What makes you different from Tim Ferriss?

post by SuspiciousTitForTat · 2013-06-21T02:51:47.116Z · score: -5 (22 votes) · LW · GW · Legacy · 46 comments
Do not read this if you don't know anything about this Tim Ferriss person

I suspect anyone here is less different from Tim Ferriss than they'd like to be able to justifiably claim (see here, here, here, here). 

I don't mean Tim the Result. Results are clouded by what has been brought to attention in one of the 2009/2010 rationality quotes here

Were it possible to trace the succession of ideas in the mind of Sir Isaac Newton, during the time that he made his greatest discoveries, I make no doubt but our amazement at the extent of his genius would a little subside. But if, when a man publishes his discoveries, he either through a design, or through habit, omit the intermediary steps by which he himself arrived at them, it is no wonder that his speculations confound them, and that the generality of mankind stand amazed at his reach of thought. If a man ascend to the top of a building by the help of a common ladder, but cut away most of the steps after he has done with them, leaving only every ninth of tenth step, the view of the ladder, in the condition which he has pleased to exhibit it, gives us a prodigious, but unjust view of the man who could have made use of it. But if he had intended that any body should follow him, he should have left the ladder as he constructed it, or perhaps as he found it, for it might have been a mere accident that threw it in his way... I think that the interests of science have suffered by the excessive admiration and wonder with which several first rate philosophers are considered, and that an opinion of the greater equality of mankind, in point of genius, and power of understanding, would be of real service in the present age." - Joseph Priestly, The History and present State of Electricity

I mean Tim the method.

The varieties of achievements he's done are behaviourally distinct from living normal life. They are not so complicated to learn though. 

I invite you to ask the following question: What is one thing he's done I haven't that probably I could do, and what is the explanation I invented to myself for not having done it? Do I truly believe this explanation? Think for a minute before reading more

When I ask this to friends who read some of his stuff, I see three kinds of answers:

This is impossible for anyone who doesn't have property X (where X is always a fixed characteristic, like place of birth, blondness, impeccable genetic motivation)

We have very different values, and there is no point in trying that about which I don't care - interestingly, with every new book, there are more interests on the table to be considered "not my values", but no one suddenly came to me and said: Wow, finally he cares about throwing knives! I have reason to try after all. Are my friends values narrowing in proportion to Tim's expansions?

There are a lot of people who don't want to have more money, learn languages, work less, or travel a lot, but there are much fewer people who besides all of those don't want to exercise effectively, learn quickly, improve their sex lives, throw knives, memorize card decks, program, dance tango, become an angel investor, be famous, write books, cook well, get thinner, read quicker, contact interesting people, outsource boring stuff and so on...

The third kind is personal attack. People claim he has property E, which makes him Evil, and his evil either is proof of the falsity of his accomplishments, or is proof that emulating Tim means you are a dark creature who shall not pass through the gates of heaven. The most interesting E's are "He's a brilliant marketing man, selling profitable lies, but marketing is Evil." "He doesn't understand survivor bias, and how lucky he was, and has not read outliers to know it takes min4000 hours to get good at stuff" "He's a good looking ivy league blonde, this makes him evil" (this girl probably had in mind Nietzsche's lamb morality, from Genealogy of Morals).

What is one thing he's done you haven't that probably you could do, and what is the explanation you invented to yourself for not having done it? Do you truly believe this explanation? Would your best rationalist friend truly believe that explanation?

46 comments

Comments sorted by top scores.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2013-06-21T09:06:28.468Z · score: 9 (11 votes) · LW · GW

I'd say that the major difference between me and Tim Ferris is that I just don't care enough. It's interesting that thinking about that started to bring back the "because I'm a piece of shit" internal monologue which has mercifully been relatively off-line for the past day or so. [1] Oh, right-- big dose of David Wong, who really isn't safe for a fair number of people.

There's a sort of "you're just not good enough" motivation-forcing which seems to work backwards for me. It does not help to be told that if I was thinking right, then I wouldn't care how I was feeling.

