Tools of Titans by Tim Ferriss: Summary & Notes

Rating: 10/10

Available atAmazon

ISBN: 9781328683786

Related: Tribe of Mentors, 4-Hour Workweek


This book is derived from many episodes and interviews of The Tim Ferriss Show, and includes information on a huge variety of topics, including productivity, athletic training, psychedelics, life extension, and more.

The amount of information is staggering.  One of the common criticisms is that it isn’t organized thematically, but I think the intended use of the book is for someone to pick and choose their favourite parts, and refer back when needed.  For this purpose, I think it’s fantastic. Highly recommend for (literally) everyone.


Graham: As a result of the sheer amount of content in this book, I’ve highlighted some of my favourite quotes below, but avoided much of the specific, actionable content that I found useful - I recommend reading the full text to find out what is most applicable to you.

How to Use This Book

  • “What might you do to accomplish your 10-year goals in the next 6 months, if you had a gun against your head?”
  • Here are a few patterns, some odder than others: 
  • More than 80% of the interviewees have some form of daily mindfulness or meditation practice. 
  • A surprising number of males (not females) over 45 never eat breakfast, or eat only the scantiest of fare (e.g., Laird Hamilton, page 92; Malcolm Gladwell, page 572; General Stanley McChrystal, page 435) 
  • Many use the ChiliPad device for cooling at bedtime.
  • Rave reviews of the books Sapiens, Poor Charlie’s Almanack, Influence, and Man’s Search for Meaning, among others.
  • The habit of listening to single songs on repeat for focus (page 507).
  • Nearly everyone has done some form of “spec” work (completing projects on their own time and dime, then submitting them to prospective buyers).
  • The belief that “failure is not durable” (see Robert Rodriguez, page 628) or variants thereof.
  • Almost every guest has been able to take obvious “weaknesses” and turn them into huge competitive advantages (see Arnold Schwarzenegger, page 176).
  • Success, however you define it, is achievable if you collect the right field-tested beliefs and habits.  
  • The superheroes you have in your mind (idols, icons, titans, billionaires, etc.) are nearly all walking flaws who’ve maximized 1 or 2 strengths.

Chris Sommer

  • “You’re not responsible for the hand of cards you were dealt. You’re responsible for maxing out what you were given.”

Laird Hamilton, Gabby Reece & Brian MacKenzie

  • “If you run into an asshole in the morning, you ran into an asshole. If you run into assholes all day, you’re the asshole.”

Kelly Starrett

  • “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.”

Paul Levesque (Triple H)

  • “Kids don’t do what you say. They do what they see. How you live your life is their example.”

Coach Sommer - The Single Decision

  • Patience. Achieving the extraordinary is not a linear process. The secret is to show up, do the work, and go home. A blue collar work ethic married to indomitable will. It is literally that simple. Nothing interferes. Nothing can sway you from your purpose. Once the decision is made, simply refuse to budge. Refuse to compromise. And accept that quality long-term results require quality long-term focus. No emotion. No drama. No beating yourself up over small bumps in the road. Learn to enjoy and appreciate the process.
  • More importantly, learn from defeats when they happen. In fact, if you are not encountering defeat on a fairly regular basis, you are not trying hard enough. And absolutely refuse to accept less than your best.
  • Throw out a timeline. It will take what it takes.

Marc Andreessen

  • “I’m old-fashioned. Where I come from, people like to succeed. . . . When I was a founder, when I first started out, we didn’t have the word ‘pivot.’ We didn’t have a fancy word for it. We just called it a fuck-up."
  • “He says the key to success is, ‘Be so good they can’t ignore you.’”
  • TF: Marc has another guiding tenet: “Smart people should make things.” He says: “If you just have those two principles—that’s a pretty good way to orient.”
  • “Life can be much broader, once you discover one simple fact, and that is that everything around you that you call ‘life’ was made up by people that were no smarter than you. And you can change it, you can influence it, you can build your own things that other people can use. Once you learn that, you’ll never be the same again.”
  • “My goal is not to fail fast. My goal is to succeed over the long run. They are not the same thing.”
  • “To do original work: It’s not necessary to know something nobody else knows. It is necessary to believe something few other people believe.”
  • “Andy Grove had the answer: For every metric, there should be another ‘paired’ metric that addresses adverse consequences of the first metric.”

