how to make them yourself for free.

How to pronounce new sounds

With your ears out of the way, you can start mastering pronunciation. But wait! Is it even possible to develop a good accent from the start? I’ve long heard the claim that developing a good accent is only possible if you’ve been speaking a language before the age of 7, or 12, or some other age that has long since past.

This is simply not true. Singers and actors develop good accents all the time, and the only thing special about them is that they’re paid to sound good. So yes, you can do this, and it’s not that hard.

Once your ears begin to cooperate, mastering pronunciation becomes a lot easier. No one told you, for instance, how to pronounce a K in English, yet the back of your tongue automatically jumps up into the back of your mouth to produce a perfect K every time. Most of the time, your ears will do this for you in a foreign language, too, as long as you’ve taken the time to train them. That being said, there may be occasions when you can hear a foreign sound just fine, but it just won’t cooperate with your mouth. If that happens, you may benefit from a bit of information about where to put your tongue and how to move your lips. I’ve made a Youtube series that walks you through the basics of pronunciation in any language. Check it out here. It’ll teach your mouth and tongue how to produce tricky new sounds.

This gives you a few super powers: your well-trained ears will give your listening comprehension a huge boost from the start, and  your mouth will be producing accurate sounds. By doing this in the beginning, you’re going to save yourself a great deal of time, since you won’t have to unlearn bad pronunciation habits later on. You’ll find that native speakers will actually speak with you in their language, rather than switching to English at the earliest opportunity.

How to spell new sounds

Spelling is the easiest part of this process. Nearly every grammar book comes with a list of example words for every spelling. Take that list and make flashcards to learn the spelling system of your language, using pictures and native speaker recordings to make those example words easier to remember.

Those flashcards look like this:


Spelling Flashcard 1
(Trains individual letters and letter combinations)


Spelling Flashcard 2
(Connects a recording of an example word to the spelling system of your language)

And I have a guide to building them on my website.

Author’s note: For Japanese and the Chinese dialects, you’re going to be learning the phonetic alphabets first – Kana (Japanese) or Pinyin (Chinese). Later, when you get to Stage 2, you’ll be learning characters. You can find an article on modifying this system for those languages over here.

Stage 2: Learn 625 Basic Words: Learn a set of extremely common, simple words using pictures, not translations
1-2 months

To begin any language, I suggest starting with the most common, concrete words, as they’re going to be the most optimal use of your time. This is the 80/20 Rule in action; why learn niece in the beginning when you’re going to need mother eighty times more often?

On my website, I have a list of 625 basic words.  These are words that are common in every language and can be learned using pictures, rather than translations: words like dog, ball, to eat, red, to jump. Your goal is two-fold: first, when you learn these words, you’re reinforcing the sound and spelling foundation you built in the first stage, and second, you’re learning to think in your target language.

Often, when someone hears this advice, they think it’s a good idea and try it out. They pick up a word like devushka (girl) in Russian, and decide to learn it using a picture, instead of an English translation. They go to Google Images (or better, Google Images Basic Mode, which provides captions for each word and more manageably sized images), and search for “girl.” Here’s what they’ll see:


Google Images search for “girl” (Using Basic Mode)

It’s exactly what you’d expect. They look like girls, and you could pick out a couple of these images, slap them on a flashcard, and teach yourself devushka within a few seconds. Unfortunately, you’d be missing out on the most interesting – and most memorable – bits of the story. You already know what a girl is. What happens if you search for “девушка” (devushka) instead? 


Google Images search for “девушка” (Using Translated Basic Mode)

Russian devushki tend to be 18-22 year old sex objects. Devushka is not a word you’d use to describe your Russian friend’s 3-year-old daughter (That word is ‘devuchka’). And while knowing the difference between girl and devushka may keep you out of trouble with your Russian friends, it’s also a thousand times more interesting than simply memorizing “devushka = girl.” By searching for images in your target language, and by looking for the differences between a new word and its translation, you’ll find that the new word suddenly becomes memorable.

Devushka is not some random exception; it’s the rule. Nearly every new word you encounter will be subtly (and sometimes, not-so-subtly) different from its English counterpart. So your first step when learning a new word is to search for it on Google Images, look through 20-40 pictures, and try to spot the differences between what you see and what you expect to see. This experience is the learning process for your word. It’s the (often exciting) moment when you discover what your word actually means. Once you’ve had that experience, grab 1-2 images and put them on a flashcard to remind you of what you saw.

Note: This is why you can’t just download some flashcards and successfully learn a foreign language. If you do this, you miss out on the actual learning experience. The flashcards aren’t particularly effective, because they’re not reminding you of anything you previously experienced.


Armed with an image or two from Google Images, you’ve now managed to connect a spelling (k-o-n-y-h-a-s-z-e-k-r-é-n-y) and a sound (“konyhaszekrény!”) to a meaning (really old-fashioned looking kitchen cabinets).

At this point, the only thing separating konyhaszekrény from Moktor is a personal connection, and fortunately, you have plenty of personal connections to choose from. When’s the last time you encountered a particularly old-fashioned kitchen cabinet? Search your memories, and you’ll find that for nearly every word you learn, there is at least some experience you’ve had with that concept. In my case, my grandmother’s old house definitely was full of konyhaszekrények. Find your own personal connection with each new word, come up with a short reminder of it – in my case, I’d choose my grandmother’s name, Judith – and stick that on the back of your flashcards as well. When you include personal connections, you’ll remember your words 50% better.

Once you’ve built these connections, start making your flashcards (guide here)

Tip 1 – Regarding Word Order
When learning words, never learn them in the standard order you see in grammar books, where similar words are grouped together: days of the week, members of the family, types of fruit, etc. When you do this, your words will interfere with each other (is ’jeudi’ the word for ‘Tuesday’ or ‘Thursday’?), and on average, you’ll need 40% more time to memorize them, and they’ll last 40% less time in your memory compared to a randomized group of words. You can find more information about the effects of word order over here.

Tip 2 – Mnemonics for Grammatical Gender
If any of you have studied a language with grammatical gender, you know how much of a pain it can be trying to remember whether chairs are supposed to be masculine, feminine or neuter. Some of the friendlier languages may give you clues – perhaps masculine nouns usually end in ‘o’ – but those clues aren’t always trustworthy. So what can you do?

There’s a simple way to make abstract information like grammatical gender stick. Use mnemonic imagery, and for this particular case, use vivid, visualizable verbs. Make your masculine nouns burst into flame, your feminine nouns melt into a puddle, and neuter nouns shatter into a thousand razor-sharp shards. You’ll find that mnemonic imagery like this makes gender extremely easy to memorize, right from the start.

Stage 3: Learn the grammar and abstract words of your language
2-3 months

Now it’s time to crack open your grammar book. And when you do, you’ll notice some interesting things:

First, you’ll find that you’ve built a rock-solid foundation in the spelling and pronunciation system of your language. You won’t even need to think about spelling anymore, which will allow you to focus exclusively on the grammar. Second, you’ll find that you already know most of the words in your textbook’s example sentences. You learned the most frequent words in Stage 2, after all. All you need to do now is discover how your language puts those words together.

Grammar’s Role

So let’s talk about what grammar does, and how you should learn it. Grammar is a story telling device. It takes a few actors and actions – you, your dog, eating, your homework – and turns them into a story: Your dog ate your homework. This is a tremendously complex operation; not only can grammar tell you who’s doing what and when they’re doing it, but it can simultaneously tell you what the speaker thinks about the story. By switching from “My dog ate my homework” to “My homework was eaten by my dog,” for instance, we move from a story about a bad dog to a story about a sad, sad homework assignment.

