Book Summary: Tools of Titans by Tim Ferriss

A book summary of the key lessons from Tools of Titans by Tim Ferriss, along with quotations and informal book notes.

The Book in a Nutshell

Tim Ferriss has interviewed some of the best performers in their field from around the world on his podcast The Tim Ferriss Show. In Tools of Titans, Ferriss distils some of the key lessons from these conversations, along with his personal reflections on some of the key themes. The book is divided into lessons about health, wealth and wisdom, but many of the lessons overlap between these sections.

Book Notes: My Favourite Lessons from Tools of Titans

This book summary of Tools of Titans reflects some of my favourite lessons on health, wealth and wisdom from the book. As usual, I emphasise that these book notes are not a replacement for the actual book. Instead, they are intended to serve (1) as a public repository of informal notes and (2) as an introduction to the key ideas in order to decide if the full book is worthwhile.

#1: Lessons on Health

Cold Exposure: Numerous interviewees use cold exposure both as a “priming tool” but also for the well-documented health benefits. These benefits include improved immune function, increased fat loss, reduced inflammation and elevated mood.

Saunas and Hyperthermic Conditioning: Calculated heat exposure is also linked with several physiological benefits. These include increased growth hormone and improved endurance.  Studies have demonstrated that regular sauna sessions and even hot baths can play an important role here.

Ketogenic Diets and Fasting: A ketogenic diet is a “high-fat diet that mimics fasting physiology”. Ketogenic diets encourage your body to enter ketosis. When your body enters ketosis, your brain and body start to use ketones (from fat) for energy instead of blood sugar. There are several health benefits associated with ketosis and it is increasingly an area of focus in the longevity research. Documented benefits include fat loss, strong anti-cancer effects, better oxygen use and increased strength. Importantly, you can move your body into ketosis through diet but also through fasting and exogenous ketones – or even a combination. Ferriss even suggests that a therapeutic fast can help to purge any pre-cancerous cells living in the body.

Psychedelics:  Psychedelics, including psilocybin and LSD, are a prevailing area of interest for treatment of depression, anxiety and addiction. Beyond the medical treatment use case, many are using psychedelics to open new creative perspectives. Numerous interviewees occasionally use psychedelics for the “mystical experiences” they bring about, suggesting the dissolution of ego improves their mental health and creativity. Ferriss recommends “sensory-deprivation (flotation) tanks” as a kind of first-step introduction to psychedelic experiences.

Magnesium: Several interviewees take magnesium supplements. Magnesium is known for its role in physical and mental recovery. There are several different types of magnesium supplement which are known to target different areas of recovery.

Metformin: Metformin is a diabetes drug that is attracting attention in the longevity field. Studies of mice have demonstrated dramatic life extension effects on low-dose metformin. Human trials are ongoing but Ferriss interviews a few medical experts who have already introduced metformin as part of a regular regime.

#2: Lessons on Wealth

Failure is overrated. Several interviewees, including Peter Thiel, share the perspective that failure is often not the great learning it’s made out to be. Often, it’s the moment that demoralises people into giving up.

“Failure is neither a Darwinian nor an educational imperative. It is always simply a tragedy.”

Peter Thiel

Stress test beliefs. Before releasing a product or service, it’s important to expose them to proper scrutiny. A couple of interviewees use “red teams”. The idea here is that a group (the red team) attempts to critique and break an idea apart. If an idea survives the beating of a proficient red team, it’s usually a good one.

It’s not what you know, it’s what you do consistently. This is a recurring theme: knowledge is redundant without consistent, purposeful action. A similar theme addressed by Peter Thiel is that education does not equate to learning. Thiel is more interested in what people are in the process of learning, rather than what educational credential they are working on.

Four commonalities for the best investors:

  1. Cap the downside – They understand the risks and hedge/protect.
  2. Asymmetrical risks and rewards – They look for maximum reward for minimum risk.
  3. Asset allocation and diversification – They balance their portfolio.
  4. Contribution – They are often givers and donators.

Authenticity and the Law of Category. Find a winnable niche. Enter it with an authentic take. Above all, enjoy what you are doing.

“Creating something that is rewarding and sustainable over the long run requires, most of all, keeping yourself excited about it.”

Gut Investing (Kevin Rose): Start by exploring an idea emotionally, then do traditional due diligence using objective data. When exploring ideas emotionally, take the novel features and think about how they will impact the emotions of users and play out over the long run.

#3: Lessons on Wisdom

Meditation: Many interviewees had some kind of meditation practice, typically in their morning routine. Meditation has been associated with a wide range of physiological and mental benefits, including lower blood pressure, improved cognition, and lower levels of anxiety.

Journaling: Many interviewees also had a journaling practice. For some, this was a one-page exercise including expressions of gratitude and for some this was more of a brain dump for the day ahead. Many also had a bedtime routine of reviewing achievements from the day.

“If you want to be wealthy – as measured in money, time, relationships, ease of sleep, or otherwise – “spiritual windshield wipers” will help you to get there with fewer accidents and less headache.”

Input doesn’t necessarily equate to output:

“Ours is a culture where we wear the ability to get by on very little sleep as a kind of badge of honor that symbolises work ethic, or toughness, or some other virtue – but really, it’s a total profound failure of priorities and self-respect.”

Maria Popova

The Dicken’s Process: Pick your top two or three handicapping beliefs and ask yourself 3 questions. First, what has each belief cost you and loved ones in the past? Second, what is each belief costing you and loved ones in the present? And third, what will each belief cost you and love ones in the future?

Choose your main relationships wisely. There is a zoology theory which Naval Ravikant calls “the five chimps theory”. It suggests that the mood and behaviour of chimps can be predicted based on the five chimps they spend the most time with. Lesson: choose your chimps (relationships) wisely.

Build your life around flow states. Find the activities that leave you “in the zone”. Structure your business and pleasure around these “flow states” for happier and more fulfilled work.

Memento mori: Remind yourself of death. It lends perspective and helps to keep you focused on the journey.

You can buy the book here. Or for further reading on health, wealth and wisdom, try Lifespan by David Sinclair, Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki, and The Art of Thinking Clearly by Rolf Dobelli.

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