Tools of Titans - by Timothy Ferriss



“Hyperthermic conditioning” (calculated heat exposure) can help you to increase growth hormone (GH) levels and substantially improve endurance. I now take ~20-minute sauna sessions post-workout or post-stretching at least four times per week, typically at roughly 160 to 170°F. If nothing else, it seems to dramatically decrease DOMS (delayed-onset muscle soreness).

I usually stay in a hot bath or sauna for about 20 minutes, which is long enough to significantly elevate my heart rate. I push a few minutes past dynorphin release, which usually makes one feel dysphoric and want to get out (but not to dizziness or lightheadedness).


When in doubt, work on the deficiencies you’re most embarrassed by. My biggest weaknesses are shoulder extension and bridging using the thoracic spine (versus lower-back arch).

“Flexibility” can be passive, whereas “mobility” requires that you can demonstrate strength throughout the entire range of motion, including the end ranges.


  • Jefferson Curl
  • Shoulder Extension: Lift a dowel behind your back (standing), or sit on the floor and walk your hands backward behind your hips.
  • Thoracic Bridge: Elevate your feet enough to feel the bulk of the stretch in the upper back and shoulders, not the lower back. The feet might be 3+ feet off the ground. Ensure you can concentrate on straightening your arms (and legs, if possible), holding the position, and breathing.

GYMNAST STRONG Unusual and Effective Bodyweight Exercises

QL Walk—An Unusual Warmup: The QL walk is intended to get your glutes and quadratus lumborum (QL) firing, the latter of which Donnie calls “an angry troll in your back”: Sit down on a mat (or gravel, if you want to turn your ass into hamburger meat). Legs are extended in front of you, ankles can be touching or slightly apart, and your back should be straight. I keep legs together. This is “pike” position, which I’ll refer to quite a bit in this book. Lift a kettlebell or dumbbell to your collarbones (think front squat). I weigh 170 pounds and use 30 to 60 pounds. I hold the kettlebell “horns,” but Donnie prefers to support it from underneath. Keeping your legs straight (no bend at the knee), walk your butt cheeks—left, right, left, right—across the floor. I typically go 10 to 15 feet. Reverse direction and go backward 10 to 15 feet. That’s it.

Pike Pulses: Sit in pike position in the middle of the floor. Point your toes and keep your knees locked. Walk your hands out on the floor, as far toward (or past) your feet as you can. Now, try to lift your heels 1 to 4 inches, which is 1 repetition or “pulse.” For 99% of you, this will be completely impossible and you’ll feel like an ice statue. Ratchet back and put your hands midway between hip and knee. See how you do and then move your hands forward enough to allow only 15 to 20 pulses. If you did really well, now try it with your lower back against a wall. What happened?! Sorry, killer, you weren’t actually pulsing, you were rocking back and forth like a cradle. Do it against the wall to keep yourself honest.

Cast Wall Walk: If you have no gymnastics background, this one will be fun/terrible. I use cast wall walks as a workout finisher and recommend you do the same, as you’ll be worthless afterward. First, let’s define the position you need to maintain. Torso “Hollow”: Sit on a chair, back straight, with your hands on your knees. Now, try to bring your sternum (chest bone) to your belly button; “shorten” your torso by 3 to 4 inches by contracting and pulling in your abs. You’ll maintain this position throughout the entire exercise. No lower-back arch or sag permitted. Shoulders “Protracted”: Keep your torso “hollow” per the above. Now, pretend you’re hugging a telephone pole. Your shoulders should be well in front of your chest, sternum pulled back strongly. Straighten your arms but maintain this position. Next, without losing any of the aforementioned, lift your arms overhead as high as you can. There you go. Now we can begin. Get into a handstand position against a wall, nose facing toward the wall. Keeping your body in one line, slowly walk your hands out and your feet down the wall simultaneously. Keep your knees straight and walk with your ankles. The steps should be small. Reach the bottom with your feet on the floor in a push-up position. Correct your form to be maximally hollow and protracted. Reverse and go back up the wall, returning to handstand position. That is 1 rep, my friend. Target is 10 reps, but stop this one at least a few reps before muscular failure.


The primary resource, as you’ll come back to this: Dom’s top go-to resource for the ketogenic diet, including FAQs, meal plans, and more is “I like to promote mild to moderate ketosis for health and longevity, which is between 1 to 3 mmol.”

“If you don’t have cancer and you do a therapeutic fast 1 to 3 times per year, you could purge any precancerous cells that may be living in your body.” Dom suggests a 5-day fast 2 to 3 times per year. I now aim for a 3-day fast once per month and a 5- to 7-day fast once per quarter.

Here’s my protocol for my usual monthly 3-day fast from Thursday dinner to Sunday dinner: On Wednesday and Thursday, plan phone calls for Friday. Determine how you can be productive via cell phone for 4 hours.