Derek Sivers

  • “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.
  • “How to thrive in an unknowable future? Choose the plan with the most options. The best plan is the one that lets you change your plans.”
  • “Be expensive”
  • “Expect disaster”
  • “Own as little as possible”
  • For people starting out - say “yes”.
  • Don’t Be a Donkey  
  • “Well, I meet a lot of 30-year-olds who are trying to pursue many different directions at once, but not making progress in any, right? They get frustrated that the world wants them to pick one thing, because they want to do them all: ‘Why do I have to choose? I don’t know what to choose!’ But the problem is, if you’re thinking short-term, then [you act as though] if you don’t do them all this week, they won’t happen. The solution is to think long-term. To realize that you can do one of these things for a few years, and then do another one for a few years, and then another. You’ve probably heard the fable, I think it’s ‘Buridan’s ass,’ about a donkey who is standing halfway between a pile of hay and a bucket of water. He just keeps looking left to the hay, and right to the water, trying to decide. Hay or water, hay or water? He’s unable to decide, so he eventually falls over and dies of both hunger and thirst. A donkey can’t think of the future. If he did, he’d realize he could clearly go first to drink the water, then go eat the hay. “So, my advice to my 30-year-old self is, don’t be a donkey. You can do everything you want to do. You just need foresight and patience.”
  • Once You Have Some Success—If It’s Not a “Hell, Yes!” It’s a “No”
  • “Busy” = Out of Control  
  • Lack of time is lack of priorities.
  • I believe you shouldn’t start a business unless people are asking you to.

Tony Robbins

  • “‘Stressed’ is the achiever word for ‘fear.’”
  • “Mastery doesn’t come from an infographic. What you know doesn’t mean shit. What do you do consistently?”
  • 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.
  • Think about your state when trying to solve problems or do anything else difficult.
  • “You realize that you will never be the best-looking person in the room. You’ll never be the smartest person in the room. You’ll never be the most educated, the most well-versed. You can never compete on those levels. But what you can always compete on, the true egalitarian aspect to success, is hard work. You can always work harder than the next guy.”
  • What is the ultimate quantification of success? For me, it’s not how much time you spend doing what you love. It’s how little time you spend doing what you hate.

Seth Godin

  • If You Generate Enough Bad Ideas, a Few Good Ones Tend to Show Up  
  • 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?’
  • “I think we need to teach kids two things: 
  • 1) how to lead, and  
  • 2) how to solve interesting problems.

James Altucher

  • “What if [you] just can’t come up with 10 ideas? Here’s the magic trick: If you can’t come up with 10 ideas, come up with 20 ideas. . . . You are putting too much pressure on yourself. Perfectionism is the ENEMY of the idea muscle.
  • Haven’t Found Your Overarching, Single Purpose? Maybe You Don’t Have To. 
  • “Forget purpose. It’s okay to be happy without one. The quest for a single purpose has ruined many lives.”

Scott Adams

  • 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.

Chase Jarvis:

  • Specialization is for insects.

Chris Young

  • Hold the standard. Ask for help. Fix it. Do whatever’s necessary. But don’t cheat.

Daymond John

  • “If you go out there and start making noise and making sales, people will find you. Sales cure all. You can talk about how great your business plan is and how well you are going to do. You can make up your own opinions, but you cannot make up your own facts. Sales cure all.”
  • “Money is a great servant but a horrible master.”

The Canvas Strategy

  • When you are just starting out, we can be sure of a few fundamental realities: 
  • 1) You’re not nearly as good or as important as you think you are; 
  • 2) you have an attitude that needs to be readjusted; 
  • 3) most of what you think you know or most of what you learned in books or in school is out of date or wrong.
  • There’s one fabulous way to work all of that out of your system: Attach yourself to people and organizations who are already successful, subsume your identity into theirs, and move both forward simultaneously. It’s certainly more glamorous to pursue your own glory—though hardly as effective. Obeisance is the way forward.

Neil Strauss

  • The biggest mistake you can make is to accept the norms of your time.
  • One of the best pieces of advice I’ve received for writing was a mantra: “Two crappy pages per day.”  

Justin Boreta

  • “Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming ‘Wow! What a Ride!’”—Hunter S. Thompson

Peter Diamandis

  • How to Find Your Driving Purpose or Mission:
  • Peter poses the following three questions: 
  • “What did you want to do when you were a child, before anybody told you what you were supposed to do? What was it you wanted to become? What did you want to do more than anything else?  
  • “If Peter Diamandis or Tim Ferriss gave you $1 billion, how would you spend it besides the parties and the Ferraris and so forth? If I asked you to spend $1 billion improving the world, solving a problem, what would you pursue?  
  • “Where can you put yourself into an environment that gives maximum exposure to new ideas, problems, and people? Exposure to things that capture your ‘shower time’ [those things you can’t stop thinking about in the shower]?”

Sophia Amoruso

  • “I just really want people to remember that they’re capable of doing everything that the people they admire are doing. Maybe not everything, but—don’t be so impressed."

B.J. Novak

  • “Any time I’m telling myself, ‘But I’m making so much money,’ that’s a warning sign that I’m doing the wrong thing.”
  • Money can always be regenerated. Time and reputation cannot.

Maria Popova

  • "If you’re looking for a formula for greatness, the closest we’ll ever get, I think, is this: Consistency driven by a deep love of the work."
  • ‘Those who work much, do not work hard.’

Jocko Willink

  • “Two Is One and One Is None.”
  • What Makes a Good Commander?
  • “The immediate answer that comes to mind is ‘humility.’ Because you’ve got to be humble, and you’ve got to be coachable."

