Last updated on April 30, 2017
The first time I met Tim Ferriss, he told me he was going to be a New York Times bestselling author.
This was in in 2005, before The 4-Hour Workweek, The 4-Hour Body, or any of his other books. He was even one of my first “guest” posts.
Seriously, what an epic look inside Tim’s brain before he became this uber-famous, uber-successful household name.
Just look at how Tim wrote!
Almost 15 years later, Tim has done it all… and then some.
He’s the world’s most famous lifehacker, a recovering angel investor (he made killer investments in Uber, Twitter, Facebook and WordPress), and accomplished his dream of being a New York Times bestselling author.
Tim recently joined me on Noah Kagan Presents to candidly answer a bunch of questions no one has ever asked him before.
Even though I’ve known Tim for a long time, during over conversation I learned a ton of new things from him. I’m sure you will, too.
We discuss things like:
You can listen to the full Tim Ferriss Q&A below. Or, you can scroll on to read the post.
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There’s some incredible stuff in this interview and I wanted to break out and share some of the lessons I learned from Tim during our conversation. Keep reading below to discover 14 things I learned from Tim when he joined me on Noah Kagan Presents...
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Tools of Titans is like Tim’s personal nerd notebook. It’s his collection of high-level notes from all the world-class performers he’s interviewed over the years, polished for the general reader.
At 704 pages, it’s his longest book so far. Here's also what separates this book from his others: it’s the first book he’s fully enjoyed writing.
Before Tools of Titans, Tim authored three other New York Times bestselling books.
Did he enjoy every second of writing those books? Hell no.
During our chat, Tim shared the ups-and-downs of his writing process with his earlier books. Writing something compelling, interesting, and helpful is exhausting, and Tim is obsessed with every fine detail.
Think about responsibilities we all have. It’s never going to be 100% perfect. In a relationship, this is called compromise. In a job, it’s called sucking it up.
For example, I dislike meetings. But, as the CEO of Sumo, I have to attend some meetings to help share my vision and help the team grow.
No matter what you’re doing, you won’t always love 100% of the process. Try to minimize those parts, or think about them as part of a grander goal to help you push through.
Some of the guests Tim Ferriss had on his podcast include:
It’s easy to look at all the incredible guests that Tim has on his show and think it must be simple for him to attract the world’s most interesting people.
Not-so-secret secret time: it’s not.
Getting the best guests takes time.
For example, Tim spent over a YEAR trying to get Jamie Foxx on the show before he did.
And he isn’t always successful. He’s spent almost two years trying to get Neil Gaiman on the show without success (but he won’t give up).
Success takes time, and an example from my own business is spending $1.5 million to buy Sumo.com. It took more than 7 years, 200 emails, and 3 brokers to eventually get the deal done. It would have never happened if we didn’t follow up.
“You’re the average of the five people you hang with the most.”
One of Tim’s favorite sayings emphasizes the importance of improving your "inner circle."
Your network is super valuable in business. If you want to expand your circle and meet incredible new people, the best way to do it is to change your geography.
Here are some great ways to try new places and meet new people:
“I don’t think I’m the best writer. I think I’m a good teacher.”
Tim’s podcasts and books are next-level. They’re ultra-detailed, with tons of actionable takeaways and learnings — and 10x the value of 99% of other content out there.
Tim's material takes a lot of time to produce, but he does it because he loves to overdeliver.
He believes there are two main reason he stands out from the crowd:
If you want to deliver real value to your boss, co-workers, or customers, then don’t take requests at face value.
Focus on the outcome the other person wants, not exactly what they ask. Tim says his personal assistant, Donna, is incredible for this reason.
Even if Tim says he wants something, Donna will think about the reason behind his question. She works on the outcome Tim desires, and often chooses a better option for him to reach this outcome than Tim’s initial idea.
Note: This doesn’t mean you should ignore everything your boss says for a “better” way. Instead, think about where you can improve upon ideas to make your boss’ life easier.
To promote Tools of Titans, Tim booked 80+ billboards in New York City rotating 6-10 of his favorite guest quotes on his podcast over the years.
These billboards cost Tim more than six figures. Goodbye, 💰.
Here’s why he did it anyway:
For pure shits and giggles, for the grand fuck of it, and as a deep bow. It’s a sincere "thank you" to all of my guests and — first and foremost — all listeners who joked I should make some real billboards for Tools of Titans.
These billboards are some of the most expensive real estate in the world. Tim used it to shine a light on those who appeared on his show, rather than himself.
Marketing isn’t always about a ROI. Sometimes, brand awareness (or doing something fun) is worth it.
Whenever I speak to Tim, he’s always talking about his crazy adventures. Months in Argentina. Technology-free sabbaticals. Trips to Hawaii.
