Bestselling author Tim Ferriss (Dubbed The world’s best human guinea pig by Newsweek) pushes himself to the breaking point, attempting to learn notoriously punishing skills—surfing, professional poker, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, languages, etc.—in just one week each. Filmed and edited by the same team behind Anthony Bourdain.
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More Details of TTFE
- In every episode of The Tim Ferriss Experiment, Ferriss partners with the world’s best and most unorthodox teachers (Laird Hamilton, Marcelo Garcia, Stewart Copeland, etc.), who train him for a final gauntlet. Shocking breakthroughs, injuries, epiphanies, and disasters ensue. In cases where he succeeds, Tim shows you how to replicate his results. The mantra of the show is You don’t need to be superhuman to get superhuman results…you just need a better toolkit.
Best Business Book
- The 4-Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferriss
- The 4-Hour Body by Timothy Ferriss
- The 4-Hour Chef by Timothy Ferriss
Tim Ferriss: Always.
John Dumas: Yes.
Tim Ferriss: I’m on fire right now.
John Dumas: Yes, dog. So, Tim, you were Episode 95. That was January 23, 2013. Off the top of my head, that was about 26 months ago or 827 episodes ago. So, let's do this. Just catch us up on what's been going on in your life in the past couple of years.
Tim Ferriss: Well, I've created my own voodoo doll line which I sell on Shopify. No, it's not true. I have really ended up focusing outside of the written words. I've wanted to explore other types, other formats of creative work. With a lot of your help, I owe you a huge debt of gratitude and a thank you which I will be doing very publicly in the massive podcast posts that I'll do at some point. You were super helpful in helping me explore the world of podcasting and that has been a major component of everything I do. So, I'm having a blast with it.
So, it's turned out that I enjoy being on the interviewing side of things as much as being on the interviewed side of things. It was podcasts like yours, like Joe Rogan, like Marc Maron that convinced me to give that a shot. And I've decided just to test a limited window of six episodes. I could close out after that if I weren't having fun, but I'm still having fun.
Related to that, is my experiments in television. So, for the last, say, two, two and a half years, I've been working on creating a TV show with the team behind Anthony Bourdain. They do No Reservations, and now, Parts Unknown. Super cinematic, gritty, awesome stuff to make the Tim Ferris Experiment which is an extension of all this.
Basically, if you were to take the core concepts from The 4 Hour Work Week, The 4-Hour Body and The 4-Hour Chef and put them into an action movie-like TV show that is very, very real, you see tons of injuries and mistakes and nervous breakdowns, but occasional miracles. When I have those occasional miracles, I explained exactly how you can do the same thing whether that's with professional poker or tactical shooting, or swimming, or learning languages, drumming, whatever,
There are 13 different skills that I try to tackle in one week each with world-class teachers like Larry Hamilton for surfing. He's the undisputed king of big wave surfing or Stewart Copeland who's one of the top 10 drummers of all time, founding member of The Police for drumming. It's really about giving my audience and hopefully, new audiences a gateway drug into fulfilling their own potential.
Not everyone's gonna sit down with a 600-page book – not all my books are 600. The first one is a little shorter. It's like 430 or 450 but not everyone's gonna sit down with something like that. So, these are 22-minute shows, 13 of them. You could sit down in one or two days and watch them all and come away with a lot of the tool kit from The 4-Hour Chef and The 4-Hour Body.
John Dumas: So, Tim, I just watched the trailer. I got to say, I am yearning for this to go live. It actually, when, Fire Nation, you're listening to this on May 1st, it is live because this is launching on April 27th. This interview that we're talking on right now is going live on May 1st. So, it's been live for five days, Fire Nation. So, you can get out there and check it out right away.
We actually have the link for that. It's fourhourworkweek.com/tv. We'll mention that again. We'll have in the show notes, but this is live, Fire Nation. This is a really exciting experiment by Tim Ferris.