Have a low-carb dinner around 6 p.m. on Thursday. On Friday, Saturday, and Sunday mornings, sleep as late as possible. The point is to let sleep do some of the work for you. Consume exogenous ketones or MCT oil upon waking and 2 more times throughout the day at 3- to 4-hour intervals. I primarily use KetoCaNa and caprylic acid (C8), like Brain Octane. The exogenous ketones help “fill the gap” for the 1 to 3 days that you might suffer carb withdrawal. Once you’re in deep ketosis and using body fat, they can be omitted. On Friday (and Saturday if needed), drink some caffeine and prepare to WALK. Be out the door no later than 30 minutes after waking. I grab a cold liter of water or Smartwater out of my fridge, add a dash of pure, unsweetened lemon juice to attenuate boredom, add a few pinches of salt to prevent misery/headaches/cramping, and head out. I sip this as I walk and make phone calls. Podcasts also work. It’s brisk walking—NOT intense exercise—and constant hydration that are key. I have friends who’ve tried running or high-intensity weight training instead, and it does not work for reasons I won’t bore you with.

Each day of fasting, feel free to consume exogenous ketones or fat (e.g., coconut oil in tea or coffee) as you like, up to 4 tablespoons. I will often reward myself at the end of each fasting afternoon with an iced coffee with a bit of coconut cream in it. Truth be told, I will sometimes allow myself a SeaSnax packet of nori sheets.

Break your fast on Sunday night. Enjoy it. For a 14-day or longer fast, you need to think about refeeding carefully. But for a 3-day fast, I don’t think what you eat matters much.

ONCE YOU’RE IN KETO, HOW CAN YOU KEEP IT GOING WITHOUT FASTING? The short answer is: Eat a boatload of fat (~1.5 to 2.5 g per kilogram of body weight), next-to-no carbs, and moderate protein (1 to 1.5 g per kilogram of body weight) each day. High protein and low fat doesn’t work. Your liver will convert excess amino acids into glucose and shut down ketogenesis. Fat as 70 to 85% of calories is required.

Dom noticed that dairy can cause lipid profile issues (e.g., can spike LDL) and has started to minimize things like cream and cheese. Consider coconut milk (Aroy-D Pure Coconut Milk) instead. Dom doesn’t worry about elevated LDL as long as other blood markers aren’t out of whack (high CRP, low HDL, etc.). From Dom: “The thing that I focus on most is triglycerides. If your triglycerides are elevated, that means your body is just not adapting to the ketogenic diet. Some people’s triglycerides are elevated even when their calories are restricted. That’s a sign that the ketogenic diet is not for you... It’s not a one-size-fits-all diet.”


PRACTICE GOING FIRST “I always say that I’ll go first... That means if I’m checking out at the store, I’ll say hello first. If I’m coming across somebody and make eye contact, I’ll smile first. [I wish] people would experiment with that in their life a little bit: Be first, because—not all times, but most times—it comes in your favor. The response is pretty amazing...

“A LONELY PLACE IS AN UNMOTIVATED PLACE” This line from Laird underscored everything I saw around him. He has a tightly bonded tribe around him, and scheduled group exercise appears to be the glue that keeps the group together. If you spend a lot of time thinking of the “how” and “what” of exercise (exercises, programming, etc.), as I do, you might consider asking yourself, “What if I had to choose all of my exercise based on ‘Who?’ first? What would I do if exercise were only allowed with other people?” This is how I ended up diving into AcroYoga.


BONER OR NO BONER? “Quantified self” tracking doesn’t need to be complicated. It’s easy to miss the flashing red signal in front of your face while chasing the cutting edge of blood testing, genomics, etc. For men, the “boner or no boner” test is a simple but excellent indicator of sleep quality, hormonal health (GH, FSH, testosterone), circadian rhythm timing, and more.

THE CAMPFIRE SQUAT TEST “If you can’t squat all the way down to the ground with your feet and knees together, then you are missing full hip and ankle range of motion. This is the mechanism causing your hip impingement, plantar fasciitis, torn Achilles, pulled calf, etc. That is the fucking problem, and you should be obsessing about fixing this.”

“IF YOU CAN’T BREATHE, YOU DON’T KNOW THY POSITION.” In other words, if you can’t breathe in a given position, you haven’t mastered it.


  • Everyone can benefit from something that looks like the cow stretch (also sometimes called “cat-camel” in yoga classes). It’s a low-level static stretch that gets you into this extension pattern, and out of the other pattern of sitting in the rounded flexion position.
  • Spend as much time in a lunge as you can. [TF: One simple way to check this box prior to workouts is Eric Cressey’s “walking Spiderman” exercise. I touch my inside elbow to the ground before switching sides.
  • ‘Smash’ your gut (i.e., roll on it) for downregulation before bed with a medicine ball.
  • Internal shoulder rotation is so crucial. Doing the Burgener warmup will help show you if you have full internal rotation of your shoulder.



“IF MORE INFORMATION WAS THE ANSWER, THEN WE’D ALL BE BILLIONAIRES WITH PERFECT ABS.” TF: It’s not what you know, it’s what you do consistently.

