Tools of Titans is a fantastic read and there really is something for everyone in this book. Broken up into three sections; healthy, wealthy and wise, author Tim Ferriss deconstructs the habits, routines and daily rituals of the world’s top performers.
This summary is a little different to my normal format. As the book is so full of information, what you’ll find below is a collection of highlights I made which reading on my Kindle.
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Who is this summary for?
Tools of Titans is a fantastic read and there really is something for everyone in this book. Broken up into three sections; healthy, wealthy and wise, author Tim Ferriss deconstructs the habits, routines and daily rituals of the world’s top performers. This book is essentially a combination of all the tips, tools and tricks he learnt from over 200 of his podcast guests.
About the author
Tim Ferriss is an American Blogger, Author, Podcaster and all-around entrepreneur. His Podcast, The Tim Ferriss Show has been #1 on iTunes for years and he’s released 4 #1 NYT bestselling books. Tim Ferris comes across as incredibly relatable and down-to-earth, perhaps why his popularity has skyrocketed. With a diverse range of knowledge, Tim Ferriss isn’t all about business, he’s even brought out books such as The 4-Hour Body and The 4-Hour Chef diving into the world of health and fitness.
In this summary
This book is so full of information it’s impossible to summarise it completely. This summary has taken a collection of highlights from each of the 3 sections (healthy, wealthy & wise) and will discuss a couple of top tips. Within the healthy section, we’ll discuss exercise, the slow-carb diet, mobility and morning rituals. The wealthy section will cover being busy, saying yes and saying no, the ‘what if’ mindset, startups, and investments. Finally, the wise section will cover happiness, perfectionism, dealing with haters, and some important questions you should be asking.
“Making health #1 50% of the time doesn’t work. It’s absolutely all-or-nothing. If it’s #1 50% of the time, you’ll compromise precisely when it’s most important not to.”Click To Tweet
Exercise is a fundamental aspect of overall health, but it’s important to get the right balance. Over-exercising is just as dangerous and under-exercising. Ferriss emphasises the importance of exercising with the intention of improving your fitness, never hurt yourself and don’t go overboard. He recommends working out somewhere with a soft surface (such as gym mats) so if you tumble or face plant the risk of injury is reduced. Ferriss’ book reminds us that consistency is what’s important when it comes to exercise, not intensity.
Simple strength exercises you can do daily:
- One-arm kettlebell swing
- Kettlebell Turkish get-up
- Kettlebell Goblet squat
Pavel Tsatsouline highly recommends doing a variation of these 3 exercises every day and guarantees that you will see results.
Breathing is something we often take for granted. Try out some breathing exercises to improve your inhalation and exhaling. Ferriss’ book recommends combining exercise with breathing:
- Do as many push-ups as possible in one set. Stop short of failure. Note down how many you did and rest for 30 minutes.
- Repeat the following 40 times: maximum inhale followed by a ‘let go’ exhale – dropping your chest sharply.
- After 20-30 rounds you may feel a bit light-headed or some tingling in your hands.
- On your final round, inhale, exhale then do another set of push-ups. You’ll likely find that you are able to increase the number of push-ups from last time.
There are lots of different ways to aid recovery for your body. One of the first ones discussed in Ferriss’ book is hyperthermic conditioning also known as calculated heat exposure. There’s evidence to suggest that things can improve your endurance and actually increases your GH (growth hormone) levels. One of Ferriss’ guests explained that they have regular saunas post-workout. Just 20 minutes 3-4 times a week at a temperature of 160-170°F can be extremely beneficial for reducing DOMS (delayed-onset muscle soreness).
Now, on the other end of the spectrum, Wim Hoff, Laird Hamilton and Tony Robbins are all avid followers of cold therapy and use it as a tool to improve their immunity, mood and increase their fat loss.
“All the problems I have in the daily world subside when I do cold exposure. Exposing myself to the worthy cold . . . it is a great cleaning purifying force.”
