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Date: Tuesday, 16 Sep 2014 02:12

6153243027_8a5ed7bc0b - poker(Photo: Ariel H.)

“One of the rare noncharlatanic books in finance.”
– Nassim Nicholas Taleb, author of The Black Swan and Antifragile

“There is more to be learned from Jim Paul’s true story of failure than from a stack of books promising to reveal the secret formula for success…this compact volume is filled with a wealth of trading wisdom and insights.”
– Jack Schwager, author of Hedge Fund Market Wizards

The newest book in The Tim Ferriss Book Club (all five books here) is a fast read entitled What I Learned Losing a Million Dollars. It packs a wallop.

This book came into my life through N.N. Taleb, who has made several fortunes by exploiting the hubris of Wall Street. Given how vociferously he attacks most books on investing, it caught my attention that he openly praises this little book.

My first dinner with Nassim was in September of 2008. It was memorable for many reasons. We were introduced by the incredible Seth Roberts (may he rest in peace), and we sat down just as Lehman Brothers was collapsing, which Taleb had — in simple terms — brilliantly shorted. We proceeded to drinking nearly all of the Prosecco in the restaurant, while talking about life, business, and investing. Lehman Brothers would end up the largest bankruptcy filing in US history, involving $600+ billion in assets.

The next day, I had a massive hangover and a hunger to study Nassim. Step one was simple: reading more of what he read.

I grabbed a copy of What I Learned Losing a Million Dollars, and I’ve since read it many, many times. For less than $20, this tool has helped me avoid multiple catastrophes, and I can directly credit its influence to roughly 1/2 of my net worth (!). The ROI has been incredible.

The book — winner of a 2014 Axiom Business Book award gold medal — begins with the unbroken string of successes that helped Jim Paul achieve a jet-setting lifestyle and land a key spot with the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. It then describes the circumstances leading up to 7-figure losses, and the essential lessons he learned from it. The theme that emerges: there are 1,000,000+ ways to make money in the markets (and many of the “experts” contradict one another), but all losses appear to stem from the same few causes.  So why not study these causes to help improve your odds of making and keeping money?

Even if you don’t view yourself as an “investor,” this book can help you make better decisions in life. Also, the stories, similar in flavor to Liar’s Poker, are hilarious and range from high-stakes baccarat to Arabian horse fiascos.  For entertainment value alone, this book is worth the time.

I hope you enjoy — and benefit from — the lessons and laughs as much as I have.

For those who enjoy both audio and Kindle, as I do, the above editions are synced with Whispersync. This means that if you get both the audio and Kindle, you can switch between the two. For instance, I like to read Kindle books on my iPhone on the subway, then pick up and listen to the audio while walking outside.

Would you be interested in interviewing the co-author, Brendan Moynihan? Brendan is a Managing Director at Marketfield Asset Management ($20 billion of assets under management) and the Senior Advisor to the Editor-in-Chief of Bloomberg News, among other things.

If you’re a journalist, blogger, podcaster, etc. interested in the book’s lessons, feel free to reach out to him at bmoynihan [at] bloomberg {dot} net.

I recently interviewed him myself for an hour about investing, how he met Jim Paul, and much more. Click below to listen to the conversation, or (if reading via email) you can click here to stream/download the MP3:

For those who want a short synopsis of the book, here you go:

Jim Paul’s meteoric rise took him from a small town in Northern Kentucky to governor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, yet he lost it all — his fortune, his reputation, and his job — in one fatal attack of excessive economic hubris. In this honest, frank analysis, Paul and Brendan Moynihan revisit the events that led to Paul’s disastrous decisions and examine the psychological factors behind bad financial practices in several economic sectors.

Paul and Moynihan’s cautionary tale includes strategies for avoiding loss tied to a simple framework for understanding, accepting, and dodging the dangers of investing, trading, and speculating.

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Author: "Tim Ferriss" Tags: "Investing, Tim Ferriss Book Club, brenda..."
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Date: Saturday, 13 Sep 2014 03:33

140812122223-ariel-garten-horizontal-gallery

Can you rewire your brain in two weeks?  The answer appears to be — at least partially — yes.

The following is a guest post by Shane Snow, frequent contributor to Wired and Fast Company and author of the new book SMARTCUTS: How Hackers, Innovators, and Icons Accelerate Success.  Last year, he wrote about his two-week Soylent experiment, which went viral and racked up 500+ comments.  He knows how to stir up controversy.

In this post, Shane tests the “brain-sensing headband” called Muse.

It’s received a lot of PR love, but does it stand up to the hype?  Can it make you a calmer, more effective person in two weeks?  This post tackles these questions and much more.

As many of your know, I’m a long-time experimenter with “smart drugs,” which I think are both more valuable and more dangerous that most people realize.  This includes homemade brain stim (tDCS) devices (I wouldn’t recommend without supervision) and other cutting-edge tools.  If you’d like to read more on these topics, please let me know in the comments.

In the meantime, I hope you enjoy Shane’s experimentation!

Enter Shane Snow

shane snow muse headband

The electrodes needed to be adjusted to fit my sweaty head, which was apparently the largest size the product could accommodate.

I was sitting on a porch in palpable D.C. humidity, on a midsummer’s morning at Bolling Air Force Base, trying to get a quartet of EEG sensors to connect my brain to my Samsung Galaxy. The purple box on my screen kept blinking in and out of sync.

Inside the house, my friend’s two-year-old was jumping violently on the sofa—the same sofa that the shedding 15-pound cat named Endai and I had shared for the past week. The house was in shambles; movers were busily trucking everything away to my friend’s soon-to-be new home in New Mexico. Hence the porch.

I had been sleeping on said couch due to the abrupt ending of an 8-year relationship, which had left me stunned and homeless for the preceding three weeks.  As luck would have it, the anti-anxiety pills my shrink had prescribed for me to take “as needed” were back in New York in my friend Simon’s living room. Crap. My calendar had just alerted me that I’d missed the Skype call start time for my company board meeting, right before the movers unplugged the Internet. Meanwhile, a platoon of military helicopters had decided to play what appeared to be a game of “who can hover the longest over the neighborhood”. Chuk, chuk, chuk, chuk, chuk. CHUCK. CHUCK.

My stress levels were high.

Seemed like as good a time as any to try out my new gadget: a brainwave-sensing headband called the Muse, and its companion app, Calm.

I placed the band’s centimeter-wide contact strip of electrodes against my forehead and rested the plastic against the top of my ears, fiddling with the fit until my phone finally registered a solid connection for each of the sensors, two on my temples, two behind my ears. I donned my white Audio-Technica DJ headphones and fired up the app, which in a soothing voice instructed me to sit up straight, and breeeeeeeathe.

Aug13muse

Calm is a simple meditation exercise: Count your breaths. Don’t try to force them. Your body knows how to breathe. Simply pay attention, the female voice in my headphones told me. After Muse calibrated to my brain’s “active” state—by making me brainstorm items in a series of topics—I was given five minutes of nature sounds to breathe to. When calm and focused, I enjoyed the sound of lapping waves and birds tweeting; when my mind wandered, sturdy winds picked up and the birds flew away.

At the end of five minutes, the app confirmed: I am not very calm.

Thus began my two week experiment in brain therapy. I’d been planning on acquiring a Muse after having caught wind of its development nearly two years before, but who knew it would finally be released during the most anxious time of my adult life? Two weeks was plenty of time, Muse inventor Ariel Garten told me, for the Muse focus training exercises “to reduce perception of pain, improve memory, improve affect, reduce anxiety, and also improve emotional intelligence.”

Seemed a little good to be true, but I was willing to test it.

firsteeg

Electroencephalography (EEG—the recording of electrical activity emitted from the brain) has come a long way in the last 100 years, since doctors drilled holes in monkeys heads to attach sensors, and eventually glued contacts with cathode ray tubes to intact human skulls to map brain activity. They discovered that the brain emits oscillating signals of variable frequency, and the frequency of the oscillations indicates what’s happening—at a high level—in one’s mind. These “waves” are generally delineated into categories based on frequency ranges:

  • Delta waves: indicate deep sleep. (1-3 Hz)
  • Theta waves: indicate deep relaxation or meditation. (4-8 Hz)
  • Alpha waves: indicate a relaxed brain state, what Garten calls “an open state of mind.” (9-13 Hz)
  • Beta waves: indicate alert consciousness and fire up when you’re actively thinking. (14-30 Hz)
  • Gamma waves: indicate high alertness and are often associated with learning. (30-100 Hz)
Source: Wikimedia Commons

Source: Wikimedia Commons

The original purpose of EEG was the study of epilepsy. Over the decades, however, as computers improved, neuroscientists’ increasing capability to process the enormous amount of data the brain throws off allowed them to experiment with EEG for other uses, such as attention therapy.

In his 2007 book, The Brain That Changes Itself, neuroscientist Norman Doidge made mainstream the then recent (and surprising) finding that “the brain can change its own structure and function through thought and activity.” Our intelligence and tendencies are not locked in once we’re no longer children, as popular belief once held. Once our brain was wired, it could still be rewired. Doidge called it, “the most important alteration in our view of the brain since we first sketched out its basic anatomy and the workings of its basic component, the neuron.”

This adaptability factor of the brain is called “neuroplasticity.” You may have seen dubious advertisements for “brain-enhancing games” and other gimmicks that drop the term neuroplasticity in impressive-sounding (but often meaningless) marketing speak. Despite this misuse, the plasticity of our neurons is, in fact, fact. Our brains use it to wire themselves naturally, but in the past several years scientists have developed a simple procedure to “hack” them.

Neurofeedback training, or NFT as the scientists call it, is a conditioning method wherein a patient is hooked up to an EEG and shown how active her brain is, thus allowing her to concentrate on exercises that exploit neuroplasticity to build mental muscles that allow her to consciously affect her resting brain activity. Clinical studies have shown that NFT helps the majority of patients to improve their cognitive control and have also helped ADHD sufferers significantly improve their ability to focus.  NFT has even been shown to have a positive effect on depression.