In every single language, grammar is conveyed using some combination of three basic operations: grammar adds words (You like it -> Do you like it?), it changes existing words (I eat it -> I ate it), or it changes the order of those words (This is nice -> Is this nice?). That’s it. It’s all we can do. And that lets us break sentences down into grammatical chunks that are very easy to memorize.

How do you learn all the complicated bits of “My homework was eaten by my dog”? Simple: Use the explanations and translations in your grammar book to understand what a sentence means, and then use flashcards to memorize that sentence’s component parts, like this:

NewWordsCardNew Words (Front Side) – [Guide to construction]

NewWordFormsNew Word Forms (Front Side) – [Guide to construction]

WordorderWord Order (Front and Back Sides) – [Guide to construction]

You can memorize any grammatical form using this approach, and this has a few advantages over the standard sort of grammatical drills you’ll find in your textbook. For one, you’re learning each grammatical form in the context of a story, which allows you to connect images to abstract words. This makes them a lot easier to remember. What’s a “by” look like? For this story, it looks like a guilty dog.

Second, you’re learning grammar with the help of a Spaced Repetition System, which will provide you with the exact amount of repetition you need to definitively memorize any grammatical form. This lets you skip over the hundreds of grammar drills in your textbook. Instead, you can take just one or two examples of every new grammatical form and move on to the next section of your book. This lets you move very, very fast, and devour a textbook worth of information within a couple of months. It’s also a lot of fun; without getting bogged down with boring grammatical drills, you’re constantly learning new ways to express yourself.

Other Sources of Example Sentences

Occasionally, your textbook won’t give you the example sentences you need. Instead, it’ll throw a bunch of verb conjugations at you – I am, you are, he is – and tell you to simply memorize the forms. When this happens, you can turn to two wonderful, free resources to produce example sentences: Google Images and Lang-8.

On its surface, Google Images is a humble image search engine. But hiding beneath that surface is a language-learning goldmine: billions of illustrated example sentences, which are both searchable and machine translatable. If you mess with it just right (Instructions here), you get this (I’m searching for French’s ’peuvent’ ([they] can)):


And if you mouse over the text, you get this:

Berlusconi2Google Images Basic Mode, jammed into Google Translate
(Mouse over to reveal original text)

Yup, that’s an effectively unlimited source of illustrated, translated example sentences for any word or word form in your target language. It’s the largest illustrated book ever written, and it’s both searchable and free. Gold.

Alternatively, you can write your own example sentences. Naturally, you’ll make mistakes, but with Lang-8.com, you can get those mistakes corrected for free by native speakers, in exchange for correcting someone else’s English. You can then take those corrected sentences, break them down into flash cards, and use them to memorize even the most complex of grammatical forms. I really like writing my own flashcard content. It makes my flashcards a lot more personal, it gives me practice using the words I already know to express myself, and the corrections show me exactly where I need additional flashcards to help push my grammar in the right direction.

Using these tools, you can easily memorize any word or grammatical concept you’d like to learn. I’d recommend using these tools to accomplish two things:

  • Memorize the first half of your grammar book, since it’s the half that typically contains all the meaty, useful bits. (The second half often contains specialized stuff like reported speech, which you might not need.)
  • Learn the top 1,000 words of your language. By this point, you’ve already learned many of these words from the original 625, and with your newfound ability to learn abstract words, you can learn the rest of them.

This part of the process is a lot of fun. You can feel your language growing in your head, and since you’re never using translations on your flashcards, you’ll frequently find yourself thinking in your target language. It’s a particularly weird and wonderful experience.

And by the end of this stage, you’re ready to start playing.

Stage 4: The Language Game
3 Months (or as long as you want to keep playing)

This stage is extremely flexible, and in many ways, obnoxiously simple. Want more vocabulary? Learn more words. Want to be more comfortable reading? Read some books. But there are some efficiency tweaks you can do here that will help you transition more easily from an intermediate level to full fledged fluency.

Vocabulary Customization: 

Learning the top 1000 words in your target language is a slam-dunk in terms of efficiency, but what about the next thousand words? And the thousand after that? When do frequency lists stop paying dividends? Generally, I’d suggest stopping somewhere between word #1000 and word #2000. At that point, you’ll get better gains by customizing. What do you want your language to do? If you want to order food at a restaurant, learn food vocabulary. If you plan to go to a foreign university, learn academic vocabulary. Get a Thematic Vocabulary Book, a book that lists vocabulary by theme (food, travel, music, business, automotive, etc.), and check off the words that seem relevant to your interests. Then learn those words using the methods from Stage 3.


Books boost your vocabulary whether or not you stop every 10 seconds to look up a word. So instead of torturously plodding through some famous piece of literature with a dictionary, do this:

  • Find a book in a genre that you actually like (The Harry Potter translations are reliably great!)
  • Find and read a chapter-by-chapter summary of it in your target language (you’ll often find them on Wikipedia). This is where you can look up and make flashcards for some key words, if you’d like.
  • Find an audiobook for your book.
  • Listen to that audiobook while reading along, and don’t stop, even when you don’t understand everything. The audiobook will help push you through, you’ll have read an entire book, and you’ll find that it was downright pleasurable by the end.


Podcasts and radio broadcasts are usually too hard for an intermediate learner. Movies, too, can be frustrating, because you may not understand what’s going on until the very end (if ever!).

Long-form TV series are the way to go. They provide 18+ hours of audio content with a consistent plot line, vocabulary and voice actors, which means that by the time you start feeling comfortable (2-4 hours in), you still have 14+ hours of content. To make those first few hours a bit easier, read episode summaries ahead of time in your target language. You can usually find them on Wikipedia, and they’ll help you follow along while your ears are getting used to spoken content.


Fluency in speech is not the ability to know every word and grammatical formation in a language; it’s the ability to use whatever words and grammar you know to say whatever’s on your mind. When you go to a pharmacy and ask for “That thing you swallow to make your head not have so much pain,” or “The medicine that makes my nose stop dripping water” – THAT is fluency. As soon as you can deftly dance around the words you don’t know, you are effectively fluent in your target language.

This turns out to be a learned skill, and you practice it in only one situation: When you try to say something, you don’t know the words to say it, and you force yourself to say it in your target language anyways. If you want to build fluency as efficiently as possible, put yourself in situations that are challenging, situations in which you don’t know the words you need. And every time that happens, stay in your target language no matter what. If you adhere to that rule whenever you practice speaking, you’ll reach fluency at a steady, brisk pace.

Naturally, you’re going to need practice partners. Depending upon your city, you may find friends, colleagues, private tutors (Craigslist.org) or large language practice groups (Meetup.com) for speech practice.

No matter where you are, you can find practice partners on the Internet. iTalki.com is a website designed to put you in touch with a conversation partner or tutor for free (if you’re willing to chat in English for half of the time), or for $4-12/hr (if you don’t want to bother with English). It’s a tremendous and affordable resource.

The more often you speak, the more rapidly you’ll learn. Speech practice pulls together all of the data you’ve crammed into your head and forms it into a cohesive, polished language.

Learning a foreign language is a fluid process; you’re building a lot of different skills that meld into each other. The more vocabulary you learn, the easier it will be to speak about a wide variety of topics. The more you practice speaking, the easier it will be to watch foreign TV and movies. So rather than be strict and methodical about this (“My reading comprehension skills are lacking; I must read 15 books to maximize efficiency!”), just do what you find most enjoyable. If you like writing about your day on Lang-8 and making flashcards out of the corrections, then keep doing that. If you like to chat with your tutor on iTalki, do that.

There’s a very simple way to figure out if you’re spending your time well: if you’re enjoying yourself in your target language, then you’re doing it right. In the end, language learning should be fun. It needs to be fun; you retain information better when you’re enjoying yourself, and the journey to fluency takes too much time to force yourself through using willpower alone. So enjoy yourself, and play around with new ways to think about the world. See you on the other side.



