Note: I’m writing a few posts about Tools of Titans. Check out the rest.
I finally finished Tools of Titans after a couple weeks. It’s a quick 700 pages if there ever was such a thing. If you like Tim Ferriss’s podcast you’ll like the book. Each chapter is a summary of wisdom from his podcast guests. Ferriss took about an hour of content from each guest and distilled the conversation into 2-4 pages of actionable material.
A complaint I see often about nonfiction books—specifically business or self-development—is that they take 20 pages of actionable here’s-what-you-do content and then stretch it out with 180 pages of anecdotes1. Tools of Titans is the opposite. It’s packed with here’s-what-you-do and has some shorter anecdotes. Longer stories remain in the hundreds of hours of podcasts.
By the end of it, I had over 200 highlights. I reviewed my highlights2 and starred my favorites and got it down to 23 highlights.
For older book notes post, I used to pick five highlights and write a blurb about each. I was always worried about over-excerpting. And 23 would be way too many excerpts for a single post.
More recently I’ve picked three highlights and written separate posts for each. I can go a little deeper on individual ideas.
Tools of Titans has so much I want to share. I’ll try both approaches. I’m working on 3 individual posts around single quotes. This post will be the collection of shorter blurbs. Here are a few ideas from the book that I’ve started using in the past couple weeks.
If you’re replaying some bullshit in your head and notice it, just say, “Thinking, thinking” to yourself and return to your focus.
Done consistently, my reward for meditating is getting 30% to 50% more done in a day with 50% less stress. Why? Because I have already done a warmup in recovering from distraction: my morning sit.
Picking meditation back up: Adding some more percentages, the first time I practiced meditation with any ounce of seriousness was after listening to 10% Happier by Dan Harris.
Eventually I got a headspace account and got a decent streak going. But one skipped day here and there turned to three skipped days.
Tools of Titans has recommendations of all kinds. Enough people in the book meditate (78 results in the book for ‘meditation’) that it’s lifted into power tool status among the rest of the toolbox.
I’ve begun meditating daily again. This time I’ll have a few more tips that I can put in place to help it stick.
Kelly elaborates on the rationale of zero drop: “Don’t systematically shorten your kids’ heel cords (Achilles) with bad shoes. It results in crappy ankle range of motion in the future. Get your kids Vans, Chuck Taylors, or similar shoes. Have them in flat shoes or barefoot as much as possible.”
Wearing my Vans again: While meditation is like a forklift in being a power tool, some recommendations are more like Command hooks. Advice as simple as “wear these”.
The forklift takes practice, but I can grab the Vans from my closet and put them on today. You’ll likely find a lot of small things from the book that you can apply immediately.
Wim takes cold to terrifying extremes (his retinas froze once while swimming in a lake under sheets of ice), but you can start with a cold water “finish” to showers. Simply make the last 30 to 60 seconds of your shower pure cold. Among others in this book, Naval Ravikant ( page 546 ), Joshua Waitzkin ( page 577 ), and I now do this.
Finishing showers cold: At the end of showers I’ve started finishing with cold water for about a minute. I’ve started looking forward to it. In the morning, it wakes me up. At night, it signals that it’s time to wind down. If anything, it makes the minutes getting dressed afterward pleasant because everything feels so freaking warm in comparison.
One frequent pattern is listening to a single track or album on repeat, which can act as an external mantra for aiding focus and present-state awareness.
Tools of Titans has a lot of internal links. It’s easy to jump back and forth in the Kindle version. If someone else does something similar, there’s a link to that other person’s chapter. If the pattern is prevalent enough—like meditation—it gets its own standalone chapter. These chapters were among my favorite.
I’ve listened to a single track on repeat while working in the past. So I started doing it again lately and went back to the same song I used to use: Weezer’s “Only in Dreams”. Which apparently is one the band’s most hated songs.
The A.V. Club’s Kevin McFarland wrote about this along with an excellent description of the song itself:
Restarting from the initial crawling pace at the song’s beginning, the sound builds, and relentlessly keeps building—the band slowly but surely moving up a mountain toward the summit. First the guitar strumming picks up, then Sharp’s bass shifts into double-time, and then Wilson’s ride strikes on every beat. Two guitar lines emerge, pushing and pulling off each other, both awash in distortion, rising louder, the tension drawing out seemingly forever, until finally Wilson slams his loudest five snare hits, and the greatest Weezer guitar solo emerges, an avalanche anchored by the ever-present bass line
It’s perfect for working to.
Even if you consider yourself a terrible writer, writing can be viewed as a tool . There are huge benefits to writing, even if no one—yourself included—ever reads what you write. In other words, the process matters more than the product.
Continuing with morning pages: I actually started again after reading How to Write Funny a few weeks ago. Tools of Titans mentions morning pages a few times. Morning pages have helped me get there.
My current ideal solo morning is a workout followed by morning pages. Something from The Miracle of Morning Pages (my notes) is the importance of stopping after filling three pages. Anything over is indulging.
The key is being disciplined in that hard stop. It means it’s time to get more focused. My hard stop is 25 minutes. I start a text file on Monday each week and write in it freely.
I review the pages for ideas to write about. This goes against the original Morning Pages guidelines—best that they’re not read by anyone, including yourself. However, it’s been working well for me in trying to write 2-3 posts each week.
If I sleep poorly and have an early morning meeting, I’ll cancel the meeting last-minute if needed and catch up on sleep. If I’ve missed a workout and have a conference call coming up in 30 minutes? Same. Late-night birthday party with a close friend? Not unless I can sleep in the next morning.
Working toward prioritizing health: Ferriss really captured what it means to prioritize something. Health in my head has been a top priority but my actions haven’t reflected that. Instead of exercising, I was more likely to write, read, or stay in bed.
Since started this book, I’ve been more consistent with morning workouts. In the next year I’ll remind myself to take a look and see if my actions are reflecting the priorities I set in my head. Health will be near the top.
Tools of Titans is a perfect book to end the year with. in preparing and planning out next year.
I think 2017 will be amazing. 2017 will be amazing.
2017 will be amazing. 2017 will be amazing. 2017 will be amazing. 2017 will be amazing. 2017 will be amazing. 2017 will be amazing. 2017 will be amazing. 2017 will be amazing. 2017 will be amazing. 2017 will be amazing.
(Another tool in the book: affirmations, baby! Though the titans would probably advise that I be a bit more specific.)
- I don’t share this complaint mostly because stories provide so much value. They’re entertaining and are really what make lessons stick. This is why you need to learn things firsthand sometimes. You don’t think that problem you had hasn’t been written about? Of course it has, and there’s probably good information for preventing it in the first place. But you wouldn’t have paid attention anyway because you needed a more powerful story, your own failure, to align it to. I just watched Arrival and there’s a part where she’s trying to explain her point and then just ends up telling a proverb and the military guy is like “ohhhhhh”. ↩︎
- I highlight pretty liberally. This is a rare time that I went back through all my highlights from a single book and reviewed them. I really need to do it more often to digest things. I did it during one session on a stationary bike. Now that’s… a valuable exercise! ↩︎