The two prerequisites to being able to pull off NFT are EEG sensors and a computer processor that can turn an EEG scan into real-time feedback. The electricity coming off the brain is orders of magnitude weaker than a standard AA battery, which means sensors must be powerful, delicate, and well-attached to pick anything up. Doctors have found that the skull reduces the signal significantly and thus would prefer if we didn’t have skulls (for examination purposes, that is), but have mostly settled on using wet sensors—electrodes affixed to the scalp or forehead using conductive gel.

The breakthrough that enabled a more practical, portable EEG device like the Muse claims to be, was the advent of dry sensors, or metal contacts that can use the skin’s own moisture or sweat to attain the necessary conductivity.

“Brain waves are very, very, very quiet.  They’ve had to make their way all the way through your thick, thick skull,” Garten says. But sensor technology is improving at a rate that indicates we’re two to three years away from non-contact sensors, she predicts.

And in 2014, processing power is no longer a problem. “Ten years ago we were using fiber optic cable to make sure that you got this extraordinary data into what was like an egg carton and an ancient Commodore computer so that they could do all the processing,” Garten says. “Now, we can just use a phone and Bluetooth.”

The 2013 Muse prototype

The 2013 Muse prototype

When I’d first laid hands on the Muse a year and a half before, it was a chunky slab of plastic and metal. Garten and I met up at a design gallery in Manhattan for a demo of the prototype headband she’d been working on for the better part of the last decade. A Canadian fashion designer turned neuroscientist, she spoke earnestly about the potential applications for measuring one’s brainstate to ameliorate stress and perhaps one day cure ADHD and anxiety.

Garten’s prototype Muse measured the activity of these waves and output them to an iPad like a seismograph. After I donned the plastic headband, I watched in real time as slowing my breathing or concentrating on something or simply talking affected the different wave forms.

“The long term vision is this tool is going to be a regular part of our daily lives,” Garten told me. “You know, like pedometers that help people manage and understand their physical exercise. Brain health is going to be something that is on everybody’s mind. Up until now, there has been no way to, basically, like put a stethoscope up to your brain and say, ‘How is it doing?’”

Ten years ago, a NFT system with Muse-like capabilities (often found in a chiropractor’s office) would cost 5 figures and a closet-worth of space. Now the processing power lives on a standard smartphone, and Muse sensors cost $299.

Eventually, Garten predicted, doctors would actively use it to treat the mentally ill. Programmers would build brainwave-control apps for gaming and smart homes and surfing the Internet on top of Muse’s technology.

But for now it just gives you tweety birds.

My porch session resulted in precisely zero of them:

firstsessionbirds

This session, for which I got a score of “31% calm,” would be the first of many mental workouts in my DYI NFT experiment. Would regular usage of the Muse headband actually change my brain and help fix my anxious life? Or would it turn out to be another wearable that’s more hype than help?

 

THE EXPERIMENT

The 2014 Muse headband

The 2014 Muse headband

The hypothesis (aka sales pitch) was that by using Muse, I’d improve my ability to focus and maintain my cool during my stressful day-to-day.

So for fifteen days, I performed a five-minute Muse Calm session each morning within an hour of waking up and shaking off sleep. I’d sit in a similar setting (straight-back chair in a room alone), in similar clothing (comfortable, shorts and t-shirt, no shoes), with no distractions (accomplished via Bose noise-canceling earbuds) every time.

Additionally, I performed a series of sessions in various random non-comfortable settings, to test whether different mental exercises produced different results, or whether I could remain calm while being assaulted by various outside forces—which is the real goal of NFT, rather than simply getting better at a “game” in quiet isolation.

Though the app would tell me if my brain was getting better at calming itself during the exercise, the less easy-to-quantify result would be to see whether my level of general anxiety would decrease as I got better at the Calm app. (I.e. am I forming these alleged neural pathways?) Garten and Calm each told me that once I completed enough sessions (5,000 points’ worth), the app would unlock insights about how my brain was doing, which could shed some light on my meta-state. But I also tracked my overall emotional and mental state by keeping regular journal entries throughout the two weeks.

For a control—and as a basic BS test—I performed a session while reading a book instead of doing the breathing exercise. I read three pages of Murakami’s new one, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki, and my brain was all sorts of active. Mr. Murakami, your work is stimulating. Science hath proven it:

murakamisession

 

THE RESULTS

Most of my morning sessions took place between 8 and 11 a.m. I keep a somewhat irregular sleep schedule (a source of anxiety, or symptom?), but aim for 7 hours a night. The important part for this experiment was to make sure that I did my Muse session within an hour of waking, but after I had stopped being groggy. In other words: before my morning exercise, after my morning pee.

I kept the morning schedule up with a few exceptions: on August 18, the Muse Calm app caused the headband to think my brainwaves had completely flatlined. I contacted the Muse team, and they confirmed that this was indeed a bug that they were working on fixing that day. On August 20, 22, 24, and 26 I skipped my morning session due to extenuating circumstances. (The 24th, for example, was my birthday, and I stayed out until 8 a.m.. My first session that day was at 4 p.m. and resulted in a hangover-level 31%.) But throughout my 15-day experiment, I never went a day without doing one or more sessions, and I never went two days without doing a standardized morning session.

In all, I completed 24 sessions. Here’s how my morning sessions went over the course of the two weeks:

morningsessions

You’ll notice that I did pretty poorly for the first several sessions, then experienced a jump in improvement on August 17. What this chart doesn’t show is that though it was that August 17 was actually the seventh session I’d done in total. So I was getting better, but I’m not entirely sure why such a dramatic jump. You’ll also notice a slight dip on the 25th and 27th. On these days, I was having a couple of particularly anxious mornings (due to personal issues); however, on these days I still maintained double the calm as my first few sessions—which were less emotionally fraught than these days.

My final morning session of the experiment, on August 28, was a serene 89%—my best yet, and just one spike of brain activity away from monk-like zen:

lastmorningsession

More importantly, I attracted a fucking flock of tweety birds:

lastsessionbirds

Here’s how I performed on my random sessions in less-controlled environments:

randomsessions

Clearly, it was harder for me to focus and remain calm when I was tired or emotionally compromised.

Trains made it easier to focus (likely due to the lack of noise and abundance of leg room). Airplanes tend to give me claustrophobia, but it’s also likely that the vibrations of the plane itself caused my muscles to move (generating louder electrical signals than your brain emits) and made my results so poor during the flight. There certainly was a lot of shaking going on during my flight.

Interestingly, listening to calming music (I tend to put Blackmill’s “Miracle” album on repeat when I want to relax or single-task) outperformed no sound (simply trying to calm myself without an aid). On August 27, my regular session with the app’s wind and waves, resulted in 12% less calm than my music experiment immediately after.

As far as the meta, “how am I doing” portion of the experiment went, I eagerly awaited when I could unlock the “Insights About You” page of the app, after racking up enough “calm points”. Disappointingly, though Garten and Muse Calm both promised me these “additional features and special insights into my brain”, once I unlocked the screen, I got simply a blank, broken page:

blankbonus

When asked, the Muse publicist confirmed that the feature “actually hasn’t been developed yet” and relayed the (in my opinion) unlikely explanation that “there was a miscommunication between the product and dev teams.”

My journal entries indicated a general decrease in agitation and worry by the end of the experiment. My ability to focus on tasks (primarily writing) seemed to improve. I have a tendency to get distracted when I’m writing, and in the same way that the waves-and-wind exercise in the app teaches you to power through distractions and focus on your breath, I felt that I already was improving my ability to notice a distraction but keep it in the background instead of indulging it.

Furthermore, as I walked down busy streets or lay in bed—times when I normally would ruminate—I found myself subconsciously slowing breaths and counting them as a means of shoving out bad thoughts and calming down.

“Many smart people who use their brains a lot are ‘high beta,’” explained my therapist (whose name I’ll omit to maintain a shred of personal privacy) when I asked her about this. An award-winning Manhattan psychologist and author, she has used NFT herself.  A few years ago, she used a professional-grade version of Muse to teach her own active brain to be silent. “I couldn’t go to sleep without the TV on,” she said. “The minute it was quiet, my brain would explode with activity.”

With measurement and some mental situps, she calmed her own rumination—as apparently thousands of people have done at clinics that use EEG therapy. That “neuroplasticity” thing that people throw around, it turns out, is real. And it works as fast as one can form a bad habit.

“The brain can be retrained,” she said. “People think it can’t, but it can.”

 

POTENTIAL ISSUES

One of the main limitations of the Muse Calm app—or at least questions that I had from the beginning—was the validity of the wind-and-waves feedback sound system itself, as well as the “count your breaths” mediation exercise. My assistant, Erin, who’s a yoga instructor and meditation expert by night, was skeptical that the Muse Calm exercise was the most effective method the app could have chosen. Why would you have the distracting sounds get worse when you were most compromised? she said. Doesn’t that create a self-defeating cycle?

Garten responded: “We did a bunch of experimentation on positive reinforcement and negative reinforcement and we ultimately built an application with a mix of both. The negative reinforcements of the wind can definitely be distracting, but what you learn over time is also this lesson in not being judgmental when things don’t work.”

A 2010 study by scientists from the University of Pennsylvania and Georgetown found positive links between “mindfulness training”—the popular meditation practice of calmly noticing, but not changing what’s happening to you—has a positive effect on working memory. The Muse Calm’s “notice and count your breaths” exercise is a form of mindfulness training, and appears to hold up under scientific scrutiny, but the wind-and-waves feedback loop (NFT) throws a bit of a wrench into true “mindfulness”, since the act of being mindful ends up affecting your environment, whereas the point of mindfulness meditation is to notice but not affect.

Could a “pure” mindfulness exercise without the instant and self-reinforcing feedback outperform Calm’s NFT/mindfulness hybrid? Beats me, but it’s a question I’d want to test in future experiments.

