Successful people in every industry have developed habits and perspectives that drive them towards success. The Tools of Titans shares the wisdom, thoughts, behaviors and beliefs of some of the most successful people in the world, from business owners to movie stars. Based on interviews the author conducted over the years, the overriding message is that people develop “tools” that work for them personally and become disciplined in their application to overcome challenges and stay on course. Ferriss writes from personal experience in that he utilized many of the tools for his own success.
Tools of Titans is a compilation of stories and profiles of almost 200 world-class performers that the author, Time Ferriss, has interviewed on The Tim Ferriss Show. The performers represent a broad range of careers – movie stars, professional athletes, chess prodigies, hedge fund managers, investors, authors, consultants, speakers, CEOs and so many others. There are also non-profile chapters in which Ferriss discusses the lessons he learned and adopted to achieve his own personal success. These chapters expand upon key principles and tools mentioned by the people included in the book. Like the people discussed in the book Be Fearless, this is Ferriss’s call to live an extraordinary life on your own terms.
Getting successful people to share their insights is a productive way to hone in on what it takes to succeed at anything attempted. It is also a common approach found in books like Make Your Mark. What really makes Tools of Titans stand out is the sheer number and variety of high performers included in the book. It is a large book of over 672 pages. To get the most out of this book, one suggestion is to skip around and find the stories that have the most meaning to the reader.
Though there are plenty of quotes and one-liners, Ferriss makes it clear he has vetted, explored and applied to his own life the information and advice he gleaned from the people he interviewed. He used their tactics and philosophies to successfully complete high-stakes negotiations, manage high-risk environments and complete large business dealings, making millions of dollars in the process. An interesting common thread throughout the book is that developing your personal rituals and exercises is the way to make progress towards goals, a recommendation also found in the book Big Dreams, Daily Joys.
One of the main themes is that world-class performers do not have superpowers. They do have an uncanny ability to make rules for themselves that change reality and lead to success. They ask themselves questions that seem absurd on the surface but in reality are designed to force thinking without constraints. For example, Peter Thiel asks himself, “If you have a 10-year plan of how to get somewhere, you should ask: Why can’t you do this in 6 months.” In the book Drive, a similar principle is proposed in that people are truly motivated when they direct their own lives in their own unique way without letting others hinder their efforts.
The tools the author talks about take many forms. They include books, routines, common self-talk, favorite questions, supplements and more. The people included in the book have all turned their weaknesses into competitive advantages. Many have taken non-traditional paths. Like the successful people in the book Return on Courage, the titans overcome fear to drive change. It is too easy to fall into routines of behaving and thinking that impede success.
This is an unusual book in that it contains nuggets of wisdom, exercises, book recommendations, essays and blog posts, content to watch and much more. There are philosophies, one-liners, stories and suggestions, reflecting a variety of cultures and distinctive life experiences as in the book Outliers. Tools of Titans even includes discussions of physical exercises, with drawings and discipline, and life exercises to improve focus. For example, there are recommendations to write down 10 ideas each morning; perform daily structured gratitude journaling; write two pages of uninterrupted flow to practice generating content without judgement; and commit to doing one pushup before bed. Some suggestions include doing meditation, fasting, using a sauna, making your bed every morning and other unexpected simple recommendations from powerful and successful people.
These ideas and many more are designed to add discipline to life and to encourage thinking outside-the-box. This is a common theme among successful people, creating plenty of topic matter for books like Grit. It takes passion and persistence (grit) to succeed in school, athletics, parenting and business. It takes discipline but it is being disciplined according to your own set of rules or tools.
The Tools of Titans book is filled with actionable and often surprising advice. It is a matter of deciding which advice is most applicable to the reader’s life and which advice delivers the most value. Most people will not read all 670+ pages but will skip around until a story captures their curiosity. There is advice to chill out; to not do something for an audience but create something because it is personally exciting and rewarding; to accept reality but turn a problem into something good; and to not accept the current norms. People are encouraged to be humble, to make rules that work for them and to have a clear vision of end goals. This book, like the book Stumbling on Happiness, is really about finding purpose in life by imagining a future you will like.