I don't think Tim Ferris is evil in general, though I don't think his story of hacking the rules for making weight for a martial arts tournament reflects well on him. Aside from unfairness to the other contestants, he was cheating the audience because he could just shove the other players instead of doing something worth looking at.

[1] I seem to be making progress on that-- not only has the monologue been off-line a fair amount in the past few days, and it's been less intense and running for much less time when it's started. I've gotten more done with less stress.

I've thrown so many different things at the problem that it's hard to tell (for purposes of giving advice) what's made the difference, but I'll start by recommending Transforming Negative Self-Talk and The Gaslight Effect. The latter is about emotional abuse in general.

comment by buybuydandavis · 2013-06-23T23:17:41.969Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I'd say that the major difference between me and Tim Ferris is that I just don't care enough.

I don't know that Ferris has some tremendous reservoir of determination and drive that you or I lack.

We fill our days doing something. Isn't it odd that we choose such unproductive things?

When forced by time and other constraints to be productive, I will be, and I enjoy it. Recently, I've had such constraints, and I've been pretty productive. For me, at least. I've been working on my car recently, and find that work begets the desire for more work. I'm looking for more things to fix. I'll be off to the auto store today to get more parts. I don't have to wrestle my desires to make myself think of my car, I do, and I want to fix it.

Ferris seems to find a problem, or an opportunity, and do something about it. What could seemingly be more natural, yet actually be more rare?

It's probably not a case of self control as much as habits in thought and action. George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, and believe that whole time period, were big on virtue as the habit of right action. It's probably nothing more complicated, nor emotionally significant, than habit.

comment by wedrifid · 2013-06-24T04:52:22.542Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

It's probably nothing more complicated, nor emotionally significant, than habit.

That is to say... very complicated and significant but easier to trivialise.

comment by buybuydandavis · 2013-06-23T22:58:38.870Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

It does not help to be told that if I was thinking right, then I wouldn't care how I was feeling.

It might if someone said it right. I had similar unproductive internal monologues, and unproductive feelings as well. But eventually I determined that the feelings themselves weren't the problem, it was the "I'm defective" death spiral I engaged in when I felt those feelings that was the real problem. Why do I feel bad? Why can't I do this? What's wrong with me? Blah blah blah blah blah. The feelings weren't hurting me (much), my reaction to them was (a lot). The reaction I've promoted, and which has helped, is "It's just a feeling. It sucks, but it won't kill me."

comment by peter_hurford · 2013-06-21T04:45:59.162Z · score: 8 (10 votes) · LW · GW

I'm familiar with Tim Ferriss. I just finished reading The Four Hour Body yesterday. I read over this essay three times. I read everything you linked to once. And I still don't actually understand what you're asking.

Are you asking why don't I do the things Tim Ferriss says he's done? Usually because I'm skeptical that they'll actually work. I feel like Tim generalizes a lot from one example.

comment by SuspiciousTitForTat · 2013-06-21T06:01:47.477Z · score: -5 (9 votes) · LW · GW

It feels like this text was incompatible with the audience I choose for it multiplied by my (in)competence. Either I was too confusing on writing, or else there is a general dislike of using specific examples here both because of this one example generalization and because of other optimizing.

In any case, just not to leave in blank, what I intended to do was making people notice that their own doubts fall into one of the three categories, and, upon that reflection if they thought "Oh, now this seems worth trying" they would try one of those things.

Seeing your link made me think though that a danger of the whole idea of being more rational by learning specific rationality things may end up becoming a danger because it gives a person the perfect defense for every thing they may be inclined to think. Made me think of this rule from a Cracked text:
http://www.cracked.com/blog/6-harsh-truths-that-will-make-you-better-person_p1/

The human mind is a miracle, and you will never see it spring more beautifully into action than when it is fighting against evidence that it needs to change. Your psyche is equipped with layer after layer of defense mechanisms designed to shoot down anything that might keep things from staying exactly where they are -- ask any addict.

So even now, some of you reading this are feeling your brain bombard you with knee-jerk reasons to reject it. From experience, I can say that these seem to come in the form of ...

*Intentionally Interpreting Any Criticism as an Insult

"Who is he to call me lazy and worthless! A good person would never talk to me like this! He wrote this whole thing just to feel superior to me and to make me feel bad about my life! I'm going to think up my own insult to even the score!"