Other limitations or potential variables that could affect the science behind my two-week experiment include the following:

  • Factors such as the exact time I awoke and what kind of bed I slept in changed slightly from day to day, as I was traveling and couch-hopping. While the course of my experiment showed an upward trend in calm, I wasn’t able to duplicate the time and setting of each of my morning sessions precisely, which could affect the results to some degree.
  • Since I was dealing with the fresh personal trauma, perhaps I was naturally recovering psychologically during the two weeks of my experiment (i.e. regression to the mean). My therapist insists that the relationship wound was too fresh and two weeks is not enough time to work through anything, but it still could be a factor.
  • This experiment was only two weeks, which I was told would be a sufficient minimum for results. More time could certainly help verify the trends I observed in my short experiment. (And I plan to keep using Muse over the next few months to track just that.)
  • And of course, my observations about how I was feeling were, by nature, subjective. (However, if my psychological improvement is all in my head, that’s okay by me—it was in my head to begin with! And actually, I’ve interviewed one scientist who’s studying how placebos actually form neural pathways that can physically cure psychological issues. Very interesting stuff happening in this field.)

 

EPILOGUE

The electrodes had no problem beaming the signal from my sweaty head to my Android this time.

I was sitting on a set of red bleachers in disgusting New York humidity in the middle of Times Square, Manhattan. The familiar female voice in my headphones instructed me to close my eyes, as she had two dozen times before.

Around me, a trillion stressed-out tourists were busily taking selfies and worrying about pick pockets. A troupe of Chinese activists had just accosted me with pamphlets and signs concerning some “Jesuit Father discrimination” something-or-other, meanwhile a quartet of feather-headressed ladies performed a synchronized dance on the steps below me. A bumblefoot pigeon had taken up residence on my step and didn’t seem to want to leave me alone. My entire body was sweating.

I’d just walked through my old neighborhood, a surprisingly painful reminiscence. Unexpectedly, one of my ex’s favorite songs had begun playing on shuffle as I made my way through the crowd, further dampening my mood. In the back of my head were the several overdue stories for editors of various publications in line with my book launch, and the approximately 200 priority emails stacked up in my inbox. I was lugging my entire life in an overstuffed backpack and had just spilled protein drink all over my shorts—which I just now realized were my only available leggings, because I’d left the remaining two pairs of jeans I owned back in my friend Simon’s freezer (here’s why). I was pensive and hot and frustrated and dripping.

Once again, I donned my brainwave headband, which once again told me to breeaaathe.

About halfway through my five-minute session—the twenty-fifth I’d undertaken since meeting Muse—some nearby tourists began singing “Happy Birthday” so loudly that I could hear them through my noise-canceling headphones. A fire engine blared its siren in place for a full minute, stuck one block away in Times Square traffic. My butt burned on the red steps, in the August heat. My posture was killing me.

At the end of five minutes, Muse confirmed: I was pretty damn calm.

tsquaresessiongchart

The two spikes in active brain activity in this chart were the fire truck and the birthday party, each of which I recovered from almost instantly. Aside from that, my brain state was either neutral or calm the entire time:

tsqsessiontime

Plus I attracted 15 tweety birds:

tsqsessionbirds

Despite the chaos in my life, there was no doubt that this little device had made me a calmer person in just two weeks. I could play through the mental and physical pain with twice the composure as just fifteen days before.

Muse has a way to go before the guy with the electric headband on in Times Square doesn’t just look like an idiot. And the Calm app could definitely use work. (Different meditation exercises, please?) However, the science behind what the Muse team is doing is real, the technology promising, and a bevy of independent programmers are already building fascinating applications on top of Muse.

With the development of cheap and portable EEG monitors like Muse, are we a few lines of code away from controlling light switches and video games with our brains? It’ll take a while.

But I, at least, am a step closer to mind over matter.

Breeeeathe….

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Question of the day:  What do you think are the next frontiers of self-experimentation and self-tracking?  What would you like me to test for you?  Please let me know in the comments by clicking here.

Author: "shanesnow" Tags: "Mental Performance, The 4-Hour Body - 4H..."
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Date: Wednesday, 10 Sep 2014 04:35

team_peter

“Freedom lies in being bold.” – Robert Frost

This episode’s guest is the incredible Peter Thiel.

Peter is a serial company founder (PayPal, Palantir), billionaire investor (first outside investor in Facebook, 100+ others), and author of the new book Zero to One. Whether you’re an investor, entrepreneur, or simply a free thinker aspiring to do great things, I highly recommend you grab a copy.  His teachings on differentiation, value creation, and competition alone have helped me make some of the best investment decisions of my life (e.g. Twitter, Uber, Alibaba, etc.).

This podcast episode was experimental, as I was on medical leave.  It includes both audio and written questions. What are Peter’s favorite books?  Thoughts on tech and government, and more?  Answers to these “bonus questions” can be found in the text below.

For the longer, main audio discussion, you can:

Now, a bit more on Peter…

Peter Thiel has been involved with some of the most dynamic companies to emerge from Silicon Valley in the past decade, both as a founder and investor. Peter’s first start-up was PayPal, which he co-founded in 1998 and led to a $1.5 billion acquisition by eBay in 2002. After the eBay acquisition, Peter founded Clarium Capital Management, a global macro hedge fund. Peter also helped launch Palantir Technologies, an analytical software company which now books $1B in revenue per year, and he serves as the chairman of that company’s board. He was the first outside investor in Facebook, and he has invested in more than 100 startups total.

There are a lot of lessons in this podcast, even more in his new book, and below are a few follow-up questions that Peter answered via text.

Enjoy!

TIM: What is the book (or books) you’ve most often gifted to other people?

PETER: Books by René Girard, definitely — both because he’s the one writer who has influenced me the most and because many people haven’t heard of him.

Girard gives a sweeping view of the whole human experience on this planet — something captured in the title of his masterwork, Things Hidden Since the Foundation of the World — but it’s not just an academic philosophy. Once you learn about it, his view of imitation as the root of behavior is something you will see every day, not just in people around you but in yourself.

What is your favorite movie or documentary?

PETER: No Country for Old Men — a movie about whether all events are simply random, but also a work in which no detail is left to chance. I catch something new every time I watch it.

To increase technological growth/progress, what are the key things you think the government or people should do for greatest impact?

PETER: Libertarians like to call out excessive regulations, and I think they’re right.

But it’s a vicious circle: when governments make it harder to get things done, people come to expect less; when expectations are low, technologists are less likely to aim high with the kind of risky new ventures that could deliver major progress. The most fundamental thing we need to do is regain our sense of ambition and possibility.

For those who want to improve their ability to question assumptions or commonly held “truths,” which philosophers, or reading, or exercises, or activities might you suggest?

PETER: It’s a great exercise to revisit predictions about the future that were made in the past.

People write a lot of history, and they make a lot of predictions, and I consume a lot of both. But it’s rare that people go and check old predictions. It’s a way to see — with the benefit of hindsight — the assumptions that people didn’t even know they were making, and that can make you more sensitive to the questionable conventions that surround us today. For example, The American Challenge by Jean-Jacques Servan-Schreiber argued in 1968 that Europe would be eclipsed by relentless American progress. But that progress never came. It’s instructive to go back and see why Servan-Schreiber was optimistic.

###

Now, some questions for you all…

Who should I interview next?  Please let me know in the comments by clicking here.
Do you enjoy this podcast? If so, please leave a short review here.  Help me get to 1,000!  It’s so close!
Subscribe to The Tim Ferriss Show on iTunes.
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Author: "Tim Ferriss" Tags: "The Tim Ferriss Show, blake masters, boo..."
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Date: Saturday, 30 Aug 2014 04:00

KevinKellySF

This single interview — one of my favorites of all-time — was recorded in three short parts.  You can:



This podcast is brought to you by The Tim Ferriss Book Club, which features a handful of books that have changed my life. Here’s the list.  You can also find all 20+ episodes of this podcast here. Some are sober and some are drunk, but the guests are all great.

Now, on to this episode’s guest…

Kevin Kelly might be the real-life Most Interesting Man In The World.

He is Senior Maverick at Wired magazine, which he co-founded in 1993. He also co-founded the All Species Foundation, a non-profit aimed at cataloging and identifying every living species on earth. In his spare time, he writes bestselling books, co-founded the Rosetta Project, which is building an archive of ALL documented human languages, and serves on the board of the Long Now Foundation. As part of the last, he’s investigating how to revive and restore endangered or extinct species, including the Wooly Mammoth.

This episode touches on a lot of cool stuff.  SERIOUSLY, A LOT.

Just scroll below and your head might explode.  Tons of amazing links and goodies…

Enjoy!

Who should I interview next?  Please let me know in the comments by clicking here.
Do you enjoy this podcast? If so, please leave a short review here.  It keeps me going…
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Show Notes and Select Links from the Episode

  • Kevin Kelly’s biggest regret
  • His lesson in finding contentment in minimalism and “volunteer simplicity”
  • How he realized that writing actually creates ideas
  • Why he promised himself that he would never resort to teaching English while traveling abroad
  • The “creator’s dilemma,” or how you have to go lower to get higher
  • Why you don’t want to be a billionaire
  • His realizations after doing a “6 months until death” challenge
  • His Kickstarter-funded project linking angels and robots
  • Why a self-proclaimed ex-hippie waited until his 50th birthday to try LSD for the first time
  • Why a population implosion is probable in the next 100 years
  • The greatest gift you can give to your child
  • The criteria for Amish technology assimilation
  • What technology-free sabbaticals can do for you
  • Long Now Foundation’s vision of a better civilization
  • The graphic novel for young people on how to become indispensable
  • His favorite fiction book
  • The great resource Kevin compiled for documentary lovers
  • How he accumulated enough books to fill a two-story library
  • Mythbuster’s Adam Savage’s organizational method, which transformed Kevin’s life
  • The project that everyone should undertake at least once in life
  • The advice he would give to his younger self

LINKS FROM THE EPISODE

Books Mentioned in the Episode

Documentaries Mentioned in the Episode

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Author: "Tim Ferriss" Tags: "The Tim Ferriss Show, 1000 true fans, co..."
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Date: Tuesday, 26 Aug 2014 04:20
David Heinemeier Hansson (

David Heinemeier Hansson (“DHH”)

The following is a guest post by Shane Snow, a frequent contributor to Wired and Fast Company.  Last year, he wrote about his two-week Soylent experiment, which went viral and racked up 500+ comments.