Wim Hoff is an expert in cold therapy and takes it to radical extremes. However, Ferriss recommends you start small, when in the shower, end your shower with 30-60 seconds of pure cold water. Gradually increase the time spent under cold water.
Also emphasised in Ferriss’ book is the overwhelming importance of drinking water. Kelly Starrett stresses that you need to drink a large amount of water daily to maintain optimum health. He recommends adding a pinch of salt to your water to aid with hydration.
A lot of Ferriss’ guests promote the low-carb and ketogenic diet for optimum health. The keto diet is essentially a low-carb, high-fat diet that is designed to imitate the state of fasting. Rather than using blood sugar (glucose) as your source of energy, the body becomes dependent on ketones which are derived from fat. A few of the benefits of this diet are; fat loss, better body composition, potential anti-cancer effects, improvement of oxygen consumption, increase in overall strength and health.
A couple of Ferriss’ guests such as Dom D’Agostion recommend doing fasts. He explains that by fasting you are essentially ‘re-setting’ your body and immune system stimulating stem-cell regeneration. He recommends trying a 5-day fast 2-3 times per year.
Ferriss’ tips to a slow-carb diet:
- Eliminate all starchy carbohydrates that are white, think pasta, bread, pastries.
- Repeat the same low-carb meals regularly. Have the same thing for breakfast every day, do the same for lunch and if you require some variation you can mix up your dinners.
- Never drink your calories.
- Avoid fruit, there are too many sugars in fruit.
- To track, measure your body fat percentage. If you can see this dropping then you are on the right track.
- Take one day off per week, go crazy and eat all the foods you eliminate on the other 6 days.
”Flexibility can be passive, whereas “mobility” requires that you can demonstrate strength throughout the entire range of motion, including the end ranges.”Click To Tweet
It’s amazing what working on your mobility can do for you. Too many people get caught up in the exercises that they neglect their mobility.
Squats are something everyone knows how to do and a lot of people focus on. Kelly Starrett, CrossFit athlete explains what he calls the campfire test: try squatting all the way to the ground while keeping your feet and knees together. If you can’t do this, then you have a problem with the range of motion in your hip and ankle. By continuing to sweat heavily without this mobility can lead to multiple injuries. Starrett recommends doing light, narrow-stance overhead squats in combination with cossack squats as a way of improving your mobility in these two areas. The key is to keep it light, it’s about working on mobility, not strength. Ferriss credits the Cossack squat with a kettlebell has having a fundamental effect on his ankle mobility, he reminds you to keep your heels flat on the ground, your knees directly above your toes and your hips as close to the ground as possible when you switch.
A couple of other mobility movements that Starrett recommends are the cow stretch (sometimes called cat-cow or cat-camel in yoga). He also recommends spending as much time as you can in a low lunge and working on shoulder rotation using the Burgener warm up.
5 Morning rituals
Ferriss explains that he’s done a lot of experimenting trying to perfect his morning routine, and he acknowledges that everyone has different needs, it’s not a one-size-fits-all approach. However, these are the 5 things he does every day. He considers getting 3/5 done a success.
- Make your bed daily. By making your bed you are working on your first task of the day and achieving this will inject you with a little pride. This will motivate you to continue in the same manner throughout your day.
- Meditate. Aim for 10-20 minutes per day. Meditation can look different for everyone but Ferriss emphasises that over 80% of his guests feel that they benefit from meditation.
- Less than a minute of exercise. Upon waking, smash out 5-10 reps of something, whether it be press-ups, squats or sit-ups. This isn’t considered a workout but can have a great effect on blood flow and mood improvement.
- Make ’Titanium Tea’. Ingredients: Pu-erh aged black tea. Dragon well green tea (or other green tea). Turmeric and ginger shavings (often also Rishi brand). Add hot water and steep for 1-2 minutes. Once done, add 1-2 Tbsp of coconut oil.
- Journal. Take 5-10 minutes to write down some thoughts, Ferriss uses the 5 Minute Journal where he answers a few questions about what he is grateful for, what would make the day better and daily affirmations.