*Focusing on the Messenger to Avoid Hearing the Message

"Who is THIS guy to tell ME how to live? Oh, like he's so high and mighty! It's just some dumb writer on the Internet! I'm going to go dig up something on him that reassures me that he's stupid, and that everything he's saying is stupid! This guy is so pretentious, it makes me puke! I watched his old rap video on YouTube and thought his rhymes sucked!" *Focusing on the Tone to Avoid Hearing the Content

"I'm going to dig through here until I find a joke that is offensive when taken out of context, and then talk and think only about that! I've heard that a single offensive word can render an entire book invisible!"

*Revising Your Own History

"Things aren't so bad! I know that I was threatening suicide last month, but I'm feeling better now! It's entirely possible that if I just keep doing exactly what I'm doing, eventually things will work out! I'll get my big break, and if I keep doing favors for that pretty girl, eventually she'll come around!"

*Pretending That Any Self-Improvement Would Somehow Be Selling Out Your True Self

"Oh, so I guess I'm supposed to get rid of all of my manga and instead go to the gym for six hours a day and get a spray tan like those Jersey Shore douchebags? Because THAT IS THE ONLY OTHER OPTION."

And so on. Remember, misery is comfortable. It's why so many people prefer it. Happiness takes effort.

Also, courage. It's incredibly comforting to know that as long as you don't create anything in your life, then nobody can attack the thing you created.

It's so much easier to just sit back and criticize other people's creations. This movie is stupid. That couple's kids are brats. That other couple's relationship is a mess. That rich guy is shallow. This restaurant sucks. This Internet writer is an asshole. I'd better leave a mean comment demanding that the website fire him. See, I created something.

Oh, wait, did I forget to mention that part? Yeah, whatever you try to build or create -- be it a poem, or a new skill, or a new relationship -- you will find yourself immediately surrounded by non-creators who trash it. Maybe not to your face, but they'll do it. Your drunk friends do not want you to get sober. Your fat friends do not want you to start a fitness regimen. Your jobless friends do not want to see you embark on a career.

Just remember, they're only expressing their own fear, since trashing other people's work is another excuse to do nothing. "Why should I create anything when the things other people create suck? I would totally have written a novel by now, but I'm going to wait for something good, I don't want to write the next Twilight!" As long as they never produce anything, it will forever be perfect and beyond reproach. Or if they do produce something, they'll make sure they do it with detached irony. They'll make it intentionally bad to make it clear to everyone else that this isn't their real effort. Their real effort would have been amazing. Not like the shit you made.

Read our article comments -- when they get nasty, it's always from the same angle: Cracked needs to fire this columnist. This asshole needs to stop writing. Don't make any more videos. It always boils down to "Stop creating. This is different from what I would have made, and the attention you're getting is making me feel bad about myself."

Don't be that person. If you are that person, don't be that person any more. This is what's making people hate you. This is what's making you hate yourself.

o how about this: one year. The end of 2013, that's our deadline. Or a year from whenever you read this. While other people are telling you "Let's make a New Year's resolution to lose 15 pounds this year!" I'm going to say let's pledge to do fucking anything -- add any skill, any improvement to your human tool set, and get good enough at it to impress people. Don't ask me what -- hell, pick something at random if you don't know. Take a class in karate, or ballroom dancing, or pottery. Learn to bake. Build a birdhouse. Learn massage. Learn a programming language. Film a porno. Adopt a superhero persona and fight crime. Start a YouTube vlog. Write for Cracked.

But the key is, I don't want you to focus on something great that you're going to make happen to you ("I'm going to find a girlfriend, I'm going to make lots of money ..."). I want you to purely focus on giving yourself a skill that would make you ever so slightly more interesting and valuable to other people. "I don't have the money to take a cooking class." Then fucking Google "how to cook." They've even filtered out the porn now, it's easier than ever. Damn it, you have to kill those excuses. Or they will kill you.

If you want to make note of your project in the forum thread or the comments and check in this time next year, knock yourself out. I'll be curious to see if even one person actually does this, but if so we'll look back, not just on whether or not we actually followed through, but why. You have nothing to lose, and the world needs you.