FOR PEOPLE STARTING OUT—SAY “YES” When you’re earlier in your career, I think the best strategy is to just say ‘yes’ to everything. Every little gig. You just never know what are the lottery tickets.”



“BUSY” = OUT OF CONTROL “Every time people contact me, they say, ‘Look, I know you must be incredibly busy...’ and I always think, ‘No, I’m not.’ Because I’m in control of my time. I’m on top of it. ‘Busy,’ to me, seems to imply ‘out of control.’ Like, ‘Oh my God, I’m so busy. I don’t have any time for this shit!’ To me, that sounds like a person who’s got no control over their life.” TF: Lack of time is lack of priorities. If I’m “busy,” it is because I’ve made choices that put me in that position, so I’ve forbidden myself to reply to “How are you?” with “Busy.” I have no right to complain. Instead, if I’m too busy, it’s a cue to reexamine my systems and rules.

TREAT LIFE AS A SERIES OF EXPERIMENTS “My recommendation is to do little tests. Try a few months of living the life you think you want, but leave yourself an exit plan, being open to the big chance that you might not like it after actually trying it... The best book about this subject is Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert. His recommendation is to talk to a few people who are currently where you think you want to be and ask them for the pros and cons. Then trust their opinion since they’re right in it, not just remembering or imagining.”


Personally, I suck at efficiency (doing things quickly). To compensate and cope, here’s my 8-step process for maximizing efficacy (doing the right things):

Wake up at least 1 hour before you have to be at a computer screen. Email is the mind-killer. Make a cup of tea (I like pu-erh) and sit down with a pen/pencil and paper. Write down the 3 to 5 things—and no more—that are making you the most anxious or uncomfortable. They’re often things that have been punted from one day’s to-do list to the next, to the next, to the next, and so on. Most important usually equals most uncomfortable, with some chance of rejection or conflict. For each item, ask yourself: “If this were the only thing I accomplished today, would I be satisfied with my day?” “Will moving this forward make all the other to-dos unimportant or easier to knock off later?” Put another way: “What, if done, will make all of the rest easier or irrelevant?” Look only at the items you’ve answered “yes” to for at least one of these questions. Block out at 2 to 3 hours to focus on ONE of them for today. Let the rest of the urgent but less important stuff slide. It will still be there tomorrow. TO BE CLEAR: Block out at 2 to 3 HOURS to focus on ONE of them for today. This is ONE BLOCK OF TIME. Cobbling together 10 minutes here and there to add up to 120 minutes does not work. No phone calls or social media allowed. If you get distracted or start procrastinating, don’t freak out and downward-spiral; just gently come back to your ONE to-do.

Don’t overestimate the world and underestimate yourself. You are better than you think. And you are not alone.

“When you can write well, you can think well.”

“Everyone is interesting. If you’re ever bored in a conversation, the problem’s with you, not the other person.”


Perhaps more than any other lesson from Tony, I’ve thought about this the most in the last year. If you were to look at my daily journal right now, you’d see that I’ve scribbled “STATE → STORY → STRATEGY” at the top of each page for the next several weeks. It’s a reminder to check the boxes in that order. Tony believes that, in a lowered emotional state, we only see the problems, not solutions. Let’s say you wake up feeling tired and overwhelmed. You sit down to brainstorm strategies to solve your issues, but it comes to naught, and you feel even worse afterward. This is because you started in a negative state, then attempted strategy but didn’t succeed (due to tunnel vision on the problems), and then likely told yourself self-defeating stories (e.g., “I always do this. Why am I so wound up I can’t even think straight?”).

To fix this, he encourages you to “prime” your state first. The biochemistry will help you proactively tell yourself an enabling story. Only then do you think on strategy, as you’ll see the options instead of dead ends. “Priming” my state is often as simple as doing 5 to 10 push-ups or getting 20 minutes of sun exposure. Even though I do my most intense exercise at night, I’ve started doing 1–2 minutes of calisthenics—or kettlebell swings in the morning to set my state for the day. I now often ask myself, “Is this really a problem I need to think my way out of? Or is it possible I just need to fix my biochemistry?” I’ve wasted a lot of time journaling on “problems” when I just needed to eat breakfast sooner, do 10 push-ups, or get an extra hour of sleep. Sometimes, you think you have to figure out your life’s purpose, but you really just need some macadamia nuts and a cold fucking shower.


IF YOU GENERATE ENOUGH BAD IDEAS, A FEW GOOD ONES TEND TO SHOW UP “People who have trouble coming up with good ideas, if they’re telling you the truth, will tell you they don’t have very many bad ideas. But people who have plenty of good ideas, if they’re telling you the truth, will say they have even more bad ideas. So the goal isn’t to get good ideas; the goal is to get bad ideas. Because once you get enough bad ideas, then some good ones have to show up.”

CAN YOU PUSH SOMETHING DOWNHILL? “If you think about how hard it is to push a business uphill, particularly when you’re just getting started, one answer is to say: ‘Why don’t you just start a different business, a business you can push downhill?’