Tim, let me just read this right here because I think your team did a great job really building this up in a great way. This is the kind of introversion that I have. They just got me fired up for this trailer. And that is bestselling author, Tim Ferris, dubbed the world's best human guinea pig by Newsweek. Pushes himself to the breaking point attempting to learn notoriously punishing skills; surfing, professional poker, Brazilian jujitsu, languages, and more in just one week. It was filmed in Edmonton by that team you mentioned, Anthony Bourdain's team.
So, let's take a step back, Tim. Where did the idea for the Tim Ferriss Experiment come from? What was that aha moment you had, and then the road that brought it to airing on the 27th?
Tim Ferriss: Well, that's a hell of a story. Let me start at the beginning. The way it came together was really a multitude of factors, but primarily, I've been approached by many TV producers, networks, and so on in the past, but had never been offered anything or proposed anything that made a lot of sense.
I had offers to be one of three judges doing lifestyle makeovers for the real world housewives or fill in the blank – whatever. It never really was very appealing to me particularly because I had experiences. I've been on a lot of TV, on talk shows and whatnot. The show is made in the editing room. That's where everything is decided and I wanted to have a high degree of creative control and veto power so that I could protect everything I've built and make sure that I'm not being presented in a really weird way or whatever. Also, just to make sure that whatever I do was very actionable, not just a bunch of fluffy sensationalism.
I had an opportunity from Turner Broadcasting to come in as a co-executive producer. So, that would give me the ability to look at rough cuts, find cuts, pick teachers, pick locations, have a lot of input into the composition of these episodes and of the show. When it came down to think about the concept because they basically came to me, and asked me what no one else had asked me which was, if you could do anything in television, what would you wanna do? And I was like, that's a good question.
The two ideas were, one, basically, checking off my personal bucket list of things that I wanna do and learn, but in the process teaching people everything that I know, right, from the standpoint of accelerated learning and really cracking the code for a lot of these things. That was idea No. 1. And then very closely related to that, I was like, what about a show about becoming Jason Bourne?
John Dumas: Yes.
Tim Ferriss: I love the Bourne Identity. I was like, what if we did a show about how to take an average Joe or Jane and turn them into Jason Bourne. If you look closely at the Tim Ferriss Experiment, you'll notice that it checks both of those boxes. So, you have the rally car race – just watch Jason Bourne and take a list of all the skills. And then, look at the Tim Ferris Experiment, it's like learning languages, long distance swimming, right? The rescue on the boat. You have tactical gun fighting with handguns and other types of weapons. You've got poker. That's more of a James Bond thing.
John Dumas: Yeah, that's Bond.
Tim Ferriss: But I figured, I'm a Casino Royale diehard fan as well. So, I was like all right, we have to have poker in there.
John Dumas: Pickup artist.
Tim Ferriss: Pickup artist where you have to the ladies' man, also maybe more of a Bond thing. I was trying to pick and choose my favorite aspects of Daniel Craig, Bond, and then, Bourne. Obviously, the Matt Damon version.
John Dumas: Right.
Tim Ferriss: So, that is how it came about. Then, there was a very long process to get the contracts negotiated and to go into it. What ended up happening very unexpectedly – which threw a monkey wrench in the works, but also an opportunity – is that the division at Turner which a bunch of shows – not just mine. It had produced a bunch of shows that hadn't air or at least not much of them had aired – it got shutdown. So, it was basically completely shut down –
John Dumas: And what was the date on that about?
Tim Ferriss: That was probably a year ago. So, no one has seen any of the Tim Ferriss Experiment except for, maybe, a teaser of the first or second episode – maybe, if they've seen it at all. What ended up happening – and this happens to a lot of musicians, a lot of artists, a lot of people in TV – is they make something and it never gets seen. It gets put into the vault and it's never heard from again. You can't get it out.
