With over 300 episodes available if can be a bit daunting working out where to find the best Tim Ferriss podcasts to start listening to. Latest stats I saw (May 2018) was that he's had over 300 million downloads of the show so you're in good company in wanting to add it to your playlist. Tim Ferriss is someone who knows a few things and has access to some great guests.
Not all of the shows are the same. Some feature guests, others are shorter summaries where Tim covers a particular topic and others are where he answers questions from the audience.
Some of the best Tim Ferriss podcasts are where he interviews guests. My top 5 are:
This podcast is titled 'The Man Who Studied 1,000 Deaths and Learned How to Live'. BJ Miller is a Palliative Care Doctor and a triple amputee. In this episode he talks about death, not exactly most people's favourite subject matter but that's what makes it so engaging. He talks about our reluctance to deal with death, even though it’s something that happens to everyone. And he makes a compelling argument for a better approach to how we think about it and how we handle it. He's also done a TED talk which I thought was OK but not as good as this interview.
Joe Gebbia is the co-founder and CPO of AirBnB. At 2hrs 45min this is a long interview but so worth it. Joe is a great story teller and the open format means that nothing needed to be condensed and he could take his time fleshing out each story. This is an incredibly engaging listen and amazingly, didn’t even get to the AirBnB part of the story. That’s for round 2 which I hope is sooner rather than later.
Seems like an easy pick for the best Tim Ferriss podcasts list to include a well known billionaire who constantly makes headlines but they covered topics in this podcast episode that surprised me. It was great to hear Sir Richard talk about things other than business that he’s motivated by and he seemed very relaxed and comfortable. I've listened to a few interviews with him and while he is usually friendly, sometimes he ends up not really saying much. But not this time. In this interview he talks about things like ‘clean meat’, blockchain, drug legalisation, coping with dyslexia and much more.
Marc is a venture capitalist, innovative thinker and considered one of the founding fathers of the internet. He’s not afraid to say, in his rapid-fire way, what he thinks. I had several 'wow' moments listening to him talk but probably the thing that has stayed with me the most was when he was talking about attitudes to failing as an entrepreneur. He doesn't agree with the whole 'fail fast' approach because the emphasis is on 'failing'. If you believe that you get what you focus on then that isn't a good strategy for success.
Apart from a fantastic episode title - How to be creative like a Motherf*cker - this is a great interview with Cheryl Strayed, author of the #1 New York Times best seller Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail. This is an honest and engaging chat with someone who has battled and documented her creative challenges. And she's worked out how she writes best with a young family - by renting a hotel room for a few days so she can focus completely on what she's creating - rather than feeling guilty for not following the normal 'write everyday' advice from most writers.
These type of episodes tend to be much shorter, usually under an hour and often more like 30 minutes when you take out the 4-5 minute intros and outros. Some are just Tim talking and others draw on comments from different guests around a particular topic.
Episode 267, 26 September 2017
Because who doesn’t want a great night's sleep?
Episode 253, 19 July 2017
This is a summary of recurring themes from interviewing over 200 guests and asking about their morning routines.
Episode 181, 22 August 2016
This is a short episode but explores how we use time, particularly as entrepreneurs and business owners.
Episode 122, 29 November 2015
Another short episode but packed with good suggestions for life.
"Philosophy is an operating system for making life decisions"
"Being busy is not the same as being productive. In fact, being busy is a form of laziness - lazy thinking and indiscriminate action"
"Conquoring fear = defining fear"
"Tonight I will be in my bed"
Chris Sacca (what he says to himself when he's doing a physical challenge like a marathon to keep himself going)
"Smart people should make things."
"With systems even if you don't know what you want to achieve in the long run you can still benefit from the experience."
Scott Adams (on why he prefers to focus on systems rather than goals)
"Easy choice, hard life. Hard choices, easy life."
Besides a number of practical habits I’ve picked up as a result of listening to Tim's podcasts and reading his books, my thinking has altered too.
I’d only ever touched on philosophy at random times before but I’ve heard more of it through Tim’s podcast. He’s a big fan of Marcus Aurelius and Stoic philosophy. He talks about philosophy as being an operating system for life. A framework for making decisions.
One of his guests, Ryan Holiday, wrote a book called ‘The Obstacle is the Way’. The book is based on Stoic philosophy. After listening to the audio version of the book, I find that I come back to that concept often. The idea that obstacles are just opportunities to learn is both liberating and inspiring.
A recent example of how this plays out for me is what happened in working with a client recently. A one page strategic plan is one of the key things that I create with small business clients. I had put a lot of work into the design and I felt the layout was good. Done.
The client accepted the plan created for them but kept asking what the strategy was. The one page plan wasn’t clear to them. They could see it but they didn’t get it. I'd explain it, they'd nod but then say the following week that they still didn't get it. It was a frustrating loop.
But rather than continue to get annoyed, we worked together to tweak the design. Together we made it more user friendly and added extra text and breaks in the layout to make it clearer.
And I’m grateful that they challenged me because I now have a far better plan. It's now a plan that anyone, not just marketers, can decipher and follow.
From that experience I learnt that having something sorted in my head doesn’t mean that is the best way to do it. Or that my way is going to get the best result.
You could say I’ve always been a routine queen. I find having routines calming and a more productive way to be. It’s an antidote to both the chaos and the possibilities of each day. But Tim took it up a level by discussing the concept of decision fatigue.
We can all suffer from it. Having a routine is a way to avoid wasting decision making energy on simple activities. Instead, save it for those decisions that have a bigger impact.
In the past I had applied routines to what I did outside of work (exercise, grocery shopping, skin care). I wasn’t as good at getting productive routines within my workday. Inspired by wanting to avoid decision fatigue I read ‘How to Be a Productivity Ninja’ by Graham Allcott. This gave me the tools to overhaul my work processes.
One of the central concepts in the book is the importance of setting up a second brain. This to-do system becomes the dumping ground for any prompts that pop into your head.
I now have this in place through some software called Omnifocus that syncs with my iphone. There were a few different systems tested before I settled on this one. I found Omnifocus gave me the most flexibility to structure my ‘second brain’ in a way that made sense to my ‘first brain’.
I think I've always had this yearning for learning but Tim has fuelled this even more. The wide spectrum of guests that he’s had on the podcast and the different concepts he discusses in his books keep spurring me on.
By listening to the episodes and following up on a few of the resources recommended, I’m constantly thinking about how to improve. How to find a better way. And it’s invigorating.
The best thing is that all this learning feels effortless and enriching. I have the Tim Ferriss podcast playing in the car or at home while I’m doing something with my hands like cooking or getting ready in the morning. In other words, its nothing like the formal learning I remember from school and university.
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