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In this episode of MarieTV we do have some adult language, so if you have little ones around, grab your headphones now.
Hey, it’s Marie Forleo and you are watching MarieTV, the place to be to create a business and life you love. And today I am so excited to have a dear friend on who also happens to be quite a legend in the fields of publishing and podcasting and producing long-form epic content.
Tim Ferriss has been called a cross between Jack Welch and a Buddhist monk by the New York Times. He’s one of Fast Company’s most innovative businesspeople and an early stage tech investor and advisor in Uber, Facebook, Twitter, Alibaba, and more. He’s also the author of four number one New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestsellers: The Four-Hour Workweek, The Four-Hour Body, The Four-Hour Chef, and Tools of Titans. He’s been called the Oprah of audio due to the influence of the Tim Ferriss Show podcast, which has now exceeded 200 million downloads. His newest book, Tribe of Mentors, is available now.
Hot damn, here we are.
Hot damn, here we are. Just so everybody watching, we’ve been laughing our asses off before the cameras started rolling, so this interview is gonna be fun. It’s gonna be long. Strap yourselves in. We’re gonna have a great time. So I realized when I was prepping for this, I’m like OMG, we’ve been friends for like a decade.
And it took us this damn long to do this, but now is a really good time.
When it started I had more hair here and less hair here.
But, still. This was nice –– I’m liking this.
Thank you. Thank you. The internet is divided.
Is it really? I bet.
You know, but I like the Ming the Merciless look, so I’m working on it.
I like it. Yeah, you know what? You’re right. When we met you did have a lot more hair. I was thinking about that. So, first, congratulations on this next incredible book: Tribe of Mentors. Y’all have to get it. I am very honored to be in it. Thank you so much.
Yes, of course.
That little text over the summer I was like, “Oh, my gosh. Another book? Oh, okay. Let’s do this.” We’re gonna talk about that a little bit later, but I want to go back because, you know, a lot of people when they see someone who they feel is so successful, often times they’re like, “Oh, they just kind of popped out that way. They got here. They didn’t do any work, they don’t really know the history.” And while I’m sure so many of our viewers know exactly who you are, what you’ve accomplished, there might be some who are like, “Well, who’s this Tim Ferriss guy?” So I want to take it all the way back. All the way back.
Let’s do it.
You started out just like everybody. No street cred, no nothing.
No nothing. In fact, you were born six weeks premature and given a 10% chance of surviving. So right out of the gate, right?
A couple little challenges. Tell me about youngster Tim.
Youngster Tim had a lot of issues. Physical and otherwise. I’ll actually show you something that I’ve never shown you before. This is about the premature bit. You can see a scar here. It looks like a big cigarette burn on my wrist. That is from having been intubated in my wrist. And then also under my left side, because I couldn’t oxygenate my blood properly.
So I had I wanna say five full blood transfusions when I was in the intensive care unit as a little kid. And by little I mean little. There’s a photograph of my dad holding me in the crook of his forearm. I was really small. And from that experience, a few things –– at least this is my mom’s theory –– came out of it. Number one, I absolutely still have problems with thermoregulation. So I overheat very easily and I’ve been hospitalized for heatstroke a number of times, and that seems to be related to a number of issues when I was born. The second is, again –– that’s more of reality and established fact. But then the lifelong insomnia that I’ve had where I’d be going to be at 2, 3 A.M. even as a tiny little kid. My mom thinks, and this is plausible, is due to the lights constantly being on in the intensive care unit in the hospital.
So that has also been a lifelong journey and love affair/love-hate affair with being a night owl, which has its own set of advantages, and massive social disadvantages. So Tim as a little kid was, let’s see, very small, very bullied. I mean beat up constantly. So the playground was not a safe space for me. So I’d usually sneak in the classroom and read a book of some type. I was very bad at ceding to authority. Really, really bad. It wasn’t so much that I was bad. I asked a lot of questions, and not all teachers like that. So in kindergarten Ms. Bevan, I’m gonna call you out, wanted me to learn the alphabet, which in retrospect was reasonable. But I wanted to know why. Why do we have to learn these weird things that you scribble on a piece of paper or whatever it is? And she would just get angry. She wouldn’t answer it. So she made me eat soap in the class, which I thought, I mean, it was just in the movies. Right? But that’s apparently a thing. Very old school. And she put me and another friend of mine, Dennis, at the bad table, but then she forgot it was the bad table, so we were traumatized for the whole year because we were at the bad table for the entire year.
And I then –– I’m not gonna take us through like a whole Dr. Evil thing like grade by grade –– but in first grade, as a contrast, Ms. Vinsky, who I ended up dedicating a lot to later, pulled me aside because I was being so difficult. I decided to dig in my heels on this alphabet thing. She was like, “Tim, do you realize that if you learn the alphabet you can read any book that you want?” I was like, “What? Why didn’t somebody tell me this?”
Oh, my gosh.
And, you know, my parents never had a ton of money and they never made more than 50 grand or so combined.
Your parents are so charming, by the way.
Yeah. I mean, I love my parents. They’re great. They’re very supportive. Didn’t ever think we were poor or anything like that, but looking back the only thing that they made budget for, and they told me and my brother this –– which ended up I think being very smart, even if they had had more money –– which was we don’t have a lot for, say, new bikes and so on and so forth, but we always have a budget for books.
Yeah. If you’re really interested in a given subject or want to explore something, we’ll figure it out. And so we would then go every once in a while to the local bookstore to the remainder table where books are like 70, 80% off, and we would get these books. And I still remember to this day a number of the books that I got when I was five, six, I don’t know, seven, eight years old that I still own that had a huge impact on me. So, yeah. Growing up…
What’d you want to be?
I wanted to be first, because I bought a book called Fishes of the World and was obsessed with sharks, super like little boy thing, right? I wanted to be a marine biologist. So I wanted to be a marine biologist for a really long time. And then once I got to maybe age 13 or so I wanted to be a comic book penciler. And wanted to be a comic book penciler for an extended period of time all they way up through a part of college. And I was actually a graphics editor and did illustration, and that was part of how I helped pay my bills was through illustration. So a marine biologist, and for a period I wanted to be a vigilante, except I was collecting the Punisher comic book. Turns out it doesn’t pay very well. So no vigilante. And then wanted to be a comic book penciler.
I actually wanted to be an animator for Disney for quite a little bit of time. It’s like so cool.
Oh, yeah. It’s fascinating.
Those skills. So when you were at Princeton you first started with a major, if I’m not mistaken, in neuroscience.
What was the draw to that particular concentration?
Yeah, the draw to neuroscience was pure self interest. I had watched my grandparents, who passed when I was relatively young, descend into madness effectively because of neurodegenerative disease, especially Alzheimer’s but also Parkinsons. Very different diseases. But I watched my grandmother just lose her sense of identity, her ability to identify her grandkids.
Mom’s side or dad’s side?
Mom’s side and dad’s side. And that just terrified me. I mean, beyond anything else that I had witnessed in my life. So the neuroscience focus initially was to look at learning about these diseases so that I could hopefully figure out a path or tools that would enable me to stave off the onset of these diseases that my family seems very predisposed to. And I’m still very interested in that and I’ve –– but instead of doing the research myself, have supported a lot of research in those worlds. So we begin with neuroscience. There were also other interests. I mean, cognitive enhancement. I was even in those days, and I had not had any first-hand experience, I was very fascinated by psychedelics and the applications of potentially LSD or psilocybin and so on in different capacities. So there was a lab in Green Hall, I think it was called, with Professor Barry Jacobs looking at sleep serotonin, and he had also performed research on LSD, which was very, very hard to do, and at that point probably illegal. Meaning he’d done it much earlier. However, to do the research in that lab you’ve gotta pay your dues. And the way you pay your dues is you’re effectively an indentured servant. I’m okay with that. Right? I mean, because I worked in like crappy service jobs starting at age 14 getting like razzed and yelled at by people from Manhattan.
Those city folk, yes.
As a rat tail wearing townie on Long Island. But –– so I was good with the work. I could do the work. However, you had to do what they would call perfuse rats. And it’s not painful, but the research that was being done required that you euthanize –– that you effectively bleed out like 10, 20 rats a day. And I just couldn’t do it. And I’m not saying it’s valueless. I think there’s a place for a lot of this. But I just couldn’t personally do it. I remember meeting this –– I haven’t thought about this in forever –– meeting this Russian graduate student who at the time I was like, “Wow, like an old graduate student.” She was probably like 32 or something, 30. Maybe even younger. But I was just a little tyke, I guess. And she said, “You know, it used to bother me. But now I perfuse 25 rats, I go have lunch.” And I was like, “You know? I’m not really sure I want to get there. I’m not really sure I want to get to that point.”