  • My book, Fluent Forever: How to learn any language fast and never forget it, is an in-depth journey into the language learning process, full of tips, guidelines and research into the most efficient methods for learning and retaining foreign languages.
  • My CreativeLive Workshop is 18 hours of language learning insanity in video form. I go through everything I know about the language learning process, with detailed, step-by-step walkthroughs of every computerized and analog tool I recommend.

Related & Recommended Posts:

12 Rules for Learning Foreign Languages in Record Time

How to learn any language in 3 months

Why language classes don’t work: How to Cut Classes and Double Your Learning Rate

How to Learn (But Not Master) Any Language in 1 Hour

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Author: "Gabriel Wyner" Tags: "Language, Mental Performance, Science, f..."
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Date: Monday, 14 Jul 2014 17:12

E-mail is the single largest interruption in modern life.

In a digital world, creating time hinges on minimizing it.

The first step towards controlling the e-mail impulse is setting up an autoresponse, which indicates you will be checking e-mail twice per day or less. This is an example of “batching” tasks, or performing like tasks at set times, between which you let them accumulate.

In this post, I will share two of my own tried-and-true e-mail autoresponses, one short and one long.

Your success with batching — whether laundry, phone calls, or e-mail — will depend on two factors: your ability to train others to respect these intervals, and, much more difficult, your ability to discipline yourself to follow your own rules.

So what works?

Before my current examples, let’s look at a basic template from The 4-Hour Workweek. Readers have tested this one in 30+ languages:

Greetings, Friends [or Esteemed Colleagues],

Due to high workload, I am currently checking and responding to e-mail twice daily at 12: 00 P.M. ET [or your time zone] and 4: 00 P.M. ET.

If you require urgent assistance (please ensure it is urgent) that cannot wait until either 12: 00 P.M. or 4: 00 P.M., please contact me via phone at 555-555-5555.

Thank you for understanding this move to more efficiency and effectiveness. It helps me accomplish more to serve you better.


[Your name]

The above is simple but works. Furthermore, bosses respond better than you’d think. Here’s a real-world example.

Now, on to my current faves…

The short one assumes that anyone without contact info can wait. The longer one provides links so that I can ignore hundreds of email entirely.

Of course, adapt for your own situation and preferences.

#1 – Short and Sweet


SUBJECT LINE: IMPORTANT — Please Email [Assistant's Name] if Urgent

“Hi All,

Due to other commitments, I’m checking email no more than once a week, often less. If it’s truly urgent (cannot wait a week), please call or email my assistant. If you don’t have her info, thank you for waiting until we get back to the inbox.

All the best to you and yours,


Invest in tech companies that I back (Past: Uber, Twitter, etc.)

Q: Why is this email five sentences or less?
A: http://five.sentenc.es


“Hi All,

Due to other commitments, I’m checking email no more than once a week, often less. If it’s truly urgent (cannot wait a week), please call my cell. If you don’t have it, thank you for waiting until I can get back to the inbox.

All the best to you and yours,


#2 – Longer and More Comprehensive

SUBJECT LINE: IMPORTANT — Please Email [Assistant's Name] if Urgent

“Hi All,

Sadly, due to deadlines, I am unable to read or respond to most email. Please don’t be offended, as this is true even for close friends.

If you genuinely need to reach me urgently (if it can wait a week, it’s not urgent) –
– If you have my cell phone, try and call or text me.
– Otherwise, please email [assistant's email address].

For other contacts besides [assistant], please go here:
[insert "Contact" page URL from website]

Thanks very much for understanding!

All the best to you and yours,

P.S. If you are emailing about publishing or book marketing advice, here are the resources I’ll point you to:


1) For a popular recap of my launch for The 4-Hour Body, which hit #1 New York Times, here is 12 Lessons Learned While Marketing “The 4-Hour Body.”

2) I also found Rick Frishman and Robyn Spizman’s book on book publicity helpful for my first launch.

3) All of the other advice I might give, probably more in many cases (as I can use
links) can be found here:

And here:

Hope that all helps!



Tim Ferriss bio: http://www.fourhourworkweek.com/blog/about/

Invest in tech companies that I back (Past: Uber, Twitter, etc.)

What About Yours?

Autoresponders are both an art (due to wordsmithing) and an evolving science, as complaint rates, percentage decreases in inbound email, etc. can all be tested.

PLEASE share your own findings and autoresponses in the comments below! Non-English autoresponses are also welcome. What has worked for you and what hasn’t?

However, thank you for NOT spamming the comments with a bunch of your website links, unless relevant, as is sometimes the case with FAQs, etc. Spam will be deleted.

For more examples — both good and terrible — see below.

Further Resources

Not-To-Do Lists, Drugs, and Other Productivity Tricks
The Best (and Worst?) Autoresponders of 2007
The 4-Hour Workweek Tools
How to Check E-mail Twice a Day… And Have Your Boss Accept It

Author: "Tim Ferriss" Tags: "The Book - 4HWW, autoresponder, autoresp..."
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Date: Friday, 11 Jul 2014 13:14
James Altucher

James Altucher

Listen on iTunes, download (right click “save as”), or stream it now below:

This episode of The Tim Ferriss Show is sponsored by Bluehost, which I used for my first WordPress blog, and I still use them for sites today. Click here for a special offer!

Now, on to our guest…

James Altucher is an American hedge fund manager, entrepreneur, and bestselling author. He has founded or co-founded more than 20 companies, including Reset Inc. and StockPickr. 17 have failed, and 3 have made him tens of millions. He has published 11 books, the newest of which is The Power of No.

Join us in a conversation about just about everything, including: how to say “no” to requests, how to learn from failure, and how to build businesses.  More in the show notes below.

Click here to subscribe/listen to the show on iTunes.
Click here to subscribe to the show via RSS (non-iTunes feed).

For those who enjoy reading, here is the full transcript.

If you have a second, please leave me an honest rating and review on iTunes by clicking here. It will help the show tremendously, including my ability to bring on more incredible guests. Thanks!

Show Notes and Select Links from Episode 17…

  • Why James almost ended up homeless after making millions
  • How a daily routine can mitigate risk
  • The “1% goal” that changes his life drastically every 6 months
  • Why he considers news media to be “junk food,” and what he reads instead
  • Why and how his writing exploded in popularity
  • How “being vulnerable” on his blog almost permanently damaged James’s relationship with his daughter
  • The myth of “job security,” and how to chart your own path
  • And much more…


Books Mentioned in the Episode

Other Authors Mentioned in the Episode


For all episodes of The Tim Ferriss Show, including links and show notes, visit this page.

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Author: "Tim Ferriss" Tags: "The Tim Ferriss Show, choose yourself, c..."
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Date: Tuesday, 01 Jul 2014 16:23

Spartan Race

Listen on iTunes, download (right click and “save as”), or stream it in the below player now:

This episode is brought to you by…you guys. To help keep this podcast going, please check out the Tim Ferriss Book Club, where, every 1-2 months, I highlight one book that’s changed my life. Here are the first four books.

Now, on to our guest…Joe De Sena.

Joe De Sena is the co-founder of The Death Race, Spartan Race (1M+ competitors), and more. Among other things, he has completed the famously grueling Iditarod dogsledding race…on FOOT. And what about the Badwater Ultramarathon (135 miles at over 120 °F/49 °C), Vermont 100, and Lake Placid Ironman? He did all of those in ONE WEEK. The man is a maniac, and he’s a very strategic businessman.

This episode covers his story, as well as his approaches to grit, endurance, and building empires.