This post is adapted from his new book, SMARTCUTSand it will teach you a few things:

  • How to use strategic “laziness” to dramatically accelerate progress
  • How “DHH” became a world-class car racer in record time, and how he revolutionized programming (they’re related)
  • A basic intro to computer programming abstraction

Note: the technical aspects of programming have been simplified for a lay audience.  If you’d like to point out clarifications or subtleties, please share your thoughts in the comments!   I’d love to read them, as I’m thinking of experimenting with programming soon.

Enter Shane Snow

The team was in third place by the time David Heinemeier Hansson leapt into the cockpit of the black-and-pink Le Mans Prototype 2 and accelerated to 120 miles per hour. A dozen drivers jostled for position at his tail. The lead car was pulling away from the pack—a full lap ahead.

This was the 6 Hours of Silverstone, a six-hour timed race held each year in Northamptonshire, UK, part of the World Endurance Championship. Heinemeier Hansson’s team, Oak Racing, hoped to place well enough here to keep them competitive in the standings for the upcoming 24 Hours of Le Mans, the Tour de France of automobile racing.

Heinemeier Hansson was the least experienced driver among his teammates, but the Oak team had placed a third of this important race in his hands.

Determined to close the gap left by his teammate, Heinemeier Hansson put pedal to floor, hugging the curves of the 3.7-mile track that would be his singular focus for the next two hours. But as three g’s of acceleration slammed into his body, he began to slide around the open cockpit. Left, then right, then left. Something was wrong with his seat.

In endurance racing, a first place car can win a six- or 12-hour race by five seconds or less. Winning comes down to two factors: the equipment and the driver. However, rules are established to ensure that every car is relatively matched, which means outcomes are determined almost entirely by the drivers’ ability to focus and optimize thousands of tiny decisions.

Shifting attention from the road to, say, a maladjusted driver’s seat for even a second could give another car the opportunity to pass. But at 120 miles per hour, a wrong move might mean worse than losing the trophy.  As Heinemeier Hansson put it, “Either you think about the task at hand or you die.”

Turn by turn, he fought centrifugal force, attempting to keep from flying out while creeping up on the ADR-Delta car in front of him.

And then it started to rain…

***

When Heinemeier Hansson walked onto the racing scene in his early 30s, he was a virtual unknown, both older and less experienced than almost anyone in the leagues. A native of Denmark, he’s tall, with a defined jaw and dark spikey hair. At the time he raced 6 Hours of Silverstone, it had been about five years since he first drove any car at all.

That makes him one of the fastest risers in championship racing.

Despite that, Heinemeier Hansson is far better known among computer programmers—where he goes by the moniker DHH— than car enthusiasts. Though most of his fellow racers don’t know it, he’s indirectly responsible for the development of Twitter. And Hulu and Airbnb. And a host of other transformative technologies for which he receives no royalties. His work has contributed to revolutions, and lowered the barrier for thousands of tech companies to launch products.

All because David Heinemeier Hansson hates to do work he doesn’t have to do.

DHH lives and works by a philosophy that helps him do dramatically more with his time and effort. It’s a principle that’s fueled his underdog climbs in both racing and programming, and just might deliver a win for him as the cars slide around the rainslicked Silverstone course.

But to understand his smartcut, we must first learn a little bit about how computers work.

grass

Think of the way a stretch of grass becomes a road. At first, the stretch is bumpy and difficult to drive over. A crew comes along and flattens the surface, making it easier to navigate. Then, someone pours gravel. Then tar. Then a layer of asphalt. A steamroller smooths it; someone paints lines. The final surface is something an automobile can traverse quickly. Gravel stabilizes, tar solidifies, asphalt reinforces, and now we don’t need to build our cars to drive over bumpy grass. And we can get from Philadelphia to Chicago in a single day.

That’s what computer programming is like. Like a highway, computers are layers on layers of code that make them increasingly easy to use. Computer scientists call this abstraction.

A microchip—the brain of a computer, if you will—is made of millions of little transistors, each of whose job is to turn on or off, either letting electricity flow or not. Like tiny light switches, a bunch of transistors in a computer might combine to say, “add these two numbers,” or “make this part of the screen glow.”

In the early days, scientists built giant boards of transistors, and manually switched them on and off as they experimented with making computers do interesting things. It was hard work (and one of the reasons early computers were enormous).

Eventually, scientists got sick of flipping switches and poured a layer of virtual gravel that let them control the transistors by typing in 1s and 0s. 1 meant “on” and 0 meant “off.” This abstracted the scientists from the physical switches. They called the 1s and 0s machine language.

Still, the work was agonizing. It took lots of 1s and 0s to do just about anything. And strings of numbers are really hard to stare at for hours. So, scientists created another abstraction layer, one that could translate more scrutable instructions into a lot of 1s and 0s.

This was called assembly language and it made it possible that a machine language instruction that looks like this:

10110000 01100001

could be written more like this:

MOV AL, 61h

which looks a little less robotic. Scientists could write this code more easily.

Though if you’re like me, it still doesn’t look fun. Soon, scientists engineered more layers, including a popular language called C, on top of assembly language, so they could type in instructions like this:

printf(“Hello World”);

C translates that into assembly language, which translates into 1s and 0s, which translates into little transistors popping open and closed, which eventually turn on little dots on a computer screen to display the words, “Hello World.”

With abstraction, scientists built layers of road which made computer travel faster. It made the act of using computers faster. And new generations of computer programmers didn’t need to be actual scientists. They could use high-level language to make computers do interesting things.

When you fire up a computer, open up a web browser, and buy a copy of my book online for a friend (please do!), you’re working within a program, a layer that translates your actions into code that another layer, called an operating system (like Windows or Linux or MacOS), can interpret. That operating system is a probably built on something like C, which translates to Assembly, which translates to machine language (1s and 0s), which flips on and off a gaggle of transistors.

(Phew.)

So, why am I telling you this? 
In the same way that driving on pavement makes a road trip faster, and layers of code let you work on a computer faster, hackers like DHH find and build layers of abstraction in business and life that allows them to multiply their effort.

I call these layers platforms.

***

At college in the early aughts, DHH was bored. Not that he couldn’t handle school intellectually. He just didn’t find very much of it useful.

He practiced the art of selective slacking. “Some of my proudest grades were my lowest grades,” he tells me.

We all know people in school and work with a masterful ability to maintain the status quo (John Bender on The Breakfast Club or the bald, coffee-swilling coworker from Dilbert), but there’s a difference between treading water and methodically searching for the least wasteful way to learn something or level up, which is what DHH did.

“My whole thing was, if I can put in 5 percent of the effort of somebody getting an A, and I can get a C minus, that’s amazing,” he explains. “It’s certainly good enough, right? [Then] I can take the other 95 percent of the time and invest it in something I really care about.”

DHH used this concept to breeze through the classes that bored him, so he could double his effort on things that mattered to him, like learning to build websites. With the time saved, he wrote code on the side.

One day, a small American web-design agency called 37signals asked DHH to build a project management tool to help organize its work. Hoping to save some time on this new project, he decided to try a relatively new programming language called Ruby, developed by a guy in Japan who liked simplicity. DHH started coding in earnest.

Despite several layers of abstraction, Ruby (and all other code languages) forces programmers to make countless unimportant decisions. What do you name your databases? How do you want to configure your server? Those little things added up. And many programs required repetitive coding of the same basic components every time.

That didn’t jibe with DHH’s selective slacking habit. “I hate repeating myself.” He almost spits on me when he says it.

But conventional coders considered such repetition a rite of passage, a barrier to entry for newbies who hadn’t paid their dues in programming.  “A lot of programmers took pride in the Protestant work ethic, like it has to be hard otherwise it’s not right,” DHH says.

He thought that was stupid. “I could do a lot of other interesting things with my life,” he decided. “So if programming has to be it, it has to be awesome.”

So DHH built a layer on top of Ruby to automate all the repetitive tasks and arbitrary decisions he didn’t want taking up his time. (It didn’t really matter what he named his databases.) His new layer on top of programming’s pavement became a set of railroad tracks that made creating a Ruby application faster. He called it Ruby on Rails.

Rails helped DHH build his project—which 37signals named Basecamp—faster than he could have otherwise. But he wasn’t prepared for what happened next.

When he shared Ruby on Rails on the Internet, programmers fell in love with it. Rails was easier than regular programming, but just as powerful, so amateurs downloaded it by the thousands. Veteran coders murmured about “real programming,” but many made the switch because Rails allowed them to build their projects faster.

The mentality behind Rails caught on. People started building add-ons, so that others wouldn’t have to reinvent the process of coding common things like website sign-up forms or search tools. They called these gems and shared them around. Each contribution saved the next programmer work.

Suddenly, people were using Ruby on Rails to solve all sorts of problems they hadn’t previously tackled with programming. A toilet company in Minnesota revamped its accounting system with it. A couple in New Jersey built a social network for yarn enthusiasts. Rails was so nice that more people became programmers.

In 2006 a couple of guys at a podcasting startup had an idea for a side project. With Rails, they were able to build it in a few days—as an experiment—while running their business. They launched it to see what would happen. By spring 2007 the app had gotten popular enough that the team sold off the old company to pursue the side project full time. It was called Twitter.

A traditional software company might have built Twitter on a lower layer like C and taken months or years to polish it before even knowing if people would use it. Twitter—and many other successful companies—used the Rails platform to launch and validate a business idea in days. Rails translated what Twitter’s programmers wanted to tell all those computer transistors to do—with relatively little effort. And that allowed them to build a company fast. In the world of high tech—like in racing—a tiny time advantage can mean the difference between winning and getting passed.

Isaac Newton attributed his success as a scientist to “standing on the shoulders of giants”—building off of the work of great thinkers before him.

Platforms are tools and environments that let us do just that. It’s clear how using platforms applies in computer programming, but what if we wanted to apply platform thinking to something outside of tech startups?