So, I've spent the last year negotiating a deal that would work for both Turner and myself where I have the ability to digitally distribute. That is really exciting for a whole bunch of reason. Obviously, I just want the product. I want the show to be seen. That's my first priority. And there's a very good chance I'm not gonna make my money back. I had to pay a pretty hefty price to get this thing. There's a very good chance I'm not gonna make my money back, but I want people to watch the show because I'm so proud of it. Do you know what I mean?
I put three or four years in each book. I put, I feel an equivalent amount of energy into this. It's just like, I want the world to see it. That's it. It's exciting because I'm having an opportunity to launch video content which I've never done before. It's very unusual. It's completely different from straight audio or books.
Books, totally different beast, right? It's sit down and it's 600 pages. Audio is also totally different from video because you can consume podcasts when you're commuting or doing something else. Can't do that really effectively with a TV show. It's also something you have to dedicate yourself to.
So, it's a new challenge for launch. The most exciting thing about it is that I've proven that it is possible to rescue orphaned content. There are – I mean, literally just – gems. I mean, solid gold songs, albums, movies, TV shows that have never been seen. That are just sitting there in vaults. So, it's very exciting for me and I hope for a lot of other creators that it is possible to work out these types of arrangements.
With kick starters, especially, people would have said in the past, well, yeah, that's great if you have a ton of money, but I don't have a ton of money. I can't afford to do this kind of deal. It's like, do you have fans? Like, yeah, I have fans. Do you have friends? Yeah, I have friends. Great. Well, you can jump on Kickstarter or a similar platform and you could rescue your content. That is huge. So, I'm hoping this will be a very exciting test case for that, proof of concept that will get other people eager to do something similar.
John Dumas: I'm glad you brought the point up about audio and how you're doing in podcasting. So, you have your foot in this world now in a major way. People don't have to say no to something else to say yes to podcasting.
Tim Ferriss: Exactly.
John Dumas: So, you have that now. They're off to a run. They're walking the streets of San Francisco. They're doing their thing. They're able to listen to Tim Ferris. Now they're home at night and they want to pop on Roku or Netflix and watch some TV because they're not just gonna sit on the couch and watch audio. Maybe, there would a few people.
Now you're moving into that video space. Well, you're having your foot in both spaces which, to me, is really exciting and really makes it worthwhile for you doing what you did and through that year I love to see you come out with some kind of playbook – that you mentioned – for these other people on how they can go through this and, maybe, shortcut the way from the lessons that you learned to rescue their content using Kickstarter, using their fans.
One thing I wanna mention, Tim, is I was watching the trailer –which, again, we can definitely checkout at fourhourworkweek.com/tv, Fire Nation. The rally car, that stuck out to me for a lot of reasons. Mostly, because the instructor next to you was pissing his pants the entire time they had the video camera on and he had his arms crossed. He was squeezing so hard. I'm like, this guy's like a professional instructor. What was that like, freaking out a pro on that level?
Tim Ferriss: Well, he had good reason to be freaked out. You'll see it in the show, but I do almost flip a car over entirely and it goes off-road. Now, when I said off-road, you have to keep in mind, we're already on dirt roads with rocks and sticks and branches on the way. I remember when we sat down for the first day, one of our instructors said, what makes rally racing fascinating – among other things – or unique is that if you look at Indie 500 of any of these others – Nascar – they make the tracks as clean, as safe as possible. They said, in a rally, the track is designed to kill you and it's your job not to get killed on the way to the finish line.
So, the roads – it's hard to even call them roads – the paths, that these cars go flying down – this is in rural New Hampshire at a beautiful time. It was in the fall. It was just gorgeous, all the foliage changing.
John Dumas: Oh, cool.
Tim Ferriss: You're in a car, obviously, these roads are about eight to 12 feet wide. It is not wide folks. It is not wide. Especially when you're like whipping the emergency break and doing bootlegger turns, pendulum turns. You want to see something amazing, then Google pendulum turns. Those are insane.
John Dumas: Awesome.
