[6:46] Introduction to this Episode
[8:20] Tim Ferriss and his book “Tools of Titans”
[9:51] How Tim Got Started in Business by Creating and Selling a Smart Drug That Turned Out to be a Physical Ergogenic Performance Enhancing Aid…
[12:12] The Ingredients of Tim’s First Supplement
[17:53] Stacks, Techniques, and Biohacks for Cognitive Function
[29:28] Quick Commercial Break/ Kimera Koffee
[32:38] Continuation/ How Did Tim Manage Lyme Disease
[43:23] Tim’s Work Space Environment
[50:18] Tim's Six-Piece Gym in a Bag
[56:49] Tim's Fascination with Gymnast Training
[1:05:45] Little Hacks and Tools Tim Picked Up From His Guests
[1:15:30] Longevity Protocols
[1:25:35] The Dead Person Tim Would Interview Given The Chance
[1:28:46] Why Tim Hasn’t Created a “brand”…
[1:35:29] Is Tim Satisfied With Where He's At Now
[1:41:39] End of Podcast
Ben: It's Ben Greenfield here in San Diego, California where I'm speaking at a former Navy SEAL Commander, former US Navy SEAL Commander Mark Divine, that's a mouthful. I'm speaking at his summit. And as usual, whenever I give a talk or something is recorded that I do, and you can get free access to it, or instant access to it, whatever the case may be, I'll always post that in the new weekly round-up over at bengreenfieldfitness.com. So if you go over there, I'll always put a link to the coolest videos, Pinterest images, Instagram posts, Snapchat stories, all the interesting things that I'm up to each week that can give you a better brain or body. So in this case if you subscribe to the free newsletter at bengreenfieldfitness.com, or if you simply visit bengreenfieldfitness.com on a Friday, then you would be able to get access to that weekly round-up. It's highly entertaining. I hope you like it.
For the last two years, my guest on today's show has himself a podcast, or interviewed more than 200 folks. World class performers ranging from super celebrities like Jamie Foxx and Arnold Schwarzenegger, to professional athletes, and icons of power lifting, and gymnastics, and surfing, to legendary special operations commander, to black market biochemists, and beyond. And for many of the folks that he interviews, this is the first time that they've actually agreed to do like a two to three hour interview. And this huge amount of depth in podcasting has helped him to create a very massive collection of tools, tactics, and “inside baseball” type of stuff you aren't going to find anywhere else.
Well, if you hadn't yet guessed based on that description, my guest is the great Tim Ferriss. And just this week, Tim took his notebook of all these high leverage tools that he vetted, and explored, and has been applying to his own life, and he published it for the entire world, for you and me, to delve into all in the form of this nearly 700-page book that could probably double as a self-defense weapon, or a very hefty paperweight. As a matter of fact, during this interview, it served as the stand for my microphone since I was indeed interviewing from the hotel room.
The name of his book is called “Tools of Titans: The Tactics, Routines, and Habits of Billionaires, Icons, and World-class Performers”. And it delves into all these tactics and philosophies Tim has picked up from his guests and used in things like high-stakes negotiations, and high-risk environments, and large business dealings, and saved him a lot of money, and a lot of years of frustration, and even helped him to, as you're going to discover in this podcast, really reinvent his body, and his brain, and do things like eliminate Lyme disease, and even change the way that he approaches his entire year in terms of the interesting question you're going to hear today that he asked himself at the beginning of the year.
So quite a bit here, and I'm going to put all the show notes over at bengreenfieldfitness.com/titans because I took furious show notes as Tim was speaking. So bengreenfieldfitness.com/titans, and that's also where you can go to check out Tim's new book as well.
Now before we dive into a few of today's supporters for the show, one quick thing. You'll notice Tim breaks up just a few times, and that's just the nature of recording from a hotel room. It is what it is. I do all my own little hotel biohacking techniques to reduce WiFi, like I get an ethernet cable from the front desk, and plug it into the WiFi, and unplug the router at night, et cetera. So perhaps I jacked up the internet completely. But either way, it's very subtle. I don't think you'll notice it that much. But just a warning.
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This podcast is also brought to you by something that operates on the fact that every single cell in your body synchronizes its activity with the sun, meaning that you have photoreceptors spread all throughout your body, including photoreceptor proteins on the surface of your brain, very similar to those that exist in your eyes. So in the same way that light can stimulate your eye and lead to things like normalization of circadian rhythms, or better sleep at night if you've been exposed to light early in the day, you can also access those same type of photoreceptors by going instead through the brain.
And there is this device, it's called the HumanCharger and it's two LED set earbuds that fit into your ears. You turn it on, and it causes this blue-enriched white light to flow into your ear canals right into the light sensitive regions of your brain. You put it on for 12 minutes, and it blasts your brain with light. It's like a cup of coffee for your skull, but it can help fight the winter blues, reduce the effects of jet lag, increase mental alertness, all sorts of cool things that happen when you just stick it in your ears for a few minutes a day. So you can get 20% off of the HumanCharger when you go to humancharger.com/ben and use code BFitness. Humancharger.com/ben, use code BFitness. That'll get you 20% off, and you can stick funky things in your ears. Just like me. Alright. So that's enough. I know you've been waiting with bated breath, whatever that means. So let's dive into today's episode with Tim Ferriss.
In this episode of The Ben Greenfield Fitness Show:
“I was at 10% capacity for, say, nine months. It was the scariest experience, certainly cognitively, I've ever had. I felt like I had dementia. And in some ways, I probably did.” “I am simply trying to maximize strength, and mobility, and ranges in a way that addresses my glaring weaknesses. And it's been a real revelation for me.” “If I had a gun against my head and I could only make any decision about this or hear about this for an hour a week, what would I do? And no matter how absurd the answer is, like what are the answers? I will ask that very, very frequently.”
He’s an expert in human performance and nutrition, voted America’s top personal trainer and one of the globe’s most influential people in health and fitness. His show provides you with everything you need to optimize physical and mental performance. He is Ben Greenfield. “Power, speed, mobility, balance – whatever it is for you that’s the natural movement, get out there! When you look at all the studies done… studies that have shown the greatest efficacy…” All the information you need in one place, right here, right now, on the Ben Greenfield Fitness Podcast.
Ben: Hey, folks. It's Ben Greenfield here, and I am going to blame today's podcast guest for my relatively sleepless night last night because his 682, possibly plus, page mammoth of a book entitled “Tools of Titans” arrived at my hotel room yesterday, and I spent the past evening devouring it with my skinny little hotel pen. And now the man himself is here to delve into the tactics, routines, and habits of billionaires, icons, and world-class performers, the subtitle of his book, “Tools of Titans”. Tim Ferriss, welcome to the show, man.
Tim: Thanks for having me. And for reading my, yet again, long subtitle. I see you have a fondness for the long subtitles.
Ben: Yes. Long subtitles and bible-esque books. This thing is a, you hear a crashing sound here in my hotel room from which I'm recording, it's Tim's book crashing to the ground.
Tim: Yeah. Good for self-defense. You could attach a handle, it would make it a kettlebell, as Jocko Willink, said to me. Many uses.
Ben: Yeah. I'm about to head down to Costa Rica after this and it'll be in my backpack. So I'll get a little bit of extra rucking experience through the airports. So let's back up to, I guess, long before you wrote this book, Tim. Like way back to 4-Hour Work Week days, the ancient times. Is it true that after you studied neuroscience that you actually got your start in business by producing a smart drug?
Tim: That is true. I suppose a caveat. I, very first, after graduating from college, ended up going to the west coast. So I went from Princeton, to the West Coast, to the Bay Area to find my riches during one of the internet golden ages, and didn't time that very well. I landed there around '99, so everything imploded about a year and a half later. And during that period of time, I started using lunch breaks and weekends to plan the formulation of this smart drug effectively.
And that came from what I was piecing together on my own, in college, and I would use the FDA personal importation policy at the time to get all of these different compounds from Europe mostly, like hydergina and so on. Vasopressin or desmopressin depending on which parrticular manufacture you're using. And, so short answer, yes. This was the first organization and international company that I built, which was all based on a single skew with the name BrainQuicken. And, yes, it feels like ancient history to me.
Ben: It's almost like accounting software.
Tim: It's almost like accounting software. Actually, I'm really glad you mentioned that because I happened to be based in Mountain View, where Intuit, which makes Quicken, was also based. And if you remember the yellow pages back in the day, or the white pages, for you kids listening, that was the internet. And at the time I was listed and BrainQuicken got broken into two names. So I, every single week, would get phone calls to my business line from people in like Iowa and Michigan who were 65 years old and couldn't figure out how to use their tax counting software.
Ben: Right. That's amazing. So what actually did you have in the drug? Or, I don't know if it was a nootropic or a drug, because there's all these compounds from Alpha BRAIN, to CILTEP, to Qualiay popping up all over the place. I'm curious what your early day smart drug actually looked like.
Tim: Yeah. It was a long time ago and there are a lot of ingredients, I'm not going to get them all, but those that come to mind would be, for instance, different forms of choline, just to assist neurotransmitter production, L-tyrosine, ditto, white willow bark extract, just for its effects on cycloamine, and so on. Phosphatidylserine was in there, which is very, very, at least at the time, was very expensive. That was one of the most expensive ingredients. 2-DMAE, vinpositine, or vinpositine, I've actually never heard it said by anyone credible, so I don't know how to say it, but it's effectively an extract of vincamine, huperzine-A, which is an acetylcholinesterase inhibitor, and a handful of others.