David Wong - end of quote

Not that I think this has anything in particular to do with you. It just made me realize that rationality techniques may be dangerous for me... anyway, sorry for wasting your time, I'll think more about being clear next time.

comment by RowanE · 2013-06-21T14:01:12.514Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

If you don't actually address the issue of whether Tim Ferriss is generalising from one example, all you're doing there is applying a fully general counterargument. Really, you should at least attempt to address such a concern, and only then ask "is that your true rejection?"

Also, you could probably have formatted the post better, because it's not completely apparent, especially to someone who skims through (which people will, because that comment was huge) that the whole thing following the link is a quote from a Cracked article (is it? I'm still not completely sure...) and what's appropriate in a cracked article that has "harsh truths" in the title isn't as appropriate in Less Wrong discussion, and it seems like you're being unnecessarily rude and aggressive as well as not exactly on-topic.

comment by peter_hurford · 2013-06-21T14:15:03.721Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I'm not some guy that's afraid of changing myself. I've done a lot this year to work on exercise and diet habits. I just didn't find much of Tim's advice particularly useful.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-06-21T03:07:05.414Z · score: 7 (13 votes) · LW · GW

So, I came to this post not knowing anything about Tim Ferriss.

I clicked on the three links in the first paragraph (yes, there are three links) and discovered next to nothing about him. Oh, he wrote a fad diet once that EY probably didn't end up trying? Hurray? The last link barely mentions him at all.

Then I read the rest of the post, and let me tell you, I have no idea why I should care about how your friends react to this mythological figure, Tim Ferriss. He's just, like, a guy, or something?

comment by SuspiciousTitForTat · 2013-06-21T03:12:42.416Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Fixed.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-06-21T05:17:18.006Z · score: 2 (6 votes) · LW · GW

It's a bit late for you to tell me not to read your post.

comment by Emile · 2013-06-21T07:38:29.643Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

I was generally aware of who Tim Ferriss was when coming to his post, but my first understanding (from the title and early paragraphs) was along the lines of "You people may think Tim Ferriss is a loud-mouthed crank, but you're not any better!" and not "What the great Tim Ferriss has done, even a schmuck like you can do too!", which is probably closer to your intended meaning.

Curses! The Illusion Of Transparency strikes again!

comment by wedrifid · 2013-06-21T08:30:01.748Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

and not "What the great Tim Ferris has done, even a schmuck like you can do too!", which is probably closer to your intended meaning.

Really? That interpretation doesn't seem compatible with the first sentence.

comment by Emile · 2013-06-21T08:46:06.264Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

You mean " I suspect anyone here is less different from Tim Ferriss than they'd like to be able to justifiably claim"? It's not very clear, but I suspect the intended meaning is closer to "Tim Ferriss is not that far above you" than to "Tim Ferriss is not that far below you" ... no?

(Or if the meaning depends on the content of the four links, then I dunno, I haven't went and reread those).

comment by RowanE · 2013-06-21T14:00:22.517Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I think the sticking point is the word "like". This implies they want to be different from Tim Ferris. In the "not that far above you" interpretation, that could just mean they're making excuses, but it's not an interpretation that jumps as easily to mind.

comment by Emile · 2013-06-21T15:31:23.934Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I agree it implies wanting to be different from Tim Ferriss, but it doesn't say in which direction. And things like

What is one thing he's done you haven't that probably you could do, and what is the explanation you invented to yourself for not having done it?

... makes me think SuspiciousTitForTat meant the not that far above you" interpretation. Though the fact that both you and wedrifid don't makes me doubt.

SuspiciousTitForTat: if you have three people scratching their head and coming up with opposite interpretations of your opening sentence, you may need to make your writing clearer :)

(at this stage, this subthread is more interesting as a case study in unclear communication than as discussion of the article...)

comment by RowanE · 2013-06-21T20:45:35.437Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Oh no, I agree that the post means what you think it means. I was guessing at why people interpreted it that way. I should have added that it's not an interpretation that jumps as easily to mind when the first sentence alone is read out of context.

comment by Locaha · 2013-06-21T10:38:07.389Z · score: 5 (9 votes) · LW · GW

Hmm. Interesting, this is the first time I ever heard of Tim Ferris, but what I learned about him in 5 minutes made me classify him in the same set with Steve Pavlina, titled: "Apply extreme caution. May or may not have some possible interesting nuggets in a vast pile of bullshit. Likely a total waste of time".