That’s not a goal that I’m necessarily reaching for.
Right. So I thought of what else I might do. And I had a real fascination with languages, specifically Asian languages because I’d had this life changing experience. This year is the 25th anniversary actually of going to Japan, my first real trip abroad, midway through high school as an exchange student for a year, which just changed my whole world. And I’m still close to that host family to this day. I’m actually taking my American family, i.e. my real family, to go meet my host family this year, which I’m really excited about.
And for all those reasons I ended up settling into more linguistics in East Asian Studies. So focusing on Japanese, Chinese, Korean languages primarily, but also spending time in China and Japan and Taiwan. So that was ultimately after a lot of pain and suffering in college what I graduated with a degree in.
Speaking of which, one of the things I was so heartened to hear you talk about more recently is your battle with depression and being bipolar and also almost committing suicide in college.
It’s crazy. One of the things that you said, you said “it was really just a matter of luck that I didn’t wind up erasing myself.” So I was wondering if we can talk a little bit about that, because I know your TED Talk is fantastic. I’ve read the blog post. But for anyone who may have had an idea of who Tim Ferriss is but perhaps has skipped some of the more recent developments, I think it’s important for people to hear.
Yeah, it’s super important. Because I think that, and I’ll definitely get into some personal details, it’s so easy to convince ourselves if we’re going through a really dark period or suffering through the loss of a loved one or being brutal with ourselves that we’re uniquely flawed in some way. And that feeling of isolation can put people into a very dangerous place. And a number of my closest friends in high school killed themselves, it’s very common in high-pressure environments. One of my closest friends in high school, one of my friends in Japan in that high school, all killed themselves. And these are some of the kids with the most, you know, seemingly the most potential.
The most promise, yeah.
Are the most unforgiving with themselves. And for a host of reasons, many things that seemed to just coalesce and hit me at the same time, the end of a relationship in dramatic fashion, a huge amount of tension and a dispute with a thesis advisor, which is an enormous part of your entire four-year GPA, which led me to believe that I was effectively going to be unfairly penalized in a bunch of different ways, which would make it impossible to get a good grade on the thesis, which would then wipe out all of the hard work that I had put in to get these grades at a very difficult school, it wasn’t easy for me. And on and on. There were probably six or seven things that all hit in a short, short period of time, and yeah. I decided to take a year off and try a number of different jobs to try to figure out what I wanted to do, because I knew it wasn’t investment banking. I knew it wasn’t management consulting. But those are the only two industries really that recruited, and some other types of finance, at Princeton. So I took this year off, which ended up being in a lot of ways a dangerous decision because I ended up living in an apartment a few miles from campus with two of my friends who had graduated the year before. They would go off to work and then I’m just in a house by myself trying to work on this thesis that isn’t working.
And so probably most of us at this age, and I don’t know if this was true for you… I just remember at that point in my life feeling terribly behind already.
Yeah. So I felt terribly behind, and then the class that I went into Princeton with graduated, so they’re gone. And ultimately –– and I won’t go through the whole thing –– I mean, for people who want all the details, they can, you know, find the chapter in Tools Titans or the blog post. So, I mean, absolutely if anybody is in a really bad place get professional help, number one. Number two, if you just have a tendency and you fear getting to a dangerous place, you can read this blog post, which is some practical thoughts on suicide. But giving the short version, I felt completely trapped. I felt like every option was a terrible option and that if –– simultaneously I had a lot going for me. I had a healthy family, I was in Princeton despite all the problems. And that if I couldn’t be happy in these circumstances, I would never be happy. So I would be better off and everyone would be better off if I could just erase myself.
And these thoughts bounced around for a while. And I would –– I started sleeping in really late, going to bed really late, which is a trigger I’ve realized for a lot of people in depression is going to bed really late. It ends up creating a vicious cycle that can make you even more isolated because you’re –– your sort of chronobiology is so shifted that you’re not interacting with a lot of people.
And I recall one day walking through a Barnes and Noble. I want to say it was in Lawrenceville at the time in the dirty Jers. And wandering around and just looking at various books on tables and so on. And I came across a book that was very Kevorkian-like. It was a how-to guide related to suicide. And it was so crazy, because I remember being really relieved. It was like it’s a sign. This is exactly what I needed. And I sat down and for the first time in months I was really excited, because now I had made a decision. And I was just straight into planning mode. So I figured out all of the different scenarios. I figured out how to mitigate a number of different things that I didn’t want to have happen, how to try to disguise it so it would seem like an accident, all these things. And it was basically on the calendar. And I remember where I was when I decided it exactly. And then the luck part is really lucky.
I mean, the luck part was I had gone to Firestone Library, which is the big library of Princeton, to try to find another book. Because I’m doing my research and I’m obsessive compulsive with getting the details right. So it’s like, alright. Well, I really need to do my homework on how to do this properly. And there was a book at Firestone Library, but it had already been taken out by another student, which tells you a lot in and of itself. So I put in a request for the book, right? And the way they notify you when the book comes in is they send you a postcard. I had forgotten to update my address. So the card went home to my parents and my mom got it. So my mom calls and her voice is cracking and she’s trying to hold it together, and she asked me about it. And I was able to tap dance pretty quickly and I said, oh, you have nothing to worry about, mom. That was just for a friend of mine who goes to Rutgers. Their library isn’t as extensive, so I had requested it for him. He’s writing a thesis on it. But I like totally lied, in other words, and covered it up. But it was in that moment…
Did she know? Have you ever talked to her about it?
Oh, well certainly now she knows.
I should have given my mom a heads up about the subject matter of the TED Talk. I kind of forgot that it was gonna be broadcast in theatres and my mom and brother went to see it and I did not give them a heads up, partially because I threw out the TED Talk I was going to do a week before TED because I felt a moral obligation to talk about this stuff. And furthermore, to talk about the actual tools and routines and so on that I’ve vetted over time to be very, very helpful for keeping me away from the precipice. Right?
And I realized after I had that conversation with my mom, it was a bit of a slap in the face in the best way possible. And it snapped me out of my delusion, which was that I could somehow get away with doing it and not destroy the lives of the people I loved. Like, there’s no way to do that. And I remember somebody said committing suicide is like taking all of the pain you feel, multiplying it by 10, and then imposing it on everyone you care most about.
And that’s the only reason I’m here. I didn’t update an address. It’s crazy, right? So since then I was like, oh, wow. Okay. I don’t want to leave that type of thing to chance ever again. And that became a study for me. And about I want to say a year and a half ago, I had my full genome sequenced, and I for a very long time stayed away from a lot of genome sequencing, because I didn’t want to give myself excuses or labels that I could use as a place to put blame, if that makes sense.
It totally does.
Right? I mean, thank God when I was a little kid, for instance, that the label ADHD and the prescriptions were not en vogue, because I would have been so heavily medicated, and I wasn’t. Now, there’s a place for medication. I don’t want to say there isn’t. But I avoided the genome sequencing or the interpretation for so long, and eventually I was like, you know, this is silly. Like, I should sort of accept realities and be informed at the very least as opposed to just doing the ostrich head-in-the-sand routine.
So I went through the two or three hour call with some doctors to interpret all of this. And I expected a few things, like 8BO34. So my predisposition to Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. Very obvious if you just look at the family history. And I also expected to see something related to depression or manic depression, and I anticipated that I would see a predisposition and then it would in some ways –– which I didn’t want –– give me permission to be depressed more often or something like that.
I was very worried about that. And the doctors were a bit surprised, because they said really there are only a few things we want to point out. And the last one was this sort of sliding scale of predisposition, manic depression. Now, it’s kind of like spinal tap. It’s like one to ten, you’re an eleven. And I just started laughing. I was like yeah, doesn’t surprise me. But it had the opposite effect of what I anticipated. It was a huge burden lifted, because I no longer felt like I was making myself miserable. I was like no, this is my code. This is my code. Like, my software just has a bug in it. And so it allowed me in some ways to stop blaming myself, and it was really freeing in that respect. So I’m really glad I did that.