Ben: That's interesting. Those are a lot of the things, are you familiar Dr. Daniel Amen?
Tim: I do know the name, I don't know a lot about his work, other than he, I think he uses SPECT scans.
Ben: Yeah. SPECT scans to do brain mapping. But he actually did a study on reversal of some of the traumatic brain injury issues in NFL football players, and a lot of those same ingredients were in what he used to successfully reverse, I guess what it would be was hypoprofusion to the brain in these NFL players. So that's really interesting. Very many of those ingredients you just listed.
Tim: Very cool. Yeah, it's good to hear. And it's important to realize also, for those people listening, and I know you know this, but the dietary supplement industry has a bad reputation in some cases for very good reasons. There are a lot of bad actors. But if we're looking at the compounds, the actual materials that fall, say, under the category legally of dietary supplement, versus over the counter drug versus prescription, versus illicit, these are all legal distinctions and not biochemical distinctions. So in the dietary supplement world, it is not the case that everything you would find labeled such is ineffective. There are there are many things that are simply unattractive commercially from an intellectual property standpoint, and therefore you're not going to have any type of pharmaceutical company investing in drug development if it's an expired patent or something like that.
And a good example of that would be vinpocetine or huperzine-A. I mean, these are extremely powerful and have actually been researched quite extensively. And as would be the case with, say, aspirin for instance, and vitamin C, which has its own issues, I tend to prefer to take an intravenous administration of some of those that really can cause GI distress, but the point being that a lot of these came directly from the first research I went to when I was in college, which would have been at the time, I don't know if I had access to PubMed, but certainly after graduating, that was one of the first to go-to resources that I used to gather a list of candidates that were: a.) legal, because not everything I used in college was, b.) effective according to the literature.
And ultimately that business ended up succeeding because I was very, very slow to listen to my customers, but eventually did when I had a lot of high-end NCAA athletes who effectively bought it for studying, and then they would send me e-mails along the lines of, “Hey, yeah. Better grades.” Whatever. That's great, but I'm faster off the blocks in sprinting, or I have improved my fill-in-the-blank sport that is partially dependent on reaction speed. And I thought, “Oh. You know what, dummy? Maybe you should listen to these people.” Because it turns out that Americans do not really want to get smarter, generally speaking, although they'll say that. And as soon as it was repositioned for athletics, that's when the company took off. So listen to thy customers, I suppose another lesson to take from all that.
Ben: Interesting. So did it change names and did you sell it?
Tim: It did! It did! So this is going to seem like a huge jump, but it went from BrainQuicken to BodyQuicken.
Ben: That's exactly what I was going to guess.
Tim: And ultimately got abbreviated to BodyQuick, I believe, at some point. But it was very successful. It's still around. It's still around.
Tim: And I ended up selling that company, which I thought, and if you actually look back to the “4-Hour Work Week”, I very erroneously said, and I think I added a footnote to [0:17:07] ______ in this, but I said there was no way I could ever sell the company for reasons A, B, C, D, and E. And it turned out that was yet another false assumption, and I kind of view entire professional career as being focused on questioning assumptions. And I made that assumption, and it was untrue. After two years of experimenting with technology and angel investing starting in 2007 when the book came out, two years later I sold the company, and product is still made, still shipped, still available, and I proved myself wrong. I had yet another self-limiting belief, and don't we all? So that was an eye opener for me as well.
Ben: Yeah. That's interesting. I'll have to look it up. I'm curious what stacks, when it comes to enhancing cognitive function, stacks, or techniques, or biohacks, whatever, the things that you would, whether it's infrared therapy, or TDCS, or any anything else for enhancing cognitive function that you're doing now that you don't think you would've actually discovered had it not been for some of the folks who you've had on the show. On your show.
Tim: Oh, there are a ton. And I would say that in general, maybe we can come back to this, but I've become more conservative about doing things to my brain in a direct fashion. It's a pretty sensitive instrument, and so I've become less aggressive with taking what you might consider smart drugs. Well, I'll tell you what I'm doing less of. First is taking, consuming drugs that are indicated for, say, dementia, and Parkinson's, and so on.
Back in the day, I was fascinated by Deprenyl and other types of pharmaceutical grade compounds that I'm no longer terribly gung-ho about using myself. But here are few of the tools that I have played with. Now I did use TDCS, so the transcranial direct current stimulation. Also have experiment with alternating current stimulation, and, let's see, direct magnetic stimulation, and had the chance to in fact be a subject in an experiment at UCSF, University of California San Francisco in the Gazzaley lab. So Adam Gazzaley who's a PhD, M.D. who was the podcast had me in. And ultimately that study, which looked at the combination of TDCS and a game called NeuroRacer, was on the cover of Nature magazine because they were able to, and I'm simplifying this of course, but effectively reversed cognitive decline along a couple of metrics so that 60 something year old subjects reverted to 20 year old, or 20 something year old performance. And the most fascinating part of all this is after they ended the intervention therapy, six months later, most of, I shouldn't say most, but many of the effects persisted six months later. So that's very interesting to me.
I personally decided that I am going to wait before doing a lot of TDCS, but there are things that I am using. For instance, I've become very interested in, and this might seem old school, but different forms of inducing ketosis, I know you're familiar with this, whether that is exogenous ketones, or fasting, and supplementing with, say, different types of MCT oils and powders. And the reason that became so interesting to me is that my priorities have shifted a little bit as it relates to brain function, and that was catalyzed by Lyme disease. And I think Lyme disease is very over diagnosed, I think it's misdiagnosed, I think there are many charlatans with ridiculous therapies, and these people prey on the desperate.
However, I grew up on eastern Long Island. Everyone in my family has had Lyme and has one of the highest density of black-legged ticks, which a lot of people call deer ticks. So I was bitten by six ticks, nymphs specifically, which, in the lifecycle, you have to be most concerned about. I didn't develop a bull's eye rash, and I mistakenly assumed that meant that I did not contract Lyme. Consequently, ended up catching it about nine weeks later, after the symptoms became so severe that I was slurring speech, I couldn't say close friends' names, my joints were so swollen that I had trouble getting out of bed, and I was at 10% capacity for, say, nine months.
It was the scariest experience on certainly cognitively, I've ever had. I felt like I had dementia. And in some ways, I probably did. So what reversed that for me, and I've seen this in a number of friends who have reached out to me with Lyme as well, was deep ketosis and using more sophisticated tools than were available to me, say, in 1998, '99 when I first started experimenting with cyclical ketogenic diets and things like this. So with Precision Xtra in hand, X-T-R-A, from Abbott Labs, which I know you're familiar with, which I favor over the, say, breathalyzer models that you plug in via USB. They're just more detailed with the finger pricks for…
Ben: Yeah. Blood is more accurate. It's just less convenient, especially if you're typing frequently.
Tim: Yeah. Exactly. So that being said, I was able to then identify, once I hit 1.5 millimolars in blood concentration of ketone bodies, it was one of the most mind blowing transitions I've ever experienced physiologically. I went from feeling like I had dementia to, next morning, waking up and feeling like old Tim back at 100%. It was unbelievable. And I have thoughts on why that might be the case, whether it's mitochondrial dysfunction, or a problem with carbohydrate metabolism related to Lyme or one of its confections, but suffice to say that completely reverted me to my old self. And to this day, I feel like I have overcome, or done away with the symptoms of Lyme. So I still feel that way even though, 90% of the time, I'm not in ketosis. I'm probably following this low carb diet in some fashion or another. And that came from, primarily Dom D'Agostino who's a PhD and a well-published researcher in Florida who happens to also be able to, say, deadlift 500 pounds for…
Ben: Yeah. I was going to say he can also lift a crazy amount of weight.
Tim: Yeah. He's a beast, and Peter Attia. So Dr. Peter Attia, close friend of mine, one of the most impressive doctors, and well-credentialed doctors that I've ever met. So those two, both have athletic backgrounds, have walked me through some of the subtleties, and details, and shortcuts in some senses as it relates to ketosis, rapid induction of ketosis, and so on. So the longest chapter in “Tools of Titans”, well there are three really long chapters, and they're all related to your question. The first is Dominic D'Agostino. It's a long chapter on the details of fasting and ketosis primarily, but it talks about how I've formed a regimen and schedule for myself related to these thing. To the other two, which we may not go deep into, it's completely up to you, are related to psychedelics, and specifically with a focus on psilocybin.
And then, in a separate chapter, ayahuasca, which has become very trendy to talk about which I think is dangerous in some respects, it becoming something casually discussed. And then again ibogaine, which has particular application to opiate addiction. But in a microdosing capacity, I have found psychedelics to provide, and side note, these are almost all exceptionally illegal with severe legal penalties in the United States. So listener beware. The legal side effects often exceed the physical side effects, but microdosing, and which means sub-perceptual, you are not experiencing any hallucinations whatsoever, has some very fascinating applications to both…
Ben: Are you referring, by the way, to all three of those? The DHT, and the ibogaine, and then also the psilocybin for microdosing? Or just the psilocybin?
Tim: No. Yeah, let me clarify. I'm referring to, in my case, psilocybin and ibogaine, and both of which are, well, psilocybin's relatively easy to get a hold of. Ibogaine's much more difficult to get hold of. And when I say microdose, I'll get more specific, I mean 1/100 of a, let's call it, moderately high to high dose. It is a very, very small dose. And I find these to provide me at least, and this is consistent anecdotally, and I know that the plural of anecdote is not data, but at the same time recognizing that it's going to be a while. I'm funding research at Johns Hopkins, and UCSF, and so on, but it's going to be a while before we have really good placebo controlled, randomized studies on all of these compounds, particularly in a microdosing context. They provide, for me, an extended, say, two to three days. So a single dose in the morning on a Monday will provide me with an extended moderate, let's just say 20% reduction in anxiety or depressive tendencies for two to three days. And if I upped the dose slightly, then they are very useful for problem solving.
And this has been observed with LSD, which is not a compound of choice, but it's a very precise in its measurement, which makes it attractive for a lot of reasons. If you look at James Fadiman for instance, who's been involved with psychedelic research for decades, and he was recruited at one point to conduct a study, or at least be one of the experimenters in the study, that looked at how, not quite microdosing if we're talking about like 10 to 15 micrograms of LSD. Probably closer to 100 or 150 micrograms could be used for solving hard science problems, meaning the thirty five subjects, let's say, the exact details are in “Tales of Titans”, but from memory, see how I do, about thirty five subjects, they are trying to design novel circuit boards, or solve mathematical or physics problems that they've been stuck on for weeks or months, and 33 of the 35, something along those lines, had a solution at the end of a single day treatment and supportive therapy. So those are very interesting to me.
Ben: And that was with LSD?
Tim: That was with LSD specifically.
Ben: And that dosage would be far, far less than anything that would cause you to begin tripping.
Tim: Well, we're starting to creep up. We're starting, you will absolutely feel it at that dose, and I would suggest having supervision of some type. But it's more manageable than what you would consider a transcendental dose, or certainly a heroic dose where you are probably not going to be of this reality for at least several hours. That is perhaps not going to be conducive to thinking about mathematical problems.
Ben: So proceed with caution.
Ben: Hey. It's Ben Greenfield here we talked a little bit about nootropics and smart drugs already on this show, but what we didn't talk about was this special premium-grade form of nootropics that contains a bunch of all-natural amino acids that you would usually find in protein-rich foods, like liver, and shellfish, and eggs. But it's tough to get some of this stuff from your diet alone. However, if you happen to be a coffee drinker, you can have your cake and eat it too because there is this company called Kimera Koffee, and what they do is they add choline in the form of alpha-GPC, which I actually just talked about in my talk yesterday here at Unbeatable Mind. When it comes to building better hardware in your head, choline compounds are one of the best ways to do this.
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Music Plays again…
Ben: I want to back up just a little bit. You talked about Lyme disease, and I'm curious, did you actually do anything aside from ketosis to manage that or to eliminate the symptoms? I mean, are you healed now?
Tim: Yeah. I tried to bunch a wacky (censored) to be honest because I got to a point of desperation. Six months in where I've been using, or at least initially went through the fairly standard course doxycycline and so on, and I do think the antibiotics are a very important component of all of this. I am not anti-antibiotics train. I think that a huge boon to humanity as a development in western medicine. And when you need them, you really want to have them. But I tried a bunch of wacky stuff that really didn't seem to have any effect. So ketosis, ultimately, was the only thing that provoked a dramatic and noticeable effect for me after going through the normal course. There really wasn't anything else that I noticed too.
Ben: Yeah. That's fascinating. It makes me very curious about like the mechanism of action for something like elevated ketone bodies in restriction of Lyme disease.
Tim: Yeah, yeah. I don't know. I don't know. I mean there are effects of ketones that are well known, anti-inflammatory effects. So that could explain the decrease in joint pain. If you look at how Alzheimer's patients respond to ketosis, or even on a carbohydrate-rich diet, supplementation with, say, eight tablespoons of coconut oil, you can see some very striking improvements where, if people who are listening to this just Google Alzheimer's coconut oil clock test, the clock test is one of several different tests that can be used to assess the progression of Alzheimer's disease, and you ask the patient to draw a clock face. So a circle with some lines, and then 1 through 12. And what you'll see is this degeneration from something you clearly recognize as a clock, to one that kind of looks like a clock to things, that don't look like anything at all. They're just complete chicken scratch. And you will see that sometimes in reverse course, and go back to a clock that looks like a clock after a month or two months of supplementation with, say, seven to eight tablespoons of coconut oil a day. And I would imagine that there may be, because if you're looking at Alzheimer's, you're contending with amyloid plaques and denatured proteins that are difficult to reverse. I'm not saying that Lyme does that, but perhaps both of them affect. And in fact, Alzheimer's would fall under the, it would be reasonable with what I'm about to say, and I'll couch that in the fact that many doctors refer to, or I should researchers more accurately, refer to Alzheimer's as type 3 diabetes, brain diabetes.
So, if in Alzheimer's you're experiencing some form of brain diabetes, insulin insensitivity whereby you're not able to use glucose properly in brain tissue. If Lyme, through some mechanism or combination of mechanisms, has the same effect, so you're experiencing type 3 diabetes in the brain, or decreased glucose utilization in the brain, while supplementing with coconut oil or simply going into ketosis could have a very similar effect in both cases. Is that right? And I didn't try the coconut oil.
First, I went straight to ketosis, or I didn't consume enough coconut oil. I was consuming one or two tablespoons a day. And if it's about 60% by weight, MCTs, then you're not going to get as dramatic as certainly a ketotic effect as if you're going for the gold and actually measuring with a Precision Xtra. These days with the esters and so on available through many different companies, I mean there are so many now, but Pruvit, I'm traveling with and experimenting with this brand called Pruvit. I have vested interest. They just provide very convenient travel packs, and they don't taste like garbage, and they're relatively easy to mix. So for right now, while I am in New York City in full-on lockdown mode for book related stuff where I know it will be somewhat challenging to maintain a ketogenic diet, if my cognitive function starts to wane for whatever reason, and I think it's related to damage done during my Lyme experience or otherwise, then I will down some combination of BHB, beta-Hydroxybutyrate and MCT because a combination…
Ben: Have you had a chance to try these beta-Hydroxybutyrate esters, the ketone esters that Dr. Veech talks about? The ones that are far more potent than the ketone salts.
Tim: Yeah. I have not played around with his particular type. I know that they can catalyze some really dramatic changes.
Ben: I had a chance to get my hands on a bottle a couple of times, and within 10 minutes, I went from below one up to about five for ketones on millimolar value.
Tim: Yeah. So this is a good example of how my thinking has changed in the last few years. And I'm not saying this is entirely rational, but I really want to wait for the dust to settle on some of the use of ketones salts, at least in subjects who have moderate to high glucose levels, if that makes sense. And I'm just…
Ben: In a way that replicates ketoacidosis, having simultaneous high blood glucose values and high ketone values.
Tim: Yeah. Exactly. And that's just not something that is naturally occurring, except in pathogenic states. So for me, I am happy, and this is also related to my experimentation with, say, compounds in the psychedelic class that have existed and been used for thousands of years, for millennia by human beings. In certain cases like this, I'm happy to do fasting, which I do on a regular basis now and I have a schedule for it. I'm happy to enter ketosis, happy to consume coconut oil, and other adjuncts. But my consumption of exogenous ketones, which, I don't know if you've seen this, but it's funny how much the internet calls them androgenous ketones. Just a hint for people, so…
Ben: It still sounds scientific when it ends with the OUS.
Tim: Yeah. So just for people listening, if you're trying to remember, this is how I remember the difference between endogenous, meaning you produce it in your own body, and exogenous, you get it outside of your body in the form of supplementation or something. Exo like exoskeleton, just think of exo, on the outside. Exo, exogenous. But exogenous ketones, I really don't use that often. Right now, I really try to limit it to a few times a week maximum, unless I am in ketosis to begin with. Now I will in a state of ketosis, tend to only use the salts in the first two to three days to make the transition a little easier. But those are a few things. Here's another one is, and I know you're familiar with this too, mushroom coffee and mushroom tea, and full disclosure these guys, Four Sigmatic, now sponsor my podcast, but I reached out to them because I was introduced to their instant coffees and teas through a friend who's an acrobat, very, very high level acrobat.
And this is another thing that I need to use in moderation because it lights me up like a Christmas tree, but it is yet another example of the whole foods that have been used for hundreds or thousands of years that I'm more and more reverting to because I've noticed for myself in the past that it is easy to try to use supplements as a primary, and to travel with your 20 bottles of stuff, and neglect to, say, whole foods in your diet, and macros, and so on in favor of simply popping a silver bullet that you envision in this pill. I just get better results when I'm forced to pay more attention to my diet, a route I used to 360 degrees. So that's been maybe a shift in me since 2010, let's say, in the last seven years. But certainly since Lyme, that's been a pretty dramatic [0:41:38] ______ for me.
Ben: Yeah. Those mushroom coffees, they're really interesting. I went over there a couple years ago to Finland and did mushroom foraging with those guys who run the Four Sigmatic operation. And I mean literally, you just walk through the forest in Finland barefoot, chopping chaga off of trees, and then they bring it back and do this really interesting dual extraction. But it's quite a difference when you have something like coffee with the mushroom extract. I was going to ask if you tried the reishi mushroom extract, like before naps or before sleep.
Tim: Yeah. I have. I like it. I'm a fan. And I also need to get over to the Finland because Finland also, for whatever reason, produces some of the world's best rally car racers. And actually some of the techniques are named after Fins, in the sense that there's a technique, it's called a pendulum turn, it's a really, really cool maneuver, but it's also nicknamed the Finnish flick. So for whatever reason, the Fins produce exceptionally good rally car racers. So I've been I've been very curious to get over there at some point to mess around with rally car racing, and now I know mushroom foraging.
Ben: Yeah. Here, I thought it was all just saunas and whipping each other with the Birch bark. Actually, the Finland Biohacker Summit just happened over there, and Dr. Rhonda Patrick and I spoke, and it was really interesting because it's just the land of saunas. You've had her on on your podcast and there's a pretty extensive chapter on her in the book, but she's a fascinating resource when it comes to saunas, and longevity, and heat-shock proteins, and a lot of the things that you can derive from that. So it was cool to have her over there in the land of saunas.
So I'm curious, kind of switching direction here to activity versus diet and supplements, one of the things that I didn't see a lot of in the book, but I'm not sure how much you talked about this with your guests, this concept of work space, like work environment. There's this growing movement of people who are greasing the groove, or taking movement bites, or avoiding long periods of time spent sitting, or optimizing their workplace ergonomics, and I'm curious if you ran into anything with your guests when it came to staying more active, or maintaining fitness when in the face of very, very busy work day, and if you've actually incorporated different productivity tips, or standing work stations, or things like that into your own workday.
Tim: For sure. Kelly Starrett, not surprisingly, has discussed this extensively. He's a very well-known Crossfit coach and athlete. He and I, or I should say rather the organization that he started with his wife Juliet and I helped to fund the first stand-up only desk school in the country, which is in Northern California.
Ben: Yeah. I remember. That was last year, right?
Tim: That's right. Northern California. So that's in process. But on a personal level, I keep it pretty simple. I recognize with the amount of travel that I do that I will not always have access to a standing desk, and there are a few things. At home, I do have standing desks. So I have a Varidesk in San Francisco that can go from seated to standing, and then I have a treadmill desk in New York that I used for a good portion of writing “Tools of Titans”.
Ben: You're able to write when you're on the treadmill?
Tim: I am. It's an acquired taste.
Ben: It's something I always had trouble with.
Tim: I am able to write. I tend to lean on my forearms, (laughs) and just kind of stumble along slowly, the speed is not fast, but that is one component, but I also will very frequently, if I am say, working with somebody else, or have access to another human body who's willing, take Acroyoga breaks and just do some very basic, if I'm going from a seated position, so I'm sitting at a desk, sitting in a chair, there's someone else around, I will want to reseat the head of my femur to its proper position. And I will do what's called “L-basing” in Acroyoga. So I'll just hold somebody up on my feet and maybe decompress their spine at the same time. And I…
Ben: Just whatever random person happened to be hanging around?
Tim: Well in the case of writing “Tools of Titans”, I had a researcher I flew out to be with me. So he was my guinea pig, and I just grabbed him, and used him for reseating my femurs. I recognize that's probably not available…
Ben: But you can add femur reseater to his resume.
Tim: Exactly. That's his special skills section on his resume. But if I do something like Acroyoga as a base, say, two to three times a week my hips feel absolutely fantastic. It is incredible what an impact it has. That's one thing that people can check out. But if you're looking for other tools, I find quite frankly that if I am doing a pigeon stretch every half hour to an hour with in a standing position, so with my folded leg in front of me on top of a table, which I learned from Kelly Starrett, if I do that a few times in a work session and if I'm not going to freak everybody out, or even if I will, doesn't really matter, use a rumble roller, so a rumble roller was introduced to me by Amelia Boone, who we both know. Three-time champion in World's Toughest Mudder, and a lot more. I mean she's the most decorated obstacle course racer in history.
Ben: A masochistic device that get from a masochistic obstacle racer.
Tim: Yeah. It's like a monster truck tire meets a foam roller. And foam rolling, I'm almost embarrassed to say, but never really did much for me. I didn't feel like I was getting any direct benefit.
Ben: Yeah. Until…
Tim: Until the rumble roller. And you want to start slow with this, because if you try to imitate Amelia like I did and did a half hour start with, I felt like I'd been put in a sleeping bag and smashed against a tree for a few hours the next morning. But if I use the rumble roller on my thoracic spine and my hip flexors, even once a working session, I feel pretty much fine. And the last piece of it is, and this is somewhat controversial. A lot of chiropractors pop out of the work and say that this actually does the opposite, but I have experienced the benefits. So I can only speak to my personal experience. This was introduced to me by a world champion Olympic weightlifter who's in his 60's, and is still completely ripped, and can drop cold into an ass-to-the-grass Olympic snatch with hundreds of pounds over his head at 140, I want to say.
Ben: Who's that?
Tim: Jerzy Gregorek. He's a Polish gent, also a poet. He translates poetry. This guy's really fascinating.
Ben: Is he in the book?
Tim: He is in the book. We don't talk about Olympic weightlifting, but we talk about when I talk about the things that I use to help me sleep, I talk about decompression and gravity boots, as well as inversion tables, and different options that you have for that. If I do some, and I'm just going to call it decompression for the sake of simplicity, whether it's gravity boots or otherwise, for very short duration, I'm talking seven seconds maybe, and do two or three sets of that, could be an inversion table which is a lot easier, there are also devices you can use just laying on the floor, I'm A-OK, man.
I don't accumulate damage and postural problems that I have historically from extended sitting. So just using those, which are all from the book, I find myself in really good shape. And in fact, I just landed, like I mentioned, in New York City, and if I go to LA, if I go to San Francisco, if I go to Long Island, I have rumble rollers, I have this device that, well the easiest version of it is called bed of nails. It's effectively a roll out mat with golf cleats on it.
Ben: Oh, yeah. Like an acupressure mat.
Tim: Exactly. So it's exactly Nayoya Acupressure Mat, which was recommended to me by Andrii Bondarenko who is one of Cirque de Soleil's one-armed handstand prodigies. I had all of these devices cashed in different location. My most common destinations just have these things there. I have stored them there. So they're always available. In New York City though, I don't have a rumble roller. So literally today, I'm thinking about going out to procure some of these devices because I know I'm going to need them over the next week.
Ben: Right. And you actually describe in the book this six-piece gym in a bag, and I know the rumble roller makes an appearance in that. But what else do you have in your gym in a bag?
Tim: Yeah. There are a few things. Those that immediately come to mind are the, first, VooDoo floss, which was actually developed and popularized by Kelly. This looks like a rubber ACE bandage…
Ben: VooDoo floss?
Tim: VooDoo floss. And it can fit in a jacket pocket. This is actually really fantastic for any type of joint pain or stiffness. So I will use it very frequently, we've spoken about this before, but on my elbows, and forearm flexors, and so on.
Tim: Very, very, very helpful. I mean hours, if not more, of release.
Ben: And this is the process of wrapping a joint both above and below the joint, and then moving the joint through the range of motion to increase hydration or traction of the joint.
Tim: Yeah. Yeah. It does a lot of things. And it's called VooDoo floss because there are so many different mechanisms by which it could work. Kelly's like, “Look. Let's just call it magic. It's VooDoo.” VooDoo floss. That's the name. Let's see, I believe in that list I also had Tera's Way Goat Whey Protein, particularly when I am travelling and I might have some form of sleep deprivation or I'm simply being exposed to a lot of people and I want to support my immune system. There are many things that help. I found L-lysine to help for avoiding viral infections, flu, et cetera. I have, if you can manage to get intravenous vitamin C, sometimes that can be very helpful. But it's really only effective at the higher doses, and you have to be careful with that because you can fall into a coma, so I don't recommend doing that at this point. But the whey protein, oddly enough…
Ben: Wait. What would make you fall into a coma?
Tim: It depends on your genetic profile, but some people at higher dosages of ascorbic acid, if it's administered intravenously, can have precipitous drops in blood glucose. And you have to be very, very careful with that.
Ben: Right. With high dose IV vitamin C.
Tim: Yeah. You have to be very, very, very careful. It literally can be life or death. So you have to be exceptionally careful, and have people supervising, and have glucose tablets, and people ready to revive you. Not to be taken lightly. But, if we're looking at something that can be taken a little more lightly, whey protein, I found to, not for any type of anabolic purpose, not for any muscle building purposes, but for immune function, taken in the morning to really be helpful. And there are many plausible explanations for this, but I do not, as I get older, I have noticed, or maybe I've always been this way, I digest lactose less and less well, number one.
Number two, when I consume lactose my lipid profile just be a complete [0:54:24] ______. And if remove this, and this is something Dominic D'Agostino has noticed on [0:53:28] ______ a lot of people have their lipid profiles go crazy. If they remove lactose, it tends to auto correct. So how do I consume whey protein without having any lactose? Well, I can get it from a different animal. So it’s build whey protein, and I do not feel any of the side effects of lactose when I consume this. And this was recommended to me by Charles Poliquin, very famous strength coach who's worked with 20 athletes in 20 plus sports in the Olympics, has had a very, very long career. So he was the first person to recommend that to me. I do think that the Nayoya Acupressure mat is in that gym in a bag. And I am blanking on what the last one is.
Ben: You talked about the embarrassing exercise that you do in hotel room hallways, and I think it's, is it the furniture sliders that you use for that?
Tim: Yeah. It's the furniture sliders, yeah. So the furniture sliders, they look like coasters for drinks, I forgot about that. The furniture sliders look like coasters for drinks…
Ben: And by the way, I've seen glorified versions of furniture sliders sold as actual fitness equipment for I think very, very high margin. But these are just basic furniture sliders?
Tim: Yeah. Basic furniture sliders. And also by the way, like if you want a bunch of fancy mobility devices for 1/10th the price, you can just go to like a dog, like a pet store, look at the dog toys. Or you can go to a sex shop and look at the sex toys, like they're all the same thing. But the furniture sliders are intended to be used to move furniture around the house without scratching the floors. What Coach Sommer, Christopher Sommer, former national team coach for men's gymnastics, uses them for is many different things, but one is called a, I think it's the rear support ag walk. And in effect, what you're doing is if you could imagine putting your hands, getting in a reverse push up position, so you're sitting on the floor, legs out straight front of you, you put your hands down on the floor behind you about shoulder width apart, and then you raise your hips as high as possible so kind of up in a reverse plank position, and then you walk with your hands, and you will slide, your sliders are underneath your heels. And this sounds so easy. I challenge anyone to do it for more than two or three minutes…
Ben: Ah, yeah. It's like a reverse alligator walk, where you do the same thing with a plank, but face down in a push up position with a plate on your toes.
Tim: Exactly. And you can do it as an alligator walk, you could use it for such as that. But the rear support ag walk is just a beast only if you attempt to do it correctly because with gymnastic strength training, that's also a big factor in the book. The devil's in the details here, right. If you cheat an exercise, then you can make it like 10% of its intended difficulty. But if you really focus on keeping your hips as high as possible, maintain that line, this is a very challenging exercise and all you need are these furniture sliders, which you can also fit in your other jacket pocket right opposite your VooDoo floss.
Ben: Yeah. I like it. I like the six-piece gym in a bag. There's some good stuff in there. And you actually talk a lot about this gymnast training, and you talk about your work with Coach Sommer, but why is it that you're so into training like a gymnast? Like what is it about a gymnast's training that intrigues you?
Tim: Well, there are a few things that intrigued me. The first is that I really feel, if you look at gymnastics, for instance in the Olympics. These athletes have, by far, the most impressive combination of mobility and strength, maybe right alongside the weight lifters, but along more planes. They have the most impressive combination of strength, speed, and mobility. And mobility, Coach Sommer defined for me very clearly, because mobility, flexibility they were always kind of intermingled in my mind. I thought I knew what the difference was, but it wasn't quite clear, and he said, here's the difference: flexibility is the ability to get to a certain range of motion, and a range of motion that exceeds the norm.
Tim: Okay. That's your flexibility. Or not. Your flexibility is just your passive range of motion. Mobility is your ability to exhibit strength at your end ranges. Okay? So a good way to differentiate that would be passive and active flexibility. So another exercise that he has people do is to get down in a seated pike position, so you're sitting on your butt with your feet, your legs in front of you, together, completely straight, and knees locked, like no soft knees, so your quads are contracted, walk your hands out as far as you can, and then try to lift your heels off the ground and do what are called pike pulses. Sounds like it'll be easy. Yeah. Just try it. It's really, really hard.
Ben: Yeah. You have a little diagram of it in the book. And actually, a lot of the gymnast moves that you have in the book, I thought they were really interesting. I want to try out when I get home because I do have rings and everything to put them together. But are you doing this on a daily basis, a gymnast strong program, or is this something you kind of sprinkle throughout the month?
Tim: No, no, no. This has been one of my primary forms of exercise for about six months now, and I ended up injuring myself doing something separately. I can't stop myself from being an injury idiot for whatever reason, but I took a brief break from some of the more intense ring work. But gymnastic strength training, like the hinge row exercise in there, I think you'll really like, on the rings. So that's one piece of the puzzle, one reason I like it.
The other reason I like it is that any particular mobility weakness that you have will become a glaring problem, and this is really helpful because when you're doing, let's just say back squats, or deadlifts, or bench press, these are not exercises that strain the end ranges of your mobility. But suddenly when you're doing a warm up, let's say for gymnastic strength training, that tests your shoulder extension, that tests your thoracic bridging ability, and then you're like holy (censored), my upper spine might as well be fused. I have no articulation of my upper back whatsoever. And then you spend even two weeks doing stretches to address that. I was amazed, and when I say stretches, I'm talking a few minutes a day for two weeks, and some of these pains that had plagued me for years just disappeared. So I'm not saying, by gymnastic strength training, I don't want to give people the image of me like flipping around on the high bar and doing a dismount with a triple backflip. I'm not talking about that at all.
Ben: Right. Running down the runway to jump over the horse.
Tim: Yeah, exactly. I'm not doing any 20 meter sprints to go flying off of vaults or anything like that. I am simply trying to maximize strength and mobility in the end ranges in a way that addresses my glaring weaknesses. And it's been a real revelation for me. So that combined with acroyoga, those are the two that have really just…
Ben: Has your body changed much since starting a new protocol like that versus what you were doing before? Because before you were doing a lot more like barbell or kettlebell-style training, weren't you?
Tim: Yeah, yeah. My body has changed a lot. And what's been wild, and I'm not saying one is necessarily better than the other. So I'm starting to reintegrate deadlifts, for instance, and even stuff like clothes grip barbell bench presses, and so on. So I'm reincorporating some of the barbell stuff, but that's my kind of lazy default, if that makes sense. I know how that game works and I am defaulting to my strengths. People who are strong tend to like to lift, people who are flexible tend to like to do yoga, and I'm trying to push myself where I'm uncomfortable.
The way my body has changed, I would say I get a lot of compliments on my posture, which has never been the case because, keep in mind, I wrestled for 10 years. I walk around like a like a monkey. So complements on the posture, flexibility, hip flexibility in particular, knee stability, all of these things have increased really dramatically in a way that I had never, I shouldn't say never, but that I hadn't developed in say at least 15 or 20 years. And using different ring protocols, as in no weight lifting whatsoever, I also, this was about four months ago, I got huge. I have friends of mine who see me all the time, and they've seen me doing deadlifts and stuff, and they were like, “Dude, what are you doing,” 'cause my arms got gigantic from the straight arm strength work.
Ben: Right. It's more about time under tension. There was a guy, I believe it's Brad Schoenfeld who's done the research on this where they show that 30 reps of a light weight can induce just as much hypertrophy or muscle strength as like a set of five to eight repetitions.
Tim: Yeah. It's been wild because I never expected it. I expected to get strong, but I didn't expect the hypertrophy that I saw in, for instance, the chest and the arms when doing some of the ring work, doing assisted maltese practice, and stuff like that. So it's been really fun. And more than anything else, it's just provided me with a new tool kit, which is part of this giant tome, which is really a Choose Your Own Adventure book. You don't have to read A to Z. It's intended to be something you can pick and choose from. I have an entirely new physical toolkit to play with and to optimize with. Whereas before, I had a pretty good spectrum, but now it's a totally new game.
And the other really weird thing about gymnastic strength training is that, and I was talking to Coach Sommer about this, some of these exercises, because of the timeline required to say regenerate connective tissue, produce, and not many of them, you'll see a lot of returns really quickly, but there are certain exercises and stretches where you will see effectively no progress for like three months, or six months in one case for me, and it's not like these took a lot of time, but it's just maybe one stretch that I did in a sequence of like 45 minutes, and I was like, goddamn, like I'm just not making any progress with this thing. And he's like, “Hold the course, hold the course.” And then six months later, it was like, boom. Overnight. One weekend. My range of motion just doubled. It was the weirdest thing. I've never experienced anything like it and I [1:04:21] ______ and I'm like, “Is this really weird? Have you ever seen this?” And he's like, “Yeah. It's not surprising at all. It happens all the time. I already told you, actually.” And I was like, “Oh. Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah.”
Ben: Yeah. I think it's Kelly Starrett actually who said this before. It may be in the Supple Leopard book about how fascia can take over a year in some cases, to adapt to loading, or to change its direction in response to loading. So, a lot of the mobility stuff you have to stick with for a crazy amount of time.
Tim: Yeah. Yeah. It's wild. That's been another fun collection of tools to mess around with.
Ben: You go into a lot of different you know fitness, and diet, and lifestyle modifications in the book that seemed to be patterns among a lot of these people who you've interviewed. Like the skipping breakfast, or having kind of very scant fare at different points throughout the day is one thing that is like an underlying theme. Or meditation, and a very focused habitual meditation practice. Even like the use of a chilly pad to keep the bed cool. There's all these little things that you've talk to your guests about, but what things have you incorporated into your own life that we haven't talked about? Obviously, like gymnastics, and the use of ketones, et cetera, we touched on, but are there are little hacks, little tools that you've kind of picked up along the way that have really become a staple in your lifestyle?
Tim: There are. I think one of the patterns that is a little less obvious, maybe, and arguably the most powerful is asking absurd question. I've noticed after interviewing 200 plus world-class performers in every imaginable discipline, you have chess, you have special operations, you have chemistry, you have celebrity types, et cetera, these people tend to ask a lot of absurd questions when they're trying to solve problems or do something bigger and better.
For instance, Peter Thiel, serial billionaire who's been in the news a lot recently, of course, he will ask questions like “why can't you accomplish your ten year plan in the next six months?” And the intention isn't to think about that for 10 seconds and then move on with your day. At least in my case, I'll take a question like that and I will journal on it in the morning before I look at any text messages or e-mail, and spend, I'll to plant that in my head the night before, which is something that both Josh Waitzkin, chess prodigy, and Reid Hoffman, founder of Linkedin made I don’t want to say, but tens of hundreds of millions of PayPal, he's called the oracle of Silicon Valley, both these guys do this as well. They'll plant something the night before. Josh likes to do it before dinner, not right before bed, and then I'll wake up and I'll journal on that question. Or might have a question…
Ben: So you plant a question. Is it something that's related to a problem that you're trying to solve?
Tim: That's right. Yeah. Problem I'm trying to solve, or just something I'm trying to do.
Ben: Okay. And then you frame that problem with the question?
Tim: That's right. Yes. You frame that and meditate on it. Meaning, just think about it, like focus on it for 10 to 15 seconds the day before, let that gestate, let your subconscious work on that, and then when you wake up, the first thing you do, or maybe after a shower, is sit down and pen in hand with a journal, just free form, stream of consciousness write. And if the first page is just like, “My back hurts,” “I don't want to do this. I can't believe I have to run this errand.” That's fine. But just get that out of your system and keep writing.
So there are many questions like that, or for instance, Peter Diamandis, these are both business examples, but they are all over the place. Peter Diamandis, chairman of the X Prize, when technology entrepreneurs are pitching him to get his investment, he will ask them something along the lines of “if you had to 10x, your economics in your business in the next three months, how would you do it?” And if they say that's impossible, his response is, “I don't accept that answer. Try again.”
Ben: You've got one question in here, “what would this look like if it were easy?”
Ben: That one actually fascinates me. I'm curious like how you would implement that question.
Tim: I use it all the time. So I will ask myself that question all the time now because I think that many of the problems, and blocks, and much of the stress that we all experience is due to overcomplicating matters. And there's very often a point of diminishing returns, there's always a point of diminishing returns, and what would this look like if it were easy? So for instance, when I was writing the book, what would this look like if it were easy? Well, I might, and I'll brainstorm crazy stuff. Like option number one, I would have somebody else write the whole thing for me and I pay for the whole thing. We're trying to generate ideas, not judge ideas at the same time. So that would be one. I've never had a ghostwriter and I didn't have one for this, but I was like, “Okay. What would this look like if it were easy? Here's one other option: pay someone else to do the whole thing.” That's what most CEOs do.
Okay, number two: I could [1:09:47] ______ it to people, and they could then go back to transcripts and pull different pieces for me. Okay. Maybe something like that. Three, I could use only what comes to mind, like Cal Fussman who's actually one of the folks in the book who ran the “What I Learned” column, or wrote the “What I Learned” column for Esquire magazine for, whatever it was, 15, 20 years. He was one of the primary writers who interviewed Gorbachev, everybody imaginable. DeNiro, you do down the list, Muhammad Ali.
One of the piece of advice he received that he gave to me at one point was “the good shit sticks”. Like if you're worried about not being able to remember all the details, like the good shit sticks. The really good stuff will stick in your mind. So maybe that's an option three. I would just write down for each person three or four things that I remember, and that's it. That's all it's going to be. Maybe I publish it in multiple volumes. So I'm worried that I'm not going to finish this like definitive guide to tactics and routines of world-class performers 'cause I have 200 plus of them. Well, instead of having healthy, wealthy, and wise, which are the sections in this book, maybe I publish three books. I do the first one healthy, I do the second one wealthy, et cetera.
And just run down this list and what's something important to notice is that I didn't take any of those options that I just mentioned. But when you frame an absurd question, and another question I asked, not just what would this look like if it were easy, what would I do if I had to write this book in a week? And then I knew I wasn't going to try to write the book in a week, but I felt stuck in my current pattern of thinking, and I was getting anxious, I had certain fears, and I just kept on chasing my tail in the same direction. Does that makes sense? So when I take an absurd question like that, it's intended to just be a pattern interrupt. I remember, I'll give you a really wild one, at some point several years ago, I noticed this pattern that people were asking absurd questions and getting these outsized returns because maybe they brainstorm 50 ideas, and there's just one that provides the seed for something that is truly exponential instead of incremental. And I was sitting in a conference at one point and I was getting pretty bored, and I had a note pad.
So I wrote down “What are the craziest things I could do,” and I think this was in 2015. What are the craziest things I could do 2015? Number one, sell everything I own. Number two, move to the mountains, like Utah. Leave San Francisco to move and become a hermit. A hermit. Like ignore everybody. And I kept going down the list, and I'll give you an idea of how far I take not judging my ideas. One was cut off both my feet. Like what the hell? And I came out, and I was just like, “Jesus Christ, Ferriss. What's wrong with you?” But cut off both your feet. Okay. I clearly didn't do that.
I went on a list and one of them was take an indefinite start up vacation, meaning take a complete break from startup investing. Zero. I don't even look at them, don't consider them. I'm done. Effectively retired. And that ended up being the nugget of gold because I took that, and I went back to the list later, and I was like, “You know what? That's the one that I could actually see myself doing.” And later on that year, might've been actually mid that year, I spoke to a few folks, and I decided to do it, and I very publicly announced that I was stopping all of my technology and angel investing, which was the golden goose. I mean that's where I made the…
Ben: Yeah. I remember you're writing about that. Is that something you recommend people do every year? To ask themselves what is the most absurd thing that I can do this year? Or is that something you do each year?
Tim: It is something that I do regularly. And these questions almost, all the questions I just mentioned, are questions that I journal on regularly. These are regular practices for me. And I think what's the most…
Ben: And there are 17 of these questions. So do you do a new question each week? Do you have any kind of pattern?
Tim: You know, I will very frequently just look at this list of questions, or other questions that people have posed to me or to themselves, and journal on them. They're sometimes context specific. For instance, if I'm feeling like I'm doing too much, there are too many irons in the fire, let's just say in book writing, or book promotion, or let's say podcast production, whatever, it might be. If I feel like they are just too many moving pieces, there are specific questions I'll ask in that scenario such as, if I had a gun against my head and I had to spend an hour or less on this a week, what would I do? What would I change? What I remove? What would I add? Who would I hire? I had a gun against my head, I could only make any decisions about this or hear about this for an hour a week, what would I do? And no matter how absurd the answer is, like what are the answers? I will ask that very, very frequently.
Ben: So you'll take a question, basically apply it to a problem that you might be facing at that point in life?
Tim: I will. “What are the most absurd things I could do this year” is one that I will almost certainly be journaling on in the New Year. For sure.
Ben: Yeah. I like that.
Tim: That is like my go-to.
Ben: I think I might try that this year. That's really kind of a cool idea to start the year off. You have a few podcasts that really focus on anti-aging and longevity, and you've got a lot of sections including the guy you mentioned earlier Dr. Peter Attia on anti-aging. Have you introduced any protocols, like when it comes to anti-aging and longevity in terms of anything from compounds, to daily practices that really are focused on the longevity component?
Tim: I have. I think that longevity, if we want to drill into it, has a few different connotations, and so I'll specify what I'm focused on. So the first is there are two, I would say. One is maintaining muscle mass. So counteracting sarcopenia, our age related muscle loss, I think is arguably number one for a high functioning lifespan.
Ben: And I would even argue that muscle power, rate of force development, it appears that that might be just as important for decreasing the rate at which telomeres shorten is actually maintaining muscle, like having like wiry explosive powerful muscle appears to be even more advantageous than like mass.
Tim: Sure, which is part of the reason why I tend to focus on these protocols, like Barry Ross' protocol, which is deadlift-based, and he's pulling to the knees doing two or three reps, which focuses certainly more on maximal strength development, or relative strength development at least versus hypertrophy. So at least the maintenance of not necessarily the explosion of muscle, right?
Tim: Then mobility, as discussed earlier. These mobility practices. And fasting is a big piece of it for me. Now because I do believe that fasting and regular ketosis have implications and applications not only to potentially mitigating the risk of cancer, but also neurodegenerative disease. And if we're looking at, say, Peter Attia, and I'm not going to get the exact numbers right, but if you're over the age of 40, you may have this in front of you, but if you're in the over the age of 40, something like an 80% or greater likelihood that you will die of one of four things. And it's effectively heart attack, stroke, neurodegenerative disease, or cancer. Those are simplified, but those are the four. So if you're going to develop a longevity plan, or a life extension plan, then it should be at least in part focused on minimizing the likelihood of those four things. And fasting and regular ketosis, in my mind, addresses at least two of those four, maybe three. And then you have the, say, cognitive decline, and cardiovascular disease. I have a pretty wonky lipid profile, genetically speaking. I'm genetically predisposed to be a hyper producer and absorber of cholesterol.