”I may be the laziest mindfulness instructor in the world because I tell my students that all they need to commit to is one mindful breath a day. Just one. Breathe in and breathe out mindfully, and your commitment for the day is fulfilled. Everything else is a bonus.”
Pricing and silicone valley
Ferriss’ guest Marc Andreessen has had plenty of experience working in Silicon Valley. And one of the overwhelming issues that he has noticed is that companies and start-ups are under-valuing their product and not charging enough. There’s been a common belief amongst companies that in order to get as many customers as possible, you have to have a low-priced accessible product on the market. However, Andreessen explains that by not charging enough for a product you’re only undercutting yourself, you are left with not enough money to actually market the product, therefore how are people going to even know about your product? Moral of the story, know the value of what you are selling. Don’t get greedy and aim for volume.
Derek Sivers emphasises the importance of saying yes to opportunities in the early days. You’ll read a lot of productivity authors talking about learning how to say no and only agreeing to things that are really going to benefit you. But Sivers points out that when you’re getting started in business you really cannot afford to turn down an opportunity, you just don’t know what might come of it.
“When you’re earlier in your career, I think the best strategy is to just say ‘yes’ to everything. Every little gig. You just never know what are the lottery tickets.”
However, once you’ve reached a point in your career where you’ve had some successes, this is where you can shift your thinking. If you don’t instinctively think ‘HELL, YES, I’LL DO THAT’, then say ‘no’. Once you’ve found your rhythm and have made progress, it’s time to stop filling all of your time with menial and mediocre tasks.
Being busy is not a good thing, it expresses a lack of priorities as Ferriss points out, so commit to things that are really worth it, and reject the rest. Ferriss believes that busyness is really just another way of being lazy.
“Being busy is most often used as a guise for avoiding the few critically important but uncomfortable actions.”
One way that Ferriss deals with procrastination and business is to identify just ONE must-do task per day. He’ll then block out a period of time to work on this and as long as he achieves this, then he considers this a success. He explains that if he begins the day knowing he has 10 important things to do, he’s likely to get none of it done, it feels like a never-ending task list. But by identifying just the most important task, he can handle it and be sure it is completed.
Don’t be a dog
Matt Mullenweg is one of the men behind WordPress. When he was a guest on Ferriss’ show he explained the importance of not being a dog when it came to planning. Mullenweg used the metaphor of a dog chasing a car to explain what not to do: a dog may chase down a car, but what does he do if he catches the car? That’s not something he has actually planned for. The dog lives in the right now. If you want to be a successful entrepreneur you have to have the ‘what if’ mindset. Anything you do, anything you change, consider the possible results of that in 1 day, 1 week, 1 month or 1 year. Always be thinking ahead and have a plan for success.
Tony Robbins has spent a lot of time learning about investments and investors. He came up with 4 patterns among successful investors:
- They all have an obsession with NOT losing money. Before entering any business opportunity or investment ask yourself what the downside is and how you can be protected against it.
- They are also all obsessed with asymmetrical risk and reward. This essentially means that they are focused on minimum risk with maximum results. It’s not all about taking high risks for huge rewards.
- Asset allocation. All investors know that at some point they are going to make the wrong decision, and that’s why asset allocation is so important. They all know the importance of diversifying.
- The final pattern Robbins noted was that they were all passionate about giving and being generous. They weren’t tight or overly frugal.
Casey Neistat can be considered a YouTube sensation, but he’s worked hard for his successes. His philosophy really emphasises the point that you have to work for what you want, you have to work harder than everyone else if you really want to find success.
“You realize that you will never be the best-looking person in the room. You’ll never be the smartest person in the room. You’ll never be the most educated, the most well-versed. You can never compete on those levels. But what you can always compete on, the true egalitarian aspect to success is hard work. You can always work harder than the next guy.”
Reid Hoffman, co-founder of LinkedIn has some valuable insights when he was a guest on Ferriss’ show. One of the stand out messages he has was speed.