I mean, having been your friend and knowing you for 10 years now, I can just say from an outside perspective, which I haven’t told you before, I’ve seen a difference in you in the past like two years, I would say. Very, very different. That seems markedly not just what we’re aging, you know what I mean.
It’s not just the hair and the beard?
It’s not just the hair and the beard. It’s not we’re getting older and hopefully we’re getting wiser. And, I don’t know, I was just thinking about it as I was getting ready for us to have this chat today. There’s just a different level of ease in you. And when I say softness, I mean that in a really beautiful way where I feel like I can be closer to you as your friend than perhaps some of the earlier days.
Yeah, it’s only been in the last two years, especially in the last year I would say, that I’ve come to realize a few things. And we could get into how, but we’ll get into some pretty fringe, edgy stuff rather quickly.
Go wherever you want.
If we do. But I’ve realized that, for instance, you know, I’ve spent most of my life –– and this isn’t meant to be depressing. It’s just –– it is what it is.
For many –– due to many different factors and some really horrible stuff that happened to me when I was a kid, not from my parents. I’ve spent a lot of my life really angry and using rage and anger, a lot of it directed at myself, as a fuel for becoming a competitor. Because the only –– well, the only way that I felt validated or valuable was to win. Period. That’s it. I was an instrument for winning and competing, and I only felt good in relationship to other people by somehow being able to tolerate more pain, work harder to be number one. And it was more a relief of not feeling terrible about myself for a fraction of a day than it was the joy of winning, if that makes sense.
It totally makes sense.
And so for my whole life I’ve been so completely brutal to myself. And I’ve realized through a number of different means, you know, one of which anybody can pick up, which is actually a book called Radical Acceptance by Tara Brach. Which, terrible title. Love Tara Brach, but a very, very helpful introduction to thinking about the potential idea that if you want to really help people or you want to really love people, you can’t do it if you hate yourself. You just cannot fully do it. You cannot. I don’t think it’s possible.
So the last few years have been, and especially the last one or two years, a process of asking different questions. And one of the questions, there are many different questions, but one of the most important, which is right up front in this book. And the reason the book kind of exists in a way, is what might this look like if it were easy? Things are hard enough, or they can be, and there’s so much uncertainty in the world that for Type-A personalities, or people who have been wounded and have become very highly competitive as a result…
Or highly driven.
Or highly driven. Right? And driven, we usually use as a very complimentary descriptor. But, you know, a horse that’s being whipped to run faster until it dies on the track is also being driven.
And that’s not always a good thing, and very often a bad thing. That question what might this look like if it were easy is a really deceptively leveraged question. Because you start to look for elegance and ease instead of the path of complexity that allows you to absorb and tolerate the most pain, which some people, myself included for a long time, viewed as an indicator of doing the right thing.
And sometimes for me, of strength.
Yeah. Yeah. It’s like, oh, yeah. No. I can redline for longer than all of you.
It’s like, wait a second.
Yeah. What, what are we talking…? Yes.
And this is good? What is that? And there –– don’t get me wrong –– there is strength and there are advantages to having endurance, but only when you’re enduring things that are worth enduring, as opposed to just making your life painful. So long answer, long monologue. But I do think it’s very important to talk about the darkness and the failures and the hard times. And when I interview people I always try to bring that out. Because it’s so easy, like you said, to listen to an interview or to see someone on the cover of a magazine and to think to yourself, “Wow, I really wish I could do something like that. But I’m me and they’re them, and they’ve got it figured out.”
And they’re superhuman. Yes.
“And they always wake up at 6 in the morning with like a mental karate chop to conquer the day with no insecurities.” And that’s just bullshit. It’s not true. And I can tell you with firsthand knowledge knowing some of the most impressive people I’ve ever come across in the world who’ve become my friends, we all have our demons. So I want –– I make a real conscious effort to talk about those so that people can try to create a safety net against self-destruction and certainly at least self-flagellation and berating.
And I’ve read something recently which has really stuck with me and I’ve been repeating it to myself a lot, which was from Gertrude Stein recently, something that she wrote. And it was, paraphrased, very simple. It related to the Golden Rule. So for those people who need a refresher, “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Alright. Her point is it has to work both ways. So do unto yourself as you would do unto others. And so if the voice in your head is a voice and a tone that you would never use ever with the people you care most about, don’t use it with yourself, and train yourself not to use that voice. It’s one of the biggest gifts that you can give yourself.
And there’s a lot involved in doing that, and I think that for some people certainly working with a trauma specialist is critically important. I’ve become really interested in the somatic aspects of that. There’s some great books out there by people like Peter Levine, for instance. And, you know, for others I think there’s a place for therapy with pharmacological assistance perhaps in the form of, say, MDMA, which is now being studied for use in PTSD and returning war vets and shows incredible promise. Or some of these other compounds that I’ve been interested in for decades now like psilocybin, which I’m supporting through research at Johns Hopkins and other places because it has some tremendous, tremendous applications to things like treatment-resistant chronic depression. So we’ll see. Still all a work in progress.
As we all are. But I’m really happy that you’re talking about it and it’s a focus. And obviously myself and millions of others are really happy that you’re here.
Yeah, me too.
So I’m gonna switch gears.
Yeah, let’s talk about some light stuff.
It won’t necessarily be light, but we’re gonna take it slightly up the hill a little bit.
Tell me about the first time you’d experienced a pet dying. Oh, god. Here we go. Just kidding.
No, I want to talk fear and risk, because I think that you have such healthy perspectives and fresh perspectives to share about this. First let’s start with the definition of risk. How do you define risk?
You know, this is an important question because I realized that a lot of the knots we tie ourselves into and a lot of the anxiety that we feel is actually due to using words that are not defined very well, like success: “I just want to be successful.” Well, you’d better have a very clear definition on what that is if it’s gonna be one of your main obsessions.
Young lady or young man.
Yeah. Happiness. That’s a slippery one, too. And risk is another one. Risk to me is the likelihood of an irreversible negative outcome.
That’s it. That’s it. So defined that way, there are actually very few serious risks. And I choose to take very few serious risks. People might view me as a risk-taker. I don’t think of myself that way at all.
Well, I think partially that’s due to a practice, which I want to get into with you right now, about fear setting versus goal setting. You know, one of the things that I hear from so many people all the time, especially when I’m asking, you know, put something up on Instagram or I’ll do a Facebook Live or whatever we’re doing. It’s like, “Oh, my God, Marie. I can’t get over my fear of this.” And we’ve done MarieTV episodes about worst-case scenarios and best-case scenarios, but I think people can’t hear this enough. So I’d love to talk about what is fear setting. And I’m gonna put a pin in this that I want to get to the practice, which I love. We were talking about this earlier off-camera with my crew. The value of like eating oatmeal, just oatmeal, for a week or two, and connect all these things.
Yeah. Alright. So fear setting is a slightly modified exercise that I borrowed from a number of folks who died thousands of years ago. So it’s been used effectively by a lot of people over a long period of time, and I just really codified it in a way that I could use on a pad of paper to make it an exercise that I still do I’d say at least once a quarter. I do this exercise all the time.
But first, let me talk about goal setting. So people are familiar with goal setting. And it has to be specific, measurable, etcetera, or you don’t have a target at all. At best you have a moving target. So it needs to be very, very highly specific. And unless your goals are specific you won’t achieve them. Similarly, unless your fears are very specifically defined, you cannot overcome them. Critically, critically important point that I reiterate for myself all the time. And it doesn’t matter how good the car is, if you’re pointed in the right direction, if you have the emergency brake on. And the emergency brake on is metaphorically speaking these fears that prevent you from taking that first step. The exercise itself is based on a lot of writing from stoic philosophers. Seneca the Younger specifically, who I’m a huge, huge fan of. To the extent that I produced a free ebook that’s multiple volumes and hundreds of pages with illustrations. Like, oh yeah. Why not do that in my spare time? Oh, my God. But just gave it away for free so people can find that. The Tao of Seneca is something people can find for free. There’s no trick. It’s not paid. There’s no cross-selling, whatever. It’s just free because I found it so useful.
And fear setting is part of that. And I am mentioning Seneca specifically because there is a letter that he writes to one of his students, one of his proteges is named Luchilias. And they’re really practical. People think philosophy and they’re like, ugh, barf. Like, I remember those conversations in college or high school. Like, well, it depends on what is is. And like, oh. Stop it already.