Ben: Is it the ApoE 3,4?
Tim: Yeah. I think it's the ApoE 3,4, and then we also have, there are a number of other number of other factors involved, but…
Ben: Basically a genome would dispose you having a deleterious response to high fat intake?
Tim: Yeah. I mean that's part of it, but even if I reduce fat intake, my cholesterol still tends to run high. Now triglycerides for instance are on the low side, my HDL is very good, but LDL, LDL particle number, lipoprotein (a), et cetera tend to be a little funny. So I will certainly over time start to address that, and I may in fact start taking some prescription medication to address that. The neurodegenerative piece, Alzheimer's related for instance, Parkinson's related, well, first thing is stop getting kicked and punched in the head. So no more fight sports for me. And then on top of that, we could look at say the supplementation we talked about earlier with coconut oil and so on. But I'm not going to take, at this point any Aricept or prescription drugs for mitigating that risk. But I do know researchers who are working on identifying preventative measures related to Alzheimer's, so I'm going to be paying a lot of attention to that.
Ben: I know it's lauded for its efficacy for Lyme therapy, but also for longevity, this use of nicotinamide riboside, or nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide, like NAD injection clinics or the use of, there's a, Elysium, I think, is the company that's now producing this thing called Basis.
Tim: Yeah. Elysium's making Basis, and that's related to NAD or NADH. So anecdotally, I did an entire podcast with a biologist on the placebo effect, which is worth listening to, Erik Vance is his name. A lot of my friends in Silicon Valley are taking Basis and they claim that they feel a lot better, they feel younger, et cetera. But the mind is a powerful thing. When I sent Basis to a number of my friends who are extremely competent scientists, these are published scientists, they pretty much uniformly said, “Eh, I think I'll wait. I don't actually buy it.” So who's to say, I think is the answer right now. It's a toss-up. So I have experimented with Elysium. I did take Basis for about a month. And after pretty obviously subjectively not noticing a whole hell of a lot, and then after the feedback from three PhDs and MDs that I trust very, very implicitly, I decided, “You know what? I'm taking so much stuff right now,” at the time. I was like, “Let me just take one off the list, especially given its expense.” So I haven't done a whole lot with that at this point.
Ben: Right. Okay. Interesting.
Tim: And I should say, it might be fantastic. I don't know.
Ben: Yeah. I've never used it, but I do make bark tea every week and use that as the base for my smoothies, or in cooking, and it's Pau D'Arco bark tea, and it's high in the beta lapachones, which are the same type of component that would stimulate NAD production and you can just like blend that with something like sunflower lecithin to make it bioavailable, and that's kind of the shortcut to something like that.
Tim: Cool. I mean if it's as tasty as it sounds, bark tea…
Ben: Yeah, it's pretty tasty.
Tim: Oh, you know what? I'm also taking turmeric plus bioperine for cognitive purposes.
Ben: Right. A lot of really good research on that.
Tim: More self-defense than any type of enhancement, maintenance more than enhancement.
Ben: Even curcumin has been shown to help with neuroplasticity and neurogenesis.
Tim: Yeah. So specifically, I'm taking curcumin plus bioperine, which is black pepper extract for bioavailability.
Ben: Yeah. Is there any major tool or hack that you recommended, whether in 4-Hour Body, or 4-Hour Chef, or in your writings that you would say you'd go back and really swear that you wouldn't use? Anything that you no longer believed to be good or relevant.
Tim: I can't think of anything off-hand because I would've removed it already since these books get reprinted so frequently. I will say that where I would just emphasize that people need to be very, very careful because people take it too lightly is any type of breath work that leads to breath holding should not ever be practiced in water. I had a very close friend of mine that almost died from a shallow water blackout in New York City recently, very smart guy I should note, with decades of experience spearfishing, and he was doing underwater laps at a public pool, which was lucky for him, and he had done some breath work, and breathing exercises, Wim Hof breathing exercises beforehand, and he had a shallow water blackout, stayed underwater for another two minutes. He's only lucky that by some miracle he didn't inhale water. And he was unconscious for another 20 minutes after they pulled him out of the water, spent two days in the ER. He has a young kid. It could have been just one of these horrible tragedies, and by the sheer stroke of luck, he didn't have permanent brain damage. So I would just say as I've continued to build a larger and larger audience, I've recognized that no matter how good my instructions. no matter how definitive my warnings and cautions, maybe one out of one hundred people will just ignore every possible caveat and warning. And that's…
Ben: Yeah. Have you experimented much with that, by the way? With free diving or spear fishing?
Tim: I have not, and I've had many opportunities, but precisely because every year, it's kind of like wingsuits, if you know what I'm talking about. Every year at least one, almost every year, one of the best in the world dies. Every single year. Whether it's competitive free diving or wingsuits, and I don't like those odds, and I really don't see the benefits which would primarily be ego related outweighing the risks at this point. So I have avoided at this point. I have done breath holding stuff, but we're talking dry land. I don't like messing around with water.
Ben: Perhaps awkwardly, that nicely segues into one of the last questions I wanted to ask you, and that is if there were one dead person that you'd bring back to life and have on your show, somebody who obviously you wouldn't have the opportunity to interview, but if you could go back and bring someone to life and have them on your show, who would you have on?
Tim: Probably Benjamin Franklin because he was such an incredibly curious and diligent amateur. He was able to, he didn't know any better, so to speak. He didn't let the professionals handle it because there weren't really professionals in many respects in some of these fields. So he ended up generating these breakthroughs in the sciences, in publishing, in diplomacy. The guy was not only an innovator, but also bit of a merry prankster, and a jokester, and hedonist.
Ben: Have you read his biography?
Tim: I have, actually. So he liked his wine, he liked his French ladies, but he was also a really good problem solver, and just a funny, funny guy, and accomplished businessman before he was ever a part of the political scenes. So I think I would have him on. That's probably my first choice.
Ben: Yeah. That would be a fun listen.
Tim: Yeah. And I think I'd probably dig into, this is something I've wanted to do more and more with more and more guests, and that is ask them to just describe, share some of their hardest decisions that ended up being very, very important and how they thought about those decisions at that time. Because what interests me more than the decisions someone makes is how they thought about it at the time, and the internal dialogue because that's a more flexible skill set.
If you learn how they talk to themselves when they make decisions, that's actually much more interesting to me than the decision. Because anyone can say, well like, “I sold my first X to a customer, and then I came home, and I talked to my wife, and we started this huge company.” And it's like, “Wait a second. Like you left this really conservative stable job, you have two new kids, how the hell did that go?” Like I want to dig into the details of how that decision was rationalized. When you were driving home to have that conversation with your wife, what were you saying to yourself? Were you're rehearsing? What was going through your head? And I would want to do that. I think doing that with Ben Franklin would be a blast.
Ben: Is that a question that you've started asking guests that you've had on your show?
Tim: I do ask them. It's typically related to a single question. I have to figure out, and I will figure out a less overwhelmingly, open-ended approach to asking that question. Because it's one that I think, for most folks, would take at least 5 to 10 minutes of pondering to come up with a good list. So I'll figure out a better way to ask that question, but I will be doing more of that for sure.
Ben: Yeah. One of the things that you say in the book is that you're not an expert, that you're connecting people to the experts, and you're experimenting with and delving into what's really working well for other people. But kind of related to that, as far as what you do in your career, are you pretty satisfied just basically promoting other people as that connector or as an experimenter versus creating your own brand, like some sort of company, some sort of brand that goes beyond Tim Ferriss? Have you ever considered something like that? It's a thought I've pondered myself as an author and a blogger, about having my business be all about me and my name versus some kind of a brand. So I'm curious where you're at on that.
Tim: This is a good question. I have thought about it a lot and the short-ish answer is that I really don't think about brand much. I think about being consistent in my values and moral judgments, and if I do that, then my brand is really whatever people think of most frequently when they hear my name or see my face. That's it. That's my brand. It's not entirely up to me either. I mean you can steer it a little bit, but I'm perfectly happy to be the human guinea pig and self-experimenter that finds and knows the best in the experts. I'm happy with that. But the question to creating a separate company is something that I've thought about now. In fairness, I should say that I have many companies.
I've separated for liability and all sorts of reasons, say, the podcast, and different books, and so on into different corporate entities, but I don't think that's what you're asking. And the example that I'll give is the 4-Hour Body. So the 4-Hour Body, I had many people suggest that I start a supplement company before the 4-Hour Body came out. And I knew from my experience in that field that I could make probably a minimum of 10 to 20 million Dollars from publication to five years post if I were to launch, and believe me, now in my life and certainly at the time, that is a gigantic life changing sum of money. I could have made that within five years after the 4-Hour Body coming out, and I chose not to do it because I did not want my readers to question my motives for making the recommendations that I did. And I'm very glad that I made that decision and sacrifice in some ways because it has allowed me to have credibility and trust now, almost 10 years later, or seven years later at least. And that has proven far more valuable and led me to be able to invest in early rounds. Actually, not even early rounds…
Ben: That's a good point. It leaves you completely unbiased, almost.
