On Habits and Routines

If we had a chance to look into the lives of all the people we admire, what would we look closely at? Their success? That’s a fairly generic answer. Their wealth is a category that I think most people would be sucked into far too easily, admiring the joys that come with the financial security and abundance that comes with mastery of a field. Their houses, cars, lifestyles? Another area of superficial use only. Think of it like an iceberg. All the above are the obvious parts that you see, but what are the root causes of that success?
Now Tim Ferriss has been putting out consumable and useful content for many years. I am a follower of most of his work, having read all of his books to date and referring to the blog for the occasional article. But his two latest tomes are of a substantially different tact to The Four-Hour Work Week, Four-Hour Body and Four-Hour Chef respectively (and I mean, don’t those books just sound like titles of bad infomercials anyway?!) The first of which, and the subject of our discussion today, is Tools of Titans: The Tactics, Routines and Habits of Billionaires, Icons and World-Class Performers which can be found here.
If you are a fan of his podcasts, a lot of the information contained in this book will not be new to you. But even if you listen to them, having the key points of each of over 100 interviews distilled into a portable package is a rather useful aide-memoire to have. And if you have not yet stumbled across The Tim Ferriss Show, then some of the wisdom in this book will astound you.
Due to his entrepreneurial success within the fields of sports supplementation, technology, business optimisation and then angel investing into technology start-ups, followed by his subsequent run of 3 NY Times best-selling books in the Four-Hour series listed above coupled with living in Silicon Valley, Tim has had unprecendented access to a plethora of successful people. And with this book and the podcast he uses it to full effect. Tim’s ability to connect with people across multiple disciplines allows for him to use his skills in pattern recognition.
The book is divided into three titled sections: Healthy, Wealthy and Wise. He has sectioned the interviewees by their field of excellence – Healthy covers those in the fitness and medical industries predominantly, Wealthy those in the financial sectors, and then Wise spans across all fields. Some of the information to come out of this book is staggeringly useful. For example, a section from the introductory chapter reads as follows.

In this book, you’ll naturally look for common habits and recommendations, and you should. Here are a few patterns, some odder than others:

  • More than 80% of the interviewees have some form of daily mindfulness or meditative practice.
  • A surprising number of males (not females) over 45 never eat breakfast,or eat the scantiest of fare (e.g. Laird Hamilton, Malcolm Gladwell, General Stanley McChrystal).
  • Many use the ChiliPad device for cooling at bedtime.
  • Rave reviews of the books Sapiens, Poor Charlie’s Almanack, Influence and Man’s Search For Meaning, amongst others.
  • The habit of listening to single songs on repeat for focus.
  • Almost every guest has been able to take obvious “weaknesses” and turn them into huge competitive advantages.

The most staggering of the above for me is the first statistic – more than 80% have a form of mindfulness and meditative practice. Mindfulness and meditation are a pair of words with some mixed connotations in modern society. It is associated with hippy-type, airy-fairy, 60’s and 70’s yogis. And that association could not be more wrong.
According to these findings, a fairly wide-netted sample of some of the most successful people in the world endorse meditative practice. From Sam Harris’ guided mindfulness meditations to Tony Robbins’ priming, Laird Hamilton’s yoga to Tim’s personal love of TM (Transcendental Meditation), the ability to “turn off” one’s mind is an essential pre-requisite to the corresponding ability to turn on one’s mind and apply focus to deep work. Meditative practice teaches mastery of one’s own mind, and gives the individual control of their own thoughts to do with what they will. It is essential.
This book is also littered with fantastic references, and from these pages alone one could draw a reading list to last for years. From the four fantastic books listed in the quote above (of which I have so far only read 2!), almost every interviewee provides the book that they “have gifted most to other people”, one of Tim’s most prevalent interview questions. There are many repeated mentions, including the four above. This is one of the most valuable parts of this book.
Finally, he offers many quotes that can be noted down for guidance long beyond the lifespans of those present in the book’s pages. Let’s see if anyone can identify which of the three sections (Healthy, Wealthy and Wise) the following quotes introduce…

When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be” – Lao Tzu
If you find yourself in a fair fight, you didn’t plan your mission properly” – Col. David Hackworth
There is no way to happiness – happiness is the way” – Thich Nhat Hanh

This book is a great reference guide, an easy read and an informative behemoth. 600 pages of distilled wisdom. Whatever faults I can pick with the cheek of taking interview transcripts and turning them into a best-seller is well offset with the level of depth contained within its pages. An enjoyable and useful buffet of superstars are offering out their tips at a strategic level. Use with caution.


  1. Pingback: On Mindfulness and the Military – Journal of a Developing Man

  2. Pingback: On Mentors – Journal of a Developing Man

  3. Pingback: On Meaning – Journal of a Developing Man

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *