In 2007 while hiking in Hawaii, my friend Leo was asking me questions about my book Rough Living: Tips and Tales of a Vagabond. When I told him it was about how to live without being a wage-slave, he said “So you’re like Tim Ferriss, the guy who wrote the the 4-Hour Work-Week.”
“The what?” I asked. Yeah. I was apparently the last one to hear about Tim. While I wish I could have said “Yeah, I’m just like Tim Ferriss” – it isn’t even close to the truth. Check out his mini-bio from The Huffington Post:
Serial entrepreneur and ultra-vagabond Timothy Ferriss has been featured in The New York Times, National Geographic Traveler, Maxim, and other media. He is a guest lecturer at Princeton University in High-tech Entrepreneurship and The 4-Hour Workweek (Crown/Random House) is his debut book on ideal lifestyle design. He speaks five languages, runs a multinational firm from wireless locations worldwide, and has been a world-record holder in tango, a national champion in Chinese kickboxing, and an actor on a hit television series in Hong Kong. He is 32 years old.
Let’s see – world records, all those magazines, best sellers, five languages, owner of a multi-national firm, actor, kickboxing champ? Yeah…none of that is me. I wish. By the way, the Huffpo bio is out of date because Tim has now written two more best sellers – The 4-Hour Body and The 4-Hour Chef (You can read my review of The 4-Hour Chef here). Also, his page at wikipedia says he speaks six languages now.
Holy shit! Yeah, I admit it. I wish I had the success record of Tim Ferriss. If you’ve never heard of Tim, a good place to start is by following him on Twitter. (@tferriss).
The truth is, so much has been written about Ferriss that it would be very difficult for me to add anything new. I’m going to provide another quote, this time from the New Yorker.
Every generation gets the self-help guru that it deserves. In 1937, at the height of the Depression, Napoleon Hill wrote “Think and Grow Rich,” which claimed to distill the principles that had made Andrew Carnegie so wealthy. “The Power of Positive Thinking,” by Norman Vincent Peale, which was published in 1952, advised readers that techniques such as “a mind-emptying at least twice a day” would lead to success. By the seventies, Werner Erhard and est promised material wealth through spiritual enlightenment. The eighties and nineties saw management-consultancy maxims married with New Age thinking, with books such as Stephen Covey’s “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.” In the past decade or so, there has been a rise in books such as “Who Moved My Cheese?,” by Spencer Johnson, which promise to help readers maximize their professional potential in an era of unpredictable workplaces.
Ferriss’s books appeal to those for whom cheese, per se, has ceased to have any allure. “This book is not about finding your ‘dream job,’ ” Ferriss writes in “The 4-Hour Workweek.” “I will take it as a given that, for most people, somewhere between six and seven billion of them, the perfect job is the one that takes the least time.” But Ferriss doesn’t recommend idleness. Rather, he prescribes a kind of hyperkinetic entrepreneurialism of the body and soul, with every man his own life coach, angel investor, Web master, personal trainer, and pharmaceutical test subject. One’s body can become one’s own laboratory: with “a few tweaks,” Ferriss suggests, its performance can be maximally enhanced—just as in the movie “Limitless,” but without the nasty withdrawal symptoms.
Where in the world did this guy come from?
Ferriss comes from the Hampton’s, that part of New York where the richest of the rich spend their leisure time. He wasn’t however, the son of a billionaire. His father sold real estate and his mother worked as a physical therapist – certainly he wasn’t a poor kid, but according to him, he wasn’t a rich one either. He attended the prestigious St. Paul’s boarding school and had a year of studying abroad in Japan. After that, he went on to study at Princeton before moving to Silicon Valley and starting his own vitamin supplement company.
Along the way, he hacked his way into winning kick boxing championships, world records in Tango, and learning all those languages. The secret? He looks for the loopholes. According to Ferriss, he has been doing that his whole life. It probably helped that he found a great mentor: Jack Canfield author of the Chicken Soup for …. books.
He’s not without controversy. Read his reviews on Amazon and you will come across the words huckster, liar, and con-man. He’s been compared to PT Barnum and is often referred to as the world’s #1 self promoter. There’s not doubt about the last one and as for the rest, there are always haters when a person finds incredible success as he has done. (Unless you are Chris Guillebeau). No one can argue that Ferris has been unsuccessful.
This last is from the bio page on his blog, which, I recommend you read:
Tim has amassed a diverse (and certainly odd) roster of experiences:
- Princeton University guest lecturer in High-Tech Entrepreneurship and Electrical Engineering
- Finance and Entrepreneurship advisor at Singularity University at NASA Ames, co-founded by Peter Diamandis and Ray Kurzweil.
- First American in history to hold a Guinness World Record in tango
- Speaker of 5 languages
- National Chinese kickboxing champion
- Horseback archer (yabusame) in Nikko, Japan
- 2009 Henry Crown Fellow at the Aspen Institute
- Political asylum researcher
- MTV breakdancer in Taiwan
- Hurling competitor in Ireland
- Wired Magazine’s “Greatest Self-Promoter of 2008?
Tim received his BA from Princeton University in 2000, where he studied in the Neuroscience and East Asian Studies departments. He developed his nonfiction writing with Pulitzer Prize winner John McPhee and formed his life philosophies under Nobel Prize winner Kenzaburo Oe.
I think back to Leo asking if I was like Tim Ferriss. Nope. Not at all. Tim Ferriss is like nobody else in this world, and that, is exactly what we do have in common.