We’re not talking about that kind of philosophy. We’re talking about really pragmatic letters from Seneca to his students saying, “Oh, dear Luchilias. I hear so and so is bad mouthing you behind your back in the Senate and making it really difficult because A, B, and C is happening. Here’s how I might handle that.” They’re really tactical. And one of his letters was on festivals and fasting, is I believe the name of the letter. And in it Seneca talks about making yourself immune to most types of hardship by practicing hardship.
So even if you have a good amount of money, for instance, or a good amount of comfort, let’s say. Practicing discomfort, and there are different ways you can do that. So he says roughly, you know, to set aside a certain number of days each month during which you’ll eat the cheapest of food, wear the grimiest and coarsest of dress, asking yourself all the while, is this the condition that I so feared? This is really important. And a modern version of this could be, for instance, one thing that one of my friends and certainly mentors Kevin Kelly does. Kevin Kelly, the real world most interesting man in the world. I mean, he has an Amish beard, but he’s a technology futurist. Builds his own houses, travels a few months a year with his entire family. The guy does everything. He’s really just fascinating. And he will, say, grab a backpack and sleep on the floor or sleep outside for a week at a time and eat oatmeal and realize that far from being a huge burden and a disaster, it’s actually very freeing and he feels great, feels light. And that if you were to take things away from him, he can still be content. He can still do the things that bring him the most joy.
What does that mean then in terms of people listening? And we’ll get to fear setting, but this is a part of it as a practice. You could, for instance, like my trusty Bulgarian over there, you could, must like Steve Jobs also, say wear the same type of T-shirt for a week or two straight. Or one or two pairs of jeans also for one of two straight.
I do that out of laziness. I do.
And some people listening might say, “Oh, but that’s so –– people are gonna notice that I’m wearing the same stuff. They’ll think I’m sleeping in my clothing.” Good. Good. Cato, who’s also a very famous stoic, used to deliberately, and he was a lawmaker, would deliberately wear clothing that was of an unfashionable color, like a tunic of the wrong color. Which back in Roman days, “Oh, God. Purple tunic,” or, “Blue tunic. What is he thinking?” And he would walk around barefoot, which was not something that everybody did. And he would get ridiculed.
And he did it very, very much on purpose so that he would learn to be ashamed only of the things that are worth being ashamed of. And that is not clothing. That is not walking around barefoot. You and I were, you know, chatting a little bit about this. Like the internet has gone like Civil War on my facial hair. A lot of people hate this crazy Ming the Merciless look that I’ve put on. And the fact of the matter is a big reason I’m doing it is precisely to train myself to ignore that.
I love it.
Yeah. I mean, the fact of the matter is I think I probably look better without it. But I’m doing it and I’m doing it in a really public way, right? On TV to train myself not to care, because it doesn’t matter. And when you train yourself in the little things, then you stand a chance of being courageous when you need to be for the big things. You can’t wait for the big things. You have to practice on small things.
I always think about it as a fitness metaphor because, you know, I was like a girl in the Gold’s Gym at like 14, 15 and it’s like you can’t just get into Gold’s Gym and just start pushing up a bunch of weights. It’s like you have to build up to that.
You have to build up to it.
Same metaphor. It’s like you can’t run a marathon typically right out of the gate. Build up to it and you have so much more likelihood of being successful and being strong.
Yeah. And it’s true with anything. Right? Public speaking. It’s true with negotiating. It’s like, oh, you’re gonna go into big negotiation for a deal that could change your life or ruin your life, and that’s when you’re gonna practice what you read in the book? Are you crazy? No. Like, go to Starbucks and ask for 10% off each day for the next week in a different coffee shop. You’re gonna get rejected half the time. And like start there.
You know? Which is something I should give full credit for to Noah Kagan. That’s something that he has a lot of people do, which is a great exercise. All right. So we’ve already talked about the rehearsal of the worst case scenario. This is important. Alright. That’s a piece of this exercise called fear setting. And fear setting is really, really simple, and there are a number of ways you can do it. One of the ways that you can do it, and that I do it quite frequently, is you take the decision or the action that you’re considering that maybe you’ve been putting off that makes you really uncomfortable. It could be asking someone out, it could be ending a relationship, it could be quitting a job, starting a company, taking your first trip overseas. It could be anything. Your first vacation in 10 years. Alright?
Could be anything that’s making you really uncomfortable or that you’re considering that strikes fear in your heart in some way. So much like goal setting, now we’re talking about fear setting. And at a the top of a piece of paper, so you take a piece of paper. Let’s just say this is a sheet of paper. And at the top you just put, you know, what if I dot dot dot, and you fill in what it is you’re considering.
Start a company.
Start a company. What if I started a company? Alright. And then you make three columns. One, two, three. The first column, you get really detailed with all of the worst things that could happen. Company fails. Not specific enough. Ask so what, so what, so what? Let’s get into the nitty gritty. Alright? I can’t afford my rent, my boyfriend or girlfriend leaves me because all of a sudden I’m not contributing enough to the household.
My kids, I can’t pay for their education. I can’t pay for their healthcare.
Right. Alright? I quit my job and then I can’t come back into that industry. Whatever it might be, like write it all down. But it has to be specific. And you can put down as many bullets as you like. Really just brain dump. So it could be 40, it could be 10, it could be 20. At least 10. Alright? So that’s the worst case column.
Then in the second column, this is prevent. Alright, so the first column is define, second column is prevent. What are the things that you could do or that you could ask someone else to help you do? Anything at all that you could do to decrease the likelihood even 1% of these things happening? Alright. Well, you could look into food subsidies. You could look into educational scholarships. You could look into working for a gig economy type service like TaskRabbit. You could look at Uber driving. You could look at –– then all of a sudden these remedies or preventative measures start to come out. Specific again. Has to be specific. So for each of those worst-case scenarios, write down one or more things you could do to decrease the likelihood of that happening. There’s almost always something. Alright. Boom. You make that list.
Then in the last column you have repair. What does this mean? Alright. For each of these worst case scenarios, what is something that you could do to repair the damage even 1% or just get back on your feet temporarily? What could you do? Could you move into a friend’s guest bedroom? Could you, as much as you might hate it, take a temporary bartending job? Whatever. Right. What could you do to temporarily get back on your feet, to figure stuff out, or reverse the damage? You go through the same exercise and –– bullet by bullet. Once you’ve done that, and don’t rush this. This will generally take at least a half hour. And it will be the best time perhaps you’ve ever spent. And I have used this for almost every one of the most important pivot points in my life, whether it is the very first long trip that I took, which was initially four weeks.
My first vacation in 2004. Four weeks in London to either redesign my entire business and extricate myself as a bottleneck, or shut it down. Which then turned into 18 months of travel, but I didn’t decide to take the four weeks, to step back at the 30,000 foot view for like six to nine months. I was so terrified of doing it. And it was just scary, scary, scary. And a bunch of really nebulous shadow-puppet type forms. It wasn’t clear at all, and so I couldn’t do anything about it. I just knew it wouldn’t work. It wouldn’t work because this would happen, because I’d miss a letter from the IRS and then I get audited and I’d have to come back to the US and it’d be a big disaster. Or my roommate would leave and then he wouldn’t pay his part of the rent and then all my stuff would get like put into storage because –- like all this stuff that I wasn’t really unpacking in a useful way.
And then I did this exercise and I realized, wait a minute. If I’m thinking about risk as the likelihood of an irreversible negative outcome, all of these things that I just came up with are either preventable or fixable. What the hell am I doing? And it was like a week later I bought a ticket and off I went. If I hadn’t done that I would probably still be running that business and miserable. Four-Hour Workweek never would have happened and on and on and on and on.
I want to take it from there, because Four-Hour Workweek –– I’m gonna shift us into writing now.
Yeah. Let’s do it.
For people that don’t know, which I don’t know who the hell doesn’t know. You’ve been living under a rock. You just celebrated the 10-year anniversary. It was a blockbuster. It was on the bestseller list for four years.
For five years straight.
For five years straight. Damn! Translated into 35 languages. And this is the thing people, I need everybody to hear this, rejected 25?
At least 27 times.
27 people rejected that motherfucker. Can you, it’s like, and then you see what a monster that becomes.
Not even nicely, in some cases.
Really? Was it rude in some cases?
Some of them were so rude.
But isn’t it –– so it’s gotta feel a little bit good now. Like, just a little. Just a little?
Oh, it’s great.
It’s great. Okay, good. Just, you know, because that happens to all of us.
Keep those. Keep those rejection letters.