FIRST, TEN PEOPLE “The blog post I point people to the most is called ‘First, Ten,’ and it is a simple theory of marketing that says: tell ten people, show ten people, share it with ten people; ten people who already trust you and already like you. If they don’t tell anybody else, it’s not that good and you should start over. If they do tell other people, you’re on your way.”


Naval Ravikant regularly credits Scott’s short blog post “The Day You Became a Better Writer” for improving his writing.

“SYSTEMS” VERSUS “GOALS” Scott helped me refocus, to use his language, on “systems” instead of “goals.” This involves choosing projects and habits that, even if they result in “failures” in the eyes of the outside world, give you transferable skills or relationships. In other words, you choose options that allow you to inevitably “succeed” over time, as you build assets that carry over to subsequent projects. Fundamentally, “systems” could be thought of as asking yourself, “What persistent skills or relationships can I develop?” versus “What short-term goal can I achieve?” The former has a potent snowball effect, while the latter is a binary pass/fail with no consolation prize.

THE LOGIC OF THE DOUBLE OR TRIPLE THREAT Become very good (top 25%) at two or more things. Anyone can do it with practice. If you add that talent to any other, suddenly you’re the boss of the people who have only one skill. Capitalism rewards things that are both rare and valuable. You make yourself rare by combining two or more “pretty goods” until no one else has your mix... At least one of the skills in your mixture should involve communication, either written or verbal. And it could be as simple as learning how to sell more effectively than 75% of the world. That’s one. Now add to that whatever your passion is, and you have two, because that’s the thing you’ll easily put enough energy into to reach the top 25%. If you have an aptitude for a third skill, perhaps business or public speaking, develop that too.


Here’s a highly simplified synopsis: “Success” need not be complicated. Just start with making 1,000 people extremely, extremely happy.

A true fan is defined as “a fan who will buy anything you produce.” If you have roughly 1,000 fans like this (also known as superfans), you can make a living—if you are content to make a living, but not a fortune.

Here’s how the math works. You need to meet two criteria: First, you have to create enough each year that you can earn, on average, $100 profit from each true fan. Second, you must have a direct relationship with your fans. That is, they must pay you directly. You get to keep all of their support, unlike the small percentage of their fees you might get from a music label, publisher, studio, retailer, or other intermediate. If you keep the full$100 from each true fan, then you need only 1,000 of them to earn $100K per year. That’s a living for most folks.

Pleasing a true fan is pleasurable and invigorating. It rewards the artist to remain true, to focus on the unique aspects of their work, the qualities that true fans appreciate.

True fans are not only the direct source of your income, but also your chief marketing force for the ordinary fans.


TAKE THE COFFEE CHALLENGE For would-be entrepreneurs (he calls them “wantrapreneurs”), or entrepreneurs who’ve grown a little too comfortable, Noah has a recommendation—ask for 10% off of your next few coffees. “Go up to the counter and order coffee. If you don’t drink coffee, order tea. If you don’t drink tea, order water. I don’t care. Then just ask for 10% off. The coffee challenge sounds kind of silly, but the whole point is that—in business and in life—you don’t have to be on the extreme, but you have to ask for things, and you have to put yourself out there.”

DON’T TRY AND FIND TIME. SCHEDULE TIME. On Tuesdays from 10 a.m. to 12 noon, Noah schedules nothing but “Learning.” This is a great reminder that, for anything important, you don’t find time. It’s only real if it’s on the calendar. My Wednesdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. are currently blocked out for “Creation”—writing, podcast recording, or other output that creates a tangible “after” product. I turn off WiFi during this period to be as non-reactive as possible.

THE VALUE OF “I DON’T UNDERSTAND” Later, [I understood what he was doing]. This is basically just an act. Essentially, I was being unclear about what I was saying, and I did not fully understand what I was trying to explain to him. He was just drilling deeper and deeper and deeper until I realized, every time, that there was actually something I didn’t have clear in my mind. He really taught me to think deeply about things, and I think that’s something I have not forgotten.” TF: This week, try experimenting with saying “I don’t understand. Can you explain that to me?” more often.


I revisit these questions often, usually every month. I hope they help you remove noise and internal conflict from your life.

  • Are You Doing What You’re Uniquely Capable of, What You Feel Placed Here on Earth to Do? Can You Be Replaced?

  • How Often Are You Saying “Hell, Yeah!”? To become “successful,” you have to say “yes” to a lot of experiments. To learn what you’re best at, or what you’re most passionate about, you have to throw a lot against the wall. Once your life shifts from pitching outbound to defending against inbound, however, you have to ruthlessly say “no” as your default. Instead of throwing spears, you’re holding the shield.

  • How Much of Your Life Is Making Versus Managing? How Do You Feel About the Split? As investor Brad Feld and many others have observed, great creative work isn’t possible if you’re trying to piece together 30 minutes here and 45 minutes there. Large, uninterrupted blocks of time—3 to 5 hours minimum—create the space needed to find and connect the dots. And one block per week isn’t enough. There has to be enough slack in the system for multi-day, CPU-intensive synthesis. For me, this means at least 3 to 4 mornings per week where I am in “maker” mode until at least 1 p.m.

  • What Blessings in Excess Have Become a Curse? Where Do You Have Too Much of a Good Thing?

  • Why Are You Investing, Anyway? For me, the goal of “investing” has always been simple: to allocate resources (e.g., money, time, energy) to improve quality of life. This is a personal definition, as yours likely will be. Some words are so overused as to have become meaningless. If you find yourself using nebulous terms like “success,” “happiness,” or “investing,” it pays to explicitly define them or stop using them. Answering “What would it look like if I had ___ ?” helps clarify things. Life favors the specific ask and punishes the vague wish. So, here “investing” means to allocate resources (e.g., money, time, energy) to improve quality of life. This applies to both the future and the present. I am willing to accept a mild and temporary 10% decrease in current quality of life for a high-probability 10x return, whether the ROI comes in the form of cash, time, energy, or otherwise.

  • Are You Fooling Yourself with a Plan for Moderation? Where in your life are you good at moderation? Where are you an all-or-nothing type? Where do you lack a shut-off switch? It pays to know thyself. Know where you can moderate and where you can’t.

  • You Say “Health Is #1”... But Is It Really?

  • Are You Over-Correlated?

  • Are You Having a Breakdown or a Breakthrough? A Short How-To Guide If you’re suffering from a feeling of overwhelm, it might be useful to ask yourself two questions: In the midst of overwhelm, is life not showing me exactly what I should subtract? Am I having a breakdown or a breakthrough? For me, step one is always the same: Write down the 20% of activities and people causing 80% or more of your negative emotions. My step two is doing a “fear-setting” exercise on paper, in which I ask and answer, “What is really the worst that could happen if I stopped doing what I’m considering? And so what? How could I undo any damage?”

  • My Challenge to You: Write Down the “What Ifs” Tonight or tomorrow morning, think of a decision you’ve been putting off, and challenge the fuzzy “what ifs” holding you hostage. If not now, when? If left at the status quo, what will your life and stress look like in 6 months? In 1 year? In 3 years? Who around you will also suffer? I hope you find the strength to say “no” when it matters most. I’m striving for the same, and only time will tell if I pull it off. So far, it’s turned out better than I ever could have imagined.



SOMETIMES, THE BEST “NO” IS NO REPLY “Why put in the effort to explain why it isn’t a fit, if they haven’t done the homework to determine if it is a fit?” Maria could spend all day replying to bad pitches with polite declines. I think of her above policy often. Did the person take 10 minutes to do their homework? Are they minding the details? If not, don’t encourage more incompetence by rewarding it. Those who are sloppy during the honeymoon (at the beginning) only get worse later.

WHEN IN DOUBT, SCRATCH YOUR OWN ITCH “When Kurt Vonnegut wrote ‘Write to please just one person,’ what he was really saying was write for yourself. Don’t try to please anyone but yourself. The second you start doing it for an audience, you’ve lost the long game because creating something that is rewarding and sustainable over the long run requires, most of all, keeping yourself excited about it. Trying to predict what [an audience will] be interested in and kind of pretzeling yourself to fit those expectations, you soon begin to begrudge it and become embittered—and it begins to show in the work. It always, always shows in the work when you resent it. And there’s really nothing less pleasurable to read than embittered writing.”


DISCIPLINE EQUALS FREEDOM TF: I interpret this to mean, among other things, that you can use positive constraints to increase perceived free will and results. Freeform days might seem idyllic, but they are paralyzing due to continual paradox of choice (e.g., “What should I do now?”) and decision fatigue (e.g., “What should I have for breakfast?”). In contrast, something as simple as pre-scheduled workouts acts as scaffolding around which you can more effectively plan and execute your day. This gives you a greater sense of agency and feeling of freedom.

“TWO IS ONE AND ONE IS NONE.” This is a common expression among SEALs. Jocko explains: “It just means, ‘Have a backup.’” If you have two of something, you will break or lose one and end up with one remaining; if you have one, you will break or lose it and be screwed. One of my favorite Franz Kafka quotes is related: “Better to have, and not need, than to need, and not have.” Where can you eliminate “single points of failure” in your life or business? Jocko adds, “And don’t just have backup gear—have a backup plan to handle likely contingencies.”

IF YOU WANT TO BE TOUGHER, BE TOUGHER “If you want to be tougher mentally, it is simple: Be tougher. Don’t meditate on it.” These words of Jocko’s helped one listener—a drug addict—get sober after many failed attempts. The simple logic struck a chord: “Being tougher” was, more than anything, a decision to be tougher. It’s possible to immediately “be tougher,” starting with your next decision. Have trouble saying “no” to dessert? Be tougher. Make that your starting decision. Feeling winded? Take the stairs anyway. Ditto. It doesn’t matter how small or big you start. If you want to be tougher, be tougher.


ONE PRIMARY MEAL PER DAY Stan rewards himself with a large dinner at night and doesn’t do well with smaller meals throughout the day.