”In order to move fast, I expect you’ll make some foot faults. I’m okay with an error rate of 10 to 20%—times when I would have made a different decision in a given situation—if it means you can move fast.”
Similarly, Peter Thiel believes that waiting is not always necessary. How many people are simply biding their time waiting, they finish school, go to university, do post-grad study, get a post-grad job etc. But Thiel explains that all of these long-term 10-year career plans aren’t necessary. He asks, can you get there in just 6 months? Obviously, in some cases, the 10 years are going to be necessary, but consider whether the timing is entirely necessary or if it’s something you are inflicting upon yourself as a stalling tactic.
Startups and making money
Ferriss shares some of his own experiences from being involved in startups and investments. He has a couple of rules and tips that he recommends everyone considers when venturing into the startup game:
- If you have set rules that are well thought out and intelligent, then FOLLOW THE RULES NO MATTER WHAT. You clearly set the rules with intentions, don’t break them when something tempting comes up.
- Failure is inevitable when it comes to startups, most of them will fail. So to cover your losses, you need to make sure that the successes are really worth it.
- When it comes to investing and angel investments, you have to be 100% comfortable with losing all of your money. You should only gamble with an amount that you can afford to lose.
- Limit angel investment funds to 10-15% of your liquid assets. Never more.
- When designing a product, you have to be keen to use the product yourself. If it’s not something you’re interested in, avoid it.
Systems vs. goals
A valuable lesson from Scot Adams was the difference between goals and systems. By focusing on ‘systems’ rather than ‘goals’ you allow yourself to focus on improving your skills and relationship without focusing too much on the outcome. Therefore, if you fail, it’s not that you haven’t met your goal, you still developed and improved transferable skills. Adams emphasises that by choosing these kinds of projects or habits will inevitably lead to long-term success, the skills you learn in the process will carry over onto other projects that will lead to a win. Don’t treat your systems as a binary pass/fail situation. Consider systems as something that can have a snowball effect.
Ferriss explains how he used this advice in the development of his podcast. When he began, he didn’t know what it was going to be like and just wanted a break from writing. He gave himself the chance to do 6 podcasts and see if he enjoyed it. Worst case scenario he would be able to develop his interviewing skills that would come in handy in other projects. Little did he know the podcast would become a real passion and big part of his business.“If I’ve learned anything from podcasting, it’s don’t be afraid to do something you’re not qualified to do.” Click To Tweet
The formula for success
Scott explains that an average life is easy, all you need to do is avoid trouble, get a good education and get a job you enjoy. However, if you want to lead an extraordinary life you need to do one of two things: either be the very best at one specific thing or be very good (top 25%) at two or more things. Scott explains that the first option is almost impossible and something not many people will ever achieve. But the second strategy is simple and something everyone is capable of. Scott’s advice is always to add public speaking as one of your two (or more) skills, combining being a good public speaker with any other skill and you have the recipe for some pretty decent success.
“Capitalism rewards things that are both rare and valuable. You make yourself rare by combining two or more “pretty goods” until no one else has your mix.”
Noah Kagan explains that in business, you have to get comfortable asking for things. You don’t necessarily have to be asking for miracles, but you have to be confident enough to put yourself out there. He recommends that anyone interested in entrepreneurship takes on the coffee challenge: the next 5 or 6 times you order a coffee, ask for 10% off. It doesn’t sound like a lot, but he acknowledges that it’s hard to do. But doing this just a few times will improve your confidence and help you get comfortable with asking.
Being mentally tough
Stan McChrystal has retired from the US army, he is passionate about the ability people have to develop mental toughness. He explains that there are three practices that he believes will help anyone. First, it’s about pushing yourself harder than ever before, to do something you didn’t realise you were capable of. Secondly, get into situations with a group where you share difficulties and discomfort. Finally, establish fear and make people overcome it.
Further to McChrystal’s points, Jocko Willink also has a message for being tougher. He explains that if you want to be tougher, then just be tougher. By making the decision and committing to being tougher you have already started. The next decision you make needs to be a tough one. If you usually take the lift, the tough decision would be to walk up 8 flights of stairs. Be tough and just do it.