I was talking to actually someone on my team today. We were practicing, we were doing like a live call-in show, something that we’re doing now which I love. It’s super fun. We haven’t aired one yet, but I can’t wait for it. And someone on my team who’s also a writer, she’s like, “Marie,” she’s like legitimately she’s like feeling bad about herself because she got all these rejection letters. And I pulled out your stat, JK Rowling. I’m like do you know? All of us. All of us. If you ever expect to be any –– like, you actually want to pile up those rejections. Lets pile them up.
Chicken Soup for the Soul, more than a hundred rejections.
Now they’ve sold hundreds of millions of copies.
Yes. It’s a good thing.
You go down the list.
You want to start eating rejection letters for breakfast. You’re like, this is good.
Yeah, and you can also really use it for fuel. And, you know, I think of Alexis Ohanian who is one of the co-founders of Reddit. And in the early days Reddit was starting to grow and they had a meeting at Yahoo to discuss some type of corp dev/maybe acquisition, who knows. And this smug senior VP of blah blah blah at Yahoo looked at all the numbers and he goes, “Wow, yeah. This is like a rounding error for Yahoo.” And so Alexis went back to the office and he made a huge printout of “you are a rounding error, Yahoo.” And put it on the wall so people would just get pissed.
Yes. No, I have more than one time taken those really nice things that people have said to me and said it’s like fuck you fuel. Do you know what I mean? I’m like, the Jersey in me comes out. I’m like, “Oh, really? Oh, okay. That’s what you think? Watch this.” And I’m like I take it and eat it for breakfast, it’s like vitamins for me sometimes.
Use it. Use it. And I, just as a quick side note because I don’t think this is anything I’ve kind of publicly mentioned before. For the Four-Hour Chef. I got attacked by someone in the New York Times. And I took out this tiny little soundbite from the attack letter. I think it was an op-ed piece that said –– it was meant to be like a sniping joke because it was in the context of a much bigger piece, but it said something like Tim Ferriss can not only walk on land, but like walk on water, or something. And I just took that and then I put it on the inside flap of the book and attributed it to the guy who attacked me.
That is good.
So in any case, yeah. Many, many, many rejections. So how, if at all, has your writing process changed over the years? And you know I’m asking this very selfishly, because I’m writing a book for the first time in like over 10 years.
It has. It’s changed a lot.
Have you noticed any patterns in terms of do’s or don’ts that you can swing over to a sister?
Sure. So a few. A few. A lot of it loops back to the question that I mentioned at the beginning of our conversation, what would this look like or what might this look like if it were easy? And there are several questions that I’ll layer beneath that. And really the objective when you’re answering a question like that, which I always do in a journal of some type, is to go crazy. What I mean by go crazy is like the more absurd the better.
Like really go nuts. Nothing’s off limits. And I will ask hypothetical questions that are really ridiculous. Like if I had to write this entire book in two weeks, had to, gun to the head, what might I do? If I had to –– whcih I would never do, but if I had to hire a ghostwriter to do this, what instructions would I give them? Right? If I had to write this book with money or dictate the whole thing, couldn’t touch a keyboard, what might I do? And I start adding all these constraints into the questions and trying to figure out, alright. Like, take away the keyboard, how do I get this book done in two weeks? Uh oh. Right? Or, you name it. I start adding all of these really not arbitrary, but difficult constraints and then answering in just stream of consciousness long hand.
And inevitably somewhere in there 90% it’s gonna go straight into the garbage. But there’s gonna be something where you go, okay. That is interesting. That is hugely leveraged and that’s something we can use. And then you test and you go holy shit, that actually worked. And now you’ve cut hundreds of hours or, you know, hundreds of self floggings out of the experience. So the first would be asking that question on a very routine basis. When I was writing Tribe of Mentors and when I have written, the only two books that I’ve enjoyed writing are the last two books. So I’ve changed my approach quite a bit. That would be one. The second is having a rock solid daily routine where you do not have to think about logistics.
So my routine with say Tribe of Mentors, it was –– my trusty Bulgarian can tell you.
Hello. He’s off camera. He’s here.
It was very, very boringly uniform. So wake up, 20 minutes of meditation, jump in the pool. And you don’t need a pool for this, but some type of physical exercise. Jump in the pool, do 20 laps, grab the paper from the night before that I’ve printed out to do hand edits on. Go into a sauna, say. It could be any number of things. And there were a few types of exercise that I would vary. It might be instead of say the swimming, I’m going to do one set of kettlebell swings just to get my nervous system lit up. Boom, boom. Same tea, same breakfast, a bit of journaling. Right? So maybe what would this look like if it were easy today with this given component of the book, then work, work, work. Ride the bikes to a lunch, have the exact same lunch every day. Sounds boring, but useful. Mediterranean wraps. We can talk about it if you want. And then same restaurants at night. Maybe two or three just so you don’t completely die of boredom. But buy lots of tequila for the people working at those restaurants, because I’m gonna want to stay late and I want them to love me.
So go to the same restaurant. And let’s say the first nine days of writing a book, go to the same restaurant for Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, then the same restaurant –– a different restaurant, but the same restaurant for Thursday, Friday, Saturday. And just buy booze for everybody. And you just bought yourself the golden ticket, because if the restaurant is closing and you’re like, hey, can we just chill while you guys are tallying up the bills and cleaning up and changing the place settings for an hour?
They’re like hell yeah. Stay here.
They’re like sure, yeah. Stay as long as you want. So there’s that piece. And also I’ve realized that for myself it’s very, very important, we were chatting about this a little bit earlier, to have another human around so that I don’t go cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs in my own head.
Oh, yes. This is a mistake that I’ve made, that I was just recently making. I’ve talked about it. We had one or two shows about. I was like oh, my goodness. I am an enormously collaborative human being, and I have this incredible team that I’m always interacting with. But made a few mistakes of like taking myself off into the cave, which is good because it limits distractions, but I went too far.
You know, way too far. And I was like I am out in the middle of the ocean. What the hell’s going on?
Yeah. There is such a thing as too much time in your own head.
Especially this head. Like, there’s a lot going on. And it’s less like Iraq War than it was maybe three years ago, but it’s still a funky neighborhood in there. And I would say other tips that have helped me quite a bit, treadmill desk has helped me tremendously.
Is there a little apparatus –– I can Google this, y’all, but I’m just interested because it’s fun. We’re having the conversation. I was thinking if I could bring it to the gym. Because I don’t have a treadmill in my house, but I do go to gyms.
I’m sure there’s some contraption.
Yeah. That I could bring.
That you could then put on top of a treadmill. Because they have those guide rails on the sides, so you could almost certainly put something on top and then put the laptop on top of that. Almost certainly.
And, you know what? My butt’s gonna be real tight when I do that. It just is. I’m sorry, people. It’s win-win. Yes, treadmill desk.
Also other things I’ve realized in my process, which is not the same for everything, that I do my best synthesis or prose writing in the afternoon or evenings, but I can do grunt work, meaning outreach, research, fact-gathering earlier in the day.
But I do not do synthesis and actual prose output well in the morning. So I like to bucket things in that respect. Also in terms of fuel, coffee is not my friend. I’ve realized as a caffeine fast metabolizer, if I have one cup of coffee I’m gonna be exhausted 20 minutes later.
And then it becomes 12 cups of coffee a day.
I’m a slow metabolizer, so I’m lucky.
Oh, you’re cruising.
Yes, I am.
In my case I’m going to turn myself into a fidgety tweaking, anxious mess because once I’ve had one I’m gonna drop below my baseline. I’ll be worse off than when I started.
Josh is like that, too.
And I’ll need cup after cup after cup. So I buy both oolong, if people are interested, there’s a brand called Ito-En, which is very popular in Japan. And you can buy cases of these on Amazon Prime. So I will buy cases and cases of green tea and oolong tea, which I alternate. And I just have them stocked and ready to rock and roll. And a Soda Stream. Love me my carbonated water. And those are a few of the approaches.
In terms of actual writing what I’ve realized for myself, and I did learn this pretty early on, but I’ve continued to develop the way I approach it, is treating every chapter like a feature magazine article in the sense that there is a beginning, middle, end, and it is valuable as a self-contained piece so that it is not necessarily dependent on other chapters. What this allows you to do is to write out of order. So that if you get stuck, you have modular pieces, and you can hit pause and continue working on something else so you don’t go into a panic if you’re frozen on a given chapter for a week.
That’s actually –– yes.
Which can really freak you out.
