Tim Ferris on Life-hacks and Psychedelics – The TED Interview

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Key Takeaways

  • When tackling a new skills, ask – “Who is good at this that shouldn’t be?”
    • You can learn a lot from the these types of people
  • Batch your tasks to save time – task switching is costly
  • Inaction is a choice (no decision is a decision)
    • The biggest risk when facing a decision is often continuing to do what you’re doing
  • After every stimulus, there’s a gap between your response/action
    • If you become increasingly aware of that gap, you’re more apt to choose a response that is most likely to get the best result
  • “Easy choices, hard life. Hard choices, easy life.”
    • “If you always take the easy fork in the path, whether it’s succumbing to an impulse to eat garbage food or drinking too much and having all the consequences that follow, you will have, in a macro sense, a very difficult life”
  • “Success in many areas of life can be measured by the number of uncomfortable things you are able to do or uncomfortable conversations you are willing to have”
  • Many of the behaviors we’ve carried into adulthood have outlived their usefulness (but that doesn’t mean they weren’t useful in the past)
  • Psychedelics are useful because they serve as a pattern interrupt for defeating narratives humans so often tell themselves 

Books Mentioned

Intro

The 4-Hour Workweek

  • “What a blessing and a curse that title turned out to be”
    • How was the title chosen? – Tim and his team split test titles on Google Adwords and this one had the highest click-through rate
  • The objective of the book – help people maximize their per-hour output, whether they work 4, 10, 40, or 80 hours a week
  • “I’ve thought about going back and updating the book… much of it makes me cringe”
    • The book was written when Tim was 29 and a lot of it is outdated
    • To add – Tim feels like like, though the writing, he was puffing his chest up a bit much

Emotional Reactivity

  • You can split people into 3 groups, those who spend the majority of their days:
    • Mostly reactive
    • Partially reactive and partially proactive
    • Mostly proactive
  • ‘”I’ve spent most of my life being highly reactive, having anger as a go-to default response to many things, having aggression and this strong offense as this romanticized approach to conquering life, but ultimately finding a lot of my behavior to be self-destructive”
  • You CAN cultivate the ability to be reflective/non-reactive
    • More likely than not – you didn’t choose the voices in your head, they were absorbed by your surroundings during childhood

Learning New Skills

  • When tackling new areas/skills, Tim likes to ask himself – “Who is good at this that shouldn’t be?”
    • Why? – You can learn a lot from these types of people
  • To add, when learning something new:
    • “I don’t think willpower is the hero it’s sometimes made out to be. What we’re looking for is compliance and accountability.”

Batching Tasks

  • Wait for critical mass before executing tasks (just like you wouldn’t do laundry every time you dirtied a pair of socks)
    • Why? – Task switching is a huge waste of time
    • Ex. – Only answer email in 1 hours blocks, twice a day

The “So What” Exercise

  • Here’s how it works
    • X was rude
      • So what?
    • I feel disrespected
      • So what?
    • I don’t like being disrespected
      • So what?
    • What is everyone stops respecting me?
      • So what?
    • I’ll be alone and loathed
      • So what?
    • I don’t want to be alone
      • So what?
    • I have an irrational fear of loneliness
      • So what?
    • It’s irrational
      • So what?
    • So nothing… I’m good

The Fear-Setting Exercise

  • Tim talks more about this exercise in this TED talk
    • “I can trace back my best business decisions and largest disasters adverted to this exercise”
  • Here’s what you do:
    • Put at the top of the page “I fear X” (like quitting a job)
    • Under that, there’s 3 columns:
      • Define – write down the 10-15 worst things that might happen if you decide to pursue the fear
      • Prevent – write down what you can do to prevent or decrease the likelihood of each of the above from happening
      • Repair – if each of the above came to be, write down what you might do to repair the damage 
    • On the next page:
      • Write down the benefits of a partial win (ex. – learning something new about yourself, what relationships/skills you might develop)
    • Then on a new page – brainstorm the cost of inaction to you and those you care about
      • Ask yourself – “If I continue doing exactly what I’m doing, what are the costs, 6 months, 12 months, and 3 years from now, financially and physically, if I don’t change anything”
      • This often shows people – “The biggest risk, if we’re defining risk as the likelihood of an irreversible negative outcome, is continuing to do what you’re doing”
        • Remember – no action is a choice

Stoicism

  • “Stoicism is an operating system, a set of beliefs and practices, for thriving in high-stress environments”
    • How? – It allows you to be less emotionally reactive
      • After every stimulus, there’s a gap between your response/action – if you become increasingly aware of that gap, you’re more apt to choose a response that is most likely to get the best result

“Easy choices, hard life. Hard choices, easy life.”

  • This is a famous quote from Jerzy Gregoreck
  • “If you always take the easy fork in the path, whether it’s succumbing to an impulse to eat garbage food or drinking too much and having all the consequences that follow that, you will have, in a macro sense, a very difficult life”
    • But if you regularly choose the harder path, in a macro sense, you’ll have an easy life
  • “Success in many areas of life can be measured by the number of uncomfortable things you are able to do or uncomfortable conversations you are willing to have”
    • “If one were to look at me on a day to day basis, I waste a tremendous amount of time… I am unfocused for a ridiculous percentage of my waking hours. However, I’m very good at isolating things I’m fearful of, which are very often uncomfortable conversations, uncomfortable asks, or facing uncomfortable situations, and executing on them.”
  • “Confidence is not a trick. You don’t read a book or go through mental gymnastics. Confidence is a byproduct of stretching yourself and proving sufficiently to yourself that you’re competent in a certain area, and you need to subject yourself to stress for that.”    

Recognize Traits and Emotions That May Have Outlived Their Usefulness

  • “Many of the behaviors we’ve carried into adulthood have outlived their usefulness”
    • (but that doesn’t mean they weren’t useful in the past)
  • As an example…
    • Tim says his former angry personality was largely responsible for much of his success in life 
      • BUT – perhaps it’s time those emotions (like Tim’s anger) were put to the side

Psychedelics

  • Tim has largely re-directed much of the capital/time he once put towards startup investing to psychedelic research
  • “Psychedelics are important to me because they have, on some level, saved my life”
    • Psychedelics are useful because they serve as a pattern interrupt for defeating narratives humans so often tell themselves
      • In simple terms – you’re able to see what life is like with a different narrative (without say, nicotine addiction, depression, alcoholism, or an eating disorder)
      • “Imagine you could hit pause on the normal tape play in your head (that you may not even realize is playing) and be easier able to see the objective reality of a given situation, whether it’s a challenge in your marriage or childhood trauma”
  • For more on psychedelics, definitely give How to Change Your Mind by Michael Pollan a read
    • Also – The Doors of Perception by Aldous Huxley (in which he argues the minds main function is to serve as a reducing valve)
  • Even though psychedelics are a hot topic, running the scientific studies is still VERY expensive
  • Tim has seen some crazy things while on/observing psychedelic therapy sessions, including:
    • People singing in languages they don’t speak:
    • A group of people in a room having the same vision/appearing to see the same thing
  • That said, you need to be very careful with psychedelics
    • When consumed by people who have a family history of schizophrenia, the onset of schizophrenic symptoms can be accelerated
    • Taking Ayahuasca while on an SSRI can result in serotonin syndrome
    • “Consider using psychedelics akin to having neurosurgery… you can go unraveled or untethered if you can use these things irresponsibly”

Additional Notes

  • Tim says he’s been trying to wake up earlier for 5 years now
  • Tim currently has 618, 952 unread email
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