Book Review- Tools of Titans by Tim Ferriss

Tools of Titans is the fourth book by Tim Ferriss. More accurately, though, while Ferriss authors some interludes about various aspects of life that are sprinkled throughout the book, his main role here is as a collector and curator of the “greatest hits” from various interviews he’s conducted, some of which were episodes of his podcast, The Tim Ferriss Show (Which I recommend listening to, incidentally).

The book’s full title is “Tools of Titans: The Tactics, Routines, and Habits of Billionaires, Icons, and World-Class Performers”, and Ferriss interviewed over 110 hugely successful people from all walks of life in it. Arnold Schwarzenegger (Who also wrote the foreword, which you can read here), Peter Thiel, Alexis Ohanian, Tony Robbins, Amanda Palmer, and Scott Adams are just some of the people whose insights Ferriss mined for Tools of Titans. His purpose in doing this was to, in his words, “tease out” various nuggets of wisdom, routines, unusual habits, etc. that these world-class performers use–essentially, to find out what makes them tick.

Ferriss notes in the Intro (Also available for free) that the book is set up like a buffet of sorts, where you can read the interviews and sections you’re interested in, and skip what doesn’t appeal to you (He does recommend going back and at least glancing over what you skipped, and asking yourself why you did so). I actually elected to read the book cover-to-cover, and learned a few things in the process. First, there’s no one magic path to world-class performance. Some of the interview subjects contradict one another, and Ferriss noted in the intro that, in giving feedback for the book, the parts some people felt were essential to keep were the parts other people would have cut. Secondly, though, there were some common patterns that emerged. A number of the interviewees mentioned meditation as an essential component of their day, for instance.

In between the interviews, Ferriss intersperses short articles on topics ranging from The Slow-Carb Diet, to Fear-Setting, to “Productivity” tricks (His quotes, not mine). Some of the sections are more directly applicable to “the average Joe” than others–I’m not about to use the Slow-Carb Diet chapter, for instance, but I did enjoy the “Testing the Impossible: 17 Questions That Changed My Life” one–but the breadth of what’s covered is such that you’re likely to get something out of one of the interludes.

Even the interviews with people who come from fields utterly irrelevant to me were pretty fascinating, in particular one with Martin Polanco and Dan Engle on the use of iboga/ibogaine (A psychedelic drug) to treat opiate addictions. Martin and Dan both reserve its use for addicts so far gone that they’re likely to die from either their addiction or drug-related violence soon. Why? Because iboga can be fatal in itself for roughly 1 out of 300 people.

As with most “self-improvement” books, I went into this looking for one concept or quote I could apply to my life. And I got one, from retired Navy SEAL Jocko Willink. The quote was “If you want to be tougher, then be tougher!” It’s a reminder that you control a lot more than you think you do, and sometimes it’s your own fault if things aren’t going the way you think they should.

In all, I’d highly recommend Tools of Titans. Besides picking up some concepts and tricks to try in my own daily life, I was also entertained by all the interviews and anecdotes. Even if you’re not into self-improvement, you’ll probably find something to enjoy story-wise or anecdote-wise that will make the book worth it.


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