Because then because you’re like, wait a minute. Did I cover this yet? Did I talk about this? Did I set this up enough to be able to put this in this place sequentially?
So give it enough –– give each chapter enough self-contained context that you are ideally referring to other parts of the book as little as possible. You can do that, but there should be just enough context that the person does not have to go back and read that chapter. So in doing that you also create a really curious benefit that I underestimated in the beginning, which is your readers can then read the book –– they can read the chapters out of order. And this allows a much higher percentage of people to actually complete the whole book. Because if they are dragging in a given chapter –– in the introduction, which I typically call the, you know, how to use this book chapter, so they’ll actually read it, and –– it says skip around. This is intended to be, you know, a buffet. And if for whatever reason something is not grabbing your attention, hit pause, move to another chapter. And you’ll get a much higher conversion from consumption to action in readers if you approach it that way. So that’s another point of emphasis that I’ve really paid attention to over time.
I love it.
Yeah. Very, very helpful, at least for me.
I feel like you just answered like two or three of my questions, but I’m going to ask one of these because I know everyone’s interested. I’m not at this phase yet, and, you know, I think the marketing and promotion stage of almost anything, I love it because I find it to be an art and I just –– it’s such a joy for me.
Oh, here’s another writing tip.
Forbid yourself from working on the marketing until you’re done with your book.
I’m a winner! I’ve absolutely…
Do you know what I mean? Because it is so much more appealing and so much shinier and sexier to think about all these incredible launch plans. And writers will do anything to avoid writing. At the end of the day. It’s like, “Oh, my God. These flowers look terrible. I can’t possibly write if these flowers are wilting.”
You know, my shoes are so dirty. I really –– it’s gonna be so distracting if I don’t clean my shoes.
Energy’s not gonna be right.
Right. And it’s anything and everything you can do to procrastinate, you will do.
Absolutely. I’m actually, I’m really proud of myself because I’ve told everyone and interiorly I’m like, you know, it’s quarantined off. That is not –– I’m not even gonna touch that until. But I’m curious for anyone watching, because one of the questions we do get a lot of like how do I, you know, blah, blah, blah. So I’m curious if there’s any high, low level things that you’ve noticed have just changed. Because you’re a monster when it comes to this. For everyone watching, part of the reason Tim Ferriss is so damn successful, I mean, there’s many, many things we could talk about, but it’s like you’ve been creating such prolific, high quality content for super long. You take care of your audience. A lot of times my friends will joke they’ll be like, “You know, Marie, can you tell me how to just do what you do, but just not with the hard work?” I’m like no. No. It’s all –– it’s actually, it’s all the hard work. That’s it. But that said, some changes when it comes to marketing and promotion that you’ve seen in books.
Well, I’ll answer that by looking at the last few launches. And I will talk about some things that have changed, but my tendency is to look at the things that have not changed.
Because the –– let’s say you want to learn to draw. Alright? You can use a crayon, you can use a pencil, you can use a pen, you could use fingerpaints.
Charcoal. You could think of all of those tools that I just mentioned as different types of say social media, but at the end of the day you have to know how to draw.
So for instance, in the world of social, that might be really investing in learning how to write copy, how to write period. Forget about copy. Learning how to communicate with words on paper or on a computer.
Right? And reading a book like Cialdini’s book on persuasion.
We talk about this all the time. I’m not meaning to hijack this, but I have something that’s called The Copy Cure. Because I noticed so many of my B-Schoolers, super smart, so much integrity. Their copy was so far below what they needed it to be in order to have success. So yes.
And if you want to get better, go find say a continuing ed class at some local university with a writing teacher.
And it doesn’t have to be purely –– it can be. I’ve ready many books on copywriting or advertising. You know, Ogilvy On Advertising. Amazing.
I mean, there’s so many that I would recommend. But ultimately it’s thinking on paper. So I would encourage you to also learn how to write period. Take a class. Could be creative writing, it could be nonfiction, does not matter. It could be creative nonfiction. That is one of the best investments that you can make. So there are –– there are skills like writing and copywriting that translate to any tool. There are skills like storytelling. So if you were to read say, I think –– I may get the title wrong. I always butcher it. But the Hero With a Thousand Faces, Joseph Campbell.
Getting a better understanding of story arc and hero’s journey so that you can tell stories that are remembered. Study that. Study oral traditions. Look at some of say the most popular TED Talks and forget about the how-to stuff and just focus on examining the personal stories, how those are used. Because that’s the glue that holds everything else together. These are things that then, whether it’s Instagram, Snapchat, fill in the blank social tool or tool that will exist three years from now after half of those have died, you will be able to step right into it and win.
Or do well. And so I would say first and foremost try to invest in the skills and learning the principles that are more timeless, because then you are infinitely adaptable. That’s the first thing I would say. The second thing I would say, which is really important, is in a world where word of mouth can kill you or make you, this is your marketing.
Right? When people ask me what are you doing to market the book, and I say 90% of it is in the writing of the book. Making something. It’s not accidental, for instance, that in this book there are these pull quotes that are some of my favorite pull quotes that I’m using as a reminder for myself, because ultimately every book I write is a book I couldn’t find for myself.
But these are also custom made for sharing.
And people will share these. And every single person in there, for their benefit certainly, also has their social handle listed. Well, that facilitates things, doesn’t it?
And on and on and on. But at the end of the day, you can game a system. You can –– you can cheat or game almost any system in existence, but that’s going to be very short-lived if the product or service does not stand on its own two feet.
So it’s never been, in some ways, easier to market anything without marketing if you create a great service or product. So that should be where the focus is. I see so many people trying to like put a tuxedo on a monkey by putting out a mediocre at best, say, book.
And then they want to dress it up and cover it in gold and sell it as the Willy Wonka golden ticket. And within a week people are like this is garbage.
And then it’s more of a liability than anything else. So I would also say everyone who says I want to wrote a book. Do you, though? Like do you really? Because it’s, A, if it can’t be your number one or number two priority, ideally number one priority, for a year, it’s going to be more of a liability than a help to you. And as far as things that change, one of the questions that I ask myself prior to each launch, there are a number of questions. One is what is becoming less important or impactful and what is becoming more important? So for the Four-Hour Workweek, for instance, there were these things called blogs.
What are blogs?
Oh, my goodness.
And television was decreasing in importance in many ways and impact. But it was heavily valued by publishers. Blogs in the meantime, were very much neglected and were skyrocketing in importance, and are still important, by the way. So I ended up just doubling down and putting everything into focusing on blogs. For say the Four-Hour Chef, the answer was podcasts. Podcasts were just in this inflection point and moved the majority, I would say, of books that were sold for the Four-Hour Chef. I’m constantly looking at what’s becoming more important, what’s becoming less important, and also what is out of fashion. So for Tools of Titans, for instance, I did a bunch of billboards. Why? Because everyone was saying billboards are dead.
What happens when everyone says billboards are dead? There is more supply than demand, and the prices go way, way down.
So all of a sudden, you know, it’s at a low enough price almost everything is a good deal. So if I can get bargain basement pricing on a given medium that may in fact be effective in some capacity but is out of fashion, I’ll buy everything I can get.
Plus how much fun is it though? There’s like the fun factor of like I’m gonna do a billboard. You’ve earned it at this point.
Totally, yeah. Absolutely. So there are absolutely things that I do in every book when I’m writing them so I don’t go completely crazy just for fun. So there are a few questions that I ask everybody, you know, 130, 140 people in Tribe Mentors that is just for me.
It’s really just for me. Like, what is one absurd –– what is an absurd thing or behavior that you love?
Yes. Well, my answer is in there.
Yeah, because you get the wackiest shit and you realize, wow. Everybody…
Is a weirdo!
So, and that is very reassuring.
You know, just like knowing people go through their tough times. And there are a lot of deep, meaningful, profound –– hopefully –– questions and, certainly, answers in the book. But that’s like the fiber of knowledge. It requires some digestion. So there has to be some levity to get people through it. And especially when writing a book –– which is never easy –– to get these little Scooby Snacks of these ridiculous answers that were so funny, made the process a little easier. It let the stress out. It was a stress release valve, to some extent. And in launches, same thing. I will do some just stupid, ridiculous, absurd stuff so that I don’t burn out. You’re never gonna get the really serious stuff done if you’re serious all the time.