Say, driving race cars?

***

David Heinemeier Hansson was in a deep hole. Halfway through his stint, the sprinkling rain had become a downpour. Curve after curve, he fishtailed at high speed, still in third place, pack of hungry competitors at his rear bumper.

LMP cars run on slick tires—with no tread—for speed. The maximum surface area of the tire is gripping the road at any moment. But there’s a reason street vehicles have grooves in them. Water on the road will send a slick tire drifting, as the smooth rubber can’t channel it away. Grooved tires push water between the tread, giving some rubber grip and preventing hydroplaning. The slicker the tires—and the faster the speed—the more likely a little water will cause a car to drift.

That’s exactly what was happening to the LMP racers. As the rain worsened, DHH found himself sliding around the inside of a car that was sliding all over the race track. Nearby, one driver lost grip, slamming into the wall.

Cars darted for the pits at the side of the track, so their teams could tear off the slick tires and attach rain tires. Rain tires are safer, but slower. And they take a precious 13-plus seconds to install. By the time the car has driven into the pits, stopped, replaced the tires, and started moving again, more than a minute can be lost.

DHH screamed into his radio to his engineer, Should I pit in for new tires?

Like I said, DHH wasn’t the most experienced racer. He had gotten into this race because he was skilled at hacking the ladder. A few years into 37signals’s success, and with Rails taking a life of its own, Hansson had started racing GT4—essentially souped-up street cars—in his spare time.

Initially, he finished in the middle of the pack with the other novices. But after studying videos of master drivers, he started placing higher. High enough that after six races, he was allowed to enter into GT3 races (the next level up), despite zero first-place wins. In GT3, he raced another six times, placing first once, third another time. He immediately parlayed up to GTE (the “E” is for “endurance”). While other racers duked it out the traditional way, spending a year in each league, and only advancing after becoming league champion, DHH “would spend exactly the shortest amount of time in any given series that I could before it was good enough to move up to the next thing.”

There’s no rule that says you have to win the championship to advance from GT4 to GT3. Nor is there a rule saying you have to spend a year in a given league before moving up. That’s just the way people did it. Instead, DHH compressed what normally takes five to seven years of hard work into 18 months of smart work. “Once you stop thinking you have to follow the path that’s laid out,” he says, “you can really turn up the speed.”

On the rainy Silverstone course, however, parlays couldn’t help him anymore, and slacking was not an option. DHH had to drive as fast as safely possible, and every microsecond counted. In such tight competition, the only edge a racer had was raw driving skill.

Or, as it turned out, a better platform.

dhhontrack

SHOULD I PIT IN? The man who hates repeating himself repeated over the radio. I’m going to end up in the wall!

His engineer told him to tough it out. The rain is about to clear up.

G-force pounding his body, DHH cautiously hugged the curves for another lap, and sure enough, the downpour began to subside. By two laps the course was dry. Heinemeier Hansson’s slick tires gripped the track with more friction than his competitors’ newly fitted rain tires and he sped ahead. The other drivers now had to pit back in for slick tires, for a total of nearly two minutes’ delay that DHH entirely avoided.

At the end of his leg of the relay, DHH jumped from the car, having demolished the competition.

The slick tires provided DHH a platform advantage, more leverage to drive faster with the same pedal-to-floor effort. And though driving slick in the rain had been risky, his skill learned by imitating master racers kept him alive.

Reflecting on his rapid ascent in racing, DHH says, “You can accelerate your training if you know how to train properly, but you still don’t need to be that special. I don’t think I’m that special of a programmer or a businessperson or a race car driver. I just know how to train.”

DHH had proven he had the skill to race. Videos of master drivers had helped him to learn quickly. His tire advantage had pushed him ahead of equally skilled drivers, and propelled him to the next level. And the advanced racing leagues themselves became a platform that forced him to master the basics—and faster—than he would have at a lower level.

When DHH returned to visit his home race track in Chicago, the same set of drivers still dominated the lower leagues.

He came back and effortlessly beat them.

***

dhhwins

Effort for the sake of effort is as foolish a tradition as paying dues. How much better is hard work when it’s amplified by a lever? Platforms teach us skills and allow us to focus on being great, rather than reinventing wheels or repeating ourselves.

“You can build on top of a lot of things that exist in this world,” David Heinemeier Hansson told me. “Somebody goes in and does that hard, ground level science-based work…”

“And then on top of that,” he smiles, “you build the art.”

###

Question of the day (QOD):  What other selectively “lazy” innovators can you think of?  People who’ve looked at problems in novel ways, or solved them in non-obvious ways? People who’ve opted for simplicity when most “experts” are choosing complexity?

Please share in the comments.

Author: "shanesnow" Tags: "Entrepreneurship, Mental Performance, Pr..."
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Date: Friday, 22 Aug 2014 07:05

If you can’t view the above video, please click here or here. To download the audio as an MP3, just right-click here and choose “save as.”

There are dozens of topics covered in this bromantic episode of scatterbrained banter.

Like what? To start off: tracking gut bacteria, favorite documentaries, keys for novice meditators, startup lessons, Kevin’s new obsessions, and more. O-tanoshimi dane!

The last few blog posts have been rather serious, so this is intended as an informal (but still informative) mind snack.

For all previous episodes of The Random Show, including the epic China Scam episodeclick here.

Enjoy!

Select show notes and links are below.  Some good stuff in this episode’s resources…

LINKS FROM THE EPISODE

Movies and Documentaries:

 Screenplays:

Books Mentioned in the Episode

What would you like us to talk about in the next episode?  Anything we should test out and report back on?

Please click here and let us know in the comments!

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Author: "Tim Ferriss" Tags: "Random, The Tim Ferriss Show, ferris, fe..."
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Date: Wednesday, 20 Aug 2014 04:43
Homeopathy -- effective, useless, or dangerous? (Photo: Marcos Zerene)

Homeopathy — effective, useless, or dangerous? (Photo: Marcos Zerene)

[Audio version]

[Text version]

I routinely use an arnica gel for minor muscular strains. In fact, it’s one of my “go to” treatments.

In 2010, however, I found myself swallowing Boiron Arnica Montana 30C pellets, an oral version that was the only option at the closest GNC. I started at five pellets, SIX times a day–TWICE the recommended dose. Risk of overdose? Not likely.

“30C,” which I looked up that evening, tells you all you need to know.

This consumable version of arnica, unlike the creams I’d used in the past, was a homeopathic remedy. Samuel Hahnemann, a German physician, pioneered the field of homeopathy in 1796, if the term “pioneer” can be applied to alternative “medicine” founded on concepts like mass dilution and beatings with horse-hair implements. From the Wikipedia entry for “homeopathic dilutions,” last I looked:

Homeopaths use a process called “dynamisation” or “potentisation” whereby a substance is diluted with alcohol or distilled water and then vigorously shaken by ten hard strikes against an elastic body in a process called “succussion”… Hahnemann believed that the process of succussion activated the vital energy of the diluted substance.

Riiiight.

Back to 30C. 30C indicates a 10-60  (10^(-60), or 10 to the negative 60th) dilution, the dilution most recommended by Hahnemann.

30C would require giving 2 billion doses per second to 6 billion people for 4 billion years to deliver a single molecule of the original material to any one person. Put another way, if I diluted one-third of a drop of liquid into all the water on earth, it would produce a remedy with a concentration of about 13C, more than twice the “strength” of our 30C arnica.

Most homeopathic remedies in liquid are indistinguishable from water and don’t contain a single molecule of active medicine. In systematic review after systematic review, these dilutive homeopathic remedies display no ability to heal beyond placebo.

I found this particularly bothersome. Bothersome because I appeared to heal faster using oral 30C arnica.

There are a few potential explanations…

OPTION #1 — HOMEOPATHIC REMEDIES WORK AS ADVERTISED

The water actually retains some “essential property” of the original substance because of the beatings and shakings. I give this a probability of somewhere between zero and epsilon (where epsilon is almost zero). It violates the most basic laws of science and makes my head hurt.

NOTE: Some people use the term “homeopathic” interchangeably with “organic” or “herbal”; I am not addressing this misnomer nor the associated compounds. Some herbal, non-prescription medications have tremendous effects. I’m speaking only to the original use of the word “homeopathic” as related to dilutive treatments.

OPTION #2 — THE PLACEBO EFFECT

I didn’t realize it was a homeopathic remedy until after four or five doses, and I had been told it could reduce pain by up to 50% in 24 hours. Placebo is strong stuff. People can become intoxicated from alcohol placebos, and “placebo” knee surgeries for osteoarthritis, where incisions are made but nothing is repaired, can produce results that rival the real deal. This explanation gets my vote. Now, if I could just forget what I read on the label, I could repeat it next time.

OPTION #3 — REGRESSION TOWARD THE MEAN

Imagine you catch a cold or get the flu. It’s going to get worse and worse, then better and better until you are back to normal. The severity of symptoms, as is true with many injuries, will probably look something like a bell curve.

The bottom flat line, representing normalcy, is the mean. When are you most likely to try the quackiest shit you can get your hands on? That miracle duck extract Aunt Susie swears by? The crystals your roommate uses to open his heart chakra? Naturally, when your symptoms are the worst and nothing seems to help. This is the very top of the bell curve, at the peak of the roller coaster before you head back down. Naturally heading back down is regression toward the mean.

If you are a fallible human, as we all are, you might misattribute getting better to the duck extract, but it was just coincidental timing.

The body had healed itself, as could be predicted from the bell curve–like timeline of symptoms. Mistaking correlation for causation is very common, even among smart people.

In the world of “big data,” this mistake will become even more common, particularly if researchers seek to “let the data speak for themselves” rather than test hypotheses.

Spurious connections galore–that’s what the data will say, among other things.  Caveat emptor.

OPTION #4 — SOME UNEXPLAINED MECHANISM

‘Tis possible that there is some as-yet-unexplained mechanism through which homeopathy works. Some mechanism that science will eventually explain. Stranger things have happened.