Tim: Yeah. It leaves me in the eyes of my listeners and readers as credible and unbiased. And if I do have any vested interest, let's just say, now at this point, a lot of that trust has led people to introducing me to some of the fastest growing startups in the history of the world, which has more than paid back the money I “lost” by not doing a supplement line. So that ended up being a very good decision for me. And I don't judge people who create companies, but I always have to wonder what the incentive is and how much of their recommendation is based on their, say, belief in the science versus their enthusiasm for a profit motive, right. And that's why when you look at, say, an Elysium or something like that, which could be, honestly, and a lot of people believe to be an incredible product, just because they have scientists associated, it's hard for me to fathom that those scientists would risk their reputation without some type of remuneration, some type of financial incentive.
And at that point, scientists are humans too. They're not exempt from being incentive-driven. It just gives me that slight sliver of skepticism that makes it harder for me to assess the information that they provide themselves. And that's true for, and I should, in fairness, say that I think they seemed much more credible and supported than 99.9999% of the supplement companies out there. So I only mention their name because you brought them up earlier, but it's a tough choice, man. The temptation rears its head then and again, because so many of my friends just think I'm an idiot for not doing it. But I don't have, I guess in my mind, I also ask
“to what end”. What am I lacking that I need that for right now? And what am I risking if I do it? And every time I ask myself that, it's like look I'm wearing like cheap ass $20 shoes right now. The clothing, I'm wearing I got for free. And it's…
Ben: Right. It's that idea behind needing only so much money to be happy. What's the threshold it's like 70,000 or 80,000 Dollars, or something like that before there's a law of diminishing returns.
Tim: Yeah. I don't have a high burn lifestyle. So for me to do anything that risks my reputation, which can take years or decades to really build up to the point that I'm fortunate to have, to the extent that I'm fortunate to have now, it's just not really worth it. And I could say, in a case where it were a single product or something like that where I felt it was entirely defensible based on its own merit, and so on, I mean I think that I will probably come out with products just for the hell of it, like funny ridiculous products. And I'm not going to…
Ben: Right. It's similar to like The Oatmeal model. Have you been to that website? theoatmeal.com, where…
Tim: Yeah! Yeah, exactly. Just ridiculous stuff that I think my fans will enjoy. But at this point, my main financial career has been startups. And at this point, I'm just sitting and waiting. I'm not doing anything new because those are all liquid. But it's a temptation…
Ben: It's something that been heavy on my mind lately, that idea of starting a brand, starting something beyond Ben Greenfield, and I was just curious if Tim Ferriss had ever thought going beyond Tim Ferriss.
Tim: I thought about it a lot. I mean, I'll actually bring in a note from one of the profiles in “Tools of Titans” from B.J. Novak. So B.J. Novak, very well-known actor, writer, producer, he was in The Office, he has best-selling books, I mean huge best-selling books, and is a polymath. He's an incredible guy and there were many points in his career where he could have stalled, and many other people in his shoes had stalled. But he didn't. He made the right decisions. And he was able to navigate this very complex trajectory to get to where he is, and he's had a very impressively sustained career at high level. And I asked him why that was. And he said one of the reasons, and I'm paraphrasing here, but he said whenever I found myself saying, “But it's so much money”, or “I'm making such good money,” anything like that, or “But I could make such good money…” he knew it was wrong a thing. So if you're considering, say, starting something and you're like this, this, this, this, and this reason not to do it, but I'd make so much money, chances are that is a big red flag and you'd be heading down the wrong path by pursuing that. Not going to say always, but I remembered him saying that, and I've tried to catch myself. Any time I catch myself saying like dadda-dadda-dadda-dadda-da, but, gosh, I could generate so much money. Uh oh. Red flag.
Ben: Versus something like, say, legacy or effecting great change in a high number of people.
Tim: Yeah. And the money's fine. You know what? Like X, Y, and Z reason to do it, and maybe it'll make a ton of money. Awesome. That's totally fine. It's a big difference though. The end, it could really make a lot of money, versus the but, it could make a lot of money, totally different species. So that's one of the guidelines that I've tried to use when navigating these types of decisions or considering these types of things.
Ben: Yeah. Well, Tim, last question. Because you mentioned in your book, will 2017 be the year that you get Oprah on your show?
Tim: (laughs) I hope so. I hope so. I've been playing the long game and Oprah's not, that's a big fish. I mean that's a marlin. This is like the reel out, reel in, bide your time. Now that the Tim Ferriss show's past 100 million downloads and it's the first business interview podcast to do that after the book comes out, I think 2017 will be the year that I make the pitch. Whether I get her or not, that's a separate question. But I think 2017 will be the year that a nice envelope served on a silver platter with a golden stamp or something arrives at her doorstep.
Ben: Right. Two trumpeting horseman.
Tim: Yes, exactly. Arrive at her doorstep with a singing telegram to try to get her on my podcast. So, TBD, but, yes. I think 2017, it's feeling good. I'm optimistic.
Ben: Well if any of you listening in happen to have any deep personal connection with Oprah and can connect Tim, then just head over to the show notes and leave a comment. The show notes, by the way, for everything that we talked about today, link to Tim's book, some of the articles, and podcasts we talked about, everything is over at bengreenfieldfitness.com/titans. That's bengreenfieldfitness.com/TITANS. As in “Tools of Titans”, Tim's new book. It's big, but I think you get it anyways despite its unworldly size. It is well worth it based off of my extreme skimming of it over the past 24 hours, but I'm looking forward to delving in more deeply. And, Tim, thanks for writing this thing, man.
Tim: Yeah. I appreciate it, man. It's the first book that I have actually enjoyed writing, which I think is a good sign. And if people want to check out sample chapters, then go to toolsoftitans.com. There's a foreword from Arnold Schwarzenegger, which, if you never even buy the book, it's called “I am not a self-made man”, which is, by itself, worth reading. And if you don't get the book, that's fine too. But I would highly suggest that you practice some of the absurd questions that Ben and I were talking about. It's a life changer. You can certainly try the bed of nails and all these other wacky devices that we talked about, but I hope people check it out so.
Ben: Tim says you could think about not getting the book, but I'm telling you, just get the book. It's worth it. I'll say it for you, Tim.
Tim: Thanks man. I feel very comfortable recommending that people get this book. I could not be happier with it.
Ben: Yeah, awesome. Well, I'll put a link to this and everything else over at bengreenfieldfitness.com/titans. Tim, thanks for coming on the show, man.
Tim: My pleasure. Thanks for having me.
Ben: Alright, everybody. Have a healthy week.
You’ve been listening to the Ben Greenfield Fitness Podcast. Go to bengreenfieldfitness.com for even more cutting edge fitness and performance advice.
For the last two years, my guest on today’s show has interviewed more than 200 world-class performers, ranging from super celebs like Jamie Foxx and Arnold Schwarzenegger to professional athletes and icons of powerlifting, gymnastics, surfing and beyond, to legendary Special Operations commanders and black-market biochemists.
For many of his guests, this is the first time they’ve agreed to a two-to-three-hour interview, and this unusual depth has helped him create a massive collection of tools, tactics, and ‘inside baseball’ you won’t find anywhere else.
If you hadn’t yet guessed, my guest is Tim Ferriss, and just this week, Tim has taken his notebook of high-leverage tools that he has vetted, explored, and applied to his own life, and published it for the entire world to delve into – all in the form of a nearly 700 page book that could probably double as a self-defense weapon. The name of the book, entitled Tools of Titans: The Tactics, Routines, and Habits of Billionaires, Icons, and World-Class Performers, delves into the dozens of tactics and philosophies Tim has picked up from his guests and used successfully in high-stakes negotiations, high-risk environments, and large business dealings, saving him millions of dollars and years of wasted effort and frustration.
In this episode, I put Tim in the hotseat as we not only discuss his new book Tools of Titans: The Tactics, Routines, and Habits of Billionaires, Icons, and World-Class Performers, but also go far beyond and delve into difficult, deep questions about Tim’s life. During this episode, you’ll discover:
-How Tim got started in business by creating and selling a smart drug that turned out to be a physical ergogenic performance enhancing aid…[9:55]
-The ingredients of Tim’s first supplement he created…[12:10]
-The biggest “stacks”, techniques and biohacks Tim now uses for enhancing cognitive function that he doesn’t think he ever would have discovered without having a podcast…[17:50]
-The #1 tactic Tim eventually used to heal himself of Lyme disease…[20:55]
-What Tim’s workstation looks like, and how he manages to write massive books while maintaining fitness in his work environment…[43:15]
-The exact contents of Tim’s “six-piece gym in a bag”…[50:20]
-Why Tim is convinced that training like a gymnast is one of the best way you can sculpt an amazing body…[56:54]
-The major fitness, diet and lifestyle modifications Tim has made since starting the podcast that he doesn’t think he would have made had he not had a podcast…[65:30]
-The 17 absurd questions Tim asks himself to change his life and solve problems…[66:20]
-What Tim has implemented lately to enhance his anti-aging and longevity (and his thoughts on anti-aging supplements)…[75:30]
-The dead inventor Tim would want to bring back to life and have on his podcast (and the questions he would ask)…[85:35]
-Why Tim hasn’t created a “brand”…[88:55]
-And much more!
Resources from this episode:
-My second podcast with Tim: Behind The Scenes Of The Tim Ferriss Experiment: 15 Pounds Of Muscle, Turmeric Tea, Urban Evasion & More!
-My first podcast with Tim: Tim Ferriss Cold Thermogenesis Special Episode