Should I research further?

comment by RichardKennaway · 2013-06-21T11:08:38.770Z · score: 2 (6 votes) · LW · GW

I've been aware of Ferriss and Pavlina for some years, and that is my impression as well, of both. And as one of the metabolically privileged (this body does not accumulate fat) I have little personal use for his Four Hour Body material.

comment by knb · 2013-06-22T01:45:33.899Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

The problem for most self-help books like Tim's is that the author usually underestimates what one might call "micro-judgments," the tiny, largely subconscious decisions that we don't even realize we are making. I suspect those micro-judgments are the reason people like TF or Warren Buffet consistently succeed but cannot consistently help other people succeed to the same degree.

I followed the 4HWW plan for creating a low-effort business. The first 5 ideas failed during initial testing, one seemed to work, but proved unsustainable (I lost several hundred dollars on this), and another works well, and is still my largest source of income. No other idea I've tried since then has worked out.

comment by wedrifid · 2013-06-22T01:58:58.071Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I suspect those micro-judgments are the reason people like TF or Warren Buffet consistently succeed but cannot consistently help other people succeed to the same degree.

Those and "actually starting then continually applying focussed effort".

comment by buybuydandavis · 2013-06-22T19:03:23.848Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Mainly, just actually starting and carrying out the plan. Many of his solutions require little real effort.

comment by RomeoStevens · 2013-06-27T02:37:56.074Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I suspect everyone continually underestimates "have powerful allies", and that this effect is larger than mico-behaviors, because surrounding yourself with powerful allies begets better micro-behaviors anyway, in addition to myriad other benefits(you are the average of your surroundings).

comment by wedrifid · 2013-06-27T07:35:40.044Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I suspect everyone continually underestimates "have powerful allies"

Given that everyone spends most of their time and emotional processing resources optimising for alliances and that perhaps a majority of advice and self help books can be considered to be giving advice for optimising alliance building this seems unlikely.

comment by RomeoStevens · 2013-06-27T09:47:28.488Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

People seem to care more about affiliation than about building alliances that are useful.

comment by wedrifid · 2013-06-27T10:08:48.955Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

People seem to care more about affiliation than about building alliances that are useful.

I agree (enthusiastically) with the position that people's heuristics regarding social alliances are often grossly miscalibrated to the actual environment they live in.

comment by buybuydandavis · 2013-06-22T19:01:04.822Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

The problem for most self-help books like Tim's is that the author usually underestimates what one might call "micro-judgments," the tiny, largely subconscious decisions that we don't even realize we are making.

I don't think so. Ferriss is all about maximal results in minimal time. In general, his plans require you to do something for some limited time a day, not control your actions 24hours a day. You don't have to make so many microdecisions, just one macrodecision, and then a limited number of microdecisions to follow that macrodecision.

comment by Dahlen · 2013-06-23T23:18:20.942Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Why did you single out this one guy to stand for accomplishment in general? Why did one guy have to be singled out to stand for accomplishment in general?

(Unless, of course, you're part of his marketing team, and then it all makes sense.)

comment by wedrifid · 2013-06-21T08:27:26.140Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I suspect anyone here is less different from Tim Ferriss than they'd like to be able to justifiably claim (see here, here, here, here).

Thankyou.

I mean Tim the method.

Again, thankyou. Tim is far more instrumentally rational than either myself or the vast majority of people here. His epistemic rationality is less impressive but would probably still top quartile among lesswrong participants if he was one.

What makes you different from Tim Ferriss?