And while we don’t need to know how something works if we observe it to work (which clinical trials have not, in this case)…

Until something even remotely plausible comes along, I’ll do my best to scratch my psora (an itch “miasm” that Hahnemann felt caused epilepsy, cancer, and deafness) with at least one molecule of active substance.

###

Do you agree or disagree? Do you have evidence to the contrary? Please share your thoughts in the comments by clicking here.

This is something that has bothered me for years, but I’m very open to being proven wrong.

For more material like this article, check out:
The 4-Hour Body
How to Keep Feces Out of Your Bloodstream (or Lose 10 Pounds in 14 Days)
Gout: The Missing Chapter and Explanation

Author: "Tim Ferriss" Tags: "The 4-Hour Body - 4HB, 4-hour body, arni..."
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Date: Wednesday, 13 Aug 2014 00:12
Ed Catmull, President and Co-Founder of Pixar.

Ed Catmull, President and Co-Founder of Pixar.

NOTE TO E-MAIL SUBSCRIBERS: Please see this post in your inbox for a recording of the recent 2.5-hour live Q&A. Not on the email list? Sign up here and get extras like this for free.

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

This podcast is brought to you by The Tim Ferriss Book Club, which features a handful of books that have changed my life. Here’s the list.  You can also find all 20+ episodes of this podcast here. Some are sober and some are drunk,  so you can roll the dice.

Now, on to our guest…

Ed Catmull is co-founder of Pixar Animation Studios (along with Steve Jobs and John Lasseter) and president of Pixar Animation and Disney Animation. Ed has received five Academy Awards, and — as a computer scientist — he has contributed to many important developments in computer graphics.  He is the author of  Creativity, Inc., which Forbes has said “just might be the best business book ever written.” (!)

This episode touches on a lot, including lessons learned from George Lucas and Steve Jobs, the origins of Pixar, personal challenges, routines, and much more.

Show notes and links are below.  Enjoy!

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Do you enjoy this podcast? If so, please leave a short review here.  It keeps me going…

Show Notes and Select Links from the Episode

  • Why Ed felt a sense of loss, despite a streak of successes after Toy Story in 1995
  • The misleading question most people ask themselves when they become “successful”
  • Why, after wanting to be an artist for most of his childhood, he switched his focus from animation to physics
  • The congruence of art, storytelling, and science
  • Why experiencing crises on each project is essential for building a strong, creative team
  • How Ed connected to the ancient tradition of oral storytelling due to his inability to read poetry
  • The importance of having “breadth” of knowledge while deep-diving into specialization
  • Stories of George Lucas’ innovative decisions
  • The arc in the mythology of Steve Jobs, and what everybody missed
  • Why Steve Jobs decided to take Pixar public one week after Toy Story’s opening
  • Which Pixar movies caused major challenges and had to be re-worked
  • Why all Pixar movies suck at the very early stages
  • Pixar’s secret to creating stories and movies
  • The one film Pixar abandoned and the reasons
  • The book Ed gifts most often
  • Ed’s daily meditation practice
  • Why he would not give his twenty-year-old self advice, even if he could

LINKS FROM THE EPISODE

Books Mentioned in the Episode

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Author: "Tim Ferriss" Tags: "The Tim Ferriss Show, animation, creativ..."
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Date: Saturday, 09 Aug 2014 05:41
Travel has many joys. Luggage is not one of them.

Travel has many joys. Luggage is not one of them.

NOTE: If you signed up for my email list, please see this post in your email (perhaps on Saturday afternoon PT) for the Monday night Q&A info.

This post will explore three options for never checking luggage again. Some of them are extreme; all of them are effective.

In my next post, I’ll detail what I (and some friends) pack in carry-on. Some are surprising and hilarious.

Given that I spend 100+ days of the year traveling, and that I’ve been to 40+ countries, I’ve tested just about everything.

Hauling a five-piece Samsonite set around the planet is hell on earth. I watched a friend do this up and down dozens of subway and hotel staircases in Europe for three weeks, and — while I laughed a lot, especially when he resorted to just dragging or throwing his bags down stairs — I’d like to save you the breakdown. Trip enjoyment is inversely proportionate to the amount of crap (re: distractions) you bring with you.

So, how to avoid checked luggage altogether?

We’ll cover three different options, in descending order of craziness. I promise that something in this post will work for every one of you, even if partially:

– Using “urban caching” for travel purposes
– Mailing instead of checking (and some Steve Jobs-ian quirks)
– Ultralight packing

Many of these suggestions have been given to me by readers over the years, so thank you!

I try and bring such gifts full circle by collecting hundreds of tips, testing them, and publishing the winners.

So here we go…

Travel Caching

I was first introduced to the idea of “urban caching” by my friend Jason DeFillippo.

Remember the first Jason Bourne movie, when various agents are “activated” to kill Jason? One of them lands in Rome, where he accesses a hidden locker that contains everything he needs: a few passports, a gun, ammo, cash in small denominations, etc. That is an example of a single “cache.” (Yes, I’m somewhat obsessed with Jason Bourne)

Doomsday preppers (not derogatory) will often have multiple caches at various distances from a “bug out” departure point like a home or office. In the case of disaster — tornado, terrorism, zombies, Sharknado, etc. — they can set off walking empty-handed, if needed, and find everything they need waiting for them.  Here’s a good intro to this controversial craft.

But how the hell do you apply this to regular travel? Ah, that’s where things get fun.

Let’s say that you’re flying to the same two cities 50-80% of the time, as I do. When I land in New York City, this is what I find already placed in my hotel room:

IMG_2247 - closed trunk

IMG_2248 - open trunk

It is a trunk that contains almost everything I could need for a week. Believe it or not, it was provided and stenciled at no cost by the hotel. All I had to do was ask. (More tips on travel negotiating in the second half of this post)

I refer to this as “travel caching.”

I’ll explain how this can cost less than checking luggage, but let’s look at some key goodies first:

- One (1) winter jacket – I usually live in SF, where it is typically warmer most of the year.

- Cans of lentils and beans, pre-salted and spiced – I dislike waiting 30 minutes for $30 breakfasts. I use Amazon Prime to order Jyoti Dal Makhani or Westbrae organic lentils, having them mailed directly to the hotel.  I eat directly out of the cans.

- Can opener and spoon

- Surge pocket multitool (do NOT put this in carry-on bags). No such thing as too many multitools.

- Jug of unflavored or vanilla whey protein, generally Bluebonnet or BioTrust. I find that whey in the mornings prevents me from getting sick when shifting time zones. It also helps me hit my “30 grams within 30 minutes” rule from The 4-Hour Body.

- L-lysine for immune support (especially after early or late flights), magnesium/ZMA and melatonin for sleep and jetlag.

- Lacrosse balls for rolling out my feet, upper back, chest, and forearms.

- Jiu-jitsu gi for getting my ass mercilessly kicked at the Marcelo Garcia Jiu-Jitsu academy.

- Four (4) collared shirts – I often travel to NYC for business or media.

- Four (4) decent t-shirts, including two V-neck t-shirts (I know, I know), that can used for lounging or casual dinners, etc.

- Socks and undies for one week.

- Two (2) pairs of dress shoes, one (1) pair athletic shoes, one (1) pair hiking boots for upstate adventures.

The best part:  When I check out, I give a bag of dirty clothes to the front desk, they have it all cleaned and put *back* in my trunk, folded and pretty… ready for my next arrival!  They charge it to the same credit card I have on file for rooms.  Doubly cool: Since I stay there so often, they don’t charge me the in-house extortion prices.  They take it down the street to an inexpensive clean-and-press laundry joint.

No packing, no checking, no unpacking, no cleaning.  It’s magical.

So, how can this possibly save you money and sanity?

1) To check an equivalent amount of stuff would usually cost $30+, so $60+ roundtrip.

2) The clothing isn’t new clothing.  Most of us have MUCH more clothing than we need.  I simply leave one week’s worth of less-used stuff in NYC.  No purchase necessary.

3) Two WEEKS worth of lentils, beans, and whey protein cost about the same as 2-4 DAYS of room service breakfasts.  It’s also a ton faster.  Waiting around makes Tim cray-cray.

4) If you stay in a hotel often enough, you can simply ask: “Do you have a trunk or something I could store a week’s worth of clothing in? That way, I wouldn’t have to pack so much when I come here.”  The above trunk was given to me this way, but you can also buy one for $60 or so on Amazon, the equivalent of one trip’s baggage fees.  Then ask the staff (who you should know by now) if you could store a week’s worth of clothing in the storage room, basement, or security office.  This can also be arranged with many people on Airbnb.

And if your hotel or host won’t play ball, guess what?  Startups can save you.  Consider using MakeSpace or its close cousins, which one 4-Hour Workweek reader uses to live like James Bond, all while vagabonding around the planet.  Pretty cool, right?

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is travel caching.  It’s a game-changer.

Mailing Instead of Checking

This is exactly what it sounds like.

Dean Jackson of the I Love Marketing podcast is the person who — for me — turned it into an art form.

The benefit of mailing versus caching: it’s not limited to your most frequent 2-3 destinations.  It can be used anywhere, but it’s most often used domestically.

Not unlike Steve Jobs and his “uniform,” Dean literally wears the same outfit EVERY day: black t-shirt, tan shorts, orange Chuck Taylor shoes, and a black cap when cold. He doesn’t want to expend a single calorie making decisions related to fashion, which I respect tremendously.  I’m a huge proponent of the choice-minimal lifestyle and rules to reduce overwhelm.

In his words via text, here’s how his packing and mailing works. Comments in brackets are mine:

“As you know, I wear the same thing every day…Black shirt, tan shorts…so I have my assistant keep a carry-on bag constantly packed for 7 days [TIM: It's a bag with 7 days worth of "uniforms"]. I use mesh laundry bags with a zipper to put together 7 “Day Packs” with a black shirt/underwear/socks [TIM: You can also use gallon-sized Ziploc bags]. Every day while traveling, I unzip a fresh new pack. When I return, she washes and repacks everything, and restocks my travel-only shaving kit with everything I need.