Sebastien Junger

  • "The hardest thing you’re ever going to do in your life is fail at something, and if you don’t start failing at things, you will not live a full life. You’ll be living a cautious life on a path that you know is pretty much guaranteed to more or less work. That’s not getting the most out of this amazing world we live in. You have to do the hardest thing that you have not been prepared for in this school or any school: You have to be prepared to fail. That’s how you’re going to expand yourself and grow. As you work through that process of failure and learning, you will really deepen into the human being you’re capable of being.”
  • “Who would you die for? What ideas would you die for? The answer to those questions, for most of human history, would have come very readily to any person’s mouth."

General Stanley McChrystal & Chris Fussell

  • You should have a running list of three people that you’re always watching:
  • someone senior to you that you want to emulate,
  • a peer who you think is better at the job than you are and who you respect, and
  • someone subordinate who’s doing the job you did—one, two, or three years ago—better than you did it.
  • three individuals that you’re constantly measuring yourself off of, and you’re constantly learning from them, you’re going to be exponentially better than you are.”
  • “You can tell the true character of a man by how his dog and his kids react to him.”

Shay Carl

  • “The secrets to life are hidden behind the word ‘cliché.’”

Kevin Kelly

  • 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.  
  • One manual project that every human should experience?  
  • “You need to build your own house, your own shelter. It’s not that hard to do, believe me. I built my own house.”
  • The Worst Case: A Sleeping Bag and Oatmeal

Is This What I So Feared?

  • The teachings of great men, I shall give you also a lesson: Set aside a certain number of days, during which you shall be content with the scantiest and cheapest fare, with coarse and rough dress, saying to yourself the while: “Is this the condition that I feared?”  
  • How might you put this into practice? Here are a few things I’ve done repeatedly for 3 to 14 days at a time to simulate losing all my money: 
  • Sleeping in a sleeping bag, whether on my living room floor or outside.
  • Wearing cheap white shirts and a single pair of jeans for the entire 3 to 14 days.
  • Using or a similar service to live in hosts’ homes for free, even if in your own city.
  • Eating only A) instant oatmeal and/or B) rice and beans.
  • Drinking only water and cheap instant coffee or tea.
  • Cooking everything using a Kelly Kettle. This is a camping device that can generate heat from nearly anything found in your backyard or on a roadside (e.g., twigs, leaves, paper).
  • Fasting, consuming nothing but water and perhaps coconut oil or powdered MCT oil (see page 24 for more on fasting).
  • Accessing the Internet only at libraries.

Whitney Cummings

  • Perfectionism leads to procrastination, which leads to paralysis.
  • Happiness is wanting what you have.

Lazy: A Manifesto (Tim Kreider)

  • Book is We Learn Nothing  
  • I did make a conscious decision, a long time ago, to choose time over money, since you can always make more money. And I’ve always understood that the best investment of my limited time on earth is to spend it with people I love. I suppose it’s possible I’ll lie on my deathbed regretting that I didn’t work harder, write more, and say everything I had to say, but I think what I’ll really wish is that I could have one more round of Delanceys with Nick, another long late-night talk with Lauren, one last good hard laugh with Harold. Life is too short to be busy.

Naval Ravikant

  • Successful and Happy—Different Cohorts? 
  • “If you want to be successful, surround yourself with people who are more successful than you are, but if you want to be happy, surround yourself with people who are less successful than you are.”
  • 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.
  • “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.”

Josh Waitzkin

  • “Interval training [often at midday or lunch break] and meditation together are beautiful habits to develop to cultivate the art of turning it on and turning it off.”
  • This may sound clichéd, but how you do anything is how you do everything.
  • Lateral thinking or thematic thinking, the ability to take a lesson from one thing and transfer it to another, is one of the most important disciplines that any of us can cultivate.

Brené Brown

  • “A person’s success in life can usually be measured by the number of uncomfortable conversations he or she is willing to have.”
  • To Be Trusted, Be Vulnerable  
  • People always [think] you gain trust first and then you’re vulnerable with people.  
  • But the truth is, you can’t really earn trust over time with people without being somewhat vulnerable [first].
  • Everything came when I completely dove in fearlessly and made the content that I needed to make as a kind of artist . . . I got out of my own way. I stopped doubting myself, and the universe winked at me when I did that, so to speak.

Bryan Johnson

  • Is It an Itch or a Burn? 
  • “I have a lot of conversations with people who want to start their own thing, and one of my favorite questions to ask is, ‘Is this an itch, or is it burning?’ If it is just an itch, it is not sufficient."

Robert Rodriguez

  • For a lot of people, that’s the part that keeps them back the most. They think, ‘Well, I don’t have an idea, so I can’t start.’ I know you’ll only get the idea once you start. It’s this totally reverse thing. You have to act first before inspiration will hit. You don’t wait for inspiration and then act, or you’re never going to act, because you’re never going to have the inspiration, not consistently.”


  • “Enjoy it.” —the best answer I’ve heard to what I always ask close friends: “What should I do with my life?”

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