ON CREATING A “RED TEAM” STAN: “The concept of ‘red team’ is designed to test a plan. What happens is, as you develop a plan—you’ve got a problem and you develop a way to solve that problem—you fall in love with it. You start to dismiss the shortcomings of it, simply because, I think, that’s the way the mind works. Sometimes you’re actually skipping over real challenges to it, or vulnerabilities in it, because you just want it to work. As we describe it, sometimes a plan can end up being a string of miracles, and that’s not a real solid plan. So red teaming is: You take people who aren’t wedded to the plan and [ask them,] ‘How would you disrupt this plan or how would you defeat this plan?’ If you have a very thoughtful red team, you’ll produce stunning results.”

WHY EXERCISE IS IMPORTANT TO STAN Aside from the self-image and performance aspects: “It also puts discipline in the day. I find that if the day is terrible, but I worked out, at the end of the day I’ll go, ‘Well, I had a good workout,’ almost no matter what happens.

THREE PRACTICES FOR MENTAL TOUGHNESS The following was in response to “What are three tests or practices from the military that civilians could use to help develop mental toughness?”: STAN: “The first is to push yourself harder than you believe you’re capable of. You’ll find new depth inside yourself. The second is to put yourself in groups who share difficulties, discomfort. We used to call it ‘shared privation.’ You’ll find that when you have been through that kind of difficult environment, that you feel more strongly about that which you’re committed to. And finally, create some fear and make individuals overcome it.”


“THE SECRETS TO LIFE ARE HIDDEN BEHIND THE WORD ‘CLICHÉ.’” So any time you hear something that you think is a cliché, my tip to you is to perk your ears up and listen more carefully.” He had heard certain phrases like “Eat more vegetables” a million times, but ignored them for years, as it all seemed too simplistic. Ultimately, it was the simple that worked. He didn’t need sophisticated answers. They were right in front of him the whole time. What advice are you ignoring because you think it’s trite or clichéd? Can you mine it for any testable action?

LEARNING FROM YOUR FUTURE SELF—AN EXERCISE WE BOTH USE Think about how old you are right now and think about being a 10-year-older version of yourself. Then think, ‘What would I probably tell myself as an older version of myself?’ That is the wisdom that I think you found in that exercise. [If you do this exercise and then start living the answers,] I think you’re going to grow exponentially faster than you would have otherwise.”


If you are nervous about making the jump or simply putting it off out of fear of the unknown, here is your antidote. Write down your answers, and keep in mind that thinking a lot will not prove as fruitful or as prolific as simply brain-vomiting on the page. Write and do not edit—aim for volume. Spend a few minutes on each answer.

  1. Define your nightmare, the absolute worst that could happen if you did what you are considering. What doubt, fears, and “what-ifs” pop up as you consider the big changes you can—or need to—make? Envision them in painstaking detail. Would it be the end of your life? What would be the permanent impact, if any, on a scale of 1 to 10? Are these things really permanent? How likely do you think it is that they would actually happen?

  2. What steps could you take to repair the damage or get things back on the upswing, even if temporarily? Chances are, it’s easier than you imagine. How could you get things back under control?

  3. What are the outcomes or benefits, both temporary and permanent, of more probable scenarios? Now that you’ve defined the nightmare, what are the more probable or definite positive outcomes, whether internal (confidence, self-esteem, etc.) or external? What would the impact of these more-likely outcomes be on a scale of 1 to 10? How likely is it that you could produce at least a moderately good outcome? Have less intelligent people done this before and pulled it off?

  4. If you were fired from your job today, what would you do to get things under financial control? Imagine this scenario and run through questions 1 to 3 above. If you quit your job to test other options, how could you later get back on the same career track if you absolutely had to?

  5. What are you putting off out of fear? Usually, what we most fear doing is what we most need to do. That phone call, that conversation, whatever the action might be—it is fear of unknown outcomes that prevents us from doing what we need to do. Define the worst case, accept it, and do it. I’ll repeat something you might consider tattooing on your forehead: What we fear doing most is usually what we most need to do. As I have heard said, a person’s success in life can usually be measured by the number of uncomfortable conversations he or she is willing to have. Resolve to do one thing every day that you fear. I got into this habit by attempting to contact celebrities and famous businesspeople for advice.

  6. What is it costing you—financially, emotionally, and physically—to postpone action? Don’t only evaluate the potential downside of action. It is equally important to measure the atrocious cost of inaction. If you don’t pursue those things that excite you, where will you be in 1 year, 5 years, and 10 years? How will you feel having allowed circumstance to impose itself upon you and having allowed 10 more years of your finite life to pass doing what you know will not fulfill you? If you telescope out 10 years and know with 100% certainty that it is a path of disappointment and regret, and if we define risk as “the likelihood of an irreversible negative outcome,” inaction is the greatest risk of all.

  7. What are you waiting for? If you cannot answer this without resorting to the BS concept of “good timing,” the answer is simple: You’re afraid, just like the rest of the world. Measure the cost of inaction, realize the unlikelihood and repairability of most missteps, and develop the most important habit of those who excel and enjoy doing so: action.