I have separate chargers, shoes, melatonin, etc., so I never have to pack…and she can ship my bag ahead of me without me having to do anything. Plus, she packs a pre-filled return FedEx shipping label for me, so I can — when I’m leaving — have a bellman come get my bag and take it to the business center to ship back.

That whole rig fits in a carry-on sized bag….7 Day Packs, 3 pairs of shorts, orange Chuck Taylors, charging cords, shaving kit…but that all gets shipped. Then my actual carry on is a Tumi laptop bag with Macbook, iPad, journal, passport, wallet. Using the Tumi, I don’t have to take out my laptop for x-rays, plus it’s beautiful leather with just the right pocket config.

It’s pretty light travel.”

Even if you never want to mail your bags ahead, there is one point you shouldn’t miss: It’s smart to have a travel-only toiletry kit that is never unpacked.

Keep one set of toothbrushes, toothpaste, etc. at home on the counters and shelves, and have a separate packed kit that is exclusively for travel.

This alone has saved me a ton of headache and last minute “Where is the closest CVS? I forgot my dental floss”-type nonsense.

Which brings us to the question of carry-on…

Ultralight Packing

prewear-small

I’ll be expanding on this greatly, but, to start, please read one of my previously viral posts, “How to Travel the World with 10 Pounds or Less (Plus: How to Negotiate Convertibles and Luxury Treehouses).”

You’ll notice my “BIT” (Buy It There) method of travel seems to contradict the travel caching above, but they’re actually complementary.

BIT is ideal for traveling to places you’ve never been, or that you seldom visit. If it’s a third-world country where your currency is strong, all the better. Travel caching is for your 2-3 most frequently visited locations.

To get you in the mood for the above “10 pounds” post, here’s your first ultralight travel purchase: Exofficio underwear.

More soon…

###

Do you like this type of post? If so, please let me know in the comments.

Please also share your own tips!

If it seems you dig it, I’ll detail (at least) the following in my next post:

- My latest findings in ultralight packing
– My must-have carry-on items and subscription services
– Tools recommended to me by elite military and hedgefund managers
– My favorite bags
– Apps and other tricks that get me from home to gate in less than 20 minutes

Until then, start thinking up destinations.

Author: "Tim Ferriss" Tags: "Travel, baggage fees, carryon bags, carr..."
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Date: Tuesday, 05 Aug 2014 20:45

Pretty soon, many of you will get an email from me.  It’ll probably surprise you.

See, when I sketched out the original 4-Hour Workweek site in 2006 (sorely in need of a redesign), I included an email capture field, as that’s what friends said I should do:

The_4-Hour_Workweek_and_Timothy_Ferriss

Then I promptly forgot all about it. I hated email, so I didn’t want to send you email. Simple as that. Do unto others, right?

But things have changed.

Now, with Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp, and hundreds of clones, the Internet and mobile are a battlefield of noise. Even if you “like” my Facebook fan page, my updates will rarely reach more than 10% of you.

For years now, thousands of you have complained that Feedburner delivers time-sensitive blog posts days or WEEKS too late. This means missed giveaways, meetups, competitions, Q&As, parties, and all sorts of fun stuff.

Needless to say, this sucks.

So I reluctantly decided to re-examine email. In a world where people change email addresses less often than physical addresses, it just made sense.

My first step was to dust off the keyboard and log into AWeber, which I’d decided was best for me eight years prior. What I found shocked me. I had nearly 300,000 email addresses from sign-ups! Holy negligence, Batman!

Ah, well. Yet another reason for my friends to make fun of me. Enjoy, Kevin Rose.

But better late than never. Within the next 10 days, I will start emailing new blog posts to anyone who’s signed up (on the homepage or the newer blog form), generally around one post per week.  Plus, you’ll get VIP treatment, like private Q&As, exclusive content, giveaways, and other things that don’t appear on the blog.

Here’s the deal:

- If you haven’t signed up yet (or you’re not sure), please do so now. Here’s the link. No spam, ever. Just good stuff.

If you sign up now, your first email will also include a link to a free download of the entire 4-Hour Chef audiobook, which includes narration by yours truly and Neil Gaiman (!). And to kick things off, I’ll be doing a 2-3-hour Q&A — for email subscribers only — next Monday night, 8/11. Ask me anything: business, personal, “inappropriate,” whatever.  Nothing is off limits. Sign up here to get the details via email.  A recording will be made available to email subscribers who can’t make the live session.

I’ll also be giving away a round-trip ticket to anywhere in the world. For details, you guessed it, you need to click here.

- If you’ve already signed up, you’re all set! Please keep an eye out for a welcome email from “Tim Ferriss” within the next 10 days.

It’s not spam. It’s from me.  Following that, blog posts and VIP goodies will show up, roughly once per week.

If you’re using Gmail and my email ends up in your “Promotions” folder, please do me a favor and drag it to your “Primary” so it doesn’t get lost in all the OKCupid notifications and whatnot.

###

And please realize — I and my assistant get about 1,000 email a day. It’s funking unreal, and it’s brutal. No one is more sensitive to email abuse than I am, so I will NOT abuse your inbox.

If you get annoyed, you can one-click unsubscribe. Easy peasy and no BS.

Things will be intermittent (usually once a week, sometimes twice), and posts will be high-quality (like this or this).

As mentioned, I’ll be doing a 2-3-hour Q&A next week to kick things off, and also giving away a roundtrip ticket anywhere in the world. For details on both, just add your email here.

If you have any questions about all this, please ask in the comments! I’ll be paying close attention and answering as many as I can. I’ve literally put off email for years, but enough is enough. It’s the right thing to do.

And thank you for reading. Whatever this blog has become, I owe it all to you.

Pura vida,

Tim

timothy-ferriss-hat-headshot-four-hour-work-week-body-chef

Author: "Tim Ferriss" Tags: "Uncategorized, autoresponders, autorespo..."
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Date: Monday, 04 Aug 2014 20:58
Mike Shinoda of Linkin Park.

Mike Shinoda of Linkin Park.

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

This podcast is brought to you by The Tim Ferriss Book Club, which features a handful of books that have changed my life. Here’s the list.

Now, on to our guest…

Mike Shinoda is best known as the rapper, principal songwriter, keyboardist, rhythm guitarist and one of the two vocalists (yes, an insane list) of Linkin Park, which has sold more than 60 million albums worldwide and earned two Grammy Awards in the process.

Mike has collaborated with everyone from Jay-Z to Depeche Mode, and he’s also the lead rapper in his side project Fort Minor, which I’m a huge fan of.

As if that’s not enough, he’s also provided artwork, production and mixing for all the projects mentioned above. The man is a beast… but did he start out that way? His answers might surprise you.

This episode covers how Mike got started, advice for aspiring musicians (or creatives/artists of any type), navigating “entertainment” and Hollywood, daily rituals, how he writes songs, how he rehearses, and much more.

Enjoy!

Subscribe to The Tim Ferriss Show on iTunes.
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Like these episodes? Want me to keep making them? Please leave a short review here. Even one sentence helps.

Show Notes and Select Links from Episode 21…

  • Mike’s first love, and what he thought he would do with his life
  • The humble, “boots-on-the-ground” beginnings of Linkin Park
  • From Linkin Park to Fort Minor, how Mike fills the void in music with what he wants to hear
  • How Linkin Park band members stood up to a major record label to get signed on their own terms
  • The story of how a few 19-year-old kids with red hair, tattoos, and facial piercings told Warner Brothers execs how to do their jobs
  • The importance of developing a fine-tuned radar for the subtle edits that can completely change your art into a “watered-down commercial nightmare”
  • An inside look at the various techniques to recording music
  • How songs are born
  • How Mike finds inspiration for his craft in things unrelated music
  • Why he will either delete your email or reply with a dissertation
  • Linkin Park’s rehearsal process
  • The software Linkin Park uses for rehearsals and shows
  • The one thing he would change about himself, if he could
  • And much more… Here’s the episode.

SELECT LINKS FROM EPISODE 21

Books Mentioned in the Episode

Music Mentioned in the Episode

Movies Mentioned in the Episode

 

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Author: "Tim Ferriss" Tags: "The Tim Ferriss Show, fort minor, linkin..."
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Date: Thursday, 31 Jul 2014 21:05

Dr. Peter H. Diamandis is the Chairman and CEO of the X PRIZE Foundation, and co-Founder and Chairman of the Singularity University, a Silicon Valley-based institution partnered with NASA, Google, Autodesk and Nokia. Dr. Diamandis attended MIT, where he received his degrees in molecular genetics and aerospace engineering, as well as Harvard Medical School where he received his M.D.

He’s no underachiever.

I’ve known Peter for many years, both as a friend and as advising faculty at Singularity University. He is known for being incredibly resourceful, but it’s his ability to teach and catalyze resourcefulness that impresses me most.

Here is a short essay from Peter on exactly this.  Enjoy…

Enter Peter

In 1997 Apple introduced its “Think Different” advertising campaign with the now famous declaration: “Here’s to the crazy ones”:

Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes . . . the ones who see things differently — they’re not fond of rules… You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can’t do is ignore them because they change things… they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world are the ones who do.

If you were to just hear these words, they’d seem like bravado — marketingspeak from a company not known for marketingspeak. But Apple coupled sight to sound. Accompanying those words were images: Bob Dylan as a misfit; Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as a troublemaker; Thomas Edison as the one without respect for the status quo. Suddenly everything changes. Turns out this campaign is not all bluster. In fact, it seems to be a fairly accurate retelling of historical events.

The point, however obvious, is pretty fundamental: you need to be a little crazy to change the world, and you can’t really fake it.

If you don’t believe in the possibility, then you’ll never give it the 200 percent effort required. This can put experts in a tricky situation. Many have built their careers buttressing the status quo, reinforcing what they’ve already accomplished, and resisting the radical thinking that can topple their legacy — not exactly the attitude you want when trying to drive innovation forward.

Henry Ford agreed:

“None of our men are ‘experts.’ We have most unfortunately found it necessary to get rid of a man as soon as he thinks himself an expert because no one ever considers himself expert if he really knows his job . . . Thinking always ahead, thinking always of trying to do more, brings a state of mind in which nothing is impossible.”