Click here to subscribe/listen to the show on iTunes.
Click here to subscribe to the show via RSS (non-iTunes feed).

This show’s had more than two million downloads…but only 550 or so reviews!  WTF?! If you’d like me to continue doing these podcasts, please leave a short one here.  It will help the show tremendously, including my ability to bring on more incredible guests.

Show notes and links (e.g. mentioned books, resources) can be found below.


If you’ve missed previous episodes, here are two you might enjoy:

Show Notes and Select Links from Episode 16

  • The story of his entrepreneurial beginnings — pool boy to the organized crime figures of New York
  • Becoming an expert in women’s clothing
  • How he ended up on Wall Street, and why it led Joe to adventure races
  • What is the Death Race, and who enters a race with a name like that?
  • 3 races and a wedding (saying “yes” can get you in trouble)
  • How the Spartan Race became a global phenomenon
  • Behind the scenes of Spartan Up!
  • Much more….


Books Mentioned in the Episode

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Author: "Tim Ferriss" Tags: "The Tim Ferriss Show, death race, desena..."
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Date: Tuesday, 24 Jun 2014 13:23

Listen on iTunes, download (right click and “save as”), or stream it in the below player now:

This episode is brought to you by…you guys. To help keep this podcast going, please check out the Tim Ferriss Book Club, where, every 1-2 months, I highlight one book that’s changed my life. Here are the first four books.

Now, on to our guest… Neil Strauss!

You asked for him as a guest, so here he is. We had a blast, and I learned a TON.

Neil has written 7 New York Times bestsellers, including The Game: Penetrating the Secret Society of Pickup Artists. He’s also been an editor at Rolling Stone and a staff writer for The New York Times.  Not only that, but he’s built highly profitable companies and is an all-around hilarious guy.

Even if you *never* want to write, his thinking can be applied nearly everywhere.

In this episode, we discuss life, maximizing creativity (and creative output), and generally answer the questions:

  • How did he become a creative powerhouse? How does he consistently create amazing work?
  • How does he overcome writer’s block and other pitfalls?
  • What are Neil’s favorite books and movies?
  • How did Neil become a master conversationalist, and how can you?
  • What’s next?

Click here to subscribe/listen to the show on iTunes.
Click here to subscribe to the show via RSS (non-iTunes feed).

When you have a second, please leave me an honest rating and review on iTunes by clicking here. It will help the show tremendously, including my ability to bring on more incredible guests. This show’s had nearly two million downloads…but only 550 or so reviews! If you’re listening, please leave a short one here.

Show notes and links (e.g. mentioned books, resources) can be found below.

Neil is a close friend, and this is one of my favorite conversations we’ve had together. Please ping him on Twitter (@neilstrauss) to let him know what you thought.


Teasers and Select Links from Episode 15

  • The story of Neil Strauss’s first rejection by publishers
  • Why he received hate mail from the great Phil Collins
  • Neil’s techniques for conducting engaging, one-of-a-kind interviews
  • Proof that writer’s block doesn’t exist, and what that feeling really is
  • A deep-dive into Neil’s creative process
  • How the art of empathy improves any creative endeavor
  • How to hater-proof your book, Eminem-style
  • The importance of figuring out what your “white tennis shoes” are and removing them from your writing space
  • The books that Neil gifts the most


Books Mentioned in the Episode

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Author: "Tim Ferriss" Tags: "The Tim Ferriss Show, emergency, neil st..."
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Date: Thursday, 19 Jun 2014 20:28

Allow me to explain using a related problem.

Vocabulary lists in a run-of-the-mill Spanish textbook usually look something like the below, taken from real-world sources I won’t shame by naming:

  • La mano – the hand
  • El arbol – the tree
  • Las muñecas – the wrists
  • ¡Nos vemos mañana! – See you tomorrow!
  • Mande? – Sorry? Pardon? What did you say?
  • Ahorita vengo! – I’ll be back in a minute!

Pretty typical, right?

Sadly, this format is also priming students for failure.  Two reasons:

Spanish is listed first, so we’re training recognition.  If you want to be able to speak (produce) Spanish, you should list English first, then Spanish: cue and target.  For at least the first month, you will be translating from English in your head before most speaking.  Have your materials mimic this process, or you’re working backwards.

Incredibly, almost no textbooks get this ordering right.  If you train for recall, you get recognition automatically; if you train for recognition, recall is terrible, or as slow as molasses.

Think I’m exaggerating?  How many times have you handled or seen pennies and quarters in your life?  Tens of thousands of times?  Millions?  Try and draw both sides of either from memory.  Recognition does not = recall.  You have to train specifically for the latter.

A fixed list equals inflexible recall.  By illustration, answer this: what number is the letter “L” in the alphabet?  5th, 14th, which?  What is the third line of your national anthem?  Slow, isn’t it?  The answers depend on order — on the pieces before them acting as cues.  If you learn words in a fixed list, the preceding words act as a recall crutch for your target word.  You’ll eventually get it, but it’s plodding and haphazard.  This is a major problem.  This is also why, 10 years later, I can still sing (poorly) a few entire songs in Italian, but I could never recall those words independently for conversation.

We want RAM—random-access memory—where we can pull any word from memory quickly.

Mixing up flash cards accomplishes this, as does a software program like Anki or Duolingo (I advise), which does it automatically.

If you have a textbook with a fixed list, just practice doing them backwards and also in evens, odds, every-third item, etc.

¡Mucha suerte, ché!


If you like these shorter posts (as opposed to my longer, monster posts), please let me know in the comments and I’ll do more of them!

Author: "Tim Ferriss" Tags: "Language, The 4-Hour Chef - 4HC, languag..."
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Date: Wednesday, 18 Jun 2014 17:49
Sam Harris, Ph.D.

Sam Harris, Ph.D.

Listen on iTunes, download, or stream it in the below player now:

This episode of The Tim Ferriss Show is sponsored by Bluehost, which I used for my first WordPress blog, and I still use them for sites today. Click here for a special offer!

Now, on to our guest… Sam Harris.

Sam Harris is a neuroscience Ph.D. and the author of the bestselling books, The End of Faith, The Moral Landscape, Free Will, and Lying. His work have been discussed in The New York Times, Time, Scientific American, Nature, Newsweek, Rolling Stone, and many other journals.

In this episode, we explore the science of lying, uses and types of meditation, psychedelic drug uses and risks, spiritual experiences, and more. It’s really a discussion of the human experience, and how to optimize it without harming others.

Click here to subscribe/listen to the show on iTunes.
Click here to subscribe to the show via RSS (non-iTunes feed).

If you have a second, please leave me an honest rating and review on iTunes by clicking here. It will help the show tremendously, including my ability to bring on more incredible guests. Thanks!

Once you’ve listening to this episode, let Sam (@samharrisorg) know on Twitter what you found most valuable or compelling.


Show Notes and Select Links (Resources, Books, Etc.) from Ep 14

  • Where Tim and Sam first met, and why shaking hands was not required…or really an option.
  • What are fMRI machines, and how does Sam use them for his studies of belief, disbelief, and uncertainty?
  • The faults of traditional lie detectors and the future of belief detectors.
  • Why “micro-expression” analysis is probably overstated.
  • Using meditation or pharmacology (drugs) to help present-state awareness and well-being.
  • What types of meditation Sam recommends and why.
  • Sam’s most controversial beliefs (or perhaps positions) of the last several years.
  • Why Malala Yousafzai should have won the Nobel Peace Prize…but why it’s probably a good thing she didn’t.
  • Are self-righteous but guilt-ridden white males ruining freedom of speech?
  • Examining self-transcendence and love.
  • Psychedelic drugs as an important rite of passage for human beings.
  • Which psychedelic drugs Sam has found most therapeutically valuable.
  • What are the powers and liabilities (or risks) of psychedelic drugs?
  • Why the only way to ensure you don’t have a bad trip is not to take a trip at all…
  • Debated by Tim and Sam — Is it only possible to truly hit the center of the spirituality bullseye through meditation (a.k.a. “try rugs, not drugs”)?