In my case the most significant difference would be Executive Function. His is excellent (albeit idiosyncratic), mine is abysmal.

comment by Kevin · 2013-06-24T14:43:29.287Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

He's a better popular non-fiction writer.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-06-22T16:56:04.560Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

where X is always a fixed characteristic, like [...] blondness

Isn't there such a thing as hair dye? ;-)

comment by CasioTheSane · 2013-06-21T05:29:51.556Z · score: 1 (9 votes) · LW · GW

You have a good point about motivation, but I don't think Timothy Ferriss is a good example person to use for explaining this idea to LWers. Perhaps a very successful and motivated scientist such as Feynman?

Personally, I don't find Timothy Ferris' motivation level that impressive- on the contrary, I think he's dangerously lazy.

For example, he presents himself as an elite and highly experienced biohacker in 4HB, but he's just copying methods from already published books that he doesn't understand well. He's using relatively dangerous and ineffective techniques, because he never invested the time to understand the relevant biology, history, and many key methods surrounding the ideas he talks about.

comment by drethelin · 2013-06-21T06:46:47.251Z · score: 6 (8 votes) · LW · GW

This is actually a very traditional kind of over-caution. It's being lazy by pretending not to be, and never actually doing anything. You learn more about how effective a diet is for you by trying it for two months than you do by studying nutrition science for 4 years, but one is a scary difficult life change and the other you can leave to the experts and do nothing.

He's put in way more time and effort into figuring out his own body and its reactions to things than you ever will. What's lazy about this? It may be inefficient or incorrect if you believe in the primacy of research, but in what universe does it count as lazy?

comment by CasioTheSane · 2013-06-22T06:25:48.763Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I was not arguing for studying theory over practical experience- but to argue that he is far from an expert at either approach.

It's true that most effective fitness techniques lack any solid theoretical basis and were discovered by self experimentation. However, his knowledge level of these practical fitness techniques is shallow.

For example his workouts were copied nearly verbatim from the book "Body by Science" but are missing important advice from that book on how to perform them safely and effectively. He also seems unaware of the methods developed by self-experimentation/bodybuilding pioneer Vince Gironda, which are generally more effective than the methods he talks about in 4HB.

Another example- The low rep/low duration/infrequent lifting methods in 4HB don't work without EXTREMELY high effort/intensity levels. He does mention this in his book (I think he says lift like you have a gun to your head), but the vast majority of people can't do this without specific mental techniques that increase intensity. By leaving "intensity mental hacks" out of his book, the workouts will do nothing for most people.

I'm glad that he's popularizing alternative fitness and nutrition ideas, but at the same time I'm frustrated that he didn't take the time to do a better job of researching and understanding what's out there first.

comment by wedrifid · 2013-06-21T08:52:07.522Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Personally, I don't find Timothy Ferris' motivation level that impressive- on the contrary, I think he's dangerously lazy.

You are wrong. Any definition of 'lazy' which makes your claim true would be ridiculous. And, in case you were wondering, suicide bombers aren't cowards either.

but he's just copying methods from already published books

Bravo.

that he doesn't understand well

Unsubstantiated claim that I have no reason be believe. His understanding seems to be more than adequate, even if oriented more towards practice than theory.

He's using relatively dangerous and ineffective techniques

This seems false (except the parts that explicitly say "this is dangerous", "don't do this without medical supervision").

comment by CasioTheSane · 2013-06-22T07:10:34.784Z · score: -2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Invest some time looking into modern bodybuilding methods and "paleo 2.0" diets, and you'll quickly see that his knowledge level of practical fitness methods is shockingly shallow (and outdated) for someone who claims such a longstanding interest in them.

comment by CAE_Jones · 2013-06-21T03:20:55.628Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I haven't read The Four Hour Work Week, but I have read The Motivation Hacker by Nick Winters, and haven't been able to move beyond attempts at success spirals and enforcing work times by disconnecting the internet. Mostly, I think of the most powerful motivators he mentions to require the kind of precommitment that could be quite costly if you fail, and given my financial situation and personal history regarding doing what I plan to do, I would be hard pressed to bet more than $10 that I'll accomplish any given task in a given interval.

Basically, he had some starting capital and a few reliable allies when he set out on his high-productivity mission. I tend to expect that, had I either, I would be accomplishing much more.