So if you’re going after grand challenges, experts may not be your best co-conspirators. Instead, if you need a group of people who thrive on risk, are overflowing with crazy ideas, and don’t have a clue that there’s a “wrong way” to do things, there’s one particular place to look.

In the early 1960s, when President Kennedy launched the Apollo program, very few of the necessary technologies existed at the time. We had to invent almost everything. And we did, with one of the main reasons being that those engineers involved didn’t know they were trying to do the impossible, because they were too young to know. The engineers who got us to the Moon were in their mid to late twenties. Fast-forward thirty years, and once again it was a group of twentysomethings driving a revolution, this time in the dot-com world. This is not a coincidence: youth (and youthful attitudes) drives innovation — always has and always will.

So if we’re serious about creating an age of abundance, then we’re going to have to learn to think differently, think young, roll the dice, and perhaps most importantly, get comfortable with failure.

—-

Editor’s note: The above is adapted from Peter’s book Abundance, which I wholeheartedly recommend you check out.  But let’s talk to you…

What other examples of “crazy” innovators can you think of?
If you’ve been in a job for a long time, how can you generate novel/crazy ideas?
Who has done the so-called “impossible” or shaken up the status quo in a way you respect?

Please share your thoughts in the comments!

RELATED AND RECOMMENDED PODCAST INTERVIEWS:

Author: "Tim Ferriss" Tags: "Entrepreneurship, abundance, apple, diam..."
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Date: Wednesday, 30 Jul 2014 19:31
Both of these things are very distracting. (Photo: Shawn Perez)

Both of these things are very distracting. (Photo: Shawn Perez)

The short version: I’d like to pay you to not drink or jerk off for 30 days. Sign up here and get your monk on.

Sex is A-OK.

The longer version is below, which includes juicy details, more options for women, and some farewell-porn suggestions…

###

You know who you are, you filthy animals.

Secret bookmarks to Pornhub (“Discount airfare” – Ha!), secret folders labeled “Tax Returns” for when wifi fails, bookmarks for animated GIFs in case of slow connections (curtsy to Tumblr), Hotspot Shield for when you’re in countries that ban your cherished images (download it before you fly!)…

Oh, wait. Am I projecting again?

Yes, I’ve admitted it before, and I’ll admit it again: dudes watch porn on the Internet. Shocker, I know. All those guys on the magazine covers? They do it, too.

Less obvious, perhaps, is how dramatically your life can change if you quit porn and masturbation for a short period.

I did this for 30 days recently, and — oddly enough — I found it much easier and more impactful to quit booze for the same 30 days. Just a few of the benefits I experienced included…

  • A dramatic surge in free testosterone and sex drive. Dozens of my seemingly healthy male friends, techies in particular, have approached me over the years about chronically low testosterone. There are many potential causes, including late-night blue light, but removing booze and porn appear to open the flood gates. Research (example, example) shows that alcohol reduces testosterone levels. So…should you be dating more? Trying a little harder instead of wanking, watching Battlestar Galactica, and calling it a night? This will help motivate you.
  • Increased ability to focus and cognitive endurance. This goes along with increased “T” mentioned above.
  • Getting roughly 50-100% more done. When you aren’t nursing hangovers, chewing up 3-4 hours per night with friends, destroying your sleep with booze, or procrastinating with porn (you know who you are) — miracle of miracles — you get more done! A LOT more done. In my mind, this alone easily justifies a 30-day booze and porn fast. You’ll clear off that goddamn to-do list faster than Speedy Gonzalez.And remember: sex is still allowed.

Join Me for Another 30 Days

Given how transformative this was for me, I’m inviting you to join me for another 30 days. After that, you can go back to your hedonistic ways. I enjoy porn, but I’ve concluded I can level up by taking breaks.

I’ll refer to our 30-day challenge as NOBNOM (NO Booze, NO Masturbating), as the acronym itself sounds pornographic. We gotta make this sumnabitch memorable.

Next steps are described below.

NOTE: If you don’t masturbate (a lot of women don’t but should), or if you otherwise don’t watch enough porn to care about abstaining, here’s another option:

NOBNOC — No Booze, No Complaining

For this version, please first read “Real Mind Control: The 21-Day No-Complaint Experiment.” Then, join the same NOBNOB challenge page to be part of the community.

Next Steps — Do It Now!

1. STEP 1 - Join the NOBNOM goal page here. This is free, and it will keep you accountable to yourself and others.  This official challenge starts August 1st.  That means you get to go crazy on September 1st.  If you’re reading this another time, you can start whenever.  I’m sure people will still be on the page.

2. STEP 2 - If you’re really serious, up the ante and put some cash on the line. As discussed at length in The 4-Hour Chef, without stakes or consequences, about 70% of you will fail. So… choose not to fail.

Below are two options, and I earn nothing from either. I’d suggest doing both of them, if possible:

  • A. Create a betting pool with a few friends or co-workers. Each person commits $100 or whatever (enough to sting if lost, but not enough to bankrupt you) to the pot, and those who complete the full 30 days split the pot. Using this type of betting pool is partially how Tracy Reifkind lost 100+ pounds, so you can definitely use it on NOBNOM.
  • B. Get an accountability coach by clicking here. They’ll email you daily to keep you on track, and you get the first week free by using coupon “NOBNOM.” It’s otherwise $14.99 per week, so the month costs you $45. There are two coaches, and they have bandwidth for 200 people. The coaches: one is a former senior staffer from OneTaste (remember the 4-Hour Body orgasm chapters?). The other coach successfully stopped masturbating and is trained in accountability coaching.

3. STEP 3 - If you’d like to participate in 1-3 support meetings and private Q&As, sign up for my e-mail list and you’ll get the invites. I’ll probably host live video chats, 60-minutes long, and I’ll dedicate 15-20 minutes to the AA meeting-type stuff.  The NoFap page on reddit might also be helpful for some of y’all.

And that’s it!

How You Get Paid

I’m putting $1,000 of my own cash on the line, and Lift (which I advise) is putting up $500, for a total of $1,500.

Here’s how you get it:

1) You must complete the 30-day challenge (Aug 1-31, 2014) on the NOBNOM goal page I’ve linked to throughout this post. We’ll audit this.
2) You must put some of your cash on the line, using one of the above listed approaches. It shouldn’t be enough to hurt you, but it needs to be enough to motivate you.
3) You must leave helpful feedback, tips, and/or encouragement for others, on both that page and in the comments below.

After the challenge, the Lift team, my jury of magic elves, and I will choose the three (3) most helpful people, and each will get $500 USD. Bam!

Get excited and get on it.

So, What Are You Waiting For?

If you’ve been feeling less than super-productive, slightly lethargic, or mildly depressed, do this 30-day challenge. If you simply want to level-up your life, do this 30-day challenge.

At the very least, it’ll make you conscious of automatic behaviors.  Things you’ve done for so long that you know nothing else.

If you’re like me, once the fat starts melting off and you’re feeling like a different person, you’ll say to yourself:

“Holy shit, my baseline for the last 10 years [or 5 or 15 or whatever] has been fucked! I totally forgot what it feels like to live clean.”

Perhaps living clean ended for you after high school, or even before, as it did for me. Why not get reacquainted for 30 days?  Chances are that it’s been a while.

Here’s the first step.

A Parting Gift

If you need a last hurrah before 30 days of being a good boy or girl, here are a few options for party time:

  • A bottle of 2011 Ménage à Trois red. It’s delicious.
  • A viewing of “Momoko and Anjelica,” available through Ze Google. It’s also delicious, and DEFINITELY not suitable for work.
  • A chaser of club soda with lots of lime. You might be having lots of these, so get friendly.

Welcome to Thunderdome!  You’ll thank me later.

See you on NOBNOM central.

Pura vida,

Tim

Author: "Tim Ferriss" Tags: "30-Day Challenges, 30 day, challenge, ch..."
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Date: Tuesday, 29 Jul 2014 17:43
The inimitable Dan Carlin.

The inimitable Dan Carlin.

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

This podcast is brought to you by The Tim Ferriss Book Club, which features a handful of books that have changed my life. Here’s the list.

Now, on to our guest…

Dan Carlin is the host of my favorite podcast, Hardcore History.

But… what?! History?! I know. I thought the same thing. How could a history podcast have a cult following?

And yet it did. During research for launching The Tim Ferriss Show, I asked many of the top dogs on the iTunes charts: what is your favorite podcast? Almost without exception, the answer came back: Hardcore History.

Since then, I’ve become friends with Dan (and more obsessed with his show), and this episode explores all the questions I’ve been dying to ask him, including:

- His early experiments
– What has worked and what hasn’t
– His habits, rituals, and routines
– How podcasting became his full-time job
– His “radio” voice and how to find your own
– Creativity
– And much more…

I hope you enjoy it, and listen to at least one episode of Hardcore History. They’re amazing. I’ve included a few of my favorites below.

Subscribe to The Tim Ferriss Show on iTunes.
Non-iTunes RSS feed
Like these episodes? Want me to keep making them? Please leave a short review here.

Hardcore History Episodes Mentioned — If In Doubt, Start with Wrath of the Khans

Show Notes and Select Links from Episode 20

  • How the concept of Hardcore History evolved into a massively successful podcast
  • The basic ingredients of Hardcore History’s recipe
  • How Dan keeps his signature tangents out of the “blue room”
  • Why he will never do an episode on the history of Southeast India
  • Advice to those searching for their voice
  • The dramatic effect Dan loves that would be part of every episode, if he could do it all over again
  • The upside of Dan’s special brand of masochism
  • Why he likens himself to a street performer on a really busy corner
  • Who really came up with the idea for Hardcore History
  • Dan’s definition of “success”
  • The gateway drugs of Hardcore History

Links

Books Mentioned in This Episode

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Author: "Tim Ferriss" Tags: "The Tim Ferriss Show, dan carlin, hardco..."
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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.

Enjoy!…

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.

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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:

https://prelaunch.harrys.com/uniquereferralcode

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.

Email

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.

Jeff

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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