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Book review: Tools Of Titans

LiveMint logoLiveMint 05-03-2017 Sonya Dutta Choudhury

Some people are more successful than others because of the habits they develop, says Tim Ferriss in his new book Tools Of Titans: The Tactics, Routines, And Habits Of Billionaires, Icons, And World-class Performers. The creator of The Tim Ferriss Show, the popular podcast which has been downloaded more than 100 million times, Ferriss has previously authored The 4 -Hour Workweek, The 4-Hour Chef and The 4-Hour Body. In his latest book, he offers productivity tips using nuggets of wisdom from over a hundred high achievers he has interviewed over the years, from celebrities to biochemists to athletes, for his podcast.

At 674 pages, the book is a door-stopper. You could probably read it as an e-book, except that it works like a charm in paper and print. It’s the perfect dip-into volume.

Flip open to read about Jocko Willink, a former US navy SEAL, on page 412. Willink talks about waking up early: “I’m up and getting after it by 4.45. I like to have that psychological win over the enemy.... When I wake up in the morning, I’m thinking to myself: What can I do to be ready for that moment (of confrontation).” These and other examples illustrate leadership, how to be a commander, and how to take extreme ownership of your world, starting with timing.

Turn to Olympic gold medallist, snowboarder and skateboarder Shaun White on page 271, for instance. He describes what he tells himself before an Olympic race. “I say, ‘At the end of the day, who cares? What’s the big deal ? I’m here, I’m going to try my best , and I’m going to go home, and my family’s there …. Even though my whole world’s wrapped up in this, who cares?’” Ferriss’ note here is: “The ‘And I’m going to go home, and my family’s there’ is a line he adopted from Andre Agassi, one of his mentors. Shaun and I both love and recommend Andre’s autobiography, Open.”

Ferriss makes an interesting narrator, telling us early on, “In this book, you’ll naturally look for common habits and recommendations, and you should. Here are a few patterns, some odder than the other.

■ More than 80% of the interviewees practise daily mindfulness or meditation in some form

■The habit of listening to single songs on loop for focus

■ Nearly everyone has done some form of “spec” work (completing projects on their own time and dime, then submitting them to prospective buyers).”

The book also has all sorts of nuggets, like “Writing prompts from writer Cheryl Strayed”, an essay on the virtues of laziness, and “Some practical thoughts on Suicide”, where Ferriss reveals his own story and gives thoughtful, matter-of-fact advice.

There’s also a chapter on the books most recommended by the interviewees. These include Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu, Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari and The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande. This volume will be a worthy addition to all these great books that make great gifts.

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