SIT, SIT. WALK, WALK. DON’T WOBBLE. “The Zen mantra is ‘Sit, sit. Walk, walk. Don’t wobble.’ It’s this idea that when I’m with a person, that’s total priority. Anything else is multitasking. No, no, no, no. The people-to-people, person-to-person trumps anything else. I have given my dedication to this. If I go to a play or a movie, I am at the movie. I am not anywhere else. It’s 100%—I am going to listen. If I go to a conference, I am going to go to the conference.”

THE DEATH COUNTDOWN CLOCK “I actually have a countdown clock that Matt Groening at Futurama was inspired by, and they did a little episode of Futurama about it. I took the actuarial tables for the estimated age of my death, for someone born when I was born, and I worked back the number of days. I have that showing on my computer, how many days. I tell you, nothing concentrates your time like knowing how many days you have left. Now, of course, I’m likely to live longer than that. I’m in good health, etc. But nonetheless, I have 6,000-something days. It’s not very many days to do all the things I want to do. TF: One massively successful private equity investor I know uses an Excel spreadsheet to display his own death countdown clock. Memento mori—remember that you’re going to die. It’s a great way to remember to live.

WRITE TO GET IDEAS, NOT TO EXPRESS THEM “What I discovered, which is what many writers discover, is that I write in order to think. I’d say, ‘I think I have an idea,’ but when I begin to write it, I realize, ‘I have no idea,’ and I don’t actually know what I think until I try and write it. That was the revelation.”


DON’T ATTRIBUTE TO MALICE THAT WHICH CAN BE EXPLAINED OTHERWISE “Wasn’t it Bill Clinton who said that when dealing with anyone who’s upset, he always asks, ‘Has this person slept? Have they eaten? Is somebody else bugging them?’ He goes through this simple checklist. When we’re handling babies and the baby is kicking and crying, we almost never once say, ‘That baby’s out to get me’ or ‘She’s got evil intentions.’”

DON’T EXPECT OTHERS TO UNDERSTAND YOU “To blame someone for not understanding you fully is deeply unfair because, first of all, we don’t understand ourselves, and even if we do understand ourselves, we have such a hard time communicating ourselves to other people. Therefore, to be furious and enraged and bitter that people don’t get all of who we are is a really a cruel piece of immaturity.”

Advice to your 30-year-old self? “I would have said, ‘Appreciate what’s good about this moment. Don’t always think that you’re on a permanent journey. Stop and enjoy the view.’ I always had this assumption that if you appreciate the moment, you’re weakening your resolve to improve your circumstances. That’s not true, but I think when you’re young, it’s sort of associated with that. I had people around me who’d say things like, ‘Oh, a flower, nice.’ A little part of me was thinking, ‘You absolute loser. You’ve taken time to appreciate a flower? Do you not have bigger plans? I mean, this the limit of your ambition?’ and when life’s knocked you around a bit and when you’ve seen a few things, and time has happened and you’ve got some years under your belt, you start to think more highly of modest things like flowers and a pretty sky, or just a morning where nothing’s wrong and everyone’s been pretty nice to everyone else. Fortune can do anything with us. We are very fragile creatures. You only need to tap us or hit us in slightly the wrong place. You only have to push us a little bit, and we crack very easily, whether that’s the pressure of disgrace or physical illness, financial pressure, etc. It doesn’t take very much. So, we do have to appreciate every day that goes by without a major disaster.”


Even if you don’t consider yourself a writer (I never did), putting thoughts on paper is the best way to A) develop ideas, and B) review and improve your thinking. The benefits of even 30 minutes a week of scribbling can transfer to everything else that you do. The following bullets are writing prompts that Cheryl has suggested when asked for assignment ideas for students who’ve read Wild. They are brilliant and make fantastic jumping-off points for any type of journaling or writing, whether Morning Pages, a blog post, the beginning of a novel, a letter to a friend, a diary entry, a screenplay, or a too-fast-too-soon Tinder message. Try one for two pages of longhand writing. Go for uninterrupted flow, and don’t stop to edit. Step one is to generate without judging. Chances are that you’ll surprise yourself.

  • Write about a time when you realized you were mistaken.
  • Write about a lesson you learned the hard way.
  • Write about a time you were inappropriately dressed for the occasion.
  • Write about something you lost that you’ll never get back.
  • Write about a time when you knew you’d done the right thing.
  • Write about something you don’t remember.
  • Write about your darkest teacher.
  • Write about a memory of a physical injury.
  • Write about when you knew it was over.
  • Write about being loved.
  • Write about what you were really thinking.
  • Write about how you found your way back.
  • Write about the kindness of strangers.
  • Write about why you could not do it.
  • Write about why you did.


THE THREE OPTIONS YOU ALWAYS HAVE IN LIFE “In any situation in life, you only have three options. You always have three options. You can change it, you can accept it, or you can leave it. What is not a good option is to sit around wishing you would change it but not changing it, wishing you would leave it but not leaving it, and not accepting it. It’s that struggle, that aversion, that is responsible for most of our misery. The phrase that I probably use the most to myself in my head is just one word: accept.”

