When I was teaching English in Bangkok, a friend gave me a copy of The 4-Hour Workweek by some guy named Tim Ferriss. Apparently, it was a best-selling book. At the time, I was trying to figure out how to extend my travels, and my friend thought the book would be helpful. I read it and immediately wrote down ideas. It was filled with helpful tips on work-life balance, starting your own business, and living a time-rich life. The book had a profound impact on my thoughts about living life. I understood immediately why the book was (and still is) so successful.
Many of you probably have heard of Tim and his work. His books have been #1 best-sellers multiple times over, and he’s often considered the original lifestyle designer and life-hacker.
Since reading his book in 2007, I have continued to read Tim’s work, was featured on his website, and got to meet him on a few occasions (I tried very hard not to “fanboy out” the first time). Today, I’m beyond thrilled to share an interview I did with him over the weekend. We talked travel, languages, and his new TV show!
Nomadic Matt: You’re famous for all your “4-hour” books, but for those who don’t know you, can you give us a little background on yourself and how you got into this?
Tim: For sure. I grew up on Long Island, rat tail and all. I somehow ended up at Princeton studying neuroscience and then East Asian studies. I graduated in 2000 and headed to San Francisco to make billions at a start-up that promptly imploded. I started my own sports nutrition company. However, my girlfriend left me and I had a nervous breakdown, which led me to leaving the US and traveling around the world for 18 months. That’s when I redesigned my life, the basis of which formed The 4-Hour Workweek. It was turned down by 27 publishers, then it hit and stayed on The New York Times best-seller list for 4+ years. Years later, I’m still passionate about travel and showing people how to conquer fear.
My newest project, a TV show called The Tim Ferriss Experiment, explores how to conquer fear and increase your learning speed 10 times over. It was filmed and edited by the same Emmy award–winning team behind Anthony Bourdain (Zero Point Zero).
You were inspired to write The 4-Hour Workweek because you went on a big trip around the world, so let’s talk travel a bit. Why do you travel?
I travel to open my own mind, question my assumptions, and learn. You can’t understand or appreciate your own culture without experiencing other cultures. Language learning, which I once considered myself “bad at,” is also the key to having a second soul. It gives you a new and better lens for the entire world. As Ludwig Wittgenstein said, “The limits of my language are the limits of my world.”
Like you, I was heavily influenced by our friend Rolf Pott’s book Vagabonding. In the world of life hacks and efficiency, do you think the aesthetic of slow travel has been forgotten?
If you’re constantly getting smart phone notifications every five minutes, it’s impossible to feel unrushed or nonreactive. So, I don’t think we’ve so much “forgotten” the art of slow travel as we’ve falsely convinced ourselves that we don’t have time. That’s nonsense. If you don’t have time, you don’t have priorities. What we lack is attention, not time. There are simple steps that help fix this, like making your Saturdays a “screen-free” day for instance.