The idea, of course, is to make failure so costly that one can't help but succeed. I have a much more pessimistic view on how my brain works. Putting something costly enough to truly hurt up as collateral seems likely to motivate me to want to work, not enough to actually work. (Something similar to this happened in late 2010, and I was even on Focalin at the time, and all it managed to accomplish was making me so miserable that I switched from Focalin to Prozak by the end of the month. It was not as high-stakes as the sorts of things I was imagining trying, but it did manage to ruin something I'd been planning for about a year without accomplishing anything.) I suspect that if I tried Beeminder, I'd lose all the money I've made in the past 1.25 years pretty quickly. (All the money I've made comes down to about $300, minus some software upgrades.)

comment by vali · 2013-06-21T04:28:21.228Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I used to think that making failure more costly might be a good source of motivation as well. I ended up failing out of college and spending several months in a haze of depression and total apathy about life.

I'm doing a lot better now, but I've learned my lesson, and no longer use negative incentives as sources of motivation. For a person of my mindset, there is no such thing as "failure so costly one can't help but succeed."

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2013-06-21T09:39:30.792Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Using "make failure so costly you can't help but succeed" sounds like an approach where good results would have a stronger than average survival effect.

comment by Jayson_Virissimo · 2013-06-21T04:52:42.257Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

The idea, of course, is to make failure so costly that one can't help but succeed.

To be fair to Nick Winters, he gives several warnings before introducing this tactic and (if my memory doesn't fail me) suggests using it only as a last resort.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-06-22T08:18:45.309Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Do not read this if you don't know anything about this Tim Ferriss person

I've read his name somewhere, but I'm not sure I remember who he was and I can't be bothered to check, which I guess is close enough to not knowing anything about him. So I'm skipping the rest of the article.

comment by moridinamael · 2013-06-21T15:51:43.046Z · score: 0 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Tim Ferriss is little more than a very successful self-promoter. I say this as a big fan of his, having bought and read all of his books and following his blog. He's very good at identifying what makes other humans sit up and take notice, what we find impressive, and then going full munchkin on the process of achieving those things.

Perfect examples include the martial arts tournament where he hacked the weight classes, his use of Google Adwords to determine the most effective book titles, his workout routines and language-learning honed to obtain maximum results from minimum time investment, likewise his bare-bones approach to learning to cook ... In fact, the entire point of Four Hour Chef is to teach the reader generalized skills for munchkining your way through to apparent competence at apparently difficult skills like cooking.

He's a master of finding psychological levers, which is another way of saying he's an expert at marketing. But he is not actually superhuman; the idea that he is superhuman is the marketing tool which he has used to sell you books.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2013-06-21T16:02:33.977Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I've also seen a claim that he doesn't include self-promotion in his 4 hour work week. Does this seem plausible to you?

comment by moridinamael · 2013-06-21T16:37:02.043Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

It does not. The entire book is about how he cleverly figured out how to take his struggling small business and automate, streamline, or outsource all its parts until he only had to actually attend to it ... roughly four hours a week. The rest of the book that isn't about this is about how to use your new-found free time to live an enviable life, using himself as an example.

I say again that I am a fan of his and that The Four Hour Workweek had a lasting positive effect on how I think about work and how I think about the value of my free time. I am not saying that the content of his books is bunk because he is an aggressive self-promoter. I am rather saying that the content of his books is in a sense inextricable from the fact that he is an aggressive self-promoter, perhaps because a hidden theme across all his work is that being an aggressive self-promoter is useful.

ETA: He also uses other people as examples, in all his books, but he always includes himself and his personal anecdotes. I wanted to clarify that the books aren't actually 100% about him, they're not even 10% about him, but his signature and his exploits run throughout them.

comment by Aharon · 2013-06-21T18:34:17.578Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I'm a bit sceptical about T4HW, since the numbers in this blog post (http://thehackensack.blogspot.de/2009/10/how-much-was-tim-ferriss-really-making.html) imply he exaggerated very, very much (although 4.000 $/month still alllows a comfortable living).

comment by metatroll · 2013-06-21T04:54:14.918Z · score: -2 (12 votes) · LW · GW

And what about Kirly Prokastian?

I have never seen Kirly discussed on this site. Are you all afraid of him, and the level of genuine achievement he represents?