Tim Ferriss: And you see some in the episode. We talk about how to do it. That's a Jason Bourne special, by the way, right? In the Donald Duck car, the little, tiny Mini that they used in the first one. I think I was freaking him out because he knew that I was not totally in control.
John Dumas: Yeah, right. It's obvious.
Tim Ferriss: So, he took me on a ride and we filmed it in the beginning where he basically tried to scare me to death. He did a pretty good job of scaring me, but I was not fearful for my life because this guy is like six-time national champion or North American champion. So, I was like, as dangerous as this might seem, it's like a rollercoaster.
John Dumas: Right.
Tim Ferriss: I’m strapped in. They've tested it. This is a pro. I'm not gonna get hurt. But I think, for him, yeah, he's like, I'm gonna cross my arms because if this monkey who's driving flips this thing over and we broadside a three-foot thick tree, then I don't want my arms sticking out.
John Dumas: Really? Yeah.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah, exactly. That guy, Tim O'Neil, amazing. For anyone who wants to try rally racing, oh, my goodness, Team O'Neil, in New Hampshire, amazing. The guys are awesome. The instruction is so, so good. Yeah, if you want a thrill with some certain degree of risk, for sure, I couldn't recommend them more. They're great guys.
John Dumas: Well, I am all about the thrill, Tim. And the fact that this is in New Hampshire which is just a hop, skip, and a jump from where I'm from in Maine, I meant to check them out during my three-week vacay this summer. Fire Nation, we have a lot of awesome stuff coming up in just two minutes. We're gonna thank our sponsors and be right back with you.
So, Tim, we have about 13 minutes left. I'd like to go through a couple of questions that I have and just have you expound as much as you'd like to. I wanna know which one of all these different experiments that you did would you consider the most difficult and why?
Tim Ferriss: Ooh, well, difficult, I did not win – so to speak –in all these. I made a lot of progress, but I definitely had some cataclysmic accidents in some of these episodes. The park core episode was excruciatingly punishing and ended up a lot of damage to myself. I tore three of the four quadriceps muscles in each quad – not just one. Did a tone of damage to both knees, partially torn ACLs and a bunch of other stuff, tore my rotator cuff [inaudible] [00:15:39], and tore a bunch of muscles in my right forearm, the flexors. Did it a lot of damage in that episode.
So, for that reason, it was on one level, absolutely one of the most exciting episodes and one of the most enjoyable episodes up until a bunch of injuries just made it a living hell for me to even move. So, that was super, super, super punishing and very difficult.
John Dumas: Did that happen all on one fall, like one jump or was it multiple, different experience?
Tim Ferriss: It was multiple attempts.
John Dumas: Oh, God.
Tim Ferriss: I did below the quad on one particular jump. What ends up happening, of course, is once that happens, you start compensating and other muscles are trying to pick up jobs they shouldn't pick up. That's also why a lot of people who sit in chairs, oftentimes, we get hamstring injuries because they're gluts aren't doing the job they should be doing.
So, once my quads were firing on one side properly and I was trying to keep weight off of it, then I'm unnaturally loading all these other areas. They just started popping like wires. It's bad, bad, bad, bad. So, I'd say that was the most –
John Dumas: Difficult.
Tim Ferriss: Difficult, but if I were – I'll just throw this out there – there's a dating episode where I worked with computer hackers and matchmakers, and also, I supposed you could call them pickup artists, but my friend, Neil, does a lot more than that – Neil Strauss, the author of The Game. One of the most embarrassing and anxious moments, like what made me sweat the most? Was Neil forcing me to do cold approaches to women at the crowded Ferry Building in San Francisco.
John Dumas: This is the city that you live in.
Tim Ferriss: Oh, my God, horrifying. I mean, really, really hilariously embarrassing. So people should definitely check that out. It's bad. It's really bad.
John Dumas: I know when we did dinner back in December and just walking down the streets in San Francisco, people were like, hey, Tim, I just wanna say I love your book. You get recognized in that city as, of course, in many other cities. Did that happen at all during that episode?