Who is Lucius Annaeus Seneca?

Sam Harris’s Blog

Paul Ekman’s work on Micro Expressions

Who is Malala Yousafzai?

Who is Ayann Hirsi Ali?

Brandeis University controversy with regards to Ayann Hirsi Ali

On the “freedom to offend an imaginary god” blog post

Vipassana meditation

How to meditate — blog post

Drugs and the Meaning of life — blog post

6 Health Benefits of Yerba Mate Tea

The Riddle of the Gun — blog post


Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion – by Sam Harris

End of Faith – by Sam Harris 

Lying – by Sam Harris

Mindfulness in Plain English – by Bhante Gunaratana

The Experience of Insight – by Joseph Goldstein

Wherever You go, There You are – by Jon Kabat-Zinn


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Date: Monday, 16 Jun 2014 19:35

This is a short post of things you may have missed.

First, three short (<15 minutes) podcasts I recently published:

The 9 Habits to Stop Now — The Not-To-Do List (iTunes or stream below)

Drugs and the Meaning of Life (iTunes or stream below)

Productivity” Tricks for the Neurotic, Manic-Depressive, and Crazy (Like Me) (iTunes or stream below)

Second, I’ve put up about a dozen highlights from other episodes — 1-3-minute clips on my YouTube page. If you enjoy them, I’ll put up more, so let me know in the comments!

Here are a few to start with:

Third, below are some podcasts with friends.  I had a blast on all of them, and all of them are different:

Author: "Tim Ferriss" Tags: "The Tim Ferriss Show, podcast"
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Date: Tuesday, 10 Jun 2014 20:39


Dr. Rhonda Patrick

Dr. Rhonda Patrick

This episode of The Tim Ferriss Show is sponsored by Bluehost, which I used for my first WordPress blog, and I still use them for sites today. Click here for a special offer!

Now, on to our guest…

My guest this episode is Rhonda Perciavalle Patrick, Ph.D., who works with Dr. Bruce Ames, the 23rd most-cited scientist across ALL fields between 1973 and 1984 (!).

Dr. Patrick also conducts clinical trials, performed aging research at Salk Institute for Biological Studies, and did graduate research at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, where she focused on cancer, mitochondrial metabolism, and apoptosis.

What does that all mean? Time is precious, right? Long podcast needs to be worth it, right? Here you go…

Whether you want to extend life, inexpensively buy a stem-cell “insurance policy” (hint: related to the Tooth Fairy), or guard against cancer, she will have a surprise insight for you.

In this episode, we cover a lot:

  • Are there simple methods for extending lifespan? What looks most promising?
  • What are the easiest ways to minimize your risk of cancer?
  • What are the dangers of taking certain common supplements? What’s worth it and what isn’t?
  • How can diet change the expression of your genes? How can this can be passed on to offspring?

…and much more.

Click here to subscribe to the show on iTunes.  This is most helpful to me and the podcast, even if you listen elsewhere!
Click here to subscribe to the show via RSS (non-iTunes feed).

Or stream the show in the player below:

If you have a second, please leave me an honest rating and review on iTunes by clicking here. It will help the show tremendously, including my ability to bring on more incredible guests. Thanks!

Show notes and links are below, and please find Rhonda on Twitter to say hello or ask questions. She’s very responsive.


Select Links and Resources for Episode 12


George Carlin – http://www.georgecarlin.com
Dr. Bruce Ames – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bruce_Ames
St. Jude’s donation link – https://shop.stjude.org/GiftCatalog/donation.do?cID=14262&pID=24671
Bluehost offers – http://www.bluehost.com/tim
Wellness FX – http://www.wellnessfx.com

Vitamix 5200 Blender
StemSave.com – http://www.stemsave.com/index.aspx
National Pulp Dental Laboratory – http://www.ndpl.net
Dr. Rhonda Patrick’s homepage – http://foundmyfitness.com
Rhonda on Twitter – @foundmyfitness
Rhonda on Facebook – facebook.com/foundmyfitness


Nutrition and Physical Degeneration – Weston Price
Wild Fermentation – Sandor Katz and Sally Fallon
Spark – Eric Hagerman
The Paleo Solution – Robb Wolf

Click here to see ALL free episodes of The Tim Ferriss Show, including world-class filmmakers, chess prodigies, investors, and many more.

Author: "Tim Ferriss" Tags: "The Tim Ferriss Show, dr. rhonda patrick..."
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Date: Wednesday, 04 Jun 2014 15:19
The writing duo: David Levien and Brian Koppelman

The writing duo: David Levien and Brian Koppelman

This episode of The Tim Ferriss Show is sponsored by Bluehost, which I used for my first WordPress blog, and I still use them for sites today. Click here for a special offer!

Now, on to our guest…

“Everyday, it’s about building a practice that enables you to try and forget that you’re afraid.”
- Brian Koppelman

My guest in this episode is Brian Koppelman.

Brian is a screenwriter, novelist, director, and producer. He is best known as the co-writer of Ocean’s Thirteen and Rounders, as well as a producer of The Illusionist and The Lucky Ones. He has directed films including Solitary Man, starring Michael Douglas.

In this episode, we explore how he got started, how he handles rejection, his big breaks, his creative process, and much, much more.

How does Hollywood work for writers?
How did he finally break through?
How did he discover singer-songwriter Tracy Chapman?
Will there be a movie for The 4-Hour Workweek?!?

His lessons and principles can be applied almost anywhere.

Click here to subscribe/listen to the show on iTunes.
Click here to subscribe to the show via RSS (non-iTunes feed).

Or stream the show in the player below:

If you have a second, please leave me an honest rating and review on iTunes by clicking here. It will help the show tremendously, including my ability to bring on more incredible guests. Thanks!

Show notes and links are below, and please let Brian (@briankoppelman) know on Twitter what you found most valuable or hilarious. He’s a good dude and loves to teach.


Show Notes for Episode 8 (Thanks, Ian!)

  • Tips on starting as a writer and moving into production and directing
  • The origins of the movie Rounders and what it took to create the screenplay
  • The writing routine of David Levien and Brian Koppelman while writing Rounders
  • The story of selling their first screenplay
  • Strategies for working with a writing partner
  • Making the decision to become a producer
  • The connections needed to create The Illusionist with Edward Norton
  • How an “option” agreement works for a writer when selling a screenplay
  • Tips on creating empowering relationship when representing an artist
  • How to secure rights to stories for film adaptation
  • On the disruptive force that is Tracy Chapman, and how they faced rejection together
  • How to cultivate mastery of screenwriting as a craft

 “Hollywood is a land of self-invention.” – Brian Koppelman


Connect with Brian Koppelman : Website | Twitter | Podcast


A Few Quotes of Many:

“For artists, there’s a very fine line between delusion and belief.” – Brian Koppelman

“What unifies every part of my journey is I always lead with my curiosity, obsession, or fascination.” – Brian Koppelman

“The step that a lot of people miss is a dispassionate evaluation of the reasons [for rejection]. If you can dispassionately evaluate the reasons for rejection and find them with merit, you can address them; if without merit, you can ignore them.” - Brian Koppelman

“If you are rigorous in your own R&D in whatever your area is, you do your own testing, and you really stress-test the thing that you do, I think that gives you a tremendous amount of inner fortitude when you come up against the monolith.” – Brian Koppelman


Author: "Tim Ferriss" Tags: "The Tim Ferriss Show, brian koppelman, D..."
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Date: Tuesday, 03 Jun 2014 20:41


People often ask me, “Who inspires you? Who do you look up to?” One immediate answer is Kyle Maynard.