There are questions that can change life too. These are questions that most people would not ask themselves, but they are deeply thought provoking. “What if I did the opposite for 48 hours? What if I couldn’t pitch my product directly? What would I do if I could only work two hours each week on my business? What if I could only subtract to solve the problem? How can I waste money to improve my life?
Throughout the interviews is found the common theme of forcing oneself to adopt a new perspective and avoid falling into a rut of thinking and behaving. It is this kind of thinking that produces creativity because it releases thinking from habits and the constraints of norms and traditional thinking. You can read more about what it takes to defy convention and release creativity in the book Creativity, Inc.
There is lots of good advice in the Tools of Titans. With so many different people sharing their advice, there is certainly something for everyone in it. Ultimately, this is a book about finding success in business or whatever career is chosen. Ferriss wanted this book to share actionable details and to give glimpses into the details of the lives of people who are successful. If you are a person determined to follow your unique path, read this book, and then read the book The Million-Dollar, One-Person Business. Both books are about doing things on your own terms.
The collective wisdom found in the book is interesting and useful and a good reminder that people can create their own destiny through the kind of daily habits and thought processes developed. A destiny does not necessarily mean making millions of dollars or being CEO of a large company, though following the principles in this book could contribute to financial success. There are people like those described in the book, Small Giants. Their destiny was to start and run businesses based on their own definitions of success.
As you read Tools of Titans, think about the destiny you envision for yourself and identify the personal tools that will keep you making steady progress towards achieving goals, whatever they may be. Your destiny is your decision and under your control.
Timothy Ferriss could easily be called an over-achiever. He received his BA from Princeton University in 2000, concentrating on East Asian Studies and language acquisition. He has been quite busy since 1999, performing a variety of notable activities, some expected and some quite surprising. The expected experiences included being a guest lecturer at Princeton University from 2003-2013 in High-Tech Entrepreneurship and Electrical Engineering and a Finance and Entrepreneurship advisor at Singularity University at NASA Ames. Ferris has been a political asylum researcher and was the 2009 Henry Crown Fellow at the Aspen Institute.
The surprising adventures include things like becoming the first American in history to hold a Guinness World Record in tango and becoming a national Chinese kickboxing champion. This is in addition to being an early-stage technology advisor and advisor.
Ferriss is a sought after speaker and is invited to speak at prestigious organizations pursuing innovation, like MIT, Google, Harvard Business School, Facebook, and Nike. He has been keynote speaker at many events, including TED, E-Tech, the Web 2.0 Exposition, and E-Tech.
To date, Ferriss has written five books, and each one has earned notable awards. The first was The 4-Hour Workweek (2009) which became a #1 New York Times, BusinessWeek and Wall Street Journal bestseller. The 4-Hour Body (2012) was next, and it also became a New York times bestseller. The 4-Hour Chef (2012) earned the honor of being named the New York times and Wall Street Journal bestseller and garnered the Gourmand’s “Best in the World Award” award at the 18th Annual Paris Cookbook Awards. The Tools of Titans was published in 2016, and the Tribe of Mentors came out in 2017 and once again was a New York Times bestseller.
The Tim Ferriss Show is a podcast show that often ranks as the number one podcast on Apple Podcasts and claims more than 100 million downloads. The podcasts are interviews with a variety of famous and successful people across industries. The podcast blog has been ranked as number one on the Top Management and Leadership Blogs list. Ferriss is very active on social media in general. He has a Twitter account, named by Mashable as one of the “5 Must Follow Twitter Accounts for Entrepreneurs”. He is also found on Instagram, Facebook and YouTube.
Ferriss serves on the advisory board of DonorsChoose.org, an innovative educational nonproof.