Using pride and fear
Caroline Paul, four-time published author believes that you should use your pride as a motivator. She explains that if your fear of failure can outweigh your fear of fire, then you’re more likely to be destined for success. It’s not about being braver than everyone else, bravery doesn’t come into it. But if you are truly afraid of the humiliation that failure can bring, the use that as your motivation to succeed.
Caroline explains that fear has an important role in our lives, it’s designed to keep us safe. However, she believes that some people need to get a handle on the fear and bring it into line. Don’t let it rule you. She encourages you to ask yourself if your fear should really be a top priority?
Ferriss explains that everyone focuses on setting and visualising dreams and goals. But what about fears? After a period of struggle, Ferriss decided to define exactly what a bad future of suffering would look like, to define his nightmare.
To embrace fear-setting, you need to define the worst case scenario for any event or outcome. Understand exactly what would happen and identify all the ways that you might be affected. By defining your fears, you’ll find that you are actually working towards conquering these fears. By acknowledging the worse case scenario, you are more likely to be able to approach the given task or even with confidence in knowing all possible outcomes. Ferriss recommends you imagine with as much detail as possible. And rate the negative outcomes on a scale of 1-10. And consider are they permanent or temporary?
Next, consider what actions you would take to correct the negative outcomes. How easy would it be to get back on track?
Ferriss also explains that looking at the possible positive benefits and assigning them a number is beneficial. For example, if you did something that you were potentially afraid of, but if it all went well the outcome would be a permanent solid 9 or 10 then isn’t it worth doing? And when you consider the negative outcomes being a potential 3 or 4, doesn’t the permanent 9 outweigh a temporary 3 or 4?
“In other words, you are risking an unlikely and temporary 3 or 4 for a probable and permanent 9 or 10”
Whitney Cummings believes that striving for perfectionism can actually be paralysing. It can prevent you from living, leads to low self-esteem and unhealthy relationships. Often, the byproduct of perfectionism is actually procrastination. In the pursuit of perfection, you can’t get anything done that might not turn out exactly how you want. So whats the other option? To do nothing. Don’t pursue perfectionism, no one’s perfect and you shouldn’t want to be.
Ferriss’ tactics for dealing with haters
- Don’t focus on how many people don’t get it or don’t get you. Focus on how many people do.
- Expect that people will take things personally, 10% of people will find a way to take anything personally.
- When in doubt – starve it of oxygen (ignore it).
- Don’t over-apologise.
- You can’t reason someone out of something they didn’t reason themselves into.
- Don’t try to get everyone to like you. Confront the people who need confronting.
- If you want to improve, be content to be thought foolish and stupid.
- Living well is the best revenge.
“The most important trick to be happy is to realise that happiness is a choice that you make and a skill that you develop. You choose to be happy, and then you work at it. It’s just like building muscles.”
Naval Ravikand believes that 90% of the thoughts that we have are based on our fears. That only leaves 10% left for focusing on desire. Ravikand explains that desire is essentially your commitment to being unhappy until you get what you want. If you spend your day desiring things that you don’t have, you’re destined to be unhappy. Consider this when you are considering your desires. Ravikand encourages you to select your desires carefully and only have one big desire at any time, in order to maintain a sense of peace. If you have too many desires on at one time, then unhappiness is inevitable.
Whenever you are facing a new situation, there are three options. Firstly, you can change it. Secondly, you can accept it. And finally, you can leave it. It’s important to choose one of these options and not the terrible fourth option: sitting around wishing you could change it, but simply accepting it, or wishing you could leave it, but changing it etc. This is where the misery lies. If you approach every situation with one of the first 3 options, you’ll inevitably have better outcomes.
Ferriss is a strong advocate for reloading, within business, creativity and your personal life. The concept originally comes from fitness and straight training. It’s about training really hard, then having a de-load week where the volume and intensity are reduced significantly. It’s about using this as down-time for the body to recover and prepare for the next period of intensity.