“Tell your friends that you’re a happy person. Then you’ll be forced to conform to it. You’ll have a consistency bias. You have to live up to it. Your friends will expect you to be a happy person.”


  • Be present above all else.
  • Desire is suffering (Buddha).
  • Anger is a hot coal that you hold in your hand while waiting to throw it at someone else (Buddhist saying).
  • If you can’t see yourself working with someone for life, don’t work with them for a day.
  • Reading (learning) is the ultimate meta-skill and can be traded for anything else.
  • All the real benefits in life come from compound interest.
  • Earn with your mind, not your time.
  • 99% of all effort is wasted.
  • Total honesty at all times. It’s almost always possible to be honest and positive.
  • Praise specifically, criticize generally (Warren Buffett).
  • Truth is that which has predictive power.
  • Watch every thought. (Always ask, “Why am I having this thought?”)
  • All greatness comes from suffering.
  • Love is given, not received.
  • Enlightenment is the space between your thoughts (Eckhart Tolle).
  • Mathematics is the language of nature.
  • Every moment has to be complete in and of itself.

“What you choose to work on, and who you choose to work with, are far more important than how hard you work.”

“My one repeated learning in life: ‘There are no adults.’ Everyone’s making it up as they go along. Figure it out yourself, and do it.”


HOW MALCOLM LEARNED TO ASK QUESTIONS His father, a mathematician, taught Malcolm to ask questions upon questions: “My father has zero intellectual insecurities. It has never crossed his mind to be concerned that the world thinks he’s an idiot. He’s not in that game. So if he doesn’t understand something, he just asks you. He doesn’t care if he sounds foolish. He will ask the most obvious question without any sort of concern about it. So he asks lots and lots of ‘dumb,’ in the best sense of that word, questions. He’ll say to someone, ‘I don’t understand. Explain that to me.’ He’ll just keep asking questions until he gets it right, and I grew up listening to him do this in every conceivable setting. [If my father had met Bernie Madoff, he] never would have invested money with him because he would have said, ‘I don’t understand’ a hundred times. ‘I don’t understand how that works,’ in this kind of dumb, slow voice. ‘I don’t understand, sir. What is going on?’”


  1. What if I did the opposite for 48 hours?
  2. What do I spend a silly amount of money on? How might I scratch my own itch?
  3. What would I do/have/be if I had $10 million? What’s my real TMI?
  4. What are the worst things that could happen? Could I get back here?
  5. If I could only work 2 hours per week on my business, what would I do?
  6. What if I let them make decisions up to $100?$500? $1,000? 1) To get huge, good things done, you need to be okay with letting the small, bad things happen. 2) People’s IQs seem to double as soon as you give them responsibility and indicate that you trust them.
  7. What’s the least crowded channel?
  8. What if I couldn’t pitch my product directly? People don’t like being sold products, but we all like being told stories. Work on the latter.
  9. What if I created my own real-world MBA?
  10. Do I need to make it back the way I lost it?
  11. What if I could only subtract to solve problems?
  12. What might I put in place to allow me to go off the grid for 4 to 8 weeks, with no phone or email?
  13. Am I hunting antelope or field mice? Another way I often approach this is to look at my to-do list and ask: “Which one of these, if done, would render all the rest either easier or completely irrelevant?”
  14. Could it be that everything is fine and complete as is?
  15. What would this look like if it were easy?
  16. How can I throw money at this problem? How can I “waste” money to improve the quality of my life?
  17. No hurry, no pause. I routinely write “No hurry, no pause” at the top of my notebooks as a daily reminder. In effect, it’s shorthand for Derek Sivers’s story of the 45-minute versus 43-minute bike ride—you don’t need to go through life huffing and puffing, straining and red-faced. You can get 95% of the results you want by calmly putting one foot in front of the other. One former Navy SEAL friend recently texted me a principle used in their training: “Slow is smooth. Smooth is fast.” Perhaps I’m just getting old, but my definition of luxury has changed over time. Now, it’s not about owning a lot of stuff. Luxury, to me, is feeling unrushed. No hurry, no pause.

“GOOD” by Jocko Willink

How do I deal with setbacks, failures, delays, defeat, or other disasters? I actually have a fairly simple way of dealing with these situations. There is one word to deal with all those situations, and that is: “good.”

When things are going bad, there’s going to be some good that will come from it. 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. Didn’t get funded? Good. We own more of the company. Didn’t get the job you wanted? Good. Go out, gain more experience, and build a better résumé. Got injured? Good. Needed a break from training. Got tapped out? Good. It’s better to tap out in training than to tap out on the street. Got beat? Good. We learned. Unexpected problems? Good. We have the opportunity to figure out a solution. That’s it. When things are going bad, don’t get all bummed out, don’t get startled, don’t get frustrated. No. Just look at the issue and say: “Good.”