Tim Ferriss: It didn't happen. I'm trying to think back. It didn't happen when I was doing the approaches, thank God. Although, I supposed it would have helped me, maybe, or like –
John Dumas: Yeah, aren't you Tim Ferriss?
Tim Ferriss: Or they could have been, wait a second. You're that guy who wrote that sleazy chapter on female orgasms in The 4-Hour Body. Then, I'd face palm, man, walk away. It could have been either response, but it didn't happen when I was doing the approaches, thankfully.
John Dumas: So, of all the experiments, which one did you underestimate the most? Like you went and you're, this, might be tough or maybe this might not be so tough, but then you got blown away by the reality.
Tim Ferriss: Quite a few. I didn't expect any of them to be easy. I expected all of them to be hard because I wanted there to be a risk of failure. Part of the reason – just to step back – I want people to realize that I am very, very human and very, very fallible because people might read my bio or read parts of my books, or interviews and they're like, oh, my God. This guy is a different species, right? He's a total alien. And it's not true. I have all the foibles, the self-doubt, the insecurities. Despite that stuff, I have a tool kit that helps me to do some pretty crazy things. So, all the episodes had to have a high risk of failure.
Let's see, what did I underestimate? Or not take as seriously as, perhaps, I later realize it should be taken? I thought the language learning – because I've done so much of it – would be more straightforward than it was, but I'm used to having the ability to immerse myself in some fashion for weeks or months. In this case, I had, I think, it was four days to learn enough Filipino to be interviewed on live TV in Tagalog –
John Dumas: I could tell you were sweating –
Tim Ferriss: For six minutes –
John Dumas: At the beginning of that episode.
Tim Ferriss: Oh, my God. Yeah that made me a serious stress case because I was in LA, spending time with a host family that spoke Filipino, Tagalog. I'll tell you what I underestimated. I underestimated how much time would be spent setting up shots and making decisions about the episode as opposed to me strictly training. Yeah, this is actually a great point.
John Dumas: Cool. Cool.
Tim Ferriss: I haven't really talked about this – which is important – is that people say, okay, four days to prepare. Four day to prepare in reality probably meant three to four hours a day for four days. It was nothing. I mean, I had so little time when you subtract all of the other obligations I had as a producer, insane. Like just total, total just insane asylum. I would never do it that way again. It was say too stressful.
I got to tell you, man, all of them gave me PTSD. They were all really, really hard. The things that I learned going through all these episodes – we filmed like 13 weeks straight out of 16. It was insane. But I learned even what I thought was possible, and what I've been telling people is possible like you can do this. You can become world-class in six months in anything, top five percent of the general population, I think it's even bigger than that. I really saw things that blew my mind.
I got to meet people like Larry Hamilton who's just redefined what is possible in surfing. He's the guy who's on the cover of Surfing Magazine, surfing – I think it was in Tahiti – with this monster wave and the caption was, oh, my God. That was the only caption, dah, dah, dah. He's the guy who surfs waves in Malibu and shot the pier which is like – it's a completely suicidal move. You're off by six inches and you're dead. And he flew under the pier surfing a big wave. I mean, it's –
John Dumas: Unbelievable.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah, so when you meet these kinds of people you're, okay, what I thought was crazy, what I thought was impossible, these guys just take as matter of figuring out. Yeah, it's been a real journey and I'm excited to show that with people.
John Dumas: I have a pretty high level of anxiety, honestly, just listening to some of these things right now. I can only imagine being in the situation. But, Tim, what I'd love to do – because I wanna spend the last five minutes that we have talking about podcasting because you know about Podcaster's Paradise and we have so many people. We have over 2,200 people in Paradise now. You're an honored member as well. So, many people look up to you in that space.
Before we do hit that for the last five, just take about 60 seconds and just bring this to a close, the Tim Ferriss Experiment and just share with Fire Nation right now what you want us to take away, to walk away with this experiment of yours.
