If you've ever felt bad about yourself for wasting away on the couch watching old episodes of Empty Nest, don't talk to Timothy Ferriss, or you will feel so much worse. The author of the The 4-Hour Workweek, The 4-Hour Body, and most recently The 4-Hour Chef is also an entrepreneur, angel investor, public speaker, and once did steroids, thus disqualifying him in the eyes of most sports writers for the Baseball Hall of Fame. In our talk, Ferriss covers the ideas behind meta-learning, how to make Osso "Buko" in five minutes, and better uses of your time than browsing through your exes Facebook albums.
On The Types Of People He Looked For When Researching His Book: "The key is not just to search for the best people, like lets say a Michael Phelps. But to search for the anomalies, who are the curve-breakers. Like Shinji Takeuchi, who is the CEO of Total Immersion Swimming. The second most viewed swimming video on Youtube video behind Michael Phelps was Takeuchi precisely because he learned to swim in his thirties and his technique makes it look absolutely effortless to glide through the water. So I'm looking for people who've accelerated the most in the shortest amount of time. Like Daniel Tammet who learned to speak Icelandic well enough in seven days to go on TV and be interviewed. There's a method to that madness-- just because people are outliers doesn't mean they shouldn't be models. So my job is to find the mutants, and pull the recipes from them that people can replicate."
On Becoming Quite Awesome At Something Very Quickly: "I think it's very practical and realistic for people to believe that they can become world-class, meaning top 5% of the general population, in almost any skill in six months or less. Let's look at golf. You have to have a genetic predisposition and start at the age of five to seven to be Tiger Woods. But you can start in your twenties or thirties or well after that, and get to the top 5% in the world within six to twelve months with no problem. Or language. To speak almost any language and be considered fluent you need 1200 to 2000 words. And that represents, for most languages, less than three percent of their total existing vocabulary. In other words, if you want to be considered fluent 29 days out of 30 in any given month, then you can do it in twelve weeks, or less. If you want to be considered fluent 30 days out of 30, then you need to study for 20 years. So it's really a question of rapidly diminishing returns."
On How He Managed To Not Lose His Mind Researching Such An Extensive Book: "The research for the book was really intense because I was traveling all over the world, and also had to effectively run a start-up of 30-40 people at any given time, with multiple photographers, recipe testers, illustrators around the world, etc. To keep track of all that, I predominantly used Evernote to collect everything. So I used it for taking photographs of wine labels or ingredient lists that I could then search later, I used it to pull articles offline so I could read them on my phone on airplanes, I also used it to keep track in various folders of different cuisines and how I could most easily teach them to people. Keeping track of all of that, I effectively used it as my external brain. It was my central repository."
On Exactly How To Make A Dinner That Might Get You Sex In Less Than Five Minutes: "Osso Bucco is thought to be very complex and expensive, but in fact, it takes less than five minutes of hands on time to prepare. I'll tell you exactly how to do it, it's super simple: You're going to get lamb shanks, instead of veal, because veal, as PJ O'Rourke said, "is a very young beef, but like a very young girlfriend, it is cute but boring and expensive." Get four, bc the leftovers are amazing. One bunch of carrots, canned tomatoes (I like San Marzano), garlic powder, olive oil, white wine, and then salt and pepper. This is all you do: brush the carrots, break them in half, and create a bed of them at the bottom of a Dutch Oven. 40 seconds. Then put in the lamb shanks. Five seconds. Pour in the can of tomatoes. Two seconds. Then pour in enough white wine to submerge everything 50% (so half a bottle of wine), then toss in a three finger pinch of garlic powder, then about two tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, a bunch of pepper and some salt, and cover it and throw it in the oven for two hours at 350. Then you pull it out and you're done. It's like the most amazing wool-over-the-eyes, Jedi mind trick of seduction ever."
On The Pluses and Minuses Of Drinking Something Called A Pine Pollen Cocktail: "That stuff is nasty. You should only use that stuff for yourself and not for a chick. It will not improve your odds if you give it to a chick. But for you, well, it's biochemically identical to testosterone. So you're effectively getting, like, a Mark McGwire cocktail."
Then we did a lightning round. Essentially, I gave Tim a bunch of inane, wasteful activities guys tend to do, and (roughly) how long they take, and he told me what you could do instead that would be a lot more useful and productive:
Masturbate (4min): "You could read an article that I wrote called How to Read 300% Faster, and probably double your reading speed in four minutes. Just by using your index finger on the page and your peripheral vision so you're not focusing on the words on the left and right edges."
Shower (11 to 15min): "You could learn how to make a rose out of a napkin. Go to FourHourChef.com/napkin-folding and check it out. It will pay huge dividends."
Watch A DVR'd Episode of Swift Justice With Jackie Glass (30min): "You could learn how to make DIY shot glasses out of ice that're blue colored."
Scan through their exes Facebook photo albums, repeatedly flipping back and forth between the ones titled "Maui With the Fam" and "Oh What A Night" (41 min): "You could memorize all the most versatile verbs of Spanish you need for basic conversation. There are 8 to 12 helping verbs that basically unlock all of the other verbs for you. You'd enjoy yourself a lot more than plotting homicide looking at old Facebook photos."
Take a Zumba Class (60min): "Spend an hour in a floatation tank, a sensory deprivation floatation tank, which you can do in most major cities. And it feels like a two week vacation when you get out.
Go See Hansel and Gretel Witch Hunters (94min): "You could read the entire Meta-learning speed section of my book, and learn how to double speed. I think that'd be a pretty good investment of an hour and a half."
And Finally, A Bonus Quote, Taken Slightly Out of Context: "I also learned how to catch and kill and cook pigeons, something that started with a fascination with homeless people.