Ferriss believes that this concept should be applied in all areas of your life. Within business, Ferriss explains that he’ll batch an intense period of difficult and similar tasks such as podcasting, emails, writing blogs and accounting. He’ll then alternate this with scheduled periods of down-time where he can do whatever he wants.
”Deloading blocks must be scheduled and defended more strongly than your business commitments. The former can strengthen and inform the latter, but not vice versa.”
17 questions that changed Ferriss’ life
- What if I did the opposite for 48 hours?
- What do I spend a silly amount of money on? How might I scratch my own itch?
- What would I do/have/be if I had $10 million? What’s my real TMI?
- What are the worst things that could happen? Could I get back here?
- If I could only work 2 hours per week on my business, what would I do?
- What if I let them make decisions up to $100? $500? $1,000?
- What’s the least crowded channel?
- Imagine if I couldn’t pitch my product directly?
- What if I created my own real-world MBA?
- Do I need to make it back the way I lost it?
- What if I could only subtract to solve problems?
- What might I put in place to allow me to go off the grid for 4 to 8 weeks, with no phone or email?
- Am I hunting antelope or field mice?
- Could it be that everything is fine and complete as is?
- What would this look like if it were easy?
- How can I throw money at this problem? How can I “waste” money to improve the quality of my life?
- No hurry, no pause.
- Exercise regularly.
- Eat low-carb, high fat.
- Don’t neglect your mobility.
- Come up with a morning routine that works for you.
- Let your body recover.
- Don’t under-price your products or services.
- In the early days of your career, say yes to every opportunity. But once you’ve reached a level of success, say no to anything that doesn’t bring you joy.
- Don’t be too busy or load up your to-do list, this only leads to procrastination. Commit to achieving 1 main thing daily. Anything else is a bonus.
- Always have a plan and consider all possible outcomes.
- You have to work hard to find success.
- Get comfortable asking for help.
- Choose to be mentally tougher. Make the tough decisions regularly.
- Use fear as a motivator but don’t give too much power to your fears.
- Practice fear-setting.
- Perfectionism is just a precursor of procrastination.
- You have 3 options when you face a new situation: you can change it, accept it or leave it.
- De-loading is important in all areas of your life. Schedule this in and stick to it.
From the same author, The 4-Hour Work Week is the book I probably recommend the most to people, and it’s one I’ve personally read multiple times. This book is an absolute go-to for anyone interested in working for themselves and creating a sustainable work/life balance. The 4-Hour Work Week is about escaping the 9-5 trap, giving yourself the freedom to work anywhere and still be successfully. It’s not about working longer hours, but about working less and still getting the same, if not better, results. Who doesn’t want that?
The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson is a guide on how to let go a little bit and enjoy life more. To realise that we will suffer in life, not everything is always great, and this book will show you how to suffer better, more meaningfully and with more compassion. Mark Manson is straight-up with his advice but when you have finished reading it, you will have a new lease on life. Most importantly, Mark Manson will help you pick meaningful values for your life and teach you that you don't have to try anymore.
The Obstacle is the Way is a fantastic and instructive read all about how to overcome any obstacle or challenge and turn it into an advantage. From author Ryan Holiday, The Obstacle is the Way draws on key historical figures and stoic philosophy to communicate its message. No matter what background you come from, your area of expertise or goals for the future, everyone can learn a valuable lesson from this book.
Guidelines is my eBook that summarises the main lessons from 33 of the best-selling self-help books in one place. It is the ultimate book summary; Available as a 80-page ebook and 115-minute audio book. Guidelines lists 31 rules (or guidelines) that you should follow to improve your productivity, become a better leader, do better in business, improve your health, succeed in life and become a happier person.
- There is a whole lot more where this came, the book is full of valuable advice and I’ve barely scratched the surface so download the complete version on Amazon.
- Check out some of the guests on The Tim Ferriss Show.
This summary is not intended as a replacement for the original book and all quotes are credited to the above mentioned author and publisher.