You’ll flame out. So look at what’s undervalued. And in terms of any launch and –– this is another constant I would say a very big mistake that I see as far as I’m concerned –– is trying to create something that appeals to everyone or market something to everyone. Who’s gonna read your book? Everyone’s gonna read my book.
Well, there are a number of issues with that. Number one is that if you try to make something that everyone is gonna like, you’re gonna make something that nobody’s gonna love. Period. The next is that when you get to the point where you’re marketing and doing PR, how affordable is it to market to everyone? It is not. It is very, very, very, very completely futile, A. And even if you attempt it, it’s going to break the bank.
So instead of that, I encourage that everybody read –– and I say this whenever I talk about launches. I want to mention this. 1,000 True Fans, which is an article by Kevin Kelly. If you are able to identify the 1,000 perspective fans who you think can become your super fans, your true fans, they will become your most powerful unpaid marketing force, and they will do the recruiting of say casual fans for you. But to accomplish that, you have to create something that is so fine-tuned, so customized for those 1,000 people that once they get a taste of it they will buy anything that you do forever, because it’s so much a fit, hand in glove for them. And if that means, by the way, that they are all 23-year-old emo Italian-American dyslexics, awesome.
Great. Don’t be ashamed of that. Don’t apologize for your lack of diversity of your 1,000 true fans. Fuck it. Sorry.
No, there’s no –– we can say whatever we want here.
No. It’s like you need to have a very clear picture of who you are creating something for. And ideally, you are them and they are you. Right?
Yeah. That was actually one of my favorite pieces, because I want to talk about this now, Tribe of Mentors. There is one –– is it Tim Urban?
Oh, yes. Yes. Probably, yes. Who started writing.
Who started writing. So I thought that this was really helpful because a lot of people like, oh, gosh. I have so many people in my audience. And they’re so –– you know, and I can struggle with that too because I understand, especially at this point, the diversity in my audience. People that are 7 and 77 and all 195 countries. I loved him, Tim Urban’s advice. He’s like I imagine, I’m paraphrasing, that there are just a stadium full of me.
And I’m gonna write this book or create this thing for all of me, and I’m gonna love it.
Yeah, yeah. Exactly. It’s –– that’s what he said. Because I know exactly what they’re gonna laugh about.
I know exactly what their weird interest are.
And it turns out that your weird interests, as unique as you may think you are, are actually shared by a lot of people. And, you know, Kevin has made this point before, that is even if your interest is a one in a million like the weirdest sexual fetish you can conceive of, one in a million still means you have an entire like city full of people in the world who are into the same thing.
Yes. I always discover that when I talk about –– because I love horror movies and zombies and different things. “Oh, my God. Me too.” I got an email the other day, it’s like, “Can we do a haunted house together? We could do a whole thing.” There’s tons of us.
Oh, yeah. Yeah. So embrace your weird self because, in fact, there are thousands or millions of people who are into the same stuff. And as a case study for the Four-Hour Workweek, I threw out the first few chapters I wrote because they were way too like pompous and Princetonian sounding. It’s just ridiculous. Terrible. So I scrapped it. And then I tried to do it again and the first few chapters were then really three stooges slapstick terrible. So I tossed it. Because I was trying to write a book for a lot of people in both of those cases.
And then I sat down. I had maybe two, just to be conservative, maybe two glasses of wine. And opened up Word Processor and started writing an email to two of my close friends, one who was trapped in a job he hated but felt like he couldn’t leave and another who was trapped in a company of his own making and felt he couldn’t leave. He was in a prison of his own making. And so I wrote like, “Hey so-and-so and so-and-so.” And had like a preamble of a paragraph or two, and then I started writing the first chapter and then the second chapter as an email to these guys I knew really well so I could be myself. If I wanted to curse I could curse. But I’m not going to do it all the time.
If I want to be funny, they’re gonna get my sense of humor. Fine. They’ll get it. And that is when I finally was able to write the book. And it turns out that even though my initial target market –– and the target is not the market. It’s an entry point. This is a real important thing. My original target market to make the writing easier and also the marketing really focused was say 25 to 40 year old tech savvy males in a handful of primary cities that were very tech focused. And then as soon as it got a toehold and started to spread in that demographic and psychographic, then the 25 to 40 year old women who are tech savvy in the same spaces. Boom.
Then it bled over into that and then it bled in both directions in terms of age, and then it went international, and it’s now in like 40-something languages. And it never would have happened had I not been so focused in the beginning. Never would have happened. If you try to boil the ocean at once, doesn’t work.
Damn. Alright. So we’re gonna keep going. Now we’re in Tribe of Mentors, which is so wonderful. I’m so glad that you’ve done it. Now that you are properly warmed up, I think I’ve warmed you up.
Yeah, I’m limber.
I want to hear your response to one of the questions that you sent all of us.
Let’s do it.
So in the last five years, what new belief, behavior, or habit has most improved your life? So for everybody watching, when you get this book, this is one of the questions that many of us “mentors” have answered.
Yeah. I would say for me it is a consistent morning practice before taking my phone off of airplane mode of sitting and doing a meditative practice for say 20 minutes. And it stuck initially by taking a transcendental meditation class of perhaps three days when I was going through a very, very difficult time. And Chase Jarvis, who’s awesome and a hugely successful commercial photographer, he’s worked at every big brand you can imagine and is also a very good CEO. Both he and Rick Rubin, who is like the most legendary music producer of all time. Just look at his discography. It’s insane. It’s like Johnny Cash, Eminem, Jay-Z, Metallica. You know, the list is absurd. It’s like everybody you’ve ever heard of. And he also said to me at one point, because I was going through a really rough time and I was very tightly wound, he said have you ever considered TM? And I’m like mantra. Like you pay them to give you a mantra. It’s a cult. Like, I don’t want to be part of a cult and on and on and on. They’re like –– no it’s actually really secular. And I know there’s a little bit of weird stuff, but you can just ignore that. It’s like the first hour of the talk. Just ignore it. What do you have to lose?
And I was going through such a difficult period at one point I was like, you know, that’s a good point. So I did that and that kick started the meditation. And then I experimented with other things like Headspace, which I have no vested interest in. So you start with 10 minutes a day for 10 days as a proof of concept. And the way I’d encourage people to think about meditation –– because it can sound very woowoo and I certainly was repelled by it for a long time –– is you are sitting down say on a couch to practice observing your thoughts and feelings and emotions for a very short period of time, so that for the rest of the day you are less emotionally reactive.
What this means is you are rehearsing. You are training. It’s like going to the gym. So let’s say you’re training for a sport. Alright? You’re an athlete in X. You go to the gym to do squats, to do this, this, and this so that when you get on the playing field you can perform better. It’s exactly the same. You’re rehearsing and training for your day. And then when you run into something that normally would trigger you, whether it’s a certain type of email, whether that’s an employee who has a habit that drives you insane, or you being behind in your schedule and then the line at Starbucks is longer than you would like. Whatever it happens to be, the things that would normally cause you to get really tightly wound or explode or berate yourself or other people, you will then start to spot before you have the reaction.
And then you say, “Okay, half a second of breathing. Let me choose my response instead of being a hot held hostage to these loops and triggers that we all have.” So that has been enormously, enormously helpful for me.
And there are many different entry points. You know, I mentioned TM. That’s one way. It’s not the only way. Headspace, I think, is a fantastic option for people. The ten minutes a day for 10 days, which is free, or you could listen to a guided mediation. There are many good ones out there. Sam Harris, who’s also in here, has some fantastic guided meditations. Tara Brach also has some really hypnotic awesome guided meditations.
Yeah, we have one. We have a free one. You can Google search Marie Forleo Free Downloadable. It’s a ten minute, it’s –– because it’s been –– similarly it’s been absolutely instrumental in my life. I mean, everything.
Yeah. So as a habit I’d say that’s one. Last five years, I mean, I’m cheating a little bit because this is older, but re embracing two-handed kettlebell swings as the go-to. You just hit everything and in five minutes twice a week with something that takes up this much space on the floor, you’re done. It’s really bang for the buck just an incredible, incredible exercise.
And I know I’m giving more than one. I’m cheating a little bit. In terms of belief this is really brand new, but I would say the belief that you have to figure out a way to love yourself to love other people fully. That is just the state of reality. There’s really no way around it.
So that for me, and I think for a lot of people, is just priority number one. And I think it’s Sharon Salzberg who’s one of maybe five people who are credited with bringing Buddhist meditative meditation practices to the West has said, and she’s also in here pretty close to you I think. And her expression is put on your oxygen mask first. Before helping others, put on your own oxygen mask. And I think I’ve neglected that for a long time. So yeah. Those are my answers.