As a world-traveler who’s seen dozens of countries, I wanted to know: who would you call to help you escape a Mexican jail?
I should have known Tim was prepared for this question.
His #1 choice was a friend, and retired Navy SEAL commander, Jocko Willink.
If Tim couldn’t negotiate his way out of the situation, and diplomacy failed, he believes Jocko would be able to assemble a private militia to extract him. “Worst, worst case scenario, I want someone who can bring the thunder,” he said.
Tim has made some incredible investments in his career, including Uber, Twitter, and Facebook.
But not all of his investments have paid off...
For example, his investment in Bodongo, a file sharing service, serves as reminder that things won’t always go your way. Bodongo was Tim’s second startup investment.. and the company imploded shortly after he invested.
Tim isn’t the only successful entrepreneur who’s failed:
No matter how great you are at your job, you won’t always win.
I asked Tim about what frustrates him.
His answer: When someone sends an entitled pitch or interviews Tim. Then, they expect him to do all the promotion.
I can totally relate to this. As someone who has built up an audience, far too many people expect me to leverage my audience to promote their work.
You can’t expect others to put in work for you. Make things happen for yourself.
When I interviewed Tim, I wanted to:
I didn’t expect Tim to do any promotion, or anything in return.
Promoting and selling books is a hard business.
Tim and I spoke about his marketing efforts for Tools of Titans and how he promoted it differently than his past books.
For example, for Tim’s second book, The 4-Hour Body, he went to promotion level 9000 to grow awareness. He had giveaways, a live launch event in NYC with goodie bags, and even a freakin’ movie-like YouTube trailer.
With Tim’s Tools of Titans launch, he simplified and refocused. He turned to a couple of new formats to build awareness:
He found Facebook Live to be hit or miss in terms of attracting viewers: “It depends on how much time you put into promoting the stream,” he said.
On the other hand, Instagram Stories were incredibly useful. Tim found Stories to be unbelievably effective at driving awareness and traffic to his book’s sales page. The “Swipe Up” CTA on Instagram Stories to learn more about the book had an insane CTR.
Tim’s an incredibly generous person. When we recorded my podcast together it was on the morning he released Tools of Titans, aka massively sleep-deprived and the busiest day he’s had for years. He still found time to show up.
More of Tim’s giving nature was showcased when I asked him a big question…
If you were given $1,000,000 to spend in 24 hours, how would you spend it?
His answer was to divvy it up into $20 chunks, and give it to people on the street — with the obligation they have to give it to someone else or use it as a good deed (like buy a meal for someone).
Hi, my name is Noah. I’m going bald.
I've known this for years, but as I typed that last sentence, it still made me nervous.
For a LONG time, I didn’t accept the fact I was going bald. It was embarrassing, shameful, and something I tried to hide. It really hit my confidence and it’s one of the things I’m most self-conscious about.
Here’s a video I recorded about how I finally accepted going bald.
He shared the story of starting to lose his hair in 2005. Like many balding men and women, he specifically remembers the moment he realized he was getting a convertible top:
I was doing some sport in Germany. Someone took a photo that revealed my head from an angle I’d never seen before.
He was self-conscious about it because he worried how romantic interests might look at him.
To improve his self-esteem, he decided to do a few things:
The lesson here: Manage what you can control.
When you go bald, there’s very little you can do about it. What you can control is how you react. This is exactly what Tim did.
Tim has a ton of loyal fans who helped propel each of his books to the New York Times bestseller list.
But what makes people so trusting on Tim’s work and recommendations?
Tim believes it boils down to one thing...
His work goes deep into a subject showing people EXACTLY, step-by-step what and how they should do something.
For example, he’s had fans lose over 100 lbs of weight after reading his step-by-step weight loss guides in 4-Hour Body. He's had thousands of people start their own businesses after seeing the blueprint in 4-Hour Workweek.
Even while we were recording the show, people were messaging me live stories of how Tim’s work changed their lives.
Once his followers have had a tiny taste of success from Tim's advice, they’re more inclined to continue following his work.
Another key to building trust: Tim very rarely explicitly asks anyone to do anything. He shares recommendations and advice all the time, but doesn’t make any demands of his audience.
“There’s too much competition in the middle.”
Tim only believes in free or ultra-premium pricing.
He’s published more than 700 incredibly in-depth blog posts and hundreds of podcasts for free. On the opposite end of the scale, he’s also ran events for small groups of people and charged $10,000 per seat.
Don’t sit around in the middle where everyone else is. Give away incredible value for free or charge a premium price (and still overdeliver).
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A few years back, I was couch surfing. I asked a bunch of friends if I could stay at their place. Tim was the only person to say “no” to me. Check out the episode to find out why — and learn more of Tim's success tips, plus a behind-the-scenes look at his life.