I’ve been blessed to spend time with Kyle, who encourages you — in the most powerful, unspoken of ways — to do more, be more, and help more.

How do you compete in wrestling or MMA without arms or legs? How on earth do you climb Kilimanjaro on, not your hands and knees, your elbows and knees? How do you face the challenges no one thinks you can?

Life can be overwhelming. Hope can be lost. Whether you’re facing a little self-doubt, an extended depression, or the darkest of thoughts, I suggest you watch the above video.

Thank you to BJJ Caveman for reminding me to put this up. Damn, it’s powerful stuff.

Good luck, everyone, with whatever battles you’re fighting inside or outside of you.

You are not alone.

Author: "Tim Ferriss" Tags: "Practical Philosophy, kyle maynard, no e..."
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Date: Tuesday, 27 May 2014 02:24

This episode of The Tim Ferriss Show is sponsored by HipDial. I use them personally, and you should check them out.

“Art is a subset of creativity.” – Chase Jarvis

Now, on to our amazing guest, Chase Jarvis!

Chase is a master photographer and the CEO of CreativeLIVE.com, where this episode was filmed.

Chase is the youngest person ever to be named a Hasselblad Master, Nikon Master, and ASMP Master. Since opening his own studio, Chase has photographed for Nike, Apple, Columbia Sportswear, REI, Honda, Subaru, Polaroid, Lady Gaga, Red Bull, and many more. He is known for a hyper-kinetic style and an emphasis on sports and portraiture.

CreativeLIVE, where he is CEO, is an online learning platform that broadcasts live, high-definition classes to more than 2 million students in 200 countries (!). All classes are free to watch while live and can be purchased for later viewing. They are amazing. Teachers include Pulitzer Prize winners, business luminaries, and beyond.  Check them out here.

This is my first video podcast test, and I’ve also included a transcript of this episode for my hearing-impaired friends (Click here: Chase Jarvis – Tim Ferriss Show – Transcript). Hope you enjoy!

In this episode, we explore:

  • Chase’s personal story
  • The most important choices he’s made
  • Common mistakes of “creative” professionals (or people in general)
  • How he reached the pinnacle of his industry
  • And much, much more…

His lessons and principles can be applied almost anywhere.

Click here to subscribe/listen to the show on iTunes.
Click here to subscribe to the show via RSS (non-iTunes feed).

If you have a second, please leave me an honest rating and review on iTunes by clicking here. It will help the show tremendously, including my ability to bring on more incredible guests. Thanks!

Show notes and links are below, and please let Chase (@ChaseJarvis) know what you found most interesting or valuable.  He’s a good dude and would love to hear from you.


Show Notes and Select Links from Episodes 8 (Thanks, Ian!)

  • A little about CreativeLIVE studios
  • Chase Jarvis growing up, the making of a madman
  • Transitioning from artist to entrepreneur, where so many creatives fail
  • The amazing story of how Chase started taking pictures
  • The story of his first sale in the photography game
  • Main tipping points that led to him traveling the world with the greatest athletes… all while getting paid handsomely
  • How to monetize your craft at the highest level
  • Understanding negotiating skills, myths and realities
  • The most consistent mistakes in the world of creative entrepreneurship
  • How sharing his experiences of coming up as an artist was a tactic for differentiation
  • The importance of looking outside ones industry to glean tactics you can use
  • What it’s like shooting the top tennis players of all time, including Roger Federer and Serena Williams
  • Dissecting the value and capacity to become an empowered polymath in today’s world
  • How iteration is the key to navigating the transition from successful solopreneur to building out a company
  • About the vision for CreativeLIVE and himself
  • The top priorities for fulfillment/happiness for Chase Jarvis
  • On the fascinating power of meditation and how Chase practices
  • Chase’s catastrophic self-inflicted wound



Connect with Chase Jarvis: Website | YouTube | Twitter | Facebook | G +


Just listen on Stitcher, or you can listen using the player below –

Author: "Tim Ferriss" Tags: "The Tim Ferriss Show, chase jarvis, crea..."
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Date: Monday, 19 May 2014 16:51


Stephen J. Dubner (@Freakonomics) is an award-winning author, journalist, and radio and TV personality.

He is best-known for writing, along with the economist Steven D. Levitt, Freakonomics (2005), SuperFreakonomics (2009), and Think Like a Freak (2014), which have sold more than 5 million copies in 35 languages.

In this podcast, we discuss dozens of topics, including: his writing process, religion, parenting, favorite documentaries, and much, much more.

I recommend checking out his new book, Think Like a Freak. If you liked the assumption-busting, myth-testing stories of Freakonomics or any of my books, you’ll enjoy it.

Click here to subscribe/listen to the show on iTunes.
Click here to subscribe to the show via RSS (non-iTunes feed).

If you have a second, please leave me an honest rating and review on iTunes by clicking here. It will help the show tremendously, including my ability to bring on more incredible guests. Thanks!

Please let Stephen (@Freakonomics) know what you enjoyed most.

Show notes are below, courtesy of reader Kasperi — thanks for posting in the comments!

Selected Show Notes and Links


-How do you collaborate with your co-author getting the material together for a narrative?
-How do you make a good story? How does Stephen start brainstorming a story?
-How Stephen ended up choosing his own religion
-From the book, which two principles would Stephen most like to teach to his children?
-Discussion about Stephen’s children & Tim’s thoughts about family and kids
-As a mentor, how would Stephen improve his student’s thinking?
-Stephen talks about how it’s sometimes easier to learn from bad examples than great examples
-The surprising origin of the word ‘sophisticated’
-How to overcome “mental masturbation”– wasting mental energy on meaningless nonsense
-In the book, which were the principles that didn’t make it in, but could have made it in alternate universe?

Rapid fire questions:

-What are Stephen’s favorite movies/documentaries?
-What does the first hour of Stephen’s day look like?
-Does the clothing you wear affect your mood or attitude?
-What are Stephen’s favorite sources of reading material?
-If Stephen could provide his younger self one or two pieces of advice, what would those be?

Movies mentioned in episode:

Seven Up!

Websites mentioned:

New York Times

Wall Street Journal

Marginal Revolution

Freakonomics (Find Stephen here)

Books mentioned:

Think Like A Freak

Levels of The Game

Companies/organizations mentioned:


Quantified Self

Author: "Tim Ferriss" Tags: "The Tim Ferriss Show, freakonomics, step..."
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Date: Sunday, 18 May 2014 19:20


What happens when you hug strangers?

Andrew Hales of LAHWF wanted me to find out.

The above video took place in Dolores Park in San Francisco last Thursday, around 5:30pm. All people hugged are complete strangers.

Andrew challenged me to make the awkward even more awkward:

  • Could I score a hug by simply standing like a zombie with my arms out? (He’s good at this)
  • Could I go for the “long hold” and hug someone for 5 seconds, 10 seconds, or more?
  • Could I hug without saying anything? (Not my strong suit, it turns out)

To make things more interesting, Andrew accidentally–or purposefully?–started the filming at the famously gay southwest corner of Dolores.

Oh, boy…


In other news, if you’re looking for a short essay to jumpstart your week, this might be what the doctor ordered: “6 Formulas for More Output and Less Overwhelm.”

Author: "Tim Ferriss" Tags: "Uncategorized, andrew hales, experiments..."
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Date: Wednesday, 14 May 2014 07:00

silva bw

My guest this episode is the incredible Jason Silva.

Download it here.

Jason has been called the “Timothy Leary of the viral video age” by The Atlantic.

