Tools of the Titans

I haven’t read much of the self-help / effective habits genre, but it was recommended I take Tim Ferriss’ Tools of the Titans for a spin. Though I can’t say the in-depth discussion of psychedelics or quirky workout routines held much interest for me, there is a tonne if interesting stuff in there. I can’t suggest it enough. 

What follows are a few nuggets I found worth writing down. I’ve denoted ‘TF’ for the suggestions from Ferriss directly, and wrote out the names of his interviewees and their references for the others. 


  1. TF: idols, icons, titans, billionaires “are nearly all walking flaws who’ve maximised 1 or 2 strengths.” (pxxiii).
  2. TF: key traits of the successful: I can think. I can wait. I can fast (through difficulties and disasters). (pxxviii)
  3. Justin Mager: remember that blood tests, etc are just snapshots.  Human body is a process, not a fixed number.  So need context.  (p73)
  4. Chris Sacca: go to as many high-level meetings as possible—even if you’re not invited. Just figure out how to be helpful.  If anyone asks why you’re there, say you’re taking notes for them. (p166)
  5. Steve Martin: Key to success is to be so good they can’t ignore you. (p173)
  6. TF: “It’s not what you know, it’s what you do consistently.” (p185)
  7. Derek Sivers: never turn down a gig. Big break came from working a pig show. “When you’re earlier in your career, I think the best strategy is just to say ‘yes’ to everything. Every little gig. You just never know what are the lottery tickets.” (p187)   
  8. TF: busy = lack of control. “Lack of time I lack of priorities. If I’m ‘busy’, it is because I’ve made choices that put me in that position.” (p189)
  9. TF: block out 2-3 hours each day just to focus on ONE item. (p200)
  10. Nelson Mandela: asked how did you survive all those years in prison? “I didn’t survive. I prepared.” (p211)
  11. Scott Adams: everyone has at least a few areas they can be in top 25% with some effort. Key is to combine two streams in some interesting and useful combination—that’s what makes your work rare and valuable. (p270)
  12. Noah Kagan: block out time each week in your calendar just for learning.  (p327)
  13. TF: Cut wifi during writing time and write ‘TK’ as placeholder for things you need to research later. Don’t let that get you away from getting words out on the page. (p348)
  14. Brad Feld: creativity not likely in random 30-45min blocks of time. Need concerted chunks, uninterrupted, 3-5 hours minimum. (p387)
  15. Shay Carl: “You can tell the true character of a man by how his dog and his kids react to him.” (p441)
  16. Will Macaskill: “If you earn 68k per year, then globally speaking, you are the 1%.” (p446)
  17. Jack Dorsey: best investment ever made is walking to work every day (5 miles, 1 hour 15min). (p510)
  18. Mark Twain: “Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it’s time to pause and reflect.” (p524)
  19. Ludwig Wittgenstein: “The limits of my language mean the limits of my world.” (p524) 
  20. TF: 10% of people will find a way to take anything personally. Expect it and treat it as math. (p535)
  21. Naval Ravikant: “The first rule of handling conflict is don’t hang around people who are constantly engaging in conflict.” (p547)                  
  22. Josh Waitzkin: don’t learn chess by memorising opening moves, learn it by using just three pieces in an endgame scenario; learn the broader principles. Reduce complexity to master the central rules of the game.  (p578)
  23. Glengarry Glen Ross: Always tell the truth.  It’s the easiest thing to remember. (p592)
  24. Robert Rodriguez: when starting a project, what ask yourself what assets do you have?  Is how El Mariachi included bar, bus, and pitbull—all things he could borrow from friends and family.  = movie shot for $7k.  (p629)  
  25. Jocko Willink: deal with setbacks by thinking ‘good’. “Oh, mission got cancelled? Good.  We can focus on another one. Didn’t get the new high-speed gear we wanted? Good. We can keep it simple. Didn’t get promoted? Good.  More time to get better. Got injured? Good.  Needed a break from training. Got beat?  Good. We learned. Unexpected problems? Good. We have the opportunity to figure out a solution.” (p640-1)


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