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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!

Subscribe to The Tim Ferriss Show on iTunes.
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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


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


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:


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,



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.


Subscribe to The Tim Ferriss Show on iTunes.
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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.


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!


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,


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


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.


Enter Jeff

We can’t launch to crickets

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

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

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

That also meant a lot of pressure.


Click for full size


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

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

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

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

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

Now, without further ado, here we go…

The Most Credible Source

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

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

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

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

The General Campaign Design

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

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

Harry's Prelaunch Microsite

Click for full size

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

Harry's Prelaunch Microsite

Click for full size


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

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

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


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

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

Step 1: Make Special People Feel Special.

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

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

Splash Page Messaging

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

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

Referral Page Messaging

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

Step 2: Choose Tangible Rewards And Make Them Achievable.

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

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

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

Harry's Prelaunch awards

Click for full size


Step 3: Make Sharing As Fun As Humanly Possible.

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

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

Step 4: Make Sharing As Easy As Humanly Possible.

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

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

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

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

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

Harry's Prelaunch tweetClick for full size

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Here are some tips for these emails:

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

Title: “Harry’s is Coming!”

Friends and Family,

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

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

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

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

1) Go to our website www.harrys.com 

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

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

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

All the best,

[Your name]

We also reached out to a number of people individually.

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

Hey [CEO],

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

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

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


Social Channels

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

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

Step 6: Protecting Yourself Against Fraud

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click for full image


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

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

Two More Things…

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks Where Thanks Is Due

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

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

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

Most sincerely,

Jeff, Andy, and The Harry’s Team


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

Look forward to your thoughts and questions in the comments!

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


Preface from Tim

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Two Foreign Words

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

Kitchen cabinet – konyhaszekrény

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

The Components of a Memorable Word

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We’ll tackle those in order.

How to hear new sounds

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



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

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

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

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

How to pronounce new sounds

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

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

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

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

How to spell new sounds

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

Those flashcards look like this:


Spelling Flashcard 1
(Trains individual letters and letter combinations)


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grammar’s Role

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other Sources of Example Sentences

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vocabulary Customization: 

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


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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

Related & Recommended Posts:

12 Rules for Learning Foreign Languages in Record Time

How to learn any language in 3 months

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So what works?

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

Greetings, Friends [or Esteemed Colleagues],

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

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

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


[Your name]

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

Now, on to my current faves…

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

Of course, adapt for your own situation and preferences.

#1 – Short and Sweet


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

“Hi All,

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

All the best to you and yours,


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

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


“Hi All,

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

All the best to you and yours,


#2 – Longer and More Comprehensive

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

“Hi All,

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

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

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

Thanks very much for understanding!

All the best to you and yours,

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


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

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

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

And here:

Hope that all helps!



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

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

What About Yours?

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

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

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

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

Further Resources

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

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

James Altucher

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

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

Now, on to our guest…

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

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

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

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

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

Show Notes and Select Links from Episode 17…

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


Books Mentioned in the Episode

Other Authors Mentioned in the Episode


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

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

Spartan Race

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

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

Now, on to our guest…Joe De Sena.

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

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

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

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

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


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

Show Notes and Select Links from Episode 16

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


Books Mentioned in the Episode

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Date: Tuesday, 24 Jun 2014 13:23

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

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

Now, on to our guest… Neil Strauss!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Teasers and Select Links from Episode 15

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


Books Mentioned in the Episode

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

Allow me to explain using a related problem.

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

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

Pretty typical, right?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

¡Mucha suerte, ché!


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

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

Sam Harris, Ph.D.

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

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

Now, on to our guest… Sam Harris.

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


Who is Lucius Annaeus Seneca?

Sam Harris’s Blog

Paul Ekman’s work on Micro Expressions

Who is Malala Yousafzai?

Who is Ayann Hirsi Ali?

Brandeis University controversy with regards to Ayann Hirsi Ali

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

Vipassana meditation

How to meditate — blog post

Drugs and the Meaning of life — blog post

6 Health Benefits of Yerba Mate Tea

The Riddle of the Gun — blog post


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

End of Faith – by Sam Harris 

Lying – by Sam Harris

Mindfulness in Plain English – by Bhante Gunaratana

The Experience of Insight – by Joseph Goldstein

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


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Date: Monday, 16 Jun 2014 19:35

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here are a few to start with:

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

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


Dr. Rhonda Patrick

Dr. Rhonda Patrick

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

Now, on to our guest…

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

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

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

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

In this episode, we cover a lot:

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

…and much more.

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

Or stream the show in the player below:

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

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


Select Links and Resources for Episode 12


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

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


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

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

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

The writing duo: David Levien and Brian Koppelman

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

Now, on to our guest…

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

My guest in this episode is Brian Koppelman.

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

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

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

His lessons and principles can be applied almost anywhere.

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

Or stream the show in the player below:

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

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


Show Notes for Episode 8 (Thanks, Ian!)

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

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


Connect with Brian Koppelman : Website | Twitter | Podcast


A Few Quotes of Many:

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

You are not alone.

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

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

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

Now, on to our amazing guest, Chase Jarvis!

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

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

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

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

In this episode, we explore:

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

His lessons and principles can be applied almost anywhere.

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

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

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


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

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



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


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

Author: "Tim Ferriss" Tags: "The Tim Ferriss Show, chase jarvis, crea..."
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