He is also host of Brain Games on National Geographic Channel. The show set a record as the highest-rated series launch in Nat Geo’s history, with an average of 1.5 million viewers for the first two episodes.

In this episode, we discuss his career, his skills, TV, his influences and tools, and much more.

QUICK FAVOR – If you haven’t already, can you pretty please:

1) Subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, even if you listen to it elsewhere?  This is critical for ranking and recruiting future guests.

2) Leave a review of the podcast on iTunes here? Even one sentence would be extremely helpful.

Hope you enjoy the episode!

Would you like to sponsor the podcast (more than $5K per episode, less than $25K)? Please let me know by filling out this short form.

Below are the show notes, links to resources, and non-iTunes download options…

Select Show Notes for Episodes 5 (Thanks, Ian!)

  • Learn about epiphany addiction
  • How Jason uses flow states to create astonishing wordplay
  • The power of being open to “rhapsody”
  • Cognitive ecstasy and wonder junkies
  • Exploring discursive environments
  • What does the first hour of Jason Silva’s day look like?
  • The crappiest job Jason ever had
  • Why Chris Anderson, the curator of TED, is Jason’s ideal of a successful person
  • Why Jason would dream of working with director Danny Boyle
  • Advice for his younger self


“I think cinema is the last alter left…” – Jason Silva


Connect with Jason Silva: Twitter | Shots of Awe | Facebook | Personal Site


Just download the MP3 here, or you can stream it below:

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Date: Thursday, 08 May 2014 21:24


This post is about the fourth book in the Tim Ferriss Book Club, which is limited to books that have dramatically impacted my life. All previous selections can be found here. Enjoy!

“Would you have a great empire? Rule over yourself.” — PUBLILIUS SYRUS

The last two weeks have been disaster after disaster for me:

  • A dear friend died unexpectedly, only miles from my home. (RIP, Seth Roberts)
  • A seven-figure business deal fell apart at the last minute.
  • Only days ago, Turner Broadcasting let me know that the May 27th digital launch of The Tim Ferriss Experiment has been canceled. Some (not all) of the higher-ups want to try selling it to traditional outlets. (Sidenote: If you bought an iTunes season pass, definitely request a refund)

Over the last 14 days, I have carried one book in my backpack to cope, all day and every day: The Obstacle Is The Way.

It has helped me to turn problems upside-down, become the calm within the storm, and even uncover unique opportunities.

“Philosophy” gets a bad rap.

Most of us know a turtleneck-wearing pseudo-intellectual who’s spent countless hours studying obscure details of Freud or post-structural lesbian feminism.  These same people sometimes purport to be “philosophical.” And for what? More often than not, to posture as a holier-than-thou jerk off. To argue over semantics that don’t matter.

Fortunately, there are a few philosophical systems that produce dramatic real-world results…without the nonsense. In other words, all substance instead of smoke.

The Obstacle Is The Way, penned by Ryan Holiday, is a collection of stories and principles about Stoicism, which I consider to be the ultimate personal “operating system” for entrepreneurs…or anyone who wants high performance under high stress.

Ryan became Director of Marketing at American Apparel at age 21 (!). He gets more heat, makes more high-stakes decisions, and take more risks in a given week than most people experience in any given quarter. He also happens to be a die-hard Stoic and incredible at putting the principles into practice.

If you want to be “anti-fragile” like Thomas Jefferson, Marcus Aurelius, and many of most dominant soldiers and investors in history, Stoicism offers the playbook.  If you want to make better decisions, if you want to smile when other people cower, it offers real tools.

To quote Andy Grove, former CEO of Intel, “Bad companies are destroyed by crisis. Good companies survive them. Great companies are improved by them.”

What if you could be a person who is improved by crisis? That would give you opportunities no one else can see, let alone grasp.

It will also make you a happier human being.

Check out The Obstacle Is The Way today:

I’m not the only one who loves it. Here are just a few of many:

“Follow these precepts and you will revolutionize your life. Read this book!”
—Steven Pressfield, author of The War of Art and Gates of Fire

“A book for the bedside of every future–and current–leader in the world.”
—Robert Greene, author of The 48 Laws of Power and Mastery

“Ryan Holiday has written a brilliant and engaging book, well beyond his years…It is invaluable.”
—Honorable Frederic Block, Judge, U.S. District Court

Seriously, check out the book.

If you’d like to hear more of Ryan’s ideas, you might enjoy the podcast interview I recorded with him recently, which has gone nuts on social media:

Question of the day: What philosophies, guiding tenets, or quotes have you found most helpful in your own life? Please share in the comments!

Author: "Tim Ferriss" Tags: "Tim Ferriss Book Club, ryan holiday, sto..."
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Date: Wednesday, 07 May 2014 00:16

“The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.” — Marcus Aurelius

This post includes:
- Sponsor intro (please visit them)
- Episode description
- Quick favor
- Show notes and tons of useful links, including mentioned books and documentaries
- Non-iTunes options for listening

This episode of The Tim Ferriss Show is sponsored by HipDial, which I’ve been a fan of for ages.

I use HipDial for conference calls: no stupid PIN numbers, no hitting #, and you get a text when people join, so you don’t have to wait. It’s rocks–try it for a free month, and you’ll never go back.

Now, on to the main event…

My guest is Ryan Holiday, who became Director of Marketing at American Apparel at age 21 (!). He’s a beast.

Since dropping out of college at 19 to apprentice under strategist Robert Greene (author of The 48 Laws of Power), Ryan has advised many New York Times bestselling authors and mega-multi-platinum musicians. He is a master of the media, and he knows how to build massive buzz while responding to unexpected crises. He can compete or counterpunch with the best.

I hired Ryan to help with the launches of The 4-Hour Body and The 4-Hour Chef. His unorthodox approaches always impress me.

I loved his new book (The Obstacle Is The Way) so much that I bought the audiobook format and produced it with him. It is the newest addition to The Tim Ferriss Book Club.

In this episode, we discuss dozens of topics, including the real-world strategies he uses to thrive (not just survive) when the world is exploding around him.

And…want to win some cool stuff today? Tweet out your favorite quote or line from this episode, using the following format, and I’ll pick a few of my favorites for prizes:

“[Insert quote]” More: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/the-tim-ferriss-show/id863897795?mt=2 #TFS”

To encourage other people to retweet, try and keep your entire tweet to 125 characters or fewer. The iTunes link above will be automatically shortened.

Deadline is 8:30pm PST.

QUICK FAVOR – If you haven’t already, can you pretty please:

1) Leave a review of the podcast on iTunes here?
2) Vote as “helpful” the reviews you most agree with? Here’s the link. The vast majority are 5 stars (290 out of 333), but there’s some wild Haterade, too, if that’s your thing.

Show Notes for Episodes 4 (Thanks, Ian!)