Tim Ferriss: Okay, so I will answer that two ways. I'll answer the podcasting question first. The podcasting experience has been amazing. I would say, first and foremost, focus on the content. What I've learned, is what I've learned in blogging. My blog is not fancy. It's pretty janky in a lot of ways. Focus on the content of what you put out.
You can have pretty crappy mic or something like an inexpensive mic like the one I'm using right now, the ATR2100 Audio-Technica. As long as you are in a room that might have some rugs or drapes, you can put out great content. You don't have to make it complicated. So, don't get obsessed with the logistics, or the promotion, or the this or the that first. Those are all important, but they're not sufficient. So focus on making good content.
That means you have to get better at whatever your craft is. In my case, it's interviewing. So, was studying people like Alex Blumberg and took his [inaudible] [00:23:12], and does a number of hit podcasts including StartUp. So, I took his creative live course, for instance. That's Part 1. Part 2 is –
John Dumas: I was part of that course by the way. I presented with him.
Tim Ferriss: Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah. That's right.
John Dumas: That's cool.
Tim Ferriss: Yes, small world. The Tim Ferriss Experiment is really your experiment. So, in this case, I'm showing, hopefully, what someone with very average genetics can do when they're under the gun, have a ton of injuries, and massive, massive time constraints. When you're put on to the platform with that kind of pressure, what do you do? What is the tool kit that you can use? And how do you ask questions differently to get better results. And those are all things that people can borrow and implement.
People have taken those skills, a lot of them from The 4-Hour Body and The 4-Hour Chef and done things far more impressive than I have done, incredible. People rowing across the Pacific and so on. It's just crazy what people are able to do. So, far outstrips what I am able to do or what I've done so far, at least.
So, I would just say whether you watch the show or not, challenge the so-called best practices in whatever you do. Ask, what if I did the opposite? What if I did this in reverse, right? If everyone is telling me, I have to learn swimming, is telling me to do kickboard, what if I couldn't use my legs at all how would I swim?
Ask these seemingly absurd hypothetical questions which are like the questions that billionaire, Peter Thiel posed when he was on my podcast. He said, ask yourself why can't I achieve my 10-year goal in the next six months? That's a crazy question, but it's a great question. It's a very useful one. So, I would say, just practice asking better questions and more absurd questions because it doesn't matter if you have the right answer, if you're asking yourself the wrong questions.
The Tim Ferris Experiment, all the episodes are really carrying that common thread, just showing you what is possible if you ask those questions. It's a combination of Myth Busters and Jackass, I suppose.
John Dumas: So, Tim, what I love about you was that you always spark me that, ask the questions. That's something that I didn't get coming from my military background, from my corporate background. I think it's so important. It's all about the Parkinson's Law. Like task will expand to the time that you allot them. So, if you allot six months for a task, you're a lot more likely to accomplish that in that time than if you just have this open-ended conundrum type thing.
Tim Ferriss: Definitely.
John Dumas: Love how you're breaking that down, my friend. Fire Nation, fourhourworkweek.com/tv, this is where you can check it out. It's live time now. Tim, I just want to thank you for coming on again to Entrepreneur On Fire 827 episodes later. We're gonna have to have you on before Episode 2,000. That's a promise, my friend.
Tim Ferriss: My pleasure always. For those people wondering because it can be misspelled a million ways, the fourhourworkweek is all spelled out, F-0-U-R, so fourhourworkweek.com/tv. Man, anytime. I love chatting with you. You've also been a great teacher to me for podcasting and I'm just trying to pay it forward however I can.
John Dumas: Value exchange, buddy, catch you on the flipside. Hey, Fire Nation, JLD jumping back in here. Let's thank Tim properly for coming on, for sharing some really cool insider stuff with us, with Fire Nation. I've created a really simple link for you to do so, eofire.com/tweettim. It's gonna prepopulate an awesome tweet. Tim will feel the Fire Nation love.
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