What do you hope people get out of this?
I hope that they get a renewed sense of hope and optimism, because you’re not only learning the exact routines and tools and apps and supplements and everything that you can use today that have helped people to produce massive successes, but you’re also learning exactly how they dug themselves out of failures and dark periods. And you need both.
Like nothing drives me crazier than like motivational folks who offer no specific tools. It makes me crazy. It’s like you’re just getting people really excited to like get onto an airplane. Be like, “No, pilot. I got this.” And they don’t have any training in an airplane. What are you doing? That’s crazy.
That’s dangerous. No. No, no. I don’t want you to do that. I don’t want you to be like, “Yeah, man. I’ll figure it out and manifest it all. Let me just quit my job and put my whole family at risk and then start a company that I haven’t even thought about.” No, no. Time out. Don’t do that.
You need the training and the tools, kiddo. Yeah. Like, no, no. You need a seat belt.
And so I love also spotting the patterns. That’s another thing that people will get from this is they will be able to –– there is absolutely –– there are at least 10 people in this book for anyone that they will identify with who have the same set of maybe strengths and weaknesses and personality quirks. So they can just copy and paste like right into their lives. So that’s really what I look forward to. And in all these books what I most look forward to is hearing the stories from people who get even better results than the people in the book.
And, I mean, you were –– some people may now know this, but you are a –– you were a model in the Four-Hour Body.
Some people they, they’re like, “Marie. Is that you?” I’m like, “Yeah, because my brother called me and said, hey, can you help me out in my book? Of course I can help you out with your book.”
Yeah, so you’re in that book. And I remember in the Four-Hour Body, I remember when it first came out people are like that’s crazy. This guy’s nuts. Like, that stuff’s so extreme, like you could never do this, this, this, or this. Even though I documented all of it.
And now for everyone of those chapters whether it’s for fat loss, for the orgasm stuff, or marathon training, vertical jump. It doesn’t matter. For every single chapter I have dozens of people who have not only replicated what I did but have made it even better.
That’s the best.
Yeah. That’s the exciting part.
It really is.
Because my goal with any of these is to make myself, and I think any good say personal trainer should have as a goal to make themselves obsolete as quickly as possible. And that’s my goal here. It’s like I don’t want to be a guru of any type that people come to for answers, but I’m happy to give you better questions and tools so you can then figure things out on your own.
Exactly. Okay, before we wrap up the last question I want to ask you, before we let you go, it’s not from your list but I’m curious because you’re such a voracious learner and you’re so –– and we always –– I always love hearing what you’re up to next. What are you working on getting better at now? Whether it’s mentally, emotionally, whatever. What’s something that’s really blowing some wind up your skirt, so to speak? Because I know you, you know. It’s one of your favorite things.
Let’s see. Love wind up the skirt. Marilyn Monroe.
We can do a photoshoot later. Let’s see. There are so many things. I would say, not to sound like a broken record, but honestly recognizing the incredible relief and ease and productivity that comes with being even a little bit nicer to yourself. It’s so noticeable and it’s so dramatic. And a good place to start is quite frankly a gratitude list in the morning. And I do this regularly in my journaling. Just write down three things each morning maybe before –– I do it before I have breakfast with tea, typically. Write down say one person you’re grateful for. I often will, just to avoid any pattern where it’s like my family and my girlfriend. And to avoid always using the same people, think of somebody from your history who really helped you like from high school, from grade school, college, whenever it might have been. And then second is whatever you think of. And then I always make the third something very small. And I actually picked this up from Tony Robbins. Something really small like the yellow mug that I’m using for my tea or the tea itself.
Or the sunlight coming in.
Yeah. The sunlight or like a bird that’s chilling outside. Something really small. And what this trains you to do is to put a lens on for the day that selectively allows you to see more of the positive. So I think a lot of people who are achievement focused and successful in a given field have the tendency, which has its place, of looking at the hundred things they did and ignoring the 98 that went well and just saying that’s fine. The good things take care of themselves. Let me just focus on the two where I made mistakes. Post game. Let’s do it. And the fact of the matter is this is a very new realization. The good things actually don’t take care of themselves. You have to cultivate those. You have to practice them.
Or they’re gonna go away.
Yeah. If you just focus on fixing the negative, what remains is a void. Not all high fives and smiles and rainbows. You have to cultivate the positive. So that’s one.
Another thing that I’m very excited by and interested in, and it’s multiplied I think just about every year. And this might be a little out there. So I’m not a doctor, nor lawyer, so do your own homework. Don’t break any laws, kids. Don’t do this at home. Exploring the applications of plants and compounds that have been used in traditional ceremonial context in almost every continent in the world that would typically be referred to as psychedelics. I think there are wide-ranging, deep, powerful applications and potentially safe applications in supervised settings. So that is something I’m spending a lot of time on.
And I’m really taking, for instance, all the –– a lot of the attention that I put into tech investing in startups for almost 10 years. Yeah, ten years. Wow. Into scientific research related to better understanding the mechanisms in action and subjecting to say double blinded studies. The applications to say PTSD and treatment-resistant depression.
Other things that I’m excited about are honestly scheduling. And this is something I did –– you mentioned Tim Urban earlier. He wrote a piece, this is long before I ever met him, that was recommended to me by a friend who just lost his father unexpectedly. Young guy, really sad. And it was an article, is an article, everybody can find for free called “The Tail End” by Tim Urban on his site Wait But Why. And the tail end points out, and I think I’m getting this right, but roughly by the time you graduated from high school, it might be college, but by the time you graduate from high school or college you have spent 80% or more of the total hours you will ever spend with your parents before they die.
And when I read that –– and he lays it out in visual form –– and it hit me so hard. I then started, this is a few years ago, blocking out two to four weeks every six months to take my family on a trip somewhere. And it’s become –– our relationships have never been better. And what’s so beautiful about that, and I recognize not everyone can take four weeks off every six months, but maybe it’s a long weekend. It doesn’t have to be really, really insanely complicated or expensive. And we collaborate and brainstorm locations and what we might do in those places, and we put together these dream lists.
And so you’d not only get the trip, but you get the anticipation of the experience for the entire year. Because there’s something coming in no longer than six months. And it’s been –– I would have to say at least as a family, by far, and in my relationships with my family, the best investment I probably ever made in my life is committing to doing that. And so that’s something that’s exciting me, because I’m taking my entire family to Japan on the 25th anniversary of my first real trip abroad, which is a year in Japan. Freaking out. Talk about culture shock. And then ultimately it changed my life. And introducing my mom and dad and my brother to my Japanese mom and dad and brother for the very first time.
I just am so excited to do that and experience that and watch my parents’ faces, my brother’s face when they encounter the extreme weirdness that is Japan. It’s so awesome, but it’s so weird. Or thinking back to, for instance, I took my parents and my brother to Iceland because my mom had always wanted to see the Northern Lights. Had never seen the Northern Lights. And just like the look on her face on one particularly lucky night, that was just spectacular. Like a grand finale fireworks show. It was so ethereal and otherworldly.
Yeah. I mean, it’s ––
No one can say for sure why we’re here, but I’d say that’s a contender. It’s pretty close. So certainly that’s something that’s really exciting.
I adore you. I love you. Congratulations on this. For everyone, I hope you’ve enjoyed this conversation. It’s been super fun, and we will not wait 10 years until we do it again. Thank you for coming on.
Thank you, dear.
Yeah, love you too.
Now, Tim and I would love to hear from you. So today I actually want to hear your answer to one of Tim’s questions. So in the last five years, what new belief, behavior, or habit has most improved your life? Let us know in the comments below.
Now, as always, the best conversations happen after the episode over at the magical land of MarieForleo.com, so head on over there and leave a comment now. And while you’re there, if you’re not yet already, become an MF Insider and subscribe to our email list. You’ll get exclusive access to an audio I created called How To Get Anything You Want, plus you’ll get some exclusive content, special giveaways, and some updates from me that I just don’t share anywhere else.
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If I’m thinking about risk as the likelihood of an irreversible negative outcome, all of these things that I just came up with are either preventable or fixable. What the hell am I doing? And it was like a week later I bought a ticket and off I went. If I hadn’t done that, I’d probably still be running that business and miserable and the Four-Hour Workweek never would have happened, and on and on and on and on.