  • The surprising story of how Ryan was introduced to stoicism by Dr. Drew
  • What makes a “quake book”?
  • How Marcus Aurelius helped Ryan survive a tough breakup
  • About esoteric philosophical ideas that are excellent tools in the modern world
  • Deconstructing the “Big 3″ stoics – Seneca | Epictetus | Aurelius
  • Is stoicism compatible with material or financial success, or are they completely at odds with one another?
  • Tim’s strategy for developing connections in Silicon Valley
  • Cultivating advantageous mentorships with peak performers
  • The story of Benjamin Franklin’s lending library…
  • What Ryan credits for his ability to “get shit done.”
  • What a day in the life of Ryan Holiday looks like (deflecting meeting requests, etc.)
  • Why e-mail can save time compared to a phone call
  • The most common mistake that new writers make
  • Delving into the writing process
  • How Ryan approaches goal setting and financial security

  • Friend curation, and the factors that guide Ryan’s decision making
  • Rapid-fire questions:
  1. Ryan’s fight entrance song?
  2. One thing he would change about himself?
  3. When he thinks of the word “successful,” who comes to mind, and why?
  4. If he could study any expert in the world, who would it be and why?
  5. Advice to his younger self?
  6. What Ryan orders at the bar?
  • Who should drop out of college versus who should stay in college
  • And much, much more…


  1. Fake Jeff Jarvis
  2. FelixSolomon
  3. Media Redefined by Jason Hirschhorn
  4. MariaPapova of BrainPickings
  • Ryan’s favorite blogs:
  1. Feedly
  2. Ta-Nehisi Coate’s blog
  3. Mark Cuban’s blog
  • Ryan’s Favorite Reddits:

Stoicism | Philosophy | History Porn | Ask Historians

Today I Learned | First World Problems | Reddit Books



  1. The Black Swan
  2. Fooled by Randomness
  3. Antifragile
  1. Oranges
  2. Levels of the Game
  3. The Survival of the Bark Canoe
  4. Plymouth Rock (Free Online)
  5. The Control of Nature
  6. Giving Good Weight


Connect with Ryan Holiday: Twitter | Website | Thought Catalogue | Observer



Just listen on Stitcher, or you can listen using the player below –

Author: "Tim Ferriss" Tags: "The Tim Ferriss Show, obstacle is the wa..."
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Date: Tuesday, 06 May 2014 01:07

There are dozens of topics covered in this tea-infused, bromantic episode of scatterbrained nonsense.

Like what? Well: porn (including select picks), taking an “alcohol vacation,” fixing low testosterone, the wonders of insect protein, start-up talk, and much more. O-tanoshimi dane!

Please note: The 100 free spots for Exo protein bars filled up in less than 15 minutes! Hope to do more giveaways next month, but — in the meantime — you can get Exo here, while inventory lasts. My favorite flavor right now is cacao nut.

This edition of The Random Show was recorded and edited by Graham Hancock(@grahamhancock). For all previous episodes, including the epic China Scam episode,click here.


Show notes are below, courtesy of kind reader Wayne Patton (Thanks, Wayne!):

1. Unicorn Peppermill at 1:10 – good for all kinds of herbs/spices, not just pepper. Tim’s favorite (and perhaps Amazon’s favorite) peppermill.
2. Benefits of turmeric tea and longevity beginning at 2:11
3. Diet of the world’s “oldest” city per capita at 5:00
4. Kevin on why you shouldn’t push down elderly folks at 6:25
5. The 30-day challenge beginning at 9:30
7. Low testosterone conversation at 13:25 & 16:20
8. Tim’s favorite porn at 16:05
9. The bet between Kevin and Tim at 19:08

*Commercial: Donate to http://www.donorschoose.org

10. Crypto currencies like Dogecoin and micro-transactions at 21:00 (side note: Tim only invests if he has an “informational advantage”)
11. At 26:30 Kevin begins talking about http://www.ethereum.org and how it could have a decentralizing effect on the internet and cryptographic currencies
12. Protein from crickets at 31:00 – http://www.exo.co
13. First 100 people get a free cricket bar at 38:45 [NOTE:  These slots filled up within 15 min of this post going live]
14. What Kevin’s excited about (hint: recycling furniture) at 40:18 –http://www.moveloot.com
15. At 43:15 Kevin talks about http://www.misfitwearables.com and how much he likes the product
16. On meditation and the effects at 44:39
17. Dopamine vs. serotonin and building habits at 47:20 – stay tuned at http://www.summertomato.com
18. The effects of heat on the body (and magnesium oxide) at 48:45
19. Magnesium deficiency and the effects at 51:00
20. Tim’s podcast at 54:00 – Don’t podcast drunk and edit sober.
21. Tim on taking illustration classes at Filoli Gardens in Woodside, CA (http://www.filoli.org) at 57:15
22. Slaine The Horned God graphic novel by Pat Mills & Simon Bisley at 58:15
23. Subscribe for Tim’s quarterly subscription package –http://quarterly.co/tim – and why it’s so much fun for Tim
24. Kevin’s dream about a Bonsai style orange tree at 1:01:20
25. Titanium sunglasses at 1:02:03 – http://www.williampainter.com

Author: "Tim Ferriss" Tags: "Random, kevin rose, random show, tim fer..."
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Date: Monday, 28 Apr 2014 02:17

Kelly Starrett pic

It’s my first podcast threesome! [blush]


This episode features two incredible guests: Dr. Justin Mager and Kelly Starrett. We all drink wine and get crazy.

Dr. Mager is my personal doctor and has helped me with dozens of my crazy experiments, complete with blood testing and next-generation tracking. He’s brilliant (and hilarious).

Kelly Starrett is one of the top Crossfit coaches in the world, and one of my favorite PTs and performance trainers. His clients include Olympic gold medalists, Tour de France cyclists, world and national record holders in Olympic lifting and powerlifting, Crossfit Games medalists, ballet dancers, and elite military personnel. If you’re interested in taking your body or brain to the next level, or attempting to become the guy from Limitless, this episode is for you.


And…want to win some cool stuff today? Tweet out your favorite quote or line from this episode, using the following format, and I’ll pick a few of my favorites for prizes:

“[Insert quote]” More: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/the-tim-ferriss-show/id863897795?mt=2 #TFS”

To encourage other people to retweet you, try and ensure your entire Tweet is 120 characters or less. The iTunes link above will be automatically shortened.

If you haven’t already, please subscribe to the podcast on iTunes! My iTunes rank — largely determined by subscriber count — is critical for recruiting future guests. Other options for download are the end of this post, but iTunes (here) really helps me out, even if just for the first few episodes. Help me make this podcast as strong as possible, and click subscribe here!

If you’d like a teaser of Episode 3, some of the subjects we cover are below. Learn more about Kelly at MobilityWOD and through his Twitter account:

  • Defining a “performance whore”
  • The potent combination that is Justin Mager
  • What makes people “well” and what makes people thrive
  • Mixing passions for endocrinology and eastern philosophy
  • How chakras described in Ayurvedic medicine correspond to nerve plexuses and endocrine glands
  • How Justin Mager changes lives by exploring the body as a whole
  • Experimenting on the fringes of physiology and what limits can be pushed
  • Working with high-end athletes and military to exceed supposed “optimal” performance
  • Blood testing is a snapshot, not a overall description of health — how do you improve it? What do you measure?
  • Delving into the effects of travel on circadian rhythms, and how to correct problems
  • Exploring the Quantified Self (QS) movement and Kevin Kelly
  • Testing quality of sleep
  • Why science isn’t the cause-and-effect master of the universe, or shouldn’t be viewed as such
  • Pattern recognition and “chunking” for improved talent acquisition
  • The diverse role of genetics; what can be changed and what cannot
  • The health and performance implications of testosterone, boners, sleep, and more
  • Mattress selection from the mobility expert (Kelly)
  • Hacking the nervous system for rejuvenating sleep, utilizing body temperature as a tool
  • Rebooting the parasympathetic nervous system
  • “Supple Leopard” morning rituals
  • Kelly’s test of functional mobility
  • How pain tolerance, mobility, and movement come together
  • Common qualities of top physicians, coaches, and bio-hackers, and how you can emulate them…


For Android users, this podcast can also be found on Stitcher.

Just want the plain old RSS feed? Here it is! http://feeds.feedburner.com/thetimferrissshow

Users of Pocket Casts (and similar apps) can copy the Feedburner link above, then paste it in the app’s search bar. It’ll take you straight to the good stuff.


Author: "ianfp" Tags: "The Tim Ferriss Show, ferris, justin mag..."
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